Saturday, December 31, 2011

Weight Loss Stories - Part 2

Time for some more inspiring stories of weight loss and health embracing!  I always enjoy hearing how others are able to do it.  Whether starting with a big number to lose or facing debilitating conditions – everyone is different. And everyone’s weight loss approaches seem to be different as well.    Sure – there are the basics:

-         Calories in and calories out
-         Eat more vegetables and whole grains
-         Steer clear of saturated and trans fat as well as artificial ingredients and processed foods.
-         Exercise most days for at least 30 minutes

Some people find success by eating smaller meals, more often.  Others enjoy a tough workout and then find their appetite naturally diminished while others find themselves starving after a run.  Some can enjoy beer or wine and decadent foods, while others have to eliminate them except for a very occasional treat.

So here are some more weight loss success stories and tips!

Two women I have connected with on the Daily Challenge keep me smiling every day with their posts.  Kim shares lots of information about health and the body and mind.  I look forward to her insight every morning!  And she speaks from a position of experience.  Kim has lost 43 pounds and 33 inches (4 sizes!).  She initially set a weight loss goal but exceeded her goal by losing more weight than she originally intended.  Kim’s journey included 4 friends who made accountability calls each week.  Knowing that others were in it with her helped keep her focused.  She and her friends shared a coach who helped answer questions and guide them.  Kim’s words of wisdom about obstacles are too good to not pass on:  “With obstacles, if you set your mind to it, you can work your way around it. There are always ways to get over, under or around obstacles. It just takes effort. As to set backs, you can't let them hold you back. You only took a step backwards, you didn't turn around 180 degrees to go the other direction. You have to get back up and take another step forward. It's all in the way you think.”

Another Daily Challenge friend is Khris.  We originally connected because she is a mom to boys (now men) and is also a vegetarian.  She always has something positive to share and I love hearing about her day.  Khris has lots of achievements to share but decided to focus on her recent weight loss.  Khris lost 10 pounds after deciding to get in better shape and get healthier.  Laughing, she explains, “Oh, yeah - I REALLY wanted to get rid of my flabby arms! That's where it all started!”  Khris found success through researching (reading books, watching videos, looking into exercises) and drinking water.  She had a hard time with drinking water – never liked it – so she found Hint water and enjoyed that until she was able to tolerate regular water.  The one change Khris would make would be to start focusing on her health younger.

My Mom works at a company that really focuses on health.  She actually creates and presents some of their health programs (and has helped me with my Biggest Loser Programs).  Some of her co-workers agreed to share their stories. 

Denise joined a Biggest Loser group session in January of 2010 with a goal to lose 30 pounds and participate in a 5K.  She created a plan for herself and says “In order to accomplish my goals I made a promise to myself that I would go to every work out and commit to working out at least 5 times per week outside of the group. I did my first mile and my time was 29 minutes! I kept that time in mind and set goals for weekly runs to shave time off. In ten weeks I got my mile to 11.07.”  Some tools she used to help her along the way were a food log and calorie counting as well as a vision board to keep her goal in mind.  As for setbacks, she faced a major one:  “I injured my back in July and it has been a major setback. I had to have surgery in November and have been unable to work out for months. I worked so hard to change and start living healthy and this injury threw me back into bad habits. It is easy to give in. I have started to refocus. I created a new vision board and set goals to get back to the shape I was in before my injury. I have signed up to do a half-marathon in April!!!”  Denise found that she did have to adjust her goal and she lost an incredible 42 pounds and 23.75 inches after 10 weeks.

Cindy’s highest weight was 285 pounds and she never imagined herself competing in a race.  She just completed her fourth 5K on her birthday in December.  She felt that this was the best gift she could give to herself and has repeatedly reminded herself along the way that everyday is a Clean Slate.  (Side note:  Tabula rasa is one of the only things I retained from 4 years of Latin).  Cindy says, “Start fresh.  Take a deep breath and move on.  I learned to believe in myself.  I can do this.  I want to be healthy.”  She has lost 50 pounds since the beginning of her journey and knows that she has more to go – but I think we can all agree she has a great start and the right mindset to get there. 

Tomorrow I hope to be hangover free and to bring you some stories of fitness goals as well as those who have reached some pretty big life goals.

Happy New Year!

Weight Loss Stories - Part 1

On this last day of the year, I am excited to bring you inspiring stories of weight loss that some friends and family members have shared.  In the days to come, I will also introduce you to tales of retiring early, going back to school, competing in races, and pursing a dream.  Yes – I am ridiculously lucky to have these amazing people in my life!

Let’s start with two ladies who decided to make time for their health and joined Weight Watchers®.  Rachel is a local business owner who had set a goal to lose 100 pounds after she gave birth the second time.  In order to achieve this, she says “I went to meetings every week. I followed all steps and rules. I made it a challenge. I embraced competition.”  Rachel was able to meet her goal of losing 100 pounds without changing her end goal and by looking into herself to know what it was she needed and desired.  Looking back, the only change she would make:  “I would not have made it a goal, but a life long achievement.”  Seriously incredible!

Dina-Marie and I connected on the Daily Challenge.  When I learned she was a health coach I was beyond excited.  Imagine being able to have a job that helps others find their healthiest self?  You can learn more about this here.  Dina-Marie also joined Weight Watchers® with a goal of losing 90 pounds by attending every meeting for a year.  She has made it halfway to her weight loss goal and did follow through with attending every meeting for a year.  Dina-Marie knew that baby steps were the best plan of action for her.  She received words of encouragement if she had gained weight at a meeting and lots of pats on the back from friends and family while she lost.  Steering clear of vending machines and incorporating healthy snacks has helped with her food struggles.  Dina-Marie is continuing her aspiration and says “I wouldn't do anything differently because this is life and life is a journey.  I believe things happen for a reason, so I accept those reasons and try to move forward.  Life is a series of decisions.  Don't like the last one you just made?  Make another one.  It’s OK.  You don't need permission from anyone.”

My dad and step-mom found themselves on a heart-healthy diet after Nancy had emergency gall-bladder surgery.  Following guidelines of what to eat and what not to eat led my dad to “Completely change the food buying/eating habits we'd built over a lifetime. Knowing that it was not only good for us but deciding that we would be eating this way the REST OF OUR LIVES was very important. Trying fresh fruits and vegetables that I'd never tried, but found that I did like them, was a fun surprise. I'd often eaten whole grains and the more the merrier, so that part wasn't hard.”  My dad lost 60 pounds, putting him back at his high school waist size, and my step-mom (who used to have to try to gain weight) is feeling better, swimming, and looking great!

A super motivating friend from the MOMS Club surprised me when she answered my goal questions by saying that she had wanted to lose 40 pounds before getting pregnant.  (Yes – before she got pregnant.) Madeline looks fantastic and is a warrior in the gym so I couldn’t believe she was ever not in shape.  She started with the Discovery Health Challenge and then joined a gym.  Madeline’s advice for getting started and keeping it up:  “I worked with a trainer at first just to introduce me to the machines. But the biggest step was trying any and all classes that the gym offered. It is very important that you find something that you really enjoy so you will stick with it for life. I fell in love with kick-boxing and weight training.  But it is also important to remember that your body gets used the exercise that you do all the time so make sure to switch it up. This will also help you not to get bored with the same types of exercise.”  After reaching her goal – and getting pregnant with an incredible little girl – she only had to lose 20 pounds of pregnancy weight. Madeline was a regular at the Gold’s Gym here before moving to New York and I am sure she is wowing them up there.  One thing she would change?  “I would have enjoyed meeting my milestones more. You work so hard to reach your goal and then when you get there you don’t stop to congratulate yourself.”  

More weight loss stories to come!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Setting Goals: The steps

I have been procrastinating writing about goals.  Doesn’t bode well for my New Year!  Every time I start to write – I decide I need to research.  I generally find the same information from lots of different sources so I think I need to dig deeper.  I get sidetracked and then the natives get restless – how many times do these boys need to eat anyway?  Am I that fun that they want me to play with them so much?

So, despite the general advice being so similar, I did find some very inspirational stories that I hope to share in the next couple of days.  I am also excited to share some stories from people I adore and admire!

Now for the basic tenets of goal setting:

1.        Set a specific goal with a timeline.  (For example – I will lose 10 pounds and increase my energy through regular exercise by March.)  To determine your goal you need to do your own research:

a.     Visit your health care provider to get a workup/physical.  Determine your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, body fat percentage, etc.  Letting your doctor in on your desires will help keep you from taking on anything too drastic or unhealthy.

b.     Check in with reputable sources online to determine a healthy/happy weight, BMI, etc.  I love (SELF: Happy Weight, SELF:  Ideal Weight), but there are countless other sites that can help guide you.

c.     Talk to others who have been there, done that.  These can be people in your life or on social networking and support sites.  And of course I will be passing on some very wise words from people who have been doing it!

2.        Determine your plan of attack! 

a.     Trying to lose 30 pounds?  Break it down to 1-2 pounds lost a week.  Find new recipes and add whole grains and veggies to your meals.  Try some new exercises and log it all.

b.     Trying to de-clutter your home?  Have a room-by-room or section-by-section break down.  Arrange weekly trips to the thrift store (say every Wednesday) or schedule a pick-up for big pieces.  Don’t forget to get tax receipts!  Another good idea is to plan a swap or yard sale with friends.  Nothing like a deadline to get you moving.

c.     Trying to sleep more?  Buy room darkening shades or a sound machine.  Start writing your worries down before bed.  Take a bath before turning in to bring down your body temperature (signaling sleep).  Make your room a tech free zone – this includes TVs, iThings, laptops, smart phones, etc.  Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every few days.

3.        Visualize.  This was such a great tip!  It helps weed out what you think you want versus what you really desire.  Whether it is getting back to your high school weight (probably not practical) or someone else’s opinion of you (doesn't really matter!) – you need to figure out what is right for you - your body, mind and health.

a.     Experts recommend visualizing yourself going through the steps and then achieving your goal daily.  Ideally upon waking, mid day, and again before bed. 

b.     Inspiration boards are really helpful.  Fill one with images and quotes that move you. 

c.     Make it personal:  whether it is a picture or memory that brings you joy – find a way to remind yourself often.  You might not have been a size 2 during a weekend trip with your girlfriends – but you may have tried things you wouldn’t normally try or put yourself first.  Tap into that!

d.     A mantra you can repeat and post in areas you see frequently (bathroom mirror, dashboard, computer screen) will help remind you of your goal.  This should be a positive statement!  Saying “I don't want to be fat" will not help you reach your goal.  Repeating “I am strong” or “I deserve health” will give you something to draw on.

e.     Ask friends and family to tell you what they think your positive attributes are.  Write them down (or have them do it!) and keep it in a positive file.  I got this tip on the Daily Challenge though Me You Health (  These people have helped me make great strides for myself – and I haven’t met a single one!  A very positive place to visit.

f.    The key to visualizing is being realistic and positive.  I have had Olivia Wilde up on my board for a while before realizing that I will never be as thin as she is.  And that the qualities I admire in her (besides her ridiculous good looks) are her drive and her attitude toward health.  She does yoga and eats thoughtfully and when I think healthy – that is what I envision.  You can’t photo-shop that!

4.        Share and ask for help.  This is definitely an important step.  I had a hard time sharing goals because, it seemed to me, I was inviting others to watch me fail.  But this blog showed me that it helps to hold me accountable.  Your friends and family can help support you in your efforts.  

a.     If you want to get to sleep earlier – letting your spouse or roommate know will make it easier to say no to a marathon of Storage Wars.  If you are trying to eat healthier – letting your family know will help at gatherings.  Again – positive is best!  Don’t turn this into the blame game or a chance to criticize someone else.  If your Mom makes fantastic, albeit less than healthy, food – ask if you can bring a healthy, delicious dish to share.  Use “I” statements and ask for their support for you.  I have decided to go vegan after 9 months of vegetarianism, but I definitely won’t be discussing animal rights at the next family dinner!  This is not a time to alienate – most people are more open to trying new things if you bring a positive, no pressure, approach. 

b.     You might find new allies.  I was excited last year to find that many of my friends in the MOMS Club were willing to walk with me.  We had stroller brigades walking to the river and back and we hosted workouts in my backyard.  A Facebook page helped us motivate each other and share tips and seek advice.

c.     Another way to gain from sharing is by signing up for a trainer, joining a class at the gym, enlisting a friend as a workout buddy, or volunteering at the animal shelter to walk dogs.  When you know there is someone else counting on you – it makes it easier to make the choice to do it.

5.        Track it.  There are many ways to do this:

a.     Food/Exercise/Sleep Logs – this lets you look back and see how much you have done.  Some people do this online, others in a notebook, whatever works for you.  Write down what you did or ate, how you felt, what you want to do next. 

b.     To Do List – Some people thrive on lists.  These can be short or long term.  It can entail what you want to do or what you already have done.

c.     Calendaring – A literal calendar where you jot what you want to do or what you have done.  For example:  Planning your workouts or de-cluttering schedule or noting what you have accomplished.  I loved tracking my runs (distance and time) on a calendar and it came in handy when I was having heart trouble because I could say – heart trouble after 3.3 miles.

6.        Reach your goal or Modify.  Some very wise, successful people don’t believe you need to modify your goals.  You set it and reach it, overcoming obstacles along the way.  I think that this is kind of like how you forget how awful childbirth was the moment you get to hold your little angel in your arms.  Then with the next pregnancy you remember and wonder how you got yourself into this again.  So – it’s up to you!  Sometimes you might realize that your goal was a little too lofty and scale it back a bit.  Other times you might surpass your goal and keep on going.  You need to be judge of this!  If you aimed for a size 4 only to realize that you are a really sexy 6 or if you wanted to train for a half-marathon only to realize that a triathlon would be way cooler – let you heart, mind, and soul guide you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Family Matters

I have never had the in-law problems that are such popular fodder for blogs and sitcoms.  My husband’s mom passed away from breast cancer when he was 10 and I have always had a good relationship with my father-in-law.  I am also lucky enough to have 3 amazing brothers-in-law (by the way:  brothers-in-law is such an annoying phrase to use).  We were all friends before Tim and I were Tim and I and we have remained so since.  No drama there!

I have managed to steer clear of drama in my family for the most part as well.  My parents are divorced, so our family is big and separate with lots of steps and significant others that have come and gone.  So, while I encountered some family drama this holiday season, I know I am one of the lucky ones.

And now I find myself wondering – how does everyone else do it?  Families have such varying personalities with such a history.  Everyone knew everyone else way back when and has seen each other in some of their worst moments.  And then everyone gets together at high stress times like weddings and funerals and holidays.  Put everyone and their spouses and kids in a room, shake, and add alcohol.  I picture a small town where you can’t avoid Sally (even though you keyed her car when she broke up with you) at the post office because where else will you be able to pick up your package?   Or high school – because everything matters in high school and one little mistake can blow up huge.  And Never. Goes. Away.

So what do people do with family drama?  Do you bite your tongue until the drive home when you rant and rave about everything to your spouse?  Do you hold it together until your third drink when you start to tell others how you really feel?  Is there a persona you put on before visiting family?  How do others handle the inevitable? 

And what about after the drama?  Does everyone pretend it never happened?  Do they tease and joke until it is just a quirky memory or do they chalk it up to one too many glasses of wine or a poor night’s sleep on the sofa bed (you know the one with the spring that jabs you in the kidney no matter how you lay)?

I look at my three boys and know (from my super referee experience) that there will be times when I am trying to pull them together while they are pushing each other away.  My siblings and I always came together when we needed to.  Whether it was keeping someone out of serious hot water or just getting the house clean before my Mom came home from work – we had each other’s back.  It’s funny as a Mom, to think that if they are teaming up to deceive me or avoid prosecution, that I have done something right!  I know that there is a sibling bond – it was evident whenever we brought a new little one home from the hospital.  Zac and Kyle definitely had it right away, even when Kyle threw Zac’s bear in the toilet – and when Zac threw Liam’s duck in the toilet.  At least they didn’t take their newborn brother and throw them in the toilet!  And you see it still when one is sick or upset – there is that sweet moment of caring before the advantage is seen and they swoop in for the momentarily forgotten light saber or computer.  Who knows what will come in the future?  But I do know that if my boys are still on speaking terms in their 20s and 30s – the kids will be alright.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Antidepressants and Weight Gain

I know that it is common for medications to have side effects that are less than desirable.  I think that their commercials are funny because they show these great scenes (fishing with your grandchild, rekindling an old flame at a reunion, and doing yoga with your friends) while the voice over is telling you that you will be constipated and develop a terrible rash and then your spine will explode. 

I finally realized when Liam was nearly 1 that I was battling off depression and anxiety and I went to my doctor.  I started on Zoloft last December and actually lost 5 pounds or so right away.  My appetite was light and my mood was good.  A miracle drug!  I continued taking the medication and didn't think twice when I gained 10 pounds very quickly.  After all I had stopped nursing Liam and so there goes some of my calorie burn.  And I wasn't working out regularly.  And I was eating more.  So all reasons for weight gain but I could fight back!  I had lost weight before and I would do it again.  Then the weight kept coming and I kept up the denial.  Even when my husband was mentioning that the medication was causing me to gain weight and be more tired.  No - it couldn't be that!  I don't know if it was my aversion to Tim being right or if it was my belief that medication that affected my mood in a positive way could have such negative effects in the long run.  I always had a reason to justify my sleepiness and I always had an excuse ready to miss a workout.  And at the end of the day I wanted to drink beer!  I realized that I was turning into the old me.  The one who had put on weight and didn't exercise and just found it easier to have a couple of drinks at the end of the night rather than go to bed and wake up feeling great.  I hated that person!  How could I get back to that person I didn't like without realizing it?  
See how happy these rocks are? And how round?

I finally admitted to Tim that he was right.  The Zoloft was contributing to my weight gain and lethargy.  I was still happy and playing with my kids at the end of the day - but I wasn't feeling healthy - and was I really happy?  I think feeling like I needed a solution - and then getting such immediate results - I didn't even think that this medication could have negative effects.  I mean - if it was that great wouldn't everyone be taking it?  If medications were wonderful and perfect - we wouldn't need those cheerful commercials.  Those "Look what you could be missing out on" visuals.  Pay no mind to the man behind the curtain . . . .

So then I did what I try not to do - I Googled Zoloft and Weight Gain.  And I read tons of reports about how doctors will deny it but that antidepressants generally cause weight gain (usually around 20 pounds) and that they can initially cause weight loss.  Some patients reported no change in their eating or exercise habits - but I noticed a big change in mine!  I didn't want to eat healthy or work out.  I wanted to eat non-stop and then take a nap.  Which is not me!  My mood modifier was definitely modifying me.  So here I am - getting off the Zoloft and getting back into eating healthy and exercising.  I won't restrict an entire food group or cut myself off from sweets or work out 8 hours a day.  I will do it the right way, the healthy way, and know that I am doing whats best for myself.   But don't worry - I am definitely checking in with my doctor this week.  : )

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Winter of Losing?

Since joining the MOMS Club of Front Royal more than 2 years ago, I have received tons of great advice.  Mostly kid-related advice, but I also was given recipes, talks about conflict resolution, financial discussions and daily things like how to get a tube of Desitin off of every surface in your child’s room.  Never once did these tips make me feel like an inadequate MOM or person.  Somehow these amazing friends of mine always left me feeling better than when I came.  But I still have a hard time when it comes to me!  Having gained and lost weight with pregnancies (and without) I thought that after losing the baby weight with Liam that I was in the clear.  No more babies – no more baby weight.  No more seeing numbers on the scale that make me grumpy. But when I stopped nursing and started stress-eating I gained weight very quickly.  So rather than ask for tips about eating healthy and exercising (because I know how to do it) – I decided to ask about achievements they had made.  Whether in fitness or weight loss or career or making another change in their life – I wanted to get their story.

Before starting this year's program for the MOMS Club of Front Royal Biggest Loser 2012, I e-mailed a list of questions to my family and also to friends who have small businesses or busy careers, people who have lost a lot of weight or have found a way to put themselves, and their health, as a priority.  In other words – people I admire!  I haven’t yet asked our MOMS Club because I think that would be part of our challenge this year.  I have already started receiving some tips and the various responses are great!  Everyone is different and people approach goals and changes differently.  And I am learning so much about my family!  I wouldn’t think to ask questions like these at a family reunion or while on a long-distance phone call – but this has turned out to be more than just advice for achieving goals – it is helping me get to know my extended family and my friends better. 

Here are the questions that I asked – feel free to send me a message with your answers! 
  • What was something that you accomplished in your life that you did for yourself?
  • Did you set a specific goal and how did you reach for it?
  • Were there specific steps you had to make to get there?
  • Did you receive any words of wisdom from another person or have a personal mantra?
  • How did you deal with set backs and obstacles?
  • As you neared your goal - did you find you had to adjust it?
  • Looking back was there anything you would have done differently?

See how ready I am?

So, since I am now faced with losing 30 pounds AGAIN - I have decided to use this blog as a way to track my progress.  This was a great forum to hold myself accountable for my Summer of Giving project and now I will hopefully achieve health success with it as well!  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

One Ear Up and One Ear Down

Before I had the amazing gift of being a Mommy to three adorable little boys - I was the adoptive Mom to my Charlie Brown.  I have always been an animal lover and we had a series of pets growing up.  Rabbits, dogs, cats, guinea pigs, cannibalistic gerbils, and a turtle.  My brother even rescued a baby fox which we kept hidden the basement.  And while they were all wonderful or crazy in their own special ways - none of them was a life-changing as my Charlie. 

Tim and I had not been dating very long when he learned that I wanted a dog.  He promised me one for my birthday and I let him know that he couldn't go back on his word or I would be seriously crushed.  I had my heart set on a rottweiler (my high school boyfriend's roommate had one and I fell in love).  Eventually I wanted to have 2 rotts - a girl named Lola and a boy named Roscoe.  But we fell in love when we saw Charlie (who was unfortunately named Baby Boy) at the Prince William County Animal Shelter.  He was 5 months old and had only been in the slammer for that one day.  He was small and trembling and so cute that we nabbed him just before the couple behind us picked him.  We paid the adoption fee and carried him out with a piece of twine for a leash.  We stopped at the pet store to get all the things we would need and the poor dog was just too traumatized to walk.  We went back to my apartment in Manassas and prepared for playing with the puppy and leisurely walks around the neighborhood.  This was the time when the DC Snipers were out terrorizing the area and there was actually a shooting in Manassas on that very night.  That, combined with the fact that Charlie was too scared to go down the apartment stairs, made for a stressful beginning.  

I didn't know what to name him. I kept coming back to Charlie Brown and Tim teased me about it but I decided that the name was a perfect fit and it stuck.  He has since acquired lots of nicknames and responds to them all:  Bubba, Charles Barkley, Barks, but he won't respond to Chuck (not that I blame him).  Everyone who has met Charlie has fallen in love.  He is sweet and calm and patient.  He is playful and very sensitive to my mood.  If I am upset or not feeling well - he is the first to comfort me.  He is quick to roughhouse with a man - but with me or the boys he is much more cautious.  He loves toys that squeak and has no interest in tennis balls.  He craves comfort and has adopted 2 of my blankets as his own.  He uses his nose and paws to arrange the blankets on his bed to achieve the right balance. 

Charlie gets so excited when snow is falling.  He jumps around outside (he doesn't get that he is 9 years old) and tries to catch snowballs that we throw up the air.  He digs in the snow until his nose is frosty white.  No matter the weather he is a sucker for a thrown stick.  He lets the kids take the stick and throw it for him and he even tolerates the twigs they bring him and he pretends its just as good as a bigger one.  He leaves food that ends up on the floor (which there is plenty of with all the boys) unless it is chicken - then he can't restrain himself.  

Charlie is a great judge of character and is protective of me and the boys.  He growls if someone comes near the yard that he doesn't know and wags his tail and jumps around if it is someone familiar.  He uses his tough puppy bark if he is outside and we are inside to scare away possible infiltrators.  His bark is only used when necessary - or when there is a raccoon - but who can blame him!  He has a groundhog friend that comes and visits and they just calmly watch each other - it is really very cute.  Squirrels on the other hand had better keep to the other side of the fence.  They don't get any slack.

All in all my dog is amazing.  I love and adore him as much as my boys and he is definitely part of our family.  He has welcomed three boys home from the hospital and has lived in 3 different places with us.  He is still afraid of going downstairs and has yet to venture into our basement after 4 years of living here.  He won't leave the porch unless he is told to and likes to greet the boys coming home from the school bus.  He rolls over if you ask him to show you his belly and he hates baths but loves being clean.  His best friend is a dog named Keepa and they love to play in the river together.  I am so lucky to have Charlie in my life and he has definitely helped me get through some tough times!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Lucky in Love

If there is one thing that is consistent between baby books and baby magazines – it’s that every kid progresses at different rates and not to compare your kid to other children.  Never is that more apparent than when you have 2 or more children.  Everyone knows that their child is the absolute best thing to ever grace the world with their presence.  I tried to resist comparing Kyle (who was born 5 weeks early) with other children – mostly because I wasn’t around any other children.  We had only one car and didn’t have any friends with children so I felt pretty isolated.  I got pregnant with Zac when Kyle was 6 months old.  I went through the usual worries.  How is it possible to love someone as much as you already love your first?  Will you have a favorite?  What if the new baby isn’t nearly as cute and charming as your first?   What if the new baby is as fussy as my first?  What if there is a problem with the new baby that takes away from my time with my first?  Then Zac came along.  He and Kyle could not have been more different at birth but I adored him right away.  I loved the bonding time we had in the hospital.  Kyle had been in the NICU so I wasn’t used to having a baby with me so much at birth.  Kyle came to visit in the hospital and didn’t hate me or the baby.  He was his happy, adoring, funny self.  It was perfect.  

Kyle and Zac
After getting into a great routine which involved lots and lots of nursing and diaper changing, walking in the local state park, hitting Target on a regular basis, and frequenting playgrounds – we moved out to Front Royal.  It took a while to get into a good routine here.  Once I had it all figured out – play time with kids, time for cleaning the house, time for working out, I was hit with a heart problem.  Then nearly at the same time – along came my surprise third pregnancy and Zac’s autism diagnosis.  It was a hectic time and all my routines went out the window.  I am still trying to get back on track nearly three years later!  I am lucky to have such great friends and such an amazing support system here.  And now I find myself adoring the differences in my kids.  I remember going to a Christmas party in Lancaster, PA.  Kyle was almost three and Zac was 18 months.  Liam was not yet a bun in the oven.  I went the party with my Mom and Richard and Kyle went to mingling right away.  Playing with other kids but also touring the house and complementing each room.  “Oh is this the living room?  I really like it.  Oh and this is your dining room!  It’s very nice.  I like your kitchen too!”  It was very sweet and had everyone laughing and telling me how wonderful my kids are.  I had Zac sitting on my lap.  We were practically in the corner and any time someone would come over to tell me how adorable Kyle was – Zac would bury his head shyly in my shoulder and they would coo over him too.  He wouldn’t say a word and we just thought it was his shyness.  
Kyle and Liam
I can picture us at the same party now.  Kyle would be finding other kids to play with and eying the presents under the tree (instead of complimenting the ornament placement).  Zac would be holding onto his alphabet flash cards and would have Liam as his little companion.  Liam is definitely the mediator.  He is the middle child that came last.  He loves to play with both his brothers.  He sticks up for Zac when Kyle is teasing him and pushes Zac away when he is being too affectionate.  Liam is definitely taking Kyle’s place as charmer.  Kyle is the one who is a friend to everyone (except the occasional sibling rivalry).  He always accepts anyone as a playmate and doesn't tolerate bullying.  Zac is so thoughtful and loving.  He may not seem receptive to others - but he loves his regulars in his life and is definitely more social than he used to be.  He is much quicker to smile and more tolerant and a hug from his brothers is the best thing that could happen to his day.

Liam and Zac
I am constantly amazed at how wonderful my kids are.  Whether they are jumping off my bed into a laundry basket (seriously their favorite thing to do) or fighting over toys – I am madly and totally and completely in love with them.