Thursday, December 20, 2012

Back to Life as Usual

It's been 2 weeks since Z3 had her hernia surgically repaired.  As I had mentioned, I was worried about some things but the procedure went supremely well.  She was scheduled for the surgery at 7:30AM but I had to be there by 6:00.  She nursed for the last time a little before 2:00 AM and, dare I say it, miraculously slept till 5:00 (she doesn't do that regularly at all).  When she woke up, the hubby just held her and rocked her and she went back to sleep as I got ready to leave.    I put her in the car seat and got her in the car all without her waking.  I turned on the GPS (I had put the address in the night before) and it would not power on.  I felt a sense of panic but I just took deep breaths.  I had a general idea of where the hospital was and I just decided to really try to relax, realizing this was not a bad omen of sorts and that having to actually use my brain instead of mindlessly follow the GPS might be a good thing.

We arrived at the hospital and Z3 was still sleeping.  I took her out of the car and still, she slept.  Only when we arrived at the waiting room did she wake and at that point I just held her.  She didn't cry or fuss.  When we went in to get prepped for surgery, she started to fuss a bit but I brought the Ergo carrier (which she loves--post about that forthcoming).  I put her in it and started to walk and she calmed down.  I must have walked for close to two hours and during that time, she made not a peep.  Even fell asleep.  Even was smiling at the nurses.  

The anesthesiologist and his assistant came and briefed me about what he would be doing.  He was quite thorough and I felt confident in his ability.  We were all ready and just waiting for he surgeon who was about 45 minutes late (and if you know me, you know lateness is a huge pet peeve of mine) but I was determined not to let my irritation show.  I wanted this surgeon to be on top of his game.  And he was.  I was reading good energy off him and I was saying to myself that if the 45 minutes gave him a moment to do something to put him in the right frame of mind, I was happy for it.

I put on a sterile suit and I was able to go in with her.  I stayed with her right until she was put under anesthesia and then one of the nurses walked me out.  At that point, I finally broke down and cried.  Z3 looked so small in that operating theatre and I was entrusting her life to these strangers.  I apologized for blubbering to the nurse (although I'm sure she is used to that kind of thing).  

The surgery was to take two hours.  I went to the hospital dining room and ate my breakfast (which I had brought with me) and read my book (A Wedding in Haiti by Julia Alvarez).  I then went back to the waiting room to wait.  

The surgery took a bit longer than expected.  Turns out she had more than one hernia but that all of them had been corrected.  She came out of surgery quite groggy and so I had to spend a few more hours at the hospital so they could make sure she was okay.  I couldn't nurse her right off but I was allowed to give her some sugar water in a bottle.  I was sure she wouldn't take it but I guess she was hungry enough.  She took it eagerly and had no problem figuring out how to get stuff out.  (This encouraged me to really start pumping milk and I had planned to do it for the surgery but never got around to it.  Luckily, I didn't get engorged.) 

Z3 was in quite a bit of pain afterwards.  I got her some baby Advil but she kept spitting it out.  (Why they flavor baby pain medication, I have no idea.)  I couldn't tell how much it was helping her pain.  She was quite fussy during the next few days. She basically stayed on me in the carrier since that was the only way she could sleep and she did sleep a lot.  But by a week's time post-surgery, she was back to her regular, easy-going, easy-smiling self.  

I am very happy I got the surgery out of the way. I have a great deal for which to be grateful.  Not only that my baby girl pulled through the surgery so well.  That is huge.  But I also recognized a few things:

  1. Affirmations absolutely work.  I used affirmations to create the birth I wanted and I used affirmations to create the situation I wanted for Z3's procedure.  My worries were resolved in an optional way just by focusing on the outcome I wanted and not on my fears.  One thing I am still thinking about is her gut health but I am breastfeeding constantly and doing some probiotics and affirming every day that she is whole and healthy.  I am encouraged to apply affirmations to every other aspect of my life.  There is power in thought.  
  2. There were mamas there who were on a first name basis with the hospital staff.  Who knew each other very well.  Because their children are at the hospital often, having one procedure or another.  Of course, everybody has their own path and their own challenges with which to deal.  But I felt so fortunate that Z3's surgery was so minor compared to those children's who had come with overnight bags and hopes of being released sooner than later (like a few weeks later).  
So the hernia was corrected and we are back to life as usual.  I'm holding my children tight and giving thanks for their lives.  Given the recent happenings, it's just so plain that we cannot take our blessings for granted.  No matter what.  

Friday, November 30, 2012


A while back I started buying Trader Joe's unsweetened coconut milk as an alternative to soy milk.  (For some time, I was buying hemp milk but it was expensive and my family didn't really love the taste.)  The coconut milk, however, they seem to like.  Since only the hubby is big on cold cereal (I only buy cereal for him), I put the coconut milk in porridge and smoothies for the kids or I use it when I make hot cocoa.  The TJ's coconut milk is about $2 for 32 ounces so it's a decent price--especially when compared to the hemp milk.  The only issue with the TJ's unsweetened coconut milk is that it's fortified with Vitamin D2 and also has some questionable additives such as carageenan.

I also buy the TJ's light coconut milk in the can which I use in cooking and baking.  It's not full fat coconut milk which would be preferred but it only has two ingredients: coconut milk and water.  And it's $1.29.  All of the brands of full fat coconut milk that I have found in the store also have guar gum as an ingredient and are usually $2 or more.  

So it occurred to me the other day that I could just dilute the TJ's canned coconut milk to use in cereal, porridge, smoothies, etc.  And it worked!  I do one can of coconut milk diluted with two cans of filtered water.  Diluted this way, the hubby says it's quite good on cereal (if you put it on cereal straight out of the can, it is too creamy and thick). 

It's a great solution:  no weird additives and cheaper.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I'm Going to Give Thanks

My baby girl (Z3) is set to have surgery to repair a hernia.  Z2 had a hernia as well but it was in a different location and most likely would (and did) resolve on it's own.  I sat down with the doctor yesterday and he took his time to explain to me in great detail exactly what a hernia is and how to fix it. The placement of Z3's hernia makes self-resolution very unlikely and it's the doctor's recommendation that we take care of it sooner than later.  I was keeping my fingers crossed that we would not need surgery.  

I've been dealing with insomnia on top of allergies on top of just the normal waking up 3-4 times at night to nurse.  This is something extra to keep me awake.  I'm really tired.  And really worried.  I mean, in the grand scheme of things, it is a very minor surgery and I know there are parents dealing with much scarier medical issues.  But even minor surgery carries risks.  

What I spent the night thinking about were three things:

  1. The surgery risks: the two main ones being local infection and anesthesia
  2. Antibiotics: the broad antibiotic that she will be given pre-surgery will knock out all her gut flora.  I'm trying to do the research now to see what would be the best protocol for restoring her gut symbiosis.  Breastfeeding alone will go far but something like 80% of our immune system is in our gut.  For my children, gut health is pivotal as I am relying 100% on their immune system to fight off disease and keep them healthy.  
  3. No food: she cannot nurse for 5 hours prior to the surgery.  Baby girl is on a once an hour nursing schedule right now.  It's going to be heartbreaking denying her milk for 5 hours.  
Some fortunate things:

  1. Surgeries for babies are scheduled very early (7:30 AM) so she will not be starving all day.
  2. The surgery will be laproscopic which means that it will be less invasive and the healing time will shortened.  
  3. There is very little chance of reoccurrence.  
  4. The surgery, if all goes well with anesthesia, is a one day deal.  We will be in and out on the same day.
  5. Baby girl is very healthy and robust.

I'm still pretty worried though and it was very hard to get to sleep last night.  I've got a dull headache this morning.  I'm encouraging myself though because, in the big picture, this surgery is just a blip on the radar.  And I'm making a conscious effort to focus on the outcome I want and not on my fears.  I think that is supremely important.  

And I am also staying in a state of gratitude for all I have and for this situation.  I'm not totally clear about what my calling is in life but I do know that I am sent to be a resource.  And this experience will certainly give me the tools to do just that.  This challenge adds a layer of complexity and beauty to the tapestry of my life and gives me a testimony that may at some point encourage and teach someone else.  So I am going to give thanks.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

New Pants

My little baby girl is 2 months old and I finally decided I am done with wearing maternity pants.  Since I'm no longer pregnant, they don't fit properly at all.  And with me fiddling around to lift my shirt and unhook my nursing bra so baby girl can nurse, I was feeling very unkempt and undone.  Sloppy.  

So I took out my pre-pregnancy pants in hopes that I could squeeze in and, no surprise, they wouldn't go past my thighs.  I won't lie and say that I was okay with that.  I was disappointed.  I am still a good twenty pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight and while the hubby is thrilled about it, I am not.  I mean, I worked very hard to lose the weight!  Anyway,  I headed to the thrift store yesterday not sure what size pants I would need to buy. Pre-pregnancy I wore a size 4 pants so I guessed/hoped I would need a size 6 or 8.  That was wishful thinking.  I needed a size 10 and was quite relieved that a size 12 was too large.  

But I'm not exactly sure that I want to go back to my pre-pregnancy weight.  I think I may have been too thin but I worked hard to get down that much and I did felt pretty healthy and, well, like a success.  Because of that, I liked being that small although I did feel maybe a bit too fragile.  I hadn't been that size since high school and it was cool.  It felt nice to be called "small".  I've never been a dainty woman and at that size, I almost felt dainty and that felt good. I would be dishonest if I didn't also admit that I struggle with the buy in I have made into the false idea that thin is good and proof that one is hard-working and healthy.  But I did feel kind of delicate and I guess I could stand to feel more solid.  Plus, the hubby was not feeling the size 4 at all.  At all.  Didn't like the muscle definition and the hardness.  And I think that muscle definition and hardness is what kept me from feeling dainty anyway.  I could have stood to have a little more weight on then. I kind of like to see myself with more curves.  

But I do want the weight to start coming off now.  I'm anxiously waiting for baby girl to get into a groove schedule-wise so I can plan my workouts and start getting active again.  It seems like she is getting there slowly but surely: if I wake up at 7, it seems I can bank on  30-40 minutes free time before she wakes up.  So far, I've been able to squeeze in a few yoga sessions and that felt very, very good.  

For now, diet-wise, my focus is on eating nutrient-dense foods and not overdoing the sweets. (Admittedly, I have been much more liberal with my sweets-eating).  I'm eating more carbs than I was eating pre-pregnancy and basically doing my best to keep my milk supply up.  Baby girl is growing well and that's a wonderful thing so when it comes to losing weight, I'm not trying to mess with my diet too much and focusing on fitness.  

Meanwhile, I am very happy about my new pants.  

Monday, November 5, 2012

Go barefoot? No way!

Pregnancy changes a body in many ways.  Some of the changes in my body have been unexpected and sometimes unwelcome. But, you know, life goes on and you adapt and learn to accept.  One thing that seems to have changed with this last pregnancy is my feet.  

Even before pregnancy, I had issues with my feet. If I stood too long, my ankles would really hurt.  I just chalked it up to weak ankles.  A few years ago I injured my foot while exercising.  I guess I just landed on it the wrong way.  After a few months, it was still pretty sore and puffy with edema.  So I decided to go to a podiatrist who informed me that I had flat feet and prescribed some insoles for my shoes.  

It was actually amazing how much the insoles helped.  Not only was exercise more comfortable but I could stand forever with no ankle pain.  I then started to reconsider all my footwear and invested in Birkenstocks which were great.  Later on, I bought Danskos.  These days, Birkenstocks and Danskos are pretty much all I wear.  When exercising, I put my insoles in my sneakers and in the winter, I put them in my boots.  No matter what, I need the support.  Or so I thought.  

After reading many articles like this one from Mark's Daily Apple about the benefits of going barefoot, I wanted to give it a shot.  Already, I knew it was better for babies to be barefoot and so I had always refused to put anything more than soft-soled leather shoes on them up until about age 2.  But I was a bit skeptical about going barefoot myself.  I certainly did not want to injure myself again.  But I was intrigued.  Could it be possible that my feet didn't need more support but less?  That flat feet are not broken but are only one variety of normal feet?  I was intrigued enough to give them a try.

I decided to purchase a pair of Vibram 5 Fingers despite the fact that they looked so odd.  They felt great on my feet and I loved the feeling of being so close to the ground.  The first time I tried running in them on concrete was a complete disaster.  Lots of pain and it did not feel natural at all.  But using them to lift was good.   Because I was so close to the ground, I felt more grounded when lifting heavy weight.  And there is lots to support barefoot lifting or lifting in shoes specifically designed for the purpose.   Wearing the Vibrams to do my cardio was amazing.  When jumping around doing cardio, I could feel my feet getting stronger and learning how to work.  It felt so good, I started wearing them all the time, everywhere I went.  

But I couldn't wear the Vibrams throughout my pregnancy because I did experience some swelling in my feet--severe enough that I couldn't even get the glove-like shoe on.  And now, after the pregnancy, I cannot imagine wearing them!  Why?  Because it feels like my feet have really changed.  Perhaps the arches have fallen even more.  But boy, even walking around barefoot in the house can be excruciating.  And so I know I need  to do it more to strengthen my feet again.  But honestly, ouch!  I'm not ready to push through the pain just yet but I am trying to walk around barefoot for a couple of minutes daily to see if it helps any.  

Eventually, I want to get back to wearing Vibrams full-time but right now, I am devoted to my Birkenstocks.  Even though I feel like the Danskos offer more support, I don't wear them as often because I'm afraid of falling over while carrying Z3 since Danskos are a platform type shoe.)  I am pretty sure that when I get back to exercising, things will improve with my feet.  I mean, I will get stronger all over but t's just so interesting to me--such a noticeable change.

So would I recommend Vibrams?  Absolutely.  They take some getting used to because your feet definitely have to learn how to work in them but in the end, I think they are well worth it.  So much so that I'd like to get my children wearing them.  

How about you?  What do you think of the whole barefoot movement?    

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The midwife saga

Back in March, I was pretty sure that having Z3 at home wouldn't happen.  For Z2's homebirth, the insurance company covered only about 1/3rd of the midwife's fee and we had to pay the balance out of pocket.  And since things have changed for us significantly in respect to our finances since having Z2, I knew it would be hard to pony up the thousands of dollars it would take to cover the portion the insurance company wouldn't.  But I also knew that home is where I should give birth. 

So we went to go visit a few midwives anyway and settled on one that we thought was okay.  However, she was not really willing to help us out in terms of a way to pay the balance.  Everything had to be paid up by week 36 as per her contract.  This midwife lacked warmth and compassion too.  It was about business.  Period.  Or at least it seemed that way.  So when I bid her farewell, I was also bidding my homebirth farewell (although I was not sad to see her go).  And truth be told, I was tired of trying to find midwives who would work with me.  I am guessing many of them have been burned in some way or the other and have to be all business to ensure they get paid.  I understand that.  So I gave up on the homebirth and tried to move on.  

My next best option was a birthing center.  There are only 2 free-standing birthing centers left in my area and this one happened to be close by.  Interestingly enough, when I was pregnant, the birth center was actually closed and they hoped to reopen it in June.  Z3 wasn't due till the end of August so I wasn't too worried about it.  I just hoped it would actually reopen and so I started my care with the certified nurse midwives there.  My first appointment wasn't so bad.  The CNM really understood that what I truly wanted was a homebirth and that I was settling for the birth center.  So, she did things like gave me her e-mail address so I could write with any questions.  She told me this was a breach in protocol, though, which I found funny.  But the location of the center dictated the kind of treatment the mothers-to-be received.  It's in the middle of the Bronx in a poor neighborhood.  Most of the moms to be were quite young and/or not well educated.  Sitting in the waiting room meant that my ears would be assaulted by all kinds of vulgar language and inappropriate conversation.  But I gamely tried to ignore it.  My second visit confirmed that I could not continue on there.  The CNM I met with on this occasion scoffed at my questions and outright laughed at my answers/positions on certain tests and screenings as well as my grain-free diet.  I guess she was not accustomed to anyone questioning her or not agreeing with her nor was she used to someone not following the standard American diet.  Obviously, I was totally uncomfortable with possibility of having her attend my birth.  And so I reluctantly switched practices, leaving behind my hopes of birthing at the birthing center.

I went back to the practice with which I had Zion.  I was happy to see some of the folks and I was just really trying to convince myself that it didn't matter where the birth happened.  What mattered was a healthy and happy baby.  I tried to convince myself that the birth in the hospital was not so bad.  I mean, it wasn't.  But compared to my homebirth, it pretty much sucked.  Anyway, as I tried to put on my big girl pants, I met with the midwife who delivered Zion and I immediately tensed up remembering her ways at the birth.  The way she was pensive and apprehensive.  The way she seemed unsure of herself and panicky.  Which made me panic and therefore made the birth much more dramatic that it needed to be.  The way she left the room for what seemed like an eternity.  Till this day, I don't know where she went.  But while she was gone, through sheer will and the help of a short Filipino nurse, I got Z1 out.  While lying on my back.  Which I specifically did not want. (I mean, there was so much I didn't know about labor and delivery but this one thing I did know: birthing on one's back is probably the *worst* position--even more so if the baby is posterior as Z1 was).  I remember wanting to switch positions but not being able to because the contractions were coming on too fast.  I remember thinking that the midwife would be wise enough to help me move into a more conducive position.  Not so.  So anyway, I'm face to face with her again and she immediately starts telling me about how it will go in the hospital and how if I don't do this or allow that, CPS will be called in or that if I don't do this other thing, there's a chance my baby might die.  I left that meeting and sat in my car and cried--so upset.

So for a few days after that, I was just meditating on what to do.  I had switched practices 3 times and I was in my 27th week.  I decided that there was no other choice: I had to find a way to make the homebirth happen.  Even if I had to charge the birth (and that's big because I am terrified of credit card debt).  So I reached out to a friend of mine who is studying to be a midwife.  She was also the one who assisted at Z2s birth.  She put me in touch with an angel, I mean a midwife.  Words can't express what a blessing she was.  She was willing to work with me financially but I could just feel her warmth and love.  I felt cared for.  It was amazing.  

And so I went on to have a beautiful birth and I would not change a thing.  

I am still sorting out things with the insurance company and trying to get them to pay my midwife more than they agreed to (less than half).  We are making monthly payments to her to cover the balance of the fees.    If I had it, I would willingly pay her double what she asked--she is totally worth it.  

I talk about following my gut all the time but it's not so easy to do all the time.  It's not always practical.  And sometimes it is risky. I tried the safe route.  The insurance company would have covered the birth center and the other practice in full.  But at the end of the day, I had to do what I believe in and that is homebirth.  I believe that everything will work out okay with getting my midwife paid.  And I believe the universe will bless her in ways that transcend money.  I also have more evidence that it is best to stick to what you hold dear.  Even when it's not the most practical option.  

I believe natural birth is transformative.  There are so many lessons to be learned about the world and about yourself.  I'm extremely grateful that I got to experience it three times.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Since I am here . . .

I just want to take a moment to thank you all who commented on my last post with your words of encouragement.  It means a lot to me.  

A few weeks ago, I ran across this article.  Basically, a female college student was being bullied online because of the fact that she has facial hair that she does not shave, wax or bleach.  The first time I looked at the picture, and not having read anything on it, I did think Balpreet Kaur was a young man.  She does, in fact, have a lot of facial hair.  When I realized that she was a woman, and took a second look, I could see that she was a woman: the style of the turban, the eyeglasses, the yoga pants and the flip flops are giveaways.  

Anyway, it seems that other folks who saw the picture took the opportunity to be terribly mean and hurl taunts and insults about Ms. Kaur.  What touched me about the whole story, though, was her response:
 "My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body… by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can." 

She did not run and hide:  she stood up for herself and she did it in a way that was strong and that commanded respect.  She could because of her the strength of her convictions. Convictions with which, by the way, I heartily agree.  Oh, I seriously respect this young lady.  It is not easy to stand up like that--when who you are is like the polar opposite of what society expects and even demands.  

I thought it was interesting too, this bullying of women online because of their physical traits because a short time later, I ran across this story of Jennifer Livingston, the news reporter who stood up to bullies who were talking about her weight.  

I mean, it's obvious that women in our society are still valued primarily because of how we look.  At least in mainstream media, that is certainly the case.  I know that I myself have bought into some of these ideals.  Bought in far more than I would have liked to.  And I am sure some of that buy in is because I was mercilessly bullied about my looks as a child.   So now the work is undoing that buy in.  As such, I appreciate these women standing up proud to say, "Hey, it is not all about how you look."  

At the same time . . . this past year that I have been eating a paleo diet, I have also been learning as much as I can about what it means to be truly healthy.  I mean, at this point, I can answer even some technical questions about how the body functions and how the body dysfunctions.  And the fact of the matter is that women with a lot of facial hair and women who are obese have some kind of dysfunction going on.  Does that sound harsh? I guess but there it is.  (The fact that I have such severe allergies is also a dysfunction.  I mean, you're just not supposed to be gripped with serial sneezes just because you go outside.)  Typically, women shouldn't grow that much facial hair.  If it's happening, there's an imbalance somewhere, probably hormonal.  And for many if not all folks who are obese (not just carrying a little extra here and there), the hormones are also out of whack and metabolism, i.e. the way the body uses and handles energy is not balanced.  To me, this makes the fact that they were bullied even more awful because so much of the time, the things folks are taunted for are not always things they can control.   

So what does that mean?  It just engenders a serious sort of compassion and admiration, I think.  These women may or may not know that something is wrong inside but I suspect they do.  But there is such an acceptance and encompassing self-love that they embody that makes me admire them.  And really motivates me to keep on working on self-love.  No matter what my post-partum belly looks like.  

I've spoken about santosha before and this concept just seems to keep on coming back around for me.  I mean, it doesn't mean you stop trying to be better.  I doesn't mean you stop trying to bring things into balance.  I don't think acceptance means throwing in the towel.  Like, I wouldn't begrudge Ms. Kaur looking into ways to get her body to stop producing facial hair or Ms. Livingston any efforts to lose weight.  Acceptance doesn't mean throwing in the towel.  It just means saying, "Okay, I'm here right now and that is okay.  It doesn't mean I will be here forever but since I am here right now, let me be the best I can be right now."  

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Keeping Things Going

Yesterday I was listening The 4 Keys to Magnetic Influence an episode of one of my  favorite podcasts (Underground Wellness). While I don't know if I agree with all four keys, Key #2 struck me: connection, i.e. what makes people feel connected to you.  One very important connector is your story.  People feel connected to you when you honestly and openly share your story.  Even the parts that don't make you look good.  It makes you realer.  It makes you human.  But it also sets you apart.  

Another important lesson I took away from that podcast, something I knew but needed to be reminded of is that I have something to say and something to offer.  

Lately, I've been neglecting this blog.  My life is pretty hectic right now and it's often difficult for me to find time to write or to get into the frame of mind to write cohesively. That's a practical reason.  But there's another reason too, a bigger reason.  The fact is, I have been feeling that I don't have anything worthwhile to talk about here.  I have been feeling incredibly inadequate.  

Just a quick look on Facebook and you will quickly realize that folks aren't all too keen about sharing the ugly parts of their lives.  From the looks of things on there, you'd think that folks were their dazzling higher selves 24/7/365.  At this juncture in my life, Facebook is probably the last place I need to be.  I have been very disciplined about curtailing my time on there and I'm very pleased with how much it's been helping me to counteract feelings of inadequacy and cultivate feelings of compassion for myself.  

I have a lot of my plate.  A few challenges.  There's Z3 who is only 8 weeks old and who's sleep schedule is still quite erratic.  She's got some minor issues that I have to deal with soon too.  It's autumn and my allergies pretty much make even basic things take serious effort.  (I'm dealing with an allergy attack even as I write this.)  I'm wondering if there are more tweaks to my diet I need to make and I'm coming to terms with the fact that I am worn down and don't have the motivation to do change anything else.  I'm homeschooling my 7 year old Z1 and re-considering that decision almost daily.  I'm wondering whether I should go back to my Saturday job and if not, what to do instead.  I'm wondering what to do after the kids are grown and don't need me anymore and don't I need to start setting something up now?  

My life isn't glamourous by any stretch of the imagination and I'm dealing with issues that aren't pretty all the time.  I'd love to showcase the wonderful homeschool projects I'm doing and the fabulous things I'm making and coming up with but these days, the reality is that I'm just really trying to keep afloat.  Just trying to stay somewhere close to my standard (and managing to do so only two-thirds of the time).  And hoping that I haven't previously given the impression on this blog that everything in my life is rosy.  I believe I've kept it real.  

What I realized the other day while listening to that UW podcast is that instead of taking down this blog like I had originally wanted to do, I really want to continue sharing here in the hopes that my unique situation and story will maybe connect to someone, encourage someone, or at least make it so that someone out there will not feel so alone in their own situation.  

Who knows if anyone still reads this blog. It's not like I had a huge following at some point.  But writing is cathartic for me and so I'm hoping that with all my newly found Facebook free time, I will find the time to write more regularly.  

Friday, September 21, 2012


The plastic lid to one of my Pyrex storage bowls broke.  I ordered a new one:
All that packaging for one little lid.

Since I'm home baby-mooning, I've been ordering things I need online as opposed to going out and picking them up myself.  I've just been struck lately by over-packaging.  I notice just how much extra some companies include in the packaging.  Unnecessary and wasteful.  So over the top sometimes that it actually makes me chuckle at the ridiculousness.  I hope they have some good logic for it because it just seems senseless to me.

One redeeming aspect though: this particular company from which I ordered the replacement lid has excellent customer service.  I initially ordered the incorrect lid (the lid for the mixing bowl and not the storage bowl) and they replaced it for me free of charge.

But really, one bubble mailer would have sufficed to ship this.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Z3's Birth Story!

Z3 was born at 2:25 AM on Monday, August 27, 2012.  I had gone to bed not believing that I would go into labor that Monday.  It seemed she would come on her due date or after despite the fact that I was pretty sure that I was slowly leaking amniotic fluid--enough to require that I wear a liner.  As I lay in bed waiting for sleep to come, I planned out an activity-filled day for the boys and I.  I would wake up and make breakfast then head to the consignment store to buy some sheets for the pack and play and then to Babies R Us to return the ones I had bought on Saturday thinking I’d be going into labor that night.  (On Saturday, I had been having some very irregular contractions.)  In the afternoon, I’d take the boys bowling and then to the playground.  

Eventually I fell asleep.  At 12:00 AM, a contraction woke me up.  I didn’t get too excited because a few nights before I had woken up with contractions only to find that I was dreaming.  So I just lay there waiting to see if or when another contraction would hit.  Sure enough, 6 minutes later, there was another rush.  I let my husband know that I thought I might be in labor.  We tracked the rushes for an hour and when they were four minutes apart, we called my midwife.  At this point, I was sitting on a stool and leaning over the bed.  This position felt the best, the most productive (I had tried a few different ones).  

My midwife arrived in about 40 minutes with her assistant and they quickly set up--around 1:40 AM.  The assistant checked my blood pressure and my midwife checked the baby heart rate.  Everything was going fine.  

I labored for a little longer.  I wondered how long the labor would be.  I read my birth affirmations.  I focused on my breath.  I relaxed into the rushes.  The rushes started to be 2 minutes apart and I started to feel like I might want to push.  My midwife suggested that I switch to the nursing stool and it was wonderful.  As soon as I sat down on it, my rushes seemed to pick up strength and got closer and closer.  In a short time, I really felt like I wanted to push.  My midwife checked and felt the baby’s head and let me know I was totally in the clear to push.  

I pushed once and my bag of waters broke.  I pushed twice and I felt her head come through.  Once more and Z3 was here.  Seven pounds, ten ounces of pure loveliness and light.  My midwife laid her on my chest and we moved to my bed to wait for the cord to stop pulsing.  Z3 latched on right away.  A few minutes later, I delivered the placenta.  

All told, labor and delivery was about 2 hours and 25 minutes, my quickest yet.  It was beautiful and miraculous in every way.  I learned so many precious lessons through the pregnancy and birthing process and I’m still learning so much during the postpartum period.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Hair Routine

I haven't blogged in a long while but I won't apologize for that.  Life has been hectic!  I am due with baby #3 in just a few weeks and so I am busy wrapping up the last little bit of preparation I need to do.  Also, Z1 is turning 7 in a few days and we gave him a birthday party early just to make sure we got it in.

Today's post is about my scalp and hair.  I haven't spoken about hair issues in a long time.  Since I cut my locks and started wearing it very short, there's really not much to talk about.  My routine basically consists of washing my head and oiling my scalp three times a week.  I get a cut every few weeks.  A really easy routine.

Initially, I had some issues finding a shampoo that worked with my scalp.  I tried plenty of natural shampoos including pure castile soap and black soap.  Those shampoos did not make my scalp feel good.  They exacerbated the itching and soreness of my scalp.  Eventually, I gave up on natural shampoos and stuck with what actually worked:  Head and Shoulders.  I would follow that up with tea tree oil in jojoba oil as a carrier directly onto my scalp.  I've been doing this consistently for months with great results:  a healthy, happy scalp.

But of course, I had to go and mess with a good thing.  The ingredients in Head and Shoulders bother me and I really want use natural things on my body.  I had been hearing about the "no poo" method, basically using baking soda and vinegar to cleanse the scalp and hair.  I gave it a try and almost immediately, I knew it was a big mistake.  Itchy, sore scalp galore.  It took me about two weeks back on my regular routine to get everything back in order.  But I wasn't about to give up completely.  I had one more thing to try: Grandpa's Pine Tar soap.  This was something about which I had heard good things from folks dealing with psoriasis and dandruff.  I gave it a go and it works just as well if not better than the Head and Shoulders!  And with such a short ingredient list (Coconut oil, palm oil, purified water, pine tar (Pinus Palustris) oil, vegetable glycerin), it was a huge win.  So that is what I use now (followed by the tea tree oil).  I am quite pleased with the results.

I was a bit worried about the pine tar as I had heard rumors that it was carcinogenic.  I searched all over and I couldn't find anything definitive saying that it was cancer causing.  I did, however, find some articles that suggested that coal tar (the active ingredient in Neutrogena T-Gel) is. 

I use the bar instead of the shampoo because the shampoo has a longer ingredient list.  To preserve my bar of soap, I made this:   

It's made out of 100% cotton yarn and took me about 30 minutes to complete.  It works very well and kept me from buying a soap saver.

Going in search of a natural solution for my scalp meant learning a little about the scalp. I was curious as to how and why the scalp is so different from other skin on the body. I found this article and it was fascinating.  Indeed, there are some serious differences between the skin on the rest of the body and the skin on our heads.  I think the most important lesson I took away is that if you don't have much hair on your head, you may need to wash your hair very frequently--more frequently than if you did.  Why?  Because if you don't have a lot of hair on your head, there is no where for the oil to go except to stay on your scalp which can produce a lot of issues.  This was good to know because I had started to feel that maybe washing my scalp too much was resulting in me having to wash my scalp so much--like a never-ending cycle.  Especially since a few folks I know who wear locks wash very infrequently, like once a month or even once every 6 weeks.  I can't imagine washing less than 3 times a week, though, so I was really wondering what was going on with me.  Nothing is going on:  it's just important to keep my scalp clean so that the pores don't get clogged and just to maintain a good balance up there.

I'm just reminded that it's not always the case that something is wrong with me.  Sometimes, it's as simple as working with my specific situation, honoring my ideals in a patient and loving way.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Health is Wealth

Yesterday's dinner was really good: a chili made with grass-fed beef, bone broth and super fresh Swiss chard, green onions and white carrots from our CSA. I remembered to *not* use coconut oil in the chili (used olive oil instead) and I spiced it right. I paired it with a piece of yucca and it complemented the chili really well. I haven't made chili in a while after the last debacle (used coconut oil and the flavor of the coconut was overpowering--I guess something about the tomatoes intensified the taste). I was very, very happy it turned out right. 

But I was even more happy about was that after the meal, there was no intestinal distress.  No gas.  No bloating.  No feeling like complete crap.  I was hungry.  I ate.  I felt satisfied.  I wasn't hungry anymore.  I didn't spend the night gripping my stomach as it spasmed. 

I feel like I have come such a long way in terms of my digestive health.  It's almost miraculous.  I wouldn't say I am 100% there but for me, cutting out grains, beans, and legumes and following a mostly paleo diet (grass-fed/pastured meats and lots of vegetables and fruits) along with a gut healing regimen (probiotic foods like homemade yogurt and bone broth) has really been key.  It's taken time and I feel like there have been some setbacks as I figure certain things out (like I don't do too well on lots of raw vegetables and that some vegetables work better for me than others).  But at this point, I can have a few things that probably wouldn't make the paleo cut (like a pretty decent granola bar that had some grains in it albeit toward the end of the list or gluten free ice cream cones with coconut milk ice cream sweetened with sugar) and it won't send my whole GIT to hell.  Of course, I can only do this every so often but I'm glad that I can indulge sometimes.

You'd better believe that good gastrointestinal health makes it to the top of my gratitude list almost everyday.  I feel so blessed that I listened to my body, my inner wisdom had the courage to let go of ideals and what the mainstream touts as a healthy diet and pursue a diet, a tried and true ancestral diet, that is bringing me such healing and happiness.  I'm also so grateful to have sources of good food readily accessible to me.  Health is really and absolutely wealth.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Worker Bee

 I made this bag for a swap with a sister who sews.  It is crocheted with KnitPicks Brava Worsted yarn which is 100% acrylic.  Most of the time, I hate working with acrylic but Brava is a *nice* acrylic to use.  It didn't feel like I was exfoliating my hands when I was crocheting.  The pattern I used for the bag was the GoLightly Tote Pattern.  I ordered two skeins of each color yarn I used in the bag and had enough left over to make the little matching purse (which I crocheted freestyle).  I loved how this project turned out and look forward to making this pattern again.  In return, I received a stack of cloth wipes for the baby as well as the sweetest little diaper (not pictured).

This pattern is Declan's Hat.  I made it using KnitPicks Wool of the Andes in Fairy Tale.  The cables were a bit of a beast--too much to keep track of and unwieldy but I think it came out okay.  It was initially intended for a baby but it's so big it fits me.  I ordered more of the same wool from KnitPicks to make the following projects:

I made the sweater using the the Cascade pattern.  It was such a wonderful project.  It was simple enough that it didn't stress me out but had enough intricacy to keep me engaged.  The hat pattern is Baby Hat with Leaf Edging and I chose it to complement the leaf design of the sweater.  I am very pleased with how it turned out!  I made it for one of my good friends' baby daughter and she informed me that it would fit for a long time to come.  I was happy to hear that.  I hope I get to see her wearing it soon.

I just wanted to finish up the yarn from the previous project so I decided to crochet this kerchief. The pattern is Amita Shawl.  It’s not a full-size shawl but it’s large enough to wear as a shawlette or as a scarf. I’m thinking of some cute way to hold it in place when it’s being used as a shawlette.

Making some changes

Yesterday was a rough day for me emotionally and, thankfully, I was very clear as to why and in line with my new attitude towards things, I'm being solution-oriented.  

I have been sick for the past two weeks with a flu that just laid me out.  I only started to feel about 95% two days ago and today, I finally felt well enough to get moving again and exercise.  But I was really worried that the sickness would be a permanent setback and that I wouldn't be able to get back into exercise for the rest of this pregnancy.  Yesterday, I felt so lethargic and lackluster that I really started to worry. So I am so relieved and happy that I could exercise this morning and, of course, I feel great.  I just determined last night to get to bed before 9 without fail and to get up and do something.  I decided on a DVD with which I am very familiar that has both weight and cardio intervals and I knew I would just do the modifications and take it easy.  It was difficult to get started but once I did, it felt great.  And now, I'm ready to consistently exercise every morning even if it's just a few minutes of stretching or a walk.  The phrase "Just Do It" has some serious merit to it.  

I've also been a bit concerned about not having much help after the baby gets here.  The sickness took me completely out which meant I spent a lot of time sleeping and the boys spent a lot of time watching t.v. and playing on the computer.  I've lamented lack of community and close friends before but being sick like that crystallized how serious a situation this is in my life.  There is no one close enough to me that I could rely on to help me through those difficult days.  I was blessed to see my father step up and help me get the boys to their karate class and get them dinner on some days but otherwise, I was on my own dealing with the boys and the upkeep of the house while battling temperatures of 101 and higher.  Of course, the hubby is a great help but he is at work for the majority of the day.  I couldn't help but start to worry about how I'm going to handle things when the baby arrives and I am getting little to no sleep but still need to get up and do the things I need to do for myself, my family and the household.   I mean, I am still wondering how to fulfill my need for simple company, i.e. another adult who I see and interact with on a consistent basis, much less friends who see that I need help and offer.  I don't have a solution for this one yet but I am working on it.  It may involve hosting a knitting/crochet meet-up at my house.  I think I have been hyper-focused on meeting others who homeschool and that has been very unproductive.  Why not tap into my other interests?

Since January I have been following the specific carbohydrate diet and the results have been lackluster.  I know that I will need to see someone who can correctly diagnose what I've got going on but right now so we can appropriately address it.  I do have a functional nutritionist lined up and I hope to start working with her after the baby is born.  But right now, my options are to continue to tweak my diet and do things to heal my gut. So after about 5 months of SCD, I am going to try something different and that is to avoid FODMAPs foods.  I will try it for 3 weeks at first and see if there is any improvement.

Lastly, I find it so fascinating that following a paleo/primal diet has left me feeling more isolated than being vegan.  It's amazing how the tides have changed over the last few years in favor of vegetarianism.   A few days ago, I posted on a board for more natural-minded mothers that I finally tried liver.  Liver is indeed a superfood especially if it comes from an animal that has been eating its proper diet.  So I have been wanting to give it a shot for some time now but memories of eating it as a child were not pleasant.  Also, I am a picky eater so the odds are I still wouldn't like the taste.  But I tried it.  I added it to some beef stew.  And I ate it.  I was very proud of myself.  Come to find out that grass-fed liver is nothing like the liver of my youth.  And that, although the way I prepared it wasn't the greatest, it wasn't the worst.  Eating liver is definitely not a mainstream thing but what I am learning is that "natural living" or "alternative lifestyle" is now synonymous with being a vegetarian or better yet a vegan and optimally a raw food vegan.  The few comments I got on that board were condescending [let us help you find a plant-based way (i.e. a better way) to get what it is you think you are missing] or downright rude (I find that if meat eaters need to do so much to meat to make it palatable then that should be a sign not to eat meat.)  As if . . . as if, you would go out into your garden, collect kidney beans, throw them into a pot with nothing but water and that would be something palatable and delicious.  I can't be too mad since  I was one of those vegans who would call other human beings "meat eaters" as if what I didn't eat made me superior to them.  I can't be too mad when folks turn around and call me a "meat eater".  I don't have any desire to argue with anyone.  I have no energy to waste engaging in that kind of negativity.  I only want support for my journey to healing which has involved incorporating nutrient-dense animal products into my diet and I don't see myself going back to totally plant-based diet any time soon as it's clear to me that that is what got me here in the first place.  Also, I simply look at my teeth and I notice that I have canines and molars which means I am omnivorous: I am supposed to eat meat and vegetables.  I also notice that I have only 4 canines and many more molars which means far more vegetables/fruits than meat.  I am, after all, not a meat-eater.  I look into my cat's mouth and see only canines.  It only makes sense to have her on a diet that is mainly meat (no grains butsea veggies and other veggies since she is an indoor cat and likes chicken but doesn't seem to like grass-fed beef).  She is a meat-eater.  I'm doing for myself what makes sense to me and is helping me and I am not insisting or arguing that it make sense to anyone else or that anyone else do what I am doing.

I'd be lying if I said that little online interaction didn't force me to remember why I had pretty much stopped interacting online. It generally doesn't make me feel lifted: people who don't know you making judgments about you.  No thanks.  So I'm once again, making some changes.  

I am feeling so much better today physically and emotionally and so much clearer about how to handle things that would have had me down for days.  The decision to be solution-oriented has, dare I say, turned my life around.  Even if the solution isn't clear, it's so much more empowering to be on the lookout for the answer instead of wallowing in the problem.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Grain-free Pizza Crust

I was so pleased this past weekend to come up with a recipe for a grain-free pizza crust that everyone really liked.  It's still a work in progress so I will be updating with the changes I make.  But here's what I did:

1 cup blanched almond flour
1 tablespoon coconut flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg

Whisk wet ingredients together.  Add dry ingredients to wet.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Pour batter onto lined baking sheet and spread till it is about 1/8" thick. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Add toppings (I put on my homemade sauce, a very little bit of cheese made from raw milk from grass fed cows, sauteed mushrooms, onions, and peppers and a couple of slices of Applegate farm chicken & turkey sausage).

I was very pleased with how it turned out.  Other almond flour pizza crust recipes I have tried were just too much.  Just super dense.  Coconut flour pizza crust recipes were just too coconut-y.  This is a nice, mild pizza crust where the toppings really stand out and don't get overwhelmed by the crust.

I would like to get the crust a bit more crispy which means either more oil or another egg. I'll post when I try the modifications next time and hopefully I'll get a picture too.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Magical Memories

The dojo where my boys take karate is right next to a branch of my bank.  I needed to make a deposit yesterday and as we walked up to the ATM, Z1 excitedly asked if he could press the buttons (and then Z2, never wanting to be left out, started vying for the chance).   I told them there were plenty of buttons to press and that would both get some turns.  Just at that moment, my mind flashed back so strongly to a very happy memory of my childhood.  

A few years ago, some friends of mine were working through the exercises in Connection Parenting by Pam Leo, one of which was to recall some happy childhood memories.  I found this exercise very frustrating.  For every would-be happy memory, there was something that would taint it.  Sometimes even ruin it.  I couldn't come up with one purely happy memory and that made me sad but also informed me of the fact that I had a lot to do if I was going to practice connection parenting.  

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when the exuberance of my boys to press buttons on the ATM jogged such a wonderful childhood memory!  I remembered my own father taking me to the bank and the magical way the ATMs would make the room glow.  I couldn't see anything on the screens until my father hoisted me up and let me sit on the machine.  Then, more magic, the words and pictures would appear.  My father would tell me which buttons on the touch screen to press and I would gleefully press and watch to see what would happen.  I remember how much I looked forward to the simple act of going to the bank.  I am not sure my father knows how much of an impression it made on my young mind.  How his involvement in something so magical for me penetrated so deeply.  

I am currently reading Mitten Strings for God by Katrina Kenison and the entry I read yesterday was all about magic.  The author talked about fairies and other things that didn't really connect with me in any way.  But I get it now.  I understand how powerful it is for me as a parent to be involved in the magic of my children's childhood.  

I was truly grateful, you know?  Such a mundane activity as going to the ATM with my children (as opposed to going alone) brought back to me a powerful and happy memory. I'm grateful that I can be their mother.  That I am open to what they have to offer me.  That I can be here to raise them but that they are also here to raise me.  An amazing, magical gift, I would say.  

Monday, April 30, 2012

A New Car

One question I get asked a lot now that I am expecting baby number 3 is what new car we will be getting. It comes in second after I am asked if I am having a boy or girl.

I tossed around in my mind the idea of selling one of our cars in order to purchase a minivan. After the stresses of the winter before last, I am totally sure I need an all-wheel drive vehicle. I don't have a driveway and I am not willing to struggle with a shovel trying to dig myself in and out of parking spaces with three kids in tow only to have someone who doesn't even live on the block, take the spot. The only all-wheel drive minivan currently on the market is the Toyota Sienna. I drive an '05 Subaru Outback wagon and I really do like the car. It gets good gas mileage, has plenty of cargo room, and best of all, is an all-wheel drive vehicle but still a car.  Even with selling my car (which is in very good condition and has less than 45,000 miles on it), we would have to come up with a significant amount of money to afford a Sienna that had a decent amount of miles on it. A 2005 Toyota Sienna with 50,000 miles on it is running about $19,000. The Blue Book value for my car is about $12,500. Add to that the fact that the hubby would prefer to get rid of his Toyota Corolla (2002 with 60,000 miles on it) instead because the Subaru is all-wheel drive and is good for hauling things. For the Corolla, we could probably expect to get $6,000 at most. No way that could cover the price of any minivan at all unless we look to get one with well over 80,000 miles on it, definitely not all-wheel drive or one with a salvage title (which my insurance company would not insure—I checked). So it really doesn't make sense to sell our cars in order to purchase “new” ones because realistically, our cars are already paid for and are therefore worth more to us in our possession.

The fact of the matter is that the Subaru comfortably fits our family of four. It will not so comfortably fit a family of five.

I've done a bit of research so far and what I have found is that it is indeed possible to fit three carseats across in a Subaru Outback but the car seats are very specific. In the outboard position will be 2 Diono RadianR120 seats—super narrow seats. In the middle will be a Graco Snugride (or possibly a Combi Corcorro but I would prefer a bucket seat for easy transportation in the early weeks) which are also very narrow seats. The seats will fit really tightly but they will fit. It will be a bit of maneuvering if I need to get the baby out to nurse or something and the boys are in their seats. But the most important thing is that it is possible. Also, it will only be a few years before Z1 will not need a car seat and so for that reason, we will not be getting another car.

This car thing is something I've spent lots of time thinking about—along with other “space” accommodations that sometimes make me worry about if we are doing the right thing considering our resources by bringing another little one into the world. I'm reminded that many folks have done great things for a large number of children in a family on a small budget. And that three is not that large a number, considering. I try to remember that a lot of the givens in childhood today are not really requirements but extras that don't really make or break a childhood. Still at the same time, there's still the very real desire to give one's children more. And so I think about it. Can't help it. Even though fitting car seats into a car is really, really a first world problem. I'm reminded of our trip to Ghana where we were lucky to have seat belts much less carseats and how most babies traveled on their mother's backs—on motorcycles or in cars. I think about how my mother basically held my baby brother in the front seat on all our car trips. We all survived. It's not that I don't think carseats save lives and are the safest option for traveling with children but I do believe that in a way, it's all a real hustle. In order to fit three carseats comfortably into a car, it must be bigger. Just like everything else in our society, it seems.

Anyway, the Graco Snugride already has arrived. I'm waiting for Amazon to ship the other two seats. All in all, the seats cost about $600 which is very reasonable compared to buying a new car. I was anxious to get the seats because I am the official car seat installer in our family (since I actually read instruction manuals) and I wanted to get them in before I get too big. I am hoping to sell the boys' current car seats at a local consignment store and buying some other things the baby will need.   

I am also hoping to get the car hard-wired so it can play my Ipod through the car's speakers (and not through that radio receptor thing which never worked well) and to get a hitch installed for a bike rack.  

Monday, April 23, 2012

He's Advanced!

I had an interesting experience a few weeks ago that had me laughing till my sides hurt.

It was at a small get-together and as usually does amongst parents, the topic of education came up. As a homeschooler, you kind of get used to third degree grilling about what you are doing and you learn to expect the ubiquitous question about socialization. To my pleasant surprise, this group of people were either homeschooling themselves or at least open to the idea of homeschooling.

I was speaking to another mother and her major concern was that her son was advanced. How could homeschooling work for him? I pointed out that as a homeschooler, you have the ultimate freedom as to how you structure (or unstructure) your child's education. There are so many flavors of homeschooling that you can pick the approach that works best. You can pick the speed with which you cover subjects. There are no rules saying that if a child is 6 and in first grade, he must stick to first grade curricula. You can go as quickly or as slowly as your child needs. I gave Z1 as an example of someone who can spell and read on a fourth grade level but when it comes to reading comprehension, history, or science, I would say he is on a 2nd or 3rd grade level. I know for sure that he would probably be bored with most of the academic stuff in first grade at a typical school. (In fact, this is perhaps the most common complaint I hear from parents who send their children to school: that their children or bored or could do the school work 2 years ago.) So I tailor his school work to his individual ability and to the particular ways in which he learns. Certain curricula are actually too hands on for him or have too much review of a concept. For Z2, however, it might be a completely different story and I will adapt accordingly. The discussion really seemed to warm her up to the idea of homeschooling and we talked a bit more about curricula and approaches.

What was so funny about this interaction? Well, it was not until she was ready to go and was standing at the door with her husband and son that I nearly fell out. Her baby boy was EIGHT MONTHS OLD. How in the world did she determine that he was “advanced”? I just couldn't . . .

You know, the words “advanced” and “gifted” are bandied about with regularity in my neck of the woods. Everyone insists that their child is not your average child but different and special. To a certain extent, of course, this is true. But I honestly believe that truly gifted children are not a frequent occurrence. In fact, of all the children I have worked with over the years, I can count on one hand how many impressed me with very unusual ability of some sort. I'm reminded of one little boy who at age 5 totally understood the concept of multiplication being repeated addition and could repeatedly add any number any number of times well past 150. It was impressive. So when someone tells me their 8 month old is advanced, I can't help but balking. And breaking into a fit of laughter. Seriously? She was very serious.

A label is a label, after all. Even a positive label can carry a serious burden with it. In school, I was always labelled a “smart” kid. One of the “intelligent” ones. I took on that label and embraced it. Yes, I also worked really hard at school but underpinning all that hard work was the belief in that label and my proof was the grades I got. I didn't choose classes based on interest. I chose them based on a confidence that I could probably do well in them. So when in college I received grades of 35 (out of 100) on chemistry exams, my self-esteem nose-dived. I couldn't, with those grades, hold on to the label of being smart anymore. And frankly, I gave up on chemistry and other challenging classes and believed I was too stupid to understand it at all and wondered why all these years I had been lied to. That label had basically put me in a box and if I wasn't fitting into the box, I had a hard time figuring out who or what I was.

Interestingly enough, this past weekend I had the opportunity to work out a chemistry problem similar to one I am sure I encountered in college chemistry. It was a question about the concentration of a solution and how much salt would be required to produce that particular concentration. For some reason, that question that in college would have befuddled me made complete sense. So much so that I was able to explain it to a student in a way that she could totally understand. To the extent that I was (maybe a little overly) eager to do similar problems! I slowly realized that it wasn't me. I wasn't the reason why I didn't understand what was going on in chemistry. It was the teaching. For the first time in my life, the way I was being taught didn't match up to the way I learned but I had no way of knowing that then. Instead, I believed the lie that who I was (i.e. the “smart” girl) was really a lie.

Of course, over time, I've rebuilt my self-esteem in that area but it's taken a lot of energy and work to get to that point. It was a long fall and it is a long journey to pull myself back up to a place where I respect my intelligence but don't let the level of my intelligence define everything about me.

When I speak to my children, I acknowledge that they are indeed intelligent and special but I am adamant against pinning labels on them. And believe me, it's very easy to do especially when you have two siblings who are so vastly different from each other. The temptation is certainly there to label Z1 as the cerebral one and Z2 as the instinctive, silly one. What happens with that? When Z1 does something off-the-cuff, there's the attitude that he “should know better” instead of an acknowledgement of the fact that he's 6 and does some silly stuff at times. I'm working hard to make sure to eliminate the labels that actively work to keep myself and my children in boxes. Every moment is a moment to redefine oneself, if one wishes.

So I thought I'd share that experience . . .

Thursday, April 12, 2012

One thing I absolutely love about my pregnancies is how industrious I become.  I have some project going all the time.  I love the productivity!

Exercise and Allergy Relief

I am so grateful that I can be active during this pregnancy.  Though my intensity is nowhere near pre-pregnancy intensity (and I sometimes find that annoying), the movement helps me tremendously.  Allergy season is upon us and I cannot take my regular medicine since it's not recommended in pregnancy.  I've been drinking nettle tea, lemon water with local honey, and just whatever I can to minimize the severity of the allergies.  But nothing takes care of the allergy symptoms better than exercise.  And in this case, a little goes a long way.  So I huff and puff at the gym.  Build up  a bit of sweat.  And my nasal passages clear.  My lungs get clear.  My eyes stop watering. The sinus swelling goes down.  And I get to enjoy the feeling for hours and hours.  Doesn't matter if I'm moving maximum weight or less than a 1/4 of that . . . I still get the same benefit.  

My attitude towards exercise has changed so much from when I first started.  The aesthetic has become such a small part of why I do what I do.  It's surprising actually because that was the whole reason I started!  I exercise because it makes me feel good physically and mentally--and that gives me enough motivation to keep going when it gets challenging.  And getting through the challenging parts provides motivation in so many other aspects of my life.  Kind of amazing.  

Monday, April 9, 2012

Learning to trust the Process

Not necessarily because I want to, but because I have to!

The moment I found out that I was expecting our third was an interesting moment in my life. I had a lot of conflicting thoughts and many worries. To a certain extent, I still do but I am so very happy about this baby on his/her way.

One of the issues I thought about was my fitness, training, and admittedly, my weight.

Without a doubt, a healthy pregnancy involves weight gain and even though I understand that from an intellectual point of view, it is very difficult to let go of the emotional angst that comes with the weight gain. I can see that I am putting on weight in a healthy way but I'm still nervous about putting it on. How difficult will it be to lose the weight? How long will it take? I know that if worse comes to worst, I can always go back to Weight Watchers, which is how I successfully lost weight last time. But I eat a paleo diet now and it was difficult for me to reconcile paleo (high fat) to Weight Watchers. I mean, how can I really trust that my paleo diet will ensure that I lose the weight? I always hear that it's difficult to overeat fat and protein but let me tell you, it just is not the truth for me. I love to eat. A lot. I will continue to eat after I am full just because the food tastes good. I have not yet gotten to a point where I can trust myself to eat and then stop when I am full. There is a whole list of foods that I totally avoid because I know once I start, I won't or can't stop until the entire bag is gone. I have absolutely no self-control around those foods. So yeah, I'm nervous. Weight Watchers worked so well for me because it imposed limits on how much I could eat. I wouldn't eat the whole bag because that would be well over 3/4ths of my daily allowance. I am a stickler for the rules and guidelines and if they are in place, I seem to function better. Eating paleo and trying to lose weight is like jumping out of a plane but this time without a parachute. Just hoping I eventually land. I'm just not sure about it. I do know that this pregnancy has involved me eating a lot more sweets (in the form of fruit) than I usually do. I've also been eating honey pretty liberally (one of the few sweeteners allowed on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet). It's obvious to me that to lose weight, I will need to cut those out or at least significantly reduce how much of it I have. But how soon can I do that while nursing? The bottom line is that I do not trust myself. I do not know exactly what my body needs to be healthy. I am learning what my body doesn't need but I honestly do not know what it does need. Also, I think sugar is addictive so can a craving for something sweet really be trusted? But there is nothing left to do but to trust the process. Continue to eat nourishing foods. Get good sleep. Relax. Move. And I hope that will do the trick.

And then there's my weight training and fitness. I had planned to stay active throughout my pregnancy and, for the most part, I am. However, I have had to slow down significantly and although I know I should be relaxing and enjoying not pushing as much, the truth is I love to push. I love to set personal records. I do not like taking it easy. But I really have no choice in the matter. Running is really uncomfortable. Most of the movements I used to do for my high intensity interval training are a no-go too. I run out of breath easily. Heck, even walking 15 minutes to the gym feels like I have *worked*. I definitely have had to drop the weights that I use and on certain lifts (most recently vertical push and pull exercises) I feel too much strain so I refuse to do them. I'm worried about losing some of the gains I've made. When I finished Power Training for Strength, I was deadifting at a maximum 170 pounds. When I started lifting weight, I could only deadlift about 80 pounds. I mean, I have been seeing some really great gains with consistency and discipline and I worry about how much of those gains I will lose. When will I actually get my life back together after the baby is born to start seriously lifting again? I just have to accept that my body is already doing a great deal of work by growing a baby and realize that backing off is not defeat or a sign of weakness. And I also have to be grateful that I am having a low-risk pregnancy which means that even though I'm not as active as I'd want to be, I can be active.

There are many questions in my mind but I am trying to relax despite my concerns. I am regularly practicing yoga (accepting that most of my yoga DVDs are no longer suitable and I need to stick to prenatal ones). And I've finally incorporated a meditation practice into my life that relaxes me and helps me be more patient and understanding. I have been working with Shimoff's book Happy for No Reason. I've been keeping a gratitude journal every day, no exception. I write down three or more things for which I am grateful. And surprisingly, even on days that I don't think I have much to be grateful for, I come up with things. Usually far more than 3 things. So if nothing else, not being able to do fitness related things has given me time to do more meditative, healing things. Spiritual fitness, I suppose one could say. And that is a wonderful gift that this baby is giving me. Another thing for which to be grateful.  
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