Saturday, September 29, 2012

That Isn't on My 30th Year Goal List

It's been a while since I checked in on my 30th Year Goals.  Ever since the summer residency my reading and writing efforts have been unimpressive.  Besides a draft of an essay that probably won't ever see the light of day because it's so bad, I've written one poem and a short lyric essay of about 750 words. I've started about half a dozen books, some from my "read ten books list" and then others that have been recommended, but lately all I want to do after the kids go to sleep is hang out on the couch with my husband and watch movies or listen to him play the guitar and sing along.

Part of this is because I've been exercising in the mornings before work, and the wake-up call is early.  By the time the day is over, I'm just plain done with anything that requires brain activity.  I'm rather sure if I picked up a book I'd fall asleep within the first five pages.  Exercising at the gym wasn't on my 30th year list.

I expected weekday writing and reading to drop off with the kids in soccer and implementing date night again, but I had hoped that the weekend reading and writing would ramp up, since my weekend evenings are now husband-free.  Instead, I've watched a lot of romantic comedies. That wasn't on my 30th year list either.

I think the next time something comes up (like laundry or dishes), I'm going to let my husband/boss/friends/church/family know that I'm exempt because it wasn't on my 30th year list. Sorry! :) Of course, neither was sleeping, so maybe my body will pay attention if I tell it to stop spending 1/3 of every 24 hours doing nothing.

The good news is that I'm not in a binding contract with my 30th year list of goals.  They are goals, not vows, after all.  I also wrote the list in January, and it's amazing how much changes in the course of ten months.  I didn't know that Pruning Burning Bushes would be published this year or that I would be trying to schedule readings from it this fall.  If I had known that, I might have added something about my book to the goal list.  I also didn't know that we would become such foodies, losing weight and feeling better in 2012.  Can I retroactively add goals to the goal list so that I can check them off?  Absolutely! 

In general I feel good about the status of my goal list for 2012.  We're making progress in most areas, and the areas I'm not are at least on my radar or in "continuous improvement."  We have a ways to go in the credit card debt area but we have a plan, at least.  Bible study and daily quiet time looks more like frantic random prayers on the treadmill, spurts of conversation with the Holy Spirit in times of stress and thanksgiving, and the occasional deep breath appreciation of nature/family/seasons/life. 

The marathon or half-marathon idea is eliminated from the list; I laugh just reading it.  Sometimes you have to approach your goals realistically within the framework of real life in order to find balance.  I don't aspire to be a marathoner, and my guess is that it is hard to be a marathoner plus anything else.

I am glad that I didn't say "write 12 good poems" or "write 6 publishable essays."  I've surpassed 12 poems, though who knows if any of them are any good.  I'm close to six essays, maybe seven if I count the really bad one that won't ever see the light of day, and I'm way beyond that if I include the short essays and articles I've written for a few different blogs this fall.  This makes me feel better about myself but it also makes me wonder if I shouldn't have had a higher goal in mind.  Meh. I think instead of raising the bar in quantity, I can spend the rest of 2012 working on quality.

This has been a great exercise this year. It's something I've kept in the back of my mind, and having a place I can refer back to in order to see how I'm doing has been really handy.  It's helped me to keep perspective when I don't feel like I'm accomplishing much besides living, which should be enough, anyway.  I think that contentment and ambition don't have to be mutually exclusive.  It's possible to strive toward goals and be content, and whether ambitions succeed or fail should not shatter that contentment, especially when there's so much around us to be grateful for.

Things Left on the 30th Year List:
  • cut our credit card debt in half (unrealistic at this point in the year, but pushing forward anyway)
  • blog once a week (average isn't too far off)
  • incorporate Bible reading and prayer into daily life more
  • read ten books (eight down? I think?)
Not too shabby.  Maybe I can take the rest of 2012 off once I finish my reading list. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Paleo Parenting Update

It's been seven solid months since we dramatically changed the way that the Wells family eats, from a primarily grain-based diet (cereal for breakfast, sandwiches at lunch, pasta/rice at dinner) to a more fruit, vegetable, nuts, seeds, and meat focused diet, with an emphasis on food that is not processed or packaged.  If it comes in a package, we can read the name of the ingredients on the package and know where it's coming from.  It's called "Paleo" because it's supposed to be closer to what our pre-packaged, pre-GMO ancestors ate.  It isn't so much a diet or weight-loss strategy as it is an attempt at living healthier lifestyles.

We kickstarted our food change by following a detox-type diet for 30 days - the Whole30 Program - which we found out about through one of our friends.  The Whole9Life is a cool concept worth reading about, too.

BW and I knew, based off of the positive impact it has had on us, we would keep on eating this way as much as possible, with the occasional cheat and indulgence, but it seemed almost too much to ask to get the kids to skip peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cereal, mac and cheese, and pizza, their four main food groups.

We started with breakfast because that was easiest.  They like eggs well enough, and when we discovered paleo pancakes, well, breakfast became a piece of cake... er... paleo pancake.  Throw in some bacon or sausage frequently and the kids are set for breakfast.  The default bowl of cereal is history.  Henry, our squishy Paleo baby, typically eats scrambled eggs with turkey, kale, or spinach in 'em and a banana.  The older kids almost always have eggs and meat, and if they are still hungry maybe a banana or an apple. 

Dinners were the second beast.  Our kids (except the Paleo prince) balked at all things vegetable for quite a while, unless it was broccoli (with cheese), carrots (coated with honey), or potatoes (with sour cream, cheese, deep fried, or french fried).  They whined.  They sometimes cried.  They sometimes didn't finish their food.

Just the other day I marveled at our three children at dinner.  On their plates: grilled chicken, roasted carrots (no honey), steamed broccoli (no cheese), and a cucumber/tomato salad.  There were no complaints, no pouting, no whining, just eating.  And asking for more!  It was amazing. 

I never thought we'd get to the point where they would stop asking for candy and sweets as a snack or begging for the gut bomb foods that dominated their lives before, but here we are.

Lunch has been slower going, but I think we're just about there.  Lydia seems to have a more sensitive stomach than Elvis, and white bread especially seems to give her a belly ache.  She gets this now, and so she's suggested a few things for her lunch.  Instead of packing a PBJ sandwich, Lydia usually gets something with peanut butter - either celery or sliced apples - or if no peanut butter, a couple of slices of turkey, plus a couple of other add-ons: grapes, banana, raisins, greek yogurt, sweet potato chips, carrots, etc.  We try to pack her stuff we know she'll eat or let her pick out what she wants us to pack.  It seems to be working out well.

It might just be that Elvis is getting older and maturing, but I also think that his diet changes have affected his behavior and his ability to pay attention and listen at school.  Since school started he has "stayed on green" every day.  This is a big change from last year.  In fact, last week he OPTED OUT of the "good listener treat" that is given at the end of each week to the kids who stayed on green all week long.  As a reward, he had a "banana sundae" for lunch - banana with peanut butter, plus strawberries and blueberries and some honey.  He was one happy little man.

I am really proud of my kids and the choices they are making.  It seems to be true that the more we incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into our family, the more they seem to get it.  We aren't psycho about it (I am going to order a pizza tonight, after all), but we want them to understand that, like everything else in life, we have a choice -- whether to eat healthy and feel good, or whether to eat something that tastes good but might make us feel icky later, and knowing that, to indulge or abstain.  Sometimes we indulge and love it (fair food!), and sometimes we choose to skip junk and wait for the good fuel.

So far, so good.

Here are some foods that we eat a lot and places that we refer to frequently for recipes:

Sweet potato fries
Paleo pancakes
Roasted carrots ( - love her stuff)
Roasted chicken
Baked sweet potatoes
Grilled anything
Steamed broccoli
Guacamole (awesome with the sweet potato fries)
Avocado salad
Avocados straight-up
Lots of salads with veggies and chicken or turkey on top
Roasted butternut squash mmmmm
Kale chips
Sauteed spinach or kale
Sauteed peppers and onions
Sauteed apples or homemade applesauce mmmmm

and more, of course.  Usually I just google "Paleo +" whatever I am wanting to cook in order to find quick and easy meal solutions with what I have on hand.  The greatest thing about eating this way is that most of the food prep is quick and simple food prep that brings out the natural flavors in foods.  The trick is to find the things that you can return to over and over again -- for us, sweet potatoes are a must on our shopping list, and so are bananas and eggs -- figuring out what staples are going to replace your defaults from before really helps when dinnertime rolls around.

We love eating this way, and not just because we feel (and look) so much better, but because food actually tastes good this way.  Once you've killed your need to add sugar to everything, suddenly your tastebuds can actually taste the natural sweetness in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and so on.  And they are way more delicious and satisfying than any added sweetener.  We also have the added benefit of knowing exactly what it is we are ingesting.

We'll keep working on the lunches and let you know what we come up with.  There's a few websites that have been referred to me recently with some lunch options for kids that I'm excited to look into more - Paleo Parenting, Eat Like a Dinosaur, and NomNomPaleo all have some great lunch suggestions. 

Feel good and enjoy food! :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Life with Kids, Diet, and Exercise

I like to challenge myself occasionally to see just how much we can jam into a few hours or a few days and still survive.  In order to prove to myself that I can and WILL continue living life with three kids and a husband away for the evening, I think, "Hmmm, what would my husband/mom/mom-in-law think I was crazy for trying to do on my own?" and then I take a deep breath and yell, "Kids! Get your shoes!"

I will not be held hostage to the house because it's too much work to do anything else, especially to go to a friends' bbq.

So tonight when I got home and it was raining (YES!  Rain!  Soccer practice cancelled!), I decided to first take advantage of the awesomeness that is the Ashland YMCA and its free child watch program from 5:15-8:15 Monday-Thursday and get a little workout in before we headed over to the bbq we had initially bailed on because of E's soccer practice. 

Before leaving I steamed some broccoli and cut up some strawberries, and then for fun I thought, hey, we have some kale that needs to be used, I'll make kale chips too!  (This is the part where a friend at the party might think, hey, I didn't see any kale chips, and I'd say, hey, hang on a sec, I'll tell you why.)  While Elvis and Lydia chowed down on some sliced apples and peanut butter and Hank gnawed on an apple... gagging occasionally because he jams the whole thing in his mouth... I preheated, boiled, sliced, and prepped my delicioso goodness. 

I always forget that sea salt is more granular and packs a bigger punch than table salt.  That's kind of an important detail when you are making kale chips.  The kale crisped up real nice like, but oh. my. salt.  Inedible.  Even though I tried to eat them again when we walked in the door an hour or so ago and nearly died choking on a piece.  Henry watched me with silent concern.  Tears, hacking, sneezing, coughing.  Salt.

With steamed broccoli, sliced strawberries, and no kale chips in hand, the kids and I raced off to the Y. Oh how I love to sweat.  I worked my tail feathers off on the elliptical for 30 minutes and then wobbled around to a few weight machines before calling it a day. 

I am new to the world of afternoon exercise.  I am used to getting up around 5:15 a.m. to work out or waiting until after the kids go to bed.  I am not used to a) it being light out and b) having people see me as I bust a move on the elliptical, and by busting a move I mean red-faced, sweat and snot dripping, hair stuck to my forehead move busting.  Hot.  Really, really hot.  It can't be a pretty sight.  In the future, I am going to remember that a 5:15 p.m. workout means more people in the wellness center and that I will also need a shower prior to leaving the building.

Because I am new to afternoon fitness, I did not bring deodorant. Or shampoo. Or soap. Or a towel.  I did bring a change of clothes, so there is that.  There's hope for next time.

Onward, smelly, sweaty mommy!  Onward to the bbq!  Among this group of friends, we have the most kids and the oldest kids.  A couple others have some infants, but we're the crazy people with the crazy kids who touch everything and run and knock things over and beg for more chips and lemonade and who are denied chips and lemonade and who pout and cry about chips and lemonade until it's clear that the chips and lemonade were a bad idea and now it is past our bedtime anyway so let's GO.

I really like trying to make it to things like this because I love these people and enjoy conversation, but I am not always sure whether our kids are a delight or an annoyance, and I am terrified about them being an annoyance.  I worry whether they are behaving well enough to not wear out our welcome, but I also want them to have a good time.  I don't want them to be those kids or for us to be that family.  Here they come! Ah! Run away!

It's partly due to the fact that we have some kidless friends and by default kidless friends don't have to deal with kids all of the time, so I just expect them to be overwhelmed by my herd.  This expectation launches me into overdrive parenting.  Behave so these people will keep wanting to be our friends!  I want to whisper to the kids.  This is probably unnecessary; I don't think our friends think we're the crazy parents with the crazy kids.  I think they think our kids are kids, hyper, silly, goofy, lovely kids.  But that doesn't stop me from the paranoia that our kidless friends are going to say adios to the Wellses because they don't want to deal with our little people anymore.

The bbq was quite nice, and the food was AMAZING. The grillmaster did a phenomenal job on some pork loin and chicken in particular.  The kids managed to enter and exit the scene without breaking or spilling anything, and Henry only whined and squirmed most of the time.  I left too late, which compounded silliness with sleepiness, but Henry conked out quick when we got home and the older two were asleep shortly after that.  Deep sigh.  Silence.

School has started, indeed, and with it the nine-month sprint to accomplish the next goal.  On the agenda for the weekend: the first soccer games.  Stay tuned.