Becoming a Better Me: 3 Months Later

Not gonna lie. I never thought I’d make it to three months into this whole process. In fact, I questioned whether I’d make it through the first 30 days. But, here I am! Stubbornness for the win!

As I mentioned previously, I took some “before” pictures of myself. I took those pictures on March 1st, because that’s when I was determined to make some changes for myself….. Fast forward to April 1st, and that’s when I actually initiated said changes. Better late than never, right?

Well, this morning, I had Hubby take some “after” pictures. I was kind of excited because I just knew the physical changes were awesome. Hubby couldn’t wait to see them side by side. He’s witness my progress and also knew the changes were pretty huge.

I wasn't going to post these for obvious reasons, but then figured some of you may ask. Clearly, the change has been staggering. #sarcasm
Clearly, the change has been staggering. #sarcasm

Except they weren’t. Obviously.

My ego was a bit put out by this. What the heck? I’ve been working my tail off for 3 months, changing my eating habits completely, exercising every flipping day, and there is very little noticeable difference?!?! I must different by now! I have muscles, for crying out loud! 

Then, in the middle of my ego-temper-tantrum, I remembered something. Something very important. I didn’t start this journey to look better. I started this journey to feel better. Looking better, should that happen, would just be a pleasant side effect.

After this realization, I thought about it. How do I feel after three months?

In a word? Amazing.

It took some time to get to this point. During the first four to six weeks, “amazing” was not at all what I was feeling. But something shifted between weeks six and eight, and then even more after that. I started to feel good, and then I started to feel great. I have more energy. I leave the house more often. I think more clearly with no more brain fog. I feel more confident in what I say and do, and just in myself in general. I look better to myself, even if it’s negligible in pictures. My clothes fit better. My skin is clearer. My eyes are brighter. I feel…. lighter. Many of the issues I started with have been resolved. For example, I did not get a hormonal migraine headache this month for the first time in probably two years. I’m sleeping better and actually wake feeling refreshed most of the time. Even better? My attitude is different. For the first time in a long time, I’m not pessimistic about everything. I went from a “yeah, but….” type of person to someone who sees a great future in front of me. I make better choices, whether it’s about what I’m going to eat or what I’m going to do or what I’m going to think about. I feel hopeful instead of constantly worried and overwhelmed. I am much less stressed, and events that typically would’ve caused me to meltdown no longer have that power. I feel more level-headed. Little things don’t bother me so much. I’m more even-tempered and less likely to either go off the deep end or throw a pity party for myself. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I hosted a pity party for myself!

It’s crazy.

The funny thing is, when this all started, the phrase “lifestyle change” was tossed around a lot. I would smile and nod, because of course I would change my lifestyle and tell you whatever you want to hear, while inside I was laughing my butt off and saying no way – I like my wine and coffee and desserts too much! And I hate exercising! But something happened. I feel too good to go back. Now, I have most everything back that I took out of my diet. At the moment, I’m still gluten and refined sugar free, I avoid soy based items and processed foods, but I’ve gotten back dairy and wine and coffee and such. And I’m making more intentional choices about these things. I know now, for example, if I have more than one glass of wine, I’m not going to sleep well and I’m going to feel a bit sluggish and headachy the next day. I know that if I choose to eat a little too much cheese, I will experience pain and bloating later. I know that more than one cup of coffee will give me an “off” feeling in the afternoon. I know that if I eat something carb-ish at night without adding some protein, I will not sleep well. And if I don’t eat or snack regularly, or if I skip a meal? My crazy starts to come back out. I’m learning what’s worth it, and what’s not. What to do, and what not to do. And gluten? I never in a zillion years thought I’d  be able to live without it, let alone want to avoid it. I have had a little recently, once unintentionally, and once in the form of a delicious crusted tilapia filet. I  had no ill-effects that I noticed, so it appears I have no physical “issues” with gluten. But I know that it will quite possibly be my undoing, so I’m leaving it out, indefinitely. I’m making better choices. That doesn’t mean I won’t ever eat a sandwich, or make my favorite cookies or brownies again. And the Butterfinger I have in my freezer from Easter is still waiting for me…. But, for now, I know I can live without it, so I am.

And my exercising….. wow. Who would’ve thought I’d become borderline obsessed with making sure I can get my workout in?! Over the course of three months, I’ve missed a grand total of three workouts. Just three – and that’s only because we were camping. I refuse to miss a workout, especially when I don’t feel like it. It’s become a game – a mental tug of war between the lazy, old me and the better, new me. So far, the better me keeps winning.  I’ve now completed the full 8-week 22 Minute Hard Corps program (plus an extra week of it just for kicks), and I just completed the 21 Day Fix program. Not sure what’s up next, but I feel pretty confident that I will not fall off the wagon this time. It may take only 21 days to form a habit, but I want a solid three months, just to be safe!

So, yeah, I’d say this becoming a better me journey is working. And I now wholeheartedly believe it’s been worth it. I still have about two months to go until I’ve completed the program with my doctor, but so far, the results, while not outwardly visible to most, have been more than I could have hoped for.

Becoming a Better Me: Diet II

Some of the things I've been eating all month!
Some of the things I’ve been eating all month!

30 days of no grains.
30 days of no dairy.
30 days of no sweeteners or processed foods of any kind.
30 days of no caffeine.
30 days of no alcohol.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? And that’s not even the full list of no-no’s during my initial 30 day diet!

So, what did I eat for 30 days? I wish I could tell you. If I had kept a food journal, this post would be much easier to write. But I didn’t because, well, it just didn’t cross my mind. And I was really, really grumpy in the beginning, so odds are I wouldn’t have kept up with it anyway…

We’ve been eating a lot of eggs. (I’m on a modified AIP diet, so I’m allowed eggs and nuts. Woohoo!) We have easily been going through 4 dozen eggs each week at my house, and only three of us eat them. Thank goodness for Costco! Also, avocados, which sounds awesome until you realize you can’t have them as guacamole with chips (because no corn) or salsa (because tomatoes are also on my “no-no” list). I mean, I love me some avocados, but still. Sweet potatoes. I’ve eaten more sweet potatoes in the last month than I had in all the years of my life prior to this past month. Luckily, those have kinda grown on me and I’ve been enjoying them, especially when sautéed with some onion in bacon fat. Yum. I’ve also been inhaling almonds. I grab a handful of raw almonds as a snack with berries and carry them with me everywhere I go. Another favorite snack – apples with almond butter. Delish. And just spoonfuls of almond butter. That has become my dessert of choice since I have no other options. Obviously we’re eating a lot more meat and veggies. A lot more. Especially since we can’t get eat the usual “fillers” like rice or pasta or even beans (also no-no’s). The good news is that by eating this way, we’re getting a ton more nutrients in our diets. The bad news is that it’s putting a serious dent in our budget.

I keep saying “we” because I wasn’t going to do this alone. Actually, scratch that. I wasn’t going to buy/cook foods that I couldn’t eat. So really, there was no choice for Hubby and the kiddos. I’ve kept very little dairy or gluten products in the house, so everyone has had to adjust a bit. No bread. No cheese. No baked goods. The kids have been getting long-grain rice cooked in bone broth or brown rice noodles with their dinner on occasion, as well as gluten free cereal some mornings. I decided that was tolerable and necessary for my sanity. The amazing thing is, the kids have actually been eating. Turns out they will eat more than just plain noodles, chicken nuggets, or cheese quesadillas! Who knew?

The first week we had planned on a ton of new recipes. I spent hours in the kitchen. I ruined things, burned things, didn’t like most of the things (cilantro was in many recipes, and it turns out that I really don’t love cilantro), and basically was just miserable. The timing on “experimenting” was horrible because I was already a cranky beast. I was getting zero coffee, zero sugar, and zero wine. In hindsight, my planning was definitely not well thought out. By day three I was ready to quit. Fortunately, day three was also a doctor’s appointment, and she talked me off my ledge.

Week two was better in the food department because I just decided we’d be boring. I don’t do fancy in the kitchen (unless it involves baked goods, and this most certainly does not). That’s how we started on eggs most mornings, salads or leftovers for lunch, and basic dinners consisting of meat and veggies. Nothing fancy. Pork chops with roasted brussel sprouts. Chicken breasts with broccoli. Pot roast with sweet potatoes. You know, “normal” foods that I could actually make without bursting into tears. The second week was much better than the first.

But something was missing… Pancakes. I attempted to find some recipes so I could feel like we were eating “real” pancakes, even though I couldn’t have butter or syrup. *sigh* I did manage to find a recipe that I tweaked and all of us enjoyed. Well, the kids loved them, but I think it was really just because it’s been so long since they had “real” pancakes that they imagined they were better than they actually were. Hubby and I just tolerated them. I also attempted a “cookie” recipe that the kids won’t touch (and I don’t really blame them), but I eat because it “feels” like a cookie, even if it doesn’t taste like one. The lack of baking has definitely taken a toll on me because that’s the one thing I enjoy doing in the kitchen.

We did, however, find recipes that we really and truly do love. We have a turkey sausage recipe that we all enjoy, and we’ve been making at least 2 pounds each weekend to have during the week. Hubby and I love sweet potato hash, whether it’s at breakfast topped with fried eggs or dinner with some leftover chicken mixed into it. And the best one? Bacon burgers. We chop the bacon and mix it into the seasoned burger meat and grill it to perfection. Topped with grilled onions, it’s to die for. (No bun of course.)

Now, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that it was an awesome 30 days. It wasn’t. I was cranky a lot the first half and had my bad days throughout the month. I still want donuts and wine and cheese and wine and coffee and did I mention wine? I had hoped that the 30 days would “break” me of wanting those things, but no such luck. There were many days that I felt crabby and wondered if it was even going to be worth it. I distinctly remember one day telling myself, “there’s not really anything that wrong with me, so I don’t really need to be doing this…” But I stuck with it. I have no idea how, to be honest, because I am not known for willpower, but I made it all the way through my 30 days with no cheating. Actually, that’s a lie. I cheated on accident when I tasted a smoothie I made for the kids and it had yogurt in it. But it wasn’t a purposeful cheat, so I don’t think that counts as a real cheat. Right?

Now that my 30 days are over, how do I feel?

First of all, I’m starving all the time. I am eating three meals a day plus at least two snacks – more than I ever used to eat! With the amount of food I’m eating, you would think that I would feel full often. But no, I am always hungry. Amazing what happens when you take out all the empty calories and fillers. I just ate a pretty big meal about an hour ago, in fact, and I’m realizing that I’m hungry again as I’m sitting here. Pumpkin and Hubby are the same way. The three of us are constantly famished. Peanut, not so much, but she’s also the one not really eating like I am because she’s the pickiest. I’m not sure why I’m always hungry, but I am. So I just keep on eating.

Now, I was kind of expecting a moment somewhere during the diet when the heavens open and the angels sing and the sun shines down on me and I suddenly feel awesome. Because I really, really want to feel awesome…. but that hasn’t happened. Instead, my body is working better. (Please don’t ask me to explain. Just trust me.) I think I’m sleeping a little better, and I’m getting up early without too much struggle. And energy? I don’t necessarily feel it, but I must have more energy. I mean, I’m not bouncing off the walls and cleaning every corner of my house (wouldn’t that be a nice side-effect?), but I’m not lethargic during the day. I’m not having to spend time on the couch because I just.can’t.move. I’m actually busy and productive during the day and into the night. I’ve been out and about frequently during the last couple weeks, and that’s unheard of for a self-proclaimed hermit like me. I’m even still dressed by the time Hubby gets home from work in the evening instead of in my robe on the couch in mombie-mode.

As cheesy as it sounds, things also seem brighter to me. I remember driving back from a doctor’s appointment one morning and noticing how blue the sky looked and how bright and cheerful everything seemed. I even rolled my eyes at myself for thinking it, but it’s true. Life just seems better. Am I happy all the time? Of course not. But I think I’ve been happier and less stressed lately. And that’s a win for me!

Ok, so, now what?

I’m only one month into a five month program. I’ve just entered the re-introduction phase. On Wednesday I got some foods back like nightshades (tomatoes and peppers!) and all fruit (bananas!). I also can have beans again (hummus!) and sweeteners like honey and maple syrup within reason. (We have to keep my blood sugar levels consistent.) Those are my “go for it” foods that I can have as long as I have no ill effects. We’re also slowly adding other things back in, one at a time every 4 days. I asked for wine, but that was a no-go. (Sad but not surprising.) Instead, I settled for oats. That gives me something else for breakfast besides eggs. After four days, if I have no reactions to the oats, I can add rice (and rice pasta). I figure that’s a good second step because, again, it opens up so much more for meals. Next week we get to decide on two more items to add back.

I think I’ll try the wine again.

I’ll keep you posted as I move along!

 

Why we are choosing to homeschool

A recent entry in my art journal. This quote hit home, but I cannot remember where I originally read it.
A recent entry in my art journal.

Today is the big day! It’s the first day of school for the kids in our area! There will be a collective shout of joy from many moms and maybe a few misty eyes from others. But all in all, starting today, the kids will be busy at school.

Well, except for mine.

By far, the biggest question we get asked when we tell people we’ll be homeschooling this fall is “Why?”, followed by looks of pity that scream why in the world would you want to do that?!?! (Just kidding. Sort of.) And no, there were no issues at school. No bullies, and her grades were great. It has nothing to do with the enrichment program dissolving or the high school closing, although that did build our confidence that this is the right choice for us. And no, we’re not doing it to “stick it to the system”. (Vive la révolution!) We’re not doing it because we think we’re better or because we think we’re smarter. We don’t think your kids will suffer and ours will excel. The short answer is we’re doing it because we believe this path is currently the right one for our family.

I’m the first to admit that this seems to be an odd path for us, mainly because we moved into this area a number of years ago specifically for the schools. (Go figure.) I mean, just about a year and a half ago, I was counting down until Pumpkin would be starting kindergarten full-time. So, what gives? Why in the world have we decided to start this new adventure and take on not only raising (which is exhausting enough), but educating our kids as well?

(I almost did not publish this post. I can’t write it without sounding like my choice is best, because for our family, it is. But by writing about why I believe our choice is best for us and our circumstances, it’s going to be read that any other choices are less than the best. That is not at all what I’m trying to say. I’m not trying to tell you that homeschooling is the best for your kids, because it may not be. Remember, this post is not about you and your kids, it’s about me and mine. Ok?) 

Family Time

While this list isn’t really in any sort of order, family time is by far the most important reason we are choosing to homeschool. Hubby’s schedule is such that, during the school year, he rarely sees the kids. He sees them briefly before the bus takes them away, but he gets home after bedtime. He works all day every Saturday and most holidays. Typically, Sunday is the only day we get to spend as a family, and usually that day gets used up with chores around the house or other outside family parties or gatherings. So, our family time is virtually none during the school year, and that is not ok.

By homeschooling, Hubby will get to see the kids much more often since he leaves for work in the afternoon. He will get to be involved in their lives with what they are learning and doing. He will be teaching them right along with me, every step of the way. We will get to have “family meals” most days instead of just on Sundays. Basically, we will get more quality time together, and that’s huge for us.

Learning about our kids, with our kids

I’ve often said that the little girl that got on the bus in kindergarten is not the same girl that got off the bus last year, and I don’t just mean because she has been growing up. She has changed and forgotten who she used to be. For the past 4 years, she has spent a lot of her waking time at school, changing a little each day and being molded by the school system. I want to get to know her again. I want to know what makes her tick, how she learns best, what inspires her. I want to get to her core and have her learn what it means to be herself – her true self – and not what others expect or want her to be. Fortunately, Pumpkin hasn’t un-learned who she truly is yet, and hopefully we can keep her that way.

Finding their talents and passions, and cultivating them

I believe everyone has a gift, or even multiple gifts. I also believe school can squash those gifts by directing kids to be “successful” instead of “happy”. Do I want my kids to be successful in life? Absolutely! But our idea of successful and society’s idea of successful may be two very different things. I want my kids to recognize their gifts and have the time and opportunity to let those gifts grow and flourish. I want to see my kids’ eyes light up when they figure something out or when they find what brings them joy. Can they find their gifts at school? Maybe. But right now, I’m not willing to chance it. Above all, I want my kids to be kids and not little grown-ups. My kid doesn’t need to be college ready at age 9, thank you very much. I truly believe childhood keeps getting taken away from our kids, and this is one way I can slow it down a bit.

Incorporating faith

We are a Christian home. Our faith is important, and it’s becoming increasingly more important as the years go by. I want my kids to have a strong faith. I want them to know God. I want them to learn what Christian living is supposed to be through serving others and volunteering and through their own personal quiet times with God. I know Christian values are not taught in school and can even be frowned upon. Political correctness and this whole “easily offended society” we live in makes me crazy. Am I going to brainwash my kids? No. Am I going to teach about other faiths and beliefs and diversity? Of course. Am I going to let my children choose their own path as they grow older? Absolutely. But my job right now is to be sure that I’m bringing my kids up well, and the best way I know to do that is by incorporating our faith into everyday life.

Life lessons, not just random facts

How much do you remember about what you learned in school? If you’re like me, I’m going to say not a whole lot. Sure you remember social engagements, sporting events, teachers….. but I’m sure there’s not a whole lot of the “learned” stuff left in there. Why? Because lots (and lots and lots) of what we learned we do not use. Ever. Nowadays, it’s even worse because the kids are learning what they need to know to pass tests and not learning because the lessons are important in life. Do I have stats to back that up? Nope, this is all purely my opinion and speculation, as well as my own past experiences in school. Could I take the time to research all the stats and such and report it here for you? I guess if I really wanted to I could. But I don’t. I have too much life to live.

I want my kids to know how to be independent adults when the time comes. I want them to know how to grocery shop, how to cook, how to clean, how to change the oil in their cars. I want them to know how to find answers to questions and work through problems. I want them to know how to be responsible for themselves. I want them to know that it’s important to take care of the bodies they were given by eating healthy and being active. I want them to be good stewards of their belongings and realize that money does not equal happiness. I want them to know how to take care of their finances and budget and stay out of debt. I want them to know what it means to be generous – with their money, with their time, and with their gifts.

You know, all the stuff they *don’t* teach in school.

Does that mean my kids won’t learn about explorers and science and history and math…? Of course not. But my kids will learn a little differently than yours, at a different pace than yours, and in a different time frame than yours. Is one way right and one way wrong? Nope. Just different.

And different is good.

Nurture a love of learning, not a love of “good grades”

This one hits home for me because I was good at school. I had the good grades and the competitive nature to want to be one of the best in academics. So, I learned at school how to take tests and to anticipate the areas I would need to focus on to get the grades. After the test, the information was gone. I rarely retained anything after midterms. I didn’t learn because I wanted the knowledge. I just did what I needed to do to get the grades. I lost my love of learning in the competitiveness of academic success.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think healthy competition is good. I just don’t believe that learning to get the good grade is as effective as learning because you want to know more. I want my kids to be passionate about learning and to realize that learning isn’t just confined to within the walls of a school.

Flexibility

You know what I’d love to do someday? Travel. Once of my dreams is to travel the world with my family. You know what doesn’t work with that? Rigid schedules. With my kids getting older, it’s harder and harder to pull them out of school for something “fun”. Vacations need to planned around school breaks, when the rest of the world takes vacations and prices skyrocket. Spur of the moment opportunities need to be rejected because there’s a big test that week or there will be too much homework to make up.

You know what? It’s our life. I want us to be able to enjoy it while the kids are young and want to hang out with us. If we decide we want to go camping on a Sunday-Tuesday (because that is what would work best with Hubby’s schedule), then I want to be able to do it without having to worry about too many days missed at school. If the weather is gorgeous and it’s a perfect day for the zoo, I want to just go to the zoo without having to call the school and make up a story about why my kid won’t be there (or risk the dreaded “unexcused absence”, since quality family time doesn’t count as an excusable reason). When my sister comes to town to visit, I don’t want the kids missing out on quality time with her because of school schedules. Peanut is getting old enough to go hunting with Hubby. I want her to be able to go a few mornings with him – even on school days – to experience one of his favorite things with him.

I want to let me kids sleep in after a rough night of storms instead of dragging them out of bed before they’re ready. I want to be able to finish that movie with them even though it’s getting late on a school night. I want them to be able to enjoy breakfast instead of rushing through it to make it to the bus. (And for those of you that are thinking “well, they have to get ready for work in the morning someday so you’re doing them a disservice”….. Remember college? How early did you get up then? Exactly.)

Will we travel or camp during the week? I don’t know. But if the opportunities arise, I want to be able to just pick up and go without having to clear it with an outside entity.

Expanding horizons

I loved learning about mythology when I was younger, and Greek mythology was my favorite. You know what we didn’t spend much time on in school? Yep, Greek mythology. I mean, we did spend some time over the years, but I would have loved to go so much deeper into it. I even took a class or two in college, when I could fit it in my schedule.

Is Greek mythology something important in life? Not necessarily. But it was an interest. Who knows where it would have taken me. It may have opened up other opportunities through museums, travel, in the art world, literature…. But I’ll never know because in school you have only a limited amount of time to get through each topic. And in school, kids don’t have the same interests in the same topics. It’s basically a one-size-fits-all system. And yes, they can always explore the topics on their own outside of school, but with all the homework eating away their precious minutes, when would they find the time?

But what if you could have studied deeper into that one thing that interested you to see where it took you? (Some of you may have and are working your dream jobs – kudos to you! That’s a rarity, so you are a lucky one!) What if you were able to spend weeks on volcanoes, instead of just a few days? What if those math equations spoke to you (I know, that’s a stretch) and you were able to grasp even more than you thought possible? What if that study on plants would have turned into a career in botany where you could have traveled the world to discover new species? What if….

I want to give my kids those chances, without the “what ifs”. I want them to explore until they’ve learned their fill and decide to move on to something else. I want them to learn about what excites them and triggers their natural curiosity.

 

I understand that not everyone can homeschool. I know that everyone has different circumstances. We all want what’s best for our kids. For most, school is the best (and sometimes only) option. This post is not a “mom shaming” post, by any means. I didn’t write this to seem like my way is the better way. Heck, I could very well be back on the “yay for school” team next fall. It’s just insight as to why we are choosing this path. It is a choice, and it’s a big one. And right now, it’s the best choice for our family.

Getting it all wrong

We attended an awesome sermon on Sunday about seeking first the Kingdom of God, and everything else falls into place. I’m trying to put that into practice in my life. I *thought* I was already sort of doing that. But now, I am pretty sure I was wrong.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. Well, dwelling, actually. Maybe even wallowing. I’m finding this mom thing to be hard and time consuming and no one listens and everyone is making me crazy and why can’t I do what I want to do and how am I supposed to find my gifts and purpose in life with these little people interrupting all my deep thoughts and inner conversations… and… and…!!! Poor me, right? So I’ve been praying “show me what I’m supposed to be doing” and “help me figure out how to fit more in my day” and “help me to see what I need to do to be more successful”.

Apparently, I’ve been too wrapped up in me.

You see, I’ve been reading a lot about big dreams and all these people that are so inspiring and successful. And I want that to be me. I want to inspire! I want to be important!

I’m sure I’m meant for more than just this, right…?

So, Tuesday morning, I’m searching through my Bible and looking up stuff on children. Mainly discipline related. Maybe even something involving “smiting”. Because no one is listening to me these days!!! 

Instead, I was led to Psalm 127:3. Do you know what it says?

“Children are a gift from the Lord….”

That stopped me right there. I know I’ve heard it before, but reading it – when I was literally searching for ways to get them to listen to me – made me freeze. Children are a gift. You know what’s funny about gifts? They don’t have to be given. There is no obligation for someone to give you a gift, no matter what society tells you.

This one verse reminded me of all the heartache we faced over 10 years ago with fertility treatments that didn’t work. These words brought back all the tears and the unanswered questions about why we couldn’t conceive. This moment made all the years of continued failed attempts at pregnancy – with both of our girls – come rushing back. This verse reminding me how much I wanted to be a mommy, back before I was able to be one.

MY children are a gift from God.

What if I am supposed to do just this right now? What if I start treating my kids like the gifts they are, instead of making them feel like inconveniences when I’m doing something “important”? What if I’m supposed to be here to inspire my girls and not the masses of strangers out there? What if being here and present for them day in and day out causes them to become women who inspire the masses and change the world?

I’ve not really thought of that. I selfishly want it to be me that’s big and important. I want people to know me – which is funny because the majority of the time, I just want to be by myself. I see myself more as the reclusive artist/writer who lives a quiet life off the grid. Hard to do that AND be big and important.

So maybe my focus has been all wrong. Maybe it’s not about me finding myself. (At least, not right now.) Maybe it’s about helping my kids find themselves, to become what they are supposed to be. To find and use their gifts. Who knows, they may be the ones that change the world someday.

#AugustInspiration