July 17, 2019

A Dill Pickle Obsession

Things have been so so so crazy around here for the last couple of weeks. I have constantly been making mental notes about things I plan to write about on my blog, and then I just haven't found (or, I guess I should say, "made") the time to write a post. And now that I'm sitting down to write a post, my memory has lost 90% of those things, haha.

I guess I'll just try to update and write a few things that have been going on lately.

Today is the boys' last baseball game of the season (I love baseball, but now that I'm starting cross country, I'm glad they won't be overlapping). I am completely shocked that we are even playing today--it's the championship game for the summer league.

We had a tournament on Monday, and our record was really bad (our record was 2 wins and 9 losses, which made us last place in the league). Remember how I wrote about filling in as the coach when we played against the really cocky team? Well, that was one of our two wins, and I wrote about how I was crazy excited about that.

That teamed ended placing first in the league... which meant we had to play them in the tournament. For some reason, the tournaments have a seeding placement where the first place team plays the last place team, the second best places the second to last, etc.

keeping score at the baseball game

At the tournament on Monday, the team showed up with the coaches acting as cocky as ever. (It's the coaches and the parents of the kids on that team who take the fun out of summer baseball.) Because it was a tournament, however, they weren't allowed to argue and yell at the umpires like they usually do, so it was nice! In the first inning, we didn't get a single hit--three batters up, three batters down. Then, their team wound up with four runs in the first inning!

It was looking like it was going to be a miserable game. However, our team made a big comeback in the last few innings, and we ended up with a tie at 5-5 going into the seventh inning (this league plays seven innings). I couldn't believe it! We actually had a chance to beat them. But I still didn't have my hopes up, because it usually just takes one bad inning for us to give up a bunch of runs.

Our team did great--and we ended up getting three runs! Their team had the last at-bat, so as long as they didn't score more than two runs, we'd win the game. I was SO NERVOUS.

Renee's son Isaac was pitching and he struck out the first two batters. Then the next batter was up... strike one. Pitch two--strike.

And then strike three. Batter was out. And WE WON!!!! We beat the first place team!

And now there is a championship game tonight. Honestly, I couldn't care less how the game goes tonight. It'd be nice to win, but winning against that other team totally made the season for me.

I held my third cross country practice yesterday evening, and it went really well. I love having the smaller team! It was so hard to keep kids focused when we had 25 or so kids on the team; and while it would be great to let the third graders run, I think it's better for the program to keep it at fourth and fifth grade right now. I have 11 kids on the team, so I'm able to pay more attention to each kid.

Yesterday, we did speed work at the track. For the kids who hadn't been to a practice yet, I had them run their first timed mile (to be compared to another timed mile at the end of the season). Thanks to a reader who donated her old Gamin Forerunner, I had enough watches (four) for the remaining kids to run intervals using the watches. I set them for 1:00-minute running and 1:00-minute walking intervals (the running was to be done at a very hard effort). It was a good practice!

I didn't take a "before" picture (I really need to start doing it any time that I think I may transform something!), but I finally worked on pulling out all of the weeds in the landscaping. While I was at it, I raked out all of the old mulch that was in there and I tilled the dirt. Today, Jerry put new mulch down, and it looks a million times better! The landscaping still leaves much to be desired, but at least it doesn't look like a bed of weeds anymore.

My favorite aunt (Aunt Mickey) turned 80 last Tuesday, and her daughter put together a party for her at my parents' house. They invited all of the women in the family, and my Aunt Mickey's friends and neighbors, so I was able to see lots of people I haven't seen in a while. It was a party just for the women, and I especially loved getting to chat with my younger cousins.

When I was a teenager, I used to babysit for all of them from the time they were infants--and they are now all grown up! Kaitlin, the oldest of my Aunt Mickey's grandchildren and the cousin who I was the closest to while growing up, is now a nurse practitioner. It blows my mind that I can actually remember the day she was born.

I saw a couple of childhood friends recently, which was awesome. Sarah (my childhood best friend who now lives in Arizona) and her husband Ne came over for dinner on Sunday. We had lasagna and played Cards Against Humanity (always fun). I never realize just how much I miss Sarah--or any of my friends, really--until I see them again and get to catch up.

Today, I drove up to Ann Arbor to meet another of my childhood friends, Lance, for lunch. I've been thinking of him and his family a lot lately. His younger brother, Spencer, was diagnosed with inoperable stage IV glioblastoma (aggressive brain cancer) about a year and a half ago. He moved back home to Michigan (he'd been living in Portland, OR) to spend time with his family and start treatment. There is no cure for glioblastoma, but the doctors said that chemotherapy and radiation could give him more time.

He's been going through chemo and radiation ever since, but he came home from the hospital and into hospice care last week, which is heartbreaking. I saw him at Christmastime when we had our annual get together with the kids that I grew up with. I asked him a couple of times if I could visit, but he hasn't been up for visitors. It was good to chat with Lance today to see how Spence is doing (Spence has stopped treatment and now hospice is helping with pain management.)

I didn't think I'd get so emotional after having a great chat with Lance, but once I was back in the car driving home, it hit me. I cried all the way home from Ann Arbor. It just sucks how unfair it is that genuinely good people get dealt a shitty hand like cancer.

In good news, Lance's wife is pregnant with their second child. They had a baby boy shortly after Spencer's diagnosis, and now they are going to have another boy. Of course I am biased, but I think having two little boys so close in age is fantastic! It's great that they have something happy to look forward to when the baby is born in a couple of months.

I've been kind of obsessed with dill pickles recently. When Noah went to church camp last week, Eli and I were excited to create a menu that included lots of dill pickles (Noah's not a big fan of them). We tried this dill pickle pizza and it was AH-MAZING. It was literally one of the best pizzas I've ever had. I thought it was odd that the crust didn't have any yeast, but I liked it so much that I will definitely use that crust again. It was very thin and crispy.

Dill Pickle Pizza

I thought the "sauce" seemed very odd as well, but I made it as written, and it was part of what made the crust so fantastic. (If you make this pizza, don't be tempted to use more cheese than called for... it didn't seem like much, so I added more. But the spots of the pizza that had less cheese were actually better, because the cheese gets baked into the crust. Next time, I will stick with the recommended 4 oz.)

I had several jars of pickles in the fridge, so I just used up what I had. This pizza was SO good. If you're a dill pickle fan, it's a must-try!

Rather than dumping out all of the yummy pickle juice, I used it to make Dill Pickle Soup the next day. I'd made it before, but it had been a long time and I forgot how good the soup is! Again, there were a couple of things about the recipe I found odd (like mixing sour cream with flour to add to the soup after it boils) but I followed the recipe exactly as written and it was absolutely delicious. Again, a must-try if you like dill pickles!

Dill Pickle Soup

(The soup recipe is written by the same woman who shared "The Best Dill Pickle Sandwich"--which is, literally, the BEST dill pickle sandwich. I went through a phase where I ate one every single day for a long time.)

I'm sure there are lots of things I'm forgetting to write about, but I've got to get ready for the baseball game tonight. I really am going to try to write more frequently! I always feel good when I get a blog post up.

July 10, 2019

Kids' Cross Country Incentives and a Solution to Keep the Kids Moving at Practice

Cross Country Incentives for Kids

This was written yesterday... I was just so tired that I forgot to get it posted!

This morning was my first cross country practice of the season! As you probably know, I am a volunteer cross country coach for elementary school kids. This year, I have just fourth and fifth graders because I'll be coaching by myself (Renee, who started the program with me several years ago, took a job coaching the seventh and eighth graders).

In the past, Renee and I had always started practices in mid-August, but I decided to have summer "conditioning" for the kids who want to get in better shape before the season actually begins. I have a couple of new things planned this year, and I'm kind of excited about them.

Firstly, I solved the problem of the kids stopping every 1/4 mile for a "water break". I put that in quotes because it was more of a "I really just don't feel like running so I'm going to sip my water as long as I can until the coaches make me run again" break. Multiply that by 10-15 out of 25 kids, and it's a problem.

I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner, but I decided that if they carry their water with them, then they won't have to stop for breaks (obviously). But that was no fun for third through fifth graders, so I looked into buying handheld water bottles like this one I have (and love) from Amphipod. They are expensive, however, and even if I asked the parents to buy them, I felt like that was kind of asking a lot.

So, I did some more searching on Amazon and I found a fairly cheap solution and it's more fun for the kids!

Sports water bottles in multicolored bulk pack (6 bottles per pack x 3 packs)
Silicone water bottle straps for any water bottle (4 per pack x 4 packs)

silicone straps for water bottlesbulk pack of water bottles for my cross country kids

It was a bit of an investment for me (I have 14 kids on the team, and it ended up costing $76.70), but it will certainly save me the headache of practically begging kids to keep running after each lap (I never give them more running than they can handle, I promise. Even if they truly need a break from the run, they should at least walk a lap).

At practice, I let the kids choose a bottle and strap, filled them with water, and they were good to go! (The straps basically turn the bottle into a handheld sports bottle, so that you can carry it without having to grip it. If you've ever used a handheld sports bottle, then you know how much of a difference it makes to have it strapped to your hand rather than just holding it!)

water bottle with silicone strap for cross country kids

I always tell the kids that the first practice is the hardest, for two reasons: 1) It's their first and they're not in running shape unless they've been running through the off-season; and 2) I have them run a timed mile as fast as they can during the first practice.

I like to do the time trial at the first practice because it's a great way for them to see how much they improve over the season. I will do another time trial at the end of the season and then they can see exactly how much better they've gotten. If they come to practice and follow my directions, I expect that they will improve by quite a bit. That is my favorite part about coaching--seeing results! And especially seeing the kids get excited about how much they improve.

Another idea I had this season is for a new incentive program. Last year, you may remember that I gave out "tokens", where each color token represented something that the kids could aim for; and then they could collect the tokens through the season. That worked out well, but since I invested the money in the water bottles, I didn't want to have to buy a bunch of tokens, too.

Instead, I developed a point-based system. I did buy a cool award for this--I found a brand new (in the box) Garmin Forerunner 25 on Facebook Marketplace for $25! Last year, I brought my own kids' Garmin watches to practice and all of the kids were begging to get to wear them. So, I thought this would be a pretty cool prize.

Garmin Forerunner 25 as a prize for cross country

I haven't decided the most fair way of giving it away yet, though--do I give it to the person with the most points? Or do a drawing and each point they earn will give them one entry in the drawing? Any other ideas? I will also get a few more smaller prizes so that the kids who are working hard to earn points will get rewarded. (The whole point of this incentive system is to reward hard work.)

(Actually, as I was typing this, I had an idea... because the watches are super motivating for kids, it would be awesome to have more of them to use during practice. If any of you have an old Forerunner that you no longer use, and would like to donate it to my team, that would be amazing! Any model will do, but I find that the simplest ones are best for kids--like the 25 above or the Forerunner 10 that my kids have. Anyway, if you have one that is collecting dust and you'd like to donate it to my team, just email me for my address. The kids would be thrilled!)

As far as the points system goes, the kids can earn points in several ways: one point for each practice they attend (two points for the "long run" practice), one point per mile run throughout the season, one point for leading the group warm-up at practice, one point each time they better their individual race time, etc. I don't want to base the points on ability, because obviously some kids are much faster than others.

At the practices, I'd like to post a "leaderboard" for the number of points, because I think that just seeing the leaderboard will fire them up to want to move their name to the top.

It's funny--with high schoolers, you don't need incentives. Just the race times are incentive enough, much like adults. Middle schoolers are still at the in-between phase, seeking out if running is really what they want as "their" sport. But my elementary school kids need all the incentive they can get, haha. I'm thinking of doing something fun with water this summer--like a relay race while they have to carry a cup of water, spilling as little as possible, and whatever is left, they are allowed to dump on my head ;)  A water balloon fight might be fun too--getting them to run and cooling them off with water at the same time.

Each year, I wonder whether I really want to coach again, but once I start thinking of ideas for the season, I get fired up. I was worried about doing this without Renee, but I'm pretty hopeful that things will go well, and I'm excited for this season! :)

(I get a lot of questions from other kids' coaches, so if you are a coach looking for ideas, here are a few more posts that I've written about it:

Speed Work for Kids
Hill Workouts for Kids
A Fun Running Game for Kids
Tips for Coaching Young Kids to Run
Running Games for Coaching Kids to Run
An Incentive Program for Kids Cross Country

July 09, 2019

Transformation Tuesday #6

Yikes--I didn't realize that my last post was a whole week ago. I've been super busy getting ready for cross country season. Like I said, I'm coaching the team by myself this year, and I'm super nervous--so I've been working hard on getting stuff ready for that. Tomorrow is our first practice, so I'll definitely write a "real" blog post tomorrow.

But today... I have another installment of Transformation Tuesday! Thank you so much for sending in your before and after photos. It's awesome to see even the simplest of things transformed.

I am still hoping to do a special Transformation Tuesday post about before and after animal rescues, and I have a few submissions that are ready... so if you have one, please send them my way and I'll get it posted as soon as I can. And as always, to keep Transformation Tuesday going, I need before and after photos of anything that you have transformed--big or little! I'll share instructions on how to do that at the bottom of this post.

For now, though, here we go...

This is the little house that my husband and I bought 2.5 years ago. We have completely transformed the house, inside and out. Last summer we tore out the bushes and rocks that were older than I am and planted some beautiful plants. We also pressure washed the siding and repainted the cinderblock and steps!

- Trina, Indiana, Amateur Gardener

Tired of not having grass on the side of our front yard, we opted for shade tolerant plants and mulch over much of that side. A tree was removed and others cut so that there could be some sun, and put in the path to the back yard.

- Traci, Texas, NON-avid gardener

Did you know poodles fade over time? Here is Pegasus at four months versus 5 years old!

- Jenny, mom to a faded poodle :)

I donated a 21-inch ponytail (and a check) to Wigs for Kids!

- Martine, Southern California, Heart of Gold (okay, I may have added the "heart of gold" part, but I met Martine via my blog and she truly is one of the most compassionate people I've ever met!)

This side of our house has always bothered me. My brother told me what plants to purchase and I dug out the bed, planted and mulched!

- Elizabeth, Massachusetts, Outdoor Lover

My middle son has always shared a room with one of his brothers, so for his last birthday we cleared out a room we were using as an office/storage and gave him a bedroom.

- Stacey, Ontario Canada, HockeyMom x3  (Find her blog at The Hockey Mom Chronicles)

This was my attempt to wrangle cords. I turned what looked like spaghetti into a something more manageable and that didn't raise my anxiety up a notch every time I looked in that corner!

- Helen, Minnesota

These are fantastic photos--thank you all so much for sharing! I am especially inspired by the cord untangling... It's something that I always notice in my house and I think to myself, "I need to make a solution for those cords..." but I never get around to it. I really want to do it now after seeing these pictures.

Friends, please keep the pictures coming! Here is how to submit them:

1) Email one "before" photo and one "after" photo, of anything you'd like, to: transformations (at) runsforcookies (dot) com.

Please keep the photos separate rather than collaging them, and refrain from altering the photos with filters, graphics, etc. If necessary, I may crop or resize the photos simply to fit uniformly into the post, but I will try to keep them as original as possible. Also, if there is someone in the photo, just make sure it's cool with them that I share it here.

2) You may include a link to your personal blog or social media page if you'd like (no business or promotional pages--this will be at my discretion). Please include the following:

-One or two sentence description of the transformation

-First Name; Location; A few words of who you are (i.e. "New DIY'er" or "Cat Lover", etc). If you want me to leave out name/location, just let me know.

3) I will post whenever I get enough submissions to do so--it could be one week or it could be several. I'll send you an email to let you know beforehand, though.

Thanks for sharing!

(Here are the previous Transformation Tuesday posts)

July 02, 2019

Transformation Tuesday #5

Transformation Tuesday #5

Finally! Another installment of Transformation Tuesday. As I've said six million times, I love this series and I'm so excited each time I get to post one :)  Also, I can't post them unless I get submissions, so please please please send me your before and after shots of whatever you'd like!

(I'm putting together a post that is specifically for before and after rescue pets, so consider those as well.) You can find the information at the bottom of this post on how to submit the photos.

So here are this week's Transformation Tuesday before and after photos! Enjoy :)

Before and after of a chair I got at a garage sale for $2! I sanded it and used a primer I had, and the yellow paint was free from a Glidden promotion several years ago.


wooden chair "before"

wooden chair "after" painting

Last year, we turned our formal living room into a library for our many books (and some toys and memorabilia!). It's been amazing to have this space. We made it technology-free and my kids love to hang out in here too!

- Vanessa, Georgia, Book Lover

formal living room before turning into a library

formal living room turned into a library

Here is a before and after I cleaned up and organized the disaster of our hallway!

- Felicia, Michigan, Master Organizer

hallway before organizing

hallway after organizing

My version of “Joanna Gaines-ing” my dining room!

- Amy, Ohio

dining room "before" makeover

dining room "after" makeover

This is the exterior of my home remodel!

- Susan, Cleveland, greyhound lover

home exterior before remodel

home exterior after remodel

Amazing transformations, as usual. Thank you so much to Jan, Vanessa, Felicia, Amy, and Susan for sharing your before and after photos!

Friends, please keep the pictures coming! Here is how to submit them:

1) Email one "before" photo and one "after" photo, of anything you'd like, to: transformations (at) runsforcookies (dot) com.

Please keep the photos separate rather than collaging them, and refrain from using filters or Photoshop on the photos (filters tend to invalidate the "wow" factor). If necessary, I may crop or resize the photos simply to fit uniformly into the post, but I will try to keep them as original as possible. Also, if there is someone in the photo, just make sure it's cool with them that I share it here.

2) You may include a link to your personal blog or social media page if you'd like (no business or promotional pages--this will be at my discretion). Please include the following:

-One or two sentence description of the transformation

-First Name; Location; A few words of who you are (i.e. "New DIY'er" or "Cat Lover", etc). If you want me to leave out name/location, just let me know.

3) I will post whenever I get enough submissions to do so--it could be one week or it could be several. I'll send you an email to let you know beforehand, though.

Thanks for sharing!

(Here are the previous Transformation Tuesday posts)

July 01, 2019

Victorious! (This is a long post)

This is the first real chance I've had to write all weekend. It's been busy!

On Wednesday, the boys had a baseball game for their summer recreation league. We were on a bad losing streak, having won only one out of seven(?) games... and even that one was cut short due to weather after the fourth inning.

I had wanted to coach the boys' team this year, and I volunteered; but I told the director of the program that I would need an assistant coach. I could handle the games and writing line-ups easily, but hitting balls to the kids at practice and doing drills with them were something that I needed help with. None of the other parents were volunteering, which was frustrating!

Finally, another mom said she would volunteer as coach. This was fine with me--I told her I'd keep score for her, and that way I could enjoy the game and still feel involved, only not have the responsibility of coaching.

Well, I got a call from the director on Wednesday saying that the coach had pink eye and he asked if I could fill in. I was actually really excited about the prospect of implementing the ideas I had for the team! I am always telling Jerry that, "If I was coach, I would put so-and-so at such-and-such position because they can do this-or-that really well. And I would do my batting order like this, because I want the faster kids in front of our best hitter, yada yada yada."

I was super nervous I was going to screw things up, but since our track record was pretty bad, I figured I couldn't do much more damage. I wrote the line up (very differently from what has been done previously) and changed up the positions a bit. Then I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

The team we played had coaches that were certainly not friendly toward our team, and they had the umpires in their pockets from the get-go. When we got there, since we were the away team, we were supposed to have the dugout on the first baseline (the home team sits along the third baseline.

Well, the other team was in our dugout. Normally, I wouldn't care, but it was 80-something degrees outside and the sun was full force in our dugout (literally ZERO shade). I explained the situation to the coach, but he wouldn't relent, so I just said to hell with it and we took the crappy sauna dugout.

And you know what? The first inning went SO WELL. I didn't want to get my hopes up so early in the game, but I was thrilled that we were playing good baseball. The boys (they are 13-15 year olds) were pretty excited and one of them said, "Hey Coach, if we win this game, will you take us out for ice cream?" He totally expected me to say no.

I said, "Yes! If you guys win this game, ice cream is on me tonight--and you can order anything you want!" So all the boys started talking about order their triple scoops of cookie dough ice cream and Oreo flurries and all that. They were fired up, which is totally what we needed. Each time one of them would go bat, the boys would yell out, "Think of that triple scoop!" or something as a reminder. It made the kids smile and and I think the fact that they felt relaxed helped the game.

The coaches on the other team argued with all sorts of plays, which was annoying. The umpire called a balk at our pitcher, which I didn't see, so maybe it was legit. But after that, the umpire yelled to the other coach (across the field for my whole team to hear), "Don't worry, I took care of that for you, Chris!"

I was fuming when he said that. But I just let it be, and told our team to use that as fuel to the fire to beat this team!

From that moment on, that field umpire's eyes were GLUED to our pitcher's feet. He called balks several more times, and nobody on our team could see why. At one point, our pitcher was literally as still as a statue when the umpire threw up his arms and yelled, "Balk!"

This has never happened in a game before, and from what our side could see, our pitcher was NOT balking. But if there is one thing I've learned from watching my kids play baseball for 14 years it's this: Never, ever get in an argument with the umpire. You will lose. And they will have a bad attitude toward you for the rest of the game.

Anyway, I'll stop dragging this out... WE FUCKING WON!!!

I put Eli in to pitch for the final three innings. In the last inning, he struck out the batters 1-2-3 and we won the game 10-7! I don't think I ever cheered so loudly. Seeing the look on the other coach's face was totally worth it. And the boys' spirits were up, which was great.

And as promised, I took the team out for ice cream :)  I couldn't help but feeling pretty proud that I'd successfully coached the game--with help from Jerry (he can't get to the games until 30 minutes in because of work) and Shawn (another dad) who base coached when we were batting.

I had invited the whole team to my house on Friday for nachos, a game of wiffle ball, kick ball, and a slip 'n' slide to "practice sliding", since it's been a running joke among our team that we need to learn to slide. They had a water balloon fight, too. My goal was to get them to have fun outside of baseball and feel more like a group of friends playing ball when they are on the field.

And of course, several balks were called during wiffle ball, hahaha.

I don't know if I wrote about him, but last year there was a boy on the team that I nicknamed "Wheels" because he was SO fast. I asked him if he ran cross country or track or anything, and he said he doesn't run. I was shocked! I told him he NEEDS to join a running team. He's very shy and quiet, and didn't end up joining last year. This year, I brought it up again.

On Friday, at my house, Renee's son Isaac (who is also on the baseball team) was here. He's SUPER fast at cross country (their whole family was born to be runners). Isaac and Wheels were apprehensive of going on the slip 'n' slide, so I challenged them to a foot race, and the loser had to slide. (Honestly, my money was on Isaac to win). But Wheels beat Isaac! I was shocked. And so excited. (To be fair, Isaac beat Wheels during a rematch; but still, that first race was great. And think how fast Wheels will be with some training!)

Renee told me yesterday that Wheels showed up at cross country conditioning. I really hope that he sticks with it and enjoys it. He's a great kid and has some serious running talent.

Jerry was off all weekend, and it was so nice to have him home because he's been working so much lately. We had a very lazy but fun day--Jerry, the kids, Ashley (Noah's girlfriend), and I had a movie marathon of Toy Story. We want to see Toy Story 4 and decided to watch the first three movies beforehand. We were supposed to go see the fourth yesterday, but we ended up doing something else instead...

Eli has been super into fishing for the past few months, and when he's not playing baseball, he is fishing. Sometimes he'll fish for 10 hours a day! He doesn't keep any fish, but he loves to catch and release them. He learned that Ben (my friend Renee's son) has been into it lately also, as well as another boy "B" on the baseball team.

So, I told Eli he could invite them to go to Elizabeth Park, which is on the Detroit River about 30 minutes away, and spend the afternoon fishing yesterday. Jerry, Noah, and Ashley went along as well. And Joey, of course! We found a shady spot and set up some blankets and chairs on the ground to chill out while the boys fished. I read some of my book (I'm reading World Without End).

I did not get in any of my Summer Challenge walks on Friday or Saturday, but I did do one yesterday and plan to do another later today. I'm doing really well with the checklist so far!

6/21 - Solstice Walk
6/22 - Bridge Walk
6/23 - Trail Walk
6/24 - Evening Walk
6/25 - Penny Pincher Walk (I found a penny while walking; I have no proof of this walk because I'd started it as a "Stone Age Walk"--no technology whatsoever)
6/26 - Night Owl Walk
6/27 - Silent Walk
6/30 - Generous Walk (I dropped four quarters in random places along the route)

I've been trying to get a picture representing each of the walks on the list, but it hasn't been easy.

I've also worked a bit more on my summer health goal bullet journal. (I took this pictures on Tuesday, so they are a little out of date)

Today, I have my annual gynecology appointment--fun! Kidding. But I'd like to ask about getting my vitamins and hormones checked out as part of my health goal this summer. I'm curious if everything is how it should be. I'm also wondering if I should start getting mammograms. Yikes! I don't remember getting this old. Both of my grandmothers had breast cancer, so it's always in the back of my mind.

Anyway, I hope everyone had a great weekend! Remember, tomorrow is Transformation Tuesday--if you have before and after pictures of anything at all, please send them in. I'd love to share them! I get so excited to see new ones :)

I just realized that today marks six months sober--halfway through the year!

June 25, 2019

Excitement About Exercise--Me?!

(I still haven't gotten enough submissions this week for a Transformation Tuesday post 😞 Please send me some! I really want to continue the series. The details are on this post. And I would eventually like to do a special one about before and after pet adoptions, so keep that in mind, too!)

Just four days into summer, and I've already checked off four walks from my Cookies Summer Challenge! I've done the Solstice Walk, Bridge Walk, Trail Walk, and Evening Walk.

I am not exaggerating at all when I say that I am truly enjoying this. This is the first time I've really, truly enjoyed exercise, and am not doing it for weight loss.

I think it's because I have no schedule whatsoever--I am simply working on a checklist of 50 items to cross off between June 21st and September 23rd. You know that I love lists, and checklists are the best! It is so satisfying to check things off as they are completed.

Over the last few days, I've become determined to complete the entire list this summer. I've posted this challenge for three years, and I've never even come close to completing it. I think that's because I was running when I didn't want to be running and I put pressure on myself to do a certain mileage or pace.

For this checklist, I'm going about it completely differently:

I'm following the walking checklist, rather than running, but I may throw in some running sporadically if I feel like it (which I actually did, when I walked on Friday!).

I'm not setting any pace goals. I can do a super slow stroll or a speedy walk--just whatever floats my boat at the moment.

I'm not setting any distance goals. I may walk for a long time if it's a nice day and I'm listening to a good podcast, or I might squeeze in a short half-mile walk before I have to be somewhere.

I'm not treating these as "workouts". I don't change into workout clothes (I will if I am in the mood to do a faster walk or a run, but if I'm just going for a stroll, there is no need). I'm not looking at calories burned or heart rate (I haven't even worn my heart rate monitor strap).

I am doing this challenge for a few reasons--it's good for my body to move; I get some time to myself to listen to a podcast without being interrupted; it gets me outside; and the different walks are a nice way to keep things interesting this summer. It makes me feel healthy in general!

Seeing others' posts in the Cookies Summer Challenge Facebook group has been super inspiring to me, too. When I see pictures from their runs or walks, it makes me excited to go do mine.

When I wrote my last post about my summer goals for getting back to feeling my best, I thought it would be fun to make a separate bullet journal for it. I still use the one I made for my 40 Goals by 40 Years Old list, and I'm slowing working my way through that, but with the excitement of my goal of a path to getting healthy this summer, a fresh new bullet journal sounded good.

I found this one at Hobby Lobby, and after 40% off, it was only $6! (I looked for it on Amazon, but it's not on there). I love it, and the quality is really nice--the paper is heavier than the paper in my $20 Leuchtturm book. The size of the book is the same, and the pages look the same (except the paper is white and not the yellow-ish color in the Leuchtturm). I love that the paper is heavier because there is no ghosting or bleeding through with markers.

Anyway, it's from a brand called The Paper Studio and the notebook line is called Agenda 52 (they have several different notebooks and some stickers and things you can buy). I just bought the notebook. I mainly want to use it to stay organized with my goals, but also because it's fun to make pretty lists and trackers!

I only worked on a couple of pages yesterday, but I worked out how I'm going to organize the book. Each category will have its own pages and trackers for each goal if necessary. But here is what I did yesterday:

It's funny how a simple notebook can be so inspiring to make me want to work on my goals :) 

Remember... send me some transformation photos, please!

June 21, 2019

My Big Focus for the Summer and the Plans to Make It Happen

Happy Summer! (I double checked my calendar, and I have it right this time, haha)

As the first official day of summer, the Runs for Cookies Summer Run/Walk Challenge has begun. It's not too late to join in--here is the post that explains it all and here is a link to join the private Facebook group to share all about your runs or walks throughout the challenge.

Over the past several months, I've been thinking a lot about my physical goals as well as my mental goals. In 2017, I had such a great year (after my breakthrough in therapy, my bipolar diagnosis, and being put on the correct meds). I spent the rest of the year finding true happiness and doing whatever I could that made me feel genuinely peaceful with my life. It was fantastic.

In 2018, I started losing sight of that focus. I began to worry about gaining weight and I started to be more careful of my diet (which, consequently, caused me to gain more and more). I started worrying about what people would think (whereas before, in 2017, I didn't give a shit what anyone thought of me at all). I started to lose that peace that I'd worked so hard for in 2017.

My medication right now has my mental health in a very stable place. In fact, it feels "boring"--which, from what my psychiatrist has said, means the medication is working. I'm not feeling the high of hypomania or the low of depression (thank God). Hypomania has its perks, but the negatives outweigh the positives. So, stability is the aim of my meds and it's working.

Now that I am feeling stable, I've decided to make this summer of 2019 a time to really work on one main focus: HEALTH. This includes physical health, but also mental health, and even relationship, finance, and job health. In a nutshell, this is what I'd like:

Physical Health

To be at peace with my body exactly the way it looks (whether that's at this weight or if I should gain or lose weight).

Diet* (I will write more about diet later in the post).

Taking vitamins.

Exercising** (which I'll also write more about later in the post).

Wearing sunscreen, always.

Flossing my teeth daily (I have no problems with brushing, but flossing is something that I have always had a hard time making a daily habit).

Living a more active lifestyle in general the way that I used to.

Continuing to stay sober of alcohol (almost six months now!).

Get a check-up with my doctor and have bloodwork to see my health numbers, including vitamins.

Mental Health

Taking my meds on a regular schedule (I'm very good about this already).

Cutting out caffeine, with the exception of a modest amount of tea.

Writing in a journal daily, even if it's just one or two sentences. I have a "One Line A Day" journal that will be perfect for this.

Do a few brain puzzles each week. I love the Lumosity app, so I'll use that as well as the old-fashioned logic puzzles in a book.

Read more books (I'm not going to set a number goal for this, but I'd like to aim for at least 15+ minutes per day).

Do some crafts that make me happy (crochet or knit, wood work, bullet journal, sew).

Live my life the way that makes me happy, and screw what anyone else thinks.

Read a chapter a day from my Bible (I used to this daily, but after getting through Leviticus, I started losing the faith that I'd been hoping to gain, hahaha).

Continue to feed the birds and squirrels (I look forward to feeding them every day and it makes me feel happy).

Find new ways to relieve anxiety. I have a no-fail relief of a specific game on Lumosity--it's super fast-paced and it's impossible to think about anything other than the game, so I forget my anxiety while playing.

Relationship Health

Spend more quality time with Jerry and my kids--family game night, family movie night, walks in the evenings, etc.

Get in touch with a few old friends and make plans to get together and catch up.

Work on being more affectionate with Jerry (hugs, kisses, cuddles, etc). His "love language" is Physical Touch, which was last on my own list of The 5 Love Languages, so it's hard for me. It's not that I'm repulsed by affection, it's just that it never occurs to me to give him random hugs and kisses. We each took the Love Languages test and read the book, and you can read about our results here.

Write a letter to each of the kids and share how proud I am of them.

Use the phone more and texting a little less. Talking on the phone is hard for me for some reason, so I'd like to call up my friend Sarah in Arizona to chat, or some other friends that live around the country.

Make it a point to spend more time with my parents, siblings, in-laws, and especially my niece and nephew.

Take Eli fishing in a new place, and take Noah somewhere pretty where he can take photos.

Financial Health

Continue to live on our budget that got us out of debt.

Build our savings account (I'm aiming to add another $1,500 to it during the summer).

Plan our meals and grocery shop accordingly to stay under our grocery budget.

Dine out very rarely (maybe once a month).

Cut out unnecessary costs again (I did this when we first started our budget, but I'd like to take another look).

Save up for a new front porch.

Job Health

(Note: I get a some flack here for not having a "real" job, but to me, my job is very real. I am a stay-at-home mom and wife--unpaid, of course--and I earn money from blogging. I am also a volunteer cross country coach for 3rd through 5th graders. I'm very happy with this lifestyle. Well, other than the 2-1/2 to 3 hours of driving per day during the school year!)

Create a regular "chore chart" rather than just winging it. I'd like to make a weekly list of things that need to be done regularly and assign the tasks for particular days.

Write more frequently on my blog, and try to start a schedule to post on particular days.

Reply to emails more frequently. Right now, my inbox dates back to April (!) and I feel bad about it. Seeing emails that I haven't replied to yet causes me anxiety, and that can be solved very easily by taking time to reply to a few each day. For now, my plan is to reply to 2+ per day.

Write out a schedule for ALL of these plans I've written about above so that I don't get overwhelmed. Take it one day at a time.

If I have some free time, I'd like to go back and optimize photos on past posts.

Find a new place to host photos for my blog where I can edit them without deleting them and re-uploading them.

Create a plan for the cross country kids this year. Renee is not going to be coaching with me (she took a job as the middle school cross country coach) so I want to be as organized and prepared as possible to do it on my own.

So, those are plans I have for working on my health this summer. Diet and exercise seem to be in a bigger category of their own, so I'll write more about them as I get things figured out. I'm torn between wanting structure and wanting freedom.

*For right now, I think I'd like to have more freedom about my diet (which is what I've been doing for the last several months). I basically don't have any "rules" and I've been doing good with it. Yes, my weight is up, but I'm okay with that. I haven't gained any weight in a long time--I've been staying between 160 and 165 without trying make any changes.

That said, I would like to aim to drink more water (3+ quarts per day), to eat according to my body's cues, and pay attention to the foods that make me feel good versus the foods that make me feel bad. Then, obviously, avoid the foods that make my body feel bad.

**When it comes to exercise, I'm going to attempt to do my summer checklist for the Summer Run/Walk Challenge. I will follow the walking plan, but if I feel inclined to run now and then, I'll do that. I would like the structure of a plan for exercise so that I can make sure that I follow through, but I don't want to be so rigid that I resent it. I think walking is a good choice for right now.

Today, I started by walking from spring into summer at the State Park with Joey. It's a three mile loop, and I walked the first two loops, and then something possessed me to run the third mile. It was hot and very hard to run with Joey pulling on the leash, but I managed to do it. I loved the spontaneity of it.

This was my best attempt at getting a selfie with Joey. He was just way too excited to look at the camera.

I would also like to do nightly walks with the family (including Joey) all summer. The kids love doing this, especially when it's dark outside. We don't go far (just around the neighborhood, anywhere from 1/2 mile to a mile) but it's nice to get outside and chat with the family without distractions.

I think with these plans, I'm going to have a busy summer--in a good way! And I think that focusing on my health will automatically help with my anxiety which lies dormant, waiting to jump out when I least expect it.

By the end of the summer, I hope to be feeling my healthiest and happiest :)

June 20, 2019

The First Week of Summer Break

Joey and Phoebe staring at me

Happy Summer Solstice! It is officially the first day of summer, can you believe it? (Edit: Apparently, I'm ahead of myself, hahaha. It's actually tomorrow, the 21st!)

My kids have been out of school for a week, so we've been adjusting to a new routine. For me, this means SO MUCH LESS driving! I am so thrilled that I am not spending 2.5-3 hours per day shuttling the kids around. Now that school is over, they just have baseball games twice a week (and a practice) and Noah has driver's training (his last drive with the instructor is tomorrow).

For the first few days of break, I was excited to work on some things around the house (nothing big--I just wanted to replace the seals around the exterior doors and fix some window screens, etc.) Summer time around here brings with it lots of spiders, and we've had a very wet spring--I have a feeling that the spiders are going to be horrible this year. I want to seal up the house the best that I can!

Unfortunately, it's not going so well. My carpal tunnel pain has been HORRIBLE. After a day I spent in the garage sorting through clothes to donate, as well as sweeping and vacuuming a huge section in there, I was in agony. The next day, I couldn't even open cans of tomatoes to cook dinner and I had to have Noah open them for me. Folding clothes and scooping the litter box are two chores that are very difficult, too. Anything that causes repetitive movement of my hand aggravates the carpal tunnel.

I've been waking up with my hands, mainly my right hand, very swollen and numb/painful. I realize that sounds like an oxymoron (how can something be numb and painful at the same time?) but somehow that's what it feels like.

To top it off, I couldn't even wear my wrist brace for a couple of days because I burned myself really badly while cooking dinner one night. I reached over the pan on the stove to pick up a stray piece of onion, and my wrist rested on the edge of the pan for a millisecond. I pulled my hand back almost instantly, but the damage had been done. It's the worst burn I've ever gotten while cooking! It blistered up almost instantly.

Two days later, the whole thing was a long blister. Noah and I picked up a couch in the garage to move it, and I'd forgotten about the burn; after moving the couch, I looked down and noticed that the couch had rubbed against it and torn off the blister from half of it. I'm going to have a pretty nasty scar there, I'm sure. It still hurts to put my carpal tunnel wrist brace over it.

wrist burn from cooking

I want to find another doctor to ask about the carpal tunnel surgery. The first doctor said that this was "mild" carpal tunnel syndrome, so he wouldn't recommend surgery. How am I supposed to take care of the house when I can't even open a can of tomatoes or do laundry? I was really hoping to work on some fun projects this summer, too--painting the cabinets in my bathroom and making some things out of wood (just for fun).

So, the carpal tunnel and the burn have forced me to take it easy for the last several days. I have been completely absent from my blog and any sort of social media all week because I have been 100% absorbed in a book, of all things ;) I just finished re-reading my very favorite book, "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett.

Joey and Phoebe staring at me intently

(I was trying to have a relaxing morning with my book, but Joey and Phoebe were both vying for my attention, haha.)

I read this book back in 2009 and I loved it SO much. I've mentioned before that I am a slow reader and I have a hard time finishing books unless they keep me completely engrossed. The Pillars of the Earth is very long (over 700 pages), but I've read it twice now--that's saying a lot. And I've also read the sequel, "World Without End", at over a thousand pages!

I just finished The Pillars last night, and after catching up on some stuff I've been neglecting, I'll start on World Without End. I had completely forgotten most of the details and storyline of the books, so it was like reading The Pillars of the Earth for the first time.

For Father's Day, the kids and I gave Jerry a Kindle Paperwhite like the one I got recently and LOVE, and he's able to download the books that I buy because we share an Amazon Prime account. So, he started reading The Pillars, too. So far, he really likes it!

With today tomorrow being the first day of summer, I've set some goals for the summer months that I'm excited to work on. I'll write a whole post about it tomorrow. Today also marks the start of the Runs for Cookies Summer Run/Walk Challenge! I'm excited to see the social media posts from those that are doing it :)

There is a private group on Facebook for those of you who are participating in the challenge. You can request to join here: Runs for Cookies Summer Run/Walk Challenge. It's a closed group which means that only the people in the group can see your posts (it won't show up on your FB newsfeed). There, you can share photos and tidbits about your runs/walks with everyone else who is doing the challenge.

I'm going to cut this short today, because I'll write tomorrow about my summer goals/plans, but I wanted to check in. I hope this is the start of a great summer for everyone!

Oh! And I didn't post a Transformation Tuesday this week because I only got a couple of submissions... so please send me some more! When I get a couple more then I'll post them. You can see how to submit them on this post. Thanks, guys!

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