Sunday, December 10, 2017

AH TWO!

Katy turned two this year and we are doubly blessed to have a second little one in our life. She continues to add the smiles and giggles we were missing before she arrived. We celebrated the day with some cousin time, hiking in the canyon. Then both sets of grandparents came over for a cupcakes and candles. She clapped in delight and wanted more when she realized we sang the birthday song for her. After licking three cupcakes, she got a few spoonfuls of frosting. She's definitely my kind of girl. We spoiled her with a special treat--a spring horse named Blaze. So far, brother thinks it is a great ride (and here I thought he was a tractor man!) but Katy simply brushes his hair and feeds him the plastic carrot that came in the box. She adores the bouncy horse and doll from her grandparents.
She's saying more every day and sleeping more every night. She adores her brother and tries to say and do just what he does. Her dolls are often neglected as she plays trucks with him or they sit on the piano bench for the first of many duets. As soon as she wakes up in the morning, she wants her blueberries and oatmeal with peanut butter. I have to stall on getting her dressed because as soon as her clothes are on, she wants to head out the door to see someone. She is simply heartbroken if I exit without her.
Amazingly, she still naps but takes more coaxing these days. A stroller ride will do it but she knows then and often protests a walk in fear of falling asleep. We can haul her from the car into the bed for naps on the way home from church.
She loves broccoli, hot dogs, banana bread, rice, noodles, applesauce, and turkey. Every day for tea, she has a preference for purple cups and plates so we deck her out in this favorite color as much as possible. Recently, she threw a fit at a volleyball game because she wanted to be out on the court playing with the girls.
Every stuffed animal gets a loving hug and she rocks her baby dolls in the cradle that still fits her too. In the middle of playing, she will drop everything and hug--literally come over, climb in my lap, throw her arms around me, kiss me and then climb back to play. Grocery shopping has become a Katy chase these days so as parents, we volunteer to go alone rather than get the exhausting workout of following her around the store saying hi to strangers (who always remark on her blonde curls). What a cherished daughter we have!






Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cousin Time

When we attended my youngest nephew's seventh birthday party last night, I had visions of my own days with my cousins. Most of these kids are second cousins but they spend time together and play, making memories like we did years ago.
Every summer, one set of cousins came up to grandma and granddad's house for a couple of weeks so we headed over there as well. Within five years of each other in age, we found endless adventures walking through the hills and creek beds around my grandparents hay meadows. Each little batch of trees became a hotel. We had a particular watering hole marked out as Alaska (freezing cold!) and a little pool nearby as Hawaii.
When we weren't out climbing around, looking for fossils or using our imaginations, we retreated to the cool basement to listen to the old records our aunts and uncles left when they headed off to college. For some reason, we started holding concerts for our parents and grandparents--lip syncing concerts. We set up decorations and used the ping pong table as a stage. I know we did this more than one year because I remember a particularly cute little cousin with curls stealing the show one year when she danced in front (as the oldest cousin, I expected applause for our amazing show not for this little cute girl who hadn't practiced with us at all!).
I'm so thankful my children now get to grow up around cousins. There is something about the older kids looking out for the younger kids--getting them plates of food, making sure they feel included in the football game, catching them at the bottom of the swing set slide, or just pushing them around on the concrete shop floor--makes my heart happy. In small communities, sometimes it is hard to have outside-the-famiy friends because everyone already has a whole set of friends in their enormous families. We have had several family get togethers for meals in the past few weeks and with the holidays approaching, I anticipate several more. To grow up being cared for, known by your clan: there's not another feeling like it. Thankful for cousins to grow up with and to share kids with!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomeroy

Last spring, with my daughter turning a year old and being firmly footed in my forties, I decided I could no longer make excuses for the scale number I saw. I had to get serious about losing the baby weight. I started making sure I walked 10,000 steps a day by walking to school every morning and evening as well as walking around the halls between classes. I expected immediate results. I gained 10 pounds. Horrified, I realized I would need to get more serious about my health over the summer. I started walking for exercise with my daughter in the running stroller. I had salads for lunch. I felt pretty optimistic. However, when school started in August, to my horror my clothes did not fit. Aghast, I decided for the first time in my life, I would be willing to try a diet for my health.
For the last eight weeks, my love and I have been losing weight on the Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomeroy. We first heard about it from a family member who read the book and successfully tried it out a couple of years ago. The claim is to lose up to 20 pounds in 28 days and to reset your metabolism so it handles food better even when you go off the diet. After eight weeks, I have finally hit the 20 pound mark and I have no intention of returning to my old eating habits. Here are some of the tips I found most helpful in keeping up this new lifestyle.
1. No sugar, no flour, no corn, no soy, no dairy, no caffeine (I cheat on this and drink a cup every morning with breakfast). I know what you’re wondering—then what do you eat? Lots of great stuff! Wild rice, steel cut oats, sprouted grain bread, quinoa, hummus, and Stevia.
2. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water. Basically, I drink a full glass with meals and then another water bottle full before lunch and after lunch.
3. Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of getting up (I basically eat as soon as I get up!) and snack every three hours.
4. Eat in Phases—one (two days) is grain and fruit emphasis; two (two days) is veggie and protein emphasis; three (three days) is back to everything including good fats like avocados and hummus.
5. Though she claims you can lose 20 pounds in four weeks, my loss varied from week to week. The first week I lost 8 pounds (going off sugar will do that to you!) and week three I lost nothing! At the end of four weeks I was at 14 pounds and it took a couple more weeks to shed the first twenty. She encourages folks to keep going until they reach their goal. I would like to lose another 10 pounds but I am sure my body will eventually tell me when it is ready to stop weight loss. Then I will stop the particular phases of eating and just enjoy healthy foods!
6. She is adamant you not cheat the first 28 days so you can reset your metabolism. I stayed on track, but have since had a few days of lapses but nothing has stopped my weight loss so far.
7. Soups are the key to surviving Phase 2 every week. Haylie suggests getting your crock pot going on the weekend so you are ready.
8. Snacks—beef bars, hummus with cucumbers, almond butter on celery, apples. I love that I never get hungry on this diet. In fact, her mantra is eat more to lose more (of course sticking to her parameters on the phases).
9. Exercise lights the fire on weight loss she says. I do the cardio on Phase 1 days by riding the elliptical for 20 minutes to get my heart rate up. On Phase 2 I do weights by lifting at the gym one day. And finally, I may not have access to yoga class or massages as she suggests for Phase 3 but weekend walks in the country make up for it!
10. I weigh in once a week. When I weigh more often during the week, I get discouraged by the fluctuations but I have seen nothing but decreases over the eight weeks.
11. Menu planning is my newest health tool. We used to wonder what to eat in the evening after a long day of work and resorted to frozen pizza or waffles more than I care to remember. No wonder our poor bodies suffered! And now that I have a plan, I don’t worry about lunches either. It’s super easy to pack leftovers!
12. Week one is amazing and it was the only week I felt hungry. I began to notice that every thing I ate tasted sweet (maybe because I didn’t have sugar to dull my taste buds?).
13. I love Phase 3–nothing better than having good fats after four days without it. I love almond butter on sprouted grain bread with raspberries. And I make my own hummus every weekend which we eat in copious amounts for snacks and meals. Turkey lunch meat around a dollop of hummus? Yum!
14. Grocery shopping has actually not increased our bill—we don’t buy sugar or chips so the fact that we spend more on nuts and frozen berries doesn’t kill our budget. Every week I buy two bags of spinach, frozen cherries, blue berries and raspberries, four cucumbers, apples, oranges, onions, peppers, cabbage, lunch meat, Ezekiel bread, and chicken breasts (we have all the beef we need). Every few weeks I have to stock up on Amazon for Epic beef bars, wild rice, quinoa, almond butter and  a can of nuts (pecans or cashews).
15. I have found her Master List of food helpful when menu planning. I do love her recipes (on her website, blog and in her book) too. We have found favorites: Italian Chicken and Wild Rice, Spicy Beef and Cabbage Soup, Sesame Chicken, Coconut Curry Chicken, and Chili Soup. Our default meal is always taco salad because we have the hamburger and spinach!
16. My clothes fit! I have noticed I am really seeing a change in my tummy even on the weeks when I am only losing a pound. People notice my face has thinned out too. If this pace keeps up, not only will I be back in my clothes, I may be buying a size or two down! Right now I am back in all my pre-pregnancy clothes and anticipating more loss to come.
17. She suggests doing the 28 day cycle a couple times a year to reset your metabolism or to do it one week every month. I think we will officially stop the diet after Christmas and just do the once a month phase rotation to keep the metabolism firing and weight at bay. We feel so great!
18. Stress really impacts weight. She encourages people to find outlets or ways to manage stress so that it does not hinder weight loss. For me, lack of sleep also really contributes to weight gain so I am not sure I would have had much success with this diet before my daughter started sleeping through the night (which was only six months ago!).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Branson Belonging

*I wrote this article with my 8th grade class today and loved it so much I wanted to share it! The prompt asked us to write a narrative about belonging and relate it to one of the readings.

As a kid, I moved around a lot. At one point, I counted eleven different houses. That had an impact on me as a kid. For one, we had boxes always ready and very few things we didn’t need. Mom never saved my art projects and outgrown toys were sold at yard sales. More than material things though impacted me: I wanted friends.
                Moving to Branson, Colorado in October of my sixth grade year changed my life. For the first time I felt like I belonged. My grandparents and my dad had graduated from this school and I felt as if I belonged long before I met a single student. We visited my grandparents frequently and everyone knew them. My dad’s former classmates had kids in my class and my brother’s class. I made friends with April, Amy and Melissa. Still today Melissa and I trade stories of our kids as we have launched into our own families. Finally, I also stored material things when we moved to Branson because we had out buildings that provided storage and we lived there for nine years.
                My sophomore year of college, I experienced an uprooting of sorts. My parents moved to Greeley so my mom could do her master’s degree. They ended up staying for the next 20 some years. However, Greeley never felt like home to me. I belonged in Branson. In fact, twenty years after graduating, I moved back and started a family of my own in nearby community.

                The article “Study Finds Americans Increasingly Rooted” seems to indicate the opposite of my experience. While most families stay put, mine always moved. Perhaps having a stable community like Branson where we could belong without even being there allowed us to move around with out losing the quality of belonging. I would not change my family experience. I loved all the new friends I met and the places I lived: Indiana, Arkansas, Texas and Colorado. However, I will always belong to this little ranching town in southern Colorado.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Canyon Fall

The school year started off with a family down with colds. Looking back over my question a day journal, I realized this happens to us every year. I spent Labor Day weekend resting and even took off a day. The kids and Damon caught it the next week which kept us sniffling for a full two weeks. The kids soon adjusted to riding into town three days a week because it meant playing in the sandbox at Ema's and on the playground at school. The elementary teachers have a front row seat to the entertaining duo every morning. When they stay home with dad, they fall asleep in Punkin, the old orange feed truck, as he checks cattle and water every morning and ends up stopping by the grandparents for a visit. Weekends I entertain the kids by having them help me hang up laundry (they especially love running through the pants as they flutter in the sunshine on the clothesline) or by heading down to the shop to ride trikes and tractors.

The creek has mostly dried up though we did have a week with over three inches of rain. In the big mud puddle in the driveway, John David started making up a fishing game. He found twigs, threw them in the water, sat down to wait, then jumped up declaring he caught a fish! Katy quickly mimicked her brother, throwing her hands up in delight and finding sticks and twigs to use too.

One weekend we headed over to see great-grandma Doherty, playing in her basement on the old sawhorses holding saddles and with all her fifty year old toys. After lunch, the kids slept all the way home on a sunny fall afternoon.

October brought our first junior high football game to watch my oldest nephew play. Surprisingly, the kids sat on a blanket eating snacks and cheering on the team. Katy immediately caught on to the cheerleaders role and joined by smacking her little palms together and shouting in glee. After the game, my nephews took John David over to the playground to play on the slides just like I did as an elementary kid. Katy stayed back, turning rocks into "babies" and covering them up with grass. She hugged on my cousin's girls and walked up and down the sidelines waving to everyone.

As usual, October gave us a little taste of winter. On our day off for Columbus Day, the clouds came in and dusted us with snow for a few hours. The kids delightedly ran outside, Katy yelling "noing!" at the top of her little lungs, throwing her face up to catch crystal flakes. John David found the amount of snow disappointing since we couldn't make snowballs or snowmen. Soon I am sure we will have plenty of snow but thankfully not in October!

Our most exciting news has to do with our health! We started a program in mid-September and have experienced amazing results which I am sure I will blog about soon. We feel and look better these days and expect to have many more. What treasured days to watch our little ones grow and interact with the world both at the canyon and beyond.







Friday, August 4, 2017

The First Half of My Career

Having finished my seventeenth year of teaching, I must admit I have calculated my retirement could be in about 17 years. That means I am half way! So what would I say about the first half of my teaching career? This:
1. I avoided formal education because I wanted to have meaningful relationships to influence students in leadership roles. However, I have found that seeing students every day in a classroom actually lends to a lot of opportunities to influence future leaders--especially those with academic promise. They want the tools they need--the ability to make connections with what they read and to write well. I feel so satisfied to be equipping future leaders in this way.
2. I also avoided the formal classroom my first few years out of college because I wanted to be able to encourage those who found themselves in a low spot in life. The English classroom actually lends itself quite well to this goal--journal entries, personal narratives, even just conferencing with students about their writing or their reading open up moments to pass along encouragement or just provide a listening ear. So many of my favorite memories teaching were not really about literature or writing, but about seeing the change over time in a student who needed an adult to say some positive words.
3. I'm a people pleaser. I love making people happy. Teenagers often give me negative feedback--they don't like reading, they hate grammar, they can't write. Even when I meet strangers on the street and they ask what I do I often get groans when they find out I am a teacher--let alone an English teacher. Through all of this I have learned to take the long view and its not personal. One fortunate thing about teaching in small schools is that I have students for several years. This gives me more time to convince them that reading and writing are tools, not enemies. I now know no matter how much they complain, they need to read a lot and write a lot. They need quality, timeless reading as well as up to date engaging reading. And I have so many tools in my box to support strong writing. I am amazed at student progress over time. And I just don't take their hate for my subject so personally anymore. I just share my value and respect and eventually they come around.
4. I used to be offended when anyone suggested new ways to teach. Now I plan on teaching something new every year. Can you imagine after teaching Lord of the Flies eight times, I need some refreshment? I love always growing. I wonder sometimes how my first students learned anything my first year. But instead of hating my earlier teaching self, I am just so thankful for the continued growth this profession gives me.
5. Testing is not going away. True, it may change from year to year but the core idea of evaluating student progress has not changed. I used to be delighted when my students did well and defensive when they fell back. Now I humbly acknowledge its one test one day. I have students who do well and those who don't. I continue to implement effective practices and hope to do better every year. I keep teaching those core pieces of literature and writing techniques trusting the system will work it all out.
6. I thought I might try teaching for a year. I hadn't majored in education in college but it seemed like a good temporary fit. Man! Now I know God drew me to this profession, gave me great mentors, fabulous students, engaging content, and growth opportunities like I cannot imagine in any other career I considered. What joy I have in teaching! I cannot imagine spending the next few years doing anything else.
7. What a great fit teaching is for me as a mom. As a single woman, it gave me community to engage wth every day. As a mom, I have an ideal schedule with lots of time off and summers with my kids. Soon my kids will be in the same building with me for 14 years (of my 17!) and that warms my heart. I know not every mom has a call to teaching, but for me it is such a perfect fit both for me and my family. I feel very blessed.
Here's to the next seventeen years being even better than the first!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Best Ways to Dig out of Ruts

While the main road we live on is covered in a sturdy white caliche that sloughs off the elements, pasture roads soak up the moisture and turn to goo after a good rain. We have had a lot of good rain these days. It's monsoon season in New Mexico. Cattle still need supervising. Fences need fixing. Ranch life must continue despite the elements. 
Recently, the kids and I followed my rancher husband as he drove a tractor out to the east pastures to fix fence more easily. Even though Punkin, the old orange truck he bought for $400, has four wheel drive we veered off onto a pasture road and immediately got into some trouble. The ruts from the rain had dried into deep groves, making it nearly impossible to navigate the road. My son observed that I didn't drive like daddy. I managed to jump the truck out of the ruts up onto the firm footing of the grassy pasture. We met our ranching guy over at his destination and took the kids home for lunch.
I realized I have a lot of ruts in my life. This past weekend I visited some friends in Colorado Springs where I spent twelve years as a young professional. Seeing my old friends and haunts reminded me many of my patterns of thinking have not changed. I still see the worst more often than through lenses of faith. I tend toward fear of the future rather than contentment with the present. There I had worries of taking care of myself as a single woman. Today I have worries taking care of my kids and being a good wife. The constant for me is to have faith instead of fear.
How do I break out of the rut of negative thinking? How do I refuse to let my worries water it until it is soggy with despair? How can I keep the path clear for hope and contentment?
This past week I have started a scripture writing challenge for the month of August. I realize that though I often get time to read the Bible on my phone or even in my journaling Bible, I don't often let it soak in or change my thinking. Doing this verse or two a day, letting it soak in, reading other's insights from the Holy Spirit--this truth and fellowship are drying up my doubts and feeding my faith. Already I have seen my hope begin to grow, my contentment peak its head out. This ends in a month, but the idea of focusing on letting God's word feed my faith and propel me to fellowship does not have to end. The only way to eliminate "Stinking Thinking" as they used to say is to replace it with meditating, ruminating, and changing because of the Holy Spirit's use of truth in my life.