March 6, 2015

Raising Healthy-Minded Kids

My kind, nerdy, tender-hearted, artsy, ten-year-old lay on the floor in her darkened room, eyes wet with frustration as she lamented that her six year-old-sister could do more push-ups than she.  We had a sweet discussion about how every person possesses different strengths and then I asked "Do you know why we workout?" And this part–this part socked me in the gut.  "So I don't get fat," she answered.  "Who told you that?" I quickly asked and she answered no one. She just knows.

When I was ten and in 5th grade, just like my girl, I hugged my dad goodnight and he told me I had a pretty face but that I should lose a little weight.  That was the first of many memories I own where my weight and appearance were mentioned.  Many, many.  And because I experienced years of eating disorders, counseling, dieting, etc.,  I was so afraid to have a daughter–not to mention three–because I know the pressures they will face. Those words from my eldest reminded me that even if my girls never hear my husband or me tell them they should trim down or lose weight, they may still absorb that message from the outside world.

I told my husband about what my daughter said and it sparked a discussion. Mostly about how we raise healthy daughters who take care of their bodies and appreciate them as the gift they are.
It's a precarious teeter-totter to guide our girls to live healthy life styles without becoming consumed with body image and negative behaviors.  And we don't get it right every day, but these are some of the Do's and Don'ts we want to keep implementing in our house:

We DO encourage colorful food choices.  I'm not too concerned with the artistic appearance of food, but color is an easy way to teach kids how to recognize a healthy plate.  Focusing on a rainbow of colors usually helps my girls diversify the types of food on their plates with the goal of all the food groups being represented.

We DON'T eat late at night (usually).  Once dinner is cleaned up, the cook (me) is off duty for a couple reasons: we want our girls to eat the dinner we prepared and not be picky and we know if they know they can eat later, they are less motivated to eat dinner. And I'm told that eating right before sleeping isn't ideal for our digestion.  When I'm peckish at night, it's usually because my body is signaling something else like, "hey, you're tired--go to sleep" not "fuel your body with more food so you can stay awake."  A common exception to this is if the kids are really hungry after an evening activity (like swimming practice). Then the next rule kicks in.

We DO allow them to grab a fruit or vegetable snack at anytime. Sometimes this prevents eating unneeded calories: "Mom, can I have a snack?" "Sure, grab a veggie." Loud sigh, "Never mind." But sometimes they do take advantage of it, and even at night, it can be thrilling to see them consuming raw veggies during a bedtime story.

We DO carve out time to exercise and be active as individuals and family. Depression is prevalent in my family, but I have found that exercise is my anti-depressant.  The endorphins make me a kinder, calmer momma and wife.  So we talk about the benefits of exercise with our girls and 2-3 times a week incorporate intentional exercise into their routine.  We do circuits, running, biking, snowshoeing, hiking, tennis, soccer, and lots and lots of outdoor play. Whether or not the girls are athletic is inconsequential.  We want them to learn to crave physical activity and carry it with them through their hopefully long, healthy lives.

We DON'T complain about our bodies.  I won't use the word "fat" or any other berating term about myself in front of my girls.  Never ever.  I am their example of a woman and their bodies might look like mine someday, so I want them to know that would be okay.  I want them to know that a fluffy middle isn't awful and extra padding is okay, too.  Or maybe their bodies won't look like mine and they will be girly versions of their dad–long, lanky and low on curves–and that would be okay, too.

Because regardless of too much squish or no curves or big feet or gap teeth, they are made in His image, fearfully and wonderfully made by Our Creator. And we want to teach them to both appreciate and care for what He has given them.

September 2, 2013

Beating Back-to-School Anxiety

Every year, the start of school produces opposing emotions in me. It both excites me and raises my anxiety. Growing up, there was a lot about fall that I saw as good: helping my mom prepare her elementary classroom, shopping for school supplies, playing tennis in the cooling weather (it was a fall sport when I was in high school), and planning for the upcoming year.  But simultaneously I was afraid of change and new experiences like having to form new relationships and learning new routines.  I guess it's not very surprising that now, as a momma and a professional, I still feel that emotional consternation. Now I get to feel the excitement of my children starting a new school year and I worry about how it will go for them. I'm excited to start my new position as a school counselor this year but also feel anxious about how I will be perform and if the students will respect me and if I'll get along with the staff and...Maybe you can identify with this, too, that If I'm not careful, my anxiety can overrun my excitement.

I have learned to adapt and one of my methods for handling change and unfamiliar routines is to make plans--cleaning and exercise procedures, meal prep strategies, curriculum blueprints, etc. And, oh, my plans for this year are lofty!  I would love to exercise every morning before my girls wake up, have my quiet time before work, leave for the day with a clean house and dinner already prepped, serve a healthy after school snack, read with each girl before bedtime, and get good sleep. I also want to blog more, read more, and have a cleaner house. As I consider all these plans for my perfect back to school life, I realize that (here comes the counselor in me) I'm managing my anxiety produced by things I can't control by working hard at finding things I CAN control. And I'm not sure that's okay.

What is any of that worth if I’m not growing in Christ’s likeness? What good is a clean house if I don’t have a clean heart?  Or what good is a healthy after school snack if I’m not spiritually nourishing my children? Am I working hardest at trusting God in the midst of my unknowns and fears or working hard at staying in control? And I realize that should be my plan. Only that. To put God first, walk closely with him and do my best with the rest.

So this is my focus this week. My only plan as I start my job with students as a school counselor, and Evie attends full-day kindergarten, and Addy begins 4th grade--is that I will start and end my day with Jesus. Remembering the comfort of Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid or terrified...for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  This new stuff is okay!  God’s way bigger than any of my small fry problems. And I’m thanking God that He’s with me and asking that He make me “strong and courageous” in my character and my actions. That same prayer I will pray for my girls, too--that He will make them strong in character and deed, that they will depend on God for their courage and make Him the love of their lives. And knowing that God is strong enough to handle all of that is what gets me truly excited.

January 6, 2012

Fight with Hubs

Kyle and I had a fight today--don't worry, we resolved it.  Rather, I resolved it...he didn't even know we had a fight.  That's how good I am at knowing my husband.  I argued with him in my head because the argument is so common place for us, I knew where he would earn his victory points, and I didn't want to hear them from his mouth, I decided to relinquish before he knew what hit him--or didn't hit him.

Here's how it played out (I'm going to pretend all this detail is relevant so I can make my point, but really I just enjoy embellishing a mediocre story).

Last night, Kyle and I worked out together and then I started dinner--feeling rather icky from the plyometrics--and with a hungry one-year-old wrapped around my leg and a chatty three-year-old on the counter begging to help.  (This is pertinent information so that you, my reader, can begin to feel how my blood pressure was heightened).  When brinner (I made breakfast for dinner) was ready, I called downstairs to Kyle for him to come up.  I then served dinner on individual plates and set them on the table.  Called him again...perhaps with some animosity in my voice... but just a smidge.  Adelaide came up then, apologizing. All three girls at the table, hot food cooling off, "Where is your dad?" I ask AJ.  "Finishing the cartoon we were watching."  Oh, that steamed me right up.  The kids don't watch t.v. on school nights, for starters.  For seconds, dinner takes precedence!  And then I said indignantly (and childishly), "Well, I hope his dinner is COLD!"  Yep.  I shouted the word cold.  And I said all that to my kids.  And my husband was walking up the stairs.... and heard me.  I was ashamed that he caught me but still felt right...  I made dinner, he shouldn't be so rude as to make us wait!

Then this morning, I got ready for work, and got three kiddos up and dressed and fed them breakfast and Kyle--he worked on the computer.  Oh, I made a good show of stretching so hard from the dishwasher to the cupboards as I laboriously unloaded the dishwasher before work, and I demonstrated super-mom skills braiding pigtails and practicing spelling words with AJ, thinking he was going to see this hard work of mine and pitch in.  After all, he made us wait for dinner and then didn't do any of the dishes and now... well.... now he's just sitting there typing.  Hrmph!  I left for work without saying goodbye.  That'll show him.

As I drove to work though, I realized quickly that he had not noticed my frustration.  He did not read my mind like I was hoping he would.  Instead, I was the one starting the day in a terrible mood.  And I confessed my bad attitude to God, asking that grace and blessing come from my mouth--not destruction (thank you Nancy Leigh deMoss and my neighborhood Bible study ladies).   Just a short prayer was not enough to quell my anger though, and it really ate at me through the morning until I played out what the scenario would be if I told him how I was feeling.

Me: Why don't you help me with the kids in the morning?  You leave me to do all the work.
Husband: Did you ask me to do something?  Just ask if you need help.
Me:  It was really rude to leave us waiting for dinner!!  You try cooking with hungry kids pulling all the food out of the cupboard and having all the food hot at the same time.
Husband:  I will cook if you want me to.  I appreciate you cooking.  I did tell you I would be up in a couple of minutes.
Me:  I just feel like you don't think about how I'm feeling or what I need.
Husband: (and this is the real hypothetical kicker)  You are constantly telling me what I am not doing for you and how I am not making you happy.  It would be nice if you were just happier.

THAT is how the conversation would have wrapped up.  It almost always goes back to that.  Kyle is not the only one screwing up on a daily basis...  I screw up all.the.time.  And I didn't need to hear that again.  Thank-you, Jesus, for helping me keep my mouth shut earlier.

So our fight came and went.  No words said in regret.  But a wife who is working on telling her husband what she appreciates about him and what he's doing well.  And trying to be happier.

June 11, 2011


I'm fortunate to be a little sister to some amazing older siblings. Lucky for me, those siblings go in front of me in life, encounter everything just a few years before me, and then pass on their delicious wisdom. I tasted some of that deliciousness a couple days ago when I was out to lunch with my sister-in-law Gayle. She's a brain--has her PhD and runs a whole program at a local university. She is witty and bright and looks out for me. She and my brother have amazing twin girls three years older than my eldest. And over our salads and iced coffees, she shared a--well, not-so-scrumptious idea with me.

Her girls had gotten off the bus and were picking on each other as sisters can do--Gayle allowed them to handle their own conflict until one of them said to the other, "Well that's why you don't have any friends." It's a retort most siblings have used on each other at some point, right? But Gayle heard those words and knew that remark could leave a painful memory--especially since the recipient child is struggling with friendships right now. She called the guilty twin into the kitchen and handed her a spoonful of horseradish. Gayle administered aforementioned medicine and said, "This horseradish will leave an awful aftertaste, but you will drink water and wash that taste away within minutes. However, what you said to your sister might not wash away."

What a great tangible lesson that I wish I had heard earlier. The last few months the parenting issue we've been dealing with the most is the impact of our words. We have not been ok with how Adelaide talks to one of her friends, and last Sunday we reprimanded her about not being kind, loving, and gentle with her words. As penance, Kyle and I made her clean her room and spend some time alone. Even after the scolding, Kyle and I heard several tones of voice and snotty words from her that day; after each of us had individually admonished her to speak well (remember, Gayle had yet to share the horseradish with me). Up to this point, we were calm, handling our job as parents with excellent serenity. However, one can only be tranquil for so long.

That evening, I was nursing Charlotte in her room with the door closed (mind you, I hear everything from in there, I practically have bat radar). While Kyle was getting the older two ready for bed, Evie selected a book--evidently, the wrong book according to Adelaide. So she griped noisily, “Evie, now I have to get another book.... you are such a pest!”

WHAT?! Did I hear her correctly? Seriously? After our whole spiel about loving your freaking neighbor? After a whole day about being kind with our words! What?!! Well, I couldn’t hold my tongue. Gentleness thrown in a pile on the floor, I jumped up, Charlotte's meal rudely interrupted and now squirting all over her face, and stormed into the hall. I shouted,--no, roared-- “Adelaide, we don’t ever say something like that! That was the final straw! Seriously!” And then I looked at my much calmer husband and shook my head at him, just to reiterate how furious I was. I went in to finish feeding the baby, wondering immediately if I overreacted and hadn't been gentle and loving and kind with my words... Yikes. My heart was pounding I was so ticked. Obviously, our gentle talks had not gotten through to her.

I wish I would have heard about the horseradish first and maybe we could have dished out a tablespoon the first time we heard cutting words come from our daughter's mouth. Obviously our approach during the day was not lingering in Adelaide's mind--or her tongue. What could I have done to help her check herself before speaking? What could I have done to check my own self?

When I took communion this Sunday, I prayed that I would remember the taste of the cracker and the juice all week--and remember that the words (and tones) that come from my mouth ought to be sweet and pleasing to Him. I want the aftertaste of his body and blood to spill into my actions, my love for others, my words and correction with my children. And, of course, I want the same for them. So that will continue to be my prayer all week... and next.

May 8, 2011

The Scary, The Terrifying, The New

I'm pretty solid at journalling about other people.  Right now I keep four books--one for each girl and one for my husband.  In them I write about how awesome I think they are and what new and amazing things that person is doing.  For my daughters, the journals are in place of baby books.  My husband's book is for posterity (and so I have ideas for things to write in his birthday and Father's day cards).

Lately, though, I've been feeling the need to record some of the stuff that I'm personally doing/learning/experimenting with.  So, I expressed this desire to my husband as we walked through downtown Kalamazoo on a date recently.  My adventurous, lion of a husband excitedly told me I should blog. But who would read it?  What would my schtick be?  How would I figure out how to upload pictures and link sites let alone post?

In the midst of my whining about attempting something new, we walked past an old building where what looked to me like a private art show was happening. He on the other hand was convinced we would be welcome and should check it out.  He liked the idea of "getting some culture" and doing something new.  I thought walking around downtown was culture, and I abhor doing anything new.  I tried to dart away, but he herded me in the door and convinced me to take just one walk around the gallery.  Sure enough, within two minutes, the artist himself came up to us and offered us a beer (my high-class self was carrying my Sigg water bottle full of water because that's the kind of partier I am).  Thankfully, while I fear new situations, my father taught me well how to meet new people, so after introductions and small talk and a loop through the art work (a lot of pictures of birds--even some dead ones) we emptied back into downtown and continued our walk.

"See?  Wasn't that refreshing?" type A, mountain-biker husband asks.  "And," he says, "I think you should name your blog after one of the paintings we saw."  (He doesn't always convince me to follow;  Falling Dead Swan did not sound like an appealing blog title).  We continued on our date and talked about other ideas--what we want to plant in our garden boxes this Spring, what major cities we want to visit in the next few years, when the kids will be old enough to go to Uganda with him--all the while letting that blog idea ferment a bit.

And then today, for Mother's Day, my electronically savvy, media geek husband (I'm not a polygamist--it's the same guy) set up THIS.  My very own blog. He knew if he waited on me to start it, it might never come to pass.  I don't like new things because: I'm afraid of not being good. There, I said it.  I don't try new things quickly; I am deliberate (which I recently heard is a gift), but sometimes my consideration is faltering.  New things are good for me, though.  They add to my character, they shape me, they help me continue the process of becoming the godly woman I am called to be.

So my intentions are to give this new blogging thing a go and to write about my development as a momma, wife, and teacher. I tell my students when they're struggling to start an essay to just write and worry about the shape of their piece later.  So this blog spot is just for me to write and record and worry later about how the pieces slide together.  Thanks for trying something new with me!