31 August 2011

I Hid The Scale

The dreaded scale, the constant Bearer of Bad News.

Staring at me every morning, taunting me, daring me to step up as I take my morning shower.

Knowing that the numbers it flashes at me are capable of creating a depression that merely spirals into the vicious cycle of vows, more weigh-ins, and more frustration.

I mean, why should I give in?  My clothes fit, I'm in the best shape of my life, and I'm training for a marathon.  Why should a marathon runner-in-training care about 5 pounds?

Because I am a typical woman who worries about things like 5 pounds.  And that, friends, is not worth it.  Period.

So, I did the only thing that would work.

I hid the scale.

It's still around, still calls to me.  But it has a new home under the guest bed.  Easy enough to access, but I have to want to.  No impulsive hop-ons just to see my progress.

Twice a day weigh-ins were bordering on obsessive.  Now I'm down to once a week or so.  But on my terms.  I have to want to know, and I have to want to know badly enough to go find it.

This is part of my master plan to be happy with me and my life.  Now, the way it is.  It works well.

Are you a slave to the scale, or to an unrealistic image of yourself that keeps you from being happy where you are and with who you are?  How do you break the cycle?

30 August 2011

When in doubt, build a fort

I'm trying to start having ongoing projects, for a couple of reasons:

1.  To channel my inner creativity, since I have very creative children who always want to make something.

2.  To make my home into a space that reflects my tastes and style, rather than a bunch of stuff thrown into a room.

3.  To do #s 1 and 2 on my terms, with projects that I will enjoy.

For motivation and accountability, I am linking up with A Bowl Full of Lemons for her One Project at a Time Tuesday link up party.

Man, I am feeling the pressure now.  And this week was very uncreative for me, because it was busy busy busy and ended with a fantastic weekend trip to Italy with my grandmother for a wedding.

So, today I am going to share what we make when we can't or don't want to create.  This is our go-to creative project that happens at least once a week.

Are you ready for our brilliance?

Behold, I present to you,


Yes, my friends, the classic fort is alive and well.  Its design is new every time, as well as its purpose.  It's a foolproof way to get the kiddos working together to achieve a common goal.

Help me out by following my attempt at creativity.  You can see all the way more creative people and their projects over at A Bowl Full of Lemons Tuesday link up party.  I'm hoping this strategy will serve to inspire rather than intimidate.

A girl can dream.

29 August 2011


Great Ideas:
Community Garden, Dutch Style

It's been a while since I've lived in the states, so maybe this is old news.  But even if it is, it's still a fantastic idea, and it's worth sharing.

A few months ago, a man rang our doorbell.  He worked at the village volunteer garden, and he was taking donations for summer flowers.  I handed him the only money I had, thinking the idea of a village flower garden was nice.  He then handed me a card with my address on it and told me that for my donation, I am entitled to come to the garden every saturday between August and October and choose flowers to take home.

We went to choose our flowers for the first time a couple weekends ago.  The field was full of brilliantly colored dahlias in all shapes and sizes.  Volunteers stood ready to cut the flowers we wanted.

Here is what we brought home:  

I can't wait to go again and get some more fresh cut flowers.

Is this not the kind of thing every community needs?  We gave a little and came away with so much more.

Reminds me of Stone Soup:  pool your resources and create something fantastic.

24 August 2011



Probably when I admit this fact, every productivity expert in the history of time will cough, sputter, and gag.

But I'm going to do it anyway, because today is Works for Me Wednesday, and this strategy works for me.

sometimes there is no end in sight
I do a little bit of a lot of things throughout my day.

At any one time I have 3-4 projects or tasks going.  Oh sure, you say, so do I.  Everyone does it.  It's the nature of the high technology time.

But the reason I do it is not so I get more stuff done throughout the day.  Well, duh, I want that too.  And yet, it's not my primary motivation.
the big picture -
often daunting but beautiful

I do it so I can abandon a project when I hit a wall.  Then I move on to another project, and so on.

Call it procrastination, but I've found that if I come up against a particularly difficult step, it's better for me to leave it and come back later when I'm fresh.  If I have more than one thing going, I can still feel like I've accomplished something since I can move on and get some other things done.

The thing that makes this possible, though, is the way I make my to-do list.  Breaking it down.  Because the big picture, the final product, is often daunting.

I think, though, that a post about the mighty To-Do is another project for another day.

23 August 2011

Being Crafty

I've mentioned this before:  I am not a person who enjoys crafts.  In fact, I don't even like the phrase "artsy craftsy."  But my kids...oh how they love to create.

And since I also try to encourage them to do what they love, it means that from time to time I just have to suck it up and channel my own creativity.

That's not to say I don't enjoy creating things; I just am not one for the typical kiddo painting and felt projects.  

So, whenever possible, for my own sanity, I try to get the boys involved in a project that won't make me want to gouge out my eyes.

an 8-year-old's perfect imperfection
Mr. Special Needs Koala-front
One of our most recent forays?  Sewing.  I had some cute fabric owl and koala shapes that were hanging on the wall in my daughter's room.  Did you know you can stick fabric onto walls with spray starch?  Super easy, but I'll detail that project later.

One-armed koala back
Anyway, I've decided to go for something new in her room so I sewed the front and back of the animals together.  We stuffed them with pillow fill from an old bed pillow that had seen better days.  Then the boys hand sewed it closed and voila!  new playthings for all.

The sewing was terrible, but the project was priceless.  The process of taking a piece of fabric and making it into something, the act of doing, was what made it irresistible.

22 August 2011


My Favorite Things
Recipes I love

Up today for Funday Monday, my favorite way to sneak veggies into my kid's food:  zucchini chocolate chip cookies!

I used this recipe from Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  

Even though I'm posting the recipe here, you should take a look at the website if you have time.  There are other good seasonal recipes, as well as tips for finding food locally and storing food for winter months.  

Of course, I still have to say that my favorite seasonal cooking resource is this book.  But that's personal preference.

(Makes about two dozen)
1 egg, beaten
1⁄2 cup butter, softened 1⁄2 cup brown sugar 1/3 cup honey
1 tbsp. vanilla extract Combine in large bowl.
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1⁄2 tsp baking soda
1⁄4 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp nutmeg
Combine in a separate, small bowl and blend into liquid mixture
1 cup finely shredded zucchini
12 oz chocolate chips
Stir these into other ingredients, mix well. Drop by spoonful onto greased baking sheet, and flatten with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350°, 10 to 15 minutes.

These turned out pretty good.  I shredded the zucchini with the small shredder, and no one had any idea it was in the cookies.  The recipe turns out fairly cake-y cookies, which is not my first choice, but judging by how fast they disappeared, I'd say it was a successful experiment.

19 August 2011


Sorry, I'm New At This

Friday again.  Last Friday before school starts.  A special day out with the Bigs, while great grandma got a special day with the Little.

Time for Five Minute Friday, courtesy of Gypsy Mama.

Five minutes of pure, un-obsessed-over writing.  Just for the joy of it.

Today's word?  New


I rush through the morning routine.  I rush to take my shower, clean the house, plan and cook the meals.  I rush through story time and I rush through getting the laundry on the line.  I rush through getting her dressed, because this is all routine, old hat.  Nothing new.

I get exasperated with every "mama", every tug on my clothes, every needy sound coming out of their mouths.  Can't they just do it themselves?

I look down at the 2 year old asking me "what's this?"  I glance over at the 6 year old, asking me "do you spell down D-O-W-N?" I notice the 8 year old excitedly asking - no - begging me to watch what he learned to do with his circuit device his grandpa sent him.
I realize it's all new for them.  Every day is a new adventure, full of wonder, exploration, things to learn.
I stop what I'm doing.

Forgive me, precious ones.  You see, I'm new at this.  Eight years might seem like a long time to be a mother, and sure, I work with children in my job, but I'm still new at this.  This moment.  At realizing that this moment will not repeat itself.

I'm new and I'm sorry for making it seem like this moment is old and unimportant.  It's not.  It's full of newness and life, just like you.  


Sometimes five minutes is a very short amount of time.  Please, please, keep every day new.  For them.  For you.

Be sure to hop over to Gypsy Mama and read all the other inspired posts.  I'm #119, so there is plenty to keep you busy.

18 August 2011

Xpat Blog Hop

Life in NL

This week's expat life blog hop, courtesy of Tales from Windmill Fields, is plain and simple:

A photo or photos that sum up for you the country you live in.

I only have a couple things to say about my life in NL.

Country life
Family time
Simple living

That about sums it up, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

17 August 2011


A Day At A Time

There was a time when my husband was gone.  A Lot.  It happened to be when my two oldest were just toddlers, and it was very difficult for them to understand.

I got this idea from my dear friend, Penny, and it immediately caught on.  This is really geared to those whose spouses are gone for weeks and months at a time, but I imagine it would work for any length of time…even a week long business trip can be manageable if the kids have a tangible idea of how long until mommy or daddy comes home.

Paper Chain day counter:

On the day that mom or dad leaves, fill the time by making paper chains.

Link together one for every day that he or she will be gone, and at bedtime every night, take one off.

The kids can easily count down to their parent's return, decreasing anxiety and making a fun game out of a not so fun situation.

What to do if:
--the trip gets unexpectedly longer?  add chains at night, or if the child is a little older, explain the situation and add links together.
--there are too many days to count?  Wait until an important milestone, like halfway through, or with a month to go

This worked so well for us I shared it with all of my friends.  A few additional ideas:

--Put m&ms in a bowl and eat one every day.  This works well for multiple children, because you can put one in for each kid for each day.  It also works well when the length of time is too much for paper chains.
--Stickers on a calendar

Have you used a different method for counting the days?  Please share!

15 August 2011


More Favorite Things:
On the Bandwagon

I know people have been blogging all over about this, but that's because it's worth it.

And because it's addictive.

Go check out Pinterest.  It is a place to keep all the cool things you run across while you are wasting time procrastinating researching things on the internet.

You can organize them however you like, and you can follow what your friends are pinning, or the boards of people whose sense of style you share.

And while you are at it, click on that red button on the right that says "Follow me on Pinterest."  I'm just getting started, so I only have a few things on there so far.  But seriously, once you get going, it's hard to stop.  

It's my new favorite thing to do while Surfin the Net.

13 August 2011


Celebrating the Beauty

I've missed a couple Five Minute Fridays, so I'm glad to get back into it.  Five minutes of pure, unedited writing, courtesy of Gypsy Mama.

This week's topic?  Beauty.


Beauty is...

In the eye of the beholder.
Skin deep.
All around us.

Naturally sought after by every member of the human race.  

But who decides?  There is no formula.  We think we know.  Hollywood and fashion magazines and photography contests and Miss Teen USA.

We don't know.  Beauty is everywhere.  Beauty was Created by a Creator.  Beauty is to be celebrated, because beauty was intended in this world to be celebrated.  The Creator made everything beautiful.

We distort its meaning.  We buy into its lies.  That some things are beautiful.  Some people are beautiful.  And some are ugly.

It's not true.  It comes from a deep dark place that plants doubt into our souls.  

Beauty is real.  It is everywhere.  It is not achieved or made.

It just is.  Beauty is found, discovered. 

In my child's innocent eyes.  In her tiny hand.  In a [warm embrace].


I think I'm out of practice.  Be sure to discover and celebrate beauty wherever you are.

And be sure to check out the other links over at Gypsy Mama.  I'm #141, so there's plenty over there to read and keep you busy.

Have a great weekend.

11 August 2011

Xpat Blog Hop

I'm trying a new link up this week, which I found through my friend jen's blog.  Windmill Fields is a blog about expat life, so this may or may not be interesting to a lot of you.  We'll see.

This week's theme:  Before you moved to the country you are in now, 
What expectations, ideas, (things you thought happened, things people did, etc) did you have then, that proved to be not true at all?

When we moved to the Netherlands, we had only been living in Washington, DC for six months.  I didn't even really count that as living…more like an extended vacation after our 3 years in Tokyo.

The point is, we were in the midst of a second international move within a year, and my head wasn't screwed on straight.  I didn't really think through the details of my expectations, because I just assumed we would figure things out once we got here.

One thing that really surprised me was how difficult and slow it was to get things done.  Everything from bank accounts to school registration to finding a house, it was all painstaking.  It wasn't even really the pace that got to me as much as the fact that it seemed like we were blazing our trail with every step we took.

Now, this area, and the Netherlands in general, has a lot more relaxed pace than Tokyo and Washington DC.  But my husband's job is always filled by an American, so I guess I thought we would arrive and be told by our predecessor how to do everything to get settled.  And not only that, I figured that because so many international people move in and out of this area, surely someone would have a situation similar to ours, so the people we spoke to at banks, city hall, etc, would be able to figure out how to help us.

Nope.  Blazing our own trail.

Because the reality is that what might work one time for one person may not work the next time for a different person.  I am amazed at stories I've swapped with other international people about how they opened their bank account in a way that we tried but were denied.

But somehow, it all works.  Things are slow, things are never the same twice, but it all works.  And people are happy.  And friendly.

And relaxed.

And I really, really like it this way.

Maybe I'm a country girl after all.

10 August 2011


Clear Expectations

When I worked with children with autism, we always stressed the importance of keeping the child aware of routines, changes in routines, and expectations during those transition times.  Transitions are particularly hard for children with autism, but every child has difficulty to some degree, and depending on the change.  I don't know why I fail miserably at this with my own children, but time and again, I don't let them know what is coming or what is expected of them, and then I wonder why I end up with a meltdown.

One area that makes a huge difference (I've surprised myself with its success) is with a simple calendar.  Now that my kids can read, I just write changes or appointments on our whiteboard calendar, but when they were younger, I created a basic picture system.

you can find these painted, or
you can decorate them yourself
I bought wood cutouts at a local craft store.  There are usually bins of them, and they are quite inexpensive.  I bought things like buses, fish, crosses, cupcakes, cars, airplanes, and balloons to signify events such as school, swim lessons, church, birthdays, road trips, plane trips, and parties.  I attached magnets to the back of each one and put them on the calendar.  At the end of each day I let the kids put an X through the day so they knew it was finished, and how many more "sleeps" until an upcoming event.

My husband's career dictates that we deal with a lot of transitions, and this is one way the kids feel in control with all the uncertainty.  It makes sense that they would want some sort of stability, and knowing what's coming up helps tremendously.  I throw so many things at them without stopping to think how they will handle it, so I am happy to make this tiny effort.

Works for me.

08 August 2011


Great Ideas:
The Puzzle Tas
and Speelotheek

Maybe I've lived overseas for too long, but I have never before seen this at a library in the states.  The children's library in our town has a section where you can borrow

...you guessed it...


Each puzzle has a sheet of plexiglass over the top with rubber bands so the pieces don't go everywhere.  If you check one out, it comes with a bright red bag (to remind you to bring it back, I suppose).

There is also a separate place next door called a speelotheek, which is a library for toys.  It costs 12 euro per year, and .50 per toy.  You check them out for 2 weeks at a time.  Great idea for those short on space, or who want to keep the toy chaos under control.

Has anyone ever seen this before at your local libraries?

06 August 2011

Going Barefoot Week

Part IV:  The Choice

It's only been in the last year or so that a lot of options have become available for minimalist running.  I rode the wave, but I started slow.  I couldn't go along with the most popular choice, the Vibram Fivefingers.  As you can see, they have separate pockets for each toe.  My husband loves them and has several pairs, but I just can't do it.

So for a (very) long time, I ran in a pair of canvas martial arts shoes called Feiuye.  They are flexible enough to roll into a ball, so I still feel everything under my feet, but they are protected from sharp objects.  They have a couple pluses:  1.They're cheap, so they are an easy way to try out barefoot running without a huge investment, 2.They have no support whatsoever, so it's a true barefoot style experience, 3.They are easily available.

In fact, I am still running in them today while I wait for my new shoes to arrive.  But they also have some drawbacks:  1.They don't conform very well to my feet, so I slide around in them a lot.  2.They get soaking wet in the rain.  3.I must wear socks.

Finally, after a year and a half and while training for my first full marathon, I am ready to make the investment into a proper pair of shoes.  Now, just because I run barefoot style doesn't mean I don't use fancy shoes.  The new ones I got were fairly costly.  But the difference is in the style.  No padding and cushions around the heal, plenty of room for my toes to spread out.  Think glove for the foot.

After a lot of research, I have chosen the Merrell Pace Glove.  I tried on a pair, and I can hardly wait for mine to arrive.  I think it will do nothing but improve my runs.  Time will tell...

UPDATE DECEMBER 2011:  I ran my first marathon in the Merrell Pace Glove, and they were everything I hoped and more.  I cannot be happier with them, and will never go back to traditional shoes.

04 August 2011

Going Barefoot Week

Part III:  Getting There

There are many, many resources on barefoot running, so I'll be brief in my explanation.  Basically, it's a style of running that lets your body do the work.  Your heels weren't meant to absorb shock; that job is for the balls of your feet.  Modern running shoes don't allow that to happen, so many runners end up with injuries as a result of poor form and weak foot muscles (from all the cushiony shock absorbers that have to be put into shoes to make your heel be able to absorb the shock, which it isn't supposed to do).

Barefoot runners don't concern themselves with over-pronation; in fact, that's kind of a natural thing your foot might do when you run, but that doesn't make it bad.  When I run barefoot, I naturally land on the outside of my foot, roll inside to the ball, and then spring off of my big toe.  To do this, my pelvis tilts forward, creating a perpetual motion that is nearly effortless.

At first, of course, all the muscles in my feet were like jelly from not being worked.  Once they got a chance to strengthen, my running took off, so to speak.  I am now up to 15 miles for my long runs, and it's really no big deal.

This change in my running habits has truly been life changing.  I am amazed at what my body is able to do, if only I stop trying to fix it with man-made solutions.

03 August 2011

Going Barefoot Week

Part II:  But How?

Barefoot running, for me, began with a book.  Born To Run by Christopher McDougall.  It's not a book on running mechanics.  It's a true adventure story, along the lines of Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.
It's about this guy who wondered why his feet and knees hurt when he ran, so he started investigating.  He traced the spike in running related injuries to the invention of the modern running shoe.  And then he found these people who live in caves in Mexico who run for days on end with nothing but a piece of old tire rubber strapped to their feet, and they don't have all these injuries like **modern society**.  It's an excellent book, a real can't-put-it-down if you like adventure stories.

Anyway, that book intrigued me.  But things were going fine in my regular pronation correction shoes, so I didn't need a change.

And then I did.  Plantar fascists in my left foot set in while I was training for my first half marathon.  Ouch.  If you have ever had it, you know it's hard to describe to someone who hasn't.  And you also know there isn't much in the way of treatment.  So, rather than give up the dream, I switched my shoes.  I had nothing to lose.

I ran in a combination for a while…barefoot style shoes for short runs, "real" shoes for long runs.  But eventually, the real shoes bothered me.  And the barefoot shoes didn't.  Plantar fascitis disappeared.  As well as all my other ankle, hip, and knee pain.

That was a year and a half ago, and I will never go back.

01 August 2011

Going Barefoot Week

Part I:  What the Heck?!?

This is not a running blog, because I am not a runner.  I run.  But that's different.  Run-ners are people you can tell with one look spend their free time running.  Ultra-toned legs, graceful strides.  So not me.  My legs are kind of thick.  My form is not pretty.  But I run, because I love it.

So, as far as running goes, I have nothing to add.  I can share the links to running blogs that I enjoy reading.  Maybe for a Monday post.

But my addition here has to do with simplification.  With my questioning of why things have gotten so complicated.  Chaotic.

Like, why do we need 18 different cleaners (all chemically based, with carcinogenic properties) - one for just kitchen sinks, one for kitchen floors, one for kitchen counters, etc, etc, etc?

Why must spaghetti sauce come from a jar?

Why must everything have some form of corn product or syrup?

And why, oh why, do I need a fancy, pillow-top, cushiony shoe to help my feet do what God made them to do?

And so began my journey into barefoot, or minimalist, running.

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