Saturday, June 15, 2013

I told you IT'S working, but exactly what is IT?

I know that we are only one week into summer vacation, but I am so incredibly proud of my kids and all that they accomplished over the past seven days.  Ellie completed her first 5k, conquered her fear of the pool slide AND roller coasters, started tennis lessons and joined the Westmoreland Youth Strings Summer Symphony without knowing another member of the group.  JJ started tennis lessons, joined a weight lifting class, helped my dad with the lawn and installing a new mailbox without complaining (Watching your 14 year-old son handle power tools is pretty scary!) and stayed within his food/game budget during two trips to Kennywood.  This would have never happened a year ago!

I wrote a couple months ago about being excited that "It's working," but I never gave you the answer as to WHAT is working.  So what is WHAT?  WHAT has changed in the past year that has made such a difference for my kids?  A year ago I made the decision that it was time to change my family's sedentary frozen food focused electronic device driven lifestyle.  I chose four areas of our everyday lives to make simple yet specific changes and dove right in.  Those four areas are physical activity, food portion, trying new things and ME!

1) Physical Activity. I used to consider sitting in front of the TV spending quality time with JJ and Ellie.  Then I thought about all of the activities we had equipment for that we rarely used: cornhole, Wii, Frisbee golf, Bocce, paddle ball, YMCA membership . . . the list could on.  It was time to play!  I didn't ASK my family if they wanted to play.  I TOLD them that we were all heading out after dinner to play.  They complained about this at first.  I expected that - they are tweenagers!  But fun is contagious.  The more fun we had, the more they wanted to play.  Eventually THEY started asking ME if I wanted to go outside!

2) Food Portion.  I simply started serving less food to my family.  I used to fill large serving platters and bowls with food and place them in the center of the table for dinner.  Now when I cook dinner, I make enough for each of us to have one serving (plus one more portion for me to take for lunch the next day) and plate the food directly from the stove.  When I order pizza, I only order one pizza instead of two.  When I grill hamburgers, I only make enough for one per person.  That way when the question comes up of wanting more to eat the available options are something healthy like fruit or simply a NO.  While I am trying new healthier recipes more often than before, for the most part we eat the same foods -- just less!  By eliminating the I'm-so-stuffed-I can't-move- post-meal-stupor, we're all ready to get up and get moving in the evening rather than collapsing on the couch.  (Don't worry - my kids are far from starved!  They still get plenty to eat.)

3) Trying New Things.  I'm making a conscious effort to introduce new things more often.  Whether it is trying a new food, a new game or a new trail at the park, I want my children to see that it is fun to try something new.  I want them to learn that you won't know if you like something unless you try it and that it is ok to try something and not like it.  Throughout the year I have gotten a LOT of complaining about this, but the fact that my kids have both been willing to try new activities this summer (granted with a little prodding - ok begging - on my part) proves to me that it's working.

4) ME!  Over the past several years I have made many changes in my life.  I expected for it to be enough for my family to observe those changes in me and want to follow along.  That wasn't working.  I had to be more intentional in pointing out the changes and including them in what I was doing.  I also had to embrace what worked best for them.  Just as I had kept trying fit my lifestyle into an exercise routine rather than fitting an exercise routine into my life, I had to figure out what activities worked best for my kids rather than always wanting them to do what I was doing.  I also had to make their exercise a priority.  So if that meant going on a walk or playing ball with them after dinner instead of doing the dishes right away or getting my full run in - so be it!  What's more important?  I learned that the more excited I got about what they were interested in doing, the more excited they got about doing it.

For example, JJ loves basketball.  So I began making a point of taking him to the Y so he could play basketball.  Eventually JJ and I started going to the Y or outside to play basketball around 9PM.  Often my gut reaction would be that it was too late or I was too tired.  I literally had to teach myself to pause when he asked me to play because my initial reaction was to sigh before saying yes.  That turned him off completely.  I learned that by being intentionally enthusiastic in my response I felt more energetic and excited to play.  Besides getting a workout in, we created great memories playing HORSE under a full moon, during a snowstorm and in a deep freeze.  Plus, we've had some pretty meaningful conversations under that hoop! 

Ellie, on the other hand, has fallen in love with riding her bike.  So I dusted off my bike, bought a new helmet (Ellie found the bright white round one we got for free at a health fair to be WAY to embarressing!) and hopped on!  I was beyond thrilled when she asked me if they had 5k's for bike riders.  You know I was on the computer in seconds and found one for her!

I'm aware that we are only seven days into the summer.  Is it too early to tell if the changes we've made over the past year have had a lasting impact on my family?  Some might say yes.  But you know what . . . I don't care!  Today I am celebrating the GREAT summer kick-off we've had and am gearing up to maintain this momentum.  I am determined that my family's sedentary frozen food focused electronic device driven lifestyle will be no more.  Will it be smooth sailing - absolutely not.  Life doesn't work that way.  But I'm ready.  Bring on the challenges, the struggles, the complaining . . . this is another mission I WILL accomplish!

This first week has obviously exhausted my children.  They are still sleeping!  So I'm lacing up my sneakers and hitting the road.  I'll be sure to leave them a note for when they wake up to remind them that . . . Mom Went Running!

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