We’re going to Brazil!!

Well, OK, I’m not.  I can barely make it to the next big city let alone South America, but Team USA is going to the World Cup next summer!  By beating Mexico on Tuesday night we secured a spot in the tournament.  

If you are not already a soccer fan, you might not get the enormity of this news.  We are the underdogs.  Soccer is becoming more popular in the U.S., but compared the the rest of the world, the money and fan backing is still pretty small.  However, it is growing quickly. 

A few weeks ago I posted my guide to watching soccer (with lots of photos).  Today will be my guide to specifically watching team USA.  Here’s a few of the players I’ll be watching for:

Mix Diskerud                       Michael Parkhurst                         Matt Besler               Graham Zusi

 I’m sure they all have mad soccer skills, but hey, let’s face it, I’m cheering for the combo of eye candy and soccer playing.  

And there might be more on the way.  Our former team captain, Carlos Bocanegra, may still be added to the roster.  Some legal mumbo jumbo, contract something or other is keeping him off the roster right now.  This needs to be settled, because . . .

So, it may seem a little early to you, but I am ready to start getting my fan on.  We’ve got a few options for fan fashion styles.  

Option A                                           Option B

If you look a lot like the players on the field, then I suggest option A.  It’s minimal, but it works.  If you look a little more like fat Elvis, by all means, think about option B.  Out of sheer excitement I have started to create option C – cute tee shirts.  I created them on Spreadshirt.com.  Click on the shirt below to see both of my designs and my Spreadshirt shop.  (more tees to come, so check back often!)



TFS Wednesday: If You Bite It, Write It.

This week’s tip is sort of a continuation of last week’s “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.”  Once you make a menu plan you will need a place to write it down and keep track of what you actually do eat (which sometimes will not be what was on your menu plan). 

When you first begin dieting (or begin again), it’s important to keep track of everything that you eat.  It can be a HUGE pain in the butt (and another major reason people quit in week 2 or 3), but there are ways to make the process easier.  First, let me point out why tracking is so important. 

Tracking what you actually eat puts you in touch with reality and lets you see the big picture (no pun intended.)  Tracking, if done right, can be shocking.  When you take the time to look up the calories or points or carbs in some of your favorite foods the big picture of how you  put on so much weight becomes really clear.  There are so many foods disguised as healthy that are amazingly  high in fat, calories, points, carbs, (or whatever you are tracking.)  Salads are usually one of the most shocking items.  Restaurant salads, especially those with the dressing already on the salad, are almost always up there with fast food hamburgers in numbers.  Now, the salad has more nutrition, but it is still too much. 

710 Calorie Salad versus a 510 Calorie Quarter Pounder with Cheese

 One way to make tracking easier is to stick to a few favorite items as I noted last week.  See how the foods you already know and love fit in your plan.  You might have to modify them a little (dressing on the side, half a serving with more veggies, etc.), but they are a great place to start. 

Lose It! App for smart phones and tablets

Another way to make it easier are all the apps and electronic gadgets available.  My favorite free app for tracking my food intake is “Lose It!”  There are many on the market, but this one is simple to set up and use and has the ability to input a food using the camera on your phone to scan the bar code on a food.  It also keeps track of my past meals, so repeat meals can be added with one or two swipes.

If you don’t have a smart phone or a way to track electronically, pen and paper still work just as well as they always have, although access to the internet will make it so much easier to find nutrition information on food you like. 

Which leads to my final point.  You want to be as accurate as possible, but this really isn’t rocket science.  There will be foods that you cannot find the exact nutritional numbers for, local restaurants are one category that comes to mind.  This is when I just get as close as I can.  If I have fish tacos at my local Mexican restaurant, they are probably close to those served at a chain restaurant, so I can use that nutrition number. 

Just be careful that you are not cheating (yourself) in lots of small ways.  Those are the calories that add up quickly and are forgotten just as quickly.  Samples at Costco count.  The last four bites of your kid’s pizza counts.  Liquid calories count.  It all counts, so bite it, then write it. 

Is That in My Job Description?

It’s both a benefit and frustration of the job that being Chick in Charge (aka Mom, homemaker, etc.) has no real job description.  Most days I get by on a combination of stuff I learned from my mom, advice from magazines and friends and just winging it.  There are are also no annual reviews or pay raises to let you know if you are doing a good job.  Occasionally you get a customer satisfaction survey, but that often comes in the form of teenage kvetching or flowers on your one holiday in May.  It’s hard to know if I am doing a good job or even exactly what my job is (or isn’t).

I’m a very analytical person.  I like numbers and solid proof, but I’m not sure what data I would or could use to verify my effectiveness as CIC.  Did my family eat this week (check) was it nutritious (ummm, most days, half check), did my kids show up at school everyday (check) on time (check) with the stuff they need (ummm).  

Women’s magazines seem to be very clear on what makes a “good” mom.  She goes above and beyond, always.  Her family always eats home-cooked meals that feature balanced nutrition, organic ingredients and come in under budget.  Not only do her kids have perfect attendance records at school (because she would never let them get sick), she is always at their school.  She’s a room mom, PTA volunteer and lunch monitor so she can spend more time with her kids.  

I see two HUGE problems with that job description.  First, if she does everything for her kids, they are not learning to take care of themselves, which leads to problem number two, eventually (hopefully) they will leave home and she will be out of a job that has consumed her life.  

There is a part of me who feels great when I do everything for my kids, when I make their life easier, softer, sweeter.  But, the reality is, I’m not doing them or me any favors if I don’t teach them to stand on their own and take care of themselves. If they don’t do their laundry (or don’t bother to put soap in when they do) the result is stinky clothes and friends who avoid them, a good lesson to learn.  Natural consequences are great at teaching life lessons, IF I can get out of the way and allow the natural consequences to happen.  For me, the hard part is ignoring how much it looks like I am failing at my job when I do this.  

This morning was typical.  My older son couldn’t find a belt (required at his school).  I knew he had left it in a suitcase so I told him where to find it.  It sped up the process, but he has come to rely on me knowing where all his stuff is (and he is definitely not the only one in this house guilty of that).  It’s hard to know when to stop; when to let him think back to the last time he saw it and find it himself or take the consequence of not having it on at school.  

In the next month both my kids have birthdays, moving one step farther away from me and toward independence.  My job is being slowly phased out and I’m being eased into mommy retirement.  My heart tells me to hang on, do nice things for them while I still can; but my head tells me to keep pushing them away, let them try and possibly fail, learning life’s lessons.  In the end, I will be the only one to decide if I’ve succeeded or failed at this job.  I’ve created my own job description and it looks something like this:  launch two happy, productive adults into this world and leave one satisfied, relieved CIC behind. 

Inside Out Fashion (Part Deux)

Last Friday I wrote about the importance of all the things are that go under my clothes.  I started with my attitude about myself and ended with hair, skin and teeth.  But there is more to the story, so today I want to post part 2 (deux, if I’m being all sexy and French).  

As much as I would like to pretend it doesn’t matter, I am going to have to throw weight into the formula.  Beyond a certain weight, I can’t fit into clothing from regular stores and that seriously limits what I can buy.  It might be a shallow reason, but one of the main reasons I will follow a diet plan is to keep myself fitting in sizes 8, 10 or 12.  Beyond that, it gets really difficult to find a variety of clothes that fit.   I will keep posting all my best tips from my years at Weight Watchers on TFS (Tips From the Scale) Wednesdays.  Hopefully, that way, we can all maintain our best size together.  

The Asymmetrical skirt I want from ASOS for $33.75

 The next layer is the basic pieces of my wardrobe.  These are always in a few generic colors (navy, black, grey, white, tan) so they can be used all year long for years on end.  These pieces aren’t much fun to shop for because I have very precise requirements:  they need to fit and flatter my curvy shape, they need to be descent quality (no cheepie mall junk), and they need to be a basic color, usually without a pattern, so almost all the pieces can work together. 

 Since I work from home I don’t need “work” clothes.  Jeans are the basics I invest the most time and money in.  I am not convinced that spending over $100 on a pair of jeans will guarantee they will be flattering, on the other hand, the cheaper jeans are, the more skimping the manufacturer has done on fabric and cut.  A great pair of jeans can make your legs look longer and thinner and your butt look smaller.   I usually have to try on 5 or 6 pair to find the fit and look I want in a store, so I can’t imagine how anyone orders jeans online.  I’d love to know the secret if anyone would want to share.  

Jewelry from H&M to create the Alexander McQueen look for less than $20 each.

The final layer is the fun stuff.  Colorful, patterned pieces that keep the rest of my clothes looking current. This is not where I spend a big chunk of my clothes budget because these are the things I won’t want after two or three seasons.  H&M is one of my favorite stores for fun clothes.  The styles are always current (and sometimes weird, like the completely sheer lace pants I found there.  Who wears those?  Where?)  My latest online obsession is ASOS.  They offer free shipping both ways and have an enormous inventory.  Both of these stores are aimed at a market that is younger than me, but as long as I don’t get my entire wardrobe from there, I can pull off a few pieces at a time. 

TFS Wednesday: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

I love diet plans with prepackaged food.  Some diet fairies somewhere make up a menu with the exact foods I need, then I just buy it all and eat it.  I love this. . . for about 2 or 3 weeks.  Then either the book with the diet plan runs out of days or the company that mails me food runs out of stuff I want to eat.  

Whether I follow a plan someone else designed or something I make up myself, I know my diet will fail if I don’t have a plan and I just wing it.  Days without a plan go something like this:  don’t have time to make a full breakfast and I’m missing a few ingredients for all my healthy options, so I’ll just have one of the kids’ pop tarts (just for today, I swear).  I’m starving by lunch because all I had was that pop tart and a coffee so I drive around and run errands, waiting for some inspiration, which usually ends up being the smell of a Chinese buffet or a $1 menu ad on a fast food sign.  By dinner, I am completely disgusted with myself so I figure why bother trying to make something healthy now.  

On the other hand, when I take the time to plan, whether it is my own or someone else’s, I buy the ingredients I need, make healthy food at home and plan my eating out splurges.  Sometimes I’m all inspired and I will make a weekly menu myself, other weeks I surf and google till I find a menu someone else put together and posted that I can tweek for me and my family.  Either way, I know I have a better chance at success with a plan. 

A diet journal can help with planning

Part of the frustration of starting any diet is not knowing what to eat.  It’s irritating to  have to dissect restaurant menus and recipes into carbs or calories or points.  Fortunately, if I stick to a few favorite restaurants and recipes it becomes easier quickly.  In his book “YOU: Losing Weight”, Dr. Oz suggests that you chose a few breakfast and lunch menus and stick with them for a while. 

There will be times when planning ahead is almost impossible, like holidays.  Then I have to chose to either come armed with nutrition numbers on the foods most likely to be there, or I can just throw up my hands, dump the diet for one day, and enjoy myself.  (I usually go for option #2).  


Blurred Holiday Lines

I’m trying to decide if I am off work today for the holiday.  I have several jobs.  My main job is Mom, although I prefer the more accurate title, CIC (Chick in Charge).  I also teach online from home, write this blog, and I am working on a novel.  In all of these pursuits, there really isn’t a distinct line between days off or on.  

I can’t really use whether I am being paid or not as a indicator of working.  Unfortunately, only one of those jobs pays, and that is only when I am under a current contract.  There is always unpaid training and skill upkeep for my teaching work.  CIC pays purely in satisfaction for me and my family, and I am working toward money coming in with the blog and other writing.  

It can feel strange on days like this, but I am the one that set my schedule up to blur the lines between work and time off.  It works for me in so many ways.  

I never have to ask for time off so I am completely unlimited on when and how long I can go on vacation.  I just bring my work with me wherever we go.  For the past 6 years we have family vacation photos featuring me and my laptop.  I set up my work schedule to keep online work to a minimum during the time we are away, then I carve out a few hours alone and get it done.  

Days at home require discipline (and sometimes a hiding place).  My noisy CIC job can run a muck over my writing work so sometimes I have to separate them with a closed door for a few hours, but in general, I can do both at the same time, which feels great.  They actually work really well off each other since one is active (CIC) and the other is butt-in-chair work.  I can break my day up into sitting and moving time.  

Setting priorities is still a challenge.  I have to tune out all the projects around the house that beg for my attention on days that my writing muse shows up or my teaching contract says, work. . .now.  The great thing about house projects is the immediate sense of completion and accomplishment.  On those days that I feel like I am getting nowhere I will open the linen closet in my bathroom (one of the few super organized spaces I have) and just revel in the feeling of calm and order.  

So today I am writing, because I love it, and I am doing laundry and planning meals for the week ahead, because I love my family (and I love good food).  This may not be a holiday from labor because most of what I do is a labor of love.