Peggy, Week 15: Resisting Temptation At Family Gatherings

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie

Although we often get together with our brothers, sisters, and parents, the extended family typically only gets together for special events; weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Family get-togethers usually revolve around food.

My father-in-law is an awesome chef! He runs a Saturday “soup kitchen” for an organization called SHIP, Summit Helping Its People, in Summit, NJ. He makes everything from hot wings to peanut butter pie, rack of lamb to Oreo cookie cheesecake. Not only does it look as if it came off the cover of a cooking magazine, but it tastes like he was a Top Chef! Dad A. typically makes the menu for any family get-together; I simply lend a hand–even when hosting the event at our house!

Peter’s cousin, Mark, was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, a stage IV brain tumor. Glioblastomas are not known for being tumors that you can live with for many years.  He had surgery and his first round of chemotherapy and radiation, and he decided to scratch off a few items from his bucket list. On Tuesday, he married his girlfriend, Carla and they embarked on a whirlwind tour of NY-NJ. His honeymoon trip was shared with his son, Nick and his brother, Ricky, and sister-in-law, Jo-Ann. They used my in-law’s house as their home base, and took a trip to NYC. Mark has always been a Mets fan, so they planned a trip to the game. Ricky’s wife called ahead, and the Mets gave them the VIP treatment. They got pressroom seats, and an opportunity to go on the field and meet the players. The Mets even won the game!

We live near Atlantic City, and Mark wanted to go to the casino, so we hosted a party at our house. My father-in-law brought four desserts: rice pudding, peanut butter pie, cheesecake and a chocolate cake. The desserts followed: sausage, steak, baked beans, green salad, potato salad, pasta salad and watermelon!

NOTE: Everyone knows what I should have eaten: watermelon, green salad and a little steak. I would have felt satisfied, and still stayed on my new life plan. That is what Peter did; well, that plus one little slice of cheesecake. He made good choices. I did not.

After everyone left, I should not have stood with the refrigerator door ajar and a knife in my hand, taking just a small slice of peanut butter pie. Peanut butter is a good source of protein, right?

What did I learn? I cannot resist temptation! I took the leftover cake to work; something I have not done before this challenge began, so maybe I am changing–just a little slower than I would like.

How do you avoid giving into decadent foods when your family gets together? Post a comment and tell me.

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Peggy, Week 14: Couldn’t 8 Hours Be A Myth?

peggy avagliano

I believe different people need different amounts of sleep. Growing up, my siblings and I never slept in. (See my last blog about Grandma Webb.) My father, my brother and I all became doctors. We all had our children fairly young, and while we were in training or shortly after joining our respective practices, so sleeping in was never part of our adult lives either. Right now I get about 6 hours of sleep a night and I’m used to it.

But I know plenty of people, like my sister-in-law, who love to sleep in. There are, of course, individuals who need 8 or 9 hours of rest a night.

Regardless of what some studies may show, I don’t think you can make a blanket statement about how much rest we all need. Also, according to my Fitbit activity and sleep tracker, my sleep efficiency is terrific! It takes me about 3-5 minutes to fall asleep. I rarely wake during the night, and never for more than a minute. I may sleep 6 to 6.5 hours, but I must drop immediately into REM sleep.

Peter has had a few bad nights sleeping due to a knee injury, but everyone else sleeps like a log! Amanda, 15, and Christina, 20, occasionally sleep in on a weekend. They would stay in bed reading a book until 9 am.

How much rest do you think you really need each night? Post a comment and tell me!

Peggy, Week 14: How I Became An Early Riser


My parents and siblings all wake up early, a habit I attribute to my Great-grandmother Polly Webb. She believed that early to bed and early to rise truly made you healthy, wealthy and wise.

Grandma Webb had both knees replaced in the early 1970’s. One knee was a cadaver knee, which meant it could still bend. The other knee was fused, and therefore, fixed in a straightened position. Grandma Webb was born in 1901. She grew up, on a farm, in the coalmining town of Scranton, Pa. She was considered an old maid, because she waited until she was 16 years old to marry.

If you were not downstairs by 5:30 a.m., 7 days a week—including Sundays—she would stand at the bottom of the stairs, and yell: “Peh-ggy! The sun’s a risin’. The day’s a waistin’. Time to get up!” The last of each phrase would be elevated an octave above her baseline.

If you didn’t arrive within a minute or two, she’d start to climb the stairs. You would hear a step and a clunk, as she brought the unbending knee up the stairs. She would call out again: “Peh-ggy! The sun’s a risin’. The days a waistin’. Time to get up!”

Usually, I complied within the first two calls, but every once and awhile, Grandma Webb would make it to the top of the stairs. The punishment for making her climb the stairs, with her bad knees, was a bucket of ice water thrown on you in bed. (Okay, maybe it was really a small glass of cold water from the bathroom according to my mother, but I remember it felt as if it was a bucket of ice water!)

What’s the harshest way anyone ever got you out of bed? Post a comment and tell me.

Peggy, Week 13: Don’t Let Life’s Unexpected Surprises Steal Your Joy

I was thinking about the fact that life is full of surprises that turn into little storms you never expected. But you can’t let a few hail stones or a little rain keep you from enjoying it. I’m learning that lesson as we go through this 6-month challenge—some of these health habits are really tough to bring on. But I also learned this lesson earlier this year at my son’s graduation.

Michael’s graduation made the national news! He survived the Absegami 2012 graduation. All hail class of 2012!

All day long, the weatherman had been calling for rain, but they always call for rain. Graduation was scheduled for 6 p.m. on Thursday night. (Graduation should ALWAYS be held on Saturday–or at least Friday night. Having graduations in the middle of the week and so early in the evening is very disrespectful to most families who have to work! It is difficult to try to get a day off, and 6 p.m.–with all of the parking issues, is just too early!…but I digress).

In order to park and get a good seat in the bleachers you have to arrive by 5 p.m., the latest. Luckily, Michael was on the home side.

Amanda was playing the flute with the band, and Michael was graduating, so Peter and I went early to save some seats for our parents.

The clouds rolled in around 5:30, but the sun was still shining as the kids walked onto the football field.

Everyone except for the valedictorian recognized the storm was brewing and sped through his or her speech or shorted it considerably. By the time they started to call the names, the clouds rolled in. This years graduating class had about 520 seniors. Since our last name begins with the letter “A”, Michael received his diploma earlier than most students.

I told my parents and my in-laws to meet us at the restaurant once Michael had received his diploma, because the clouds were definitely starting to roll in. Initially, they chose to stay; the teacher announcing the names must be given credit, he read through the names faster than you could imagine! By the time we reached the “D”’s lightning could be seen in the distance; the grandparents refused to leave.

By the time they began announcing the “M”’s, the band packed up and left the field, and our parents decided that they would wait for us at the bar of the restaurant. They switched teachers, and started to announce names at a quicker pace.  As we approached the “W”’s, it looked like we might make it off the field before the storm hit.  But then the kiss of death, Peter said,” long as the Absegami banners blow in the direction away from us, we should be okay…” The words were still hanging in the air, when the banners switched direction.  The next student to receive his diploma looked over his shoulder, raised his hand and screamed, “I’m out of here!” and took off. The last ten kids names could not be heard over the storm.

The storm hit: Rain, hail and wind! It was crazy. Some people ran for their cars, others ran for the school.  The hail pounded everybody, causing bruises on a few people.  A family we did not know had a baby with them, so they got in our car once we reached it; their car was a mile away. Michael and his friends were drenched, but managed to find Amanda in the school amongst the chaos.

Since we arrived with the kids, they found our car, and we managed to get out of the school parking lot before the ambulances arrived. (Nobody was seriously injured.) We had to go home and change, because we were drenched.

The hailstorm was incredible. But we didn’t let a few little rain, keep you from enjoying the day.

Are you proud of a graduate this year? Post a comment and tell me who it is!

Peggy, Week 13: Putting Ourselves to the Test

peggy avagliano

As a wife, mom and doctor, I’ve accomplished a great deal in my life. But I have to admit that I think we’re going to lose the next challenge because it’s all about sleep. Still, we will try our best to make some changes.

After having a phone consultation with Dr. Robert Oexman, a sleep expert who also reviewed sleep data from our Fitbit activity trackers, we got a list of new sleep behaviors to try. Every time we do a positive one, we get at least a point. Every time we do a negative one, we lose at least a point. For example, you get one point if you: sleep 7 hours; walk 10,000 steps (after all, exercise can give you a good night’s rest) or keep your cell phone out of the bedroom or don’t fall asleep on the couch.

You get two points if you: Sleep for 8 hours or stop video games for 30 minutes before bedtime.

You lose one point for every cup of coffee or tea you have after 5 pm. You get the picture.

On average, we all get between 6 and 7 hours of sleep. I work about 50 hours a week, and one weekend a month. Sleeping may be a priority to the Sleep Doctor, but I truly doubt we can add more rest into our daily routine; unless I am willing to give up housekeeping, cooking, and spending time with my family. Stay tuned and see.

Do you think you could squeeze more rest into your day? Post a comment and tell me.