We’re on the second half of our journey, and I’m feeling so, so great! If anything, these last few days have shown me what I’m capable of in terms of self-control, discipline, and taking care of myself. I always made up excuses such as, “I don’t have time.” Or “I’m not sure where to start.” I can’t tell you how many diets and changes I’ve tried over the years, and I would get down to my last ten pounds, and still not be able to reach my goal. Every single effort has been torture, and I looked desperately for some kind of “ending” to it so that my life could go back to normal.

Well, this just feels normal. Because the main focus is health and not weight loss, I’m realizing why past diets and efforts have been so difficult … my goal was too weight-focused. It was a recipe for burnout. It happened every single time.

The irony continues however … today during our homeschool hours, my 3rd grader was taking a test. So I sat on the floor with my kindergardener and told him to pick a game to play off the game shelf. He went over to the shelf and scanned the boxes carefully, selected one, then came back and joined me on the floor. He placed between us Candyland.

photo by John Morgan

“Really??” I said, and the boys laughed. “Daddy and I are on a special diet, and you pick Candyland??” Oh he was so very pleased with himself.

In all seriousness, despite the fact that sweet treats keep being presented right in front of me in such an enticing way, I haven’t been tempted to cave. It’s been an eye-opener.

We took an extended lunch break as I cooked an Asparagus Creme Soup recipe. Let me just tell ya, I am in loooooove with creamy soups. It’s one of my favorite things about fall and winter. Some girls can’t wait to get out their cute boots at the first sign of fall. I can’t wait to have a good, creamy soup. So I had my heart set on this recipe. The picture looked so tasty … it was a pretty bowl of seafoam colored goodness. I noticed right away that it seemed to call for a lot more split peas than asparagus, but whatever. I’m not a chef … I’m just a mom.

I chopped and simmered that thing, running up and down the stairs from the school room to the kitchen to stir it every six minutes, like a good little rule follower. I used my immersion blender, and even though it still looked pretty chunky, I was too excited to wait any longer. I put a couple of scoops into a bowl and sat down to enjoy it.

It was a little disappointing at first … it doesn’t taste like asparagus at all. It was just the strong flavor of split peas. I like split pea soup, don’t get me wrong … it just wasn’t at all the asparagus creme I was expecting. It was still delicious, though, and filling. I had apparently undercooked it because some of the peas were still a little chewy. But overall, it was very satisfying. I’ll probably make it again.

When Kris came home from work, he reported a successful day, as well! He’d gone to a nearby store within walking distance from his building looking for healthy snacks. He had the goal of unsweetened raisins, but they were completely out. Poor guy just can’t catch a break! He looked cute though in his new clothes he got with Christmas money … anyways, it made me feel so happy when a coworker complimented him on how delicious his lunch smelled. It was the leftover stir fry from two nights ago!

We’ll be headed to church tonight so we’ll be having an early dinner of Mongolian Beef. You read that right … It’s a Daniel Plan recipe with all healthy ingredients! This time, my husband is cooking, and as I type this, I can hear him downstairs in the kitchen with the boys. Apparently they’re helping him cook, and he’s showing them how to measure the ingredients, and teaching them about how to follow a recipe.

Gosh I love that guy.

On the Daniel Plan, there are five “essentials” that the book encourages to focus on: Faith, Food, Focus, Fitness and Friends. Now that we’re halfway through our detox, I took some time to fill them out today, mindful of what comes next. I haven’t been exercising, possibly because I’ve been so focused on getting the food part of things right. I’ll share my five essentials in another post after the 10 days are compete.

Anyway, see you tomorrow on Day 7! Thanks for reading!

We made it through Day 5! Woo Hoo!!!

I didn’t get a chance to blog last night, so I’ll double up today … Halfway-Mark-Day was not an uneventful day, however. It was a combination of fun, fascinating, and hysterical.

We started out the day with normal homeschool work … tackling math at the top of the day. After my 3rd grader met his multiplication flash-card goal, we whooped and did a victory lap around the room. Then we headed to a local park behind my favorite library for story time/snack/craft. It was windy and chilly but so much fun, and I loved seeing the other homeschool moms and kids there.

Afterward we went to Chick Fil-A for lunch, where we placed our order with one of my new favorite people … a sweet teen named Becca who I met at church last Sunday. The boys ordered their favorites and I ordered … WATER.

That’s right folks. I went to Chick Fil-A and didn’t order ANYTHING. I’m not sure if that’s an accomplishment, or if I should question my life choices. Regardless, I’m counting it a WIN! I brought with me a kale salad that I’d made in advance, and it was quite delicious. I ate another one of those fun blueberry muffins, and watched the boys as they climbed in the indoor playground.

When my husband came home from work, he could count on both hands how many times he was faced with temptation to nibble something off-plan (dang those Reese’s Christmas Trees and Dr. Pepper!). But he held strong! He’d had a Granny Smith apple for breakfast, and had taken leftovers from the night before for lunch. He came home ravenous and ready for dinner, so I cooked early. When he asked what was on the menu, I told him spicy black bean soup.

He wrinkled up his nose.

Over the next ten minutes he asked twice, “So … tell me again what’s for dinner?”

As if I’d change my mind. HA! I’d meticulously planned and shopped for these ten days … I’m sticking to plan!

The recipe called for a jalapeno pepper and lots of garlic and tomato. My kids aren’t going to touch this, I thought. But I stayed tough. They were going to eat it, and like it!!

I remembered how well they ate the accidentally-chopped-too-fine veggies the night before, and used an immersion blender to make the chunky soup nice and creamy, incorporating all the seasonings and vegetables. It looked aaaaaamaaaaaazing. I poured it over rice (which the recipe didn’t call for, but when my husband suggested it, I couldn’t turn it down). I sprinkled cilantro on top and hoped for the best.

We sat down, everyone took their first bite, and … they liked it! They really liked it!! My heart was soaring. While eating dinner, my husband began considering his usual nightly snack. Every night, while sitting in front of the TV, he eats somekind of goodie. I doubt that’s a habit that will ever break, as he is a creature of devout habit. But he was getting tired of peanuts and apples.

“Popcorn!” He said. “I could have that, right?”

“Not on plan,” I told him. “It has oils and butter and stuff that we can’t have right now.”

He decided to drive to Dollar General and check for some kernels to make some in a pot himself with healthy oils that were on plan. He couldn’t get out the door fast enough. I gave the boys a quick bath while he was gone. He came back looking torn. “They were completely out of kernels. But they did have THIS.” He emptied the bag. He’d bought M&M’s for the boys, a HUGE bag of Reese’s Cups, and an entire sleeve of mini Almond Joys for me.

“What … what?? What is this? We can’t have this.”

“It’s for when the detox is over!” He said brightly. “Oh, and the M&M’s are for the boys.”

They’d already had sweets that day, so we covered them up and decided to save them for tomorrow. He put the Reese’s Cups and Almond Joy in the pantry, where I can clearly see them every time I open the pantry doors. I secretly think he’s trying to tempt me as much as he’s been temped with his sweets at work. I had already decided that after this Detox, my sugar will be severely limited to two treats per week … Mondays and Fridays. The fun thing, too, is that I actually haven’t really craved sweets yesterday and today. I haven’t even thought about it.

But there was still one problem … my husband still didn’t have his popcorn. I suggested he cut open a bag of microwave popcorn and clean the gunk off to pop it on the stove.

“Isn’t that a lot of work, though?” He must have been really tired, because my love-to-cook husband just wasn’t feeling it in the kitchen. He cut open a bag, anyway, and I was a little shocked.

There was more sticky, oily gunk than there were kernels. I looked at the chunk of orange slime and thought, “Every bit of that goes straight into our bodies. Wow.” It was a shocker in the moment, but knowing future me, if my husband ever asks if I’d like him to pop a bag of popcorn for me, I would likely say yes. I definitely need to re-think this.

I heated up two more muffins (I know … excessive … but at least it’s on plan), and ate those while the movie got started. Kris was still clinking and clanging around in the kitchen getting his kernels ready to pop. Suddenly I heard what sounded like sprinkles showering the floor. I looked through the window into the kitchen and saw him standing, shoulders drooped, eyes turned up to the ceiling in frustration.

“What just happened?” I asked.

He had apparently washed his hands and went to grab a hand towel to dry them. It just so happened to be the same hand towel where the freshly cleaned kernels were resting to dry. The kernels sprayed everywhere.

Bless his heart. He just wanted some dang popcorn. We laughed as we gathered up the precious golden nuggets and rinsed them off once again. He successfully popped them using grapeseed oil, and just seasoned them with salt and pepper. The result was slightly tougher popcorn than usual, but it at least satisfied the craving. When I gave it a taste, I thought it was great! It was delicious with just salt and pepper … I’ll have to start popping raw kernels when I’m wanting some popcorn, myself.

We enjoyed a fun movie together, the boys, Kris and I. Then suddenly, right toward the end, we heard a loud, sploosh! come from our master bathroom.

“What in the world?” I said, sitting up on the couch. “Was that the bathtub?”

Kris started looking around the room taking inventory of everyone. “Wait … was it the cat?” That’s when I noticed she was the only one absent. The boys must not have drained the tub when they got out, and my head suddenly filled with visions of a soggy cat struggling to keep her head above water. I jumped off the couch and ran into the bathroom to find the tub full of water, sloshing back and forth wildly. But it was empty of animals. That’s when I noticed tiny wet footprints leading out of the bathroom.

“Where did she go?” My husband asked as he appeared in the doorway. The boys were right on his heels.

“I don’t know! Follow the footprints!”

The trail of splatters and footprints led through our bedroom, through the kitchen, where my husband found her under the breakfast nook table, soaked on the bottom half of her body. She looked like a black mushroom with the top half of her body fluffy, and the bottom half like shriveled little sticks. She kicked our back feet with every step, and I couldn’t get control of my laughter. Y’all, I almost couldn’t stand up, I was laughing so hard.

My husband, obviously the softie, ran and got a towel, and despite her razor claws being out and her threatening growls, he gathered her up and dried her off.

She wasn’t even grateful for the help.

Not in the least bit.

It was an altogether successful day, and I’m SOLD on this way of eating.

Here’s the thing I find fascinating: all the chopping and cooking and planning isn’t actually that much more effort than usual. I mean, I’m a stay-at-home-mom, so I have the luxury of flexing my time around priorities, so I am able to chop and cook for lunch if I choose. But in the amount of time it takes to drive to a store and pick up a frozen pizza, then cook it, I could have chopped and cooked a fresh meal. It just takes planning in advance. Note to self: plan and shop more often, instead of in large amounts like I did … the shelf life of the produce isn’t as long as I’d anticipated, and I hate to see those beautiful peppers growing bad spots on them.

Another fascinating thing: Even too much of healthy foods are too much. With all those almond-flour muffins I’ve been consuming, I feel satisfied, but heavy and just … excessive. I can TELL it’s too much, and I should have had more moderation there. I’m still having a hard time fitting into my workout pants. I had hoped my clothes would start loosening up a tad by now. I’ve started having anxious thoughts about stepping on the scale once these 10 days are over … will there be a change at all?

Regardless, the one thing I can say that I’ve gained is knowledge and health. And that definitely grants me experience points in the great game of life. 😉

We made it to the end of day 4! We had leftovers from the weekend so my husband had plenty to take to work for lunch.

Once he got there, the problems began. I received this text not long after he got to work:

A long week, indeed. 😆 I swear the little peanut butter goodies are haunting us.

It was the first day back to school for us homeschoolers. The boys were actually excited. My youngest, who is five, woke up around 7 am. He drifted to the couch in the living room where he snuggled his stuffed animals and stared into space. When he asked to play a game on my phone, I told him no, because it was a school day (a rule we established many moons ago). I enthusiastically reminded him that it was the first day back to school! Then whisked off to the kitchen to make a muffin recipe.

Noticing that he didn’t react, I watched him from the kitchen window that opens into the living room. He looked … concerned. This rarely-quiet-child was silent, and he fidgeted with the zipper on his Minecraft pj’s.

“What’s the matter, buddy?” I asked him.

“Mom,” he said, his voice crackling from sleep. “Can we keep going to homeschool?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like daddy goes to work away from our home. Do we have to go to school away from our home?” He pivoted his little head and looked at me with giant blue eyes. “Why can’t we keep going to homeschool, instead?”

“We are going to homeschool, buddy. I don’t know what you mean.”

He burst out in a grin. “Oh! When you said it was the first day back to school, I thought you meant we were going to start going to school away from our home!”

I assured him that homeschooling was still the plan. He looked relieved, and his joyful glow returned. That’s when my heart filled up to overflowing.

They love it,I thought. I had wondered, really wondered, how much they loved it. I mean, I know every day isn’t going to be blissful fun, but I don’t want them to hate it. The whole point of homeschooling them is to create an environment that encourages a love for learning. At the very thought of no longer homeschooling, Caleb looked pretty devastated.

Thank you, God.

I came back into the living room and kissed his dimpled cheeks about a dozen times before I went back to the kitchen and tackled a Daniel Plan blueberry muffin recipe. It used applesauce, no sweetener, a handful of eggs, and REAL blueberries among other interesting ingredients. No dairy (because DF means dairy free, not “Daniel Fast”, right? geez … ). No gluten. I was so excited.

When my oldest son got up, I was in the living room being silly with Caleb, who had asked about six times already when his brother would be getting up. The moment Wesley walked into the room, with glorious bedhead, narrow eyes, and a little smile, Caleb and I shouted at the same time, “YAY!!” He thought it was pretty funny that we’d practically celebrate his awakening.

While they retreated upstairs to the schoolroom to play Lego’s, I took out the muffins, and waited about ten seconds for them to cool. I was so excited about trying one, I knew I would just have to hasafashafsas till I could chew it.

I had high hopes, after all the other recipes that came out so delicious. My hopes were immediately dashed. HARD. First of all, the thing wasn’t even sweet. That applesauce did nothing. The almond flour gave it the texture of cornbread. The best part was the gooey blueberries, and I didn’t have to bake up a muffin to eat those!

Regardless, I was hungry. So I grabbed another one. I crumbled it out into a bowl and grabbed the applesauce, dumping out a generous amount on top. May as well. I jabbed a forkful into my mouth and … oh … my … goodness. It was delicious. It suddenly turned into a fresh, warm cobbler in my bowl.

I proceeded to eat three more throughout the day. (… and yet I have the audacity to wonder how I packed on ten pounds in two months in the first place).

In my last post I’d mentioned that I wondered if I would get the typical 2:00 pm homeschool droop in energy, considering the odd abundance of energy I’d had in the last couple of days. I actually didn’t get the 2 pm droop! I got the 3 pm droop, instead.

Oh well.

When Kris came home from work, he said, “Do you understand how difficult it is to sit with a box of Dr. Peppers at your feet, and spotting those dang Christmas Trees every time you opened your desk drawer??” I laughed and turned away. A few seconds later, I caught a massive whiff of chocolate. I turned, ready to bite into wherever it was coming from.

Kris stood next to me clutching a Hershey’s chocolate syrup bottle, the cap flipped open, and was blowing the scent into my face.

“You … yooouuu!” I said, slamming my fists onto my hips as all decent words left my vocabulary.

Kris trotted away, laughing, and said, “Now you know what it’s like!”

“Evil,” I said, trying to hide my smile. “Pure evil.”

Day 4 is done, and a success. Tomorrow will be the halfway mark. YAY!!

I learned another unexpected thing today:

My kids will eat vegetables as long as they are chopped finely enough.

Tonight for dinner we had a Daniel Plan recipe for Thai-inspired stir-fry. As I sauteed the veggies and chicken in a wok, I told Kris that I was expecting to be disappointed with this recipe. The only seasoning was soy sauce. No other flavors added.

He came into the kitchen and inspected the wok, stirring the contents. “It doesn’t need any seasoning when it has all this! Look at all the color. With a mixture of these vegetables, you won’t need any seasoning.”

I was worried how it would turn out, because I went a little overboard with my little chopper … it’s a small, enclosed plastic jar-like thing with three *very* sharp blades on the inside. You drop the vegetables in, close the lid, and pull a string much like a lawn mower to chop the stuff into bits. I had too much fun cranking the veggie mower, and nearly pulverized to a liquid all the vegetables. It turned out to be a good thing.

I tossed it over rice and served it to the kids, just knowing they would complain (they hate every vegetable except broccoli, and they only tolerate very little). To my shock, they loved it! They ate up their little bowl fulls, gave me a thumbs up, and GET THIS … ASKED ME TO COOK IT MORE OFTEN.

Gimme a second while I wipe my tears … I have … sudden allergies or something …

Yesterday I posted about having some soreness in my knees and fingers. I felt it in my spine, too, and was pretty sore by the time I got into bed last night. I woke up with most of the soreness and all of the stiffness gone! I feel great, actually. My husband and I talked about how we both feel lighter. He said he felt he’d lost a couple of pounds already, and that’s when he said, “I probably should have weighed before we started this.”

What?? Oh well. He’s already a lean guy … I’m sure he’ll be pleased with whatever the results are.

I personally feel lighter, and not icky at all. Instead of feeling like I have sludge working through my veins like I did around the holidays from all the rich foods, I feel … just … healthier. It’s weird. But I like it.

The biggest hangup for today is craving sweet snacks … I mean, we’ve only gone three days without sweets. How are we craving them so badly? It’s not like we gobble candy every single day … we probably only have a sweet treat every few days, anyway. I guess it’s just a matter of craving what you can’t have.

We’re seeing sweets everywhere, in everything.

We went to church this morning, and I skipped on my usual coffee from the little machine in the foyer. I usually add sugar and cream as a treat … normally I put stevia and half-and-half in my coffee to cut down on the sugar. It didn’t take much willpower to ignore it altogether, because I was in a rush to get to the 4th grade classroom where I was asked to be a sub at the last minute for their sick teacher. Wouldn’t you know … the lesson was about Saul, who encountered Jesus on his way to Damascus, and he was blinded. We learned that Damascus is the capital of Syria, and a typical Syrian food is pita bread and hummus. The kids were given a snack of pita chips, the cinnamon and sugar kind. CINNAMON AND SUGAR, y’all. Then when the lesson was over, the kids got a single item from the treasure box … every one of them except my own son picked a piece of candy. One girl even held hers up and said, “These two are stuck together … can I just have both?” They were jolly ranchers. My mouth watered. I had to swallow twice before answering with a weak yes.

When my husband and I picked up our younger son from his class, he ran up to Kris with a half-eaten doughnut and said, “Here! Hold this! I’ll finish it in a minute!” Kris gave me the side-eye, clenched his jaws and flared his nostrils. Obviously, he really wanted to stuff the thing into his mouth right then and there.

After church, my mother-in-law took the kids to Jack’s while Kris and I headed home to cook lunch. We had fun in the kitchen together, following recipes and making some lemon herb chicken breast with herb roasted baby potatoes and cauliflower. While it cooked, we turned on the XBOX One, like all good, mature parents, and played our sons’ Lego Worlds game. And like all good, mature parents, we continued to play even after our kids got home. They were in agony for a good twenty minutes watching us play their game.

I took a nice, long nap like I often do on Sunday afternoons, and woke up with a craving.

Reese’s Christmas Trees.

I came into the living room and announced to Kris that I had to have some Christmas Trees. Or else I would die. He snarled at me for throwing the wrapper to a Reese’s Christmas Tree in the bathroom trash can, where it just sat on top of the tossed tissues, taunting him.

“Did you notice that we still have a bag of Hershey’s kisses on the top of the fridge?” Kris said. ” I could really use some chocolate too right now … Can I not have ice cream?”

No. We vowed not to cave. Just a few more days … we can make it.

He chewed on some peanuts and swallowed them with resentment. I fixed myself a kale salad (which is quite tasty … but didn’t satisfy like chocolate).

We did discuss what our first “treat” would be after the 10 days. His pick is ice cream, and mine is a cup of coffee with cream and sugar. We talked about limiting treats like that to twice per week from now on, that way it stays in moderation where it belongs.

After the boys went to bed, Kris and I continued our good, mature parenting and turned Lego Worlds back on. Wouldn’t you know … at the start of the game, it dropped my character right in the middle of a decadent Candy Land, with massive lollipops, overturned ice cream cones, mountains of whipped cream and rivers of pink liquid. There were gingerbread houses thick with icing on top, and gingerbread men running around with pies in their hands. There were even chocolate hills.

I ran out of the Candy Land, mouth watering, and into a murky swamp.

Tomorrow is our first day back to school, and I can’t wait. I feel fresh and energized. Which leads me to mention two more unexpected things:

One, I’ve had an abundance of energy. Every single diet, and I mean every single one, resulted in massive brain fog, severe fatigue, and deep, annoying hunger. I homeschool my kids, y’all. The LAST thing I need is brain fog and fatigue. That’s a big reason why every diet attempt I’ve made for the last several months have resulted in a big fat failure. I absolutely will not sacrifice my own mental clarity and energy levels, which ultimately sabotages a good school day for us. This has been different, though. I haven’t had a single bit of brain fog. I joke about craving sweets, but otherwise haven’t been ravenously hungry like before. Every diet attempt before resulted in me heading straight to the kitchen and bingeing for an hour just to make the brain fog and fatigue stop. I haven’t felt compelled to do that a single time.

Two, I’ve kept a cleaner kitchen. I know this sounds crazy, but for some reason, all this extra effort I’ve put into cooking nutritious stuff has also led to disciplined kitchen-duty on my part. All the chopping and cooking leads to a massive amount of dirty dishes, so I’ve been running two loads of dishes per day. Oddly, it hasn’t been daunting. On the contrary, I’ve somehow kept a cleaner kitchen as a result.

I can’t wait to see what Day 4 brings, and I especially can’t wait to see whether or not I get that 2:00 post-school droop in energy.

We made it to day 2 of our Daniel Detox. My hunky husband is struggling … he just walked to the cabinet looking for a snack, grabbed a jar of peanut butter and murmured, “What? Peanut butter has sugar?” He shoved it back onto the shelf and picked up the jar of Nutella. “This has sugar too? Geez.” He slammed the cabinet closed and walked away with some dry roasted peanuts, looking very disappointed. He mentioned earlier today that he could really use a bowl of ice cream, then groaned in agony when our son walked into the living room with a package of Oreos.

I just laughed. He rolled his eyes and said in a mocking tone, “‘Do the detox with me’, she said. ‘It’ll be great!’ she said.”

With all his joking around aside, I’m grateful. It’s really been fun to have someone do something like this with me … he cares enough about my health frustrations and believes in me so much that he’s not only cheering me on, but participating with me.

I didn’t feel the loss of sweets until I was cleaning up our bedroom and found this hiding on the floor in a corner …

Y’all don’t understand … these things are my WEAKNESS. They are chocolate-covered temptations in a deceptive little wrapper. I totally stole three of them … THREE … from my children after gifting it to them in their stocking. And that was AFTER I’d already eaten my own share.

Anyways …

It was nothing but leftovers today … steak fajitas marinated in lava for lunch. It was just as hot as it was yesterday! Lettuce wraps for dinner. I don’t recall ever intentionally trying kale before, so I made a kale salad with fresh dressing, a recipe I found in The Daniel Plan Cookbook. I took one bite and nearly dropped the bowl … it was divine. Incredible. Mouth-watering. I asked Kris to try some, and he had to swallow fast before he spit it out. To him, it was awful. He’s also not ventured very far from the classic Caesar or Ranch salads. But hey, at least he eats salads!

Two things I didn’t expect: One, I woke up this morning with sore joints. My fingers, spine and knees to be specific. When I’ve had a gluten exposure, the inflammation makes my joints swell up within hours, and it lasts for many more hours, but I usually feel it in my fingers and hips (oddly) more than anything else (the other symptom being that it feels like I’m digesting shards of glass through my intestines). This feels different … almost like a sensation of retaining water or something. I’ve been drinking a TON (trust me, I’ve been tracking it in my handy-dandy Wellness Planer I got from Aldi for $7, cha-ching!).

This is the photo I took and sent to my sister when I bought the planner, on a VERY rainy day. 😀

I read that it’s a normal symptom of detoxing. So … maybe it’ll be better tomorrow. I’m just going to keep drankin’ and eating amazing foods!

Two, I don’t hate all the food prepping and cooking. Anyone who knows me, knows that cooking is a chore to me. It’s just one more thing I need to take care of in the day. That inevitable 5:00 pm question of “What’s for dinner?” makes me need to take slow, deep breaths because my answer is usually, “I haven’t even thought about it.” Even when I’m on top of meal planning, it’s still something I dread. I don’t even know why.

My husband can get into the kitchen and spend an hour cooking an incredible meal from scratch and enjoys every bit of the chopping and sauteing. I, on the other hand, feel irritated as I pop a jar of spaghetti sauce and dump in into a pan.

This has been different, though. I’ve so very much enjoyed the freshness, the colors and textures. So far, every meal has been worth every minute, and every ounce of energy. It’s so satisfying to know that the meal that’s being served is a healthy one.

Because I’d already knocked 0ut caffeine from my daily routine, the lack of it hasn’t been a problem … but I do very much miss the taste of coffee. After Day 10, the first thing I plan to do is sip and savor a glorious cup of joe.

I’m going to bed now to rest my sore knees. See ya tomorrow on Day 3.

Day 1 of 10 for the Detox part of the Daniel Plan that I’m taking on!

In a recent post called What the Weight? I talked about how I’ve gained nearly 10 pounds in the last month or two. I worked so hard … or THOUGHT I was working hard … to lose weight for two years. I start an exercise program, burn out, and quit. I start an eating plan, see no changes whatsoever, then quit. Or I flat out FORGET that I’m on a diet, and crash it. Or I get rebellious against it, raise my fist to the sky, and declare “Down with deprivation!” around a mouthful of chocolate.

The 10-pound gain was frustrating because it takes forever to just drop a couple of pounds … then this happens in such a short amount of time.

Honestly, it freaked me out.

Because I’m a Bible gal, I decided to see what the Bible says about physical health. I mean, we search it for every other bit of wisdom … can we not use it for the wisdom of our physical well-being? Of course, the first “health” story that popped up was the one about Daniel.

The book of Daniel was written by Daniel himself to the exiled Jews of that day. When Babylon had been taken over by a pagan king, the king had several of the best-looking locals brought into his kingdom to be brainwashed and tasked to serve the palace. Daniel and his three friends were among them. When the king brought to them rich foods that are meant to be indulged in worship of their false gods, Daniel refused, and asked that he not be forced to defile his body. To prove his point, he asked to be fed only vegetables and water, and to be tested against the others after 10 days. When the 10 days were over, Daniel was found to be “fatter” (which just meant “healthier” back then) and in better shape mentally and physically than the others.

This has inspired a whole slew of Daniel-inspired diet plans and fasts, including The Daniel Plan by well-known pastor Rick Warren. I made a trek to the library and borrowed the book and read it cover-to-cover.

I was thoroughly confused.

Apparently, the Daniel Plan has two parts … the Detox and the actual Plan. As I read the book I kept waiting for it to explain exactly what the difference is … and it was pretty vague. The chapter dedicated to the Detox only says simply to avoid inflammatory foods such as sugar and sweeteners in all forms, dairy in all forms, stimulants and sedatives (think alcohol and caffeine), processed/fast foods, and gluten in all forms.

I had assumed that it would mean a completely vegan diet for 10 days … because Daniel literally only ate vegetables and water. But when I read through the suggested Detox menu, i saw things like lamb, ground turkey, chicken and fish.

Wha … what??

So I guess it’s called The Daniel Plan because it is simply inspired by wholesome eating, avoiding the rich, unhealthy, fattening foods around you, just as Daniel did.

In a way.

Whatever. I decided to give it a go. After all, I had also borrowed a copy of The Daniel Plan Cookbook and the recipes looked incredible … and GET THIS. I even talked my husband into doing the 10-day detox with me!! He’s never done anything like this before. Never dieted. He’s never struggled with weight. He’s lean and naturally athletic. He eats ice cream and M&M’s nearly every night before bed and never. gains. a. pound. He does have pretty horrific acid reflux due to an apparently useless esophageal sphincter that he’s had since birth. He thought it would be a good idea to do the detox with me and maybe it’ll help pinpoint what makes his reflux flare.

photo by Heather Ford

So. On Day One … we bailed.

I had made too many plans for the day and hadn’t had a chance to compile a grocery list based on the food items I’d planned. In The Daniel Plan book, the recipes had a “D” next to the meals that were detox-friendly. In the cookbook, it was amazing to see a GF or a DF in most of the menu items. I chose all GF (which means Gluten-Free, as I have a gluten intolerance) and DF items (which I thought meant Daniel Fast). When I finally made my list, I headed to the grocery store and had a blast. Most of the items were found at Aldi, and I filled in the remaining ones from Wal-Mart and Publix (because apparently Publix is the ONLY place around here that has gluten-free soy sauce now … ugh.)

On New Day One, I talked over the menu plan with my husband. Then it suddenly dawned on me. DF doesn’t mean Daniel Fast … it means Dairy Free.

So now I had all these groceries, all these meals planned … and I wasn’t even sure I’d planned the Detox correctly. WHAT IN THE WORLD.

I quickly went back through every single recipe and realized that they all seem to be compatible to the Detox except for one that called for raw honey … so, Day One was still a go.

We decided to tackle a really labor-intensive meal for lunch on Day One. We were pretty hungry, because we’d both skipped breakfast. We decided on a recipe called Kicking and Screaming Steak Fajitas. It called for chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. I didn’t recall ever having eaten chipotle before, so this should be interesting. And this should be EXCELLENT for acid reflux, hee hee.

My sinuses caught on fire as I made the marinate mixture, and after a while, my husband wandered into the kitchen (prompted by his growling stomach) and began helping me. While cooking the meat, we both were wiping our watering eyes and laughed at how bloodshot they were. We sat down and took the first bite …

And we both went scrambling for our glasses of water, coughing into it as we gulped. We wiped our eyes, being careful not to get the lava into our eyeballs, laughed and said, “Wow, that’s really good.” We ate some more.

It was incredible. Amazing. Delicious. Filling. We had enough for two more meals when we were finished! Amazingly, it didn’t trigger Kris’s acid reflux at all … not in the least. For dinner that night we had lettuce wraps which were excellent. Decadent. Satisfying.

Oh man, I could eat like this every day.

Wait a minute … I am!!! For ten whole days!! Wow … this 10-day detox is going to be really, really great.

I just did it.

I just deactivated my social media accounts and deleted the apps. Again.

I’ve done it before and talked about it this post, where I shared about how a 3-week social media fast turned into 6, and it restored peace into my life.

When I activated my accounts again, I kept the social media at arm’s length, until recently. In my overwhelm from the holidays, I found myself scrolling through newsfeeds, wasting time that could have been better invested. It made me question why I went back to social media at all.

I had no answer for that.

photo by NeONBRAND

It still doesn’t add any enrichment to my life. Although I enjoyed seeing my friends’ Christmas posts and pictures, it wasn’t anything they couldn’t have told me about in person.

The one and only reason I had been keeping it for the past few weeks is because … How will I be able to tell people about the podcast without postimg about the new episodes? The number of plays were quadrupled when posted on social media, vs. when they aren’t.

I still can’t justify it.

There has to be another way to spread the word about the podcast without it sucking the joy out of me.

For many people social media is a pleasure outlet. Something they enjoy. For me, it becomes a Focus Leech. And trust me when I say, I need every brain cell working in my favor right now. 😆

Here’s to discarding old habits, and taking on fresh new ones!

Stress.

Everyone has it.

Nobody wants it.

Unfortunately, my typical reaction to stress is to go to the kitchen and bite something. I have a bad habit of clenching my jaws and grinding my teeth (according to my dentist), so maybe stress manifests in my jaws and makes me want to sink my teeth into something.

The undesirable side effect has been a few extra inches clinging to my hips and thighs that refuse to pack into my jeans.

It was frustrating, until I stepped on the scale to get real with myself. That’s when it went from frustrating to jaw-dropping.

It took me YEARS after Caleb was born to get the baby weight off, and in a two-week time span, it has all come rushing back. What the weight??

Diets don’t work for me, y’all. I start feeling rebellious against whatever food/calorie deprivation is involved in the diet before I’ve even completed the first week. I find myself saying one or all of the following:

  1. I cannot go on like this for another day … this brain fog … this grumpiness … I’m. So. HANGRY!
  2. Um … I didn’t realize low-carb meant giving up mashed potatoes. Nope, nope, nope, and all the nopes in Nopeland!
  3. Why am I so hungry. Why must my body insist on being hungry. I’m so hungry it’s all I can think about. Hungry, hungry, hungry, hungry …
  4. This isn’t life! Life is supposed to be enjoyed, not survived! I am barely surviving! I give up! Right now, I choose to enjoy my life, not torture myself! I choose JOY! I choose JOY! (I continue to chant this with every slurp of ice cream)
  5. Who are you, diet, to tell me what I can and can’t eat? *shovels chocolate into my mouth* Take THAT! *swallows a chunk of cheese the size of my fist and chases it with sweet tea* Take THAT! And THAT!
photo by Claudiu Hegedus

Then, inevitably, Monday rolls around, as it insists on doing every week. I feel all barfy and bloaty from all the bad foods, not to mention the volume. I’m pretty sure I have a couple of fresh, shiny breakouts from the toxicity coursing through my veins. I vow to get my life in control. I hop onto the interwebs and research “food plans” and “eating lifestyles” (you know, because denying that you’re on a diet and relabeling it works every time, right?…) I get sucked into before-and-after pictures that I come across. I suddenly remember the “before” pictures I took a year ago and go back to check my weight stats. I’m disheartened to realize I’m in the exact same place I was then.

But no more. No more!, I tell myself. I shall not cave to the sweets. I raise a shaky fist into the air and shout, “I’ll never eat chocolate again!” All while the Diet Devil retreats into the shadows, wringing his hands and laughing that creepy, breathy laugh that sounds like Bozo the Clown has been smoking for 40 years.

That’s where I am today … which isn’t Monday … but still. I called my husband and unintentionally picked a fight with him because I was frustrated that it was so hard to make time to workout. And then I did what every good little nerd does when they’re stuck …

I picked up a few volumes of light reading and began to research nutrition.

I came across something interesting … something that took on new meaning in light of my current nutritional frustrations. I read about Daniel in the Bible requesting permission from the king to abstain from the rich, royal foods that were given to himself and several other young men, and instead chose to eat only vegetables and water for a 10-day period. After the 10 days, he was tested against the other young men and proved to be in better health. He was then allowed to continue eating that way.

I thought, “Now THAT’S how to honor God with your body.”

It took a single Google search to realize that Daniel’s way of eating during that time has inspired a whole slew of religious weight loss books. I had heard of the “Daniel Fast” but because it contained the word “fast” I just assumed it was some version of intermittent fasting or something.

What was impressive to me about Daniel is that he risked getting in serious trouble with the king to honor God with his body, but glorifying God was that important to him. It should be that way for all of us, in all areas of our lives.

For that reason, I’m looking at “dieting” in a way I never have before. Instead of making sad, flimsy attempts to lose weight, I’m going to make the decision to honor God with what I eat and with how I exercise. It’s something that has never occurred to me before.

And I might just start with a 10-day Daniel challenge.

In my last post, I told you all about how my friend sent me a housekeeper last week. My husband had been working out of town for nearly 4 1/2 months, and I was overwhelmed by the mess.

Ironically, I love to organize. I love cleaning an organized space.

But if the space is cluttered, I can’t stand to look at it, much less clean it.

I had several bins of clutter sitting in my dining room from where I’d tried to condense the mess so that the housekeeper would have room to work her magic, and wow. What magic she did work.

My floors gleamed. My countertops were pristine. My dishes were washed (which she doesn’t usually do, but did it for me, which blessed me tremendously). Even the AIR smelled like it had been scrubbed to a shine.

I called my mom to gush about the housekeeper’s magic, and about how I felt fresh, fun inspiration to organize, which was the opposite of literally days ago, when I felt like my lungs were squeezed of all its oxygen.

While I yammered on and on about it (my mom is such a great listener), I told her about how the clutter being condensed to baskets and bins made the task so much simpler and easier. That’s when I announced to her that I’d like to try scrubbing my house the way the housekeeper had done … all in one go. If she can do it in two hours in an unfamiliar home, surely I could do it in the same amount of time, once per week, preferably on a Saturday morning (I don’t know why, but when I wake up on Saturday mornings, I am in a powerful cleaning mood).

That’s when I suddenly gasped into the phone like air had just been restored to a drowning body.

In that moment I was suddenly taken back to when the housekeeper had first arrived at my house. She asked me what my “goals” were for her. I spilled to her about how I used to enjoy cleaning, back when I lived by myself. I just couldn’t figure out why I hated it so much now. It changed when I got married, and the space was then shared with another person. It felt like the tasks quadrupled, and I couldn’t figure out why the joy of cleaning had been zapped from my routine. Where was the breakdown? Someone who I love more than anyone else in this world was sharing my life now … so why was it so harder?

I was still sucking air into the phone at this point.

Saying all of this out loud made me realize that this “new” way of cleaning, is actually my OLD way of cleaning, back when I used to actually enjoy it. During the week, I would clean by gathering the clutter into a pile, then putting the pile away. Then Saturday mornings I would get up, play music, and scrub each room clean. It was like a ceremony of love for the space in which I lived. To me, cleaning was a show of gratitude for my home. I specifically remember being on my knees in my bathroom, scrubbing the floors with a sponge because I hated using a mop. I placed my rubber-glove-clad hand on the wall and thanked God for my home, as if the home were an actual member of my family.

When I finished sucking air into the phone and freaking my mom out because she thought something terrible had suddenly happened, I began to shout this revelation to her.

See, when my husband moved into my apartment after we got married, it wasn’t just the space we shared. It was also the systems and routines and responsibilities. He used a mop like most other people do. His method of doing laundry was different. His way of putting away clutter was the opposite of mine. Because the systems clashed, one had to give. So I gave. I changed the way I folded laundry (do you guys realize how hard it is to force yourself to fold laundry differently??). I changed my routine to the way he did things, and because he was a naturally neat person, there was no way that his way could fail.

But it did.

By taking on someone else’s way of cleaning, my system broke down and disintegrated. I no longer enjoyed it. I quickly grew into resenting it. For eleven years of marriage now, I’ve outright hated housework.

Normal couples argue about money, or something big like that. But most of our arguments began about housework.

I saw it as the bane of my existence. When housework would pile up to epic proportions, my husband would jump up and clean house for me to relieve my overwhelm. Although I appreciated what he did, he had NO WAY of knowing that it was something I used to enjoy, and wanted to enjoy again. Having it done for me, however, made me feel even more robbed. This made him feel unappreciated, naturally, which led to resentment coming from both sides. A messy house robbed my husband of feeling peace in the space where he lived. Housework was a needle that constantly jabbed me and threaded stress into my marriage. When we had kids, housework kept me from spending more time with my kids. It kept me from having more time to write. It kept me from watching my favorite TV shows, or hiking, or <insert everything I’ve ever loved here>.

Now, here’s the great irony of all: I blamed housework for being the thing that got between me and everyone/everything I loved, when really, I had just forgotten how to enjoy the work itself.

The words that I shouted into the phone at my mom went something like this: “THAT’S HOW I USED TO DO THINGS! WAY BACK IN THE DAY WHEN I USED TO LOVE IT! COLLECT CLUTTER INTO A PILE TO PUT IT AWAY, AND SAVED THE SCRUBBING FOR SATURDAY MORNINGS! IT’S WHAT I USED TO DO! THIS ISN’T A NEW METHOD THAT I’VE DECIDED TO TRY … IT’S MY OLD WAY OF DOING THINGS! WHY DID I EVER CHANGE??”

My mom just laughed at me, and said she always knew I was a natural organizer, and that I’d always organized with pleasure since childhood.

For nearly a week now, I’ve gotten this house into order, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. All because I decided to do it simply the WAY I DO IT.

That seems to be the story of my life … I know I’m an odd person, and the way I do things isn’t conventional. But as soon as someone tells me I’m doing it wrong, I assume the “right” way must be better, so I change the way I do things, so that I can do them the “right” way. This goes for not only housework, but also exercise, dieting, writing, blogging.

It dawned on me that I created my own way of homeschooling, and it works perfectly, with no sign of burnout, and it’s my way. Not anyone else’s way.

With my new Podcast, The Simple Word, I’m doing things my way, not the way anyone else suggested.

With blogging, I’ve only just recently gone back to the way I like to do things, after YEARS of losing my love for blogging once I switched to doing things the way the experts recommended.

Even unloading the dishwasher … I HATE unloading the dishwasher because I hate pulling out each dish, trying to avoid knocking my chins against the open dishwasher door as I go put that item up, then go back and do the same. I hate it. Hate. It. But not anymore … Just this week I’ve given myself permission to unload that dang dishwasher the way I like to do it, which is taking out every single item, dabbing any extra drops of water with a towel, and stacking it on the counter in categories. Sorting is an unusual source of peace for me that I can’t explain. Then I close the dishwasher when it’s empty, and easily put away every freshly clean dish. Because of this, I’ve kept my sink and countertops free of the accumulation of dirty dishes, because I now put dirty dishes straight into the washer. Another new, weird dish-related thing I do…? I run my dishwasher every night, no matter how full (or un-full) it is. I don’t wait until I have a full load to run it. Those dishes get washed and ready for my morning dishwasher unload. It works so well for me, but makes no sense to my husband! Why would anyone want to run a half-empty dishwasher? He doesn’t care, in the end, however … as long as it works! He just shakes his head and laughs at my weirdness.

Funny. Who’ve thought that having my friend send me a housekeeper would lead to a whole new level of joy in my daily life that is now infiltrating brightness and empowerment into my whole family??

God. God thought it.

And I’m the one who gets to reap the benefits.

Last week, I had someone do something amazing for me.

I have a precious friend … she’s someone who I can be completely honest with, show my true colors to, and she loves me and accepts me anyway. More than once while Kris was out of town, I called/texted her and expressed overwhelm for basically everything. The fact that I couldn’t sleep, the pounds I had gained, how difficult it was to manage the kids alone, how much I missed my husband. The emotional burden seemed to have manifested physically in the form of clutter, piles, dirty laundry, the dirt on my floor, the smudges on the counters, the dishes in the sink. I just couldn’t seem to get on top of the housework.

I was drowning.

But last week, something drastically changed. Last week my friend did something to relieve my overwhelm (as if listening to me empathetically and lovingly wasn’t enough!).

She sent a housekeeper to my home.

When she called me to tell me that she’d arranged this, I cried. Like, the high-pitched-voice-snorting-in-the-phone crying and I thanked her as if she’d just handed me six million dollars.

Because that gift was as valuable to me as a six-million-dollar wad of cash.

When the housekeeper showed up at my door, I’d already been trying to condense the clutter into baskets/bins/boxes and whatever empty container/drawer I could find. But still, stuff was everywhere. I was convinced she wouldn’t have anything to clean because there was just. so. much. stuff.

I packed a backpack and took the boys to the library where we had school in a study room. It’s a refreshing change of scenery, anyway. I tried to ignore my anxious thoughts, thinking it would take the poor girl all day to clean my house.

Two hours later, she called me to tell me she was pulling out of the driveway, all done.

“You cleaned my whole house in only two hours?”

I could hear the smile in her voice. “Girl, you talk like your house is impossible right now, but I’m serious when I say, you’ve got this. Your house is totally manageable.”

She proceeded to give me advice right off the top of her head … advice that I absorbed like a sponge, and it clicked in my heart. It made so much sense.

“Pick two rooms that are important to you in your house. Keep those two rooms clean, and be more relaxed with the rest. As far as the clutter that you told me you are drowning in … you’ve already got it into bins. Put away one pile/bin per day, and your house will be flawless in a week.”

I swallowed back the emotion and thanked her over and over.

About an hour later, we were home. I walked into the door to gleaming floors. Pristine countertops. It smelled like she’d even cleaned the air. She even WASHED MY DISHES, Y’ALL.

I took a deep breath, and tears stung my eyes.

Now here’s a side note: When I’m overwhelmed with housework, I don’t wish for someone to help me with the work, or for someone to do it for me. Instead, I find myself wishing for someone to keep the kids while I do my own housework. Because … you’ll think this is crazy … I actually ENJOY it.

Since childhood, I’ve always loved organizing. It’s like a puzzle to me, and I feel like I can breathe easier when everything is neat. It’s not just the “being organized” part that I enjoy … it’s the process of organizing, as well. It’s just something God put in me that is fun. I enjoy organizing so much that, y’all, one of my absolute favorite books is Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Even the BOOK ITSELF is so beautifully tidy.

I give you permission to sit back and give me the most epic eye roll in the history of eyeballs.

Somehow, though, this scenario was different. My friend said she felt that God led her to do this. She named a day where it was laid on her heart.

I remember that day. It was a day where I stood in my kitchen and cried because my house was such a wreck, it not only made daily life more difficult, but it also heaped stress onto my already hurting heart. I had asked God what to do, and He was silent.

He was silent to me, but He wasn’t silent to her.

My soul was in pain.

That was the day my friend decided she’d like to do this for me.

Something stirred inside of me as I looked around at my newly scrubbed house. I suddenly looked at all the piles of clutter differently. Instead of seeing it as something stealing my oxygen, I saw it as a game. A mission.

I felt the joy of organizing brewing in my spirit.

That very day, I got to work. The boys kept themselves entertained. They played. They got along.

The next day, I woke up three minutes before my alarm feeling excited … after school, the organization continued. I began to look at closets with a lens of possibility. I no longer saw the messes … I saw ideas.

I made bigger messes as I pulled things from shelves, sorted them, and put them back. I pulled open drawers and did the same. I shifted through closets. I bagged up clothes and shoes … NINE trash bags in total … and rolled them down the stairs to the garage, ready for donation.

And I enjoyed every freeing minute of it.

This endured for three solid days, and is still going each day right now.

I’m having a blast, y’all.

It’s so much more than a new inspiration to organize, though. When I called my mom yesterday, something so deep and meaningful struck me. I couldn’t help but shout in the phone at what I’d just realized.