Fat Fridays: Fixing the Roadblocks

Today (Thursday) has not been a great day for the diet. In fact, the last three days haven’t been great. A lot of fast food. This morning I had run out of my lite greek yogurt cups. I ate the last of my blueberries and then looked in the fridge again. There was not much there and none of it looked good. I poured myself a bowl of cereal. My first cereal in a really long time. Last night someone dropped off pizza at our house. I thought I would go and cook myself some lentils and rice. Didn’t happen. I was really busy and then I was super hungry so I grabbed some pizza. 

That has kind of been how the days have been going. I’m super busy and there is not-so-healthy food available and so I eat it. 

I’ve been feeling pretty bad about it today. But, as I tried to explain what was going on to my trainer, I got some clarity on what’s going on….

This week has been crazy. It’s the first full week of having all my kids home from school, and that’s following a vacation and then immediately having all my big kids head off to camp which meant I was managing all the little kids on my own for five days. I have written down a new family schedule, but now, by sheer force of will, I have to get all my kids onto this new schedule. And that takes a lot of will power. At the same time I am trying to get my house in order after the vacation and having a week with no older children home to help. And also get my house summer-proofed (organizing my activity drawer for rainy days, organizing books and math puzzles and workbooks for keeping our school skills honed during the summer, organizing all our legos and building blocks and art supplies for bored kids). 

You would think I would have already been prepared for summer to come. After all, it’s no surprise. But, alas, I was so focused on just finishing up this crazy school year that I did not give a lot of thought to summer. Also, we have a foster child who does not handle a “go-with-the-flow” lifestyle, which my other kids are more adept at. We are finding out, loud and clear, that our house needs a strong routine/schedule NOW in order to help her function better. And so this week has seen me extremely busy and slightly panicked as I have been trying to establish order as quickly as possible. 

Grocery shopping and meal prep and cooking healthy dinners have been low on the priority list. 

So, I’ve learned something important about myself. I have to have a routine/schedule or I can’t function as a mom of many kids . 

I have been working hard on fixing that and I’m actually pretty hopeful that by this coming Monday morning, I’ll have the most important things in place and I can be back on schedule. 

It was really helpful to talk to my trainer and put things in perspective. Ok. There is a roadblock. Let’s make a plan to fix the problem and then move on. 

The Great Summer Transition

For the first time since I started writing this blog I have been struggling, the last couple weeks, to find a time to sit down and write. Usually my days have a fairly slow rhythm and I can fit in whatever extra thing I need to do pretty easily. But since summer has started I feel like my personal treadmill suddenly sped up from easy walk to fast run. 

I’m pretty sure that any mom out there that suddenly has her kids home from school will understand. Transitioning to new schedules is not easy. Not easy on the mom, not easy on the kids. And if you have any kids with special needs, that transition is even harder. Routine is a strong glue that holds a lot of people together. Usually I am a little more prepared, but for whatever reason, this summer I’ve been floundering a bit. 

I went out and bought a big dry-erase calendar board that has a “notes” section on the side. Then I realized that wasn’t enough space to get everything written down, so I went and bought another smaller dry-erase board and put it underneath that one. Now, I think I need at least ONE more dry-erase board to really have EVERYTHING written down. (Because writing everything down on a dry-erase board will somehow make everything better!)

This summer I have different children leaving for different camps almost every single week. It’s unnerving. When you have a lot of kids there’s always a bit of an inner panic that you’re going to forget someone somewhere and now the routine is all shaken up and I have to count kids up differently. We’re missing someone!! Oh, right, they’re at camp. And that one is at summer school, and that one is at work, and that one is playing at the neighbors…you can see how it gets a bit unnerving. Like, could everyone just sit still so I know where you are.

I”ve had other unnerving things happen too. Like I had to get a root canal yesterday. Very unnerving. I hate pain. I hate dental pain. I really dislike dental work. 

I’m going on a women’s retreat this weekend. I’ll be gone from the family. That is very unnerving. Not that I can’t be alone without my family. Not that I won’t greatly enjoy being alone for a couple days. But it’s different. It’s not normal, and I have a hard time relaxing into “not normal” things. 

So, here I am, flying along on this fast-paced “new” schedule that hasn’t become a comfortable routine yet. My kids are all off in different directions. I’m doing something different this weekend. The end result is that I’m battling with some anxiety and panic. And in the middle of all this chaos, God has been downloading his goodness to me. And I want everything else to just hit pause so I can just soak it all in, but instead I just find myself dwelling on it in bits and pieces when a quiet moment arrives. 

My teens went to a church youth camp and when they came back, some things had shifted spiritually for some of them. And I can see a difference. And I just want to cry because really, the only important thing in my entire life is that my children follow after God, and when you see them taking ownership of that relationship and becoming independent in that area, there aren’t any words to describe your joy. 

Another thing, a friend of mine has been posting Bible devotions/research that she has been doing about Jesus as the Groom and God has been shining a spotlight on the intimacy of his relationship with me. And it makes me feel cherished and special. It’s an overwhelming answer to that lifelong question, “Do I have any worth? Am I lovable?”

So, here I am, waffling back and forth from a spiritual high to anxiety. It’s a weird place to be. Writing this down helps me get it all sorted out in my mind though. God loves me. I can be at peace knowing he’ll help me figure out this summer. 

Plug for Foster Care

Foster Care is kind of in a crisis right now. They need families to sign up to be foster parents. It’s a constant need. I see ads and articles talking about this pressing need all the time, but I have been hesitant to take up the call and start advocating and pressing other people to consider being a foster family. Mostly because we have been on this journey since December 2019, and it’s been hard. And I’m in a place where I can very clearly tell you how hard this is on a day-to-day basis, and do I really want to be responsible for someone else signing up for foster care and then watching them be weighed down by this same burden? 

I kind of feel the same way about having large families. I love our large family. I would not go back in time and do anything differently. But, it’s been hard. It’s not an easy path. So, I don’t go around telling everyone else that they should also have a large family. 

But having a large family is what has made me who I am. Refining by fire. And being a foster mom has been a whole other level of refinement. 

I didn’t pursue fostering. I had a desire to be a foster parent, but the size of our family disqualified us to be official state foster parents. The prayer in my heart was kind of, Ok God, I have a heart for these kids, but there is nothing I can do. If you want me to foster, you will have to fling open the doors. So he did. We ended up with what is technically termed as a kinship foster placement, even though we were just good friends of the kids, not formally related. 

I think about concerns I’ve had about fostering. The main one is, what about my own children? I don’t want to harm them in any way! After all, kids who enter the foster care system are usually coming with some sizable baggage that affects their behavior and their ability to get along with others. 

In the first months that we welcomed a sibling group into our home, we had a lot of rough spots. Very rough spots. During that time many of my children came to me in private to complain and ask why on earth these kids were in our home. I was very straight forward with my answer. James 1:27 (NIV) says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” I am a Christian. God wants me to take care of the orphans, and these kids might as well be orphans since the State will not allow them to live with their parents. 

They need help. 

We are able to give help. 

We help. 

This is not to say that I purposefully put my children in danger just because I felt like I should help foster kids. In the end, two of the kids had to be moved to a higher level of care than I was able to give. But we were able to eventually have the youngest sibling on a more permanent basis and she is still with us. And while those two kids didn’t stay with us, I do know that I offered them love and safety during the time they were with us and helped them on their journey. 

I think in the end, it’s always a heart issue. What is your heart towards the orphans and widows of this world? What is your posture when it comes to obeying James 1:27? It’s been my experience that if you are willing to obey, and ask God to give you HIS heart for the needy, God will fling open doors so you can help. Whether it be to actually have children in your home, to help other families who are fostering (they need all the support they can get!) or to find some other way to help, if you are willing, there is always something you can do. 

This is my plug for foster care. These kids are God’s creation. They are beautiful children with a lifetime of possibilities ahead of them. 

They need help. 

We can help. 

Let’s help. 

Fat Fridays: Vacations and Diets

I went on a vacation last week. We were gone for five days. I talked to my trainer ahead of time and we talked about things I could do to stay on track with my diet and exercise, but in the end I told her that my main goal was to simply not gain weight while I was gone. And I am happy to say that I accomplished that goal. But it was hard. 

One of the problems was that all the grownups on the trip were tired and weary and cooking was not a top priority. We did a lot of pizza, hotdogs and sandwiches. Cereal. It was a vacation after all. Cooking healthy meals is not exactly what you feel like doing when you are relaxing. I think the other problem is that our family, and the other family we were vacationing with, had all just finished a very long, hard school year. So we were especially tired. 

In order to make up for not eating super healthy I decided I would get more movement in. I made sure I was getting my 10,000 steps a day. I went on walks, bike rides, went swimming…In fact, on the day we went to the beach I got over 20,000 steps! Three miles of that was walking barefoot in a wet swimsuit down the beach. Not something I recommend for overweight people. I’m still recovering from rub burns. I think I was a little obsessive about getting exercise. I got up early (not on purpose, my inner clock was still set to “gettting-kids-to-school” time) and then I would find a private place and do the workout my trainer had set for me. Then I would take a walk in the neighborhood where we were staying. If I didn’t have all my steps at the end of the day, I took another walk. But it worked. Five days of eating pizza and hotdogs and sandwiches and one trip to an icecream place where I indulged in chocolate icecream with all kinds of chocolatey toppings, and I managed to not gain any weight. 

Of course, I didn’t lose any weight either. But the good news is, since I’ve come home, I’ve doubled down on the healthy eating and exercise and have already dropped two pounds in three days. And, after all the indulgence, the healthy food tastes really good. 

I keep having to remind myself that my diet and exercise are not a short-term thing that I’ll just do until I reach my goal. This has to be a complete lifestyle change. Which means that it has to fit with all areas of my life, including vacations. So, I am feeling a bit more confident about the future as I have now tackled staying-healthy-while-on-vacation and have passed the test. 

Adventures with Friends

We just spent a long weekend with our friends down on the coast of South Carolina. We’re driving back to Tennessee now, car full of kids, favorite music playing, kids counting down the minutes before we can stop at McDonalds for lunch and get a Happy Meal. We’ve got the three youngest sitting right behind our seats, my husband is driving with earplugs in because the high shrill voices of small children wears him down. 

We had a wonderful time playing, kayaking, visiting the beach. As we were talking with our friends, we realized that we have been friends for seventeen years. That seems unbelievable. We met when we were all newlyweds with babies. We were remembering the first camping trip we did together. I was very pregnant, it rained, we set up a canopy and cooked under it while we threw all our kids into our van which happened to have a tv in it. 

Over the years we have done life together, in a very real way. Together we’ve figured out parenting challenges, marriage challenges, career challenges. We’ve encouraged each other in our spiritual walks. We’ve babysat. We’ve crashed at each other’s houses. We’ve taught each other our favorite hobbies. 

Our friends have moved around while we’ve stayed put, but we still manage to see each other a couple times a year.

And the old quote comes to mind,

 “Make new friends, but keep the old; Those are silver, these are gold.” Joseph Parry

Yesterday our friends took all the little kids to a playground while my husband and I took some of the older kids on a bike ride. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I had given my friends zero instructions on how to take care of my children and I had given my kids zero instructions on listening and obeying. Because it wasn’t necessary. I already know they can handle my kids. My kids already know these adults and respect their rules. These are people I don’t have to give backstory to. These are people that I can not call for months, and then send a random text about a random topic and I know it won’t be a problem. 

Gold. 

Friendships are funny things. They ebb and flow. They aren’t something we have a lot of control over. Sure, we can choose to be the best friend possible, but it has to be reciprocated. Sometimes it is, and it’s wonderful, sometimes we just change and grow apart. Sometimes we reconnect later, when our lives and interests intersect again, and sometimes we just remain a fond memory from the past. Whatever the case, long-term friends are rare and precious things and I am very thankful for them. 

I would post some pictures of our trip, but I don’t have any because I was too busy having fun. All I have are a couple pictures of kids squinting into the sun. Ah well. My son asked me today if I had taken a “mind picture” of something, so I could remember it for later. So, yes. I’ve got a whole album of Mind Pictures and another chapter added to our Adventures With Friends. 

Fat Fridays: Fitbit Charge 4

Fitbits. Anyone got one? 

Just before Mother’s Day my husband told me he wanted to buy me one, so go and do some research and tell me which one to get. Wow! Ok. I had never really thought about getting one so I knew absolutely nothing about them. I started to do some research and I found this article on google that gave top reasons for buying a Fitbit, and reasons you shouldn’t buy a Fitbit. It was helpful. The one thing that stood out was when they said You should NOT buy a Fitibit if you are relying on this device to motivate you to exercise. They said, if you are already motivated then it’s a good tool, but by itself, it doesn’t have the power to change you into someone who has the discipline to get up and exercise. 

Good point. I remember the days of thinking, Well, if I only had THIS product, or THIS exercise program, or THIS membership then I would get myself in shape. And it’s just not true. If you have the desire to start exercising and eat healthier, you don’t need any fancy gadgets to make it happen. You just make it happen with whatever you have. 

BUT, sometimes those gadgets are pretty fun and they DO make things easier!

So, just over a week ago I got a Fitbit Charge 4 and I am having a lot of fun with it. It tracks how many steps you take, your heart rate, how many stairs you climb, how many calories you burn (though I read an article that says it has about a .3 error rate, so you have to take off about a third of those calories to get a more accurate number).  It keeps track of how well you are sleeping, how much movement you are getting throughout the day, how many workouts you’ve done in a week. It also has exercise programs you can start so that it tracks your walk or your run, or your bike ride or other exercises and tells you how far, how fast, etc. It has a place to track weight loss and how much you drink and eat (though I haven’t bothered using those features since I’m already tracking what I eat on my personal trainer app). 

This past week I lost three pounds. And I think a lot of that might have been because I was moving more. The Fitbit has a goal that you get up and move nine times a day and it buzzes to give you a reminder. So, I’ve been getting up more to just walk around. It is also tracking your steps and as I’ve seen how close I am to getting 10,000 steps in a day, I’ve been motivated to just take a short walk around the neighborhood or walk around my yard in order to reach my 10,000 steps goal. And then, of course, losing three pounds is very motivating so that makes me want to move more too! 

So, my conclusion… If you are counting on a Fitbit to make you suddenly want to be a fit and active healthy person, I wouldn’t spend the money. But, if you are already on a journey in that direction, then a Fitbit is a great tool. 

I’m going to get off here now, it’s time to get moving! 

We are Done!

Today was the kids’ last half-day of school. Got up early, took the kids to school for the last time, took my virtual student by the high school to drop off her text books, went and picked up kids from school. We still have a drive-thru 5th grade send-off that we have to go to this afternoon and then we are officially done. 

What a year. 

Red days for high covid numbers. Red days for gun violence in the neighborhood. Finding clean masks every day, collecting the dirty masks every day. Signing homework folders every night. Never ending car lines for pick up. Lots of debates about virtual school, masks, school safety. Lots of tragedy. Five students dead this year. Trauma. School lockdowns.  

Art projects. Kids excitedly practicing their Spanish from their new Spanish class. Watching my first grader grow in her ability to read. Seeing my fifth grader blossom as he walked into leadership positions. New friends made. Projects finished. Presentations given. Awards won. Recognition for good sportsmanship. Classes completed. Lessons learned. 

So, I say thank you to all the teachers who made the best of a crazy year. Thank you to all the administration who made the best decisions you could. Thank you to all the support staff that cleaned and cooked and loved on the kids. 

We made it! We never have to do this year again! May the next school year be peaceful and easy and a walk in the park in comparison. 

We’ll see you all again in the Fall. 

Fat Fridays: Angel or Devil?

I am late posting this today. I’m going to blame that on a really fuzzy brain. Last night I went to bed with the thought that I would write my blog first thing in the morning. Then this morning I puttered around the house aimlessly, not thinking about blogs at all. Then, when I set myself to a task, I suddenly remembered I hadn’t written. I will write as soon as I am done with this task! Except I forgot again. I’ve done this three times today. So, here I am at last. 🙂

Yesterday I saw this sappy meme that ended with this: “Focus on your own voice. It’s the only one that matters.” And I thought it was ironic that I was reading this because my thoughts this week have been how my inner-voice is one of my worst enemies. 

The kids are eating a dessert. My inner-voice says, Go ahead and have some! You deserve it! 

I think about whether I should stop and get some fast food after a long stressful day. My inner-voice reminds me that cooking a healthy meal is going to take a long time, and maybe I will have to wash some dishes first before I can even cook. And does healthy food really taste that good? Don’t we deserve a break? 

This past Wednesday I went to the park to jog. I was supposed to walk two minutes and then jog two minutes for a total of thirty minutes. I jogged the first two minutes. My inner-voice spoke up. Why are we doing this? 

I jogged the next two minutes. My inner voice got louder. This is not fun. You should just walk. Walking is still exercise.

I jogged the next two minutes. My inner voice was yelling by now. This hurts! You are tired today! You don’t have the energy to do this! Just walk. Noone cares if you walk. You should only run if you Really Really want to. And you don’t want to. 

Fortunately, I’ve got two voices in my head. And every day I have to decide which one I’m going to listen to. 

The other voice said, ignore that. You can do this. You are not a quitter. You only have to run two minutes at a time. You have given birth to ten children: You can run for two minutes. You are not a quitter. Keep going. It’s going to be done soon. You’ll feel really good if you don’t quit. 

And in the end I just started chanting in my head, I am not a quitter, I am not a quitter! And I finished the full thirty minutes. And I felt good about finishing. 

Remember those cartoons where the person has a mini-angel on one shoulder, and mini devil on the other? It’s a pretty accurate picture of our two voices that are constantly talking to us. 

When it comes to weight loss and exercise and lifestyle changes, that devil and angel voice get into some pretty fierce fights. It’s a daily battle to figure out which one I’m going to listen to. 

Trustworthy

To say that I’ve had a hard week would kind of be like saying the ocean has a lot of water. Perhaps just a little bit of an understatement. 

I was thinking about it last night, and I was thinking, none of these things stressing me out are actually my problems. This is just me, trying to help other people through their problems. Their junk. Not mine. But then I had this niggling thought of, is that really true? Because actually, when we help other people deal with their junk, it inevitably stirs up some of our own. 

I am realizing that this week, I’ve had some serious doubts and worries about the Goodness of God and being able to trust him. I think, when I say that I “trust” God, what I’m actually saying is, “I’m really confident that God is going to work out everything the way that I want it.” And this week I’ve had to face the stark fear that Maybe, God is not going to work things out the way I want in my loved ones’ lives. Maybe the happy ending that I’ve been praying for, isn’t going to actually happen. Maybe God isn’t going to answer my prayer and keep all harm far, far away. 

That has been hard for me to accept. Again, an understatement. 

I feel helpless. And the power of prayer doesn’t feel as strong when there are no guarantees that we will get the answer we want. 

Yesterday I had to walk away from someone I loved, leaving their problems in someone else’s hands. I started walking back to my car. Tears running down my cheeks. I sat in my car and sobbed for a minute. My brain numb. And I felt the Holy Spirit whisper into my soul the word, Trustworthy. 

And as I sit and think about that word, I realize that I have been guilty of creating God in my own image. I know how I want things to work out, I know how I want God to move in these situations, and so I create a God in my mind that does everything that I want him to do. And then, when crisis comes, it feels like God is not being God. Except that he is being God. Just not my little image of him that I’ve created. He is being God: Omnipotent, Sovereign. And, as he reminded me yesterday, Trustworthy. 

I think what the word Trustworthy means is, God is who he says He is. He can do what he says He can do. (To quote an old Beth Moore Bible Study). My knowledge of who He is and what He can do comes from the Bible, not from my imagination. And when my ideas get shaken up, I’ve got to return to that firm foundation. 

And so I find myself on new ground. Perhaps it’s Holy ground. It feels really unstable, but I think that’s just because my legs are weak, not because the ground is shaky. It’s a place of saying, Your will be done, not mine. I’m sacrificing my preconceived ideas, and instead am going to walk into the unknown, clinging to the truth that you are good. Your love is wider and deeper than mine. You are Trustworthy. 

Fat Fridays: Quick Update

So, last week I had some big slip-ups involving cake. And pasta. And maybe something else I can’t remember? I figured out why I was in binge-mode, but I was still bummed at my set-back. On Saturday I decided to weigh myself, kind of as a punishment. Here, weigh yourself so you can see how badly you did from messing up. I weighed myself, and low and behold, I had lost three pounds. 

????????

Life doesn’t make sense. 

This means I hit my thirty pound weight loss milestone! Yay!!! 

This was very inspiring and I jumped right back on the wagon, and have done very well food-wise this week. 

In other news, I ran two miles yesterday, two minutes faster than before. Still ridiculously slow. I realized that right now, my running time for two miles is the same time I used to have in college for running three miles. And I wasn’t fast in college. But, progress is progress. We take what we can get. The other big progress is that, after running, I was not crazy sore. And today I don’t seem to have much lingering after effects either. 

This week I have been making a slow shift to gluten-free. I’m not being legalistic about it, I have told myself I can have bread if I want to, it’s an option, but I’m trying to have some gluten free options readily available. This week I’ve been eating VANS gluten free ancient grains waffles that I found at KROGER. They’re pretty good. I like them because they have a bunch of different grains and aren’t just rice, potato and corn flours. 

I also had a first this week. I went biking one day for my exercise. I was supposed to bike eight miles. I was happily biking along when my phone in my pocket beeped, reminding me of an upcoming appointment in ten minutes. I was at least fifteen minutes away from my house. It was a zoom meeting where I was supposed to be actively talking, not just silently observing. Yikes. I rode as fast as I could toward my house but was still a mile away when it was time for the meeting to start. So, I got off the bike, logged into the zoom meeting and kept my camera off. The person running the meeting asked if we could turn our cameras on, and another person chimed in to say that they were driving and would turn their camera on soon. I jumped on this excuse and said, Yes, I am heading home, not quite there, I’ll turn on my camera in a couple minutes. Then, I put the phone in my pocket, where I could still hear the meeting and started riding like crazy towards my house. I almost made it, I was maybe two minutes from my house, but then they asked everyone to go around and introduce themselves. I had to get off the bike so I could hit the right buttons and turn on my speaker to introduce myself, but then I was out of breath and breathing hard cause I had been pushing so hard to get home. I ended up apologizing and saying, sorry, I’m on my bike, out of breath, almost home. 

Sigh. 

Technology creates weird situations. 

Well, that’s my update for now. I’ll see you all next week!