Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Boys' Bedding and God's Plan

My two boys share a bedroom and sleep in bunk beds.  They have had the same bedding for quite some time now.  It's fine.  They sleep on it.  They have moved on from their current bedding themes, but it just hasn't been a priority to upgrade.

So my husband and I decided that we would love to surprise our boys with new bedding that reflects who they are and what they're currently into.  Nolan, our oldest, has {sadly} moved on from dinosaurs and now loves Marvel superheroes.  Griffin, our middle child, still likes his sports sheets, but he is also very much into Mario right now.  

So I ordered new superhero bedding for Nolan, and it arrived while we were still hunting for just the right thing for Griffin.  I thought I had it hidden well enough, but Nolan discovered his new super-soft blanket and excitedly brought it to me.  I explained that I was going to surprise him and that I wanted him to wait until we had Griffin's surprise too.  Griffin never gave any of it a second thought.

Nolan has been asking me everyday if we have ordered Griffin's sheets yet.  I usually redirect the conversation or tell him I don't know what he's talking about.  He always grins so cutely and presses me for more information because he's so excited about that blanket.  He doesn't even know that we also got him sheets and a super cool pillow case.

Today when we got home after school, there were two boxes from UPS sitting on our front porch.  Nolan was elated.  He was sure the boxes contained Griffin's bedding.  I miraculously snuck the boxes (one with the new sheets and one with Griffin's new super-soft blanket) downstairs and started a washer load so I could wash both boys' new bedding.  

My plan was to get all the new bedding clean and put it on the boys' beds tomorrow.  I imagined their eyes getting huge and their faces lighting up as they walk in to see their newly made beds.

Nolan has been bugging me about this all evening.  Tonight when I was tucking him into bed, he again told me he knows Griffin's sheets came.  He finally wore me down to the point of being frustrated.  I told him just to forget about it so I could surprise him.  

I felt the joy being sucked out of me as my surprise plan was being ruined.

Nolan only knew a tiny part of my plan to randomly bless him.  He didn't even know all the surprises I had carefully chosen just for him.  But he couldn't trust me enough to let me carry out my plan.

I was struck with the parallel for God's plans for us.  I bug and bug him about what he's going to do and when.  I don't trust him enough to just wait and see what he has already chosen just for me.  My impatience and need to know what's going to happen interfere with the perfect plan he has for me.  

Are you a Nolan or a Griffin?  Do you bug God and try to speed up his plan or at least get him to spoil some surprises?  Or do you calmly trust him to reveal his plan in his time?

Diet Foods: Breakfast

I'm in a bit of a breakfast rut right now, but I wanted to share the breakfast foods I like most (that are diet friendly, that is!).  I start every morning with coffee.  Can't help it.  I use fat-free cream, and I use a little sugar and a little Truvia:
I'm not sure if I'll ever kick my coffee habit, but I do think watching my sugar and cream helps.  Plus I drink half decaf and half regular coffee.  Anyway, I do not like other artificial sweeteners, but I have no issues with Truvia.  

Everyone knows eggs are a yummy breakfast food.  But I have a little trick.  I combine two egg whites with one whole egg.  I whip them up with a fork like scrambled eggs, but without milk.  Then I just cook them in my little skillet (with salt and pepper).  This way I get the flavor from the one egg yolk without the extra fat and cholesterol I would get from the two egg yolks I omit.
Eggs and bacon are a match made in Heaven, but I opt for turkey bacon.  Since I love my bacon very crispy {nearly burnt}, I lay the bacon on a paper towel, cover it with another paper towel, and microwave it.  It comes out crispy and delicious.
Then my awesome husband discovered chicken bacon.  This stuff tastes exactly like turkey bacon, but it has fewer calories and less fat.  Same story here:  I cook it in the microwave.  In fact, I put it in the microwave and then cook my eggs, and it's all ready about the same time.

A recent breakfast discovery I've made is steel cut oatmeal.  I wanted to try this make-ahead oatmeal, but all I could find is the "instant" steel cut oatmeal, which doesn't cook the same as regular steel cut oatmeal.  Since I didn't discover this difference until after I had brought it home from the store, I decided to give it a try.  It's very easy to make (it does indeed take 5 minutes, as stated on the package).  I usually add an obscene amount of brown sugar to my oatmeal {yum}.  But this oatmeal has such great texture, and I've discovered a new add-in:

I love sprinkling golden raisins on my oatmeal because they add tons of sweetness.  I add them right away after the oatmeal cooks, and the heat softens the raisins just a little.  Sometimes I still add 1-2 teaspoons of brown sugar, which is waaaay less than I used to.  

And for anyone who hasn't had these, yes golden raisins taste different than regular dark raisins.  Golden raisins are much more plump and chewy (in a good way).

This last pick is really more of a snack, but I grab a Special K 90 Calorie Bar when I need to eat breakfast on the go.  I really like the Chocolatey Chip Cookie flavor pictured above.  I also like the Strawberry flavor seen here:
Since I like these so much, I tried the Special K Protein Meal bars.  Big mistake.  Huge.  They tasted awful.  I would not recommend them.

So there you have it.  These are my current breakfast selections.  I need to mix things up, huh?  Stay tuned for my favorite selections for lunch & dinner, snacks, and extras.


Not Almost Perfect

Yesterday I had a moment of panic as I realized the name of my blog could be misinterpreted.

I meant for it to say that I am a perfectionist, but I'm always landing just shy of my target.  I'm almost the mom, wife, friend, and Christian I think I should be.  And in most cases, I'm not even almost there.

I hope no one reads my blog name and thinks I'm saying I'm almost perfect.  That couldn't be farther from the truth.

I am also hoping to work through a lot of areas where I struggle with perfectionism in my life.  I'm hoping to someday say that I almost got swallowed up by my perfectionism, but I finally gathered the strength to let it go.  

I tell myself that I'm just striving to do better and be better, but ultimately I've crossed a line and now nothing I do is ever good enough.  You know, like choosing a blog name.

So stick with me as I share my journey.  I promise I will occasionally say the wrong thing.  Some posts will not be as well written as they could be.  There will  be other bloggers out in the world with yummier recipes, cooler ideas, more detailed tutorials, clearer photos, and better writing styles.

In the meantime, I will be me.  I'm the only one in this big wide world.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Diet Foods: Desserts

I want to share all my favorite "diet" foods in case any of you are looking for some healthy favorites.  I think we should start with desserts first, don't you?

Let me also state that I'm not being compensated in any way for recommending any particular brands.  These are all my own opinions.

Smart Ones Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Sundaes are my absolute favorite diet dessert.  I wouldn't have survived this long without these things.  I did not like the Smart Ones Turtle Sundaes, and I think the Brownie Fudge Sundaes are fine but not amazing.  As usually happens with all my favorite foods, the company decided to "improve" the product.  The sundaes now come in a 4-pack like this:

I swear they taste different in the new packaging.  They used to be wider and shallower, so I felt like I was eating more.  Now each container is narrower and deeper and appears smaller.  The worst part is that now the cookie crust is barely detectable in the "new and improved" version.  Boo.  Don't mess with my favorite treat.

My next fantastic find is Breyers Carb Smart Vanilla Ice Cream.  I'm a girl who likes full-fat super creamy ice cream with an equal amount of toppings as ice cream.  So I'm fairly hard to please when it comes to light ice cream.  I never would have imagined that I would like this ice cream as much as I do.  It is creamy and doesn't taste artificial.  I always measure out my 1/2 cup serving (because I don't trust myself to eyeball it).  It's low enough in calories, fat, and carbs that I can either eat it plain (which is surprisingly good) or add some sort of topping (like a 100 calorie pack of Oreos).

I eat these Snack Packs as a late-night snack as often as I eat them as a dessert.  I personally like them cold, so I keep 'em in the fridge.  I don't like the taste of most sugar-free foods because I don't like the taste of artificial sweeteners.  But this pudding is chocolatey and yummy.

We order food from Schwan's when we can get a good deal or find a food that we absolutely love.  Schwan's has a line called LiveSmart, which is basically all of their healthier foods.  I really like their LiveSmart Enticings Chocolate and Vanilla Low-Fat Ice Cream Sandwiches.

This concludes my list of favorite diet desserts for now.  I don't care how much weight I have to lose; I can't live without dessert.  I hope some of these can become your favorites too!


Recommended Reading: Heaven Is For Real

After I discovered that I can read books for grown-ups, I borrowed "Heaven Is For Real" from a friend.  It's one of those books that I've heard people talk about but never had the time to read it for myself.  This book is amazing.

Here's a little description from heavenisforreal.net
Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year old son of a small town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence was clear.
Colton said he met his miscarried sister, whom no one had told him about, and his great grandfather who died 30 years before Colton was born, then shared impossible-to-know details about each. He describes the horse that only Jesus could ride, about how "reaaally big" God and his chair are, and how the Holy Spirit "shoots down power" from heaven to help us.
Told by the father, but often in Colton's own words, the disarmingly simple message is heaven is a real place, Jesus really loves children, and be ready, there is a coming last battle.
This book is a bit intense at times.  It is written so well that you feel this father's anguish as his son is ill and near death.  This book was easy to read through, but I did have to put it down at times so I could kiss my children and let my emotions recover.

I think this book can speak to anyone.  It's a great reminder to everyone that there's more to life than the day-to-day.   I truly believe that Heaven is for real, and this book offers real evidence to anyone who is still questioning.


Blog Spotlight: Moms By Heart

 Lori, the author of the brilliant blog Moms By Heart, is my hero.

My obsession admiration began a while back when my family (like so many others) was really struggling financially.  I wanted to be able to stretch our dollars to provide everything my kids need, but I didn't want to be a crazy coupon hoarder (sorry).

Lori is a super mom who balances raising five children and running a fantastic blog (and I'm sure 152 other things).  She occasionally shares stories from her personal/family life, and I really enjoy her writing.  At the end of last year, I printed out her series called In-Law Survival Guide and discussed it in my Sunday school class as we were encouraging each other to make the most of Christmas with difficult family members.

Click to read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.  Funny and helpful.  And applicable to more than just in-laws and for times other than Christmas.

If you want to know more about what kind of blog Lori runs, read her post entitled "6 Reasons You Should Not Subscribe To This Blog."  It will make you subscribe immediately.

I check Moms By Heart daily (usually twice per day) to see what Lori has rounded up.

A quick glance at the blog will show you all the current sales and best deals on items such as clothing, toiletries, food, and toys.  She also features tutorials and free printables from other great blogs.  

One stop to Moms By Heart might help you buy some clothes for your kids (on sale plus an additional discount code with free shipping), snag some free makeup for yourself, figure out what to make for dinner tonight, and make cute decorations or treats for the next holiday.  

When you have a few minutes, I suggest that you explore the whole blog.  You'll find helpful information about how couponing works, how to earn money from home, how to get the best deals at your local stores, as well as tons of helpful information about homemaking (recipes, meal planning, cleaning, crafts, entertaining kids, etc.).  

The thing I love most is Lori's attitude of sharing whatever she finds that might help someone else.  I think life can be tough sometimes, so we might as well help each other along.

More of my favorite blogs to come! 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Favorite Things: SparkPeople

Now that you know that I'm trying to lose weight, I want to share any secrets, tips, and useful tools I have found. 

The most helpful tool I have found is the smart phone app connected to the website SparkPeople.  So let's first discuss the website.  I first discovered this website a few years ago when I was trying to lose weight after having my second child.

The idea behind SparkPeople is very similar to the program Weight Watchers.  But the most important difference is that SparkPeople is free!  

Their "About Us" page begins:
At SparkPeople, our mission is to SPARK millions of PEOPLE to reach their goals and lead healthier lives. We offer nutrition, health, and fitness tools, support, and resources that are 100% free, while other sites like Weight Watchers and eDiets.com charge their members for similar services.
Click here to read more about their company, services, and tools.  

I personally find the SparkPeople website to be a little overwhelming.  I'm not really sure where I should click first.  Let me just give you some highlights.

You can enter your current weight and stats and enter your goal(s).  Then SparkPeople gives you a plan for diet and exercise.  They tell you how many calories you should burn each day through exercise as well as ranges you should stick to for calories, carbs, fat, and protein.  Their database is full of just about every food imaginable, as well as tons of exercises (and you can very quickly and easily enter nutrition facts for a food you don't see in their database).  So each day you just enter what you eat and what you do for exercise.  Then you can make any adjustments needed to meet your goals.  

I feel like it's a nice balanced approach.  They aim to help people meet their goals and then maintain them.  They don't want you to starve yourself or do anything unhealthy.  I was pleasantly surprised to see how many calories I needed to burn each day in order to meet my goal, and there are so many ways I can burn those calories.  The next step was convincing myself to be okay with just doing the work needed for that day and then being satisfied.  In the past I have tried to do too much right away and then burned out very quickly.

After tracking your diet and exercise, there are lots of options on the website that I don't use that much.  They give "SparkPoints" for doing all sorts of things, like logging in each day, reading an article, or trying a new recipe.  I'm generally not in the mood to play along.  You can have them email you a healthy recipe each day.  The recipe emails began to clog my inbox, unread, so I opted out.  You can join forums and hear from other people and add your own comments.  You can join teams, like Stay at Home Moms or Emotional Eaters.  You can also set other goals (like running farther or doing more push ups) and track other things beside food (like water intake, which I do track).  

I did use the website to lose weight years ago, but I have to admit it can get old to get on my computer every time I eat.  So now that I have an iPhone (and love it and take it everywhere!), I discovered a SparkPeople app.  It's awesome!  It's basically just my favorite features from the website.  

The app is very easy and intuitive to use, and not as cluttered or overwhelming as the website.  I click on "Food" to enter the food I eat (and yes, I enter EVERY morsel I consume...trust me, it's fast and easy), I click on "Fitness" to enter any exercise (cardio or strength training), and I click on "Today" to see where I currently stand with my daily goals.  The "Weight" tab is pretty self-explanatory.  I weigh in once per week.  And the "More" tab lets you change your goals, manage meal plans, track your water intake, see reports, and more.  

To get the free app, visit your app store on your phone or click here

It can be overwhelming figuring out what to do to lose weight or even maintain your current weight.  I am a big fan of sharing any insider tips I have discovered that can help other people.  Later I will be sharing more tips and some of my favorite "diet" foods.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Sorry About Your Weight

I'm not a small girl.  I'm not necessarily round with rolls, but I think most people would describe me using words like "big boned" and "curvy."  

I have struggled with my weight and body image for all of my adolescent and adult life.  My chest started developing when I was 9, and I really don't think it has stopped yet.  I have had outer thigh "saddle bags" since early high school.  My DNA wants me to be an hourglass.  And not like the little hourglass you use with a board game.  More like the big hourglass that the wicked witch uses in "The Wizard of Oz."

I had three children in five years, stacking pregnancy weight gains on top of each other.  I did lose a decent amount of weight after my second child was past nursing age (my body won't release one fat cell while I'm nursing no matter how hard I try).  When I became pregnant with our third child, one family member said to me, "Really?  That's a shame when you just finally lost some weight."

When I was in college my husband (then boyfriend/fiance) had a roommate named Sam who was a "big guy."  He was a good sport and used humor to address his weight.  One night we all went out to dinner together.  When the waitress first came to our table, she said, "Sorry about your wait."  Sam quickly replied, "Is that a fat joke?"

That became one of those lines that we remembered and reused over the years.  I always wished that I had Sam's ability to address my weight openly and with humor.  

I am a perfectionist.  {I think we've established that.}  To me, being overweight feels like wearing my failure all over my body for everyone to see.  You can take one look at me and see that I have an unhealthy relationship with food.  I am undisciplined with regards to exercise.  I don't understand basic principles of fitness that everyone else seems to have nailed long ago.

When I'm waiting outside my son's school every afternoon, the other parents don't know that I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA.  They don't know that I can sew nearly anything or rock your world with my Oreo cupcakes.  They don't know that I've overcome obstacles or that I try to serve God in any way that I can.  

But those slender, well-dressed moms can easily see that I have failed at the basic task of caring for my own body.

Over the last two years, since my daughter was born, I have truly tried to lose weight.  I have walked until my joints ached.  I have made small and large changes in my diet.  And yet the scale barely budges.  I even went to the doctor and asked to have my thyroid checked because I just couldn't explain why I couldn't lose more than 5 pounds.

I have mixed feelings about New Year's Resolutions.  But this year I decided that no matter how trite it seems, I would try once again to lose weight.  I am turning 30 in April, and I thought how amazing it would be to enjoy a birthday dinner with my friends and family without constantly adjusting my clothes and wondering what everyone was thinking about my shape or what I was eating.

Finally, I have tasted a bit of success.  As of today, I have lost 22 pounds since January 1.  I do feel like I'm working VERY hard, and I know that I still have a long way to go to get down to a healthy weight.  Right now I'm feeling a little discouraged because people around me don't seem to notice my weight change, and I don't feel much smaller.  I don't really believe that I will get down to a healthy weight or that I will be able to maintain my weight loss.  I'm glad that I finally started the ball rolling, but I know I still have a long way to go physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I know so many people struggle with their body image, no matter what their weight or size is.  I want to be vulnerable {hard as it may be} and share my story in the hopes that it can help just one other person.  In future posts, I will be sharing tools and foods that I have found very helpful as I'm trying to lose weight. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

30 Day Mom Challenge

Have you seen this awesome 30 Day Mom Challenge?
Head over here to check it out and get your free printable version.

Favorite Things: Pandora

I have an iPhone.  I did not want an iPhone.  I had a Droid for two years, and I swear that thing was a lemon.  I won't get into the troubles I had with that phone.  When I was due for my two-year upgrade, my husband pushed hard for me to get an iPhone.  He practically made me a PowerPoint presentation with all the reasons I should get one.  We had a lot of conversations like this:
       Him:  Hey, if you get an iPhone, we can FaceTime!
       Me:  I don't know what that means.
      Him:  Well, we can sync our phone calendars.
      Me:  I don't really want to know all the boring meetings you have 
              scheduled all day.

When I went to Verizon to choose my new phone, I was so overwhelmed with the options that I went with his choice and got an iPhone.  I may have pouted a bit about having to learn a new phone.  But I can honestly say that now I LOVE my phone. 

One of the issues I had with my Droid was that it never let me download any apps.  So now I'm having fun with all the useful apps I have found for my iPhone.  Because I'm a tightwad frugal, I try to only get free apps.

So, my most recent favorite app is Pandora Radio.  This little gem was also brought to me by my hubby.

You start by typing in the name of one of your favorite artists, composers, or songs.  Pandora then generates a "station" that is a mix of similar artists and songs.  

When I am in my car, I only listen to the local Christian radio station.  I find the music to be very uplifting and encouraging.  I really enjoy the mix of music they play.  There have been so many times when I have felt God speaking to me through the music I hear on this station.

As much as I love, and even need, listening to Christian music, discovering Pandora has opened up a whole new world for me.  I had forgotten how much music moves me.  Now I enjoy mundane activities (cleaning, straightening my hair, making dinner) because I have music playing in the background.

The first time I used Pandora, I typed in Jason Mraz because I know I like a couple of his songs.  The Jason Mraz station played several songs that I loved even more, so I took note of the artists' names.  My current favorite station is the Colbie Caillat station (any idea how to pronounce her last name?).    

I even found several workout stations, and last night I easily put in 40 minutes on my elliptical machine (when I normally do 30 and count down every minute) because I was busy jamming to the music.

If you have a smart phone, give Pandora a try and let me know what stations you like!


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recommended Reading: The Shack

This is the book that helped me re-learn how to read.  Allow me to explain.

My three children are ages 5, 4, and 2.  That means that for the past five years of my life, I have only read books that have short sentences and illustrations on every page.  {Despite the fact that I was a bookworm growing up.}

On our walk home from school every afternoon, we like to stop and chat with a woman who lives up our street.  One Friday last fall, she told me about a paperback book exchange she had joined.  She asked me if I read, and I'm sure she could see the panic on my face.  I didn't want to tell this avid reader that I hadn't read a book made for grown-ups in at least five years!

She disappeared into her house and emerged with a copy of "The Shack." She then proceeded to tell me how everyone she knows has read this book in a day or two.  {No pressure.}  The book in my hand felt like a ticking time bomb as I felt the full weight of her expectation that I would read and return the book by the following week.

It just so happened that my husband was out of town on a business trip.  Since I don't sleep well when he's gone anyway, I decided to start reading the book after I got the kiddos to bed.  True to my overachieverness (it's a word), I stayed up very late that night and read every possible second that I could the next day.  I did finish the book that weekend.  But I didn't do it because I felt pressured.  I could not put this book down!

"The Shack" is about a father who takes his kids on vacation, and his youngest daughter is abducted.  The only evidence in her case is found in an old rundown shack in the middle of the woods.  The father later receives a note inviting him back to the shack, and the note is signed by God.  The remainder of the book follows this broken man's journey to get his questions answered and his wounds healed.  

This book spoke to me in a deeply personal way as I read it in the very month that marked four years since a dear friend of mine was brutally murdered.  That event triggered a very dark time for me, and I had so many unanswered questions for God.  I'm sure I'll talk more about that later, but let me just tell you that God walked beside me even when I was indescribably angry with him, and he has now brought me healing.  He answered some questions and gave me peace to accept the unanswered questions.

My tips and tidbits:
  • This book is fiction.  I read the Forward to the book (which I highly recommend you do, by the way), and I read the entire book thinking it was true.  What can I say?  I was a rookie reader.
  • There are no gory details about the daughter's abduction.  I read every page in fear of what was to come before she was abducted in the story.  But the author handled it so well.  He gave just enough information that you understand what happened, but there is nothing gross or frightening.
  • So many people I know shy away from this book because it seems like a creepy storyline.  My opinion is that this book is more about the relationship between the main character (the father) and God.
  • This book will absolutely apply to you if you have any questions about how God works, wonder why bad things happen to good people, or have felt deep pain in your own life.
  • I like to buy books from half.com because I can find good prices. You could also look for this book at your local library and read it for free.
After I successfully read this grown-up book, I was so elated that I kept reading more books.  I'll talk about those in future posts.  I would love to hear from anyone else who has read this book!

Good, Better, Best

When I was in junior high, I had an English teacher with a poster on her wall that read:

Good, better, best
Never let it rest
Until your good is better
And your better is best.

I stared at that poster day after day.  But honestly, I had internalized its message long before junior high.

I have always been a perfectionist.  I decided that "good" would never be enough, and I've been perpetually stuck between "better" and an impossible "best."  Being a perfectionist all the time can really wear a girl out!  

Now my oldest child is in kindergarten.  As he is learning to read and write, I see him struggling terribly with perfectionism.  I talk him down from the ledge every time he has trouble reading a new word or doesn't think his letter looks just right. Sometimes I feel like such a hypocrite when I tell him he's doing just fine and needs to be kinder to himself.  So...now I'm trying to say goodbye to my longtime companion Perfectionism.

This won't be an easy journey, but the reward will be well worth it.  

So now you know just a tiny bit about me.  As we get to know each other, you'll see that I'm a wife (to the best husband EVER!), a mother of three little kiddos, a Christian, a baker, and a crafter.  I will be sharing my latest projects, recipes, products I'm trying, and mostly my thoughts on life.  

I'm very {very} new to blogging, so I'll be learning as I go.  Just starting this blog is a big risk and a step toward a life of trying new things and accepting the possibility of failure.  Oh, and if anyone can decode all the computer lingo to help me make something pretty out of this blog, please please contact me or send me some helpful resources.  

Thanks for joining my journey!