Thank you, Mom

Yesterday the entire family spent the day at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids.  The kids loved it so much last year that they begged us to go again this fall.  We spent the full day eating, walking around and viewing exhibits, eating some more, and generally spending the close time with one another that we constantly crave and don’t get enough of.

At one point, we stopped in the lobby of the J.W. Marriott for some refreshments.  (Mommy and Daddy each got a cocktail, and the kids got some pop and nuts.)  Maggie snuggled close to me on a couch and admired all of the cards she’d gathered from artists.  She wanted to know, “Which one was your favorite?” from both her dad and me.  Somewhere between ArtPrize chatter and lemonade, she mentioned a loose tooth.  All of a sudden, she popped it out and left a gaping, bloody hole in the side of her smile.  She brightly exclaimed, “Now I’ll have a story to tell my class tomorrow!”

As we sat a while longer, I noticed that Maggie had escaped into her head.  (I easily recognize this because it is a trait we share.)  She was quiet and thoughtful.  When I asked her what she was thinking about, I got, “Nothing.”  Oh, no…there was quite a bit of something going on inside that nine-year-old shell.

After having visited several more exhibits, we finished the day with Bret’s birthday dinner near the dusk-lit window of a downtown restaurant.  The boys got up to use the bathroom, and Maggie and I stayed behind to contemplate the menu.  She looked at me with sad eyes and said, “Mom, I am not that excited about tonight now that I know there’s no tooth fairy.”  Instant dagger. Through the heart.  Cue mommy guilt.

Bret and I were caught in the throws of tooth fairy duty about a month and a half ago.  Bret had come clean that morning and honestly answered all of Maggie’s questions about the tooth fairy and her cohort.  I remember that it was a tough day–one in which I felt like we had taken a sledge hammer to the ilk of an already-short childhood.

At the window, I simply responded, “I know.  I know it’s hard.  I wish I could make it better.”  What else could I say?  I have realized recently–especially after reading Glennon Doyle’s Love Warrior–that pain is an integral part of life.  Sometimes it’s best to just be a good listener and acknowledge the pain rather than trying to cover it up with false statements like, “It will be okay,” or, “Look on the bright side.”

Maggie’s disappointment came at a time when I have been cycling through a season of struggling with being a stay at home mom.  It’s when I feel like I am failing in multiple departments that I start to doubt whether I am doing what I am supposed to.

I have been trying to be more open with my husband recently, sharing these kinds of thoughts and retreating less to my own shell.  So on the way home from our ArtPrize outing, when I was certain the kids were sleeping, I checked in with Bret.  I told him that there is a job opening in the schools–a foot in the door to a classroom position–and I wondered whether he thought I should pursue it.  Am I doing enough?   How do you see me right now?  Do you want me to pursue this position?  I am feeling insecure.  All of these words came tumbling out as we sailed across the dark interstate.  He reassured me, as he often does, “You DO work, Tara.  You just don’t get paid for it.”  He added, “The work you do for our kids and this community is valuable.”

Bret’s words settled me for the night, but it wasn’t till this morning that a flood of direct encouragement came.  I had just said goodbye to the kids in the school’s drop-off lane and they were all but out the door when Maggie turned around.

“Mom, we forgot to pray.”

Immediately, Walt came up behind her and bowed his head when I responded, “You’re right.  Let’s pray.”  I thanked God for the day and for these children and asked that Maggie and Walt be His light at school.  Amen. 

Once again, I said goodbye to the kids.  They turned around, and just as Maggie closed the door, she poked her head back inside and whispered, “Thank you, Mom.”

I don’t know whether Maggie’s gratitude was for the money that the “tooth fairy” had left her last night (she joyfully showed it to me during breakfast), the last-minute prayer, or an acknowledgement of my job (was she really asleep on the long road last night?).  No matter.

Thank you, Maggie.  And thanks to God for working through her.

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Still Riding on the Wagon

I was only guessing when I mentioned that I was five, or maybe eight, pounds up yesterday.  I bucked up and got on the scale this morning for an accurate report.  Five.  I went over to MyFitnessPal and logged my current weight.  The app recalculated my calories and stated that I now have 1210 calories per day and, if I stay on track, I could be down 7.5 pounds by February 6.  We’ll see!

One of the major problems for me in this process of eating/living healthier is “special events.”  I am often plagued with the thinking, “This is a special day.  I can have that cookie (pie, cocktail, etc.).”  I mentioned in my last post that we are currently in the Season of Sugar Cookie Ass.  This season surely has more special days than any other time of year.  There are family gatherings, parties, and lots of wonderful holidays that entice all of us to partake of an abundance of sweets, comfort food, and fun beverages.

But the truth is, life is full of special events.  Each day is a gift, and, if we try hard enough, we can justify every meal and snack as part of something special.  So the real challenge is two-fold: discerning when it really is okay to have that piece of cake, and recognizing that just because you have the cake doesn’t mean you completely fell off the wagon and should throw out all efforts to eat well and exercise regularly.  Hello, new mindset!

Old me would have gone to the Christmas office party, sampled all of the appetizers, had a couple of glasses of wine, indulged in a creamy entree, and crossed the finish line with a dreamy chocolate dessert.  Old me would have thought, “To heck with it!  I already screwed up tonight, so I’ll wait till the beginning of next week to start my diet (to exercise, to begin healthy meal planning, etc.).”  The next week would come, and I would find another special event to indulge in and wait–again–to begin a healthier perspective.  This process was never-ending!  In fact, that mind-set turned into fourteen years of marriage in which I kept waiting till next week, next month, etc. to start living healthier.

New me, thanks to wisdom gained from using MyFitnessPal, realizes that it takes about 3,500 extra calories to gain a pound. Chances are, I am not going to gain weight from one special event in which I overindulge.  I just know that I am not losing weight that day.  I can walk away with my full, full tummy knowing that I did a fabulous job of maintaining my weight that day, thank you very much!

However, I cannot live every day as though it’s an office party.  So I’ve got to make some choices along the way.  My daughter’s birthday?  You bet I am going to eat a cupcake.  My best friend’s birthday lunch?  Of course I am going to have a (small) slice of chocolate cake.  I do not want to offend her or the other sweet friend who made the effort to make or purchase the cake.  But tomorrow’s playdate when crazy kids and tired mommies come together and lay out a counter full of cinnamon rolls, monster cookies, Gold Fish, and a bowl of strawberries?  Chances are, I will pass on the sweets and go for the fruit.  Special day?  Of course.  I get to escape my messy home and connect with other women for a few hours.  That is certainly a banner day.  But not the kind of day worth putting up a temporary stop sign for losing weight.

At this point, I am 8.2 pounds away from my goal weight.  I am writing about healthy living again today in order to remain in a healthful mindset as I start the new year.  I just finished icing my groin again, and I will be off to Pilates shortly.

I am going to leave this post today with a link to a recipe.  I really enjoyed Drop 5 Pounds with Good Housekeeping, the source of the recipe, which I stumbled upon while using the treadmill.


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New Year, Old Me?

It has been two years, three half marathons, and fifty pounds since I last wrote on this blog.  Wow.  I have to remind myself of these milestones to combat the small pity party I am throwing for myself on New Year’s Day.

I just got off the treadmill after running a sad and slow 5K peppered with pain in my lower back and my left groin.  I haven’t been running or exercising much at all for the last four weeks.  Frankly, I feel a bit pudgy.  My clothes don’t fit.  I am icing my groin, and I will head to the medicine cabinet shortly for some ibuprofen.  I know that I am only about five (okay, maybe eight…) pounds up.  I can live with that.  But I am having a hard time accepting the way my body is responding to the hovering 4-0.

Between my husband quitting chewing, my current aches and pains, and the season of Sugar Cookie Ass* (yes, I said ass–this is not for the eyes of young readers–mine or yours), staying fit has been more challenging than ever.  I cannot believe that I am going to write the following statement just after using profanity, but I will go ahead and jump out of my comfort zone again…I believe that God is trying to humble me.  Logical thinking?  I don’t know.  But what I do know is that I generally don’t pray often enough, no matter my good intentions.  I think God might be trying to remind me that I need to look to Him in all ways, always.  I have been hurting more (my body and pride) and praying more often.

So on this New Year’s Day, despite my ice pack pity party, I celebrate the gains (or losses, if we talk weight) I have made.  I ran the half marathon I wrote about in my last 2012 resolutions post.  “This uncoordinated goof” really is “a little bit athletic” after all!  I also noted in my last post that I wanted to be a better wife and mother.  Better can mean improving while still being far from perfect, right?  I think I am a little better.  I don’t know what my gang might say, but I do consciously try to nag less and let housework take a back seat to family time.

As for 2014, my resolutions are as follows:

  1. Worry less and pray more.  (See “humble” reference above.)
  2. Run a full marathon.  (May 24th, Baby!)
  3. Use MyFitnessPal regularly.  (Again.)
  4. Be a better wife and mother.  (This will probably always be on my list.)
  5. Turn 40 with grace.  (No need for any more pity parties this year.  One is enough!)

Happy New Year!  Cheers to old(er) bodies and new goals!

*This reference is not meant to demean or have any connection to Christmas.  This fictional season encompasses the months of November through February when there are more sugar cookies (and other, similarly yummy and unhealthy treats) per capita than any other season of the year.  (Thanks, Mom.  Your “secret recipe” cookies prompted the naming of this season and, obviously, my current ass.)


Getting ready to run my first big race, the Free Press/Talmer Bank Half Marathon in Detroit, October 2012.

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A Retraction and Resolutions

I just got off the eliptical machine and am wondering why it’s such a killer.  I only distanced 1.6 miles and burned 221 calories, yet I feel as though I might pass out!  I had to stick my head out the door in sub-zero weather just now when I let out the dogs.  And I am still sweating profusely!

I have been feeling badly since yesterday about my bragging remark.  I just want to clarify.  I mostly feel uncomfortable with it myself.  That’s not to say that I never will share something about my kids, my husband, or even myself that has made me proud.  I just have to be really excited to toot my own horn.  It’s called personality, and mine tends to be a little neurotic in certain departments.

As for others, bragging only bothers me when it is constant and is never shared alongside any of life’s realities.  Life is not always a bag of chips and a soda.  Sometimes it’s scorching hot coffee and a burnt cinnamon roll, right?  And as for those Christmas “brag letters”…I tend to disagree with my friend in Oregon who cannot stand them.  I approach the mail box with childish enthusiasm as I anticipate each and every one at Christmas (except for the four-page, single-spaced, shoot-me-now one whose author shall remain unnamed!).

So, all of the above said, I want to talk now briefly about new year’s resolutions.  I thought a lot about mine while beaming at the colorful explosion of fireworks over our downtown the other night.  I am keeping my goals pretty simple this year.  First, I resolve to be a better mom and wife.  I recently ran across “A Child’s Ten Commandments to Parents.”  It is now posted on my fridge and serves as a set of good reminders for my parenting.  I especially try to pay attention to the “commandments” regarding nagging of kids and letting housekeeping wait.  These are two of my biggest challenges when it comes to mothering.

Second, I want to run a half-marathon this year.  I have decided that saying I want to lose weight or lose x-number of pounds isn’t working.  Hopefully the weight loss will come with working toward the race.  I am so tired of avoiding cameras and going through a million outfits, trying to find the one that makes me feel the least overweight, when I get ready to go out.  But why the half-marathon in particular?  I have always wanted to run and never had the confidence.  I am ready to prove to myself that this uncoordinated goof can be a little bit athletic.  You could say it’s part of my bucket list.

Anyhow, I’ll leave my post today with a photo of my mom’s Christmas tree platter that she made for a gathering.  I found a picture of one on Pinterest, and she replicated it.  I think it turned out very cute!  (See!  I CAN brag!) 🙂


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Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I am still trying to get back to normal after a house full of company.  It was wild and wonderful all at once with my parents, sister, brother-in-law, and their two children (1 and 3 years) here.

I am ready to hibernate now that the snow is finally beginning to fall.  My family helped rearrange the front room in such a way that I now have a clear view of the woods from my couch.  All I want to do is sip coffee and watch for deer!  Not quite possible in this active home, but it’s my desire nonetheless.

When I have had a few moments to myself, I’ve started to research Valentine’s Day treats and activities.  Thinking of ways to make this holiday special always seems to get me through the post-Christmas slump.

I scooted my (extra-large) butt out the door to the gym this morning and restarted the Couch to 5K program.  We’ll see how long this morning business lasts.  It’s hard to find the motivation to get up at 5:30 now that my usual partner is out of commission.  She has been in physical therapy for about three (maybe four?) weeks now.  I refuse to find out how many pounds I’ve put on since then!

Anyhow, this morning I ran/walked 2.44 miles and shed 232 calories.  There.  Public sharing is supposed to be a self-motivator.  Hmph.  I refuse to be public about it on Facebook though.  Don’t want to either A) look like a loser because my distance and calories burned don’t measure up to others’ or B) look like a braggart.  I am finding in my older age that I highly dislike bragging and thus try not to do it too much myself.  Very few people (including myself, lately!) visit this little, overly unattended blog, so I am more comfortable sharing here.

Here is a glimpse of my Christmas.

ImageChristmas Eve service with older cousin (on right).

ImageKids had to share bed to make room for family.  Here they are in their Christmas pj’s on Christmas Eve.

And here is one of my favorite parts of Christmas…my sister and me trying out the sock bun!  We watched a youtube video after stumbling upon it through Pinterest, and then we had to try it as well.  It was worth MANY laughs, and I know she’ll kill me for posting this lovely photo.  Oh well.  I’ll try to survive!

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Fall Treats Via Pinterest

I am in love with Pinterest.  It’s a little like crack for magazine photo junkies like me!  (Is that comment in poor taste?  Probably.  But now you get the picture.  Pardon the pun.  I’ll move along…)

Anyhow, I am preparing for a progressive dinner that some friends and I are hosting tomorrow night.  My dessert ideas came from that fabulous aforementioned site.  Too bad that not all of my end products aren’t totally fabulous too! But they’ll have to pass.

I started with witch hats and broomsticks.  The hats are from Betty Crocker. They are composed of Keebler Fudge Stripe cookies turned over and topped with an unwrapped Hershey’s Kiss.  I had a lot of trouble with my store-bought cookie frosting and tubes of gel.  In the end, I wish I hadn’t bothered to make these cookies.  Not a lot of bang for my buck.

My broomsticks were made with peanut butter cookie dough, and they were inspired by Diana’s Desserts.

Here is my version of the hats and broomsticks.

Next, I was going to make chocolate-covered Oreo bat pops from The Party Animal.  They would have MAYBE looked something like this:

However, they turned into chocolate-covered Oreos with a Halloween candy plunked on top.  I was getting tired…

Finally, I made some delicious pumpkin cookies found over at House of Hepworths.  Her recipe makes quite a few cookies; be prepared to bake for quite some time if you choose to take these on!  Otherwise, I think they are a wonderful (and not too challenging) alternative to chocolate treats to make at this time of year.

Here is a peek at some of my finished delights.

Up next…pumpkin topiaries.  I made them a few weeks ago, but I am bound and determined to share them before Halloween arrives.  (Yes, I know that I only have three days left!)

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Pumpkin Veggie Tray

I just attended my daughter’s Halloween party. I actually brought a healthy treat, and better yet, the kids actually ate it!

Here is my pumpkin veggie tray.

The curly-cues on top are green onion tops, and you can see that I used whole black olives and broccoli to complete the jack-o-lantern face and pumpkin stem. I even had a request for broccoli from one of the 4-year-olds while I was at the party; that about knocked my socks off!

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