17 March 2015

Balancing Act

This post was inspired by Thrive by Arianna Huffington who challenges women unplug and sleep more to create a balanced life. Join From Left to Write on March 19th as we discuss Thrive. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Ohhhh, sleep, how I love the thought of you.  

You elude me when I am most exhausted.  In the middle of the day, when there is no possible way I can stop for a few minutes and rest, there you are.  But at night, when I'm lying in my bed and wait for you, you are not near.  When we do finally meet, it's far too short and often interrupted.  What I wouldn't do to wake up on my own, with no alarm clock shrilling, and feeling rested and refreshed! 

These years we are in with our children are "those" years. The busy years with kids in school, kids in sports, kids that need rides to here, there and everywhere.  It's so interesting to me that I don't work full-time outside the home.....because I don't have time.  I thought my days would be empty once my kids were in school all day, but I feel busier now than I did when they were littles. 

I brought a lot of it on myself: I don't know how to say no when room moms call and ask for help with a project or with chaperoning a field trip.  I have begun volunteering with some causes that mean a lot to me.  None of them are over taxing; a couple hours here, a couple hours there, but it adds up very quickly, until I have made a full time job out of a couple hours of volunteer work. 

I do love my time at the gym.  I've made friends in my early morning workout class, and I love how I feel after working out.  It's critical to my health, both mental and physical, and I can't give it up.  Not even for sleep.  So I get up at 5:00 or 5:15 every weekday morning to go work out, and then my day really gets going.  Weekends I don't usually work out, but getting everyone where they need to be, and taking care of everything I have committed to all day is a workout in itself.

So, this challenge to get 8 hours of sleep a night?  I'd like to say that I did it and it changed my life.  But It simply isn't happening for me, not right now. Balance, for me, consists of flying by the seat of my pants and not forgetting where I left one of my kids!  

No, it's not as bad as that.  But life is seriously busy and hectic right now: three kids, two different school buildings and different school schedules.  Four, no, five sports among the three kids, but that is only till the end of the month, then it will be back to four sports.  A husband who travels 15 days out of the month.  Dinner.  Homework.  Work brought home. Social time with friends. Community service. The list goes on. 

I want to take this challenge and get 8 hours of sleep every night.  Even if I could do it for just a week, I am sure it would make a big difference to me.  I'll keep chipping away at the things I allow myself to commit to.  One of my dear friends told me once, "Say no to the good, so you can say yes to the best."  Meaning, don't commit my time to everything and everyone that asks.  Only commit to those causes and activities that are truly meaningful and do something to make my world a little bit better.  

I'm still working on that whole balancing thing.  I'm not there yet, and I haven't given up.  I'm going to go to bed early tonight.  It's a start, right? 

12 March 2015

Just do it!

This post was inspired by The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang who shares her no excuses philosophy that motivated her to become more fit. Join From Left to Write on March 12th as we discuss The No More Excuses Diet. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

I remember when Maria Kang made a splash on the Internet, looking impossibly toned and fit shortly after giving birth to her third child, challenging moms everywhere with an in-your-face "What's Your Excuse?"   Some said she was doling a much-needed dose of tough love to moms who complain about their extra baby weight that won't go away, but don't want to actually do any work to make it so. Others said she was "fat-shaming" busy and overworked moms who were too busy trying desperately to just keep their heads above the laundry pile, never mind get to the gym or keep the kids corralled for a half-hour so they could work out.  

So, which camp is right?  Is she giving moms the kick in the backside many of us need, to get us up and moving?  Or is she just flaunting her toned abs and being unnecessarily mean to the rest of us?

The truth is somewhere in between.

I was pretty fit and healthy when I got pregnant with my first child.  Not like Maria, I don't think my abs will EVER look like hers, and they didn't before kids, either.  But I paid attention to what I ate, and I worked out regularly.  But man, when I saw the two blue lines, I had the Golden Ticket to eat for two, all day long.  I admit it; I went cah-razy.  But I wasn't eating just to eat. I was HUNGRY all the time.  Long story short, I gained 50 pounds.  50.  I lost most of it, but I hung onto about 10 extra pounds.  I tried to stay active, walking with the baby and going to the Y.  Baby boy hated the Child Watch at my local Y and would usually let me just get to the cardio room before the staff called me back.  So I bought a stack of DVDs and tried to do them at home when I could.  Pffft.  As if.  

Fast forward to baby number two.  I gained the same 50 pounds, only I had a head start.  After he was born, it was like deja vu; I tried to keep moving, tried to watch what I ate.  But with a newborn and a toddler, it was hard.  On top of that, my husband had to go to a training class for his job that lasted six weeks.  I told him, "No way on God's green earth are you leaving me alone with a newborn and a toddler for six weeks while you hang out in a comfy corporate apartment and sleep all night uninterrupted."  We all packed up and went with, and it was an incredibly stressful time.  Still couldn't get rid of those last 10 pounds.  

Baby number three.  Surely I'll get it right this time.  I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and saw a nutritionist who helped me create an eating plan that was healthy and low in sugars, but had some flexibility.  Dude, I went through Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas preparations on a diabetic, low-sugar diet.  If I can do it then, I can do it all the time, right?  Heh. No. 

I was surprised that I lost all cravings for sugar once I had detoxed, and found it easier than I thought to stay away from candy and cookies and sweets all through the holidays.  I indulged a bit but I managed to keep my blood sugar under control.  Wouldn't you know it, though.....I still gained the same 50 pounds!  My doctor just shook his head.  

Fast forward again.  My boys are 15, 12 and 10.  I can no longer call it baby weight and get away with it. I have lost most of that last 10 pounds, but I still struggle to control my eating.  Working out is the easy part.  I actually really enjoy being active and I love the classes I go to at the Y.  I have come to count on my early morning workouts even though it was hard to learn to force myself out of bed those first few weeks.  But now that I have created the habit, I get crabby when I miss my workout.  I am fitter, stronger and healthier now at 44, than I was at 24.  

Maria Kang is tough and she makes no apologies for it.  She's a busy working mom and her kids are young. She gets it.  She doesn't let herself off the hook and she won't let you off, either.  Sometimes we just need a push to get moving, and this book will push you.  Maybe it'll inspire you, too.  

11 February 2015

Play Ball!

***This post was inspired by The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny. St. Louis Cardinals manager Matheny shares his tough-love philosophy for children's team sports that translate to everyday life. Join From Left to Write on February 12th as we discuss The Matheny Manifesto. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.***

I had heard about this guy, and his philosophy before I had a chance to read this book, and I was, honestly, not totally convinced. 

A baseball team my son had tried out for got a new coach.  He emailed everyone on the team's email distribution list to introduce himself and explain his coaching philosophy, and this was it.  He attached the Manifesto to the email and I read it with a skeptical eye. As it turns out, my son decided to play on another team that year, without my ever mentioning anything about the new coach and his email. 

My athlete plays sports all year round, and if I made him choose one (which I don't), he'd choose baseball.  He also plays basketball and volleyball, and does off season training in basketball and baseball.  He plays rec baseball and select baseball, and he plays CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) sports.  He doesn't do all that because I make him or his dad makes him, he does it because he loves sports.  I mean, he really loves sports.  His dream is to play in the big leagues, and I hope he makes it.  I like to think I'm pretty realistic about my kids, and while he is a naturally gifted athlete and he works hard, I don't know if that'll be enough.  There are a finite number of Major League Baseball player jobs out there and every boy on the baseball diamond in my small town wants one of them. 

I would love nothing more than to see my boy reach his dream.  I am his biggest cheerleader.  And that, I think, is where Mike Matheny and I part ways, at least a little bit.  Mike wants parents to be quiet on the sidelines, to be silent support and not put more pressure on their kids, even inadvertently, by cheering or calling out what they think is encouragement.  I cheer for my player; I cheer loud.  I also cheer for the other players on the team, by name.  I don't try to coach from the sidelines, and I don't criticize.  But I CHEER. 

My ballplayer swears that he can't hear me when I cheer for him.  Even before this book was a topic in my house, he has always said that he is so focused on the game that he can't pay attention to the noise from the parents.  I wonder about that sometimes though.  My very good friend is a fellow basketball mom, and her son once looked up at her in the stands during a game and yelled back at her, "SHUT UP, MOM!"  I know I've seen my kid react to something another parent has shouted when he was on the court.  When I listen to other parents cheering, what they say and how they say it, I am forced to think about what other parents hear when I cheer, what the coaches hear from me. This book has made me reconsider how vocal I am when I watch my son play. 

I have been a sports mom for a long time and I am well aware and agree that parents are definitely a big part of the problem in youth sports. A lot of parents forget that sports are supposed to be fun, and that it's just a game.  Kids are learning more than how to throw or hit or kick a ball. Sports are full of life lessons, if you look for them.  How to be part of a team, how to respect the authority of the coach and the umpire even if they are wrong, how to both win and lose with grace, how to compete against others and yourself, how to persevere, how to run it out hard even when the first baseman already has the ball in his glove, and how to learn from players who are better than you. My son has been blessed with great coaches who have pushed and challenged him.  They know the game, and they like to win as much as the next guy, but they will put the boys up against the tough competition, saying "You will never get better by playing teams you know you can beat.  Play the teams you might not be able to beat and learn something new." His coaches have been at least as concerned with his growth as a young man, his emotional and spiritual growth, as they are with his growth as an athlete.  And that's where I applaud Mike Matheny for sticking to his guns and making character development every bit as important as throwing a really good curveball.  Most of the kids playing in youth leagues today are not destined for professional sports careers, and Mike knows that. All the hard work and discipline they learn from sports will serve them well, no matter where life takes them. The best compliment I've ever gotten on my son's sports performance is that he is respectful to his coaches and he is coachable. 

I don't know if I'll ever be able to be the "silent" support on the sidelines but I love watching my kid do what he loves most in the world, play sports. In the end, though, I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would, and my son is bugging me to read it next. 

If your kids play sports, do you cheer loud and proud, or are you the strong, silent type?