On Buying the Children a Virtual Hamster Wheel.

Within a day of Chris and I buying our FitBits, the kids split up.

Ali was Team Daddy, and Noah was Team Mommy.

They began cheering us on accordingly, attempting to keep their opponent from getting ahead (okay only Ali tried to sabotage me), and constantly asking to see the leaderboard to gauge how well their Chosen Athlete was performing.

Noah discovered that my FitBit has a flower on it that shows my progress (along with all its other important information), so he began pulling down my shirt at inopportune times whilst saying, “Mommy – I need to see your flower!”

(He also rotated that with requests to see my Blue Lady, the indicator on my phone of how much water I’ve consumed.)

They began to spark an interest “extersizing”, as Noah coined it, enjoying racing at the park, walking (as long as a stop at the candy store was en route), and were more than happy to sit on the basement couch and watch cartoons while I ran on the treadmill.

It only took a few days for them to realize that they were missing out. That they were not getting to experience the full measure of the excitement of this contest.

I was racing Noah one day when the knowledge came to him – quite suddenly, as if an apple had fallen onto his head.

“Mommy…you really have to get me a FitBit.”

“Why?”

“I don’t…..know.”

Ali realized soon after that she also wanted to have her steps recorded. Because steps not counted are no steps at all.

After three weeks of asking consistently, I “gave in.”

In other words, I recognized that it would make them even more motivated to allow me to exercise and so I let them each use their savings to buy themselves the cheaper FitBit version, the FitBit Zip.

Noah picked blue, Ali picked pink. And instead of a flower that grows upon activity, they have smiley faces that grow in grin girth as they take more steps.

I had to do a bit of work to set them up, such as actually measuring how tall my kids were, as it uses height, weight, and age for its analysis. But when I attempted to enter their birthdays, it spit me out to the Terms of Service – apparently FitBits aren’t allowed to be used by people of such a young age.

So I lied and said they were 14. Very, very short fourteen year olds.

My conscience was overcome with TOS-Breaking Guilt, but my children’s eagerness to exercise helped me live with my misdemeanor.

As soon as I got the FitBits functional, they wanted to immediately go try them out. Which was handy since I also wanted to get some exercise.

Kids Using FitBits

The day those kids realize that half my actions on their behalf are actually 100% selfish is the day they cut me out of their wills. But for now, I’ll let them sing my praises. And I’ll enjoy the beautiful success of my evil plans.

I don’t let them wear their FitBits all the time to keep them from getting dropped in a toilet, but they get plenty of steps when they are in possession. At the end of every activity, they compare steps. Then Ali huffs in frustration and runs a few laps around the house. She has even taken up jogging to make up for the sad disadvantage of Noah’s much shorter legs.

Kids Using A FitBit

(Seriously – one loop around the block gives him over ONE THOUSAND more steps than her. Little legs work harder than we realize.)

Fortunately for Ali, though, he prefers laziness at almost all times – even if it means losing to his sister.

Jogging Stroller and FitBit

They’ve had their FitBits for almost two weeks, and it is without a doubt one of my Top Ten Wins of the Year. Ali is regularly walking/jogging 3-4 miles with me and is constantly wanting to know which of my grownup FitBit friends she’s beating (sorry grownup FitBit friends), Noah occasionally asks, “Can you check my cawerwie burn?”, and the amount of complaining on long hot walks has been nearly cut in half.

Kid Using a FitBit

And it only took two more weeks for Noah to realize, as if an apple dropped onto his head, that he still didn’t have it all.

“Hey Mommy, I need you to buy me a phone so that I can have a Blue Lady.”


Disclaimer: Before any child experts find my blog and accuse me of permanently giving my children a body image issue, neither of them have any concept of losing weight, weight in general, or any other framework to connect exercising to appearance. They are simply the product of an accountant and engineer marrying and reproducing, and therefore enjoy anything that has to do with benchmarks and numbers and charts and graphs. Also, they know that exercise has made their Mommy feel better and maybe even fun again, so clearly it has to be a good thing.

A Time to FitBit.

Really, it was all the old man’s fault.

He was ambling around the edge of the cliff at Weathington Park, offering to take everyone’s picture with their phone.

I don’t know if he was doing some sort of undercover operation to plant a tracking device on everyone’s phone or what, but he was quite insistent.

I was the only one on the ledge that day with a DSLR. I handed him my camera, which is pretty hefty compared to the variety of phones he’d been using.

“Whoa. Is this thing going to kick back?”

“Maybe a little. All you need to do is push this black button.”

“Which button?”

“This one.”

“Okay. Where is it?”

“Riiiight here.”

I placed his finger on the button, then Chris and I posed at the cliff and smiled, somewhat plastically.

Old Man stared at the backside of my camera.

“I can’t see anything! Are you sure this thing is on?”

“Yes sir. You have to look in the the viewfinder.”

“The who-what?”

“The little hole at the top of the camera.”

“OOOOH. Okay. Say cheese! HOLY COW I DIDN’T KNOW THIS THING WAS A SEMI-AUTOMATIC! How many pictures did I just take?”

“It’s no problem. Thank you!”

I quickly saved my camera from further misunderstandings and we moved on. Later, I looked at his photography portfolio.

Most of them contained my hand in front of my face, trying to arrest a bunch of stray strands that gathered there at just the wrong moment.

There was only one where my hand was just barely blurring. But the photo disagreed with me, as do most photos of myself these days.

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Granted, it wasn’t that bad of a picture. But for some reason it was the picture that I could see every one of the fifteen pounds I’ve gained in the past year. I can blame it on the medicine all I want, but it’s still there and it still bothers me.

I’ve tried to convince myself to exercise and get back to using Lose It a few times over the past year, but I lacked motivation, and was in general too tired from those same stupid medications to keep it up. And really, the real reason I need to exercise is not for vanity, but because Dysautonomia’s two main solutions are drinking ridiculous amounts of water and exercising regularly.

…But it’s counterintuitive since simply standing up can double my heart rate – it doesn’t exactly feel like running would be the best idea.

And also, the only two times I’ve ever been successful at losing weight also happened to be when I was nursing my children. And I can’t lactate on command, therefore I’ve been demotivated ever since.

But still. I knew it was possible.

Here were my before and after photos while nursing Noah:

BeforeAndAfterMaking milk: Does the body good.

But it was time. It had to be done. With or without my mammary glands taking part.

We got home from that trip on Sunday, and on Monday I bought myself a FitBit.

(And Chris one, too, since he’s always a good sport to play along with my geek-motivation needs.)

By Tuesday morning I was unforgivably angry with myself for not getting one years ago. For someone who is motivated by charts and graphs, a FitBit is like finding and taking up residence in The Garden of Eden.

It’s.

So.

Pretty.

FitBit Screenshot

And that’s only half of the information it gives me. ANY TIME I WANT IT.

For those of you not familiar with FitBit, it’s a tiny clip-on gadget (or bracelet, if you prefer that choice) that tracks your steps, and by doing so extrapolates all of the above information (except the water – I am manually adding that) and makes it available to you in real-time on an app and a website. Which, since I would marry a spreadsheet if I could, translates into immediate gratification – a hard thing for me to get from exercise.

(And even the manual water entry is made super easy by standard measurements and a pretty little woman turning blue.)

FitBit Water Tracking

It also seamlessly interfaces with Lose It, which was my non-boob tool in my weight loss last time. FitBit sends Lose It the number of calories I’ve burned, Lose It sends FitBit the number of calories I’ve eaten, and both use the information to help me make wise decisions. It’s a lovely relationship.

Lose It Compared to FitBit

I know that FitBit is basically a glorified pedometer, but any organization that can take a simple tool and turn it into such a beautiful graphical representation of Doing The Right Thing is a hero in my books. Because I need goals. And I need to see how I achieved those goals. And better yet, I need to compete and beat everyone in my path.

(Until Chris ruins everything with his 14 mile Saturday morning runs and taunts me on Twitter.)

FitBit Tweet
(But that’s exactly the kind of competition I need. Because by Monday morning, I had fought my way back on top.)

FitBit Competition copy

…And he thought he was so special because he runs a half-marathon every Saturday.

Mm hmm – Motherhood takes more steps.

(Well, Motherhood plus an intense need to beat one’s husband.)

But back to FitBit. It gives you goals in every area that you could possibly want, offers beautiful and drill-downable charts and graphs of every kind, changes colors from blue to yellow to red to green as you achieve those goals, and allows you to compete with all your friends, and in general completes me.

FitBit Dashboard

It EVEN offers a premium package where you can compare yourself to all the humans. UNIVERSAL BENCHMARKING.

I expect to break down and buy the expanded software within days.

It’s been a full week now, and I have felt fantastic six out of seven days, free of Dysautonomia symptoms. It could be a coincidence, or it could be because I finally found the right tool to reward me with pretty colors when I do the right thing.

At any rate, I’m hooked.

(But whether this pretty software makes up for my lack of lactation remains to be seen.)


If you have a FitBit and want to further my motivation by becoming my friend, my email address is graspingforobjectivity@gmail.com.

For the Record: I was not compensated by FitBit to write this nor did they ask me to nor do they know I’m writing it. But if they want to give me that premium package for free, I’d totally take it. FitBit? Are you listening?

WYSIWYG.

Have you ever gotten to that point in your life where you’re so overwhelmed by the number of things that need to change that you’re not sure where to start?

I did – a couple of weeks ago.

And I started by making a list – “Things I Need to Change” – at 2am.

(Because that is the time of day that births all things that are good and holy.)

None of the items on my list were earth-shattering, like, say, “kick heroin addiction” or “stop being a Russian Spy” (because you know that Russia really cares about sunset photos), but they were weighing on me regardless. It included things big and small, from “More priority on time with God and ministry” to “Quit looking at my blog stats so ridiculously often” and many things in between, most notably “budget,” “diet,” and “oh my flippin’ goodness school is about to start and I have no idea how I’m going to find the time to keep doing everything I do.”

So I picked a few and started chipping away, now a bit less anxious because at least I had a list to remind myself of all my other failures lest I forget.

First up: Health.

I needed to make some changes to attempt to aid my ongoing health situation, which perhaps has been more life-altering than I might have let on, and is also to blame for this and any subsequent blog posts that are not up to expectations.

(I keep thinking I’ll tell you the whole story but I keep waiting to have clear answers first so I keep it mostly to myself because it seems a rather dicey decision to throw out undiagnosed health symptoms to the winds of internet diagnoses.)

So. No more artificial sugars, especially in the form of Dr Pepper TEN, my go-to comfort of choice. I am also still attempting to add to that “drink a ridiculous amount of water,” but a girl’s got her limits.

(Because I will NOT have time to do everything else on my List O’ Fails if I am peeing every other second.)

And, back to calorie counting. Because my jeans were beginning to sincerely not appreciate the volume of stretches I was having to do to make them wearable.

(Unfortunately I don’t have a nursing baby, which is the only thing that has ever made me lose weight, so the dieting probably won’t do me any good, but just make me hate everything and everyone like Katherine so eloquently wrote about last week.)

Second up: Budget.

I used to be a complete budgeting freak (I might have even written a super long doubly boring post about it in my crappy early blogging days.) I had been good. I had been dedicated. I balanced our checkbook AND multiple budget categories WEEKLY. And I shared the Gospel of Good Budgeting with others frequently.

But then…life got busy. And we had kids (that were expensive.) And life got busier. And I quit looking at those “budgeted” numbers and tried to ignore that the “actual” numbers were blatantly lapping them.

So I set a plan – a FIXED amount to spend each week on groceries and out to eat, along with other stuff. Chris eagerly hopped on board. And we set off to achieve greatness with less.

The next morning, I took my first back-on-the-wagon grocery trip. And it was FUN again, for the first time since I’d jettisoned my budgeting ways. As I paid, I watched the running total like a hawk.

And I ended up $6.67 under budget.

I felt like an overachieving Project Runway contestant and barely stopped myself from screaming “THANK YOU MOOD!!” for all of Winn-Dixie to hear.

Within my grocery shopping trip, I even planned ahead for the kids’ meals. Not forgetting the little people is a big deal, y’all!

I bought chicken breasts, cooked them with honey and salt, cut them up, and individually bagged them. Then I bagged crackers and cut a block of cheese and…

I MADE MY OWN LUNCHABLES. WITHOUT PINTEREST’S HELP.

They were so impressive I had to take a picture – I didn’t care that I hadn’t moved my knife or my notebook or that bit of counter food that might or might not have been two days old. I was a superstar!!!

For the Kids: Underachieving Homemade Lunchables. Grilled, chopped chicken, sliced cheese, crackers, and Fruit Buddies. And they love it!

Then I cleaned out a fridge drawer (and even wiped it a little) and presented my children with “KID DRAWER.”

For the Kids: Underachieving Homemade Lunchables. Grilled, chopped chicken, sliced cheese, crackers, and Fruit Buddies. And they love it!

They really should have bowed at my feet and kissed them with fervor but they didn’t.

They did, however, enjoy my nitrate-free lunchables enough to ask for them again this week.

The next day, I had to order a couple of things off of Amazon. They were small, and both were add-on items, therefore subjecting me to the “you need to spend $10 more if you want us to ship you these items.”

I lamented.

In the past, this would be no problem. But now, NOW. I was behaving. I was not just spending to spend.

But on a whim, I looked up mine and Ali’s favorite cereal, Crispix, which I’d forgotten to get at the store the day before. Of course, one box was $5.47, which is about a dollar more than the grocery store.

But then I saw it: 14 boxes of Crispix for $20.93?!?!

Surely they were miniature boxes – I went to my pantry to compare ounces just to make sure.

Nope.

Then it’s a mistake – I double checked the fine print.

They insisted that I would receive 14 boxes. For $20.93. Which is $1.495 per box. It was as if God Himself was shining down on my budgeting efforts, and handing me Amazon on a Golden Platter as a reward.

I ordered them with trepidation. What would I receive? Would it be a joke? Would a snake spring pop out to tell me that I was a fool?

But if not, were there more Amazon deals to be found like this??

Two days later, Ali and I opened the box, breath held within us…

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They were there!! All fourteen full-sized boxes!! It was amazing. Fantastic. Unbelievable. Receiving a Fragile Leg Lamp wouldn’t have made for more excited people that morning.

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I can’t say that these particular boxes of cereal had not been subjected to some sort of nuclear reactor assembly plant malfunction, but we’ll eat them with joy in our hearts regardless.

Editor’s Note: Amazon fixed their pricing mistake(?) within a couple of hours of this post. Sadness. Next time I’ll whisper the deal to you.