Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reality Check Update

I posted last month about Reality Check 2015 - my quest to, once again, take control of my body and health.  Ugh, I really even hate admitting that I'm trying to lose weight.  In addition to that "resolution," I have several others written down and posted on my fridge:

  • Actually stick to our budget
  • No new credit card debt
  • Eat better
  • Less screen time for everybody
  • More activity for Levi

The list goes on, but those were the biggest ones.  We're six weeks in and things are going really well.  I feel like all of the areas I'm working on affect each other, so if I can keep all the balls in the air, all the balls actually stay in the air.  We stayed within our means last month financially. Weight loss is happening slowly, steadily, and healthfully.  We have eaten out less and cooked more.

One change in our lives has helped me with all of those areas.  It's helped me be more active, eat better, spend less money, keep my Levi more active.

Are you ready for the secret?

Our gym membership.

Seriously, it has been the BEST thing for me in the last two months.  I made a commitment to Herb and my doctor about my fitness goals and how often I realistically would go to the gym.  I have only missed one or two "appointments" in the last two months.  Making working out such a priority caused me to want to eat better - why would I kill myself on the elliptical and then stuff my face with crap?

We spend so much time working out (Levi goes to kid's club) and then swimming in the pool, that I really don't have time to go shopping.  The rec center is 2 miles from Target, and I haven't stepped inside that wonderful establishment at all this year.  If there's something I really need (wedding gifts, vitamins, etc), I buy it from and get free shipping with my red card.  I still get my Target deals, I just don't have anything else sneaking in to my cart.

And the swimming, oh the swimming.   I'll admit, getting all ready for a morning at the pool is a lot of work, but sometimes the mommy guilt of dropping my kid off so I can go exercise really gets to me and knowing we are going to have 1:1 time in the pool helps me justify it.  We try to get Levi in the water at least two times a week, and it has been INCREDIBLY fruitful.  His preschool teachers have some concerns about his motor skills and muscle development, so all this extra activity has been really good for him.  When we first started going to the pool, he wouldn't let go of me, even in the very shallow water.  After weeks of consistency, he is now a goggle-wearing underwater-swimming fishy who also can float on his back.  All on his own - no formal swim lessons (yet).  He is still afraid of "deep water" but I put on goggles sometimes too and I can see that he's actually swimming underwater, not touching the bottom at all in the 3 foot deep pool.  It's so freaking exciting to watch this new skill develop.  We're hoping to enroll him in swimming lessons this spring or summer.

The gym is expensive, this I know.  We were so blessed to be given a year membership, and I cannot take that for granted.  I'm praying that we can continue to become a more healthy family!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Unexpected Tears

I've been there many times before.  Every time I pull in the parking lot, I drive by the signs that say "for laboring mothers."  I walk by women in the parking lot - some older, some new moms huffing an infant carrier, some career women taking a personal day, some young girls that should be sitting in English class rather than be at the doctor.  Everyone there's got a story, and I would be lying if I said I didn't try to figure each one out as I sit silently waiting for my name to be called.

For the women who has never been pregnant, the waiting room of the ob/gyn is pure torture.

Gosh, I wish I was past this.  I wish I could hitch up my big girl panties and own our infertility.  I wish I could celebrate all the new life being nurtured in that office instead of judging the age or life situation of the expectant mothers.  I wish that my visits with the doctor were for new life being created, rather than making sure my life and health isn't being destroyed by cancer.

My last few yearly visits have gone off without a hitch.  At first, I got to share news of our new baby (Levi), and that joy sustained me through several years of The Waiting Room.  Who cares that I missed out on pregnancy - I had a baby!  A toddler!  A preschooler!  No lump in my throat, very minimal judgy feelings.

Today was so different and I was caught completely off guard.

Today I was also an expectant mom in the waiting room.

An expectant mom without a due date.

The knot formed in my throat when I walked back the hall.  The blood pressure cuff almost caused me an anxiety attack.  "I could just get up and leave right now.  I could just go home," I actually thought.  When the nurse closed the door and it was time for me to change, I shed my clothes and my tears.  When the doctor asked about family planning, my eyes would stop leaking.

Why are we so ashamed of our tears?  Why do we fight so badly to hold them back and hide them?  When they sneak out of our eyes and down our cheek, why are we so quick to apologize for them?

You know what I learned about tears today?  They revealed the truth in my heart.  The refreshing bittersweet longing that I knew was there but hadn't really felt  or yet admitted the extent.  The truth that we have already been moving towards but seems so intangible at times...

I want a baby.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Closer Than Yesterday

The situation letters keep rolling rejection is quickly followed by another possibility.  Are there more expectant mothers than there were five years ago or is this waiting momma's heart just a little more patient?

"Sometimes it feels like we're never going to get a baby," Levi whined on Christmas Eve.

With a chuckle I retold the story to my family at Christmas Dinner.

"But Michelle," my brother quickly chimed in sympathetically, "you have to remember that this is the first time Levi has been through this."

Bless his little heart.  Uncle Josh was right.

We all know I was a HOT MESS for 18 months before I added the title "Mother" to my list.  Levi's little heart is just going through the stages of hope right now, too.

I'm glad he's excited and anxious.  It will make the transition that much more joyful for him when a baby does come.  Don't get me wrong, I know there will be plenty of difficulties in his transition from only child to big brother, but I'm so happy that he is old enough to realize what an amazing thing God has brought us to.

And, as an unexpected bonus, my little guy who notices and internalizes all the interactions around him, is watching his parents go through the adoption process again and is able to ask a lot of very poignant and good questions about his own adoption.  This is one of the best things that we could be doing to help him understand.  He's been asking a lot about the day we brought him home and we looked at pictures and videos from that day last week.  In the file of hundreds of jpegs I found this picture of my mom holding Levi that I never really noticed before; the way his gaze is captured in her face, her look of hope fulfilled.

But alas, tonight was the first time I felt an intense twinge of guilt.  I know it's normal.  I know it's probably the feeling that my friend Sam has when she cuddles her 18 month old with one hand while her other hand grazes her swollen belly.  We love our first babies so much - how could we ever love someone else the same?  Will Levi or Charlotte feel like they are getting replaced?

I know a mother's love multiplies, not divides, but on this side of the equation, the math seems impossible, and that's a little scary.

So I am grateful for Levi's excitement.

We are one day closer to bringing home Levi's baby brother or sister than we were yesterday.  I don't know how many more days or weeks or months or years it will be, but today we're a little bit closer.  Anticipation is building.  Logistics are being more deeply discussed.  Reality is beginning to settle.

Little baby number two, we are all so ready for you.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Reality Check 2015

I'm about to get real here.  Don't judge me.

A few weeks ago an amazing blessing fell into our laps - a year membership at the local rec center.  This is something I've dreamed of, but have yet to find room for in the budget.  So Levi and I started going fairly regularly - he'd go to the kid's club and play while I worked out, then we'd swim.

As the days turned in to weeks I realized that it was kind of dumb for me to be actually working out but not be watching what I ate at all - and when I check the scale, my realization was confirmed - I had gained 6 pounds in the first three weeks we were members!  In my defense - it was literally Christmas over those weeks.

So, the calendar changed to 2015 and the scale had tipped to the highest number I had ever seen.  Ironically, I was at the gym when I saw the number, so I casually thought, "Eh, at least I'm at the right place."

Then slowly my heart started to get tugged and I started realizing maybe it's time to try a.g.a.i.n.  I asked God to keep tugging at my heart - to show me what a big deal my weight is.  Because quite honestly, I am confident and happy, which is a place I've worked so hard to be, despite my BMI.

Asking for guidance and expecting some conviction I every so slowly started thinking about jumping back on the weight loss train.  Funny enough, it was January 3 and so was everyone else in the world.      I was praying for a reality check.  I needed to see the weight of my weight.

The gym offered a free body composition analysis (% of body fat) and I made an appointment with my doctor and gave him free reign to yell at me.  He gave me labs for blood work and said some disturbingly serious and urgent words to me about my health.   A lump in my throat formed and I said, "Yes, keep talking, that's exactly what I need to hear."

So, here we are.  Again.  It's embarrassing to try again.  But I'm out of options, and I see reality pretty freaking clearly now.  I have a gym plan, I have a food plan, I have a supportive family, I have a free gym membership, I have a doctor who wants to support and follow up in a  few weeks.  What I don't have anymore is excuses.

I realized part of my hesitation in trying to lose weight is all the times I have failed before and being simply overwhelmed at the amount of weight I need to lose.  But that's not for me to worry about right now.  Today I need to worry about today.  Tomorrow I will worry about tomorrow.  One foot in front of the other.

And bonus - Herb reminded me that this will be a great baby fever distraction. :)

I covet your prayers as I try to take control of something that has been spiraling for as long as I can remember.  If you see me, feel free to ask me how it's going and call me out on that ice cream you see me holding.

(Just kidding about the ice cream - God, in his amazing sovereignty, has allowed my body to start to hate lactose, which is sad and yet super helpful.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tyler Florence Is A Genius

from the archives...a draft I wrote and never posted

It's no secret I have food issues.  But by God's grace, and with the help of this book, and this book, I am definitely working through them.  One of the things that was a wake up call to me was when Levi started eating solids.  I find myself really concerned that what he is eating hits all the nutrients he needs to grow his little body and develop his little brain.  I started wondering how I could be so concerned about what was fueling him, but not fueling myself. It's time for a whole family food make-over. 

Levi has also had issues with lots of spit up, so we've been through the gamut with formula and food combinations. What works for us is feeding him solids and formula staggered throughout the day. Now that we have the times to eat figured out, I have been trying to focus on what to feed him.

Enter Tyler Florence.  As much as I love food, I don't particularly love cooking, so when he was on the Today show several weeks ago, I hardly paid attention.  Until he said his new book was all about healthfully feeding your kids.

The book is called "Start Fresh: Your Child's Jump Start to Lifelong Healthy Eating." You can see the video of that interview here.

Because I am not that great of a cook and kind of hate doing it (but I'm at least trying), it took me another week or two to actually get around to sitting down and using the book once it arrived. But then yesterday I decided I was going to cook through the book (I've never done that before), and I picked out four recipes to start with.  And boy am I excited about the results!

The book is broken down into five chapters: Getting Started, Stage 1 (4-6 months), Stage 2 (6-8 months), Stage 3 (9-12 months), and Stage 4 (12 months and beyond).  Stage 4 is actually meals created for the entire family that can be blended down when necessary to feed your less developed chewers.

Stage 1: Single Ingredient Purees : : Sweet Potato Puree

  • This one is so easy.  I cut up 2 sweet potatoes into 1 inch cubes, steamed them, put them in the blender with a little bit of the water from steaming, and then put it into ice cube trays for freezing.
  • Total cost: $1.58 for 16 ounces of baby food, compared to about $4.50 for the same amount of store bought stage one food. 
  • As you can see, Levi was pretty excited about the sweet potatoes.

From Stage 2: Flavor Combos : : Spinach and Banana Puree 

  • I was not terribly excited about this one, but my friend Sammy is always trying to get me to drink a green monster, so I thought I'd give it a try.
  • Combine 12 ounces of spinach, 2 bananas, 1/4 cup of whole-fat plain yogurt, and 1/4 unfiltered apple juice in a blender.
  • Of course, I didn't do everything as directed... I used frozen spinach, nonfat yogurt I already had, and apple juice I already had.
  • It is delicious!
  • Total cost, just under $2.00 for 16 ounces.

From Stage 2: Flavor Combos : :  Roasted Bananas and Blueberries

  • Arrange 3 unpeeled bananas and 1 pint of blueberries on baking sheet.  Roast at 350 for 20 minutes.  Let cool.  Peel bananas, place everthing in a blender.
  • Roasting the bananas and blueberries gives it a little bit of a different texture and flavor than straight up raw fruits.  I think it was sweeter and a little more like gelatin.  Honestly, I would have ate this whole thing by myself!!
  • Again, I couldn't find fresh blueberries at Target, so I just used frozen ones.
  • Total cost, $3.27 for 16 ounces.  At little more expensive, but still cheaper than store bought!

Tomorrow I am going to try a recipe from Stage 4!

And ironically, this is a Tuesday, so I can share my first recipe for Tasty Tuesday at Beauty and Bedlam!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Letting Go

Sweat dripped down my back.  Looking for a distraction, I gazed out the wall of windows, trying to avoid my reflection in the wall to wall mirrors.  The music pounded to a Latin beat, and the Zumba instructor shouted out in counts of eight.  Moving felt good and refreshing, but still painful.  And thus, the need for a distraction to get through the final fifteen minutes of class.

I thought about the sheet of white that covered the roads.  Winters past have held so many dear moments.  The beginning of a relationship that would lead to marriage.  Celebrating the birthday of that man.  Spending time with loved ones around a movie or a board game.  The distraction worked and soon the dance music gave way to a smooth melodic haunting piano tune.

In an instant, tears stung my eyes.  Like a sudden snow squall, a flood of memories hit me, feeling as numerous as the snowflakes falling outside.  With the memories of happy times came the memories of hurts of Januaries past.  Of shattered expectations, broken relationships, and complete heart break.

And yet, a small voice whispered, "What if you let it go?"

It seems scandalous even now as I think back to that moment.

"What if you choose to remember only the happy memories?"

What's done is done.  Holding on to the hurts does not make them less painful.  Keeping tally of the transgressions did not bring validation or consolation or restoration.

So, I released them.

Like the snowflakes melt when they meet something warmer, I let the painful memories go.  Tears streaming down my face in the middle of the Zumba cool down, I finally found forgiveness.  That moment marked a new chapter in my life.  One where the wounds start to heal.  I stretched my arms and legs.  I stretched my soul.

God is still faithful when the scenarios don't resolve the way we think they should or will or God would have them.  I need to get out of His way and stop asking Him to fit inside the box of my expectations.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, blogland.  
I want to hang out more in 2015.  
Here's a little note from my family to yours.
Love you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mom's Christmas

I don't know how old I was when it occurred to me that my mom got the shaft at Christmas.  Her hours of shopping, wrapping, and planning were reciprocated with a $5 necklace with a cheap gold chain that said "#1 Mom" in red lettering on a crystal (plastic) heart purchased with (her own) money given to me at the "Little Shopper's Shop" at school.  I'm sure she and my dad exchanged gifts before they divorced, but what stands out in my mind is realizing that my mom had so few presents to open on Christmas morning, and feeling sad about it.

Was she sad?  "No," she assured me when I asked.  I chalked it up to one of those "Mom Things," where she just puts up a front because she's The Mom and that's what you do.

But now, I'm The Mom.  And I get it.

The first time the excitement washed over me was two Christmases ago, when Levi was two.  His gifts that year were a tool bench ($5 at Community Aid), a kid's guitar ($11 at Jubilee), a small train set ($10 at Ikea), and a few race cars.  His presents were physically big, but money was tight and I was so happy that thriftiness had yielded so well to make Christmas morning special for my little guy.    As soon as he was asleep, Herb, my mom, and I rearranged the living room to make space for the tool bench and carefully wrapped and placed other gifts under the tree.

Each year, intensity in Levi's spirit builds.  Will it climax and start to descend?  I'm sure, that will come, but for now, Christmas is pure magic in our house.  Even without Santa.  He asked me straight up if Santa was real, I said, "No, but it's ok if you want to pretend," and he's completely in to that.  "Santa is like a mascot!" He says.

Herb has been so miserable sick (on and off) for the past two months.  This week it's shingles. They are a special kind of horrible.  That being said, the present planning, buying, making, wrapping, arranging has fallen on me.  And because of my new camera, I made him promise to let that be my Christmas gift this year.

In a full circle moment a few minutes ago, I carefully arranged Levi and Herb's gifts under the skinny Christmas tree, stuffed three stockings, and tidied up the living room and kitchen.  I realized how amazingly excited I am for what the next 24 hours will hold and that that thrill has nothing to do with any gifts I may receive tomorrow.  The joy is in making Christmas happen for Levi (and Herb).

The gift is the title of Mom.

Thank you, mom for the love poured in to making Christmas special for me for so many years (decades).  I will pay it forward to the best of my ability.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Thanks a latte, Grandma and Grandpa

The last two months have been incredibly eye opening in regards to my grandparents.  And when you learn more about your grandparents, you better understand your heritage, and ultimately, yourself.

Since their car accident in October (the month of Herb being sick and tons of blogging), my 91 year old grandpa has been in the hospital, then the nursing home, then again in the hospital, and ultimately back in a nursing home.  Previous to the accident, he's been in ridiculously good health for being 91 years old - so annoying/ironic that a car accident of all things ruined his clean bill of health.  

About once every two weeks, I pick up grandma and we go visit grandpa in the home.  His eyes light up when we come in.  "Do you think I'll be going home this week?" He asks.  He tells us about the terrible coffee, the other residents who "aren't quite all there," and his frustrations with physical therapy.  Then he apologizes for complaining, he knows he could have it worse.  

Seeing their despair over their temporary separation and his fire to regain health has truly been a blessing.  I'd never seen them show affection to each other (or anyone, really) before.  In fact, in the last ten years, I've been trying to say "I love you," and hug when I leave.  It's usually received with a side hug and a "Yep, you too." It's so awkward, yet heart felt.  Now he throws his arms up for a hug and a kiss (on the cheek of course) when she leaves.

Both grandparents are Mennonite, but they go to different churches. They have functioned this way for 64 years! Grandma is old order Mennonite (horse and buggy, no electric - well for the other congregants) and Grandpa is just "normal Mennonite"  (Mennonite USA if that's helpful).  Her hair is twisted in a bun and a white bonnet that covers ears is tied in a neat bow under her chin.  He has a driver's license and a television.  They were both brought up in The Church, but neither joined before they got married.  In fact, she spent a few years working at a general store/ gas station and had a driver's license at one time.  When they married they did not join The Church, until six months later, my grandma did.  She gave up driving and modern dress in favor of cape dresses and a simpler way of life.  

I've been thinking a lot about their way of life.  Their passion for reusing and conserving.  Their self control and doing without.  I've heard the joke that Mennonites are the original "green" people, but they did it for finances, not environment.  If you ask my grandma for a bag (like a grocery bag), you might get a bread bag.  She saves the salvage edge of fabric from the bolt to use to tie up newspapers and gifts.

Today I realized when Grandma, caught between two different worlds, was raising four young children she was always stuck at home.  She didn't drive herself (Church rules), but of course wouldn't have owned a horse and buggy like other church members because her husband had a car, so why bother?  Can you EVEN imagine being at home with FOUR kids, NO internet, NO babysitter/distraction  television, NO car, NO play dates, NO connection to other mothers.  

How much of the differences in their lives and mine are generational and how much are due to religious simplicity?  

For example, today I called Grandma on my way to pick her up and told her I was stopping for coffee, and asked if she would she like a cup.

"Oh, you mean coffee that's already made, not grounds?"  She asked.
"Yeah, like hot coffee."  I replied.  The Starbucks coupon I had was burning a hole in my pocket.
"I had a cup already this morning, I think I'm good."
"Even if it's a fancy one like a cappuccino or latte?"  I was trying to convince her.
"Well, I've never had one of those, so that does sound good!"  She sounded very excited.

You've got to be kidding me!!  87 years old and never having had a latte!!!  That really put things in perspective - and again I ask - is this "doing without" generational or more to do with religion?

They are truly a unique couple and I am so thankful to still have them in my life.  I have had so many thought provoking moments as a result of their presence.  

PS - I bet I have the only grandma who wears a covering and cape dress and once confessed to loving Baywatch.  

Friday, October 31, 2014


October 31 is finally here!I feel like I just finished training for a 5k and now I've crossed the finish line, except with a lot less muscle ache.  In fact, this 31 Day writing exercise has been incredibly therapeutic for me - especially in a month filled with drama, sickness, weariness, and loneliness.  Thank you for sticking around, reading, commenting, sharing, encouraging.   My 31 Day commitment was providential, and for that I am grateful.

I love a name with nick-names. I always used to think Elizabeth was the best name because there are SO many nicknames to be had - Ellie, Liz, Beth, Lizzie, Eliza, etc.  This made it a little disappointing when we named our son Levi.  Levi is four letters, it has no nick-name.  But, alas, I LOVE the name Levi, so I wasn't going to be deterred by the lack of nick-names.

But lo and behold, they still happened.  Lee.  Schmevi.  Lovee.  And even Leave.  

Leave - what a weird name to be called, but it happens, actually quite often.  Sometimes Schmevi even turns in to Schmeave.

When I read the writing prompt word today, I thought not of exiting or the singular word of the plural form of the things falling from the trees.  I thought of my Leave.  This kid is my everything.  I love the way he hugs now that he is child size (not baby-sized).  His arms wrap around my neck and squeeze tightly as he plants  a sweet kiss on my cheek.  He nuzzles his face into my neck and shakes it back and forth really fast.  He calls it a snuggle.  When he reaches for my hand, we hold whole hands now, not just fingers.  The other day, I realized that I am more used to the feeling of Levi's hand in mine than Herbs.  This is endearing, but it reminds me I need to hold Herb's hand more, too.

His questions spill out of his mouth at an alarming pace.  Why did that happen?  Why do you think that happened?  Who made that happen?  Who made that?  Why did God make that?  The questions are endless, but Herb reminds me that this is how Levi learns about the world.  Herb is so patient as a daddy.  He answers every question completely, intelligently, leveling with the four year old.  I can hear him explaining the different between our physical heart and the heart that wants to love people and do good things as I type.
He is our little news man and theologian.  Completely fixated on the rocket explosion that happened Tuesday night, he had to stay in from recess at school on Wednesday because he was too busy telling the class every detail about the rocket fire and didn't finish his work.  Last month, he corrected his teacher on the presence of the Trinity in heaven - when someone asked if God and Jesus both live in heaven, the teacher answered yes, and Levi said, "Actually...they are the same person."

Come to think of it - my little Leave is actually a little Herb.

I have been so blessed in the last ten years.  I have fallen in love twice and that love has been returned to extremes I will never be worthy of.  These two are the reasons I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can leave everything in God's hands.  He has been so faithful.  He always will be.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart.  Lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your path straight.