Our September 2017

Here we are, summer is over… fall is here and I feel like we are more alive than ever!

Back to school time seems to be a very nice time for un-schoolers. To me it feels like we are getting out of summer hibernation and can move around freely again. Places like museums, zoos and beaches are not crowded anymore and much more enjoyable 🙂

I love the beginning of fall. It’s somehow still nice and warm during the days and it cools down during the night which makes the morning air so fresh and nice smelling ❤

People ask me a lot what we do all day and how does the education for my children look like. There is no 7-hour school day for us. My kids are with me almost all day. How do I get my alone time? Do my children want me all day? Do I need breaks? Am I exhausted? How do my children learn? Can Noah read and write? How about math? How long will the boys stay out of school? Can they still go to college? How about socialization?

I don’t really want to answer all of these questions in this post. But I had the idea of sharing more of our journey. I feel like at some point it would be nice to post weekly updates on the How and What my children learn just by living an active open-minded lifestyle with lots of traveling and this world as our ‘classroom’. For now I feel like starting with a little summary of last month’s experiences and adventures.

Often pictures tell more than words, so here come pictures and explanations of what our life looks like, aside from the ‘normal’ things like grocery shopping, cleaning and running all kinds of errands, like doctor and vet visits and such…

Usually we get up some time between 7am and 9 am. For me the first thing in the morning is doing my workout routine. The boys either still sleep, play on ipads, play with their monster trucks, play soccer or they just watch me and eat breakfast 🙂

Usually we are ready around 11am/12pm to conquer the world 🙂

On Mondays we started going to our un-school coop that I organize with two other moms. There have been around 12-20 kids with their mothers. We meet at a reserved room at the library for 3 hours for unstructured playtime with friends. They can roam the library, look at books, use the computers, do art projects. They can play legos, build forts or do whatever they want during that time. Afterwards we usually move outside to the nearby playground and skate park for some outdoor play.

For the rest of the week Niki has been going to preschool for the past two weeks from 12:30-3:15pm. But when we had other more special plans (like our trip to California or a trip to Boston), he joined us and did not attend school.

We moved a LOT, we are a pretty active family. The boys balanced, ran, walked, tumbled, wrestled, jumped, rode their bikes, played sports like soccer, basketball, hockey, volleyball, baseball, football almost every day.

We went outdoors to experience nature in all it’s beauty. Questions like these came up: How do things feel out there, how do they taste, smell? How does it feel to sit in the mud? How old are these Redwoods? How much longer have they been on earth than us? Did the dinosaurs still live when these trees were planted? How tall are they in comparison to buildings? Where do animals live and what do they eat? How do plants grow and what do they do for us? We harvested green beans, tomatoes and pears and saw where they actually grew.

Last Wednesday the boys took part in a Tinkergarten trial class. It was really cute how the children made a ‘stone-soup’ for the trees around them. They mixed all kinds of things that they found like rocks, sand, sticks, leaves, mushrooms, flowers and added nice smelling spices like cinnamon and chia seeds and lavender together and added water, vinegar and baking soda to make it bubble. They thanked the trees for their good job of making fresh air for us and ‘fed’ them the soup. Noah wants to sign up for an 8 week class, an hour once a week. He really enjoyed being outside and not in an inside classroom. He does not like to be around many people in small places, so an outside classroom gives him enough space to move around and not feel too boxed in.

We also went to the beach and caught some small fish to look at and touch them and then release them back into the ocean. Another time at the beach Noah invented a seaweed drying structure and watched how the seaweed changed color and consistency in the process.

At home the boys liked to paint, draw, color, play and build. They cooked and baked and made experiments with different kitchen substances.

Last week we experimented with our sense of taste. We had different kinds of carrots and we closed our eyes to guess which ones we were eating. And we got pretty good at it!

Right now Noah’s favorite board game is Monopoly. We’ve been playing hours and hours and days of it. It amazes me how he calculates and knows exactly how much money to pay and get back when buying streets and houses/hotels. He also uses his own, mostly conservative strategies and he rarely looses a game.

Noah also likes to sew. He started making headbands with scraps of fabrics that I don’t use anymore for sewing my kids’ clothing.

Another favorite indoor activity was and will be playing on ipads. They build their own houses and landscapes in Minecraft. They breed their own monsters in Monster Legends. Noah has his own soccer team in some kind of soccer app.

Niki played many races of Mario Cart Wii.

We like to travel and go places…there is so much to do and discover in other places than home! And also the traveling itself has some challenges: On our trip to California we figured out how to read a railroad map and how much money to put on our ticket for a roundtrip into San Francisco. The boys tried to entertain themselves for an 8 hour flight.

We also took a trek to IKEA on Labor Day Weekend and really got to practice our patience while waiting in traffic and in the checkout lane…

Then there are places like Lindsay’s Wildlife Experience that we went to in Walnut Creek, CA. It was a great place to get close to animals and learn a lot about them, even touch Penelopé the porcupine 🙂 Visiting San Francisco is always fun. Riding the trollies and the cable cars, visiting the harbor seals at Pier 39 and the hearts at Union square were our favorites.

Another cool experience on our trip to CA were a couple of ice-cream stores that made their ice-creams on the spot. It was really interesting to observe how they mixed the ingredients together and then flash-froze the liquid mixture in bowels with liquid nitrogen or on a frozen plate. They made it into scoops or little rolls that they placed into the cup. The pic underneath shows how much fun it was to watch and experience!

We went to Legoland Discovery Center in Boston where the boys built cars and figured out how to make them quicker. I think I won the race 🙂 My car had the biggest tires and was the heaviest…

We also went to the pottery place nearby where the boys painted some birthday gifts for family members.

Noah is signed up for Zoo school which is a one-hour class at the zoo once a month for 8 months. We went there, but he did not feel comfortable enough to stay by himself. So, we all were allowed to stay and got to meet a python and play a game of Mancala.

Noah is still saving up for his own ipad. He sat at the farmers’ market and at the playground trying to sell some of his old toys. With sewing his headbands he is following through with another business idea. He will be selling them at a fair in November.

His newest idea is to develop a game app with in-app purchase options. But I have not found anybody yet who could teach him coding or programming. This is definitely on our plan for the next months. In the meantime were are looking into a couple of programs that we can maybe learn from by ourselves, like Hours of code and Scratch.

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Noah likes to observe. He just watched the pool guys closing our pool for the winter and the plumber putting in a new garbage disposal yesterday.

He watched people fishing at the beach and really wants to go fishing himself. The boys love to watch the people at the post office putting the mail in different boxes and get to know where the different boxes will go, on an airplane or so.

At Target Noah has helped the clerk scan the things we bought at checkout. Yesterday and many other times Noah handled the payments by using my credit card and signing or he handled money and checks if we got back the right amount of cash. He is getting very good at knowing if it’s European or American money he is picking out of my wallet 🙂

I think these are many of the highlights that we experienced during the month of September. That’s how our ‘not back to school’ month looked like.

Sometimes I describe our lifestyle as being on vacation every day. We try to live a happy and enjoyable life and go with the flow to get there. Of course there are good days and not so good days and ups and downs, but for the most part I see us getting to a point where we learn so much from each other and the world around us and new adventures coming up for us every day and this feels great.

And yes, of course there are days that I feel exhausted, but probably not more exhausted than any other mom. The thing that helps a lot is that every person in our house has the same rights, so there is not much arguing with my children about things they should do or have…we are living a pretty peaceful life, which is not exhausting. We all make our own choices and learn from there.

With lots of love and gratitude,

aNNika ❤

 

 

Today marks 4 months of my daily workout routine.

Today I am celebrating my 4 months anniversary with Beach Body on Demand and also the commitment to live a healthier and more active life 🙂

I can’t believe that it’s been 4 months of working out once or twice a day! There have only been a handfull of days that I was traveling or didn’t feel up for moving because of cramps during my period, but otherwise I have been hooked!

I haven’t even done a recovery day just to recover…only active recovery days with pilates workouts, but that is another story and probably not to recommend for everybody…

But let’s start on May 20th…

We were traveling back home from the Bahamas that day and I made the decision to sign up for a year membership of BOD (Beachbody on Demand), including Shakeology, the shake of dense nutrition.

It’s an online fitness site that includes about 600 workout programs to pick from. There are all kinds of workouts from dancing, cardio, weight lifting, martial arts inspired ones, pilates or yoga, and many more…

I was inspired by a woman that I have been following on Facebook who got hooked about a year ago and has become a Beachbody coach in the meantime. She posts her challenges and struggles, goals and achievements on social media to inspire others and this very much worked to get my attention 🙂

That day sitting at a restaurant at some airport, I told my husband, let’s do this together! And just for fun we looked through a couple of workout programs and picked one called Hammer and Chisel for him because the guy looked scarily loaded with muscles 🙂 💪(And fast forward – this program really has become the one he does most!)

The online program was available right away. For the shake powder, the nutritional guide and portion containers I had to wait one week to arrive.

But one day later, on the 21st of May I started working out. 🏋

The first 3 weeks: 21 Day Fix

Trainer Autumn Calabrese was there for me for the first 3 weeks. She promised me ‘the body I always wanted after only 3 weeks of working out’.

Hmm…, big goal and of course not really achievable, but this program was for sure good to get me started and get used to a daily workout routine. Doesn’t it always say, it takes 3 weeks to build a habit? It was true for me!

There was a 3 week plan to follow which contained about 9 different workouts. The workouts were 30 minutes long and the sequence of actually doing ‘the work’ was one minute. ‘You can do anything for a minute!’ She then lets you breathe and recover while explaining the next step. Usually there were a couple of rounds of about 3 workouts that were repeated once or twice.

I think I did 4 weeks of 21 Day Fix and throwing in some 21 Day Fix Extreme workouts when I felt like changing it up. The last week you are supposed to do 2 workouts a day and that’s when I started working out twice a day for the weeks to follow.

I already felt that I wouldn’t follow a real plan ever and that I just like to pick out a workout every day that I feel in the mood for and that’s what I have been doing since.

The nutritional side of the program

Nutrition is a really important factor as I got to find out very quickly. The first week I did not have my containers yet. I worked out daily, but did not pay any more attention to what I was eating than I did before. I already ate healthy, so I didn’t think that I would be changing much of this.

Then the awaited package arrived! One bag of vegan Vanilla Shake powder, many different sized little plastic container with lids and a guide book. Green for Veggies, purple for fruits, red for protein, yellow for carbs, blue for healthy fats, orange for nuts and seeds, getting smaller in size from green to orange. (green about a cup big and orange super tiny, maybe 2 thumb tops.)

I had to calculate what plan I would be on and because I am not a very big person, it was the one with the least calories which meant 3 green, 2 purple, 4 red, 2 yellow, 1 blue and 2 orange containers for me daily, plus 2 table spoons of oils or butters.

So I started a strict plan for my food intake. I tried to cut all the veggies and fruits every morning, so that I had an overview over what I would be eating. The Shakeology shake itself was worth one red protein container, but just mixed with water it was not tasty at all, rather undrinkable. I started adding fruits (one purple), peanut or almond butter (one table spoon), almond milk (half yellow) and lots of cinnamon to make it tasty. Usually I would have an oatmeal with fruits for lunch (1.5 yellow and half a purple) and then for a snack 2 hard boiled eggs (one red), more fruits (half purple) and some raw cut veggies (1-2 green). For dinner I would cook up all the veggies left over and add the protein left which usually made for a big dinner that I wasn’t used to. It took a couple of weeks to spread out the food better during the whole day…

The thing that hit me was that one blue healthy fat container was only worth e.g. 12 almonds! Before I had chowed down on almonds! I thought they are healthy, so why not snack on them when I got hungry during the afternoon! The other thing was that I was not used to eating that much protein and I had to figure out ways to find different options because I was already not a big meat eater. And I rarely ate eggs before either… Luckily I found out that I could substitute with beans and lentils. (Which it doesn’t say in the booklet.)

Following this strict plan and then working out mostly twice a day really brought quick results. I lost  4-5 pounds rather quick and I felt like my belly and upper body got toned pretty well.

This was when we went on vacation for 3 weeks. I knew I wouldn’t be able to use weights, so one week before leaving I started the T25 program.

10 weeks of Shaun T’s T25 workouts

Shaun T became my favorite trainer pretty fast. His workouts are sweaty and I feel great and accomplished after these 25 minutes. He seems like a nice guy and is not the one yelling at you to do more and better the whole time. He is a believer, pretty gentle and inspiring and also nice to look at 🙂

The first 5 weeks are based on focus and no weights needed which was the point to start it when on vacation for so long. I absolutely love the cardio workouts! It’s all about the core, almost no breaks and felt absolutely fit after these 5 weeks. And even while on vacation I managed to do two workouts a day which is not at all required by the program, but somehow it really helped me to stay true to myself and on track. And this is one of the really nice side effects I have experienced.

I need a routine of self-care to stay focussed

Some of you might understand this more than others, but visiting family can be very draining and demanding on one’s self. At least for me this is the case. Doing my workouts in the morning after getting up and in the afternoon around 3pm meant spending time on my own and for myself. This kept me focused to not get into this swirl wind of feeling dictated by other people. I was able to stay grounded, true to myself and aware of my needs and my boys’ needs during our travels visiting family in Germany. This left me feeling strong and confident.

After we were back it was really hot here and somehow the routine of two workouts a day didn’t seem to work out with all the fun things we were doing over the summer. I tried for about two weeks and came to the realization that it was ok to only do one a day. I did get into the habit of drinking two protein shakes a day though which somehow felt healthy and like a sweet snack in the afternoon. Because of the added sugar in Shakeology I think, I got addicted to sugar again which I had pretty much given up a couple of years ago when I struggled with candida.

2 protein shakes turned out to be a mistake

I noticed after a while that I was putting on weight. My belly didn’t seem as firm any more and I didn’t feel as great as I did on vacation. I researched protein intake and found out that I ate almost double of the recommended protein for my weight and that this could result in weight gain. And yes indeed, it did!

And of course I was only doing half of the work I did before and also I wasn’t doing only cardio anymore. Being back home I was able to start using weights again which I really enjoyed.

I cut back to one shake a day, instead of eating breakfast and I tried a different brand. Shakeology is very expensive and as I said I did not think that the added sugar did well for me. I currently am on a month of VEGA all-in-one nutritional shake and it does have stevia in it instead of sugar which seems a bit better for me. The cost is about 35% cheaper which is another plus. But I am still trying out to find a best for me.

In the past weeks I got a bit lazy about logging my food intake. I thought that by now I have the amounts I am supposed to eat down and could just cook and eat as I thought was ok, but I started cheating every now and then. A self-made cakepop here, a left-over piece of crêpes from the boys there and without writing it down, it seemed like I was ok.

Yesterday I stepped on my scale and I couldn’t believe it, but I weighed more than  4 months ago! Warning signs going on in my head!

Weight gain causing new commitment

I still feel so much better in my skin than I did 4 months ago and I know that with my new routine of alternating cardio and weight lifting workouts every day I must have put on some muscle weight, too. But my goal was to transform fat weight into muscle weight and get toned. (And in secret my ideal or wishful body weight is 120 pounds.)

At the moment I pick my workouts from Shaun Week, T25 and Shift Shop. I feel like my stamina is good for doing longer than 25 minutes on weight workouts and even the cardio ones I can go a little over the 25 minutes now. It’s nice to see the progress 🙂

So, from yesterday on I am logging my food intake again and I will see how it goes. I think it is ok and human to get lazy every now and then, but really the workouts are only half of the commitment. The nutritional intake is the other half and as important!

Just as Autumn always says: “Don’t undo everything in the kitchen!’

Summing up 4 months of daily workouts

I feel fit. My energy level is higher. I feel like running after my children again and no problem to keep up with them. I feel better looking at myself in the mirror and most importantly I know what I can do. I know that I can get to whatever goal I set for myself. I know that I can stay committed to taking care of myself. I know that when I feel well, I can be a better and more balanced mother to my children and can take care of my family’s needs.

Another nice side-effect, I have not been sick during the past 4 months, although almost everybody in my family had a bit of a cold at some point.

Feeling fit and well and eating well also boosts the immune system, I am sure of that now.

Please let me know if you have questions and/or there is a way I can help you find a more balanced and healthier lifestyle!

With much love and gratitude,

aNNika ❤

 

I cut off my hair.

About 3 weeks ago I cut my hair. It wasn’t just a normal ‘every 2-3 months’ haircut.

I asked my husband to take his razor and shave my head on the longest setting his razor could do. That was 1.3 centimeters (half an inch) short.

How did this happen?

On a Tuesday morning somebody I know posted a video on social media of herself shaving her own head. She had very long hair and she left nothing. She went completely bald.

She wrote that this was a new beginning for her and like a newborn without any hair she pretty much birthed herself into a new life.

I was shocked in a good way by her doing this. I thought that she was so brave and strong and very inspiring in a way that she must have gotten to a point in her self-growth journey where she was able to get rid of everything that held her back and she was now ready to step into a new phase of her life, her new life.

When I watched her doing so, I remembered that I had thought about shaving my head many times before, but I had never followed through with it. I wasn’t brave enough. I was scared.

But what exactly was I afraid of?

I think mostly I feared how other people would react and how they would see me? I was afraid of being seen as a lesbian or as a very manly woman. A woman that is not normal.

I want to emphasize here that I absolutely don’t have a problem with gay people! I even lookup to them for being different and strong enough to stand up for themselves and something that is deemed to not be normal. The thing is that I have a problem with people not seeing the real me. I think that’s what held me back, all these prejudices…judgements about being different.

Of course I also couldn’t know if I liked myself with short hair or if I would regret doing it later and then would have to go through this long process of growing them back.

So why did I feel strong enough to follow my friend’s lead and cut my hair off this time?

There were many reasons. I spent a lot of time during the past year to work on me being more feminine. I even hired a coach to help me explore this topic more and I learned just a couple of months ago that we all have masculine and feminine energies in us. And for me it’s been very healing to actually embrace the masculine more as suppose to fighting against it. I always thought that I wanted to get rid of the masculine to become more feminine. But only through being in touch with both energies it’s now easier for me to step into my feminine when I wish to and when it’s important to create this polarity between my husband’s masculine and my feminine energy.

I am ok now and even see advantages being in my masculine energy when I want to get things done and when I am in a more goal-oriented mode 🙂

One other thing I’ve been working on is to be ok to be seen. I want to stop hiding and want to go out there and be an inspiration for others. I want to feel good about myself and get rid of the feelings of not being good enough. I feel like I have things to share with the world that could change people’s opinions, maybe change people’s lives, just as I have changed a lot in my life in the past 2 years.

My hair and my glasses seemed to be ‘objects’ I hid behind. If it was the bump on my nose that I was always conscious about, that I could hide or pimples, unclear skin or blushing with my glasses and my hair …

All this is not possible anymore. And the idea of a new beginning, of course, sounded good to me too. The symbolic rebirth to allow myself to be seen and allow myself to like the real me and be me, no hiding any more, pure honesty.

How did it actually happen?

That Tuesday I met my husband for lunch and asked him what he would think about me cutting off my hair. His first response was somewhat expected. He asked me who he should take to his company’s Xmas party then.

I mean this totally went in the direction of ‘what would people think about us? I would be embarrassed by you. That’s not a normal thing to do.’.

I asked him if that was really his only concern. I understood that I surprised him with my plan and put him onto the spot a bit … We talked about it some more and at the end of our lunch he wanted me to do whatever I felt good doing. We established that he had the right tools at home to follow through with my plan.

That evening when he came home, there wasn’t so much of a question about this anymore. My hubby had actually done his researched online about short hairstyles for women 🙂

So, he came home prepared! I found this so sweet of him and still can’t believe in what little time he went from being worried about people’s opinions over ‘Do what you want’ to ‘Here I am, ready for the job!’.

After dinner we set up a stool outside and he started shaving my head 🙂

While doing so it took a little time to talk him out of the hairstyle idea. I really didn’t want a ‘haircut’. I just wanted the hair off!

There was a point when he actually started having fun while shaving. He all of a sudden seemed turned on by my short hair. I have the feeling that this happened when my energy levels shifted and I got balanced and came into my strength of who I am today! I stepped into feminine power and he reacted with his masculine energy.

It almost felt magical.

It’s been three weeks now with short hair and it’s been quite the experience.

First of all I love how quickly I wash my hair and that I can dry it by just rubbing my head with a towel for a couple of seconds… No brushing and no conditioner anymore 🙂

I love to look at myself in the mirror! I love my face! I smile at myself all the time in the mirror. I like my wrinkles on my forehead, that I had never spend much attention to. I’m ok with all the grey hairs that are now visible. These things make me feel like a woman and not a little girl.

I like to see my ears and earrings that were always hidden by my hair.

I don’t necessarily like the pimples in my face, but since I can’t hide them behind a curtain of hair, I’m ok with them too.

I absolutely love the warm sunshine on my head. I feel like every single ray of sunshine gets to touch my skull and somehow ‘enlightens’ me.

The breeze when sticking my head out of the car window while driving feels amazing too 🙂

The first week or so, I pretty much awaited some response when I met people I know, but by now I forget about it.

The most amazing thing though is that I have not met anybody in person who has told me that he/she does not like my new haircut.

Much the opposite is the case. People tell me that I have a really pretty face. Today somebody said that I look gorgeous and so stylish.

Somebody even said that I have a face like a model! I mean, it does feel good to hear something like this, especially when I am liking my myself too and am in a state of self-love and appreciation and self growth.

A woman told me today that I inspired her last week to also cut her hair shorter and she she really enjoyed her new haircut.

But I think the biggest compliment I have gotten came from my neighbor. She said something along the lines ‘I have watched you change over the past months and watched you grow into this amazing woman and mama and I always knew that you had this creative artsy side inside of you. But now I see it coming out and it’s showing and I love it!’

Really, this meant so much to me that somebody would see me this way and I do feel exactly like this and it feels so good to be seen this real way, the real me. (I know, you will read this, so thank you Melanie! You made me very happy!)

I always feel so honored when people open up and tell me how they feel and tell me that I inspired them by something I did, wrote, shared about my life, my journey. I also got a couple of messages from people asking about my hair and telling me that they enjoy my posts about a healthy and balanced life on social media which inspired them to think about their lifestyle and how it could be healthier.

I think, my grandma is the only one who still can’t get over my decision to cut my hair. I think it’s hard for most 80+ year olds to understand such a change. She says she doesn’t recognize me, but she also only sees me on pictures and not in real life. She has had a long life to make up her opinions and had much time to prove them right for her, so I just let her be.

But of course there are worries that come up in some people when seeing (especially) women with very short hair. Is she healthy? Some people associate short hair with cancer and cancer treatment and as sad as this is, that’s what our society is somewhat used to these days, but I hope that everybody who sees me personally can tell that I am very healthy and me cutting my hair has nothing unhealthy about it.

Right now after almost 4 weeks, I feel like my hair is getting too long already. I will for sure cut it shorter again this coming week. I never planned on doing this again. I thought that this would be a one time event, but I really love everything about it, for now… who knows for how long. I will probably get to a point when I want to let it grow again … I will go with the flow and see what feels right.

I’ve heard that some people say that hair is the antenna to the universe, the unconscious. I can just negate this. I feel closer to my feelings and my emotions than ever before. I also feel closer to other people. It’s like I let go of some walls that I probably built a long ago. I’m sure they were there to protect me, but for now they are not needed anymore. I feel so much more present and in love with myself and my family and this world. This experiment was very successful and I do feel like I re-birthed myself in some kind. I got yet another step closer to the real me 🙂 ❤

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If you have any comments or a similar story to share, please do so in the comments or send me a PM. I am looking forward to connecting with you!

With much love and gratitude,

aNNika