Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Mrs. Degree

I read an article yesterday that made me laugh--although it could have been written about me, if you didn't know me.  The article was about the return of the "Mrs. Degree," where women attend college solely to find a husband (no accredited degree required!).  Although the motivation for attending college has definitely changed since the 1950's, in that now most women actually go to get an education, apparently many women are still looking for that ring before graduation.  I clicked on the article mostly for procrastinating purposes, while avoiding starting dinner or cleaning, but a concept in it really got me--because even though I have joked about the Mrs. Degree before, I've never thought of it in these terms:  the Mrs. Degree exists because girls dream of finding a man to support them the rest of their lives, so that they don't have to work.

Dan and I got married when we were 23 years old--at the time, I felt kind of old to be getting married (ha ha--thanks for the skewed outlook, Mom and Dad...because they were both 21 when they got married!), but now I know that's pretty young to settle down compared to other women.  The average age of women getting married now is something like 26--I already had my first baby at 26!  I wasn't looking for a man in college (although, hey--who doesn't want to be loved by someone?)--I really, truly wanted to earn my degree in psychology and devote myself to meaningful work...and get married young.  When I think of my 20-year-old self, with all my hopes and plans and dreams, it makes me shake my head a little bit--I didn't know what I wanted, or at the very least, I didn't realize that the things I wanted were either mutually exclusive or somehow conflicting.  I wanted to graduate with my bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Virginia, get a job in substance abuse prevention (maybe with a non-profit), make a difference in the lives of people who have been affected by addiction issues...oh, and get married, have babies, and be a stay-at-home mom.  Huh?  Clearly, I couldn't have both, and I didn't accomplish both.  If you had asked me when I was 22 years old, fresh out of college, if I went to college with no intention of using my degree, I would have laughed at you...  Looking for a job in 2002 gave me my first, fairly heavy dose of reality--even the jobs I thought I would be a shoe-in for in my field were out of my reach because no one was hiring, or folks with master's degrees were coming in and taking the entry-level positions.  I didn't have a master's degree, nor did I desire more schooling.  I also wanted to stay in Charlottesville for a few years, because it's my favorite place and I felt really at home there, so that limited my opportunities.  I did get offered a position at UVa in the psych department, but taking that job would have meant living well below the poverty level--I had an apartment and a car and bills to pay, so I had to find something else.  I ended up in a job that had nothing to do with psychology--although my boss was nuts, so I did spend lots and lots of time talking my co-workers off the ledge and attempting to navigate the emotional minefield that was working there.  Not quite what I envisioned doing with my expensive degree--but I always figured I would get a little wiggle room monetarily, and then go after my dreams.

I didn't want more school, but I did want to use my degree!

Dan asked me to marry him 1.5 years later (while I was still working at that crazy company), and I said yes--not thinking that by marrying him, I would be set for life and never have to work another day.  I always intended to pull my own weight--although I wanted my Mrs. Degree (let's call it my master's, shall we?  It surely has taken a lot of years of study and effort!), I didn't see it as a free ride through life.  I guess I didn't realize that the Mrs. Degree joke had a more sinister edge to it--I wasn't looking for a rich guy...just a good guy who makes me happy.  I spent a lot of time, hard work, and money on a really good degree from a really great school, and sometimes I still struggle with the fact that I didn't do/haven't done more with it.  Will there ever be a time to pursue those long-ago dreams?  Or have my dreams for my future shifted?  My mom, the inspiration for what a Good Housewife should be, was already out in the workforce after having completed nursing school when she got married--and she supported my dad while he completed the last year of his undergraduate degree.  She stopped working when my brother (the oldest in our family) was born, and went back to work (albeit, not as a nurse) when I (the youngest in our family) was in elementary school--she worked in my school, so that her hours would be compatible with being home as much as possible for her kids.  Her dreams and goals shifted after she had us kids, and I think she would say that she had a happy, fulfilling career--as a nurse, a wife, a mom, a teacher, and now a grandma!  I don't know where this life will lead me--when Alex is 5, will I suddenly want to get a master's in public health?  Will I want to stay at home baking cookies for the kids when they get home from school?  Will I want to get a part-time job at Hallmark again?  Will I fill my days with military spouse groups and volunteering?  Even though I'm not working right now, you'd better believe that Dan and I support each other--he earns the money, I raise our children and manage our wouldn't work without both our important jobs, even though mine doesn't contribute to the bank accounts.  I don't know where my heart will lead me in a few years, but I sure am glad I got that Mrs. Degree to fall back on.  ;)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Commissary Run

I go to the commissary every week for our grocery run.  At first I thought going every week was excessive, but it's what works for our family, so that's what I do.  I tried going on different days of the week--when we first moved here, I was going on a weeknight after the kids went to bed...but that was very stressful, and Dan was never happy about me cutting out early on the bedtime process if I had to run to get there before the commissary closed.  I never wanted to lose a weekend day at the grocery store, but now I've resigned myself to the fact that the weekend is the best time to go--usually Sunday mornings, when the place is somewhat quiet, and I've had a full day to clip coupons and make my list (coupons come in the Saturday paper here, for some reason!).  I don't take the kids with me to the grocery store--for one, it's too distracting, and for two, I couldn't fit them and everything I buy in a cart!  I go so often because we eat a lot of fruits and veggies--I buy a honeydew, a cantaloupe, 4 pounds of strawberries, 2 pints of blueberries, at least 15 bananas, red grapes, at least 5 apples, cherub tomatoes, 3 red peppers, 3 yellow peppers, 3 orange peppers, broccoli, carrots, and green beans every time I go.  Writing that all out makes me feel a little crazy, but that's seriously what I buy.  When watermelon is in season, we always add that to the list, and occasionally I rotate clementines in.  Sometimes the amount of fresh food I buy amazes me!  I almost never have coupons for the produce, either, which is a bummer.

this stuff isn't cheap!

I also get our toiletries at the commissary--toilet paper, paper towels, toothpaste, vitamins, cleaning supplies, soaps, medicines, etc.  Those items along with the food we need for the week brings my weekly commissary budget to around $150.  Everything at the commissary is tax free, which is great, but they charge an operational "surcharge" that may as well be tax...overall, though, I think I save by shopping at the commissary.  The commissary produce isn't always in the best shape, though, so sometimes I have to run to the regular grocery store outside the military gates to get stuff that will last for the week.  I am not the best coupon shopper, but again, with all the fresh produce I buy, I'm not sure how I could do much better coupon-wise--I tend to save between 10-20% every week with my coupons.

I have commissary shopping down to a science now, after I don't know how many trips--at least 52, since we've lived here for more than a year!  I always start on one end of the store and make my way methodically to the other, crossing stuff off my list and checking my coupons.  Going to the commissary is often my only "outing" to myself in a week (other than my workout classes these days)--sometimes my only outing, period, as sad as that seems.  So a lot of times, I bring my iPod and totally zone out, enjoying my "me time" even though I firmly believe that grocery shopping does not in any way count as "me time."  I sing as I walk down the aisles and totally don't care if people are staring at me.  Dan thinks this is bizarre and that I must make a big spectacle of myself, but people usually just smile at me--and a lot of other folks wear iPods, too.  This past weekend, though, I somehow got off my game, even though I didn't even bring my iPod and wasn't at all distracted...I ended up heading UP an aisle that I usually head DOWN.  That doesn't seem like it would be a big deal, but for a mildly OCD person like myself, it was a mess!  Obviously, the items in the aisle are the same no matter the direction from which you approach, but getting turned around totally threw me off.  My usually-efficient grocery run became a maze of confusion until I somehow righted myself again...and I'm not even sure how I did that, even though the easiest thing to do would have been to just turn around and walk one aisle again...  I blame the fact that it was my bigger, end-of-the-month shopping trip (always cramming in a ton of expiring coupons!) and I was buying some less-familiar stuff for Dan's promotion ceremony--but no matter the cause, I was totally thrown for a while.

Despite my aisle confusion, I got a compliment from the bagger when checking out.  (No, that is not normal at the commissary or anywhere else!)  At the commissary, folks bag your groceries for you, and then walk with you to your car and load the bags into your car for you, in exchange for a few dollars' tip (yet another bite into my shopping budget!).  The lady bagging my groceries this weekend told me that I am very organized about how I put my items on the belt, so that it makes it easier for the baggers--ie, fruits and veggies all at the end, milk at the beginning, canned goods all together, etc, etc.  Apparently this is rare for "people of my generation."  I just told her that I have lots of practice grocery shopping--ha ha!  She was probably just angling for a good tip.  Truly, when you grocery shop once a week, you get good at it--but I wasn't honestly trying to be organized.  It just happened to be how I took things out of my cart, and I'm sure it doesn't happen every time.  It struck me as a funny thing on which to be complimented, though--apparently, I rock the commissary check-out more than my know you're jealous!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Challenge #2: Entering Week 7

I think last week, my body just really wanted me to get that 10-pound weight loss in 5 weeks and miraculously hit the 2-pound-a-week goal I had set for myself...because this week, it's back to my usual 1.6 pound loss!  I weighed in at 151.4 yesterday, and I'm excited about being so close to going under 150!  If I keep up the 1.6 average, I'll be under 150 next week...

This weight loss stuff is hard--not just physically, but mentally as well.  I oscillate between wanting to be proud of my progress, and utter fear that pride will make me complacent.  I'm nowhere near where I want to be, so I feel like I can't slow down to enjoy my success so far.  I have to keep my head down.  10 pounds does seem like a lot, but truthfully, I don't really see a difference in myself yet--a few people have said my face looks thinner...but having a thinner face doesn't make my clothes fit any better.  We went to Dan's parents' house over the weekend, and despite feeling decent about my weight loss, I still had a rude awakening while trying to find something nice to wear--most of my clothes in my closet still don't fit me.  10 pounds isn't enough (and neither is 11.6 pounds), so I have to keep on trucking for the long haul--however long that is.  I want to be able to reach into my closet with confidence that whatever I pull out will look good on me!

closet full of ill-fitting horrors

I did get a nice compliment at Zumba class on Friday.  I rushed in like I always do, expecting the class to be getting ready to start, only to discover that the instructor wasn't there yet.  There were only 5 other women waiting for the class, which was kind of funny considering the Wednesday class had at least 40 people in it--I guess most people have better things to do with their Friday evenings...but not me!  The other women and I made small talk about how our shoes were slippery from the rain outside, and how we hoped the instructor would show up soon.  A woman standing behind me walked around and looked at my face and said, "You were here on Wednesday, right?  You were up at the front?"  I said yes, that I stand at the front when I can because I don't wear my glasses to exercise and can't see well if I'm too far back!  She said, "If the instructor doesn't show up, you should just teach the class--you know what you're doing and kept up with the Wednesday instructor with no problem!"  That made me laugh--I have no idea what I'm doing, and couldn't replicate a single Zumba song, much less an entire class!  But it was nice to hear that at least to the other participants, I don't look like a total idiot.  :)  Since there are no mirrors in our class, I can't tell if the folks behind me are struggling or rocking it (or if I'm struggling or rocking it, for that matter)--and I kind of like that I can't see anyone else, because then I can just focus on me and doing what I need to do to get a good workout.

Back to the grind again this week, and it's going to be a crazy week at that...I'm just hoping I can keep up with everything.  On top of our normal activities, Jake has a dentist appointment on Tuesday, Dan's mom is spending the night one night so that she can go with Dan to a work thing early the next morning, and then my mom is spending the night another night so that she can help me make a cake and a million cupcakes for Dan's promotion ceremony.  (Yes, I am making a grocery store cake!)  I think we have also come to a compromise about the ceremony as well--the boys will stay home with my mom, and Abby will attend with us.  Dan had a change of heart when we realized that we have to be at the ceremony for more than an hour, not the half-hour in-and-out that we originally envisioned.  30 minutes might have been doable for the boys, but an hour had meltdown written all over it!  So hopefully the cake will turn out well and I'll get to enjoy the ceremony with my husband...I just need to get through this week!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Military Promotions and My Husband's Emotions

My dear husband has been eagerly anticipating his next promotion since "The List" with his name on it came out last month.  He's been waiting a really long time for this promotion--because he began his military career in one job and then transferred over to the JAG Corps after he graduated from law school, his promotion got delayed a bit when compared to folks who have been in the military as long as he has.  The delay has nothing to do with Dan's performance--he is incredibly good at what he does, and very deserving of a promotion!  The military promotion system is a complicated beast, so it was just a matter of waiting it out until it was his turn...and now, that time is upon us.  Since The List was published, we have been waiting anxiously (or, more accurately, Dan has been anxious...I'm of the mind that these things happen when they happen--no sense in getting all worked up, especially when we're waiting on the whim of the military!) for his promotion date to be announced--The List simply stated that he was now eligible for promotion, but his actual promotion does not occur until the date they give him.  He was finally given his date yesterday, and that set the wheels in motion for planning a promotion ceremony/party/reception with relatively short notice.

it's about time!

Dan's last promotion was when he was in law school, and it was relatively low-key, but very special.  His brother had just completed military boot camp, and was due to graduate and be enlisted around the same time as Dan's promotion date, so we all trekked to the boot camp graduation and rolled the promotion and enlistment into one big family party--Dan's parents, us, and both his brothers were there, and we had cake.  It was nice, and I have fond memories of it--Dan's dad arranged to have a friend "host" the party on the military installation where we were, and there was a cake in both Dan and his brother's honor.  We had no kids, and everything was easy--Dan was flexible about everything (including the date), and was very relaxed about the process.  That is my only experience with a promotion as a military spouse.  My father was also a career military officer, but when I was growing up, I only attended one of his promotion ceremonies--because it occurred in the summer, when I was free from school obligations.  My mom didn't even attend all of my dad's ceremonies, because they weren't a big thing in my dad's branch of service.  I have discovered today that my husband's branch of service is a bit more demanding--or at least my husband believes it to be...

Let me give a little background by saying that Dan's dad was also career military, and Dan's parents' home proudly displays pictures of Dan and his brothers standing with their mom and dad at various ceremonies celebrating his dad's accomplishments.  That is the experience Dan had growing up--even though we both come from military families, our experiences in those families were different.  Dan and I discussed his promotion ceremony specifics last night at dinner, and agreed that since it was during a school day and the boys are a bit young, I would attend the ceremony with him and his parents, and my mom would watch the boys while Abby is in school.  Dan and I both feel very strongly that school should always come first--we want to put a priority on our children's education, and skipping school for any reason (barring illness) is not allowed, even at such a young age.  I would make an exception for a deployment homecoming ceremony (seeing your parent for the first time after a year-long separation is kind of a big deal)...but that's about it.  Thankfully, we don't have to consider missing school because of anything related to deployments right now, and I'm extremely grateful for that.  It was barely a discussion last night about the plan because we both agreed on all points, and I called my mom this morning to set up babysitting duties on the day of Dan's promotion.  Everything was moving forward, until this afternoon...

Dan came home for lunch and informed me that he wanted me to compromise about something, and I wasn't going to like it (always a good way to start a conversation, FYI).  He wants the kids to attend his promotion ceremony.  Ideally, I also want the kids to attend his promotion ceremony--but based on all the factors we had discussed and agreed upon last night, it wasn't going to happen.  His ceremony has now been planned for naptime for the boys, which is a big disaster waiting to happen--although Jake is outgrowing his naps, Alex certainly is not...and you don't want to see either of those boys cranky after you've woken them up.  Abby will be at school.  Dan has been getting pressure all day from "everyone" (whoever they are) to allow the kids to come to the ceremony--because "that's what people do," apparently.  I firmly believe that what is right for some families is not right for others, and I'm not entirely sure why what other people think we should be doing should influence what we actually do.  The conversation did not go well, to the point where I didn't even feel like going to his ceremony!  Of course I will be there--I'm so proud of him and want to be there to support him, but I felt very frustrated revisiting a topic we had already resolved and on which we easily agreed before other people interjected their opinions.  Dan felt I was being unreasonable, I felt he was bowing to peer pressure when it's not right for our family at this time.  I also have other considerations that I don't even think cross his mind--if the kids are going to come with us to the ceremony, I will not get to enjoy the ceremony.  I will be trying not to let the kids run wild and embarrass Dan (he does not handle it well when they are not perfect little angels in front of important people--and inevitably, they are not perfect little angels), I will be stressed about waking Alex up from his nap and getting us all there in time, I have to figure out what everyone is going to wear (just getting myself dressed up is a miserable process), and I will have to pick Abby up from school at some point as well.  All of that instead of just getting to show up and enjoy my husband's successes with him.  I may even have to walk out of the ceremony and not get to see him get promoted if the kids are acting up.  Dan says he doesn't want this experience to be stressful--perhaps he doesn't understand the meaning of stressful, since he's not the one who will have to be dealing with all of those moving parts!

I think I'm feeling a little sore about the whole promotion subject as well, because I've been talking for months about the fact that I will make him a cake for his promotion (I even wrote it on my blog a while back!), and when we were discussing the particulars last night, Dan said he doesn't want me to make a cake--because "this is a work function for a lot of people, not just a little family thing."  Ouch.  I guess my cakes wouldn't be good enough for a lot of people to see, and our families have just been pitying me when they say they are nice?  He was trying to make a point about how the cake would have to feed a lot of people, but it didn't feel that way.  He said he wanted to just call the grocery store, tell them how many people to feed and what to write on the cake, and be done with it.  That hurt my feelings, since I've been seeing all kinds of cakes that wives have made for their husbands' promotion ceremonies on my Facebook feed for years, just waiting for my turn.  I can make a cake that will feed 40 people.  That huge castle cake and that Bucky pirate ship cake could have fed 40 people, even though I just made them for family.

this is cheesy, but I kind of want one!

I didn't expect this promotion to become such an emotional battleground--I didn't anticipate Dan's emotional investment in what his day should look like, as maybe I should have.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again--I'm not a great military wife.  In the end, I want my husband's special day to look exactly as he envisioned, even if it won't look anything like I envisioned (or maybe it will--I just might not get to see it because I've had to leave with a screaming, tired 2-year-old).  I want him to be happy and get everything he wants--kids at his ceremony, crappy sheet cake from a grocery store, supportive military wife by his side...  I don't agree with the decisions, but I'm going to let him make them and just figure out how to make the best of it--a lesson that pretty much applies to my whole life as a military spouse.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Step Light

Since Monday was a holiday, my normal step class was cancelled--it was my first class-less designated exercise day since I started this workout schedule...  I was a little scared that I would just blow it all off, so I asked my neighbor down the street to exercise with me on Monday--she's been going to the exercise classes with me, so we decided to just do something active together on the off day.  Sadly, she and her kids got sick over the weekend, so I was on my own on Monday to figure out what to do.  I was especially bummed because I really feel like Mondays are my best workout day--although I get a good workout at Zumba, step is extremely intense...a big calorie burner that I need to start my week!

Naptime rolled around on Monday, and I really wanted to get some sort of workout in while the boys were sleeping, before the dinner rush.  Abby had a dentist appointment later that afternoon, so I needed to just get it over with so that I could be ready to take her in time.  I have a Wii Fit board (but our Wii is not hooked up--we don't have enough input places on the back of our new TV, and we're not electronically smart enough to figure out how to address that issue), so I considered doing my own version of a step class with that.  I carried that board down to our garage, thinking I would either do that or walk on my treadmill at a big incline--kind of like stepping, right?  I tried the Wii board on the garage floor, but it was making a lot of rattling noises--I think it was meant for carpet or softer floors?  I was worried I would break it, so I gave up on that pretty quick.  I started looking around my disaster area of a garage to see if there was anything else I could use for a makeshift garage is a scary total disaster of junk, so it wasn't hard to find a few candidates.  My first attempt was an empty box, around the right height for a step.  I was able to step on it for about a minute before it collapsed...and I was on the hunt for something else that might work.  My eyes found this gem (or something that looked exactly like this, as I will explain in a moment), brought over to our garage from my old childhood bedroom when my parents moved out of their house:

it's a plastic faux wood audio cassette tape holder

I have three of those lovely contraptions, filled with old singles tapes that I bought at The Wall in 1995 (Sophie B Hawkins, anyone?).  They are stackable, and super convenient...until CDs and now iPods replaced my Walkman.  They are also about the same height as a step, and I figured the plastic would be more durable than an empty cardboard box.  So off I went, running my own step class!  I started with some basic right and basic left steps, an "L" step that I've learned in class, a few high-knee steps, a kick-boxing kick on the step...aaaannnd, I was out of ideas.  What the heck?  I just kept doing those 5 moves over and over again, racking my brain trying to remember anything else that I've done for at least 4 hours of my life at this point, considering I've done 4 hour-long step classes so far.  I made some stuff up, I did some things that I thought were from step class but may have actually been Zumba moves (not sure how that worked out, but hey, I was moving, and that's what counts...right?)--I just kept my feet going.  I don't know how I can get such an intense, good workout and not remember much of it at all?  I must adopt some weird herd mentality when I walk into class--I just mindlessly follow the people in front of me and try not to think about it too much.  I already knew this was true of Zumba, since Abby asked me to demonstrate some Zumba moves for her a few weeks ago and I couldn't remember anything to show her--but I thought step would be more regimented and easier to recall once I started doing it.  Nope--apparently my body has no muscle memory for step, either.

yeah, I looked nothing like this

I did about 40 minutes of repeated steps and randomness, and by that point, I had pretty much busted the cassette tape holder beyond recognition.  I heard it start snapping kind of early on, but I didn't want to quit--I just adjusted my steps so that I put pressure in different places, and continued doing so as the thing got more and more splintered.  I guess faux wood isn't exactly as durable as real wood--ha ha.  I would invest in a real step if I could trust myself to remember how to use it...for now, I have two more cassette holders that I can demolish if I get the idea to do my own step class again!  I was pretty proud of myself for sticking to the Monday workout schedule, making up my own step routine, and working up a decent sweat in the process--it wasn't the same as the class, but at least I tried and didn't give up when my tools and memory weren't exactly ideal.  Can't wait to get back to the herd with Zumba tonight!  :)

Monday, February 18, 2013

10 Pounds (and Cheesecake)

Um, I've lost 10 pounds.  Seriously.  I was feeling so down last week about my effort and my weigh-in (even though it was right in line with what I had previously lost) that I didn't think this week was possible...but apparently it was.  I stepped on the scale yesterday morning and weighed in right at 153 pounds...10 pounds lighter than when I started 5 weeks ago.  I lost something like 3.4 pounds this past week--it just blew me away!  I'm not complaining, but I totally don't get it--I didn't do anything different at all, other than I did try to be a bit more active this past week on my non-exercise class days.  I think my cleaning schedule is helping as well, because getting this house cleaned on the schedule requires daily effort above and beyond my previous days of afternoon naps...  I was worried about the weigh-in yesterday because I had a bit of a misstep on Saturday...

need I say more about my misstep?

Dan and I decided to go out to dinner with the kids on Saturday, and we wanted to go to a place for which we had gift cards.  We have a number of Cheesecake Factory gift cards, and that's one of our favorite restaurants.  I got online after we made the decision to head there Saturday evening and looked up their nutrition--no wonder I never lost weight before...holy crap, is their stuff terribly fattening!  I usually order their chicken salad sandwich (LOVE!!!), and in my research, I discovered that sucker has a whopping 1230 calories in it...more than my entire calorie budget for a whole day!  I needed to game plan and strategize this trip to Cheesecake, because there was no way I was spending 1230 calories on dinner.  I made the decision to only have a small bite of bread from their amazing bread basket, and then to order my usual sandwich, but ask them to box half of it before it even got to the table.  The kids have been begging us for dessert, and you can't go to Cheesecake Factory without some cheesecake, so we decided to get one slice of the original (712 calories) and split it amongst us all (no whipped cream for me!).  That's reasonable, right?  Well, things were a little rough when we got to Cheesecake Factory, and I got thrown off my game...  Jake fell asleep in the car, so I took Alex and Abby up to the restaurant to get us on the table list and wait with them while Jake got a much-needed snooze with Dan in the van.  The restaurant wasn't as busy as we anticipated, so they seated the three of us right away.  Eventually the waiter brought our bread basket, and I tore off a half of one piece of the sourdough (a big weakness for me)...and it was warm, fresh out of the oven.  Uh oh.  I knew right then that it wasn't good--I can't resist warm bread.  Plus, I was feeling a little sick and just wanted to eat something because I was so hungry, so I had another small piece.  Then Abby wanted some, so I tore some off for her, and the next thing I knew, I was holding a piece that I must have been eating without realizing it while I looked at the menu...oops.  At least I didn't put any butter on the bread, like I usually do.  I studied their new "Skinnylicious" menu to see if anything could compete with my beloved chicken salad sandwich when lo and behold, I discovered that my chicken salad sandwich IS on the Skinnylicious menu!  For $2 cheaper than their regular portion, you can get a "skinny" version for only 540 calories--not great, but I had 570 left in my calories for the day, so I could do that!  Woohoo!!!  I promptly ordered the Skinnylicious sandwich and was feeling pretty good about it.

still a lot of calories, but way better than their normal portions!

Dan and Jake eventually came up to join us at the table, and the food arrived.  My sandwich looked suspiciously like it always does, and it came with a side of fries instead of a side of salad like it was supposed to.  I figured they must use a light mayo or something to make the Skinnylicious version less deadly, so I reasoned that it looked the same, but had lighter ingredients.  I was a little confused by the side, but I figured I wasn't going to eat the salad or the fries (because I didn't want the extra calories), so I wouldn't complain to the waiter that I got the wrong side.  I ate my sandwich all gone--it was delicious.  When everyone was done eating, we got our bill--and on our bill, there was a line that read "Chicken Salad Sandwich - $11.95."  Hmmm...the Skinnylicious menu said the sandwich was $9.95.  I felt a little ill--our waiter had rung the sandwich in wrong, and I had just ingested the 1230 calorie version without realizing it.  I didn't even get to order it with half to-go, because I thought I was ordering the smaller, healthier version...  I couldn't go back and un-eat it, so I was stuck with all those calories, and ended up way over my calorie count for the day.  Even with that massive intake (which also included a few bites of cheesecake...), I still managed to weigh in 3.4 pounds lighter the following morning--maybe the lesson is that I need to eat more Cheesecake Factory??  ;)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Crock Pot Sesame Ginger Chicken

**UPDATE**  To see my recipe for Crock Pot Sesame Ginger Chicken recipe, click here!

As a family, we love going to restaurants!  So a Valentine restaurant dinner out last night would have suited me just fine, but Valentine's Day was on a Thursday this year, and Abby has gymnastics on Thursday that nixed any plans of a romantic dinner out with our three kids.  You know, because eating at a somewhat nice restaurant with antsy, loud, crazy kids is always so romantic.

In lieu of some delicious restaurant food, I decided to break out the crock pot for the first time for Valentine's dinner (no pressure, right?).  I felt a little like I was flying blind with this project--not only was it my very first crock pot meal, but I was using a recipe that I found for which I didn't really have the ingredients...possibly not my best plan.  It was a Sweet and Sour chicken recipe that I adapted into a sesame ginger chicken recipe because I have sesame ginger marinade, but no sweet and sour sauce.  The recipe also makes 6 servings, which is way more than we will need since I figured the boys may not eat any, so I cut down some of the ingredients and added others that appeal to us.  I've heard that crock pots are so great because you can just chuck whatever into them and come out with something great at the I went with it.  I'm the type of person who follows a recipe to a T if I decide to actually cook something, so it's a little stressful for me to make things up on the fly.  I tried not to think about it too much and just got to cooking!  I put carrots at the bottom and chicken over top to start the process, and then I covered everything with a cup of water mixed with the juice from canned pineapple chunks--the recipe didn't call for any liquid in the pot, but everything I read about crock pots said you shouldn't put stuff in there without some sort of water or broth to keep the heat distribution even, so I put water/juice mixture in to be safe.  I turned it on, and I had no idea if it was working--I just sort of stared at it for a while, wondering what the heck was happening, if anything, inside.

what's happening in there?

The whole thing got warm to the touch, so I assumed it was working...and eventually, the chicken started to look cooked.  The recipe called for draining all the liquid after 5 hours, so I did that shortly before the boys and I took a nice walk to the bus stop to pick Abby up--it was a beautiful day!  I drained the liquid and then put the chicken back in the pot, covered it in the sesame ginger marinade, and added the veggies on top for another hour.  The chicken was falling apart, but still moist--I was hesitant to put it back in for that last hour, because I was worried it would dry out, but I wanted the marinade back in it went.  I totally forgot to put the pineapple in, though, so I scrambled and threw them in for the last five minutes before I served the meal--boo!  They were warm enough, but I was still bummed.  Here's the concoction cooking after I added the veggies:

notice the sad absence of pineapple...

Dan didn't get home as early as I had hoped, but it worked out because I was scrambling around to get the rice made and get the meal plated from the crock pot.  The chicken was a bit dry and just crumbled when I tried to pick it up out of the pot with my fork--just as I had feared.  I think I need to way decrease the cooking time the next time I make this recipe!  But for my first effort, it wasn't bad--and I'm learning.  I was concerned about how it would all taste because Abby walked in the door from the bus stop and announced that the house smelled like dog food--not quite the taste I was going for, but thanks, Abigail!  Kids...  I finally got it all on the plates and decided to just serve the same thing to everyone--even though I was relatively certain that Alex wouldn't eat any of it, and I thought Jake would struggle with it even though it was chicken...  He loves chicken, but it has to be just plain old chicken with nothing on it--the sesame ginger marinade gave the chicken a brown tint, and as I predicted, it freaked Jake out and he refused to eat it.  After much coaxing from us and crying/gagging from him, he did manage to eat a few pieces, but nothing else.  Alex must have been confused because he ate chicken, peppers, and rice for a few minutes before remembering that he hates eating anything other than macaroni or peanut butter and jelly...and then he pushed his plate across the table and declared it all yucky.  Abby thought it was really good at first, but then she started complaining that her stomach hurt--typical food avoidance behavior from her, but she had eaten a decent amount and said it was good.  Dan began eating and peppering me with all kinds of questions about what was in it--I swear, he thinks I'm trying to sneak mushrooms, mayonnaise, or sour cream (three things he hates--but other than mayonnaise, I don't really like that stuff either, so he's totally paranoid and silly to think I would make meals that include them prominently!) into his food without him know it.  After I informed him of all the ingredients and the modifications I made to the recipe I found online to make it work for us, he exclaimed, "Woohoo!  Mommy's a cook!"  He really liked the meal and seemed fairly impressed that I mostly made up the recipe, just using that other one for guidance.  I also really enjoyed the whole meal--it was delicious, and if I can get the timing down better on the chicken to not dry it out so much, this will definitely be in our regular dinner rotation.  Sorry, kids-you're just going to have to figure out how to eat it eventually!

The Good Housewife Crock Pot Sesame Ginger Chicken

So I'm pretty pleased with this attempt--it wasn't an easy (for me), romantic Valentine's dinner out, but it was pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.  I enjoyed using the crock pot and the clean up was awesomely easy, which I really like.  As I become more familiar with the recipe, I don't think it will take me as long--I had to do a lot of referring back to my notes to see if I was doing things in the right order (and still managed to forget the pineapple...grrr...), and the prep took me a while since I wasn't sure how much of everything I should use.  I put all the ingredients into my WebMD calorie counter, and the whole meal (with the rice) came to about 630 calories--not super healthy, but not bad, either.  If we didn't use white rice, that would bring the calories down a bit, but I haven't made that leap yet.  The marinade is really high in sodium, but otherwise, it's just chicken, veggies, and pineapple over rice.

I'm still debating the usefulness of a crock pot as a stay-at-home mom--instead of the dinnertime insanity, I had morning insanity trying to get everything ready to put in the pot, and then I kind of felt like I was cooking all day long with the crock pot going and my incessant checking on's like 6 of one, half a dozen of another, and I'm not sure which version of insanity I prefer?  Also, the crock pot filled my house with a wildly delicious smell (not at all like dog food, thank you very much!) that made me feel incredibly domestic because I was actually cooking and had the aroma to prove it, but also made me feel incredibly hungry...not a great thing when you're trying to lose weight.  I don't usually feel hungry like that during the day, so I know it was those darn smells that were tricking my stomach into thinking it was time to eat.  That being said, I think crock pot meals will become a regular around here--I'm not always home all day, and it will be nice to have something ready when we do have places to go and people to see.  It was relatively easy (will go much smoother now that I'm a little more familiar with the process!) and the end product was delicious--you can't complain about that!  Happy Valentine's Day!  :)

my favorite flowers from my thoughtful husband!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Loose Ends

I feel like I've thrown a lot of things out there the last few weeks, so I thought I would tie up some loose ends today, in case any of you were curious!

First of all, my best friend Kerry is doing much better, other than the fact that she tried to go back to work today when she should have stayed home recuperating...  She's feeling better, but she still doesn't have her strength back up, so she ended up fainting at work and back at the hospital this morning! least she's home now, and it was just a case of doing too much too soon.  I still wish I could be there, but hopefully today was the last hospital visit for a while!  I'm trying to convince her to take it easy the rest of the week, but she's stubborn.  :)  She's a teacher, earning her doctorate, and heavily involved in her community as well as her friends--her schedule is usually jam-packed, so I'm selfishly happy that her forced time off has allowed us to talk more the last few weeks than usual.  If I can't be there in person, that's the next best thing!

anyone need a house?

Second, we have been waiting and waiting to hear if the person who expressed interest in purchasing our house in Ohio wanted to move forward with sale.  We just heard from him on Saturday, and he is not ready to purchase anything right now.  I am totally bummed--I kept hoping that since he had searched us out when our house wasn't even on the market, he was seriously interested and would decide to buy the house.  We weren't even thinking about selling the house, but once that idea was on the table and I did all the research, I really felt like it was the best possible outcome for us.  So without this buyer, it's back to the rental market we go...and our current tenants are moving out at the end of this month!  We don't have a lot of time to market and get new folks in, so that means we'll probably be carrying our entire mortgage payment along with our rent for this house for at least a month or two...a little stressful.  The interested buyer did indicate that he might be in a better position to buy something next year, so maybe we'll have another shot at this next year?  I won't hold my breath this time!

Third, my first week using my new cleaning schedule went well (and I've been almost 100% sticking to it...I didn't get the floors Swiffered on Friday...), although I already have some changes I think I need to make for next month.  I was up and down to the basement doing tons of laundry today, and I wasn't able to get it all put away or even folded--so I'm thinking that perhaps I should wash the loads on Sundays and spend Mondays folding and putting away?  I'm not sure, since my other laundry day right now is Thursday--and Thursday and Sunday are pretty close to each other.  I may have to shift laundry days entirely, or be more productive on Mondays--ha!  My in-laws came by the house on Saturday and my mother-in-law commented on how clean the house looked--which makes me think the cleaning schedule has been great, and also that apparently I didn't clean well enough for their previous visits...

my new scale--pretty, huh?

Fourth, I went back and revisited my Challenge #2 Outline post, because I've been failing some of those objectives a bit.  My midnight bedtime has crept back to 1am, which is not good--I love 8 hours of sleep!  And I think I need it, especially since I'm exercising and a lot busier during my days lately...and therefore, a lot more tired.  So I needed the reminder that midnight is my cut off time!  I've also been eating some after 8pm--Dan and I will eat fruit while we watch TV shows, and my new favorite nighttime treat is a banana dipped in melted chocolate!  So at least I'm not eating cupcakes and cookies on the couch, but I still need to make those late-night snacks fewer and farther between--every once in a while is okay, but not every night.  I also have been slacking a little bit on my water intake--I haven't been hitting my 64 ounces a day...and some days, not even close.  I know that's not helping me on the weight-loss front, so I need to be more cognizant of my water throughout the day.  And now that I'm doing these exercise classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I haven't felt the urgency to work out on other days--but I think exercising 4 days a week isn't too much to ask.  I need to do something on my own at least one day a week--either my treadmill, or some strength training...even the stairs!  I just need to suck it up and add another day of exercise to my routine.  I am doing a really great job with my WebMD food journal--everything I eat goes in that thing!  I also measure everything I eat at home, so I'm achieving that objective as well.  I just need to step up my game and keep myself on track.  I've been sucked into weighing myself more frequently as well, which is so bad for my self-esteem...that scale just seems to call out to me...  So I need to restrict myself to only stepping on the scale on Sundays again, if only for my sanity.

will I become a crock pot convert?

And finally, I have to give a shout out to my awesome friend Julie.  Julie and I have been friends since we both tried out for our middle school cheerleading squad--we made the team, and have been friends ever since!  She was one of my bridesmaids at our wedding, and we were so fortunate to live in Ohio in the same city with her while Dan was in law school--she and I had many ice cream dates, and she was at the hospital when Abby was born.  :)  She is now married with a beautiful little girl of her own, and she has been a huge supporter of me in this blog endeavor.  She surprised the heck out of me today when a package from her (by way of Amazon) showed up on my doorstep--inside is a crock pot!  She told me to consider it a contribution to my Good Housewife Project.  :)  So cool and thoughtful--now I need to figure out how to use it!  Thank you, Julie!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Challenge #2: 4 Weeks Down

Today is the beginning of Week 5 of my Challenge #2 to get healthy--that means I'm 4 weeks down!  It doesn't seem like it's been that long, which I guess is a good thing--but I also don't feel a lot differently than I did 4 weeks ago.  Yesterday was weigh-in day, and I weighed 156.4--another 1.6 pound weight-loss week, although it felt like a lot less (more on that below!).  I ran my height and weight through the WebMD BMI Calculator again to see how much progress I have made in 4 weeks, and I've gone down 1.3 points on the BMI scale (from 28.9 to 27.6)--I'm still well above the healthy BMI for my weight (18.5 to 24.9), but those 1.3 points on the BMI scale seem kind of big...a lot bigger than the 6.6 pounds I've lost since I started this Challenge.  I'm averaging a loss of 1.65 pounds a week.

This weekend was not a good showing on the Challenge front, and I was feeling discouraged about it...still am a little bit.  Friday was a crazy day--I drove the boys out to my parents' house for a sleepover, and my mom had baked her famous chocolate chip cookies...she didn't think they tasted quite right because she just got a new mixer, so of course, I offered to taste test them for her.  Five cookies later, and obviously they tasted fine to me!  I'm always well below my calories on Zumba days, so I figured I could afford those 5 cookies...and I could have, if I hadn't already been planning to splurge Friday night.  The boys were spending the night at my parents' house because Dan and Abby had a Daddy-Daughter Ball to go to on our military installation, and I had Zumba followed by a girls' night out at a friends' house at the same time as the Ball, so no one was going to be home with the boys.  I dropped them off, ate cookies, drove back home, completed the tasks on my cleaning schedule, helped Abby get ready for the Ball, went to Zumba, got a shower, and headed out again to my friends' house for her girls' night.  My wonderful friend Ana (the Zumba instructor I've written about previously) hosts a girls' night every 2 months or so, and it's one of the few times I get out socially--not only is it a lot of fun with a nice group of girls, but my friend Ana makes a fabulous chocolate-peanut butter pretzel concoction that I typically devour.  I knew I couldn't resist it, so I planned to eat some, but not as much as usual.  I think I accomplished my goal of not eating as much, but that's only because I previously ate a massive amount...and Friday night, I only ate a semi-massive amount.  Yeah, I felt stuffed and like I was rolling out of there at the end of the night--I used to be fat and happy after girls' night, but Friday, I felt guilty and kinda bummed at myself.  I shouldn't have eaten those cookies earlier in the day, so I could have enjoyed the chocolate pretzels without beating myself up as much!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pretzel Bark -- aka, my crack

So that was Friday night, and then Saturday was my sister's annual Valentine Party for all the kids in our family.  My mom made the cookies, of course, as well as cupcakes and a gorgeous heart-shaped cake with chocolate frosting.  I brought my own apple for lunch, thinking that the snacks and treats out on the counter were going to be lunch for everyone else, so I ate my apple and was pretty pleased with myself for avoiding the chips and pretty much everything except for the carrots...until the pizza was delivered for lunch an hour later.  Boo!  I thought we were doing pizza for dinner, so my whole game plan was off.  I ate two slices of super greasy pizza, and then everyone had cake, so I ate a small piece of that as well.  It was definitely a small piece, but after consuming so many ill-advised calories before 3pm, I kind of just wanted to hide in a corner and cry.  It's really hard to be in the real world, in situations that aren't really yours to totally control--yes, I could have skipped the pizza and the cake and that would have been in my control to do so...but I didn't.  I'm still working on this overindulging issue I have with food, obviously.

Sunday was better--I didn't have anything on the docket except my weekly grocery run, so I ate a light breakfast and my favorite chicken salad for lunch, and figured we would go to Panera for dinner.  Dan's parents came by with Dan's aunt and her boyfriend in the afternoon, just for a quick visit--and they generously brought Starbucks for both Dan and myself.  I don't drink coffee, and I have a negative response to Starbucks in general because of Dan's addiction to it and the massive money suck it is in our daily life, but I do have a soft spot for vanilla steamers...  I wasn't planning on those calories in my day, but I drank it anyway--my in-laws were so sweet to bring it to me, and I was cold...nothing is better than a nice warm drink when it's cold outside!  When we went to Panera last night, I modified my typical order to reduce the calories--instead of getting a baguette, I got an apple on the side...and then I didn't even eat it because the kids all wanted it, so I cut it up for them!  The kids wanted dessert when we got home from dinner, and my mom had sent some of her cookies home with us, so I gave one each to the kids...and then proceeded to eat three myself.  It's typical self-sabotaging behavior that I need to figure out how to overcome--I was feeling down about my high-calorie weekend, and I justified more calories by just saying "What's 400 more?" to myself.  They were delicious, but I probably could have stopped at one, you know?

if only it were that simple!

So even though I've lost 6.6 pounds since this Challenge began, I'm feeling like the progress is slow and I haven't defeated my food demons just yet--they are hard habits to break, and the internal dialogue is hard to change.  I don't feel like I look any differently, although Dan said the other day that my face seems I guess that's something.  I just need to buck up and get back on the wagon--no more destructive weekends!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two Places at Once

Being part of a military family my whole life, I'm used to not being where I want to be when major life events happen.  My friends are far-flung around the country, and often, so is our family.  I remember getting a phone call when my nephew was born in Virginia, and I was living down in Texas--I had been fortunate to be visiting Virginia for the births of my three nieces, so hearing the news of my nephew over the phone, knowing that my whole family was together for that happy occasion, made me homesick in a way I hadn't experienced before.  I know there will be more instances of homesickness in the future, as Dan's career takes us all over the world.

I've also had the feeling that I'm not as portable as I once was since I had kids--Dan and I could do all the things that couples without children do (go out to dinner often, go to the movies, travel), and I was free to come and go if I needed to.  When I wanted some time with my friends (even the ones far away), I made it happen.  Before Dan and I got married, I desperately wanted to see my other best friend, Kerry, who lives in Massachusetts, so she and I planned a long weekend getaway to Dallas in 2002--the place where our friendship really blossomed when we lived together while we interned at the MADD National Office.  Our friendship is kind of funny, in that she and I have never lived in the same place, save for that crazy summer of 2000 in Texas.  She was my sounding board during Dan's first deployment in 2003, flying to Virginia to spend my birthday with me that year (and go to a Counting Crows concert!).  She was my maid of honor at our wedding in 2004, and came to Virginia for countless wedding events that year, which was so special to me since I don't get to see her that often.  I cried pulling away from our wedding reception because I had to say goodbye to all my bridesmaids, who had come from various states, and with whom I never got to spend any time all together.  Kerry has been my female lifeline--Dan holds the spot in my heart as my husband and titular Best Friend, but Kerry and I have a bond almost like sisters.  She and I tell each other everything in our lives, can talk for hours if we get the opportunity (which is rare!), and it never seems like we've been apart for long at all when we're able to visit each other.  We just pick up where we've left off, and no matter what, we know each other's backstory.  She has been there for me during some of the darkest times in my life, and really defines what a good friend and good person should be.

my girls at my wedding--Brynne, Kerry, Julie, and Daya

Since Dan and I got married, I've felt bad that I can't get to Kerry as easily as she can get to me--it always seems like the burden to visit falls on her.  Dan and I flew to Boston for a whirlwind weekend in 2005 (for business, but we did get to spend time with Kerry and meet her then-new boyfriend--a first for me, since I had never gotten to meet anyone in her life in person before!), and Kerry came out to Ohio to celebrate my 25th birthday with me that year as well.  She flew to Virginia in 2007 to meet Abby, and again in 2009 to meet Jake.  When Dan deployed in 2010, Kerry flew to Ohio to be my date to a friend's wedding so that I wouldn't have to go alone.  After the deployment was over, I asked Dan if I could leave for a weekend to go to Kerry--something I had never been able to do, since the kids and our family usually keep me home.  I flew to Boston in March of 2011, and had the best time--when she asked me what I wanted to do while I was there, I asked her to take me to Worcester to see all her old haunts from high school that I had heard so much about, and so that I could meet her parents for the first time!  Our most recent visit was this past summer, when she flew here and spent a few days with the kids and me--my kids adore their honorary Aunt Kerry!

Kerry and Abby in July 2007

Kerry meeting Jake for the first time in 2009
my wedding date in 2010--I was super pregnant with Alex!

Kerry with the kids this past summer

Today, I'm overwhelmed with the desire to be someplace I'm not--in Massachusetts, with Kerry.  She's having some health issues, and even though her boyfriend (the same one I first met back in 2005!) is there with her, I'm her best friend...when I got her text this morning, I just wanted to get on a plane and get there.  It's so hard to balance this feeling with my responsibilities here at home--I'm super anxious waiting to hear any news, and I just wish I could see her.  I know a visit from me would take her mind off things, and I so wish I could give that to her right now.  I can't--Dan has work, we have family plans, and the kids have a lot going on this weekend, so I can't just pick up and leave, even though I desperately want to.  She would do the same for me--she would be here in a heartbeat if I needed her.  I would love to sit on the couch with her, watch cheesy television, and just be there.  So instead, while I've been waiting for news today, I did laundry, dusted the upstairs, and wrote this blog to help me put my fears out of my mind and keep me busy.  She just texted to say she is on her way home from the hospital, and I am super relieved!  It doesn't get rid of my desire to be there, but at least now I can tell her how much I'm thinking about her...and start planning our next visit!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Lemon-Thyme Chicken

I decided last night was the night to tackle the new Lemon-Thyme Chicken recipe, since Tuesdays are the only weeknight that isn't rushed for us these days--I have my exercise classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Abby has gymnastics on Thursday evenings.  My new cleaning schedule called for me to wipe down the bathrooms, so I wanted to tackle that at the beginning of naptime, and then start some of the prep work for the new recipe.  I figured Dan would come home from work and we would work together in the kitchen to get the meal done, but I wanted to get the ball rolling and study the recipe a bit so that I would know what I was doing a little better than I did with the Miso Steak recipe!  I got the three bathrooms done in about 20 minutes--I wiped down the counters pretty quickly, but I did a fairly good clean of each toilet...since Jake uses the bathroom on his own, there's a lot of toilet touching, and it can't hurt to have those be clean!  Then I set to working on the dinner prep--it was about 2:45pm when I pulled up the recipe and started figuring out what I needed to do.

The recipe calls for sliced shallots.  I have never cooked with a shallot before (gee, are you surprised?), and I honestly didn't know what they were when I was looking for them at the commissary.  I pulled them out of my fridge yesterday (not even entirely sure they should have been in the fridge?), and had absolutely no clue what to do with them at that point.  Cue Google!  "How to slice a shallot" gave me a step-by-step how-to involving slicing the shallot in half length-wise, then cutting off the non-root end, and then peeling off the skin and slicing it.  I guess I didn't really realize that a shallot is part of the onion family (I read that it was somewhere between onion and garlic...which made me think it was not an onion), but oh man--was it like an onion!  I was tearing up and terribly uncomfortable while I was cutting--I kept thinking that I've seen a remedy for onions causing tears, but I couldn't think of it off hand, so I just cried.  I was talking to my mom on the phone, and I do believe I said, "Why on earth does anyone cook?!?" at some point during the crying episode.  It really was uncomfortable!  When I finally stopped crying, I moved on to the garlic--I bought a bunch of cloves at the commissary, not really knowing how much I would need.  I was trying to figure out how to cut garlic when my own mother, the Original Good Housewife herself, informed me that she had never cut garlic before--she said, "I took one look at garlic cloves when I was younger, said to myself, 'Well, that looks too complicated!' and bought garlic flakes in a jar instead.  Much easier!"  Huh--I didn't realize that my make-everything-from-scratch mother had her own short cuts!  Good to know...  I forged ahead with the garlic cutting--neither my mom nor I realized that each head of garlic contains something like 10 cloves, and it's the cloves you need to get to before you start cutting.  You also apparently have to smash the garlic before cutting it to make the skin fall off easier--that part was kind of fun!

cutting garlic, with a little help from Google

When I cut up enough garlic, I went to work on the zucchini--the recipe called for using my vegetable peeler to make long strings of zucchini, which I thought was kind of cool.  Dan isn't a fan of zucchini and didn't realize it was in this recipe (even though I told him before I bought everything...grrr), so I was hoping he had forgotten about the zucchini disagreement and the long strings would throw him off.  Then I prepped the meat--I don't own a meat tenderizer, so I got out some frustration by punching the chicken with my fists!  I guess I made a ton of noise, because Jake was upstairs in his room (not sleeping) yelling, "Mommy!  What's that sound?"  Somehow I didn't wake Alex up, and he was in the room right next to me--my dear third child who sleeps through everything.  I cleaned up my big mess, washed a few dirty pans that were in the sink, and was done with my pre-dinner prep right when Dan brought Abby in from the school bus at 4:45pm--2 hours after I started this project.  Clearly whoever wrote this recipe and said that the prep time would take 5 minutes forgot to include an important ingredient--namely, the extra 30 people needed to prep the food that quickly.

Dan is not feeling well, so when he came in the door, he wanted to just lie down on the couch...usually when cooking is involved, he doesn't want to give me the reigns, so I was surprised when he bowed out of any involvement.  I did want to cook it myself, since I had already devoted so much time and effort, but I was also kind of hoping for a little help...just to manage the time and the table and everything.  But I pushed forward, sauteing the edamame, shallots, and grape tomatoes:

I was pretty proud of myself--usually Dan handles the sauteing!

The finished veggie product included the zucchini, and I even served it out of Dan's favorite ridiculous bamboo bowl that he desperately (and randomly) wanted one year for Christmas:

looks good, but I still wasn't sure how it would taste

When the veggies were done, I moved on to the chicken, which I had cut into smaller pieces.  I had a lot of chicken to cook--probably more than the recipe called for, but I wanted to have some left over for dinner tonight (because my husband loves leftovers--NOT!).  It took longer to cook the chicken in the pan because I had so many pieces of chicken, but eventually it was all done, and Dan got up in time to help me get plates out and get everything ready.  Here's my plate before I dug in!

Lemon-Thyme Chicken

I thought the thyme flavor was a bit strong for my taste, but Dan seemed to really like the meal (minus the zucchini, which suspiciously ended up still on his plate when he was all done), and Abby actually declared that I am the best chef in the house--ha!  :)  That made me smile--our sweet girl will try anything, and likes almost everything.  Jake freaked out about the veggies and wasn't a fan of the chicken flavor, but did manage to eat most of his chicken after some coaxing.  He was in tears, though, so I wouldn't call that a success.  Alex was super excited and played with his edamame--at one point, he was putting them to bed on his lap--but he never actually ate any of the food (not a shocker).  I even tried the are-you-eating-my-dinner trick, which has been working like a charm up until this meal, but he just smiled and said, "You eat it, Mommy!" while offering me his full plate.  Sigh.  So it wasn't the best family meal, but I was still really proud of myself for stepping WAY out of my comfort zone--cooking, cooking unfamiliar foods, and eating those unfamiliar foods!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The New Maid

I wish I was making an announcement about the new cleaning lady who'll be coming over to our house once a week...but alas, the cleaning lady is still plain old me, upgraded to Maid 2.0 with a new plan of action.  After our big clean of the house this past weekend, I really, really wanted to get crackin' on the cleaning schedule.  I intended to create one after the last big clean...but it didn't happen.  So I set to work on that yesterday, and after some searching, I found a template that I thought could work for me.  This isn't the first cleaning schedule I've created--my first one was scribbled hastily on a scrap piece of paper, and it stayed in my nightstand drawer for a few moves.  Why was it in my nightstand drawer, you ask?  Because I wrote it after I went to bed late one night, when inspiration hit me and I thought, "I need a cleaning schedule to make life more manageable!"  I crawled out of bed, found a scrap of paper and a pen, and wrote out the bare bones of a plan.  I want to say that was at least 4 years ago?  In case you couldn't guess, a piece of paper shoved in my nightstand has not at all helped me keep my house clean.  That first attempt at a cleaning schedule (and all my research since that has unfortunately not resulted in anything concrete) was at least a little helpful in that it gave me some direction when creating my new, improved cleaning schedule:

it looks good, so I'm hopeful that it's functional as well!

As you can see, the schedule is already hanging on my fridge, right next to our calendar.  I'm hopeful that checking the schedule will become part of my morning routine, so I'll know what's on the docket for the day.  I tried to give myself a lighter load earlier in the week, because Mondays are short days for Abby at school (which therefore cuts into my naptime hours to get anything done), and Tuesdays are busy with Jake's gymnastics in the morning.  I'm not sure how only doing laundry twice a week is going to work out--I will probably have to add extra loads here and there since Dan has a habit of springing things on me (like, "Honey, I'm going to bed since it's almost midnight...oh, I meant to tell you that I spilled coffee all down the front of my uniform today, so I need it to be washed before tomorrow..."), but if I can make it work on Mondays and Thursdays, I'll be pleasantly surprised.  I don't know if you can see the detail of my schedule from that picture, but I put certain tasks in bold font--those are the "deep clean" tasks, and I tried to space them out so that I do light cleaning most days, with one day a week devoted to a deep clean in one area of the house (bathrooms, kitchen, floors, etc).  Hopefully this will keep me from having to "company clean," which has been my ad hoc cleaning schedule for the last few years...and we don't have company over nearly enough to keep this house clean on a regular basis!

The Company Clean--my previous haphazard approach!

I'm sure I've forgotten some crucial things that should be on the schedule, so I will tweak it this month and have a better product next month.  The stars must have aligned to make the timing right on me finally setting up a schedule--yesterday was the first Monday of the month, and I was able to start my schedule on Week 1, Day 1.  That totally pleases the OCD in me!  :)  I had done laundry on Sunday (not knowing my new schedule would call for Monday laundry), so I spent yesterday doing a few more loads, as well as folding and putting it all away!  I know this will make Dan happy--I think one of his least favorite things is overflowing laundry baskets all over the floor.  So I've already checked off the tasks of one day, and the sense of accomplishment I derived from checking them off will definitely keep me on schedule.  Hooray for my new cleaning schedule!  Please tell me I'm not the only person who gets excited about stuff like this!  :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Watching my Weight

Because I know you all were curious, I was able to find edamame with no problem at the commissary yesterday!  So it wasn't me--it was the fact that they were out of stock when I was looking for it the other day...phew.  I was starting to feel kind of dumb after numerous people informed me that the commissary does in fact carry edamame.  I knew I was tired on that shopping trip, but not that tired...  So perhaps that Lemon-Thyme chicken will be on the docket this week!

Yesterday was weigh-in day, and a true weight assessment from my new scale.  Last week, I weighed 159.6 on my new scale.  This week, I weighed 158.  Since the start of the Challenge 21 days ago, I've lost 5 pounds--that's 1.67 pounds a week.  Not quite 2 pounds a week, but I think I'm doing a decent job--and hey, any loss is good in my book!  I'm getting excited about the prospect of getting under 150 in a month of so (hopefully)--I haven't been under 150 since Dan came home for his 2-week R&R from Iraq in September 2010.  I can't remember what I weighed then exactly, but I'm pretty sure it was under 150--maybe 148?  I don't know, but that's the last time I recall feeling really good about how I looked.

that's funny--I usually find my weight in the pantry
I didn't have a disastrous weekend on the Challenge, mostly because we didn't go anywhere with dangerous foods.  I spent 8 hours cleaning the house on Saturday--it desperately needed the cleaning, and we had friends over Saturday evening, so I wanted the house to be in good shape.  Cleaning burns a lot of calories!  Sunday, I had to do my requisite commissary shop in a record-short amount of time because Jake had a make-up gymnastics class and I needed to get home so that Dan could take him--even with finding the edamame, I was in and out in 45 minutes.  The rest of Sunday was for relaxing--I was pretty tired after my cleaning Saturday, so I sat down to watch reruns of Law & Order during naptime (Jack McCoy gets me every time!  Love me some Sam Waterston...).  Since it wasn't a DVR'd show (my usual), I couldn't fast-forward the commercials--and I ended up seeing a commercial for WeightWatchers.  Now, I'm relatively new to the whole calorie-counting thing, and I know WeightWatchers is supposed to be really easy and really great, but their whole point system confuses me.  I was wondering how adhering to their point system could be easier than just plain old counting calories when the name "WeightWatchers" struck me as kind of funny.  I know it's an idiom, as in, "Oh, I can't eat that--I'm watching my weight," but I can't figure out why "watching your weight" became a euphemism for trying to lose weight.  When I'm watching my kids all day, I'm usually not trying to lose one of them.  It seems to me that when you're not watching things, that's when you tend to lose them (at least, that would be the case with kids, keys, and anything else important).  So how watching your weight can make you lose pounds is a confusing concept for me--usually when I watch something closely, I don't notice a difference (a watched pot never boils comes to mind--although that idiom doesn't ring true, either, because if that pot is sitting over high heat, it will eventually boil no matter who is watching!).  I was watching my weight before this Challenge--yep, I was watching it go up.  I did a pretty deep google search, and could not come up with an origin for this particular phrase--I have no idea why "watching my weight" came to mean trying to lose weight.  My best guess is that some enterprising woman decided that it was a more polite and discrete way to tell folks she was on a diet.


So yeah, this time around, I'm trying to watch my weight go down, and I'm trying to watch my mouth to make sure ice cream doesn't enter too often.  The kids are most distraught over that last point--last night, Jake said, "Please can we go somewhere for dessert?  We haven't been to ColdStone in a long time...or Dairy Queen.  I love Dairy Queen, Mommy!"  Me too, too.  I guess I just don't feel safe enough to walk into an ice cream shop yet--could I trust myself to order a kid's sized Peanut Butter Cup Perfection at ColdStone, or a mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Blizzard at DQ?  I don't know the answer to that yet.  And even those small sizes aren't good for me--don't worry, I'm not fooling myself!  We will go back again eventually, because life isn't life without the occasional splurge, but I don't know if my willpower is strong enough for that kind of assault just yet!

As an aside, I've decided that I should have been an English major in college, and my senior paper would have been titled something like this:  "American Colloquialisms:  The Origin of Idioms and Their Continued Use Long After Meaning is Lost."  It would have been a page-turner.  Ha!