Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Five Alternative Health Practices I Do

I know I've said this before, but my parents were crunchy before it was cool.  While all the other kids were given regular old cold medicine,  we were given fenugreek tea.  

When everyone else was eating fluffernutter sandwiches, we had to eat organic collard soup.  Blech. I hated collard soup nights. Don't get me wrong, we still saw regular doctors, but not all that often, only if something was really wrong or for the occasional injury.  

Anyway, given my upbringing, it's no surprise that I have taken an interest in alternative health. Ear aches, sore throats, coughs, colds....I have a home remedy for that.  We do see regular doctors if we need them, and my kids do get regular well-child check-ups, but I also do a few alternative health practices that I feel have improved my health.  

So, I'm going to share what I do...with you. 


Oil Pulling.

Oil pulling is basically swishing 1 tablespoon of oil in your mouth (I use coconut oil) each day for approximately 20 minutes and then spitting out the oil.  It is said to removes toxins, bacteria, microbes and other nasty things from your mouth and between your teeth. I do it first thing in the morning and I definitely feel as though my dental health has improved since starting this practice.  Here is an excellent article from a dentist that explain the benefits of this in more detail.    Granted, it's not very fun and a lot of people find it fairly uncomfortable, but as an added bonus, you can't talk while oil pulling, which means that for at least 20 minutes a day, no one can ask you dumb questions you've already answered 50 million times.  Bonus.

Seed Cycling

Seed cycling helps balance your hormones. It involves consuming different seeds at different times of the menstrual cycle.  During the first half (pre-ovulation) you eat 1 tablespoon of flax seeds and 1 tablespoon of pumpkin seeds each day.  During the second half (post-ovulation) you eat 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds each day.  You can read more about seed cycling here. 

I mix my seeds into my full-fat, plain Greek yogurt, mixed with honey and it is very, very yummy.

This is something I have just started doing very recently, so I really only have one cycle to compare it to. However, I do believe that I have definitely seen a decrease in PMS symptoms.  I used to get absolutely horrible PMS (ask Ben or my parents if you don't believe me). It's been much better in recent years due to other health improvements, but I think the seed cycling is definitely helping as well.  It also appears to have lengthened my luteal phase was a bit shorter than normal thanks to a certain toddler who nurses like a newborn.  I wrote a bit about my experience with NFP, cycle length and breastfeeding toddlers here. 

And, even if doesn't make a difference, all those seeds are healthy and it's a good idea to eat them anyway. 


This isn't so much an alternative health practice as a dietary thing.  Why do I eat gluten-free when I don't have celiac (that I know about)?  Well to put it quite simply, gluten makes me depressed and anxious.  Not in a I'm so depressed I can't function, or I'm so anxious I can't leave my house way, but just in the sense that there is a general fog over my mood and I never experience feelings of peace or contentment.  There is always some sort of stress in life.  Before I removed gluten from my diet, I would feel as though I always had a cloud over my mood, whatever that particular stress happened to be, I would focus on it (in the back of my mind) and never feel completely happy or content.  I could function just fine, but there was this ever present niggling cloud of anxiety and worry.  Eliminating gluten from my diet has eliminated (or at least greatly lessened) that cloud of worry and allows me to feel more general peace and contentment. 

Vitamin D Supplements

I take anywhere from 0-5000 IU per day, depending on the season and how much sun/outdoor time we've been getting and if we are fighting off a cold. I don't take any if it's summer and we've been outside in the sun for much of the day.  I take the full amount in the winter when anyone in the family has a cold.  I've definitely noticed a significant decrease in the number and severity of colds and other winter illness I've dealt with since starting Vitamin D supplementation.  I used to think that I could get enough Vitamin D from the sun, but if I'm honest with myself, I don't spend that much time in full-on sun with most of my body exposed.  Hanging out at the beach in a bikini is just not my thing. We prefer to go to the beach later in the day, when the sun is not so strong. Plus, I don't wear bikinis.   And, when it's really hot I don't enjoy sitting in the sun...I much prefer to hang out in the shade, so I'm pretty sure I'm just not in the sun enough to make enough Vitamin D, especially as I have a naturally darker complexion, which means I need more sun exposure as compared to someone with fairer skin.  You can read more about Vitamin D here. 


Fucoidan is a brown seaweed supplement.  Seaweed is incredibly healthy for you and fucoidan is an incredibly healthy species.  It naturally contains iodine and helps boost thyroid function and metabolism.  I've been taking this supplement for quite some time and I do believe that it definitely helped me lose the baby weight after Elsa was born without really dieting. much faster than after my other kids were born.  I was back into my pre-pregnancy jeans by about 8 weeks, which is much earlier (like 4 months earlier) than it happened with my previous pregnancies.  Of course, I'm sure it's better to eat actual seaweed, but as regular dietary food, seaweed is just not affordable nor attainable here in the good ole' U.S. of A.  At least not that I've seen.  Of course with any supplement, you have to be careful to find a good, quality brand.

So...those are some of the things I do.  Do you do any alternative health practices?  I'd love to hear about it!!

(Linking up for Five Favorites)

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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!! Answering Some Questions about What We Wore.

Happy Easter!!


Christ is Risen!
He is Risen Indeed.  (that is the traditional Easter Season Greeting, but unlike Kendra, I'm not going to go around saying that to people...probably not, anyway). 

To celebrate Easter, I'm linking up with Kendra for more Sunday Questions.

1. What did you and your family wear to Mass on Easter Sunday?

We didn't really wear anything different than what we wear on a regular Sunday.  I never buy special Easter clothes.  An occasion has to be REALLY special (like a wedding) for us to buy special clothes for it.  So, we just wore our regular Sunday clothes. I took individual shots because it's so much easier to get a good shot, individually...and even that is a huge challenge with certain kids.  Either that or my kids are especially uncooperative when it comes to pictures.   Probably that is it.

Yes, Heidi and I are practically wearing the same outfit.  Like mother, like daughter.  

Linking this one up with FLAP for What I Wore Easter Sunday. 

2. Easter Bunny: thumbs up or thumbs down?

Thumbs down.  Way, way down.  My parents used to do the Easter bunny when we were kids, until one year they put us all on the Feingold Diet and all we got was homemade carob eggs in our Easter baskets.  Carob!??!?!?  My parents were crunchy, health-food nuts before it was cool.  Thankfully, carob has gone by the wayside, because everyone knows that chocolate is healthy.  

Anyway, we don't really do things like Santa or the Easter Bunny.  And, it really has nothing to do with lying or magic, but because I refuse to give some mythical creature credit for MY HARD WORK.  I just don't have the energy to keep up the Santa/Easter Bunny facade.  Plus, in our 13 years of marriage, we've had richer years and poorer years (more poorer), and some years we can't do as much for Christmas or Easter.  It just makes it easier when you don't have the pressure of having to be Santa/Easter Bunny.  Our kids always get something, but it's not always the same.  Some years they've gotten bigger Easter presents, and some years, it's just been a bit of candy and something small.   This year, we didn't even have Easter baskets.  They each got something small (but not in a basket), and then tons of candy for our egg hunt.  We've moved to so much that Easter baskets just do not make the moving cut, and it's not something I want to spend money on. 

3. Do you prefer to celebrate holidays at your own house or at someone else's house?

I prefer to celebrate at someone else's house.  But that hardly ever happens...really the only times were for our three years at Ave Maria Law school where we celebrated with good friends.  Second to that I prefer to celebrate at our house with friends or family over.  We aren't doing that this year either, because we don't have any family nearby and haven't lived here long enough to make good friends (plus, we're probably moving in a few months).  This year, it's just us, so we are staying pretty low key. We went to Mass.  We had an egg hunt with the insane of amount of Easter candy my mom sent (thanks Mom!) and then we're having ham and lots of gluten-free goodies. And, I'm planning on watching lots of Netflix and catching up on Lost...since I gave up watching alone for Lent. 

Hey, there's candy inside these things!

4. What is your favorite kind of candy?

Chocolate truffles. I LOVE chocolate truffles. Second to that, would be a chocolate/peanut butter combination (like Reese's peanut butter cups).   But, really, truffles are my favorite. 

5. Do you like video games?

No, I don't get the point of them.  I love to read. If I want to relax/chill out/waste time, I read.  Blogs, message boards, books, articles, the cereal box, whatever is available. Or I posts, message boards,  whatever.   My kids don't play video games either.  For one thing, we don't have any video game consoles (like x-box, wii..boy do we sound pathetic..huh?)  And, their favorite game is chess, so they do play that A LOT on the computer. They are crazy into chess.   They spend enough time on the computer...playing chess, watching chess videos or writing stories, that I shudder to think of them spending more time playing video games. 

6. Do you speak another language? 

Not fluently.  I took Spanish in high school, but don't remember much.  And, I'm sorta learning Latin along with my kids  Sorta.  I rely on the teacher's manual a lot when correcting stuff.

May you All have a Blessed and Holy Easter Season!!! 

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Motherhood - It's Not the Toughest Job in the World

Perhaps you've seen that viral Hallmark Video proclaiming that Motherhood is THE TOUGHEST JOB IN THE WORLD.

If you haven't, save yourself.  It's horrible.  First this company puts out a fake ad for a job they called "Director of Operations."

Then they tricked a bunch of people into a fake interview and told them the job involved working 24/7/365 with no breaks, no sleep, no pay, you can barely sit down and you can only eat when you associate is done eating. Then they tell them millions of people already hold this job....I'm sure you see where this is going.  Moms.

About the only true part of that is the no pay.  And, actually my 6-yo son gave me a dime he found on the ground the other see, I do get pay.

Let's not even mention the moral issue with getting people's hopes up for a fake job so you can trick them into making a sappy video to sell cards.

Even besides that, motherhood isn't that bad, and it's certainly not the toughest job in the world.  I could think of about a billion different jobs that are tougher...things like oh...brain surgeon where one slip of the knife leads to death.  Or the slaves...working outside in the hot sun, slaving over cotton fields.  Or the people who built the Pyramids of Egypt back before they had cranes.  Heck, my job one summer working on a dairy farm milking cows was tougher than this...I had to get up 2:30 AM, every day, clean boatloads of cow poop off the cow's udders and deal with stinky ornery cows in the summer heat.  Or being a grad student, and having to get up at 3:30 AM to drive 25 minutes out to a farm, just so I can wrestle cows to take their blood.  And, let's not mention ultrasounding cow involved long gloves and more poop.  All that is tougher than motherhood.   Sure, motherhood involves dealing with some poop....but not nearly as much or as disgusting as those cows produced.  And, at least my kids love me, the cows couldn't have cared less about me.

I can get plenty of sleep.  Sure, occasionally I have to wake-up in the middle of night to attend to a child, but overall, I am well-rested and get plenty of sleep....even with co-sleeping.  I do plenty of sitting down (the size of my rear ends attest to that).  I can pretty much eat when I want to.

Yes, there is laundry to be done, food to be prepared and children to be attended to, but it's hardly the toughest job in the world.  I mean...I have a dishwasher, a washing machine, a dryer, air conditioning, heat, electric stove.  We even have Netflix....electronic babysitting available 24/7.  It's not like I have to chop firewood and stand over a boiling pot.  Some of my daily duties involve things like taking my kids to park day so they can run around with friends and I can sit around and chat with my friends in the warm sun.  Oooo...that's tough.   Or, sitting on the computer, reading blogs while the baby/toddler nurses...not exactly hard labor.  Last week, I spent a few hours just sitting on the front steps in the sun reading a book while the toddler played in the yard.

The video is meant to make people appreciate their own they will spend money on Hallmark Cards for them this Mother's Day, but ultimately I found the entire thing to be very anti-child and anti-life.  No woman is going to want to have kids if she thinks it is akin to slavery.   No one is going to want to have more than 1 or 2 kids if they think motherhood is so difficult and tiring and lack of sleeping and you can never get a chance to sit down again.  We need to be telling people that motherhood is wonderful, not that it's horrible.  Yes, there are hard parts, but it's not 24/7 slavery.  A baby doesn't ruin your life.  It doesn't take your life away.  A baby enriches your life and makes it so much better, it may be a bit harder, but it is better. You don't lose yourself when you become a mother, you gain yourself.

Yes, motherhood is hard...but  guess is hard. The sooner you can accept that, the better off you will be.  Sometimes I think that a lot of suffering we bring upon ourselves is because we spend so much time kicking our feet and complaining about how hard life is.  We're so used to comfort, soft beds and pilllows, air-conditioned/heated comfort, instanteous food at the touch of a microwave button, pain relief at the pop of a pill.. that we lose all sight of the fact that life is hard. That life is supposed to involve work.  That hard work is GOOD.  That everything isn't supposed to be easy.  We complain when we have to get out of our warm, soft beds in the middle of the night to go into a warm room and attend to a crying child that we forget about the legions of people before us who slept on the cold, hard ground. We moan about poopy diapers and forget about the nurses and doctors who take care infected, pus-filled wounds on a regular basis.

None of this is meant to belittle the work of motherhood. It IS hard, but its not the toughtest job the world as the video claims.  Matt Walsh basically said the same thing, but he's a man, so not actually a mother.  I wanted to put my two a mother (a homeschooling mother even)..out there.  Granted, I don't have special needs children, I can only imagine how much harder that must be.  I'm sure many mothers do have a life much harder than mine.  There are mothers who have to deal with feeding tubes and therapies and wheelchairs and numerous doctor's visits.  There are mothers who have to say goodbye to their children way too soon.  That is tough, very, very tough.

But generally, I don't think *my* life as a mother is all that tough.

Not that I don't want my kids to appreciate me on Mother's Day.  I'll accept a card (chocolate is even better).   But, I don't think my job is all that difficult.  I don't think motherhood is the toughest job in the world.  In fact, I don't think it's a job at all. It's a vocation.  When I'm nursing a baby, or reading stories or answering a million questions, or holding a clingy toddler, or hugging my child, I'm not working, I'm loving.  Yes, there are parts that are work (cleaning, laundry, cooking dinner) but those are acts of love.  I don't do them for pay, I do them because they need to get done and it is an act of love to do them for my family.

Let's not put mothers up on a pedestal.  They don't belong there.  The more we buy into this idea that mothers are these super martyrs that belong up on a pedestral, the more anti-child and anti-life we become. You don't have to be a super-human martyr to be a just have to have the capacity for loving another human being.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Doing the Liebster Thing

Thank you so much to Katie at The Lactating Catholic for nominating me for  Liebster Award. 

Katie's blog is one of those I started following because I (sorta) know Katie in real life.  I don't really know-know her, but we have a ton of mutual friends and once met at a mutual friend's wedding several years ago (not sure if she remembers that, but I do).  Plus, I knew her husband when I was college, through the Youth 2000 retreats.   So, that's enough to say I "know" her, right?

So, that's why I started reading her, but I kept reading her because her blog is witty and funny and sweet and poignant and brutally honest.  Plus, she's an actress and has been in a few community plays (along with her older daughters and even her husband), which is kinda cool....but also annoying because when she's busy with a play, she's too busy to blog and I miss her posts. 

Anyway, thanks for the nomination!  If you don't know, a Liebster Award is basically a blogging game where you answer a bunch of questions and then make up a bunch of questions for other people to answer.  It's a great way to find new blogs to read and learn a bit more about your favorite blogger.

So here are Katie's questions.

1. What made you decide to begin blogging?

I like to write and I have a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head.  I genuinely enjoy blogging and putting my thoughts onto paper  computer screen. Plus, I've made a lot of cool bloggy friends, so that's always super fun. I started the One Catholic Mama blog way back in 2008 after John was born.  I posted on it sporadically for about a year and then that was it.  Hardly anyone read it...I did basically nothing to promote it, I tried to be totally pictures, no real names....basically no fun. I think my husband was the only one who ever read it.  

Then in 2012, I was getting ready to write our Christmas letter and was looking for a way to include the letter with pictures throughout.   Pictures can take awhile to load via email, so I suddenly remembered my blog again (after not thinking about it for like three years) and decided to host my Christmas letter on my blog.  And, I had so much fun writing it that I decided to take up blogging, but this time I dropped all pretense of anonymity and started including lots of pictures and real names and promoting it.  It's still pretty small, but it's a lot more fun.  And, I really love writing and blogging, which is why I keep at it.

2. If you could switch places with someone for a day, who would it be?

My kids....because I'd love to know what it's like to be a kid in my family with me and my husband as parents.

3. Where would you most like to travel?

I'm not super into traveling...but I'd love to go to Italy and Rome and Prince Edward Island, Canada (yes, those are totally unrelated). 

4. What is your all-time favorite blog post (leave a link)?

I answered this in my post on Sunday with this link.

But, I also really love this one. 

Actually, I love almost all my posts, which is why I post them.

So, I hope you don't mind if I post one more

5. What is your favorite book or movie and why?

I can't really say I have a favorite book or movie.  I don't spend a lot of time watching movies and even less times re-reading old books.  I guess I would say  Piercing the Darkness, This Present Darkness and The Prophet by Frank Peretti.   They are just awesome books and I love them. 

6. Who do you consider a role model?

Gosh, these are tough questions. I guess Mary. She's the only one perfect enough for the job.

7. If you won a million dollars, what is the first thing you would buy?

A horse.  Actually, first I would buy a small house with a stable and pasture and then I'd buy two horses, because it's always more fun to go riding with a friend. 

8. What is your favorite hobby or pastime?

 I love walking/hiking in the woods.  And writing/blogging.   And hanging out with friends.  And horseback riding, but since having kids I do that, like never. 

9. What's the worst job you ever had?

Probably working for the meanest veterinarian in the world who used to yell at all his employees and was always stressed and never happy.  He basically turned me off from ever wanting to be a vet. 

10.What is your favorite meal, or what is the weirdest food you have ever eaten?

I haven't eaten anything too weird.  And, my favorite meal is bagels with cream cheese and lox and onions and lettuce and tomato.  So, so, so so good.   And, so, so, so, so unfortunate that I really shouldn't eat gluten.  Occasionally I splurge on Gluten-free bagels and lox. 

11. What is one thing you would change about your life?

Well, I wish we weren't so financially stressed.  I never used to consider myself financially stressed.  Even when we were in law school, things were easier than they are now.  And, I wish we had more friends where we live right now....although I guess that is okay because it's looking increasingly likely that we'll be moving in about 4 months anyway to a place where we will have family around and hopefully more friends.  Hopefully we'll also be a bit less financially stressed as the cost of living is cheaper.

And here are my questions.

1. Describe your perfect day.
2. What type of house do you live in (ie. ranch-style, two story, newer, older, condo, apartment, country city, townhouse, etc).
3. Do you know your neighbors and are you friends with them?
4. Did you go to college?  What for?
5. Name one weird thing about your house?
6. Have you ever had a serious illness or disease?
7. Ever almost died?
8. On a lighter note, do you prefer silence or the noise of something (TV, radio, music)?
9. What color are your walls?
10. Do you like where you live?
11. What type of clothing do you typically wear?  Bonus points if you include a picture!

I'm tagging the following people.  Please forgive me if you've already been tagged.  And, please answer them...or not if blogging games aren't your thing (you won't hurt my feelings, I promise). 

Christine Gibson at her blog that doesn't have a title (as far as I can see) but is hilariously funny.
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Answer Me This? What Did I Wear Today?

Last Sunday, Kendra was kind enough to tag me in her Answer Me This  post. 

So, I'm going to be kind enough to answer them!

1. What time do you prefer to go to Mass?

I prefer to go at 9 AM....that is the perfect time to go to Mass in my opinion.  Not so early that you can't eat breakfast first, but not so late that it is running into lunch time or cooking Sunday dinner.  Unfortunately, the closest church to us, where we usually attend Mass (ironically enough, not the parish to which we belong, it is better but further) only has Mass at 8 AM and 10 AM in the morning.  So, we sometimes attend the 8 AM and sometimes the 10 AM. 

2. Would you rather be too hot or too cold?

Depends on what I'm doing.  If I'm exercising, sleeping or eating...too cold.  I hate exercising, working or even just walking outside in the heat.  And, I hate sleeping when it's super hot. I hate eating when it's hot (unless I'm eating ice cream).  However, if I'm just sitting around, I prefer to be too hot...because I don't like sitting around in the cold. 

3. How many brothers and/or sisters do you have?

I have two brothers and two sisters.  I am the second oldest.  My oldest brother just finally, successfully defended his dissertation on Friday, so he's going to get his PhD.  Yay for him!!!  Then there is me, and you all already know everything about me.  Then my sister, she is a Capuchin Sister.   Then there is my younger brother.  He is working on getting his PhD and is getting married in May!  Yay..we are so excited for that!  My youngest sister was adopted from Jamaica when she was six.  She used to own a flower shop

4. If you were faced with a boggart, what would it turn into?

It's a toss up between a rat and a cancer cell. Maybe a cancerous rat. 

5. Barbie: thumbs up or thumbs down?

Thumbs sideways?  I really don't have an opinion on Barbie.  I know...shocking..usually I have an opinion on everything.  My girls don't play with it.  They just never got into it, I never bought them any and no one ever gave them any. I wouldn't really care if someone did give them Barbie though.  They did have the odd Barbie-type doll over the years that usually did not make the cut for either a move or a toy purging.  It never really occurred to me to get them Barbie, I guess I think of it as an 80's toy.  My kids don't watch any TV (just Netflix) but nothing with commercials, so they basically have zero clue about "cool toys" or "fad toys" and they have never really asked for Barbie.  

6. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

Just one? I guess, I would say learn to peacefully disagree and don't hold grudges.  I'm Italian, so my family can have some rip-roaring arguments (it's fun for us!), but we never hold it against anyone and those arguments don't cause family strife.  At the end of the argument, everyone is still friends and loves each other.  It wasn't until I was older that I realized that not everyone is like that...that there are people out there who will actually never speak to you again if you get into an argument with them.  Don't be like that. 

Annery also asked some I'll just go ahead and answer all the questions now!

1.  How many siblings do you have?  (I have 8!)

I answered this above. 

2.  What time of day works best for your prayer/alone time?

Night time...because my kids have the mom alarm and get up as soon as I get up, no matter how early it is. 

3.  Have you endured the Winter Without End too?

It's been super spring-like and warm here in VA the last few days, so I guess it did end. But, yes it was a very, very long and tiring winter.

4.  If you live somewhere warm, how do you feel about me visiting?

Come on down (although VA was pretty cold this winter and next winter we will possibly (probably) live someplace even colder (IN). 

5.  Do you sleep under blankets all year?  Even in the sweltering summer?

Yes, because I am a firm believer in air conditioning. 

6.  Do your kids (or you) eat sugary cereal? (Or am I the only one that lets that happen?)

No, we really don't eat cereal at all, except I occasionally buy Joe's O (like Cheerios) at Trader Joe's.

7.  Do you have any food allergies in your family? What helped you best in learning to cope?

We do not have any true allergies.  Gluten makes me depressed and anxious and makes Greta more anxious.  I think it also affects Heidi.  We stay away from it, but it's not a true allergy.  Our reaction also seems to be dose-dependent....we can eat small amounts no problem, but eating it very frequently does cause a reaction.  I avoid it all together.  The girls only eat it when they are at a party or something. The only gluten we keep in our house is bread, which Ben and John use for sandwiches.  We eat all gluten-free pasta and I buy big bags of gluten-free flour blends to use for baking and make my own bread, pizza, cakes, cookies, muffins, etc., etc.  Occasionally I buy Udi's bread, but it's expensive so we try not to eat too much of it.

8. What's your favorite blog post of someone else's?

This one from Sarah.

9.  What's your favorite blog post of your own?

Hmm...probably this one. 

10.  What would be your ideal birthday present?

An all expensive paid adult-only vacation to a cabin in a tick-less  mosquito-less woods that I could take with my husband and other friends or family member members (but NO kids, so it would include free babysitting from trusted family members (like my parents)  Of course, my birthday is in Nov and frequently over Thanksgiving, so it also has to be someplace that's not too cold then.

I'm not holding my breath on this one. 

11.  Would you rather be surrounded by others without a break or alone all day?

Depends on who the "others" are.  There are some "others"' I would not want to be around all day, however, generally, I prefer to be surrounded by others.  The happiest time in my life was the summer I was a camp counselor in Appalachia with Christian Appalachian project. I was always surrounded by others and loved it.  I also loved living in the dorms in college and being surrounded by others.   Don't get me wrong, I like my alone time as much as anyone, but I only like alone time in small chunks....I would get very lonely with an entire day of being alone.  

12. What did you wear today?

To be honest, neither Annery nor Kendra asked this question.  But, I know your Sunday is not complete until you find out what I wore. it is.  I'm linking up with Fine Linen and Purple

Shirt: New York and Co. (thrifted) can't really tell from the picture, but it actually has a small black/white stripe pattern.
Skirt: Old Navy (given to me)
Shoes: given to me
I'm wearing a belly band under the shirt.  I find those bands so useful for wearing under this style shirt, way more useful then for their intended use (during pregnancy, I never actually used them on my belly when I was pregnant) but they work great for wearing under shirts that are a bit more low-cut.

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Friday, April 11, 2014

7 Reasons My Kids Play Chess...And Why Yours Should Too

Okay, I'm not going to actually tell you what your kids should do....cause this blog isn't about telling people what to do.

I am, however, going to tell you about all the benefits I've discovered from our kids playing chess.

I'm not a chess player....wait...let me take that back.  Technically I am card-carrying member of the United States Chess Federation and I have a rating (302...which if you don't know, is not very good).   I even won the Third Place Medal in the Kentucky State Women's Chess Championship in 2001.   I lost every single game...amazingly they still gave me a medal...that's what happens when there are only three women players. 

As I was saying, I'm not a chess player...but I married one...a really good one that played in competitive tournaments and won money even occasionally.   So, I started to play a little bit, but I was never that into it.  I just don't have the competitive nature to play chess. kids are really into chess.  Really, really into it.  I'm constantly shocked at how much time they spend playing chess and talking about chess and studying chess and watching chess videos.   They are constantly coming to me and saying things like Mom, you should see this game I played. I played e4 and he played knight g6 and then I castled and we traded queens and he sacked his bishop and we had the Lucena position and then a rook endgame.  Meanwhile I'm all oh, yes, the rook endgame, fascinating.  

And, if you are a chess player reading this (cough, Ben, cough) cut me some slack if the above makes no sense.  I just made it I said, I'm not a chess player.

My kids have known how to play chess for several years, but it wasn't until we moved to Virginia that there were actually able to play in tournaments....hence when they started to get really into it.  And, since that time, I've noticed some awesome benefits about playing chess.

Chess is cheap, as far as activities go.  Sure, you can spend a lot of money flying to national tournaments and all (and we might do that once we actually have some money to spare) but for now, we just stay local and that is plenty fun for them.  Or, you could spend big bucks and pay a Master to teach your kids, but you don't need that.  My husband got to a pretty high rating in chess, all being self-taught.  The equipment is minimal and tournament entry fees are usually very affordable.   Plus, it doesn't take a huge commitment. You can go to tournaments or not...depending on your schedule...there is no major time commitment involved. There are lots of great chess programs and books and other ways that kids can teach themselves, all very affordable. 

You win some, you lose some.  And that is important.  It teaches kids how to both win and lose gracefully.  Which is a really, really, really important skill to learn.   Chess is an individual you can't count on your teammates to help you during a's just you, so you have to learn to handle pressure and stress and winning and losing all by yourself.  Sometimes you have a good tournament and take home a trophy, and sometimes you lose more games than you win.  And, that's okay, because you have to learn how to handle both situations.

It teaches you to slow down and really think. Good chess players really think about their moves and consider them carefully before making a move.  It takes persistence and practice to really think about your moves and not just make the first move that comes to mind.  I'm constantly amazed at how Heidi and Greta have been known to play really long games...over an hour even, because they (and their opponent) are really taking the time to carefully consider their moves.   

Age and size don't matter.  Every single one of my kids could beat me at chess, easily. Chess isn't about who is the oldest or who is the strongest.  It's pretty funny to see this little kid beat a much older kid, or even adults.  There is some advantage to age, but not as much as you might think. 

Critical Thinking. Chess improves critical thinking skills and logic skills.  You have to anticipate your opponent's move, you have to learn to apply strategy to different situations and you have to think ahead....many, many, many moves ahead. Plus, Ben says that chess helped him during law if you think your kids might want to go to law school, have them play chess.

Improved Math Skills. Seriously..I do think that playing chess has improved my kids math skills.  As a homeschooler, math is our worst subject...nothing against math, it's know...math.  So, improved skills and better retention of math facts is a definite plus.

Chess brings people together. least other chess players that is.  According to Ben, if you sit down somewhere and set up a chess set, people will come over and want to play with you.  So, apparently there is the whole social chess network, where chess players are drawn to other so they can chat over strategy and games. So, even as adults, it's a good social skill to have.  Plus, my kids spend an inordinate amount of time going over their games with each other and with other kids.  So, it brings them together, because they like to replay their games, discuss strategy and and argue over moves.  Yes, they do argue over's all part of the fun.

So, those are my reasons why chess is so great for kids.  Any other chess players or chess moms/dads want to chime in with any benefits you've noticed?

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(linking up with Jen for 7 Quick Takes Friday)

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