Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Blog Has Moved!

Hi! I started a new blog in February of 2013, and it can be found here: Mama Brightowl

...and now I have a new & upcoming blog with my own domain (woo-hoo!), to be launched at the end of summer 2014:

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I thought I would post again about green smoothies! A quick google search will bring up a ton of recipes for green smoothies, as well as hundreds of blog posts and articles with information about the benefits of drinking green smoothies. I love them because they are nutritious, easy to make, refreshing, and filling. I like them better than trying to chow down on a huge salad every day - plus, I don't need to add any fatty dressings or cheese to make them palatable!

My favorite time to have a green smoothie is right after a run. They quench my thirst, as well as refueling me with good carbohydrates. I add raw almonds and flaxseed for protein and omega 3 fatty acids. They also make a great breakfast (along with a hardboiled egg for a little more protein), or a snack.

I keep either a large bowl with a lid or a Ziploc baggie with the fruits that I am currently using for my smoothies daily and it stays in the fridge. The fruits in my fruit bag or bowl vary all the time. Right now my fruit bag has parts of an apple, a pear, a banana, and a clementine; other times I may have pineapple, mango, and strawberries. I also have several bags of frozen organic berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries) in my freezer.

You do not need a recipe for a smoothie - just your favorite fruits (fresh and/or frozen) and a bunch of greens.  I never add juice to my smoothies, because I want the health benefits of whole fruits.  Even 100% fruit juice is very high in sugar, and will raise your blood sugar as quickly as drinking a sugary soda. Whole fruits are what our bodies need!  Sweeten your smoothie up with sweeter fruits if you like a sweet smoothie, but try to avoid using juice. (Remember that sweeter, riper fruits will also raise the sugar content of your smoothie - but that's still better for you than using juice.)

This is a picture I took of making a smoothie about a year ago. I think it has oranges and pineapple, maybe some mango in there. You can also see the almonds on the bottom. The first layer of greens is kale, and then baby spinach.

OK, so here is...

How to make a green smoothie:

1.  ICE: Start with the harder ingredients, and then add softer ingredients on the top. First place a handful of ice cubes in your blender.

2. NUTS FOR PROTEIN: If you would like to add some nuts for protein, add them next (about 1 or 2 tablespoons of almonds is what I use).

3.  FRUITS WITH SKIN: Now add your favorite fruits. If you are using frozen fruits, add them first, then add the fresh fruits. Don't peel your fruit - buy organic and include the skins because they're good for you, and contain lots of fiber! Fill your blender about 1/3 of the way up with fruits with their skins.

4. FLAXSEED: If you would like, this is the time add some organic flaxseed - about 1 tablespoon ground. This is an easy way to get Omega-3 fatty acids for the day!

5. GREENS: Now it's time for the main ingredient - GREENS. I always use spinach, and sometimes a little kale. But, use whatever greens you want! If you want to include kale - which is very good for you - keep in mind that it has a much stronger flavor than spinach. I recommend a using little bit of kale, and a LOT of spinach. :) Whatever you use, just fill your blender all the way to the top with greens. Push them down a little, and then add some more. This is the point of the Green Smoothie! You want LOTS of GREENS. :)  Spinach is very mild, and if you use it, you will be surprised at how the taste of the fruit will overpower the spinach flavor - despite the bright green color.  Get creative!

6. WATER: After your blender is filled with greens, pour in at least one cup of filtered water, more if you want it a bit thinner. Not juice, not milk. Don't undo all the good you're doing making a fresh fruit and green drink by adding juice or milk! This is a time for simple, clean, pure, filtered water - nothing less.

7. BLEND: Secure the lid, and push the smoothie (or high) button. Blend until nice and smooth and ready to sip with a straw. My blender takes about one minute to get to this consistency. I usually clean up the little mess I made while the smoothie blends. I figure it's good use of my time. :)

Enjoy!  This makes one big smoothie or two small ones. I drink the whole thing by myself! Sometimes I pour half the smoothie in a glass, and place the blender pitcher in the fridge. After getting a few things done around the house, I come back and finish the pitcher for a snack.

Rinse the pitcher out as soon as possible, or it can be hard to clean later in the day. (BTDT!)

My favorite fruit combinations for green smoothies:

Banana & strawberry

Mango, pineapple & orange

Peach & strawberry

Strawberry, blueberry & raspberry

EDIT: I have also discovered that adding nonfat Greek yogurt to a green smoothie is delicious! It makes a creamy consistency and adds some protein. Just substitute the Greek yogurt for the water (or do 1/2 Greek yogurt and 1/2 water) and do everything else the same. Of course, the calorie content will be higher, but it will be more filling and satisfying. I can drink a Greek yogurt green smoothie for breakfast and not need anything else.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Running again

My running route

Sometimes I am embarrassed that my blog address is "motherunning", especially when I have been slacking as much as I have been lately. My last real run (that I can remember) before today was on December 4, when I participated in the Las Vegas Rock 'n Roll half-marathon. I got so busy with the holidays and my daughter and her family moving here to Olympia, that my running took the back burner. No, actually, it was more like set aside on a cooling rack.

But I'm back. One of my New Years resolutions is to get back into the habit of a daily run through the week, plus one on the weekend. Now that the kids are back in school, Christmas is over, and the decorations have been taken down, I have no excuses. I am getting settled back into the routine.

My 10yo's favorite running term is "fartlek." Of course. Fartlek, if I recall correctly, is a Swedish word that means "speed play." So, this morning, just for fun, I sort of did my own version of fartlek.

One thing I want to do this year is learn to run faster. This fall, while training for the half-marathon, I stepped on a piece of glass and got it stuck in my foot. I couldn't get it out for a long time, and it was too painful to run for several weeks. Of course, this put me way behind in my training, and when I finally got the glass out and started running again, I was slower than ever. Which is really, really slow because I am already slow to begin with.  I was averaging 12 minute miles by the time I went to Las Vegas! Ugh! My foot is all better, but I think I actually trained myself to run slowly. So I'm going to try to retrain myself. I figure this starts with me attempting to run faster, much faster than I am comfortable, for short periods of time.

So this morning, I did two versions of fartlek. I only ran two miles (hey, I'm starting over! Don't laugh!). For the first mile, I started out at a sprint. (I was already warmed up since I had been up for a while and had walked my daughter to her bus stop.)  I sprinted until I couldn't go any farther, and then I walked. OK, so my sprint most likely isn't your sprint - I was running a 6-minute mile pace according to my Garmin - but I could only do that for 0.25 mile. LOL! After I walked and recovered for a few minutes, I started running at a comfortable pace. I looked at my Garmin and I was running an average of a 9:46 mile. I was happily surprised! I continued that, and finished my first mile (including the walking time) in exactly 10 minutes. I haven't done that in months!!

The second mile I did something different. I ran as fast as I could until my Garmin got down to a 7:30-minute mile pace. Then I ran at that pace, for as long as I could sustain it, and when I was about out of breath, I walked, watching my Garmin. When I got to where I was walking at a 13-minute mile pace, I started running again until I got back down to the 7:30 pace. I did this over and over until my second mile was over. It was fun, in a weird sort of way. It sure kept me panting!

Hopefully, doing something like this a few times a week will help me break the habit of running 12 minute miles!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Why I No Longer Homeschool

It's a question I've been asked several times since choosing to put my kids in public school: why did I stop homeschooling?

I think to answer that question fairly, I must first explain why I began homeschooling in the first place. Our first homeschool day was in January 1995, when my oldest daughter Whitney was in first grade. At the time, we were living in Rome, New York, and my husband Andy had made the huge decision to switch careers in the Air Force. Instead of working his desk job in accounting and finance, he was on his way to a very exciting and demanding career in recruiting. It was a process which required special training and attending school in San Antonio, TX, for two months - and then finishing out his assignment in New York for two more months - and then arriving at his new station in April! This was all going to happen during the school year. I hated the thought of my 7-year-old daughter and I staying in New York by ourselves, while my husband was going to school and seeing my family down in San Antonio! I also hated the thought of pulling her out of her school in mid-April to attend a strange, new school for only a few more weeks before summer break in San Angelo, TX (where his new assignment would be). It seemed the best option for us at the time was to homeschool, and then enroll her in school in San Angelo at the beginning of second grade. So that is exactly what we did: we pulled her out of school over Christmas break, and I homeschooled her. I was able to accompany Andy to San Antonio and stay with my parents, and there was no awkward moment of switching schools at the end of the year for Whitney.

What happened when I homeschooled her during that time, though, surprised me. I discovered that Whitney couldn't read at all. And not only could she not read, she didn't even know letter sounds! I was a bit ashamed that I hadn't even noticed - but yet, at the teacher's conference back in New York, her teacher never told Andy or me that she was behind. I had been attending college myself, and being wrapped up in my own world of studying and attending classes, I had neglected to oversee Whitney's education.

Once I realized how behind she was, I started working very hard teaching her to read. We went from learning letter sounds, to learning phonics families, to reading one-syllable words. By May, Whitney was reading the American Girls book "Meet Addy" - on her own. Yes, she went from reading absolutely nothing to reading chapter books in four short months. During that time she had also learned how to add and subtract multiple digit numbers, had learned how to count money, and was beginning to learn the concept of multiplication.

This experience taught me the value of one-on-one teaching. It also taught me how much I enjoyed spending time teaching my own child - and I was not ready to send her back to public school after the summer! We also had a new baby by this time, and she was so excited to be able to stay home and not have to leave AJ behind. She never asked to go to public school, but loved staying home with us. Another nice thing about homeschooling at this time was that Andy had crazy hours. As a recruiter, he sometimes didn't come home until 9:00 or 10:00 at night. Since Whitney was homeschooled, I let her sleep late in the morning so she could be up to spend time with Daddy when he got home. Her bedtime was around midnight. This never could have happened had she been in public school. They would have never seen each other! We decided to go ahead and homeschool for another year - just this year. She could go back to school for third grade.

Well, that didn't happen! We continued to homeschool, year after year. And when AJ was 3 years old and begged me to teach him to read, I did. By the time he was 4 years old, he could read anything - and he wasn't even supposed to start kindergarten until he was 5!  I began teaching him from a first grade curriculum when he was 5, and he thrived on it. He was just this little sponge that soaked up everything - and wanted to "do school" like Sissy.

This is how homeschool happened upon us - accidentally. I never once felt that homeschooling was the "only" way, or the "right" way. It was just what worked for us. At the time.

Now, as all homeschooling mamas know, it is very demanding and tiring. And honestly, I got tired. Also, my kids got older and smarter. I had no problems teaching reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and social studies to my elementary school aged children. But as they got older, the teaching became harder. Middle school and high school teachers are specialized. The algebra teacher teaches algebra all day to different classes. The history teacher knows history and teaches history all day. The kids needed teachers that were more expert in specific subjects than me. They needed more than book or internet learning. They needed to be able to ask questions and be answered by someone who knew what she was talking about.

Whitney did homeschool all through high school, but it was very tough. We were constantly looking for outside help. We brought in DVD programs and CD-ROMS. We searched the Internet. She is very smart, and being a voracious reader helped, but in many ways I feel I shortchanged her. I feel she could have received a better high school education from a public school. She never did very well in math, and I'm not sure if that's because math is just not a strong point for her, or that she had a lousy teacher.

When AJ was in 9th grade, I decided to use the online public cyber school. This was my first step to sending him to public school. The cyber school kept him home, and allowed us to continue homeschooling for that year, but we realized by that point that he would be better off in a bricks and mortar public school. Math is one of his strong subjects, and I was no longer able to help him with any homework. I didn't want to shortchange him and feel guilty about it like I did regarding Whitney, so we sent him to public school in 10th grade. It turned out to be a very good decision. He has thrived in public school since the beginning. He has made leaps and bounds in all subjects, and was even placed in AP English this year in 11th grade, recommended by his English teacher back in Pittsburgh. He will receive college credit at the end of the year just for passing this class. It is a very hard, challenging course.

Feeling tired, my kids getting older and smarter, and seeing what a positive experience public school was for AJ, led me to the decision to place Sky and Emma in public school this school year also. It was the best decision for our family, at the time - just as the decision to homeschool back in 1995 was also the best decision for our family, at that time. My kids are all doing very well - I can honestly say they are thriving. Sky and Emma have made straight A's. AJ has made mostly A's, and only a couple of B's. His classes are hard. They have all made new friends. Emma thinks riding the bus is the coolest thing. She is in band and learning to play the flute. Sky is loving being in choir - something she never would have thought of doing had she not gone to public school. She is will be on the track team this spring and is really excited about it!

I am so proud of my kids. They have all adjusted so well and are doing their best. And I am enjoying a few hours of quiet time by myself every day while they are at school - something I have not had since Whitney was born! I have time to clean, organize, do laundry, make meals, and run errands. When those things are done, and my kids get home, I am able to focus on them. I will always have happy memories of homeschooling. Sometimes I feel a little sadness when I ponder how that season of my life is over - but I am in a new season now and it is sweet. Very, very sweet!

Monday, December 12, 2011

My New Life in WA State - Long, Overdue!

 The Evergreen State
 Ever since moving to Washington State this summer (with its sickeningly green vegetation, impossibly tall evergreens, and other disgusting [not] qualities), I have been too unorganized to blog. It's really embarrassing, coming from someone who loves to organize, whether it's my time or my things. But...this is new territory! BEAUTIFUL territory!!!!

I thought once we moved here, and my kids started public school for the first time (and after exclusively homeschooling for 15 years), I would easily settle into my new lifestyle, and have PLENTY of time to blog and whatnot!

Welllll, that's not quite how it has happened! I am busier - with all of my kids at home now in public schools (grades 11, 8, and 5) - than I EVER imagined!  First of all, I can't get over all the school activities - BUT am loving it! I appreciate all the parents meetings, concerts, fund-raisers, etc.! Soon after school started, we had a birthday party to throw...

I get so enthused to just go inside each of my children's schools, see the hallways they walk and the classrooms they sit in and learn in, to see the teachers and meet the people they learn from and are a part of their lives every day. I am loving it!

I am still a stay-at-home mom, and I have about a 4-hour window of "free" time every day from the time my last student (Sky) leaves for school until my first student (AJ) arrives home. That time period is the four quietest hours of my day, unless I stay up late like I am doing tonight. (Which is actually not a good thing, since I will be exhausted tomorrow.)

We've had our sick days....

But those are few and far between!

Can you believe I have found a new love - packing lunches! LOL! This is nothing I expected or saw coming. Yes, I think it is fun to pack lunches. Maybe it's because it helps me feel more involved in Emma's day while she's gone. I really miss having my kids around during the day, but public school is the best choice for us now.

Here I have some turkey lunch meat rolled up on an acorn food-pick, some veggie chips, strawberries, a pumpkin-shaped olive and cream cheese sandwich (one of her favorites!), some red and yellow bell peppers cut in leaf shapes, and a small piece of cherry pie. Can you tell this was close to Thanksgiving? One of the fun I've had with packing lunches is having "themes", and of course, making it cute.

Our street - that's my little black Malibu parked in our driveway.

 A pretty sidewalk by our home that I many times run down...

Once my kiddos start arriving home from school, it is nonstop busyness. I spend about 15 minutes talking and listening to each kid about his/her day. This is such an important time for the both of us! After that, they each get onto their homework, and many times I am running all three to different after-school meetings or practices. We have established a rule that homework is started upon within 10/15 minutes of arriving home. They can get a snack and have some time to talk, but homework is a priority. No waiting until the last minute.

And, oh I should mention our braggy, proud...ahem, days, too!

Yep, that's my Skybaby, Miss Student of the Month!

This is our living room:

Sometimes we have practices, lessons, presentations, etc., to attend in the evenings - depending on the day. And sometimes all of the above in one day. I am still trying to get the hang of things!

Oh, some of the best news, my daughter and son-in-law and their two babies (my grandbabies!) decided to move here too! They are 3 miles away now, instead of 2,000 miles away, and I'm loving every minute of it!

On a good day, Andy will be home and can help me with the shuffling. Many days I have to figure it out on my own. There have been evenings I have spent three hours on the road driving back and forth - all within a five-mile radius. CRAZINESS!!! And yeah, we do our share of "packed dinners." I should make a blog post about that one! OK, when I get it all figured out I will! ;)

OK, so I am sure any parent who has several kids in public school and has always done this would just shake their head and think I am naive and just need some experience - and they are completely right. That is EXACTLY what I need! But if you would like to share any tips or give advice, I am ALL EARS!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

At Home in Washington

We are all settled in Washington State! Our new home is located in Lacey, which is a suburb of Olympia. I am really loving it here. While most of the United States have been suffering through a ruthless heat wave this summer, we have enjoyed temperatures no higher than 78 degrees. We  are able to leave our windows open all day, and it's cool enough at night that we need a sweater.  Everything in this area is lush and green, and there are beautiful, impossibly tall evergreens surrounding us. Only a few yards down the sidewalk, we have a picturesque view of snow-capped Mount Rainier. We moved in exactly three weeks from the day we left Pittsburgh. I am so happy we were able to find a house that the whole family loves, and to move in so quickly.

Our cross-country drive was fun and interesting - and exhausting! We took ten days to actually drive to McChord AFB, stopping at Cedar Point, a friend's house in Michigan, Wall Drug (South Dakota), Mount Rushmore, a cousin's house in the mountains of Montana, and finally, Yellowstone Park. The kids and I all saw parts of the United States that we had never seen before, so it was very exciting to us. The plains of South Dakota were indescribable. From the hotel we stayed at,  were just endless miles of tall prairie grass, with nary a tree in sight. I took a walk one morning, and felt like we were at the beach - it just "seemed" to me that if I continued walking, I would eventually cross the horizon, the grass would clear and I would find sand and sea. But of course, the grass was endless, and the land amazingly flat! The Badlands were like nothing I've ever seen, either. I can't imagine being a westward-bound pioneer of the 19th century, crossing over the plains and then coming upon that!

The Rocky Mountains were incredible! We even saw snow along the sides of the road.  Snow in July! One of the prettiest drives I experienced was the day we drove across I-90 through northern Idaho. It was so gorgeous, I had a hard time driving because I just wanted to look at the scenery.

The day after we arrived at McChord, we had appointments lined up for househunting. We found our house the first day. Our 13yo daughter, Sky, accompanied us, while the 16yo and 9yo stayed at the hotel. She was in love with this house as soon as we walked in. It is a spacious, 2-story, 4-bedroom, pastel  yellow house with white trim, and a charming front porch. After looking at this house, she would say, "But I like Yellow House" after looking at anything else.  So two days later, we brought the other two with us to look at Yellow House, and that was the end of the house-hunting. The kids unanimously voted on Yellow House. The moving truck arrived in the driveway less than a week later!

I have spent the past twelve days since moving in unpacking and organizing our new home. I've bought a few decorating items too, but I have a long ways to go. The kids are all registered at their new schools, which starts September 7. It will be nice having the month of August for the kids to get acclimated to their new environment, and explore the area. Oh, and one thing I am very excited about: only 1/2 mile from my front door is a 30-mile, tree-lined biking and running trail! Could life be any more grand? :-)

I will try to get some of our vacation/move pictures posted soon!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Moving West

Only two more days in Pittsburgh, and we will be on our way to the state of Washington! The past few days have been spent with packers and movers in and out of our house, and now the moving truck is on its way to Washington with all our belongings. We stayed in Gettysburg this weekend to say good-bye to my husband's huge, extended family who lives out there. Then we came back to Pittsburgh to clean our empty house and get it ready for our new renters, who will be moving in on Friday.

My workout today was not miles of running, but was hours of scrubbing every single floor in that house - on my hands and knees! My mom used to call that the German way, after my great-grandmother who came to the United States  from Germany and insisted the only way to properly clean a floor was to get on your hands and knees and scrub it - mops were for lazy people! Well, I can say, I missed running today, but I'm actually sore like I did an insane Jillian Michaels workout or something. This is ridiculous! But you should see my sparkling floors.

My suitcase is bulging with summer clothes that I will need before we get settled in our new home, and tons and tons of running clothes in every color imaginable! I think I actually have more running outfits than I do regular clothes. And honestly, my running clothes are nicer than my regular clothes. I love buying running clothes. I go to Target or Kohl's and walk right past the cute t-shirts, sundresses, and capri pants, and head to the exercise clothes. I'm a bit obsessed.

My husband and I will be driving two vehicles to Washington, splitting the kids up between us.  We will also be taking our sweet time, turning this task into a fun road trip/vacation. Some places we'll be stopping are Cedar Point, Mount Rushmore, Wall Drug, and Yellowstone Park, plus we'll be seeing some friends and family along the way. My plan is to get a run in every evening before dark. I think it will be fun to experience running in different places during the trip - and it will also be a relief to get out and move after sitting in a car all day.

Well, I am going to relax in my comfy hotel room and nurse my achy arms with a Coors Light....