Category Archives: Personal

Motherhood / Personal / Stay Fit

Getting My Strength (and Body) Back

November 8, 2017

^^ Ancient Bar Method socks and hella-old Lulus still going strong ^^

I’m going to be honest here — I did not want to write this post. In fact, I actually wrote a draft of this a few weeks ago and didn’t end up hitting “publish.” The whole “post-baby body” discussion is tricky and very personal. After having two babies less than two years apart and failing to really get back into a workout rhythm between the two, I decided to get serious about regaining my pre-baby strength. Yes, part of this is about vanity — I do “want my body back” (I have been pregnant or breastfeeding now for over 3 years straight, sooo… yeah. I would like to reclaim at least some small part of myself — though I think this is bigger discussion which deserves its own post on another day); but more than that, I want to feel strong and healthy and keep my back in shape.

Those of you who know me or who have been reading the blog for a bit, already know that I have a bad back. I had surgery 14 years ago but have continued to live with severe restrictions and occasional bouts of awful pain.

After having Prim I never really got back into a good workout rhythm. I had a new baby and went back to work and then moved across the world to Amsterdam and promptly got pregnant again… All of which are reasonable excuses for not exercising — but overall it wasn’t a good thing for my back or health. After having Lark I started to realize how much strength I had really lost. I could feel my lack of core stability every time I lifted the girls, and started to feel the familiar ache of constant pain beginning in my lower back. Having been through 9 months of excruciating pain prior to my surgery 14 years ago, I now live in constant fear of it returning. Any twinge makes my heart stop; any bout of pain sets me into a minor panic.

I finally decided that I needed to commit to myself to get my body and core back in shape. Yes, it is partially to (hopefully) rid myself of the last ten pounds of baby weight which are clinging to me like I’m a life boat on the Titanic, but it is mostly so I can live my life without pain. (And let me tell you — avoidance of chronic pain is an amazing motivator.)

After hearing rave reviews from my sister about this website specializing in diastasis-safe, post-pregnancy workouts, I decided to sign up for the Birth to Fit Mum 12-week program. Even though I didn’t have diastasis recti, my abs were still severely compromised by my two back-to-back pregnancies, so a lot of regular ab work was too intense for me.

In case you’re curious, or maybe a postpartum mama yourself looking for exercises to do at home, I thought I would write out my current routine and link to the exercises. I try to do all of this four times a week, and sometimes add a fifth day where I do a shorter Bar Method workout (usually 45 minutes). Bar Method Online has a lot of different options — targeted and full-body workouts in 20, 30, 45, and 60 minute sessions with prenatal, beginner, mixed, and accelerated level options.

I start with 60 minutes of accelerated or mixed-level Bar Method and then go through some variation of the following exercises three times afterwards (it takes about 20 minutes):

I finish with the Bar Method final stretch sequence.

Some of the above exercises change every 3 weeks, as they are part of the Birth to Fit Mum 12 week program, which works through four progressive strength sequences across the 12 weeks. I specifically added the curl up, bird dog, and planks due to my bad back. These are the “Big 3” exercises for back pain, recommended by Stuart McGill, a renowned spine surgeon.

After completing the 12 week Birth to Fit Mum program and adding Bar Method for the last 7 weeks, my back pain has disappeared and my core is so much stronger. While I am (yes, vainly) waiting for the last few pounds to disappear, I’m trying to be patient and remember that the way I feel is good enough reason to continue to work out right now and that the last of the weight will come off eventually. I mean, honestly, 12 weeks ago I was struggling to get through a 30-second plank on my knees; now I can power through a 2-minute plank on my toes, no problem.

If you are a mama or mama-to-be who is looking for safe pregnancy or postnatal workout options — especially ones you can do at home, Bar Method Online and these pregnancy/postnatal workouts are awesome. The Pregnancy Exercise website has specific programs for during pregnancy, post-birth (the Birth to Fit Mum program I started with), and beyond. I have now moved on to the Super Fit Mum program, which despite its hokey name, is quite a good workout for strength-building.

If you have any questions about either of the programs I’m using (which are not sponsored in any way, by the way!) feel free to leave me a comment or send me a message.

Fall / Gluten-Free / Personal / Stay Healthy / Sweet / Vegan / Vegetarian

This Was Not the Plan

September 18, 2017

The past few days have been a little trying. I woke up on Friday morning in a bad mood. There wasn’t any real reason for it (well, the perpetual sleep deprivation might have something to do with it), but nevertheless, there it was. Later that morning I managed to lock myself and the girls out of the house after Prim’s dance class; and then naptime, the only time I get to myself during the day, fell apart royally.

Most days during the week I use naptime as my workout hour, so it’s not even like I’m sitting back watching TV and shoving cookies into my face (which is what I would really rather be doing). On Friday though, my 60-80 minute workout turned into a 3-hour ordeal, due to the fact that I was running up the stairs to deal with one or two screaming children every 10-15 minutes. I finally had to pull Lark out of the room and have her sleep in the guest room, which was frustrating since I just transitioned her into sleeping in the girls’ room during naptime. This of course did not deter Prim, who continued to scream and carry on until I finally pulled her out of the room, giving up on her taking a nap altogether. I ended up sticking her in front of Puffin Rock on the iPad so I could finish my workout, but since I really try to limit her screen time (when we’re not traveling) I felt like a complete failure.

On Saturday I got my hair cut for the first time in nine months. I had previously vowed never to have my hair cut in Europe, having been warned by numerous expats (and being a person with eyes who has seen Euro-hair). However, my hair was last cut in mid-December and our next trip back to the US is set for mid-March next year, so that means I would have had to go another six months without a cut. After seeing a friend’s cute cut, I decided to brave it and came to the salon armed with pictures of multiple mid-length hairstyles with long layers. What I got was… not exactly that. In fact, I was so unhappy with it I ended up chopping somewhere between four and six inches off by myself the next day. I now think it looks ok, so whatever. And it’s just hair. I’m actually not really someone who gets hung up on bad haircuts because my hair grows pretty fast, but I have to admit that the whole ordeal was fairly annoying.

This weekend we also had two nights where the girls were up for two hours in the middle of the night. Being up from 3-5am on two occasions in the same week is not my idea of fun. (This is also why I am in pajamas and no makeup in the photos above. No sleep = no effort to look presentable.)

Oh yeah, and my phone fell out of my pocket while I was riding my bike and the screen got smashed. (Like, suuuper smashed.)

So this morning I decided to reset. KC is working late tonight and will be in Dublin the rest of the week, so I am on my own with these two little ladies. This morning I made applesauce from the apples that were about to turn AND I laid down the law at naptime and managed to get two hours to myself as a result. Right now I’ve got applesauce muffins in the oven and the apartment smells amazingly fall-like as a result.

This week is going to be better. Let’s go, Monday. We got this.

Quick No-Sugar Applesauce

makes 3-4 cups

  • apples, peeled and diced (I used 5 Jonagold that were about to turn)
  • 2 thin slices of lemon or juice from half a lemon
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • small pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  1. Combine everything in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat and let simmer for 20 minutes. If you like a thicker applesauce, remove cover and simmer up to another 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the lemon slices, then mash with a potato masher, fork, or run a hand blender through everything until the desired consistency is reached.
  3. Store in the fridge.

Life Abroad / Personal

Our Life Abroad: One Year In

July 25, 2017

Now that we’ve been in Amsterdam over a year (more than 14 months, actually!) I thought I’d write a post about how things are going.

When we moved here, it was really exciting and stressful and overwhelming and… all of these BIG feelings, basically. Then I got pregnant IMMEDIATELY and descended into the lovely world of Hyperemesis Gravidarum, so my first summer here was spent missing home and feeling like absolute death every minute of every day.

In a nutshell, last summer was pretty rough. I know that so many people look at this opportunity and think that they would jump at the chance to do something like this, no questions asked; but a move like this, in addition to being amazing and a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing, is also a huge adjustment. There were so many times I wished we could just move back to California and pick up our life where we left off.

Now that we’ve been here a year though, this city is really starting to feel like home. It dawned on me when we were in Barcelona earlier this month — we had been in the city a few days already, and we were picking up some groceries at a local grocery store. I was standing in the frozen section looking for something and overhead a couple standing nearby speaking Dutch. Without even really realizing it, I thought, “That sounds like home.”

You know how when you’re traveling in a foreign country and you haven’t heard the sounds of home in a long time, how something familiar can be suddenly so comforting? I remember traveling around Europe with my sister years ago, and we stumbled across a group of people speaking Spanish with a Mexican accent while we were in Vienna. We both stopped in our tracks for a moment and then turned to each other and said, “Oh, it sounds like home.”

I was so surprised to have had the thought that hearing Dutch sounded like home that I was immediately jolted back to reality and stood there for a second thinking, “Oh my god… What does this mean?”

As you can imagine, KC and I are having an ongoing discussion about what we are going to do when his contract is up next year. We have so many options and possibilities, which is simultaneously amazing and overwhelming.

As much as we miss our families, we both wonder whether the Bay Area is going to be able to provide us with the life that we want. And as much as we love Amsterdam, I wonder whether I’ll ever be ok with raising our kids so far away from our families. As of now, nothing is set in stone, we just continue to go over and over all of the options and pros and cons.

I will tell you though, every time I ride my bike through this city I can’t help but feel like I could stay here forever.

Personal

A Quick Update

December 19, 2016

Sorry for the silence over here the past few weeks. We’ve been quite busy traveling and getting ready for the holidays. We managed to take a weekend trip to Germany and Belgium to visit the Christmas markets in Cologne and Brussels a few weeks back, which I have been meaning to post about, and KC and I headed to Paris the following weekend and basically saw and ate everything in the city (so wonderful!) Our Paris trip was quickly followed by mine and Prim’s flight back to California, which requires quite a bit of work both before and after the actual flight, so posting to the blog took a backseat to real life issues like keeping my child from getting a lifetime ban from ever flying KLM and then navigating the wonderfully tricky world of toddler jet lag.

On a sadder note, my beloved MacBook Air recently blew up on me. After 3 years I somehow managed to fry the logic board AND charger in one go, which is a whopping $600 to fix. And spending $600 on a 3 year old computer that was $950 brand-new seemed a little silly, so I’m currently laptop-less. First world problems for sure, but a bit of a problem blog-wise nonetheless.

I hope that you’re enjoying the holidays and that your self-control around all the treats is much better than mine. I’ll get around to posting about all of our trips eventually, but things will likely be pretty quiet over here over the next couple of weeks still, as we’re spending our time with family and friends while we’re here in California.

There is a pregnancy post coming up tomorrow and probably an anniversary post later this week (if I can get my act together), so if you’re into big bellies and mushy sentiment, stay tuned!

Happiest of holidays, you guys. You’re the best.

PS: Isn’t that little Christmas elf under the tree just the cutest? My mom took this picture of her and the next day she grabbed my hand, led me to the tree and sat right down in front of it and yelled “picture!” at me. This girl is too much.

Personal

What to Tell Our Daughters

November 10, 2016

It’s hard for me to see the upside to this election, especially having gone into it with so much hope and inspiration. I couldn’t wait to inform my daughters of the momentous result, which I hoped to them would seem small and insignificant by the time they heard and understood it. Much like we cannot fathom a world pre- Brown v. Board of Ed. or Loving v. Virginia, I hoped that my girls wouldn’t be able to comprehend a world where people are unable to marry the person they love, or a world where the white male always wins — even if he’s so clearly under-qualified for the position. Unfortunately, that world did not come to exist the other night. Instead, a silent, hateful minority finally made their voices heard, and equality and inclusion lost the day.

It’s hard to know how to proceed. So much of what is before us is unknown.

In speaking with a mama friend yesterday who has a daughter just a few weeks younger than Prim, she asked, “What do we tell our daughters?” We were both at a loss and instead simply sat in silence with tears in our eyes. Luckily I don’t have to tell my girls anything yet. As a mama I will do everything I can to fiercely shield and protect them from the hatred, racism and misogyny that our new leader represents. While they are still little I create their world, and no one — and certainly no man — will take that away from me.

For now, I will continue to raise my girls to be willful, opinionated, free and fierce. I will not silence them to make others more comfortable, just as my own mother would not (and still will not) be silenced. I was raised to be strong, forthright, and resilient, and I expect nothing less of my girls. If I make you uncomfortable because I’m not silent — good. I am educated, opinionated, and unwilling to sit on the sidelines. If you cross me or those that I hold close, I will bare my teeth (and my extensive knowledge of the law and the finer points of the English language).

I am here, I am bossy, and I am not backing down. And I am just one of the many. If this scares you — good, because you are who we are coming for, and you wouldn’t believe our strength and our stamina. I have carried life inside me and clawed my way through pain and circumstance far worse than this. I am the woman of today and I am raising the women of tomorrow, and I’m telling you now — we will prevail, so get behind us or get out of the way.

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And while the wound is still fresh and the future unknown, I will continue to tell myself and the women around me this:

Woman Warriors have always made beautiful worlds out of nothing.

Every time a child gets sick or a man leaves or a parent dies or a community crumbles, the women are the ones who carry on, who do what must be done in the midst of their own pain. While those around them fall away, the women hold the sick and nurse the the weak, put food on the table, carry their families’ sadness and anger and love and hope. They keep showing up for their lives and their people with the odds stacked against them and the weight of the world on their shoulders. They never stop singing songs of truth, love, and redemption in the face of hopelessness. They are inexhaustible, ferocious, relentless.

We’ve been Warriors all along, and nothing will change that.

We are not what just happened. But we might be what we do next.

The world needs our relentless, inexhaustible, fierce, boundlessness love today more than it ever has before. So let’s do what we do: Let’s feed some hungry babies and clothe some hurting families and get the heat turned back on for as many as possible.

– Glennon Doyle Melton

This is not the end. It is only the beginning.

The future is female.