Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Keto Update One

It's been two weeks since I've started my keto experiment.

The good news is that I got into ketosis, as defined by my ketone meter, pretty quickly. And it seems like I've dropped a few pounds, which is pretty amazing for me who usually can't lose any weight due to PCOS... except I dropped about five pounds from my move to Mexico and trying to get enough sleep and eat consciously... which is a lot easier when I am not flat-out exhausted from the craziness of work plus single parenting in NYC.

The bad news... it's not really bad, but this doesn't feel quite has effortless as many people make it out to be. I do feel hungry and unsatisfied some of the time. My hope is that this will pass as my body gets more accustomed to burning fat instead of glucose for energy. And I must admit it's definitely not as hard as I thought it would be. When I tried Atkins years ago, I NEVER felt satisfied. I do feel satisfied now, it just wears off more quickly than I would like.

Unfortunately, I had two slip-ups this past weekend, one as a result of eating too much meat and not enough vegetables at a restaurant meal (they didn't offer enough veg so I compensated by eating too much meat) and then having cravings for crackers which I succumbed to. Sunday we had a Hanukkah party and I really was fine not eating any latkes but then it felt weird as the host to not even taste the food I was cooking and serving. So then one bite turned into three latkes as they were divine.

I was also feeling some social anxiety this weekend about whether or not to go to a benefit concert for the kids' school -- I ultimately decided to skip it -- and having a low turnout for our Hanukkah party. The anti-anxiety effects of keto can't come soon enough! Luckily or not, it's hormonally related and not constant during the second half of the month. So I feel better now but I can't credit keto for that.

Anyway, I'm feeling very grateful because it doesn't seem like these two slip-ups caused any weight gain which is a first for me in my long career of dieting.

So overall I am feeling good but I'm looking forward to feeling a bit more satisfied with this WOE. It's not terrible now, but it could be improved.

I used up the last of my lancets today. Ketones were 1.2 and fasting blood sugar was 85. So I'm in ketosis but not as high as last week when my ketones were up to 2.5. I'm guessing that's because of my weekend indiscretions. Hopefully my Amazon package with more lancets and test strips will arrive soon! It's definitely very reassuring to see when I am in ketosis. Much better than weighing myself.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Learning Spanish

A big reason I chose to move us to Mexico was for all of us to become fluent in Spanish. It's been interesting to observe how the change is taking place.

Both girls are immersed in Spanish all day at school. Only art class is taught in Engligh (by an American). And Calliope generally chooses to play with English speaking friends at recess (all in the grade above hers, so she doesn't see them at other times, except her after school circus class). It's interesting to me that all these other children are fluent in Spanish as well as Engligh and prior to this year, generally played in Spanish, not English. I'm not sure what caused the change. And while I know Calliope would learn faster if she was only speaking Spanish, I'm also glad for her that she can relax and play with confidence, without worrying about her language skills.

Amelie was with a bilingual nanny in Brooklyn until she was nearly three and a half (not including summers), so in many ways, she had a huge advantage. I don't think she spoke much Spanish with Susie but I believe she understood what Susie was saying.

Both girls went to a Spanish immersion daycamp for two weeks this summer and last summer but I don't think they really learned much. A few words here and there but that was it.

Amelie also has a big advantage in naturally being fearless. She has the confidence to just dive in, without fear of looking stupid. She's also youngest, with the most "plastic" brain (plastic in the sense of ability to change and grown new neuronal synapses). Her class is also entirely in Spanish -- I think she is the only child who wasn't already fluent in Spanish and many of the children don't speak English. And of course, the "work" of preschool -- which is techinically called kindergarten at their school -- is pretty simple. There's no academics. They have stories and songs and playing and mealtime (the children take turns helping to prepare the food and set the table). Lots of concrete activities that get repeated every single day. Ideal for solidfying one's grasp of a new language.

Calliope is more cautious. More risk averse. And also more dreamy and less imitative than Amelie, by nature. And she's in first grade (Waldorf has grades a year behind -- you have to be eight to be in second grade so she is repeating first grade since she was just barely seven at the start of  first grade) where the work is a bit more challenging. First grade in Waldorf schools focuses on fairy tales, a favorite of Calliope's but certainly challenging in a new language. Luckily her teacher translates for Calliope as needed (she is also the only non-fluent Spanish speaker in the class). But they are also learning the letters and number in Spanish, things she knows well in English already, so this is really helpful. So she is learning more slowly than Amelie but is progressing. The Waldorf approach is MUCH more relaxed than what we experienced in the States and C's teacher is not concerned, and so neither am I. Even better, her teacher shared with me that when Calliope volunteers a word in Spanish during class, all the other children cheer for her! This makes my heart sing.

As for me... well, I had six years of Spanish in middle and high school (plus one terrible semester of college Spanish). But of course, that was a long ago. But I was lucky to have had a teacher who made us speak nothing but Spanish for the last two years. I didn't like her very much at the time but I am so grateful now! However much I've forgotten -- no doubt a lot! -- I've retained a lot, too. And little phrases and verbs bubble up into my consciousness now and then which is entertaining.

I'm also working with a fellow parent from the school, a trained teacher, as my Spanish tutor once a week. It's surprisingly fatiguing -- I'm sympathetic, now, to how tired my girls were the first few weeks of school! -- but I do think it's helping a bit. Slowly. No doubt if I did more it would help more but for whatever reason, I'm not terribly motivated. But last night I went to a parent meeting for Amelie's class and was completely shocked to find that I could understand almost everything that was said! That was a first. A lovely surprise.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

My Keto Experiment

Inspired by... I'm not sure what... multiple references to it on the comments section of a blog I follow, Runs for Cookies (a blog by a woman who has lost 125 pounds and kept it off for multiple years, despite mental health issues), I read a book called the Obesity Code by Jason Fung. He argues, compellingly, that most diseases of modern times are due to our diet. Our bodies are not adapted to the massive amounts of carbohydrates we eat. Every time we eat, our insulin spikes. These frequent spikes cause inflammation throughout the body causing obesity, diabetes, cancer, PCOS, hypertension and Alzheimer's Disease, which he calls Type Three Diabetes (I didn't know that Alzheimer's is much more common in folks with diabetes). He advocates a very low carbohydrate diet and often, intermittent fasting.

For the most part, I feel pretty healthy. But I do have PCOS, though it's luckily under good control by taking Metformin twice a day. Without it, I would be heavier and have irregular cycles and acne. I started taking it when I was TTCing for Calliope and never stopped. My hemoglobin A1C, a measure of blood sugar over three months, was prediabetic a few years ago but is normal now. I have no idea why it got better. I get very anxious at times, especially around my period. It was terrible last month when I was so stressed about finding someone to rent my Brooklyn apartment -- thankfully it rented at last. I also get anxious sometimes about my longevity as an SMC -- I need to be around for a very long time for these girls of mine. And if I could drop a few pounds -- I've been about 20 pounds over my ideal weight since I developed symptoms of PCOS in my early thirties (from taking birth control pills, though the medical literature would tell you that's impossible) -- that would be amazing. Interestingly, I think I've lost a few already as a result of living a much lower stress lifestyle and getting more sleep since moving to Mexico. My doctor always told me that stress (cortisol) can cause weight gain, especially around the stomach, and my experience definitely supports that!

On the other hand, I have a lot of negative baggage around dieting. I had sworn to an intuitive eating way of life. I find that when I create rules for food for myself, I tend to immediately rebel. I do better when I listen to my body.

So I am wading into this experiment with caution. I lost weight by getting sick from the air pollution in Mexico City and couldn't eat for a few days so that muddied the waters a bit. Was I feeling queasy from my developing bronchitis or from trying to eat Keto? Hard to say. I did two weeks on and then took ten days off for our trip to the US -- too hard to maintain a strict diet way of eating (WOE) while staying with family (who believe in the high carb, low fat diet that has been thrust upon us by the American government for more than fifty years, with all the evidence in the world stating that it's unhealthy). And now I'm back to Mexico and feeling better.

So today is day three (round two). I just tried out my new blood sugar and ketone monitor and my blood sugar is 83 and my ketones were 1.3. Which means, I think, that I am in low grade ketosis. Since it's only day three and it's supposed to take 4-5 days to get into ketosis, I'm very pleased. When I am ketosis, my body is burning ketones from fat instead of glucose. Right now I am adding a lot of fat to my diet to fill myself up as I get used to a low carb diet but the hope is that over time, I will need to eat less fat and will burn energy from the fat in my body stores instead.

Time will tell!

If things go well, I will post before and after photos. For now, I feel pretty good. I started to feel a little wonky yesterday afternoon so I drank some electrolyte replacement solution in water and that helped. Apparently dehydration is common with ketosis.

I've been fasting 12-16 hours over night (from 9 pm until anywhere between 11 am and 2 pm), depending on how I feel. It's pretty cool. I get hungry but I also feel weirdly good -- very focused and calm and energetic. By fasting, I'm allowing my insulin levels to get even lower. The lower the insulin levels, the less inflammation there is, over time. Then I have two meals, a few hours apart, with no snacking in between. It pretty much goes against everything I had ever read but his book made a ton of sense to me.

Anyone else read his book or doing Keto or intermittent fasting? I'd love to hear from you!

Thanksgiving Week

The girls and I traveled to the greater DC area for Thanksgiving week. I was really looking forward to it, and wondering if it would feel strange.

Both girls were sick starting the Monday before. Amelie had a fever for a day and then bounced back and just had the typical toddler runny nose and junky cough. Calliope's symptoms were strange, though. She didn't seem very sick in terms of congestion but would wake up each night, crying in pain. She stayed home on Tuesday since Amelie was home due to the fever, but seemed perfectly fine... until the Motrin wore off. I didn't think much of it. She's always been a drama queen very sensitive to pain.

We took a taxi and then a bus to Mexico City on Thursday night. We spent the night there then flew to Dulles Airport on Friday. It was possibly our easiest flight yet! Amelie has finally learned how to watch a screen, hooray! :)

Our friends Emily and Annabelle had journeyed down from Brooklyn to spend the weekend with us. After discovering that our hotel didn't have a functioning pool or restaurant for our stay, we managed to switch (and upgrade) to a lovely Westin. We were all thrilled to be together. We finally got all the girls to bed and Emily and I settled in to finally catch up.

But then Calliope woke up crying. She was too sleepy to tell us what was wrong and I finally had to yell at her to get her to snap out of it. Then she said something about her legs hurting. And her stomach too, I think. I looked and she had these three weird bug bites on her left leg. And her ankle was a little swollen. I figured she had had them a while and just hadn't noticed. It seemed bizarre that they would wake her but I gave her some Motrin and at her request, Emily got ice and we rubbed her leg with ice. After a little while, she felt better and went back to sleep.

Emily and I shared the king bed that night -- she tried the pull out couch for about one minute and said no way -- with Amelie in the middle. Amelie woke up in the middle of the night to see Emily sleeping with a T-shirt over her face and started screaming, completely freaked out. It was funny to us in the morning.

We went to breakfast in the morning and then were getting ready to swim when Calliope noticed that she had more bug bites. And she was limping a little but as I mentioned, she's always been very sensitive to pain.

After the pool, I noticed that the other side of the same ankle was swollen. Now that was strange. Also there was the fact that I had had a worsening cough for at least two weeks, ever since a trip to Mexico City seemed to have kicked off a virus.

Annabelle and Amelie both went down for a nap and Emily stayed with them while I took Calliope to urgent care. For both of us. At this point her other ankle had swollen up and also her right palm. And she had a lot of back pain. It was hard for her to walk. They said I had bronchitis and she had a rare autoimmune reaction called Henoch Schonlein Purpura. The "bug bites" were actually tiny little bruises from her blood vessels leaking. By the time they saw us she had loads more of them on both legs. The stomach pain and the arthritis were part of it, too. They gave me a stack of prescriptions and told me to take her to the ER for stat bloodwork.

We stopped at the grocery store next door to fill my prescriptions and I pushed C around in a grocery cart and got a picnic dinner while we waited -- string cheese by Frozen (what a thrill for the kids after no string cheese for three months) and pretzel chips and tomatoes and donuts (C's request). Once the prescriptions were ready, we got yet another Uber and went to the ER.

My aunt came and joined us there which was awesome because it took quite a while for the bloodwork to be processed. Her urine and blood and strep test were all normal. They gave her prednisone for the pain and swelling in her joints and told us to see a local pediatrician in three days and we were finally released. She was so happy to be out of there!

The next couple days were hard for her -- pain came and went and she was emotionally fragile -- but after that she seemed fine. We saw a doctor three days later who said everything looked fine but if she got a bad stomach ache -- worrisome because Annabelle got sick the next day and threw up -- we would have to go back to the ER. Luckily she's been fine so far. She also said C would need weekly follow up for two months then biweekly for four months then monthly for six months, to follow her kidney function. Which mainly entails checking her blood pressure and doing a urine dipstick to check for blood.

Unfortunately, great medical providers are hard to come by in Mexico. I've reached out to two different providers who declined to see her -- I assume they haven't seen this illness before -- and now have an appointment for her with a third person. But I also ordered urine dipsticks and a pediatric blood pressure cuff to use at home and may decide to take over her care myself, at least part of the time. I have mixed feelings about it because on the one hand, these tests are simple and easy to do at home. On the other hand, I really strive to avoid being my children's medical provider. It's too close to home -- I lack perspective. But it's so much more convenient to do these at home! We will see.

The rest of the week went well. My cough gradually got better. It was nice to see family. The kids enjoyed playing outside with their cousins in the cold air.

To my surprise, they were both very happy to come home to Mexico. I thought they might be homesick for Brooklyn after a taste of the States but they are glad to be back and going to school... though Calliope is staying home today for supposed stomach pain. I have some guilt about not realizing how much pain she was in before and have now become a softie.

Fading bruises from Henoch Schonlein Purpura

Waiting for blood work results in the ER

Happy to be back at the hotel with beloved friend Annabelle. Masks are for fun, not illness.

Hooray for having energy to play outside!

Eighties hairdo for the girl who keeps cutting her hair on the left side.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Birthday Resolutions (A Few Days Late)

I had a lot of plans for how I was going to become a better person and especially, a better mother, once I arrived in Mexico. And then we arrived here August 6th and I had no childcare and no plans for how to spend our days. It turned out that spending all day, every day with my two kids (with two very different sets of needs) wasn't ideal for revamping my life.

But now it's been about a month since the girls started school. I am thrilled (and relieved) that they seem to be happy... from the very, very limited amount they share. Amelie tells me basically nothing but skips off happily to the van pick-up point every day so I think she must be happy at school (or else she would be reluctant to leave me). Calliope tells me a little bit about the games she plays at recess. And that they have started knitting, which she loves.

So now I can focus on myself a bit more. As you know I am looking for paid work. That is going slowly. I'm getting a few minutes here or there from the new job. I have a lot of free time but it fills itself up surprisingly easily! I am loving having so much time alone. So far, anyway.

Here are some goals I am working on:

  1. Meditating every day. I'm using an app called Calm. The meditation only lasts ten minutes but it's surprisingly hard to fit it in, probably because I wait until the last minute. Not because I don't like it, but just because I'm procrastinating on the computer. It is likewise surprsingly hard for my brain to focus on it. My head feels like a hyperactive puppy, hopping around all over the place.
  2. Spanish practice every day. Mostly this is Duolingo, ten minutes a day. I just started private tutoring once a week at a local coffee shop with a fellow parent at the Waldorf school. It was fun but suprisingly (there's that word again!) exhausting. I have more sympathy for how tired my kids must be after school.
  3. Exercise. I was exercising at home in Brooklyn, too, but now I am doing a Piloxing (Pilates plus boxing) twice a week. It kicks my butt but I feel SO great afterwards! And now that I am getting a very little bit better at the coordination aspect, it is really fun. The other women are much better at it than I am but I laugh a lot and don't care. My at-home workouts are at least never cut short as they were in NY, due to time constraints in the mornings before work.
  4. Eating. I've been doing Intuitive Eating forever BUT I have a very bad habit of eating unconsciously at night. I don't eat a ton and I mostly eat healthy but still. I know that eating because I am tired or burned out is counterproductive. So starting on my birthday, October 4th, I have committed to not eating while reading or looking at a screen. It's not easy -- last night, especially, I dearly wanted to snack on Goldfish and read. But because I had made this committment -- and update a friend daily on my progress -- I consciously laid down my phone while I had a snack. I am hoping that as I continue to work on self care, and as the days go by without indulging my habit, it will get easier.
  5. Sleep. I feel like this is the mother of all self care. Getting enough sleep is critical for just about everything. My doctor at home thought I might have gained weight due to stress and I know a lot of managing stress is just getting enough sleep. So I am aiming to sleep 8-9 hours a night. My kids wake up early, even on weekends, so that means going to bed early. Not easy but now that I am getting more time to myself during the day -- a lot more -- it's a bit easier.
  6. Blogging. I am trying to blog at least five days a week. Still far short of goal but that's my hope. I feel really good when I write every day. The ideas are always jostling around in my head. I hate for them to die before I put them down on paper. I'd love to write more about the experience of moving to Mexico -- and even have lots of notes -- but today is never the day to catch up on that.
  7. Parenting. I am trying very, very hard to remain calm and not yell. This is a continual work in progress for me. When my kids don't listen I tend to get very frustrated. And my father was very impatient and I know I have that tendency as a result. And Calliope has an incredible tendency to tune me out... even when she is looking right at me. Sometimes even when she has verbalized understanding. But in my logical brain, I know that she is not doing this on purpose. So I have to keep working on finding ways to engage her cooperation. And one of those ways is making sure we have plenty of quality time to strengthen our relationship. (And we already have a list of morning chores and evening chores in the bathroom, and she lays out her clothes for the next morning each night... but somehow this doesn't work as well as it did in Brooklyn.)
Off to meditate before I pick up Amelie from the van!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Job Possibilities and Anxieties

Not a very interesting post, I fear, but... I'm wracking my brain, trying to figure out job possibilities.

I wrote to the sleep institute yesterday and I still haven't heard back from them... of course, I am fearing the worst, that they didn't like my application and don't think that I would be a strong applicant. (The website says that they will only respond if they like your application, not if they don't.)

Logically, this doesn't seem very likely. Perhaps they have other things on their minds besides me?

Still, I am anxious to hear back. And even if I do get into their program, it doesn't start until February and then it's a four month program before I could begin to even consider working as a sleep consultant. Presumably it would take a while to market myself and start reaching clients?

The niche websites would likewise take quite a while to start earning money. At least six months. Assuming I can get one or more built successfully. The hardest part is coming up with good ideas for niche sites and that's not something that is just based on hard work -- I have to actually come up with a good idea or no matter how good the work, it won't make money.

Luckily I have some savings but still... this is all so nerve-wracking. I hate living on savings.

The good news is that the applicant for the apartment successfully submitted her application to the management company. And my broker things the application looks strong. That will be a big relief, having someone paying my rent and then some. I'm just praying her kids don't run in the apartment and cause drama with my extremely difficult neighbors.

I've gotten a tiny bit of work from the new job and I THINK that they are doing a big advertising push so hopefully the work will pick up but... not much so far. I don't know if I can ask what to expect...

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Happy Birthday to Me

It's my 44th birthday! Happy birthday to me.

The best thing about today is that I am MOSTLY very very content with my life.

I'm so glad (most of the time) that I took the leap and moved us three to Mexico.

Yesterday Calliope told me, "you know, Mommy, school here is actually pretty fun."

This made my heart sing. I know the move hasn't always been easy on her so for her to be happy here means the world to me.

Really the only thing I'm not happy about is my income. But I am so thankful not to be working 8-4 in an office anymore. I thought I might miss being around people but no. Apparently, as I get older, I get more crotchety. Now I only want to be around people when I choose to. And I choose to pretty often -- I'd like to socialize nearly every day. But not all day, every day.

The good news is that I got everything sorted out just fine with the new part-time remote employer. Turns out there wasn't an issue at all. They were just busy with their own things. I wasn't at the top of their priority list. Go figure.

The bad news is at the moment, they don't actually have any work in the queue for me to do. I keep checking back but nada.

I'm hoping it will pick up as time goes by but for now, it's slow.

I also have an application submitted to the property management company for my apartment. A single mom who is getting a great deal from me on rent. Partly because she can move in soon (but also has a little flexibility to wait if the process takes longer than expected) and partly because she offered to split the broker's fee with me and partly because her kids are a little older than mine and I'm hoping that might help with my extremely difficult downstairs neighbors and partly because I feel an affinity with a single mom.

So that will help. But it's not enough.

So I am looking into trying to build niche websites again. I tried once before, a year ago, and the process was too frustrating. But back then I had very limited free time. Now I have a lot more. To the tune of eight hours a day. To be sure, there are other things I need to get done during those eight hours. But not enough to fill up all that time. I'm hoping that with all that free time, I could handle the frustration with all the trouble shooting and especially, finding the best topics. That was the hardest part for me. I think I might actually enjoy building the websites and writing the content.

And beyond that... I am seriously considering taking a four-month training course in becoming a child sleep consultant. I feel like it fits in beautifully with my background as a pediatric nurse practitioner. I'm fascinated by my sleep training and the challenges it holds. I had a great experience with sleep training my own children. The program I am looking at appears to be quite rigorous and evidence-based and isn't tailored towards one approach to sleep training. It teaches many different approaches so that the sleep trainer can find the best one for a particular family.

The only downside is the start up cost. It's $4000 to take the course. They say they help you build a website and teach you how to market yourself. Still, it's a big investment.

But I am really, really excited about the work and even the training. It sounds fascinating. I feel energized just thinking about it. And that seems like a great sign. I just need to make sure it makes good business sense.