Friday, May 31, 2013

Two + Three Months

I'm crossing my fingers as I type this far, the age of two with Natalie hasn't been all that terrible.  Or bad.  Or tolerable.

I would even offer up the word delightful, joyful, hilarious and beautiful.

She is truly my beautiful child, both inside and out.  

She is sweet, caring and nurturing with her friends while still holding her ground.  She delights in the world around her - finding joy and hilarity in the bunny rabbits that hop nervously across our yard to the pairing of ducks who waddle up from the park down the street.  She thinks every truck is a BIG truck and is the first to alert us any time a jet comes streaming across the sky.  She jumps, hops, gallops and bear crawls across the floor.  She rattles off adorable prayers for her Nonna, Mike, Amy, all her day-care buddies...and chicken nuggets.  

We conversate over dinner and giggle at her funny faces.  We cuddle in the mornings with milk, coffee and Mickey Mouse.  We play hide and seek in the evenings and are working on the staying put part.  We do chores, sing songs and do gymnastics in the living room.

We are almost three months into two...and it's so, so WONDERFUL.

I dressed Natalie.  I dressed myself.  Separately.  Then I looked in the mirror.  

The prelude to her infamous shaving experiment.

Just a regular morning in bed watching Mouse, cuddling baby and reading books.

My big girl with her big pigtails.

The pretty dress Granddaddy bought her for her birthday.  She wore it to the baby shower of a friend of mine from high school.  She was approachable, sweet, helpful and left the party by giving tons of hugs.

Two.  Is.  Fun.

The Winds of Change

When I was younger I had this "dream" about adulthood - that once you got to a certain age, your life was SETTLED and everything came somehow easier.  I couldn't wait to get to that point in my life where I was coasting along free from traffic and noise, able to sit back and take in the scenery.

At almost thirty, I have realized that my vision of adulthood was just that - a dream that comes in no way close to reality.

Craig, Natalie and I are fairly "settled" in our little community with friends and family close by and we are each five minutes from our jobs and all the fun stuff we like to do.  But in the past week, we've had the conversation "what if this isn't truly what we want or need in order to be fulfilled?"  Followed up by "what do we both need in order to be fulfilled in our lives?"

I didn't quit coaching on a whim.  It was a careful decision made after countless prayers, discussions and scenarios played out in my head.  It forced me to reevaluate my priorities and the desires I have for myself and our family.  It was a carefully constructed, analyzed and conscientious decision.

I thought this decision would also bring a sort of "settlement" to my family.  I would teach 8th grade Math and come home after school to cook dinner, clean laundry and play with Natalie.  Craig would spend the winter months coaching while I dutifully came to the games and cheered on the sidelines.  We would put down our roots here in our little suburb outside the big city and possibly stay in the very first house we bought together before we were even engaged.

I thought we had a plan.

But as with everything in life, plans change...people change...desires change.  So the wind is seeming to blow my little family in a different path right now and the best I can do is float along with it, hand in hand with Natalie and Craig, all the while knowing that winds can change and life will never be fully settled.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I'm Gonna Be A Supermodel

Awhile back at a book club meeting, one of the ladies asked if any of the women would be interested in helping her grow her portfolio of beauty shots for her burgeoning photography business.  She explained that it would be free hair and make-up with a photo session and all the photos would go on her website as well as part of the portfolio of the hair and make-up girls. 

I'm no dummy so of course I jumped at the chance.

On a Sunday afternoon in April I left Natalie with one of my 8th grade athletes and headed out of the house with zero make-up on and my hair frizzy from being blow-dried but with no product.

It took the girls about two hours to get my face and hair all done but here are the results...all photography was done by Tammy Novak of Tammy Novak Photography.

Sweet mother of pearl...I have a lot of hair.  I sat in the chair for TWO HOURS while they created all those illustrious curls.

I personally like this one because it shows what buckets of personality I have.

This one might be Craig's favorite.

Sorry for the crappy quality of picture - something happened during the transfer from website to iPad to Blogger.

I'm going to tell you a secret.  This was not the first time I've had hair and make-up done for a photo session.  Before Craig and I got married and back when I had a bangin' pre-baby body, I did a "boudoir" style album as a wedding present for my to-be hubby.  It was nothing terribly scandalous - all pictures I could (and did) show to my mother.  A few pictures of me in his Dallas Stars jersey, some bridal photos, a sporty tank top with a basketball - just cute fun stuff.

Obviously I did those photos for Craig to enjoy, but secretly for myself as well - so that someday (which apparently is NOW) I could look back and remember how smokin' hot I used to be.

Ha.  Just kidding.

Kind of.

But seriously, sometimes since having Natalie...I don't feel so hot.  I'm bigger than I used to be, I don't have as much time for pretty hair and make-up and since I have just been teaching PE for the past four years, my fabulous closet full of clothes has shrunk to just a few key items to wear on game days.

And then I get mad at myself for not appreciating the fact that in the grand scheme of body types on this planet - I got pretty lucky to be able to gain a few pounds and not have it show.

But back to these specific photos.

As I glanced through the beautiful photos that Tammy took I realized that I wasn't looking at a girl smiling pretty for the camera, but instead at a woman who has lived, who has life experiences, who understands so much about this world...but at the same time hasn't been completely jaded by it.

The pictures reminded me that I still AM that beautiful girl that I felt was lost beneath piles of laundry, mortgage payments, bedtime stories and volleyball practices.   

Friday, May 10, 2013

Today I lost the battle, but I know I'm winning the war.

It was definitely a Friday morning today.

You know how those tend to go.  A few more snoozes on the alarm...a little bit longer spent under warm covers...who wants to get out of bed when there's a giggly girl snuggled up next to you while singing along to her beloved mouse?

While I was hurrying to get myself somewhat put together for school, Natalie climbed into the dry and empty bathtub with the instructions to retrieve a book of mine that she had thrown in.

Needless to say when she saw her bath toys my book was quickly forgotten.  But seeing as how she was happily occupied pretending to make Ariel swim, I kept going about my morning routine instead of harping on the retrieval of my book.

Finally I was ready to go and asked Natalie, "Do you want to go get dressed?"

"No" she replied simply as Flounder chased Ariel around the tub.

I wasn't going to fight it.  Not today.

I informed her that I was going to go downstairs to make my lunch and when I returned it would be time to get dressed.

A few minutes later I bounded back up the stairs and into the bathroom to gather my girl from the tub so that I could get her dressed for the day.

What I saw sent chills down my spine and churned my stomach upside down.

My two-year-old was holding my razor and claiming that she had a "boo-boo" on her leg.

Duh.  How could I have been so careless to leave my curious, observant daughter in the tub while my razor and shaving cream sat just to the side, right next to her ducks, stacking cups and water rings?  And bless her sweet little heart, she just wants to be like Momma.

When I picked her up out of the tub there was no blood but it was starting to gush by the time I got her to the changing table.  As the bright red liquid oozed out of her body I started to panic - it was hard to see how big or deep the wound was.

And on top of that - there's just something about seeing my child's blood that upsets me....compounded with the fact that I felt solely responsible for her injury.

I called for Craig to bring a rag and some Band-aids so that he could wipe her up while I held her down, her face red and hot while tears streamed down her cheeks.  We bandaged her up, wiped her tears and finished getting her dressed.  I dropped her off at Ms. Rebecca's house as a happy girl - one that was so eager to show off her boo-boos.

At the end of the day she is fine.  It was only a few superficial scrapes here and there on her knee and there's not even a real NEED for a Band-aid.

But that doesn't mean I don't feel a little guilty and a lot like a failure.  Because....I've got some secrets to share about my parenting.  I don't help her go up and down the stairs.  We've taken down our baby gates.  Sometimes I even let her play up in her playroom while I'm downstairs on the computer.  I don't play games with her as much as I should - she entertains herself quite well.  I let her eat food off the kitchen floor without blinking an eye.  I don't help her up the playground equipment unless she specifically asks for my help.  I let her play with the big kids at the basketball tournaments while I watch the game.  I make her drag around laundry in the baskets.  She has to wipe up her own spills and put away the dirty clothes that accumulate on the floor.

Some people might call this neglectful parenting because I'm not watching her every move to prevent injuries or mishaps.  I call it empowering.  I see my daughter's strengths.  I see her capability.  I see the joy in her face when she accomplishes something on her own.  Why would I want to hold her back?  There will be plenty of opportunities in her life for someone to try and push her down and tell her that she can't do something.  As her mother, my job is to prepare her for the day when someone tells her that she isn't good enough.  I must instill in her an unwavering sense of confidence and self - the ability to shake off rejection or failure and step back up to the plate, more determined than ever to hit the ball out of the park so that she can prove everyone wrong.

So I let her go and try things at the park that might seem a little too big or scary.  If she tries and she falls, I will pick her up and dry the tears...then show her how to conquer that mountain.  I give her responsibility, not because I'm being a lazy person but because I am committed to proactive parenting and raising a capable young adult.

Often when we're out in the community and we run into people we know (which always happens, given our careers and places of employment) people will tell me how much older than two Natalie seems to be.  I shrug my shoulders and make a comment on her height making her deceptively older.  But that's not what people are noticing - it's her mannerisms, her interactions and her ability to follow instructions.  "She's not a baby anymore!" they tell me.  I smile and say "I know, she's growing up quick!"  But the reason she's not a "baby" is because we don't treat her like a baby.  Don't get me wrong, she is and always will be MY baby and I will rock, cuddle and cover her in kisses for as long as she will let me.  But knowing that she is my baby doesn't mean that my "baby" isn't capable of doing chores, making good decisions, or understanding instructions.

I hope this isn't coming across as cocky or smug.  I am not perfect (remember that razor?) and neither is my daughter....but she is a capable little girl and empowering young women is part of my job description.  So I'll continue to let her lead the way.  I'll keep giving her responsibility and challenges as long as she seems to enjoy and even crave them.

But perhaps....I should keep the razors on a higher ledge for the time being.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Getting to the Skinny Mini

Way back in January after an autumn full of weird illnesses, doctor's appointments, laboratory tests and even a surgical gall bladder removal Craig was hit with a fairly serious diagnosis - Type II Diabetes, or Adult Onset Diabetes.  Part of his diagnosis is genetic - his dad was diagnosed at an early age as well, but part of it is also his diet - apparently Sonic Jr. hamburgers aren't a "snack."

But in all seriousness, his initial diagnosis wasn't terribly severe - no insulin shots or anything crazy like that, instead just a change of diet and an all around healthier lifestyle.  So the day he found out we headed to Barnes and Noble for a Diabetic cook book and I cleaned out the fridge and pantry.  It's not like we were eating HORRIBLY - not a whole bunch of chips and cookies just hanging around, but I did have to modify the dishes I was preparing for dinner by eliminating carbs, butter and salt.

The cook book was most definitely helpful in the beginning because I had no idea what a diabetic diet even looked like so the recipes were able to get me started in the right direction.  Over the past few months that we've been eating and living this way, not only have both Craig and I lost weight but I've found myself paying much more attention to labels and ingredients when researching new recipes to try out.  I can read through a Pinterest recipe and decipher for myself whether or not it really is healthy or decide what I need to substitute or cut in order to make it healthier.  Our pantry and fridge is also chock full of fresh fruits and veggies and when grocery shopping I also have found that most of my list is found on the outer edges of the store - I hardly ever venture down the inner aisles because that's where the more processed and less healthy foods are located.

I think for most people the hardest part of implementing a new diet regime is actually getting started and making it a routine.  Here are some tips that I've found work for my family.

1. Designate a shopping day.  For us it's on Sundays around noon and we purchase the food that we will need for the week.  I also try to keep a running list of things that we've run out of over the course of the week (laundry detergent, toothpaste, etc.) so that we can get those things as well.  Having a designated day keeps us on a routine and helps us stay on target with the diet - I can tell when we skip a shopping day because those are the weeks that I'm swinging by Chick Fil-A or heading to Chili's.

2. Plan your meals, make a list and stick to it.  Every week I glance at our family calendar for the week to see what nights we will be home or what commitments we might have throughout the week.  This allows me to figure out which evenings I will be cooking dinner, when we'll have leftovers and even what kinds of meals to fix (something easy if I have volleyball or something more involved if I have more time).  Once I have decided when we'll be home, I go through cook books and peruse Pinterest to plan the actual meals and from there I write down all the ingredients I will need to buy. I also check the fridge and pantry to see if we need more snacks, lunch stuff and other odds and ends.  Having my list handy at the store actually cuts down the amount of time I spend shopping because I know exactly what to get and where it is - it also eliminates extraneous purchases and helps keep the cost down.

3. Buy fresh foods, but not necessarily organic.  I absolutely hate wasting food and so I'm much more apt to cook and eat the healthy food if I know that the broccoli is going to go bad if I don't cut it up and throw it in the oven with dinner.  When it's fresh food with a spoilage date, there is a greater chance of it being cooked and eaten in my house.  I also know that some people swear by organic foods but I don't think they are required in order to have a healthy lifestyle - plus they can be a little on the expensive side.  I think if you're getting plenty of green veggies on your plate with dinner (that aren't loaded down with butter and cheese) then you're doing alright.

4. Be creative and adventurous.  There have been items on my grocery list that I didn't even know what the food looked like.  There have been recipes that seemed practically impossible to put together but once I got in the kitchen and broke it down, the meal came together pretty nicely.  But the truth remains, anytime you are going to change up your eating habits it's going to require you stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things.  It will be scary and there will be hits and misses...but like I tell Craig, if it's not good...just order pizza.

5. Remember - sometimes it's the little things that make the biggest difference.  Craig's first big switch after his diagnosis was cutting out his sweet teas from Chick Fil-A and Sonic.  And even though it was a minor change (putting in his own low-cal sweetener instead of sugar), it had a tremendous effect on his caloric intake and ultimately, his waistline.  Or substituting Greek yogurt for sour cream, olive oil for vegetable oil...the list goes on and on.  I even found a recipe on Pinterest for a cake that is made without milk, eggs or butter!

Here are a few Pinterest recipes that I've found delicious, easy and healthy (or healthier)!

And if you want to see more of these great recipes, click the button below to follow me on Pinterest!

Pinterest - Laura