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Time to Play

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Diego hiking 1Diego hiking 2

Diego is now fifteen months old, and life is changing quickly.  He plays now.  I mean, he REALLY plays!  He demands time outside when we get home each afternoon, and he and I spend about 30 minutes to an hour finding things to do in the backyard.  I have always felt dismayed about our backyard.  Grass refuses to grow for longer than one season, and the overgrown trees drop a layer of leaves that quickly becomes unmanageable if I miss a day of raking.  But now, suddenly, I am finding myself keeping up with the raking, because my little boy drags me out to “play”  (do yard work) every day.  As I pull weeds, he pulls grass and leaves; as I rake, he pushes an old broken rake around; as I examine the growing grass and plants, he climbs up on anything and everything.  He is learning to throw rocks.  I am learning to soak in the fresh air and bits of sunshine.  He has discovered the joy of chasing after lizards.  I have discovered the joy of exploring the world through my son’s young eyes.  Does anyone, as an adult, truly understand how miraculous airplanes, birds, spiders, and the moon are?  Diego understands that these are miracles.

 

Diego exploring

Diego’s love for the outdoors has taught me two things:

1.  He doesn’t need more toys.  In nice weather, he hardly touches his toys, because he spends all his time outside.  The living room is a minefield of noisy, high-tech “educational” toys, but he is too busy exploring the real world to bother with fake computer sounds and colors.

2. The time I spend exploring with him is the best thing I do.  It forces me to slow down, ignore the TV and my phone, and just enjoy his company.

I was reading a blog post recently about life being too busy (http://onbeing.com/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/7023), and I completely agree.  We over-schedule our lives, and we have a difficult time relaxing with our loved ones, or alone.  As a child, I was lucky enough to have only a few activities, and the rest of my time was spent playing with my sister and neighbors, and with my parents.  We were forced to be creative and to make up games, put on plays (which we wrote), ride our bikes, ride horses, have lemonade stands, try different sports (in an unofficial setting), and find ways to get along with one another.  We climbed trees and fences, braved open fields, and dug tunnels.  We had clubhouses and secret hideouts.  The weeping willow in our backyard was an exotic jungle that we cut through with our machetes (sticks).  We camped in the backyard and got freaked out by the nighttime bugs that were attracted to the tent.  We were explorers and directors and entrepreneurs.  If we got bored, we had to find something to do.

I hope Marco and I can arrange our lives so that Diego has the opportunity to learn how to overcome boredom; to learn to entertain himself, and to get along with others.  Free play is the best activity for kids.  There are many articles and studies that argue as much.  Here’s one that stresses the importance of free play in a child’s development: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/for-better-school-results-clear-the-schedule-and-let-kids-play/373144/.

As a psychology grad, I have often read and thought about the two hemispheres of the brain.  There is an emphasis in our society on the left hemisphere’s logic, planning, and focused attention.  We must attempt to also stimulate the right hemisphere’s creativity, joy, intuition, and “big picture” awareness.  There is a stimulating TED talk on this subject by Iain McGilchrist: http://www.ted.com/talks/iain_mcgilchrist_the_divided_brain. He ends with a wonderful quote from Albert Einstein that has inspired me to continue to find ways to access the right hemisphere:

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.

–Albert Einstein

Our family at the pumpkin patch

I hope I can instill a love for the “sacred gift” in Diego, and inspire him to always see the miracles that exist in everyday life.

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Low Stress Summer: Vitamins, Exercise, Acupuncture

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As a high school teacher, I have the summer off.  The end of the school year was especially stressful, and it is my goal to lower my stress this month.  Here are some things I’ve done, and it has been wonderful to try them out!

First, I started going to the gym more.  I took a PiYo class, some Zumba classes, and I’ve been using the treadmill.  PiYo is a combination of Pilates and Yoga, and it didn’t seem too difficult.  But the next day…wow!  I could hardly sit down because my thighs were so sore!  Zumba is always fun, and I’ve posted about that before.  The treadmill is always one of my favorites.  I do about 20 minutes, and I try to run for half of that.

Second, I started taking vitamins regularly.  I always have them sitting around, but I’ve become accustomed to taking them every day now.  Also, I started eating breakfast!  I have cereal or oatmeal, with almond soy milk and wheatgrass powder.  I recommend wheatgrass for the energy it gives, but I do NOT recommend wheatgrass powder…it smells terrible, and it has a very strange texture.  Next time, I will either do shots of wheatgrass from a juice store or take wheatgrass tablets.  However, I am too stubborn to do it now.  I spent the money on the powder, and I’m going to finish it.  Luckily, I’m almost halfway done with the bottle.

 

I also started something I’ve never done before…acupuncture!  I was a bit apprehensive, but I was excited about it, because I knew that it might relieve the knots I carry in my shoulders and back when I’m feeling stressed.  I looked it up online, and here is a diagram I found:

It looks scary, I know, but I guess the needles are all supposed to follow “meridians,” or lines along the body.

I found an acupuncturist near my home, and at my first session he did a thorough interview.  He was especially interested in my activities.  He checked my pulse on both wrists, and he looked at my tongue.  I thought this was fascinating.  He said my tongue had a crack in it, which indicates digestion problems.  He said if I have digestion problems, I’m not adequately absorbing all the nutrients in my food.  He also said I seemed stressed.

The first thing he did was have me lie face down on a massage table, and he told me he was going to work my “meridians.”  He did this by giving me a chiropractic-style massage for about 30 minutes.  It was wonderful.  Then he had me turn over, and he put five needles in my abdomen (for digestion), and five needles in my forehead (for stress).  The needles were tiny, and the only one I could feel was right between my eyebrows.  The rest were in less sensitive areas.

He told me to lie still for about 40 minutes, and he put some heat lamps over me.  He left the room with the lights dim and soothing music playing.  The combination was very relaxing, but he gave me a panic button, “just in case.”

But the really fascinating thing happened the next day.  Not only did I digest my food well…we won’t go into that…but the crack in my tongue was almost imperceptible!  Unbelievable!

It’s really difficult to take a picture of your own tongue:

I will continue to try acupuncture, and more stress-relief techniques in the future.

California Adventure!

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Marco and I have passes to Disneyland and California Adventure, so sometimes we walk around the parks for exercise.  Last night, we decided to visit California Adventure.  I had my new camera with me, and Marco (photographer that he is) encouraged me to take many pics of our “workout.”

Here we are in front of a waterfall (I promise this is inside the park):

Us in front of a rock.

Okay, so technically he took this picture, but it was with my camera…

As we wandered the park, I wore my Shape Ups and Marco wore his new Gel Kahana Asics, which he says are the most comfortable tennis shoes he’s ever had.  I can definitely feel the effects this morning.  My legs are still tired from the 2 to 3 hours we spent walking last night.  Never discount the impact of walking!  We often think we need to go to the gym and lift weights for two hours to get in a good workout, but last night was EXHAUSTING!  We went home and slept for eight hours straight.

Not that we walked the entire time; here we are on Goofy’s Sky School.  It’s a roller coaster that is very jerky and jarring, as if you’re on a propellor plane.  It’s really scary!

Smiling through our fear!

But the rides were short, and the walking was long, so a few times, we stopped for breaks.  We discovered the Bug’s Life show in 3D, and it was so much better than we had anticipated!  It’s a little scary for young kids, though.  Black widow spiders come out of the ceiling to attack the audience, wasps “sting” the audience, and bugs crawl under the seat cushion.  Here we are in our 3D glasses.

Marco bugging out.

Me in my silly bug glasses.

We also discovered some exciting new attractions that will be opening this summer.  One section will be called “Buena Vista Street,”  which will have old Spanish style buildings and Mexican influences.  They are also adding a “Cars” area; it’s a real-life Radiator Springs.  We could see a little of it over a fence.  It looks perfect!

A peek over the fence at Radiator Springs.

I hope the walking will pay off when I step on the scale, but the beauty of the park is definitely better than a gym!

California Adventure at night.

Moving and Shaking

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Our journey toward health continues!  When Marco and I don’t feel like going to the gym, we like to take a walk.  Last night we went for a long walk in Riverside, following the riverwalk that leads up to La Sierra University.  It’s a beautiful spot, and I highly recommend it to anyone who lives in the area.  Some ducks followed us, and we watched a great blue heron wade through shallow water.  When we thought we had reached the end of our walk, we heard a waterfall.  We can never resist, so we wandered onto the La Sierra campus in search of the sound.  We continued up the hill, and discovered the beautiful art deco buildings of the campus.  I wore my Shape Ups and Marco wore his new comfortable walking shoes.  The campus trek took us up a big hill, and I can definitely feel the effects in my legs today.  The Shape Ups work!

The top of the hill at La Sierra University

Marco’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago, and my family bought him something he has been eyeing for quite a while: a Shake Weight!  He has been using it regularly, and I can assure you that it is working!  His arms are tighter and bigger…nice!

Marco and his Shake Weight

So if you’re in the market, Shape Ups and a Shake Weight are some good, useful purchases!

Zumba!

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To follow my  earlier post about food, I decided to write about exercise.  Marco and I walk a lot, but that really just keeps me the same.  If I want anything to change, I have to do a lot more than walk.  So tonight I went back to Zumba and my gym.  Here I am before the class (sorry for the blurry picture; someday I will figure out the new phone):

 

The class was very full, so it was difficult to see the instructor, but I love these classes.  If you’ve never tried it, it’s a mix of aerobics, latin dances, hip hop, swing, Indian dance, and belly dancing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here I am after one hour of my bad dancing.  I am tired and flushed, but proud that I lasted through the whole class:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a facebook post from a while ago, but it pretty much sums up Zumba:

On a journey toward health

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Marco and I are on a slow transition toward a healthy lifestyle.  My parents always told me how hard it would be to lose weight as an adult, and now I realize how correct they were.  I was a cheerleader in high school, and I worried about my weight, but I had toned arms, toned legs, and an abundance of energy.  College taught me to give in to my cravings and to appreciate beer.  After college, I developed a love for things like brie sandwiches, white cheddar popcorn, and Heath bar ice cream.  Here are some pictures of me after college, with three of my dearest friends.  You can see the progression; not a terrible change, but I definitely became top-heavy by my 23rd birthday:

On a road trip.

Hula hooping in our apartment!

My 23rd birthday.

 

In the past few years, Marco has begun battling diabetes.  His mother is diabetic, so it was not a surprise to him.  We have had to give up some of our favorite recipes, like chile relleno casserole and tater tot casserole.  One recipe we have both enjoyed is strawberry salad.  I bought a book about reversing diabetes, which had a recipe for Indian lentil soup.  I love it, but Marco is not a fan.
After a few days of lentil soup, we both lost about five pounds.  I will keep you posted on new recipes and exercise ideas.

Chile Relleno Casserole: slice up poblano or pasilla chiles and put them in the bottom of a casserole dish.  Brown 1 pound of ground beef and spread half of it over the chile slices.  Pour half a bottle of Herdez salsa over all of it, and top it off with shredded cheese.  Repeat with another layer of the same.  Cook until golden and bubbly in the oven at 350 degrees.  Serve with sour cream and avocados.

Tater tot casserole with bratwurst

Strawberry salad: salad greens with sliced strawberries, radishes, celery, red onion, pears or apples, and anything else you like that’s crunchy (carrots, watercress, etc.).  I use raspberry vinaigrette on this, and it’s like dessert before the meal!

Indian lentil soup: this is from a book called The 30-Day Diabetes Miracle

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