Thursday, May 28, 2009

30 Days and Counting Shred

I've had a few inquiries from readers as to whether or not I have had any success with Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred. I mentioned back in April that I was committed to giving it a try and sticking with the program. And, remarkably, I did.

Kind of.In all honesty, I didn't follow the program for 30 consecutive days. Due to several pretty nasty illnesses in the past two months, I had to stop over the course of a couple weeks. But when I was well, I worked out every day. I found it a bit monotonous to do the Shred workout every day, so I typically did 3-4 days of the DVD followed by a day of running. I am still doing it, as I don't feel like I am "finished" yet so my plan is to continue on doing it 3-4 times a week for at least another couple months.

Yes, the workout is fairly intense.

The first day I did it I was sore beyond any pain I could imagine . . . I could barely muster up the strength to haul my Lulu's up over my ankles and slap on my running shoes on the second day, but somehow I powered through it and did it. After a week, I was not finding Level 1 leaving me feeling like I was a 95 year old geriatric who had just run a marathon in 45 degree (Celsius) heat with a 250 pound barrel strapped to her back anymore. Levels 2 and 3 are certainly jam-packed with energy-zapping and muscle-burning lunges, squats and push ups (don't even think about wimping out and resorting to doing the push ups from your knees, because Jillian will yell at you) and I still cringe when I hear the terms "plank" or "pike", but what can I say . . . the results are pretty amazing and they speak for themselves.

I can't seem to find a "before" shot, but here is a pretty good "after" photo.

All right, all right.

So Jillian is a teeny tiny bit smaller than me *and* phenomenally fit - but I still experienced some pretty decent results with this DVD. My original goal was to be "firmer" by the time I was to attend an out-of-town wedding next weekend (June 6), and I am comfortable I will feel pretty good in whatever I decide to wear. I haven't lost a pound, but that wasn't primarily my goal as my long-term love affair with food and cooking basically precludes that from ever happening.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WW - Why Can't All Days Be Like This?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Walking in Asia

Over the weekend, as we lamented the loss of Thing 3's "baby phase" and watched her scale her big brother's ladder and climb up to the top bunk of his bunk bed, we were all trying to remember at exactly what age Thing 1 and Thing 2 started walking.

I joked that they were both ridiculously premature walkers, and that both times I was not quite ready for their new found independence. I explained that I remembered that both boys walked at the same respective age . . . shortly after they turned ten months.

Thing 1 dared to contradict me, suggesting that he had indeed taken his first steps much earlier than the ripe old age of ten months.

"I walked as soon as I got out of China, mommy," he said, with a mischievous sparkle in his eye.

"CHINA?" I cried, trying to ascertain when my five year old thought he had ever been to Asia.

My face must have exhibited my dumb-foundedness because with a look of complete and utter seriousness, my son pointed to the zipper area of my capri pants.

"When I came out of your CHINA, I said!"


Got it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

PSF - The World Outside My Window

Why is it that the pictures that bring you the most joy often come from the most mundane of sources and inspiration? I took these yesterday as I gathered the kids up outside to go pick up Thing 1 at the bus stop after school.

The brothers have taught Thing 3 well. Yes, that is her delicate, girly finger shoved right up her nostril.

Pink and blossoms go together almost as well as chocolate and ice cream.

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

You always trust your gut

Yesterday, as we do every day that it is nice after school, we prepared ourselves to head to the park just down the street from our house. The kids gulped back their sliced fruit, eager with anticipation for what was to come. Things 1 and 2 raced out the front door, donned their bicycle helmets (hey, I've instilled safety first in these boys!), and raced down the street. I struggled to keep up with my two speedy cyclists as I barreled down the road with two one-year-olds in our red Radio Flyer wagon.

The park, a mere two hundred metres from our house, is a complete ray of beauty in our busy neighbourhood. It is wide, open, hilly, grassy and bursting with various areas in which to play. There are two sets of swings, one for older children, one for babies and toddlers, and two climbing play structures with slides. There are trees and paths for hide-and-seek, a gigantic hill for tobogganing in the winter, and paved paths for rollerblading or biking. It's a serene little piece of existence nestled in this mostly peaceful community.

As the Things and I closed in on the edge of the park, I abruptly noticed a strange man sitting on one of the benches beside the large play structure. I didn't recognize him, and I didn't know him. (And I am *that* nosy and chatty mother in the neighbourhood who knows everyone, chats to everyone, is up on all the gossip, and is aware at every moment of her park visit which child belongs to which parent or provider.)

My eyes did a quick scan of the park to see if the man was accompanied by any children.

He wasn't.

He had a small coffee cup sitting next to him on the bench. He was also smoking. This made me uncomfortable, as the Things have basically never seen anyone smoking before. (I'm not sure why that is, I think it's just the way circumstances have worked out for them at this young age and in today's more health-conscious society.) His clothing looked worn and slightly ragged . . . largely uncharacteristic for this middle-income neighbourhood.

I instantly resented that he was taking a small piece of innocence away from my park. My safe haven. Our sanctuary.

I refused to make eye contact with him. I couldn't bring myself to do it. I instantly, with my whole entire being, didn't trust him. I wouldn't - couldn't - shouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt on the very same afternoon that I had just learned that a man and a woman had been arrested for the murder of Tori Stafford. But that police had still not found her body.

Has our society evolved to the point that I cannot possibly fathom that this man is just out on a beautiful, sunny afternoon enjoying the natural beauty of our local park? Am I so tainted with negativity, skeptism, and fear that I automatically passed judgment and assumed he had bad intentions? That he was watching my children, preying on them, searching for clues to identify us and try to decipher where we live, which house is ours, which car is ours, what time do we go to sleep . . . at what times of day we are most vulnerable?

Yes, it has. If it happened to Tori Stafford, then I'm afraid it could happen to any of our children. And the only way to be vigilent and feel confident that we are doing our ultimate best as mothers to protect our young is to be suspicious, doubtful, untrusting - and to make others earn our trust. To make others work for it.

And so, yesterday afternoon I left our neighbourhood park with a heavy heart. I stayed glued to my children's sides the entire time the man sat on the bench, not allowing them to run free and play until he had left, walked to the edge of the park and was safely out of my line of vision. If he was just a man taking a break in his day, stopping for a moment to pause this insanity that we call life and enjoy a cup of coffee and a cigarrette, then I apologize.

But my gut told me something else, and once you become a mom, you always trust your gut.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Creative Juices Returning?

It appears as if some of the creativity that was completely and utterly extracted from my being each time I gave birth is slowly being restored. Although in very small and non-threatening spurts, my creativity is emerging, one small project at a time.

I only wish the brain cells and the body could return back to pre-baby state so easily.

Nonetheless, I have managed to whip up another baby blanket for a friend who is pregnant and will soon be expecting her first baby. She chose the selfish route of choosing not to find out the baby's gender. At which time she earned herself a very bland and plain YELLOW baby blanket. Because I simply do not knit fast enough to whip up both a pink and a blue one in order to have both on hand.

So, yellow (with speckles of blue and pink just to tease me) it is.

I made this card for my mother-in-law for Mother's Day. I'm finding myself really drawn to colour and especially watercolour. I've been experimenting with various shades and different ways to colour stamped images. This basket and flowers image was actually coloured with my watercolour pencils and then I used a paintbrush to blend and darken where I chose.

Simple, but I thought it really added a nice touch.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Every day is an adventure

Although every day is an adventure around here, Tuesdays are our "busy" day.

As if getting three kids up and ready in the morning isn't a daunting enough task on its own, on every second day of the week I pile them all in the van to drive Thing 2 to preschool for 9:00 a.m. This also includes bringing the little boy that I take care of each day.

First on the agenda, we drive Thing 2 to preschool, where I circle the block until I get the parking spot right in front of the fenced-in play area so that I don't have to unbuckle everybody and take all the children out of the van to drop him off. I take Thing 2 to the fence, open the gate, and hand him over to his teachers, only feet from my van.

If it rains and the children are inside on Tuesdays, I'm screwed. 'Nuff said.

I then take the remaining three children down the street to our Tuesday morning playgroup, which thankfully runs at the exact same time. Playgroup is always hectic but fun. And by "fun" I mean there is real adult conversation to have with other mothers whose lives are as insane as mine. The *get* me. We drink coffee, wipe noses and bums, brush off crumbs, and kiss bruised knees.

I then need to corral two one-year-olds and a five-year-old back into our van and head back to preschool to collect Thing 2. Timing is crucial here. If we are late by only a minute, it wreaks havoc on our lunchtime routine and my ability to get Thing 1to the bus stop for afternoon kindergarten on time.

Thing 2's class is inside at the end of the day, which translates into me being required to unbuckle and haul three bodies up the steps and inside the school to pick up my boy. Today, just to shake things up and be different, I chose to carry the little boy I watch on my back in my backpack, hold Thing 3 in my arms, and thankfully - because he can - I let Thing 1 walk on his own. Somehow we make it inside the preschool building.

I then proceed to nod and laugh at all the seemingly original "looks like you've really got your hands full" and "are they all YOURS?" comments. I exchange pleasantries with a few of the preschool moms with whom I've formed a bond over the past nine months, and then Thing 2 is released from his class. He informs me that there is artwork of his that I need to pick up.

While I am not one to stifle a child's creativity, it is beyond what I can cope with to herd four kids *and* a wet, dripping piece of rainbow-coloured paper out to my van. Yet I am a mother, and so I do it anyway.

I threaten Things 1 and 2 with their lives (or loss of toys, food, air, or any other bartering tool I need to use) if they don't head straight to the van and climb in. Having a child run into the street or veer off in the wrong direction would be catostrophic at this point. And returning home with all four is of crucial importance, and, really, is expected of me.

We make it. We get in, I buckle everybody up and climb into the driver's seat. I let out a gargantuan sigh of relief for this is when I truly believe the worst part is behind me and that I have, indeed, "won" today.

We drive home and I quickly run through my head all the things I must quickly do when we arrive at the house. I need to feed four children and get Thing 1 ready to head to the bus stop for school in less than 30 minutes. I visualize getting lunch ready and cross off little check marks on my imaginary "to-do" list in my head as I sit at a red light, waiting to turn left.

I am jolted back into reality as I hear a siren blaring and see flashing red lights behind me. I wonder what idiot is speeding on Woodroffe and getting pulled over. I look around. There are no other cars around. And it is a good thirty seconds before it all sinks in. The police car wants ME to pull over.

I quickly pull over, stop the van, and explore all the possible reasons a police car has just pulled me over. Speeding? No. Ran a red light? No. Too many kids in the van? No. Kids not secure in car seats? No.

As I begin to hyperventilate and try to answer the "what is going on, Mommy" from the back seat, I roll down my window. A young, male police officer peers menacingly into my front seat.

He hears noise in the back, and looks around to glance over my shoulder.

"Are they all yours?"

"Uh, no, " I sputter, trying to relinquish the gag reflex causing me to feel like I might throw up.

I can't fathom that the reason he pulled me over is to ask me if I gave birth to all four rug rats in the van. He is slow to offer any useful information.

"I noticed your registration sticker on your license plate is overdue, " he tells me.

Realizing there must be some misunderstanding and that I must have forgot to put my new stickers on back in February, some of the tension is released from my neck and shoulders.

"I forgot to put the sticker on I guess, " I explain.

"Nope. I already ran you through the computer and you didn't renew your registration, miss."

I am briefly not thankful for this age of technology, where a police officer knows half my life history just by pulling my van's file up on his computer.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, " I say, grasping at straws and waiting for a brilliant explanation to spew from my lips. I look down at my dirty, over-sized t-shirt and realize I am not even wearing the right attire to try to use my sexuality or my ample, lactating breasts to win over my officer friend and have him show me some compassion.

"I can see how you might be busy and may have forgotten to renew your registration this year, " he offers. "I rarely do this . . . but I'm going to let you off with a warning."

Sniffling emerges from the back of the van. Thing 1 asks, "Mommy, are you going to jail?".

He pauses as the day's scenario obviously unfolds in his own mind, then asks, "are we going to get to see a real jail?".

Right on cue, Thing 3 starts crying loudly. It is lunch time after all. Officer Forgiveness offers to "watch the other children" while I "attend to the baby". It's at this moment I realize the poor soul doesn't have kids of his own.

"She's fine, " I tell him.

He writes up a warning and hands it to me, suggesting I go renew my registration TODAY. Which I obviously promise to do.

"Thank you, officer, " I say, smiling my thankful you-just-saved-my-day smile, "I really appreciate this and I promise it won't happen again."

As I drive away I am hopeful that in the two km between the spot where I was stopped and my house I will not run into another police car, because my van still bears the delinquent stickers.

Yes, every day is an adventure around here, and Tuesdays are still my "busy" day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Comfort

I was browsing through some old photos for something last night and I came across these pictures from January 2006. We had just recently moved Thing 1 to his big boy bed and before naps and bedtime he used to scan the house and run around and gather all his pacifiers and pile them into his bed. I remember taking this shot, although it seems a lifetime ago. He was only 21 months old in this photo.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The 3 Things Tiptoe Through the Tulips

With the 3 Things totally rejuvenated and feeling more like themselves these days, we all headed downtown last weekend to check out the Ottawa Tulip Festival.

After walking around the Market for a little while, Thing 2 - a true carb man if there ever were one - demanded we stop and have a bagel. To avoid a tantrum, we obliged. (No, we are not *those* parents who give into every whim and desire of our children, but we all love bagels . . . what can I say? Some battles are not worth fighting.)

Uh, somebody has her daddy's eyes!!

And later we stopped for the long-promised and much anticipated Piccolo Grande Italian gelato. Notice how all of our outings revolve around food? I'm not sure how we all stay slim.

Thing 1 had the ever boring but tried-and-true favourite . . . chocolate.

But do you think he liked it???

Thing 2 opted for strawberry . . . and desperately wanted his in a bowl.

Much tidier if I do say so myself.

And, yes, we did see some tulips.

Checked out the back view of Parliament Hill from Major's Hill Park on a cloudy afternoon.

Thing 3 likes to really travel in style, and really, who the heck wouldn't want this bundle of joy on her back???

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

It just didn't seem right to be "too busy" to post something nice for Mother's Day. And while the creative juices don't seem to be flowing as plentiful as they were for last year's Mother's Day post, I still want to send love out to all the moms around the globe, especially the two most important ones in our family's lives.

The 3 Things are wonderfully lucky to have two amazing, caring, and loving grandmothers in their lives. We are so thankful for them both. They are truly a huge part of our life.

And I would be remiss if I didn't send thanks to my own 3 Things and wonderful husband who took such good care of me today . . . home-made pancakes, fresh brewed coffee, a spectacular bouquet of flowers, chocolate.

Did I mention the chocolate????

Seems almost a shame this very special day only happens once a year, doesn't it?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Future "Blankey" and Other Musings

Blogging is a strange and unique phenomenon. It is truly fulfilling. Exciting. Addicting. Cathartic.

However, as I recently had a taste of life *not* blogging, I began to slowly realize and understand that this was appealing to me as well. No need to stay up late at night putting together posts. I could watch TV, read books, or perhaps just sit and stare into space. Doing NOTHING. I even participated less in my weekly rounds of visiting other blogs - for which I had begun to feel incredibly guilty. Blogging is a community. It is a family. When I am not keeping in touch with my bloggy friends and family, I feel as if I am letting people down. And I hate the guilt.

While admittedly most of my blogging break (at least 14 days of it) was spent coping with and taking care of a family of five who all contracted the nastiest flu virus I have ever experienced and learning how to love, care, and clean up after a 15-month-old and a 3-year-old who both caught it at the exact same time as me, we did get better and even then I still did not feel like blogging. This flu just wiped me out. The mental and physical exhaustion lasted for days, and seemed like something I couldn't shake.

Parenting has become incredibly difficult lately. I tire of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted at every turn . . . of never getting a break, a minute to myself, a minute where someone isn't crying or fighting or complaining or being ungrateful. I know, I know, you take the ups with the downs and I need to remember how lucky I am. I know I am lucky. I am thrilled to be lucky. It's just that every once in a while I wish I could stop the earth from turning on its axis for just a moment, or even be able to completely stop time like Hiro does every week on the series Heroes, to give myself some time to breathe, to take it all in without spiraling through these early childhood years at warp speed.

But . . . on a more successful note, my time sitting around watching television has enabled me to power through a couple more baby blankets. I made this little number for a friend who just had a little boy.

I actually had to pry it out of Thing 3's hands because she had a death grip on it at one point, assuming perhaps that I must have knit it for her. Hers is far less fluffy and soft these days, so I guess she figured she could score another one if she played her cards right. I'm working on a couple others now too, for two friends due with babies in the next couple months. If I get back into blogging I may never get them done.

And what would those poor, defenseless babes do without a soft as a bunny blankey to snuggle up with?

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