Not quite Cindy Crawford yet

In typical straightforward fashion when I asked my youngest daughter what she had achieved through being part of the Fit Family Challenge she said “competitiveness with my younger brother.” In contrast, his response was “I realize I enjoy exercise.” Katherine, my 14 year old was more quantitative with her response, “I hadn’t realized how many minutes’ exercise we each did.”

These last couple of months have been interesting. It has brought out the competitive spirit at least in 4 out of 5 of us (our eldest is just too cool for competition!), it has enabled us to try new things (I never thought I’d be seen in public staring my husband down while perched in the plank position) and it has helped us focus around a common goal during the start of a busy disparate summer time.

As always, I had hoped I would transform from Pip Palmer into Cindy Crawford or at least an older version of Gisele Bundchen. This has not been achieved. But they do say it is the journey not the destination that matters. What I have realized, which can be tricky for the ‘all or nothing’ gal that I am, is that little changes maintained over a long period of time will bring results.

I have managed to maintain a certain level of activity and fitness over the holidays. TICK. I have gained invaluable advice from Debbie, the dietitian and experimented with my cooking and dare I say it, enjoyed cooking at times. TICK. While we have done less activities as a whole family than I hoped, the kids have initiated group bicycle rides, walks in the neighborhood and Mick and I have had a bi-monthly work out at the MUSC Wellness Center which has made me realize I have muscles in places where I didn’t know they existed. TICK. It has also provided me with this – my first blogging experience and a record of what we have worked together as a family on through the Fit Family Challenge. In some ways this has been my camera, providing snapshots through words. Always a fan of quotes I will sign off, this my last blog, with one about cameras which represents how I feel about the challenge and hopefully gives a sign post to others when pursuing a more active and healthy lifestyle. “Life is like a Camera, just focus on what’s important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives and if things don’t turn out – just take another shot.”

A foray into veganism

My eldest daughters’ least favorite subject is math. Yet when it comes to getting the equation right for “calories in, calories out” she seems to get it spot on. She has only recently become interested in food as more than a means of filling the hunger gap and has decided to go vegan for the summer. As a meat avoiding pescatarian I could hardly quibble with her decision especially since she has now become “cook extraordinaire” in the kitchen. Suddenly we are being confronted with the delights of courgette spaghetti & carrot salad steeped in a Vietnamese sauce and vegan snickerdoodle cookies at the weekends. I am not complaining. I think I may have mentioned in an earlier blog that cooking is not my favorite pastime and I can identify with whoever said “why does cooking take like 6 hours, and eating like 3 seconds and then washing dishes like 7 days and 7 nights?” So her efforts in the kitchen are very welcome. Although the washing dishes part of the quote seems to be about right for her cooking escapades!

Always interested in what goes into meals, surprisingly, I realized I knew little about veganism and feel like I have learned a lot over the last few weeks. Did you know that although the numbers of vegans in the USA is small, 16 million Americans are eating diets which do not include animal products. Unsurprisingly, if our family is anything to go by (my husband who grew up on a farm would stage a revolt if I cut meat out of the family diet completely) the vast majority of these vegans are women. I have been pleasantly surprised that even in the meat loving South I have been able to find alternatives to meat and dairy and have experimented with them on all the family (sometimes without them realizing it!). It no longer seems that the vegan diet is purely for tree huggers, celebrities and animal rights activists and that by going vegan, whether my daughter continues to be so or it’s a summer adventure, she has taught us a little more about the food we consume and the variety which comes with setting aside the traditional “meat, carb and 2 veg” plate we are more used to. Our family’s foray into veganism is one thing, how it will impact when we venture out the house to other people’s homes is another. Which reminds me of something I heard which tickled me – “I started being a vegan for health reasons, then it was a moral choice and now it’s just to annoy people!

If you are keeping track with our family competition – our son is squirreling away vital minutes of activity whenever he can – purely to beat his older sister. He has already worked out she will be 1,500 minutes better off for this week as she is doing a mountain biking camp with the county parks. He now has to devise a strategy to beat it!

By Pip Palmer

Exercise: the Elixir to help navigate through Parenthood

I naively believed that motherhood would bring patience. I presumed when the stork showed up with our new bundle of joy, accompanying would be a bucket load of patience. I was wrong. With parenthood comes exhilarating times, challenging times, bone tiredness, fun, frustrating times and immense rewards. All of these, but not patience. I am an impatient person and have had to learn to temper this as a mother of three. If there was a potion to cure it, I would have patented it by now. There is not. My solution has become running which has also tended to become my ‘me time’.

With no planning involved, I started running about 1 ½ years before I had my eldest daughter at the grand old age of 30 and have not looked back since. Yes, I have done competitions and completed with my husband both the New York and London marathons (not fast may I add), but I don’t judge my success on this. Instead I believe my success lies in getting out for a run and thus managing my impatience/stress/frustration. I see a direct relationship between whether I have exercised that day and how I react to a stressful situation. I had never heard of endorphins when I first started running. I still wouldn’t say I am an endorphin junkie, no 100 Km runs for me. However when I look at the radiance on the kids’ faces after a swim meet and feel the energy course through me in the middle of a run, even though I set off with a tired mind and body, I think there is something to be said for endorphins. There are many benefits and joys motherhood has bought me. However patience is not one of them. What it has made me appreciate is a saying I heard, “I exercise because somehow completely exhausting myself is the most relaxing part of my day.”

By Pip Palmer

A yard that keeps us happy and healthy

Back in the UK, ‘Gardening’ meant running over our small patch of lawn with the lawnmower, trimming the short hedge so it doesn’t look too straggly compared to the neighbour’s, and then sitting down with a Gin and Tonic and admiring my efforts. Over here in the USA, I do ‘yard work’. With the emphasis on ‘work’. I love the trees that shade our house and kept it cool all through our first summer here. Not quite so keen on them when they dropped their leaves during the..er…fall and required weekly raking. Then there is the creeping weedy, binder thing that I have been battling for the last few weeks. This consists of pulling it off the shrubs that line our yard, tracing the tentacles back and pulling up the root system that is buried under the packed soil. Finally, every now and again when I feel up to it, I tackle the runaway shrubs and hack off a few of the longer branches before collapsing in a sweat heap on the porch to briefly enjoy the view. This gives me a couple of minutes to think about things like the ankle-twisting trails left by the moles and the large patches of bare earth which I try to convince myself are gradually being covered by new grass. I try not to look too enviously at the neighbour’s immaculate lawn, a recent winner of the coveted neighbourhood ‘yard of the month’ a while ago. I think one of the reasons it looks so smart is because it is adjacent to ours and therefore looks especially tidy and neat.
I have refused to buy a leaf blower. I find them incredibly noisy and anti-social. I am sure the raking is harder work, but deep down in my psyche I figure that therefore it must be better for me and try to persuade myself it is doing a better job. I realize that this isn’t necessarily true, but the opposite certainly isn’t – if it is easier, it must be a better job.

A whole industry/way of thinking has taken over to make life easier (powered trimmers, strimmers and sit-on mowers), and I can’t see how that is good for our health. Maybe it is because I was brought up on a farm and now sit behind a desk all day, but there is something very satisfying about doing physical work, especially the slow, repetitive motion of raking. It gives you time to think. And I have help these days – Finsbury and I enjoy some boy time together and it also means that I can stop and chat or say hello to any passers by. So it may not be the neatest yard in the neighbourhood, but it does help us keep healthy and happy.

By Mick Palmer

It’s the simple things in life

Some people look at the summer holidays as downtime. For me and many others the approaching summer holidays are not that simple. In fact they can get quite complicated. I’m a working mom of 3 and although I always look forward to the summer vacation, I panic around March and start booking my kids into all sorts of summer camps and activities to ensure a) they are not bored and b) I have childcare cover while I work, as being “English emigres” we can’t rely on family for this. Around July I take a deep breath and vow never to “over plan” summer again. Life is like a merry go round, so March comes round the next year and the whole process starts again.

This year I am afraid to admit is no different than the year before. The kids have swim team most days until the middle of July. The eldest took some gentle nudging and the enticement of her best friend’s attendance, to agree to do it. The youngest two were delighted and most days dash out the door for the community pool, eager and excited. I am a big fan of swim team, something we don’t have back in England. It creates a structure to the start of the holidays and gives the kids some purpose. Not to mention they all return home in the evenings with only enough time to wolf down some food and collapse into their beds. I’ll endure the scattered soggy towels and the constant smell of chlorine permeating throughout the house any day if it means they are spending time outside, doing exercise and forming new friendships.

In addition to swim team, the kids are all booked on outdoor adventure day camps. These are hosted by either the Charleston county parks organization or through the awe inspiring father of one of my son’s friends who hosts a watersports camp at his house for one week of the summer. A braver and bolder soul than myself!

What this can mean for me is that I spend a lot of the summer sat in a car ferrying kids to activities, finding it tricky to fit in exercise. It also coincides with a time of year when we get quite a few visitors from England who want to escape their appalling weather and grab some sunshine in South Carolina. Food and alcohol feature quite prominently in these visits. Then before you know it, August is here and so are an extra few inches around the waistline. Being a control freak, (you mean to say you hadn’t picked up on the clues?) I am aiming to combat this phenomenon this year. I’ve looked at the diary and scheduled in exercise time for me around all the things we have going on and I’ve dusted off the salad cookbooks ready to create some new favorites. I may also be brave and bold enough to jump off the merry go round once in a while and enjoy the simple pleasures such as reading the newspaper in the hammock, practicing softball with my daughter and dashing through the waterjets of our sprinkler with the kids to cool down. I will try hard not to over-schedule the “downtime,” aiming to go with the flow, always remembering the motto “enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things!”

For those who are following our family competition. Last week’s highest minutes’ winner was our son who got to play HIS music in the car all week. Having to live with two older sisters who are music lovers, he tended not to get a chance to play his music. Pecking order and all that! It coincided with Mick buying a new radio for the truck. So I am offering a formal apology to Mt Pleasant residents who may have had to endure country and punk music being played at high volume while two boys (big and little) fly to school in a red truck with giant smiles on their faces.

By Pip Palmer