Big Things

This past weekend I attended my annual fitness convention, Dallas Mania. It was my sixth year to refresh and re-energize for my career.

I remember the first time I attended Mania. I was in the best shape of my life as Group Fitness Coordinator for Baylor University, but I was also the most insecure. I viewed the other trainers and instructors in the room as competition, comparing myself against them. I didn’t intend to, it just happened. Once I had Finn, those comparisons didn’t matter anymore. I was so proud to have made it through a really tough pregnancy and a tougher first several months with my son. I was a fit mom; I didn’t care who was “fitter.” This year I wasn’t exactly in the best shape…the heaviest I’ve ever been, actually. I thought maybe I’d get all weird and comparative, but I didn’t.

Cass and I taking BodyShred from Jillian Michaels

I was strong and able to keep up–just so grateful for the opportunity to be there. Joey’s mom came to help him with the kids…thank you so much, Becky!

At a break in my schedule, I took a book out to the pool terrace and plopped down into a lounge chair, sore and exhausted.

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I’ve written about Restless before…I’ll be honest, I just don’t read for any length of time these days. I’ve started about five books, but finished zero.

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Anyway, I was challenged by Jennie Allen to dream big and trust God. Not to worry about the “how,” or about what people would think and how they might question my motives. If I feel called to something “bigger,” I should have the faith to step out.

I don’t really know what that “big dream” is yet or how it will play out, but I think it involves fitness and writing and speaking and my son who can’t walk. I closed my eyes, allowing the hot Texas wind to dry my sweat, praying and thanking the Lord for my beautiful, imperfect life.

Later in the day, THE Jillian Michaels was our keynote speaker. The Next Level girls (Caitlyn, Cassie and Megan) saved me a spot four rows from the stage!

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When asked about her road to success, Jillian replied, “There’s a difference between thinking you’re better than everyone else and thinking you’re deserving [of something bigger]. Saying, ‘Why not me?’.” I think it takes a lot of bravery to act upon your dreams. It involves risk, and cowards don’t like risk.

I drove home that evening alone, listening to a crackling radio because my phone was almost dead. Disappointed with the cheesy songs I heard on the Christian radio station, I turned it off and asked the Lord to speak to me. I began to feel that same pull toward something bigger…dreams of making a difference. Then I prayed for the energy to be Finn and Paisley’s mom and prepared myself to come home to a crying baby.

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This is what she thinks of her 2 month sticker...

I don’t want to jinx myself, but Paisley Dawn has been doing so well lately. She’s still a fussy baby, but she’s not crying incessantly in the evenings anymore and is much easier to pacify. She had her 2 month check up today and the doctor said she’s more like a 4 month old physically…she has rolled from stomach to back, can hold her entire chest up for minutes in tummy time, and bears weight on her legs.

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She and I had the best time smiling and cooing at each other tonight while Joey is at work. I’m falling in love with her; dreaming big things for my girl and excited to see the little lady she’ll become.

Baby Weight

My master’s thesis at Baylor University was on Postpartum Obesity.  Before ever even planning for children, I was terrified of not losing the baby weight. The idea of my body ballooning and then deflating was daunting, especially because I was entering a career in which my body is my “equipment.”

The research I found was clear:

If you gain more than the recommended 20 to 25 pounds during pregnancy, or if you don’t lose the extra weight within six months of delivery, you are statistically likely to carry an extra 20 pounds, 10 years later. If you are overweight to begin with, that number is even higher. The six-month window for losing pregnancy weight seems to be critical. (Reichman, Today Health)

There’s debate about the recommended amount of weight gain. I believe 20-35 pounds is more accurate.

 

As a new or new-again mom, you’ve got a lot against you when it comes to weight loss.

-Sleep deprivation. This causes hormonal imbalances (of ghrelin and leptin) that can actually make you gain weight.

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-Stress. Case in point: U.S. interrogators blast the sound of crying babies to “break” Iraqi prisoners. As stress increases, so does the stress hormone cortisol, which inflates the sugar levels in your bloodstream.

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-Super nice people bring you meals. I don’t know about you, but if dessert is provided, I eat it. And my friends are all such dang good cooks. ;)

-Recovery. If you had a rough delivery or if you have c-sections like me, your recovery time is six weeks minimum. Sometimes moms are in physical pain all six of those weeks. Who wants to exercise when you’re miserable?

-Selflessness. This time is not about you. It’s about the new addition to your family. You’re giving of yourself by the moment, and it’s easy to feel guilty taking “mommy time.”

 

I thought it might be helpful to share my experience with postpartum weight loss. Keep in mind that I exercise for a living…so it’s not fair, really. It will be much more difficult to fit in workouts (though NOT impossible) if you aren’t in the fitness industry.

My story:

I gained 28 pounds with Finn. Bed rest for first 4 months and able to do light exercise for last 5 months. Lost all but 3 pounds…3 pounds that weren’t necessary to lose.

I gained 37 pounds with Paisley. Vigorous exercise throughout pregnancy–including running for first 5 months and weight lifting and teaching spinning until the week before her delivery. I’ve lost 22 of those pounds to date (2 months).

My body is very different the second time around. I’m sure this isn’t the case for every mom, but it has been for me. I’ve got cellulite in places I never thought possible. My ribs expanded and my stomach is not deflating as quickly as it did with Finn. My wedding ring is snug.

My Method of Weight Loss:

1. Walk! Walk fast, walk hills. Get moving! This is something you can do with baby and it’s relatively pain-free.

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2. Limit carbs and desserts/sweets of any kind. I only allow them on the weekend. And now that I’m not eating dairy or caffeine, desserts aren’t as much fun anymore anyway.

3. Use a calorie counting app like My Fitness Pal or Lose It!. I don’t normally count calories, but when I’m trying to lose baby weight, it’s very helpful.

4. Once cleared from your doc, get uncomfortable. Work out hard. Sweat. Spike your heart rate. You’ll have to work twice as hard as you did pre-baby to see the same results.

I ran stadiums with a few clients this morning. Whew! Out. Of. Shape.

I ran stadiums with a few clients this morning. Whew! Out. Of. Shape.

Use the intense workouts to rid yourself of stress and frustration. It’s amazing how refreshed you can feel from a brisk walk as opposed to a cat nap. Or use the investment of your sweet new baby as motivation.

Cycling has been easy on my stomach.

Cycling has been easy on my stomach.

I work out 6 days/week. Teaching TRX, Spinning, and Kickboxing. Walking hills daily, occasionally running…thank you, colicky baby Paisley! ;) I’m not doing abdominal exercises yet, however. A stitch popped a couple weeks ago and it just doesn’t feel right yet.

5. Hire a trainer. They will track your progress with measurements other than the scale. I hired my boss and friend, Angie, to train me after both babies. She motivates me and I don’t have to think, I just do. I’ve had the privilege of training at least a dozen women postpartum and helped them reach their pre-baby goals…some even became fitter than before baby!

7. Find a pair of jeans or pants that you’d like to fit into again. Not from high school. From before baby. And try them on every week or so to track your progress. Jeans don’t lie.

8. Flood yourself with water. Especially if you’re breast feeding. Buy a nice water bottle (I like glass ones!).

9. Speaking of breast feeding, do it if you can. Aside from the benefits to baby, you’ll burn at least 500 calories/day. Release yourself of any guilt if you can’t or choose not to. No judgment.

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10. Give yourself grace. This is by far my hardest step. I feel pressure to become fit again almost immediately–probably because of my job and probably because I’m type-A. This is unrealistic. Set realistic goals. Mine are: 1) Lose the weight in 6 months (Christmas Day exactly!) . 2) Fit into old jeans when it’s cold enough to wear jeans. October? 2) Be back to “normal,” if not stronger/fitter by Paisley’s first birthday.

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Hiking at about 4 weeks.

Hope this helps! Feel free to ask questions; I’d love to help. I consider it my calling.

The Driveway

I went back to work this week. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it until I arrived in the studio Monday morning. I love my job…I’ve told you that before. It’s actually a de-stressing environment. I think stay-at-home moms are superstars.

I’ve been off dairy now for three weeks to try quell Paisley’s colic. Kinda helped. Not really. I’ll switch to formula soon if I have to. I quit caffeine for about the past six days and it’s made quite a difference.

Until today. Today was terrible. I can’t even sugar-coat it.

Life goes on, of course–we took Finn to therapy where he’s learning to use the RGO to walk.

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He’s incredible, really. We returned library books. Went on a walk. Finn and I washed the cars. Played trains (thanks, Eli!). Took baths…all to the tune of Paisley’s crying. I think there was maybe an hour total today when she wasn’t red-faced mad. 

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I paced the driveway for the last 20 minutes. Joey is doing some college ministry thing this evening, so I’m solo. I bopped barefoot, up and down the cracking concrete in snakelike rows like a soldier, battling the war inside her. Praise Jesus for the breeze from the south, drying our sweat. I prayed to the Father with furrowed brow as neighbors drove past. “Lord give us peace and rest. Peace and rest. Peace and rest..” She finally relented.

This is hard stuff. People told Joey and I that marriage would be hard. Unbearable at times; that we’d have to choose daily to continue despite the struggle. We have our issues, for sure, but I could never relate to that sentiment. Marriage honestly hasn’t been that hard for us.

This, however, is hard. I’m forced to choose by the minute to bite my tongue and dispel my anxiety, anger and frustration.

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Maybe you can’t relate; maybe your babies were content and snuggly. Finn sure was. If that’s the case for you, thank the Lord. Right now. Thank Him. Because I wouldn’t wish these “witching hours” on my worst enemy. They make you feel insane.

Now, I know we have friends who would relieve us, and we’ve reached out a few times when desperate. But honestly, I feel like a wuss. I have friends with three and four kids to juggle. Friends who’s husbands are away for months at a time. And I’m sorry, but I’m just not calling anyone last minute on a Friday night to come “hang out with me while my child screams.” Maybe it’s my pride, but I feel like we should be able to do this on our own. I want to be able to calm my child…it feels like a mother’s right, you know? If anyone should be able to soothe their baby, it’s momma.

She's had a few really sweet moments. I know this is the baby she wants to be.

She’s had a few really sweet moments. I know this is the baby she wants to be.

My doll.

My doll.

I want my home to be a place of rest. Calm. Comfort. Maybe that sounds boring to you, but that’s home to me. Somewhere my family feels safe; like we can just be. We had finally found a groove with Finn, but now our routine, our schedule and our sleep patterns are uprooted. My diet is restricted and my housekeeping is pathetic. Releasing control has always been difficult for me, probably since I was in the womb. But there is no other option. So here I am, palms open, relinquishing control once again. We can do this…one deep breath at a time.

Gotta go…she’s starting again.

Big Brother Finn

We get asked frequently how Finn is doing with a new sister at home. He was very possessive and insecure the first week, but has been a doll ever since. I think once we fell back into a routine he felt more stable, as we all do.

He asks to hold Paisley at least once a day. When she cries (which happens often), he advises us to “Change diaper.” Good idea, Finn. I wish it were that easy. Anytime she makes noise–a grunt or gurgle or fart–he says, “Paisley tooted!” It’s become quite the popular family joke.

We went on a hike last weekend at Lake Arcadia and then had lunch at Pops on Route 66. So much fun; and the best burger I’ve had in a very long time!

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I’ll be so sad when Finn doesn’t fit in our hiking backpack anymore. How will we hike/climb/camp/go on walks together as a family? I know there are ways; it just won’t be the same.

GoKids, our daycare, moved locations. We were apprehensive because Finn doesn’t do very well with change, but he loves it!

Finn with Pack Pack and Chair

Finn with Pack Pack and Chair

It’s a gorgeous, HUGE facility south of Highway 9 with wide open, tiled hallways for Finn to get into trouble. A couple issues, however: this ramp is Finn’s only entrance into and out of school.

 

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Holy deltoid workout! It’s impossible for Finn to climb himself, so we have to push him up while carrying Paisley’s carrier and the kids’ bags. Quite the workout. I’ve had nightmares of Finn flying down it, head over wheels. Another problem is that the playground (like 99% of all playgrounds) is not wheelchair accessible. It’s in a grassy yard. They acknowledge this and are starting a fund soon to get turf or slab out there for Finn to be able to play with kids his age. I’ll let you know when that begins in case you want to contribute!

Things have changed for me. I just purchased Day Out With Thomas tickets online and I am SO EXCITED. Like pee-in-your-pants excited.

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I never thought I’d be giddy over a tank engine and his “cheeky” friends. I purchased ADA approved seats on the train and the event is wheelchair accessible. Hooray! Finn will not be able to contain himself.

One of his many gifts, Finn is a fantastic musician like his daddy. He plays the drums with perfect syncopation and rhythm. I’m so impressed. I could not imitate him if I tried. Tongue out for concentration and flair.

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Finn seeps joy into our exhausting days. He’s so smart and polite and sensitive and funny. Gosh; he’s funny! He has weird little quirks like every kid, but we are so blessed by him. Especially during this grueling newborn phase–we’re grateful Finn hasn’t made it more difficult. He is truly a miracle. Paisley is one lucky little sis.

 

Namaste

I inhaled deep the humid, steamy air and exhaled stress. Tears trickled down my cheeks onto the yoga mat beneath me. I let the darkness swallow me whole, praying for the Lord to give me strength and renew my energy. The lyrics swirling around the room couldn’t have been more true: “It’s been a long week. It’s been a long day.”

I bought a one month yoga Groupon and went to my first class last night. Wounded abdomen and wobbly legs, I balanced and stretched, manipulating my tired body. I needed this. Honestly, I felt guilty taking time to myself, leaving Joey alone with the kids. But I needed this.

This is not me. This is a stock photo. But if I had awkwardly asked the person the mat in front of me to take my picture while in child's pose, this is what I would have looked like. If my hair were blonder. And the lights were on...

This is not me. This is a stock photo. But if I had awkwardly asked the person on the mat in front of me to take my picture while in child’s pose, this is what I would have looked like. If my hair were blonder. And the lights were on…

After my Hear Her Roar post, Joey came home last Sunday afternoon with a fever and chills. He was miserable, and diagnosed with strep the next day. His 102 degree body went to bed for two whole days. And I went into survival mode. I thought many times about single moms and stay-at-home moms. It blows my mind how they keep their cool and raise decent human beings. I applaud them.

There’s something inherently disturbing about a baby crying. It begs rescue.

Paisley is irritable most times she’s awake. We’re working on it. We’ve tried all kinds of tablets and drops and acid reflux meds. She may just have colic. She may have a dairy intolerance. She hates to be set down. She’s gassy. She’s a girl.

I want so badly to rescue her, but I’m helpless. It feels awful to not be able to satiate my baby. Although it took effort at times, Joey and I could always find a way to pacify Finn. But sometimes (for hours) I can’t do or find anything to make Paisley happy. Last night I tried for an hour and a half; used every trick in my book.

Rare, sweet moments.

Rare, sweet moments.

My confidence is broken. I just want my girl to be happy. I want to fix it. Oh, it could be much worse. There are bigger problems than a crying baby. This, too, shall pass.

Yesterday, I released the expectations I have for myself as a mom into the steamy yoga studio. I breathed deep, renewing some feeble strength. I bowed my head with pretzel legs. Hands to heart.  Namaste: “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.” Namaste. Holy Spirit, fill me.

Hear Her Roar

Shakespeare must have had Paisley in mind when he penned:

“Though she be but little, she is fierce.”

Everything she does is loud. She farts like an adolescent boy. She belches with force. She blows out her diapers. She demands her next feeding. And unfortunately she cries bloody murder. She can go from asleep to roaring in less than sixty seconds.

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Finn was not this way. He barely cried despite eight surgeries before his first birthday. I’m beginning to agree with Joey that “girls are just drama.”

Who, me?!

Who, me?!

Anyone who says the newborn stage is easy is lying. Ly-ing. Don’t believe their posts or Instagram pictures. It’s a sham.

One month!

One month!

New (or veteran) Momma, please don’t think for one minute that you’re alone in this. It’s just hard. Parenting a newborn (and a disabled toddler) is pushing me to the brink of desperation. I’ve raised my voice, cussed a few times, huffed and puffed, gone outside for some fresh air on a number of occasions, and prayed hundreds of silent (or sometimes loud) prayers asking the Lord for His help.

Paisley was so laid back her first two weeks.

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Either this past week was a phase or she was fooling us all along. Baby girl struggles with acid reflux, is full of gas, and sometimes decides she’ll stay up all night long. Yesterday was the definition of “colicky.” I remember hearing about this tragic condition for newborns, pitying the parents of such a monster. Well, yesterday I was that mom. There is no “crying it out” for Paisley. She escalates until she is choking. Then Finn begins crying, sad for his sister and irritated with the noise. Then I begin crying…

I have no control.

Because she is my second child, I know this chapter of Paisley’s baby book is short. The newborn phase is fleeting. She WILL sleep eventually. We WILL sleep again one day. She will not cry all day every day. She will smile. There will be–and have been–good days/nights and bad days/nights. Last night she slept five hours at a time! A sweet gift from God after yesterday’s madness.

My prayer for today:

Jesus, this is what you’ve called me to for now. Thank you for our gifts, Paisley and Finn. Help me not to rush this newborn phase or wish it away. Help me to be patient, gentle and slow to anger. Give me energy despite my exhaustion. Love my family through me–and in spite of me. Give us rest.

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The Cookie

I hate making salads. I order them at restaurants because I don’t like making them at home myself. I’m a lazy salad-maker. I hate all the veggie chopping and dressing mixing and lettuce washing.

Cooking, I enjoy. Baking, I love. I make a mean hot fudge pie, dark chocolate mousse I would bathe in (thank you, Bread and Wine), delicious chocolate cobbler, and pretty darn awesome chocolate chip cookies–if I do say so myself. Notice something? It’s not dessert to me unless it’s chocolate. Dark chocolate.

Pascha found a frozen roll of my cookie dough in the recesses of her freezer last night. She held it out to me like a kitten in cupped hands. Eyes wide, she said it was “like gold.” My brother, Chad, is working as a chaplain at Yellowstone National Park. I think he washes dishes and works the restaurant cash register or something during the week, but gets to preach on a deck overlooking Old Faithful on the weekends.

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He won’t settle down, marry and get a “real job” like the rest of us normal people. Instead he does cool things like guides Holy Land tours in Israel, teaches Bible courses at a camp in California , and road bikes in the Sequoyah National Forest. Boring. ;)

Mom said Chad has lost 10 pounds this summer because they don’t feed him much at Yellowstone. So this morning I baked him my famous Fluffy Chocolate Chip cookies, packaged them between wax paper and sent them off to Wyoming. Love you, Chad.

I’m going to share my thoughts about the perfect cookie.

First, let’s define what the “perfect cookie” is to me: soft, plump and a little gooey on the inside with a kiss of golden brown crunch on the outside. Fluffy. Not too buttery or sugary or salty. The perfect balance.

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If you like crunchy, flat cookies, you will hate these. Sorry.

My Secrets for the Perfect Cookie:

1. Butter matters. It should be set out on the counter for at least three hours so that it’s softened. Don’t even try to soften it in the microwave. That’s called melting. Melted butter makes for flat cookies. Cool, slightly soft butter makes for yummy cookies.

2. Corn starch makes cookies fluffy.

3. Buy good chocolate chips. Ina Garden is one of my favorite Food Network personalities. She says elitist foodie things like “use only good olive oil.” “Cook with good wine.” “Don’t ever use imitation vanilla extract.” But when it comes to chocolate, I agree with her. I buy Ghirardelli dark chocolate chips. Guittard are also fabulous. Dark chocolate contains fiber, minerals, antioxidants, lowers blood pressure and risk of heart disease and stimulates brain activity. Yes, please. If you don’t like dark chocolate, try mixing dark with milk or white chocolate to make it sweeter.

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4. Roll your dough into balls before baking. This makes them puffier.

5. Use an Air Bake pan. I see (and taste) a noticeable difference when I use an AirBake pan vs. a roasting or regular pizza/cookie pan. And eww…I don’t like the taste of baking stones.

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6. Put the dough in the fridge for about 5 minutes before baking.

7. Bake at 350 degrees for no longer than 10 min. (using my recipe below)

 

Recipe adapted from one I found on Pinterest. But I only use one stick of butter…can’t justify pulling TWO from the fridge. Sorry. I bake for 9 minutes exactly. Not 8. Not 10.

 

Take your rings off for dough rolling purposes.

Take your rings off for dough rolling purposes.

Yum. Freeze into a log for later or share with friends. You’re welcome.