Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cold Weather Running: Staying Warm And Safe

It's a new week and almost a new month. It is bringing us closer to...Christmas! Alright, let's get real, this post has nothing to do with Christmas. I will at least wait until after Thanksgiving to go "there". Let's talk about the fact that I live in New England and the temps are getting a bit more chilly. I am sharing a post I did last year regarding cold weather running along with staying safe. I updated it some and it feels like the perfect time to reintroduce this post.

As many of you know by now, I am a runner. I love running. I love how it makes me feel, how it keeps me in shape, how it strengthens my body and my mind. Who needs therapy when you have a good pair of running shoes?! If you know me well then you also know that I hate winter and being cold. I truly do dislike winter. Here's a confession: I grew up in Vermont and have never been skiing! I also have no desire to, I am so klutzy I would be that person to run into a tree. Despite my feelings toward the cold this will be the 5th winter in a row I run in the cold temps and snow.

I don't own a treadmill and I don't have a gym membership. I love having my feet hit the pavement and I am not about to stop because of the cold. I have grown accustomed to cold weather running. Three years ago I said I would not run if it got below 20 degrees. That was before Vermont got hit with some cold winters and my addiction for running got the best of me. In time I found myself out running when it was -10 degrees. When it came down to it the cold did not stop me. I would conquer it, even if I did come home with frosty lashes. I have learned how to dress appropriately for the weather. Once you master that, you don't get cold. I do hate layers and I prefer running in less. I have figured it out and can get away with thin but warm gear and while being comfortable during my runs.

What you wear also includes wearing the right shoe for winter running. I tend to go with a trail running shoe that offer a good tread. Other runners like to use WinterTrax, Yak Trax or Ice Treads. It is different for each person, just be sure you are comfortable and it feels right for you. Also be sure to keep those feet warm and choose a good sock! 

With the change of seasons brings darkness much earlier. I prefer running in the morning and am a much better and happier runner. Due to family schedules and work some of my runs are in the late afternoon or early evening. Not only am I pushed into running in the cold, I am surrounded by darkness at the end of my runs. Safety is important when it is dark. You need to be able to see, yet more importantly: you need to be sure that YOU are seen by others! I wear a reflective vest, head lamp and use Knuckle Lights. (If you don't know what Knuckle Lights are you should check these out! Visibility is great when I use these. I had a man tell me last year that the lights looked pretty when I was running with them.)

My husband gets worried about me running in the dark and wants to be sure I am safe. He has equipped me with hand held mace (let's hope I don't spray myself) and Duracell Safety Armbands. I actually really like having the armbands. As where my headlamp and Knucklights give me visibility, the armbands allows drivers behind me to know that I am there. I do my best to run where it is safe though there are routes, and even the street where I live, that does not have a sidewalk and I am running alongside the road. 

It is harder for me to get into my runs when it is dark out. I still enjoy it yet I feel like I put so much energy focusing on staying safe that I don't get to loose myself in my runs as I usually do. I have talked about it before; running for me is spiritual as well as physical. When I am running at night I have to pay close attention to my surroundings. It is a constant focus on completing my run safely.

My monthly miles will be much less. I try to keep up with my running schedule though my runs are not as long as they would be if it were perfect running temps (for me that is right now, 40 to 50 is when I like to be out there). This just means I will do more cross training and work on other areas of my body until it starts to warms up.

So here we are. Winter is almost here and now it is cold and dark. I have to discipline myself to get out there. I love running, but the elements of my run I don't always enjoy. I have to push much harder and some days give myself a pep talk. Determination fills me so I can get my ass out there on my running days no matter what the weather is. I have run in sun, rain and snow. I would rather run than regret not running. I don't ever come home wishing I had not gone for that run. 

Bundle up, stay safe, and Happy Running!!

Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” ~ Dean Karnazes

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

5 Ways To Model A Healthy Lifestyle

Living a healthy lifestyle is important to me for both myself and my children. It is my responsibility to model healthy habits for my family and teach my boys that staying healthy is something we all can do in different ways. A healthy lifestyle goes beyond what we put into our bodies. Here are five ways to model healthy living for your children.

1: You are what you eat: It may not be the only way to model health but it is one of the most important components for our children. It is not easy with toddlers to get them to always eat the things you want them to. My first son Chase, was picky and made mealtime a nightmare around two to three years of age. Now at four and a half he has much better at eating what is put in front of him and even reminded his father the other night that he had forgotten to put vegetables on his plate. I smiled to myself and praised him for remembering that he needed to have veggies. I have been fortunate with my youngest, who is two, that he will pretty much eat whatever I put in front of him. I don't give several choices and I refuse to make separate meals. Do I offer choices sometimes? Of coarse! I typically pick two things (which are healthy) and allow the oldest to decide. It is the same with snacks. They will be offered choices yet if I say you need to pick a healthy snack they know that needs to be a fruit, veggie, granola or yogurt. We talk about different fruits and veggies and how they make you healthy.  Yes, my children get crackers, the occasional cookie or chips (saved for those times when we visit the grandparents) because I do believe in moderation and having a treat. Another thing that helps with getting children to want to eat healthy is involving them in the preparation of their own meals. If my son helps me make a dinner he is more excited about eating it.

 “Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”  ~John F. Kennedy 

2: A body in motion stays in motion: Exercise!!! I make time to exercise four to five times a week. This is something that I make happen. I either get in my runs or cross train with video's. I tend to go between Youtube and Grokker for my cross training video's. My children watch me, they know it is important to me. The best is when they try to join in and do the exercises. My two year old does a great downward facing dog and the four year old likes to attempt the weights. Besides being absolutely adorable when they do this they are also learning about keeping yourself in shape. My oldest has asked why I exercise and I explain to him that I want to be strong and healthy to take care of them for a long time. I also encourage exercise with them. We like to take a walk to the farm down the road and visit the cows, there and back makes a 1.5 mile walk. It's not real long but doable for my four year old. Hiking is also something I do with the boys that we enjoy. We call it an "adventure". Often times I bring a bag so Chase can collect "treasures" along the way. It gets him active while enjoying the activity. Incorporate things your children enjoy to do in being active. Encourage active play outside along with playing sports.

3: Hygiene: Health goes hand in hand with hygiene in my book. Teaching children about taking care of their bodies also means proper bathing and brushing those teeth. Washing hands is something I am always on my boys about. At their young ages the put their fingers everywhere! They don't think twice about what they touch or if they touch their own faces after or if their fingers are in their mouths. We are also coming up on cold and flu season, germs are everywhere! Proper hand washing and bathing is key to keeping healthy in the fall and winter seasons. 

4: A good belly laugh: Happiness and laughter, let's remember that if we are happy we tend to be healthier. Mental health is just as important as our physical health. It's is so important to laugh, have fun and do things as a family. One of my favorite things to hear is my children laughing. Play games, paint, do puzzles, dance, sing loudly, be goofy, pretend and encourage play. 

5: Choosing safe cleaning products and being aware of your environment: I am a fanatic about a clean house. When choosing products to clean with I am always sure that it is something that will be safe for my children. There are so many products out there which contain things that are unsafe for cleaning our environments. Since my children are always on the floor I want to be sure that what I clean my floors with will be safe for them. Using a steam cleaner eliminates having to use harsh cleaners and it effectively kills germs. It's the same with my counters and table. Little fingers are touching everything and I want to be sure it is not going to harm my children. As always, be sure you lock up any cleaning agents you have in your house! If we strive to have a clean environment this also means being sure there are not harmful carcinogens in our living space such as Asbestos. Asbestos is the cause of mesothelioma which can be hard to diagnose since many live with it undetected for so long. For more information on Mesothelioma please visit http://www.mesothelioma.com/asbestos-cancer/ . 

All of these things require commitment to follow through. We need to be positive role models for our children. We need to show them how to be healthy and teach them what that means. It teaches children to love themselves, respect themselves, and treat their bodies with care. 

“Health is a relationship between you and your body”  ~Terri Guillemets

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Embracing The Run: Keeping My Eyes Off The GPS

Last weekend I ran my 6TH Half Marathon! I had a goal to complete three to four Half Marathons by the end of 2015. This race put me at #4 for the year! I ran this particular race last year and I loved the coarse. The GMAA Marathon And Half Marathon brings you on country roads, along the lake and offers some spectacular views of the mountains. This course is truly a piece of what Vermont is in all its beauty. After a long week I was looking forward to this race. I planned to not set out for any PR's, a challenge for sure. It wasn't until mile two that I decided  I was no longer going to look at my watch and focus on why I run and embrace the miles ahead.

I always check my watch, whether it be in a race or on my own runs. Each mile I look to see how fast I have run and start counting the miles. Watching my time pushes me to go faster, run harder and challenge myself. The first two miles of this race I did look at my watch to be sure I was on track with the race course. Then I vowed to myself not to look again until I saw that finish line. I knew it would be so tempting to sneak a peak yet I was determined to not be absorbed by a new PR and offer this race up as a time to be thankful for my life. I wanted to be able to reach within myself to take this time to reflect, unwind and clear my head.

I fell into a rhythm, the sound of my feet on the ground mixed with the sound of my own breath creating a song. I was in my happy place. The views were breathtaking and the air was cool but welcoming. I could hear the crunching of the leaves that had already fallen and given themselves to the earth.

Running is about "moments". Sometimes it is not mine but another runner's moment that brings me to tears. While waiting to start I watched parents hug their daughter wishing her good luck, telling her they were so proud of her. I could feel the tears surface to my eyes as I tried to blink them away. I watched friends giddy and eager to run together. I saw the look of determination, the look of fear, and the look of joy across the hundreds of runners who eagerly waited to run.

I think many runners would agree with me that in order to want to exceed in this sport we rely on support. I love the high fives, the encouraging words from fellow runners, the groups of people standing in hats and gloves on a windy day cheering on all the runners. I smiled at the little girl who held up a sign saying : Free High Fives. As I ran by her I said: "I will take one of those". Right after me I heard someone say to her: "How about Ten"?! It's that kind of support! It's the support you get when you reach mile five and see your father standing there with his camera when he could be doing something else ( and be warm!) but he is there for you. It is when you reach the finish line and see the faces of your children and husband. Without them, I may not be running. Yes, I run for me though I am inspired to do so because of them.

Running this course last year I remembered the rolling hills right at the end of the course around mile eleven. Being it was my second Half Marathon at that time I was a different runner. Those last couple miles were really difficult and I know I most likely did not have a smile on my face but rather the look of pain. I think I may have even swore a few times to get me up over those inclines. This time it felt different. I wasn't exasperated and I enjoyed those last few hills. Hills may be a challenge, but they also make you stronger. I am thankful for each hill I run up. Plus, what goes up must come down right?!

I finished the race feeling accomplished. I did not get a new PR but still finished strong. I had set out to embrace this run and when I hit that finish line I knew I had done exactly that.

Official Time: 1:43:09 Averaging a 7:52M
Here is the break down from my watch which was only off by 3 seconds:
Mile 1:  8:28
Mile 2:  7:52
Mile 3:  8:04
Mile 5:  7:48
Mile 6:  7:39
Mile 8:  7:46
Mile 9:  7:56
Mile 10: 8:02
Mile 11: 7:50
Mile 12: 7:58
Mile 13: 7:17 Strongest mile!!!

I finished 21 out of 245 Female Half Marathoners (They didn't post an overall and quite frankly I suck at math and have no desire to figure it out)

The only thing I did not enjoy about this race was the fact that by mile two I already had to pee! I was definitely hydrated and it was beginning to be a curse. This is where I thought in my head that I would seriously consider wearing depends if I ever did a marathon. There is no way I could ever make it without having to pee. I do not like stopping either. I am always worried it will throw off my momento: "A body in motion stays in motion". Thankfully I did not piss myself and was thrilled to see the blue bathroom when I was done.

Not looking at my Garmin was not easy, it was tempting. The beeps of my watch were like little voices calling me to look, just sneak one little peak. Halfway through my run I stopped hearing those beeps. Instead I felt a euphoria, a sense of happiness and peace. This is why I run. I run to heal, I run to grow, I run to be a better me. There is such a satisfaction that comes from a new PR. There is also that same satisfaction with letting yourself honor the run, to embrace the run and be thankful that your body can do this amazing thing.

Running has taught me so much. Running has taught me limits and prepared me for challenges. I have become a stronger person, a healthier person, and a more optimistic person. Running has showed me that the body is capable of change in ways we may not realize. Running has given me strength and will, it has taught me self discipline. Running has proved to me that I can do anything I put my mind to, you just have to want it bad enough.

"It's important to know that at the end of the day it's not the medals you remember. What you remember is the process -- what you learn about yourself by challenging yourself, the experiences you share with other people, the honesty the training demands -- those are things nobody can take away from you whether you finish twelfth or you're an Olympic Champion."
-Silken Laumann, Canadian Olympian

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Grateful For Having Legs: Four Legs And Two Legs

I had intended this post to be two parts. One being about our dog Jules and the next being a race recap from this weekends Half Marathon. As I started writing it became clear to me that this post should solely be about Jules. As I am thankful for my two legs and the miles they carry me, I am just as thankful for our four legged family members and the joy they bring to our house. The race recap will come later. Here it is, a post just on Jules and how this weekend made us love her even more...if that is even possible.

If you follow my blogs you know that I am an animal lover. If you don't know that then let me introduce myself: Hi, I am Crystal. I am a SAHM who works part time as a Veterinary Technician. I have been a Vet Tech for almost 16 years. In our house we currently have two dogs: Jules and Miss Vixen and a sweet black cat that my four year old Chase proudly named Horsey. Our animals are more than just furry creatures who shed all over my house. They are part of our family. Jules, our ten year old Pit Bull also has taken on the role of Chase's BFF. Since the day I brought Chase home Jules claimed him as her own. They have the sweetest bond; magical and magnetic.

Last Monday Jules presented with being sick. As the week progressed she was quickly declining. It started with vomiting and anorexia and she became very weak. I believed the culprit to be the small piece of corn cob that she vomited up on Tuesday afternoon. My husband cuts off a small piece of his corn to give to our two year old Wesley, who in turn thought it was nice to throw it on the ground. Jules, who lives to eat everything was quick to clean it up off the ground. It took five days for that piece of cob to come out. I had hoped she was going to get better after it was gone but she only got worse. We did xrays and blood work. Those all came back normal, no obstruction, no masses, no abnormalities. I was feeling relieved and hoped she just needed another night.

The next morning she was worse. Now I was getting worried. Thursday turned into Friday and I was watching my dog deteriorate in front of my eyes, in front of my children's eyes. I love that dog, yet I also love my children more. I was having a difficult time keeping it together. What went from trying to hide my tears from the boys ended up in me surrendering myself to the honesty that I may not be able to make her better. Chase asked me several times if I could "fix" her. I was not going to lie to my child. I owed it to him to be honest about this friend of his he loved so much. I began preparing him by gently explaining that I might not be able to. He didn't fully grasp what I was saying but I could tell by his nervous smile and the quiver of his lower lip that he knew enough. He would respond with: "But why? I love Jules". Insert knife in mama's heart!

When the children would play in their room I would lie with Jules in her dog bed and plead with her not to do this to the boy who loves her. I apologized for getting angry for the countless toys she destroyed and food she had stolen off of our counters. I just wanted her to get better; for her, for me, and especially for that boy who loved her so.

She had not eaten in four days. I started administering SQ (Subcutaneous) fluids at home. Her back legs were weak, she no longer was able to get up on the couch. She would get up to go the bathroom then go straight back to the safety of her bed. Long story short, I needed to make some decisions of what would be the next step. My husband and I decided that we would not put her down without an answer. I did not feel it was her time, I was not willing to let her go unless I was told there was nothing we could do. I did not want to live with regrets and wonder why she was sick. I owed it to her to find out a reason. 

I took Jules to PEAK Veterinary Referral Center for ultrasound.  Her intestines were dilated and it was diagnosed she had Enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine). This was the best news we could get. No cancer, no masses, no obstruction! It meant she would need IV fluids and medication to be administered IM (intramuscular) and she might be able to pull out of it. The radiologist was positive about the prognosis and felt that even though she was as sick as she was, we could nurse her back. I was finally feeling like I could breathe yet knew we were not out of the woods just yet. Because I am a veterinary technician I chose to take her home to treat  her myself rather than admit her. 

Jules has always been terrified of any medical procedure. For a dog who use to come to work with me you would think she would not have that fear...or maybe she saw too much. Whatever the reason, I always have to anesthetize Jules for any procedure, even simple vaccines. How the hell was I going to place an IV catheter in her?! She had been sick enough to let me take her temp and administer SQ Fluids. This was in my favor and thankfully I was able to place an IV catheter by myself so I could push fluids. It was time to enter my role as a technician and push aside that she was my own pet. Some techs and doctors prefer not to work on their own pets, I prefer to be the one to treat my own animals.

Saturday Jules was not looking well. The vomiting and lethargy continued all morning. I tried to keep the positive vibes flowing and give her as much TLC as I could. Suddenly, like a light switch, she took a turn. After five days of no food she took a treat. Then my husband came home and she got up to greet him. A couple hours later I offered a small meal she ate eagerly. Then we met "hope"...it was not her time! She was going to pull through this! Sunday I came home from visiting family to find that she already removed her catheter. My dog was back!

I have lost pets before. It is never easy, it never feels right. I also do not feel it is right to let a pet suffer. It is our jobs to be sure they have a quality of life. It was not her time! Jules is back to herself, she is the renegade counter surfer, toy destroyer, and offender of sneaking on my bed and messing up the covers.  She took my kids dino chicken nuggets off the counter the Sunday night and gladly ate Wesley's pop tart Monday morning when he turned his back. I would say that is my dog. I am grateful for those four legs of hers, her sweet disposition and her gentle way with my children. I am thankful that my son still has his best friend.

This week is National Veterinary Technician Week I dedicate this post to all my fellow techs: for all your hard work, long hours, compassion and dedication. For those of you who trained me and made me the technician I am today (you know who you are and I love you girls!) THANK YOU!! Our job is important. We are nurses to animals which can be challenging some days. Our patients do not talk, they don't sit still, and sometimes they growl or bite. We get pissed and shit on (it's not all puppies and kittens) and our patients never say "Thank You". None the less, this job is rewarding. Jules is a wonderful example of that. We may not be able to fix every patient, but when we do, that is priceless!


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Making Time For Me Without The Fear And Guilt

Now that I have children most everything I do revolves around them. I can't take a piss or even wipe my ass by myself. Shopping means I do it with two little creatures with me, some days I feel like I have a circus of monkeys with me. I even share my bed with one of them, he sleeps comfortably in the middle as I hang on for dear life on the edge. I am not complaining, I wouldn't have it any other way. I wished them, dreamed of them, and finally was blessed with them. 

The one thing that I have neglected as a mother is myself. I have lost a piece of me in this new role as mom and forgotten who that other girl was years ago. Believe me, parts of her are better left in the past. Yet underneath all the laundry, diapers, and matchbox cars there is a woman who needs to take time for herself.

It is so easy to get lost in everyday routine and forget how important it is to do things for yourself. For me this is what running has become to me. It serves as my therapy, my church, and my personal time to reflect. It is my time to give back something to myself. I need to get out there and I make the time to do it. I don't go out much and most of the time I see my friends it is with small children in tow. We call them "Play dates" but really they should be called "Mommy arranged this so you could go play and mommy can have an adult conversation". Okay, so that is a little long. We could just refer to it as a "Mommy Date".  I remember a girl who use to love being on a dance floor until the bars closed. I didn't have to worry about waking early to change diapers and do obscene amounts of laundry. That girl always made time for herself. 

My children have made me a new woman. I keep learning new things about her along the way. This woman hates being away from her children. They come first and I don't even have to think twice about it. Being away from them makes my heart feel heavy; as though there is this gigantic empty space within me when they are not there. 

I am getting better at being away from them. Two weeks ago my husband and I had date night. It felt freeing that I was able to go enjoy some quality time with him without worrying how the boys were and not rushing to eat my food and get down a couple of drinks before getting back to them. This weekend I also went out to dinner with three of my dear friends. Just four women sitting in a nice restaurant enjoying one another's company. Four mom's who love their children immensely yet also need one another.

I love being with my children yet I also need to have healthy and happy relationships with my husband and my close friends. This means taking the time to spend with these people without my children around. Most importantly, it is remembering that it is OK to take time away from them. Going for a run, going out on a date or spending time with my girlfriends is not selfish. Doing these things are essential to being a better mother.

I need to take care of myself and do things that make me happy. I need to honor the woman I am and allow myself to do things without my children. A part of me feels that there will be plenty of time when they are out of the house someday and right now I need to soak up as much of them as I can. This is true, they are only little once. This is where the guilt comes in when I am away. Then my mind takes me to crazy places. I am terrified of something happening to them if I am not there. Then there are times when I am without them I fear something will happen to me and I won't be able to be there for them. I can't imagine life without my children and I never want to leave them without a mother.

It's that fear that makes it difficult for me to walk out the door. That same fear that tugs at me saying I don't need to go out. I am working on overcoming that fear and living my life without it. I just can't help my mind going to these places. When I do I feel my heart tighten and it feels like someone is standing on my chest. The tears collect in my eyes as I try to blink the images away from my mind and breathe. 

Fear will not win this battle. I will continue to do my best to be thankful for each and every moment I have with my children. I will enjoy their laughter and screeches of joy. I will make memories and share moments with them that we will talk about for years to come. I will also try harder to make more time for myself. It doesn't always have to be going out. It can be as simple as taking time to read a book or going for that run. 

Making memories with our children and being happy means mommy needs to be happy too. We have to remember that in order to take care of these little creatures we have to first take care of ourselves. If we want happy, healthy children we have to live that. We are the most important examples they see. Our children learn so much by watching us. Our children become reflections of who we are.

I am working on it, but I vow to try to be better about taking more time for me. I want to be the best I can be for my children so I will be sure to take time to do some of the things that make me happy, without the fear or guilt. I will go for my runs and lose myself in the steps I take. I will make sure my husband and I take the time for one another because one day it will be back to him and I. I will make more dates with my girlfriends so we can laugh about this chaotic ride called motherhood. I deserve it!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Apple Bacon Pizza

Hearing Apple Bacon Pizza is almost like "You had me at hello" right?! I love bacon and pizza yet trying to be health conscious sometimes it is hard to find that happy and healthy balance of the foods we like to eat. Since it is Friday and many of us will be having pizza so  here is a healthier spin on a pizza for you to try. 

For my crust I went with a Whole Grain Naan. I love these for pizza and for making pita's. I don't like a lot of crust which make these perfect for my pizza's. Bonus: the size is just right! I can usually finish off a whole one by myself and with only 360 calories for the entire Naan I can do so guilt free.

The first thing I did was cover the Naan with pesto. One of my favorite flavors! After the pesto I shredded some Cabot Sharp Extra Light Cheddar over the pesto. Next I layered my pizza with spinach, my favorite veggie! After the spinach came Apples!!!

Keeping the calories down on a pizza while having it be delicious can be tricky. I love veggies and typically pile them on while making a pizza. This particular pizza I was looking for a balance of sweet and satisfying. We just had gone apple picking last weekend so I decided to add some fresh picked, Vermont Macintosh Apples from Allenholm Farm. I sliced thin pieces to layer on my pizza. 

Next came the bacon of coarse. I had cooked the bacon prior making sure it was nice and crispy then crumpled it over the pizza. I only used two slices of bacon. Once the bacon was on it was time for a final thin layer of the cheese again.

I baked it at 350 for 15 minutes and out came my pizza.

I wasn't done yet though...

I recently went to the Vermont Tap House and they have this amazing pizza that inspired this recipe for me and it has a drizzle of maple syrup on it once it comes out. I used Vermont Pure Maple Syrup once it came out. Just a light drizzle, remember, it is pizza not a pancake! 

The outcome: This was very good! Not as good as the Tap House pizza of coarse but it was pretty delicious. If you have some extra apples from apple picking remember that apples can be used for more than just baking, add them to your sandwiches and throw them on a pizza! 

Happy Friday!!