Reflections on my chaotic life of minivans, tantrums, deadlines, and diets ... a life I wouldn't trade for the world.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


I am not a political person. I am ashamed to admit that I rarely read up on the issues, and filling out my ballot in Oregon was a labor-intensive task; I'm still not sure I voted the "right way" on some initiatives. But I do know a few things about our president that guaranteed my vote was going his way:

My sis (right) and her wife holding my daughter
In the next four years, I can be comfortable knowing we are only moving closer to my sister's marriage to be recognized in the same way mine is. I know few couples, gay or straight, whose love is as strong as that of my sister and her wife. And as I await the arrival of my new niece or nephew (any day now!), I also can't think of two people more suited for parenthood.

I also know that my right to choose will be protected for another four years. My children are my life, my world, and terminating a pregnancy is not something I would ever consider at this point in my life. But that is my choice, just as it should be another woman's choice to end a pregnancy because of rape or other factors that I know nothing about. It's not my business, and it shouldn't be the government's, either.

I am not sure Obama can turn our economy and healthcare around in the next four years, and I really hope he can, but at least I know we aren't moving backwards.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Update on Diastasis

Well, after 3 weeks of sitting at my desk and in my car trying to discreetly flex my transverse abdominal muscles, I am happy to report that my diastasis is down from 3 1/2 fingers to 1 1/2 (1 is considered "closed"). I am not out of the woods yet--my posture still needs work (apparently, I am a tail-tucker), and I still occasionally fall back into old, slouchy sitting patterns, but I've made a big improvement.

Now if only my new internal six pack were visible on the outside ...

Monday, October 8, 2012


As many of you know, I have been suffering from lower back pain for the past few months, and from sciatic pain on and off since my first pregnancy. I've tried everything from rest to massage to exercise, and nothing has relieved the pain. Exercise only made it worse, so my frustration about the pain was compounded by my lack of ability to reduce my stress through exercise. I became an immobile ball of stress.

A few weeks ago, at my first chiropractor visit, I was told I have diastasis recti. This came as no surprise, having birthed two behemoths. What did surprise me, after some research, was the correlation between the diastasis and all of my other symptoms: lower back pain, pelvic pain when running, sciatica. Basically, the muscles designed to hold me together were falling apart themselves.

Diastasis recti, before rehab and after
A friend referred me to The Tummy Team in Camas, WA, a group that specializes in diastasis rehab. I read their website, front to back, and decided it was worth their exorbitant fee to possibly feel better. I made a series of appointments with Kelly Dean, the founder and physical therapist.

My first appointment last week confirmed by belief that I'd done the right thing. The entry of the office in Camas has a store dedicated to new and expecting moms, complete with nursing supplies and natural maternity-care items. It didn't have the clinical environment I'd feared. Kelly walked out soon after I arrived and greeted me. After some initial paper work, we got started.

Kelly assessed my diastasis to be 2 fingers wide at top, 3 in the middle, and 3 down low. Basically, like a zipper that was only zipped down to my sternum. That meant she could essentially push into my internal organs with most of her hand, as the muscle was no longer there to stop her. I gasped at the size of the opening, but Kelly assured me it was not bad--she'd seen up to 10 fingers of separation (!!).

Self portrait
As a result, my upper body is essentially disengaged from my lower body. The "girdle" provided by the transverse abdominals was weak and not functioning, causing my body to behave like one of those inflatable promotional things at car dealerships. My pelvis and lower body is literally clinging to my upper body, using other muscles to try to hold it in place. I slouch when I sit because I have nothing holding me up. Enter, back and hip pain.

The first thing Kelly did was tell me to forget everything I'd learned about ab exercise. Crunches, planks, everything that caused those external ab muscles to contract, were useless and did nothing to strengthen the muscles that really mattered--the transverse abdominals. And crunches in my condition basically mean pushing my internal organs out of the wide opening in my muscles. Appetizing, eh?

Kelly then showed me simple things to engage the transverse without taxing my other muscles--ways to get into and out of bed, carry the kids, etc. I learned strengthening exercises to practice throughout the day while sitting up (straight) at my computer.

I also received an abdominal splint, which is basically a new-school girdle designed to make me conscious of how I go through my day. I can no longer lean over to pick up the kids; I have to use my legs to crouch. Hunching over my desk is out of the question.

So far, I can say I have no back pain, but then I haven't done much to test it out. I have 3 weeks until my next appointment, during which I will increase the strengthening exercises. While I may not have a six-pack at the end of these 5 sessions, I will have a core that can support my workouts and daily life. I am OK with that; I threw my bikini out after the second kid, anyway. ;)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Remastering the Master

I am stressed and exhausted. Like, all the time. Having 2 young children and 2+ jobs will do that to a woman.

Our house is also stressed and exhausted. It's in a constant state of chaos--the ever-present laundry basket full of clean clothes, the myriad trucks on all surfaces, and the Cheerios. So many Cheerios. I no longer look forward to going home. It's a place of anxiety, not a sanctuary.

So I have decided to carve out a little place of peace. One untouched by humans under 5 feet tall.

Our bedroom is probably the least chaotic place in the house, as it is, but it just isn't cozy. Sure, we have the nice Cal-king-sized bed, matching furniture, and decent lighting, but I want to feel as though I am visting a bed and breakfast on the coast when I finally retire to bed. To me that means lots of whites and blues/greens, fluffy pillows, and reading nooks that may or may not ever be used but would look darn good on the pages of HGTV magazine, my new favorite mag.

My first order of business is to try out some paint colors. The walls are currently a beige color, with off-white ceilings. I ordered paint samples from Home Depot, based on extensive online research of possible palettes, and on advice from my color-genius mother. They should arrive soon. Here they are (it just occurred to me how green these are--was hoping for more blue). The purple would be an accent color; don't panic, Bill.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Starbucks Reflections

I was kicked out of my house by the housekeeper, so here I am at Starbucks, listening to the usual 11:48am-on-a-Wednesday chatter.


  • Man coughing, productively and constantly, behind me
  • Well-dressed, society-type women wearing "Yes on 79" pins, talking politics (does anyone know what measure 79 is?)


  • The line going the WRONG WAY. You get one novice in here and the pros have no choice but to follow.
  • Obese man sitting in car outside of window eating fast food. Sad.

That is all for now.

UPDATE: Obese man just came in to order a cinnamon roll. Where is Michelle Obama when we need her?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

And So It Begins

Judging by the scale this morning, my wonderful post-surgery-and-other-ailments weight loss has come to a screeching halt. Well, it's probably been more of a rolling stop, considering I haven't weighed myself in weeks (too busy eating cookies and drinking beer).

Something like this
The good news is, a visit to the chiropractor yesterday inspired me to make some changes. I went in with back pain that radiated down my leg and around the front of my hip, causing me to have trouble walking and lifting heavy things, like my children. The chiropractor discovered four things:

  • Apparently, I put 70% of my weight on my right side. Who knew? 
  • I likely have inflammation in my hip sockets, also mostly on my right side.
  • My ab muscles are separated, thanks to pregnancy.
  • My posture sucks (I should have listened to my dad).
The doctor (?) gave me a couple exercises to do to strengthen my hip, and prescribed more water and acupuncture (clearly, a holistic approach) to make me generally healthier. And, as is par for the course for chiropractice, I am going back to see him next week to continue working on my decrepit frame.

I live vicariously through Flickr (OBX, 2007).
What all of this is caused by, we don't know, but I don't think my increase in weight and decrease in (read: complete lack of) muscle tone is helping matters. Evidently, I am not 25 anymore. When did that happen?

All of this leads to the point of this post: I need to shape up. More important than weight loss right now is my overall health, which I am hoping will lead to weight loss, but I am willing to accept that my pre-pregnancy figure may never return.

Unfortunately, my back pain means my usual activities (particularly the high-impact ones, like running) may be tough going for a while until I get my core strength back. I am looking for activities that will help me regain that strength, and I know many of you are thinking, "duh, yoga," but this lady has little time for such expensive frivolities, as beneficial as they may be. If those same people who are thinking yoga is the ticket want to come over and babysit, please let me know!

Coupled with my poor strength is a diet that is lacking in, well, a lot. Sure, I am lacto-ovo-pesco vegetarian, which on the surface sounds healthy, but *technically* banana bread from Starbucks is vegetarian, as is 2 lbs of pesto pasta.

I am also beginning to face the fact I have a sugar addiction (mmmmm Safeway cookies), so I aim to cut that out almost entirely. No, I won't cut out those "hidden sugars" like those found in pasta sauce--I don't have time to read labels that closely--and I have no intention of giving up my beloved beer, but I think I can do without the daily pastry.

So you heard it here first: Meg is on a mission toward better health. If any of you sees me at Starbucks ordering banana bread with my tall dark roast, please feel free to intervene. My decrepit frame will thank you for it.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Open Water Hijinks

Last weekend I completed the 1.3-mile Swim Across Suttle Lake. It was my first non-triathlon open-water "race," and it felt good knowing that I could spend all of my reserves on one sport rather than calculating how much to hold back.

Unfortunately, my tank was close to E when I started the swim. Sunday was the last day of our Central Oregon vacation, and I had just spent six days drinking too much beer and eating too few vegetables. To add insult to injury, J spent the week fighting a cold, extremely dry air, and budding teeth; she did not sleep more than 3-4 hours in a stretch, and neither did we.

Our canoe on the Suttle Lake shore, 2009
At 6:15 AM on Sunday, after 4 hours of sleeping on the couch to escape J's coughing, I joined my swimming cohort, Sarah, on the one-hour drive from Sunriver to Suttle Lake. We eyed the car thermometer with dread: 45 degrees. Sarah, sadly, did not have a wetsuit. I, sadly, did have a wetsuit, but opted for solidarity over common sense and left my wetsuit in Portland.

We jumped into the 68-degree water right before the 8 AM start, and in the spirit of non-wetsuit badassery, we dove in as the "gun" went off. After 5 minutes of fast swimming. trying to escape the fray and feel my limbs again, I settled into a good rhythm. The point we were told to aim for did not seem that far off. "I can do this," I thought.

That point never got closer. In fact, it seemed to get farther away. And I'd found the loneliest spot in the pack--100 meters behind the faster group, and 100 meters ahead of the slower group. I was swimming alone, I couldn't feel my feet, and the point seemed miles away. Not to mention my lower back was aching, thanks to extremely out-of-shape abs, thanks to two years of childbearing. But I digress ...

Fortunately for me, swimming is easier and less taxing than walking. I just slowed down and enjoyed the views, knowing that I would get there--it was just a matter of time. As the sandy lake bottom came into view, I anticipated getting vertical again. My somewhat-numb body, however, lagged behind my mind, and I stumbled a bit as I stood up to cross the finish line.

My finish time was around 50 minutes, though official results have not yet been posted. I estimated I came in 4th in the category, based on the number of ladies on shore without wetsuits. Not bad for my first swim, and considering two out of three of those women who beat me looked to be in high school, I was pretty proud of myself.

So, I'm pretty hooked. I'm eyeing the 2013 open-water season, and have an informal agreement with some friends to swim the Portland Bridge Swim as part of a relay team.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back in the Not-So-Fast Lane

Who is that--Missy Franklin? No, that's just Meg gliding effortlessly through the water like someone half her age. It's hard to tell the two apart, really.

Ah, one can dream.

But seriously, my re-entry into the familiar world of Masters swimming 3 weeks ago was an easier one than I'd anticipated. I'd envisioned myself collapsing on the deck after 500 yards; instead, I managed to push through 2,000. I'd worried I'd have to be introduced to a whole new crew of swimmers; instead, I was warmly welcomed by a familiar crowd, who barely recognized me without a pregnant belly (there is something in that water, I swear).

Getting back in the pool has done worlds for me. Sports and exercise are such important aspects of my mental well-being that, up until a few weeks ago, I was starting to feel a bit depressed about losing the athlete in me. I am sure there are many moms who feel the same way--with pregnancy comes exhaustion and discomfort that makes exercise dreadful, and life certainly doesn't get any easier after the kids arrive. We become mom-bots, mothering all day and all night, leaving little room for sleep, let alone such luxuries as exercise.

But I have gained some perspective on the matter lately. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. I don't have to train for a half-ironman or break my PB in a 100-yard sprint to reap the mental health benefits of sports. I can bike to work a couple times a week and join my Masters friends for a good workout when I can. And if I am lucky, in a few years my kids will want to join me.

P.S. I'd like to give a shout-out to my husband, who has endured, without complaint, multiple chaotic dinners and bedtimes as a "single dad" while I swim in endless circles for an hour. You rock.

Pre-kid athletic luxuries, like multi-hour rides with friends,
have become a thing of the past.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Six Weeks of Misery

(Since I originally wrote this, 12 people senselessly died in Colorado. In light of this, complaining about a short run of minor health issues seems petty. I am grateful that my family is healthy and safe. My hearts go out to the victims and their families.)

Until 6 weeks ago, I'd never been a big believer in karma. But after three hospital stays and one slightly abbreviated fingertip, I am wondering what I did in this and my past life to deserve such a run of bad luck.

June 9, 2012

My appendix decides my body is no longer a welcoming host and takes the laparoscopic way out. I won't bore you with the details, as I wrote about it after the fact hereUnbeknownst to me at the time, the appendectomy marked the launch of Bill's career as Best Husband Ever ... PhD. 

June 27, 2012

I undergo surgery to deal with the damage my two behemoth children left behind, so to speak. Recovery was painful and longer than anticipated and, as prescribed after the appendectomy, I was not allowed to lift my heavy toddler for another 6 weeks. Bill's fledgling career as BHE is taken to a new level, thanks to a wife who can do little to help with childcare and spends a good part of her time doped up on pain medication.

July 10, 2012

Evil contraption
I decide, as an instructional designer, that I am too good for instructions and hastily employ the mandolin slicer to make some zucchini chips. Several slices in, I leave more than a zucchini chip on the cutting board. Bleeding and crying, I do my best to show my "mommy's fiiiine" face to my toddler, but he doesn't buy it. Back to the hospital (well, urgent care) we go.

Diagnosis: avulsion. Prognosis: 7-10 days to heal. Prescription: a bandage the size of my foot. Things to avoid: pools, hot tubs ... and dishes. I am now limited to lifting only my infant, and only with one arm, and I can no longer clean up after the dinner that Bill inevitably has to make because I am now terrified of sharp objects.

Bill is begrudgingly promoted to senior management.

July 13, 2012

We wake up prepared for our fun weekend with Bill's visiting family and my parents in Central Oregon. Bill has taken the day off to pack and get stuff done. Despite my aching finger, life is looking up. Then the niggling stomachache I'd been experiencing attacks with fury. So much fury that while Bill is dropping the kids at daycare, I call an ambulance because I couldn't get through to Bill's phone. I am sweating, shaking, and unable to move because of the pain. I begin vomiting. I spend 2 days in the hospital because I can't keep fluids or medicine down.

Diagnosis: colitis, gastroenteritis, and a urinary tract infection. Prescription: rest, antibiotics, and pain meds while in the hospital. Prognosis: 1-2 days to feel better. Things to avoid: "controversial" foods. Bill reaches the pinnacle of his career as he cares for our children (with the help of my parents) while I am gone, and misses the much-anticipated visit with his family.

If the appendicitis, avulsion, colitis, gastroenteritis, and UTI don't kill me, guilt will.

July 20, 2012

My amazing family
As I weigh the options for making it up to my husband (get your minds out of the gutter), I am also trying to glean a lesson from the past 6 weeks. My theory is that my body was worn out after endless months of just trying to get through the day, with two very young children, a terminally messy house, one regular job, and multiple freelance clients. My body threw up the white flag, subjecting me to lots of pain and frustration, but also hours of rest and recovery.

In light of this, I decided with a heavy heart to give up one thing that was draining me and causing me stress--pumping at work. I hate pumping and I dread it, but I also dread the day I have to stop breastfeeding completely. It was a hard decision to make, but something had to give. J still gets half of her nutrition from me, and I've accepted that that is enough, given the circumstances. I now relish my lunch breaks, which are mine and mine alone. 

So, thanks to my wonderful family for your support through this time. I am so lucky to have you. Here is to a 2012 spent far, far away from any hospitals (with the exception of visiting my sister's new baby!).

Friday, June 22, 2012

My Kids

No one could deny they are siblings!

The above photos are from their 2012 school photos. Apparently, C wasn't so into picture day, and J just wanted to nap. 

Also trending:
  • C telling us to go away or just go somewhere else. It usually comes in the form of "mommy back" or "mommy gate" (i.e., go to the other side of the baby gate) or "mommy couch" (i.e., go sit on the couch that is far away from me)
  • C kissing anything and everything. The latest object of his affection? Chewbacca from his Star Wars ABCs book.
  • C learning to dress himself, which usually means 5 minutes of him running around in his diaper while we struggle to get his shirt over his oversized head.
  • J sitting up. Well, sitting up for 10 seconds and then slowly listing one direction or the other. She's getting there though.
  • J adoring her brother. The girl can't stop smiling whenever C walks into the room. I am sure this will end when they start sharing toys.
OK, I know only friends and family read my blog, but I am trying to avoid using my kids' full names. Is that just irrational paranoia? Does posting their pictures just cancel it out? Is "irrational paranoia" redundant? Thoughts?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One Appendix and Many Brain Cells Lighter

Last weekend, we headed to the Seattle area for my niece-in-law's graduation party, excited to see Bill's extended family. Before leaving, we'd waffled about whether to stay in town, as I had a bad stomachache. We decided to stock up on Mylanta and Tums and give it a go, but conditions did not improve on the 3-hour drive up. In fact, I'd also developed a pesky side-stitch, which I then attributed to my lack of ability to breathe normally because of my stomachache. Clearly, I am no doctor.

When we got to the party, I struggled to chase my son around, wincing when I picked him up. I was grateful when my daughter was ready to eat, because that meant I could finally sit down. Sweet relief. Standing up again brought such pain that I was forced to walk with my torso tilted forward at a 15-degree angle.

Finally, I got Bill to call it a day, and we headed back to his grandma's house, where I balled up on the couch. Remarkably, it took us a good 12 hours of this nonstop pain to think to look it up on the Internet. Dr. Google's diagnosis: appendicitis. I was still skeptical, but despite my fear of going to the hospital only to be told I have bad gas, we headed to Highline Medical CenterWe chose Highline because of its proximity to Bill's grandma's house; we chose wrong.

I am not even going to go through the entire list of what went wrong at the hospital. It ranged from the nurses not knowing how to read records, to a faulty blood-pressure machine, to disagreement over how soon I could safely nurse my daughter (yikes!). I felt as though I was being Punk'd. The only thing that I am *pretty* sure went right is the surgery itself. So far, I have been healing well, and have shown no signs of missing any other organs (though, strangely, there are no stitches on the side where my appendix used to reside ... hmm).

After 36 hours of these hijinks, we headed home, where I continued my recovery. The pain subsided in a couple of days, but the anesthesia hangover lasted days longer. I slept for hours on end, unable to work or take care of my kids. Bill really stepped up and took over as Mr. Mom, earning himself a guilt-free pass to CEDIA in September. Today I am almost fully recovered, though I am still not allowed to carry anything heavy (e.g. my son).

The lessons here? Never leave town with a stomachache, and research your hospital. If the emergency room is empty on a Saturday night, or the nurses indirectly blame you for the poor care because you came in on the weekend (true story), run away and don't look back.

(Sidenote: I emailed customer service at the hospital, and they have diligently followed up.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Give and Take ... But Mostly Give

Not my Prius
This morning I went to Maplewood Coffee, drank two cups of coffee, and read. Alone. Entire articles in a real magazine made out of paper. It was truly the highlight of my week.

Of course, the politically correct thing to say here would be that seeing my son do this or daughter do that was really the highlight of my week. But after day after day of just trying to find time to take a shower, carving out 45 minutes to do nothing but be selfish was honestly the best thing I did this week.

We parents of young children do nothing but give and give and expect nothing in return; the unconditional love of our children should be enough, right? We wake up at the crack of dawn after a night of broken sleep, give all of our time to our kids, and then go to work and give (well, sell) our time to our employers. We then return home to give and give again until the kids finally go to bed, at which point we give in the form of preparing for the next day of giving. It's exhausting, all this give and no take.

So this morning I decided to take, and it was good. That 45 minutes was what I needed to recharge and be the mom my kids need me to be, and not the one fighting back the urge to run out of the house screaming. I made a resolution to schedule this "me" time every week, whether that takes the form of a quick run or reading time at the coffee shop. It doesn't have to be a whole day off, or some big spa excursion. Just a few minutes to remind myself that I am more than just mom. I will be a better mother for it.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Working Moms and Quality Over Quantity

Does it ever get any easier?

This morning, I couldn't let my little girl go. I'm pretty sure she was super-glued to my hip, her chubby little hands around my neck. I knew she would be OK, that she would forget me as soon as I left her sight, but would I be OK?

As a parent to two small children, having to work is a blessing and a curse. I don't mind work--in fact, sometimes I look forward to Mondays as an end to a chaotic, exhausting weekend. I like talking to adults, eating lunch by myself, and using the bathroom on my own schedule (what a luxury!). I like that I can contribute to our household income.

The stats on working moms in 2011
But when my son says "Mommy, play?" as I am rushing to get out the door, my heart breaks. When I have to put my daughter down because I can't possibly get my stuff together with one hand, I am flooded with guilt. Guilt that I leave them with virtual strangers in a germ factory 40 hours a week. Guilt that I am missing their firsts and their lasts. But mostly guilt that I am not equipped to be a stay-at-home mom, and this is the best situation I can give them to maintain our collective sanity.

As much as I fantasize about not working, that fantasy usually involves afternoon pedicures and leisurely mornings at the coffee shop--not tantrums and diapers and endless pleas for snacks. I just can't do that 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Not to mention, working puts me on a level playing field with my husband. When he gets home from work, he knows that I, too, recently got home from work, and we are equally responsible for childcare. If I stayed at home, I'd be eager to thrust the kids at him and head for the hot tub.

Most important, though, is the fact that I really, really love seeing my kids when I pick them up at daycare. I relish the 2.5 hours between pickup and bedtime that I get to spend with them, as chaotic as that time is. Yes, sometimes I want to pull my hair out, trying to prepare dinner and watch them at the same time, but it's not out of exhaustion from being with them all day; it's because I just want to be with them and not cooking dinner.

I have several friends who love being at home with their kids, and have made a wonderful life of it. I have other friends who miss work terribly. So if you're a new mom weighing whether to go back to work or not, there is no right answer--only a right-for-you answer.

Friday, May 18, 2012

In Defense of Defensive Cycling

In response to the recent death of Kathryn Rickson, I'd first like to say how awful I feel for her family and friends. I can't imagine what they are going through. I just know that every time my husband leaves on his bike for the traffic-heavy commute to work, my heart races a bit, and I wait for confirmation he made it to work. I've seen drivers acting as though they own the road, sometimes yelling out their windows for me to get out of their way. I've been threatened by a driver for giving her a look when she parked in the bike lane. I even ran into a car once as it cut me off in the bike lane, resulting in an ankle strain and fried nerves on my part. It's a scary world out there for us bike commuters, and we put our lives at risk every time we head out the door.

A bike box like the one at the
intersection where Kathryn Rickson died
On the other hand, we cyclists carry a lot of responsibility for whether we make it to our destination in one piece. We can't ever let our guards down. A bike lane is a wonderful thing, allowing us some security that we are protected from normal traffic, but a bike lane doesn't protect us from human nature.

In the case of Rickson's death, there is a chance the truck driver just didn't see her. Maybe he looked, but she was in his blind spot. Maybe she was going faster than he thought. Whatever happened, I am sure Rickson isn't the only one whose life was ruined.

A 140-pound person is no match for a compact car, let alone a 30,000-pound truck. That is just the nature of the beast; no matter what our legal rights are as cyclists, fast-moving metal boxes will always win in a fight. And the easiest way to get hurt or killed is to assume a driver has seen you. The point is, some of the onus is on us cyclists to ride defensively.

I really feel for Rickson's family, especially her parents, who lost a daughter who had a long life ahead of her. But I hope cyclists will not react by persecuting motorists and truck drivers as a group, but instead focus on what can be done to increase bike safety--including a better, safer infrastructure for cyclists, as well as defensive-cycling education.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quality Time

"Mommy run!" giggled my son.

I was in a denim skirt, and I didn't think it would shed water very well, but run I did. I ran through the very edge of the sprinkler's reach instead of right through the middle. To C, it was all the same--total comedy.

I dubbed yesterday Mommy-Son Day. My only agenda was to spend as much time with my 22-month-old boy as possible, time that has been hard to come by since his little sister was born in January, and since I went back to work.

We started the day off with a trip to the zoo to see the lions (off exhibit) and maybe the giraffes (also off exhibit). We found success with the elephants, who were outside basking in the sun, and C was proud to yell "eh-punts!" to everyone passing the exhibit. Mostly, C just wanted to run around, and paid little attention to the animals. I think C was just happy to have me to himself, regardless of where were were or what we were doing.

After lunch and a long, well earned nap, C woke up ready to go back outside. I needed to water the garden, so I happily agreed to laze around the backyard while C ran around. Well, as anyone with a toddler knows, lazing around was not to be had. C discovered that sprinklers are fun AND cooling, and simply must be enjoyed by all, including his reluctant mother.

C ran circles around the raised bed, soaking his fresh shirt, shorts, and leather shoes. He laughed non-stop, and begged me to run with him. So I did. And in the process, I realized how much I had forgotten about childhood--that running barefoot through sprinklers is really, really fun. That not caring how wet you get, or whether you might step on something unappetizing, was par for the course at age 2.

I also discovered a few things about C during our day together: He likes to push the stroller, which I'd never seen him do up until yesterday. He is generally happy and easy to please as long as he has my full attention and freedom to run. He is happy to wear his hat and sunscreen if it means more time outside. He will take off without warning, and runs surprisingly fast.

Life has been hectic since C's little sister entered our world, and our attention has been spread thin, but yesterday I vowed to myself to always make some one-on-one time with my kids at every opportunity. While sometimes it seems the spit-up and tantrum years will never end, I do not want to miss a single moment.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Yes, I Am Mom Enough: Why Attachment Parenting Isn't for Me

Anyone who has turned on the TV or computer in the past day has seen the latest Time Magazine cover, which shows a mom breastfeeding her toddler son, who is standing on a chair. The picture has sparked a lot of controversy among mothers and non-mothers alike, bringing to light two issues: the public display of a woman's breast, and the breastfeeding of a boy nearing kindergarten age.

Feeding my hours-old daughter
On the first issue, I applaud both the magazine and the brave mother on its cover. Yes, Time's motive was likely to spark the very controversy it did, thus increasing newsstand sales, but it also shed light on an issue that all breastfeeding mothers confront at one point in their breastfeeding careers: hide the hooters or let them shine? Breastfeeding is one of the greatest privileges of being a mother. It helps form an unbreakable bond between mother and child, one that no one else can experience. Breastfeeding is also the most natural act, and therefore should never be a source of embarrassment. The breasts (men, cover your ears) are designed solely to feed, despite what you see in the Victoria's Secret ads.

Some people take a different stance.

"Thank you for covering up," one waitress told me as I fed my daughter under a nursing cover. "Some women just let them hang out, and the men at the bar get all riled up."

I didn't know what to say. Here was a 20-something waitress who, by the looks of her narrow waist, had never had a child. I could get angry, and tell her all women have the right to breastfeed in public, covered or not. After all, I just chose to cover up because I am never one to want attention from random people. Or I could nod and smile and brush it off, knowing that I was only perpetuating the idea that breastfeeding is something that should be kept concealed by covering up my own breasts up.

It's the other part of the Time Magazine picture that really raised hackles: the breastfeeding of the woman's toddler son.

I have two children under two. With the first, I went back to work full time at three months. With the second, I went back to a part-time job at three months. In both instances, I spent meant countless hours of quality time in a locked conference room with my friend Medela Pump in Style. I had to work, and I wanted my children to have breastmilk, so it was the only option. 

However, I know I can't sustain the pumping thing forever, and my youngest may eventually join the formula-fed crowd. If I could skip the window of time where formula is the only option besides breastmilk, I would be elated. But even if I were a stay-at-home mom with the flexibility to breastfeed full-time, I cannot see myself breastfeeding past a year. My mind can't get past the awkwardness of feeding a child who could theoretically ask for the breast and lift up my shirt. This is just my issue. I do honestly believe that breast is best, to a point. 

Parents who follow the theories of attachment parenting believe that kids should be on the breast as long as they want to; that is, the child decides when to wean. They also believe that children should sleep in the same bed as their parents, that they should be "worn" (e.g. in a sling) instead of put in a stroller, and that they should never be left to cry. 

I don't fully buy into these ideas, as I believe they detract from a child's independence and self-reliance. I also believe they can lead to a lack of an authoritative role for the parents. Not to mention, sleeping with two kids in the bed could drive a literal and figurative wedge into my marriage. Even if I did believe in the theories of attachment parenting, it just isn't practical for most working parents, and it doesn't work for me.

But, I do not judge those who live by these rules. I have friends who were raised this way and turned out fine. Parenting is a series of decisions, and all of us parents do what we think is right for our children at any given time. Motherhood is the hardest job I have ever had, and I struggle every day to do what is right, and if anyone ever tried to challenge that, you'd see another side of me come out.

That being said, as uncomfortable as I would be feeding my walking, talking son in public, I don't fault the woman on the cover of time. She is doing what she believes is right for her son, and no one has the right to judge her for that.

So more power to the woman on the Time cover, who simply put on display what nature intended. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Runkeepin' it Real

The score is 2-1, Andersons. We're off to a good start.

On April 30, my sister proposed a friendly challenge between the team of her and her wife, and the team of me and my husband. The goal is to work out as many times as possible in the month, with the winning team earning a loser-sponsored dinner at the end of the month.

The rules:

  • Each workout must be at least 20 minutes long
  • Each workout earns one point, whether it's 20 minutes or 60 minutes
  • Walking counts, but the intent must be to work out--not take a leisurely stroll

Me in my previous life ...
Now, you might be thinking 20 minutes is not very long. Exactly. Our mantra is "no excuses" (a la Biggest Loser).  I have two kids under two, a busy part-time job, a fledgling freelance writing career, and a house to maintain. My days of 5-hour bike rides are over. I am more likely to get out and exercise if I know I only have to squeeze in 20 minutes to earn a point. Every little bit helps to whittle away this spare tire.

How are we logging our workouts? We use Runkeeper, a web-based app that helps you attain your fitness goals. You can use Runkeeper to track your running, biking, and swimming workouts, as well as other sports, such as skiing and hiking. It even lets you track workouts done inside, such as on the elliptical.

Do you need peer pressure to motivate you to get off the couch? You can create Street Teams in Runkeeper, which enables a Facebook-like social experience, complete with status updates. You can also search for other Runkeeper users nearby and possibly reach out to them to keep you motivated. Runkeeper integrates with Facebook, as well, so you can post your latest fitness endeavors for the world to see.

And the piece de resistance: Runkeeper also has a mobile interface for iPhone and Android, which uses GPS to track your mileage as you work out. Your phone will call out your splits, based on the settings you've selected (be sure to turn down the volume if you don't want people to hear you just ran a mile in 15 minutes). I've found the GPS to be kind of testy, but that could just be my phone. For the most part, mobile use has been seamless.

There is a free and a paid version of Runkeeper. I have only used the free version, which has been plenty for me, but I understand that the paid version offers "real-time" workout tracking. As though running more slowly than most people can walk weren't humiliating enough, I could potentially broadcast my workouts to my friends, some of whom have a laundry list of athletic endeavors that put me to shame.

Long story short, I am looking forward to the dinner Bill and I will so deserve at the end of the month. No excuses!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vegan Orzo Salad

I just made a vegan "salad" out of what I could find in the refrigerator and cupboards, and it turned out great! I would have liked to find a whole-grain pasta, but like I said, I had to work with what I had. I also didn't take any pictures; my growling tummy won out.

Here you go ...
  • Half a box of orzo
  • Avocado, diced
  • Roasted red peppers (from the jar), chopped
  • Walnuts, chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Olive oil
  • White balsamic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried herbs

Cook the orzo to al dente, drain, and rinse in cold water until it's cool. Toss with the other ingredients and vinaigrette, and voila! Yummy, semi-healthy (albeit a bit fattening) vegan salad.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Epi Guilt

(To the new-mama friend who may be reading this, I am so happy for you and your beautiful son. I do not begrudge you the natural childbirth you so wanted. It simply brought up feelings of sadness, guilt, and regret around my daughter's birth.)

I recently received an email from a friend who'd just had her baby naturally. The email was from her doula, describing the birth. It was such a beautiful story to read, having gone through childbirth relatively recently. Then I came across the part where the doula expressed relief at my friend's not choosing an epidural.

My heart sunk.

Image from Epidural Without Guilt.
My daughter, J, was born in 7 hours, start to finish. She was late and induced. Compared to my son's birth, hers was a cakewalk. We checked in at 6am, and the Pitocin drip started at 8. I progressed quickly and asked for an epidural around noon. It was downhill from there. I pushed for only 27 minutes, and my beautiful girl was born around 3.

Maybe nature has erased my memories of pain, but there is a big part of me that wishes I had "sucked it up" and gotten through the strong, quick labor without drugs. My husband reminds me that the outcome is what is important--our healthy, happy little girl. But that's not what society seems to focus on, and I can't seem to let it go.

I live in the Pacific Northwest, a hotbed of everything organic, local, or home-grown (preferably all three). This mindset extends to childbirth. My friends and I all hoped for natural births with our children--all born in the past 2 years--and about half of us succeeded. When asked about their experiences, the faces of those friends who'd had an epidural fell. They felt as though they'd failed somehow, despite their healthy children.

A quick Google search will reveal dozens of forums centered on the same topic--epidural guilt. Mother after mother trying to justify why she needed an epidural, as though justification is needed. We don't ask root-canal patients to justify their pain relief. Yes, childbirth is natural, not clinical, but technology has provided us moms with a way to really enjoy the process rather than praying for it to end. And let's be clear--even with an epidural, childbirth is no walk in the park. It still requires a woman to dig deep to find every ounce of strength to get that baby out.

So what's with the guilt? Dr. Gilbert J. Grant wrote a book called Epidural Without Guilt, which supports the idea that epidurals are safe, and debunks the myths about their effects on labor and breastfeeding. His research shows that epidurals can in fact reduce the risk of post-partum depression--something I was at high risk for anyway.

I am not convinced that the facts are in about the effect of epidurals on labor, and whether they lead to more cesarean sections. I do know that, in both of my experiences, the end result was two amazing, healthy, breastfed children (more on formula guilt later ...). The same goes for the friends whose babies were born "under the influence" of epidurals.

We are all strong women, having gone through 9 months of pregnancy followed by endless hours of childbirth. So if you're reading this, trying to convince yourself that you did the right thing by seeking pain relief, know this: no pain, no gain does not apply here. :-)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Nearly 22 months ago, my reality turned on its head. As I welcomed my son into my arms that early morning in July, I bid farewell to the flat-bellied, single-chinned, 9-hours-of-sleep getting triathlete I once was, and ushered in weeks of wild emotions, months of exhaustion, and years of playdates and zoo excursions.

Little did I know that having only one child was a relative walk in the park. In hindsight, my son was a much-loved accessory to our semi-normal lives; we still went out to dinner, to barbecues, on road trips. They just became a little more hectic. As long as we were home for naps, we could generally do what we wanted.

January 2012: Enter child No. 2, stage left.

Life became a series of critical, life-altering decisions: Which child is crying louder? Who is hungrier? Which child needs a bath more? Whose diaper is closer to overflowing? Who will cause the most damage if I leave him/her alone while I go to the bathroom (hint: not the newborn)?

Now that I am back at work and the kids are in daycare, these decisions are largely left to their caregivers. I struggle with feelings of guilt for going back to work (and enjoying it), but I am learning to accept this reality and these feelings as a normal part of parenthood in 2012. I created this blog to give voice to these thoughts, and hope to share some of my ideas and experiences with balancing work, family, health, and life.