Thursday, July 30, 2015

No Sugar Added Diet-Day #4

Paddleboated in downtown Indianapolis with a group of friends.  The laughter never stopped.  Somehow I ended up on the boat with all the boys.  Go figure!

As a recap, I'm on a two week no-added sugar diet thanks to the nudging of Claudia, my (former) friend and dietician.  At the conclusion of two weeks, Claudia wants me to sit on a panel and discuss my experience; she wants me to write about the process too.

For the last few days, I have not blogged about my experiences on the no added sugar diet.  What's that expression, "If you don't have anything nice to say...."  I didn't feel the need to type out a tirade about my irritability and frustration over the minute-by-minute desire to consume sugar and its cousin, artificial sweetener (in the form of Diet Coke).

I will say "they" were right.  On the fourth day, I had a breakthrough of sorts.  I can embrace my morning feast of Grape Nuts.  I can munch on almonds and carrot sticks and not feel totally annoyed.  The Diet Coke craving has waned, but still lingers when I see friends sipping on the icy beverage.  I no longer think about cake, cookies, and candy 24-7.

What I have noticed is that adhering to a no sugar diet can be confusing.  As one who never read a label in her life, I've learned a lot and realize how much more I have to learn.  Rarely does a label come right out and admit sugar is included in a product.  Sugar is disguised under several other names, including dextrose, fructose, sorghum syrup, etc.  You practically need a dictionary and a dietician to translate terms and determine if they do in fact mean sugar.

I also have realized the challenges of sticking with this diet. Take yesterday, our neighbors inviting us to visit their chapel.  The evening took longer than expected.  By the time 8 p.m. rolled around, we were starving.  Our crew and neighbors rushed to the closest restaurant, Jimmy John's.  I was in no mood for a salad.  I was hours past a salad.  I ordered a veggie sandwich instead.  I didn't check to see if the bread was made entirely sugar-free.  I knew the veggies and cheese passed the test.  Did I cheat?  I don't know.  But, I did the best I could manage in the situation.  And, that's what I think is sustainable with this diet.  I think trying to make the best choices that fit within a lifestyle is a diet that can stick.  That's what I hope to learn in the remaining 10 (just 10!) days.

Monday, July 27, 2015

No Added Sugar-Day #1

Diet Cokes have been replaced with other (less savory) options.  My friend recommended this substitute beverage.  Caleb took a couple of swigs and said it tasted like Alka-Seltzer.  I think that might be kind.  

As the minutes tick closer to midnight, I feel grateful that Day #1 of the no added sugar challenge is done.  I survived.  I'm still standing.  I made it, but something felt like it was missing (and that would be sugar).

Breakfast consisted of Grape Nut cereal.  It was a completely fine breakfast.  But, it lacked the "wow" and the "yum" that gets folks out of bed.

By mid-morning, I missed Diet Cokes.  Missed would be a gentle word.  I craved my Diet Cokes.  I noticed that when a son performed some sort of shenanigan, I missed my Diet Cokes even more.  I think Diet Cokes are my cigarettes.  They are my "go to" when life becomes unruly and stress invades.  Breaking this habit will require a radical diet transformation and change in psychological soothing.

Lunch was salad.  I was hungry about an hour later.  To make matters worse, I spent my afternoon at the pool surrounded by children munching on such items as nachos and ice cream treats.  I'm sure my cucumbers were just as tasty.

Dinner felt normal.  I dined on a veggie omelet and roasted potatoes.  No dessert.  It felt like a little part of me died.

I've heard cutting out sugar makes you feel great.  I believe it.  But, I also believe it doesn't happen right away.  I've heard the first few days are pretty miserable.  I concur, but I'm one day closer to feeling better...I hope.    

Sunday, July 26, 2015

No Added Sugar Challenge

We spent part of the weekend celebrating my brother's birthday in Cincinnati.

The best way to celebrate a 37th King's Island, of course!

Cousins bonded over rides that were (literally) more their speed.

Grateful Uncle Matt took the brave boys on the crazy, scary rides.

These two were inseparable.  They discovered their shared passion for toss-your-cookies roller coasters.

Riding roller coasters is exhausting!

The next day, the boys got their second winds.  We hit the pool and the melee began.  

Lunch out before we headed back home.

On Friday, my friend Claudia shot me a text message: join my no sugar challenge for two weeks.  She wanted me to write about the experience and join a panel discussion about the process.

I almost laughed.  

Ditch sugar for two weeks?  

Did she know what she was asking?  

I had a better chance of holding my breath for days on end.  Sugar was an intricate part of my diet, practically one of my core food groups.  It was my reward for a good day (celebratory cupcake for finishing the laundry!), and my comfort on the bad days (gooey chocolate chip cookies after finding gum ground into the carpet!).  Oftentimes, in a pathetic sort of way, sugary treats were the highlight of my day.

As if that wasn't enough.  Claudia explained that artificial sweeteners were out too.

Insert knife.

I could feel myself slowly dying at the thought of giving up my beloved Diet Cokes for two weeks.  14 days.  336 hours.  20,160 minutes....but who's counting.

Without Diet Cokes, how will I stay hydrated?  Claudia tossed out the crazy notion of drinking water, but who does that?

I desperately wanted to toss back a curt response.  Something like...."No" (but with an accompanying smiley face).  

But, on the other hand, I was intrigued.  Perhaps it was time for me to make some changes.  Maybe the two week no sugar added challenge would finally kick my deeply-engrained Diet Coke addiction and instill some better dietary habits.  Would this revamped diet help me to shed some useless pounds and improve my running?  It was worth finding out.

So I agreed to start the challenge tomorrow.  I've spent the weekend doing two things in preparation:

1)  I've planned out no-sugar added menus.  Then, I traveled to the grocery store and spent an endless amount of time reading labels and purchasing things like Ezekiel bread and natural peanut butter.  A gallon of unsweetened tea filled the void in the cart where my Diet Cokes usually sit.  

2)  Pumped myself with farewell sugary treats.  Goodbye chocolate cake.  So long peanut butter bars.  Hasta la vista ice cream sandwiches.  You will be missed.

Tomorrow it begins.  

Fourteen days roll by fast, right?


Monday, July 20, 2015

Beauty in Unexpected Places: The Story of a Pumpkin Plant

I'm lacking a green thumb.  My yard reflects that fact.  The flowerbeds appear neglected.  I would use the term "survivors" for the few healthy bushes that remain.  Little energy and focus is spent on landscaping.  Some may see this as a flaw; I see this as a reflection of a full understanding of my God-given gifts.

Recently, I peeked out the front window, and I noticed a large green vine draped along the mulch beds.  Beautiful orange blossoms swung from the plant.  At first glance, I huffed and thought the weeds have intensified their attacks.  They have become bolder and don't even make an attempt to hide anymore.  They seek mulch bed domination!

But then, I looked closer.  This weed-looking plant was actually quite pretty.  The springy vines interwound with the coral flowers were lovely.

I raced into the house and told my husband about the not-so-ugly weeds.  

"They're not weeds," he laughed.  "That's a pumpkin plant."

Puzzled, I asked, "How did the pumpkin plant end up right next to the front door?"

Enter Cooper.

Last fall, he scooped up pumpkin seeds and planted them among the flower beds.  A horticulturist friend said not all planted seeds bloom.  Cooper, she explained, planted the seeds in the perfect location for the plants to receive adequate sunlight and nutrition.  And for all the plants that refuse to grow in our front yard, this plant thrives.

Perhaps he is the one with the green thumb.

I wanted to be mad, but how do you punish a child for creating a thing of beauty.  The problem was the placement.  An ever-growing pumpkin plant by the front door looks odd.  It would find a better home in the rear of the house or in a garden.

If I thought our house had a chance of being on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens, the pumpkin plant would be unrooted and removed.  But, in some ways, the plant fits into the vibe of our house.  Beauty lies here.  Sometimes it grows in unexpected places.  It can be found in the conflicts, the clutter, and the the chaos.  It grows amid a home full of imperfect people.  If we were striving perfection, we'd never see the beauty that can live in places it shouldn't.  It sits within the walls of our house and within the souls of six people.  

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

When It Rains....

 .......big trees tumble.

.....and twist.

.....and damage.  (This is a neighbor's house I can see out my back porch.)

.....and make a mess.

....and close roads.

....and bury baseball diamonds.

....and turn parks into ponds.

A few weeks ago, we were in California.  What little grass remained in the state was a dull shade of yellow and brown.  The hotels and restaurants recommended limited water usage due to the drought.

In the Midwest, we have different woes.  The rain just won't stop.  It has been relentless.  And it brings friends.  Lightning, thunder, hail, and strong winds have almost become commonplace.

Yesterday, we suffered through a mid-morning storm that knocked over stately trees and unhinged shutters and mailboxes.  During the height of the storm, I was spooked and raced down into the basement until the winds calmed.  When I emerged, the neighborhood appeared disheveled.

We had a brief clear evening and then the storms returned.  The clamor of hail pellets accompanied the thunder and lightning.  Collin panicked and slipped into my bed.  Under the covers, we folded our hands and prayed the trees would hold and the lightning would pass.

Collin added, "And please don't let the frogs get struck by lightning."

And that too.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Watching A Child Become An Individual

Swim team buddies.  Collin's moving past doggy paddle and onto strokes.

Memaw and Papa stopped over for a Fourth of July lunch.  With Papa focusing on a healthy diet, fruits and vegetables were tops on the menu....and not one boy revolted over the lack of processed foods.  Progress!  

The week before the 4th, we met some friends at the Wonderlab.  There were 11 boys in all and 1 girl.  As a surprise to no one, the sweet girl didn't want to join in the picture.

Spent Fourth at my dear friend Erin's house.  A tractor ride through the woods and corn fields was a must when entertaining us city folk.

Fireworks in the front yard!  Life certainly doesn't get any better for my boys.

One of my favorite ways to past time in summer....lounging on the couch with a book.  Maybe one day he'll be reading Faulkner or Hemingway, but for right now Batman comics is tops.

On July 4th, the boys ran in the One Mile Blanton Woods Fun Run Race.

Cooper earned a 3rd place finish.

Caleb came in 2nd.

Connor earned a 6th place finish.

Collin finished:)

I ran the 5K and got the 2nd overall female finisher award.  Darn 15 year old beat me.  Youth always prevails!

The 2nd place finishers!

Summer is supposed to be lazy.  As parents, we are almost required to foster an atmosphere of boredom.  Smart parents know days and days of inactivity will bring children to utter the words they never thought would pass from their lips..."When's school start?"

But this summer, the laziness has never hit.  Camps, sports practices, swim meets, and a bustling neighborhood dog walking/plant watering business has filled our days.  I view my calendar with mixed emotions.  On one hand, I miss the days where children can lounge in pajamas, devour a late homemade breakfast, and then fill the rest of the hours with whatever sits in their imaginations.  On the other hand, I've enjoyed watching my kids develop new skills and grow in their passions.

Last week, Caleb attended band camp at a nearby college.  Everyday, I fought traffic and suffered through a commute to get him to camp.  He's a child that doesn't gush.  He's not giddy.  But in his deadpan-sort-of-way, he looked thrilled.  He was in his element. Playing music all day made him happy (and the daily trip to Starbucks during camp...thanks band camp for creating a new habit:)).

On the last day of camp, the band performed a concert.  I snagged a seat in the front of the auditorium and quickly found Caleb.  He clutched his trumpet and belted out notes.  He looked grown-up, happy, and confident.

I watched him walk up to the microphone and introduce the next song.  He tossed out musical terms that were foreign to me, but they meant something to him.  Then, he returned to his seat and the band sprang into action.  The instruments played off each other producing a vibrant sound.  Mid-song, the band hushed and Caleb's trumpet blasted out a regal-sounding melody.  At the end, the band director walked over to Caleb and instructed him to bow.  I couldn't clap loud enough.

I listened to my son's solo with a mixture of awe and gratefulness.  He's found it, I thought.  He's found what makes him happy.  He's found what God made him to do.  Music is to him what running is to me.

When I was in middle school, I played the flute.  (Played would be a strong term.)  I despised the flute and may or may not have fudged my practice charts because I didn't want to spend one more minute with that torture device (aka instrument).  Band class was painful.  I'm sure my band instructor had to take a lot of deep breaths (and perhaps some medication) when working with me.  Music is/was not my gift.

But, I believe it is Caleb's gift and the thing that brings him happiness.  And for that I have an appreciation. He is not an appendage of me.  Although he has a little bit of my DNA sprinkled within him (and absolutely none of my musical genes), he is his own person.  Watching my child grow into an individual is beautiful, gratifying, and worth interrupting a lazy summer with a commute.