Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Today: Making room for creativity.

I first started blogging in 2006 or 2007 because I was feeling a bit stuck and needed a creative outlet that didn’t require expensive supplies or an expansive workspace.  I’ve always gravitated toward writing and other forms of expression and thrive when I have projects to keep me busy, challenged and creatively engaged.  If I don’t have at least 56 projects going, I get bored.  And when I get bored, I get cranky.  And when I get cranky, welp… I’m sorry.

Lately, I’ve been craving something a little messier than writing.  If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the recent snapshots of my sketchbook.  I was hesitant to share those photos at first, but something I’m working on lately is letting go of perfection (Lord, is that ever a process.).  Like, in all facets of life.  So far, that’s not going perfectly so well.

As a student, I had a tendency to re-do and re-re-do and re-re-re-do drawings and paintings, trying to “fix” every imperfection.  A certain drawing professor (whom my sister and I grew to both love and be terrified of) once called my drawings overwrought.  I would have been upset, but I was too busy fending off that random girl in our class who kept stealing our artists tape.

Now that I’m a grown-up (and no one’s after my tape stash), I get it.  Also: I consider myself more of a casual dabbler than an artist, and I’ve decided casual dabblers can make as many mistakes as they want.

Back on topic: I need room to be creative.  Like, even more than I need Junior Mints.  Or Diet Coke.  Or clean socks (we all know I hate socks, so that was kind of a bad example).  You don’t need to be a painter or an opera singer to be creative.  And often times that creativity comes naturally. Other times you may be stuck when working on a new recipe or article or trying to problem solve at work.

Believe it or not, creativity can be learned.  (and, according to this Forbes article “creativity is far and away the most important skill needed to ‘thrive.'”)  You don’t need to wear all black, or have some sort of emo haircut, or be in the drama club (though all those things are perfectly good).  You don’t need to be a “creative type” to be creative or to benefit from creative thinking or practices.

Hopefully these ideas will help you make a little bit of room in your brains (or day, or spirit, or whatev) for creative solutions and projects.

Making room for creativity

Rethink your routine

Like most humans, I’ve caught myself making the old “I don’t have time” excuse.  Real talk: If “x” (whether that’s doodling, or running, or eating well, or calling your mum) is important, you can make time.  I promise.  It’s possible.

If you’re adding something new to your day, like a sketching routine or revisiting the piano lessons of your childhood, you may need to reconfigure your schedule a bit.  I wish there were a magic way to add an hour to your day, or a day to your week, but let’s be serious.  I am not a magician (and frankly, they creep me out).  There are only 24 hours in the day.  If you want more time, you need to either wake up earlier, or stay up later.  Or you know, skip 20 minutes of television watching (that’s not an admonishment, I’m thinking specifically of my undying devotion to Jeopardy!).

I’m a fan of that quiet time in the morning when Grace has gone back to sleep for a bit (hopefully) after eating at 4 or 5 AM and the sun is just starting to rise in Boston (…it was less lovely this winter when it was still pitch black, but hey).  If I am not dead tired, I’ll putter around the condo a bit or grab some tea on the deck and watch the sky put on a show.  For me, everything feels possible in the morning.  For others, this may be true at night.

Carve our your time and protect it.

Arm yourself

Carry a sketch pad, or journal, or violin, or wooden birdhouses and paint… or whatever with you.  That way, when inspiration (or a free five minutes between meetings) strikes, you are armed and ready.  On second thought, leave the birdhouses and paint at home.  That project got a little messy.

A note about sketchpads:  If possible, I recommend buying a few in person (like, in a real store rather than buying them online) mostly so you can get a feel (literally) for the paper quality.  Inexpensive is good, but cheap and flimsy is maybe not so good.  Check out a few different brands and be sure you like the weight and texture.  If you’re using ink or watercolors, you may want to invest in a sketchbook designed for mixed or wet media.

I have a little travel watercolor set that I just love, some pens and a few sketchpads that fit easily into my handbag (which, in truth, is gigantic – but I think they’d fit in a normal sized bag too… especially if you remove the diapers, the wipes and Sophie the giraffe).  I usually draw first, and that add color later.

Accept a challenge

It takes all of two minutes on Pinterest or Instagram and you’ll find enough doodle-a-day or photo-a-day prompts to last you ’til 2033.  While participating in challenges like these can be fun in real-time, I always feel a wee bit guilty when I lose momentum and  forget to post a photo… on the second day.  Using challenge prompts for inspiration, instead, eliminates the guilt factor.  Scroll through a list the next time you find yourself asking, “What should I draw?” or “What should I write about?” or “What should I name my new harmonica jam?”

You might also consider creating your own sort of challenge.  Maybe you want to commit to writing daily, even if it’s a line or two.  Or perhaps you’d like to blog or vlog (I will forever think those two words are weird) for a month.  Deadlines and due dates and schedules can be helpful to some, but limiting to others.  As Plato and a bunch of other old people used to say, Know thyself.

Set it to shuffle mode

Yes, I am talking about music.  And yes, I am talking about other things too.  Lately I’ve been both enjoying and being overwhelmingly mortified by my digital music library.  I got bored with my playlists and started defaulting to shuffle, so my commute usually sounds something like this:

  • Weird Christmas song
  • Tupac
  • A song about (but not by) Tupac
  • Michael Jackson
  • The soundtrack to Summer Heights High
  • Ambient Reiki or yoga music
  • Sad Whitney Houston song
  • More Michael Jackson
  • Jock Jams
  • Another weird Christmas song
  • An awesome Christmas song
  • Three different versions of Raffi’s “Baby Beluga”
  • Another sad Whitney Houston song
  • A HIDDEN GEM!

Those hidden gems – the songs you haven’t heard in ages – make the embarrassment of having downloaded an entire Glee album (But seriously, when did I do that? I never liked the show.) worthwhile.  Those songs might remind you of a specific time, place or person and may help to inspire your next project.

Other ways you can embrace shuffle mode: Open the newspaper (they still exist, I assure you) and read the first article you land on.  Scroll through your phone and call the first person you see (it helps to maybe do a clean sweep of your phone and delete those randoms — you know: first name “Mary”, last name “From Yoga Class 2011″– first).  Close your eyes, point to the menu, and order (disclaimer: not safe if you have food allergies).

 Enjoy a change of scenery

I’m a big believer in the power of a simple change of scenery.  We’re lucky that we can see the ocean from one side of our condo, and skyscrapers from the other.  If you look directly out the front of our building, you’ll likely see one of my neighbors running some sort of insurance scam involving a neck brace and various other medical accessories, but that’s another story.

Regardless, one way to get creatively “unstuck” is to move.  Duh.  Take a quick walk, make a day trip to the country, visit a farm and pet some animals, enjoy a friend’s garden, spend the afternoon in the library or a bookstore reading through travel books, go for a hike, take a nap on the beach.  When you’ve got new or different things to look at, your perspective is bound to change.

Oh, and this should go without saying, but… please don’t be like,

“Elizabeth!  I took your advice!  I saw sort of a weird, dark, kind of dangerous looking alley… and, um, I thought it might inspire me… so I walked down it.  And now I am missing my wallet.  AND AN EAR!”

Very Van Gogh, but also very NOT OKAY.  Be careful and be safe.  Think with your right brain while using your left brain.  Please.

Pick up your camera.  Or don’t.

These days, quite a bit of life is experienced from behind the screens of our smart phones or tablets (do I need to mention Google Glasses?  Does anyone out there wear them?).  On one hand, I love being able to take a quick photo of something that grabs my attention or type a quick note about a book title or upcoming event.  On the other hand, I know I miss all kinds of things by being glued to my phone.  I try to use my actual camera as much as possible for this reason.  I only dig it out when I want to capture something… and I see those “somethings” because I am not preoccupied by looking at my camera.  Mostly because it’s just a camera.  It can’t text my sister a sloth pic.

Wheewwww.  This was a long one.  Think of everything you could have created and accomplished if you didn’t bother to read this post.  My apologies.

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you make room for creativity in your day?  What are you working on lately?

Today: The Weekend According to Instagram #29

Let’s be serious: It was time for the sleep-deprived lady to ditch the Roman numerals.

The Weekend According to Instagram #29

1.  Our little deck garden has really taken off this week.  We’ve got more cherry tomatoes and basil than I know what to do with… so I am eating all of them.

2.  As I shared last week, I recently started using the Couch to 5k app and am embracing the opportunity to start fresh.  I woke up Friday and thought “Yes! It’s Friday (standard Friday thought)! I get to run tonight!”  I can’t remember the last time I felt that way about running.  I think I stopped running and switched to rowing at CrossFit two months before Grace was born, but long before that I hadn’t run for the sake of running in ages.  I broke out my KIND tank (given to me by the lovely KIND folks at FenwaYoga) and was thankful for the opportunity to be kind to my body and brain while out on the Harborwalk by myself for a little bit.  Speaking of KIND, they are launching a really great program in Boston tomorrow.  As the “official snack partner” of the Boston Red Sox, KIND is working with Red Sox Nation and the rest of the city to spread kindness this summer.  #KINDBoston launches tomorrow and fellow Bostonians are invited to share their ideas for making Boston a kinder place to live and work.

From KIND:

For every kind act submitted, KIND will donate a piece of sporting equipment (up to $5,000) to the Red Sox Foundation’s RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) program, which teaches inner-city youth the importance of being kind on and off the field. KIND will also bring select kind acts to life in August to demonstrate how small actions can make a big difference.

#KINDBoston will debut at Fenway Park on Tuesday, July 29, with KIND honoring an RBI player and coach who embody kindness. Fans attending the Red Sox game that evening will be able to share their ideas before exiting the ballpark. Anyone not in attendance will be able submit via Twitter using #KINDBoston until August 31.

3.  Now that Grace is a bit more mobile, she and Clark have become fast friends.  She loves to roll towards him and reach for his wrinkly mug, and he is being as patient as I could have hoped.  They spent Saturday morning cozied up together, surrounded by various baby maracas, tambourines and stuffed monkeys.

4.  It would seem my Instagram feed was very food-focused this weekend.  We went to see my parents on Saturday afternoon and brought some  strawberries, blueberries and blackberries with us.  You can’t go wrong with berries. (You know how if you type a word too many times, it totally looks weird… that just happened.  Berries.)

5.  On our way back to the city, we stopped at the farm stand in my parents’ neighborhood and filled up a basket of carrots, Romaine lettuce, cherries and onions.

6.  More food:  After seeing this recipe for yogurt breakfast popsicles on The Kitchn, I thought I’d give it a try.  I mixed Greek yogurt, gluten free granola and some raspberry preserves in an ice cube tray (which, technically, I bought for freezing baby food… but hey) and let it freeze overnight.  The result: messy, but tasty.  Perhaps they would make a good addition to a smoothie.

7.  This is what Clark (my official snack partner) looked like while I sampled the aforementioned frozen yogurt bites. #gimmesome

8.  And this is what Grace looks like when she’s being a goofball, which is quite often lately.  She has been such a smiley girl these past few weeks.  I think she’s enjoying all her newly acquired skills (yelling and rolling are her favorites).

9.  Oh… and she ate her first solid food this weekend!  It was so much fun to watch her reaction (she mostly looked horrified) as she tasted her first few bites of pureed sweet potato. I promised Allison a post on feeding Grace solids and look forward to sharing our experiences with that… once we have… a bit more experience with that.  In the meantime, I highly recommend Lucy’s List and their series on starting solids.  Oh, one thing I know for sure: You do not need to bake and puree three whole sweet potatoes for one small baby.  That’s, like, two and a half too many.  Trust me.

Also On Tap for Today:

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Today: DirtyGirl Mud Run 2014 and being a beginner again.

I’m usually partial to good, clean fun.  Mostly because I am lazy and don’t like cleaning up messes.  This weekend, however, was a bit of a departure.  My sister and I ran our first DirtyGirl 5k on Saturday morning and I swear, I am still smiling.  Also: 4 showers later, I am still finding mud in various places.  Like way inside my ear.

I’ve participated in one other mud run before, and it happened to be on the same course at the Amesbury Sports Park.  Nick and I ran together, and by together, I mean that he blazed ahead and I met him at the finish line six hours 30 minutes after he started his celebration beer.  It had rained quite a bit before the event, and the narrow and steep trails felt, welp… super dangerous.  People were falling left and right and on one another.  The obstacles were fun, but it was hard to run between them due to the thick mud.  Basically, I fell from one obstacle to the next.  I was happy I participated, but not eager to sign up for another event.

When the folks at DirtyGirl reached out to me, however, I was starting to run again (this was shortly after Grace was born, but before I broke my toe… I think) and was looking for a race to train for.  I convinced my sister to join me and figured if nothing else, we’d have fun together.  And did we ever.

Before and After (and yes.. that is mud ON MY TEETH.)

I hadn’t run since the whole toe thing, so to say I was undertrained would be an understatement.  At the same time, carrying around a 13 lb. baby in a 35 lb. car seat and practicing inversions while she sleeps has paid off, making those climbing obstacles a breeze.  I tried my best to keep up with my sister (who actually, you know, works out), but if nothing else, those walking breaks served as great motivation to be thoughtful about future goals and training.

Getting back into shape (whatever that means, seeing as I feel like I am a totally different shape) after having Grace has been humbling, which is both challenging and freeing.  The slate is wiped clean, so to speak.  After dropping my sister off, I took a ridiculously long shower and then promptly downloaded the Couch to 5k app.  Having completed two marathons and countless other races, it bruises my ego a bit to think of myself as a beginner, but hey… that’s where I am right now.  I think my new mantra has something to do with meeting myself where I am, not where I was.  Also:  I’m okay, you’re okay, we’re all okay.

Back to the mud: At one point, I was doubled over with laugher when my sister looked at me and yelled “AAAAH!  You have a mustache!”  I had nothing clean to wipe my face with, so on we went.  I swear, I laughed for the full 5k.  Which explains how I got mud on my teeth.  Gross.  I have never been so eager to see the professional photos from an event.

I kept thinking, I wish every workout could be this fun.  While there can’t always be giant inflatable obstacles and tutu-clad competitors alongside me, I bet infusing some of that playfulness into my training or yoga practice would do some good.

DirtyGirl Mud Run 2014: The Highlights

  • The course was the perfect balance of muddy, yet still run-able.  While I had take breaks to walk here and there (those hills are no joke), you really could run this course.  It took us just under 40 minutes to complete the 3.1 mile loop, including obstacles… and two laughing induced asthma attacks.
  • The obstacles were so much fun.  They were challenging, but not impossible and unlike similar events, you can opt-out, if you choose.
  • No offense, dudes, but there’s just something about an all female event…
  • The event had a really positive, supportive vibe.  Fellow runners cheered one another on and staff and volunteers were helpful and friendly.
  • From the parking and shuttle bus to the post-race showers and everything in between, the event was so well managed.

My sister and I are already looking forward to next year’s event (we’ve started recruiting teammates and designing our outfits… there may be sloths involved muhaha). To save on your registration to an upcoming Dirty Girl 5k, use the code BLOGFRIEND.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary entry to this event in exchange for writing articles for the DirtyGirl blog.  All the dirt shared here is my own.  Get it… dirt…?

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your current mantra?

Today: Bet on Better with me.

Shocking news: Grace will be five months old this weekend.  She celebrated early with 6 consecutive hours of sleep last night.  Meanwhile, I got up every 6 minutes to check on her, starring in disbelief as the baby who rarely slept more than 3 hours in a row continued to sleep soundly in her crib.  Is this what the next 20 years will be like?  Me peeking around corners, tiptoeing in the darkness, and spying on my own child to ensure everything’s okay?  I should probably invest in a periscope.  Or maybe some Spy-Tech (coolest 80’s toys, hands down).

Now that Grace’s schedule is starting to level off, I’ve got some catching up to do.

I don’t know why, but I had this ridiculous idea that once I went back to work (12 weeks after Grace was born), I would be sleeping through the night, eating something other than a handful of Fritos and an entire quart of raspberries for dinner (i.e. my sixteenth one-handed meal of the day), working out regularly at the gym, and oh, I don’t know, fitting into non-stretchy pants.  Needless to say: not happening.  Not yet.  Or at least, not all in the same day.

The combination of sheer exhaustion and a desire to spend every second (that I am not working, or like, showering) with our little family has made working out… challenging.  Throw in the broken toe (which is nearly healed, and almost looks like a regular toe again), and you’ve got a recipe for disaster the perfect excuse.  I eat reasonably well and have fit in daily walks and some great spinning and yoga classes over the past few months, but I feel like it’s time to really make a commitment to my health and wellness.  Life is not going to get less busy.  As the months pass, it may not be any easier to eat thoughtful meals, or sleep longer than a few hours in a row, or balance work and family time.  It may not get easier, but judging by how our lives continue to change, especially recently, it will get better and better.  

In an effort to stay accountable and motivated, and to build community around making the best possible choices for ourselves and those we love, I am hosting my first DietBet.  I’ve named it “Bet On Better” because, for me, it’s not simply about losing a few pounds (though I do look forward to fitting into real pants).  It’s about making better choices for myself across the board, choices that will help me honor my commitment to a healthy, happy, and well-lived life.

If you’re new to DietBet, you can read my full run-down here, but essentially each 4-week game includes an initial bet (in this case, $35) which goes into the pot.  Participants who successfully (and safely, please!) lose 4% of their weight during the game split the pot.  You also have the option to donate your winnings to charity, which I find to be great motivation.  I have participated in games before, and really enjoyed the community fostered among players.  As a host, I will be providing a little extra motivation, support, and helpful resources throughout the 4 weeks.  The game begins on July 8th.  I hope you will join me and consider bringing a few friends along (this is definitely one of those the more, the bigger pot merrier cases)!

Click here to join (or learn more about) the Bet On Better DietBet!

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your best source of motivation when it comes to making better choices?

Today: FenwaYoga and taking my OM outdoors.

Shortly after writing up my little Summer Bucket List, I got an incredible invitation from KIND.  Did I want to join them for yoga with Mandy Ingber at Fenway Park?  A thousand percent yes (it didn’t hurt that I read their email while snacking on a Healthy Grains bar in between meetings).  KIND sponsored the 2nd annual FenwaYoga event, which benefitted the Red Sox Foundation’s Red Sox Scholars and RBI Youth Baseball and Softball programs.

I was looking forward to checking off “practice yoga outside” from my bucket list, but never expected to have the chance to roll out my mat on the warning track along the Green Monster.

It was such an awesome experience.  Mandy lead a fun but challenging class (made slightly more challenging by the mid-morning sun) from the pitcher’s mound, while yoga teachers from the area provided additional guidance from the outfield.  I made fast friends with the woman next to me, as we swapped iPhones to grab photos of one another goofing off inside the park.

The yoga community in Boston was out in full force and everyone, especially the folks from KIND, made me feel so welcome and grateful to be a part of such an incredible day.

I really thought I’d be itching to get back to CrossFit once Grace was born, but lately I’ve been craving yoga even more.  I appreciate balance of gentleness and strength that yoga gives me, and love that Grace can squirm around beside me on her activity mat while I practice at the beginning or end of the day.  Now that she’s discovered her toes and is holding onto them for dear life, I can’t help but fit in happy baby pose whenever possible.

If you’re looking to take your om outdoors, here are a few ongoing opportunities in the area:

Also On Tap for Today:

What sort of workout have you been craving lately?

 

Today: Summer Bucket List and some sweet shades.

Let’s start with a question: Where did the expression bucket list come from? (Please pause while I Google…)  Hmm.  Not a fruitful search.  Ohhhhh….. it must have something to do with kicking the bucket, and like… things you want to do before that fateful day.  One thing that is not on my summer bucket list: kicking the bucket.

Morbidity (and flaky inner monologue) aside, here are a few things I am hoping to accomplish before Labor Day rolls around.

The coolest bro ever.

Summer Bucket List

  1. A little road trip with my little family - I’m toying with Montreal, would love to see Niagra Falls again, and have also been keeping an eye on the new Nova Star.  Oh, and I read about a library in Vermont that sits directly on the border and does not yet have a copy of Bobby Orr’s autobiography.  I feel like that’s a problem I can remedy with my dogeared copy.   Apparently, I’m feeling the call of Canada.
  2. Hiking in the Blue Hills - and by hiking, I likely mean the family friendly paved path… and a peek at the otters at the Trailside Museum.
  3. Yoga outside - and lots of it.
  4. SUP – Bonus points for SUP yoga.  Side bar:  I am convinced my sister, our cousin and I invented SUP.  We used to take our families’ ocean kayaks out on the Cape, stand up, and think we were incredibly cool (we were).  We called it “stand upon kayaking”… but maybe if we had abbreviated it to SUK it would have caught on?  No.
  5. See Wait Wait in person – Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! is going to be at Tanglewood in late August.  I want to be there. Badly.
  6. Run a new race – my broken toe is nearly unbroken, so I think it’s time to set my sights on a new goal and get training.  Also, can I just say, broken toes are no joke.  I like to think I have a pretty high pain tolerance (hello, labor and delivery), but maaaaaaan.  You know when you stub your toe, and you get that feeling of I might throw up or I might pee?  And then the feeling goes away and you’re fine (and hopefully you neither threw up nor peed)?  It doesn’t go away when your toe is broken.  And you have to wear an ugly boot.  And suddenly this bucket list became a pity party.
  7. Tackle unfinished (or in some cases, un-started) home projects – I have grand plans for our pantry and a few art projects in mind for Grace’s nursery.  I’m looking forward to spending a few Summer Fridays getting crafty.
  8. Go to a hot air balloon festival - according to the Internet, there are a bunch in New England this summer.  This might be a reach, but I think it would be so cool to see a sky full of balloons.  There used to be a few that would float over our house when I was growing up.  It always felt like we were witnessing something magical (real magic… not the creepy, weird magician kind..).
  9. Volunteer - Clark and I took some time off from our pet therapy visits in the weeks leading up to, and following, Grace’s arrival.  I am looking forward to getting back in the swing of things at the hospital, and finding other ways to support our community.
  10. Track 12 weeks of food and fitness – I’ve only ever successfully tracked my food intake for more than a day, like, once.  It was back in my food allergy/elimination diet/what is wrong with my stomach days, and honestly… it was not fun.  At the same time, it helped me see the choices I was making and the patterns I had fallen into, and how food affects my overall wellbeing.  I think a bit of accountability and self-awareness will go a long way, especially as I try to make the best possible choices for me and Grace.

Welp, there you have it folks: my I hope I go to a ballon festival before kicking the bucket list.

P.S. I recently received a complimentary pair of Nectar sunnies.  They’re fun and a bit flashy and very reasonably priced ($30 for a polarized pair, $20 for non-polarized).  In other words, they’re the perfect accessory for checking off summer bucket list items.  They were a bit big on Clark, but fit me perfectly. Looking for a pair of your own?  Click here and use the code ‘lovenectar’ for 10% off

Also On Tap for Today:

  • Planting a few more herbs for our little deck garden
  • My new obsession: produce bouquets
  • Packing for a day trip to DC

What’s on your summer bucket list?

 

Today: 100 days of Grace.

It’s been exactly 100 days since Grace was born.

There are moments when it feels like she has just arrived, and others when I can’t believe she hasn’t been with us all along.  Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation, but there are times when I cannot imagine life before that instant when she was placed on my chest in the delivery room and everything changed.

Left: Grace is 6 hours old. Right: Grace is 100 days and 6 hours old. Both: I am overjoyed, overtired, and in need of a hairbrush.

We started going to a new moms’ group when Grace was almost three weeks old.  I am so grateful for that community.  And I want all eight of our babies to grow up and be college roommates.  Or live on an organic farm together.  Or something.

At our last formal meeting, the group’s facilitator asked us to share something that is going well, something that is challenging, and something that has changed.  What stood out to me was the confidence I had gained over those first weeks.  And how much we’ve grown and developed and changed together.  And how I love her more than I could ever adequately express.

In honor of Grace’s first 100 days, 50 thoughts and reflections on life with our beautiful baby… I would have given you 100, but let’s be serious:

  1. I think the first thing I noticed about Grace was her nose.  It is so tiny and sweet, I kiss it all the time.
  2. I’ve found so much love and support in both expected and unexpected places.
  3. More so than ever, I need other people.  I need help.  I need support.  I need to be told that my crazy hair and (unintentionally) tight pants look good.
  4. It’s all very humbling, especially for someone who has always preferred to just do it myself.
  5. I am more grateful than ever for Nick, for our families and friends, and everyone who has been so kind and gentle and supportive to us.
  6. Having a community of new moms, sharing similar experiences, has been invaluable.  (If you live in the Boston area and are expecting or have children, I highly recommend Mama and Me in JP.)
  7. We were discharged from the hospital on a Friday evening, but had to see our pediatrician early the next morning (I love that they’re open on weekends) for a weight check and some testing.  The only thing more overwhelming than being sent home with a very new, very small, very needy baby… is packing her up and taking her back out in the world less than a day later.
  8.  … but because we needed to, we figured it out.  There wasn’t much time for panic or worry, and eventually necessity lead to competence (sort of… once I had the child locks on, got in the back seat to move Grace from her car seat to the Ergo… and then got trapped inside my own car).
  9. After I made a few solo trips to the doctor without, like, losing our child, Grace and I started going to more fun places, too.
  10. I made it my goal to get out of the condo at least once a day while on maternity leave.
  11. We spent Thursdays at my parents’ house, walked to Castle Island when it was warm enough, spent a shameful amount of both time and money in the stationary aisle at Target, and even got our first library card.  Start ‘em young.
  12. I am so grateful to have good health care.
  13. Same goes for a wonderful pediatrician and group practice.  They have been so helpful and supportive.  And they don’t make me feel like a nutty first time parent.  Even though I am a nutty first time parent.
  14. Breastfeeding is hard.  Pumping at work isn’t exactly a walk in the park, either.  But, for me, it’s worth it.
  15. I say, “Let’s take this one day at a time” to myself a lot lately.
  16. I am convinced the face babies make after they eat is the secret to world peace.
  17. I can’t remember the last time I’ve slept for more than 2-3 hours at once.  I do remember the first time I slept long enough to have a dream after Grace was born though.  I dreamt that President Obama was making a very important speech about Olympic figure skating.
  18. I don’t know why I thought this, but I was certain both Grace and I would be sleeping through the night before I returned to work.  She wakes to be fed 2-3 times each night, meanwhile I have friends whose babies were sleeping through the night after a couple of weeks.  It’s all very mysterious.
  19. I ‘m embracing our middle-of-the-night wakings as our time.
  20. Grace’s smile can stop me in my tracks.  Even (or especially) at 3 AM.
  21. It’s the best gift.
  22. When I was pregnant, it was obvious (except at the beginning, when it was a little more like… maybe she’s pregnant, maybe she ate six pizzas).  Especially towards the end, even complete strangers were nicer to me.  People wanted to know when I was due, if I was having a girl or boy, how I was feeling.  I appreciate that more now than I did a the time.
  23. I attract similarly well-intentioned attention when I am out with Grace, but when I’m by myself, I sort of feel a bit adrift.  Like that I want to tell the mailman I have a baby, or I nearly tell the lady in line ahead of me that I am a mom, too.
  24. I guess I hadn’t given much thought to what navigating a new identity would be like, and in that way, I sort of miss being pregnant.  Sort of.
  25. I like that we are creating new rituals and traditions with our sweet girl and our family.
  26. Children’s books either totally awesome, or totally weird.  I’ve yet to find anything in between.
  27. Aaaaand I have yet to make it through Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You without crying.
  28. It feels like I’m softer (and I’m not just talking about my mid-section) than before.
  29. And at the same time, becoming a mother has definitely made me tougher.  I feel a stronger instinct to protect and defend.  I guess that’s what happens when you’ve got more to lose.
  30. I sing to Grace all the time, but the only songs I seem to actually know the words to are Christmas songs.
  31. Clark has been so good.  We’re really lucky.
  32. He has started trying to play with Grace, bringing toys and dropping them beside her, or gently nudging her when she’s on her activity mat.
  33. There is no sense in getting dressed until Grace is safely strapped into her car seat and we’re just about to head out the door.  Any sooner is just asking to be, welp, puked on.
  34. I do not miss my maternity clothes.
  35. I consigned them all the first chance I had.
  36. Uh… except for my maternity jeans.  I am saving those for Thanksgiving (or any other day when eating my body weight in potatoes seems like a real possibility).
  37. I wish I had Grace’s wardrobe.  Cotton everything.  Stretchy pants.  Cuffins and built-in socks.  Kimono tops.  Please.
  38. The underwear you get at the hospital is, like, the best underwear ever.
  39. My favorite thing to wear, though: my baby.  Babywearing is the best.
  40. Same goes for skin-to-skin contact.
  41. I could stare at Grace all day long.
  42. Being away from her during the day has been challenging (but not nearly as challenging as I imagined), and I find myself wanting to hold her all night, even if it means I risk waking her up.
  43. I am thankful that I have both a family and a career.
  44. But I struggle a bit, wondering if I am doing enough as a wife, a mother and a worker.
  45. I’ve always been in awe of my parents, but even more so now that I am one.
  46. Nick is an incredible father.  It’s like he’s known what to do right from the start.
  47. Labor and delivery was amazing.  I’ve heard people compare the experience to all sorts of things (marathons and WODs and whitewater rafting, for example) and I can firmly say this: nothing compares.
  48. It was painful and long and, at times, a bit scary (and I am pretty sure I had it relatively easy after hearing others’ birth stories), but all of that fell away the second Grace was born.
  49. Some day I’ll tell you what it was like to ride an elevator with a bunch of dudes in suits on their way to work while my water was breaking.  Maybe.
  50. After three months, I love that we’re starting to see and know Grace’s personality.  She’s curious and busy, and definitely a morning person.

I wouldn’t trade a minute of any of these past 100 days for anything in the world.

Life with Grace just keeps getting better.

Also On Tap for Today:

What are you celebrating today?

Today: My grocery staples and a Dairy Pure giveaway.

My diet has changed a lot in the past year.  When I was pregnant, I ate around the clock to keep morning sickness at bay.  I was able to tolerate gluten again, mostly (there was a week in August when all I wanted was bread… so all I ate was bread).  I tried to form a fan club for Whole Foods mashed potatoes.  I gave up caffeine and tried to cut back on anything especially spicy or acidic (holy heartburn).

Now that Grace is three months old, I am eating more like, well, myself.  One changed that has stuck, however: I am drinking milk again.  Not almond milk, not cashew milk, not goat’s milk… straight up cow’s milk.

When we were kids, we drank milk with dinner every night and lived close enough to a dairy farm to have it delivered by the cold, glass bottleful.  (Believe it or not, I grew up in Greater Boston in the 80’s, not in a Little House on the Prairie.)  At some point, though, once I was out on my own, I stopped drinking milk altogether.  When I started seeing a registered dietitian and embarked on one elimination diet after another, dairy was often the first to go.  And then I would miss cheese (real talk).  I skipped the milk, however, until I was pregnant.  It was one of the few cravings I had during those nine months.  It’s been a personal choice (and one I researched and discussed with my midwife), but adding several servings of milk to my diet has been a healthy way to help meet my calcium, protein and vitamin needs.

In addition to milk, here are few of my other weekly grocery staples:

  • Salad mix (usually baby greens with herbs)
  • Fresh vegetables for salads and snacks (bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, onions, sugar snap peas and radishes)
  • Tomatoes, bananas, apples, and berries
  • The magical fruit Beans, nut butter, hummus
  • Couscous, quinoa, rice
  • Guacamole (which, in my opinion, should be its own food group) – I usually buy single serve portions – a bit more expensive, but less goes to waste for us
  • Cheese (duh)
  • Fresh herbs
  • Cut flowers (always)

With so much non-food being added to our actual food these days, I think it requires a bit of extra effort to shop these days.  I started drinking Dairy Pure milk this winter, so when the company reached out a few weeks ago with information about their new Worry-Free Flip Caps, I was happy to share their info with you.

All Dairy Pure milk passes a 5-point Purity Checklist, ensuring the following:

  1. Dairy Pure farmers pledge to use no artificial growth hormones
  2. All milk is tested for antibiotics
  3. Milk is continuously quality tested to ensure purity
  4. Milk comes only from cows fed a nutritious diet
  5. Milk is cold-shipped fresh from a trusted dairy within hours

The new caps, which stay on the bottle and keep milk fresher, give me even more peace of mind when shopping the dairy aisle.  To find Dairy Pure milk at a market near you, click here.

Dairy Pure is giving away 5 of their insulated shopping totes for your next trip to the market.  To enter, simply leave a comment below.  I will select 5 random winners on Saturday, May 10.

Disclosure: I received a gift card to cover the cost of purchasing Dairy Pure milk at my local market.  I was not compensated for this post, nor for my comments about the product.  I only review products and services that I feel good about (obvi… I hope).

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your take on dairy?  Care to share your usual shopping list?

 

Today: Streamlining my mornings.

I have partnered with belVita and Dannon to help promote the belVita and Dannon partnership.  I have been compensated for my time commitment to the program, which includes writing about the promotion and product.  However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

For the past (nearly) three months, my routine has been… welp… a total lack of routine.  It seems like the second I started to get comfortable, and Grace and I had fallen into a pattern of sorts, things changed.  She started eating more.  Or less.  She started sleeping more.  Or less.  Morning was the best time for us to get out for a walk or do a few errands.  And then afternoon became a better time for that.  Some days I’d be showered, dressed and out on the town (or more accurately, cruising around Southie with Grace in her stroller or baby carrier) by 8:30 AM.  Other days, I’d be in pajamas until 8:30… PM.

The sole constant:  We’ve been figuring it all out together.  Me, Nick, and Grace (and Clark, but let’s be serious… he’s a go with the flow little guy).  Becoming a parent has been challenging, exhausting, and at times, overwhelming.  It’s also been the single most amazing experience, and I know I am better for it.  The time we’ve had together these past few months, and all of those transitions from one non-routine to the next, have been so special, so sacred.

Tomorrow we make our next big transition, as I head back to work and Grace begins daycare.  In a perfect world, we could do it all and have it all.  We’d be together all day long, be attentive parents, and be productive while enjoying our fulfilling careers.  We’d achieve the perfect balance.  But the world isn’t perfect. (Duh, lady.)  I know I am lucky to have both a beautiful family and a career that challenges and excites me.  As anxious as I am about the changes to come, I know we made these choices for all the right reasons.  We are so lucky to have options.

Um… this post was supposed to be about breakfast.  Not feelings. (I’m sure I will have much more to say about being a workin’ mom once I have more than 15 seconds of experience as one.)

Back on task.  Breakfast.  Mornings.

While there are plenty of new challenges we’ll need to navigate in the coming days, weeks, and months, I am hoping that making a plan for how we start each day, and making an effort to streamline our mornings, will help.  I’ve never been much of a breakfast eater, much to the chagrin of my parents, my husband, people that I flip off in traffic, my primary care physician… you get the point.  Despite having good intentions, sitting down for a healthy meal at the start of the day always seemed to fall by the wayside when faced with a time crunch.  I can skip breakfast, but I can’t (in good conscience) skip walking the dog.  Or, like, bathing.  Having someone else depending on me in such a real way has been the ultimate game changer.  More than ever it’s clear: I need to take care of myself in order take care of other people.

BelVita and Dannon have partnered to get me (and my fellow Americans) to ditch the excuses and make time for a quick breakfast that boasts 12 grams of protein and nutritious, steady energy (…maybe we can have it all.  Just kidding.  Too soon.  Pass the Kleenex.).  I’ve been pairing Dannon Oikos 0% vanilla Greek yogurt with apple cinnamon Crunchy belVita Breakfast Biscuits, along with an apple, in the mornings.  The combination is delicious and convenient and is sure to become part of my workday routine (bonus: if when I forget a spoon for my yogurt, a biscuit is the perfect stand in).

Are you looking to streamline your mornings?  Laura Stack, “The Productivity Pro”, offers the following tips for getting the most of your morning:

  • Do as much as you can the night before.  Leave as little preparation as possible until the last minute — you’ll thank yourself in the morning.
  • Spend 20 minutes at the end of each day planning your to-do list.  When you download the next day’s activities beforehand, you can devote your morning to enjoyment rather than stress.
  • Be sure to start your morning with a delicious, balanced breakfast.  Together, the nutritious steady energy of belVita and 12 grams of protein in Dannon Oikos Green nonfat yogurt along with a piece of fruit will help you get more out of your morning.

Welp, my breakfast is set for tomorrow… our bags are packed… I guess we’re ready?

Also On Tap for Today:

How do you streamline your morning?  Favorite breakfast ideas for busy folks excuse makers?

Today: Fear is not productive.

For the record, this post is supposed to be suitable for all  humans.  It isn’t supposed to be about being a mom.  Or boobs.  Or CPR.  It just starts that way, so like… bear with me.

 We took a bunch of classes in an effort to prepare for Grace’s arrival.  Infant CPR felt both helpful and necessary.  Breastfeeding Basics was, well, basically useless.  None of it made sense until I actually started breastfeeding, and at that point, I had the invaluable support of lactation consultants in the hospital.  They helped me figure that cool stuff out.  During the class itself, we watched some weird slide shows (I have never seen so many boobs in my life, nor do I expect to, ever ever again), and a movie with credits that included a thank you “to the women of Bulgaria.”  I am still not sure what to make of that.  Our instructor for Child Safety went a bit rogue, so the class was more about how weird babies can look when their born, and less about… safety.

Fortunately, the gaps left by the safety class were more than filled in when I had an appointment with a Boston Police officer to have our car seat inspected, just two days before Grace made her early arrival.  What I thought would be a two minute check of our car seat (which Nick had expertly installed) turned into 90 minutes of me learning how to actually use our car seat (little did I know how soon I be putting this new found knowledge to work), how many air bags my car has, which items in the trunk could turn into projectiles if (God forbid) I got into an accident, how to safely flee an emergency by car with an infant in tow, how to use a car seat without a base if I were to flee an emergency by taxi, and the importance of actually reading safety manuals.

Our childbirth class was cut short by a blizzard, so while we learned a bit about labor, we never learned about delivery.  Needless to say, when it came time to deliver Grace… Nick and I both had a lot of questions.  And I am certain our attending midwife and nurses had several questions about us.

Anyway, in an ongoing effort to get my life together before going back to work in just a short time (don’t get me started, I am almost out of Kleenexes), I was sorting through various info packets from the aforementioned classes, and I came across a page of notes I had taken.  In all caps, I had written,

Fear is not productive.

I remember one of the instructors mentioning that fear (and anxiety and worry) can slow down labor.  I am pretty sure I wrote this sentence down so that I could remember it if I went into labor and we were stuck in traffic.  Or in an elevator.  Like, I would look at pictures of clowns (or something equally terrifying) and the fear would persuade our baby to wait until we were safely at the hospital.

I think, at the time, I missed the point.  The instructor meant that being informed, making preparations, and feeling a sense of control would have the opposite effect.  Fear is not productive.  Being empowered is.  With seemingly so much more to worry about, to be anxious about, and to feel doubtful about these days, I needed this reminder.

Sure, in certain cases, fear probably is quite productive.  Say, if I were a cavewoman and a lion came into my cave to eat my cheese doodles, and I saw the lion, and I felt afraid… and that fear caused me to take my doodles (you can’t leave them behind, I imagine they were really hard to come by in those days) and run?  Productive.  Or that time I went skydiving with my ex-boyfriend in college (that should totally be the name of a Lifetime move: Skydiving with My Ex…. and  maybe on the way to the airfield, before she actually skydives, the main character would find out that she had been switched at birth, just to keep things realistic interesting.  Feel free to steal and pitch this idea to the network.), and I felt fear overwhelm me as I prepared to jump.  That’s productive.  People really shouldn’t jump out of planes for no reason.  Fortunately, I survived, but I did lose a contact lens during free fall.

Real, physical fear — the kind that has helped us stay alive as a species for so long — aside, the kind of fear that has us trying to predict the future, or read others’ minds, or play out all possible scenarios, is not productive.  Worrying about whether or not Grace will be happy at day care is not going to make her any more or less happy.  Getting anxious about making time to fit everything into the day is not going to fold the laundry, preside over meetings, pick out a semi-normal outfit for me to wear, and finish a workout.  That kind of fear is just not productive.  It wastes time.  It wastes energy.  And it leads to more fear.

As much as I love cop shows (which is to say, a lot), I’ve always been squeamish when it comes to the violent parts.  I like the intrigue, the plotting, and the cool police lingo, but I’ve always tended to cover my eyes during any of the real action.  I got into the habit, jokingly, of covering Clark’s eyes, too and telling him to “guard his spirit.”  This has always made Nick laugh, but I’ve caught myself saying this hippy b.s. more and more… and sort of seriously.  And most often to, well, myself.

When that unproductive fear creeps in, we’ve got to guard our spirits.  And with that, I am off to legally change my name to Soleil Moon Frye Dreamcatcher Incense Flower.

Also On Tap for Today:

Do you have any unusual fears?  What was the caveperson version of cheese doodles?