Hello, Inspiration {3}: Fat Snowflakes

Last weekend, one night after the boys were in bed, my dog came up from the basement and asked to be let outside. When I opened the door to let him back in a few minutes later, I looked outside and realized it was snowing – big, soft flakes, the kind that accumulate quickly and muffle the world.

It doesn’t often snow that way here, but it’s one of my favourite things. We mostly get the kind of snow that shoots rather than floats past the streetlights; it looks nice once it settles but it’s not nearly as romantic when it’s coming down.

At that point in the evening I had mostly settled in and was enjoying the quiet, but that snowfall was not to be missed. I snapped a leash on the dog and out we went.

It was perfect. Pure joy. We walked through the snow, which was already almost to his tummy and over my boots, and listened to it squeak beneath our feet. At the field near our house, with no one else in sight and nothing in view but pure white, I let him off his leash. He bounded away, running large circles around me, as I cut a path through the deep snow. He was happy and I felt at peace.

snow scene framed by trees

I highly recommend this. The next time you notice your equivalent of fat snowflakes, get out there and breathe it in. It’s worth it to stop and notice joy, whether it falls from the sky or presents itself a different way.

Just breathe it in.

hello inspiration

Becoming a Fit Chick

When I was in 3rd-year university, I rowed crew (but only for the year because by the end of it I had managed to psych myself out). We did two workouts a day – we were on the water at 5:15 every morning and did dry-land training each evening. I don’t remember much about what that was like other than having to try desperately not to fall asleep in my 8:30 a.m. classes.

One day our dry-land training was scheduled to be a session with a trainer from the BC Lions football team. I went dutifully down to the gym expecting it to be a damn hard workout, but I figured I’d do my best. I got there to discover that for some reason I was the only one who showed up. Whether it was a coincidence or everyone else wimped out or I was just the only one dumb enough to go I never did find out, but once you find yourself in a situation like that the only thing to do is suck it up and do what the big Hungarian man tells you to do.

The workout was a plyometric one – basically using your own body weight to increase speed and power. It’s really freaking hard, especially when you have a Canadian Football League trainer treating you like a varsity athlete and expecting you to complete the specified moves—no skimping on reps—without much of a fuss.

In the end, I got through it, and it still felt better than an earlier workout the day after coming back from Christmas break (during which I kept up my training exactly not at all), after which I threw up outside the university’s main gymnasium.

I’ll always remember that year, both for those two workouts as well as for the intensity of the beginning and end of my university rowing career. At the beginning, I went through tryouts and made the team thanks to my sheer determination not to die during the runs we had to do (there’s a reason I didn’t formally take up running until 10 years later), and I finished the year with my brain and its fear of pain winning out over what I had trained my body to do. All in all, it was a great experience.

Despite seriously thinking I was going to end up alone and stranded on the road leading up to the university during one of those tryout runs, I took up running after I got married because I had discovered I wasn’t the type of person to go to the gym. I do occasionally, but it’s boring and I hate strength training on my own. I liked running, on the other hand, because it was a challenge and it got me outside and I met some new people while doing it. I also subsequently discovered that I like at-home workouts. (Jillian Michaels was a frequent companion during my 30 days straight of exercise two years ago (eep! Already?!). I’ve been trying another new at-home series that I really like – it’s the FIT CHICKS Fierce in 8 series, which I was given to try out and share with you.

fitchicks-logo2

There’s a lot of things I like about these workouts, so as I sit here with my inner thighs burning that post-workout burn, I’ll share my top 10 with you.

1. It’s Canadian! Hooreh!

2. The use the term”fierce” a lot. I love that.

3. They introduced me to UFC squats (Google it and weep), which should rightfully stand for Unbelievably Freaking Challenging squats. They are SO hard.

4.With the Fierce in 8 DVD set, I have 8 workouts I can do at home. Much less boring than one workout (even one with 3 levels).

5. The workouts are only about 20 minutes, but they’re HIIT-style (high intensity interval training) so I really work for those 20 minutes.

6. They offer 2 levels to follow in each workout – one chick does the advanced moves while another shows modifications for beginners or lower-intensity options.

7. It’s hard enough that the first time I saw a lot of the moves I actually said, “Oh shit” out loud.

8. The UFC-bootcamp-style Fierce Fighter Chick workout made me feel totally badass.

9. They use a 10-second countdown clock (for when I feel like I can’t do anymore and then see that lovely 10-second countdown start and realize I can probably do a few more.

10. They have been SUPER friendly in all my communication with them.

FIT CHICKS Tex mex power bowl

In addition to the 8 workouts on DVD, this series includes an ebook with some tips, nutritional info, amazing recipes focusing on whole foods and clean eating, and a sample meal plan. Plus, there’s also a workout calendar, which I love. I’m all about calendars. It’s even colour-coded.

FIT CHICKS green smoothie

The FIT CHICKS workouts, along with a variety of motivational tools I’ve found (some of which I’ll share with you in upcoming Hello, Inspiration posts), actually have me feeling better about my fitness goals again after a tough fall that included getting really sick and totally losing my health mojo. The boost to my mental health is a nice side effect too.

dvd

How are your health goals going, whatever they are? Need a motivational kick-start? I’ve got a chance to win a Fierce in 8 set from FIT CHICKS below. To enter, leave a comment about your own health and fitness goals and complete the Rafflecopter entry form. (If you don’t want to rely on luck and want to get straight to it, you can buy the set on the FIT CHICKS website.)

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!

 

About FIT CHICKS
Co-founded in 2008 by best friends Amanda Quinn and Laura Jackson, FIT CHICKS is the largest women’s-only fitness company in Canada. With a focus on fierce fitness for ALL women, FIT CHICKS offers 8-week, award-winning, boot-camp-style programs at over 20 locations, as well as weekend health retreats, DVD programs, personal training and host 2 TV Series called “Shape Up with FIT CHICKS” on Rogers TV. Their commitment to women’s health earned the company 2014 Top 10 Fitness Professionals in Canada by Can FIT Pro & 2013 Stevie Award for Women in Business – Health & Wellness Company of the Year. FIT CHICKS will continue its mission of getting Canadian women pumped about health in Season 9 of CBC’s Dragon’s Den and bringing their DVD programs to The Shopping Channel in Jan 2015. Visit www.fitchicks.ca for more information.

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Science for Kids: Groovy Lab in a Box

Review of Groovy Lab in a Box
Last year Connor’s kindergarten class had library day every Wednesday; they could choose two books to take home for the week and the following week could either bring those back and exchange them for two new ones or keep the books for another week. I think 98% of the books he brought home were science books, and that’s not even an exaggeration. I think we saw a handful of story books or books with TV characters (and for a kid who loves TV that’s remarkable). Everything else was science.

He had books on the planets and books on bugs; dinosaurs made frequent appearances as did books about animals. He just really, really likes science and, I’ve got to admit, I was surprised.

I took biology through grade 11, I think. I know I took Physics 11 and barely passed. Like, barely. I think my teacher may have passed me out of pity, in fact (either that or because she didn’t want to have to deal with me again the next year). The experiment we did with the wave tank still brings back that old feeling of absolute confusion. And I never did understand chemistry.

I think it’s safe to say Connor didn’t get his science gene from me (or his art gene or his LEGO gene or, oh god, I hope he can at least write so there’s some evidence beyond his eyes that I’m his mother).

Despite my lack of knack for science and my perfectly understandable dislike of bugs, I have tried to nurture his interest in science. (Did you know there are 10,000,000,000,000,000 ants in the world? According to his National Geographic bug book, anyway.) When we got a chance to try out Groovy Lab in a Box, I said yes, figuring Connor would love it.

One thing about their approach to science for kids – this is more than just kitschy science experiments. They use a STEM approach (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and with the subscription service kids get a new box every month with a fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge, all focused on that month’s STEM topic. This line from their material really stuck out for me:

Our core belief is that we want to bring this generation back to the NASA Apollo era when children wanted to be scientists and engineers and science was at the forefront of the media.

When we got our box, it came with supplies for several different experiments, an observation notebook, and instructions (thank god). We started with the sun print paper experiment, which was the perfect level of complication to start with (i.e. not very). This one involves using light-sensitive paper to make pictures and designs using only sunlight and water.

We placed the black cardstock on the bottom and the sun paper on top, and both went into a plastic bag (also supplied). Connor chose a simple shape to start with because he wanted to see how it turned into a picture, so we placed that on top of the bag and put it all in the sun.

LEGO picture

After a few minutes, the blue paper turned really light, so we took it inside and rinsed it.

rinsing-picture

It worked!

result-sun-picture-experiment

So then he got really serious and tried a few more times with different shapes and designs.

setting-up-sun-picture-experiment

That one was a hit, but when Connor saw there was an experiment that involved a battery he almost lost his mind. (Okay, that part might have been a slight exaggeration, but he was very excited.) conductivity-experiement-with-battery
This one involved putting together a conductivity sensor to determine the electrical conductivity of salt water. To start, we hooked up the battery to a buzzer and put it in a cup of water. Nothing happened. (For the record, that result matched my hypothesis.) Then we added a salt packet and tried again.

conductivity-sensor-experiment

At this point we weren’t really sure whether anything happened or if we had even done it correctly. The next step was to add more salt, so we did that and got a clear buzz.

My response was, “Yay!” And then my husband piped up from the kitchen. “Did it conduct electricity when there was no salt in the water? What about when you added salt? What did you notice?”

Damn husband. Fine, be all science-teacher-y. At least one of us was watching to see if the child electrocuted himself. (I don’t actually know if that’s a possibility, but that’s totally not the point.)observation-notebook

Despite my lack of science knowledge (I think I’m going to contact my grade 8 chemistry teacher and ask for my parents’ money back) we had fun playing scientist, and we still have a few more experiments to do (which is good, because little brothers like this too).

mini-scientist

I’d definitely recommend this for kids who are interested in science. I’d just suggest a cheat sheet for parents who might need a little help correctly identifying the results.

Want to win a Groovy Lab in a Box of your own to try? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

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Waiting for Perfection

Thanks to Grammarly for sponsoring this post. Use Grammarly’s plagiarism checker because it also checks your grammar, and no one wants to be the person everyone thinks about when they post bad-grammar memes on Facebook.

I haven’t been writing a lot lately. Largely because of time—I’ll put 75% of the blame there—but also because the topics swirl around in my head and I wait for them to position themselves just so before committing to putting words to my thoughts. I only want to write if it’s meaningful. I only want to write if I get it right.

atwood-on-writing-perfection

There’s no such thing as perfection. I know that. And there’s especially no such thing as perfection in writing. Words are living, breathing things and a piece of writing is never truly done. It’s just finished, and the writer has to release those words to the world and let them continue to live on through readers. As you peruse the words and unravel their meaning, the words breathe. As you comment, continue to ponder, or share, the words’ breath, their very being, carries on.

Often, when I really have something to say, I will think and write and revise and think some more. I will edit and re-write and let the words lead me to making sense of my world. And when I finally let them go, I wait for the answer to one question: Did I get it right?

But there is no right. There is only right now. Whatever I write, whether I publish it or not, is my reality in the moment. It’s part of how my world evolves. The words I use and the paragraphs that form don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be right by anyone’s judgment. Not even by mine. Those words are merely part of the picture.

I know this, and something someone shared recently (that originally inspired this post but that I can no longer find) has reminded me of it once again.

I don’t have to finish writing. I just have to start.

Explore: Life in Pictures, Vol. 6

The end of 2013 whipped by. Last time I did a photo update on my word for last year we were finishing summer and transitioning into kindergarten and I was getting ready to go back to work. And now it’s 2014. January 7 already. Before I know it May will be here again and the snow will be gone and 2013 will seem very far away. So here’s the end of the year in pictures.

I didn’t do much in the way of exploring, at least not in the traditional sense. But we hit some milestones and had some fun, and I guess that’s what it’s supposed to be about anyway.

Someone turned one.

eating-cake

You would think he didn’t like his birthday cake.

cake-ick

But you’d be wrong. He devoured that piece.

cake-bite

It was a good birthday. The last first.

birthday-paper

Christmas came even though I wasn’t ready, as predicted.

Christmas-cards

It was fairly low-key – a rare thing in my family. But we did the obligatory (and enjoyable) things. Now I just need to clear the detritus from my living room. (I did mention that it’s January 7, didn’t I?)

zoolights

We had a cold snap in there too. A very, very cold snap. Did you know you could get ice an inch thick on the inside of your windows? In Alberta you can.

ice-window

But winter is beautiful. At least I think so.

winter-sun

So we took advantage of it.

green-coats

We walked, and found signs of beauty and love.

bridge-locks

Winter lasts for a long time here, but sometimes you just have to throw yourself into it and become one with the snow. (Literally, even.)

sledding

He looks like he’s not enjoying himself (or maybe he just thinks the hat is goofy) but he had a blast. Deep snow is apparently quite fun when you’re one.

snowsuit

We had some losses…

lost-tooth

…but many more wins.

sunset

And so ended 2013.

#iPPP is back for 2014! Join Greta from Gfunkified and I for #iPPP (iPhone Photo Phun), a weekly link-up that requires nothing more than a blog post with a photo from a phone camera (any phone camera, not just iPhones). We want to see your funny, your yummy, your heartfelt, your favourite phone photos of the week.