How about that Sugar Detox?

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Who quits sugar at the end of the school year when cupcakes abound and thank you gifts are full of chocolate and other amazingly delicious treats appear before your eyes? This girl. Right here. That’s me. Timing is not always my strong suit.

I wanted to fill you in on how the first week without sweets went for me. One word. Amazing! I’m serious. I didn’t want any of it. None. I even brought my favorite cupcakes to a retirement party, took home the leftovers over night, and returned them to work the next day without binging on them while I got caught up on Scandal. It’s amazing to me how one little pink drink can have that much effect on my cravings.

From the very first day I drank Plexus I simply didn’t want sugar anymore. I poured that little packet of pink powder in a glass of water before I ate breakfast and the rest is history. So what next? Continue reading “How about that Sugar Detox?”

Summer Slow Down

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All together now….ahhhhhh. That is the collective sigh of all the teachers in my area. School is out for summer. We have a few work days to do, but that’s nothing. There is something really special about being surrounded by adults, eating at your own pace, and using the bathroom when the mood strikes. It’s so refreshing! If you’re a teacher and you aren’t out yet, hang in there. The end is near.

This year has been fuller than usual. I’ve been trying hard to grow myself as a teacher leader and exploring what that might mean. That meant some extra time away from my family and not a lot of time for myself. Recently some opportunities have been brought to my attention that I have been thinking on, praying on, ranting on (thank you to my family and friends for tolerating that). I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure to make some decisions about the direction I want my career to take. I thought I knew exactly what I was doing. I was going to take a summer position that would allow me to experience being an administrator and then in the fall I was going back to school AGAIN to get my endorsement in administration. And then all of a sudden I wasn’t.

It all started with some ice cream. This weekend my daughter and I spent some time together, just the two of us. We went places on a whim and had long conversations about nothing (she’s four, the conversations are truly about nothing). At one point when we were leaving the gym she asked for ice cream. In the spirit of the weekend I said yes. Then she asked if we could walk there. I almost said no, but I stopped and thought to myself why not? Let me tell you. When she put her hand in mine and told me how much she loved to just walk with me, I could have cried. We followed the cracks in the sidewalk and talked about the clouds and my heart was so full. I kept thinking to myself, I almost missed this. If I had been in a rush, I would have missed this.

So when I went in today for the last official work day of the year I knew what I had to do. I put all those opportunities on hold. You see, time is moving fast. There will come a day when she doesn’t want to hold my hand anymore. A time will come when she wants ice cream with her friends and she’ll ask me to just drop them off there instead of coming inside. But today all she wants to do is walk with me and talk about clouds. And I can’t say no to that. The opportunities will always be there in one way or another, but I’ll never get this summer back.

So teachers, mamas, and especially the teacher mamas I hope you can see the summer for the gift that it is. Take a little time for yourself. Slow down. Take a breath. Follow the cracks in the sidewalk. Hold a little hand. Recharge your soul and reconnect with the ones you love. The time to work hard comes again quickly. But for now, just say yes to slowing down.

Christmas Cards as Prayer Reminders

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I love photo Christmas cards. Every year around the holidays I eagerly check the mailbox and find my friends and their families smiling back at me. The pictures are lovely and it genuinely warms my heart to know they have thought of our family and wanted to share a little piece of themselves with us at Christmas.

As a side note, I don’t send Christmas cards. I always imagined I would be that kind of person, but I have never been able to get myself together enough to make it happen. I hate to admit it, but we’ve never even had a family portrait done, much less put on on a card! Maybe one day….

So anyway, as the holidays end and I am rushing to de-Christmas my house I always feel a little sad about taking those Christmas cards down. This year I decided to come up with something to do with them that would be meaningful all year. I decided to hang all of mine in the laundry room. Let’s face it, it’s the one room of the house where I am usually alone and can have a moment to think. Each time I am doing a load of clothes, I choose a few families from the wall and pray for them. If there is something major going on in their lives that I know about, I specifically pray for that. If not, then I just pray generally for their family and their health. It might seem a little strange to see all my friends taped above my washing machine, but I don’t typically take guests in there so it’s rarely seen.

If you look around on the internet you’ll find lots of ideas for ways to store Christmas cards and use them as reminders to pray. I can’t take credit for the laundry room idea, but sadly I can’t remember where I read it either.  I pulled a few other ideas together for you too in case you don’t like the idea of your friends watching over your dirty laundry.

  • keep them in a pretty box and pull them out while you pray
  • punch a hole in them and connect them with an O ring
  • stash them in your Bible
  • store them in a dollar store photo album and flip through occasionally to pray
  • place them in a large jar and pull them out one per day
  • place them in an envelope and pull them out one per day
  • glue the heads of each person to a popscicle stick and have your kids help you pull one out each night and pray together for that person

I love the idea of saving the cards and I could really use the reminder to pray for others. So often I find myself centering on my own family or praying for others only when there is an urgent need. This one little change is making me much more mindful of my prayers.

Do you have any ideas for old Christmas cards? Or for prayer reminders?

What Do You Need to Start Over?

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Change is hard. You know what else is hard? When you go backwards. I mentioned recently that I was trying to get myself back on track after taking quite a break from my typically healthy lifestyle. I’ve got the green smoothies going and I’m focusing on my health, but the part I’ve been dreading is heading back to the gym.

Why? What?! Sarah, you love all things fitness and exercise! It’s what fuels you! Well, sort of. Among other things. But here it is. I have a pretty major character flaw and I’m really coming to terms with this lately.

If I don’t think I’m going to be really good at something right away, I just won’t do it.

There I said it. Something that has been a burden on me for pretty much my whole life. If I have even the slightest fear that I may fail at something, there is a pretty good chance I won’t even give it a go. In most cases I can manage this flaw, even use it to my advantage, but there are times where I am starting to see it as crippling. This was one of those times.

I like to do Crossfit and run. I like lifting really heavy things over and over. I like having the ability to use a small amount of gymnastic skill and do pretty neat stuff at the gym. I really like lifting really heavy things. But the problem with taking time off is that those skills and strengths can fade quickly if they aren’t used. When you take time off, you simply aren’t able to do what you know you could do before. And that feels like failure. So the longer I took off, the harder it was to tell myself I could do it again, and the harder it was to go back.

But in the spirit of getting myself together, I sucked it up and hit the gym today. After all, this is the place where I first learned to fight that fear of failure. This is the only place where I allow myself to try and fail and try again. This was the place I went from unable to do a sit up after my baby was born to full-blown, tough-girl pull-ups.

I wish I could tell you a story of triumph. I wish I had hopped back in there and never missed a beat. The fact is, I quit the workout halfway through after having been at it for an hour. That workout was a beast and I had dinner to cook and my kid was missing me and blah, blah, blah. The point is that today I stepped outside my comfort zone again and did something hard.

And you know what I found out?  There were a lot of people waiting there, happy to see me make a come back, cheering me on, and understanding the struggle. A friend gave me a necklace with the Southside Power and Endurace Company logo on it that she had been holding for me during my hiatus. She was hanging on to some of my other stuff for me too. She knew I’d be back, they all did.

Starting over can be just as hard as starting in the first place. But you can do it. I promise. What is it in your life that you’d like to get back to, but you’re just scared? Go for it. You’ve got this.

And if you don’t have someone waiting for you, holding your stuff, hand it over to me. We’ve got this.

Get Back on Track with Green Smoothies

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Full disclosure. I try to live a healthy lifestyle. I resist processed food. We raise our own chickens for eggs and meat. But every year when the weather starts to cool and the days shorten so does my my willpower.  As work gets busy and the holidays approach it becomes easier to stop planning and just wing it. As always, that leads to poor choices.  It happened again this year, as it always does.  By Halloween my healthy eating was out the window and my gym days became few and far between. By Thanksgiving I hadn’t been hitting the gym at all and the sniffles were creeping up on everyone in my family. By Christmas we were all full blown sick and just living the days to make it to bedtime.

But New Year’s Day always brings with it a time of renewal. I don’t set resolutions exactly, but it does always seem like a perfect time to pick myself up from the floor and get back at it.

One of the easiest ways to make my health a priority again is by incorporating daily green smoothies. Greens can be tough to get in the diet when you’re eating on the go. Putting them into smoothies allows me to have them as a quick breakfast or snack.

If you’re interesting in getting on track along with me, you should check out Simple Green Smoothies. Their website is packed full of tips and recipes and their thirty day challenge begins January 1st. To get in on this great thirty day experiment, all you have to do is sign up! It’s totally free! You get recipes for thirty days worth of smoothies including easy to use shopping lists! I do their challenges periodically  and I have to say that by half way through the month, I really do feel a difference in my well-being. I hope you’ll join me and let me know how it’s going along the way!

Do you already drink smoothies? Do you put greens in them or are you strictly into fruit smoothies? (If you haven’t tried greens in your smoothies yet, you’ll be amazed at these recipes. You can’t taste the green!)

5 Steps to Take Down Christmas

 

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The presents are unwrapped and your belly is full of ham and sweets and all the Christmas goodies. The new toys are scattered across the floor and you keep stepping on little pieces.  The joyous hum of Christmas is fading into the background and reality is setting back in. You have to go back to work. There are a lot of boxes to put in the trash. There is glitter on everything…and pine needles.

The tradition in our house is to put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving, and take it down the day after Christmas. A month is long enough for me, though I know many people like to stretch the holidays a bit longer. If you are like me and want to de-Christmas your house as fast as possible, here are a few quick steps to get it done.

  1. Occupy the kids. This should be easy with new Christmas toys. You would think. I suggest you try to contain them in one room. I find that if I don’t do this, the Christmas decorations come out of the box as fast as I put them in. There’s nothing more frustrating than putting it all away and then finding rolls of ribbon unraveled across the family room floor.
  2. Throw out the old and ruined. If you have strings of lights that are half out and ornaments that are broken do yourself a favor and let it go (cue song in your head now- sorry it’s been playing out of every new toy in my house this weekend). Take care of this before you pack things away and you’ll save storage space and make next year a lot easier on yourself.
  3. Take stock of what you have. Now is a great time to hit the stores and replace those things you threw away. The stores slash prices 50-75% after Christmas. I know Christmas decorations are the LAST thing you want to spend your Christmas cash on, but you’re going to want them next year and then you’ll have to pay full price. If you just can’t bring yourself to do it, take note of all the things you’ll need to buy next year and write it all down. Store the list with your decorations so that when you unpack next year and begin to decorate there won’t be any last minute runs to the store to pick up six more strands of lights.
  4. Invest in proper storage. I used to shove everything into one big box as fast as possible and get it out of sight. Taking a few minutes to separate and store things properly will make a huge difference in next year’s Christmas spirit. We purchased a tree storage box with wheels last year and it really helped! I have also used bags like this. We have three trees, so I place the ornaments from each tree in separate boxes to avoid confusion. These boxes would  be perfect.
  5. Clean it up! You’re already sweaty and now the house is a disaster area. Go ahead and give it a thorough cleaning. Vacuum away the sparkles and pine needles and cookie sprinkles that are hiding in the corners. Scrub the germs left by house guests out of the bathrooms. Put away the new clothes and clean old leftovers out of the fridge. Finish the year with a fresh space and set the tone for a new one.

Christmas is so full of fun and magic, but it feels pretty good to pack it all away and start fresh again.

What tips do you have for me to speed up the de-Christmasing process?

Christmas Magic

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My three year old daughter is afraid of the dark. When she wakes in the middle of the night I hear her little feet scrambling across the hallway, heading to me through the darkness as fast as she can go. On rainy mornings, when the curtains are drawn, she won’t get out of bed without me.

But this morning I felt her rise early before the sun. She crept out of the bed without a word and tiptoed into the dark family room. My husband and I watched to see if she’d make the trip alone. I called out to ask what she was doing (though I already knew). She quickly ran back and whispered to me, “Mommy, Santa’s been here and he remembered exactly what I asked for! Come see!”

Sometimes all we need is a little magic to help us overcome our fears.

A little belief in something bigger than ourselves can carry us through the darkness.

 That’s my wish for you as this Christmas season comes to a close: that you’ll believe in something bigger than yourself, that you’ll let your Faith carry you through the darkness, and that your life will have even just a little bit of magic.

Merry Christmas! Many Blessings to you and yours!

 

A Tiny Adventure: Circling the Sun

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Have you ever found yourself so lost inside a book that when it ended you were stunned to find yourself here instead of there? Isn’t that the most wonderful feeling? I just returned from colonial Africa where I have been spending time with Beryl Markham and her band of glamorous expats. Well actually I was reading Circling the Sun by Paula McClain.  I love when a book is so well written that it engulfs all your senses. With this book, I swear to you had to brush the red African dust off my hands each time I finished reading.

Beryl Markham was a beautiful, willful woman who was raised in the wilds of Kenya. She became the first female licensed race horse trainer in Africa (and possibly the world) and also the first woman to fly across the Atlantic from east to west. Her life is filled with amazing adventures and stories of bravery and grit.  She lived a remarkable life, one that can tend to make other women feel small.

As I was reading her story, I was so moved by the greatness of her life. I imagined what it must have felt like to be a pioneer for women. I wondered at the pride she must have felt to have blazed the trail for all the women behind her. And then I admit I felt a little sad that I will never be that kind of woman. My path in life is not to have great adventures or fight injustice. Chances are I will never find myself in a situation where I need to be bold and daring and make history.

My life is a quiet service.

It’s easy to see others as more interesting. We can lose ourselves in the monotony of daily life. The endless mountains of laundry and dirty dishes, the schoolwork, the meetings, the weeknight dinners, and Saturday birthday parties. But we all serve a purpose. It’s God’s challenge to us to find it. It may not be to pioneer. We may be warriors in our own ways. Between the amazing adventures, Beryl Markham was also a wife, a mother, and a daughter. At some point, she had to make dinner for someone.

There is glory in the small things as well.

We can not know what path our life will take or the impact it will have on the world. We aren’t supposed to know. In reality, Beryl Markham’s life was riddled with controversy and her spirit never seemed to truly settle. I won’t have a life that inspires epic novels, but I have a family that loves me and I seem to have found my purpose. And that’s enough for me.

As for my taste for great adventure? Thank God for good books.

What have you read lately that got you thinking? Or maybe just got you lost?

Five Minute Friday: Seasons

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I’m linking up for Five Minute Friday. Write for five minutes, no edits, and see what comes out. It’s harder than it sounds. Today’s prompt was seasons.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Oh how true that is.  The Christmas season is one for love and for celebration, but today’s prompt has me thinking about the seasons of my life.  Each one has its challenges and blessings. Each one is an opportunity for growth and experience. With each season I surprise myself at how much more I have to learn.

In this season of life I am a mother to a young child, a wife that struggles to get it right, a daughter that is only now beginning to truly see through my own mother’s eyes, so many things.  This is a season of struggle, of constant juggling, of shortcomings and not enough to go around.  But it is also a season of understanding, of setting limits, and learning to say no.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

This season can be a difficult one, but I know all too well how quickly they change. Before I can blink she will be grown and I will have moved into a new season of life, a slower one with a little more silence and a little more solitude. Because as quickly as the seasons come, they go again and the world keeps turning. There will be a time when my husband and I can have a whole conversation, an uninterrupted hug, and a lazy morning in bed. Those days will come, but in this season we will embrace the chaos and the fast pace and learn all that we can before the seasons change again.

Suggested Trick or Treat Guidelines for Parents

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I overheard people talking during Trick or Treat last night about the appropriate ages for Trick or Treating. These are my thoughts, a few simple guidelines. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule and the joy of parenting is that you get to do whatever you want with your own kid, but after some observations I made last night here are my suggestions.

0-6 months: Dress them up and stroll them around. Everyone loves a baby. Do not collect candy. You aren’t fooling anyone. That baby is barely eating solid foods.

6-12 months: Dress them up and stroll them around and try to get creative with it. The candy is for you. You need to work for it. Pull them in a wagon that you’ve made to look like a car, carriage, spaceship etc. Dress yourself up as part of the theme for an added bonus to make people feel better about giving you candy.

1-4 years old: Go for it. Dress them up, follow them around and bask in the glory of producing that adorable little angel, pumpkin, monster, superhero, princess, spider. Parenting is hard. There should be perks. We all know you are going to split that candy 10/90 when they go to bed tonight. There’s no shame.

5-12 years old: Absolutely. This is what trick or treat is all about. Take them out, have a great time, and be prepared to swindle the candy out of them  when you get home. As they get older, you will have to be a little more stealthy to get ahold of that chocolate.

13 and older: This is a grey area. I personally don’t mind handing out candy to older kids in costume. I’m all for keeping them young as long as we can. But moms, I don’t want to see you driving around your 15 year old slutty nurse. More importantly, if your 16 year old shows up at my door with no costume and a Walmart bag I’m going to laugh at you.

What are your thoughts? Any other guidelines we should consider?