22 May 2017

7 Quick Takes Monday

1. I ran a 5K on Saturday - through an apple orchard.

This was my second 5K, my first one was last August. Theodore was 9 months old. Training gave me pain in my right foot, but Urgent Care said it was just a sprain. I didn't want to use a minor sprain as an excuse to skip out on my first ever 5K, so I decided to run anyway. But it was actually a stress fracture and it started hurting pretty bad. I did walking/running intervals and ended up spraining basically the rest of my foot and my ankle, and straining my leg muscles all the way up into my glutes. Plus there was a photographer at the finish line and I looked terrible in the photos, which, of course, were blasted all over Facebook. It was an awful and embarrassing experience, so I was really keen on a second 5K to overlap the memory of the first.

It was gorgeous but hard as there was a variety of terrain and it was super hilly. I tried to start training for it two months ago, but running started stirring up the stress fracture again, so instead, I threw myself into the workouts for my Zumba weight loss challenge (like planks, leg raises, step ups, Russian twists), plus the Jillian Michaels squat challenge, weekly Zumba (when I could make it to class), and rowing on our rowing machine. I was able to run the entire 5K - no walking, no resting - without ever doing a training run! And I have no foot pain! I'm pretty proud of myself, actually, and really happy that I got a participation/finishers medal, even though it's uncool to support participation awards right now. I was definitely floating on an exercise endorphin high for the rest of the day.

2. After much time in prayer and thinking and talking to Matt, days spent racked my brain, Googling, and calling around, we/I finally came to a few conclusions.

-This is not a good time for me to become a Zumba instructor. I want to, badly, and I get a good feeling whenever I bring it to God in prayer, but it would require me taking on a whole bunch of responsibility that I don't think I can commit to right now. I had hoped since it was a different kind of responsibility that would enrich me in other ways, I could add it to the mix. It was hard for me to come to that decision, and I cried a bit. I'm not saying never, I'm saying not right now. Unfortunately.

-I need something. Badly. But it needs to be something I can do during the day because I can't guarantee that I'll have evenings, plus I'm crazy drained by 8pm anyway. I thought throwing three kids in the mix would make it impossible for me to find anything affordable. I can't hire a baby sitter or ask family to watch the kids a few days a week so I can sit in a coffee shop or something. But I found one thing that fit almost every bill and Matt thought was brilliant. We figure we can afford it at least through the summer.

It includes free childcare. I won't get to be part of something larger nor give back to the community. But it's a huge step up from nothing. I'm planning my first workout session tomorrow and I'm super excited. Hopefully the soreness from the 5K will have worn off by then too.

3. I've been working diligently to create a summer school for the girls. My goal is to keep Abigail from loosing the skills she's gained this year. I've based my curriculum almost entirely off Abigail's homework and the worksheets she completes that the teacher sends home for me to see. What isn't copied from school comes from therapists we know. Eleanor's school will be much less structured, but she is absurdly excited to do "Eleanor's school." I have a feeling once I get everything set up, we're going to be starting right away.

When I get everything set up, I'll write a detailed post.

I've assembled almost all of my supplies and made up a "master schedule" for both girls. Next I want to make a weekly schedule for the first week. I'll take things week-by-week until I figure out what works and then I'll fill in the rest of the summer.

I am hoping to do school in the basement during Theodore's nap time. This way the upstairs will be quiet for his nap, I won't need to revert to television every day, and we'll be in the cool basement during the hottest part of the day. So I've also been re-arranging things downstairs. I'm still working on it, so I don't have any afters, but here are the befores, taken before the overhead lights had even warmed up all the way. Talk about staging perfect befores...

4. I'm totally in a meal planning rut. I have a million new recipes I could try shoved in a beat up green folder and a list of regular meals I'm tired of (and are too wintery, like chili and chicken pot pie). I spent an afternoon last week dividing and sorting recipes into fun new folders from last fall's school supply sale.

It did inspire me a bit, although I think our finances would benefit from me also planning out breakfasts (the amount of money we spend on cereal each month is staggering), plus I could use a faster meal planning/grocery list making process. The two new to dos sucked out all my fresh inspiration. This chore is fast becoming one of my least favorite ones.

5. I'd be much happier if I could just make baked goods as suited my cravings for our meals. Homemade poptarts for lunch anyone?

6. Roxy does not like taking baths, but will get in the tub and stand quietly while water runs down her fur if I ask her to, because she is a very obedient dog. Whenever I give the kids a bath, she squeezes into the bathroom and looks pitifully at me. "Must I take a bath, Person? I really don't want to; I will, but please don't make me." Even though I never called her in there. Even though the tub is full of kids. Even though I am giving her no indication that it's her turn. Even though I've never bathed her right after bathing the kids. She comes in, lays down, and begs me with her eyes to forget she's there.

7. In between the girls' birthdays, we had a small party that was basically just my parents and my grandma over for dinner and presents. Long story short, it was supposed to be a party for Eleanor that was converted over into a party for both girls.

It is amazing how many Sofia party supplies you can get at Oriental Trading for $20. It is amazing how much happiness a preschooler can get out of $20 in Sofia party supplies.

I also made a unicorn cupcake cake for the girls, dying the batter rainbow colored and filling the cupcakes with sprinkles. It was actually pretty easy, just very time consuming.

18 May 2017

Abigail Claire

I don't even know how to write about Abigail's birthday. What can I say that does not evoke deja vu of all the things I've said before? I think Abigail comes across as very simple, but she's actual quite complex. There is a lot of personality that I don't think she shows anyone but her family, maybe her teacher. She has a hard time with words and she rarely vocalizes how she feels or what she wants.

She was a bit hesitant when she came out of her room this morning,"Oh goodness!" she said when she saw her balloon and the itinerary. She tried to convince me it was Theodore's birthday too, hugging him and telling him "Happy Birthday!" all morning. She loves donuts, so she got them for breakfast, lined with six candles which she blew out in one blow - her first birthday where she successfully blew out candles.

I debated whether to give her the day off school, but finally decided to send her, so I got her this special shirt to wear. I told the bus driver, wrote a note to her teacher, and told everyone in between: "It's Abigail's birthday!" She hid her head in embarrassment whenever anyone sang to her. Her teacher did say that she seemed excited that it was her birthday today. She wore her birthday girl shirt with her favorite "ABC pants" - letter shirt and letter pants make a surefire combination for a successful outfit in Abigail's opinion. She does like to wear "pretty dresses," but pretty dresses have a way of getting ruined at school.

She opened one present - a book, and was quite excited, "Pretty Sofia!" She fingered the sparkly page. "Lucinda!" She sat down to read it right away.

Her sandwich consisted of a super special (homemade, chewy) peanut butter oatmeal cookie with marshmallow fluff sandwich. It looked so amazing, I had one for lunch too, even though it isn't my birthday. I wish I could know if she liked it, but she can't tell me. She is very strange about food and sometimes likes or doesn't like things and I have no idea why. I hope she liked the sandwich, she did like the cookies by themselves this morning.

When she got home from school, she had a special birthday smoothie (strawberry banana with chocolate protein powder) and opened two more presents - books, and took one in the car as we headed to music therapy, which I think she gets more out of it then she lets on. Her participation is hit or miss on various days and for various songs. Today, she modeled the teacher's movements for a particular duck song, putting them behind her back and counting them down at the same time as the therapist - it was adorable and also a really good sign.

A pic from a few months ago in music class.

At first she didn't want to go to music class, "No music class, church's turn!" She was oppositional and I don't know why, she wanted to go any where except music therapy. Then we arrived and she was fine, her usual self, singing along to that song, pouting for this song. Everyone sang to her, and she hid her head. Dinner, of course, was McDonald's, which I don't even think she likes anymore as much as she likes the idea of it. "French fries!" She shouts whenever we pass a sign. "Do you want a cheeseburger or chicken nuggets?" I ask and she chooses chicken, although she doesn't eat any of her nuggets. I don't know, she doesn't ever really seem to eat much. This is probably why she is 6 and weights 33 lbs. (Eleanor is 3 and weighs 30.)

Then the present grand finale. A matching unicorn dress and yet another Sofia set, this one shaped like a book that - I learned as she opened it - also plays part of a song from the episode. Eleanor struggled mightily all day with the fact that it was no longer her birthday and Abigail's present was almost too much to bear. She listened well to our corrections to let Abigail unwrap it alone and let Abigail look at it, but she took every opportunity to sneak a peak or press the button to make the song play. Eleanor's attention on her toy sent Abigail into a frenzy of panic. "No, Eleanor! Time out!" she kept shouting, melting to the ground in tears and a pouty lip. At one point, Abigail abandoned her toy and her french fries and went to sit in the screen room with a book, but even the sound of Eleanor playing with the toy in the house set her off.

It was a tough moment that I didn't know how to juggle. Abigail's frustration was mounting, so we quickly abandoned ship and headed out to get ice cream.

How Eleanor felt about that fact that it was Abigail's birthday:

How Theodore felt:
"The more carbs, the better, guys. Let's have parties every day. These thigh rolls aren't going to build themselves."

When we arrived at the ice cream place, Abigail walked straight up to the counter, cutting off everyone else in line, and started chatting with the ice cream guy, making everyone in line laugh. I'm certain she had no idea why we were all standing around when there was ice cream to be eating.

We returned home with a markedly perkier crew, who all went to bed while Abigail stayed up late playing with her new toy, anxiety-free. She's a sweet little girl who is so very nurturing/bossy, but all in a desire to be helpful. Her teacher told us at the IEP meeting that she doesn't even want to play with toys during free time, she wants to be up in the front of the classroom playing with the pointer and the calendar. She loves books, horses, and watching movies. She loves to play catch and has a wicked throw, as good as a typically developing six-year-old, actually. Abigail is so complex, chatty when she's one-on-one, but quiet in a group, She needs alone time every day, but diligently makes sure we all stick together in a group when we go outside, but also still darts off sometimes. Eleanor is faster than Abigail, but Abigail still bosses her around. She's got a sense of humor that her siblings are lacking, doesn't care one wit for dolls or legos, hates large crowds of people, loves popcorn, is blonder in person than she photographs, with red highlights, and freckles sprinkled below her blue eyes. She's adorable and she's mine and I can't believe she's already six-years-old.

17 May 2017

Stormy Clouds

I've been struggling with a bout of depression lately. I've been doing everything right to get over it: getting my five tasks done, waking up early and taking daily walks, praying the Rosary every day, taking my supplements. This is the first time since I've started taking them that I've had an issue. I'm not sure what triggered it or what is keeping me from getting over it. Theodore is 18 months old, so I really doubt it's postpartum depression anymore.

I have two theories, although really they might just be ways my depression is manifesting itself.

When we got back from our vacation, I realized how much my life was revolving around kid-stuff, and I felt really trapped. I came home from this really fun Us/Me event to birthday party planning, next-size-up wardrobe building, and summer activity finding and I realized I don't know where I went. I used to be all about making time for me as my own person, but everything I was doing ended or petered off. My one thing is really Zumba, but Matt's schedule has been so crazy at work that I can only go once a week and I haven't been able to go for awhile. I enjoy crocheting, but I've been doing so much of it lately and while it's relaxing, it doesn't make me feel worthwhile.

The other possible culprit is my weight plateau. After losing 20 lbs since the beginning of the year in a weight loss challenge, I've just completely flat-lined. I have been and am continuing my workouts and tracking what I eat, but the scale just won't budge. I've even rebelled, eaten junk food all weekend, gained a few pounds, and lost them again, only to completely freeze at the exact same number. It's very frustrating to work my butt off, pass up on temptations, hold a plank for two minutes straight every day for - no joke - weeks straight, and be stuck at this stupid weight.

Both of these two things make me feel like I have no value, frustrated, expendable, and like I'm failing to contribute anything meaningful to the world.

I don't know if these things triggered the depression or are fueling it or are simply what I'm taking it out on. All I know is that I've really been struggling lately despite holding fast to all the tactics that usually help me out.

12 May 2017

Finding Balance Among New Commitments

Sometimes blogging gives me great clarity about issues I'm struggling with. Knowing you guys will read this encourages me to put lots of effort into my words and my thoughts, I think harder, I edit, polish, reread a few times. Then I hit "publish" and give it some space. Then I read your comments, and I reread my post. Sometimes I come away with fresh insights. So I want to talk to you today about something I've only mentioned to a few people in my daily life. It's not a big secret, it's just that sometimes it's better not to tell everyone about something until you've made up your mind, you know?

I'm thinking about becoming a Zumba instructor. Like, next month. I would take a one-day class to earn a certificate. At the end of the class, I get a bunch of resources to learn a full class worth's of songs. I already have an active instructor who's willing to be my mentor. Then I just practice, practice, practice until I know all the routines and am ready to teach.

Me at Zumba. This was this instructors very first solo class.

I've prayed extensively about it and I always get a good feeling about becoming an instructor, sometimes intensely good feelings, sometimes just a fluttering, but always a sense of "yes." I wish God would appear to me in a vision, maybe send an angel or saint: "Yes, Jacqueline, it is My Will that you lead my people in an cardio dance class." Then I could know for sure that this is a good decision and not just exercise endorphins.

The most important thing, definitely, is to do this for God. As a Catholic, everything I do needs to be for God, with God, and through God, otherwise it is a waste of my time and my life. I'm not always good at that, and, but I don't want to make any more major life decisions without considering God, so with that in the forefront, here is my current pro/con list...

-I want to become an instructor because I love Zumba. I love doing it, I love going to class, I love voluntarily practicing songs at home. A few times, I have been called up to lead or co-lead a song with the instructor and I loved it. I felt like such a bad ass. Sometimes God speaks to us through our passions and our strengths are gifts from the Holy Spirit. I love dance and working out. I have no problem pushing myself physically.

-I love the Zumba community in my area and I want to be apart of it. Some of the other instructors I met are so kind and loving and uplifting. I am hungry to get to know them better and to become friends. I love that I would be apart of a community that helps people take care of themselves. (We have to nurture our bodies as well as our souls!)

-I want to foster a community in the classes I would teach. In the class I currently take, my instructor has built up the most living and supporting group. When someone has a difficult pregnancy, she rallies up a meal train. When someone falls into a bad financial situation, she rallies up a food drive. I want to be able to do that for others. I have been brainstorming lots of ideas for ways I could do this. Once I became familiar with my routines, I would love to modify a few, create a few, learn a few routines set to Christian music and have a pure religious/positive music class - I think doing mundane things with a Christian theme is a really powerful way to teach people about God, imbue it in our daily culture. I would also really like to take the class that certifies me to teach seniors (called "Zumba Gold") and teach a few classes at the local senior centers in the area. There are currently none within a 20-30 minute radius of my town, whereas there are a half dozen regular Zumba classes. Old people like me, I'm very traditional. I also would love to teach a class at the local Down syndrome association. Obesity and arthritis are huge problems for adults with Ds and I've already come up with lots of ways of modify moves for things I know Abigail struggles with.

-I want to do something else. I am home all day, every day with the kids while Matt works long hours and sometimes I feel like I'm going to lose my mind. I want something else in my life that I can do that my kids don't have to pay the price for. If I become an instructor, I'm in charge of my own schedule and can plan things around my kids' schedules. This honestly is the biggest reason I am considering becoming certified right now. I want to do something as/for Jacqueline. I need an outlet that isn't shopping or baking or crocheting, because I have done an unhealthy amount of all three of those things at some point since becoming a mother.

My very first 5K, 9 months post-partum after Theodore.

-This is Matt's and my biggest concern: Can I sustain this? It is textbook Jacqueline for me to bite off more than I can chew. I want to dive into something, I come up with a great plan that's probably well-researched, and then I end up running out of time or resources or I lose the vision. Will I still be able to/want to teach a class in six months? What if I get so burnt out getting certified and training while balancing my three kids that I'm fried by this time next year? I can't just bail out on a class full of people who are counting on me.

-We hopefully aren't done having kids yet and I'm not sure how I'll keep my classes going during the last month or two of the pregnancy and the first month or two after birth. I'm also not sure how I'll balance a class with a few-month-old baby. I want to schedule my classes for when Matt is typically home from work, but I'll have a few people in mind to babysit in the event has to stay late or is out of town. Normally I take my newborns everywhere with me, and I'd be really nervous about leaving a two-month-old with a babysitter, even one I completely trust. I know of instructors who have had health issues and needed to take a few months off, and they have found substitutes to cover them. But I know it isn't always easy to motivate your regulars to tolerate your sub and your sub's way of doing things.

-It's expensive. The certification class is $225. To get Gold certified, it'd be another $100-200. The regular certification classes are taught frequently, but there aren't any Gold certifications near me in the near future, so I'd need to drive out-of-state and stay in a hotel to pursue that route. There's a monthly membership fee to be able to use the Zumba marketing materials and have access to new routines, I'd need an iPod and speaker, plus a few more sports bras, and possibly there'd be fees to rent venues if I had to supply my own community center hall. While I certainly hope to be able to make enough money to cover my montly expenses, it could take awhile to recoup the initial investment and - obviously - there is no guarantee I would. Zumba is too expensive to be a hobby, and I really, really, really don't want to make such a large capital investment only to learn that I can't balance Zumba and my kids and quit in six months.

My biggest priority right now needs to be taking care of my kids. Obviously. I want to make the right decisions so I'm not dealing with the consequences of a bad one in a few months. Do you have any insights? You guys can see the bigger picture more clearly. Should I just wait a few more years to get certified? Should I take the plunge now? Ugh, if only God was walking around the Garden of Eden and I could just pull up a log.

10 May 2017

Eleanor Grace

My blog is my scrapbook. My journal. I reread through old posts - Eleanor's, easy, healing birth. The tumultuous early days when I had never ending mastitis and she refused to sleep on her own. Oh, but life was quaint, sweet, mine.

 She was such a curly haired little cutie. High maintenance. Hit her milestones on the early side.

She loved to be carried. I wore her every day. High maintenance little girl. When Theodore was born, I joked, "I could have 10 Theodores, but only 1 Eleanor."

But really freakin' adorable.

And now the script is reversed. Only one Theodore right now, please. He's a high maintenance little stinker. But I wouldn't mind another Eleanor or two - she's helpful, listens, and she's fun to talk to. I like having her around, listening to her chatter - the stream of consciousness of her evolving thoughts.

Today she turned 3.

We still call her by her old nickname, Chubs, even though she has no chubs. "That's the plan, Stan," I say sometimes. "No, Mama, I'm not a Stan. I'm a Chubs." She's very serious, she doesn't have much of a sense of humor. But she's smart, extremely verbal for a three-year-old. She's hungry to learn, to help, to figure out the world around her. I made up a little itinerary for her, with pictures so she could make sense of today.

As per birthday usual, we did all the birthday girl's favorite things. She woke up to a balloon, flowers, and muffins for breakfast. Then a bubble bath and I painted her nails sparkly purple. For the main activity of the day: shopping for two of her favorite things - jewelry and lotion.

I went light on presents this year so she could buy a few things while we were out. We found the most perfect Amulet of Avalor. So perfect, in fact, that I bought an extra one for a rainy day.

Donut (clip on) earrings, purple sparkly headbands. "Mommy, I'm so pretty!"

For lunch, smoothies and candy cookies at Panera Bread. "Eat your grilled cheese, please," I reminded her before correcting myself, "Well, actually, today of all days, you can just eat what you want."

A quick nap, then presents when Daddy got home.

Princess Sofia's royal carriage. "Mommy, I can brush the horsey's hair!" She's so deeply happy.

And a unicorn sundress - $5 from H&M. We're saving cake for a family party this weekend, so today we got birthday ice cream - strawberry with hot fudge and sprinkles, a big upgrade from the usual baby cone.

"Mommy, I have this big ice cream?!" Yes, and you can stay up late after your siblings go to bed. I prayed aloud over her so many times today, and offered my morning Rosary just for her. I prayed that her faith would grow stronger as she grows older. I prayed for physical and emotional protection. I prayed for her future husband, if she's called to marriage, and that she stays pure and innocent. I prayed for holiness. I prayed for a happy, peaceful, faithful, perfect life for her because she is so tiny and adorable and purple and this world is so big and scary and dark. I love her and I'm so glad she's mine.