Friday, January 31, 2014

Transformations (Pictures)

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote this post about getting healthy.

Well, I thought you might be interested in seeing the body and mind transformations that have already occurred.

I know… you're thinking…mind?  You'll soon understand!

So this picture was taken on December 21st.
I was in St. Louis with the kiddos to celebrate Christmas.
Chris was on-duty…again…and I was having a pity party for myself.

(Why does MY spouse always have to work on the holidays…why am "I" always the one traveling alone with the children…martyrdom at it's finest!)

I remember thinking as I stood next to my stylish, beautiful sisters and mom, "suck in that gut" yet knowing that I couldn't possibly make myself look thinner on camera.

Although I had been to the doctor a couple of weeks earlier and gotten the irregular heartbeat diagnosis, I had yet to get my lab results back and was not yet aware of the pre-diabetes diagnosis.  

Although I can see it…evidenced by my bloated face and round appearance!

Of course I made all sorts of excuses for not starting a healthy eating regimen sooner…

"…I've got New Year's Eve to celebrate…I don't want to give up Winter Comfort foods…We still need to celebrate Christmas with Chris' family…"

Excuses.  Plain and Simple.

But after getting those lab results and coming to the realization that I might have to finger prick 5x a day to manage a Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis, I got my self motivated to get healthy.

I still have a LONG way to go…but as I mentioned before, I'm already feeling better and as evidenced by these photos taken yesterday, I'm already starting to look better!

Two weeks…just two weeks of cutting out sugars and starchy carbs and truly eating lots of chicken, fresh fruits and vegetables.

And now for my "mind" transformation…

I've vowed to stop putting myself last (funny how I always said I didn't have "time" to exercise…yet now I fit in 1 hour a day") and made an appointment to get some high lights!

Hair Color at 3:15 yesterday…

Hair Color at 6:30 after a trip to the salon!

Much better!  I'm blonde again!!!

And now I'm off to Jazzercise.  Wishing you a wonderful start to your weekend!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

First Time Spelling Bee Participant!

It's been a really fun and crazy week at our house.

Last Sunday was the beginning of National Catholic Schools Week.
We started off with Mass followed by the Knights of Columbus Pancake Breakfast followed by Mommy (PTO President and Resource Room Teacher) giving tours to prospective families.

Then the fun began…for the kids!  :)

Monday was Blue and Gold Day…the spirit wear colors of St. Paul

But Tuesday was the big day…

It was "Mismatch" day…and the St. Paul Catholic School Spelling Bee.

Miss Mary and another classmate  got to "represent" Third Grade in the all school Spelling Bee.

I know she was so nervous…competing against students from the 3rd through the 8th grade!  

Nerves before the start...

Squealing with delight after picking Number 4 for contestant order...

Posing for Mom...

Waiting to start!  
Have you ever seen such a tiny group of contestants for a 3rd-8th Grade Spelling Bee???!!! Ha!

I was sick with nerves…
…maybe more so than when I was a Spelling Bee contestant myself!

My hope was that she didn't go down in the First Round.  That's just gotta be soul crushing!

And so they did a practice round.

Where errors didn't count.




"I mean…Y"

And my heart sank for her.

You just knew, that she knew, she had mis-heard the word…thinking it was "replied" instead of "reply" and there's no going back once those letters are out of your mouth.

She looked so little…and is…compared to those grown-up 7th and 8th graders!

I was so worried that her confidence would be shaken.  
She looked at me…shrugged her shoulders when they said, "Incorrect"..and took her seat.

And I prayed.

Dear Jesus,

Please, just let her make it through the First Round.
I don't have any other expectations…
…just that she can experience the relief and success of getting a word or two right.


And guess what…

She did great! 

She went for Five Rounds before missing the word 


E-Q-U-A-S-I-O-N?  Equation.


She handled herself with grace and composure when she came to take a seat by me on the bleachers!  Of course, immediately wanting to know what she did wrong.

Regardless of the outcome, I am so proud of my girl!

Way to go Mary Catherine!!!  Your love for reading and writing is evident in your fantastic spelling skills!

Fellow 3rd Grade Classmate, Lauren.

Holding her "participant' certificate!

Group photo for the yearbook!

The whole group…12 kiddos representing the 3rd through 8th grades.

Celebratory ice cream shakes afterwards!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Beauty on Sunday…A Kansas Sunset

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
 ~Philippians 4:8~

Friday night's sunset…

…took my breath away.

Such vibrant colors…

…pinks and blues and oranges.

Wishing you a beautiful start to your work week…wherever  that may take place…

…in the heart of your home…a classroom…hospital…office…

I hope today you were able to find rest and rejuvenation.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Mercy of Jesus and Touch

I had an entirely different post prepared for today, but last night my littlest one came to me with flushed cheeks and the shivers.  He kept telling me, "I'm shivery, Mama."  *frown*  So, today I am off from work with Luke.  I don't mind…it means a day full of snuggles and hot chocolate!  *smile*

As I logged into my email last night to send my principal a note about not being at work today, I opened up a message about Wednesday morning's Gospel.

I'm not really sure why, but this particular Gospel passage struck me in a way that it hasn't before.  

The Mercy of Jesus
Mark 3:  7-12

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples.
A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea.
Hearing what he was doing, 
a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, 
from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, 
and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.
He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, 
so that they would not crush him.
He had cured many and, as a result, those who had diseases
were pressing upon him to touch him.
And whenever unclean spirits saw him they would fall down before him 
and shout, “You are the Son of God.”
He warned them sternly not to make him known.

Source: Google Images

Father John, Pastor at St. Paul Catholic Church where my children attend school, shared in his homily that,

"The Gospel gives us a beautiful image of the crowd reaching out to touch Jesus.  Their faith was so strong that they knew if they could only touch him, they would be healed.  Even though Jesus was very overwhelmed, he allowed himself to be fact he desired it.  We need to respond with faith to the need to be spiritually healed by Christ...and reach out to touch him."

As beautiful as this message is…I started thinking of it in a different way.  I started thinking about how you and me are called to be the hands and feet of Christ.  How we are called to minister to our neighbor…meaning our family members, students,  or co-workers.

Although we are often overwhelmed…we too need to allow ourselves to be touched by those in need... and desire it.

Have you ever seen this episode from Family Guy?  Cracks me up every time!

I can remember wanting to scream on some days when I would hear over and over, "Mrs. Kueter, Mrs. Kueter, Mrs. Kueter, Mrs. Kueter…" because my students needed me...

Or when I'm trying to cook dinner and a little one is hanging on my leg repeatedly saying, "mama, mama, mama,"…

Or when I crawl into bed and my husband needs me…and all I really want to do is go to sleep and not be touched by anyone anymore that day!

Yet, Christ calls us to answer and minister to those students, children, and spouses in our lives who are crying out to touch us and to have us "heal" their needs.   But also, we are called to desire their touch.  (And this is where I struggle!)

Christ, in his humanity, experienced and understands our weariness…anxiety…and being overwhelmed.  So he sets the example of how to serve his Father,  by allowing himself to be touched and desiring it.

So my prayer for today is this, 

"Lord, let me desire to reach out to you in faith…to want spiritual healing…and in doing so to joyfully be your hands and feet to others while desiring their touch.

Let's pray for each other, shall we?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Taking Joy in…Friendship (Meeting up with a Fellow Blogger)

It's not often that we get to meet up in person with those we have friended over the Internet.

And if you're my husband…who pretty much thinks all social media is a waste of time…you might even think it strange to want to get together with a "total stranger"…his words.  *smile*

(Side Note:  Chris almost had me convinced that "Patty" was going to be a 55 year-old-man from Skokie, Illinois hoping to meet up with a 14-tween year old!  LOL)  

I knew better!

Patty and I had been planning this little hook-up for several months.  Last Fall, she emailed me to let me  know that she had family relocating to the Kansas City area and that a possible Christmas trip was in the works.  A month or so later, I followed up with Patty…just to make sure that she knew I hadn't forgotten about her family's vacation and that if it worked out, I definitely wanted to meet up.

I was so excited in late December when Patty emailed me to let me know that her family was making the trip to Kansas City and that she wanted to carve out a bit of time for us to get together.

Yes…our families think us odd!  *wink* But those of us in the blogosphere know better!

For those of you that know Patty from Reasons for Chocolate from her on-line presence, just know this…

…she is as genuinely warm, funny, and caring as she is on her blog!

The first thing Patty did was let out a giant squeal and give me a great big bear hug.  We quickly ordered our hot chocolates/mochas…introduced our kiddos to each other…and let the gabbing begin!  (We're both missing a few kiddos from the pic…cousin time and Pinewood Derby building prevented the big boys from meeting.   And I would have LOVED to hug on that sweet Clementine!!!)

Our hour together at Starbucks flew by much too quickly, but already we're plotting and planning a Spring or Summer get-together.

Just as Christ surrounded himself with 12 of his closest friends…we too can find joy in the beauty of friendship…especially those friendships that draw us closer to Him.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Taking Care of Me

*Be forewarned…long rambling post!*

Dear Friends,

How are you?  How has your January been going?

Mine has not been so great, but it is slowly getting better!  In fact, this past Fall/Holiday Season…I have felt really crummy.  Something was just not right.

I was tired all of the time.  I was irritable.  I was anxious.  I was unmotivated.  I was weepy.  I was just not myself.

Funny…when I look back at my blog archive I can definitely see when I had a 3rd baby…but I can also see when I was feeling good…full of energy and motivated to write.

But more recently, I have been back to feeling overwhelmed and lethargic…fuzzy-headed and blah.

At first it was random…the "I can't catch my breath" or "rapid heart beat" feeling that I would experience at night while laying on the couch ready for bed at 8:30 PM!  But then those same experiences were occurring while I was driving the kids in the car or escorting a student back to class.  They were also happening more frequently.  And if I was alone in the car…I would sometimes burst into tears while feeling like my heart was racing against time.

I consulted with my husband (the paramedic)…and then of course, my ICU nurse sister,…and the consensus was that I needed to see my doctor.

My doctor?

I don't have a doctor.  I have an OB.  I have a GYN.  I have a Pediatrician for my kids. But a good old-fashioned doctor….that I didn't have.

After soliciting referrals and making myself an appointment, I saw a fantastic family-friendly specialist in December.

As I described my symptoms (incorrectly!), she decided to run an EKG right then and there.

And guess what?  It wasn't in my head at all (like the hubby may or may not have suggested…)

I actually showed an "irregular heartbeat" on the EKG.  She congratulated me when she read the strip.  She said that most of the time when patients come in complaining of an irregular heartbeat the EKG shows otherwise!  This time though…it was definitely irregular.

The good news…no sign of heart attack or any heart damage.  Normal cholesterol levels…but slightly elevated blood pressure.

The bad news…I need to get myself back to a healthy weight, but even more importantly…if I want to avoid future heart damage (an irregular heart beat for a prolonged amount of time is not good) and going on beta-blockers, I need to begin exercising regularly.

This cartoon cracked me up…it is my life…spot on!

The other thing Dr. K did was run some more blood tests. This time checking both my thyroid level and my A1C.

Uh oh.

I sort of knew what was coming.

The lab results came back flagged for my A1C.  It wasn't just "high-normal"…it was actually pre-diabetic.

FYI…my A1C was 10.1

And if you've read here for any amount of time, you might know or recall the I was gestational diabetic 3X.  That puts me at significant risk for becoming a Type 2 diabetic.

And yes, it is definitely diet and exercise controlled. (I never did need insulin while pregnant..and probably ate better than ever while pregnant.., yet I still developed gestational diabetes 3X…some things we just can't control!)

But I can also tell you that I personally know lots of folks heavier and less healthy (exercise-wise) than me…that are NOT Type 2 diabetics (yet…).

So much of this does have to do with genetics. I also struggle with some other auto-immune issues like psoriasis…eczema…allergies…etc.  My sister has a medication-requiring thyroid disorder…so it is in the genes to have some of these autoimmune disorders.  But, life-style changes including whole foods, exercise, essential oils, etc. can alter the path one has to take when dealing with these disorders.

So…I'm back on my no sugar (except fruit and dairy) and no carbs (except for fruit) eating-regimen until I get my weight back down and more importantly my blood sugar back under control.

Because THAT is the reason I have been feeling so crummy.  It's not the irregular heart beat…that's just my body's way of signaling to me that the electrical current got thrown off…it's the blood sugar levels that make one feel sleepy, tired, lethargic, moody, anxious, etc.

I am on day 4 of my healthy eating regime..and I'm already perking back up!  Full of energy again.  Not needing a nap after 8 hours of sleep.  Not waking up tired after going to bed at 8:30 PM after putting kids down!  Sleeping soundly through the night.  Not waking up thirsty.  I could go on and on.

So, if you get tired of my "I'm all healthy again…I don't eat sugar/carbs, but on the rare special occasion…I'm  loving JAZZERCISE and/or my daily walk/run…please know that it is NOT to pass judgment on how YOU eat or live.

I am not here to tell you to cut out processed foods (although they are horrible for you!)  *wink*

I am not here to tell you that you can't ever eat cake or pie again (I sure as heck am…what would life be like without angel food cake or Stone Cold Creamery???!!!)

I am not here to make you feel bad that you haven't exercised this week…I hadn't exercised since my leg surgery in November of 2012 (14 months ago!)

I am just posting here to remind myself how very sick I was feeling…how unproductive I had become…how overwhelmed I was with parenting/work/marriage/holidays…all because I chose poor eating and lack of exercise over going the extra mile to take care of me!

And if one gestational…pre-diabetic…or diagnosed Type 2…stumbles upon this blog of mine and feels like they are not alone in their struggle with having to manage the high amount of sugars that are in so many of our foods (you must read labels!!!) then I have made a difference!

In less than a week, I have already begun to feel so much better!  More energetic…more patient…happier…calmer!

And I really, truly, do hope to post more regularly!  Especially now that I am no longer living in a fog!
I love blogging and it is my creative outlet…my place to write…and I hope to get into a regular routine now that I am so much more energetic.

Blessings and stay healthy!!!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

One Last Christmas/New Year Celebration Mateys!

This past weekend (January 4th and 5th) we packed one last "Christmas Hurrah" into our holiday vacation.

Last year, we took the kids to Colorado for Christmas.  We aren't skiers…but we sure do love the mountains, snowshoeing, and sipping hot cocoa by a roaring fire in the piney-air!   

This year, though, Chris' Fire schedule didn't really allow for a long weekend get-away, so instead we "vacationed" in Kansas City.

Besides loving the mountains, we are also ocean-lovers.   We typically do an annual beach vacation either along the Atlantic Coast or Gulf Coast.  We love anything to do with ocean/nautical life including touring aquariums, light houses, and old battleships.

So…when we discovered that the National Geographic Real Pirates exhibit was at Kansas City's Union Station, we decided to splurge and by tickets for the entire crew! We knew our ocean-loving kiddos would enjoy learning about pirate life.

(Sadly, I forgot the good camera and only had my camera phone.)

Exterior of Kansas City's Union Station

Interior Ceiling Union Station

These next images are from the Real Pirates exhibit…where photography was allowed.  Most of the exhibit was not allowed to be photographed.

We learned so very much about the Captain and Crew of the Pirate Ship, Whydah, which sank off the New England coast in April of 1717. It is the only-known, authentic pirate ship to be discovered in North America.

Digging for Treasure!

After the tour of the exhibit, we walked around Union Station taking in the last of the sights and sounds of Christmas.  I didn't realize how beautifully decorated the inside was for the holiday season.  I think we will return in early December next year.  It looked like they had a fabulous "Visit with Santa" display.  

Quick Flashback…the last time we visited Union Station during the holidays…Mary was 2 and Benjamin was about 3 weeks old!

Anyway, the Christmas decorations were beautiful and I can't wait to go back next year.

We finished up our special Saturday Family Fun Day with dinner out at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  Located downtown off of Southwest Blvd., we enjoyed authentic salsas, guacamole, enchiladas and tacos at Manny's Restaurant.  Oh…and the daddy might have ordered the deep fried burrito. Yum!  

The pirate play continued!

And that my friends, was how our family chose to wrap up the Christmas Season and ring in the New Year.

One last holiday post to share…my visit with Patty from Reasons for Chocolate…and then I promise top share my Potato Soup recipe as well as a cute children's book and craft activity for some Winter Fun.

And if you'd like to learn more about authentic Pirate life or the doomed Whydah  or to see if this exhibit is coming to a city near you click here!