First Goal Exceeded!

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First Goal Exceeded!

I am so excited about beating my weight loss goal of five pounds for August!  After a rough two weeks with no loss, I buckled down the last 10 days of the month and started really watching what I ate.  It paid off more than I expected. 


Since August 1st, I have lost 5.8 pounds.  I have lost 1.5 inches on my waist at my belly button and 1.25 inches on my waist at its narrowest, 3/4 inch on my hips, 1/2 inch on each thigh, and 3/8 inch on my upper arm.  I gained 3/8 inch on my calf unfortunately. 


I can’t tell much difference between my photos a month ago and today.  My kids took the photos, so it was hard to get the exact same angle.  My son said my butt looked smaller, and I agree, but it could just be the different angle.  The capri pants I wore yesterday were hanging about three inches too low by the end of the day, so I have definitely lost inches.  It’s wonderful to see some progress.  Just 14 pounds to go!


If you are taking this weight loss journey with me, let me know how you did for August.  Let’s encourage each other to continue moving more and eating less. 

September Menu

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September Menu

I started working on our menu for next month over the weekend, but I was not able to complete it until Monday afternoon.  I love having a plan.  It helps me plan my grocery shopping list and keeps me from becoming stressed over what to cook each evening.  Links will be included for specific recipes.  I hope this list will give you some ideas, new recipes to try, or motivation to plan your menu.  I have made almost all of these recipes several times, and many of them are family favorites.  Maybe you will find a new favorite for your family.  

  1. Leftovers/yoyo (your on your own)
  2. Spicy Shrimp Pasta in Garlic Tomato Cream Sauce
  3. Dinner Out
  4. Bacon, scrambled eggs, Biscuits, fresh fruit
  5. Hamburgers
  6. Cajun Chicken Pasta
  7. Crockpot Sloppy Joes/Stuffed Bell Peppers (low carb, gluten-free alternative)
  8. Leftovers/yoyo
  9. Chicken Cordon Bleu
  10. Dinner Out
  11. Chicken Fajitas (grill extra meat)
  12. Grilled Chicken Salads (leftover chicken from previous night)
  13. Leftovers/yoyo
  14. Spaghetti
  15. Leftovers/yoyo
  16. Southwest Skillet Chicken and Rice
  17. Dinner Out
  18. Sausage, scrambled eggs, Pancakes, fresh fruit
  19. Cheesy Chicken and Tater Tot Casserole (crockpot)
  20. Tacos
  21. Grilled Chicken, Tex Mex Pasta Salad
  22. Leftovers/yoyo
  23. Hobo Dinners
  24. Dinner Out
  25. Tortilla Chip and Pepper Jack Crusted Chicken
  26. Spicy Sausage Pasta
  27. Leftovers/yoyo
  28. Chicken Enchilada Casserole
  29. Leftovers/yoyo
  30. Baked Ravioli

Now I want to share a little tip that has made my life easier.  We purchased a new set of stainless steel cookware about three years ago.  This was my first experience cooking with stainless steel, and I hated how difficult they were to clean, especially after browning or sautéing meat.  

Even after soaking and scrubbing, the pots and pans would have cloudy white spots all over the inside.  About a year ago, I read somewhere that tomato products would fix this problem, so I tried squirting some ketchup in the pan and adding a little water.  


I heated this mixture over low heat for a few minutes and gently scraped with my nylon spoon, and all of that cooked-on residue came right off!  I have used pasta sauce, tomato paste, salsa, diced tomatoes, etc.  Once the acid in the tomatoes has worked its magic, simply wash and dry the pan as usual.  Now I love using my stainless steel cookware!

Week 5 Progress

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Since school started, I have not been able to work out at least five days each week.  I need to get up at 5:00 am just to get myself and my four kids ready to leave the house by 7:15, and I have been staying up late almost every night to work on school things, so getting up earlier than 5:00 am hasn’t been an option until today.  I worked hard all weekend on lesson plans, worksheets, doodle notes, grading, etc., so that I was able to go to bed at 9:30 last night and wake up at 4:30 this morning.  I enjoy starting my day with a workout.  It wakes me up and makes me feel productive. 

Last Tuesday, I adjusted my calorie goal because I am not exercising as frequently as I had been, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to shed another two and a half pounds by the end of this month if I continued with my 1800 calorie limit.  I ate between 1400 and 1500 calories everyday (except Friday) this past week, and I only have one pound remaining to reach my goal for August.  I will update on September 1st to let you know if I reached my goal or not. 

The yellow on the graph means I ate over 500 calories less than what I expended, which is fine because the other option on my app was 700 calories below, and I didn’t want to be that limited. My previous goal was to eat less than 1800 calories a day, so this has been a big change.  I am hungry often, but I will drink water and remind myself not to give in because I will reward myself with a fun size Snickers at the end of the day.  This has worked for a whole week.  I will continue with this reward system.  

I have lost 5.6 pounds since July 26th, but I would like to lose another 15 pounds.  My goal for September is another five pounds.  If you committed to going on this journey with me, let me know how you have done this month.  I’d love to hear from others what is working for you. 

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

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If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them

I get so frustrated when I wake up early to work out and my little girls get up before I can finish or, sometimes, even start working out.  Today was one of those mornings.  I woke up at 6:00 am and got ready to work out.  I remembered that I needed to post an answer key for my students’ weekend homework, and while I was doing that, I heard a little voice yelling for me.  She woke her sister, and neither one of them would go back to sleep because they were hungry.  I don’t understand how they can be hungry before the sun rises after eating dinner at 9:00 pm the night before, but I gave them each a bowl of cereal, thinking I could still work out while they were eating.  They saw their “thumbs up” coloring sheets (from gymnastics) on the table and asked for crayons so they could color them.  After last week’s crayon catastrophe (see photos below), I wasn’t about to leave them alone with crayons.  

Little Sister said she was trying to draw circles on the floor.


I made her pose with her “artwork”.

She said she drew a butterfly on this wall.

It took her a long time, but she was able to remove most of the crayon off the floors and baseboards by herself. The walls had to be repainted, and my husband spent awhile working on the grout in the kitchen.

So I stayed in the kitchen and put away dishes, started working on our September menu, and ate breakfast.  Then, the girls wanted to go outside, and after a few minutes, they asked if we could go for a walk, which means they ride their bicycles while I jog along beside them and then push them up hills and over all bumpy, rocky, and uneven areas.  I get a good workout doing this, so we went for a “walk” for about 30 minutes.  

They took their babies along for the ride.


We need to work on losing the training wheels, so I don’t have to stop and push them every time they get stuck. Big Brother rode without training wheels at 4 years and 3 months. Big Sister rode without them at 4 years and 11 months. Three years and six months might be a little early, but I may try it when it gets a little cooler.  

After our “walk”, I was not as grumpy as I was earlier this morning.  I felt that if I made the effort to get up early, I should have been able to work out.  I need to remember when I can’t beat them in the mornings, I should just let them join me in exercising.  It’s definitely better than not exercising at all.  

Whew!  & Week 4 Progress

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Whew!  & Week 4 Progress

I can not believe it has been three weeks since my last post!  Things have been more chaotic than usual around here with school starting and me teaching three different classes–Math 7 (seventh graders), Algebra II (tenth and eleventh graders), and Pre-AP Algebra II (tenth and eleventh graders).  Even though I taught Pre-Algebra last year, I did not experience the first week of school as a teacher because I was hired in mid-October to fill an unexpected vacancy.  I have not decorated a classroom, planned the start of a school year, or endured that grueling first week since before I had children.  It is a completely different experience as a mom!  I forgot to take first day of school photos of my children before we left the house.  I almost forgot to take photos entirely!  I snapped a couple of all of them together in my classroom just before we left to walk the little girls to their classroom. 


I have been wanting to share a little about my weight loss journey, but I haven’t had time to blog.  (This post has taken me three days to put together!)  I lost 1.6 pounds before August started, but my goal remains to lose five pounds this month.  With the stress and busyness of school starting, I haven’t lost much since the first week of August when I dropped another 1.6 pounds.  Since August 8th, I have only lost 0.8 pounds.  I’m just happy I haven’t gained anything because I have definitely been stress eating.  As of August 22nd, I have lost an even four pounds, but I’m only down 2.4 pounds for August.  I need to lose 2.6 pounds by the end of August to meet my goal.  I’m determined to do it. 

It has been difficult to find time for working out and taking enough steps.  I have not taken the time to enter my food in my calorie counter, so I have just been guesstimating until yesterday and today when I decided I have to take time to track everything I eat.  I have only started back with push-ups and crunches this week too.  I’m struggling to fit it all in my day, and I’m working on things for school until almost midnight half the time, which makes it hard to wake up and work out in the mornings.  Excuses, I know, but I want to be honest and let you know I don’t have it all together–not even close.  Please let me know if you are struggling too, so we can encourage one another.


I love Snickers.  I think they are the perfect combination of chewy, crunchy, gooey, chocolate-y deliciousness.  I can’t buy the minis because I will eat too many, but the fun size bar is enough to satisfy my craving and only contains 80 calories.  I bought a large bag of these yesterday and put them in the refrigerator because I like them cold and to keep them from being a constant temptation.  I lowered my daily calorie goal and told myself that I could have one fun-sized Snickers each evening if, and only if, I have enough calories left. I ate one yesterday evening and another one tonight.  I’m hoping to continue my reward streak and eat one every night.  I have found that I won’t give in to cravings throughout the day if I have a Snickers to look forward to at the end of the day.  What motivates you?

Daily Checklists to Teach Children to Manage Money

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Daily Checklists to Teach Children to Manage Money

When our older two kids were younger, I struggled with the idea of simply giving children an allowance (for doing nothing) or paying them to do certain chores (I don’t struggle with that anymore). I believe our children should contribute to the care of their home because they are a part of our family, but they are also entitled to a small portion of our income because they are a part of our family.  I wasn’t sure how to manage the children’s chores and allowance until I found an interesting blog through Pinterest. 

I love searching Pinterest for anything having to do with crafts, school, health, and food.  I sometimes use Pinterest instead of Google because I know I will be more likely to find the desired information.  One such search directed me to 71 Toes and their weekly checklists for children.  The concept is fairly simple.  Each child has a checklist of tasks to complete each weekday.  If they complete all of their tasks for the week, they will receive their age in dollars on Saturday or Sunday.  If they fail to complete one or two tasks, they will receive half of their age in dollars.  They will receive no money for not completing three or more. They are allowed to memorize a scripture verse or passage (parent’s choice) to make up for one task.


The four areas of tasks are as follows. 

  • Morning work:  make bed, pick up bedroom floor, brush teeth, eat breakfast, get ready to go (if necessary)
  • Reading:  read for a minimum of 15 minutes each day
  • Practice:  practice something for at least 15 minutes each day (examples below)
  • Zone:  clean one area of the house (see below)

Practice can be as simple as writing a letter to a friend or loved one, playing a game (Scrabble, Quirkle, Monopoly, Dominoes, Yahtzee, Uno, etc.), playing an educational game on a computer or iPad, practicing flash cards, or practicing spelling words.  Big Brother plays baseball and practices hitting with a pitching machine.  Big Sister used to practice her cartwheels at home for gymnastics.  The little girls practiced painting (fine motor skills) with Grandmother yesterday.  My kids usually check with me first to make sure something will count for their practice before they start.  As long as I can see some developmental or educational value in their activity, I usually approve–unless they want to do something extremely messy or that will require me to be involved for an extended period of time. 

We have only recently developed the zone into something that works well for our family.  At first, I only had the two older children completing checklists, so we only had two zones, which were usually 1) pick up the living room and 2) pick up the game room.  Those were the days when the twins were babies/toddlers and the floors were their playground.  When the twins were a little over three, we tried the checklists, but they were a little young to understand the concept.  They would complete a zone together, usually with my help.  I came up with five different chores that need to be completed more than once a week and put them on a wheel that I rotate on weekdays to give each child a new zone.  Today, the twins decided they each want a separate zone to complete on their own, so I have to create a new wheel.  


I started out with each child (the older two at the time) having a checklist on a half-sheet of paper like the mom at 71 Toes, but I didn’t want to tape or tack the sheets to our brand new (at the time) walls.  I created a family command center around this time and used a magnetic clip to display their sheets on one sheet of paper.  Once the twins wanted a checklist, I found a way to fit all four on one sheet.  They are small, but it’s easy to see who has empty boxes at a glance. 


 The purpose of the checklists is to teach children how to manage their money.  Big Brother can earn up to $10 a week.  He must save 10% and give 10% to our church, so he has a check register where we record his savings each week, and we keep that cash for him.  Big Sister can earn up to $8 each week.  She loves Starbursts and bubble gum, but she must buy those things with her own money, so she has to budget, save, and figure out tax on her purchase.  The little girls quickly learn that $3 doesn’t buy much, so they are learning the value of a dollar.  The family from 71 Toes requires their children to pay for half of all their clothing (except underwear, socks, and Sunday dress clothes) once they reach the age of twelve.  We haven’t reached that point yet, so I’ll update when we figure out if that will work for our family.  

I’m sure I have forgotten something to explain about this system, but you can ask me questions in a comment or go to 71 Toes to read her explanation and see what they do differently.  This is a wonderful system that works well as long as you (the parent) remember to have cash (plenty of ones) every weekend. Otherwise, your kids feel like they aren’t being rewarded for their checklists and quit completing their tasks.  (I know this from personal experience.) 

Week 1 Progress

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The experts say you should lose no more than two pounds a week, so I allowed myself to eat up to 1800 calories a day.  I was afraid this would be too many calories, but my workouts have enabled me to eat a little more than I would be able to otherwise.  I will continue with my current daily calorie goal until my weight plateaus, and then I’ll make adjustments.  

First thing this morning, I weighed and took my measurements.  I am down 1.6 pounds since last Tuesday, which puts me at an even 145, which works out perfectly for my goal of losing five pounds each month.  I like for my numbers to be nice and neat.  I didn’t lose any inches on my hips, but I lost a whole inch on my waist at its narrowest point.  My other measurements ranged between 1/4-inch and 3/4-inch less than last week, so I feel good about my progress.  Slowly but surely, the weight and inches will come off.  


I am eating a balanced diet with plenty of lean protein and vegetables.  I usually eat leftover dinner casseroles/entrees for lunch, but sometimes there are no leftovers, and I need something that is healthy and filling, so I have made a large salad for lunch each day.  I don’t usually enjoy salads because there are very few dressings I will eat, but I love a salad piled high with meat and vegetables.   Yesterday, I added some grilled chicken leftover from dinner last week.  This was delicious without any dressing. 


The day before, I topped my salad with leftover taco meat from dinner last week. I used a head of romaine hearts, tomatoes from my garden, about a quarter cup each of corn (leftover) and black beans (another leftover), and one ounce of pepper jack cheese (yes, I measured it on my digital kitchen scale).


I was out of leftover meat today, so I added extra black beans and corn.  I planted an heirloom tomato plant this year, and it has large yellow tomatoes that have a wonderful flavor.  I topped my salad today with one of those tomatoes that my daughter picked fresh from the vine.  It was fabulous.

What are your favorite lunch options?  If you eat salads, what are your favorite toppings?  

Weekends, Working Out, and Weighing In

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Our family calendar is set up with weeks beginning on Sunday and ending on Saturday, but I prefer to think of Monday as the beginning of my week.  My kids have Daily Checklists that start on Monday, I start reciting my weekly Bible verses on Monday, the workweek begins on Monday, etc.  I think of the weekend as a unit, not as Saturday belonging to the past week and Sunday belonging to the next week.  Therefore, I usually plan to start new things on Monday.  However, I weighed and posted my weight-loss goals last Tuesday and started working out on Wednesday.  I’m looking forward to beginning August on a Monday and continuing to work on my goals.  I have resisted weighing myself since Tuesday because I know weight fluctuates, and I don’t want to be discouraged by weighing too often.  I plan to weigh every Monday morning and share my progress.

Many of you replied here or on Facebook that you were committing to get in shape with me, and I hope you will share what you are doing to get healthy and your success stories as they come.  The scale isn’t the only measuring tool for success, so be sure to take some measurements to compare later.  I measured my waist at its narrowest, my waist at my belly button, my hips, my right thigh, my right calf, and my right upper arm.  These are the areas in which I am hoping to lose significant inches.

I challenged a few friends to a “Weekend Warrior” competition on Fitbit to see who could take the most steps this weekend.  Without this challenge, I doubt I would have gotten up to work out this morning, but my competitive streak won.  I’m currently in the lead, but my friend Sherry and I have been neck and neck all weekend.  She has pushed me to keep moving all day!  I hope your weekend is going well.  If not, tomorrow starts a new week.  Set some goals and track your progress. 

August Menu

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I have finally completed our menu for next month.  Planning ahead saves time, money, calories, and frustration, so it is definitely worth the effort.  I probably overthink the entire process, but I need variety or cooking becomes another chore for me.  I try not to have chicken two nights in a row.  I alternate with beef, pork, or shrimp.  I also mix up our cuisines, alternating Italian, Mexican, and American dishes.  My son and I could eat Mexican food every night, but my husband would rather have Italian more frequently.  I do my best to keep things fairly even.  I also try to incorporate recipes using produce from our garden.


Busyness complicates our menu planning as well.  School starts in a few weeks, and we will have a few school functions in the evenings, which will require quick dinners or leftovers.  The girls have gymnastics one afternoon a week, so I plan a crock pot meal that day to have dinner ready when we get home.  My husband has a few meetings in the evenings, and I don’t cook if I have to clean it all up by myself, so we have leftovers then too.  We attend church on Saturday nights, so we are away from home during dinner hours and always pick up fast food on our way home.  

That being said, I have come up with a menu that will work for our family for the coming month.  You are welcome to use my menu or just use some of these recipes.  I have included links for all the recipes I use, most of which I found on Pinterest.  I love trying new recipes.  I hope you find a new recipe that your family will enjoy. 

August 1:  Southwest Skillet Chicken and Rice, side salad
August 2:  church function with meal

August 3:  Baked Ravioli, broccoli

August 4:  Pecan-Crusted Chicken BreastsLyonnaise Potatoes

August 5:  Breakfast for Dinner–bacon, scrambled eggs, Biscuits, fresh fruit


August 6:  eat out

August 7:  Caramelized Chicken with Jalapeño Cream, rice, salad

August 8:  Spicy Sausage Pasta, grilled squash

August 9:  leftovers

August 10:  Slow Cooker Pork Tenderloin, baked potatoes, Spicy Garlic String Beans

August 11:  Spaghetti, salad, garlic toast

August 12:  leftovers

August 13:  eat out

August 14:  Tomato Basil Chicken, corn

August 15:  Chicken Tortellini Skillet, green beans

August 16:  Beef Enchilada Casserole (recipe to come), guacamole, salad

August 17:  Cheesy Chicken Tater Tot Casserole, broccoli

August 18:  leftovers

August 19:  Spicy Shrimp Pasta in Garlic Tomato Cream Sauce, grilled veggies

August 20:  eat out

August 21:  Beef Tacos

August 22:  Cajun Chicken Pasta, salad

August 23:  leftovers

August 24:  Hobo Dinners

August 25:  Tortilla Chip and Pepper Jack Crusted Chicken, sliced avocado, corn


August 26:  Crock Pot Sloppy Joes/Stuffed Bell Peppers (omit the bun, fill bell peppers with the meat mixture, bake at 350 for about 30 minutes), Hassleback Potatoes

August 27:  eat out

August 28:  Julia Child’s Quiche, fresh fruit, French bread

August 29:  Italian Chicken Bake with Homemade Basil Pesto, pasta, salad


August 30:  Mexican Skillet Casserole, guacamole

August 31:  Sausage Spinach Pasta Toss, corn

Country Life III

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A couple of weeks ago, my husband discovered a bird’s nest with three tiny eggs in our garage.  The nest is inside a manual fertilizer spreader (dark green in photo) on the top shelf.  There is now only one egg in the nest, and there are two baby birds in the clear containers on the shelf below their nest.  

 The mama and daddy birds fly in and out of our garage throughout the day to feed and care for their babies.  Early this morning, the girls and I were outside in the driveway when I heard a noise coming from inside our garage.  It was a persistent clicking noise that sounded almost like an alarm.  I saw one of the adult birds looking towards our garage window and making that noise.  It was an alarm because there was a snake in our garage, crawling from the top of the window down the side between the blinds and the frame.  I told my husband about it, but it was just a garter snake, and there didn’t appear to be any way for it to reach the baby birds, so he left it until this evening.  The snake stayed hidden on the far side of the garage away from the door into our house, so it didn’t bother any of us today, but we would rather not have a snake in our garage.  After dinner, my husband moved the tool chest that the snake was hiding behind and used a long piece of rebar to prod the snake outside.  It took a few minutes, but he was able to get the snake outside, and it slithered away into the brush on the other side of our fence.  


Both baby birds are still alive and in the containers, but one doesn’t look well.  It’s wings have lost feathers and have holes in them.  I’m not sure that one will make it.  The other one only has a little down left on its head and will probably be able to fly away in the next few days.