Monday, April 27, 2020

Motivators

What motivates you? 
What engages your self discipline? 
What gets you to do that one hard thing?
What lights the fire under your ass?  

As I'm embarking on my third (and final) postpartum weight loss, 
I need a host of different motivators to keep me going. 
And here are some of them. 


Education

Education has always been my greatest motivator. 
Learning why or how helps me make better decisions. 
Of course, I can know the right thing and still not do it 
but I will still eat the oreos, dammit). 

Books

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg 
(reviewed here)
and 
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin 
(reviewed here)

Two very different books 
that have each had a profound impact 
on how I develop my own healthy habits. 

Podcasts:

by functional medicine doctor Dr Mark Hyman. 
I love functional medicine because 
it looks into the underlying causes of diseases 
(e.g. heart disease, dementia, etc) 
and tries to fix the root causes, 
rather than just treating the symptoms.
I have learned so much from these podcasts 
and I really enjoy them on my walks. 

Netflix Documentaries

Forks Over Knives 
The Game Changers 

Two of my favorite Netflix documentaries. 
I've watched the "Forks" one three times now 
because I always learn something new. 


New & Creative Foods

I get bored quickly with food. 
I will eat the same thing for a week 
then not eat it again for two years. 
And when I get bored with food, 
I get lazy and resort to eating bad food. 
(This in contrast to Adam who can eat the same lunch for years)


New Recipes

Grain Bowls by Anna Shillinglaw Hamptom


I am soooooo over lettuce-based salads for lunch. 
Also, when I wrote my post about "how I would like us to eat
I mentioned that I want to learn about new whole grains. 
This book solves both those things. 
It's so fun to pick out a new bowl to try every week 
and I've become more adventurous with new grains. 

Additionally the grocery store outages have forced me 
to get creative with what we have. 
Example, this new bulgar wheat pilaf (base recipe here)
with peppers and peas: 



Lentils & Beans

After watching the Netflix documentaries above, 
Adam agreed to move away from meat to lentils & beans. 
Adam is surprisingly good at finding new recipes 
and we've added several good ones into our rotations. 

Saucy Bean & Artichoke (top favorite)
Tiki Masala Lentils 
Garlic Shrimp & White Bean 
and Basic Lentil Soup 

Both lentil dishes are amazingly good warmed up the next day, 
making lunches even easier!


Dips

I need to up my raw vegetable intake. 
But I don't actually like raw vegetables. 
But with a dip? 
Sign. Me. Up. 

Since Grocery store dips are so unhealthy, 
I've taken to making my own.  

I use Fage whole milk, plain Greek yogurt as the base 
and then add in various herbs and spices 
as Adam can find in the grocery store. 

My newest favorite has been this Cilantro Chive Yogurt Dip 
(except I use scallions instead of chives, 
because chives have been MIA). 
Delicious with peppers, carrots, and even a dollop on the pilaf!


Apple Watch 

For exercise, my Apple Watch has been my #1 motivator. 
It was my big Christmas present this past year 
and it is easily my favorite. 
Allena already wrote a post already about the watch 
and so I'll just reference you to that here

In short, I absolutely love closing the rings 
and earning badges. 
It seems so silly, 
but it works so well! 


Planning 

"Failure to plan is planning to fail." 

I love goals and resolutions 
but it's hard for me to stay motivated for year-long resolutions. 
Even monthly goals can be tricky for me. 
Instead, I love weekly goals. 

At a friend's suggestion, I purchased: 
The Clever Fox Weekly Planner



Every Sunday I sit down to plan out my week. 
There's a main goal,
top priorities, 
to do list, 
and a habits section 
where you can check off each day if met. 



At the end of the week, 
I review my progress and make notes. 

You can tell from the to do list that these were pre-quarantine days!

Personally, it feels easier to stay on track for a week
than it does for a whole month.  


Progress? 

I started my third pregnancy at 148 lbs, 
10 lbs heavier than my earlier pregnancies. 
I ended at 179 lbs (week 39). 

My goal (my happy weight) is to reach 129 lbs, 
last seen in Spring 2018

As I type this, I'm at 155 lbs. 
Realistically, I know I won't see 129 lbs for about 2 years.
And that's okay! 

I want to focus on being healthy
not just thin. 
I want to eat the right foods 
and exercise consistently 
and sleep well 
to contribute to more energy and more happiness. 

Friday, April 24, 2020

COVID19 Week 6

COVID19 Week 6

As parts of the country begin to open,
I hope this means we are near the end.
But the logical part of me fears another spike.
And if another spike does come
and that spike prevents my children 
from going back to school in September... 
THERE WILL BE HELL TO PAY. 

Current Status

Pennsylvania has 35,045 cases and 1,622 deaths. 
Our county has 3,294 cases and 230 deaths. 
My mom works in a veterans' home 
and they have had 25 deaths this month (out of 300 residents). 
Normal rate is about 2-3 deaths/month. 
So sad! 

this week's newest nature find: a rocky gorge

Handling Anxiety

One of my anxiety coping mechanisms is Psycho Over-Planning. 
Generally speaking, I'm not anxious about quarantine or the economy 
but in the back of my mind there's always the chance of lay-offs or furlough, 
and as a single income family, that would be a big hit. 

The other day I finally sat down with PA's Unemployment Site, 
calculated exactly what our unemployment check would be, 
then hacked away our monthly budget down to the barest of necessities, 
then took the overage (budget minus unemployment check) 
and bumped it up against our savings 
and extrapolated it out for a year. 
(A year of unemployment seems unheard of, but it happens!) 
Basically, if Adam is unemployed (or furloughed) for a year, 
would our savings cover us?

Yes. 
We would be just fine. 
Of course we'd have zero activities
and we'd be subsiding off boxed pasta, 
but we would make it.  
It was like wiping my anxiety off a white board. 

a second nature hike this week, and again rocky river

Trouble-shooting Quarantine Parenting

Two issues I'm in the midst of trouble-shooting: 
1. Asking for TV 
2. Aaron alone time. 

Our kids are still not getting much TV, 
but the lack of TV schedule, 
causes them to ask for it more and more, 
which drives me bonkers

After a few days of explosive freak-outs 
("if you ask for TV one more time, 
you are getting ZERO TV TODAY"
I started our mornings giving the kids a brief overview of the day, 
pointing out in advance exactly when they would get TV. 
For example, most days they get TV after nap while I'm making dinner. 
If we are spending the whole morning at home, 
they'll have some tasks to earn it
 (play outside, clean up the basement) 
and then get TV before lunch. 
This has helped quite a bit, though not totally fixed the problem. 
I look forward to the post-COVID19 school year, 
where screens are banned Monday-Friday 
and I don't have to hear a single TV request. 

The second issue is Aaron's alone time. 
Aaron is an extrovert like me, 
but even extroverts need alone time. 
It refocuses him and calms him down. 

But with us being around each other 24/7 
and the boys' sharing a room
it's hard to find that space for him. 

My solution: after we read our token Harry Potter chapter
I send him to our bedroom for one hour. 
He takes a stack of his favorite books
 (currently Diary of a Wimpy Kid) 
and spends the hour reading quietly to himself. 

If I can get Carson down for a nap at this time, 
the house is pure bliss

Oliver in his & Aaron's bedroom. 
Aaron in our bedroom. 
Carson asleep in the swing. 
Adam working in the office. 
And NO ONE IS ASKING ME FOR ANYTHING. 

HALLELUJAH. 

Monday, April 20, 2020

Harry Potter Books and Kids

Documenting herein my experience with Harry Potter and Kids,
for both my own future reference
and anyone looking to embark on that magical journey.


When to start?

Common Sense Media (my go-to for any movies/tv shows) 
recommended age 8+ for the first book, 
although they recommended the first movie at age 7+.
However, a brief google search showed many parents start age 6-7.
Bridget Hunt said she started at age 6, 
but it didn't really "take" until age 7.

I decided to start with the first book at age 6.

On Aaron's 6th birthday, 
he got the first illustrated Harry Potter. 

The illustrated books are beautiful.
They aren't overly illustrated that it's distracting,
but just enough to add a little wonder.

We read through the "Sorcerer's Stone", 
but it was kind of a struggle. 
He wasn't really into it. 
We finished the book and set it aside for the future. 

A few months before Aaron's 7th birthday, 
I pulled out "The Sorcerer's Stone" to read again 
and this time he was much more into it. 
After the book, we borrowed the movie from the library 
and Aaron was quick to point out everything they left out from the book. 

On his 7th birthday, Aaron received the Illustrated "Chamber of Secrets." 
Since COVID19 Quarantine was in full effect, 
he was home 24/7 
and we made it a tradition to read one chapter a day 
over Oliver's naptime. 
He LOVED it, begging each day for more chapters. 
He started talking about the books all the time, 
and imaging his own fun magical scenarios. 

In fact, he liked it so much (and with no school anytime soon) 
that I ordered the third illustrated "Prisoner of Azkaban" to be shipped to us. 
And we are now on the fourth chapter of it! 



I like watching each movie after each book, 
for comparison purposes. 
Unfortunately, with the library closed indefinitely, 
we aren't able to borrow the movies right now 
so we'll do a little marathon after all this is over. 

I don't know when we will switch from illustrated to regular books. 
As I type this, the illustrated "Goblet of Fire" is out, but no others. 


My Overall Recommendation

Start at age 7 with the illustrated books. 

While you can start earlier, 
it's more exciting when it "clicks" 
and for Aaron, that was age 7. 

I have LOVED embarking on this magical journey with Aaron. 
And I can't wait to embark on it with Oliver and then Carson, too!

Friday, April 17, 2020

COVID19 Week 5

COVID19 Week 5. 
Every time I start these blog posts, I think: 
"How many weeks will I get to before it ends?"

Current Status

Pennsylvania has 27,735 cases and 707 deaths. 
Our county has 2,544 cases and 89 deaths. 
Schools are closed through the end of the academic year. 
All non-essential businesses remain closed. 
Adam still shops [alone] once a week at Wegmans. 
Last week (Good Friday), the line to get in wrapped around the store 
as employees regulated the amount of customers entering. 
We don't know if that was a Good Friday precaution 
or if that's the standard going forward. 
He will find out today. 

Everyone (Adam included) is in masks when in public. 
Some even to walk their dog around the neighborhood. 
I do not have masks for me or the kids 
and, as of right now, am not planning to make any. 
It seems overkill for a walk in our (spacious) neighborhood 
and also seems pointless out in the woods alone. 


Why Do I Feel So Busy

Our COVID19 daily routine is not a busy routine. 
I'm only taking the kids out of the neighborhood 1-2 times a week. 
(This week we found another new spot!) 


And my to do list rarely exceeds 5 or 6 items a day 
(one item is always laundry), 
most of which could be accomplished in less than 10 minutes. 

SO WHY DO I FEEL BUSY?  

I have a theory that's difficult to explain, 
so if you have better words than I,
please help out in the comments!

We all have things that must get done (even in quarantine) 
but we perform these actions 
to a varying degree of intensity and concentration, 
based on the time we have to complete them. 

For example, when I was working 40+ hours a week, 
I was crazy efficient with my time, because I had to be

When Aaron was in school full time 
and Oliver in PreSchool part-time, 
some parts of our day were also efficient
 (school year routine here
because I had to be to get the kids out the door in the mornings. 
Even our summers at the pool followed a particular schedule.

But here in Quarantine, I don't have to be efficient with my day. 
Plus adding in a baby who breastfeeds every 45 minutes, 
I'm generally not efficient at anything
So my 16 waking hours are spent in a messy, distracted state. 
Can anyone else relate to what I'm saying? 

Also, I swear my house is 100x messier now that everyone is home. 
I blame Adam. 


Bubble Popping

Last week I gushed about how I'm loving this life 
(which I still am, even with the busy comment above). 

Then my privileged bubble of happiness popped on Friday 
when I learned that Oliver's preschool teachers are furloughed. 

While public schools can keep paying their teachers 
(at least ours are), 
tiny private preschools don't necessarily have that luxury. 

Oliver's teachers at his Nature School are the most wonderful people. 
They LOVE their time with the kids in nature 
and spend every day pouring their heart and souls 
into making nature an exciting, enjoyable place that kids love to be. 
You can just see how much they love their jobs. 

Plus, they are very vulnerable to financial woes. 
Young adults, living in apartments around the city, 
working second jobs in addition to preschool. 
(Oliver's favorite teacher also taught an after-school cooking class.) 

To hear of their furlough hit me hard, 
and I shed a few tears over it. 
I worry for them! 
And I'm contemplating how to help them. Gift cards?


Oliver's Birthday:

Switching back to happier topics. 
Today is Oliver's 4th birthday! 

He has a pile of presents from friends and family 
and a full day menu that he planned himself 
(pancakes, nuggets, mac&cheese, hot dogs, spag&meatballs, cake... 
aka: processed food heaven). 
We have two Zoom calls setup, 
one with his preschool friends 
and one with all our family.

He picks the family movie night tonight 
(so far he wants "Honey I Shrunk the Kids") 
and will probably watch wayyyyyy more TV today than any other day. 
(Because birthdays in quarantine are all about getting what you want.) 

I need to dedicate a whole post to him 
(as I still need to do to Aaron's 7th birthday), 
but the shortest of short summaries: 

Oliver has been an absolutely delightful three year old. 
He has been the light of our life this year. 
No Terrible Threes in this house. 
He is downright hilarious 
and his smile is infectious 
and he is the sweetest boy ever. 

He was a Terrible Two Year Old, 
but a Truly Terrific Three Year Old. 
And we are loving it.  


Friday, April 10, 2020

COVID19 Week 4

Week 4 of COVID19 is coming to a close. 

Current Status

Pennsylvania has 16,239 cases and 309 deaths. 
Our county has 1,521 cases and 37 deaths. 
Schools are closed "indefinitely." 
All non-essential businesses remain closed. 
Adam grocery shops [alone] once a week, 
but otherwise we have not stepped foot into a public building

Under the CDC's guidelines for everyone to start wearing masks 
(to stop the spread from pre-symptomatic and asymptomic individuals), 
Adam sewed his very own mask, 
using a sweatshirt sleeve, hoodie ties, and a travel sewing kit. 
I have never been so impressed. 



General Outlook: It's an Adventure 

My anxiety is pretty much gone (99% of the time) 
and even my disappointment over canceled events has subsided. 
Now, I view this whole thing as one great big Adventure. 

This is a big moment in history
Like when we ask: "Where were you during 9/11?" 
Or how we asked our grandparents about life in WWII. 
We will look back on COVID19 Quarantine the same. 

For me and my kids, I want to look back on this as an Adventure
In 30 years, I want to look back on our time fondly. 
It was a time of forced creativity, 
of fun new traditions, 
of new nature spots,
and [laughingly] too much screen time. 

Not to say we don't have bad days (many) 
but overall, I'm want to keep up the positivity. 

this week's newest nature find

Am I an Introvert or Extrovert

I'm 98% Extrovert. 
Or so I thought. 
But quarantine is making me question this. 
Of course I miss our friends, but overall I'm pretty content. 

Meanwhile, my sister who is a typical Introvert, 
says she is dying being at home. 

Why is this? 
I wonder if it's largely due to Carson. 
Being attached (quite literally) to a nursing infant 24/7, 
let's me enjoy the ease of home life. 
We leave the neighborhood maybe once or twice a week 
to go hiking, and that's plenty enough for me. 



Observations

In quarantine, parenting decisions are either paying off 
or biting parents in the ass. 

Parents who have largely entertained their kids 
via schedule-packed activities and/or electronics, 
are really suffering.

Meanwhile, parents who have encouraged independent play, 
boredom coping strategies, 
and limited screentime are really reaping the benefits 
of their hard work. 

I have seen this in both my personal friends and social media. 

In one example, a friend shared this article 
where the opening paragraph is pretty much her son. 
Her son has always been entertained by screens or extracuriculars, 
and now that he's home 24/7 with dual working parents, 
he doesn't know what to do. 

On the flip side, a friend and I were texting 
and she said her kids have been outside for 6 hours 
("doing what? I don't know") 
and the next day: 
"the kids have been spent all morning making forts 
and my house is a disaster but whatever." 
That is self-entertainment. 

While my kids still whine for screens here and there, 
I can tell I've done something right when Aaron asked: 
"What can we do to earn screens today?" 
And I nearly jumped for joy; 
he knows they have to earn the screen!!!! 

I'll take the parenting win. 


Funniest Thing from This Week

Ending this on a happy note, 
you absolutely must see this YouTube video 
of Disney characters in quarantine. 
We have watched it 20 times 
and I have laughed till I cried every time. 


Friday, April 3, 2020

Checking in: Week Three - Routines

Week 3 of COVID19 Quarantine has been the best yet. 
First of course, acknowledging the immense privilege, 
(financial, health, home)
we have that I can enjoy our quarantine. 

This week we're starting to see routines take shape, 
bit by bit. 
Per usual, the morning is the most structured 
then it dissolves throughout the day. 


6am-6:30am: Carson wakes up 
and nurses in bed. 

6:30-7:00: Kids in our bed
while Adam goes to the basement to exercise 

7:00-7:30: Breakfast for me, kids, 
and maybe Adam, 
if he's done exercising by then 

7:30: School (Aaron), Nap (Carson), Exercise (me), Play (Oliver)

Aaron starts his Google Classroom. 
I am surprised by how much Aaron LOVES doing his online work. 
I don't know if this is his inner competition 
or his love of using a screen 
or what, 
but he needs absolutely zero prodding to do schoolwork. 

At this same time, I usually put Carson down for his first nap 
(100% of daytime sleeps occur in the swing) 
and I go running. 
I have LOVED running postpartum, 
mostly due to my very expensive Apple Watch Christmas present. 
I love the tracking mechanism
and the ease of switching between music and podcasts. 

Once or twice a week, I do at-home yoga. 
I had a yoga DVD from the early 2000s 
and while I'm sure there are hundreds of better videos online
I kind of like my outdated yoga DVD. 

During all this, Oliver learns the great life skill of 
How to Entertain Yourself Without a Screen or People
He's getting much better at it. 
Practice makes Perfect!

8:45-9:00am: 
I finish up running (or yoga) 
at the same time Aaron is wrapping up his schoolwork. 
I will review and help him submit anything 
(much easier to submit via phone than laptop). 

The Rest of the Morning

Our mornings are populated by any number of things. 
Sometimes the kids have Zoom with classmates or friends. 
Today I have Carson's 2-month check-up appointment 
(with new and complicated office procedures: 
call from car when arrive, 
they unlock door, 
usher us in directly to exam room, 
see doctor, 
and escorted right back out to car)

I take advantage of crappy weather days to go places with the kids. 
Outdoor nature spots are far too crowded on sunny or warm days, 
but dreary rainy days mean they are empty!

This past Monday was dreary and drizzly, 
so the kids put on rainboots 
we bundled up, 
drove to a big preserve 
and explored all by ourselves. 
(Carson asleep in the wrap)



On nice days, we really can't go anywhere (too crowded), 
so the kids will play in the backyard. 
We don't have an exciting backyard 
(no playsets or swings or anything) 
but we've got mud and dirt and bushes and sticks 
and they get creative with that (mostly the sticks). 


I set a timer for an hour 
and when the hour is up, 
they can come in for screen time of their choice. 

During this time, Carson may take a second nap 
and I scurry to do ALL THE THINGS while he's napping. 

12:00-1:00: Lunch

1:00-3:00: Oliver Nap 

I still enforce nap/quiet time. 
Sometimes Oliver just reads books and plays, 
but I'm surprised by how often he does nap! 

During this time, if Carson is also napping (cross our fingers), 
I'll read a chapter of the illustrated 
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. 
At age 7, Aaron has *finally* really gotten into Harry Potter 
and talks about it all the time. 
I love it. 

Post-Nap: ???  

We fill this time with neighborhood walks, 
art projects, 
whatever
If Adam has a particularly slow work day, 
he'll emerge from the office 
and play golf in the basement with the boys. 

5:00-5:30pm: Dinner 

With Adam home, we can eat dinner much earlier than before 
and, much to my shock and delight, 
Adam has been cooking dinner a lot! 
It's been WONDERFUL! 

After Dinner: Game night 

LOVING this new game night tradition. 

After Game: Neighborhood Walk 

Another walk, 
this time with Adam. 

7:00pm: Kids Bedtime 

We've pushed the kids bedtime earlier in quarantine, 
because being 24/7 with them, 
we get sick of them 
 and lose our patience. 
So off to bed they go! 
They don't fall asleep right away 
(Aaron always reads in his top bunk with his flex bed lamp
but either way, they are out of our hair! 


At this point, Adam and I settle into our nightly TV routine. 
We just finished The Tiger King (oh my oh my) 
and are still working through The Great British Bake Off. 

And that's our COVID19 Routine so far in Week 3. 
What will it look like in Week 12?