April 9, 2011

Open windows

Two blog posts in one day. Something must be brewing.

By all accounts, today should be fantastic. I finally got the nerve up to send Jack a W.I.D.T.H. picture for his blog, I exchanged e-mails with Ben about my nerves and the weather predicament for tomorrow's race, and I noticed how little my reflection is becoming as I went to the grocery store to restock my fridge with fruits and veggies for this week.

The sun is shining. There's a cool breeze. And everything in my life is fantastic right now. I look good. I feel great. There is so much love in my life, from my family and my friends and my awesome blog community. Every day, I feel so hopeful and positive - even when I struggle, I feel loved and supported.

Walking back from the grocery store, I stood on the curb waiting for a light to change so I could cross the street. A brown car full of young men turned a quick corner, windows down.
"Fat bitch!"
My iPod was on, but not loud enough that I couldn't hear it. I kept my cool until I got home, where I dropped my bags on the kitchen floor and then went into my office to sob.

pauvre con
Do jerks have x-ray vision? Because while my bags were mostly full of fresh spinach, mushrooms, zucchini, blueberries, apples, tomatoes, and an onion ... there was also a bag of white chocolate chips. My friend is coming over tonight to make dinner before we race tomorrow, and since I have wanted to bake lately, I figured this would be a good way to bake and still be responsible: we'd bake together, I'd eat one, and send the leftovers home with her - she has a couple of roommates, and I bet the boys would love some cranberry orange white chocolate chip cookies.

I was just thinking the other day how nice it was that no one had yelled anything mean from a car window in nearly six months. In a matter of a fraction of a second, I felt like I undid all the work of the past thirty-six weeks. It doesn't matter what I look like today - for how I feel, I may as well weigh 345 pounds again.

I went home, baked the cookies, and ate three big ones - because my logical brain quits when heartache starts, and as long as I feel as sad as I did when I was my biggest, I might as well get the full experience and eat until I feel invisible again.

four exes or no exes. you're still large.
This hoodie used to be tight on me. This is the second winter coat I've outgrown this season.

This does not matter - all people see is what I am now.
I have not won yet.

Everyone tells me I look great, and sometimes I believe it.

But this does not matter - I only look great comparatively.
I look better than old me, but I don't look good.

I have not won yet.

My pants used to be size 28. Now they're 14.

But this does not matter - size 14 is still plus size.
I have not won yet.

I used to weigh 345 pounds. My BMI was 55.7 - "super obese." Now I'm 217 pounds.

But this does not matter - super or not, a BMI of 35 is still obese.
I have not won yet.

I keep talking about winning like this is some competition. The jerk says something that hurts me, so I have to eat 750 calories worth of cookies - anything you can do, I can do better. This really bothers me.

Also upsetting: maybe it's because I'm a language teacher and I notice odd little things, but I just realized that I wrote "I'm 217 pounds." As in, "I am 217 pounds." I am not 217 pounds. My body is. Physically, I'm just a person - one who is in transition. But I'm a lot of things beyond my physical self. I'm a daughter and a sister and a friend and a teacher and a blogger. I'm strong and I'm brave and I'm committed. And I'm responsible and accountable - so yes, I made cookies, but only a half-batch, of which I only ate three cookies, and they are all noted in my daily food log.

So jerk, say what you want when you drive down the road today - because I'm also a runner. A runner who is going to run the heck out of five miles of Chicago streets tomorrow.

April showers

Tomorrow is going to be a big day for me.

sweet signage
Yesterday was a busy day, with preliminary preparations to be made.

thaw - more like heatwave
Like going down to Navy Pier to pick up my race bib and tech shirt.

holy moley
Over 40,000 runners.

My swag bag. I'm so completely excited!

Today will be another busy day. There's a race playlist to be made, sports bras to wash, a hairdo to figure out, and a delicious dinner to prepare in my kitchen with Lorelei (recipe tomorrow! Here's to hoping it isn't a disaster!).

Something I am NOT excited about?

80º F?! Or, 27º C?! Really, Chicago? Of all the days to warm up, you not only pick this one, but you overdo it. Yesterday when I was leaving the gym, I could see my breath. *sigh*

I've never ran outside in that kind of heat. I got capri running pants a couple months back thinking it would be only slightly warmer in Chicago in April than it was in Connecticut in January at my first 5k. (The ones I wear in my gym mirror pics - side note, love those pants. Love my legs in those pants. Want to wear them all the time.) So, I bought some shorter pants - not quite shorts, but above the knee. The clothes aren't really my major concern, though - it's just running in that heat. Most of my runs are indoors so I'm used to it being warmer than outside, but not 80º!

I'm also a little nervous about running in the rain. First, because I have also never ran in the rain before. And second, because I wear my iPod in an armband and I don't want to destroy it (or get electrocuted), so if it's really bad out, I might not bring my iPod. Which means running for an hour or so in relative silence. There will be all the other runners and the spectators, so it will be far from quiet around me. But inside my head? Just me, and my thoughts. And that might be harder to deal with than the heat. I'm pretty dependent on my playlists to keep me going, to push me harder, to help keep me focused.

Any advice?

Stay hydrated ... check.

Wear shorter pants and your adorable short-sleeve pink Do Life shirt ... check.

Don't get too scared of spending an hour running on the streets of Chicago, taking in the sights, enjoying the experience, and being amazing without a premade rock 'n' roll soundtrack ... check.

What else?

April 8, 2011

Roses and thorns

This has been a pretty ho-hum week. Not good, not bad. Just nothing terribly exciting. Fairly routine. Not complaining - I'd rather have boring than bad, I suppose. The weather is dreary but next week is looking warm (a few days will be sunny, even!), so that's something to look forward to.

I went to the movies on Tuesday night. It was my rest day and I wanted to get out of the house, so I saw a documentary on Stephin Merritt at the Gene Siskel Film Center, one of my favorite places in Chicago. I love the Magnetic Fields and all of Stephin Merritt's various musical projects, so it was really enjoyable. I also really liked the way my body felt sitting in the theater seat - the last time I went to the movies was back in October with my kid sister. We saw "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" in the same theater and I was just breaking out of the 300s - it was the day of my stair race, actually!

Right now, work is just work. My students' post-spring break malaise has settled but now is starting to transform into end-of-semester sliding. They have an exam today and turned in compositions yesterday, and hopefully I don't pull out all my hair while grading - their last exams were not their best. I'm getting observed next week - a videotaped observation - so I'm nervous about that. I'm getting recorded with my best group of students, so that's a comfort, but still, the anticipation always makes me a little anxious. I know I'm a great teacher - at our last observation, all of the other instructors were told a list of things they needed to improve, and my meeting was not much more than the director saying "Mary, you are an exceptionally gifted educator." (Verbatim. I wrote it down to tell my parents.) But still, the process and the review is a big stressor, especially considering I'm on the edge of my seat waiting to hear about a job for the fall.

Add that stress to the idea of my mother and brother being here about one week from today, and it's looking like next week will be a real emotional challenge. not sure where this is from but i loooove itI'm counting on the sunshine and post-race adrenaline to help me stay sane, focused, and maybe even a little enthusiastic!

My workouts left me feeling incredible, especially my runs, but I ate a lot this week - I'm not mad or upset, it's just an observation. I was insatiably hungry on Tuesday. It wasn't any specific cravings or an urge to binge, it was my stomach rumbling and body screaming FEED ME. I ignored it, tried to drown it with water, but when it became physically painful, I ate one of my post-run protein bars, and I immediately felt better. Logging my food has been really helpful - looking back on Tuesday now, I can see that I didn't have a lot of protein that day, so I know that feeling can come up and now I can better plan my meals. I'm learning a lot from this, and that's something to be proud of.

I'm down 3 more pounds this week, to 217. A new decade - the teens! That's always exciting. Offline, I keep track of my progress in tables on Microsoft Word:

my little diary
I note my weight, change in pounds from previous week, BMI, number of days I worked out, and three lines of comments (I figure it's like Twitter - economy of words, focus on the important stuff). My weigh in for September 10 had me at 317. My comments:
Almost 10% loss! Loving life incredibly. I've been doing the Wii Fit every day, plus I've started getting off the bus 4 stops early – another .8 miles on top of my 1.5 mile daily walk!
It's so interesting to see how far I've come in terms of weight loss and my exercise routine. I'm glad I still love life incredibly! Though it's really, really, really weird to think that I am less than 20 pounds away from onederland. I never thought I'd get this close, let alone still feel strong and powerful enough to break through to the single hundreds!

What about you? What are you looking forward to this weekend? What's something you learned/saw/did this week that made you feel proud?

April 7, 2011


The weather the other day was sunny and warm-ish, and according to the forecast, it was the best day to look forward to all week. As I got ready for work, I decided to wear a different kind of outfit than I usually do: a yellow skirt, green sweater, light green tank top, and black leggings. I also wore black peep-toe espadrille shoes. I looked super cute, and it was nice to step out of my comfort zone a little - I am very much a jeans/tee-shirts kind of girl, a residual habit from my days of not wanting to really be seen as I went back and forth from home to work/school.

that sweater is getting too big. darn.
It was a fun experience, and I'd like to think that I'm becoming the kind of lady who wears cute outfits with confidence, who runs her errands in adorable dresses and skirts and looks fabulous doing so. In the past, I'd buy nice dresses from Torrid, Lane Bryant, or Target, wear them once, feel awkward and self-conscious the whole day, and then bury the outfit in my closet and never think of it again. Jeans, tee-shirts, and hoodies were just like super obesity for me - another way to hide. No one can see my legs with these pants on, but that's alright, because no one can say anything about them; no one will talk to me because I am so big, but that's alright, because no one can hurt me. I felt safe behind all that.

But what do you do when you're alone? People yelled awful things from car windows and muttered under their breath on buses and trains, but my biggest critic was always myself. I didn't want to wear shorts or capris and show my legs to strangers - but when I'm in the shower? In the morning when I get dressed? At night getting ready for bed? I'm totally exposed to myself - and totally overwhelmed with negative thoughts.

At eighteen and nineteen years old, I was not the best at thinking out logical solutions for my big problems. The cute boy thinks I don't have enough dating experience, so instead of ditching the kid, I decide to sleep around. I hate looking at my own naked body, so instead of getting healthy and improving my self-image, I decide to cover my body with images and designs. I loved the drawings. I wanted to love my body. So I had the drawings permanently etched into me.

In addition to the idea of changing my body, there was the act itself, how the ink got there. Tattoos are ink injected under a layer of skin. They take a while to heal. This was not just a beautification process for me, but punishment and repentance. It was my equivalent of the Catholic nuns sewing thorns inside their clothing - I was hurting, but for a greater purpose. My body is ugly. I want to love it. So I'm going to hurt for a while - I might even bleed - but I'll care for the wound and be left with something beautiful. I wouldn't need to do this if I had a nice body, but this is a suffering that I need to endure before there is anything about me worth looking at.

It made an awful lot of sense to a very depressed and hopeless kid. It's very, very sad for me to think that this was my mindset - that I couldn't see how lovely I am and how much promise the future had for me, and that just like with binge eating and casual sex, I was once looking to hurt myself in order to make myself feel temporarily better.

My first was the girl crouching in a pile of dead leaves, surrounded by the Rilo Kiley lyrics "I am flawed if I'm not free." I always said that my dad would have a heart attack if I ever got a tattoo ... and a week after he first saw it on my right ankle, he did. Guilt.

rilo kiley lyrics
My second was a girl on the opposite inside ankle, again with a quote: "Times are hard for dreamers," from the movie "Amélie." I didn't get it in the original French because I was worried about getting the grammar incorrect. I didn't trust my abilities enough.

les temps sont durs pour les rêveurs
The next few were the birds on my chest, then the anchor and the nautical stars. The birds were well-intentioned but ill-prepared, and I'd consider the awkward placement of quote alongside them to be my only semi-regret. I love the words, though (another Rilo Kiley quote: "With every broken heart / we should become more adventurous."), and the fact that the birds are there for my grandmothers.

The anchor - I grew up on the Connecticut shoreline, and feel very drawn to nautical themes. Also, the expression "married to the sea" has always been something I felt very relevant to my life.

hurt like whoa
The fireflies on my wrists are my sisters. One is lower than the other intentionally, that's how they were in the original artwork. Flying towards each other to create a greater light.

miss my sorelle
An angel and a devil on the tops of my feet, to make sure that when I move forward, I'm balanced. I don't step just left or right, I don't make all good or all bad decisions. Cue dramatic eye rolling from my several-years-hence self, but still, I think they're adorable and they might be my favorite.

still love them
And the band-aid heart on my inside left arm? My addiction to unhealthy love.

i wish i were stronger still
I was in Paris when I found out I got into my first choice graduate school in Chicago. Everything in my life was moving at that time. So, an airplane and a girl in a beret sitting on a suitcase.

And last but not least, a mermaid fighting a squid on the top of my right arm. She isn't finished, because the tattoo artist started changing the design mid-work and I was furious. He gave her tail a snake belly - not cool. He also made her back way longer than it needs to be. I've thought about getting it fixed and finished for a couple years now, but I wanted to wait to see if I ever lost weight because my arm shape would possibly change. "If" is now "when," so she'll be fixed soon, hopefully.

Like losing your virginity, tattoos are a permanent decision that can't be undone. Regretting the decision is futile - you can't take it back, you just move forward and grow from there. My tattoos tell a story, and though I'm not sure it's an entirely happy one, I'm hopeful about the ending.

I want to get a tattoo for my 100 pound weight loss - I love tattoos, and I can't wait to get one not as a physical punishment and not as a means to embellish an otherwise ugly body. This one - a Russian nesting doll - is a mark of progress, I think - not just with the loss of physical weight, but with the emotional transition from the girl I was to the girl I am becoming. The doll is big, but she's lovely, and inside there's a girl who is just as lovely, only a little smaller.

I can't wait to show her off!

April 6, 2011


When I set out on my journey, I had the idea to lose 210 pounds.

before graph
Having started at 345 pounds, that meant I needed to lose more than half my body weight. Nearly two-thirds, in fact. The task seemed impossible, but this time, it felt like I didn't have a choice - I was 23 and realized I was not only not living, but I was dying. If I didn't buckle down and lose weight, I would just get bigger and bigger, and I honestly saw myself dying of a weight-related illness or heart attack before age 30.

If I actually did it this time, if I really stuck with it, I hoped to be at my goal weight in three or four years. It sounded like an awfully long time, and I wasn't sure if I could stick with something for that long. But I had to try. It finally had come to a point where I wanted to get healthier and look better, no matter how long it took.

Now, eight months later, I'm more than halfway through that 210 pound goal.

current graph - holy mackarel
The amount of weight I have lost has almost caught up with the number of pounds I chose for my long-term goal weight.

To be honest, I chose 135 somewhat haphazardly - it was in the middle of my healthy BMI range and ended with a 5. I never thought I'd be successful enough to actually be the weight, so why not choose a perfect number like that?

Lately, though, I've been considering how active I've become. My three-to-four year plan for loss was based on light exercise and counted calories. But as it has turned out, I'm much more active than I thought I would be, and the activities I'm doing to get fit are much more intense and shaping than I planned. Every time I tell someone I am a runner, I smile a little, because it's still something unbelievable to me. Less than a year ago, it was uncomfortable for me to walk and get out of bed and shave my legs - this Sunday, I'm running just shy of five miles.

As I lose more weight, I am starting to come to terms with the idea that I'll be done when I feel my best and that the number on the scale is only one way of measuring progress. The other day, a co-worker asked me how many more pounds I wanted to lose; when I said 85, she looked at me strangely, then asked "Well, frankly, where will these 85 pounds come from?" While I definitely still have quite a bit of weight to lose (almost entirely in the belly region), I may need to rethink my goal of 135 - my healthy BMI range is between 119 and 154 pounds, and so I may need to be closer to the upper end of that. I may need to re-evaluate my weight goals to help them sync up with my fitness goals.

I made a meeting with the athletic performance lab at my gym to evaluate what my body fat percentage is and to discuss what my long-term goal weight should actually be, especially considering that I would like to start training for longer races. My specific needs as a runner and athlete are a little different given my history as a formerly super obese person - I still need to lose weight and be in good physical shape, but my body shape and makeup is different from, say, someone who has always been a normal/healthy weight and who also decided to become a runner.

What about you? How do you measure your progress? BMI? Body fat percentage? Some other way? What exercise/fitness/food decisions have you made so far on your journey that would totally surprise Former You?

April 5, 2011

Workouts: March

By now, April is in full swing, so it's time for my March fitness wrap-up!

Compared with my end of February totals, I was a lot more active in March. Of course, there were no blizzards in March, no family crises, and three more days on the calendar...

Of 31 days, six were complete rest days (two of those were my trip to St. Louis), plus two days with just some Wii Fit.

I used the Wii three times in March, which isn't a lot, but compared with only once in February, it's an improvement. Not having the nunchuck is still my excuse - my mom and brother will be bringing it with them in a week and a half when they get here, so that will help me make good on my SFC goal of using the Wii for an hour a week.

I had a similar experience with my strength training - I am gradually increasing from month to month, but I really would like to do more. I'm actually pretty okay with the way my arms are turning out (and goodness knows I'm completely in love with my legs), but I definitely want to start focusing on my ab muscles - that's where my skin is the loosest and I'm starting to get a little self-conscious about it.

I did not use the pool at all in March or February - my last swim was January 30 - so that's one of my goals for April: get back in the water! I have been looking around for a new bathing suit since the whole reason I stopped swimming was because my old suit was hanging off me and I didn't want to show off my bum. I found a super cute one from Lands End, and I even went downtown to Sears to try it on ... but it's really hard to justify spending over $100 on something that won't fit in a couple of months, even if it is adorable and polka-dotted. So I'm going to check out Target this weekend.

I biked 81.5 miles in March, up from 67.8 in February (and 62.9 in January). A half-Ironman biking distance is 55.92 miles - the full is 111.85 - so while I am still not at full distance, I'm doing very well and getting closer! 81.5 miles is nothing to complain about - that's even longer than if I ran from one side of the state of Connecticut to the other! (Or nearly three Delawares!)

As I predicted in the end of February, I caught up on my goal to run 345 miles in 2011 - and I even got a little ahead by the end of the month! I logged 37.42 miles in March, which brought my year-to-date total to 88.75 miles, or 25.7% of goal. Longer Sunday runs helped a lot, and those will help me in April too, since I will be jumping right into training for my 10k race in June after my 8k race next Sunday. Here is the training schedule I put together for myself and Lorelei (my running buddy with whom I am also running the Shamrock Shuffle next week):

we CAN do this!
It isn't a ton of time, but I'm okay with that. The distance increments seem do-able: my 8k training schedule had me increasing quarter miles every other Sunday, but I planned this one to increase every Sunday but a shorter distance. And if I have to walk during the race, I'll walk - the last thing I want is to blow out my knees or otherwise injure myself!

What about you? Do you keep track of your workouts? What exercise goals or plans do you have on deck for April?

April 4, 2011

Spring Fever: Week One

New season, new challenge. I am *so* ready.lifesjourneywithasmile dot com

It's really interesting: when I came up with my list of goals for Drop Dead Gorgeous by December and Winter Wonderland Warriors, I could easily think of things I wanted to accomplish. But when compiling this list, it took me a surprisingly long time. I think the difference this time was that I wanted to pick things that were really, truly challenging. Outside of my comfort zone type things, pushing myself beyond my norms type things. In the past, I picked goals that seemed easily attainable because I didn't want to disappoint myself or let myself down.

This time, I'm playing a little differently. I'm trying to redefine success in order to calm my perfectionist/overachiever tendencies. It's okay if I want to visit three museums and only get to two - realistically, I am the only one who is disappointed by my falling short. I am going to try my hardest and do the best I can, and that will be enough. That will be a success.

So, without further ado, here are my goals:

1. Get to onederland.
As of last Friday's weigh in, I'm at 220. I'd like to greet this summer at 199 or lower. 1.75 pounds a week will get me there!

2. Cut back on scale dependency.
My weight is "official" and recorded on Fridays, but I weigh every single morning as soon as I wake up. That number controls me - it can make or break my day. I want to cut back on how frequently I weigh myself - by the end of the challenge, I'd like it to be just Fridays, but I'm going to start small.

3. Log 220 biked miles.
I'm trying to run 345 miles this year, but I can bike longer distances than I can run, so I think 220 (my challenge start weight) would be a good miles goal for nearly three months.

4. Log 60 minutes weekly on Wii Fit.
I don't use the Wii nearly as much now that I've become a full-fledged gym rat, and I miss it! It's not as intense as my gym workouts, but some days, that's what I need.

5. Complete three of my 101-in-1001 goals.
For winter, I wanted to complete two, and I did. Stepping it up a notch for spring!

6. Try five new things.
Could be a new exercise, a new store, a new cut of underwear, a new route to work, a new hobby, a new experience - anything! I'm very much a lady who enjoys a routine, I like to do the same things over and over until they're exhausted. I want to expand my horizons, step out of my comfort zone a little.

7. Make a plan for summer and fall.
This has a few parts to it. Within the next few weeks, I'm finding out if I have a job for the fall. If I do have a job, I have to plan how to maintain my healthy lifestyle over the summer without having my 9-5 schedule to keep me occupied during the week. If my contract does not get extended, I have a whole new set of challenges. My current job's paychecks are set up so that I make a little less each month, but my checks are spread out over twelve months - so even though I am done working in May, I get paid through August. So there's a little comfort there. In the meantime, I will need to find a job, figure out if I can stay in my apartment, figure out if I can stay in Chicago ... and still manage my healthy lifestyle on top of that. My plan for this goal is to stay sane in this period of transition and to see growth opportunities where I would once have seen major roadblocks.

I think that covers most of this first week's questions ... oh! What is something most people (er... fellow bloggers) don't know about you?

I have fourteen tattoos. I think people know I have a lot, but the thing people (not just other bloggers) might not know: I love them and I don't regret getting them, but I'm not sure I would have gotten so many/such big ones if I wasn't super obese. They'll get a post all their own later this week.

And my positive picture for the week:

ow owww!
I might be addicted to this full-length mirror at the gym. My mind is shifting, I'm starting to see myself more as a smaller person and I'm not able to identify as easily with my before pictures. This is a very, very good thing. I was looking at myself yesterday and just started crying a little because this is me - this is my life - and I look so damn good. And it felt so good to honestly believe it. This was pre-long run - I did 4.75 miles in 53:52. The race is 4.97 miles (8k) and when I registered, I estimated my finish at 65:00. My unofficial goal? A sub-60 finish. I hope to report good news next week!

April 3, 2011


Today is not just any old Sunday. Today is the birthday of someone I love very, very much: Dan, my baby brother!

i miss this little nugget!
Though, admittedly, he is not a baby anymore.

last summer
Today, he is ten years old. Double digits!

I remember the day he was born, getting the phone call early in the morning and heading to the hospital. He was sick, so my sisters and I had to look through the window of the nursery and try and figure out which one was our new baby brother. A few hours later, a nurse wheeled him in and we got to hold him for the first time; until that moment when I first held that little nugget in my arms, I had never known such a love. So pure, whole, joyful.

I'm fourteen years older than Dan, which has both its perks and its drawbacks. I get to be the awesome older sister who sends him care packages of books, art supplies, and little odds and ends. I also get to be the one who occasionally overrides the things Mom says no to. (Like a couple summers ago when I dyed his hair electic blue, just so he could feel like the coolest kid ever.)

trop cool
But at the same time, it's really tough. I left home for college when he was three, so I've been physically present only sporadically for most of his life. I miss him incredibly when I'm not around, because even though we talk frequently on the phone or over video chat, it's not the same as grabbing the kid and giving him a giant hug and a kiss whenever you feel like.

I love all my siblings, but I'm partial to Dan. Yes, he's young and cute, but that's not all. Growing up with two sisters, there were a lot of ridiculous fights, and since we're all girls with insecurities, we knew exactly what to say to hurt each other the most. Without fail, every argument contained cries about my weight, and despite always trying to act tough and unaffected, it definitely broke my heart. Other people who don't know me can say whatever they want about my body - but these are my sisters.

Of course, I was also calling Lisa stupid and Katie a wimp, which contributed to their issues as well ... the fact that the three of us are on speaking terms at all, let alone best friends, is remarkable. As you grow up, those memories mellow a little - I know that they love me (and they know that I love them) and that unfortunately, kids aren't always aware of how much words can hurt.

The point, though, is that I don't have memories like that with Dan. Even though we occasionally fight (there's an entirely different set of issues with siblings that have huge age gaps - mostly frustration due to the different views of a little kid and an adult non-parent), his comebacks have never referenced my weight. I'm a jerk, I'm unfair, I'm mean, and I just don't understand - but I'm never a big, fat, lazy slob. Even at my biggest, the kid never said anything mean about my size. He just loves - wholly and without judgment. My body and whatever flaws I see in it have no bearing on his love for me.

at the bean
And you know, the greatest feeling in the world is knowing that you are someone's hero. Perhaps it's because of the physical distance between us - I'm almost foreign and exotic - but the kid idolizes me. He gave an adorable speech after my Masters graduation that ended with him in tears, hugging me because he was "just so proud." We were chatting the other day and he was telling me that when he grows up, he wants to move to Chicago and live with me - "Can I be a scientist in Chicago?" *sigh* So adorable.

love love love this kid
He'll be here in two weeks with our mother, and all the stress and anxiety of preparing for a visit mid-semester will melt away when he gives me that first big hug after not seeing each other for four months.

And on that note, my recipe for the week: one from the Biggest Loser Family Cookbook! It came with the Wii Fit bundle my parents got me for Christmas a couple years ago, and since I am preparing for this family visit, I've been looking for recipes to make that would be pleasing to everyone - especially for snacks. I made edamammus, a bean dip that's the consistency of hummus but which uses Greek yogurt instead of tahini and edamame instead of chick peas.

hummus is yummus
8 ounces edamame, cooked and shelled
2 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1 tsp olive oil [I skipped this]
3 tbsp plain non-fat Greek yogurt
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade, combine the edamame, lemon juice, garlic, and parsley. Process until the mixture is paste-like and the edamame is finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the food processor on, slowly drizzle the olive oil through the top until well mixed. Add the yogurt and process just until combined. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 5 (about 1/4 cup) servings.

Also, each serving is only about 52 calories, which is awesome. I thought it was totally delicious, especially with cucumber slices, and I'll definitely try making it when Mom and Dan are out here - the kid is a little picky but gets more adventurous with eating if I say that something is good.