Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Books I Read (October)

Total Books Read for October: 7

Black Girls Must Die Exhausted 
By Jayne Allen

This book was recommended by my OB (a black woman). 
I was particularly intrigued when she said 
that the closest relationship of the main character 
(a modern, mid-30s professional black woman) 
was with her white grandmother. 
It was a very interesting and beautiful aspect of the book. 

As you know, I've been trying to read more black fiction 
and this is up there with my favorites. 
The beginning was a little slow, 
but halfway through it really picked up, 
and then I ugly-sobbed the last two chapters. 

Also, the cover is beautiful!

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler 
By Kelly Harms 

Witty banter dialogue that sucked me in. 
Fantastic, lovable characters. 
Tons of hilarious moments that made me laugh out loud. 

I laughed and cried my way through this book. 
Everything about it was fantastic 
and I'd recommend it to any mom out there. 

Evie Drake Starts Over 
By Linda Holmes 

Overall an easy read. 
Found the lead character a little annoying at times 
and the interwoven baseball storyline wasn't really my thing,
but it wasn't too romantic mushy 
and had the right kind of redemptive ending 
that made me feel good. 

The New Jim Crow 
By Michelle Alexander 

I've been working on this book for I-don't-know-how-long. 
It was one of my Original 10 book goals, 
and then I specifically called it out as a 2019 Resolution.

The book is EXCELLENT. 
So why did it take me so long to read? 

1. It's a mind-exploding book. 
This book challenged every assumption 
about race & incarceration that I was raised with. 
I still can hear my dad making his declarations on 
"why things are the way they are." 
Instead, this book blasts through these assumptions 
and knocks down some pretty strong walls of bias. 
Frequently, my exploding brain just maxed out 
and I needed to take a break. 

2. It reads like a textbook. 
Natasha pointed this out to me. 
The book is very well researched 
and saturated with stats, studies, and all sorts of things. 
This elevates the book in terms of credibility, 
but also makes it difficult to read. 

Our librarian mentioned it also took him so long to read it, 
then he finally just bought the book to read a little every day. 
I found about 5 pages a day was my max. 
(The book is 261 pages, so yeah...) 

All that said, I would HIGHLY recommend this book 
to any person in America (white or black!). 
It is relevant and 
it is important. 
It just may take a very long time to read! 

Better Than Before 
By Gretchen Rubin 

Gretchen Rubin is my favorite self-help authors. 
I simply love the way she writes and researches. 

I profiled her book "The Happiness Project" here 
and then just wrote up about this book here

On another note, I discovered
"The New Jim Crow" 
"Better Than Before" 
to be perfect co-reading books. 
It's hard for me to balance an educational book with fiction, 
because I tend to get caught up in fiction 
and neglect the educational book. 
However, balancing an educational book with a self-help book 
allows me to move back and forth between the two. 
I'd read 5-6 pages of "The New Jim Crow" 
then a chapter of "Better Than Before" 
and then back to the "New Jim Crow." 
It worked really well. 

Essentialism : The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
By Greg McKeown

Sometimes book order matters. 
In this case, I read this book very shortly 
after finishing "The New Jim Crow" 
and all I could think was: 
This is a book for white privileged wealthy workaholics

On the positive, 
it's a short, quick read 
and maybe it's possible to glean some helpful tips 
(particularly for those who struggle to say no) 
but overall I maintain it's a book for 
white privileged wealthy workaholics. 

If that's you, read it. 
If not, skip it. 

The Residence 
By Kate Andersen Brower

This is a very interesting look 
into the lives of White House staff 
(think chefs, housekeepers, ushers, etc). 
Lots of neat little stories and perspectives. 

That said, American history was my least favorite subject 
so I'm sorely lacking on my presidential history. 
The more recent stories (Obamas, Clintons, Bushes) 
were far more interesting to me than the Carters, Kennedys, and Johnsons 
(and Kennedy's assassination played a big role in the book). 
I wish it were written more recently 
because I'd LOVE to hear about the Trumps, ha! 

The most interesting to me, personally, 
was how two presidential families were clear favorites 
(1 democrat and 1 republican) 
and two clear presidential families were... very much not  
(again, 1 democrat and 1 republican). 


Books Not Finished

Magic's Pawn 
By Mercedes Lackey 

I mentioned this book in my Fall WIDN post
It was among Teen Emily's favorite books
and I decided to reread it as Adult Emily. 
Adult Emily does not share the same book interests as Teen Emily. 
It was... not great. 
I got to about halfway and then just gave up. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Better Than Before

Gretchen Rubin is my favorite self-help author. 
I love how she writes her books. 
Her writing is conversational with a touch of witty, 
and I find them incredibly easy to read. 

I read her first self-help book "The Happiness Project"
 (post about it here
and just picked up another of hers about habits. 

Just like The Happiness Project, 
I got more out of this book than I ever expected. 

I took a lot of detailed notes on my phone 
and rather than letting them live out eternity in my notes section, 
I am transferring them to a post here. 

This is not a whole book summary. 
But rather a collection of excerpts I found really helpful. 


The Four Tendencies (on how we act)

1. Upholders: meets both external expectations & internal expectations 
(Amanda - I think this is you; you are so disciplined!

2. Questioners : resists external expectations, but meets internal expectations 
(This is Adam.)  

3. Obligers : meets external expectations, but resists internal expectations 

4. Rebels: resists both external and internal expectations 
(These people just plain baffle me.)

I am an Obliger. 
It's difficult for me to uphold my own internal expectations 
but if I have a set of external expectations 
(aka: some form of accountability) 
I am very likely to meet those expectations. 

This is why I'm a stickler for deadlines, 
incredibly punctual, 
and never ever cancel a meet-up.

It's why I'm in my best shape when I have an upcoming race 
and a running buddy to train with. 

It's why I set goals and resolutions on my blog, 
because I have to "answer" to all four of you readers by year end. 

It's also a reason why I struggle with healthy food habits, 
because being on my own most of the day, 
I don't have anyone to hold me accountable except myself. 


Other Distinctions 
or why it's easier for us to develop some habits versus others

Morning Lark vs Night Own
I'm a Morning Lark. 
My most successful exercise routines 
are all in the morning
(from 5:45am yoga to 7am running) 

Marathon, Sprinter, or Procrastinator: 
I'm a Sprinter. 
My best work is done righhhhtttt before it's due. 
I have a tendency to apply this to dieting. 
("Oh I have plenty of time to lose the weight before [x]")

Under-buyer vs Over-buyer
I am a chronic over-buyer. 
Fortunately, my debt-aversion/money-saving obsession
keeps this in check. 

Simplicity vs Abundance
I hate clutter. 
(This conflicts with my over-buyer status above)

Finisher vs Opener
Definite finisher. 
I get anxious if something is left unfinished. 
Think Sheldon Cooper and the three knocks. 

Familiar vs Novelty
Generally familiarity, 
but I still need novelty in my life to keep it interesting. 


When we are anxious or tired, 
we fall back on our habits, 
whether good or bad. 
E.g.: Students who regularly eat a healthy breakfast 
are more likely to eat healthy during exams. 


People eat 14% less if they take one big plate 
rather than two smaller portions. 

This little stat blew my mind. 
I have ALWAYS been a
 "take a small first plate, then get seconds" person. 
Not only does this make calories more difficult to track 
but apparently it also leads to excess. 
Since reading this stat, I've changed my dinner plate 
to one full plate and then no seconds.  
And I can already feel the difference (in a good way!). 


Foundation habits affect all others. 
(Diet, exercise, sleep) 

When I'm at my best running (peak race training), 
I sleep my best, 
eat my best, 
and have the most energy. 


Monitoring improves results. 
E.g.: Food logs

My productivity on my Mama's Mornings Off skyrocketed 
when I started writing down when I was spending my time on. 


The first step is the hardest. 
Happiness is in tackling that which you are dreading. 
(A reoccurring theme from her first Happiness book.) 


Don't break the chain. 
By never making an exception, 
the chain becomes the motivation itself. 

E.g. Closing the Apple Watch rings for a month straight 


Clean Slate. 
Starting immediately on the first day 
with a new habit will set the tone forward. 

E.g.: Leaving early the first week of a new job. 
Starting a new workout routine with a new job. 


When we deprive ourselves, 
we feel entitled to compensate ourselves, 
often in ways that undermine our good habits. 

E.g.: "I didn't eat breakfast so I can eat this cupcake." 


Convenience and Inconvenience each play a big role in our habits. 

E.g.: People take less food using tongs than spoons to serve themselves. 
and eating with chopsticks ensures eating less. 

For me, keeping chocolate in the freezer is an inconvenience check 
as I will wait for it to come to room temperature before eating
(this does not work for Adam who LOVES cold chocolate)


Solutions for protecting habits: 
Planning: "If __, then ___" 

E.g. "If I'm hungry, I will eat an apple, then wait 20 minutes."


Stumbles often lead to falls. 

E.g.: "I had one mini cupcakes so I'll eat 5" 
"I blew this morning's calories so I'll start again tomorrow." 

Instead, divide the day into quadrants 
(morning, midday, afternoon, evening) 
and try to only blow one quadrant at a time. 


Planned exceptions prevent failures. 

E.g.: Planning in advance "I won't work out at all this week of vacation" 
sets a strict timeperiod of exception, 
without guilt of failure, 
and allows oneself to easily move back into the routine after. 


Distraction can prevent a habit downfall. 
Wait 15 minutes and try to do something physical to distract you. 


Loopholes derail habits. 
Loopholes are the worst for Obligers like ME! 
Since we don't adhere to our inner expectations, 
we use these excuses to avoid them.

Moral Licensing Loophole
"I've lost weight so I can indulge" 
"I went running so I earned more beers." 

Tomorrow Loophole
"I can skip running today because I'm going for a big run tomorrow." 
"Bingeing today because my diet starts tomorrow." 

Lack of Control Loophole
where we claim to have no control over an area that we do. 
"I have kids thus I cannot ___."

This Doesn't Count Loophole
(versus a planned exception noted above) 
"I'm on vacation" 
"It's holiday season."  
"It's the weekend." 

Questionable Assumption Loophole
"I already showered so I can't work out today." 
"We might need this someday." 
"I need to get my money's worth of this buffet" 
"I can't let these leftovers go to waste."

Concern for Others Loophole
"It would be rude to not eat the cake at the party." 
"She gifted me this to me so I should eat it." 
(literally my life motto loophole)

Fake Self Actualization Loophole
"Limited Time Opportunity."


Why Rewards are Dangerous for Habits: 

1. If we wouldn't do the activity without the reward, 
then we associate the activity as an imposition or deprivation. 

2. Rewards imply a decision, versus a habit 
(e.g. buckling a seat-belt is an automatic habit) 

3. Reward = a finish line, which disrupts the flow of the habit

Instead of separate rewards, the habit itself should be rewarding. 
Running = strength, energy, and good sleep
Healthy eating = energy, skin complexion, and weight loss 
Reading = knowledge & relaxation


Treats, unlike rewards, can be mood boosters. 
E.g.: Taking a walk to go visit a friend
But food, shopping, and screentime are dangerous treats. 


Pairing something you should do 
with something you want to do 
makes it more enjoyable. 
E.g.: "I listen to audiobooks as I walk." 

For many, watching TV at the gym is the perfect example. 
Except I hate TV. 
But this gave me an idea: Podcasts! 
I started pairing podcasts with my morning 3 mile walks, 
which makes the walk fly by as I'm absorbed in this podcast.


Our self-imposed identity often dictates our habits. 
E.g.: "I'm not a fussy eater" = not sticking to diets at parties. 


I will wrap this up with one word of caution. 

As much as I love Gretchen Rubin, 
her notions on nutrition are highly skeptical. 
She acknowledges that her obsession with the low-carb diet 
is greatly challenged by both research and field experts, 
but she maintains her stance because it works for her 
("data point of one"). 
Thus, as much as I like Gretchen Rubin, 
I wouldn't be consulting her on anything nutrition-related. 

Other than that, though, I really loved this book!

Friday, October 25, 2019

25 Weeks

25 Weeks

Baby Size: Cauliflower

Current Weight: 163.8 lbs
Weight Baby #2: 150.5 lbs
Weight Baby #1: 154.0 lbs


Sunday night I had 2 oz of wine 
and predictably woke up at 3:30am unable to go back to sleep. 
Monday I followed all my rules 
but Monday night I woke up every single hour
I didn't stay awake for more than a few minutes, 
but after waking up 8 times that night, 
I was draginngggg. 

Tuesday night was better but not great either. 
Wednesday I figured out the problem (see below). 

Chocolate and Sweets
This could also be a "I'm tried" craving 
versus a "pregnancy craving." 
I crave sugar when tired. 

Symptoms of the Week:
Stinky, smelly, clear-the-room gas. 
This is likely from my diet change, 
as I went from eating zero lentils 
to eating a lentil salad every day at lunch. 

Also, leg/ankle cramps still pop up, especially at night. 
(Can't write that without double-checking it three times, Amanda!)

And this belly is getting... whoa. 
Cutting my toenails today was very difficult. 
Thinking it'll be pedicures from here on out (oh bummer). 

Kicks are strong enough that when we snuggle up in bed, 
Adam can feel himself being kicked in his side. 

Running Status:
I had given up on running, 
but after several days of poor sleep this week, 
it dawned on me that I NEED EXERCISE to sleep. 

For me, exercise-sleep-diet are all tied together. 
When I'm exercising, 
I'm sleeping better, 
and when I'm sleeping better, 
my diet is healthier. 

My new goal is to run/walk 
every Tues/Thurs morning from 7am-8am, 
for at least 3 miles. 
Those are the mornings I don't take Oliver to preschool 
and my neighbor drives Aaron to school, 
so I don't have to be showered & dressed by a deadline. 

Also, learning from this new habits book I'm reading 
(post coming next week), 
I decided to pair my morning exercise with a fun activity: 
I never listen to podcasts during my normal day, 
so this will be a fun exercise-only activity that I can look forward to. 

Excited For


Aaron's K-3 school will have it's Halloween parade on the 30th. 
It'll be around 500 kids circling the parking lot. 
I LOVE admiring other kids' costumes 
(particularly the talents of creative pinterest moms, 
who I will never ever ever be). 

And then of course the fun of Trick-or-Treating. 
PLUS the joy of putting the kids to bed 
and Adam and I inventoring the candy, 
dividing it amongst ourselves, 
and leaving them with jusstttt enough. 

How many more years can we pull this off? 

General Mood


The poor sleep has really weighed me down. 
And as I said above, 
poor sleep = poor eating 
so I'm further weighed down by a bad diet. 

I plan to get this downward spiral in check before the holidays 
in hopes of gaining more energy 
and leveling off my excessive weight gain. 

25 Weeks with Oliver here 
25 Weeks with Aaron here

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Mama's Month Off

The title of this post ("Mama's Month Off") 
sounds like I went on a #momspringa from the book 
"The Overdue Life of Amy Byler(LOVE) 
but sadly no. 

Every Mon-Wed-Fri, I have 3 hours to myself 
while Oliver is at his Nature PreSchool
He gets high-quality-movement, outdoor-immersion time 
and I get 3 hours of me time. 

During last year's preschool time, 
I felt that I'd wasted a lot of my free time. 
And this year decided to both track and document my time spent. 
This gives me something to look back on for 
"what did I do with my free time?" 
but also, as Gretchen Rubin points out in her book "Better Than Before
the act of monitoring an action improves the productivity/quality of the time.  

For regulating my time on activities,
 I love this simple time cube. 
The kids use it as well 
and it's one of my top favorite purchases this year. 

Also, for reference, our house tour is HERE


Friday, September 27th

Clean & sweep the kitchen (15 minutes) 
Pickup front & living room (15 minutes) 
Mudroom closet seasonal changeover (35 minutes) 
Guest room pickup & closet organization (1 hours) 
Laundry & clean compost bin (15 minutes) 

Since we use our garage to park in, rather than store stuff, 
our mudroom fulfills a big storage requirement for outdoor toys. 
Fortunately, it's a wonderfully large space, 
but it requires that I turn it over every season to maximize the storage. 

Our guest room/office is a catch-all place. 
I'm generally pretty on top of it 
but occasionally it needs a set time to tackle it 
(you will see the reoccurring theme)

Monday, September 30th

Aaron off school for Rosh Hashanah 
and had a friend over for the day. 
I took the big kids to the park to play
while Oliver went to Nature PreSchool. 

School Holiday Explanation:
We live in a high Jewish area 
(e.g. we are the only Christmas tree on our street), 
so our public schools all take off for Jewish holidays. 
This was a big shock to me, 
coming from Central NY with no Jewish population, 
where school holidays were days like 
Columbus Day and Veterans Day 
(both ignored down here in the Philadelphia area). 

Wednesday, October 2nd

Grocery Shop at the Mecca store 
Mall returns 
Misc errands (dry cleaning, etc)

Friday, October 4th

PTO Duties: Bank, School, Post Office (45 minutes) 
Sort & wash borrowed maternity clothes (15 minutes) 
Scrub half of fridge (35 minutes) 
HERNIA REST (15 minutes) 
Fold and put away laundry (15 minutes) 
HERNIA REST (25 minutes) 
Lunch & clean kitchen (30 minutes) 

Today I was so so so mad. 
I had a bit of caffeine 
and was SO EXCITED to tackle the fridge. 
Pulling out everything, 
evaluating usage/expiration dates, 
and scrubbing the shelves. 
But my umbilical hernia had different plans 
and when it felt like my belly button was about to explode, 
I was forced onto the couch for rest. 

Monday, October 7th

Target returns
Trader Joe's (solely for this salad's ingredients) 
Nordstrom Returns 

Wednesday, October 9th

Aaron off school for Yom Kippur and
we met up with friends to go bowling. 

Friday, October 11th

Packing for our weekend NY trip 
Washing 3 bed sheets 
because somehow ALL THREE BEDS got pee in them, 
including ours because Oliver randomly peed his pants 
when he came in to snuggle in the morning. 
How does this happen????

Monday, October 14th

Car Wash (15 minutes) 
Laundry, unpack from trip, and House Cleanup (1 hr 15 mi) 
Aaron's room (15 minutes) 
Prep fruit & eat early lunch (20 minutes) 
Continue cleaning the remainder of the fridge from the 4th (25 minutes) 

Before: Aaron's room 

After: Aaron's Room 

There's a lot to be said for keeping children responsible for their own room. 
And there's a lot to be said for teaching your child 
how to sort and deal with their own hoarding habits. 
Both of these I highly support and encourage. 

Then there's something to the be said for the mom who snapped 
and decided to do it on her own because that's what she wanted to do. 

Wednesday, October 16th

Guest room (again) and sort/wash borrowed clothes (30 minutes) 
Oliver's books organize & dresser cleanout (30 minutes) 
Aaron's dresser cleanout (45 minutes) 
Wash makeup brushes (10 minutes) 
Cleanup toys & laundry (20 minutes) 
Lunch & kitchen cleanup (30 minutes) 

Do you feel like children's clothing management is a big time suck? 
My kids maintain a fairly minimal wardrobe compared to most 
and yet I still find a lot of my time sorting through 
too small / too big / seasonal items. 
I keep a box in each closet for "too small" items 
so I can quickly rotate out anything that doesn't fit 
and yet their dressers still feel like a constant disarray. 

Friday, October 18th

Car Detail (1 hour 15 minutes) 
Wasted time / phone time (15 minutes) 
Prep donations, school paperwork, laundry (30 minutes) 
Lunch & kitchen cleanup (30 minutes) 

This was a mind-blowing day. 
For $23, my local car wash will vacuum out every inch of my 3-row car. 
It took them over an hour 
while I sat there and read. 
It was the best $23 I've ever spent

You know by now that I'm a clean freak 
and this extends from my house to my car. 
I despise dirty cars. 
I dislike riding in other people's cars (i.e.: coworker lunch trips) 
because their standard of cleanliness usually don't reach mine. 

For a multitude of reasons, my children do not eat in the car. 
Safety (choking). 
Impulse snacking disrupts mealtimes. 
To-go snacks are generally unhealthy
Car boredom is an important life lesson. 
And overall I don't want to foster this habit.

That said, even without food,  
my car was filthy with leaves, grass, mud,  
and all sorts of outdoor items tracked in from shoes 
(and children pocket hoarding!). 
My car was driving me nuts 
yet my pregnant belly was not capable of bending the right ways to clean it. 

Again, best $23 I ever spent. 
My car looks brand new and I couldn't be happier. 


And there we have 3 weeks' worth of Mama's Day Off. 
My apologies for the boring length of this post 
and it's severe lack of photos. 
If you've been following me for a while, 
I hope your expectations are already nice and low. :)