Friday, August 28, 2015

Passing on the Torch to the Next Generation of Runners

Traveled to Madison, Wisconsin for a half marathon race with my friend Nicole.

Post-race, all smiles at the weiner mobile.

The afterparty was at the most picturesque location on the banks of Lake Mendota.

An iconic symbol at the University of Wisconsin: the famous chairs.  Why chairs?  We never got our answer.

For the last 25 years, I've been a runner.  I've devoted countless hours to chasing the next PR and reaching the next running milestone.  It's been an endlessly frustrating and fulfilling process.  But, now that I've dipped a toe into the 40s, I'm well aware that my running days are changing.  Injury-prevention and longevity have become familiar terms.

I want to be running into my golden years.  I pray that happens.  But, the reality is my running will morph into something different as I accumulate birthdays.  For the last two weeks, I've discovered that "older" runners can still find the joy in running by passing the torch onto the next generation of runners: children.

I've started a running club for 3rd and 4th graders in my sons' elementary school.  It's a small school, and so I assumed we'd maybe have a dozen children.  I prayed for 15 runners.  When 28 runners registered for the club, I was blown away.

Club members run for 20 minutes at meetings.  Our ultimate goal is to run a 5K race together.  I assumed the kids would whine and fuss about sweating along a course.  Such has not been the case.  The kids are having a blast.  The smiles on their faces are contagious.  They love to give high fives, to hear encouragement, and to run faster and further than they've run before.

I smile every time I think about the kids (at every single skill level) racing around the tracks with proud expressions on their faces.  It gives this runner a high that rivals any PR....with a lot less work.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Baritones: Heavenly Sounds?

Fifth graders are given the choice: band or choir.  For our first born, a musical instrument seemed like a natural fit.  He shied away from sports, and quickly took to music.  Our second son, Connor, faced this same decision.  Connor differs from his brother; he adores spending time on a sports field.  And so, we were hoping he'd choose choir (aka the free option).

But, Connor would not be dissuaded from band.  I'd like to say it's because he wants to be the next Mozart.  In reality, it's because that's what all his friends were doing, and in the life of a fifth grade boy it would be social suicide to make a choice that differs from his beloved peers.

Not only did he want to be in the band, but he begged us to play the largest, most monstrous instrument in existence: the baritone.  I tried to be the voice of reason. I reminded him that he would have the responsibility of lugging an instrument bigger than a child around the school halls and into the parking lot.  He treated it like an adventure.

And so we caved.  We rented (just to ensure he still LOVES the baritone in a month) a baritone the size of a tire.

Yesterday, he walked home with the baritone.  The problem was finding a good "home" for the instrument.  It landed on his floor and took up about half the space.  He pulled it out of the case, and the sound that drifted from the instrument sounded like a whale in hospice.  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

This morning, he took it to school for the first time.  We couldn't fit it in the passenger seats, and so it found a place in the trunk.  At drop off, he pulled it out of the back, and lugged it into school. I noticed he was straining to carry the instrument, a backpack, and lunchbox into school.  I wondered at that moment if he was second guessing playing the piccolo.

Tonight, he pulled out the instrument again. I cringed.

Caleb teased him, "You know trumpets are called the instruments of kings.  Baritones are called the instruments of farts."

Connor shot back, "Heavenly farts then!"

I thought, if this is the sounds we'll hear in heaven, I'd like to stay on this side of the pearly gates...with a good set of headphones.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Thoughts on the no added sugar challenge: Mission Complete

1st day of 7th Grade.  

I wish I could show boys dressed in freshly starched khaki pants with button-down shirts.  They picked their outfits and showed pride in their choices.  If that makes for a successful morning, then I'm happy too.

First day of 5th grade.  I have a second middle schooler!

First day of 3rd grade!  I couldn't figure out how to rotate this picture and didn't want to leave his photo out!

First day of first grade!

Brothers united on their first day.

I just finished eating a chocolate chip cookie.  The no added sugar two-week challenge is completed, and so I've gone back to indulging in a few favorites.  Cookies are tops on my list.  But, my diet has changed.  My palate is different.  My eating style has transformed.

The biggest change is that I can now legitimately refer to myself as a former Diet Coke addict.  I am 21 days clean of Diet Cokes!  Woo hoo!  A 25-year habit has been kicked for three weeks.  I certainly never expected to be Diet Coke-free in my lifetime.  It took me awhile to really love water.  But now, a glass of water with lemon slices is a treat.  Are pigs flying?  Has Hell officially frozen over? 

Another change is in my physique.  I am officially four pounds skinner.  I didn't measure my waist, but my pants and shorts are no longer snug.  I can bend over without fear that a strained button will fly off under the pressure of covering fabric over flab.

As mentioned earlier, I've reintroduced sugar.  But, I'm trying to mostly make smart food choices, sticking with less processed and sugary items.  I've noticed my taste buds are satisfied with those foods, and heavy fat- and sugar-laden items make me feel uncomfortable.

I absolutely hated the diet at first.  Now, I'm grateful I was pushed out of my comfort zone and have made positive changes because of the nudge.

Here are my takeaways:

1.  The best way to break a habit is to start with a short time frame.

Ok.  This might just work for me.  But, if someone had said to stop drinking Diet Cokes, I would have said, "I can't."  The thought of breaking that deeply engrained habit was daunting.  But, when asked to break a habit for 14 days, I felt like it was manageable. Then, in the course of those two weeks, I realized I could break the habit and didn't really need those drinks anyway.

2.  Tastebuds can change.

This one has been good for me to think about with my boys.  I've realized that if you just change what you eat, you'll start to crave and desire other foods.  So, for my sons, I've just stopped buying sugary items.  At first, I felt a bit bad.  Perhaps it was because they insisted I was "starving them."  But, like me, they became accustomed to natural apple sauce cups and less-sugary cereal options.

3.  Everything in moderation.

Food is one of the best parts of life.  It adds to celebrations and makes some of the most wonderful memories.  I don't want to eliminate those experiences.  I will eat the birthday cake with my kids.  I will join the buffet at the weddings.  But, I'll try to make most of my food choices healthy ones.

4.  Healthy does feel better.

Healthy foods make me feel fuller. I eat less, and feel more energized.  I can fit in clothes better which makes me stand a little taller (and leaner).  I feel a sense of pride for sticking with something and making positive choices.

Friday, August 7, 2015

No Added Sugar-Day #12

Grateful to leave my suburban bubble and serve at Shalom House with my family and friends.  Shalom House is an awesome place that serves hot meals to those in need.  The woman who work in the kitchen are the most godly, other-focused ladies around and true heroes.

Hairnets are not our best look.

Caleb made enough sandwiches to get a job at Subway.

I actually like the taste of natural peanut butter.  This statement alone speaks volumes.  In the span of almost two short weeks, my palate has changed.  What I once found akin to eating spackle, I now crave.  

I've learned to make some mean, tasty (just to toot my own horn) dishes.  Two days ago, I whipped out a veggie pad thai that would rival any fancy restaurant (says the girl who craves natural peanut butter!).  I ate a bean burrito wrap that made me cry tears of happiness.  Bottom line:  I am eating.  I'm eating well.  I'm enjoying the food.  Who would have thought?

I will say, there are moments when I CRAVE sugar.  Mostly, they are the moments when sugar would be used as a form of soothing over the crisis or challenge of the moment.  

Take today. 

I ran 15 miles in my latest round of marathon training.  For those unfamiliar, running 15 miles, leaves people a wee bit tired.  Then, I managed four boys (with a preteen feeling particularly cantankerous and another son feeling much so that I caught him climbing about 20 feet off the ground in a tree).  Then, my car broke down.  Sweet AAA man fixed the car battery just to discover my side door would not shut.  Would not budge for anything.  For a split second, I wondered if it was frowned upon to drive around town with the van doors open.  Natural air conditioning, right?  Probably not recommended.

My point: the weight of all of those issues left me pining for anything and everything ice cream, cake, pie, or cookies.  When I realized these things were not possible pacifiers, I almost cried.  Reality hit.  I had to deal with my frustrations and challenges without my sugary friends.  Instead of reaching for a Snickers, I grabbed a journal and jotted down my feelings.  Honestly, it was healthier for me, and I felt the heaviness of the day dissipate as I put pen to pad.

Two days remain in the no added sugar challenge.  I'm excited to snack on a reward treat after its finished, but I'm wondering if I'll even like it after so many days.


To follow up on the van breakdown story.  I've recently completed a 40 day prayer challenge.  In the book, the author recommended writing down prayers so as to have a prayer genealogy.  He says then when we write down our prayers, we can truly document the times when God has moved and acted in our lives.  As I reflect back on today's van saga, I spy the hand of God touching a bad situation.  I'm grateful:

-For the sweet man who stopped to ask if he could help.  He couldn't, but I was touched by his willingness to lend a hand.

-That we broke down in a park.  The kids had plenty of places to run and play while we waited for AAA.

-That the weather was beautiful.  We weren't too cold, hot, wet, or snowy while we waited for the repairman.

-That the AAA man came quickly as he was nearby when the call arrived at dispatch.

-That the repair was easy and free as a member.

-That the sweet repairman could get my van door closed.  Who knew I should be praising God for such things as closed van doors!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

No Added Sugar Challenge-Day # 9

Running friends got together to celebrate Marie's 40th birthday.  Peddled around downtown Indianapolis as a group and with spouses.

Two older boys spent a few days in South Bend with Grandma and Grandpa Wood.  The last day we celebrated Grandma's birthday with a delicious (or so I heard) ice cream cake.

One of my favorite parts of the summer: canoeing and hiking in Turkey Run State Park.

Hiking was great until we saw the snake.  Some (four boys) found this to be the highlight.

The suspension bridge ranked a close second in favorite parts of the day. 

Guess who wasn't feeling like canoeing?  Fortunately, his mood drastically improved once he nestled into the canoe, and he enjoyed the ride.

Cooper was stung by a bumblebee today.  He yelped and clutched his throbbing finger.  As he was sobbing, we all tried to console him.  Connor murmured, "When I've got stung by a bee, it hurts a lot at first.  I try to think of other things to distract myself.  Then, the hurt goes away."

Sage words from Connor.

These sentiments best sum up my last few days on the no added sugar challenge.  As I spilled out on the last few blogs, my first few days were ugly.  I was an angry mess ranting to anyone within earshot about my lack of Diet Cokes and sugary sweets.  (Cue the violins.)  I was hungry, bitter, and unpredictable.  (Delightful qualities for my husband!)  

I tried desperately to distract myself with yummy Ezekiel bread (I can't even type that with a straight face) and fizzy (best word I can use to describe) LaCroix.  But, they just left me wanting for more....sugar.

Over a week into the challenge and things have changed.  I've settled into a no added sugar routine.  My dietary repertoire has expanded. My palate has changed.  I munched on pineapple the other day and couldn't get over the sweetness in the flavor.  How things change in the span of a week!

Here are my general observations:

1.  Urges will go away if you hold strong.

Sunday night we celebrated my mother-in-law's birthday.  She whipped up a little slice of heaven: an ice cream cake smothered in caramel sauce and candy bites.  Believe me, I tried about a zillion different ways to justify eating that cake.  I held strong and munched on a few Costco corn chips as a consolation (My friend informed me that Costco corn chips are sugar free...or should I call her my new best friend?)  I glumly watched my family dive into the cake and squeal with delight.  

But, I discovered that 30 minutes later, I cared not one bit about the cake.  The satisfaction of holding firm, however, lingered around long after the last cake plate was cleaned.  I learned urges are not to be trusted or followed.  (My pastor said if he followed every urge he had, his life would be wrecked by dinner.  So true!)

2.  To focus on all the things I can eat, and not the limited amount I can't.

I mentioned the Costco chips, right?  As I've shared with friends what I am doing, I've received lots of different recipes and tips on no added sugar items.  Our dinners have been tasty. Tonight we munched on a sugar free (thanks to Fresh Thyme) vegetarian wrap. I've enjoyed pasta dishes, omelets, and salads too.  Anyone know Guacamole is sugar free?  Hallelujah!  These meals leave me lacking nothing.  I'm embarrassed for all the ways I complained about the "don't haves" when so many "dos" exist.

3.  What Mamma Does, the Kids Will Do.

At first the boys rallied along side me in the general disdain of the no added sugar diet.  Caleb called it the "un-fun" diet.  I realized that the boys were parroting my words.  A couple days into the challenge, when things started looking better, the boys responded differently to no added sugar menu items and  groceries.  They were more apt to try the healthy items and talk about smarter food choices.  Because I wasn't buying added sugar items, their diets improved too.  Amazingly, no one complained.

4.  I feel fuller.

I'm no dietician.  I can't tell you why.  Fiber, I suppose?  My friend Claudia could spell out all the reasons.  Whatever the case, I feel full most of the day.  Pre-diet challenge, I was famished come late afternoon.  Anything in the house was fair game. But now, I can easily wait until dinner without feeling like I could eat the leg off the kitchen table.  

I have five more days on the challenge.  I'm going to spend the next few days thinking about the changes I will keep long term (and what dessert I will eat on Monday....pineapple, perhaps?).