2015 – My Lifestyle Evolution

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Changing my lifestyle this year has not been a straight path. There have been twists, turns and speedbumps. I’ve stumbled, I’ve fallen and I’ve gotten back on the horse over and over again. It’s been an interesting year. I didn’t think it would take me this long to figure it out and, to be honest, I still haven’t. I want to share where I’ve come from, what my journey has been like and where I feel like I’m going.

 

Where I started:

I started 2015 over 200 pounds and with a simple New Year’s resolution. I’ve made these before, I usually failed. I didn’t expect to do any differently this year but still I said with resolve “This is the year. This is the year I lose this weight. This is the year I improve the physical health of my body.” And so I set off to make a few small changes that I felt like I could manage. I immediately cut out things that I knew were “bad”. I got rid of all the chocolate and general sugar I was eating, I cut out chips and soda and other foods that were obviously calorie dense, nutritionally deficient.

As the weight started coming off, I noticed that I was feeling better with less carbohydrate intake so I gradually started eating fewer and fewer carbs and more fat and protein. I had a “cheat day” once a week, on Saturday, so that I could satisfy my cravings for pizza and Chinese food. This took me down to around 150 pounds and I was feeling really good.

 

Sliding Downward:

Then something happened. I started obsessively weighing myself. I was stepping on the scale at least once a day, sometimes multiple times a day. I found that the number on the scale was dictating my mood for the rest of the day. I found that I’d be a couple of pounds up after a cheat day and that would upset me.

I discovered intermittent fasting. At first I followed the 5:2 protocol properly. I’d fast after cheat day and one more time during the week. My fasts were water only for 24 hours then a small meal after 24 hours. The weight started coming off again and I was feeling good again. This was when I made my “how I lost 100 pounds post” back in the summer. I was around 140 lbs, which was 100 pounds down from my heaviest recorded weight.

 

 

Rock Bottom:

This is when things really went downhill for me. I started increasing the number of fasts that I was doing. I went from 5:2 to 4:3, then I started just not eating over 1000 calories most days and having a “real” fast twice or three times a week. I still had my cheat day on Saturday but my cheats became worse, bigger. I was feeling miserable, irritable and my weight loss stopped completely at 130 lbs. I was incredibly frustrated with the way things were going. I was angry with my body. It wasn’t doing what I wanted it to do. All the math says that being in such a caloric deficit should make one lose a whole bunch of weight, so why wasn’t I?

I recognized that my thinking and my actions were beginning to become disordered and I wanted to put the brakes on it.

I reached out to my sister who has had her own battles with food and weight, she’s a personal trainer and always has good advice for me. She told me that if I were one of her clients, she’d recommend that I stop weighing daily or even weekly. She told me to put the scale away and weigh monthly if at all.

 

Healing my mind, healing my body:

During this time I discovered two things, the first was the diet protocol of macro tracking, commonly referred to as IIFYM. The second was “reverse dieting”. I decided to do both of these to get out of the huge caloric deficit that I was in and fix my metabolism. Macro tracking has taught me that carbohydrate cutting is great for weight loss but not ideal for weight maintenance, which was what I really needed to be focused upon. At 130 pounds I had no more to lose to be healthy, and wasn’t that my goal in the first place? When I went into this year I was focused on my health. I didn’t want to become a type two diabetic, I wanted more strength and more energy. Starving myself was not in line with those goals.

Over the past month or so I’ve been slowly changing things. I’ve added in a lot of planned exercise including resistance training. I’ve started running. I’ve started eating more, specifically more carbohydrate, and deliberately raising my caloric intake very slowly (100 cal every two weeks) to find my maintenance point. I feel much better, I have more energy, I’m not irritable and exhausted anymore. Because of the way IIFYM works, I’m “allowed” to eat “cheat” food as long as it fits my macros. I still keep “bad” food to Saturday, but it’s helped me control my crazy cheat binges. The last time I had one of those was a couple of weeks ago. I’m still not there completely, I step on the scale too often but it’s not every day anymore.

Ironically, since I started eating more and macro tracking I’ve lost an additional 3 pounds and my waist / hip measurement has shrunk.

 

What I’ve learned:

  • Cutting out carbohydrate to the point of ketosis is great for weight loss but not necessarily for maintenance. It’s also an extremely difficult lifestyle to maintain for very long. If you are cutting carbs, having a carb refeed day once in a while is probably a good idea.
  • Intermittent fasting is a tool. It’s a tool that I still count as being in my toolbox but it’s one that I rarely use anymore because I recognize that it quickly leads to unhealthy thinking. It might not for you but it does for me. Be careful with intermittent fasting.
  • IIFYM is great. It keeps you accountable. You don’t necessarily have to follow the exact numbers that they suggest on their website, adjust the ratios and find what works for you. The key of IIFYM is eating mindfully and planning.
  • If you are in a huge caloric deficit, your weight loss may stop completely. It’s a bad idea to return to your suggested maintenance calories from eating barely anything. Instead, try reverse dieting. Raise your caloric intake by 100 every week or every two weeks; this will keep your weight stable.
  • Exercise serves it’s purpose, but that purpose is not for weight loss. You don’t need to go to the gym for 4 hours a day, you don’t need to hire someone to scream at you while you kill yourself on a treadmill. Exercise is good for your overall health; it’s good for muscle definition and energy levels. I always feel better after I’ve been for a run, but I don’t run for weight loss.
  • Try not to obsess. If you have a personality like mine I understand this is extremely difficult but weighing daily is more discouraging than it is encouraging.

 

This year has been a struggle, I hope that those reading this can have some take away from it. You can do it, you are strong, you are capable and you are worth it. Don’t punish your body, don’t hate it. You only get one body, show it some love.

 

 

90 Days of Homeschool and Evaluation Time

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We recently completed the first half of our homeschool year, we’re due for portfolio evaluations soon and I’m stressing out probably more than I should be. It’s been a wonderful experience. I love homeschooling all in all. Some days it feels like an uphill battle, some days none of us want to do it but we know we have to so we do anyway. Most days are met with enthusiasm and “what are we learning about today mom?” though, which I’m greatful for.

Everyone’s looking forward to our upcoming holiday breaks, Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner.

Here are some things I’ve learned from our first half year of homeschooling:

  • If you need a break, take one. The public schooled children get lots of days off for teacher development, snow days and federal holidays. It’s OK for you to take one off too.
  • Make it a point to get your kids involved with other kids. My oldest is an introvert, he’d be happy building Legos in his room all day. My middle is a social butterfly though and he needs to be around kids that are not siblings. We usually do some kind of activity, from taekwondo to ballet to boyscouts, every afternoon so that we get out and see other people.
  • Stay organized, have a routine, have a plan, but stay flexible. I plan out what we’re going to do every Sunday but sometimes that plan changes. Recently my oldest has been interested in DNA, cell division and cloning. We spent a week learning about that instead of our usual science.
  • It’s realistic to expect that you children only spend a couple of hours a day on seatwork. Something that surprised me was how fast my kids got all their work done. For my Kindergartner he does maybe 45 minutes of seat work a day, for my 2nd grader he does 1 and a half to 2 hours. I later learned that the homeschool “rule of thumb” is 1 hour of seat work per grade level, so we were right on target. Remember that much of the day at public school is spent doing busy work, waiting for other people to finish their work, standing in line, traveling from class to class and on break and lunch period.
  • Don’t be afraid to outsource just a bit. I hate teaching art and I feel underqualified to properly teach music so my kids take those two classes, along with drama (just for fun) at a co-op every Thursday.
  • You don’t have to follow your curriculua verbatum. My kids move slower in science than the lesson plans suggested in their curriculum, that’s fine. My oldest moves more quickly through his reading and spelling, again fine. One of the great things about homeschooling is that you can tailor your lessons to fit the pace and style of your kids’ learning.

So far it’s been an adventure, bring on the next 90 days!

Sorting it out: From Loss to Maintenance

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What’s 5 pounds? I was agonizing over it. Right now I weigh 130 pounds. 130! I haven’t weighed 130 pounds since I was maybe 9 or 10 years old. I found myself stuck in the mindset that I needed to lose that last 5 though, I needed to weigh 125. Why? Some chart I found online says that I have a small frame and the ideal weight for my frame and height is apparently 114 – 127 lbs. I’m 3 lbs more than my “ideal” weight.

Last week was a time of realization for me though. Do I really care about 5 vanity pounds? Do I care about being what some chart on the internet says is “ideal” for me or do I care about my personal health? The reason that I went into this journey in the first place was health. I don’t want to become a diabetic, I want to be around for many years in the future. I want to see my kids become whoever they are going to become. I feel like I need to return to my original vision.

I was eating too few calories, I had zero energy to do anything but what I absolutely had to do. I decided to start reverse dieting. If you google the term “reverse dieting” you’ll find it used commonly in the body building community. I’m no body builder, but I do need to find a place of health for myself, mentally and physically.

My husband bought me a Fitbit, which I love. It is “somebody” to be accountable to. Because of my Fitbit, I’ve greatly increased my activity level. Because of my Fitbit, I realized just how little I’ve been eating during the week. Turning it around has not been an instant 180. I’ve not turned on a dime. I’ve turned more like a large boat, slowly but with purpose.

The new pattern that I’m going into is called carb cycling. I recently decided to test my sugar with some old strips that I had from my last bout with gestational diabetes. If the test was accurate, my blood sugar issues have gone away. This is a scary thing for me because all year I’ve been terrified of carbohydrate. I’m going to start adding them back on weight training days, I’m going to start working out on a schedule rather than just trying to satisfy that minimum 30 minutes of activity a day. I already feel myself getting stronger, things can only go up from here.

I’m going to try it for a couple of weeks, if I find success there will be a follow-up post with my exercise regime and meal plan. Wish me luck!

 

Body Shaming Happens to Everyone

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Most of the people in my life have been positive about my weight loss journey, but there’s always one, isn’t there? An acquaintance that I see every once in a while has started announcing that she’s concerned about me whenever we cross paths. “You need to start eating” and “you’re looking too thin” are actual phrases that have come out of her mouth.

This got me thinking about body judgement in general. Even the positive comments, even the questions about how much I’ve lost and how I did it are forms of judgement. Why do we, as a society, feel like we’re justified in picking apart other people’s bodies? Is it an inward reflection projected outward? Do we feel like we’re being kind or boosting self-esteem?

Being told that I look “too thin” and that I am “worrying” someone is very disconcerting. It’s a blast to my already fragile sense of self-esteem. The last time it happened, I informed her what I weigh and what my BMI is and that both of these are right in the “normal” range. Why did I feel like I had to do that? I have no duty to alleviate her apparent worry, I have no responsibility to justify my appearance to anyone. I spent far too long doing that as a fat person. I spent too long wearing plain clothes, hiding in oversized things and carrying myself in a generally apologetic manner.

I was sorry for my size, sorry that I took up too much space, sorry that I would bump into things with my stomach or backside when I turned.

I am not ready to be sorry for my size again. I’m not ready to apologize for being “too skinny” or whatever else people deem me to be. I am done apologizing for who I am.

I’ve learned something very important about body shaming. I always thought that body shaming fat people was so much worse because thin people have “thin privilege”. Sure they might get called things like skinny, sure some people might automatically assume that they have an eating disorder but they can shop in straight sized shops and generally fit in with what the media thinks people are supposed to look like.

All of these assumptions were incorrect. It feels just as bad to be judged for being thin as it does to be judged for being fat. In some ways, it feels worse. I know intellectually that I’m a normal size now but now I find myself looking at my arms and legs and wondering if they’re too small. I’m terrified of regaining the weight I lost but I have people telling me that I should.

This is unacceptable and we need to stop doing it to each other. Before you make that comment to your friend, before you suggest that they have a salad instead of the fries or tell someone how tiny they’re looking look inside yourself. Are you projecting your own insecurities onto someone else’s body?

 

 

 

How I lost 100 Pounds

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We’ve been through the “why”, now it’s time to examine the “how” part of my weight loss journey. The premise started out fairly simply, stop eating crap. Now I realize that “crap” is a fairly broad term and also fairly subjective, so I’ll break it down. In a broad sense, “crap” is anything processed. If it comes in a package it’s probably crap, especially if the package has smaller packages inside of it and fancy graphics on it.

The few exceptions to that are frozen vegetables (I especially like steam-in-the-bag ones), packages of vegetables and packages of meat. I wish that I could buy all of my vegetables, meat and eggs from the farm stands like I do in the summer but that’s not always doable. I tend to not buy eggs at the grocery store because I have several sources for good eggs, including my own chickens.

What I avoid:

  • Chocolate, candy, sweets – anything made with refined sugar.
  • Anything made with grains (more on that later) but especially processed grain products like pasta and bread. Even ‘whole grain’.
  • Soda, even diet. Sports drinks and energy drinks.
  • Artifical sweeteners. I do use them, I make fudge with Swerve in it, but that’s mainly for my husband. I prefer to just not eat them.

 

Some things are more acceptable but still not awesome. I avoid these as well but not everyone has to or should.

  • Whole grains like quinoa
  • High sugar fruit like pineapples and bananas
  • Coffee, tea, fruit juices, vitamin water – any “enhanced water” products.

 

“Healthy Whole Grains”:

It seems like the words “whole grains” usually have the word “healthy” stuck in front of them. They travel as a unit, kind of like the words “artery clogging saturated fat” (I won’t go into why I have a problem with that one here). For me, whole grains are not healthy. I am an insulin sensitive individual and grains, even whole grains, spike my blood sugar. I try to avoid spiking my blood sugar on a regular basis and thus I avoid “healthy whole grains” most of the time.

 

What I eat:

  • Eggs – probably my favorite and most readily available fat and protein source.
  • Vegetables
  • Meat and fish
  • Low sugar fruit like berries, apples and stone fruit
  • Nuts and seeds, that includes nut and seed butter
  • Full fat dairy – Greek yogurt, cheese, butter and heavy whipping cream. Note I did not say milk or any substitute milks like almond or cashew milk.
  • Water

So on a day to day basis that’s what I eat.

Cheat day:

Once a week, my husband and I have a cheat day. On cheat day, rules do not apply. We’re allowed to eat as much ‘crap’ as we want. I usually keep cheat day to a single cheat meal. Cheat day has been essential, it’s taught me a lot about myself and a lot about the mentality behind why I was craving whatever I was craving. I’d often find that something I was craving all week was built up a lot more in my mind to be tastier than it actually was in reality. Recently I was dying for some fudge, so I bought some for cheat day. When I finally got to eat it I was just disappointed, it was so sweet that it was almost sickly and I couldn’t eat it.

 

Exercise:

I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m not, nor will I ever be an athlete. I’ve tried to like exercise but I just can’t shake the fact that I feel like a hamster running on its wheel whenever I try to do any “traditional” exercise. This doesn’t mean that I don’t get any exercise though. I prefer to do something that is a required task, like mowing the lawn, for exercise. It doesn’t sound like much unless you factor in the fact that our lawn is about 2 acres, I mow it with a push mower and it’s quite hilly. It takes me about 2-3 hours to do the entire thing. I break it up into thirds, so 3 days a week I’m doing about 45 minutes of lawn mowing in the summer.

Other things are taking walks (and soon bike rides) with the kids and the dogs, doing other physical tasks outside like gardening and cleaning out the chicken coop.

You won’t hear about crossfit or spin class or “sweat is fat crying” from me. I am not huge on the exercise.

 

Intermittent fasting:

The last thing I want to mention is intermittent fasting. Right now I do IF twice a week; Saturday into Sunday and Wednesday into Thursday. I usually fast for about 24 hours. One time I tried 36 hours but that was too much. What that looks like in practice is that I stop eating on Saturday night at around 7:00 then I don’t eat again until Sunday evening at 7:00. A popular IF plan you may have heard about is the 5:2 diet. I don’t exactly follow 5:2 protocol but I do keep the meal that I break my fast with relatively light just because I feel unwell if I break my fast with a huge amount of food.

I find that IF has kept the weight loss generally steady. Before I started IF, I’d have periods of a few weeks where I’d maintain but not lose. IF seems to prevent this.

 

Snacks:

I don’t snack. I used to but I stopped doing it because I found that snacking made me want to snack more. I do better if I have set times to eat.

 

 

Example Meal plans:

 

Normal:

Breakfast – 1 Light and Fit Greek Yogurt

Lunch – 1 apple with 2 tbsp of natural peanut butter

Dinner – 1 oven baked chicken breast, the rest of the plate filled up with roasted vegetables. I usually do roasted cauliflower, asparagus,  mushrooms, broccoli, Brussels sprouts – things like that. The vegetables I toss in melted butter or bacon fat and sprinkle with garlic powder, salt (if using butter) and pepper. Parmesan cheese on roasted vegetables is nice as well.

Dessert – Berries and whipped cream + 1 square of very dark chocolate

 

Fast:

Breakfast – /

Lunch – /

Dinner – Two eggs done any way, sautéed vegetables

Dessert – Berries and whipped cream + 1 square of very dark chocolate

 

Cheat:

Breakfast – ¼ cup of chia seed pudding with blueberries

Lunch – Turkey and cheese omelet

Dinner and dessert = cheat. Last week I had a slice of pizza, a couple mozzarella sticks and a lemon bar. Next week my husband is traveling so I’m going to have some pasta (it’s been a while since I had pasta) and some tiramisu or a chocolate bar.

 

Weigh ins:

I’ve found that weighing myself every morning is beneficial to keeping on track. I hate weighing in after cheat day, I usually gain at least a pound but I do realize that that weight isn’t fat.

 

Maintenance:

My goal weight of 135 lbs is looming ever closer, it’ll take me to an even 100 lost. I feel like that’s a good place to stop for me. With reaching my goal comes maintenance though and I’m still not sure how I’m going to tackle that. I’ve heard a lot of different theories on maintenance. I’ve heard of people treating days where they are down on the scale as cheat days and days that they’re up on the scale as “follow the plan” days. That doesn’t appeal to me because I don’t really like the idea of swinging between eating crap and eating non-crap every other day. What I’ll likely end up doing is decreasing my fast days to one a week instead of two and increasing my calories from good stuff. Once I get to maintenance and have been maintaining for a while, I’ll make another post detailing what has and hasn’t worked for me.

 

I hope that this helps! Good luck on your own personal journey.

What’s eating me?

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So I’ve been asked my a couple of people to talk about my story, share my “secrets” and such. I’m going to, but right now I’m not sure how it’ll come out so please bear with the stream of consciousness style of this post.

Overall I’ve lost 95 lbs. I can see my goal on the horizon, I’m almost there. I’m still not sure what I’ll do once I get there in terms of maintaining but let me share my journey from 235 lbs to now.

I have been overweight for the majority of my life. As far back as I can remember I was the fat one. The rest of my family was lean, svelte, and attractive. I was the black mark, something went wrong with me. My parents divorced when I was 5 and my father equated buying us sweets with love. I lacked the manic energy that my sister had and the weekly influx of junk made me put on weight.

I was a chubby kid. Then after moving to the UK, I became an obese teenager. My mother tried in vain to correct this. She heavily restricted what I was allowed to eat. She tried to get me to do aerobics class with her, we both hated it but I suppose it was for the greater good in her eyes. Because of the restriction, I started to sneak and hide food. I’d save up every spare coin I had and go to the shop after school for a couple of chocolate bars and a bag of potato chips. I’d visit the fish and chip shop in town regularly. I’d eat the packed lunch my mother made for me and then buy extra food from the cafeteria.

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time walking. That probably kept me from getting even fatter than I was. My sister, meanwhile, was an image obsessed athlete. She would spend over an hour getting ready for school in the morning so that she’d look perfect. I’d throw on my ripped, stained, too small sweatshirt and call it a day. I never learned how to do makeup or do my hair, I didn’t shave my legs or underarms, I cut my hair very short. I made very little effort and took no pride in myself. I figured that I was a fat, hideous blob so what was even the point of trying to look presentable? I’d never be my mother. I’d never be my sister. I should just give up. Due to my utter lack of self-esteem I found myself involved in one toxic relationship after the next. It was a low point in my life.

In 2001, my sister and I moved back to Canada to live with our father. I was 17. I didn’t have to sneak food any more, I didn’t have to ask permission to eat, I just could. Old habits die hard though and I continued to secretly eat. The family would have supper together every night and then go their separate ways, I’d return to the kitchen later on and eat leftovers or take “just one cookie” from the pantry over and over and over.

I started to like myself a little more, I found acceptance from people online and I met my future husband the following year, when I was 18.

It was when I moved to the United States at 18 that I went completely crazy. Now I was free of any type of accountability or judgement. Now I could indulge my every desire and food is everywhere here so that was very easy. I moved in with my future husband and his family, his mother was someone who liked to feed people. She baked constantly, there was always sweet things or fried things or just downright delicious things. I was introduced to food I’d never even heard of before and I could eat as much as I wanted as often as I wanted.

We moved out, got married and had three kids. It was between my first and my second child that I hit my heaviest weight. After my second child was born I was 235 lbs. I decided that I needed to change things, I started slowly to realize the reasons why I ate so much and why I ate garbage. I started to eat clean and exercise, I lost 30 pounds.

I fell pregnant with our youngest child and did relatively well through my pregnancy. I am cursed with gestational diabetes; I’ve had it three times. The one upside of it though is that I am forced to follow a diet while pregnant and never really put on a lot of baby weight. After my youngest child was born I started to eat with reckless abandon again because I was breastfeeding. Breastfeeding gives you a ravenous appetite and I constantly grazed, mostly on that same junk that had become my soft place to fall. I saw my weight creeping back on, I had to return to my “fat” pants. Warning bells went off in my head and I decided that I would do something about it for real this time.

I’m done having children, I don’t have to worry about sustaining a growing fetus or producing enough milk for a baby anymore. It is time to focus on myself. It is time to start loving myself and treating myself as someone who’s worthy of being taken care of.

I’ll make a follow-up post to this detailing what exactly I did and even suggesting some daily meal plans, for now I feel like this is a good place to pause.

 

How to encourage your late talker

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I made a post some time ago about how my oldest child was a silent toddler. Recently, there has been a lot of discussion on a birth month board that I’m a part of about what to do if you have a late talker and how do you encourage speech in your toddler. So I’m going to share my experience with Early Intervention, the Infants and Toddlers program and teaching a late talking toddler how to speak.

When my oldest child had only 5 words at his 24 month appointment, we were referred by our pediatritian to the Infants and Toddlers program. She was the one that gave me their contact information. I realize, however, that this won’t always be the case. If you need to contact your local Early Intervention program, you do not need a referral from your pediatrician. Google search “Early Intervention” followed the name of your state (if you are in the US) and it should be easy enough to find. When you call Early Intervention, explain to them your reason for calling and they will ask you a few questions over the phone. If it seems like your child needs an evaluation, an evaluation will be scheduled.

Our first evaluation occured at a school. My mother in law and I took J to the school and there was a room with lots of toys and two evaluators. The evaluators tried to get him to do things like stack blocks, label objects, make a face, play with a puppet. Just games. J spent most of his time screaming in the corner.

It was determined that he needed a second evaulation and that it should likely occur in our house since the unfamiliar environment of the school made him shut down completely. An evaluator came to our house and was able to evaluate J properly, it was then determined that he had a speech and cognative delay. We were assigned a Speech Language Pathologist who came to our house once a week for therapy. J also attended a therapy pre-preschool environment with 3 other little boys twice a week.

All of this was at no cost to us as it fell under the umbrella of the public school system.

J did this routine until he was 3, then he qualified for an EI preschool program. We visited the preschool and I decided that it wasn’t a good fit because J seemed to do better in an environment where other children were talking. He was also toilet trained by that time. Most of the kids in the preschool were not speaking, most were in diapers. I decided instead to put him in a private preschool for “typical” kids. He had a hard year, but being around speaking children did him a lot of good as well.

Here are some techniques that I learned from his time in therapy. If you have a toddler who isn’t speaking or only has a couple of words, here are some things you can try to encourage speech with your child:

– In order to get your child to look at you when you speak, take his hands and put them on either side of your face.

– Speak very deliberately, make your words slowly with exaggerated mouth shapes.

– Praise any attempt at speaking, even if it’s incorrect. Always correct it, however. So if you hold an apple up and your child says “aaahhll” say “Good! Ap-ple” .

– The SLP used to tap syllables on J’s shoulder. So, again, using the apple example. He’d say “aaahhll” and the SLP would say “ap-ple” and tap twice on his shoulder as she said it.

– Use games to reward for speaking. Like get a ball run, hold the balls and let your child put one down the run. Then encourage your child to say “more” or “ball” before you give him another.

– Another good one is tickle your child then stop and holds your hands up. If your child wants more tickles he has to say “more” first. Once he’s saying more, move to “more tickle”, once he’s saying “more tickle” move to “more tickle please” and build like that.

– Play blowing games. Like blowing bubbles or blowing a cotton ball across the table. Kazoos are also good. The blowing shape helps with word formation.

– Have your child use a straw to drink with. Again, the sucking through a straw is good for word formation.

– Narrate constantly. It may sound silly but it does help. So as you’re going about your day say stuff like “We’re going upstairs, up-up-up-up!” and raise your voice with each “up”. Or “We’re going down stairs down-down-down-down” and lower your voice with each “down”. Or whatever. Putting on your child’s shoes say “Let’s put your shoes on, first right foot! Put shoe on right foot! Put shoe on! Now left foot! Put shoe on left foot! Put shoe on!” It seems like a lot of repetition but the hope here is that your child will pick up on it and join in the repetition.

– Make sound effects for everything. Your child might not be able to say “cow”, but “moo” is a bit easier. Your child might not be able to say “car” but “vroom” is easier. So every time you see something that makes a sound, make the sound. “Look! It’s a dog! Woof!” “Look! It’s a train! Choo-choo!”

– Even some things that don’t make sounds can have action words associated with them. Like “Bunny! Hop hop!” or “Ball! Bounce bounce!” or “Bubble! Pop pop!”

– Try not to give your child what he wants until he asks for it. So if you know he wants some milk because he’s pointing and grunting at the fridge, say “Do you want milk?” and try to get him to say “milk”. Then you build like the tickle game. “Milk please” etc.

 

I actually still use all of these. I used them with my “typical” middle son and I use them with my “typical” youngest son. My youngest really likes the tickle game.

I hope that this post helps you if you have a toddler who is struggling with speech.

“You Keep Losing That Weight, Girl!”

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Remember the post I made at the beginning of the year about improving my health? I’m still at it. I’m still about 15 – 20 pounds away from “goal”, but I’ve lost 60 pounds since I made that post and 80 since my heaviest non-pregnant weight in 2011. There have been a lot of unexpected side effects from weight loss that I wasn’t anticipating. All of my life I’ve been big, I’m smaller now than I was at 19 when I got married. I’m smaller than I was at 14.

I’ve complied a list of unexpected things that happen while you’re losing weight:

– You have no idea what size you are.

There’s a huge myth that 10-15 pounds = 1 dress size. That’s totally not true, at least for me it’s not. If it was true, I should be a size 8-10 right now. I’m not. I’m still hovering between a 12 and a 14. It can be disheartening because I was a size 14 at 180 pounds, how on earth am I still a size 14? You think that once you lose weight all your problems will disappear with it. You’ll be able to shop in straight sizes and just pluck something off the rack and have it fit fabulously. Not true. You still end up with things fitting oddly or having one size on the top and another on the bottom. I am completely lost with regards to bras. No idea at all.

I recently picked up 3 tanks because I was getting sick of the too-big XXL maternity tanks that I’ve been living in sliding off my shoulders. I didn’t try them on because I have some other shirts from this brand so I figured I knew what size I was. I got home and put one on, my first thought was instantly “oh god this is too small”. Then I had to step back, look at myself and say “No, tanks are supposed to be tighter than tents.”

I’m trying not to beat myself up about what dress size I am and what dress size I want to be is still an ongoing process.

 

– This body feels foreign.

I have days that I look in the mirror and think “Gosh, is that me? Am I really this small?” My husband can pick me up and throw me over his shoulder now. I feel lighter, I have more energy, I’m sleeping better. There are other days that I catch my reflection and see the old me. I think that I look huge, I focus upon the skin overhang on my stomach, I feel like I’ll never be attractive, I feel like I’ve not lost any weight at all.

Logically I know that’s not true. I know because I can look at old pictures of myself and see it. It still happens though and it’s upsetting when it does.

 

– All those comments you were looking forward to don’t feel as good as you thought.

When I started this I was so looking forward to people noticing my weight loss. The first 20-30 pounds, nobody noticed. I noticed, I just wanted someone to say something. I wanted someone to acknowledge my hard work. And then they started to. And now I hate it. Comments have run the gamut from the benign “You look great” to the somewhat offensive “Wow! I didn’t recognize you at first!”

I’m a shy individual, I don’t like being looked at, I don’t like being the center of attention. People commenting on my body makes me more uncomfortable than I assumed it would. Sometimes I just want to say “Stop looking at me.”

There’s a person in my life that says “Oh my gosh you look so good! You keep losing that weight girl!” every time she sees me. Every time. Sometimes multiple times during the same interaction. I don’t enjoy it, it makes me feel self conscious.

The problem with this is that all of these comments are well meaning. People think they are being nice or being encouraging. I don’t want to make them feel bad by asking them to not comment so I keep my mouth shut about it and shift about on my feet, blush, and mutter “uh… thanks”.

 

– The idea of maintenance is scary.

I figured out how to lose weight, I’m awesome at losing weight now. I’m 2 pounds away from “goal 1”. I pushed my goal lower another 15-20 pounds so that I’ll be in the “normal” weight range instead of the “overweight” weight range. I’d be lying if I said that was the only reason that I pushed my goal lower. With another 15-20 pounds to lose, I don’t have to worry about maintenance.

Maintenance scares me. Why? Because all the statistics out there say that people who have lost weight are very likely to gain it back. The likelihood that you’ll lose weight and keep it off is discouragingly tiny. I need to find the sweet spot. I currently weigh myself every day, sometimes multiple times a day. I’ve read that this habit is the best one to keep up for weight maintenance. Part of me feels like that’s obsessive and unhealthy, but I never ever want to be 232 pounds again.

 

My journey isn’t over yet, but I’m closer to the finish line than ever before. I’m starting to realize, however, that it’s not a finish line. That this isn’t a sprint. This isn’t even a marathon. It’s a treadmill and the ground will keep moving under my feet.

Why I weaned my toddler cold turkey

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Ap-poo! Ap-poo!

As I type this, my almost 20 month old is carrying an apple around happily munching little bites out of it and announcing to anyone who will listen that he does, in fact, have an apple.

We started our weaning journey about a week ago after a marathon nursing session that started at around 3 in the morning and went intermittently until we left for school at 8:00. I’ve been ready for wean him for a while, personally, but I stuck it out this long because I know the benefits of nursing a toddler. My oldest child weaned at 19 months, my middle child weaned at 23 months. I swore up, down and sideways that I’d try to make it to two years this time but when they are toddlers my constitution wains.

There’s a huge difference between nursing a baby and nursing a toddler. Babies nurse on a schedule pretty much, sometimes it’s a tight schedule granted but it’s still a schedule. It’s predictable. Toddlers nurse because they want to. Many people, especially on the internet, will make you feel like a terrible mother if you do not kowtow to your toddler every time he throws a limp-noodle screaming fit because he wants boobie NOW and whatever else you’re doing is not nearly as important. No a cup of milk will not suffice.

When they are walking, talking little people I start to feel odd about nursing. I start to feel like my personal space is being invaded. I’m naturally an introverted person, being climbed upon and crawled on and having my shirt unbuttoned, tugged on and pulled up (sometimes in public) is not something that I generally enjoy.

Are you clucking your tongues yet? Yes, I weaned for selfish reasons.

My older two kids were easy to wean. With my oldest, I was 5 months pregnant and already huge. He was losing interest in breastfeeding and was down to a session a day maybe. My milk dried up, it wasn’t a fight. With my middle, he was addicted to nursing but I had all sorts of problems. I had reoccurring bouts of mastitis and was on my 6th round of antibiotics in as many months. I could justify weaning because I was not an effective parent while suffering from pain, chills and fever almost constantly. I stuck some cabbage leaves in my bra, told him the milk was all gone and that was that. We had a couple of days of tears and asking but that’s all it was.

I don’t have a legitimate reason to wean my youngest child. I don’t have a reason that’s good enough. I still make lots of milk, he’s a little guy that would almost always chose nursing over food so he was still nursing on demand. Sometimes his nursing pattern looked just like it did when he was a newborn, especially at night.

What can I say, I want my body back.

I’ve spent the past almost 8 years of my life pregnant or breastfeeding or pregnant AND breastfeeding. I’ve almost lost the sense of what it’s like to have my body belong only to me, to not have to surrender it in the middle of the night to a vice like little mouth while being kicked in the face by little feet and pulled upon by little hands.

I also wanted to be done nursing before we began homeschooling. I can’t imagine trying to explain stone age man to my two older children while my toddler is pushing his nursing pillow into me and crying for boobie as he did constantly whenever we were at home.

Conventional advice would have you gradually reduce your nursing sessions and replace them with other things or distract your toddler when he asks. Apparently those dispensing conventional advice have never met my children. They all had similar personalities as toddlers, and it was very much a case of all or nothing.

Perhaps it’s my reason for nursing in the first place that leads me here. I do not enjoy nursing. Many mothers will describe it as magical, a special bond, moments of peace staring lovingly into their child’s eyes. I never viewed it that way. Sure, I had those sweet moments with my children but I view nursing as utilitarian. I did it because it’s free, it’s easy and I’m a lazy person (you automatically bring boobs with you and they’re always the right temperature) and, yes, there are benefits to be had from it. Over the years, I’ve learned more about breastfeeding than any sane person should know. Did you know that your milk ducts go all the way up into your armpits? Did you know that any child crying can make you “let down”, that is shoot milk everywhere like a fountain? Always convenient in the middle of the supermarket.

I fully believe that new mothers should be educated about breastfeeding and heavily encouraged to do it. I believe that making resources like lactation consultants and nursing clubs at the hospital available to everyone is important. I believe in breastfeeding. It’s a good thing. I just don’t believe that it’s the be all end all to motherhood and that I am a terrible person for ending it before my kids hit preschool age.

As the Time magazine cover would have you believe, I am apparently not “Mom Enough”.

So yes, I am weaning my toddler cold turkey. He has done fantastically with it. His night wakings have decreased, he drinks milk from a sippy instead and doesn’t ask to nurse during the day. I made the nursing pillow disappear, he asked a couple of times and I told him that the boobies were all gone but he could have milk and a cuddle instead. That seems agreeable to him.

I’ve been in a huge amount of pain, this is my punishment for weaning him. I’m leaking and engorged like I was when he was a newborn, for three days it felt as if hot brands were attached to my chest. I stood under the hot shower and rubbed them for fifteen minutes on the first day. The pain is finally starting to subside and with it’s disappearance comes the realization that this is it. My breasts will be deflated with the memory of milk. I will have moved beyond a chapter of my life that I’ll never return to. It makes me a little sad, like finishing a long book that you’ve been thoroughly engrossed in.

I look forward to the next stage. I look forward to there being no more babies, to the crib being dismantled for the last time, to potty training.

Bring it on.

 

Is it summer yet?

Where do I start? We’ve had a busy spring so far. There’s been a chicken coop and a playground constructed, a garden planted, homeschool materials gathered and scanned and now I find my self counting down the days until the kids are out of a brick and mortar school. I can’t wait. When we began this journey I didn’t see myself nearly so excited. More like terrified.

The closer we get to our “start date” and the more things I see falling into place the more at ease I’m feeling. Something I told my husband recently is that no matter how stressed I am from the day, the moment I hit our driveway it starts to dissipate. I can’t wait to spend more time here. The kids are excited too. Sad about not being able to see their school friends as much (though we have promised many a visit) but other than that excited. I see a new chapter of our lives opening up.

The first thing I want to post about is the construction of our chicken coop. We built a modified version of the “Triple C” coop from Backyardchickens.com. A few things were changed, I like ours better. The outside painting still isn’t complete but the chickens have been living out in it for a couple of weeks and seem to be  liking it.

Here’s how it started. Just a humble rectangle on the ground. We were unable to bury hardware cloth because our ground is literally a few inches of topsoil covering slate. Instead, we put the hardware cloth underneath the frame. So far nothing has gotten in there, hopefully this trend continues.

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Next up, some walls!

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This is the first thing that my husband has ever built from scratch. It was quite the experience for both of us, I honestly think he did a phenomenal job.

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I dig the siding material that he used. It was a pain in the neck to paint but it’s good strong stuff.

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Here’s our finished coop. We hung the feeder and water underneath it. We’re using a nipple waterer which I love, there’s no dirty water to worry about and the chickens figured it out pretty easily. As you can see, there’s topsoil on the floor of the run. I’ve heard varying things about what your run should have in it, we opted for a layer of gravel (which the chickens promptly dug up) followed by a layer of topsoil. So far I’m liking it, the poop just kind of disappears into the topsoil.

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Here are the girls (and boy)

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We’re a long way off from fresh eggs yet, but they’re starting to get big. That cream colored one you see in the back is my middle son’s Easter Egger, looking forward to nice green or blue eggs from her.