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Christmas Shenanigans

It’s December 26th, and after a morning spent shopping with my Chicky, I am finally sitting down to process the past few days.

On Wednesday, the 23rd, we secured the house and pups, leaving them in the care of a trusted young man…one of Rooster’s best friends…and drove a couple of hours down the road to bigger city, Florida, where the rest of our crew lives.

Before we left, though, I had to get in another workout.  Even though Wednesdays are my “rest” days, I still like to exercise.  I’ve learned that my body needs to be pushed.

I decided to do a Piyo workout.  I’ve missed the stretching and strength exercises, so I put in the “Sweat” video, which didn’t seem nearly as difficult now that I’ve “graduated” from the program and have been doing TurboFire for over a month.  I’d like to think that speaks to the level of fitness I’m currently at…not high but farther along than four months ago.

Our drive went by quickly.  I spent the time either reading or knitting (I can’t remember which).  We spent the afternoon just chilling with the in-laws.  Chicky arrived later that afternoon, but she was fighting the crud, so she went to bed early.

Christmas Eve found me up early.  I didn’t want to miss a day of my workout program, but I also didn’t want anyone walking in on me.  I’m a bit shy about having people watch me.  I’m not exactly the most coordinated, although in my mind I look as good as Chalene Johnson.  Yes, I know I’m delusional.  Aren’t we all from time-to-time?

Getting ready in the dark so I don’t wake up the natives

After everyone got up, we did our traditional last-minute shopping and picked up a few small items that were probably unnecessary but gave us a reason to jaunt around town along with thousands of other similarly-minded people.

Because we were going to eat Christmas dinner for dinner (as opposed to the late lunch time we’ve done the past few Christmas seasons), the Mr., Chicky, Rooster, and I had some time to open gifts among ourselves.  Spending time as our small family unit rarely happens these days, as is the case when children grow up and leave home.  I think it’s still important, though.  Inside jokes and whatnot continue to remind us how much we love each other.

Chicky gave me this luscious silk/wool skein of yarn, which she had picked up this past summer when she traveled to the Amish country while vacationing in Philadelphia.  I think she purchased the yarn here.  She told me that she was going to buy me more yarn until she discovered that good yarn is expensive!  Rooster reminded her of my forays to the yarn store that’s an hour and a half away from me and how much I spend before I return home.  Yes, I’m a yarn snob.  I was touched that she 1) braved a yarn store and 2) got me something so dear to my heart.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures during our present opening.  I did receive a set of measuring cups and spoons from Rooster (these items were on my list), and the Mr. gave me a cute sweater from Old Navy, night clothes from Victoria Secret, and a flipbelt.

The Flipbelt. These are not my abs…these pictures will serve as motivation though.

After a delicious dinner (I ate mashed potatoes and field peas), we pulled out Phase 10, a card game Chicky had purchased the night before.  We had a lot of time to kill before church.

This was a lot of fun to play!  I highly recommend it!

After a few rounds, our group got ready for church and headed to the 9pm service.  This was the first time we had ever attended this late program…another sign that our children have become adults.  The pastor preached a great sermon with the highlight being the lighting of candles that we patrons held as the overhead lights were turned off.  Singing “Silent Night” with the candlelight flickering invoked a feeling of reverence befitting the Reason for the Season…the birth of the baby who would save mankind from its sins.

By the time we were finished, it was late, so it didn’t take us long to head to bed.

True to form, I arose early the next morning so I could do my ten-minute ab workout followed by the ten-minute stretch session that comes after each workout session.  The schedule worked out great, did it not?

Then, I got ready and sat…waiting…for the everyone else to wake up…

Because the kids are grown, we don’t open presents at 5am any more.

I decided to call my mom but had trouble putting on makeup, straightening my hair, and talking, so I dug out my ear buds and made myself hands-free.

Go ahead to tell me how brilliant I am.

This was a great way to pass the time.  Beauty at my age takes a while to obtain.

Once the Mr. and the kids were up, it was time to dig into our stockings.  Santa was good to me.

Isn’t my stocking pretty?  I love being able to say that I made it!

Super Sis and her family eventually made their way over after they’d finished opening their gifts, and after the customary Christmas morning photos in front of the tree (during which we really noticed how grown the kids had gotten), we dug in.

We always take turns opening presents, going in age order (youngest to oldest).

The theme the first round seemed to be opening what the other sister/brother clan had gifted.

Super Sis’s group gave me the stack of three purple gifts in the photo above.  One of the gifts was a set of measuring spoons (one can never have too many).  Another gift was this bowl…

Isn’t it cute?!

I also got this neat set of hand lotions.

The ingredients are all natural.  The one on the left has a lemon scent and is very invigorating.  The middle tube has an orange scent…a bit more muted but still pleasant.  The tube on the right has a floral scent and is stronger.  It provides a deeper conditioning, so I’ll probably use it on my feet.

A lot of laughter was exchanged as explanations were provided with each gift.

I had bought Super Sis an Origami Owl necklace and six charms.  I should have taken a picture of it.  She had randomly texted me a few months ago and told me that she had decided that she wanted one.  We’d given Coupon Queen a necklace for Mother’s Day (or her birthday…can’t remember which one since both are in May).

The in-laws gave me an individual sized crock pot, 400-thread cotton sheets, Bath and Body Works lotion, an Express store gift card, and cash.

It was a fun time…one we had to recoup from afterward.  Can you say nap time?!  This is another tradition of ours.

After a dinner of leftovers, we sat down and played a new game that one of my nephews taught us…”President.”

I.  Hate.  This.  Game.  It’s played with a deck of cards that are all dealt out.  The winner of each round is called President, the runner up is Vice President, the next two finishers are Secretaries, and the last two are Scum and Super Scum.  I cannot stand the last two titles.  If you’re Scum, you have to give away your best cards to the President/Vice President (depending on if you’re Scum or Super Scum).  In return, you get their worst cards.  So, what happens is that you rarely get out of Scum status.

I don’t like the names of the finishers, nor do I like giving away cards in this manner.  It’s just dumb.  Yes, I got a bad attitude, and yes, I probably showed my butt a bit.  It’s hard to be perfect 100% of the time.  Ha!

Bedtime provided a much-needed reset.

That brings me to today.  After an early, tough TurboFire workout, Chicky and I headed out to the store.  We hit Ulta so Chicky could exchange the Urban Decay eye shadow palette we’d given her…the same one as last year (hello. brain fart).  Best Buy was next so I could exchange a phone charger I’d bought for Rooster (hello, second brain fart…wrong pin connection…duh).

Then, we went to the mall so I could try on blue jeans at Express.  I’ve lost so much weight that I’ve had to go down a size (I’m not bragging, mind you, so don’t be hatin’).  Afterward, we ate lunch, and then Chicky got her makeup done at the MAC cosmetic stand near the food court.  I’ve never heard of this line before.  What lovely stuff!

I enjoyed watching the gal expertly apply primer, foundation, concealer, and blush.  Chicky doesn’t wear a lot of makeup, but that makeup really made her cheekbones pop!  I wound up helping her pay for her goodies.  Because we live six hours apart and only see each other every few months, I don’t get to pamper her often.

Because Chicky had decided to stay in town one extra day, we were not pressed for time.  I was grateful because I miss her when we’re apart.

The game plan for the rest of the day is to relax, visit more with family, and head home first thing in the morning.  We have fur babies who miss us, gifts to put away, and another week of downtime to enjoy.

I hope all of you had a great Christmas with friends and family.

Doing Christmas Stress-Free

Look…a second post in one week!

Go Me!

So, it’s Tuesday night.  I’ve officially been on Christmas vacation since 12:30 on Friday.

I’ve got to say that I think this is going to be one of my more relaxed Christmases in a while.  I think that the primary reason is because I’ve become very purposeful about balancing work and home.  I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating because I tend to be a slow learner and, I suspect, one or two of you might be as well.  Overachievers tend to gravitate toward one another, don’t you know.

Friday evening, before the Mr. and I went to dinner, I did a little DIY project and replaced Rooster’s bedroom door handles.

The door had quit latching, and the dogs were pushing their way in uninvited and lounging in his room when he wasn’t there.  Fortunately, a couple of summers ago, I’d ordered a slew of new door handles but had not installed all of them.  This was a rather fast and easy job.

The Mr. and I spent a few hours on Saturday shopping.  Although it was very cold and our mall is outside, we were able to flit in and out of stores fairly quickly.  We lucked out on a few great sales…one-day only affairs…and picked up nearly the remainder of the items on our list.

We also visited World Market, which had moved from town to the beach a year or so ago.  I love this store but haven’t gotten to shop there ever since it relocated.  I came back with a couple of different vegan/non-dairy teas and a vegan hot chocolate mix.  The hot chocolate…delicious!!!!  Look how frothy it got in the hot chocolate maker that the in-laws gave me for Christmas two or three years ago.  The mug?  It was a souvenir I picked up during our 2011 Alaskan cruise.

I got down to work wrapping, fortified with hot chocolate and football bowl games.

I only got nine presents done before we headed out to dinner, and I was too tired to continue after we got back.

After church and lunch the next day, I sat down and wrapped…for four or five hours…while finishing up recorded episodes of Arrow.  For the record, can the show’s writers please let the good guys be happy for longer than thirty seconds?  Oh, my heart.

I finished wrapping all but three or four gifts…items we were either trying to purchase accompanying items for or items we had to fully purchase.  Still, I was pleased.  The last few years, my Christmas spirit has been lacking, as has my energy, and the Mr. has had to do our wrapping for us.

Not so, this year!  Despite fighting the crud, STILL, I’ve been pacing myself, doing what I can when I can, resting when I need to, and resuming tasks when I feel up to it.  I even managed to add pretty ribbons this this year’s packages…sparkly additions that the Mr. doesn’t include.

I finished the last few presents tonight, and everything is loaded into bags and ready to be placed in the car in the morning when we depart for Bigger City, Florida, where the rest of our family resides.  We are leaving our pups in the care of a young man who puppy-sits/house-sits when we travel.

Another way I’ve kept the last few days stress-free is by reading.

I’m feeling like a bit of a cheat because I’ve got about four books going right now.  I have NEVER done this before; however, every time I order a new book, I have a burning desire to dive in.

Two books I’m focusing heavily on right now are Library of Souls, by Ransom Riggs (the third in the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series) and Wrestling with Wonder, by Marlo Schalesky.

Library of Souls is as strange as its predecessors.  At first, I didn’t think I was going to like it, but I’ve slowly been drawn in, as I was with the other two books in this series.  I was moved when I read one thing in particular last night…

Jacob is a young boy who, in the first book, accidentally discovers a “loop” that takes him to a world unseen where the same day gets repeated over and over.  The children in this loop have special powers, and they are trying to stay hidden from such things as wights and hollowgasts.  Jacob learns that his grandfather was a part of this world.  Jacob becomes immersed in it and the battle to keep the kids, who he’s befriended, safe.

In the third book, he’s trying to rescue the kids and their caretakers, ancient women, from the people who have kidnapped them.  The process challenges his confidence in his own special abilities, which he’s discovered as the reader follows the story.

I love the excerpt above which maintains that we humans have many talents but miss out on them because we only nurture one or two.

How true is this?!  I know this is probably due to time constraints and the busy lives we lead, but I wonder how much of this isn’t also related to the lack of confidence we possess.  How many times have we thought that we couldn’t do something when, in reality, we haven’t either tried or have given up after trying once or twice?

I need to ponder on this more.

The other book that is really touching my heart right now is Wrestling with Wonder, which I discovered when I read a series of devotions about Mary in my Bible app.  I loved this devotion series so much that I had to buy the book.

It.  Is.  Amazing.

The author delves into the story of Jesus from Mary’s perspective.  As a mother, I can identify with this viewpoint.

Here’s what’s different though.  So many times the traditional stories from the Bible…the annunciation…Mary’s visit with Elizabeth…the birth of Jesus…are all told in such a way that everything is happy, clean, and all glowy.

These scenes are told in words Mary might have used.  Can you imagine being told you are pregnant…before you’ve had sex and gotten married to the man you’re engaged to?  Can you imagine traveling on a donkey or camel when you’re days away from giving birth…how uncomfortable that must have been?  I, personally, cannot imagine giving birth in a stinky barn without a person there who had some medical knowledge.

All of these events are considered blessings, though, and they are, but they happen in circumstances that are the farthest from ideal that you can get.

THIS is why I am loving this book so much.  Life often isn’t pretty.  There is so much sadness…so much heartbreak…so many challenging times.  Yet, God considers us blessed when we endure the events that hurt our hearts and test our faith.

My reading…setting goals (I want to finish both books before the break is over) and being purposeful about setting aside time to read each day…is keeping me centered and helping me indulge in activities that make me happy…that quiet my soul.

A third way I’m doing Christmas stress-free is by exercising.

I keep harping on this, but you need to hear the message.

Working out releases endorphin.  Endorphin gives you a natural high.  You get the satisfaction of having completed something that is good for you.

Although I hurt my rotator cuff when I started Piyo a few months ago, I’m pushing myself through that…through the crud that is still hanging on (hello runny nose that will not stop)…through the soreness from the crosses and jabs that I’m improving my form on.

Despite having to stop today’s video at least three times to catch my breath, I pushed through, as I do each time I work out.  This time I spend each day helps me burn calories and maintain a shape that keeps me mentally happy.

Today’s 40-minute workout…LOADS of calories evaporated…

The videos will be traveling with me, and I will be getting up at o’dark thirty to exercise before everyone else gets up.  I need this time to myself (or with Chicky, who mentioned that she wants to work out with me).

Living life purposely focused on things that are most important is becoming my mantra.  Not allowing myself to feel pressured to be all, do all, and go all places or participate in all things has lifted a huge burden from my shoulders and given me a sense of peace.  I think this is why I’m feeling a bit more Christmas spirit in my heart these days and why I’m especially able to enjoy my time away from work.

While I Was Gone…

Lordy, but every time I write a post, it seems as though I’m apologizing!  My blogging…it just sucks right now.

Enough with that, though.  I’ll offer up no excuses.  It is what it is.  I’m choosing to spend down time not on the computer and, instead, watching television, knitting, and reading.

Anyhoo…

The burning question, if you’re not a friend on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter is:  What has Auburnchick been up to the past few weeks?

Well, let’s see…

I’ve been doing a LOT of teaching.  With this being December, we are hot and heavy into all things reading.  My kiddos are working hard on grammar, fiction reading, and main idea (our current unit).

Things are going swimmingly.  I’m extremely happy with my classes this year.  I’ve had fairly minor behavioral issues, and I’ve experienced a few surprises.  My students have been incredibly cooperative and trusting, allowing me to lead them in all things reading.  They don’t always like that I’m strict, but I think they understand that I’m consistent, firm, yet fair.

One thing I’m doing a better job at this year is balancing my life.  I’m lesson planning one night a week from home and getting the rest of my work done at school.  These purposeful decisions have allowed me to spend more time on myself and my family.

Probably the thing I’m most proud of is my fitness quest.  After jokingly being called “thick” by a student last school year, I made it my mission to take care of my body.  You know I started working out this past spring.  I worked out with weights this summer but tapered off when school began.  The start of the school year is when most teachers drop into a black hole.  It’s brutal setting up new classes…new routines…new everything (because the state of Florida constantly changes things).

That’s when I started working out from home with Beachbody’s Piyo program.

The diet plan and workout schedule helped me so much.  They provided the structure I desperately needed, and when I finished two months after starting it, I was fourteen pounds and 7.25 inches leaner, stronger, more flexible, and in the best shape I’ve been in for a long time.

I had seen a friend (a former teacher who I used to sub for who is now a full-time Beachbody coach) and her posts, but I’d resisted.  I’m completely sold on these programs now.  They work, if you have the self discipline to follow through (which I do, as you know, because I am the poster child for being an overachiever).

I love the free shirt I received after I uploaded before/after photos on Beachbody’s website…

The back of this shirt says it all.  I sincerely feel as though I have redefined myself.  I’ve developed healthier eating habits…keeping up with my portions in MyFitnessPal, a free app, and exercising nearly every morning.  Working out at 5:15am (thus getting up at 4:15am so I can read my First5 devotions) is sometimes challenging, but I’ve seen the payoff, and it’s totally worth it.

I have re-instilled the confidence that had slowly eroded away over the past few years, and I’m finding it a joy to pick out clothes each day.  They fit so much better now, and I’m getting into pants that had gotten extremely tight last year.

I jumped right into a new workout after “graduating” from Piyo.  I’m currently four weeks into TurboFire, which is an intense cardio program.  I selected it with a goal of burning the subcutaneous fat from my abs.  It’s lingering, despite the ab muscles I developed through my previous program.

TurboFire is no joke, let me tell you.  When I do the 40-minute workout, I burn nearly 400 calories.  It’s crazy, but I’m loving it!  Chalene Johnson is extremely motivating (and no, I’m not getting paid to say this).

Oh hey, do you like that picture up above?  Well, let me tell you about THAT.

See, with me getting into fitness and doing my first 5k in October, I started wanting a fitness watch.  After doing a LOT of research, I found one I liked and told the Mr. that this is what I wanted for Christmas.  He asked if I wanted to wait to get it, and I decided that no, I did not.  I even had a Best Buy coupon that was going to expire, so he let me order it.

I decided to get the Garmin Vivoactiv.

This arrived on my doorstep right as we were leaving for dinner. I had separation anxiety and took it with me…hence the restaurant menu.

I went back and forth between this and the Apple Watch but ultimately decided on this because of a few of the features it offered that the Apple version did not.  It’s also a watch that I thought would fit on my small wrist much better than the Fitbit Surge, which I’d read was fairly large for people with uber-small wrists like mine.

Being the techie that I am, it didn’t take me long to set it up and download widgets.  Don’t you love the clock I set up in the picture above?  It’s animated; the dog wags its tail…totally worth the itsy bit of extra battery it takes to run it.

Speaking of battery, this thing only requires a charge every 10-14 days…no kidding!  I have it connected to the GPS, and it still lasts FOREVER!  I love this thing and wear it CONSTANTLY, except for when it’s charging.

Things I like about it…

It connects via Bluetooth to my phone, so I receive various notifications on it.  I can read text messages, get weather updates, and even view calendar notifications on it!  I cannot respond to or generate any communication from it, but I can answer phone calls though it!  No, I can’t talk through it, but I can press an answer button it, and my phone will pick up!  It also has the capability of setting alarms, which I love!  It vibrates when it goes off, which is much less irritating than my regular alarm sounds, which I eventually ignore.

I love the step counter and derive much pleasure when I reach my goal of 10,000 steps.  A party goes off on my wrist when I do with the watch vibrating and displaying fireworks.  I do the happy dance every single time this happens.

Please excuse the random photos below.  They were not taken the same day, but they are various screen shots from the Garmin Connect app on my phone and photos of the watch’s widgets, so you can get idea of the data you can view.

Fireworks on my wrist…

Caloric breakdown…

It also connects to the app, MyFitnessPal, so all of my calories are updated seamlessly.  It keeps track of a variety of exercises too!  I’ve been extremely pleased with it.

Knitting-wise, I’ve been busy.  Here are a few pictures of things I’ve completed (I’ll try to post soon with specific details)…

Hearwarming Stockings for the Mr. and me…

The Mr.’s stocking

My stocking

I’ve made a few baby hats…two for a former student’s twins, and two for a friend’s grandson…

The yarn is TopThis, and it is FABULOUS to work with and comes in a large variety of animal themes!  It’s relatively inexpensive, so it makes for lovely gifts, should you choose to order it.

I’m currently working on a very large project…my Oakwood Poncho.

Thanksgiving rolled around, and the Mr.’s parents treated us to a Western Caribbean cruise.

Packing was a bear, let me tell you.

I’d created a plan for myself that week…trying to balance work and packing…and it was a relief when I finished everything with a minimal amount of stress.

It was a wonderfully-relaxing week that I’ll share about in some future post.

Getting back from vacation was not so much fun.  I got sick that Tuesday and had to take two days off of work.  I’d thought I could persevere, and I even went to work that Wednesday and attended a meeting before school.  However, I started crying toward the end of the meeting because I couldn’t figure out how I was going to make it through the day, and my friend/department head told me to ask one of our school’s secretaries if she could find a sub to cover my classes that day.

Cindy, sub extraordinaire, filled in with the subs that were already scheduled to work at our school, and after quickly creating lesson plans, I left school.  My poor first period class…they saw me crying, and my heart nearly burst when a couple of the girls teared up themselves.  I think it was hard for them to see me incapable of being the stoic teacher that I usually am.

I put in for a sub that night because I knew I was still too sick to go in the next day, and when nobody picked up, my fellow reading teachers filled in the gap and absorbed my students into their classrooms.  Reading teachers are the BEST!

I’ve been fighting the crud for over two weeks and think I’ve FINALLY turned the corner.  It’s taken LOTS of prayer and the preparation of homeopathic remedies.  I’d been unable to work out for two weeks and just got back into my routine this week.  This is the sickest I’ve been in about four years.  Not good stuff, let me tell you.

CVS remedy…

I googled for my own remedy (and have discovered that I do NOT like honey and am only consuming it because it’s supposed to be good for sore throats, which I STILL have…)…

My first workout after a two-week hiatus…

Despite being so sick, I managed to get most of January’s lesson plans written.  I especially wanted to get the first couple of weeks finished so I could go into Christmas Break without work on my mind.

 

Speaking of Christmas Break, I am now officially on my two-week vacation.

This was me, this morning, after my challenging/invigorating 40-minute workout.  Because I’m still recovering from the crud, I had to transform high-impact moves into low-impact ones (i.e. no jumping and less jogging/running in place).  I still burned a TON of calories and was ready to head into my school’s early release day…

Leaving school…well, I don’t think there are enough memes to show what I was really feeling.  My watch and this selfie tell the picture best though…

After I ran a few errands and grabbed lunch to go, I settled in for a two-hour nap…more recovery time so I can continue my quest for full healing from this horrid crud I’ve had…

That’s about it from my corner of the world.

I always say I’ll blog more, but I know I can’t promise.  My priorities are shifting; turning on my computer on my “off” days is less important.  Spending time unplugged (except for my phone) ranks near the top of my list these days.

However…I miss my writing and long to return to it more consistently.

We.  Shall.  See.

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