Monday, September 30, 2019

Books I Read (September)

Total Books Read for September: 4

Meet Cute
By Helena Hunting 

This was "cute" (pun intended). 

It started off verrrrry eye-rolling 
and I worried I'd opened a ridiculous sappy romance book again.
But as the storyline progressed, 
it improved drastically 
and overall I was  happy with the outcome, 
albeit a bit predicable, but overall satisfying. 

This is the quintessential beach / vacation read book. 

I'm Not Missing 
By Carrie Fountain

Overall good. 
The premise (the disappearance of her best friend) 
is interesting as it unravels throughout the book. 
The characters have their fun quirks, 
with her dad being among my favorite 
(a nice change of pace from most annoying parents in YA books). 
Now, like many YA books, 
it's filled with a lot of teenage angst 
which can feel both depressing and annoying at the same time. 
But overall it kept me interested 
and I liked how it wrapped up in the end. 

The Mother-In-Law
By Sally Hepworth 

I did not like this book in the beginning. 
I found both the premise and the characters annoying. 
(Dead mother-in-law.  Faked suicide, probably homicide.  Who did it?)

And at one point the book sat for a week straight on my nightstand. 
But finally I was forced into reading it again (swim lessons!) 
and finally got far enough that it got good 
(I'd say about halfway). 

Then it really came together 
and I began to feel for the characters 
and enjoy the premise. 
And overall, was sad when the book ended. 
In the end, it was beautiful. 
It just took a longggg time to get there. 

Red, White, & Royal Blue 
By Casey McQuiston 

I loved the premise of this book: 
A YA coming-of-age story 
where the son of the US President 
falls for the Prince of England. 
It's "Royal We" meets "Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda

It's got witty dialogue, 
a ton of swearing (I love books that swear!), 
and a few laugh-out-loud moments. 

That said, I felt, like I often do with novels, 
that it was touch too long 
and there were some verrrrry slow parts, too. 
And for that reason, it took me a while to get through it. 

Friday, September 27, 2019

21 Weeks

Week : 21

Baby Size: Endive

Current Weight: 159.5 lbs
Weight Baby #2: 146.5 lbs
Weight Baby #1: 149 lbs

Nothing more to say about that. 

I had a head cold which I thought would make sleep worse, 
but instead it'd knocked me out. 
One really bad night sleep Wednesday night, 
and I broke my own rule of not sleeping in. 

Morning fruit smoothies

Symptoms of the Week:
Hernia still acting up. 
At least once a day it feels horrific, 
usually the worst is when I'm making dinner. 

Pregnancy Brain? 

I accidentally stole a phone at preschool pickup! 
I got back to the car 
and realized I had TWO phones in my back pocket. 
How does that happen? 
Oliver and I walked back to the woods 
and delivered the stolen phone back to his teacher 
(Thankfully, it was the teacher's phone! 
Not another parent who now thinks I'm a klepto!)

More and more kicks. 
Not consistent, but growing. 

Baby definitely still head-up. 
All the kicks are in my "under-belly"

Running Status:
1.0 miles. 

Excited For
A relaxing 3-day weekend! 
After two weekends in a row of out-of-state travel, 
I'm SO RELIEVED to have an open weekend. 

Our low-key weekend plans: 
1. Saturday night I have a double-date with Aaron, 
a friend and her 5-yo daughter. 
2. Sunday night we celebrate Rosh Hashanah
with Adam's family. 
3. Monday Aaron has off school (for Rosh Hashanah) 
so he has a friend coming to play for the day. 


General Mood

I had a fabulous time at my best friend's wedding in DC last weekend. 
My hernia behaved until the wedding reception, 
which was the best time to act up because I could sit

This week has been busy but manageable. 
And as I said, a nice empty weekend ahead!

21 Weeks with Oliver here 
21 Weeks with Aaron here

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Insomnia and Curing a Bad Night's Sleep

Generally speaking, I am a good sleeper, 
with 8 solid hours and a consistent sleep routine. 

However, the exceptions to this include: 
- High stress levels (usually work-related)
- Pregnancy
- Postpartum Anxiety

During these times, my sleep ranges from chronic insomnia 
(think Fight Club) 
to a string of good nights punctuated by one really bad night. 
It's a wide range. 

I've read many different articles about insomnia, 
and have plucked my own little pieces of advice from each. 
(Two thorough articles here and here 

Recovering From One Really Bad Night 

This is where I am now. 
I don't have chronic insomnia, 
but I do experience one really bad night a week. 
The key is to keep it to ONLY one bad night, 
and not let it snowball. 

1. Don't sleep in.

If I sleep in, it resets my body clock 
and makes it harder to go to bed that night. 
E.g.: If I sleep in until 8, 
my body doesn't think it should go to bed until midnight, 
because that would give me a set 8 hours again. 

This is, by far, the hardest rule. 
And the one I'm most likely to break. 

2. Don't nap. 

Some people nap often without issue. 
I am not one of those people. 
If I nap, it totally fucks with my nighttime routine. 
So as tired as I am, I try to push through the day. 
Keeping busy helps. 
Sitting in front of the TV or reading mid-afternoon is a no-no 
as both guarantee I'll nod off. 
Working on my laptop or cooking in the kitchen is best. 

3. No caffeine. 

I'm crazy sensitive to caffeine, 
so any caffeine will screw with my sleep schedule. 
A cup of tea at 8am in the morning will have me wired at 11pm. 
Adam thinks this is obscene, 
but between my slow metabolism and lack of any tolerance, 
this is a true problem. 

4. Overall, suffer for one day as a zombie. 
By powering through one tired day, 
I'm guaranteed to have a great night's sleep the following night 
and return to my regular routine. 
Does it suck? Yes. 
Is it worth it?  Yes. 

Chronic Insomnia / Anxiety 

 I write "anxiety" because my chronic insomnia 
is always linked to some form of anxiety. 
It could be from Toxic Work Environment 
or from Postpartum Anxiety. 
Both are terrible 
and both royally fuck up my sleep night after night. 
It requires a lot more than the steps above to fix it. 

1. No alcohol, 
not even a 2oz sampler. 

I love to drink so this rule sucks. 
But alcohol is the #1 trigger for a poor night's sleep. 

2. No caffeine. 

Yes, dark chocolate has caffeine in it. 
And I love dark chocolate, 
but at my worst insomnia, 
it's simply not worth it. 
For those less sensitive than me, 
I've read rules about "no caffeine about 10am" 
or "limit caffeine to [x] mg." 
For me, unfortunately, this is a flat zero. 

3. Exercise. 

This is the hardest. 
No one wants to exercise as an exhausted zombie. 
But it's the best thing to do. 

4. Don't give in to naps or sleeping in. 

Same as above.
 Despite how terribly exhausted I am, 
letting myself nap or sleep in only compounds the issue. 

5. Don't Lie Awake in Bed. 

Especially when dealing with chronic insomnia linked to anxiety, 
lying awake in bed is the worst possible thing to do. 
Any distraction is good. 
This could range from reading to TV to whatever! 
But do it OUT OF YOUR BED. 
Watch TV downstairs. 
Read in a guest room. 
Use the laptop in the office.
Don't lie awake in bed. 

When I'm suffering from chronic insomnia, 
the bed can quickly become a toxic place of dread. 


Obviously there are a slew of other popular methods. 

There are meditative and calming apps. 

There are herbs and vitamins
 (melatonin does shit for me 
and magnesium hasn't proven itself effective yet). 

There are straight up medication, prescribed or OTC (NyQuil). 

Oh and for the anxiety, 
there's things like changing your job (which I did!) 
or seeing a therapist (doing it now)
or just plain TIME. 

Everyone tackles their sleep issues differently 
and at different times in their life. 

For Pregnant Emily right now, it's just maintenance. 
For Postpartum Emily, I'll have to buckle down to face my Chronic Insomnia. 
I'd like to hope I won't face Postpartum Anxiety again, 
but it's a strong possibility. 

Friday, September 20, 2019

20 Weeks

Week : 20

Two bits of news this week: 

1. The anatomy scan went well.  Baby Boy all good. 

2. My c-section is officially booked for Tuesday, January 28th
It's my childhood bestfriend's birthday, 
so sort of a sentimental date. 
I'm so excited to have an exact date. 
Having gone 5 days late with both Aaron and Oliver, 
the idea of a FINAL END DATE is super awesome. 

Baby Size: Banana

Current Weight: 158.5 lbs
Weight Baby #2: 145.5 lbs
Weight Baby #1: 148 lbs

Some good nights. 
Some terrible nights. 
A lot of 3am wake-ups, 
taking an hour plus to go back to sleep. 


Symptoms of the Week:
My intestinal hernia has really flaired up this week. 
This developed during my pregnancy with Oliver. 
The OB  thought it *might* autocorrect after birth. 
Obviously, it didn't. 
At this point it's just waiting until the end of this pregnancy, 
then I can get it surgically corrected with a mesh. 

Generally speaking, it's not terrible. 
But if I lift a lot or over-exert myself, 
it is SO PAINFUL. 
Like a burning explosion in my belly. 

Kicks here and there. 
Not consistent, but enough to let me know he's there. 

Running Status:
Zero this week. 
With my poor sleep 
and our hectic schedule, 
it just didn't happen. 

Excited For
We have a big wedding in DC this weekend. 
I love weddings 
and I'm very much so looking forward to this one. 

General Mood
Some good/some bad. 
The hernia and sleep have been a problem. 
Aaron's behavior has been a big parenting issue 
meanwhile Oliver is just the happiest kid alive right now. 
Having my c-section on the books is also a big win. 

It feels like we are blasting along at full speed this fall. 
I'm not sure if it's going to feel "easier" at some point 
or get worse with the holidays approaching 
(probably the second). 

20 Weeks with Oliver here 
20 Weeks with Aaron here

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Wonderful Threes and Terrible Sixes?

Adam and I have a theory that only one child can be happy at a time. 

So when we have three children, 
will there be 2 happy or still only 1 happy? 
(Allena, just lie and tell me there will always be 2 happy.)

A variant of this theory is that only one child can behave well at a time. 
Aka, there is always one child who is easier than the other. 
At a very high level, Aaron has always been the easier child. 
Two years ago I wrote this post about the "preferred child."
On his birthday this past year, 
I gushed in a post about how great age 5 was 
and how I had high hopes for 6. 


Are the tables turning? 

The last few weeks, Oliver has been an absolute delight. 
It's as though the Terrible Threes have vanished. 
And instead we have this happy-go-lucky child 
who is agreeable and wonderful to be around. 

Is some of this due to his Nature Preschool? 
Is his time outside really boosting his endorphins like science says it will? 
Is the freedom and independence making him a happier child? 
I don't know, but I love it. 

Aaron on the other hand has been... obnoxious
He's gone from being my joyful boy to being... annoying
He's always been a loud kid 
(his kindergarten teacher's first words ever were: 
"Your son is my loudest kid in class") 
but now it's a new level of obnoxious, 
like he's turned into the Hulk. 
He's less into playing his imaginative games
and more into destroying and creating chaos. 
His listening has definitely dropped off, 
forcing me to repeat myself more with Aaron than with Oliver. 

It's not chronically bad yet
Not enough for me to be super worried yet

There's been no complaints from school yet
He has a substitute teacher for this month only, 
until his regular teacher returns from maternity leave on October 1st. 
If this behavior continues through October into November, 
I may schedule something with his teacher. 
I'd like to see if the teacher notices this behavior as well, 
or if this is just limited to us at home. 

Perhaps Aaron is struggling with the adjustment from a carefree, 
outdoor, pool/beach-y summer 
into a structured indoor environment? 
Do we need to spend more time outside after school? 

Perhaps Aaron is struggling with less one-on-one time? 
He will be joining Adam and I at an out-of-town wedding in a few weeks 
(Oliver will be with grandparents) 
and I'm curious to see how his behavior is as an only child again. 

Is he not jiving with his substitute teacher? 
And perhaps the new teacher (a favorite at the school) 
will be an improvement? 

Is this just part of the age of growing up? 
As adorable little boys morph into obnoxious older boys? 
I don't know. 

Oh the mysteries of raising children.

Friday, September 13, 2019

19 Weeks

Week : 19

Baby Size: Mango

Current Weight: 157.5 lbs
Weight Baby #2: 145 lbs
Weight Baby #1: 146 lbs

I worked really hard on a low calorie diet this week, 
and managed to keep my weight flat week over week. 
Now I just need to keep this up for another, oh, 14 weeks? 

Not great. 
That lesson I learned last week about not drinking any alcohol? 
Well apparently I didn't actually learn it. 
I had 1/2 can of mango beer Saturday night, 
woke up at 2am with night terrors 
 and could not go back to sleep. 

Took a nap on Sunday that screwed up my Sunday night's sleep  
and finally by Monday night I got it under control. 

Wednesday morning I woke up at 4am 
and never went back to sleep. 
Then Wednesday night I fell asleep at 9pm 
and had a fitful sleep all night. 

I'm writing a post about bad sleep / insomnia. 
I have a lot of "lessons learned" 
(as well as "lessons learned but not applied").


Symptoms of the Week:
Lots of leg cramps early on, 

but increasing my banana intake seems to have squelched that.

Weird dreams continue to plague me. 
One night I dreamed I was a p*rn star. 

Quiet during the day. 
Most active at night. 

Running Status:
Two runs: 
1.25 miles (up the death hill) 
2.03 miles

Excited For
Anatomy Scan today!
After a clean 13 week scan, 
I'm expecting a clean 20 week scan. 
Let's hope/pray that comes true. 

General Mood

The sleep thing has been an issue 
and made me a bit cranky. 

We have a very busy weekend ahead that I'm nervous for. 
My grandfather died last weekend at age 93 
and we are making an impromptu trip to NY, 
which will be about a 24-hour turnaround trip with lots of driving. 
I'm worried it'll be an exhausting weekend 
and then the following weekend we are in DC for a wedding 
(which I am super excited for!!!).  
Two weekends of travel in a row seems like a lot. 

Side bar: I cannot stand when people say 
"sorry for your loss." 
The phrase drives me nuts. 
If it's a sudden severe death, 
that phrase feels shallow and empty. 
If it's an expected loss 
(as in the case of my grandfather, 
who we were amazed lived as long as he did!) 
it feels like lame lip service to a great life. 

I know it's everyone's go-to phrase with death. 
But still. 
I'd rather hear something like: 
"Wow! 93! Imagine the luxury of living 93 years" 
than "sorry for your loss." 
Just me? 
Off my soapbox now. 

19 Weeks with Oliver here 
19 Weeks with Aaron here

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Nature Preschool

This year Oliver started a new Nature Preschool 
and I love it so much that it deserves a post of it's own. 

What is a Nature PreSchool?

Our Nature Preschool is modeled after 
the Scandinavian Forest School. 
If you've read the book 
"There's No Such Thing As Bad Weather
(my review here
then you know what I'm talking about. 

If not, this YouTube video (compliments of Natasha)
is a great summary of the concept. 

The forest school method just recently took off in the US. 
As of two years ago, here was a list sorted by state. 
Pennsylvania only has 4 forest schools, 
and we are lucky enough to live 15 minutes away from one. 

Why a Nature Preschool? 

Oh my, the reasons are endless. 
Over and over studies are published 
and books written about 
the impact of Nature on the human child brain. 

Nature exposure reduces stress and anxiety, 
and helps kids' concentration.
It reduces asthma and allergies, 
boosts immune systems, 
and overall just makes kids healthier
I'm sure you've heard your grandfather say: 
"The dirtiest kids are always the healthiest!" 
And there's very real science behind that 
(scientists have found antibacterial properties in dirt). 

Concerns about Nature Preschool:

When I first toured the play-based nature school (2 years ago), 
I wrote a blogpost here about my concerns. 

2 years later, those concerns are long gone. 

1. I learned about the impact of Nature on childrens' brains. 
Sure, I always knew it was important for kids to be outside. 
I didn't realize how important it was. 
And now make being outside a regular priority in our lives. 

2. Aaron started Kindergarten
Aaron had gone to Pre-K for 3 half-days a week
and he was overprepared for kindergarten. 
They didn't get to "new" material until Christmas. 
If Oliver isn't at the same writing level as Aaron was, 
he will be absolutely fine. 

Oliver's Schedule:

Between 7am-8am: "Remind" app update
which details what clothing the kids should wear for the day, 
based on the anticipated weather. 

9am: Dropoff 
Drop lunchboxes in a bin (they get refrigerated), 
go inside the building to go potty and wash hands, 
back out to the mud/sand playground to play. 

The mud/sand playground

Hike to their Classroom: 
an outdoor space with a shelter of sorts 
(what would you call it?  a half-made teepee?)  

Snack (packed from home) 
and Circle Time where they review: 
Is it safe? 
Is it kind? 
Is it good for the community? 

Hiking to new spots. 
All throughout the woods are areas for the kids to explore. 
Trees to climb,
 trickling streams to wade into, 
and murky ponds to explore. 
The grounds also includes an wildlife animal clinic 
and a greenhouse. 

Hike back to the main building 
where they have picnic lunch outside. 

12:30: pickup time! 

Here is Oliver on his first day of pickup. 
Absolutely beaming. 
Covered head-to-toe in paint (from painting their fort) 
and yogurt (from lunch). 
With sand in his hiking shoes 
and bug bites on any place that I forgot bug spray (whoops). 

Overall Thoughts? 

I love it so much. 
And more importantly, 
He ASKS to go to preschool, 
something he never ever did
last year in his traditional preschool 
(granted, he is a year older, but still).  

Every day at pickup he RUNS to me 
shouting about all they did that day. 
The first day he HELD A FROG 
and it wiggled in his hands 
and he thought it was sooooo funny. 
The second day he found sticks 
that he made into machines and drills. 

He is just BURSTING with excitement about school. 

Are there any downsides? 
One big one. 
All that outside gear is NOT CHEAP. 

Granted, we've accumulated some winter/rain gear 
but most of it I buy cheap from Target or GAP
given that we are only outside for a little bit every day 
and close to home for a quick change of clothes. 
But a Nature School requires high quality gear. 

Example of some of my upgrade purchases

Keen Waterproof Hiking Shoes - $70 
BOGS Waterproof Boots Warm to -30 degrees F - $80 
LLBean SmartWool Hiking Socks (x2) - $14/pair
MuddyBuddy Full-Body Rain Suit - $30

Modeling his full-body Muddy Buddy Rain Suit

Is it worth it? 
I tell everyone I can about this school, 
amazed by it's awesomeness.