Monday, November 26, 2012

Check Yes or No

My very smart, very sweet second grader always brings home graded work on Mondays in his aptly named Monday folder. Keaton is very good at math and reads like a champ!  Handwriting and spelling, however, are a little challenging for him.  I chalk a lot of it up to him being young (he'll graduate high school at 17). I hate seeing him struggle with anything, but some day (probably soon) a computer will handle all of his handwriting and spelling challenges, so I'm not too terribly uptight about it.

Today he brought home a letter he had written in class. His fantastic teacher wrote a note at the top about how great his handwriting was on this particular assignment, and I must admit I have to agree. His spelling wasn't perfect, but I could pretty easily make out all but two words. Here's what I read:

"Dear Mom and Dad from Keaton. I'm sorry for being disrespectful and for ______ you. I'll not ______ you from now on. Forgive me please. Circle no or yes."

Hmmmm....This was perplexing. I couldn't think of anything in the immediate past that he needed to write an apology letter for. There was that pantsing incident, but it's ancient history now. I asked Trey if he could figure out the words, and when he couldn't we called Keaton in to read to us.

Me: Keaton, I like your letter, but I can't make out one of the words. Can you read it to me?
Keaton: Let me see that.  Hmmm... that says "annoying"

Panic rose in my throat. Does my sweet, smart second grader think that we think he's annoying?  We are horrible, terrible people and my son is scarred for life. How did this happen?  I scanned my brain for any time I may have told him he was annoying me, and I couldn't think of any. I have regularly told the boys they are "driving me crazy," but annoying is just not a word I use with them. Clearly, however, I have damaged my son's self-confidence irreparably.

During my freak out, Trey started talking.

Trey: We don't think you're annoying! You don't annoy us!
Keaton: Yeah, I know. Maybe that's not it.
Trey: I'm sorry that you wrote that because it is not true. You aren't annoying at all!
Me (picture the lightbulb above my head): Did you mean "ignoring"?
Keaton: Yes!  That's what I wrote!  I'm sorry for ignoring you, and I won't ignore you anymore. Now you have to check yes or no.

I then flashed through telling him get in the bath get in the bath get in the bath do your reading do your reading do your reading pick up your socks pick up your socks pick up your socks, and I knew that he does, in fact, ignore me pretty regularly.

But he is sweet and smart and awesome (just ask him), so I checked yes. :)





Sunday, October 14, 2012

Just Call Me "The Rev"

Just call me "The Rev." April does, and it's hilarious. Wanna know why she calls me that?

I officiated a wedding.

Back Story...
Perhaps the hardest thing about me leaving the high school was leaving my people. In eight years there, I met my best friends. I guess growing up I always had a "best friend," but people moved in and out of Rice every couple of years, so I suppose I had migrant best friends. The fact that I've had my people for almost ten years now is a Stormy record. These guys have truly seen me at my best and my worst.

And so when I left the high school world some of my people and I made a commitment to see each other regularly no matter what. I wasn't the only one who had moved on to another school, and I guess I also wasn't the only one who felt a little scared about it. Even when life is too busy to think, we find a moment or two to laugh together. I don't know what I'd do without them.

So about a year ago, Tiffany (one of my people) met this guy Josh, who, quite honestly, seemed too good to be true. I am, as it turns out, quite skeptical of other people when it comes to them dating my friends. I like to call it "protective" and "loyal" but it's probably more a version of "Crazy Stormy" than anything else. I won't completely admit to much, but there may have been Facebook stalking and twenty questions for Tiffany every time she saw him.

Soon I realized that this guy was good. In no time at all he had me rooting for him. I think the thing that really got me is that he immediately looked for ways to take care of her. He seemed to look forward to doing something nice for Tiffany or taking care of some task just so she didn't have to do it herself. Tiffany is a very independent, strong person, and I'm not exactly sure she knew what to do with this man who kept just doing stuff. He never seemed to look for payback. He only seemed to enjoy making her happy.

So somewhere along the way we all started asking if they were talking marriage. And somewhere along the way Tiffany shared that she and Josh had talked about it and what the ceremony would be like and that they'd decided I'd probably have to officiate. Of course, this brought on hysterical laughter from everyone in the room.

She was, however, quite serious. I found out exactly how serious one Friday night via a particularly sentimental text message conversation. She asked me, via text, if I would perform the ceremony.

"I would be honored!" I replied, once again via text. (I think that's what I replied. I don't actually have the text message anymore, so I'm not totally sure, but I bet it was something like that anyway.)

Then I looked at Trey and said, "Is that okay?  Is it sacrilegious?" He didn't think so, but I decided I should check with the authorities just in case. So I called my mother.

She told me of a few other people she knows who have performed wedding ceremonies who are not preachers, and we talked about how we don't believe preachers have anymore direct line to God than normal people, and we decided it would be a perfectly lovely, non-sacrilegious thing to do. (Honestly, as is customary with my mom, she said a few words, I talked a lot, she listened, I made up my mind for myself, and she was happy enough with the fact that I can make up my mind for myself.)

And so I went about the process of ordination which began with the first of three phone calls to the county courthouse. It went something like this:

"Hi, um, yes, well, I have sort of a unique situation. I have some friends who have asked me to marry them. Wait...no...not marry them but officiate their wedding to each other. And I'm not really anything like a preacher or anything. So...you hear about people getting ordained online and stuff and I think I need to do that but I really don't want to mess this up so I was wondering if you have any recommendations for how I can do that and make sure it's perfectly legal."

The response was somewhere along the lines of "whatever."

So online I went, and ordained I became through a random free church of something not Satanic (I did check for that. I was kind of paranoid.)

Then I called the courthouse again.

"So, um, yes, well, I'm going to be officiating a wedding ceremony and I'm not really a thing, like a preacher or anything, but I just got ordained online...that sounds so weird...and now I need to know what to do to register or something at the courthouse so that I can be official with the county. I have a very lovely certificate with my credentials, so what should I do with it?"

This response was something like "Eh. Just keep it."

Fast forward to one week before the wedding. I have had nightmares about Tiffany and Josh forty years from now in their rocking chairs on their front porch and one of their grandkids walks up and says, "Granny!  I've been studying our family history and I learned that you and Pappy aren't really married!  That Stormy Hickman person wasn't even official!  It's all been a scam!"

(Yes, I also think it's hilarious to think of Tiffany and Josh as Granny and Pappy.)

So I called the courthouse again and rattled off my same line of questioning. This time the lady said of my online ordination, "You're fine to sign the marriage certificate. We don't even check that stuff." I suppose I was as reassured as I was going to get.

The wedding was a very small affair, pretty much family only, and it was on Crystal Beach.  Josh and Tiffany rented a giant, beautiful white house facing the beach so that their family could stay with them. The aisle ran from the door of the house down a lovely flight of stairs and out to the beach entrance. Tiffany is perhaps the craftiest person I know, and after this weekend she should be hiring out to decorate for weddings. It was like a wedding in a magazine. Perfect.

There were only a few of us non-blood-related people attending, and we rented the beach house across the street from the wedding house for the entire weekend. Our kids spent Saturday playing in the ocean, and we took turns offering to help and relaxing and enjoying the trip. It was such a fantastic weekend away with friends!

Here's a pic of the ceremony site earlier in the day. Notice all the kids on the beach!


And are some pics of the view a little more along the time of the wedding:





We did a little practice run-through rehearsal thing at one o'clock in the afternoon, and we laughed the whole time at what a motley crew we were -- many of us still in our pajamas or covered in sand from the beach. I believe we set a record for the least stressful wedding rehearsal ever.

Six o'clock came and everyone was ready and in their places. I think Josh was a little nervous about having to talk in front of everyone and do the whole "repeat after me" business, but he seemed cool and calm. I don't think I've ever seen Tiffany look happier. She looked so full of joy and so peaceful.

I suppose I did a decent job. I started off with lots of um's and uh's. I could hear them coming out but I couldn't make them stop - sort of like having my voice taken over by a ninth grader giving his first speech. But once I got through the first prayer I think it was smooth sailing. I had moments of nervousness leading up to the ceremony, but I knew it wasn't about me. I prayed A LOT about it over the last several weeks, so I think that probably helped, too. It should also be noted that I did not cry (during the ceremony, anyway).

Josh pulled me aside at some point to thank me. He said he is always amazed at the things Tiffany's friends do for each other, and he appreciates that she has us and that he has us now, too. I told him that she would do anything for any one of us, and probably has. I was so honored that I can't even really put it into words (and you know that doesn't happen often).

I think the thing I felt most strongly about was blessing them, asking God to provide for them and keep them close through all of the ups and downs of life. I must have done it in my head a million times, but I chose not to write it down because I wanted it to be from the Spirit and not from the script. Maybe that sounds weird, but it was important to me. I'm not one to publicly pray over someone. The Methodists do that kind of a lot, and it still feels a little odd to me even after being a Methodist myself for twelve years. I think the reason it's uncomfortable to me is that I don't want to pray blessings over someone because I was told to do it. I want to do it because I feel that the Spirit leads me to do it at that moment. Offering prayer for them at their wedding was truly the highlight of the whole shindig for me. The opportunity to publicly pray over my best friend and love of her life is something I will treasure forever.

Here's a pic of the happy couple:




Sidenote: Tiffany and Josh, I truly almost prayed for "lots and lots of babies." I hope I implied it well enough. Know that the silent prayers include that. Trey would like to request a girl so he can spoil her since he didn't get one. :)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ordinary People

One week ago today, Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann was killed in the line of duty. An innocent bystander also lost his life, and several other people were injured. There aren't adjectives enough to describe this terrible thing.

It was an awful week. It seems like I cried constantly, and I felt silly because he had a family and close friends who deserved to cry. Children lost their dad, a wife lost her husband, police officers lost a member of their close family. My heart was -- and still is -- broken about the whole thing. Our whole community is shaken. It's awfulness overwhelms me still.

During the funeral service on Saturday, however, I felt the sun come out again.

One of the speakers mentioned that Brian was an ordinary guy.

I knew him as the Constable and a dad of one of our students. He often worked "Daddy Patrol" in the mornings, directing traffic and making sure the kids safely crossed through the parking lot. He was also instrumental in our very first major school fundraiser, volunteering to do whatever we needed him to.

I was in a PTO meeting recently when one mom said, "We just need to decide what we want the Constable to do and tell him. He's already said he'll take care of whatever we need and you know he will do anything we ask." 

Another PTO mom posted on her facebook after his death: "When I would tell Brian Bachmann what I needed help with at the school our children attended, his answer was always the same. Either 'I'll take care of that,' or, 'I've got that.' And his next words were always exactly the same as well, 'What else can I do to help?' No matter how busy he was, he always had time."

I saw him often because we also attend the same church, but the image that will forever be burned into my brain is when I stopped him before school one day to tell him how sweet and precious his daughter is. His smile then could have lit up the whole school. I will forever remember the love he had for her in that smile. 


During his service, many others mentioned things they would remember him for. A man noted that Brian had recently given his wife $50 for gas. He spent the morning of his last day following a driver to the tax office to have his registration renewed so that the driver wouldn't get another ticket on the way. Story after story was told about the little things he did all the time. If an opportunity to help someone appeared, he was the kind of guy who seized it. Every time.


Was this ordinary?


On the day he died, several area churches held prayer services that night. My family attended the one at our church, and it was full with people stunned into shock. Many law enforcement officers and first responders attended, and we prayed over them for their safety and comfort. As I watched the crowd, I noticed how many kids there were in the church. 

Teenagers almost outnumbered law enforcement officers. Our youth group was there in full force, sitting together and comforting each other. When we walked in we first saw a row of boys in their purple -- our high school's purple -- and it seemed they had just come from or were headed to practice. 


I was so taken by their presence. The shooting had been less than seven hours before, and there they were -- loads and loads of them -- supporting their friend, the Constable's son, simply by showing up. 


Could they possibly be ordinary?


During the week, I had the privilege of visiting the family, and the sheer number of people there just taking care of things was astonishing. There was an officer outside the house. Moms and dads inside making sure that school clothes had been purchased, that school schedules had been picked up, that the kids could get to practices or whatever they needed to in order to feel a little normal. People were crawling the walls just helping. 


Ordinary people. 


On Saturday as I crossed the street from my parking place to Reed Area to attend the service, I stopped in my tracks. Flags were everywhere. They seemed to sprout from the concrete in every direction. As I approached, I began to sob. Each flag was held by a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, and they stood in silence honoring a fallen officer and respecting the mourners who entered. A teacher from my school was among them. Others offered bottles of water to people as they entered the building. 




Regular, ordinary people. Just there


The service was filled with law enforcement officers and first responders from near and far. I sat next to a sheriff's deputy from Fort Hood County. I saw police cars from Corsicana, Magnolia, The Woodlands, Louisiana, and countless other places. Some of these people likely knew Brian, but I'm certain that many of them did not. They simply know what it's like to risk your life to keep people safe, and they know what it's like to feel loss. And they showed up. 


They were regular men and women. 


As the funeral procession advanced from Reed Area to the funeral home, the people of our city lined the streets to honor one of our own who gave his life in trying to keep us safe. The fire department suspended an American flag across the road. It was such a demonstration of a community coming together to lift each other up and just love on each other. I still look at the photos in awe. 





Photos of ordinary people who wanted to support each other. 


At the conclusion of the service, as I left the building with thousands of others, the air filled with the unique mix of rain and sunshine. The sun's rays beamed through fat, replenishing drops of much needed rain. It was so strangely appropriate. A scripture from the service echoed through my mind as I relished the rain on the way to my car. 


Micah 6: 6-8: 
With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with  thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  

I thought of all the people, all of the thousands of people in our community who were willing to use whatever gifts they had to step in and to help, support, love, honor, and display kindness to one another during this horrible, horrible week. 

In that moment I realized that ordinary people all around me were doing extraordinary things. I didn't know all of them, but they were my people, and we would always, always take care of each other. I believed again in that moment that God made people to be inherently good and kind. I wanted to be that person, like Brian, who looks for places to help and just does it -- just shows up and says, "I'm on it." I looked around me and saw so many people already doing that. So many people. 

Oh, to be more ordinary!

A poem by Marianne Williamson was shared at the service that I have not heard before but will hold in my heart for a long time. It seems appropriate to close with it here. 

"Our Deepest Fear"
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant,
gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some; it is in everyone.

And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give
other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.








Thursday, July 26, 2012

Define "inappropriate"

There are three things Tucker has done recently that I need to blog about. I jotted down some notes about them on the back of a receipt, and I think I may have thrown that receipt away today. So I think I'll just start writing and see if I can remember them all.

Tucker is a smart, smart kid, and he really, truly believes he can do anything. For example, yesterday he said, "Mom, I think I'll compete in the Olympics some day. Don't you think that would be cool?"  I mentioned that he may want to start considering which event he will be competing in, and he started listing the pros and cons of each. Keep in mind that this is certainly not a person who thinks getting to and competing in the Olympics is easy, it's simply a person who believes that if he decides to do something, then of course he will do it very well. We may all be voting for him some day.

This preface is appropriate because Tucker has been in rare form lately. Maybe I've just noticed more because it's summer and we've been spending so much time together, but he is a funny kid.

Tucker moment #1 that I remember from the back of my receipt (this is the order in which I remember things rather than the order they actually happened): We've been pricing full size beds for Tucker's room. He has a bunk bed, and it doesn't have a lot of support - no box springs or anything. I've debated whether or not I think a used mattress is creepy, and I've researched how to disinfect mattresses. We've also been to just about every store in College Station that sells them. Trey's mom saw an ad in the paper for a moving sale that included a full sized bed, so she texted Trey a picture of the ad. He read it. I read it. Tucker read it. Here's the conversation that followed:

Tucker: We can't get that bed.
Me: Well, Tucker, if it's nice, then it could be okay. I've been reading about how to disinfect a mattress, and it might be nicer than what we would get new.
Tucker: No, we don't qualify.
Trey: Yes, I think they'll sell it to anyone who wants to buy it.
Tucker: No. It clearly says it's a "moving sale." We're not moving.

Trey and I looked at each other, and we laughed and laughed. I think after we finally explained it, Tucker laughed, too. I'm glad he can laugh at himself.

Tucker story #2: The boys had been total and complete hellions one day this week, and it occurred to me that I could sell them on ebay or perhaps just leave them on the side of road with a sign that said "free kids" or something like that. They are easily as cute as puppies, and people do that with puppies, right?

On this particular day, I was cleaning out the garage and they boys pretty much had free reign. As long as they weren't killing each other, I would have left them completely alone. I did start talking to them around noon about how I wanted their stuff picked up before three because someone was coming over to talk to me about replacing the floors in our house. They both looked at me with that, "Sure, lady, we're going to clean while you're not even in the house. Yeah, right," look, but I was certain, certain that they would do this one thing for me.

I reminded them every ten minutes or so. I yelled. I begged. I lectured. I knew this would happen. I just knew it.

But I was dumb.

Because at exactly three o'clock, I walked into the house to check on the time and found Tucker, building a fort out of every blanket and pillow we own, in my bedroom. His stuff was strewn from one end of the house to the other. I lost it.

Me: TUCKER HICKMAN!  I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU! I ASKED YOU TO DO ONE THING - ONE THING - AND YOU ARE MAKING AN EVEN BIGGER MESS!  I HAVE BEEN WORKING ON THAT GARAGE THAT YOU AND YOUR BROTHER HAVE TRASHED, AND ALL I ASKED IS THAT YOU PICK UP YOUR CRAP IN THE HOUSE! DO YOU KNOW HOW MAD AT YOU I AM RIGHT NOW?  DO YOU GET IT? DO YOU UNDERSTAND THAT I ASKED YOU FOURTEEN TIMES TO CLEAN UP AND YOU DID ABSOLUTELY NOTHING?

There was a long pause, and Tucker looked a little perplexed. Finally, he spoke.

"Wait. You counted?"

Tucker story #3: After that little episode, the boys were grounded from tv and computer and video games for the rest of the day, so they were forced to go out and ride bikes and play. Surprise, surprise, they were both in a much better mood. Tucker can't stand to be in trouble with anyone, ever, so he was working very hard to be friendly and nice to me. Trey was out mowing, and I was eating dinner at the kitchen table by myself while Tucker made his own dinner (probably a jelly sandwich - have I mentioned what a fantastic mom I am?). Here's how that conversation went:

Tucker: Mom, you might think this is inappropriate, but I'm going to tell you anyway because it's funny.
Me: Well, if you think it's okay to tell me, then let's hear it.
Tucker: Okay, it's a joke. A little boy was taking a shower with his mom, and he looked up and his mom said "Don't look up, you'll see my flashlights."

(pause for a minute here...do any of you remember this joke from when you were a kid?  I do, and it is a dirty, dirty joke. It is at this point that I realize my nine year old son is telling me a dirty joke. And he knows it's a dirty joke because he already told me I would find it inappropriate. I'm trying so hard not to laugh, and I'm beginning to sweat a little because I know where this is going.)

He continues: Later, the boy is taking a shower with his dad, and his dad says, "Don't look down. You'll see my snake."

(Tucker is laughing so hard that it's difficult to understand him. It's clear he finds this joke hilarious, even if inappropriate.)

He continues: Later, they are in the car, and the son says, "Mom, turn on your flashlights!  There's a snake in the car!"

And then he almost falls down he's laughing so hard. I'm laughing, too, mostly because he's laughing. He doesn't usually get jokes, so the fact that he finds this one so stinking hilarious is very, very funny to me.

Also, I remember a MUCH dirtier version of the joke, and I'm a little relieved that this is the best he could come up with.

Being the awesome mom that I am, I mention that while I thought his joke was quite funny, I did think it was probably a little inappropriate and shouldn't be told at school. He told me he knew that it wasn't school appropriate, and not to worry because they were not at school when his friend told it to him.

Should I be comforted by that?

It seems the way Tucker makes it back into my good graces is by telling me a dirty joke.

Should I be comforted by that?

(I would like to point out here that  I just started writing and I remembered all three things!)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Getting my art on...

Dude. I'm an arteest!

I've heard through my awesome friend April about this place in The Woodlands called Painting with a Twist. She has said for a while now that we need to get some girls together and go, and she's been several times. So when Trey came home with an invitation to the VIP Grand Opening of one in College Station, we immediately RSVP'd. It was last night, and it was awesome!

Here's the concept: You sign up for a painting class, get some friends, some wine, some munchies, and you show up. All of the supplies and materials are set up and ready to go for you, and there is an art teacher who guides you through making your very own work of art.

Now, I don't consider myself to be very artistic, and I am most certainly not a painter, but I was happily surprised to learn that I could totally do this!  The teacher demonstrated a step, and then he cranked up the music and we completed the step on our own while chatting and munching and laughing. The teacher was ever available to help, and the process was just downright fun!

Here's my painting after step one:

In order to let this dry, we hung out and chatted and munched and laughed.

Here's step two:

Drying and chatting and munching again (See a pattern here?), and then step three:

It was really unique and fun and I loved it!

Here are my favorite things about Painting with a Twist College Station:
1) You can personalize the painting with your own colors and flair or whatever. The lady across from me used blues and turquoise colors for the background, and her work was beautiful and different from everyone else's. I was a little afraid to do this my first time out, but I definitely will next time.

2) The owners were so incredibly super-duper nice. They wanted everyone to have fun and be happy. It was like being a guest at a paint and canvas party thrown just for me. They were great!

3) The teachers were funny and helpful. They made jokes and gave great instructions and demonstrated everything. They kept our paint refilled and our confidence up with lots of "That looks great!" comments.

4) According to the web site, they have some family days. For a slightly lower price, we can take the boys and our whole family can make paintings together. My boys will LOVE this!  (We've already told them they can't have wine during family time, though.)

5) Date night!  I guess I can't imagine Trey and his man friends getting a case of beer on happy hour night and going to get their art on, but I CAN imagine fun date nights there. It's way better than a movie because we actually get to talk to each other. I also like the fact that we're doing something instead of talking about kids or schedules or something like that, which often happens when we get time to go out together. We laughed and painted and had a late night stop at Taco Bell after we were done, and it was awesome fun with my hubby. It could even be a fun couples shower or something. Men, take your women!

6) The price - a 2 hour class is $35 according to the web site, and that's comparable or cheaper than buying canvases, paint, brushes and/or going out for dinner and drinks with the girls. Plus, you get to take home your art work!

7) Maybe my favorite - all the fun without the clean up. Let's face it...the worst part of any project is cleaning up after. At Painting with a Twist, you paint, you take your art home, and someone else cleans it all up. Yay!

Here's the web site, and you can also like them on Facebook. On the web site, you can see which paintings they're doing at which times and sign up for the one you want to do. I'm especially excited about the holiday ones - I think it will be fun to add those to my decorations!

I can't wait to get my girls together and schedule a session!



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Givin' em the Bird

I am 35 years old, and today I did something I've never done before.

I had an intimate relationship with a 4 1/2 pound chicken.

Back story:
Occasionally the boys or some other kind person will ask me what my favorite part of summer is. I usually answer that it's spending more time with my boys or reading book after book or just being without a schedule for a while.

The truth, however, is that my favorite part of summer vacation is Kathie Lee and Hoda.

I love them. I laugh uncontrollably when they are on tv. Sometimes I schedule my day so that I can be in front of the tv between 10:00 and 11:00, so I don't miss a single second. They are my tv best friends. I want to be on their show so that it's the Kathie Lee and Hoda and Stormy show. I want to drink cocktails at 10 a.m. and say what I really think on national television.

Case in point: Today, the healthy food guest brought on some crap that she claimed was a powder that you mix with water and it tastes just like Nutella but only has like negative 600 calories or something. Kathie Lee wouldn't even try it because she "doesn't trust powders." Hoda tried it quickly and then swigged her cocktail of the day.

I could have someone do my hair and then sit on tv with a cocktail telling people when food is gross!  I totally could! They should fly me in a couple of times a month to do book reviews or to try new recipes for the first time on air. We could be great friends, I know it!

So, my summer guilty pleasure is pretending to be on Kathie Lee and Hoda. I won't admit to setting up a card table and chair in my bedroom with a cocktail in a pretty glass and talking back to the tv, but let's just say it's crossed my mind.

Back to the bird.

Yesterday, New York Times food columnist Melissa Clark demo-ed three recipes that everyone should know how to do. One of them was the perfect roast chicken. Being the task-oriented, instant gratification person that I am, my favorite part of this recipe is that it only takes 45 minutes. I bought a chicken when I grocery shopped this week, so I decided to give it shot.

Here's the problem. Raw meat grosses me out. I never, ever, ever touch it. I cook plenty, but I always use tongs so that I don't have to make actual physical contact. Also, I've never cooked a whole chicken by myself because it is the epitome of raw meat grossness.

Who thought, "Hey, what are we going to do with this chicken's heart and liver?  Oh, I know! We'll stuff it back up the chicken's butt and let the person who buys it figure out what to do with it!"

Blech!

For this reason, Trey always manages the raw chicken and its parts. I usually leave the room and come back when it's done and deboned so that only delicious, fully cooked white meat chicken exists in my world.

But I was inspired my my idols, Kathie Lee and Hoda, and I decided that today would be the day I formed an intimate relationship with a chicken.

I asked Tucker to document the occasion. Clearly he needs a little more practice before his career as a photojournalist.

Here's a blurry picture of me and my chicken.



I unwrapped it and inspected the contents of the chicken's interior. I knew I had to remove the guts, but I just didn't think I could it. It was so slimy and disgusting looking. My stomach turned and I felt a little sick. I thought about just throwing the whole thing in the trash. Then I thought about putting it back in the fridge until Trey got home.

Finally, I decided that maybe I could just shake the guts out of the chicken onto the packaging so I wouldn't have to touch them at all. I grabbed that baby's little legs and shook the heck out of it.


Sure enough, that nasty stuff just slipped on out. I expected a heart, liver, and neck, but I didn't see a neck. This concerned me a great deal. Can you imagine starting to eat a chicken and discovering a neck sticking out a thigh or something?  Ew.

I inspected the empty chicken hole, and saw no neck, so I hope it didn't come with one.



I thought I should do something to add some flavor. The NY Times columnist added lemon, but I didn't have any lemons, so I added some cloves of garlic and jalapenos. Somehow I managed to toss these into the chicken's hoohah without ever touching it. I'm pretty proud of that.

Here's my masterpiece, pre-cooking. If you see a neck hiding somewhere in this picture, please call me right away.


This is a link to the video from the show, and this is the link to the columnist's article which has WAY better directions, such as the temperature of the oven.

And, here, friends, is my very first roast chicken!



See, I should totally be on Kathie Lee and Hoda and Stormy. Where's my cocktail?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

It began at 3:00 a.m.

It's 4:40 a.m. I've been wide awake since 3:00. I enjoy sleep a lot, so this is not like me.

We're leaving on Sunday for seven days of vacation, and I think I must be worse than the boys about being excited. I awoke at three a.m. thinking of things to take care of tomorrow before we leave. Then I thought of things to take care of when we get back. Then I thought of the last six months or so and how it's just been a great year for us. We settled into the changes associated with my new job and a new school for the boys, and life's just been, well, easy.

I found myself with a grateful heart and then I started thinking of something else. When was the last time I was up in the middle of the night pondering spiritual things? Thinking of things I could do for others or to increase my witness to those around me?  I've got to be honest, if I've ever done it I certainly don't remember it.

By this time it was 3:30, and I was wider awake than ever. I thought of my mother who would probably get up and start cleaning house, and I promptly decided that was a bad idea.

So I grabbed my ipad and began browsing "Christian-y" stuff. If I'm feeling less connected or lukewarmish (for lack of a better made up term), then I need to do something about it. After all, God is always the same, and I know that if I seek Him he'll be there.

I went to my Twitter account and read some Max Lucado tweets, which then led me to his web site where I read some devotionals, which then led me to sign up for a daily email which will allow me to read the Bible in a year. I have often laughed at myself (tongue-in-cheek, I suppose) about wanting to read something about faith and first turning to some author or preacher instead of the actual Bible, and tonight was no different.

At that point it was 4:20, and I decided I should try to sleep, so I crept back into bed to stare at the ceiling.

Then I remembered the sermon from two weeks ago. A sermon I vehemently disagreed with about 80% of.

It was over the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, and our minister interpreted it to mean that one could lose his salvation if his metaphorical oil ran out. I firmly believe that salvation is a result of God's unending, uncomprehendable grace, and that the belief that salvation can be lost by lack of works implies that it was somehow earned in the first place. Christ did not ask me to earn my salvation. He asked me to accept it on faith.

I was so worked up over the sermon that I came home and began studying. How could a learned minister and student of the Bible believe this to be true?  I was troubled. Disturbed, even. I went so far as to contemplate whether this particular dogma was inherent to the Methodist church, and questioned whether or not it was a deal-breaker for me in a community of faith. I want my children to be taught about grace and service, not about a God who is just waiting for them to mess up so he can bring the hammer, as it were.

I discovered that according to theologians there is scripture supporting both sides - the lose your salvation side and the once-saved-always-saved side. I read lots of scripture and commentary that day. Probably more than I have in the last wonderful, easy six months of my life.

And so, at 4:35 a.m., I was grateful for a sermon I thought (and still think) was wrong. I remembered that challenges are what makes us question and reaffirm our belief systems, whatever they may be.

(How many times have I preached this to students or parents who disagree with high school novel choices? Good grief!  I don't think I could count.)

It appears I need a challenge. I need to find some book or something that is a little "out there" in order to dig my own heels in a little and allow God to continue to shape my own spiritual journey. I need to find out how others continue to challenge their own faith and learn from them. I need to be challenged. All it took for me to realize it was one sermon and being wide awake at (now) 5:06 a.m.

Perhaps I'll go stare at the smoke detector light in our room again.

PS - In the interest of fairness, you can make your own judgments about the sermon in question. Go to this link, launch the media player, and listen to the 6/24/12 sermon on "The Wise and Foolish Virgins."


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer Time!

My last official day of work for the summer was last Thursday. I'm a free woman until July 30th, and, as usual for me in the summer, I've become obsessed with doing "stuff." Exactly what that is changes from day to day, but it's like I can't do enough things that have nothing to do with school.

Project #1 - my office door wreath. I actually bought the stuff for this with a gift card I got for my birthday way back in April, but I just finished it last weekend. The wreath I had on my door was very brown, so I needed something with brighter colors for the summer.


The flowers came about as a result of this tutorial I found on Pinterest. The letters I just bought at Hobby Lobby and painted white. I intended to put the letters a little higher, but I wasn't convinced that hot glue would hold them on, so the first time I tried I didn't pay much attention to where I put them. Whaddaya know!  They stuck the first time, so they stayed put. I really super love this wreath.

Project #2 - a Kindle Fire case for my niece Peyton. She got a Kindle for her birthday, and we were supposed to get a case to go with it. After shopping lots of places, we discovered that there aren't really any cute cases at local stores (I'm sure there are some online). So we bought a functional case at Best Buy, but then I used the instructions here to make a case that looks more like a little girl's. The tutorial is for an ipad case, so I adjusted the measurements. I didn't put the velcro down low enough, so I had to add some adhesive velcro and hand stitch it in. I hope it stays!


I wish you could see the glitter in this picture - it's not just pink and flowery, but glittery, too!  I had so much fun making this case that I bought some quilt squares today on a fabric store trip so I can make some more. I'd like to try adding a strap so it's more of a purse-y carrying case, but I haven't totally thought that through yet. I'm not sure what I'll do with them once I have them made, though. I spent less than twenty bucks on enough stuff to make three or four cases. I figure it's a good investment on my summer leisure time. Anybody need a Kindle case?

I love to bake, but eating healthy foods doesn't exactly lend itself to making cookies, so I haven't baked too much lately. I splurged this weekend, though, since we were going to visit my new niece, Charli Rane, and I cooked up a few sweet treats. The cream cheese oreo cookies were very easy, and they were delicious, if I do say so myself!  I made sure to give away as many as I could so we didn't eat them all. We had the cinnamon roll french toast bake for breakfast at mom and dad's, and it was good, too. It's a little dangerous, though, because you can just keep walking past it and picking off a bite at a time.




I've been saying for a while that I need to learn how to make jellies and jams. It seems like my parents are always making a new batch of something, and I want to learn. I had what I thought to be lots of jalapenos from my garden, so I asked dad to make some jalapeno jam with me so I could learn how. Here's the recipe we started with. It turns out I didn't have quite enough jalapenos and sweet peppers (we used these), so we improvised and made up the difference with pickled jalapenos. It was a happy accident because the jam is mouth watering!  Hot and spicy and sweet all at the same time!  I also helped dad with a few batches of grape jelly - he picked the grapes himself the day before and this is the best grape jelly I've ever had. It's perfect! (I've decided I need to keep an eye out on Craigslist and at garage sales for a canning set up, so I can try it by myself.)


And then there are the two food fails of the weekend. For dinner tonight I planned to make a stuffed cheddar meatloaf in the crock pot. I didn't get it in the crock pot this morning, though, so I decided to just cook it in the oven. That part was perfectly fine. The meatloaf even tasted pretty good. The only problem was with presentation. This will forever be known to me as "Severed Leg Meatloaf."


Here's the recipe for Severed Leg Meatloaf (also known as Stuffed Cheddar Meatloaf) from Today's Creative Crock Pot:
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (I used extra lean)
2 cups bread crumbs (I used whole wheat)
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup yellow onion (Trey doesn't love strong onion flavor, so I just added a little onion powder)
2 eggs (I used egg whites)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
8 slices American cheese (I only used 5 slices, and it was the 2% milk kind)
2Tbs. tomato paste

I mixed up the meatloaf, spread it flat with waxed paper, added slices of cheese on top, and rolled it up. I cooked it at 325 for 40 minutes, then added the tomato paste on top and cooked it for 5 more minutes. It tasted good (for something that looked like a recently lost limb).

And finally, there was this recipe for grilled eggplant and tomatoes I found on Pinterest. I'm trying to find new vegetables to add to my repertoire, and I've never purchased, cooked, or eaten an eggplant. It seemed easy enough, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Here are the problems I had. 1) I love feta cheese, but when you first open a container of it, it smells like farts. Sorry for being crude, but there is no other way to describe it. 2) Eggplant sort of tasted like cucumbers to me, and I'm not a fan of cucumbers. 3) I didn't exactly follow the recipe. They were minor adjustments, but I just did things a teeny tiny bit differently than it said to.

The resulting dish looked beautiful and healthy and delicious, but to me it was just farts and cucumbers.



Now, what to do next?  I really like this bag, and I may have to try to make it. I have another project in mind that involves a large piece of wood and some skill with the saw I got for my birthday. I'd also really like to learn to make bread and butter pickles using my grandmother's recipe.

Now, if I can just manage to try to NOT do all of that tomorrow.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Deep thoughts from a teacher mom...

I spent two days last week at our summer administrative leadership retreat with my school district. This was only my second retreat, but it was the best I've been to mostly because we spent lots of time talking philosophically about the direction of our district - our next steps in our goal of continual improvement. It was invigorating and exciting to talk about possibilities and brainstorm with others that share a common goal. I've been thinking about it so much, in fact, that I decided the best way to get it out of my head (or to the next step in my head) is to write it all out.

What follows is a part educator/part mom that is in no way reflective of my employer, but instead reflects what I hope is continual professional and personal growth on my part.

This means some of you will stop reading here, and I'm okay with that.

Much of the conversation started with being the "school of choice" for parents and students. (I realize this has multiple meanings, but I'll only address one of them here.) I don't see this as being competitive, necessarily, but instead being the school that is the very best learning environment for every kid. We talked about who our "customers" are, and it was a pretty interesting conversation. Parents? Students? Employers? Colleges? Legislators (i.e. the oft-far-removed people who make all the big decisions)?

We also discussed the concept of choice. What does choice look like in a school or school district? It's easy for me to see this in the secondary world - choice is online courses, and choosing the classes that teach you the appropriate skills but interest you the most, and being able to go to school from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. if you choose, and on and on.

But in the elementary world it's not that simple. How can our elementary schools provide choices for parents and students? What choices would people even want?

One person at my table said, "Many of us are parents. What choices do we want for our own kids?"

So I started thinking about my own two Hickmans.

Tucker is a math kid. Some of you have heard this story before, but I'm going to tell it here because it's relevant. In first grade, Tucker went to second grade for math. He went every day unless the second graders were taking a test. (In first grade there are no number grades for math, so the test taking was irrelevant to him.) He LOVED it!  He loved that he was good at math and challenged in math and that he could do second grade stuff in first grade. It was (and still is) a point of pride for him.

Then he became a second grader, and he had to take second grade math again. My understanding is that second grade number grades were needed for the report card and that since he never took any tests as a first grader there really was no way to be sure he had mastered the second grade concepts enough to move on to third grade math. By the way, third grade has STAAR testing and all that other good stuff, and it wouldn't really be relevant to a second grader taking third grade math. For all I know, he stunk at second grade math the first time around, and he needed to take it again. No grades, remember?

He went to a phenomenal school with phenomenal teachers, and as a mom/educator, I understood some of the reasoning for putting him in second grade math again. There's also that weird dynamic of "we work together so I don't want to imply that I know more about your job than you do" that comes into play when dealing with teacher kids. I trusted (and still trust) the teachers and administrators at that school to do the best thing for my kid, so Tucker did second grade math again. It didn't seem like that big of a deal to me at the time.

Now, though, I wonder if I did the right thing. I know I didn't do the wrong thing - an extra year of math never hurt anyone - but was it really the right thing for Tucker?  Could he be getting ready to take fifth grade math instead of fourth? Or could he be farther ahead than that, soaking up math concepts like a sponge if given the opportunity to keep moving forward at his own pace? Did this glimpse into the ability to move faster and then the subsequent "second graders only learn this material" make him less interested or less excited about pushing himself to his absolute limits? Could this manifest itself not only in math but in other things, too?

And such is the age-old question of every parent: Did I unintentionally screw up my kid forever with something silly?

Back to the educator convo - How does choice factor into this?  More importantly, how does it factor in without tracking kids beginning in preschool and pre-determining what they'll be able to do in five or ten or fifteen years?

I'm still working on this one.

Disclaimer: Tucker's math teachers have been amazing every year he's been in school. I have great respect for them and their ability to differentiate for all skill levels in their classrooms. This is not about them, but more about the system and how it works for every kid differently. 


Then I though about Little Hickman #2, and what choices I want for him in school. Keaton is very smart, but more than that he's creative and willing to experiment and likes to DO things rather than talk about them. What choices would I make for him?  Primarily, I want him to have teachers who appreciate this about him. I want someone who realizes that when Keaton laughs, it's contagious - one of the best sounds in the world. I want someone who understands that sometimes he's not confident because he sees things differently than other people - in a brilliant, interesting perspective that I would miss if it weren't for him. I want someone who pushes him to be and do everything he wants to and some things he doesn't want to because he's the kid who gets the "work" out of the way so he can get on to the stuff that really matters (mostly fun and getting to know people - the kid has never met a stranger).


So is teacher choice the answer to choice in elementary schools?  


Maybe, but there's a part two to this story. I work at Keaton's school, and I have a part in putting kids in classes. I have the ability to choose, and - get this - I didn't.


I would put Keaton Hickman with any second grade teacher on this campus. We have two new teachers coming on board, and they are fantastic, so they are included in the "any second grade teacher" that I'm talking about. I thought about choosing and talked about choosing, but ultimately it's too hard to choose because all of the choices have so many strengths.

And here's the A-HA moment. Maybe for us in elementary schools it's not about providing choice as in "pick your teacher" but instead choice as in "the teachers here ARE the best choice." The same could be said for the environment of the school, the curriculum, the administration, even the facilities.

It's fundamental to everything we as educators do (the good ones anyway). We will love your kid, get to know him, see where he is academically, and exhaust every resource we have to help him find his own successes today and for the rest of his life.

And so the Little Hickmans parallel this entire question of choice. Tucker is about the numbers and rules and such, and Keaton is about the people. And my job as a mom is to make sure that both of them have the very best public education (and private education for that matter) has to offer. And my job as an educator is to make sure that every kid who walks into my school will have the very best public and private education has to offer.

Meeting the demands of those jobs is something we have to choose to do every single day.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Recipe Experiment Day

Ahhh...a Saturday at home. I told Trey last night just before we went to sleep that I had no plans to clean house or do laundry or do anything else productive today. I planned to be lazy all day long.

He asked if that was his hint to leave me alone all day.

The truth is Trey never intentionally guilts me into doing anything, but if he's mowing the lawn or doing the dishes and I'm curled up in bed eating popcorn and watching Netflix amid a disaster of a house, I feel like a terrible, lazy person. Just like people can't cry alone around me, I guess Trey can't clean alone, either.

We slept until a whopping eight o'clock, then stayed in bed until about 8:30 watching Fashion Police and hoping the kids wouldn't wake up. Trey made omelets for breakfast - with spinach and onions and jack cheese, and Coco Loco's green sauce - and they we delicious!

I decided to make the bed. Then I noticed there was some mail piled on the dresser and thought I'd go through that. Then I remembered Tucker's baseball uniform needed to be clean for tonight, so I started some laundry, but first I had to fold and put away all of the laundry in the dryer.

Next thing you know, our bathroom, bedroom, living room, and kitchen were clean and the pantry and refrigerator were cleaned out.

So much for doing nothing.

Then I decided to have a recipe experiment afternoon.

First, I made a healthier version of banana bread that I found on Pinterest (of course). It's healthier because it's made with unsweetened applesauce and honey and wheat flour instead of oil, sugar, and white flour.

Here's the recipe:


  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar free applesauce
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 mashed overripe bananas

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together applesauce and honey. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. 


Here's the result:



The review? It's pretty darn good. It's heartier than my usual recipe, but anytime I use wheat flour the result is a rougher texture. It's also just as sweet as my usual recipe, and it probably would have been even sweeter if my bananas were a little more over-ripe.  Will I make it again?  Sure!  Why not?  I like it just as well as my regular recipe and it has "better bones." Trey really liked it, too.

Experiment #2 was a recipe I also found on Pinterest. This one is roasted shrimp enchiladas with jalapeno cream sauce, only I didn't follow it exactly.   First of all, I had a chicken that I needed to cook, so I replaced the shrimp with chicken. Second, I didn't include the cabbage and carrots, but I added extra spinach because I had spinach. Third, I made layered enchiladas instead of rolled enchiladas because a) even on recipe experiment day I can be a little lazy and b) I can usually get away with using fewer tortillas if I stack instead of roll. Fourth, I just poured all of the sauce on top because it seemed silly to save some to add after they cooked. I tried really hard to stick to the two cups of cheese, but I probably used an extra half cup.

Jenny, a friend form work, made the enchiladas last week and told me that it took a long time and virtually every dish in her kitchen, so I was prepared for that. I didn't feel like it took too terribly long, but I wasn't in any hurry and didn't have anyone waiting to eat them, so I don't guess I would have noticed if they took too long. 

Here's the recipe:
Roasted Shrimp Enchiladas with Jalapeño Cream Sauce (adapted from Gimme Some Oven):
Yields 3-4 servings
INGREDIENTS:
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle pepper, in adobo sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
  • 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese
For the jalapeño cream sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
DIRECTIONS:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the shrimp onto the prepared baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste, and gently toss to combine.
Place into oven and roast just until pink, firm and cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before dicing into bite-size pieces.
Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a 9x13 baking dish or coat with nonstick spray.
Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the cabbage, carrot, spinach, chipotle pepper, oregano and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the spinach just begins to wilt, about 1-2 minutes. Add the shrimp and gently toss to combine.
To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Whisk in the flour until lightly browned, about 1-2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the chicken stock and cook, whisking constantly, until incorporated, about 1-2 minutes. Stir in the sour cream. Add the jalapeños and garlic powder and simmer unitl the sauce has thickened, about 2 minutes; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.
To assemble the enchiladas, lay the tortilla on a flat surface and spoon 1/3 cup of the shrimp mixture in the center; sprinkle with cheese. Roll the tortilla and place seam side down onto prepared baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and shrimp mixture.
Pour half of the jalapeño cream sauce evenly over the top. Place into oven and bake, covered, until lightly golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.
Serve immediately with remaining jalapeño cream sauce, garnished with cilantro.

Here's the result:



The review? Uh-Mazing!  They are super delicious!  I will make them again when I want to make something impressive! Trey sampled them and said, "They taste like a restaurant," which I think is a compliment. They are kind of thin, so I may make them in a square pan next time so they're thicker. I worried that adding the extra sauce from the beginning would make them soupy, but it didn't at all.  If they heat up well as leftovers, they will be a double win!

Side note: Because Trey was mowing I had to de-bone the chicken myself. There aren't many things that gross me out more than picking apart a dead animal carcass, raw or cooked. But I was a very brave girl and I did it. I think I only gagged twice. Trey should be very proud. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dancing

I can't dance.

Seriously, I can't do it. I have no rhythm.

Tonight, however, I danced my face off.

It's always funny to me how God brings people into our lives.

I met many of my very best friends at the New Teacher Induction Program in August of 2003. Chrissy, the principal at the time, was pretty insane to hire me in the first place because I had no student teaching or real in-the-classroom experience.  But she did it anyway.

I remember thinking how smart and qualified and cool all my of NTI group members were. I thought I would never fit in or be as great as them. I felt like the kid who got picked last for the team, even though I have absolutely no idea whether or not I was picked last.

In the last nine years, that group has become my closest friends. My "people" if you will. We've been through marriages and divorces. We've lost and gained personal children and student children and parents. We've gone to grad school and changed teaching fields and found things to be passionate about and learned that work isn't everything. We can be happy for each other and kindly critical of each other and we always support each other. Always. It sort of feels like we've grown up together.

Tonight we celebrated another of my people finding his perfect match - his happily ever after.

And I danced. And I didn't care it was bad and no one else did either.

Because they are my people.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I won!

I won I won I won I won I won!

I was riding the car when I read the results on mybcs, and I almost jumped out of my seat! I gave Trey a high five that was like this super-awesome we just won the Super Bowl high five, but in reality I think he didn't know what I was doing and ducked before our hands actually hit.  Maybe it's just that I'm so strong now that he thought maybe my high-five would hurt. That's probably it.

I have happy danced and read and re-read the final results all evening, and I'm just giddy. I can't believe it!  I had resigned myself to the fact that I had done my best - put it all out there - and if we didn't win then that would be okay because I worked like I wanted to win. But then I actually won, and it was way better than just working to win.

I posted a few times ago that I refuse to diet, and I still do. If I just say no to the bad stuff and buy the good stuff at the grocery store then I'm WAY better off. I've learned how to eat apples without cutting them up first. This is a big one for me because apple skin gets stuck in my teeth (which is annoying) and for some reason biting into an apple is sort of like eating meat off of a bone (something I would never do). I've tried protein pancakes (they weren't that good), protein shakes (it was good, but only worth 8 grams of protein for me because I could only drink about a third of it. I also don't like drinks with milky consistency - like milk and protein shakes), artichokes (okay, I steamed it and then threw it away four days later because it scared me), and asparagus (which I've had with dinner every night). I made my first and second and third and fourth frittata because they are easy and heat up well for breakfast. I've had salad dressing on the side. I've had FroYoYo german chocolate cake yogurt (at 8 calories an ounce) instead of Hagen Daas. I've had a better food plan.

(Full disclosure: I'm also currently eating a cupcake. It's lemon. There was this one food truck...)

At BCS Fitness I was pushed more than I ever in a million years would push myself. It was kind of awful, but I liked it.

Is a little part of me afraid that I'm just a few episodes of Ice Loves Coco and a few cupcakes away from packing those 15 pounds right back on?  Absolutely. But a little more time at BCS Fitness will certainly help. Then, I'll have to have a new plan for how to work out on my own the right way.

But for now, I WON!

I don't want to brag (yeah, right), but this is my blog for all of posterity and when I come back and look at this years from now I'll want to remember. The two boys together scored 172.5 points. I scored 145 by myself. I killed it!

Okay, I'll stop being annoying now.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

The End of the Contest

First, let me say a few things to remember. I've had the opportunity of late to read over some really old blog posts, and it makes my heart happy to remember silly things my kids said or did years and years ago. I just spent a few minutes looking at old pictures on Trey's facebook (Keaton couldn't remember our vacation to Kemah, so we looked at pics), and now I'm feeling nostalgic. I'm sure the two (skinny) margaritas I just had have nothing to do with it.

This morning, before he got dressed, Tucker put on catcher's gear. This means that he was wearing underwear, a chest protector, leg pads, and a helmet. I SO wanted to take a picture, but he's nine now. At some point that has to be illegal, right?

I survived Academy with the boys twice today. They tried to sneak out and go without me because without me they spend WAY too much money, but I caught on to their little trick and tagged along. Tucker and Keaton both really wanted those titanium necklaces, and they had enough money to buy them today. It took two trips because Tucker was indecisive.

Tonight we grilled steaks and vegetables and then we sat out on the patio and enjoyed the evening. The Zac Brown Band Pandora station played in the background while we relaxed and the boys...wait for it...threw a ball back and forth. It just doesn't get much better.




Now, on to the contest.

It's over.

We don't know the winners yet. They should be posted some time next week. The total weight loss was reported as a teaser, and the girls won that. I think it's to throw us off the course, and in the end the boys won. It's really impossible to tell, though. Here are my final results in case your interested:

Total weight loss: 15 pounds, 9.2%
Body Fat Percentage: down 4.6%
Measurements:
neck: down .5 inches
chest: down 2.75 inches
waist: down 8 inches
hips: down 3 inches
plank hold: increase 390% (from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, 27 seconds)
push ups: increase 300% (from 6 to 24)
squats: 43% increase (from 81 to 116)
row calories burned in 5 minutes: 56% increase (from 39 to 61)

I did all of this math myself, so it could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time I screwed up at math. :)

My reaction?
Oh my holy moly goodness!

First, I lost 14.25 inches from my body. That's more than a foot!  I can't believe that's even possible, much less in eight weeks. It's still a little surreal.

The day before my final assessment, I did a little practice in my living room so I could have goals to shoot for. I had Keaton time my plank hold, and I did one minute easily. I knew I could do at least two, so I went in with a goal of more than two. I wish I had held on for three more seconds because I like round numbers, but I really gave it all I had.

(By the way, when I practiced, I had Coach Tucker helping me out. "Planks?  You mean hover?  I LOVE hover!  I bet I can hover more than you!  Let's do it together. Come on!  Come on!  You can last longer than that!  PUSH!" It was funny and a little...well...weird having my nine year old work as my personal trainer.)

Have I mentioned that push ups suck. They really, really, really suck and I hate them. I would rather do burpees. For reals. I told the trainer before my final test that I knew I could do 15, but I wanted to do 18 because that would be three times as many as when I started. Then, when I was in the middle of it, she said, "Go for 24!" and I did. I'd like to point out that I actually did 27 push ups, but three of them were not low enough to be counted. I think those combined should at least give me 1 1/2 more.

I also had to take a written test about the movie Food, Inc and the book The Paleo Diet. This was the only thing I got mouthy about because I'm really good at taking tests. It was a ten question test, and I got a 70. A 70! When Brad told me, I knew exactly which three questions I missed because I had it narrowed down to two answers and picked the wrong ones. I would like to point out that I got every question from the book correct, and two of the three questions I missed were about numbers. It was that darn movie that got me. In my mind, I could see the graphics on the screen that answered the questions, but I couldn't read the numbers.

I did my fitness test during the first half of Thursday's workout, and I really couldn't do much in the second half. My hamstrings cramped (from the squats, I'm sure) and I was just completely out of fuel. I mostly just stretched during the second half. I knew that I gave it everything I had in the fitness test, so I can't really be disappointed if the girls lose.

When this whole thing started, I told Trey I'd like to lose 20 pounds, and after losing 15 it seems silly to stop now. I need to get a plan together for working out, and I've decided this includes putting the gym on my calendar two or three days a week. That way no one schedules anything in my afternoons that seeps into my gym time. It also makes me go, which is great.

I think I'll also suggest to my local gym that they begin posting a "workout of the week." Part of the beauty of BCS Fitness is that we never did the same thing twice. At the gym by myself, I know that I'll just do the same thing over and over, and that thing won't be the hardest exercises. I need someone telling me to do something different each week, something that will make me push myself.

I also need to continue my meal planning and cooking at home. I've discovered lots of stuff that I didn't know I liked - like asparagus - and I need to keep looking for those healthy foods and adding vegetables to every meal. I learned that I like protein bars (these are my favorite), and while they aren't low calorie health food, they are better than having a candy bar or pretzels or some other nutrition-free snack when I'm starving and have to eat in the car.

I guess the most important thing I've learned is that I was lying to myself. In my contest entry to BCS Fitness, I wrote, "I feel like I'm just made to be over 160 pounds." Well, I'm not. I feel better at less than 160 pounds, less than 150, and being heavier than that is because I'm too lazy to take care of myself. It feels a little harsh, but it's true.

And so, the journey begins. I'll post later about whether or not the girls won and I get another 8 weeks of free training.

I'll also be on the lookout for new experiences to blog about.  Anything with heights is out because I'm terrified of them, but I'm open to other suggestions.

Travel blogs are always fun. Remember How do you Say Buggy in Spanish and The Korean Spa Adventure?  If anyone would like to send me on a trip, I'd be happy to write about it.