The “To-Do” List

You know that “To-Do” list you have? I’m not talking about the list of action items for work this week or your running grocery list, hastily scribbled on scrap paper in your purse, or even your list of weekend to-do’s; when you can finally tackle the dirty floors, piles of laundry, and scattered toys. I mean your mental “To-Do” list. The one in all-caps that runs through your mind as you’re stuck in traffic after dropping the kids off at daycare or taking a quick shower while your toddler screams at your spouse that he wants “something else” rather than the 5 different breakfast options arrayed in front of him. This is the list that keeps you up at night because there is just so much that needs to be done and it would literally take a full year, full-time job, to complete everything. But since your family needs money to, you know, survive, you and your spouse both work over 40 hours a week for other people and barely scrape by.  Please tell me I’m not the only one. Anyone? Please? Bueller? 

For some context, here is an extremely non-comprehensive list of “To-Do” tasks that I thought of this morning:

  • Organize master bedroom closets & collect items for donation/disposal
  • Hang family pictures/artwork that has lived in a box in the master closet for the last 11 months since buying our house
  • Organize Owen’s toys & collect items for donation
  • Finish painting the kitchen & living room as the test splotches have now been on the walls for a full 6 months 
  • Detail clean my car because…Toddler
  • Set up a college fund for Owen
  • Reassess current budget to figure out how we can afford a second car payment to replace the 14 year-old Honda that’s going to take its last rasping, squealing breath any day now
  • Clean the inside of the refrigerator
  • Reorganize the pantry 
  • Finish the backyard landscaping project
  • Buy birthday cards for upcoming September birthdays
  • Send a wedding gift to old friend that’s getting married tomorrow 
  • Buy new socks for Andre
  • Potty train Owen

Recently, I have seen so much discussion about the “mental load of motherhood” and yeah, it’s a real thing. In my family I am definitely the keeper of schedules, appointments, school requirements, clothing (yes, laundry, but also making sure everyone has enough non-holey socks and shoes that fit properly), etc…but truth be told, even before we had a child and I was a “mother,” I’ve been the keeper of the “To-Do” list for the life I’ve shared with my husband. I had almost 10 years under my belt before our son came along and added another tab to my mental spreadsheet. 

Over the years I’ve tried many ways to organize the tasks that live on my mental “To-Do” list into physical action items with plans and deadlines, I am a Project Manager by occupation after all. I have a drawer full of half-assed daily task calendars, spiral notebooks, even a failed attempt at a bullet journal. And don’t even get me started on the spreadsheets. I have been making spreadsheets for anything and everything for 15 years. While my wedding plan and budget plan and moving plan spreadsheets were fairly successful, my “To-Do” list just never took off. Now maybe you’re judging me pretty hard right here, thinking that if I just got more organized, I could get my shit together and get it all done. And maybe you’re a little bit right. But I have a counterpoint to that thought…it’s not really possible. Even if I was the most organized person in the world, it is just not possible to manage all of my responsibilities successfully and meet all of the deadlines all the time. It’s not just about the number of hours in a day or the fact that money doesn’t stretch as much as we need it to. It’s that in our modern life we are expected to give 100% to everything and it’s just not possible to do that. So, I propose we stop pretending that it is. I propose that we acknowledge that no matter how much we “lean in” to everything, every day is a balancing act. A pretty damn exhausting balancing act of personal and professional responsibilities constantly competing for time and attention. 

Sometimes, that balancing act makes us feel like shitty parents in addition to being organizational failures. Other days, we rock it all so hard and feel like a superwoman. So moving forward, on the days I feel less-than capable, I’m going to gently remind myself that it’s just not possible to be everything and 80% of my best is still pretty damn good. And that “To-Do” list? It will be tackled one item at a time when I’m in superwoman mode and the rest of the time I refuse to feel guilty about not getting it all done. At least today anyway!

Monthly Maker Challenge: September 2019

It is decided! For my September challenge, I am going to be making…a Jack Skellington plush! I found a few inspiration photos on Pinterest:

Jack Skellington Plush

If you are unfamiliar with this particular character, Jack Skellington is the animated lead in Tim Burton’s fantastic stop-motion musical, The Nightmare Before Christmas. A quick summary of the story: Jack is the skeleton Pumpkin King in a place called Halloweentown where scary creatures live and spend all year planning Halloween hijinks. Jack becomes disillusioned with his life, longing for something more meaningful, and then accidentally stumbles across Christmastown where Santa and the elves spend all year preparing for Christmas. He decides to kidnap Santa Claus and take over Christmas. Obviously, it doesn’t go well and a musical misadventure ensues. It is truly a fun, slightly creepy, movie for the whole family. 

Which brings me to the reason for choosing this particular craft for my inaugural challenge:

  1. Owen, my 2.5 year old, is obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas, especially Jack Skellington. My sister and nephew introduced him before his first birthday and he has been humming, singing, and now requesting, the music/movie ever since. He is ecstatic every time we seen Jack in a store display and I know he will LOVE having his own stuffed version to snuggle. 
  2. Halloween is next month and it seemed like a good fall craft! 
  3. I’ve been wanting to get my sewing machine out for ages and this is a great excuse. 

Tune in for progress photos/discussion as I am 100% winging this craft (which is my style) and not using a pattern. 

So now it’s your turn…are you joining me on my monthly adventure? What are you making this September?

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Monthly Maker Challenge

Or, as I am privately calling it “Get Your Shit Together and MAKE Something Challenge.”

I love to make things. Really, all the things. When I was a little girl, I would spend hours in my room working on different arts & crafts projects. When I got a little older, my parents let me take different workshops at the local art center and I was so excited to learn about the many different mediums available for my creative expression…and I had a LOT of creativity to express. As an adult, when I learned about this thing called Pinterest, I about lost my mind with excitement. 

But, as we all know, there is a difference between scrolling through Pinterest on your phone for an hour while laying in bed after an utterly exhausting day of working, parenting, and trying to be a supportive spouse, and actually creating something. Somehow, in the busyness of my everyday life, I am not taking the time to actually make the things that I Pin and it’s driving me crazy. Like itchy, antsy, gotta get my glue gun out, crazy.

That all changes NOW! Beginning on September 1st, 2019 (this Sunday), I am going to be choosing one project that I will work on and complete throughout the month. I’m giving myself a month because realistically, I’ll only get a few hours per week to work on it between all of my other responsibilities (see my previous post about that here) and vaguely important things like sleeping, eating, and bathing. I’ve also tried more aggressive challenges in the past (see here) and I really suck at them. So, with the wisdom I’ve gained over the last couple of years, I’m cutting myself some slack and setting realistic goals. 

For the rest of the week I’m going to be scrolling through my secret craft board (literally, it’s called “Secret Crafts” because clearly I’m great at naming things) to find my first project and I would LOVE for you to join me. 

Check back in on Sunday to see what I’ve chosen and then tell me about your plans!

Back in the Saddle Again…Again

“No excuses, play like a champion” – Wedding Crashers anyone? I have no excuse for my lack of writing, life just happened. So let’s just move on to some updates…

For those who care, I finished out my sugar detox on a strong note and then promptly dove back into eating like crap. No one is surprised. It is so incredibly hard to develop consistently healthy eating habits. Again, life happens and before you know it you’ve ordered another pizza for dinner because it’s 6pm on a Thursday night and everyone is starving and exhausted. I am not exaggerating when I say that we have eaten pizza at least once per week for the last 3 months. And it makes me so incredibly sad. I have a million reasons (ahem, excuses) for why all of those pizza orders were necessary, but none of them are really valid. When I dig really deep and get really uncomfortably honest with myself it’s because this life is overwhelming and it’s easier to order a pizza for delivery. Planning, purchasing, prepping, cooking & serving a meal is just not a priority in my weakest moments. It falls to a negative level of importance, which is really crazy when you actually think about it. The food that I’m putting in my body to keep all the systems functioning should be really important to me, but in that moment it just isn’t.

I’m determined to be better moving forward though, not just for the health of it but because we are spending so. much. money on crappy food. Which is another topic I want to cover…the ever present anxiety about our finances. It seems like the bills just keep coming and we just keep spending everything we have. We are not the kind of people who buy a lot of new clothes or techie gadgets and we certainly don’t go out to fancy restaurants or bars. But somehow every month when we should have just a little bit saved, we have nothing. So I am in the process of doing a FULL inventory of our spending habits to see what little things we can stop doing that will help us start saving. I think I have some good ideas; like my semi-regular trips through the Starbucks drive-through – it feels like I only go once a week but the $$$ tells a different story, or my husband’s random mid-week $30 Whole Foods snack-food haul – he says it only happens “once in a while” but that actually meant two times last month and three the month before – that was $150 over two months! When I actually calculate the amount spent and the frequency, it’s pretty insane and a little embarrassing. I have literally spent $300 on Starbucks since the beginning of the year – 6 months time. That is money that could have gone into our savings account and instead was spent on crappy coffee (sorry Sbux lovers, but it’s the truth) and most likely a sugary treat that I didn’t need. That $300 breaks down to $50 per month and around $12.50 per week.

So beginning today – a random Thursday midway through June – I am going cold turkey on Starbucks. Instead, every time I have a craving for a latte or an iced coffee or a really terrible brownie, I’m going to transfer $6.25 to our savings account. Same thing with the pizza, we have been spending $30 per week on pizza for about 20 weeks (the last 6 months minus the 21 days that I was detoxing), that is FREAKING SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS!!!! If we were to continue this through the end of the year we would have spent over a thousand dollars on takeout pizza this year. OH MY GOD. It is completely horrifying. Which is why we have to stop, today.

I know everyone and their brother has a great budgeting secret/trick/tool/amazing app/whatever, which is great. But in the past – the one time we successfully saved a shit-ton of money over a relatively short period of time – I just made a budget in good old-fashioned Microsoft Excel for every single monthly expense, we stuck to the budget religiously and never, ever, went out to eat. I know this really isn’t a sustainable way to live because we are the kind of people who go on binges when we feel like we’re restricting ourselves, but I think we can manage to go a month at a time with a really strict plan and then allow a little planned splurge. It helps that we have a toddler with a 6:30pm bedtime and live in a bit of a “anything other than chains or coney’s” restaurant desert.

So cheers to budgeting and saving and becoming less of a consumer!

 

 

Success, Failure, Cravings & Resolve: Weeks 1 & 2

So weeks 1 & 2 of the great 21 Day Sugar Detox are complete! As the title suggests we had some success, a little failure, a few cravings and strengthened resolve.

WEEK 1 RECAP

Unfortunately my sister had a TON of homework coming off spring break the last week of February and she wasn’t able to get all of her grocery shopping and food prep complete. This set her up for a rough start to week 1 and resulted in only 1 day of successful meals. Womp, womp. Because she’s either watching our toddlers, in class or working on homework during the week, she just wasn’t able to get back on track. Her son’s 2nd birthday was also this past Saturday so of course she was stressed and knee deep in planning and prep for the party. So for now I’m continuing on the sugar-free lifestyle by myself.

I also struggled with the meal prep portion of the plan simply because Andre worked last Sunday and we didn’t make it to the grocery store until MUCH later in the evening. But I was determined to kick things off on Monday so I improvised my meals a bit and made it work. Instead of the buffalo chicken egg muffins planned for breakfast, I simply made some plain scrambled eggs and tossed in some fresh spinach which wilted nicely. I typically don’t eat until I get to my office so I wrapped the container in aluminum foil and my food was nice and warm when I arrived at work. I also hadn’t had time to prep out my lunch, so I had leftover taco ground beef with a little rice on a bed of butter lettuce topped with avocado. It was perfect. We got back on track with the meal plan for dinner on Monday night and the mexi-meatloaf was delicious. I will definitely be making it again.

I found myself improvising a bit more during the week when we couldn’t get a couple of ingredients for some of the Asian dishes (meatballs and pad thai) and it actually worked out pretty well.

In terms of cravings, I was feeling really good with no serious cravings until Friday – day 5. I really wanted something starchy, carby and sugary on Friday. Then with my nephews birthday party on Saturday I was this close to giving in and having the mac-n-cheese, fried chicken, cornbread and birthday cake. BUT, I didn’t cave. Instead I had leftover chicken with spicy almond sauce, a little rice and broccoli. It was not the same but I felt a renewed sense of determination and pride after the party.

WEEK 2 RECAP

Week 2 was much the same in terms of failing to prep enough in advance. Story of my life. Andre worked again on Sunday and my sister and I took the little boys on a quick road trip to see our 92 year old grandmother. She lives in an assisted living facility in the town where our dad grew up and we hadn’t been to see her since December because of all the sicknesses everyone had been passing around. I had a good breakfast and packed some nuts to snack on. We stopped for a late lunch at a koney island place and I had a “taco salad” that consisted of chopped romaine lettuce, ground beef, tomatoes and cheese. LOL. It wasn’t terrible and it did tide me over until we got home for dinner but it definitely reminded me to be more prepared for going out.

After super random eating on Sunday and Monday, I made it to the grocery store on Tuesday evening and picked up several meals for the week. My sister inspired me to make a homemade paleo version of hamburger helper which actually wasn’t too bad. Just ground beef, spices, a little cheddar cheese, almond flour and milk for the sauce and then I made a batch of rice and mixed it together. It wasn’t stellar but it was great for reheating on Wednesday and Thursday. Friday I tried my hand at an almond flour pizza crust because I was seriously craving pizza – which Andre ordered on Tuesday night and proceeded to eat the rest of the week. My homemade version was pretty “meh.” The crust wasn’t bad and I added a bunch of seasonings to the basic recipe I found online (almond flour, ghee, and an egg) which helped a bit. But I think I made the dough a little too thick so the ratio of crust to sauce to cheese was off. I did make a pretty tasty sauce though. I combined tomato paste, water, garlic, onion, oregano and pinch of salt and then let it simmer while I waited for the crust to prebake. I ended up saving the leftover sauce and I’ve been using it to make English muffin pizzas for Owen this weekend.

Saturday night I loosely followed a Whole30 recipe for a chicken, apple, brussel sprouts, sweet potato, and bacon skillet dish. Since I can’t eat sweet potatoes on the 21DSD, I substituted some butternut squash which got real mushy (duh, I should have thought of that!). I also omitted pretty much all of the herbs and spices the recipe called for because I wanted to taste the flavors of the veggies and of course the bacon. My mother-in-law came up for the weekend and she said she enjoyed the dish but she could have just been polite. But I thought it tasted good and had it again for lunch today and I’ll definitely make it again since it was so easy.

The meals for the rest of the week are:

Sunday – coconut curry turkey meatballs & rice

Monday – cauliflower shepherd’s pie

Tuesday – leftovers

Wednesday – pork egg roll bowl

Thursday – mexi-meatloaf

Friday – leftovers

I also wanted to take a minute to talk about what I’ve learned so far in the two weeks I’ve been sugar and refined grain free.

  1. I feel AMAZING. Seriously, my stomach feels a million times better and I am significantly less bloated than I was. I also think I’ve lost weight but it’s hard to know exactly how much because our scale doesn’t have batteries! However, based on the way my clothes are fitting and the smaller belly pooch when I sit down, I’m definitely dropping lbs.
  2. I have more energy. Yep, once I got through the initial slump and withdrawl, I feel less brain fog and more clearheaded energy.
  3. I still crave sweet things. I’m a little concerned about this one because I know how much I struggle with self-control. Even though I’ve been able to stop myself from eating all of the candy and sweet treats that have been tempting me, I still have that craving.
  4. I need to make this a permanent lifestyle change. I’ve decided that after the initial 21 days are up, I’m going to move to an 80/20 lifestyle. For me this will mean that 80% of my meals will be grain-free and mostly sugar-free (essentially paleo+dairy). I’m going to allow myself to have a “cheat day” where I can eat whatever I want – in moderation of course. I’m also going to incorporate a few natural-sugar (honey & maple syrup) treats into my week to avoid the temptation to eat the really bad stuff on my cheat day.

I think in general this detox has shown me how much happier my body is when it doesn’t get any refined sugar. The stuff is really the root cause of so many health problems and I just don’t need it.

Sugar Detox: Week 1 Meal Plan

Tomorrow begins week 1 of the sugar detox, get excited! I based our meal plan on The 21 Day Sugar Detox book by Diane Sanfilippo but simplified and rearranged it a bit for our small family. The author has 7 different dinners and 2 lunches in week 1 and they all serve at least 4 people so I plan to have us stretch things out a little bit and only do 5 different dinners and 1 lunch – with lots of leftover eating. For breakfasts I’m only doing 2 different meals split up between the 7 days rather than her 3 separate meals – I am doubling one recipe to make that happen though. I also simplified some of the snacks because I just don’t have time to make the 5 separate snack recipes that she has in week 1!

If you’re interested in seeing the full recipes, I recommend purchasing the book (https://www.amazon.com/21-Day-Sugar-Detox-Cravings-Naturally/dp/1936608111)

or even just visiting Diane Sanfilippo’s website (https://balancedbites.com/21dsd/).

She has a TON of free recipes, strategies for managing cravings, links to coaches, videos and even a podcast. Once we get through the first 21 days, I am SURE I will want to find more recipes and support for keeping the lifestyle going.

But without further ado…

Here is our week 1 plan – let’s do this!

Day Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snack
1 buffalo chicken egg muffins, steamed spinach, avocado salmon salad with capers & tomato, leafy green wraps mini mexi-meatloaves, creamy herb mashed cauliflower, 1/2 cup rice hard-boiled egg + nuts
2 leftover buffalo chicken egg muffins, steamed spinach, avocado leftover mini memexi-meatloaves, creamy herb mashed cauliflower, 1/2 cup rice asian-style meatballs, fresh cabbage & bok choy slaw, 1/2 cup rice full-fat yogurt
3 leftover buffalo chicken egg muffins, steamed spinach, avocado salmon salad with capers & tomato, leafy green wraps leftover mini memexi-meatloaves, creamy herb mashed cauliflower, 1/2 cup rice hard-boiled egg + nuts
4 green apple breakfast sausage, raw carrot sticks, raw almonds leftover asian-style meatballs, fresh cabbage & bok choy slaw, no-miso soup, 1/2 cup rice sheperd’s pie, green salad with dressing of choice full-fat yogurt
5 leftover green apple breakfast sausage, raw carrot sticks, almonds leftover shepherd’s pie, green salad with dressing of choice ginger-garlic beef & broccoli, 1/2 cup rice hard-boiled egg + nuts
6 leftover green apple breakfast sausage, raw carrot sticks, almonds salmon salad with capers & tomato, leafy green wraps leftover shepherd’s pie, green salad with dressing of choice full-fat yogurt
7 leftover green apple breakfast sausage, raw carrot sticks, almonds leftover ginger-garlic beef & broccoli, 1/2 cup rice chicken pad-thai hard-boiled egg + nuts

21 Day Sugar Detox…aka 3 weeks of withdrawl from what is essentially legal cocaine

So my sister and I are planning to cut sugar from our lives, temporarily at first and then hopefully on a more permanent basis in the long term. We are both firmly addicted, as is most of the Western world. We’re starting with the 21 Day Sugar Detox plan by Diane Sanfilippo and seeing how that goes. There are some big scary reasons that we’re doing this now and I thought I’d share in case anyone wants to join in on our “fun.”

  1. We have an INSANE family history of Diabetes Mellitus Type 2
    1. No joke, our father, both of his brothers, our grandmother, our great-grandmother, and our great-aunt all were or are Type 2 diabetics. Basically our father’s entire family has been completely addicted to sugar since the turn of the century and we are clearly genetically predisposed to develop diabetes.
  2. We have watched our father struggle with his sugar addiction and diabetes for the last 15 years…it really sucks
    1. He is just not able to break the addiction to manage the diabetes with diet and exercise. After years of increasing amounts and types of medication, he is now on injectable insulin. He must check his blood sugar multiple times per day, take several medications with each meal and inject 40 units of long acting insulin into his belly in the afternoon. This is the only way to keep his glucose (sugar) levels safely in the 100’s rather than the 200’s or 300’s.
  3. We don’t want our sons to grow up the way we did
    1. We both love our parents so so much, but they set us up from birth to continue the sugar addiction by setting a terrible example. Our mother is a candy squirrel, she hides candy all over the house. It’s not unusual to open her desk drawer and find bags of peanut M&M’s, Cadbury eggs, and Starbursts tucked in the back. You can usually find some kind of chocolate in her purse and she bakes cookies or brownies on a very regular basis. Our father is less sneaky about it. We know exactly where he has the bag of tootsie rolls in the kitchen cabinet with the peanut butter, the stack of Hershey bars in the cabinet next to the stove, the ice cream in the freezer. On every road trip, no matter how short, he will always have his shirt pocket filled with tootsie rolls and halls cough drops. And he always offers to share. When we were little our dad would surprise us with treats while we were doing homework or playing or watching TV. He’d come into the room with a medicine cup – you know for dispensing cough medicine when you’re sick – filled with M&M’s and those bright pink wintergreen mints, we called them “pink things.” As a child it was so great and we know it was one of the ways he expressed his love for his daughters. I still think about it with incredible fondness even though I know it helped to cement our sugar addiction. But in our father’s defense it’s how he was taught to express love by his mother and grandmother. He told me recently that he and his brothers saw their grandparents every day when they were growing up, whether they had dinner together as a family or walked to their house to hang out after school. And my father’s grandmother was a woman who believed strongly that kids should have all the food and treats that they wanted, she was a serious pusher. Her younger daughter, my father’s mother, was born in 1925 and as a family they barely survived the Great Depression. When things got better and they had money again, they started baking delicious treats and never stopped. I have wonderful memories of learning to bake with my grandmother and going to her house meant all the sweets you could want. Even now, she’s 92 years old and lives in an assisted living community but she still has a perpetually full candy dish. But my sister and I don’t want our sons to experience the same things, we want the cycle to end with us.
  4. We both have a SERIOUS addiction
    1. Yesterday, not including the added sugar in things like ketchup and bread, I had:
      1. A peanut butter chocolate Cliff bar – 21 g sugar
      2. A GIANT piece of store-bought cake someone brought in to work – 40 g sugar
      3. A handful of Kroger gummy bears – 20 g sugar
      4. A banana – 19 g sugar
      5. A cup of french vanilla ice cream with rainbow sprinkles – 25 g sugar
      6. That is an estimated TOTAL of 125 g of sugar – the recommended daily amount for an adult woman on a 2,000 calorie diet is 25 g – yesterday I ate FIVE TIMES that and to be honest it wasn’t even an especially bad day for me.
    2. My sister is just as bad but she has the added problem of sugary energy drinks – she loves RedBull and as a SAH mom with a two year old, who is also in school full time at night, AND watches our son 4 days a week, who can blame her for needing caffeine and sugar to cope.
  5. When I was pregnant, I was borderline for gestational diabetes.
    1. During the 50g oral glucose test, my blood glucose was 128mg/dl. The cutoff for doing the second round of testing, the 100g oral glucose test, is 130mg/dl. My Dr. debated it and then decided that all of my other tests were fine and the baby was strong, healthy and not measuring too big so we didn’t do it. My son was 9 days overdue and weighed 8 lbs. 10 oz at birth…by no means a small baby. He outgrew newborn clothes in 2 weeks and was back to his birth weight plus some by day 3. Now part of that is probably genetics, I’m tall, 5’7″, with a medium frame and our mom’s family breeds big Swedish people. Our mom’s father and brothers are all well over 6′ and we have a cousin who is 6’7″. My husband comes from a very tall but skinny family on his mom’s side with 4 of 6 siblings – men and women – all 6′ and over. So chances were that our child was going to be bigger than average, but I can’t help but wonder whether my sugar intake and glucose levels played any part.
  6. I want to lose weight
    1. My son just turned 1, he has basically weaned himself from breastfeeding save for once before bed and once first thing in the morning, and my body still feels foreign to me. It is squishy and bigger than it used to be and I just don’t like it. I am all for the body positivity movement and loving my scars and stretch marks and floppy bits. However, I know I’m not at my best self right now and I just can’t love that. I need to eat better and exercise AND love my body.

So there you have it, all the reasons we know we need to cut sugar from our lives.

Per Diane Sanfilippo’s recommendation in the 21 Day Sugar Detox book, we are spending the next 7 days preparing. I’m putting together our meal plans with recipes from the book, we’re going grocery shopping and doing prep, using up/giving away/throwing away the things we won’t be able to eat, and generally just getting organized. We’ll officially start the sugar free life on Monday March 5th.

I’ll be documenting our journey here and posting all of the meal plans and if you want to join in or comment I’d love to hear from you!