Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A month of exercise - complete!

A snap from one of my evening walks. 
Was anyone else surprised by the realization that it will be May tomorrow? Somehow that completely crept up on me, and it dawned on me that my month of exercising three times a week is officially over. My first reaction was "woohoo!", followed by "wait... no!" I like exercising, but I don't like the commitment of having to do it, I think. A few random thoughts to summarize the month: 
  • Although giving up treats for a month felt like a bigger accomplishment, I still feel like committing to actively doing something is harder than giving something up. It is harder to be active than it is to be passive.  For this challenge I had to think ahead and plan my week so I could fit in my workouts, and then I had to get over that threshold, and actually go out and do something, which feels like more of a commitment than just not doing something. 
  • Out of all of the exercising I did this month, I only did one workout that wasn't walking, and that was yoga with my neighbor. For better health results, I probably need to step it up a bit in this area. 
  • I really like walking. I've mentioned that before, I know. But I like being outside, breathing fresh air, letting my mind wander if I'm alone, or chatting if I have company. I like that I can just put on a pair of shoes and a jacket and go and be done in half an hour. 
  • When I started a month ago, I was averaging about a 20 minute mile. Yesterday I clocked just under 18 minutes. Measurable progress like that is encouraging! 
  • A discoveries: this and this article about the benefits of walking and how to do it from Real Simple. I just stumbled across them by chance, but thought they were helpful and encouraging. Also, I've found MapMyWalk to be pretty useful. I like that I can keep track of my walks, especially things like distance and speed so I can really see my progress. I have the app on my iPhone, and I like that I can just start a workout and then it will track where I'm going and how fast and whatnot, even if it does scare the living daylights out of me when it loudly announces I have hit the one mile mark. 
Bottom line, I'm going to keep up the walking/exercising. I'll aim for at least a couple of sessions a week, maybe more as the weather gets warmer and the infernal wind dies down (which, as we're about a mile from a lake, might be never), but I'm not going to stress or feel guilty about it if I don't make it to three sessions. I have a sneaking suspicion that the road to good health does not go via stress or guilt, y'know. One thing this month has brought me is a regular Sunday night walking buddy in the form of my lovely friend and neighbor Tanya, so you know I will be making it out at least once a week just so we can chat.

Other than that one week*, mission accomplished! And I do have a new health challenge all picked out for May, which I am planning to tell you all about tomorrow. Have a good night

*As penance for that week we talked about, I will keep going with this week until Sunday, rather than throwing in the towel as soon as the calendar changes. Sound good? Good.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A letter to my dad

Dear Daddy,

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of your passing, and because I have been thinking about you and missing you a lot lately, I thought I'd write you a letter.
A lot happens in the space of a year, and a lot has happened since you left us. I like to think that you've been around for some of it in one way or another, but let me tell you about some of it, anyway. After all, you were never one to protest the telling of the same story twice.

The days after you died were really hard, but also really lovely. We were all together, close at home. We felt an absolute outpouring of love from all around us. Hundreds of people left messages on Facebook, although you never had an account. The flower shop started saving our delivery for the end of the day to save making several trips every time they got a order. We ran out vases. People loved you.

We planned your funeral, and made it a celebration of your life. If you were there (and, as someone who believes in an afterlife, I think you get to be there for your own funeral) I think you would have enjoyed it. The church was filled with family and friends, many driving long distances, and several flying in from England in your honor. Your choir sang. Your grandkids were adorable and behaved beautifully. You were carried out to Johannes Hanssen's Valdresmarsj to commemorate Valdres, the beautiful part of Norway where you were born, and were soon to return to.

After the funeral, we invited everyone back to Skjold, the same place where you celebrated your 60th birthday with many of the same family and friends. Over 100 people joined us, and we joked that you would be in a panic over whether or not there would be enough food for everyone. There was, even though we couldn't fit everyone inside, and people good-humoredly took turns sitting and eating inside, and soaking up the bright spring sunshine outside. People told stories about you (which you would have loved!) and stayed for hours enjoying each other's company and your good memory. You would have had the best time.

After that, life quickly returned to normal. We soon flew home to our brand new home, and started settling into our new life. It felt strange to start something new and fresh while simultaneously making sense of losing you, but I knew you'd be so proud and happy for us. I was so sad you were gone, but like Mummy said shortly after your passing, it's hard to be sad when there are two little people asking you to play with them.

A handful of times when I have missed you

  • When we put the storage shelves together in the basement, and they were so cleverly made and so solid that I could just hear they way you would say "ah!" as you approvingly inspected them. 
  • Whenever I try to do family history and wish I could ask you about "who is this again? Where are they from? Who was their mother?" You left some very big shoes to fill!
  • When I found the perfect Christmas present for you, only to remember that you don't need presents anymore. 
  • When we all sat down to Christmas dinner together (can you believe Jeremy came?!?) and you weren't there. 
  • When we were sitting in the big fireplace at Hermit's Rest at the Grand Canyon, and I remembered that magical day we spent there five years earlier. The Grand Canyon was still magical (Seriously! That place!) but you weren't with us this time. 
  • Whenever I see an old-fashioned train. At least you passed that particular passion to Espen, who is every bit as dotty about trains as you are. 
  • When I made kålrabistappe to go with the roast lamb for dinner on Easter Sunday, and I thought about how it was one of the very few things you actually made yourself because you loved it so much. Also, when I make fiskegrateng and add macaroni, because you once said that it has to have macaroni. 
  • When I look at the kids and remember that they are growing up without their Grandad. But then Espen will say one of his sweet, spontaneous little prayers out of nowhere and ask that "Grandad can be happy in heaven", and then I am reminded that perhaps they are learning other important lessons instead. 
I don't think it has really occurred to any of us grownups to pray for your well-being in heaven. I think we just assume that you in a place without any more pain or suffering, where you can finally get the rest you needed. I like to imagine the family reunion that must have taken place when you arrived, and is probably still taking place as you make your way around to all your ancestors to fill in the blanks of your family history. 

What I tell people when they ask, is that we miss you, but that we are grateful that you were ours, and that is true. What I don't tell so many people is that I know the day will one day come when we will all get to be together again. We can continue our conversation from the last time we saw each other then. 

Daddy, I love you, and I miss you. You were the best daddy for me. 

Lots of love from your little girl, 


PS. Including a recent photo of the grandkids. I know what you're like!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Time passing

Last Sunday, April 20th, the one year anniversary of living in this house crept past us nearly unnoticed. This house that felt like home from the first moment I stepped inside. This house that has seen us through a year of growth and change, and a lot of happiness. I find peace and refuge in this house in a way that I think I've really only known in my parents' home, the house where I grew up. It's a good house, and I am so thankful to make it our own.

Espen and his Grandad. Oh, how we miss him!
This coming Sunday, April 27th, will mark the one year anniversary of my father's death. It will be a hard day. Until my dad's birthday, I hadn't really given much thought to these milestones. Saturdays remain Saturdays even if that is the day of the week he died on. The 27th of each month is generally just a day like any other. But his birthday was hard. It made it so clear that his life had stopped. And I didn't expect it to be hard, so I was really blindsided when it happened. I was a little shocked to find myself in my bed during Gwen's nap, crying on the phone to Nick at work. So I am expecting Sunday to be a hard day. But that's OK. Having a hard day at the one year mark of losing my dad is OK. Being too afraid of pain and grief to acknowledge and give it the space it needs is not OK. So I'm taking some time and some of that space to feel whatever I feel.

I'd like to add that reaching the one year mark is kind of a good feeling too. Maybe there really was something to the old idea of having a mourning period? It's not like I'm going to be changing out of my black mourning dress, and on we go, but there is a sense of closure and something like accomplishment (is that weird?) to have made it through the first year. I still feel very sad that my dad is gone, but those feelings aren't as raw as they were a year ago. I don't think it's true that time necessarily heals all wounds, but time does decrease the acuteness of those wounds. I know that "time scabs over wounds into a scar so you're not bleeding all over the place anymore" isn't quite as nice of an adage, but there is some truth to it. I will always feel sad that my dad died too soon, but that sadness isn't as hard to bear as it once was. It's just a normal part of life now.

Whoosh, she's a toddler now!
Time has done that crazy thing it does where all of a sudden my little baby girl is closing in on being 18 months old. That old cliche about how "they grow up so fast" is proving to be alarmingly true in Gwen's case. I can hardly believe that this time last year we were waking up to feed her in the night and trying to teach her to sit up, and now she runs everywhere she goes and keeps trying to go head first down the slide. I feel like if I let her out of my sight, I might turn back around and discover that she's heading off to college. Not to mention her brother who is four and filled to the brim with questions about life, the universe and everything. If watching them learn and grow wasn't one of my very favorite things in the whole world, it would break my heart in two.

At the Grand Canyon in December.
And finally, in a few months Nick and I will be celebrating our ninth wedding anniversary. On the one hand, I can't even begin to comprehend where that time has gone. On the other hand, time before him and the life we have built together seems awfully far away. And it is such a very good life.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Two weeks of exercising.

So last week... was not a good week for exercising! Somehow the days just escaped me through this and that, and before I knew it it was Saturday and I still hadn't managed to exercise. At this point fate intervened in the form of my kids, who both climbed into the double stroller and looked at me with pleading little faces until I took them for a walk. So it wasn't a complete shambles, only very close!

Here's where I think I am struggling: First of all, I don't prioritize exercise. I don't get up early to find time for myself, and I'm generally busy enough with the kids and household stuff that I don't often make time to do anything "extra". Which is stuff and nonsense, of course. Loading the kids up in the stroller and taking them for a walk for half an hour takes pretty much exactly half an hour, and I have plenty of half hours. But I make excuses because I don't really want to make the effort, and so here I sit!

Second, (and this is a dumb one!) I don't like any activities that make me feel sweaty enough to shower, because then I have to shower and then that half hour turns into an hour. And who knows what my children will be getting up to during that time? I can always do it while Gwen is napping, but there is so much that has to happen while that little whirlwind is out of commission for a couple of hours. And yet, somehow I frequently manage to find the time to flop on my bed and read Facebook posts for 20 minutes before actually making my way into the bathroom, so again, it's just an excuse. Also, I have to change my clothes, and who has time for that nonsense? Sigh.

The tiny tornado. She is cute though, right? 
However, I did meet my goals the week before, so clearly it is possible to be a stay-at-home mother of two small children and still fit in three little workouts in a week. Here's what I think does work for me (bullet points, you say? Oh, go on then!):

  • Having someone to exercise with. I've started walking fairly regularly with a neighbor, and I like walking and talking with her so much that I look forward to it all day. I also super-enjoyed working out with my other sweet neighbor who teaches yoga. It's just easier to stay accountable to yourself if you're also accountable to someone else. 
  • Even though I'm usually tired and just want to curl up into a ball on the couch once the kids are in bed, I do have a good chunk of time between their bedtime and mine. So if I can just convince myself to postpone the couch collapse for half an hour, I can get a little exercise in the evenings. 
  • Walking works for me. It's pretty basic and not the hippest of workouts, but it doesn't take any special equipment, I can generally fit it into my schedule without much too effort, and I like how it feels once I'm out there. Also, no extra showers or clothes changing required! (At this juncture, I do feel like I may need to emphasize that I do, in fact, shower daily. Please note! It's just the extracurricular showers that throw me off.)
I've already taken steps (ba-dum-ching!) to safeguard myself against having another week like last week by getting a walk in last night after the kids were in bed. So that's one down, two to go for this week. And I just used the word "week" three times in two sentences, and can't think of a good way to fix it. Time to end this post!

(What's that? You want a picture of Espen too? Oh, twist my arm!)

That boy.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

House tour: Play room update!

Today I'm wrapping up a week that didn't go at all as I had planned. I just find myself in a different place than where I expected to be. A place where the groceries for the coming week haven't been bought yet, and there are crumbs and spills all over my kitchen floor (so not too different there), but we've been able to spend time together both as a family and with good friends, to help some people out when they needed it and to do some good things for our little home. So not a bad week by any stretch of the imagination, just different. Ever have those? 

I was looking at my other house tour posts, trying to decide where to take you next, when I noticed that our play room has actually changed quite a lot since the last time I showed it to you, so I decided to do a quick update!

New rug!
The biggest change is that we got a much bigger rug. Unsurprisingly, we found that hardwood floors and playtime were not the best combination. There's lots of crashing around that goes on in a playroom, and it was starting to take its toll on the floor. Then Gwen started getting mobile and was doing a lot of face plants on the slippery wood. And when winter rolled around, Espen stopped wanting to play in the play room because the floors felt cold. So we got this big rug that covers most of the floor and is a nice, soft and durable place to play. It's not the most kid-themed rug in the world, but I wanted something we could continue to use down the road when this room graduates from being a playroom into whatever it's next life will be.

Table for four
Another recent addition is the play table and chairs that Espen got from his granny for his birthday. We'd been looking for one for a while, and finally one that was the right size, that we liked style-wise and that didn't cost the earth at Toys R Us, of all places. Espen loves it for building legos on and serving up his play kitchen cuisine, and Gwen loves having chairs that she can get in and out of herself. She also loves how easily she can climb up onto the table, but let's not dwell on that (that kid, I tell you what!). Because they're light and easy to move around, we've also used the table and chairs as additional kid seating when we have friends over for dinner.

Tent dwellers
Other than that, we've mostly just reshuffled what we have and moved it into a more workable (playable?) configuration. We've ended up with a few sort of "stations" where they play: the tent, the kitchen, the table and the storage bins/playtable (with the green table top) Then there's also a biggish open space on the floor where they play with other toys.

The view from the door, looking into the playroom. I love how the big windows make it such a bright and cheerful room.

 Seeing as Gwen no longer needs to be fed in the middle of the night, we moved down the armchair from her room to the playroom so there's somewhere for big people to sit. Oftentimes the kids won't want me to necessarily be part of their game, but still want me to be nearby so it's nice to have a chair where I can read a book, use the laptop, or more likely, play Threes on my phone while they play. I'd ideally like a slightly bigger and squishier chair that you can really curl up in with a kid or two on your lap in there, but this one will certainly do the job for now. But maybe this one down the road?

Thank you, Target clearance!
An ever-growing art wall.
As you can see, our art wall is always growing as Espen brings home his various projects from Joy school. He really enjoys pulling out the crayons and art supplies at home and is often asking me to "make a craft with me, mom!", so we're always adding more as we go. Gwen is starting to take an interest in the crayons too, so she has a couple of her pictures up there too. I edit the collection and take down pictures as they lose their significance along the way so we don't end up with too much of the same thing. I like how constantly adding, subtracting and changing adds a lot of life and variety to it, and that our guests always admire our wall of kid art. It's nice to have something so big and bright and fun!

Neat and tidy for once. 
Full disclosure: these photos were taken after a major play room clean up, and it does not always very rarely looks like this. In fact, we often have to shove toys out of the way just to shut the door on all the mess! However, we have been trying to teach the kids to take responsibility for their things since the clean up, and Espen especially seems to really enjoy playing in a clean room where he knows where to find the toys he wants, even if he doesn't always enjoy the new regime of nightly clean ups. As always, I never feel like any room in our house is quite complete, and have a few plans and ambitions to  keep things in order by adding photo tags and labels so the kids will know where to find their things without tearing the room apart to find them, and also where to return their toys to when they're done. I'll let you know how that goes! 

A few tiny homesteaders
So, tell me: do you have playroom? If so, I'd love to know how it works for you. Do the toys stay inside the room, or do they migrate all over the house? Do you even want a playroom, or do you consider them a ridiculous waste of space? Did you have one growing up, or are play rooms mostly an invention of our stuff-centric society? What do you think? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dørstokkmila and other adventures in exercising.

Walking in the dark (and concentrating on taking this selfie!) on a Sunday night to make sure I meet my weekly goal. Last minute, as always!
What in the world, I hear you ask, is "dørstokkmila" when it's at home? Let me tell you. It's a Norwegian word, and literally means "the threshold mile (or 10 k, if we're getting technical)", and refers to the struggle it often is to get yourself across the threshold and out the door to exercise. Isn't it sometimes SO hard just to get started?

It was for me last week with my last workout. I didn't do it on Thursday night because I was too tired. I didn't do it on Friday because I was too busy. I didn't do it on Saturday because we were spending the day with family. And then by the time it was Sunday night I was ready to talk myself out of it because I was tired, and it was late and it would take too much time and blah blah blah. I just really didn't want to do it. Friends, I am just not an exerciser by nature! Is it ok to say that I just really don't like it? Can I say that? At least, I never like it until I've gotten started, and then I often enjoy exercise. And I always love it when I'm done! But convincing myself that I really want to be uncomfortable and out of breath is never easy.

Fortunately, I have a strong ally in my husband, who gently, but firmly asked me if I needed to fit in a workout before the week was over. And then turfed me out the door so I could walk the loop through our neighborhood. And baked cookies while I was gone...! So I made it by the skin of my teeth!

I've found that I do much better with things like exercise when I don't do it on my own. So last week I did yoga with a friend, and tonight I've made plans to go walking with another friend. A sweet neighbor is lending me a workout DVD for the days when I can't leave the house to exercise. It seems I really need someone to keep me accountable, but fortunately I have friends who are willing to do that in one way or another.

I feel accountable to you too, whoever you may be. A few thousand of you stop by this blog in the space of a month, and I am so glad that you are there to read whatever it is I have to say. I'm going to be reckless and promise a few non-health related posts this week too, so please come back later!

Have a good week!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

April challenge: Exercise three times a week.

A totally unrelated photo of me and Gwen last weekend, but as it happens I don't have a recent photo of me working out! Funny that. 
I seem to have triggered some sort of glutton-for-punishment-chemical reaction in my brain, because no sooner have I completed my "month without treats challenge", than I decided to get started on the next one! 

Friends, for the month of April I will exercising three times a week. 

It's a bit simpler in some ways than March was because it's not so restrictive, but it will also be harder for me because it requires actually getting out of my comfy spot and doing something. And I do so like my comfy spot. And I do so dislike not being comfy. But I'm looking for ways to live a healthier life with my family (it's so important to teach those kids good habits, and who else is going to do it if I don't?), so I'm going to give my best shot at being a bit more physically active*. 

Here's what I'm aiming for:
  • At least three exercise "events" spread out through a week of 7 days for the month of April, ending at midnight on April 3rd.
  • Each workout should be at least 20-30 minutes long. 
  • Workouts can include (but is definitely not limited to) walking, using the elliptical in the lone and dreary basement, doing yoga, hiking, Wii Fit and just about anything else that raises my heart rate and makes me pink-cheeked and sweaty (I know what you're thinking Ari, and that doesn't count!)
How am I doing so far? Well, because April started on a Tuesday, I allowed myself to count Monday March 31st. We had a few hours of sunshine in the morning before what I knew was going to be a cold and wet week, so I loaded up about 60 lbs. worth of kids into the double stroller and took them to the park. It's about half a mile (800m) away, and took me a little over 10 minutes each way to walk, so that totals a 20 minute workout. Pretty simple. 

On Wednesday I worked out with a friend. I am lucky enough that my friend and neighbor Ashlee, who is a yoga instructor, was willing to come and do a one-on-one session with me in my home while our rampaged wildly in the playroom together. And it was awesome! I've taken yoga classes at the gym before in the dim and distant past, but very little compares to having an instructor all to yourself to help you with your form and to tailor things to your abilities. Especially one who is patient while you run upstairs to change a diaper halfway through the session, and who lets your non-napping toddler join in the class as needed. As chaotic as this all sounds, it was actually a really great workout and I felt all happy and endorphiny for hours afterwards. Definitely a little sore today, though!

My third workout will be a little tricker to fit in as we are leaving town for the weekend tomorrow afternoon. I am either going to have to hop on the elliptical tonight after the kids are in bed, or get up a little early and do it tomorrow. Or fit a walk in somewhere. What I can tell you is that there will be very little of anything resembling exercise this weekend as we relax in sunny St. George for a couple of days! No matter, I'll make it work. 

Have a great weekend! 

*I also want to maintain the good results I've seen from not eating treats for a month. I've said before that I really don't want to make this about weight as much as I want to make it about slowly transiting to a healthier lifestyle. That said, I have conservatively lost about 5 lbs (possibly closer to 8) in the past month, and I'd like to keep it that way. I am currently back to what I weighed before I got pregnant the 2nd time, and have to say it feels pretty great!