Our miracle RAINBOW BABY BOY arrived 8/2018

1st IVF = BFN
2nd IVF = Baby A, born May 2015
3rd IVF = Miscarriage at 14 weeks
4th IVF = BFN
After we paid for 5th IVF, positive pregnancy without IVF!

Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

March, 2020

This month started with mild concern over COVID-19 that seemed to grow stronger by the hour. The risk seemed small at first, with people hoarding toilet paper and sanitizer but quickly snowballed, with large festivals being canceled; flights to Europe (except the UK) grounded for 30 days and all gatherings of 250 or more people urged by the governor to be canceled. Then, the number was reduced to 50, 10 and finally everyone was told to stay home. Disneyland closed as well as all sporting events. By March 13, a National Emergency was declared and the Orange County Superintendent recommended the closure of all schools for a minimum of two weeks. California's governor ordered all but essential businesses close, and "shelter in place orders" with this being deemed a pandemic. By month's end, schools across the state announced that they would remain closed the rest of the academic year, with distance learning taking place.

The majority of people I know were not concerned about the potential effects of the virus on themselves, but we all worry about the elderly or those with compromised immune systems. What I find most unsettling is that you can be completely asymptomatic for 2 weeks and unknowingly transmit COVID-19 to others. By the month's end, we learned that about 25% of people who are infected remain asymptomatic, passing it on to others. For this reason, we canceled our spring break trip to see my in-laws in Oregon and have not been able to visit with my Dad, who usually visits us every week.

Before all of this blew up, we celebrated my brother's birthday on March 8th with a trip to Knott's Berry Farm. Hand sanitizer in a holster, I noticed A's fingers in her mouth and I (hopefully uncharacteristically) snipped at her, "Get your fingers out of your mouth!" Her sweet response was not what I was expecting "Mommy, my tooth is loose!" We were all very excited about the news, but the tooth fairy was not able to take her tooth since she accidentally ate it while having her cheese fries. She still left money for a gift.

With the shelter in place orders, or social lives came to a grinding halt, starting with what was to be the kids' first hockey game: fourth row for the Ducks at the Honda Center. But you know what? I didn't miss it. Not only did it save us $350, but the weekend was relaxing and not rushed. We walked to a historic dam, about a mile from our house. The kids were in paradise, with lots of opportunities to throw rocks, watch turtles, climb trees and cross a small stream, sometimes falling in. We went back again and again, all month long.

Remember that A gave up TV for Lent? We've managed to stick to it, surprisingly. We are spending so much time outside and also sprinkling learning throughout the day that there often isn't much time for it. We are, however, watching part of a movie on Disney+ some days. 

She's finishing up learning her alphabet and knows the majority of it (H and K need some work, as well as C and S). We continue to practice tracing letters and writing her name, coloring, and she is starting to learn the sounds of each letter as well as recognize some sight words. She knows most of her lower numbers, can count to 40 and is able to do some basic math. My husband and I are each reading a chapter or two each day from two separate books to her; Warrior Kid and Treasure Island. 

We go on at least one daily walk as a family (2-3 miles), sometimes two, and she is riding her big bike cautiously out front, and her tricycle like a speed racer out back. They both love going in her blue Jeep. We have finally found time to sit in our padded rocking chairs out front and watch them just play, waving to neighbors and talking to them from a distance as they pass by. Paradoxically, though we all remain isolated, there is more of a sense of community than ever before.

Me, I'm running 3 miles almost every day with my audiobook, and have set the goal of doing at least 36 miles every week for this quarantine period. Refusing to gain the quarantine 15, my weight-loss continues, though it has slowed. While I've managed to stick with my intermittent fasting, more days are 16:8 instead of the 19:5 that I was doing while out of the house.

At the risk of sounding tone-deaf (best example: David Geffen) I have to say that this is quite possibly the best time of my life. Hopefully, it goes without saying that I wish none of this were happening. I worry about my father, my friend's mom, my in-laws and the countless elderly people (and their families) who are or will be affected by this. Or those with compromised immune systems. I recognize that we are blessed and fortunate to have secure jobs, and I cannot pretend to know what it would be like to be unemployed right now, or worry that was coming. I can only imagine the disappointment of every senior out there, with so many long-anticipated events and milestones canceled.
But this time together is just such an invaluable gift.

We spend almost all of our time off of school away, and I have longed for some time to just be at home and enjoy it or organize things that I haven't gotten around to since we moved here just over a year and a half ago. Our shortened summer was completely booked with Krakow, Croatia, Oregon and Shaver Lake, leaving us one week at home. One week! Now, the earliest we will return to work is August and I just cannot believe all of this time that we have stretched out before us. Together, as a family. I'm seeing the kids interact in ways that I've never witnessed before and it melts my heart. With all of their playmates removed, they are relying on each other for entertainment and I love nothing more than hearing their belly laughs when they get into mischief, like pouring water on the dogs. I've started reading the Bible, and continue to work on growing my faith. I finished the first course in my EdD program, and have 18 more to go. I've organized the washroom and together we cleaned up the garage so that we can access the weight bench. I was a bit more productive in the beginning before I knew that we would be off the rest of the year. Now, there's always tomorrow and I'm totally fine with that.  
Princess dress on a hike? Sure, why not!
My Mom had an uncanny ability to see the good in every situation; in any situation. Now, more than ever, I realize that she passed that on to me. I'm sure that a large part of it is due to me not watching the news, and only glancing at headlines every other day or so. But the main reason that I don't watch is that nearly all of this is beyond my control. Can I control all of the spring-breakers congregating on the beaches of Florida and putting senior citizens at risk? No. And so like she did, I focus on what I can control: a fun and calm and loving home-life, filled with more dogs than you can shake a stick at and lots of time outdoors.

One of my main goals in life is to pass on the positive attitude that Mom had to our children. Whenever A is upset at something she can't control, I smile and try to help her see the flip side; the blessing in disguise; the silver lining. You never know if what you're trying to teach your children is working until they throw it back at you. We walked into Target right at 8am to buy eggs, milk and a toy with her tooth-fairy money. The store was desolate, making it easy to keep distance and I had my sanitizing wipes in hand. Without realizing it, I gravitated toward the Starbucks out of habit, only to find it closed. Asking an employee when it would open, I offered over-exaggerated disappointment upon learning that it wouldn't open "until all this is over." Sweetly, A placed her hand on my cheek and left it there, while she said "It's okay Mommy! You have coffee at home and today is a good day."

Things I don't want to forget about this month:

Currently Reading:  
  • C picking a dandelion to give me.
  • A asking if she can have ice cream early in the morning, wear her princess dress on a hike, pancakes for dinner or 5 more minutes of a movie and her reaction to me telling her yes. "Best Mommy EVER!" 
  • C learning to kiss and doing it every day! 
  • A waking up next to me and her first words being "I love my family."
  • Words: Bee, moon, up, wa-wa, eye, shoe, outside, baby, ball, no, bubble, bye bye, baba, Mama, uh-oh, woah, Dada!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

February, 2020

The first day of the month found us park hopping; not the Dinsey kind, the free kind! First we had a park play-date for her school and then a party for Raglan's 2nd birthday. It was beautiful weather; just over 80 degrees here in southern California, and so nice to be outside! It was also nice to catch up with old friends and make connections with new ones.

On February 2nd, Little A had her first ski lesson at Mountain High. Watching her on the bunny slope, I finally understood the meaning of living vicariously through your child and I have to say, it's pretty awesome! I had more enjoyment watching her go down that slight slope than I could have had if I were on the mountain myself! She stuck with it from 10-3pm, which is a long time when you're only 4 and a half! It was so amazing to see her progress and I will always remain so proud of her for doing it! It feels so good to be able to give her ski lessons. Where I grew up, only the "rich kids" went skiing. And I love that she has another challenge and experience under her belt, because it helps boost her confidence.

After we were down the mountain, we drove to meet my Mom's long-time friend Lucinda, who was visiting from New York. Mom and Dad lived in Queens, NY when she was pregnant with me and shortly after my birth. Mom worked with Lucinda in a high-rise at William Iselin in the financial district, around the corner from Wall Street. Even though I was less than 6 months old when my parents left New York and drove to California, Mom and Lucinda always remained friends; a true testament to their friendship. 

Little C is interacting and understanding so much of what we're saying. For example, when we tell him it's time to brush your teeth, he will toddle himself into his bathroom and open his mouth! 

Little A and I attended a play at SCR this month. We were front row for Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and she was able to meet the cast after the show, bravely approaching both the dragon and the tiger, whom she was a bit frightened of on stage. We had such a great time that during intermission, I bought us tickets for the next play! Afterwards, we walked to Philz for hot chocolate like we did last time, making it a tradition!
We squeezed in a beach day on Valentine's Day with a friend after her class party, which I was able to attend. Staying out until sunset allowed my husband to nap before making the 15+ hour drive through the night to Oregon (with our three dogs). I never, ever want to forget his adorable little run: 
We flew up the next day, after we celebrated my Dad's 75th birthday.
Oregon is a magical place, filled with so much adventure for the kids! Where else can you wake up in the morning and let your pony out to roam free? And let's not forget the dogs, who must log miles each day running alongside the gator as we loop the lake. They usually follow their runs with a dip in the freezing cold water, usually because they are trying to catch the swans.  
I am happy to report that I ran almost every day in Oregon, logging nearly 40 miles with our daily walks. I stuck to my intermittent fasting (I haven't missed a day this year!) and returned from our trip 2 miles lighter, even though I had dessert nearly every day. I had such a great time there with my husband's family. I love the conversations that happen around the dinner and I'm always hunting for family history. Like the fact that my son's namesake was one of 12 children. Twelve! We had such a great time that I was able to talk my hubby into going back for our spring break in April!

We flew home on a Saturday, while my husband drove through the night with the three dogs. Wanting him to be able to sleep, we were looking for an activity that would keep us out of the house all day. So I activated my free teacher's pass and we went to Sea World! 

We had the most amazing time! The kids spent over an hour roaming around the splash pad, laughing and giggling. My only concern was getting us to the Shamu show in time. We were in the front, in the splash zone and Little C was enthralled. Because strollers weren't allowed in, I woke him up 10 minutes into his very late nap. I was expecting him to be grumpy, but he absolutely loved it! 
The cutest thing was that he faced his palms up signaling his concern and wonder every time the killer whale was under the water/not visible. He would look over at me, as if he expected me to do something about it. Not very helpful, I only added to the mystery by asking him "Where did he go??" We sat and watched all the other sections get splashed. "Is the whale going to do that to us, Mommy?" she asked. "I sure hope not" I responded, knowing that he would. And I could tell that she did want him to. We ended up soaked, and I changed the kids' into dry clothes for the second time, so they could go on a few small rides before we left. Little C was asleep before we left the parking lot.

It was such an idyllic day, full of those moments that you really try to commit to memory. But I would not be presenting an accurate picture if I didn't give the flip side of that: Me driving home just after sunset with both kids asleep in the back and so many tears streaming down my face that they blurred the tail lights in front of me. You see, Mom was my buddy for these types of activities, or would have been. Combine that with the fact that the last time I went to Sea World was with her, and my memories of being there as a child. It is in those moments when life feels so amazing and I'm basking in the warmth that is motherhood that my heart aches for her the most. 

In a way, I miss her the most when things are the best. Because I know that with her, they would be even better. For her to watch these two beautiful souls laugh and giggle and run would just be a dream. And so, I tell myself that she is watching and talk to her a bit while driving, feeling a bit silly and yet also comforted. I would give almost anything for one day with her here, as the Grandma that she always wanted to be. But I can't do anything about that and so all I can do is try to remain thankful. Thankful that of all the mom's in the world, she is mine, and she always will be.
If you've stuck with the blog this far, you must find yourself wondering what new pet we acquired this month! Since we rescued the parakeet of the back trail a few months ago, I have been meaning to get him a companion. We like owning animals in pairs, apparently. Someone posted on NextDoor that they found a loose parakeet over by the airport. They were trying to find the owner, and unable to keep the bird because of their dog. I expressed interest and after the bird wasn't claimed, got a call. As soon as we introduced Izaak to Isla, she was instantly chatty and happy. Within minutes, he was sweetly grooming her, as she closed her eyes. They are chatty when awake, but when I place a blanket over the cage at night or during nap time, they quiet as a mouse (well, mice!). 

The month ended with the season of Lent starting. Little A announced that she was going to give up TV. Knowing this might be a bit unrealistic, I tried to dissuade her. But she countered with "But Jesus is in the desert!" and I couldn't say no. The morning of Lent, she woke up asking for TV but with a gentle reminder, did not protest. Together, we did decide that two days a week, she could watch part of a movie. I am surprised and proud that she chose to do this on her own! Wish us luck!   

Things I don't want to forget about this month:

Currently Reading: The Silent Patient
  • When we were watching the killer whales at Sea World and he would turn his hands over every time they disappeared. 
  • When I was picking her up at school one day, she reached into her pocket and pulled out two wilted dandelion flowers, exclaiming "I saved these for you, Mom!"
  • While up in Oregon, I put C down to bed in the pack 'n play for the night. He took his bottle out of his mouth, raised his arm up and waved as he softly said "Bye-bye" to me. 
  • Words: Baby, ball, no, bubble, bye bye, Mama, uh-oh, woah, Dada!

Friday, February 7, 2020

January, 2020

New Year's Day
While I love Christmas and am always sad to see it go, I do love the start of a new year (decade!), full of resolutions and possibilities.  I started this year off a few pounds lighter, resolute and excited about something I finally found that works for me, and that I can stick to long-term. If you're not yet tired of me talking about it, you can read more HERE.
I said "Show me your horsey" and he held it up.
Not currently wanting to spend $200+ a month on Disneyland passes, I somewhat reluctantly bought us all annual passes for Knott's Berry Farm. We'll make the most of it, I thought. It won't be that bad. Imagine my surprise when I actually liked the experience more than Disneyland! We spent the Sunday after we returned from Oregon there and I was amazed that there were not any lines in Camp Snoopy. It was practically empty, even though it was the last day of Knott's Merry Farm and all the decorations. We were able to walk on most rides, and there were quite a few that the three of us could do together! We went later in the month with the same result. I love that parking is just right across from the entrance (read: No tram or bus required!) and that she was able to stay on the Camp Snoopy coaster over 10 times without even getting off! It's just so much more manageable and less of an ordeal. Although Disneyland will always have it's special magic, sometimes the very thought of going stressed me out!

Mornings can be hectic, even with all of the prepping I do the night before by laying out her uniform, packing her lunch, etc. A recent morning was running pretty smoothly, with A earning a star for helping get herself ready without any prompting, which she taped to her window. Five stars earn her something from Mommy's prize box. That's when my husband told me that our neighbors, despite our concerns (and the fact that it is illegal), were firing bow & arrows in the direction of our front yard the day before the kids and I returned from Oregon. "Real" ones, not ones from a set. Pretty upset about this, I left the house in a huff, muttering "I need to run" under my breath.

Running is my go-to when I'm stressed or upset or worried or mad or...well, anything besides 100% myself. And when things are good, it makes them even better. But, so can Jesus, I'm learning!

Coincidentally, I had taken an hour off work to attend morning prayers at my daughter's school. They have morning prayers every morning and on Thursdays, a small group of parents gather to pray the Rosary together. Father Damien led the prayers and gave me a medal of St. Benedict for C who was on my hip, as well as a rosary for A. I asked him if animals go to Heaven, and told him about our adopted dog Coco who died and the fact that A still talks about him. "Which one is she?" he asked, before walking over to her in line and letting her pick the color of her Rosary and talking to her about Coco. She felt so special being given this gift  and talking to him, and had a huge smile on her face as I walked to the parking lot. I realized that all my stress and worry and annoyance were gone. I felt better without realizing it, and felt closer to God; taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture always helps put things in perspective. I made a mental note to rely on Him more and to actively work to bring him into my life and our family more this year.

This month, we began steeping A in the history, legends and geography of Krakow to build anticipation about our trip, which is now less than 6 months away! We will be staying on the oldest street in Krakow, within the walls of Old Town which has the largest medieval town square of any European city! We'll be a stone's throw from the Warwow castle. Legend has it that a dragon lived in a cave there- what child wouldn't get behind this exciting story? I purchased a book about it for $5 on Amazon and it became her new favorite bedtime story.
He's in his element!
We started having picnics out our back gate this month. Although we do bring a blanket and some snacks, "let's have a picnic" is really code for eat Cheetos, run around and explore. C throws rocks and digs in the dirt while A looks for clues, animal tracks and swings on the rope.

The kids are also able to play in the backyard when we get home from school while I watch them through the kitchen window. C can now climb the stairs to the play structure by himself and also go down the fast slide!

We continue to foster our small, black, senior Chihuahua named Colette but are very close to becoming a "foster fail" and keeping her. She is such a sweetheart, and sleeping in A's bed every night. We took in an additional foster dog named Turbo for less than two weeks before he found his FUR-ever home. 

A started back in swim lessons, and we bought her a bigger bike. The lessons are at our gym and so it is perfect because it isn't another "appointment" and also gets us to the gym! We go as a family, and put the kids in the Kids Klub while we workout. Then, we take her over for her lesson. I'm even able to sit in the sauna while I watch her!

I didn't think that she learned much at her last lessons; progress seemed so slow! But she did, because on her first lesson, she was so excited to level up because she already knew how to float on her back, and was able to push off from the wall with her face under and "swim" to her instructor! She was so proud, and excited when her congratulations card arrived from grandma with some money in it later that week.

She also received a ribbon at Medieval Times when she was chosen as the Queen of the Tournament by our green knight! We were front row, and when he came over to give roses, I pointed at her with no luck. He came over later with even more roses and I pointed again at her. He didn't seem to notice, so imagine our surprise when he rode his horse right up to us, with his lance pointed directly at little A, with a ribbon on the end of it! She was thrilled and felt so special...because well, she is!
We met a friend at Adventure Playground in Irvine and the kids had a BLAST! Have you been? If not, you have to check it out! Its more than a playground, it's a huge wilderness wonderland for kids, complete with mud! Could anything be more fun?

This month and the beginning of the year has just been amazing. Are we busy? Yes. Are we too busy to enjoy things? No! Although I continue to work on the weekends with photo sessions, we are always able to carve out some down time. I love and actually cherish our daily commute and the conversations that happen. I love the time before bed, and how easy it is to make them happy with extra time outside or cuddled up in bed watching Disney +.

I love surprising her by picking her up early from school. I was able to do this five times this month because we had a week of minimum days. One day, I told her that I would be there to pick her up while she was on the playground. On a whim, I decided that I would take her to Knott's, and so I went to get my shashimi lunch first, and ran and errand.  As I pulled into the parking lot, I could see that they were still on Kid's Kingdom, their playground. 

As I approached, I could tell she looked sad. As soon as she saw me, her face lit up, as she started to break down with relief and happiness. "Mommy! Best Mommy EVER! I thought you weren't coming! Look! This is my MOMMY! I knew you were coming...Mommy but I was afraid you weren't coming!" I scoped her up for a hug and put her on the picnic table, as a few tears fell down. I didn't realize that she truly was expecting me earlier, but she was beyond elated when I told her "We're going to Knott's Berry Farm! Just you and me! Just the girls!"

Things I don't want to forget about this month:

Currently Reading: 
  • When she paints me something at school and is excited to show me. 
  • When I'm changing his diaper, how he stretches up his little toes for me to kiss and how it makes him laugh and laugh. 
  • Seeing them bond with our dogs, and how kind and gentle they are.
  • His new word: Bye Bye!

Thursday, January 23, 2020

My Foray Into Fasting

C finished his fries, without any help from me!
Never, in my life, have I gone to In-n-Out without eating SOMETHING. If I didn't order something for myself, I would at least steal some from my children before I handed it over to them (sorry, kids), or eat what they didn't finish; hungry or not. I mean, I can take half of C's fries and he can't even say a thing about it.

Yet yesterday, while hungry, I gave them each their own cheese fries without taking even one. Not one! I could have easily done this and at least the younger of the two would have been none-the-wiser. How did I accomplish this amazing feat? It was solely due to the fact that I had started my fasting app and was already counting down the 16 hours until I could eat again. I'm not exaggerating when I say that to me, it feels like a superpower.

Starting my fasting app on my phone is like activating an invisible magic shield around me, seriously! I have tried everything and finally, found something that works! And it's simple! I do not eat anything for 16 hours (sometimes I go 19 or more) and then I eat whatever I want for 6-8. Then, BAM! I activate the protective shield again. 

Now, before you think I just don't snack a lot, like eating things that are really bad for me or have an appetite, my friends can attest: I do! On our first date, I ate more than my husband, who is 6'4" tall. Granted, I was training for an ultra-marathon but still, I can really put it away. And running only burns about 100 calories per mile. To put it another way: You have to run the length of a football field to burn off ONE M&M. One. Resisting chocolate that I love may be hard, but so is burning it off. I asked myself why am I doing all this work by running and undoing it all by eating too much?

There are several different types of, or ways to, fast. This one is called the 16:8. I've done it every day since the end of December and am "only" down 4 pounds, but more determined than ever! I say "only" because it feels like it should be much more, but this is actually the rate one is supposed to loose at. Too rapid, and it isn't likely to be gone for good. Plus, I have also stopped the gaining trend that I was on when my eating was out of control.

My energy and confidence are though the roof, too! It feels good to finally be doing something to get to where I want to be, health-wise and also to feel good in my clothes (and skin) again! I feel in control again.

So, why did I start fasting? My primary care doctor recommended it. I met with her in the fall, and was lamenting that although I got close to my pre-baby weight awhile back, I had since gone back up again. I entered summer 10 pounds from where I wanted to be, but started December almost 30 pounds from my goal. Returning to work was tough, and I was eating too much because I was busy or stressed or lacked the time to do meal-planning. Or because it was a way to unwind after I put the kids to bed, while watching my murder mysteries. My doctor told me to start intermittent fasting, and told me that it was what she does.

Getting my eating in check needed to happen. I run more days than I don't; always 3 miles. But exercise is only 20% of it! What you put into your body is actually 80% of the reason we look the way we do. And running is so hard! Did you know that you do not even burn enough calories running a marathon (26.2 miles) to even loose a pound!? Yep, I can get out there and run for 5 hours and still not loose one pound. So, regulating diet just has to happen no matter how active we are.

Fasting, just like any other diet, will not work long-term unless you stay on it.  But this is so easy that I seriously cannot imagine myself ever not doing it. Proponents of fasting say that we have been lied to and that not eating for a period of time will increase our metabolism, not lower it. Breakfast is a marketing ploy and evolutionary speaking, something that humankind is not accustomed to doing! We would get up and go try and find food, not sit in bed eating it. 

Is intermittent fasting for everyone? No. But there is something out there for you, and if you haven't tried fasting, it may exactly what you need. I've tried a lot of other things before this. Most recently, a family member's husband got down to his goal weight by simply tracking his calories on an app. It tired what he was using for months and every day, felt like a failure. I started out strong every day, but would quit reporting whenever I went over my targeted calories; usually around 4pm. I could not stick to it and tracking everything I ate almost made me think even more about food.

That's what I like about fasting - it is mindless. Yet it is also making me mindful of just how much unplanned eating I was doing! So much more than I realized. I would finish off my daughter's bean and cheese burrito when I wasn't hungry, eat a few handfuls of cheetos when packing her lunch and have slices of cheese just because. I like that I can have whatever I want and that no foods are off limits. None! So now, when I'm packing her lunch at night and I want those chips, I pack them to have the next day. Often times, when the next day rolls around, the craving has passed. At night, when I was usually snacking, I now have mint tea. And I actually look forward to it.

That's the thing: When we can eat whatever we want, whenever we want, we don't really enjoy or appreciate it. Now, when I split an ice cream sundae with my husband, I savor it, instead of just wolfing it down. He’s been doing this too, and is down 10 pounds even though he’s only doing it a few days a week.

Eating small, healthy portions frequently was just so much work! Also, it gave me numerous opportunities to royally mess up throughout the day. Think: The break room of any school, which is steps away from my office. I never passed up something when I wasn't hungry, let alone while hungry and now, it's a non-issue. It's almost easy.

It is also shrinking my portions without effort. When I started this, I thought well, I'll just have "whatever" I want during those hours. But I'm finding that I don't. When I go over 16 hours without food, it doesn't take nearly as much to fill me up. And, as Dad has always said: Hunger is the best spice. A kale salad never tastes as good as when you're starving.

Many people have become rich over new diet schemes and plans. There's the paleo diet, Atkins, low-carb, Keto, HCG, Zone, and countless more. But what I like about intermittent fasting is how easy it is! And, according to this review of 9 popular diets, it is one of the most effective. 

Other diets try and make things more complicated than they need to be. It’s simple: calories in and calories out. Have a deficit of 3,600 and you’ll loose a pound. Excess of 3,600 and you’ll gain. It doesn’t matter what time of day you consume them, how many of them are macros or what the ratio of protein to carbs is. Calories in-calories out.

It's really more of an eating pattern than a diet. And it's one I can live with, long-term. Hopefully, it will also help me live longer, as proponents of this lifestyle tout. And if none of what is written below is true? Well, at least I'll be hitting the beach in Coratia this summer and not hiding from the camera.  

Many studies have been done on intermittent fasting, in both animals and humans.
These studies have shown that it can have powerful benefits for weight control and the health of your body and brain. It may even help you live longer.
Here are the main health benefits of intermittent fasting:
  • Weight loss: As mentioned above, intermittent fasting can help you lose weight and belly fat, without having to consciously restrict calories (113Trusted Source).
  • Insulin resistance: Intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, lowering blood sugar by 3–6% and fasting insulin levels by 20–31%, which should protect against type 2 diabetes (1).
  • Inflammation: Some studies show reductions in markers of inflammation, a key driver of many chronic diseases (17Trusted Source18Trusted Source19Trusted Source).
  • Heart health: Intermittent fasting may reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol, blood triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood sugar and insulin resistance — all risk factors for heart disease (120Trusted Source21).
  • Cancer: Animal studies suggest that intermittent fasting may prevent cancer (22Trusted Source23Trusted Source24Trusted Source25Trusted Source).
  • Brain health: Intermittent fasting increases the brain hormone BDNF and may aid the growth of new nerve cells. It may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease (26Trusted Source27Trusted Source28Trusted Source29Trusted Source).
  • Anti-aging: Intermittent fasting can extend lifespan in rats. Studies showed that fasted rats lived 36–83% longer (3031).

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

December, 2019

We started December with a successful snow-seeking mission. Here in Southern California, flat-landers like us flock to the local ski resorts at the first flurry. It actually rained for a few days here, which equals snow up there. And so the resorts opened and traffic piled up. We avoided those areas and instead, drove to the sleepy, quite community a stone's throw from where I grew up: Oak Glen. GrandpaGlennie came with, and A had a blast sledding down a small hill, pushed by her uncle. "Again! Again!" She would cheer as soon as she finished one run, and Uncle Glen would oblige. I took a few turns with her, and C went down once as well, although he didn't enjoy it nearly as much.

We brought our three dogs with us (foster dog Colette stayed behind), not knowing that there was actually a dog park at the old stone school house. They had a blast galloping off-leash and romping in the snow. I didn't notice it at the time, but little Trevi was by me every step of the way on our sled rides down the small hill. Only in reviewing the photos once we were home did I see that she ran beside me and never let herself get more than a few feet away from me. She is such a good friend, or co-dependent, depending on how you look at it.

A is continuing gymnastics and loving it. She is cautious and risk-adverse (which we are thankful for) but does a great job with every challenge her teacher gives her. She is also loving school, though we are already working through some mean-girl scenarios. I knew this would come eventually, but never expected that it would be an issue even before kindergarten. To complicate matters, some of the girls are periodically nice to her, and this confuses her and has prevented her from cutting them off completely. She has such a kind, sweet heart, and it's tough when I learn that others are hurting her with their words or actions. Rather than asking her to tell the teacher, we're trying to give her skills on how to respond, and help her make good choices with who she chooses to be friends with. I also try to help her understand that anyone who hurts her is hurting in some way, otherwise they wouldn't lash out.

The second weekend in December found us still trying to decorate our tree, keep up with clean laundry and continue wrapping presents. But we don't let any of that get in the way of fun outings! On Sunday, the kids and I left at 7:30am to have a Santa Brunch at the American Girl store in LA. It was actually really nice that it was so early, because there was zero traffic and a whole lot of parking. The event took place before the store opened for the day, which I liked. Santa was there as we entered and she had her photo with him. Both of her dolls were seated at our table and given plates, cups and a place-mat to keep. They served us warm cinnamon rolls before our entrees. I brought C and I'm pretty sure he ate about half my omelet! A had mini pancakes. The portions were great, and our meals even came with dessert. After that, it was time for some shopping...even though Christmas is around the corner. She picked out a Bitty Baby with accessories that she named Eyelash.

Later that same day, my husband and I attended Handel's messiah performed by the Pacific Symphony. While it was nice to slow down and listen to beautiful music without multi-tasking, after about an hour I started wishing that we were at a hockey game instead. Then, there would be more action and at least some fighting. Right then and there I decided that would be his Christmas gift. During intermission, we purchased some skittles that we were not allowed to eat inside. Apparently, the giant box is mean to be consumed in the lobby at lightning speed. But didn't stop my husband; there's a reason that they call him Nate Danger. During the performance, he started eating them, which caused me to start giggling. And nothing is as funny as when you are trying to be quiet. We left after two hours, beat the line of cars out of the parking structure and went to dinner at TGI Fridays where we were able to have a conversation without being interrupted by our kids. Of course, the conversation was mostly about our kids.

Not wanting the month to be too busy, we opted to skip both kids' Christmas performances, which helped. "Can we do this?" I asked my husband, when I was first considering not going. Of course we can! For A's class song, I left it up to her. At first she said she did want to go, but when I explained that we would not be home until it was dark and almost time for bed, she (thankfully) declined. Because her class was in the beginning, parents are held hostage for well over an hour while all others perform before collecting them from the classroom and then fighting traffic to leave the parking lot. We also chose to no have her do after-school dance so that she can be picked up each day at 2:30 or 3 at the latest. Time with her is invaluable, and the last thing I want is to have less of it.

I worked at my photography business every weekend in December. I had Christmas portraits as well as a first birthday and a 50th birthday party to attend. I actually enjoy it! When I used to waitress eons ago, I couldn't really enjoy the day if I had to go in to work that evening. I would be happily going about my day and then remember that I had to work later and it would steal my joy. I'm very much an introvert, and being behind the lens suits me. I get to be an observer, and enjoy taking in the atmosphere without really having to interact with anyone. I also enjoy editing the photos, although I still have a lot to learn. I love that I can do this part from home, and take little breaks to play Barbie Dreamhouse, let C bounce up and down on me or give tickle-attacks.

The extra money helped us not get quite so far in debt with all of the Christmas presents as we would otherwise. I was able to treat my girl to (almost) anything she wanted at the American Girl store without feeling guilty, buy them some extra presents, and save toward their birthday parties next year, which of course I'm already planning. While I can definitely be a procrastinator in some areas of my life (any doctoral paper) there is nothing I enjoy more than planning their parties. It is my happy place. If I'm stressed out, overwhelmed or missing Mom, I start visualizing her next party, browsing pinterest boards or email some vendors and it quickly dissipates.

It was my first time hosting the 9th annual girls' Christmas party. We've been getting together since before I was married and Delia and I are now the only two who have been to every one (we missed you, Kim!). I cooked a prime rib and the girls brought the sides. Delia and her daughter drove over 2 hours to be at the party even thought she had a 6am flight to Park City the following morning.
Image may contain: 7 people, including Megan Heather, Kay Keng Phy, Delia Park and Cindy Gleason, people smiling, people sitting and christmas tree
We all have different mile markers along the road of life to denote when we have finally "arrived." For some, it may be the ability to vacation. For others, it could be a hefty savings account or stock portfolio. For me, it is having more than one Christmas tree, apparently. About 15 years ago, I worked at the museum at Cal State while I was completing my undergrad and graduate degrees. I worked with a woman whom we will call Sharidy (well, because that's her name) who talked quite a bit about her Mom's 5 trees. I remember thinking they must live in a mansion to have room for that many trees, and being slightly disappointed when I visited and realized that 3 of them were table-top sized. Still, multiple trees were nearly inconceivable to me, living in my 250 square foot studio apartment where putting in a full-sized tree would have blocked my entrance to either the super-small galley kitchen, or the bathroom.

Last year was our first Christmas in our new home and we purchased one, large fresh tree for the formal living room. I had filed away this multiple tree aspiration of mine, and although we did get a small tree for A's room, that was it. But the former owner left a 7 foot pre-lit tree in the attic, and I had my husband get it down this year. I put it in the entry way near the stair-case and placed all of my Mom's ornaments on it: strands of pearls, pink bows, angels and topped with a pink Santa. It felt good to have them out of the box and on display. My hubby found another pre-lit tree on black Friday sale and then I happened upon an estate sale while out for a morning run with the kids and scoped up another for only $5. We left the new one in the box but put the others up, as well as a small, fresh one in A's room again, for a total of 4. Thinking of how proud Mom would be and how much she loved Christmas, I decided we will always have multiple trees. I thought back on how blessed we are to have the room, and thought back to my days working at the museum and paying $395 per month for rent in my small, studio apartment in Redlands.
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We celebrated Christmas with my Dad and brother a little early, because we were going up to Oregon to stay with my in-laws beyond the New Year. Mom and Dad always went above and beyond to make all of my Christmases magical and he continues to do so. This year was my hubby's turn to receive the "wow!" gift, which will be passed on to Charles.

The aftermath.
My husband drove up to Oregon with the dogs, and the kids and I flew days later. Before we left, A and I went to Disney on Ice with our neighbor friends. We had seats on the floor; second row. Being close made a huge difference, and we plan to make it a tradition. I also got together with my childhood friend and her family. Time with her passes far too quickly, the mark of any good friendship.  
Auntie Andrea and I have been best friends since 6th grade.

Christmas in Oregon was great for A because she was able to spend time with her cousins, grandparents, Uncle Ben and her pony. It's a vast, magical place, compared to the postage stamps that we live on here in Southern California. Our favorite thing to do there is let pony roam free. We walked 3 miles most days (kids in stroller) and I also ran 3 miles almost every day. while we were there, we celebrated Uncle Ben's birthday, as well as JP's.

Baby C walked almost the entire loop around the lake which is about .7 miles. We only picked him up on the rocky, gravel road because wanting to pick up and throw every rock he saw slowed our pace. He protested, because he wanted to walk more. As we were rounding the back part, I imagined him walking this same path once we're gone and tears instantly welled up in my eyes. Yet the thought is comforting at the same time: to have a place that we leave to them where they have built so many memories. That I'm not the end of a chain, but rather a link.
This month, C started hugging us randomly and just hasn't stopped. It's so cute to see him walk over to sister, lean in and wrap his arms around her. Or grandpa, Grandma, Trevi or a singing Santa Claus stuffed toy. Then, he's off playing. He can navigate stairs (both up and down), loves to throw balls and now nods his head yes. When I ask him where something is and he doesn't know, he puts his hands out, palms up. Its about the cutest thing ever.

Things I don't want to forget about this month:

Currently Reading: 

  • Tree lighting at SJB when Charles started running in the direction of the bigger kids.
  • Words: uh-oh, woah, dada
  • Shaking head yes while on a hike out behind our house
  • When I opened his car door he said "Hiiiiiii clear as day and waved with a huge smile."
  • "Mommy, can this be my song?"
  • Conversations about Heaven with A.