Freckles in April: March 2017

Friday, March 24, 2017

A Few Links

Just a few things I enjoyed reading on the internet this week and you might as well.

How to be happier according to the world's happiest man (who is, apparently, a Tibetan Monk originally from France).


How our perception of Harry Truman changed. I saw this graph this week charting presidential popularity. It's about Trump obviously but the most interesting line, to me, was Harry Truman's.


I knew he'd been unpopular at the time but didn't realize he'd had such a crazy fall from grace (his highs and lows are comparable to Bush 43 but he did it in 400 days vs W's 2000ish). It send me down the rabbit hole of reading about Harry Truman and here we are.


Reality contestants spent a year cut off from the world. Buuut turns out their show barely aired. (h/t Katie)


This girl planned her wedding in 5 days. On the one hand: good for her. Way to focus on your relationship and not the extra fluff of wedding planning. You don't need it! On the other hand: it may not have been stressful for her but I'd imagine it was for a lot of other people who had to scramble to make it work (the caterer, friends and family who dropped everything at the last minute to be there, etc). Mixed feelings!

Painful, horrible, terrible things most girls have experienced. Buzzfeed, man. Never not relateable.




Also relateable: Chris Pratt's IG series "What's my snack?"  I'm working on a (very long, probably useless) post about food for my gym series and I snort laughed watching his videos. I've been there.


Have you read anything good this week? Share!

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Monday, March 20, 2017

The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer

We went to Barnes and Noble on a family date night a few weeks ago and right there on the "new releases" shelf was THIS.

Ok, I generally feel like I know about stuff. Even as a person who hasn't blogged in a while, I usually hear about upcoming things- promising new brands, interesting restaurants, new releases by famous authors. It's part of being in the blogging network- you just hear about stuff. But I had *no idea* The Chemist was coming out.

I hopped onto my library app and apparently I was the only one who didn't know about The Chemist because the waistlist was like 300 people long.

A few weeks later Janssen texted me and offered to share her audiobook version with me. There were still like 250 people between me and any copy from my library so I took her up on it and binge listened to it over the next few days.

Let me begin by admitting that I have a very weird relationship with Stephenie Meyer. I can't put her books down but I also know they're kind of terrible. I hate that I love them. When I bought one of the Twilight books I hid it under a pile of clothing in my closet because I felt so conflicted about owning it.

I do think her writing is getting better. The Chemist is maybe her least terrible in terms of writing style (although I haven't read The Host in ages so I can't say for sure. But it's def better than Twilight with its endless descriptions of Edward's marble torso). And I have to give her props for trying out different genres- The Chemist is a kind of black-ops thriller. She dedicated it to Aaron Cross and Jason Bourne and you can see their influence.

I quite liked the heroine. She's smart and capable which does my feminist heart good. Wimpy, moony Bella drove me bonkers through much of the Twilight series and Alex is kind of the anti-Bella. She can take care of herself and that was really refreshing coming from Stephenie Meyer.

Downside: this is still a very Stephenie Meyer love story.

They've known each other less than a week before someone utters the L-word. There's an assumption from early on that they're going to be together forever which would be reeeal creepy if they had just met on Tinder like normal people. Some of the love interest's dialogue made me a bit gaggy. LET IT BREATHE, MEYER. They can get together later in the book without these constant declarations of undying affection; why rush it??

Romantic tension just isn't her strong suit. She's more of the "throw them together and get it over with" type.

Fortunately, the rest of the plot is really fun with a secret government agency and torture and revenge and awesome dogs so I enjoyed it. I have no idea how much of it would hold up under scrutiny but you can tell she did her research and tried to make it as plausible as possible.

If you're a Stephenie Meyer hater, I doubt this one will sway you. But if you've enjoyed her other stuff then you should go grab this one.

Then come back and talk to me about it because no one I know has read it yet and I want to discuss.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Getting That Last Bit of Product

I kind of thought most people knew this trick but I just explained it to a friend and blew her mind. SO, here are some really ugly pictures I took in my husband's lab just now to explain how to get as much as possible out of makeup tubes with that annoying packaging that leaves a lot left at the top and bottom.


I LOVE my Wunderbrow but the packaging is so annoying. Fortunately, there's a way to get at ALL that product left at the top and at least a little bit from the bottom.



Products like this have a rubber gasket at the top to scrape excess product off the brush when you pull it out. I suspect it also helps keep the product from drying out since it limits airflow into the tube, so don't do this until you're pretty much at the end of what you can reach with the brush. It serves a purpose but it also limits how much you can get out.


Take a pair of needle nosed pliers and force the edge between the gasket and the edge of the makeup tube. Remove, rotate the tube and do it again. Work your way around the perimeter and the gasket should start to pop out a little bit.



Push the edge of the pliers under the lip and push the gasket up. Remove it from the tube.


Done! Now the brush can get at all the makeup stuck up at the top. It can also go slightly further into the tube without that gasket in the way so you can get a bit more out of the bottom. I'll get a couple more weeks out of my Wunderbrow now!
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Monday, March 13, 2017

On Having a Difficult Child

Stinky, aged 3


My oldest son was 6 weeks premature. He was a tiny little thing but he caught up quickly and became a healthy and strong toddler. He was my sidekick and we went everywhere together- library story time, the zoo, splash pads. He was sweet and funny and smart and I adored him.

And then he turned 3.

Here's what I wrote on my kids' private blog when he turned 3.5:

[Stinky] has become a big bowl full of sass and mean lately. Whenever I ask him to do anything he snaps, "NO Mom. STOP. Just stop talking." 
Um yeah. It infuriates me. 
He seems to be physically incapable of using a nice voice when talking to [Baby 2]. He's always yelling at him and just generally being mean. He refuses to share and has zero tolerance for when [Baby 2] is sad. It really upsets me and I've been at a bit of a loss as to how to handle it. At this point, [Stinky] just spends large amounts of his day in time out. 
This is probably the largest reason I haven't blogged here lately. I find it difficult to say nice things about [Stinky] and it makes me feel bad. He's my baby and I love him but I kind of want to send him to boarding school. I just have to keep reminding myself that it's a phase and it will pass! 

I could have written that exact same blog post at any point last year. It took six years to pass.

Part of the reason I decided in December that I wanted to blog again was because I had this incredibly difficult child that I just really needed to write about. I needed help. I needed suggestions. I needed commiseration. I needed to see if anyone else out there was dealing with this.

And then...we inadvertently figured it out.

Let me back up.

Stinky (now 9) became difficult at 3 and only got harder as he got older. The way in which he was difficult is always hard for me to define though- he could be really sweet and helpful at times (and he adores his little sister, thank heavens) but he could also be sneaky, manipulative and mean. He wasn't normal-kid-naughty; he was on a whole other level. I caught a lot of it but most of this ugly energy was turned toward his younger brother (almost 7). They were either best friends or Stinky hated his guts; there didn't seem to be much of an in-between. Aaron and I often wondered at what point a child's behavior should be considered abusive. We were always on eggshells.

One night over Christmas break I hid the baby monitor into their room. The way Stinky treated and talked to his brother while we were present was really awful and we were curious what he said when he thought we weren't listening. The things we heard terrified us. We immediately went back to their bedroom and removed him to the guest room.

Then I cried.

See, we'd tried everything. Over the years we'd offered incentives and given ever-increasing consequences. We'd given him more one-on-one time with each of us. We discouraged some friendships and encouraged others. We tried a couple different sports. We'd done therapy twice a month for a year at $100 per session. After his last meeting with his therapist she told me she didn't know what else she could do for him and recommended elevating him to a special clinic 45 minutes away to be "evaluated."

We were out of ideas. We loved him but he was hurting our family and he seemed so beyond reach. We didn't know what else to do except take him to the clinic and hope that labeling the problem would help more than it would hurt. We even considered taking him out of school, wondering if someone there was spurring his behavior in some way.

Then abruptly...he was better.

I mean, he's not a perfect child or anything, but his behavior is now more of what you would expect from the average 9 year old kid who doesn't like doing chores.

It's only been a couple months so I can't say with total certainty that he's moved on from the behavior we've dealt with for the past 6 years but I think I figured it out.

Stinky is a textbook introvert. His brother is an extrovert like whoa. We all find him a little exhausting, to be honest, but Stinky is the one who fields most of his energy because they're close in age, shared a room and are playmates. I think he simply kept hitting a wall where he was all-peopled-out and then his brother would just keep coming at him with all his energy and love and enthusiasm and he couldn't handle it and it turned into this big, ugly, behavioral problem.

He needed his own room.

After all those years, he just needed his own. damn. room.

When they shared a room he had nowhere to escape and have quiet and be alone. Now, he'll often disappear toward the end of the afternoon and go read a book with his door closed. He has a place where his loving-but-exhausting brother can't get to him without permission. He has a chance to rest and recharge and be by himself.

This might be a forever change or it might just be a small reprieve- whatever it is, I'll take it.

Moms with difficult children- I see you. I see how hard you're trying. I know the worries and the tears and the exhaustion and I want you to know that you're not alone.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dress Appropriately Please



My husband is still a believing Mormon (along with most of our friends) so I've still sort of got one foot in the church, even though I officially resigned over a year ago. I attend church with my family every other week but generally eschew other activities unless they're geared toward my kids. Last month, though, I noticed a new announcement in the bulletin. The stake organized a running and walking club and the first meeting was the following Saturday. "That's a fun idea," I said as I showed it to Aaron.

I'm always looking for ways to get more cardio in and I seriously considered joining the group heading out that weekend.

Until I got the email.

Aaron forwarded the information from the stake when it showed up in his inbox and it looked fine. All cardio and fitness levels welcome. Here's where we're meeting and the time. This is the route. Bring your own water.

Oh and: dress appropriately please.

dress. appropriately. please.

I guess I've been out of the church long enough now that an adult man telling other adults how to dress struck me as incredibly off-putting. That used to feel normal but now it has effectively snuffed out my interest in the running club. I just don't care to have my clothing policed while I'm running.

Or ever, really.

As a private institution the LDS church has every right to dictate what people can or cannot wear to events. But something to keep in mind: would you rather someone show up in a tank top...

...or not at all?



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Monday, March 6, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Rest, "Rest" and REST

When I first started going to the gym with my own cobbled together plan I worked out 3 days a week and rested the other 4 days. Because what's what rest days are for, right? Resting. Sitting around. Not doing things.

And then I started doing Shortcut to Size. I was DYING I was so sore after the first couple days and was so relieved to see a rest day. Until I saw the fine print.


Remember that every rest day should be an active rest day. Rest days are for recovery; they're not an excuse to be lazy. Get out and hit 15-30 minutes of HIIT cardio today, or perform 30-60 minutes of your favorite activity: hiking, biking, walking, playing a sport, etc.



Me, complaining to Aaron: they're not rest days! They're "rest" days! Agghhhhh everything hurts and I'm dying.

That particular program really pushes the HIIT but I hate cardio that's just for the sake of cardio. Instead, as much as possible, I get outdoors.

Aaron: You hike so much!
Me: I'm not hiking, I'm "resting".








Hiking is my rest day activity of choice. I've always loved it but didn't get out very often because it's hard to go with my whiny kids or to coordinate schedules with hiking buddies. Now that I think of it as a necessary part of my fitness routine, I've started occasionally going alone when it's convenient for me (which I love!) and I've found new trails that push me.


I've schedule my lift days so that my hip hop dance class falls on a rest day then I try to hike one of the other rest days. If I can't hit a trail somewhere I'll go for a run or push my daughter around the neighborhood in her stroller for a while. I try to stay more active on my "rest" days but I do also try to have at least one real rest day each week. My muscles need it.


Which brings me to REST. Sometimes you need real REST, not "rest." My thyroid got wonky in January and I dropped my gym time down a lot for a couple weeks until we could get my medication sorted. I didn't hike so much. I went to bed earlier and slept in whenever I could. If your body feels sluggish and you're exhausted it's possible that you need REST*. Train less. Sleep more. Let your body work on healing and rebuilding. Then get back to it!


*or possibly more food. We'll talk about that.




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Friday, March 3, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Optional Gear that Makes Life Easier



You don't need anything fancy to go to the gym. Breathable clothing that you can comfortably move around in and supportive shoes- that about covers the necessities. BUT if you've been going to the gym for a bit and realize, hey, this is maybe something that might stick, then here are a few things that might make your life a little easier and more comfortable.

An armband for your phone

If you feel like music improves your exercise, you're not imagining it. There's actually a study that shows listening to music increases your endurance by about 15%. I am almost physically incapable of exercising without music. One time I accidentally brought a dead pair of headphones to the gym and it was, without exaggeration, the worst workout I've ever had.

A few weeks ago I watched a video of a healthy living blogger doing pushups with her phone in her sports bra and I found myself thinking, "Oh honey, why." I used to keep mine in there too but it got sweaty and gross and sometimes it would fall out or down and it was super annoying. Plus it feels weird to fish your phone out of your boobs in public if you want to change the song or answer a text.

This armband is currently on sale for six dollars. I've had it for years and it's only just barely starting to show a little wear. It's a good investment.

[also, please drop your best gym jams in the comments. My playlist has changed very little in the past few years and it's feeling a bit stale! Help!]


Gloves 

It took me a long time to give into the gloves. My gym is mostly old people and a lot of them wear gloves and so my brain sort of subconsciously made the association that weight lifting gloves are for old people. But then I started lifting heavier weights and my hands were getting beat. PLUS my legs are significantly stronger than my arms so my leg days are sometimes limited by what my hands and arms can handle. Gloves help me grip heavier barbells. They're not a necessity but they are really nice if lifting sometimes hurts your hands.

[I linked to mine, which I actually bought at Target for cheaper, but I've only had them a few months and they're starting to fall apart a bit. I like them ok but I'm sure there are other options out there that will hold together longer]


FitBit (or something similar)

I recommend this...sort of. There are caveats. I inherited Aaron's FitBit when he bought himself an Apple Watch for Christmas, otherwise I doubt I ever would have bothered. I do actually really love it but it has limited usefulness if you're lifting.

FitBit tracks steps but lifting weights involves a lot of staying in one place. I can kill myself in the gym for an hour and only get 2500 steps. It feels like my fitness tracker isn't giving me much credit for the fact that I am putting a LOT of effort toward getting fit. There are plenty of days where I get a really good workout in but still don't hit the 10,000 recommended daily steps. It's weirdly demoralizing, especially since I have friends who get like 16,000+ steps a day (you can follow your friends and see how they're doing, cheer them on, etc through the FitBit app).

But FitBit does track caloric burn. Figuring out what and how much to eat has been the hardest part of all this for me (working on a post about this) and seeing how many calories I've burned has helped me make sure I'm eating the right amount.

Also, it just makes me be generally a lot more active. I've added miles to hikes just to see how many steps I could get. I go for walks with my daughter in the stroller because my FitBit says I'm being lazy. So there's limited usefulness when it comes to lifting weights but, overall, having a FitBit makes me move a lot more throughout the rest of the day.


A silicone ring

Lifting weights while wearing metal rings isn't a great idea. There's a lot of pressure and it can damage your ring or your finger (Google "degloving injury" if you've got a strong stomach). If you wear a wedding ring and the idea of taking it off to go to the gym makes you feel weird, a silicone ring is a great alternative. I got a 4-pack from Amazon for cheap and I love them. Also, I don't get guys bothering me at the gym very often (see: almost everyone is aged 65+) but the few times it has happened were all on days I wasn't wearing a ring. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not, but it's nice to just be left alone while I do my workout.


Resistance Bands

My gym has stretchy bands but they're the straight kind and I was always having to knot them to make loops for banded squats, some of my ab exercises, etc. My gym time is limited (I have one hour between when it opens and when I need to be home to wake my kids up for school) and it always took me several minutes to get them knotted comfortably and to the proper length. It felt like such a waste of precious time. I finally just bought my own (looped) resistance bands. They're only $12, which is totally worth it for me. Plus having them opens up some home exercise options for days I can't make it to the gym.


Clothes 

Workout clothes don't have to be fancy but it's nice to have a couple changes, especially if you get sweaty and don't want to be washing your sports bras every day. Try TJ Maxx, Ross and Wal Mart for really affordable gym clothes. I got an $89 pair of yoga pants for $15 at TJ Maxx a few weeks ago and they're fantastic. The Danskin Now line from Wal Mart is (I'm embarrassed to admit) pretty great and comprises most of my gym wardrobe (if you watch my IG stories, this comes up a lot). Make your stuff last by washing on cold and laying flat to dry.


Good socks 

Decent socks are weirdly important to me when it comes to working out or hiking. If all I have left in my drawer are those ones that slip down into my shoe every time I move then I probably won't even leave the house. I recently got a pack of men's Adidas socks from Costco and I love them SO MUCH.

[I think these are maybe the same ones but they were way cheaper at Costco. I've also seen some good options at TJMaxx recently]



Again, none of this is necessary (well, except for the clothes and socks but you know what I mean). You can get into great shape without any of it! But sometimes the little extras just make life a bit easier.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

My Tips for Gym Success: Know Your Brain

5:15 comes reeeeal early.


I tried doing Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guides a year or two ago and really loved it. I ultimately couldn't stick with it, though and I've recently figured out why.

If I always know that I have to go hard then eventually I quit.

I have to be able to go into my workout saying, "I'm pretty tired, I can have an easy day." Inevitably, I'll get warmed up and get into the zone and have a great workout. But if I wake up knowing that I'm going to get my butt kicked then I often can't force myself to even get out of bed.

I know it's totally silly! But that's how my brain works and knowing that (and working with it) has given me the best and most consistent exercise I've ever had in my whole life.

I mentioned this to a friend the other day while we were hiking and she thought for a moment and said she can't make herself exercise if she knows she's gotten less than 7 hours of sleep the night before. She can't look at the clock as she's trying to fall asleep because if she sees a number past 10:45 then her brain gives her an automatic pass to skip the gym the next morning, whether she feels well-rested or not.

Exercise and fitness are as much mental as they are physical. If you can figure out what game your brain is playing then you're well on your way.

see also: this article, which I found super fascinating and comes to mind a lot when I'm at the gym

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