what i learned on my summer vacation

what i learned on my summer vacation

It’s officially back to school time for us. My big kid started today, and my little kid starts tomorrow. Second grade and preschool, respectfully. I kind of thought by the time I sat down to write this post it would be full of HALLELUJAHs and WOOHOOs, but you know what? It’s bittersweet.

Weird, I know.

I love school. I particularly love back to school. There are some kids who thrive in being away, being social and interactive outside the home, and my kids are those kids. I can plan fun summer activities every single day until I collapse (which is usually the case) but it’s always more fun when someone else does the planning. So you could say we’ve been ready for the first day of school since… the last day of school.

I started summer thinking that it would be awful. That despite our fun planned activities, our house would be a tornadic disaster (check), kids would complain about our fun planned activities (check), bedtimes would be a joke (check check) and I would generally hate summer (…not check).

I love my kids. I feel like that’s a necessary thing I should say. But I’m a full time stay-at-home-mom married to a doctor with a crazy schedule. …and I’m an introvert. To sum up: mama needs a break.

But I am premeditated, so I went into summer with lists and plans and dreams and goals. And yes, my house was a mess, and my kids complained, and bedtimes were insane, but we sucked the marrow out of summer. We swam, biked, ran, camped, played, snuggled, read, drew, fished, boated, watched movies, ate snacks, roasted marshmallows and hot dogs over a bonfire, had picnics, and, honestly, we had fun every day.

Don’t get me wrong: some days I wanted to rip my hair out. Some days I wanted to find that swear word book about going the BLEEP to sleep and read it with a ferocious intensity. Some days we watched more screen time than is recommended. Some days we stayed in pajamas all day.

If this doesn’t sum up summer in one photo though…

I think my problem with summer is that well, for one, I don’t like being hot. But for two, it’s an up close and personal reminder of how big my kids are getting. The first time we go to the pool, I’m reminded at how much better they can swim this year. The first time we mini golf, I’m blown away at how quickly they can sink the ball. I know these changes take place over the school year also — and to some extent, exclusively — but when we’re doing the same summer activities year after year, it’s like a real life time hop. I see them this year and I can see every year that came before. And it’s a lot for my heart to handle.

So I have decided, my new plan for summer vacation is to overdose on it. To continue to do ALL OF THE THINGS so that during the cold school year the memories of our fun can keep me warm.

But for now, I will leave the planning up to the teachers, I will trust others to protect and care for the hearts of mine that live outside of my body. I’m sitting in a quiet, clean house, drinking coffee and enjoying the quiet.

But also… I kind of miss the noise.

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how to survive your summer in 51 easy steps

1. Make a plan called “How to Have the Best Summer Ever!”

2. Realize on the second day of summer that your plan is garbage.

3. Make a new plan called “Our Carefree Summer!”

4. Don’t tell everyone that your new summer plan is actually called “Dear God help us I miss the structure.”

5. Send your three year old back to his room every morning at 6:00 am.

6. Purchase a fancy color-changing clock for your three year old that will glow green when he is allowed to leave his room in the morning.

7. Say “Stay in your room until your clock is green” every five minutes starting every morning at 6:00 am.

8. Coffee.

9. If June: buy expensive mineral sunscreen and have your children stand like statues while you slather it on like spackle.

10: If July (or mid to late June, whenever you crack): buy cheap spray sunscreen and mist in your child’s general direction. Ask them lovingly to “close eyes and pinch noses.”

11. Just come to terms with the fact that sand will be everywhere.

12. Cry a little bit when you see the first back-to-school display.

13. Cry a little harder when your six year old learns super soakers are a thing.

14. Wine.

15. Teach your kids that the “S Word” is “Snack,” and we do not swear.

16. Glance into your child’s room to see clothes and sand and toys and books and bedding everywhere. Then say a different kind of “S Word” and just shut that door. Shut the door.

17. Try not to look too excited when your kid says he’s tired. “Do you want to TAKE A NAP DO YOU WANT TO TAKE A NAP?” Nope, he’s good now.

18. Visit every park that’s ever existed. Pack every vegetable and cracker and fruit you’ve ever owned. Listen to children complain about being bored and hungry.

19. Attempt to put your child to bed when the sun is still very high in the sky.

20. Try to explain daylight savings time and end up crying and exclaiming that it really, truly is bedtime, no matter what it looks like outside.

21. More wine.

22. Curse the “young adults” next door who are being loudly unsupportive of your belief that it is, in fact, bedtime.

23. Send your kid back to his room.

24. Send your kid back to his room.

25. Send your kid back to his room.

26. Go to sleep.

27. Wake up; send your kid back to his room.

28. Make a mental note to research how tiny humans function with so little sleep. You never will, though. You’re too tired!

29. Buy school supplies far too early. Think about teachers. Mentally send them a fruity cocktail. They earned it, man.

30. Start planning activities that are an hour or two away, just for the air-conditioned kid-buckled driving time.

31. Watch your kid swim the entire length of the pool underwater, when last year he wouldn’t even go down the slide.

32. Realize that summers really go pretty fast, even if sometimes they seem kinda long.

33. Remember it’s your three year old’s last summer before he starts school — preschool, sure — but school nonetheless.

34. Watch your six year old ride a bike without training wheels, after summers of complete bike apathy.

35. Sit in the grass with your kids and catch fireflies long after they should be in bed.

36. Think “this summer thing isn’t so bad.”

37. Get up too early, stay up too late, overplan the warm July days you have left.

38. Vow to do the same when it’s August.

39. You’ll sleep when you’re dead, anyway.

40. (Or when school starts.)

41. (Or when daylight savings time FINALLY ENDS.)

42. Stop rolling your eyes when people say, “oh, they’re only young once.” Even though they’re actually young for like 12-18 years or however you want to gauge it.

43. I mean, they are only young once.

44. At least, they’re only six and three during summer once.

45. So decide to just “soak it all up.”

46. Except for the sand.

47. I mean, you’ll soak that up anyway without even trying.

48. Maybe invest in some industrial strength blackout curtains.

49. Buy lots of coffee and wine.

50. Embrace your summer fully.

(51. And pray for all of the teachers. Their time is coming. You know it, I know it, they know it; pray, just pray, just pray.)

Happy summer to all, and to all a good bedtime. (Or wine.)

how to lose 0 pounds in 28 days! OR strong mama part 2

Here is the follow up to last week’s post, strong mama. It’s a deeper glimpse into my “diet” — by which I mean lifestyle change — and exercise plan. It is written by Dr. Jason, who you’ve seen mentioned in this blog before as “Jay,” because Dr. Jason is my husband. He’s a pediatric hospitalist, and while he focuses his practice on the under-18 set, his practical advice for general health and fitness can apply to anyone. You can read more of his doctor advice here: Doc Down the Street.

And now, without further ado: the magic solution to all of your weight and body problems! (Or something like that.)

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Throwback-whatever-day-you’re-reading-this: tiny John running in a Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Kid’s Race. 

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, this message is for you.

Stop trying to lose weight! Losing weight is a terrible goal. It’s a natural consequence of being healthy, but it’s a terrible goal. If you starve yourself for two weeks, dehydrate yourself and take a laxative every day, you will lose a few pounds. Your scale will tell you that you did a great job. Your scale is lying, you will not be any healthier! If you can throw away your scale or have someone hide it somewhere in the house, you will be banishing a source of constant negativity in your pursuit of being healthier.

If you make goals to live a healthier, stronger life, the weight will follow.

What it comes down to is that everyone has different barriers and weaknesses in their life. One of the biggest barriers is this message that in order to lose weight you need to cut calories and do lots of cardio. Have you ever tried something along these lines, spending 45 minutes on a treadmill and going home to have a healthy shake? How did that turn out for you? This is not a sustainable lifestyle. If you’ve done this, there’s a good chance you’ve burned out, had a bad week or two, and gained all that weight back.

So if weight isn’t the goal, what is?

Here are 5 tips/guidelines to get you started.

1) Most importantly, one step at a time! Don’t start your “new lifestyle” on Monday and go work out for two hours and eat a salad for lunch and throw out every piece of junk food in the house. By Friday you’re going to hate your lifestyle, and you will give up on it. Maybe if you are very strong-­willed you might make it a month before you give up. Instead, pick one goal, such as doing some strength training for 30 minutes 3 times a week. Focus on that goal. If you don’t make it that first week, keep that same goal for the next week. When that goal becomes part of your routine, add in a new goal. Expect to struggle some weeks more than others. If you get on the scale 3 times a week, you will only see failure after failure. If you pay attention to your goals, you will succeed!

Here’s the big decision you have to make: are you investing in the “you” 5 weeks from now, or the “you” 5 years from now?

2) Recognize what you’re up against. In your brain is an area called the hypothalamus. This is what is responsible for what we call “homeostasis,” basically maintaining the status quo in your body. If you are out in the winter, your hypothalamus makes you shiver to keep your temperature around 98.6. Your hypothalamus is also trying to maintain your weight. Losing weight should be about as difficult as standing outside in the winter and trying not to shiver. If you have two great weeks of working out making healthy choices, your body will crave calories. Your body will be very sneaky in making you feel tired, famished, unmotivated. Recognize it for what it is and tell your body to shut up!

3) Get strong! We aren’t talking about having ripped biceps here. Build up your core strength by focusing on your chest, back, abdomen, thighs and shoulders. If you have access to some weights, ask someone to show you some basic exercises such as squats, curls, dead lifts, etc. If you don’t, Google “core exercises” and find what works for you, such as planks, push ups, leg lifts, etc. If you haven’t done much strength training before, realize that it’s supposed to hurt a little, it’s what they call “the burn.” Finishing the exercises, pushing through the burn, is when the real strength training happens. This is basically you damaging your muscles a little bit, and when they heal they will be stronger.

4) Feed the body you’re building! Restricting calories can come a little later. Focus on making generally healthy choices (you already know that pizza doesn’t fall in this category). Don’t try to count every little calorie, but try to get a good amount of water, lean protein, fiber and whole grains balanced throughout the day.

5) Be intentional about eating! Again, this is not about restricting calories, it’s about keeping yourself accountable for what you’re eating. Need a little bit of chocolate? Don’t stand by the cupboard eating 1, 2, 3 brownies. Get out a plate, put a serving on it, and sit down at the dinner table to eat it. If you’re craving pizza, make yourself sit and drink some water and have fiber (carrots, broccoli, whatever). If 30 minutes later you’re still craving pizza then go for it.

These are some beginner’s guidelines, they aren’t necessarily tailored to your individual needs.When I started giving my wife fitness advice (only when asked, I’m not an idiot), I started by reviewing her current daily habits and schedule and finding ways to make it work for her. If you can afford an insurance copay once a month to visit with your doctor, review your goals and look for the best ways to improve, it will be worth it! If you’re not quite ready for that yet, start with these tips and see how you feel.

And stop checking your weight!

strong mama

I have done it. I am a weight loss success story!

How many pounds have I lost? I don’t know. How many inches smaller are my measurements? No idea. How many sizes have I dropped? Umm… it depends? Sizes are weird. No two clothing stores are alike.

What did you do?

This, I can answer.

Mamas, we do so much in a day. I developed a desperate plea of a mantra soon after Ev was born — once my boys were in bed, I’d look around at unwashed dishes, unfolded laundry, and dirty floors. I’d plop my soft and exhausted body onto the couch, and I’d say, “I kept two boys alive today.”

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Dear boys, ’twas me that kept you alive for this photo. You’re welcome.

This was enough. It was. It really, really was. And to be perfectly clear: it very much still is.

Eventually, though, I fell into a rhythm. I could keep the boys alive AND clean up after dinner. I could (kind of) stay on top of the laundry. I didn’t like the clothes I fit into, but I had clothes (clean ones at that), my boys had clothes, we had food in our bellies, and it felt wrong to complain about my size. It didn’t seem important, it didn’t seem right with all of the blessings we had.

And yet… I found myself on weak days longing to be skinnier. I knew I could stand to be healthier — I was tired constantly (hello, keeping two boys alive!) and it was so hard to be the mom/woman/human I wanted to be. I wanted more energy, more ambition, more motivation, but instead I had more wine. And naps.

Now I’d like to make something perfectly clear: I love wine. And naps. I’d never wine/nap shame.

After months of hearing me whine about waist sizes, my husband offered to help. He’d create individual goals for me and I’d do a weigh-in each week — except I couldn’t see the number on the scale. He’d look and write it down while I lived in darkness. The goal, he said, was my overall health and fitness, not a number on a scale.

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Feet to pavement. LET’S DO THIS. (Old pic. Man, I miss those shoes.)

I’m nothing if not good at homework, so I excelled at weekly challenges. Stop mindlessly snacking? Done (even if I was initially and am still occasionally crabby about it). Learn proper form for various exercises? Done. Learn how to eat in the way that works best for my body/ fitness? Done. Work out at least 60 minutes per day? Done. This was a doozy, but now I actually, willingly, work out longer than this. And meanwhile, even though I never knew the amount I was losing, I knew things were beginning to change.

  • My energy levels exploded.
  • I got strong — I can do so many real (on toes, not knees) push-ups.
  • All of my clothes got too big. All of ’em.
  • I didn’t have to nap (but I still could, if I wanted, because naps are great).
  • I was drinking a glass of wine once or twice a week instead of nightly — I didn’t need the “wine escape” anymore. Truthfully, and I realize this may be dorky, my workouts became the escape.

My workouts were(/are) a combination of weight training, core work, and cardio (specifically running), although I have also started playing tennis. With real people. Who also play tennis.

(THIS IS HUGE.)

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ALSO HUGE: full-length mirror selfie. Also dorky: thumbs up and grin.

I don’t have a program or some magic beans to sell you; I don’t even have a cute, artist-inspired image of buzzwords you can pin to your “time to get fit!” pinterest board. I have tried those things, and I’m not knocking them, because I know they work for some. If you, like me, struggled with finding a “fitness plan” that worked for you, stick around. Next week we’ll have a guest post from a doctor I know really well (because he’s my husband), and he’ll write about diet, exercise, and the way to get you from not healthy to healthy (which is incredibly different, I have learned, than the journey from not-skinny to skinny).

I have a gym membership, but this is simply not a requirement for you to become a strong mama. I have friends who wake up early to do fitness DVDs. I have friends who put their kids to bed and sacrifice time with their spouses to go for a run. You can do this. And you should, because it will make you a better parent, a better spouse, a better version of yourself. Looks may be a side effect of this journey, but the feels are what’s important.

Do it for the feels. Be strong, mamas.