100 (and counting!)

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One hundred of anything is usually noteworthy. Like if you owned 100 cats. Or if you live to be 100 years old. Or if you eat 100 hot dogs in one sitting. It’s kind of a big deal!

Last January I bought Betsy a Fitbit. Wearable technology was becoming more and more en vogue and I thought it would be a fun and useful way for her to manage her fitness goals. Collecting data on her sleep patterns, heart rate, and workouts seemed like a useful exercise.  From the beginning Betsy found it quite motivating! The default setting challenges you to log 10,000 steps each day. Apparently the American Heart Association recommends it for “improving health and decreasing the risk of heart disease” (who knew?). Betsy ended up getting me a Fitbit shortly thereafter so I could join in the fun!

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So true.

The thing about having a Fitbit is that it is oddly motivating. At least for Betsy and me. The Fitbit app even gives you a green star when you hit the targets for steps and for two people who were always motivated by extrinsic rewards, if there is a green star up for grabs – we are going for it! We often find ourselves doing laps around the kitchen table at 10 o’clock at night to get the last 1000 steps before bed. Fitbit gives you badges for bigger milestones like lifetime miles and hitting 20,000 steps in one day. In any case, it does the job. Both of us have been more inclined to be active whether it’s hopping on the treadmill or jumping up and down while we are watching TV at night.

This past July, Betsy started a streak of consecutive days with at least 10,000 steps. It started innocently enough, as she strung together a week of green stars. Then a week turned into two. And then Betsy was passing even bigger milestones: 30 days, two months. On October 26, she did it. The streak reached 100 days. And there’s been no sign of letting up! Currently the streak stands at 149 days.

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The day it all began…July 18

There have been days when the 10,000 steps came easier than others. A trip to the park with Lucas including walking there and back home plus all the running around and the ups and downs on the play structure make it pretty easy to hit 10,000 steps. On days when Betsy tutors for 6 hours, it can be really challenging! It’s a testament to her determination that she’s managed to keep the streak going for essentially the last 5 months.

The funny thing is, I had started a streak of my own, three days before Betsy’s current streak began. It flamed out after 18 days. I also had a streak of 47 days going during the months of August and September. Then one night just 87 steps away from the 10,000 target, I fell asleep on the couch at approximately 11:47 PM. I was highly exasperated when I woke up at 12:16 AM and realized what I had done. My current streak is 25 days. If you’ve ever tried it, you know it’s difficult. It’s hard to consistently log those steps. Which makes Betsy’s streak even more remarkable.

After her streak had reached a certain point, Betsy decided that she wasn’t going to break it until she got sick and there was a legitimate reason for her not to be active. A few weeks ago, Betsy came down with a cold. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when she decided that she wasn’t that sick and carried on without missing a day of 10,000 steps! Turns out that light exercise can actually boost the immune system. Or at least that’s what Betsy told me when I suggested she take it easy and forget about the Fitbit for a couple of days. 🙂

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Today’s count…she’s nearly there!

Of course there will come a day when Betsy’s streak comes to an end. But it won’t be today! And it won’t be without an extremely good excuse. Like being eaten by a crocodile. 🙂

 

 

Happy Birthday Betsy!

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Last Thursday was Betsy’s birthday! If you’ve been following the blog, she does a great job of writing special birthday posts for Lucas and for me so I thought in honor of her thirty-*cough* birthday, I would attempt to pen a similar tribute for my lovely and talented wife.

So, here are few things that make Betsy, Betsy!

•Betsy loves the outdoors! Whether it’s a day at the beach, a walk through the woods, or even doing work out in the yard, there’s something about the fresh air and sunshine that she especially loves. Lucas has inherited the outdoor gene. I am the lone indoor cat in the family. But seriously, my hair doesn’t hold up well in the elements.

•This is probably not surprising but Betsy, being at one with nature, also has a green thumb. She loves to plant flowers every spring and tend to them until they finally fade with the cold Michigan winter. The last two years Betsy has also planted a vegetable garden. We don’t have a ton of space and have even less sunlight due to all the trees in our yard. I’ll admit I was skeptical but somehow she has managed to coax life forth from the various pots and plots.

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Betsy and Lucas will be harvesting tomatoes and zucchini in the near future!

•Betsy has zero sweet tooth. She literally hates 99% of all desserts. On occasion she can be persuaded to have some ice cream. She has sporadic cravings for homemade caramels. But when it comes to cakes and pies and cookies and pastries, she has very little interest. I do not understand this personally.

•Betsy has a remarkable memory. She can recite most of Lucas’s favorite stories without even looking at the book. She remembers phone numbers and credit card numbers from years gone by. She can recollect the lyrics of obscure songs from the mid-90s after hearing the first few notes. Most importantly, she remembers where Lucas and I leave our stuff. This is most helpful. We would be lost without her!

•Betsy is a coffee-holic. Give her Starbucks or give her death!  She always starts her day with a mug (or two) and isn’t opposed to warming up the pot in the afternoon when she’s in need of a little extra caffeine. She likes all kinds of coffee drinks but she prefers to take her coffee hot and black.

•Betsy is practically unbeatable at Scrabble. We’ve played approximately three hundred times since we got married and I think I’ve won twice. Not only is she a logophile (she would have known that word, I had to look it up) but she also possesses that killer Scrabble instinct to add an ‘s’ making a seven letter word that already contains the letters ‘z’ and ‘k’ plural…oh yeah, and that ‘s’ was probably placed on a triple word score.

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Mission impossible.

•Betsy is a great mother. Dare I say, the best. She loves Lucas more than I thought was possible. She is patient and self-sacrificing. She’ll do just about anything for a smile from our boy. Even if that means making pancakes in the shape of all twenty-six letters of the alphabet or crafting a chicken coop out of popsicle sticks for his toy farm or reading The Complete Adventures of Curious George all in one sitting. Lucas is lucky to have you!

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Betsy and her favorite boy.

So happy (belated) birthday to my favorite person on the planet! Thanks for loving me and Lucas and for simply being the best!

The Chilliest Great Strides Walk of All Time

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I don’t know that for certain but I do know it was 36 degrees this morning when I woke up and not a whole lot warmer by the time we all met up for the Great Strides fundraising walk today. Come on people, it’s May for crying out loud!

Overall though, it was a great success! We had about 30 team members who braved the chilly weather to walk with Betsy and our team managed to raise over $4000 for cystic fibrosis research.

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(Most of) Our Great Strides Team!

We are very thankful for all of our friends and family who participated in one way or another. We are thankful for tangible expressions of solidarity and support. And we are thankful for the ongoing research that is working to develop new treatments for people with cystic fibrosis and hopefully, one day, a cure.

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Betsy, Lucas, and I rocking our pink #Breathe4Betsy headbands!

The Great Strides campaign is now done for 2016 but you can support cystic fibrosis research any time at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website!

Thanks again to everyone for their love and support!

Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control

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Just when the end of cold and flu season was within sight. Just when the weather was finally starting to feel springlike. Just when we thought things were returning to normal.

Sick again.

We had spent a really fun, long weekend in Chicago a couple of weeks ago and Betsy held up great and we all had a blast. About a week after getting back, Lucas started coughing. Betsy and I were both trying to act unconcerned, but the truth is, we were. We were literally (because Lucas is still learning to cover his mouth when he coughs) and figuratively, holding our breaths, hoping that Betsy wouldn’t catch whatever bug that had befallen Lucas. And sure enough, by the weekend Betsy was down for the count. At first it was just a sore throat and sinus pressure. Then those initial symptoms gave way to respiratory difficulties. Betsy told me she noticed a change in her breathing.

Sigh.

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Spring, finally.

Of course that unleashed a whole wave of questions and concerns. Should we give Betsy’s body some time to fight off the virus on its own? When do we need call the doctor if at all? Would he want to prescribe antibiotics? Would he want Betsy to go on IV antibiotics (please no please no please no please no please no)? It’s a balancing act. For obvious reasons, we don’t want Betsy to take antibiotics haphazardly because we want her body to be responsive to them when she really needs them. On the other hand, we don’t want her to naively refrain from taking them if she really does need them, causing a minor infection to turn into something far worse.

In the end, she did call the doctor and he did prescribe a pretty lightweight oral antibiotic which he thinks will be enough to get Betsy back on her feet. She didn’t dodge the bullet completely but it could have been worse.

I nicked the title of this post from a song by Australian psych rockers Tame Impala (PSA: If you’ve never listened to them before, you should definitely check them out! My favorite album is Lonerism). I couldn’t think of a better way to sum up how I have been feeling about this latest bout with illness. We’ve been washing our hands, we’ve been trying to regulate Betsy’s activity, we’ve been making sure she has been getting as much sleep as possible and doing everything to minimize her exposure to the outside world, especially as she was coming off the steroids which we knew were probably suppressing her immune system. What else could we have done?

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Wild impala.

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Tame Impala.

One answer is nothing. Admittedly, it’s not one that I like. Probably the thing I struggle with the most is the feeling of helplessness. By nature I’m the sort of person that wants to try to prevent and protect. I wouldn’t say I’m paranoid (although Betsy might disagree) but I’m definitely über alert to any danger. When Lucas was learning to walk I remember carefully inspecting all of our furniture looking for dangerous corners that he might tumble into so that we could cover them with pads and cushions. I think subconsciously, I take a similar approach to Betsy’s health. Is there someone sniffling in the row behind us at church? Have any of her students been sick in the last month?

But alas, not everything can be prevented. And that leaves me feeling distressed and annoyed. I came across a benediction that appears at the end of 2 Thessalonians the other day:

Now may the LORD of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.

I’ve been trying to keep this in mind. Because what I really need at times like this is peace. As much as I would like it to be otherwise, there are many things that are out of my control. There are things I can’t prevent. But I trust that Betsy’s health is in God’s hands. And knowing that gives me peace.

 

If At First You Don’t Succeed

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Well, I have been putting off this post for quite some time.

A couple months back I wrote about a promise I made to Betsy. Knowing how much of a drag running had become for her, I pledged to run every day that she ran. It was meant to be an act of solidarity. It was meant to encourage her, to make her feel like she wasn’t the only one drudging through something unpleasant.

“What a good husband!” they said.

“What a noble gesture!” they proclaimed.

Well, I failed.

I started off well enough. It was May, the weather was great, and Betsy was really knocking it out of the park. I was feeling really inspired and motivated by wife’s unrelenting will. She didn’t enjoy it but there she was, out hitting the pavement or revving up the treadmill day after day. And so was I. On occasion I missed a run but I always made it up the next day.

Then came August and the start of the soccer season.

Suddenly I was busy coaching and I started to miss a day here and a day there. Before I knew it I “owed” Betsy four or five runs. She graciously offered me the opportunity to hit the reset button and start over. I declined. I thought I could catch up. I would just go every day the next week and I would be all square. But I didn’t. One week turned into two. And before I knew it I was going to have go running every day for the next two months in order to match Betsy’s total.

I suppose there were a few somewhat legitimate excuses but in the end they were really just excuses. Exactly the sort of excuses that Betsy can’t afford to make. I’ve gone from feeling like a failure to feeling like a complete loser. In the classic 1990s movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Robin of Locksley’s loyal companion, Azeem, suggests that “there are no perfect men, only perfect intentions.” I guess he has a point.

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It’s hard to argue with a man that carries a sword like that.

So I am getting back on the horse. I suppose I could go on about how I plan to stay on track and how this time will be different but when it comes down to it, actions speak louder than words. And I have to get to running! So I’ll just leave you with the wise words of William Edward Hickson:

‘Tis a lesson you should heed,

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don’t succeed,

Try, try, try again.

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Juuuust kidding!

Progress

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted here on Betsy’s blog. She’s had a few weightier things to write about recently, and we thought it would be a good time to lighten the mood with a Lucas diet update! Back in June I wrote about our attempts to wean Lucas off of baby food. It’s really hard to believe that less than six months ago his diet consisted mostly of pureéd fruits and vegetables and liquefied chicken mixed with various baby cereals. A lot has changed since then and we’ve learned a lot about our boy in the process!

Lucas eats a lot of different foods.  He eats grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken quesadillas, cheeseburgers, beef empanadas, homemade chicken nuggets, pizza, kale chips, apples, bananas, grapes, oranges, peas, corn, green beans, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, avocado, broccoli, tomatoes, graham crackers…oh, and pancakes. That’s a pretty substantial list! We were worried that Lucas’s diet might not be as healthy after he transitioned to solid foods but so far that has not been the case. Grilled cheese is still his favorite!

It's a bird, it's a plane...no, it's Lucas eating a cheeseburger with a side of banana and cucumbers!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…no, it’s Lucas eating a cheeseburger with a side of banana and cucumbers!

Gardening helps. Over the summer Betsy planted a garden and Lucas got really into it and helped water the plants and harvest the produce. His willingness to try something new seemed to increase if he had just picked it. His favorite? Kale! Betsy used to mix it into his “green” pureé but now Lucas prefers it in crunchy, chip-form.

So do Bubble Guppies. Bubble Guppies is one of Lucas’s favorite kid shows. There was an episode recently where the Guppies go to “Fruit Camp”and participate in a race with obstacles (i.e. trying new foods) along the way. Gil earns a point for the team by eating a carrot. Then Deema is faced with the last and most difficult obstacle: broccoli. She hesitates at first but tries it and finds that it’s “delicious!” Well, that was enough for Lucas to ask for some broccoli too. I’m not sure if he really likes it or if he only likes it because the Bubble Guppies like it. Either way, he’s added another healthy vegetable to his diet and, unfortunately, so have I.

Thanks a lot, Deema.

Thanks a lot, Deema.

Texture still matters. There have been some real head scratchers along the way. We experimented with some pretty tried and true kid favorites like macaroni and cheese and ravioli but Lucas really didn’t go for them. Strange because what kid doesn’t like macaroni and cheese? It turns out that he didn’t like the texture. Too rubbery? I’m not sure exactly. But the good thing is at age four we were able to have a conversation about it and we agreed that if he tried some other foods, we could replace ravioli with something that he liked better!

Appearance matters too. We’ve still had the occasional meltdown over food. A month or so ago Betsy and Lucas had come with me to a soccer game and we decided to go out for pizza afterwards. I was thrilled. For the longest time I had just wanted to have the freedom to leave the house and not worry about packing an entire meal of baby food to take with us. Lucas was excited too…until the pizza arrived. It had a much thicker crust than he was used to. It wasn’t quite deep dish but still it was different enough for him to deem it “not pizza”. After a lot of patience (from Betsy) and persuading (also Betsy) he did eat some of it. Since then we have limited our patronage to pizza joints that have a hand tossed crust option on the menu. 🙂

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree (again!). Lucas has absolutely no sweet tooth, just like his mother. Despite my best efforts, Lucas has zero interest in cookies, donuts, cake, or candy. For his birthday, I went all out and made a cake decorated with his favorite farm animals. I even made a frosting barn! Lucas admired the artwork but wanted nothing to do with eating it. Betsy was no help either. So I ate the whole thing myself (I’m not sure whether to feel proud or ashamed). One of Lucas’s little friends from church got him to try a cookie after the service one Sunday. He gave it the old college try but after a couple of bites he gave it to me to finish. He really doesn’t like sweets.

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My masterpiece: The Barnyard.

Traditions. The town I grew up in is about 15 minutes away from where we live now. There is a bakery in that town that is famous for its fresh baked German soft pretzels. They only make them on Saturdays. Lucas really likes his carbs and so one Saturday not too long ago I was determined to see if he would try a pretzel. He also likes salty things (just like his mother) so I thought it might work. Well, he was hooked after one bite. And it’s now become a weekly ritual. It’s great because it gives Betsy a chance to sleep in, Lucas and I have a fun morning out just the two of us, and then we all have soft pretzels as a late breakfast when we get home. We have the leftovers for breakfast on Sunday.

Saturday's new tradition!

Saturday’s new tradition!

All in all, Lucas has made a ton of progress and we are super proud of him! It’s been fun to see him try new things and like most of them. He even tried seaweed at preschool the other day! That’s right, my son prefers seaweed to cookies. Who would have ever guessed?

Changed

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My sister-in-law, Sheri, died on this day eleven years ago. It really is incredible to think that much time has passed. So much has changed since she left this world. But a lot changed while she was still alive too. And a lot of that change was because of Sheri.

Shortly after Betsy and I were married we were all gathered together for a mini-family reunion. One of the afternoons it was decided that we would take a field trip to a local used bookstore. Amongst Sheri’s many qualities, she was exceedingly generous so before we entered, Sheri handed everyone a five dollar bill. Sheri was also always on the lookout for a great deal and I think she was excited to see what hidden treasures each of us might unearth in the stacks of used books.

I picked up two or three books that day. But the one that I will always remember was a big, green cookbook. That’s right, a cookbook. It was an odd selection, because at the time I didn’t cook. Gender roles in my family growing up were pretty traditional. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. But it did mean that I was used to the women doing the cooking. The only real reason I ever ventured into the kitchen was to try and steal cookie dough while my sisters were baking! In any case, the title caught my eye: The Art of South American Cooking. I picked it up and started paging through it. It contained recipes for some very familiar dishes as well as some I’d never heard of but sounded tasty.

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After all these years you can barely make out the title: “The Art of South American Cooking”.

I found a couple of other books and went to pay for them. All three books and I had change left over – a great deal! Sheri was interested to see what I had picked out. As I recall her exact words were, “I’ll look forward to you cooking something for us!”. I didn’t want to burst her bubble. She’d obviously not understood that I was really buying the book for Betsy.

That reunion weekend was pretty much the last of the summer fun. Upon returning, Betsy started her second year of teaching and I was started work on my master’s degree in Economics. Curiously, I seemed to have a lot of time on my hands. I remember one day feeling oddly guilty when Betsy arrived home, exhausted after working a full day teaching the youth of America and still had to fix dinner. I think my accomplishments that same day had included reading a couple journal articles, going for a run, and watching two UEFA Champions League soccer games.

So the next day I got out my green cookbook and decided I would give cooking a try. I decided to go with something that I’d never tried before – pollo al palillo. Basically chicken with yucca root in a fluorescent yellow colored sauce made of lime juice, tumeric, and cumin. And it even turned out to be edible! I was probably more pleased with myself than I should have been. Betsy was very appreciate of my efforts and made it clear that from now on, I was welcome to share the cooking responsibilities. What had I gotten myself into?

Now, I love to cook! I love to prepare meals for Betsy and Lucas. I love to have people over for dinner. My cooking has been largely influenced by the semester abroad I spent in Spain. Some of my favorite dishes to prepare include: estofado de buey, tortilla de patatas, pollo al chilindrón, empanadillas de carnelentejas. Mmmmm. I never got a chance to cook that meal for Sheri but I think she would be proud of my culinary skills. I think she would be even more proud that I learned something new, something that, over the years, has helped me to take care of her little sister.

I’ve accumulated lots of other cookbooks over the years but that first, big, green cookbook will always have a place on our shelf. It reminds me of Sheri. It reminds me that, through the small gesture of buying me a book, she helped me to become the person I am today. And I think that’s probably true of everyone that came to know Sheri. And while we miss her greatly, we are constantly reminded that we have been changed by her example of love, kindness, faith, perserverance, and joy.

Changed for the better.

We miss you, Sheri.