Abstract Art

Tonight, I had conferences for my 6th grader, Michael. I thought I’d share a story I heard from his art teacher .

His teacher said she had to send Michael to the principal’s office the other day, but it wasn’t because he was in trouble…. of course, I was concerned… that is, until I heard the reason…

After lunch, Michael came to class with cheese in his hair. He went up to her, and said, “Look Miss Vadnais, I’m abstract art!” I couldn’t help but laugh at that!! It totally sounded like something he would do! In fact, I thought there was a chance he did it on purpose, since he loves to make people laugh. She said it looked like it had splattered, and she thought he might be trying to cover for a mistake at lunch…

The reason she had sent him to the office, was to get the cheese cleaned out. She said, “I couldn’t just let him walk around the rest of the day with cheese in his hair. That wouldn’t smell very good. But… I wasn’t going to let him clean it in MY sink!”

The whole situation made me laugh!! I was so worried about how conferences might go, I totally needed that!

The MyFitnessPal App

As part of my journey to get in shape, and be more healthy, I have been using is the MyFitnessPal app. It’s a free app in the Play Store. My husband uses the paid version, which just gives him a few more benefits. For me, the free version is good enough. Here’s how I use the app:

  1. First, I entered my goals, and it calculated how many calories/day I should eat.
  2. I enter my food and exercise every day, and it keeps track of how many calories I have left, or went over for the day. What’s nice, is that it adds calories to what I can eat, based on the amount of exercise I do. For someone like me, who loves to eat, that’s great motivation to work out!
  3. screenshot_20160911-222452The app breaks down what I’ve eaten into percentages of protein, carbs, and fats. It tells me what I should aim for, which is very helpful. What I’ve found, is that I don’t eat enough protein. Using the macros on the app has gotten me to pay attention to balancing out the foods I’m eating, so that I get enough protein, or watch my carb consumption in the next meal when I’ve had way too many already that day.
  4. It also tells me how I’m doing on getting enough vitamins/nutrients. I’ve discovered, that even though I’m eating a banana every day, I’m not getting enough potassium. That is one that’s hard to find decent supplements for, but I’m now taking multivitamins, as well as some other supplements (such as flax seed oil – which I will be switching to fish oil when these are out). I said in a previous post that I didn’t want to rely on supplements to feel better, and that’s still true. I am, however, trying to make sure I get enough nutrients to keep my body able to work hard. So far, it’s paying off. 
  5. Finally, by entering food into my food diary, I am also educating myself about my food intake. For example, when I go to Caribou Coffee and get a piece of cinnamon coffee cake, and a Campfire Mocha with skim, I am consuming about 1/3 the number of calories I should be having in an entire day. That is generally what I would have 3 or more days per week as a snack for much of last year. No wonder I gained so much weight! This does not mean I am going to quit going to Caribou (it’s my favorite), it simply means I will pay attention to how often I am going there. I will most likely save it for a day I have worked out, or am planning on eating a lot of protein (to balance out the carbs and fat in the mocha).

As a bonus, MyFitnessPal syncs with my fitbit. When I walk a lot of steps, but haven’t necessarily “exercised”, it gives me a calorie credit based on the number of steps I have walked. Not only that, but my water consumption, weight loss or gain, etc. updates in both apps as I enter them (regardless of which app I initially enter it into).

Similar to much of social media, you can connect with your friends on the app. The only one I am “friends” with right now, is my husband, Jason. We can “like” or leave comments on each other’s progress with exercise, weight loss, etc. A feature that I have taken advantage of, is that I can see Jason’s diary each day. If we both ate the same meal, and he entered his first, I can just copy it right over to my own food diary. This comes in especially handy when it’s a custom meal that he entered the recipe for.

The final feature that comes to mind that I use often are the health and nutrition articles that are available on the app. When I first open the app, and let it know that I want to track my food, exercise, water consumption, etc, it opens my “newsfeed”. This shows me not only my notifications/progress, but Jason’s as well. Interspersed, are useful articles. None of them are too long, and most that I have read, have great information.

I would recommend this app to anyone trying to get a handle on their eating, or just trying to improve their weight or fitness level.

Celebrating Small Successes

I’ve spent the past two months or so, working really hard to get back in shape, and get healthy. We did the Whole 30 diet (mine was modified), I lost a total of about 8 lbs. I also gained some better eating habits, such as preparing ahead, and being willing to do more cooking of real foods. It also got me looking at labels more, and made me realize how much added sugar there is in so many foods that you wouldn’t think of.

In July, I started going to the gym at least 3 times a week. That has since increased to about 5-6 days/week. I’ve been doing a lot of Zumba, but also core and full body strength exercises.

Jason and I joined the 60 Day Challenge at Lifetime. This has been great, because, not only does it offer support from a personal trainer, it offers “Try-it Tuesday” classes two times a week (Tuesday and Saturday). Sometimes the classes are group fitness classes, sometimes, they are seminars about nutrition, metabolism, etc. As part of the challenge, I also signed up for Precision Nutrition (PN) online. This is another way to be held accountable, while learning new, healthier habits. Luckily for me, Nichole, the trainer I’ve been working with, is also a PN coach, and is continuing to be my partner in accountability.

When I first met with Nichole, my body fat was at 38%. Yikes! With all the working out, eating better, etc., I have dropped that number down to 34.2%. I still have a long ways to go, but that is progress I can feel good about!

Today, I caught my reflection in the sideview mirror of my husband’s Jeep. I didn’t see my double chin. For a while, I could see two whenever I’d catch my reflection in the mirror or my phone, but not today!🙂

At the beginning of my journey a couple months ago, I could maybe do 7 push-ups total (with knees down). Nichole wanted me to try to do 3 sets of 8, with a minute of rest in between each set. A month and a half ago, I couldn’t do it. I averaged 7-8, then 5-6, then 3. Just over a week ago, I did my first complete 3 sets of 8 each. I am still keeping my knees down, but now that I’m able to do three sets of eight consistently, I’m going to work to do full push-ups.

I am celebrating the little signs that I am getting stronger every day. I am celebrating each little success, and using it as motivation to keep pushing forward. I am feeling less self-conscious about my weight, and looking forward to continued progress!



A Scary Evening at Children’s Hospital.

This was written on Monday of this last week. I didn’t realize I never published it:

“Tonight was a scary night.

When I got out of the class I was taking at the gym, I checked my phone, and saw 5 missed calls from the adult that was at a community pool with Michael and his friends. She left a message, but I didn’t check it, I just called her right back. The first thing she said is, “He’s in the ambulance, but the bleeding’s mostly stopped.” I asked what happened, and she told me that she had just recently seen him do a flip into the pool, and she asked him not to do it again. He did, and hit his head on the side of the pool. He had gashed his head pretty good. They wanted me to come right away. You can imagine how panicked I was!

I left the gym, and headed to the pool right away. While I was on my way, my daughter called me, frantic, because a Sheriff had come to the house to see if I was there. They were concerned that they couldn’t get a hold of me. Apparently, the sheriff got to our house right before I got a hold of the mom that was with Michael. I went to the one I thought they were going to, but they were actually at a different pool. When I got to the right one, I saw an ambulance, two sheriff cars, Renee, the mom Michael was there with, and another friend of hers that I knew from the dance studio.

Despite the annoying collar on his neck, Michael was in great spirits.

Despite the annoying collar on his neck, Michael was in great spirits.

Michael was in the back of the ambulance with a collar on his neck, a heart rate monitor on his finger, and a huge gash on the top of his head. The paramedics told me he was going to need staples or stitches at the very least. They didn’t think he had a neck injury, but they had to put a collar on him as a precaution. The paramedic told me Michael didn’t have a headache or nausea. He could remember everything that happened, my phone number, and our address. That was a good sign. One of the paramedics told me that Michael was a riot. He said he’d love to have him in his ambulance all night!

They asked me if I wanted to take him to the hospital, or if they should. I asked them what would be the safest for Michael. We all agreed the ambulance would be the safest, just in case anything were to happen. They asked what hospital I preferred, I asked what they thought. They said they’d recommend Children’s Hospital, but ultimately, it was my choice. I’m so glad I listed to them!

I was shortly behind the ambulance, as I had to meet my husband to switch vehicles. I was driving a loaner that had to be brought back to the shop, and his vehicle had to be picked up tonight. When I got to the hospital, I walked the halls between the ramp, and Children’s Hospital. That part was very confusing, since there are two hospitals that share the hallways, and I had no idea where I was. One nice nurse not only told me the way, but came with me, all the way to the emergency desk!

I got to Michael’s room, and he was happily watching Tomorrowland. Several different people came in to talk to Michael (and me). All of them introduced themselves, told us what their role was, why they were there, and exactly what they were going to do. Every step of the way, we knew what to expect. The “doctor teacher” that came in to explain to Michael the procedure of getting stitches was amazing! She showed him all of the equipment that was going to be used, and how it would be used. When he said the word “stitches”, she asked if he was comfortable using that word, and then did so herself. She used very child-friendly terms, and made him feel ok about it (even though he was a bit nervous). Before long, the two of them were talking about super heroes, both Marvel and DC, as well as the Suicide Squad, and what makes them cool.

The Dr. was pretty fantastic too. She was very interactive with Michael – they all were. She explained why she wanted to get an x-ray before she took his collar off. He really didn’t like that thing. He’s too active a kid to be restrained like that.

Sasha, the technician who actually did his stitches was very confident, and didn’t even waver despite how much worse the injury looked once it was cleaned up, and ready to stitch. It was much worse (deeper and longer) than we originally thought. I looked at it before she stitched it, and she asked if I really wanted to see it. It was pretty gross. I don’t know how people do that job! By this time, Michael had switched to Big Hero 6, and she was talking with him about it while she was applying 3 layers of stitches to the top of his head.

When we finally left, he had gotten a popsicle, which he was pretty excited about. As we were trying to find our way back to the ramp I parked in, we happened to cross paths with that same nurse that had walked me to the ER in the first place. She walked us all the way to the door, and told us how to find our ramp. Twice in one night, she went out of her way to be helpful!

Everyone we met at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul, MN was wonderful! Not that I ever want to have to go there again, but if we did have the need, I wouldn’t hesitate. Thank you to the doctors, nurses, x-ray tech, and everyone else we dealt with. You helped this Mama, and more importantly, her son, through a stressful and scary night!”

This was taken the day after Michael got his stitches.

This was taken the day after Michael got his stitches.

Now that a few days have passed, his head wound appears to be healing up pretty well. His stitches are looking good, and he’s back to his old self.

Not Feeling It

So, I went to zumba for the 4th day in a row. I’m not sure if it was the instructor, if I was too tired, or what the deal was, but I just wasn’t feeling it… I think part of it, was that she did a lot of 3 count moves that didn’t seem to make sense with the music. I am used to moves that go in 4 or 8 counts, and hit the beat of the music… ah well, I’ll try again tomorrow… gotta get as much in as I can before we head to DC.


I started this post on August 1st. I did go back to zumba the next day, and had a great class… must just been an “off” day for me. Some days are like that. I find that to be true with workouts, dance class, my job, and even being home with my kids. Sometimes, you feel like a superstar. Other days, it seems like staying in bed is a better idea… one day, one hour, one step at a time.

My New Favorite Work Out

I wrote many years ago about how much I enjoy exercise, and movement. Dancing has always been my favorite way to “work out.” To me, it’s not just about the movement, it’s about the full connection of my mind, body, and spirit. I love the way dancing makes me feel. Over the past several years since we have been back in MN, I have been taking tap classes at Lake Area Dance Center. It has been great! I plan to continue as long as I am able to (hopefully, that’s a LONG time). I have made some great friends along the way, and, as an added bonus, reconnected with old ones.

Recently, Jason and I have been working out at Lifetime Fitness a lot more. We are trying to get back in shape, and we’ve been working hard. We’ve been members of this gym for 5+ years, but haven’t gone nearly as often as we should (until recently). Nowadays, we are there 3-5 days/week. I have tried a few different group classes (they tend to be very motivating for me), but I found a new favorite – zumba! It’s basically dancing… zumba mixes classic aerobics with latin, hip hop, and bollywood moves. You basically dance for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the class/instructor). You are moving your whole body for the entire time. It’s exhausting, but so much fun!

I have been going for about a month or so at the White Bear Lake club on Friday mornings. I’ve really enjoyed it, but wanted more. I tried the weekend classes at the Fridley club a few times. WOW! Zumba at Fridley is faster, and has more hip hop and bollywood incorporated. There’s a lots of booty shaking, but it’s not just that. It’s a great workout overall. If you haven’t tried zumba, I highly encourage you to try it, no matter where!


My Black Belt

Typical Michael, and his buddy, Daniel.

Typical Michael, and his buddy, Daniel.

About a month ago, just a couple of weeks before he turned 11, Michael got his black belt in karate. He has been attending Forte’s American Karate since he was just 6 years old. After 4 1/2 years of hard work, he was given the opportunity to take the pre-tests, and to create a choreographed self-defense. Upon completion of those last few steps, he was ready to graduate.

These two black belts got some serious air while doing one of their forms.

These two black belts got some serious air while doing one of their forms.

By the day of the graduation ceremony, Michael was both excited and nervous. He knew he was ready, but was still nervous to have so many people watching him. He had me, my husband, his sister and two step-brothers, his dad and his friend, three sets of grandparents, his Godmother and Godfather,and their two kids, all there to watch/support him. His awesome 5th grade teacher also came to watch him graduate, as did many friends from the karate studio.

20160611_121325There were 6 graduates that day: Michael and his good friend, Ryan, who started right around the time he did, were both being promoted. There were two other boys, both from the Wyoming school also being promoted to Black Belt. One young man from the Wyoming, MN studio was getting his 3rd Degree, and Michael’s karate teacher, Mr. Hallberg, was getting promoted to 4th Degree Black Belt.

Michael sparring 2 opponents at one time.

Michael sparring 2 opponents at one time.

Graduation began with a display of self -defense techniques, and all the forms they had learned along the way. What’s really cool to me, is when all the prospective (1st degree) black belts do their bo form together.

After forms, all graduates demonstrated several of the kicks and punches they had learned over the years. The height and strength they all had were amazing! Finally, came the sparring. This, for me, has always been the most impressive part to watch. I think this was also true for those who had never been to a black belt graduation before. Typically, each graduate spars 4 or so different people. In their last sparring match, additional people are added after a short while. The higher level black belt they are going for, the more people they send in. Michael had 2 to spar at the same time at the end. It is a true test of endurance. He did pretty well.

This was just before they were going to get their black belts. You can see how exhausted they were!

This was just before they were going to get their black belts. You can see how exhausted they were!

His two sparring partners were both friends of his, and all three seemed to be having a great time, despite Michael’s exhaustion! Mr. Hallberg had to fight 4 at a time. That looked tough!!

Sparring wasn’t the end of the graduation ceremony… the final test, was to show just how bad they wanted it. They were all exhausted, but they still had 100 punches in a horse back stance (feet apart, knees bent), and 100 front kicks to go… you could really see the determination on their faces!

Michael, receiving his black belt.

Michael, receiving his black belt.

All the graduates were then asked to remove their belts. The bowed to the black belt panel, and were each given their belts. Ryan went first, then Michael. The two of them were only the 2nd and 3rd students from the White Bear Lake School to be promoted to the rank of black belt. Daniel was the first. All three boys started when the school was brand new, almost 5 years ago.

The last to be promoted that day, was Mr. Hallberg. Master Forte, owner of Forte’s American Karate, had been training Mr. Hallberg since he was 3 years old. You could see and hear the pride in his voice as he congratulated Mr. Hallberg, and gave him his belt.
Once the graduation ceremony was done, we took pictures of the new black belt with everyone who came, with the entire black belt panel, with his teachers, etc. Michael was worn out, but also very proud of his accomplishment (as he should have been).

Master Forte and Mr. Hallberg hug after Mr. Hallberg got his 4th degree black belt.

Master Forte and Mr. Hallberg hug after Mr. Hallberg got his 4th degree black belt.

We were all very proud of him! It was a great day!

The first three black belts from the White Bear Lake School of Fortes American Karate: Ryan, Michael, and Daniel.

The first three black belts from the White Bear Lake School of Fortes American Karate: Ryan, Michael, and Daniel.





Master Forte, and his black belts!

Master Forte, and his black belts!


Michael with all of his teachers that helped him get to this point: Mr. Munson, Master Forte, Mr. Hallberg, and Mr. Chapin.

Michael with all of his teachers that helped him get to this point: Mr. Munson, Master Forte, Mr. Hallberg, and Mr. Chapin.





Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: