Saturday, April 27, 2013

Healthy Habits - My Experiment

A week ago I began the Les Mills 21 Day Nutrition Challenge.  It's a painfully simple regime.  It is all explained in a ten minute video.  It's a low carb diet.  Only meat, low-starch vegetables and good fats are allowed.  No dairy either. 

I thought it would be difficult to follow this diet because it eliminates a lot of the foods I eat regularly.  But, I have found it easy to follow because of the simple method used to explain portion size and because I get to eat more regularly.  It also requires a lot of protein.   I have long complained of high protein diets, because of the expense.  However, I have relied a lot on egg whites during this diet and that has helped the expense a great deal.  I consume egg whites for 50% of my daily protein intake.  I thought egg whites would not be nice to eat without the yolk, but I have enjoyed them. 

I have been surprised that after the first couple days I stopped craving sweets after meals.  I have not longed for dairy or bread either.  I used to live on cheese.  I still crave cheese, but I can give it up for a little while.  

I had a snafu at the beginning.  The diet requires one meal to be a protein shake immediately after working out.  I have long been against protein powders because I believe one should get nutrition from food not from something engineered, i.e., supplements.  I discovered that my gut feeling about this was correct.  After my first protein shake (ever) I had a violent reaction.  I had a severe headache and nausea.  I could not do anything.  It turns out protein powders are loaded with MSG from the processing.  I have always had violent reactions to MSG.  I am surprised other people do not have the same problem I did.

I was a little disheartened about this development, because the protein shake is an essential element to the diet.  But, I got back on the horse and decided to use raw 3 egg whites 1/4 cup yogurt and 1/2 a banana in a smoothie as my recovery shake.  This has worked out beautifully.

Last year, I joined a gym that uses the Les Mills program classes.  After Lucy was born, I decided to try the classes.  I discovered that Les Mills Pump helped me to lose weight faster.  There is an at home version available for purchase, which I may save for, because my children are sometimes sick and I cannot make it to the gym.  If you click the picture below, it will take you to the Amazon purchase page.

For the last couple months I had plateaued in weight loss.  Even though I weigh less than I weighed in high school I longed to be leaner.  I am still one of the heavier gals at the gym.   When one of the instructors offered this challenge diet, I decided to try it.  When I began the diet one week ago, my waist was 80 cm and now it is 75 cm and I have lost 6 pounds.  I am starting to see a little more definition in my muscles.  So far, so good.  At the end of the 21 days, maybe I will post a before and after picture.  

I am sharing this little story with you, because I am sure most people desire improved health and this is a program that might help you too.  

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Home School Journal - The Rear View Mirror

Well, we are almost looking at home school in the rear view mirror.  Alex has two subjects to complete and he will be done with first grade.  Ever since I made home school the first activity of our day and started paying the neighbor to watch Annie three days a week, school has been great.  There are still moments of defiance or struggle and when I say moments, I mean really small ones.  

In the last month, I have begun to think about next year.  Every so often, I look into other programs and so forth just to see if there were perhaps a better program.  Every time I do, I find myself coming back to Seton Home Study School with confidence.  No program is perfect and not all aspects fit every child. But, I have found that with a little supplementation to fit my child, Seton is very well-rounded.  

Next year, we will be adding Classically Catholic Memory to our work.  I was interested in doing it and then it turned out many of the other Catholic home schoolers in our area were also interested.  So we are getting together and doing it in a co-op setting.  I am very excited about this.  We will have a much better home schooling community and our children will benefit from the classical education.  I did not think about it before this moment, but I guess I need to start praying about our new endeavor.  

Kristiana has only been working on preschool material two days a week.  I think she is a little intimidated.  In the beginning learning seems hard, but with a few small successes she will be on her way.  Now that Alex is done for the school year, I am going to enlist him to help teach Kristiana over the summer, which has been my plan all year.  He will like this because he will finally get to do all the easy stuff that looks like fun to him, but is learning for Kristiana.

Here are Alex and Kristiana working away at school.  Kristiana needs the tactile preschool activities, which makes Alex jealous.  Here she has her number puzzle, alphabet puzzle and her pattern block set.  She did great work. 

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Here are my little troublemakers.  Annie is laying in the chill-out spot.  Whenever she starts to get into too much stuff, I ask her to lay down and get cozy.  She likes this activity.  I took this picture, because little Lucy crawled up onto her motorbike, sat down and was reaching down and teasing Annie.  It was pretty clever.

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This week we focused on systems in the human body.  I made up experiments to help Alex and Kristiana discover how the systems work. Here we are checking out the nervous system with pin pricks.  We did double pin pricks and single pin pricks to see how the nerves send messages to the brain.  In this picture I am being pricked, but the kids had to be blindfolded and pricked as well.

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Despite some of our struggles during the year I have remained confident in this choice to teach our kids ourselves.  I am hopeful for the future.  What a life.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Kristiana has been a bit defiant lately.  But she is so funny and loving.  While defiant, I think it stems from her need to define herself and independence…

The other day I let the kids outside to play.  The baby crawled on out with all the other kids.  She likes being outside in the sun.  Baby Lucy was happily playing and I had to run back in to change a load of laundry.  After a few minutes, I heard the baby crying.  Annie had upset her.  Annie bopped her.  So I quickly finished what I was doing.  As I crossed the room she fell silent abruptly.  Sometimes she gets over whatever is bothering her.  But, this silence was a little unnerving.  When I peered out the back door, I found Kristiana had picked up Lucy and brought her to the chair and was talking to her and patting her.  Lucy was sitting there happy and comfortable.  It was a sweet moment.  I ran to get my camera and Lucy began to cry again, because I had walked away.  

What a sweet sister moment.  Thank you, Kristiana. 

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Pentecost Activity

"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place.  Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them" (Acts 2:1-4).

I know what you're thinking, "You are a bit early for the celebration of Pentecost."  The pentecost readings coincide with our home school lessons on Confirmation and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I thought this was a good opportunity to make some Pentecost related crafts.

Here I drew a dove, a tongue of fire and beams of light from Heaven to show Alex symbols of the Holy Spirit.  Alex then colored the picture.  Of course, an image of the Holy Spirit needs to be made special by glitter glue decorations.


Annie painted this very fiery painting the next day.  So we hung it alongside our Holy Spirit image.


Then we made tongues of fire hats.  I drew the flame pieces and the kids cut them out and glued them onto the headbands.  Alex traded me hats.  He thought mine looked nicer.


Here is Kristiana working very hard on cutting out her flame pieces.  It was a challenge for her, especially since she is left-handed.  She very much wanted to succeed.


Pentecost Troparion

 Blessed art Thou, O Christ our God, /
Who hast shown forth the fishermen as supremely wise, /
by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit, /
and through them didst draw the world into Thy net. /
O Lover of mankind, glory be to Thee.

Check out this beautifully sung Troparion. It's too lovely not to click.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Here we are taking a break from home school.

 "Quick! Everyone hide! Then maybe we won't have to finish school."

Hobbits Hiding in the Play Kitchen

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Sainthood By Two Year Old

My husband and I wanted to be saints, we just didn't know it would be sainthood via two year old.  We have dealt with our share of the terrible two's in the last 6 years.  For our family, we are convinced the terrible two's begin at 18 months old and lifts it's grips on our children around three and a half.  Therefore, we have had relentless time with two year olds since 2008.  Let me describe a little bit about what it's like in my home right now.  

I am not nearly as cunning, clever and curious as my two year old.  Annie keeps me running after her all day.  When I do not run after her, I pay for it.  The other day, I put on a movie for the children and slinked away to have a post-workout shower.  A few minutes after I had begun my shower, I heard a crash and tiny clinks and clangs.  "Oh for Pete's sake, what now."  I peered out from behind the shower curtain.  My two year old was sitting on my vanity and she had dumped all of my hair clips and hair ties out of it's canister onto the floor.  "Oh well, I will rinse the soap off me before I get to that."

I step out of the shower and tie on my robe.  I begin to pick up clips.  I get most of the clips picked up and I turn my back on the two year old, who is still sitting on the vanity, to pick up the clips that are the farthest away on the floor.  When I turn around she has dumped about 50 flossers onto the floor and into the dog water bowl.  So I pick up the water bowl and take it to the kitchen to dump out the water and throw away flossers.  Why did I leave the two year old behind?!  Why in the world would I think she could be left alone.  I guess I was so furious about the flossers, I forgot to bring her along.  I just wanted to get away from her.  When I returned to the bathroom, she had dumped out a big tub of dog food all over the bathroom floor.  I left again and called; nay, yelled for Alex and Kristiana to come into the bathroom.  I pause their movie.  I announce that we are all a family and we are going to clean up Annie's mess as a family.  So we did.  After the big clean up, Annie scuttled away.  

A few minutes later I emerged now fully dressed into the living room.  I was about to get to other household work, when I discovered Annie was playing in the playroom with her play kitchen and dishes.  She was filling play tea cups with toothpaste.  I seriously start questioning if I am that slow that I cannot anticipate her moves.  It is so logical that she would take off with the toothpaste after playing in the bathroom.  I swear I was watching this child.  How could so much go wrong when she is around?  

Now, that she has made a minty mess with the toothpaste, cue nasty poop in underwear.  I clean that up and go to the pantry to get a grocery sack to discard wipes.  The two year old, sneakily follows behind and dashes into the pantry in between legs and behind my back.  She handily scales the pantry shelves and as she stands hanging there talking about,"Can-nee" (candy), she pees onto everything below.  Thanks, Miss Annie.  

I think I've done all my penance for that day and everyday.  God, be merciful to me, a sinner.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Little Church on the Prairie

I have been reading Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls to the children this week.  Alex has been pretty captivated.  Alex and I got teary-eyed together when Jack, the dog, was swept away in the river.  We admired Ma and Pa as they built their home on the prairie.  We were horrified by the wolves.  That's about as far as we have read...

The other day I was finishing up Alex's religion lesson.  He answered every question right, with authority and understanding.  I gave him a big high five for his astute knowledge.  I told him that religion was his best subject.  He gave a big smile. "Uh huh, Mommy, and you know what? I am going to be a priest when I grow up."  

"Oh, are you?"  I don't take this too seriously, because whatever Alex is really interested in at the moment he tells us that is what he will do when he grows up.  To this date he will be a doctor, an astronaut, a lego designer, a daddy, a computer game engineer, and an animator.  He has lots of ambition.  So it does not really surprise me that he said he wanted to be a priest immediately after hearing his best subject is religion.  But wait a second, yes it is a significant moment.  This is what I have been striving for all year in home school--an inkling of faith.  

I remember in first grade,  after I had been formally introduced to the faith and to holy orders, doing as my teacher had told me--to pray to God and ask Him if He was calling me to religious life.  I remember telling God that if He wanted me to be a nun, I would.  I wanted this for Alex.  I wanted him to make a real connection with the faith.  It is clear he has.

He followed his declaration by telling me all about his life as a priest.  He said he would be a priest here.  He would be my priest.  He would build a church in the way that Pa built the little house on the prairie.  Then he would build a church hall, because every church needs a place to gather and socialize.  Then he would build a playground where all the children could play while their parents visit, and it would be where the parents could see it from the church hall.  Then he would build a convent and a school.  The nuns would teach at the school.  In his spare time, he would design computer games.  Fr. Alex we are praying for you!  I would love for my son to be a priest.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nature Walk

I can only smile about this trip from ear to ear.  After home school this morning, the children and I drove forty minutes to the regional Catholic retreat center.  My moms' group is meeting there this weekend for our annual retreat.  I wanted to scout out a walking path as one of the retreat activities.  I think our nature walk will be a real delight for the ladies attending.  There are signs along the paths that have lines from Psalms.  There is an outdoor Way of the Cross and Way of Light.

The children were not sure about this trip at first.  Alex became very concerned when the car ride lasted longer than fifteen minutes.  Once he became bored with the drive he started saying, "Mom, I changed my mind I want to go home now."  But, then we arrived and the kids looked around at all the beauty and they became very excited.  Immediately, we noticed it was so peaceful.  The grounds are completely covered with trees and brush which block out all the technological chaos of our world.  We took off a long the path and Alex began to read the signs,  "We belong to Him, because He created us." 

"When you enter the gates, you will sing for joy." and so forth.  

We detoured on a path called Psalm XXIII and the words to the psalm were on signs along the path and at the center there was a swing. 

I pointed out interesting things about the nature around us.  And the kids saw a beautiful butterfly up close for the the first time. 

It was a fun little outing.  I think I will have to either go here more often or just go on walks more often.

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Lucy's view from the mai tai carrier.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Pascha 2013

Well, here are the things that I was able to pause and chronicle during this blessed holiday.

Good Friday - Here is how I kept the girls from putting their fingers in the Pascha Bread dough.  I gave them each a little bowl of flour to play with on the kitchen floor. 

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Easter Eve - I remembered to take a picture of our Easter basket after I assembled it this year.  Unfortunately, we were not able to have it blessed this year because we were invited to a Baptism Easter morning at a church that was not our own…Each year I assemble a mini- Easter basket for our priest.  This year, our priest actually called me to thank me.  I just thought it was special, because after years of making Easter baskets for priests, this was the first time I had been formally thanked.  I never needed gratitude, but it was truly nice to know it was appreciated.

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The girls loved the Easter candy.  They set to it with haste.  They were thrilled by the colors.  I managed to find some dye-free candy.  The colors were made with herbs and vegetables.  But, the faux m&m's bore the flavor of herbs as well.  I was a bit put off by it. 

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Here the girls are feeding the baby candy on Bright Monday.  "Please.  Please stop feeding the baby candy!"

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Here is what happens when you give a two year old a chocolate bunny.

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Where is Alex in all these pictures? He's playing computer games…Perhaps we need to re-assess his gaming time. ;-)