First and foremost let me say how glad I am to be back…both in the sense of Mamavation and in the sense that I feel like I have my head in the game.  The powers that be over at Mamavation decided to bring back the weekly blogging carnival and I am super excited.  I like that I need post weekly but I also like the inspiration that I get from those who post.

So this week's focus is goals or the dreaded New Year's Resolution.  This year I am being bold…no goals with timelines (I always get discouraged over not meeting them) No weightless Goal (its more than a number on the scale) No disappointments over not making my goals.  This year there is just one goal…one focus for 2014…..The Year of ME!  I don't mean this in a super conceded its all about me way…but that my focus needs to be on me.  My actual goal is to be Kind and Good to myself.  What that looks like in practice

1.  I will be kind in how I speak to myself….no more hating and disappointment (This of course will be the hardest thing for me

2.  I will put food into my body so that it can run and feel good (Clean foods and no dairy since I eat it and it kills my stomach)

3.  I will move my body so that I feel healthy and strong

4.  I will take time for myself and the pursuits that I enjoy (more time blogging, knitting,  journaling)so that I am a happy mom and wife

5.   I will opt out of work Drama.  This means the Drama of feeling left when not invited to things and not getting inside jokes (I need to edit this and add in some clarification-thanks Lexy for the reminder).  I know that this drama is 99% in my head….no one makes me feel left out I make myself feel this way and am sick of the self inflicted drama..  No Drama about things at work beyond my control (I will always fight for my students but some of the Drama I can opt out of).  My job is that…a job. I am a good person who is good at my job there doesn't need to be Drama.

In general I just want to spend some time rediscovering who I am.  I think often as a Mother, Teacher, and Wife I get lost in those roles and the real me gets buried.  That persons needs and desires gets lost in favor of everyone and everything else.  My hope and goal for 2014 is get back to being ME.  Which if you look at the title of my blog….that is what this place and space is all about.

So I am wishing all of you…My Mamavation Family, My readers, and My real life friends and family who read this a very Happy New Year!  Enjoy all the promise that a New Year brings!
So yesterday I had some quiet time to reflect on what has been going on in my life.  I thought about my most recent post about how I have gained some weight recently and how angry I am at myself over it. I looked at the loving comments that were left and I decided something. Although I know I won't be able to complete shed the anger and disappointment about my weight gains or lack of losses that I need to stop beating myself up.  I know the only thing that leads to is a self defeating feeling that makes me more unmotivated then ever.  I learned so much during my time of Mamavation and need to move on.  There is a quote that I love that says and I am paraphrasing here "Its not how many times you fall its how many times you get up" so here is to getting up again and trying something new.  I soul searched and I realized right now weight watchers isn't for me…I am going back as I said in my earlier post to myfitnesspal (feel to stalk me there Mommahunt16) I would love some company.  I also realized this needs to be just as I learned in Mamavation not about a number but about being healthy and for me that healthiness needs to also be mental.  So today I got up and went for a walk with my pups….trying to work on the healthy thing and realize that the scale and its stupid number will fall into line once everything else does. I need to stop obsessing and beating myself up.  Thank you again for all the kind words it helps more than you know!
This is so embarrassing to admit but I am sort of lost in terms of my weight loss journey.  I totally know what to do but I am just not doing it.  I am currently blaming my lack of motivation on work but that isn't the excuse…I am just not willing to do the hard work I need to.  Althought I have kept my weight within five pounds for the last year and half (I have lost about ten then gained and lost it again and again).  I want to kick my scale in the face, I want to kick my Weight Watchers app in the face, I am just a pissed off big girl who is sick of this being so hard.  I know this is just me in tantrum mode.  I am thankful that I am still active otherwise I know it would not be five pounds up right now it would be a lot more.  I just wish it could be easy-but I know its not ever really going to be

My other confession-I binge ate for the first time in forever.  Not the binging of old but the stuff shit in my face because I am pissed off.  Things at work have settled down to a constant level of yucky which I can deal with but there is some stupid other little stuff that has been going on both and home and at school (social stuff not actually related to my job) as well has a major project for a graduate class due in a week, and the holiday has sent me over the edge.  It is so embarrassing to say that I did it and I crying now because I am mad that I did it.  Yet I am glad it did.  It makes me realize that I need to do something.  I need to first relax and stop being nasty to myself.  I need to stop trying to be perfect and getting upset when I am not.  I just need to keep plugging away and eventually things will start to fall in line.  I wish weight loss could be easy but I know its not but its worth it.

I hate the feeling that I have when I get not he scale and it doesn't move….I know why its not its because I am eating like shit-and frankly I feel like shit to be honest. I have the least two weeks have been eating food I never do and I feel sluggish and shitty.  I know what needs to be done but I have been let myself slip in to old dangerous territory to deal with my stress.  I need to stop being a whiny bitch and do something.

Ok so now I am just whining and rambling so I like a good plan….so hear it is!

1. I ordered myself an new scale that hooks up with my phone and my fitbit so I can track weight loss and body fat as two measures of success

2.  I have decided I need to journal or blog more (I am a blogger on two to her sites that mine) I need an outlet for my stress other than the cookies

3.  My goal is to journal my food in take and try to stick with the mamavation diet I was given as much as I can (I realize with holidays it might be hard but I am going to try).  I think I will use weight watchers for now-the online subscription is not that expensive as a good tracker.  I get a bit obsessive about weight watchers but I know if i seriously like stick to something weight watchers calories I will do better

4.  Keep up with the exercise.  Emily over at FitandFreeEmily has a goal of exercise in some capacity every day (like walking the dogs counts etc).  I need to up what I am doing. Although I am heavier in weight then a few months ago I know I am way more physically fit.

So confession time is over, there is plan….I will be keeping you updated!  Thanks to everyone who reads this-especially those of you who get the whole tantrum of not wanting to do it. Yet i know all those people I have followed online have gotten to their happy healthy place but stopping the tantrums and getting shit done.  Here is to trying again….just need to remember its the getting up that counts not the falling down
A few weeks ago I was offered a great opportunity to review a product from the great people at Go in Style .  The offered me a stunning two tone scarf-and if any of you from real life are reading this you know I love a good scarf.  When it came in I was instantly in love.  Here is the image from the website. 


The raspberry color is even more beautiful in person, a nice bright pink/purple.  The under lying color is a brown/darker cranberry.  In fact that cranberry color is dark enough that you could wear it with black (I did the first time I wore it because I didn't realize it was actually brown-no one noticed by the way).  Additionally, to double duty color this scarf can do double duty fashion and function.  It is a nice thick weave, almost two scarfs sewn together to get that two tone look.  It also has a thick fringe boarder.  Even though it is is thick and wooly-it doesn't leave any fuzz on clothing which is a plus.  The scarf also comes in a black/grey combo which I am sure would be lovely.  Now the price is a bit higher then what I would pay for a scarf (currently on sale for 42.00) but it really is a nice thick versatile piece.  I think this would make a nice gift as well for someone who is hard to shop for.  Go check it out-there is tons of fun stuff on their site as well!  

Here is a picture showing how wide the scarf is-it is somewhere between an normal scarf size and a pashmina 

*Please note that I was given this scarf for free in exchange for possible product review. 
Where I am at-surviving!  It is a crazy time of year and I am attempting to try and get my eating back on track and actually tracking with weight watchers online again.  I know that I really can't be doing meeting-time and sometimes as helpful as meetings can be I am not in the mental place to have a public weight in.  Plus, let me be honest I need to be sure that if I am paying that kind of money I need to be "in it to win it".  I have also been working out with my t25 tapes and trying to keep up with the Mamavation 2 week challenge.  I am not loosing weight but I haven't been gaining any so I will take what I can!  

Other than that things at school have calmed down a bit (or maybe I have) either way I will take it!  Sadly my little lady is sick-I can hear her coughing while she is sleeping so sad.  Other than that, I am trying to keep my head above water in my grading and I have a graduate class that is due by the first week of January and my goal is to have it done by Dec 22 so I can have my Christmas vacation dedicated to fun with the family!
I know I have been a bit sporadic in posting and I wanted to stop by and wish anyone who still reads this little blog of mine a Happy Thanksgiving.  I am going to leave you with a few things I am especially thankful for this year

-My children who are healthy-I know not everyone has the luxury of saying that
-I am lucky for a husband who puts up with my level of crazy
-I am thankful for a job, although very demanding, that I take great joy in
-I am lucky to have co-workers who are funny, intelligent, and caring and make the bad days always better
-I am so thankful for a house full of people who should be arriving soon.  I have always dreamed of huge thanksgivings filled with family.  Today is truly a dream come true.
-Lastly, I am thankful the Mamavation and CT-Moms who have given me an opportunity to be part of their communities and write for them.  If you told me when I was 16 that I would enjoy writing I would have called you crazy.

So I hope you are all enjoying your day and I will leave with a few pics of my little turkeys

My little Miss J

Master J-Enjoy a last trip to the beach  
Pumpkin picking this fall 

As I have stated in previous posts I love, love to get children's books to review.  My children love to be read to and we are always looking for new books.  Recently I was asked by the people over at Candy Cane Press to take a look at two of their new religious themed children's books.  The books Rufus and Ryan go to Church and Rufus and Ryan say their prayers were two super cute books to bring up the topic of religion to children.  Master D is now in CCD and loves to go to church, but sometimes the concepts of church and prayer are hard to cover with kids so young.  Even harder is Miss J, who now also likes to go to church with us on Sundays.  What I liked about these books and why they are super fun is it is a typical little boy with his stuffed monkey Rufus.  In both books Ryan and Rufus navigate both how to say their prayers and what to do in church.  Not only do the two learn what and how to behave and church it shares what to love about a mass.  I also need to point out that it is fairly generic and as a Catholic there are only a few slight differences in terminology then what we use to describe certain things.  I also liked how the prayer book gives great examples and shows the child that there is no wrong way to pray.  The book portrays pray in a way I like for a child….as a simple conversation with God.  For anyone who is trying to introduce either prayer or going to church with a wee one these books would be a great addition.  Also, as we head into the holiday season we are firm believers in our house that other than Santa's presents and a few gifts from us we do books for the holidays  These would be a nice gift for under the Christmas tree.  Fun for the kids but with a deeper meaning to help celebrate the holiday season.  Stop by Amazon and check these two cute books out today!  I will leave you with a picture of Papa Hunt and Miss J enjoying the book

The funny part of this photo is my husband is in no way religious at all…so he asked Miss J to pick out a book and what did she pick-The religion book for Daddy to read.  

So as many of you know I had been training to run a 5k.  I have participated in two previous official events but in one I walked the entire thing and the second one I had to walk parts of the race.  I was determined that I would run an entire one.  I had my sites set on one particular race.  I had signed up a few years ago for a race at Mystic Aquarium to benefit the penguins but had to cancel because my best friends son was being baptized that day.  I figured when I signed up in August that I would have enough time to train and get ready.  Well I wasn't exactly ready but I really ramped up my training so that although slow I could run the entire thing.  My college good friend Rebecca also volunteered to meet me there.  The best part of this race….free admission to the aquarium post race.  Ok that isn't the best part…..these guys were the best part!!

While waiting for the race to begin they brought the penguins out to meet the races and no lie this is the closest I have ever been to one it was amazing.  In fact as I was starting the race they had moved the penguins to the starting line so they would wish us all well on our 5k.  

I was a bit surprised once we started our run to find out this was not just a regular 5k it was a trail run…which I had not been expecting to say the least!  My time was about three minutes slower then I was anticipating but I wasn't counting on trails and huge hills either!  Rebecca was a sweetheart and ran wicked slow with me and talked to me the whole time-I had informed her ahead of time that I wouldn't be contributing much to the conversation since well….I would barely be breathing.  

As we approached the finish line I was really overwhelmed by emotion….I did I had run (with the exception of having to stop on the trail to go down to single file lines and about 20seconds of walking at the very top of the big hill) I ran the whole thing.  Best part at the finish line were my husband and my kids cheering me on.  My son did say he was wondering where I was because I was almost last (way to kill my running high kid).  I was just so proud of myself.

There have been a lot of times on this journey to healthy where I have set goals and I have failed to meet them.  Most of these goals are based on loosing weight and I never seem to meet them and not meeting goals makes me feel disappointed in myself but also that feeling of why should I even try mentality.  This was a big moment for me.   At a weight I would prefer not to discuss I ran 3.1 miles.  I moved my big ass through the woods, a field, and up a huge hill all while running.  

This race occurred just over a month ago and I took me a while to be able to right about it and get the words right.  I still don't even think I have correctly summed up what setting this goal and achieving it has meant to me.   It make me realize that I am capable of a lot if I am really willing to work for something.   

So I have set another goal for myself.  By this race next year I want my time to be under 40 minutes.  New goal-something other than weight to focus on for an entire year.  Now to set up my game plan.  

I will leave you with my favorite picture from the race…..the reason I ran in the first place-Me and my kids.  Showing them that sometimes it isn't what place you finish….its that you tried your best and you finished!  

So it has taken me awhile to post...well because this was hard to talk about.  I cried at work this week...not ugly cry....but the I am so pissed off and really want to drop a bunch of F-bombs so crying seemed like the only option (clearly that is way more professional than swearing).  So a wee background about this incident.  In our school, like all in CT, are going through a huge transition in our evaluation system.  We are moving in the direction that many of those in power feel is the right way to go.  That way is basically to have teachers prove they are doing their job.  In theory this sounds reasonable-make sure teachers are doing a good job so you can get rid of the bad ones.  No objections here.  The problem comes in how you decide I am doing my job...teaching is not like any other job.  You can't really assess it because it is more art than science....I don't make widgets I teacher 120 uniquely different students.  So anywho....the way that we are assessed is tremendously complicated that even after several day long meetings the formula that is used to decided if I get to keep my job or not is scary complex.  At that heart of it is proving that I have taught my students skill (not subject matter) from the start of the year to the end.  This involves a tremendous amount of testing, record keeping, data sorting, and no like like 12 forms.  All of which take hours-again literally hours- to fill out.

So just as I am finally getting my head above water....we had all of these forms, parent conferences, as well as grades closing on the same week THE FORM hit.  Now granted this form is not as complex as the others but months prior our principal promised (I even wrote the date down because I was shocked he said we wouldn't have to) that we would not have to keep forms on our daily meetings.  Well guess what...at a meeting on Monday we were told we have to fill out a form daily (yes every day) on what we do in this meeting.  For a business person this would be equivalent of filling out a full page form every time you had a meeting with a co-worker on a project and answering five questions about what you did.  It is making us justify every minute spent as though I have the time to dick around and waste precious time.  I swear I want to write on the form "I filled out the 100 other friggin forms you gave me today" and write that every day for a month.  SERIOUSLY.  So everyone is starting to panic at our meeting about another form and I raise my hand and start to say "Can this wait, can it be modified....this is too much" and I well up.  It was embarrassing but it was how I felt.  It was true raw emotion the kind that is so strong you just can't hide it.

Well needless to say....the aftermath of that moment was interesting.  Many colleagues came up to me and expressed not only concern that I was upset, but more than that many of them said "THANK YOU".  You said and showed exactly how I felt.  Another colleague said he was watching me and it made him so sad because he could see me break.  It was that moment where you can't take anymore and you just fall apart.  Another friend gave me this...she said I earned it.  I joked and asked if I was part of the club "Bitches who cried at work club" she said yeah sort of.

The other aftermath...the one that stings a bit is two of the "head" people at that meeting although they are superiors I am close with an neither of them has asked me how I was doing or even made reference to what happened.  I don't know if perhaps it is embarrassing for them as it is for me.  I know that this was not their form....they are just following the party line as we call it.  Yet, to not follow up with me stings. Then again perhaps no follow up is better than the "that wasn't appropriate" follow up.

For me the aftermath has been hard....I am a girl who loves her job.  I have loved almost every day of my 11 years at my school.  That form, that moment made me realize the job as I knew it is over.  My husband a future school administrator said to me today "You need to realize this is how it is going to be and if your ass can't take the heat get out of the fire."  That hurt.....but it made me realize the reality of this situation.  I love what I do.....I believe in what I do......I love and believe more than I hate all those fucking forms.  I know I am a good teacher, I know what I do matters, and I know in my heart I can cry all I want those forms aren't going away.  So as pissed and angry and sad as I am.....I choose what I love more.  I love my students and they are worth the stress, the aggravation, and the 9,999 shitty forms I have to fill out to continue to do what I love.

So from now on I am going to try my best to always choose love over frustration, anger, and stress.  It doesn't mean it will happen but if I try and always remember what I love...maybe it will make my back a little stronger so it doesn't break so easily.
Although I do have happy things to post and will do so this week....I need to get something off my chest.  I have been focused on running a a 5k and not getting swallowed alive by this school year.  I have used the stress and emotions of this school year and excuse to eat poorly.  Nothing horrific just not  the way I need to in order to loose weight.  So here it is the truth

I haven't been trying and as a result I have gained back all that hard fought weight loss from Mamavation.  It is so depressing to admit that....but I need to.  By saying it outloud (or online) it helps me accept responsibility for what I have done (or not done).  

I am not entirely adrift.  I signed up for a beachbody challenge and got some kick ass new videos that I have been doing and as of this week I am back on track with my tracking my food and working out.  Its hard, and it sucks, but I am doing it.  I also joined a challenge with my Mamavation Girl Melissa over at My Two Miracles and that is helping too.

As we know weight loss and getting healthy takes a lot of time, effort, and mental energy-something that I have been lacking.  I just realized this weekend while huffing my ass in a 5k....if I can do that I can get over this funk I have been in about work and deal.  So get ready bloggy friends there will be venting on here.  I find that I have been keeping a lot inside and not discussing in fear of sounding negative, but then I realized something.....hello this is my blog!  I started this as my place.  I also realized that the reason I am so stagnant is because I am do busy feeling crappy instead of processing and moving on.

So there it is-the truth.  It may be ugly but it is needed!
So I feel bad about my neglected little blog....how I have missed it. I wish I could say that things are less crazy they aren't.  The discussion at school has been how our stress level is currently at the level it is at the end of the school when we can just suck up the ridiculousness because summer vacation is two weeks away.  It is not good people.  We have had people who have quit and left for other schools in the first month, teachers crying, and others stressed to the breaking point.  I am trying to just keep my head down, not get to sucked into the drama, and know in my heart I am doing good things in my classroom.

One highlight of the last few weeks is that after weeks of worrying if I am doing an ok job helping and meeting the needs of my many special education students the special ed teacher in my room said to me "You know I wouldn't just say this....but you are doing amazing things with the kids....not just my kids (the special education ones) but all of them.  You have a way with them and are getting through to them"  I started to cry.  All I want to do is teach my students, push them as hard as I can, and make them better citizens who know a little bit more about history when they leave.  I don't give a shit about state tests, or new teacher evaluation programs, or any other thing that you will measure my performance by.  I just want to teach...not all this other stuff.  Ok done ranting.  Sorry peeeps this is my place to let it all out.

So weight loss fitness etc update.  I have been plugging away with my running still.  My race that I hope to run the whole thing is two weeks away.  I don't think I will be able to run the whole thing but I should be close to it and that is going to have to be good enough.  I also signed up with a beach body coach and am doing t25 (sort of PX90 mini sessions) to try and get my ass back in gear.

How is life for everyone else going?  What is new in the bloggy world?
As  much as I do enjoy my girly fiction books. I have been on a kick lately of enjoying both historical fiction and non fiction history books.  What can I say, I am a history geek.  Although my main love is United States history I find other cultures exceptionally fascinating.  When I was offered the chance to review From the Dragon's Mouth I was intrigued about a book that would offer an insider look into life in a communist nation.  Ever since reading an amazing book in college on life for women in the USSR, I have been drawn to reading about life in communist nations.  I think this interest comes from the fact that published work in which people are able to speak freely in a communist nation are few and far between.

From the Dragon's Mouth is a completion of several stories that Ms. Fuentes had put together as her years as a journalist.  There were several people that she interviewed whose stories did not make the cut for the news that she was reporting but yet she was drawn to their stories.  Each of the stories gives a separate peak into a life that is ultimately high regulated by other cultural expectations as well as a well run and heavy handed communist government.  Some of the stories that I was most drawn to were the story of a mom who secretly works as a prostitute to give her son the best life possible-yet, he does not appreciate all that he has or has any idea what his mother does to support him.  Another story that pulled at my heart strings was the story of a young woman who married a gay man because of the large cultural importance placed on marriage in Chinese society.  A final story that really stuck with me was the story of a man who left his village to work in the city and actually lives in a shared space in an underground apartment (think living in a NYC subway that has been closed and made into rooms that are shared apartments).  This man left behind his family, only seeing them once a year, and working for the reason of providing his children with a better life.  What was crazy in the book revealed that there are hundreds of thousands of people who leave their children behind to be raised by relatives.  This is crazy to think about-100,000 of children who only see their parents once a year.   The other fascinating fact that I found in this book was the most if not all of the people who were interviewed (regardless of their status in life) talked about love of their country.  We in America often associate communism with evil or horrendous atrocities and it unimaginable that people would like or be proud of their country.  In the book it was clear that regardless of what their life or status in society is like almost all those interviewed had a deep love for their country.  

With the variety of stories offered in this book I think that anyone reading will form a connection or life at least one or two of these stories.  I would highly recommend it for the fact that it gives an almost unprecedented look at the average Chinese citizen and their life under Communism.  This is a must read for anyone who is interested in history or culture in general.  
So as I said in my last post I said I wasn't buried under a pile of papers...well not yet at least.  The start of the school year has been a lot to take in.  This year my school went with a new schedule which is modified block (that means some days my classes meet for 44 min the other days they meet for 86).  The also allows for a daily meeting with other teachers to work on new state mandates.  In addition we have changed the levels from AP/Honor 1, 2, 3, (three being the lowest) to AP, Honors, and Academic which means all new classes because the students in the classes now have different abilities.  At the end of last year I chose to go back to teaching the lowest level classes (I always had taught the lowest level until about three years ago).  Well since then there have been a lot of changes included a lot more needy children in our district along with full inclusion classrooms.  This has been a very hard adjustment.  Not anything I can't handle and I already love my students but it is overwhelming when almost half the class has learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, physical disabilities that impair their learning, or students who are just learning the English language.  I also have some students who have such challenging disabilities they are non-verbal.  Yet, because of the new state standards for teacher evaluations part of my job is based on whether or not I can have these kids do better on a standardized test from the beginning of the year to the end.  It is scary...it doesn't mean I hate my students or their needs, it is just overwhelming.

Its overwhelming to know that a large portion of my yearly evaluation is now based on student performance.  I know I am a good teacher, I know that I work hard and my students learn, its just now they are tested in a manner that I don't agree with.  There are kids in my room now matter how much they try will never do well on this writing and reading test (PS I teach history and they aren't tested on history they are tested on reading and writing skills-that is whole other post it self).  I hate having to care about this.  I want to care about my subject matter, I want to care about bringing history alive for my students in a way that reaches all my students regardless of ability level.  Yet, reality is I have to care and that is overwhelming.

Its also overwhelming in the amount of need my students have.  I want them all to be successful and they all need such different things. I no lie have a special education teacher making me a chart to organize the accommodations that each student gets so I don't forget anyone's accommodations.  It is overwhelming because I am passionate about what I do.  I want every student to be successful in my room and I am willing to do whatever it takes to try and make that happen but when in my smallest class a minimum of ten students have to get special services I worry I am going to forget to do something for a kid and I would feel awful.  I know this will all be fine in a few more weeks when I get to know my students better and their needs and their educational preferences but right now it is overwhelming even when I have my smallest amount of students ever at just over 80. 

So because I have been so overwhelmed with work, keeping up with all my new responsibilities and requirements for the teacher evaluation program, and getting prepared for these new classes it has left me emotionally drained.  To the point of tears some days I am so tired.  Add in a 6 year old with anxiety who has trouble sleeping at night and that makes for one mom who is unmotivated to do anything more than her job as a mom and teacher.  That has pushed aside any desire to exercise or continue to train for my 5k.  This makes me sad because I was on schedule for my Oct 19th Penguin run.  I am going to try and still get there but it is hard to focus on anything else right now.  In fact I have so many amazing books and products to review but I cant even think about those yet.  

Yet, I realized that if I am going to take care of my kids and my students I have to start taking care of me.  It isn't that I have been eating bad I haven't its just lack of exercise.  So I decided a schedule is daunting so my plan is this.  I have signed up for the Mamavation 2 week challenge which I plan to do every day and I want to get out and jog when the weather is nice enough and we have time in the family schedule for me to get out there.  Realistically some days it may be one or the other and I am ok with that.  I just need to get back to having at least 30min a day for me and that me times need to be fitness.

Hey readers,  thanks for hanging in there with me.  It has been a wild ride with the start of school-one I truly wasn't expecting.  Thanks for hanging in and your support!
The start of this school year has been overwhelming to say the least.  I plan to write a more adequate most on this when I have the time.  There are some years that start with nothing major and there are others where it takes every ounce of energy I have just to stay afloat....this is one of those crazy starts.  Add to that a first grader and my daughter going to pre school full time.  Although she loves it she misses her Mama so there is lots of snuggling and momma time needed.  Basically that means that my online life has had to come to a screaming halt.  Although I have lots to blog about, great reviews of books and products to post....sadly that can not be my priority right now.  My family and my kids (the school ones) need to be number one.  I should be back and blogging soon and thanks for hanging in during this radio silence.
So my girls over at Mamavation offered me an amazing opportunity...to review and then giveaway a ONE YEAR free subscription to My FitU.  I am was so excited about this because I have been entering giveaways for a month or two trying to win myself a subscription to this amazing service.  So lets take a  minute and let this soak in...a one year free subscription for my blogger readers....SWEET!!!!!!!

Ok moving on now to what My FitU is!  Basically it is a personal trainer who lives in your phone, Ipad, or computer.  When you sign up  you fill out some basic information including the usual age, weight, etc as well as fitness level and where you mostly work out.  My Fit U then created a fitness AND (yes I said and) menu plan for you to follow to help you reach your fitness goal.  This isn't just for someone trying to loose weight like me, it can be for people with various fitness goals.  Once you are set up you can access your plans from online or the app feature.  I am going to walk you through some of my plan (FYI these are screen shots from my phone app so should you do it on a computer it may look different).

When you log on for the day you are greeted with this....Love that it is helping you keep track of what is going on with your life. 

Once you have entered this you can go to your menu plan or your fitness plan.  Below is what your fitness plan looks like once you have clicked on it.

What I liked about the fitness plan is that not only does it have a video that goes long with it you see that button all the way to the right...that allows you to swap out an activity if it is too hard for you or if you do not have the equipment at home.  For example I swapped out a kettle ball routine for the inch worm because I don't have a kettle ball at home.

Above is a screen shop of the video.  Each exercise has a description of how to do the exercise, how long/how many reps, and the video for you to watch.  Basically everything a personal trainer would explain or keep track of for you if you were at the gym.  Also, you can't see it from this screen shot but the app also allows you to choose which music from your iPhone that you will be listening too.

Now above is one of what I thought was the best features of this program...an idiots guide of how not to hurt yourself.  I thought this was great especially for someone like me who is a beginner at strength training who might not know what good form should look like.  I don't think you would be looking at these videos for everything but if you are trying out a new exercise and want to make sure that not only are you doing it right but that you aren't going to injury yourself.

Finally, the last really great part of this program was the meal plans.  Now since I am doing weight watchers I wouldn't follow these plans exactly but there were many, many great recipes on the site and some really good menu plans.  For someone who isn't doing weight watchers this is the perfect thing.  Not only does it tell you how many calories to eat, it is giving nice balanced meals with portion sizes and best of all RECIPES!!!!!!!   So what you have below are screen shots of the menu plan and a few recipes.

Ok so clearly you can tell that I love this program and I am sure lucky to be able to try it out....thanks again Mamavation and My FitU for that opportunity.  Now if you are interested please enter my giveaway below!  But if you can't wait another amazing feature of My FitU is that they offer a free trial with no credit card required.  NO SERIOUSLY NO CREDIT CARD!!! Just your info and email, how sweet is that!  Also, how can other places not figure out how to do this!  

Anyways....come on and enter this is a great fitness opportunity!  Also, if you don't win go sign up for the trial and consider the paid plan....it is nothing if you consider the cost of not only a diet plan and trainer would cost in real life.  In fact, I feel the program is very inexpensive for what you get. So come on enter and head over to My FitU and sign up for your free trial now!

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Along with my recently reviewed book by Alison Sweeney  I was also asked if I wanted to review a book from Amazon Publishing called Prime Time Princess.  The author of this book Lindy DeKoven was a real life TV producer for major companies her in the United States.  Her book is a take on the industry as well as a lovely little romance and change your life book.  What I mean by change your life book is that is one of those books where the main character is headed in one direction in their life and because of a major event/s they change their life.   The book centers around the main character Alexa and her life as a TV executive.  It starts out as the classic girl works to hard has no life meets a guy story but goes so much farther than that.  It almost acts in some ways as an expose of what life is like in a business that is run main by men and how a woman fits into the world-or in this case doesn't.  There are several great characters in this book that I enjoyed including the main character Alexa's arch nemesis Jerry.  I loved that this character was so well written that you hated him....you really do.  He is such a piece of work you love to hate him.  For me one of the qualities that I look for in a book is how well are the characters fleshed out...are there enough details that you get invested in them good or bad.  Do you find yourself wanting to know more about the characters then what is offered...for me this is the mark of a well written book.  DeKoven does this very well in Prime Time Princess.  My only critique of the book is that I felt that there were a few sections that dragged and bit and could have been trimmed but other than that  I feel that it is a great summer beach read.  I would give the book 4 out of 5 stars.

If you would like to win a copy of Prime Time Princess be sure to enter my giveaway here.  The winner will be notified via email.

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Thank you all so much for very positive and much needed comments on last weeks post. I started by making little steps. I started tracking again and also getting back on track with my C25K program. Additionally, I sat down yesterday with a five week calendar and wrote out all my workouts. Now I do know that weather might play a factor in this but I figured I would treat it the same way I treated my workouts when I was a Mamavation Mom...if I have to I double up one day or twitch the days around a bit. I felt that if I had a workout schedule I had something to focus on. I also tried challenging myself a bit in terms of my workout with running. Instead of taking the easy route while I am doing intervals I know I can run I took a new route to try and today I picked doing the hill running. Now I did have to stop but I did extra running at the end to make up for it. I was proud that I have a plan. Also, I have been working hard on not eating my stress. Usually this time of the summer I have been into my classroom 10 times already to set up, make copies, and plan my first few weeks. Yet, our building is undergoing huge renovations and we are not allowed in with children under 18...so that means no school visits until today when the hubs can watch the kids. My room thankfully doesn't need a lot of work (for those non teachers this is moving furniture, bulletin boards, supplies etc). Yet, I need to be ready to go by Wednesday because we are day tripping this Thursday to Mystic Aquarium and then Friday the hubs is having minor surgery (more on this soon). So that means no more going into work after that. I also went out dress shopping I am a bit geeky but I love a new fancy dress for the first day of school. I didn't find "the"dress but I found a few options for the rest of the year while out. I also really tried to remain positive and not look incessantly at all my faults and imperfections. I just keep telling myself this isn't about a size or weight this is about being a healthy wife, mom, and teacher for all those who depend on me. This is also while I am taking a bit of a break from posting my weight...I mentioned before I found myself slipping into that dark hole of obsessing about the scale. I am still going to weight watchers, I still weight myself, but I am desperately trying to focus on baby steps as Kia mentioned last week. Thanks again for all the support, I love the comments!!

I have to be honest I think I was just a little too excited when the folks over at Hyperion asked me if I wanted to review a book by Alison Sweeney (you know that super cute chic from Biggest Loser and Days).  I get lots of great books to review but not always by bigger name people or authors.  I was more than willing to review the book.  Now be it my own personal bias, I honestly did not think that an "actor" would be a good writer...but I was pleasantly surprised.  This books was SO GOOD!!! I read it in less that a week which for me is huge because I only have to time to read at night which means most books regardless of how good they are often take me a month or two to read.  I couldn't put the book down.  Not only did it have really good character development the story was literally addicting.

Now this is your classic chic lit book, but I loved it.  No trashy romance parts but just enough romance and love stories to keep you fully interested in the book.  I think what I liked most is that look that it gave into the entertainment industry.  The general plot of the books follows the life of the main character Sophie who is a PR person.  She is living her very face paced LA life and the stories follows her ups and downs.  You sort instantly get connected to Sophie and her work and personal life.  As things start to go south for the main character you find yourself rooting for her and wanting her to succeed both in business and in life.  One night I stayed up to 1am reading before I had to put the book in the kitchen so I would stop reading it...it was that good.  Now normally I am not the most moved by these kids of books, I think chic lit is fun but not my usual choice...but this was a super fun summer read.  If anyone is thinking of checking it out...do so!  

Ok so now for my slightly geeky moment....I tweeted Alison Sweeney about how much I loved the book and she tweeted me back!!! It was a moment for me (I know I know I am geek!)

So overall I give the book 5 stars, it was really just that good!  

So what have you all been reading this summer....anything I need to add to my ever growing pile of books??
So super quick post as having just got back from vacation and I have been out all day.  Today was a rough one (I will do details in another post when I am not so emotional).  My vacation was great and I made sure I was active every day.  When I came home I gained a few pounds which was so upsetting because it made me realize that I have gained back some of the weight I lost with Mamavation and I am disappointed in myself for that.  On the other hand I was also proud because I made sure that I kept my promise to myself all summer long.  I have been active and outside with my kids every day that the weather permits and I am more proud of that then I am upset about the weight gain.  As Leah told me a lot this is a process and I will get there if I just buckle down and do it.  So here is to a new week!
Brief Hiatus-I have been on vacation for a week with no internet and am just returning to the land of the living.  Will update everyone on my mad dash to get ready for the upcoming school year that starts in two weeks!
So here is the weekly update after a really great almost four pound loss this week I gained a wee bit back and I am ok with that.  I know my body and I know how it likes this up down up down game.  If at the end of the month I am less I count that as a victory.  I did stay true and try and get out to exercise more which I was happy with.

I also had a sort of NSV (non scale victory) if you will this week.  When I applied to be a Mamavation Mom I really wanted to have this be the first of many steps in a weight loss and healthiness journey.  So I promised myself that I didn't want to be that mom who sat round and had her kids blobbed out in front of the TV.  So on Sunday I got and started back with Couch to 5k to get me over my running hump (I can do a mile straight but that is about it so I figured try this for awhile and get on a planned routine). So I went out and did about two miles in 30min.  Then I got back took a breather and then said to my son, lets go for a bike ride.  My goal for him is to get off his training wheels this summer.  So he and I went out and did a two mile ride.  Not much on a bike but for me who doesn't ride much and him it was huge.  I was proud I was tired after running but I decided being a healthy mom and setting a healthy example was more important to me then relaxing.  

I am starting to realize that the stuff with the scale will fall into line, but what I am doing in these early months post Mamavation is finding my way to a healthy lifestyle and for that I am very pleased with how I am doing.

Up this week...my goal was to track all my food this week (so far one day done!).  It was also to stick with the every other day running schedule.  On a personal note we head out for our family vacation this  Sunday so I want to have one of my two graduate courses done before I leave.

How was your week everyone???
So I know this post is about two weeks past due but I honestly needed some time to really put my feelings into words about this race.  For a long time...since the first time I lost weight and got down to what would now be my goal weight (it wasn't then but I was 24 and stupid) I wanted to do a race.  After having kids and gaining back all that weight I felt defeated....most days I still do.  The effort to loose that weight is tremendous and even though I did the Mamavation thing knowing that I have years of hard work in front of me to loose the weight and keep it off is overwhelming.  So when I decided awhile back that I would give loosing weight my best effort (If I am being honest it has been a good effort not best lately) I decided I would also give the whole couch to 5k thing a try.  Once I was chosen I knew I had to complete a 5k (even though virtual) for them at the end of my campaign.  So I stated training and it sucks real bad...and months later it still sucks.  I have tried couch to 5k, then went with the Mamavation plan, and I think I am going back to C25K.  So I decided I was going to work real hard and my goal would be to be able to run an entire race by the Mystic Aquarium 5k in October.  Well back to this race.  When my good friend Sarah (check out her blog here) asked if I would join her for the Go Red for Women race that took place in Elizabeth Park (started by Elizabeth Colt and is has amazing rose gardens in full bloom this time of year) I said yes.  On race day is was hot...I mean really hot.  Over 90 and super humid but I didn't bail.  I committed to doing the best I could and running in my first real race.  Despite the heat it was amazing.  The people who were cheering me on, the course itself through the really nice sections of Hartford and West Hartford, and just the fact that I was there and running as much as I could.  My final time wasn't great, but it was my best time to date.  I can't lie I cried the last 1/4 mile because you know what I was doing it.  I was going to cross a finish line.  200 pound, overweight, unathletic me was going to cross that finish line.  It was huge, it still is!  It makes me realize that if I can do that-and it was hard, I can cross any finish line.  That finish line for me isn't just about running it is about getting healthy.  I have to realize there will be good runs and bad ones (like my most recent run sucked probably because I have been being lazy and not eating as well as I should).  There is always more races to run...there is always a new day to work on getting healthy.  This is a process both the health thing and the running thing.  I am glad to be doing it.   I can't wait for the day when I am able to run the whole thing!  Below are some pictures from my race....I can't wait for another one to show you more!

This is my friend Sue from work who only started running a few years ago she is a great inspiration and a huge cheerleader for me.  It was great to see her there!
This was before the race with the rose gardens in the background....although you can't really see them.
So here is my photo montage-I am serious proud as peacock over this.  I know some people think it may be silly but you know what its my blog and I will celebrate what is a really huge achievement for me!
So although the heat here in CT has been so brutal that I couldn't really exercise this week I was able to loose 4.8 pounds of the 5 I gained during my I don't know what phase.  I was very happy that I lost this much and am felling a bit more back on track.  My only issue is the lack of fitness which has a ton to do with the heat here in CT.  Even at 6am it is over 80 and too hot.  I have been gardening and keeping up with the kids and going to the pool, but not the kind of fitness I was dong with Mamavation and I also know this is what kind of exercise I need to do in order to loose the weight.  So today as part of a Virtual 5K that Melissa from www.mytwomiracles.com put together I am considering myself back on track.  How was everyone else's week?

My goals for this upcoming week
Track my food
Run two-three times
Strength Train 3 times this week

Also, in case you missed it I am doing a giveaway on my blog for a Copy of a great money saving book.  Come check it out and enter the giveaway.

So I was so excited to get invited to two different Connecticut blogger events this week.  One I was unable to attend because I was a little bit under the weather and it was 1000 degrees so I didn't think that was the best idea.  So the event that I attended on Thursday night was a We love Local event sponsored by Whole Foods in Glastonbury.  I was able to bring my dear friend Gina as my plus one and it was a great time.  The whole food chefs as well as some local companies had a great spread of local goods for us to taste test.  Below is are my pictures from the event along with a copy my favorite recipe from the event.  
Upon entering the event we were greeted by these beauties fresh native organic strawberries (on sale for 1.99) paired with some amazing local chocolate in three different flavors.  The most interesting one was by far the chocolate with the corn flakes

Next up was this amazing fresh local corn.  The Whole Foods chef prepared it by grilling it and glazing it with a mix of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.  I would never have thought to put these items together on corn but it was amazing.  There was a lovely little bit of caramelization on the corn-I even sampled the ones without butter. 

One of my favorite dishes was a fresh vegetable salad.  It contained various types of beans, red onion, tomatoes, and some Chinese noodles on top.  Then for on top of the salad was an amazing vinaigrette that had local fresh raspberries and blackberries.  I can say that it was a little bit odd with the crunch noodles, crisp veggies, and sweet dressing, but it was delicious nevertheless.   Although I might not make the salad (I liked it not loved it) the dressing is a must make again.  

This was the item that I needed to control myself with a bit.  Since I am lactose intolerant I really wanted to sample  all the flavors but I knew my stomach would not go for that.  This ice cream company is based in norwalk where my BFF lives and they are tea inspired flavors.  AMAZING.  I tried the Masala Chai, Ginger Matcha, and Chamomile Honey.  Check them out here 

For drink samples there was yummy frozen hot cocoa from www.cissetrading.com  and these tasty treats.  These are both yummy drinks or drink starters if you like a cocktails.  I LOVED THESE!!! In fact I looked around Whole Foods for them to buy some.  I love anything sour so these were right up my alley.  My favorite were the first two which I would so drink over crushed ice or mixed with seltzer.  For me this was a perfect beverage for the super hot 100 degree CT weather.  Check them out here.  

Lastly on the tour was delicious homemade sauce.  Now considering that my date and myself are Italian girls who learned from a Nona how to make sauce, we can officially be called a sauce snobs!  So we were skeptical of a jarred sauce.  We were pleasantly surprised.  This sauce is made lovingly in small batches the same way that both of us make sauce at home.  It was sampled with a great bread to dip in, but you know it was good when I was drinking it out of the little cup it was served in. Now nothing beats homemade, but this is a great sauce to have in the pantry for those times where there is no time to go homemade.  Check out the website here 

Now as I went to go write this post I realized that I had no pictures of my absolute favorite sample of the entire night.  It was a lazy man's blueberry crisp.  Let me start by saying that I have been dying to go blueberry picking because I love fresh blueberries.  This was an super easy recipe and delicious.  I asked and am allowed to share the recipe so here it is.....as zoo as I get blueberries I will be making this!

Blueberry Granola Crisp
1 Jar 365 blueberry jam
2 Pints of blueberries
2 Cups of Mainely Maple Granola (found in the bulk dept.)
On stove top mix 1/2 jar of blueberry jam with 1 pint of blueberries. Cooking until it is warm, melted, and bubbly.
Cool mixture for a few minutes. Pour stove top mixture into a baking pan (as your bottom layer).
Next add 1 pint of fresh blueberries on top of the cooked mixture.
Next add granola as a top layer.
Chill and serve.

A great big thank you to Whole Foods for the invite...I can't wait for the next one!
I can't believe it is already the weekend and it is weekend review time.  This week I read Budget Savvy Diva's Guide to slashing your grocery bill by 50% or more by Sara Lundberg.  For those of you who do not know who the Budget Savvy Diva is she is a blogger who has made popular the act of saving you money with all her tips.  She has an amazing blog that can be found here .   She has also written several great books with numerous money saving tips.  In this particular book she focuses on how you can save big at the grocery store.  Although I like to think of my self as a savvy shopper who doesn't go too overboard at the grocery store, there were several helpful hints in this book that I plan on using next time we hit the stores.  The first thing that I really liked about the book is Ms. Lundberg starts at the beginning with menu planning. This is something that I am not always successful at. She talks about how you go from not planning at all to taking baby sets to becoming a supreme planner.  I like that she uses easy tips and gives sort of the step by step on how to get more budget friendly.  I enjoy the if you are doing nothing, here are the baby steps, then the next steps, then the final big picture.  Without giving away all of the Diva's ideas my other favorite part of the book was the recipes.  The end of the book is just filled with numerous budget friendly recipes, many of which are also kiddo friendly or good for those with picky eaters (kids or adults) in the house.  In fact, I bookmarked a few for making this week.  I would say if you are trying to trim your budget a bit this book is worth the purchase price because I am sure you would save that much in your first few trips to the store.  Yet, even better than buying it.....you can win it.  Enter below with the rafflecopter to win a copy!

Also if you have written a review on a product or book don't forget to link it below!

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