Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A Busy (But Abundant) Life Right Now

I thought I would just post a general update about life right now.  We have a lot going on around here.

I home school my kids. 

As many of you already know, I home school my kids.  This is my full time job and it keeps me very busy. I have many, many reasons why I teach my children myself, but the main reason is that I want to provide them with a great education. It has taken me years of work to redeem my own education and years of research to find out what I need to teach my kids, when they should learn it, how best to teach it and why, etc. I tutor them in many subjects myself. They are also taught by professional tutors with groups of their peers.  If you are interested, you can read about our home school at myeclectichomeschool.com Home schooling is very effective and rewarding, but it is very time-consuming.

"No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought up at home without a governess! -- I never heard of such a thing. Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.''
- Lady Catherine from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

I teach group fitness classes.

In addition to my full time job teaching my kids, I work part time teaching fitness classes. I have been teaching freestyle classes (where I make up my own choreography) for a while, but I was recently certified to teach Bodypump.  Bodypump workouts are my favorite workouts. They helped change my life.

For those of you who know about Bodypump, you will understand why I am excited to say that I get to help launch Bodypump 91 next weekend at one of the gyms where I work.  Myself and three other instructors will be teaching the workout together, taking turns coaching various tracks.  I get to teach the lunge and shoulder tracks, both of which are very fun and challenging to me, so I have been and will be learning those tracks this week during my spare time.  So my part job is keeping me busy but interested, too.  

I read a lot.

It was my goal to read C.S. Lewis' entire bibliography this year and I have done fairly well. To date, I have read almost all of his well known works.  Now I have moved on to reading his more obscure writings if you can call anything he wrote obscure.  This week, I started God in the Dock, a collection of his essays of theology and ethics.

I am also enjoying reading and discussing the Harry Potter books with my oldest daughter. When we finish a book, we watch the movie that goes with it. We don't watch a lot of movies or television around here. We just aren't interested or are busy doing other things.  But watching these movies as we finish the books feels like a real treat that we get to look forward to right now. 

I am a parent.

In addition to Harry Potter, last week, my oldest daughter and I also happened to be reading about the Israelite Exodus from Ancient Egypt and The Salem Witch Trials in American History. The combination of those three topics together created a bubbling concoction of interesting and lively conversations. We discussed the material world verses the supernatural, historical literature verses the fictional, and various religions and their practices and influence throughout the timeline and the world.  Wow! Those conversations were totally spontaneous, but they were some the highlights of my week as a parent.

My middle child is also making real progress in learning to read.  Teaching my kids to read is a great privilege and joy to me.  I also really enjoyed sitting close to my daughter and helping her read out of her phonics textbook and seeing her pride and joy as she read the simple words faster and with more and more ease. I got to hug her shoulders, kiss her head, and encourage her little heart as we sat and read together.  Those were other highlights of my week as a mom.

My husband is in graduate school.

And he's not just going through the motions so he can get a fancy certificate. He's really reading, thinking, planning, building, and learning etc. But that is taking a lot of his free time, a lot of the time we usually spend together as a couple or as a family. We believe the effort is going to be worth it because this education will make him better equipped for everything the Lord has and will call him to do in life. But right now, it often feels like a real challenge and a sacrifice.  But we are a team.

We attend and serve at church.

We are a part of a small group from our church. We do a lot of things with that group of friends like go to the beach, camp, and cookout. If you scroll back through my blog, you will see various posts about those things.  We also volunteer at our church's services is various ways and we host a youth Bible Study at our house.  My husband and I both went to college to learn to study and teach the Bible, so having a Bible study at our house has been a way to use that education and experience.  In all these things, we get to spend more time with the people who go to our church, our friends, and we get to know them all better and laugh a lot and challenge and encourage one another in faith and in life and that is a great joy and reward right now.

In all these good things: home schooling, grad school, reading, parenting, and service, we are kept very, very busy.  But Jesus said, "I have come that you may have life and that abundantly."  John 10:10

Sometimes I remind myself that this busy life is a blessing and proof that God is at work in and around me.  He is the source of all fervor, productivity, and liveliness.  His fingerprints are all over this happy mess of life that He gives. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Fitness Update

I'm trying not to be a total girl about gaining muscle mass. But it's definitely happening. For the first time since I started eating healthy and exercising, I am no longer losing size, but gaining it.

My quads no longer fit into my jeans.  Note: I don't call my thighs "thighs" anymore- I call them quads, because, well, that's what they are mostly. Actually, I call most of my body parts by their muscle name now.

And it isn't just my lower body.  My upper body is so much bigger than it was a few months ago that my shirts (with sleeves) aren't fitting well anymore.  They don't go down as far over my waist since they are being stretched around a bigger set of shoulders and a broader chest. When I lift my arms, they look way too short. 

I know guys are usually thrilled with this sort of thing, but it's messing with my head a little bit since I am a woman and culture says we aren't supposed to get bigger, etc.

I am trying to focus on my diet, getting as much nutrition as possible in every bite, having real foods, not processed "foods," and choosing my carbs wisely. I'd like all this new muscle to help burn off the fat that's still lingering around my waist. That way, I can be sure I am, at least, as small as possible.  But I plan to continue trying to gain strength.  

I am still enjoying my workouts, especially my Bodypump workouts. Those workouts remain my favorite.  I am trying to do three Bodypump/ weight lifting workouts, three cardio, and at least one day of stretching every week.

I praise God for the body I have even though it is not perfect. It's strong and it's getting stronger by God's grace. I credit God because I believe He made this natural world where my physical body can adapt to the demands I place on it. I also credit Him because He gave me the wisdom and motivation to start putting those natural processes to work to get healthier.

I consider every muscle fiber a gift from Him. Now my gift back to Him will be to continue using my strength to serve my family, my friends, and all the people who come to my fitness classes. I always hope those people will become my friends, too.   

Fitness is a journey and I am trying to enjoy every step. I am looking ahead and I have so many steps more that I want to take, but I want to take a moment now and be thankful for where I am right now and take a picture, of course.

I've already come a long way from where I started, but someday ahead I want to be able to look back at even this post and the picture above it and say once again, "Wow! I've come along way since then!"

By the grace of God, I want to keep going!

She girds herself with strength and makes her arms strong and senses that her gain is good.  Proverbs 31:17-18

If you want to read about my fitness journey from the beginning, click here.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A Productive Weekend

We had a very productive and restful weekend for which I am thankful. We needed it! 

After teaching Bodypump on Saturday morning, I came home and weeded my flower beds while my husband mowed the lawns and covered the garden with black fabric for the winter. He also cleaned and prepped our garage for winter, moving the snow blowers, shovels, etc. to the front and the lawn mowers, weed whackers, etc. to the back.

The girls and I also did a lot of needed cleaning and organizing inside as well.  It's amazing how much easier everything in life is when one has a well ordered house. 

We ate all our meals together around the table on Saturday so we had a lot of quality time together and in the evening, after dinner, we built our first fire of the season. The wood we were burning was all natural, so we made Smores inside, something we do as an exceptional treat.

Note: We make the girls take them to the kitchen and eat them around the table.  No way they are eating Smores anywhere near the couches!

By the end of the day Saturday, my ankle was killing me.  It's been sore early in the morning and late a night and with all the extra exercise, I taught twice as many classes as usual last week, it was really throbbing.  I put some Panaway on it and wrapped it and went to bed.   

On Sunday, I wanted to rest my ankle to see whether or not it would improve, so we stayed home from church. We all read a lot and relaxed.  I finished the first Harry Potter book, The Sorcerer's Stone, and C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed.  Perhaps that's a strange contrast in book choices, but I think all the heady non-fiction of Lewis has improved my appreciation for mere, enjoyable fiction like Potter.

Now, Monday morning, I feel refreshed and my ankle has greatly improved.  I was considering going to the doctor, but I think rest may have been all that was required.  Now I am looking forward to a week full of meaningful work followed by times of rest.  By the grace of God, both work and rest can be equally enjoyable, I find.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Bodypump Update

I've taught a lot of Bodypump classes at this point, but always as a sub for someone else's class. 

I have never been able to teach a class as the official, scheduled instructor. 

But that changes tomorrow. 

The Saturday class at my gym is on a rotation and a few instructors, including me, are taking turns teaching the Saturday class this fall and winter. 

It's my first turn tomorrow!

It's a small step, but it's another step forward toward my dream of teaching two-three Bodypump classes somewhere, sometime each and every week.  

In other Bodypump news, today I bought my ticket to my very first Les Mills Quarterly! 

I can't wait!

I had the time of my life the weekend I got Bodypump certified- I loved being able to do Bodypump for an entire weekend. 

So I know I am going to really enjoy being at the Quarterly. 

The gym where I currently teach has Bodypump and Bodycombat, but I've actually never been to any of the Combat classes, so in fact, I have only ever been to a Bodypump class.

So I am looking forward to sampling the other formats, especially Bodyflow, since I think that might be my next certification.  

How do I know I like Bodyflow? when I've never been to an actual Bodyflow class?

I Googled it, of course!

No, seriously.

I found a You Tube video of a Bodyflow workout and from that single video, I have pretty much fallen in love with the format, so I look forward to doing Bodyflow, along with several other formats, at the Quarterly.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Two Birthdays This Weekend

My oldest daughter was born the day before my twenty-fifth birthday. So it's always easy for me to figure out how old I am. She and I are almost exactly twenty-five years apart.

This weekend, she turned ten. That means I turned thirty-five that next day. 

On Friday night after dinner, I left my youngest daughter with my husband and took my two oldest girls all around town, picking up their friends from church. I took everyone to get froyo and then the girls opened gifts, etc.  I tried to fade into the background and just let the girls be themselves and enjoy one another.  On the way home, the girls sang "Let It Go" from Frozen while I tried not to laugh. They were so loud, they couldn't hear me giggle anyway.  It was a lot of fun and a preview of the teen years. My daughters and their friends are growing up too fast.  Here's a photo I took of the "party."

On Saturday, I fed my family, went to an early exercise class while the kids stayed with their dad, came home, showered, dressed, fed everyone again, and then I took the birthday girl to the cupcake store, the bookstore, and to Target to spend her gift certificates and birthday money.  We ran some other, non-birthday related errands while we were out and near the stores: Office Max,  grocery shopping, and exchanges at the thrift store.

For her birthday, I bought her several books and a bunch of toiletries of her very own. I let her pick out her very own prissy shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, flowery body wash, etc. She's been using all of my stuff for the last six months or so, so it was time for her to pick out some of her own. Having an older child means we can have intelligent, interesting conversations and we can joke, back and forth.  That is a really nice part of having kids that are getting older.

On Saturday night, I made a simple dinner of tacos, everyone's favorite, and then we took out the bakery cupcakes that we had purchased earlier that day.   Note: I have started buying bakery cupcakes on our birthdays.  That way, someone else does all the work, the cupcakes taste and look better than the ones we make, and we don't have tons of cupcakes left over that we feel obligated to eat even though we shouldn't.  We put ten candles in Norah's cupcake and sang her Happy Birthday.  Here's a photo.

On Sunday, I woke up to kiss on the cheek and a "Happy Birthday" from my husband.  I had forgotten in was my birthday.  As a mom, it is easy to do this.  As a mom who has a daughter with a birthday the day before, it is even easier to do this, I think.  He brought me hot coffee, refilled it, and made the kids and I breakfast while I read my Bible. I was scheduled to volunteer in the church nursery for the first service, so I went ahead of my family.  There was only one kid in the nursery and she was sleeping, so I got to read the entire book of Romans, something I had been wanting to do.  It was really nice.

My husband and kids showed up in time for the second service and we attended that service as usual. We talked to several friends.  I am always glad when I can manage to visit and connect with people at church.  Later, we came home, had lunch, and then I went to bed to read The Giver and took a nap or, as C.S. Lewis would say, a nap took me.

In the evening, we had dinner and then our friends, Robin and Katie McCandless brought over dark chocolate cupcakes with the most delicious homemade vanilla icing.  They were the best cupcakes I've ever had, hands down. I will be ruined for any other cupcakes from now on. They sang me Happy Birthday and we drank hot coffee, decaf of course, I am too old to be drinking regular coffee later at night and we all talked for about an hour.  I can't even tell you how glad I am to have friends who I can be free and easy with, who crack jokes and who get my jokes, who love Jesus like I do.  It was a nice, subdued way to celebrate.  Before I fell asleep, I finished The Giver.  I didn't like the way it ended, but it was a good book.  I may try and see the movie now because I've heard a lot of people rave about it.

In all, it was a nice birthday weekend.  Norah and I are one year older.  I don't fear getting older. Though I relish this abundant life God has given me, I don't even really fear death since it means I will be in Heaven and Heaven means perfect, unbroken fellowship with the God I already know and love so much. So by the grace of God and love of Jesus Christ, I can just smile at the future. -Proverbs 31:25 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Another Beautiful Weekend, This One With Family

My husband needed to be in New Jersey for a business meeting all day today. His sister, Michelle, and her husband, Steve, live minutes from where his meeting was going to be, so my husband decided to take advantage of their proximity to his meeting and stay with them instead of being in a hotel.

Since he was going to be staying with family, he also wanted to be able to visit them, so he left on Friday in order to be able to spend Saturday and Sunday with family and of course, the kids and I came along to see family, too.  When my husband went off to his meeting this morning, I loaded the kids in the van and drove home because I needed to be here for a meeting I have tonight.  My husband will be able to ride back to Connecticut later tonight with coworkers who also had to go to New Jersey for the meeting, so all in all, it worked out great because we all got to visit family and he still got his work done and I am also back in time for my meeting.  

My sister-in-law is always a great hostess.  She cooked every meal for us besides the one we ate out.  It was great to sit around the table, eating, and enjoying conversation. Steve is an accountant, so Dwayne always has so much to talk to him about.

Michelle has a pool, so we swam everyday, sometimes twice a day. My oldest is a strong swimmer, and my five year old Avril is now a decent swimmer, but she isn't strong enough to swim constantly without rest in water that's above her head. Most shallow ends are too deep for her to stand in, but fortunately, she was able to stand in the shallow end of Michelle's pool, so she was able to swim and stop and stand back up whenever she need to. She had such a good time doing all sorts of things she usually can't do because she could stand up like trying to get toys off the bottom, getting onto and off of floats, etc. It was fun watching her have so much fun and playing in the pool with my youngest and oldest daughters, too.  Teaching my kids to swim is something I feel is an important life skill, like learning to read, so I am so glad to see another one of my girls making real progress in that area.

On Saturday morning, my sister-in-law and I purchased day passes to local a gym and attended a Bodypump class. Here's photographic proof, a selfie we took after class.  The instructor approached me right after class and complimented my workout. I told her I teach Bodypump in Connecticut, etc.  Unfortunately, I won't be able to connect with her long-term since she isn't on Facebook or anything like that. However, it was nice to get a good workout, see another Les Mills facility, and connect with another Bodypump instructor, however briefly.

On Saturday afternoon, we went to Avalon for lunch at Manco and Manco. We let the girls ride a few rides. Then we picked up several containers of popcorn from Johnson's.  Pizza and caramel corn on the boardwalk are near-sacred Boulden family traditions, so I just put my clean, healthy diet on hold and feasted and enjoyed myself with my loved ones.

Now that I am home gain, I will worry about making up for those indiscretions.  I am pretty sure I have gained close to five pounds from the junk food I had.  But I actually had some detox salad made from broccoli, carrots, lemon juice, etc. a few minutes ago and I am sipping on an extra large glass of ice water as I type. 

On Sunday, we went to church with Michelle and Steve and then we ran some errands, swam some more, visited over meals. I also got to do some reading on the Divergent series and I had a glorious nap on one of their couches while the girls napped.

On the way home in the van today, I listened to The Weight of Glory, Learning in War Time, and Why I am Not a Pacifist by C.S. Lewis, all incredible and so relevant. 

I am thankful for so many things:

-that my mother, father, brothers and sister-in-laws are all fellow believers in Jesus Christ

-that my kids are growing up in church

-that even when we aren't home, we can go to church with family

-that we have access to pools at family member's homes, friends' homes, the community pool in summer, and the gym where I work all year

-that we home school and that gives us the flexibility to miss two week days to travel to see family

-that we had such a pleasant visit

-that we are home safely now

-and that we can settle back into our routine, roll up our sleeves, and get back to work with home school and the other simple, yet very meaningful things God has given us to do around here everyday

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Adele in a Box

I got a picture of my youngest daughter Adele in a box.  She was just hanging out.  I'm sure if you scroll back far enough into my blog archives you will see pics of all my kids in boxes.  They love boxes at that age and I love them at this stage. 

Another Fun Weekend with Friends

On Friday afternoon the girls and I walked up to our neighborhood park for their friends' Jack and Travis' birthday party.  I am good friends with Jack and Travis' mom Vanessa and Vanessa is friends with some of my other good friends, Kim and Deltra, and all our kids are friends with one another, so while our kids enjoyed time together, we moms enjoyed ourselves just as much.  Here's a photo of me on the far right with my friends Deltra in the middle and Kim on the far left.

On Saturday, I went to Bodypump and I exercised next to and got to know some of the people who regularly attend the class I will get to teach on rotation this fall/ winter. That was the highlight of my day.  I spent the rest of Saturday catching up on laundry, housework, grocery shopping, and running errands.  Since my weekdays are occupied with teaching my kids at home, I try and make the most of the weekend just like working moms have to do.

On Sunday, we attended church in the morning, as usual, and we sat next to friends and visited a little before and after the service.  On Sunday evening, the church hosted a BBQ and concert for all its volunteers in the church's gym.  Our music minister, Chris Vitarello, is an incredible musician. He played with the band.  Our campus pastor, Craig Mowrey, sang a song. His brother Brian, also pastor at our church, was on the harmonica.  It was a great time.

Monday was Labor Day, so my husband Dwayne was home.  One of his hobbies is smoking meat and our friends Adam and Jessica Greene just gave us a propane smoker they didn't want anymore, so Dwayne wanted to try it out.  He smoked a large pork butt and shoulder to pull.  We made homemade, southern, golden BBQ sauce and fresh cole slaw.  We invited friends our Tim, Robin, Matt, and Katie McCandless and Jean Semeraro. The McCandlesses brought homemade potato salad and their ice cream maker.  We all took turns cranking the ice cream while before dinner. Jean brought a coffee flavored angel food cake covered in chocolate ganache.  With all the food, desserts, and hot coffee to finish the evening, it was quite a feast. With all the fellowship among friends, it was a foretaste of Heaven.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hover Scars

Hover scars.

I'm quite proud of these bad boys.

They develop on my forearm/ elbows because of all the hovers (also known as planks) that I do.

I usually always have big, rough patches of skin/ callouses on my elbows, but sometimes they get so thick they even scab over.