Tuesday, March 31, 2015

First Quarter of 2015

Tomorrow is April 1st!  Believe it or not, that means we are a fourth of the way through 2015.  I’ve always made some sort of goals or resolutions with the New Year, but I’ve never taken the time to reflect on how I was doing with those goals.  This seems like a good time to start, so here we go.

1. Good health – This has definitely been my biggest focus and I think it’s going pretty well.  I feel stronger and have more energy.  I’m eating better and working out, although both are ongoing journeys that I feel still need improvement.  I have lost weight, but I’m keeping my eye on the lifestyle prize of leading our family down a path of overall good health and activity. Three months in, and we are off to a good start!

2. Balance – I could have predicted this, but this one has been the most difficult.  Right now I feel like my life is filled with taking care of the kids and my health and I’m struggling to find room for more.  I am great at multitasking and juggling, but I really want to have more meaningful balance than being able to do laundry, make dinner, feed Audrey and play with Aiden all at the same time – although this is quite the feat and can be enjoyable.  Achieving this balance is not the same thing to me as finding joy in the little moments of life.  I actually think I’m quite good at that and I’ve found that soaking in these moments has helped me get through the stressful and overwhelming times. 

I had to focus on this subject recently while making a big decision about the next year.  I had to decide before April 1st what I am going to do about teaching next year.  In my district, you can take a second year leave of absence and still go back to teaching in the same school.  I honestly didn’t give this option much thought until recently, especially since surgery.  When we decided that I would take a year off after having Audrey, we did not know I would need surgery.  This year has looked very different than I originally thought – not necessarily bad, just different.  So given this, along with other important factors, we decided I would take advantage of this second year off option and stay home with the kids next year too.  I feel very lucky to be able to have this time and look forward to continuing to find balance.

3. Stop comparing my life to others’ lives – Ugh, also a hard one.  I haven’t made much progress here, except to say that I do at least recognize now when I do it.  I will say that a recent article I read has helped in the past week or so.  It was about how the pictures we see on Facebook, Instagram, etc. are not representative of real life, but a moment of captured happiness that we choose to share with the world.  So true and we all do it.  You don’t see me posting pictures of Aiden hitting Audrey or me cleaning puke off of my shirt for the 4th time that day.  But it happens to all of us and I need to remember that when I read a blog post by a mom who seems to have it all together.

4. Spend more quality time with friends and family – Some progress has been made here.  I do feel like I’ve seen friends and family a little more often, but like all of the other goals, I still want this to improve.  All four of these resolutions are weaved together and working toward one means I’m also achieving another.  Finding balance leads to good health, which leads to self-confidence and less comparisons, which allows for more time and energy for family and friends.  If only it were that easy to keep this wheel turning.  I’ve started and have 8 months, plus a lifetime to go.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Audrey's Birth Story

One of my goals for this blog is for it to act as a makeshift baby book for my kids.  I never even purchased a baby book for Audrey and Aiden’s is filled out through about, well, his birth.  I did take the time to write out the details of the day he was born and I realized of all the memories we are making as a family, I never want to forget the day my babies were born.  So, that gave me the idea to write out Audrey’s birth story on the blog.  Only a few tears were shed while looking back through pictures…I can’t believe my baby girl will be 7 months old soon!  If you’re not into details, I recommend a skim of this post!  I selfishly wanted to type out as much as I could remember.

Heading up for baby #2!
We arrived at Good Samaritan Hospital on Wednesday, September 3rd, in the morning.  I wasn’t scheduled to be induced until the following morning, but they wanted to run a few tests on my heart to make the plan for induction and make sure everything was good to go.  After a decent amount of confusion and being shuffled around, we made ourselves comfortable in a shared room in labor and delivery.  We were assured we’d be moved to a private room at some point, this was just a holding spot.  I tried VERY hard not to complain while we were in there, as the lady already in the room was on hospital bed rest and was hoping to be there for at least 10 more weeks before her baby was born.  I think about her often and pray her baby was born healthy.

Watching Frozen, for the 2nd time.
After I had an echo done and we met with a few different doctors, it was decided that I could be induced for a typical delivery with a few exceptions.  They didn’t want me to push (so would need to use forceps) and they wanted to give me the epidural early and slowly.  All of this was to keep any stress off of my heart and failing valve.  We were moved to a private room late that night and settled in for (no) sleep.  They started the induction drugs very early the morning of the 4th and placed my epidural around 8am.  The day started off fairly comfortably, we watched a few movies and literally just laid around. 

Around the middle of the day, I started feeling contractions.  With Aiden, I felt nothing until my water broke and then it was bad for about 30 minutes until I got my epidural and then I felt absolutely nothing for the rest of labor.  This time was just about the opposite.  While I was progressing slowly, the contractions were pretty painful.  The scariest moment came when the nurses laid me down and my blood pressure nose-dived.  I felt myself lingering near passing out and had to focus very hard to stay with it.  Andrew and my mom were obviously very concerned and a lot of doctors and nurses rushed in.  They gave me some meds, sat me up and within ten minutes I was weak but feeling much better. 

Not long after this, the contractions were close to unbearable and it became evident that my epidural was not working.  The anesthesiologist said he gave me the amount for a C-section, yet I was still feeling everything.  We decided to redo it and thank goodness.  I felt immediate relief and was ready to go.  We were very anxious about the use of forceps for delivery, but Dr. Smith assured us that she knew what she was doing.  We trusted her and all of the other doctors from this practice, I always felt extremely cared for by this group.  Once everything was set up, it was time to meet our baby girl. 

Dr. Smith, alongside a resident, delivered Audrey at 8:16pm pm on September 4th.  She weighed 7 lbs. 15 oz. and came out screaming and letting us know she arrived.  As I look back at the pictures and I think about that moment, every feeling possible fills me up.  We had a daughter, Aiden had a sister and our dreams had come true.  Giving birth is scary, stressful, miraculous and wonderful all at once.  Since it was difficult to remember all of the details of that day to write this, I know the memories will continue to fade over time.  But I will ALWAYS remember the feeling of holding my baby for the first time and completing our precious family.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Recipe Round Up

I’m not sure how people cooked back in the day.  I have so much respect for people who come up with recipes on their own and can execute them well.  I am not usually one of those people, but I can follow a recipe like a pro.  I get 99% of my meal ideas online, mainly Pinterest.  With trying to make healthy meals that will please a somewhat picky adult and a toddler (although they are very similar now that I think about it), it is so nice to be able to type in “healthy easy dinners” and up pop hundreds of ideas.  I’ve also recently searched “healthy budget friendly meals,” “low carb high protein meals,” and “healthy crockpot meals.”  All searches have produced some great options.  Of course you don’t really know how good these things are until you make them yourself.  I’m going to periodically share some of my favorites, hopefully you’ll like them too!  I wasn’t good at taking pictures of my own creations, I’ll work on that.  For now, my inspiration pictures and links will have to do!

I love Ree Drummond.  I DVR her show and watch it more than I care to admit.  Although she has lightened things up a bit recently, I usually have to come up with ways to make her recipes with some healthier options.  For this, I used whole wheat spaghetti, all chicken breast and fat free soups.  It's a great comfort food option that - when eaten in moderation - fit well into my calorie total for the day.

Pros: Filling, kid friendly, relatively healthy
Cons: A little labor intensive (easier if you use a rotisserie chicken), high in sodium

I came across this recipe when we had over a foot of snow on the ground and it hit the spot.  It's similar to the spaghetti in that it is a relatively healthy comfort food.  I altered this one a bit...I didn't use celery and I cooked in all it a big skillet!  I made the chili in the skillet, put shredded cheese on top and then put the cornbread mixture on top of that.  I then put the skillet in the oven for 20 minutes and it was perfect.  Andrew really liked this one.  

Pros: Easy and only 1 pan (if made my way), lots of protein, great as leftovers, relatively healthy
Cons: Lots of ingredients to get, Aiden didn't like this one

Pepperoni Pizza Pasta. Only six ingredients, done in 15 mins, and everything cooks in one pan, even the pasta. A great quick and easy weeknight meal everyone will love!!

I found this blog awhile ago and have always loved their recipes.  They aren't always the healthiest but this girl lost 30 pounds about a year ago and shared how she did it.  I like her approach...realistic with moderation.  She is also a big traveler and a great photographer.  This recipe is great for when you crave pizza and it has less calories then you'd think.  I use turkey pepperoni and whole wheat pasta.  

Pros: Super fast, easy and all in one pan, kid friendly - call it pizza, filling, great leftovers, manageable calories
Cons: If you want lean, organic meat, not your best option.  

I've been craving roasted vegetables and was excited to try this recipe.  It is a bit of work - I cut up the vegetables the night before - but it's very healthy and worth the effort.  We had this with a loaf of whole grain bread.  As you may have guessed, Aiden ended up with a hot dog and a fruit/veggie pouch.  Not his fav.

Pros: Super healthy, you can eat a lot and still keep calories in check
Cons: Lots of work/ingredients, expensive to make, not the best leftovers (veggies get soggy)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Separation Anxiety

Any parent (or pet owner for that matter) knows how hard it is to leave your baby with someone else.  That first time when you leave your first born with a grandparent to grab a (quick) dinner or run an errand is an intense mixture of anxiety and freedom.  Being an overly sensitive and emotional person, I struggle with this.  The first time happened when we left Ollie (our 6 year old black lab mix) at a doggy daycare while we were on vacation.  We got back in the car after leaving him and I cried like a baby.  What if they weren’t nice to him?  What if he thought we weren’t coming back for him?  I definitely left a piece of my heart in that kennel.  Fast forward to the first time leaving Aiden.  It happened randomly – my mother in law was over helping out and she suggested Andrew and I go out to dinner.  We hesitantly agreed, after all he was only a couple weeks old.  We went to a restaurant two minutes from our house, left our cell phones on the table and tried to relax and enjoy our time to ourselves.  We’ve definitely gotten better at this, but it’s still a challenge.

Our baby boy napping on his first St. Patrick's Day.

Recently, two events have brought this anxiety to the forefront in our house.  As a part of my recovery and our family’s road to good healthy and fitness, we have been visiting our gym a lot more.  I’ve mentioned this before and also how they have a childcare.  We have always hoped to take our kids here so that we can have time to work out and they can socialize and have fun away from us.  I’ve also alluded to how this has been a MAJOR struggle for Aiden.  He cries the entire time he is in there with no sign of improvement yet.  I felt better yesterday when the (very nice and patient) lady told me his behavior was normal and he definitely wasn’t the only kid like this.  She said to keep bringing him, it would get better.  That is what we will do, but his anxiety of course causes major anxiety for us.  That dichotomy of feelings becomes apparent when I am desperate for time for myself to focus on my health, while also wanting to hold him close and ensure he knows I will always come back for him.  I pray that this gets easier for all of us; I have to be confident that it will.

About a week ago, Aiden decided he wanted to sleep in his own bed.  This is a big deal, as we have been trying to get him to do this for about 20 months of his 25-month life.  One night before we read our books, he said, “Night night, Aiden’s bed!”  Well okay buddy!  Sure enough, after we read he laid down, I laid down next to him and he fell asleep.  He’s been doing this since with only a couple of times spent back in our bed.  That familiar mixture of feelings came back.  Thrilled and proud while also sad that we wouldn’t have our little cuddler anymore.  As much as we’ve complained about Aiden’s sleeping habits, there is definitely a part of us that misses him even while he’s right across the hall.  Of course I want my son to grow up independent and confident, but it is a new feeling to have him not need me anymore, even in the smallest way.  God willing, he will continue to need me less and less as he learns to dress himself, tie his shoes, play a sport, go to school, drive a car…I’ll stop there, my anxiety is starting to flare up.  I know I am not the first parent to feel this way, but it feels so unique when it’s your baby.  Thanks to experience, though, I know I’ll be able to handle it.  When I see him in the morning and tell him how proud I am of him, I can see his self-esteem being created and the confident little boy he will grow in to.  Pride has to trump anxiety and I have to let him grow, we will be learning how to do this together.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Health Update - Personal Training

When I found out I was going to have to have open-heart surgery again, one of my first thoughts was – will I have to do cardiac rehab again?  It really wasn’t that bad, but I felt like it didn’t allow me to heal and recover as quickly or as well as I could have in a different environment.  I was the youngest person there BY FAR and after a few weeks I was still only allowed to walk slowly on a treadmill and use the lightest resistance bands.  I’m sure it was to make sure I avoided injury and to bring me back slowly, but I also don’t think they had much experience with a young, healthy rehab patient.  So when I met with my cardiologist at the end of February, I asked if I could do my rehab with a personal trainer at my gym.  I had already looked into it and knew they had experienced trainers who would know how to combine my recovery with my goals for weight loss and overall health.  When he signed the consent form, I was thrilled. 

Heading to gym, coffee first.  
I had my first session a couple of weeks ago and it was just an evaluation to see what I was capable of and so that my trainer (Ted) could come up with a plan.  While I was impressed with my ability to squat, lunge and stretch my legs, upper body and core were a different story.  These have never been my strengths, but I quickly realized I would be starting from the very beginning.  I am working with Ted two times a week, focusing on strength and for now the other days I am just working back into cardio.  We will add a third day of strength once I’m ready. 

Starting slowly
I shared with Ted my reservations about working with a trainer, mostly based on my last experience leading up to our wedding.  The workouts were unorganized, I had no clue what to do when I was on my own and he didn’t ask me anything about my eating habits.  Even after a few weeks, I can tell working with Ted will be MUCH different.  I have a chart to record nutritional facts from MyFitnessPal and each time we work out, there is a plan and a purpose.  MyFitnessPal is good at keeping me motivated, but having to show Ted has kept me accountable.  I could always lie, but that wouldn’t do anyone any good and I’ve always been a rule follower anyway.  It’s helped me to realize that I need more protein, less carbs and less sodium.  WOW sodium!  Eating out (even “healthy”) is tough to do and stay under the recommended 2300 mg of sodium per day.  If you track it, then you understand.

The other reason I wanted to work out at my gym is that I can take my kids with me to childcare.  We used to take Aiden and he did fine, but he hasn’t been in over a year so to say he struggled being left is an understatement.  Audrey went with the flow but Aiden is going to need some time to warm up.  Hopefully with continued visits he will adapt and start to enjoy it.  We hope to make our gym someplace where our kids can grow up and feel extremely comfortable.  It’s all part of our goal to put our health at the top of our priority list. 

Loving the nice weather to go for daily walks.

So it’s been a slow start but it feels so incredibly good to be using my body and building strength.  Along with my trainer, having you all (or maybe just my mom and Andrew ;)) read this is definitely helping me stay on track!