My Favorite Fall Things (A Song)

Fall is in the air! The Autumn Equinox is September 23rd which heralds the official start of fall. Where I am, the leaves are already slowly beginning to change, the air is crisp, and apple picking opens tomorrow. To commemorate my love for all things fall, I made up a song which I feel sums up why I love fall so much. It’s sung (or read along) to the tune of My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music. I hope it gets you into the fall spirit! You’re welcome.


My Favorite Fall Things

Sunlight that’s waning and warm knitted sweaters
Full moons on crisp nights and leaves changing colors
Pumpkin spice flavors in everything
These are a few of my favorite fall things

Costumes to make that are scary or charming
Pumpkins for picking and gutting and carving
On Halloween night when the doorbells ring
These are a few of my favorite fall things

Lighting of candles for those who have passed on
Giving thanks for all that has come and has gone
A feast with the family that’s worth sharing
These are a few of my favorite fall things

Pumpkin patches
Apple offerings
Eating squash nonstop
I simply love everything that autumn brings,
And it makes me feel so glad!

Fall is in the air

Advertisements

In Memoriam of Our Furry Friend


Our dog PyperA few days ago we were devastated by the sudden loss of our pet dog, Pyper. These past few days after her passing were emotionally draining and left us weary. She was a year old when she joined our family and was with us for six years. There was an instant connection between us, and being my husband’s first dog, they had an even more special connection. We learned over the years that there was not a door or a fence that could stop her – in her time she chewed through a bathroom and garage door and was an escape artist when it came to kennels. Besides being a Houdini, she loved running and lounging under a shady tree. Water was her nemesis – she even found going to the bathroom out in the rain irksome.

Nana dog

When D was born, Pyper immediately took to being his Nana. She watched over him and was a giant, four-legged friend to him. When D learned to roll, he would roll straight to her so that he could be next to her. When he learned to walk, he wanted to be the one to hold her leash while out on walks. He loved to give her hugs and exclaimed “Pupper” whenever he saw her.

Nana dogWalking

It still feels unreal that Pyper is actually gone. There is a hole in our family that she once filled. Her death was very sudden, unexpected, and tragic. Sifting through the emotional upheaval of her passing has been challenging. Yesterday I turned to writing to process my emotions. A poem began to take form and a wave of peace washed over me after it was done. The wounds are still fresh and raw, but I feel comforted by the fact that her spirit is free to roam. She is with us in memory and in love.

Me and my dog

I’d like to share the poem here. Perhaps others who are dealing with the loss of a beloved pet can find some solace within the words.


Our Furry Friend

You no longer walk among the living,
But, my furry friend, this is not goodbye.
You run free anywhere and everywhere;
Fences nor doors are standing in your way.

Your wagging tail is the breeze in the leaves,
Your nose is the drops of rain on our cheeks,
Your eyes are the soulful knots on the trees,
And your fur is the grass beneath our feet.

Your bark is the rolling sound of thunder,
Your footprints are the stars across the sky,
Your smile is the radiant crescent moon,
And your embrace is the sun’s golden rays.

So you see, my friend, this is not goodbye.
You have become one with the Universe;
Free from the constraints of the living world.
You are always around and within us,
And will forever be our furry friend.

Family

Blueberry Picking


D and I started a class last week that goes once a week on an outdoor excursion to explore and learn about nature. This week we went to a blueberry farm to do some blueberry picking. I somehow have never been blueberry picking before, so I was excited to share this new experience with D.

Blueberry Farm

The farm was open only to our class, so we were able to freely roam without worrying about bothering anyone. We investigated a marsh for cattails, caught a grasshopper, played on a hill of dirt, and, of course, picked (and ate) blueberries. While D was preoccupied eating blueberries straight from the bushes, I took my time admiring the details while collecting blueberries.

My first thought was about how much blueberries resemble little plump flowers. I suppose this makes sense knowing that they start out as flower buds. There were insects out blueberry picking as well. I found a yellow jacket snacking on some blueberries and later found a yellow ladybug doing the same. Some of the bushes had bindweed growing on them, and I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful weeds can be. Their flowers looked like white megaphones trumpeting about the brilliance of nature.

Yellow jacket blueberriesBindweed

D joined back up with me eventually in time to catch sight of a hawk circling low over head. We then made another discovery together – part of a jawbone from some animal! It was just laying in the dirt at the base of a blueberry bush. The teacher suspects that it belonged to a deer. D was quite pleased with the discovery.

Jawbone

Blueberry picking was a fun experience. It’s always nice to visit a local farm and to appreciate the care and love that has gone into tending the crops. However, the best part of today was being D’s explorer sidekick. I always notice more about my surroundings when I try to see through his eyes.

Connecting With Nature

I have always felt a connection with nature. When I was child I spent my days outside – climbing trees, peeling the paper off of the paper birch trees, splashing in the creek that runs through the backyard. Living on a wetland there was never a shortage of creature sightings – blue herons, beavers, muskrats, ducks. My parents still reside in the same house that I grew up in, and it is a joy to watch my own son experience these marvels for himself. He has a natural love for nature and is in his element when he is within it. There’s always something to climb, jump off of, and explore. His sense of adventure knows no bounds.

Boy and his dog in nature

Recently I began to feel a little disconnected. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until one day it came to me – I had lost that deep connection to nature that I once had. I knew this had to be remedied. I began a little ritual where I spend just 10-15 minutes out on the back porch first thing in the morning to meditate. I repeat this again mid-day or in the evening. We are lucky to have some beautiful vine maples, evergreens, and a pine tree right outside our back porch. Just watching as the sun slowly washes over their branches while it rises is nothing short of spiritual, and watching the sparrows flit about from branch to branch and listening to them talk is entrancing.

Today D and I walked through my parents’ property, which we have done many times before. But this time I slowed down and took the time to explore like D does. I noticed things that I wouldn’t have normally noticed – a tree resembling the shape of an elephant, small pears growing on an old tree, and the tiny clusters of pine cones from the red alder trees.

PearElephant tree

I even reconnected with my favorite tree from my childhood – a giant black cottonwood tree. This tree stands like a powerful guardian keeping watch over the land. I remember lying in the grass watching the leaves dance and shimmer like silver dollars. Even today this tree fills me with a feeling of awe. I felt compelled to wrap my arms around its trunk and literally give it a hug.

Black Cottonwood

Now that I feel like I have mended my relationship with nature, I want more than ever to help her in any way that I can. I’m on the lookout for volunteer opportunities and have pledged to be (even more) mindful about the choices I make that impact the Earth. By nurturing the planet we in turn are nurturing ourselves.

Tree hugger

Improving My Fitness With FIT4MOM

Back in January we had a Stroller Strides class where we did a sort of fitness test to see how many of each exercise we could do in one minute, or how long we could hold an exercise. There were nine exercises: sit-ups, squats, burpees, running stairs, push ups, step ups (right/left leg), plank, wall sit, and side plank (right/left side). We wrote our results down on note cards and the instructor saved them so that we could reference them when we repeated the test mid-way through the year. I started Stroller Strides classes in November and already felt in better shape than when I had started, so I was curious to see my results.

Today, five months later, we repeated the test to see how we have improved. I was a little nervous. Would I see any improvements? Would I do worse? As we began our warm up, I banished these thoughts from my mind and focused on the task at hand.

Exercise January 2015 June 2015
Sit ups 32 34
Squats 36 43
Burpees 20 24
Stairs 5 3/4 5 3/4
Push ups 30 26
Step ups R/L 34/32 40/38
Plank 4:00 4:12
Wall Sit 4:00 4:16
Side Plank R/L 1:31/1:36 1:33/1:35

I noticed that my legs felt a lot stronger than they did back in January; squats don’t kill me anymore. I was able to move a little faster when doing squats and step ups. I was surprised to beat my wall sit time since my legs were tired from doing squats, step ups, and running stairs prior.

When doing side plank my shoulders started to shake and my wrists gave out on me.  My shoulders probably had enough after holding regular plank and doing burpees, but I’m happy with the times I got. I’m also pleased to report that burpees aren’t as intimidating as they used to be.

Not only am I proud of myself after today, but I am proud of all of the moms. The only competition that existed was with themselves. It was so inspiring to see everyone push themselves and congratulate themselves (and each other) on a job well done.

There are a few lessons that were reiterated for me over these past seven months since starting FIT4MOM classes:

  1. Keep going when you feel like giving up – you will surprise yourself.
  2. You will see results when you put in the work and don’t opt for quick fixes or shortcuts.
  3. Five months may seem like a long time, but you will feel so proud of yourself to see how far you have come. You will have gotten farther in five months putting in the work than you would have not starting at all.
  4. Having an exercise routine that you actually enjoy makes the time that goes by irrelevant. Having fun while staying active will keep you on track.

I will have been with FIT4MOM for a year this November. I’m very thankful for the instructors kicking my butt several times a week. I am certainly in the best shape of my life and I am so grateful to be able to model an active lifestyle for my son.

We are going to repeat the test again in December. I don’t think I’m looking forward to trying to beat my 4:12 plank hold in 6 months, but I’m certainly up for the challenge!

Finding Stillness Through Yoga Nidra

I have had a rather inconsistent at-home yoga practice for a while now. I’m not a fan of power yoga or hot yoga. No, I’m more of a gentle, restorative flow type of gal. I need some yin to balance out my yang workouts. Practicing yoga at home is not what I would classify as relaxing. D loves to join in, which is fine, but there’s no way savasana happens with him around.

A couple of months ago I was starting to feel like I was losing myself. I was irritable, more impatient than usual, and just generally not very happy. I needed to find some stillness in my life to just put the brakes on this frenzy my mental state was in. I found a new yoga studio in the area that offered a yin yoga nidra class. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect walking into my first class. The room was dimly lit and was kept at a comfortable temperature. The instructor gave a brief introduction to the class before beginning.

The first half of the class was the yin portion of the class. We found our “edge” in each given pose (pushing ourselves just to where we started to feel the stretch) and held the poses for about three minutes each. This slow transition from pose to pose allowed me to find stillness and breath within each pose. My muscles appreciated the stretches while my mind welcomed the quiet.

The second half of the class was yoga nidra, or “yogic sleep”. We got comfortable in savasana and covered our eyes with an eye pillow. The instructor led us through a guided meditation. She first performed a body scan where she said each body part aloud while we brought our attention to that body part, imagining a white light touching that part and letting it relax. After the body scan she had us visualize different images and sensations, such as imagining being out in the cold and the sensation it brings to the body.

During the meditation I was lost in a deep sense of relaxation where I was awake but felt asleep. Drifting back to my body and dreamily pushing myself up to a seated position to end the class, I found that the blizzard of tension, anxiety, and irritability had melted away. I walked to my car with a renewed sense of calm.

I have proceeded to try to go to class every Sunday evening. It’s such a wonderful way to reset and get my mind in a good place to start the new week. Going to a class allows me to shut the door on the outside world. In the studio room it’s just my mat and I – I don’t have to worry about parenting in the middle of my practice. Two months since my first class I have noticed a shift within myself. When needed, I’m capable of connecting with that stillness yoga nidra brings me. I never realized what a gift yoga was until I really needed it.

Reluctantly Giving Up on My Half Marathon Training

Back in January I joined a running club and started a 15-week half marathon training plan. Running club met twice a week, with one of those days being a long run. Being a part of a group made me push myself and helped me stay motivated. I signed up for a Mother’s Day Half Marathon. Completing a half marathon has been a dream of mine for some time, and running one on Mother’s Day seemed perfect. I welcomed the challenge and loved how I felt after a run. I think I might like running just for the rush of completing a run.

Two weeks into the training plan we had our first hill run. I had to take D with me since I tried to get my runs done while my husband was at work (with the exception of the days I ran with the running club). This was a mistake. Coming downhill I landed too hard while trying to keep the stroller from going too fast. I could feel a jarring in my bones and knew I was going to be in a world of hurt after. Not wrong, my shins were in terrible pain for the remainder of the week.

The following week my shins still hurt, but the pain wasn’t enough to keep me from running. I continued to run while trying desperately to keep my shins happy. I tried ice, foam rolling, calf compression sleeves, yoga, calf exercises, massage, skipping my hill runs…nothing seemed to work. It got to the point where my shins hurt just walking around, especially going up and down stairs. When sitting on the floor, I would wince as D would come rushing over to sit in my lap; blaring pain would welcome me when he’d sit on my shins.

About five weeks into my training plan, I began to worry that it might be a stress fracture rather than just shin splints, so I went to see a sports medicine physician. Not surprisingly, an x-ray showed no evidence of a stress fracture (it takes a while for a stress fracture to show up on x-ray). The doctor said the only way to really know for sure was to do an MRI, but that the treatment for a stress fracture was the same for shin splints – rest. He said it typically takes around 6 weeks for them to heal, but if I wanted to continue running then I could just take an anti-inflammatory and run through the pain.

Determined to run my half marathon, I continued running and would take ibuprofen after my runs. One night while sitting on the couch with my legs elevated and an ice pack on my shins, my husband said, “If running hurts so much, why don’t you just stop?” But I couldn’t. Not until the seventh week of my training plan. After a 6-mile long run I woke up the next morning with hip pain. I ran a hill run the day after, not worrying about my pace. After that, I took a few days off from running and went to get adjusted by my friend who is also a chiropractor. The shooting hip pain had downgraded into what felt like a pulled muscle. It hurt, but it was manageable as long as I didn’t do any activities that aggravated it, like squatting, jumping, or running.

I was at a crossroads. My shin splints already felt better after just a week off from running. They only hurt when I put pressure on them or did high-impact activities. Was continuing to train for my half marathon worth being in pain for another 8 weeks? The decision was not easy. I had been ignoring my body yelling at me and finally decided to listen to it. My vision of crossing the finish line on Mother’s Day began to fade and I knew I had to call it quits.

It has been almost three weeks since my last run and, as hard as it was, I am fully confident that I made the right decision. My pulled muscle pain is gone and my shins only begin to give me grief if I do anything high-impact. I have had to modify all of my cardio workouts to be low-impact, which is super frustrating but well worth it. I can play with D now without having to wobble about in pain.

D and I have been getting out on walks several days a week with our dog, and I have been incorporating more yoga into my week. I have found that although I miss running, there are other things I can do in the meantime to keep my mind and body healthy. I can slow down and appreciate what my body does for me and treat it with more respect, rather than expecting it to just shut up when it’s trying to tell me something.

Learning to appreciate slowing things down

Learning to appreciate slowing things down    

Having to stop running was really difficult. I had to work through a mixture of sadness, disappointment, and frustration for a few days, but came out the other side of it by looking at the positives. I’ve made the best of not being able to run the half marathon by deciding to still go and participate in the 5K. I may have to run/walk it, but my husband and D might be doing it alongside me which would be a wonderful way to spend Mother’s Day morning. I know that not being able to run is only temporary. I know that there will be other half marathons. I know that when I run again, I will enjoy it so much more because I won’t be in pain. Just because I can’t run right now, it doesn’t mean I have to give up. Running will still be there waiting for me when I’m ready, and someday in the future, I know that there will be a half marathon finish line for me to cross.

How Meal Planning Made My Life Easier

Meal planning has been a struggle of mine. I hate the time it takes to scour the Internet and cookbooks for new recipes and then make a grocery list. With a toddler it feels like such an arduous task. Eating mostly a plant-based diet at home can leave us in a bit of a rut with our meals and lately our eating habits has been less than stellar. My body really feels the difference when I’m fueling it with junk. I needed a change and decided to look for meal plans online. It was disappointing to find that most of the meals on the plans I found were meat dishes.

Enter Meal Mentor. I came upon it while participating in a 100k step challenge through Happy Herbivore. I have two of the Happy Herbivore cookbooks, so I figured why not purchase the 7-day Family Meal Plan and give it a try? I purchased my first meal plan last week, and this week I decided to dive in and purchase a premium membership which signs you up for 4 weeks of meal plans.

Meal Mentor has made my life so much easier! I love not having to think about what meals to make. The plans provide a make ahead prep sheet, an ingredient prep sheet, and and lists the cooking order for the meals which makes it easier to cook  or prep some or all of the meals at once. It also has a pre-made grocery shopping list that I can simply print out. The recipes are easy to follow and are not complicated. I love the breakfast recipes because I was in desperate need of some new, easy, healthy breakfast options. Since it is a plant-based meal plan, there are no animal ingredients. We aren’t 100% vegan 100% of the time, but I like that the meal plans are vegan because it gives us the flexibility to add in some cheese on certain recipes if my husband or I want.

So far I have found what works best for me is to save the plans to Google Drive. Before grocery shopping, we clean out the fridge and figure out what ingredients we have that can be incorporated into that week’s meal plan. After grocery shopping, I figure out what meal we’ll have on what day based on what ingredients will most likely spoil first. Yesterday I was able to make that night’s dinner, prep all the vegetables for a meal later in the week, and get the patties made for some falafel burgers we are having tonight – all in roughly 45 minutes. I felt so proud of myself!

The meal plans have made such a difference. My family is eating healthy meals, and the plans save me time and have reduced my stress. If you are interested in trying out the meal plan, you can try a 3-day sample plan to see if you like it. You can also visit the website to see what meals are on the current week’s meal plan and find a plethora of information about what Meal Mentor is and how it works. If you do sign up for the premium membership, you will be able to download both the family and individual meal plans, and will have access to resources like the Meal Plan Starter Kit and Easy Meals – 6 Ingredients or Less.

Cinnamon rolls without the sugar coma that usually follows! Super easy to make, yummy, and great for breakfast.

Cinnamon rolls for breakfast without the sugar coma that usually follows!

Do you use a meal plan or create your own? What has worked for you and your family?

Flying Solo and Why It’s Not So Scary

The waiter/ress probably thinks I’m weird sitting by myself. Are the patrons looking at me? Should I eat slower? Should I not eat all of my food? 

These are all of the thoughts that would go through my mind when I thought about eating out at a restaurant by myself. Not that I have the opportunity very often anymore, but before D was born there certainly were times where I could have. I’m sure that I’m not alone in thinking that eating at a restaurant is reserved for outings with friends, family, or significant others. I occasionally see people sitting by themselves at a restaurant and wonder how they do that and then I find myself kind of envying them for being secure enough to do so. Because that’s what it pretty much boils down to, right? Security.

I’m an introvert and also crave security. I don’t like being out of my comfort zone and it takes a lot of courage for me to try new things. I don’t even like going out for walks on hiking trails by myself because I worry about – I don’t know – being attacked by someone hiding in the woods and throwing my body over a ravine, never to be found again. I love my mother-in-law’s adventurous spirit and her ability to go out and try things by herself. I long to be that way, but it’s just not me.

Today an opportunity to fly solo presented itself. My husband took D out on a playdate with one of his friends. I decided to take our dog out for a walk on a hiking trail. I didn’t feel too worried walking her by myself since she is a very large dog. Anyone wanting to attack me would have to go through a rather intimidating looking dog. I found the experience very serene. I enjoyed walking with just my dog while taking in the scenery; not worrying about carrying on a conversation or keeping D happy. It felt rather…freeing.

Walking the dog After our walk I was very hungry. I had a hankering for Mexican food and a margarita. Should I? I wondered. A little ball of anxiety began swirling in my stomach, but I put it to a halt. I decided to make myself feel more comfortable, I would swing by the house real quick to grab my laptop so that I could write (Side note: I took my dog home so she was not sitting in the car).

I walked into the restaurant and asked to be seated in the bar. “Anyone joining you?” the host asked. I smiled and replied, “No. Just me.” I pulled out my laptop and opened it up next to me on the table. A little sigh of relief could be felt somewhere inside of me. My laptop was like my companion – or maybe an electronic security blanket. Flying solo at a restaurant The experience was rather liberating. I didn’t have to keep a toddler from throwing his cup of water or food on the floor, and for the most part, the bar was rather quiet. I got to write by myself – nobody to bother me except for the waiter to take my order. How wondrous! Even better, I got to enjoy not one, but TWO margaritas while I wrote. Since I was busy lost in my own thoughts, I didn’t really notice that an hour had gone by.

After today I realize that there is nothing to be afraid of when I fly solo. Being my own company is very relaxing and who cares what anyone else thinks? Chances are they don’t give a flying swizzle stick that I’m by myself. I encourage everyone to try it more often. You might even learn a thing or two about yourself along the way.

Thoughts on Sleep from a Tired Mom

I both hate and love sleep. I crave more of it but wish I did not need as much. It is elusive, like a mirage that I can never grasp. Not enough sleep turns me into the jabberwocky, as my husband can attest to. No matter how much I bribe and plead with the Sandman, he does not listen. I’m left waking in the morning trying to pull myself together after a night of broken sleep.

Coffee and strong black tea serve as a band-aid for my sleep deprived state. After nearly two years, I no longer remember what a full night of sleep feels like. “Sleeping in” is a phrase that has gotten dusty in my vocabulary, sounding very foreign if it slips off my tongue in conversation. Staying up late means in bed by eleven, worrying about how the extra sleep I’ve lost will come back to haunt me in the morning.

In my group of close-knit mom friends, we have a rule about sleep. We can complain about it, but we listen without judgement. Unless asked for, no one is to offer advice. Nobody says, “You should do this…” Because we understand that sleep is its own beast.

Sleep is a beast.

Do not cross a mom who is lacking sleep. “How do I manage that?” you may ask. Here are some tips:

  • Do not ask if her child is sleeping through the night. What does that even mean? This is a particularly silly question if the child is an infant. Small children are not adults, thus they do not sleep like adults. Yes, there are those magical children who sleep ten uninterrupted hours, but chances are the mom you’re talking to does not have one of those.
  • Do not give unsolicited advice. We tired moms have read the conflicting literature and the thing is, every child is different. What works for one kid isn’t going to work for every single one. Chances are we have already tried your sage wisdom before. Giving unsolicited advice can make you come off as self-righteous. Just don’t.
  • Do not brag about how well your child sleeps. I had a friend who had another mom comment on how tired my friend’s child looked. My friend said, “He hasn’t been sleeping well.” The other mom replied, “Oh, my daughter sleeps great. Actually, she has been a great sleeper since she was born.” This is probably one of the quickest ways to get on a mom’s shit list.

One of the best things I have heard is this: How a child sleeps does not correlate to parenting. Meaning, if your child is a good sleeper that doesn’t mean it’s due to good parenting. On the same token, if your child is a bad sleeper that doesn’t mean it’s due to bad parenting. Children all have their own temperaments that they are born with, and that includes a temperament when it comes to sleep. So please do not feel like a failure if your friend’s child is a champion sleeper and yours thinks sleep is for chumps.

To all of you tired parents out there, I raise a hand in solidarity and say these famous, utterly frustrating but true words: This too shall pass.