Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Happy Birthday, Anna!

Anna turned 11 yesterday!  It's the first time in a long time that her birthday fell on a Tuesday, so she asked if we could stop at Shoppers and get donuts for her class (because their donuts are huge, delicious, and cheap--$5.99/dozen!).  We ended up buying 3 dozen donuts, only picking "normal" donuts, as per her request--chocolate, glazed, sprinkle, and striped.  She took 18 donuts for her class to enjoy, and I brought the other 18 home with me for the Rivendell boys, plus the other kids who aren't in Anna's class.
The boys didn't want to wait for Anna to get back home at lunchtime to eat their donuts, so here they are, toasting her continued health and happiness with their donuts, lol.
Anna picked out a week's worth of menus for her "birthday week".  For the actual night, though, she picked grilled steaks, roasted baby potatoes, steamed mixed vegetables, and a mixed berry fruit salad.
It was all delicious!  We got the steaks from our frozen food co-op, so they were really cheap, and I wasn't sure how tough they would be.  I marinated them in this recipe (although I didn't bother blending the ingredients in a blender), and they were quite delicious.  The roasted baby potatoes were AMAZING!  I used this recipe here.  It was easy as could be, and SO good.  I roasted a 5 pound bag of baby potatoes from Sams, cutting them all in half, and we only had a tiny tub of them leftover.
Anna got some fun presents, including new ear buds, which she was quite happy about, a thermos for her lunch box (she has been dropping massive hints about wanting this so she can take hot soups, etc. for co-op lunches), the Hidden Figures book (young readers edition), and a book called Home Quick Planner, which included peel and stick furniture and architectural symbols.  It has a big grid with these reusable stickers for walls, windows, doors, and furniture, so you can design your own houses and place the furniture.   She loves doing that, so she's already had fun playing around with it.  I'm sure the stickers won't last long, but it will be fun while it lasts!  She also got 2 cookbooks from Grandma and Grandpa, so she is already planning out new meals to try with those.

We had ice cream last night, but Anna hasn't had a chance to make her birthday cake.  She wants a carrot cake this year, and I have a really good recipe for one.  Maybe this afternoon?  She's planned ribs for tonight, plus I'm doing a lot of cooking for the mock trial team as they head off to the state tournament Thursday.  We'll see . . . I'm sure she won't forget!
It ended up being a beautiful day, which was a nice surprise, because it started out pouring down rain.  We had to really run in and out of Shoppers with our donuts!  Anyway, it was beautiful in the afternoon, so the kids could all go outside and play.  You can't see very well, but Verity's hair had all these cute curls all around the bottom of her head!  Even Grace's hair had a little bit of curl to it! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Day in the Life . . .

Thursdays are busy days.  I woke up this morning at 7:30.  Bob had to go somewhere else this morning, instead of downtown, so he didn't have to leave at the crack of dawn like usual, so he was still around.

At 8:40, Anna, Jonathan, and I left.  The 3 littles were still sleeping because of the all the outside play in the snow/ice yesterday.  It wore them out!  We drove over to the McC's house to pick up Joel.  He and Anna have German class Thursday mornings.  The teacher is an older German lady.  Anna has really learned a lot this year.  We are really hoping it works out to take a space-a hop to Germany next year to visit the C's (the ones we visited in Hawaii in Feb. 2014), and then she could really practice!

After we dropped them off, Jonathan and I continued over to where we meet up with the other kids we carpool with for his math class.  One girl we pick up at her house, and as we waited, her mom came out.  "There's no math class today!"  Oh.  Oops!  I did know that--the teacher is away at a family funeral--but that nugget had passed right out of my brain as soon as I read the email.  If I don't write things on our big family calendar on the wall right away, then it's hit or miss as to me ever remembering them again.  I have apparently donated a lot of brain cells to pregnancy, lol.

So, Jonathan and I mailed off a card at the post office and dropped off a book that was due at the library, and then I took him home.  I printed off some answers for questions we were going over in my biology class later because I hadn't been able to find them.  I was going to print them off right before class, but hey, this was even better.  And since some time had been freed up, I texted Christine to let her know I would pick up Joel and Anna this morning.  Usually she does, but she was having a procedure done this morning, and it was going to be tight anyways, so it was providential that I didn't have to drive Jonathan to math class.  I left, picked them up, dropped Joel off at his house, and  picked up Daniel in his place to take him back to our house for biology.
Caleb commandeered my phone during class and took bad pictures of everyone as they were obviously hanging on my every word.  Mine was blurry, so I deleted it.  Ha!
Everyone looks so thrilled!  Actually, it was an interesting class.  We normally have lab on Thursdays, but since we cancelled Rivendell on Tuesday, we were going over questions about the chapter, which was on the respiratory and digestive systems.  Oh, I found the pages I was looking for (and had already reprinted) as soon as I opened my textbook.  Never fails (even though I had looked in my book last night . . .grrrr)!  It was a good week to cancel class because there weren't any real labs I was planning on doing, and the chapter also was not filled with completely new information or anything.

The girls are supposed to have gotten started on their schoolwork while I'm teaching, but instead Thursday mornings have morphed into baking day.  Anna makes whatever sounds good to her, and the boys happily sample whatever it is at lunchtime.  This morning she and the other girls made chocolate chips cookies and these crunchy apple things.  She has discovered at a young age that the way to a guy's heart is through his stomach, lol.

After lunch, Mrs. R. comes to do Spanish with Caleb, Jonathan, and Gabe.  While they're in the basement doing that, I start helping the girls with whatever school they need help with.  On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, we do our "couch stuff", including Bible reading, praying through Operation World, reading Story of the World, working on memory work, and doing First Grammar Lessons with the younger kids.  But Thursdays we don't usually do that.  Often Elena is over to play all afternoon, and the girls do their own little school with her.  They are so fun together!

Eventually it's time for me to work with Micah.  My goal back in January was to get him to be reading confidently, and we have worked diligently.  I did a lesson of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons faithfully each day.  And he dragged his feet more and more and more.  It was taking literally an hour to do one lesson.  We were both dreading it.  It culminated on one Wednesday where he would not sit still for more than a second at a time to even look at the words to read.  He bounced around, and eventually I gave up and told him I was going to order him a Phonics Museum workbook (what I used for almost everyone else, since I bought the kit for Nathan way back when), since this book was not working.

Well.  He pitched a HUMONGOUS tantrum.  "DON'T BUY ME ANOTHER WORKBOOK!!" he shouted (from the bathroom, where I eventually dragged him) for oh, probably an hour.  It's ironic, because "another" implies he has other workbooks, and that's not really true, lol.  He is using Saxon 1 for math, which is technically a workbook, but he likes math and doesn't think of it as a workbook.  It's just "math".  He has a little handwriting workbook, but that's really it.  We do most things orally for kindergardeners around here.  But he was past the point of logic, so we just ignored him until he petered out, and I didn't bring up reading again for a few days.

On the Saturday following the Big Tantrum, I called him into the study to show him my teacher book, so he could see the things he would be doing.  Faith wandered by.  "Oh, I remember that book!  That was fun!" she said.  Micah:  "I changed my mind.  I want to do that book.  Did you order one for me?"  Me:  "                    (*mutter under breath . . . .*)               "

So I ordered a workbook for him and also one for Drew because why not.  Drew is actually interested in learning to read right now.  And Micah hasn't been minding doing it because it's back in the beginning, just doing letter sounds, which he totally knows.  I've tried to skip ahead pages, but he never wants to skip any.  Diligence is good, but it's too bad this is the one area the quality is really coming out in . . . So we shall see how he does when we start blending and actually reading again.  The good news is that he's doing great in math!

I work with Drew some on his phonics as well.  I need to order a math book for him too, or at least search through my archives in the study to see if I already have one, but I never remember.  [*Pause to look right now, since I'm in the study, and thinking about it . . .Nope, doesn't look like it.  Make a big sticky note reminder for the computer screen so hopefully I'll remember to order one sometime in the near future . . .*]  I have the best of intentions of reading some of our read-aloud, but instead, I lay down and fall asleep on the couch.  In my defense, someone woke me up in the middle of the night by crying (never could figure out who or even why), and when I went back to bed, I had a hard time falling back to sleep.
I wake up to the surprising sight of a naked cherub streaking across the family room.  It turns out that Grace had read to her while she sat on the little potty for awhile (nothing produced--she and Micah are in cahoots as far as frustrating me, lol), and she always strips naked to sit on the potty.  But then Drew needed to poop, so she and Grace vacated.  But there were no more diapers left in the package in the living room, so she streaked around while Grace went out to the garage to get more, and Luke took care of Drew.  Verity decided she liked the nudist freedom, however, so she was in no hurry to get a diaper back on.  But now that I am awake, I take care of that.  "We are not a nudist colony" is my motto!  She wants her leotard on because she always wants her leotard on. If just wearing a leo was an indicator of future gymnastics success, she would be on her way to the Olympics!  She does have some good 24/7 coaches around here.  Verity was doing sit-ups with Grace today with her feet under the couch.  It was so cute!  Anna and Grace have these elaborate exercise/core strength routines that they do every day, so she is just following along!

So that was our day.  Bob came home early, again because he wasn't downtown, so we got to go on a walk together.  After a quick dinner, he and the 3 boys all went to Civil Air Patrol.  Now it's time to do that read-aloud I put off earlier!  

It's really a wonder we get anything at all done during the day.  I always laugh heartily at the people who think that because we have a big family, we must have a super-organized schedule.  Oh yes--down to the minute, as you can see!  Hahaha!    Well, it is fun, for the most part (giant tantrums aside).  Never a dull moment, anyway!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"The Secret Life of Fat"

I've been reading what must be one of the most depressing books I've ever read:  The Secret Life of Fat by Sylvia Tara.  Don't get me wrong, it's absolutely fascinating from a biochemistry prospective, and it is very well-written, including lots of interesting anecdotes and scientific studies.  In fact, I was able to bring up points from it both in last week's biology class as well as this week's life science class, thus firmly cementing my reputation as the one who reads really weird books for fun, lol.  But the end result is pretty much no hope for losing weight and keeping it off, biochemically speaking.

Dr. Tara has struggled with her own weight since she was a teen, so when she went for her PhD, she studied fat.  She wanted to understand fat--and why her body seemed to be so good at holding onto it.   Fat, it turns out, is actually really interesting.  Did you know it is classified as an organ now?  As a short summary, "fat is involved in the management of our energy stores, thermal regulation, keeping our cells intact, and, surprisingly, in sending signals within our bodies." (p. 25)  Cell signaling is a huge emphasis in the AP biology curriculum framework, so that part was really intriguing to me.  Fat secretes its own hormones (at least 7 different ones!), which can make you feel hungry or suppress your appetite, depending on the balance of hormones--and so that makes fat part of the endocrine system.

One of these fat-secreted hormones, leptin, also binds to immune cells, and affects their signaling.  People with very low body fat often do not have a very effective immune system, and they get sick more often.  And of course, we know that puberty in girls especially relates to body fat.  It turns out that girls experience a 120% increase in body fat before getting their first period, which the book says is 13 pounds on average.  "There was a minimum requirement of 17 percent body fat in order for menstration to begin at puberty, but 22% body fat was needed to continue regular menstration as girls approached the age of sixteen."  (pg. 49)  I thought this explanation of why was fascinating:  "The subcutaneous fat (fat directly under the skin) in a woman's body can convert male hormones, called androgens, into estrogen.  Fat makes this conversion by means of an enzyme called aromatase.  Young women make estrogen both in their ovaries and in their fat.  (The latter is the primary source of the hormone in postmenopausal women.)  However, younger women who are very lean make a weaker form of estrogen that does not prepare the uterus to host an embryo the way the hormone normally does.  As one can imagine, these women also have challenges with lactation."  (pg. 52)  There are actually quite a few reasons why it is "healthier to be overweight and fit than simply to be thin."  (pg. 62)

So fat is great . . . except it does cause problems, such as activating the immune system too often, which impacts our metabolism and triggers diseases like diabetes. So just lose some weight, right?  "Eat less, exercise more!"  Except it's not that simple.  Our bodies literally fight to keep fat.  Doctors studying this have done some absolutely fascinating studies proving this.  Here is just one conclusion:  "So once we lose weight, our bodies are more efficient and conserve energy at rest, and are even better at doing so during exercise.  Put another way, a person who has lost weight has to run five miles for every four miles a person who is naturally at the weight does in order to burn as many calories.  If the dieter who's achieved a new lower weight eats and exercises like a person naturally at that weight, the dieter will put on pounds.  It's unfair.  But after the hard work of shedding fat, we have to work harder than those who have not dieted to keep it off, and are forever at higher risk of getting it back.  So even a temporary weight gain can have lifelong consequences."   (pg. 84).

So that's depressing.  But it gets worse!  Another researcher "correlated the changes in patients' weight to the measurement of their hormone levels at the various points in time.  He noticed something both fascinating and sobering--his patients' hormone levels seemed to have been permanently altered in a way that actually made weight gain easier after a successful diet.  The hormones were reprogramming the participants' bodies to be hungrier after they had lost weight than before, driving them to regain fat."  (pg. 89)

Our bodies literally coordinate an over-arching strategy, using multiple mechanisms to make sure we regain any weight we have lost--and then keep on gaining! Gender plays a huge role in this (women gain weight much easier, and it's much harder for women to lose and maintain weight loss), as well as genetics (of course!) and things you don't normally think of, like viruses and bacteria.

Chapter 8, which focuses on women and fat, was the most interesting to me.  It really listed out exactly what I have noticed as I have done Whole30 diets through a menstrual cycle.  During the second half of a cycle, we crave fats and carbs because our estrogen levels have dropped, and then one the period starts, the progesterone peak that happens causes more fat to be stored.  And during pregnancy, a female adds 5-13 pounds of fat even if she is undernourished, and it looks like that is because the gut flora actually changes during pregnancy, and women's gut bacteria increases absorption of food!

So anyway, at the end of all this really very interesting information, Dr. Tara details her weight loss journey as she tried to lose 25 pounds, the same amount I would love to lose.  She started intermittent fasting, which as I have also read, is somewhat effective at losing fat.  She would eat 200 cal. for breakfast at 8:00, then 500 cal. at lunch, and then a snack of 200 cal. at 3:00.  A total of 900 calories a day, and a 17 hour window of fasting!  After a few months, she had lost a grand total of 4 pounds.

So she added in exercise, running in the morning for 30 minutes, every other day, before eating, since that is supposed to be more effective at preventing fat storage.   She lost a total of 5 more pounds in 7 weeks before plateauing. and this whole time she was obsessed with food, thinking about it all the time.  Fun!

She started keeping a very detailed food log, and she could then see how food choices directly impacted her weight.  If she ate one cookie, or a slice of pizza, she would gain at least a pound the next day.  So absolutely no cheating ever, if she was expecting to actually lose weight.

After 13 weeks, she'd only lost 10 pounds, so she starting running for 40 minutes, and added high intensity interval training as well, which helped her lose a few more pounds.  But then holidays came, and she did indulge a little, so no more loss. But she also didn't gain, which was big.  She added in weight training after the holidays, but then she dropped weight even more slowly.  Her fat had already adapted, so her body was no longer responding well to her intermittent dieting or all her exercise.  So she removed even more carbs from her diet (only no more than 1000 calories a day already), and increased her fasting window to 19 hours, which helped her lose about 1/2 pound a week.  Eventually, months later (over a year?), she achieved her goal of losing 25 pounds.  But now she has to be constantly vigilant, since it is very easy for her to regain it.

The thing is, the way she describes this fight against fat is really how I think of fighting sin in my life!  Constant vigilance, not letting it get a foothold, etc.  And when you come down to it, eating and enjoying food is not sin, as long as you aren't a glutton (and we've already established that people who are dieting are often eating much less and exercising more than the average--but still gaining weight).  As Ecclesiastes 9:7 says, "Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do."  That doesn't sound like starving yourself on a 1000 calorie a day diet, honestly.  I'm afraid if I focus all my efforts on losing weight, then I would lose any motivation or mental energy to not do actual sinful things, like get angry and irritable, or be impatient--or even just not be able to focus on someone other than myself.  During my Whole30 months I found myself not wanting to cook meals for others (even my own family, honestly) because it was just having temptation right there in my face, and dealing with food more than absolutely necessary.  I didn't want to do social things, since those usually revolve around food, and I just didn't want to deal with it.  It was definitely harder to think about others, and it's hard to imagine the rest of my life like that, of my own choosing, simply because I thought losing 25 extra pounds and keeping it off was worth it.

And for her, this battle was a 24 hour thing.  I am not at a point in my life where I can dedicate 2-3 hours a day to intensive exercise, and I *want* to be able to sample things my kids make.  I still have to cook boatloads of food, and you don't feed a bunch of hungry boys cheaply with salmon and salad.  That's why the book was so discouraging.  Everything she wrote confirmed my findings last summer.  But I don't have the mental margin to do those things during the school year--and the weight I lost came back on much more quickly, which is scary.

I don't know if it is mentally or emotionally healthy to be so focused on what I eat, and how much fat I am losing or not losing, especially given that it is likely I won't lose much at all.  I don't want the rest of my life to be a miserable starvation experience, you know?  I read the reviews for this book an amazon, and some people there recommended a book called The Obesity Code by Jason Fung.  They felt he gave more practical potential solutions and helps.  I was pretty discouraged after this current book, so maybe I'll give that one a try next.  Of course, our library doesn't have it in book form, so it will have to wait until I'm ready to buy it off amazon!

Before reading this book, I was trying to gear myself up for another month of Whole30, but now I'm thinking I'm just going to try to be more consistent in exercising, and not worry anymore about trying to get rid of my permanent pregnant belly.  Bob and I went to a Family Life "Weekend to Remember" conference this past weekend.  The speakers were so good and funny, as usual.  The wife of one of them was a mother of 10 (8 c-sections, one adoption, and one niece they are raising as their own).  She named her belly "Eunice"--it's like another baby, lol.  So I guess I should just roll with it, and try to be healthy, and not be consumed with my poor-fitting clothes.  It is what it is, and I certainly wouldn't trade away any of my kids for my pre-kid flat belly!

Post-Snow-Day Catch-Up Post

Wow, the last thing I posted about was our trip to the zoo?!  Hmmm . . . here are some other things that have been going on:

 *Pikachu got neutered.  He had started spraying little droplets all around when he hopped around the school room, and that was not cool with any of us.  Also, whenever the boys would change his litter, etc. in his cage, he would gently drop some droplets of pee over their hands and feet, which again, was not cool with them, lol.  A friend of ours, who also happens to have a bunny, told me about a small animal hospital just a few minutes away from us that did some surgery on their bunny.  I called, and they would neuter Pikachu, so that saved us a much longer drive.  Also, Bob did some internet searching and discovered a certificate you can get from the Humane Society that knocks part of the fee off.  Pikachu recovered well!

 *We had a very late birthday party for Faith on March 3 at the ice rink.  She has been dying to have a party, and finally I don't have a little baby as well to deal with, so we figured it was time!
 This was Verity's first time to wear ice skates.  She was not sure of the whole idea, but since all the older boys were there, she didn't lack for strong males to help her out!  I had invited all the Rivendell kids from last year and this year, and so it was really fun to see everyone again.
 Drew also needed some big boy help, although he had been on skates before.
 Micah was quite a confidant skater, although he fell on his rear a zillion times.  It didn't bother him a bit, and he just popped right back up!  Instead of staying by the edge of the rink and holding on, he was right out in the middle the whole time!
 After the skating was over, we all came back to our house for pizza and cake.  Faith and the girls decorated this cake.  Faith had definitely ideas for the scene here.  In the picture, the cake is upside down, so you have to use your imagination!  It's a wintery scene, with a frozen lake surrounded by trees. The big blue part is the sky, with clouds.
 That same day, Faith got to go to a Father/Daughter dance with Bob.  The other girls had each gotten to go with him one time, and she has been eagerly waiting her chance!  They had a really fun time!
 This past Thursday, Mar. 9, Anna and Amanda L. celebrated their joint birthday of Mar. 28 early, while Amanda was home on spring break.  They went out to Cheesecake Factory for lunch, walked around the mall (she bought Anna some adorable earrings, which now Anna wears all the time), and then to watch the Lego Batman movie.  So much fun!  Anna is everlastingly grateful the Lord saw fit to have her be born on Amanda's birthday!
 On Saturday, Anna and Grace's basketball team won their championship, and Caleb's team won theirs a few weeks ago, so it was a good showing for our family this basketball season!  It was a 5/6th grade team, so Grace was technically a year too young and had to play up, but it was worth it to not have 2 teams to worry about for them.  She was by no means the worst player either, lol!  Now we are all very glad the basketball season is over, and we have our weekends back!
*Nathan was also home from spring break last week!  He and some friends made a trip to New York City, taking a bus really early Tuesday morning, and getting back Thursday a little after lunch.  One of the friends grew up not too far away from there and made more frequent trips, so that was really helpful in knowing how to get around.  Also, this guy has a cousin who lives there, so the boys were able to crash on his floor in sleeping bags.  They did all the tourist-y things and had a great time.  Nathan was glad he went, although he has no desire to actually live there.  I was glad he went too, with his friends, since I have no desire to even visit there, lol (see the previous zoo post . . .).
 Everyone here was still glad to see Nathan while he was at home!
 Nathan came with us to church and then left early so he could pick up the other 2 guys who rode back down with him.  Now he reports that it is a frozen tundra down there, with temps in the teens and wind chills lower than that.  Not the weather you expect after spring break, for sure!
 *We had a snow day yesterday!  Our elementary co-op was cancelled, and since this looks like our only snow of the entire winter, we decided to cancel Rivendell as well.  Even though the snow was really wet and heavy, that didn't deter people from playing outside in it!
 Here they are sledding at the end of our street.
 Even Verity went down the big hill!  She was a lot more enthusiastic about the snow this year than last year.  She's wearing the adorable snowsuit that the L's handed down to us after Jessica and Amanda outgrew it.  She's the last one to wear it now--so sad!
 After the big blizzard last year, I bought snow shoes, which I have wanted for a long time (and which would have been so useful to have during that week when we weren't plowed out).  So naturally this year we got no snow until this storm, and this one was really a pathetic storm, with such messy snow.  And our street was plowed even before we got outside Tuesday morning!  But I decided to try the snow shoes out anyway.  It was fun, but since the snow was so crusty, it wasn't like you sank down and floundered in it, so they weren't really necessary.  Oh well.  Maybe next year.
 Grace is demonstrating gymnastics even in the snow!
 Poor Verity was tuckered out by all the playing.  She fell asleep on the couch with Bob, who took a much-needed day off.  She is wearing a purple leotard underneath her shirt because she loves leos and actually only wants to wear them.  It's a battle to get her to put on a shirt and pants over them, even on cold, snowy days.  Funny girl.  She sure does love and idolize her big sisters!
 *Since it was Pi Day yesterday, we spent the afternoon making pies.  I made 2 chicken pot pies for dinner.
 We made an apple pie and a chocolate pie for dessert.  Yum!
And this is how our entry way looked last night  after a day of playing outside.  I got it all cleaned up again--and now everyone is back outside playing on the now-hard-as-ice snow this afternoon.  Ah well, what can you do.  It's good exercise and fresh air--and quiet in the house for me.  Ha!