Monday, September 29, 2014

Whole 30: reentry and results

Okay I promise I'll shut up about the Whole 30 soon. Really soon. But first I wanted to share some stats and insights.

We officially ended our Whole 30 on Saturday evening (it was a vigil feast, I suppose you could say) in anticipation of Sunday. So it was a Whole 29. We ended up at the Rio because we are a. predictable and b. Mexican food is worth it.

Here's the weird part: the margaritas were good, but they weren't that good. And I only had one. That has never happened before. I only wanted one. And I'm not even pregnant.

So the clear, harsh light of Monday morning has broken and I'm happy? Confused? Resigned? to report that alcohol isn't really worth it. Dairy isn't really worth it. And grains of all varieties? Meh. I'm not really that relieved to have reintroduced anything back into my diet, save for tortilla chips. And even those don't hold the sway over me they once did. So going forward, I don't think it's going to be all that challenging to keep eating paleo most of the time. Not even the 80/20 ratio I was envisioning, but probably something closer to 95/5. I'm serious. And nobody is more surprised than me.

Dave is lactose intolerant and we've known about it for a while, but I'm totally wondering if I am too, now. And that kind of sucks but it's nice to know that if I want to feel really good, I know how to make that happen.

So on to the really exciting stuff (though honestly, feeling this good and clear-headed is surprisingly just as exciting as the weight lost. But I know what you came here to find out):

In 30 days of eating Whole 30 (with two intentional cheats) I lost 12 lbs. I went down one jeans size (and I'm flirting with the next size down). I lost 1 inch from my waist, 1 from my bust, and 2 from my hips. 

Dave lost 11.5 lbs so technically I won, but who's really keeping score? Ahem.

Basically it was a smashing success, and I'll probably keep cooking paleo for our main meals and have a glass of wine or two on the weekends. It's been a total life change for the better, and I'm so relieved to have seen it through to the end. I'll probably do another strict Whole 30 sometime in the future, but for now I'm so excited to have one under my (looser) belt.

Anyone else out there made it through the month of no fun? Feeling surprised about any part of it in particular? Cut any nastiness out of your diet permanently? Fed up with the whole thing and think it's totally overrated? Do tell.

Oh gosh, and here are some pictures. I didn't really take "before" shots because vanity, but oh, lucky you, here's roughly how I looked before our month of fun, courtesy of a 4 year old who always finds the iPhone AND the most flattering angle possible. Thanks, Joey:

And wow-er.
(My little sister calls those our "arm legs." Family heirlooms bestowed on each female in the dynasty.)
And here's me now:

I feel really good. I'm back at pre-Evie weight, but I may have been a tad (ahem, 20 lbs or so) overweight when we conceived her, so I'd love to lose another 10 or 15 lbs. If I don't, no big deal, but I'm definitely going to keep working at it. 

I've also been working out twice a week with a trainer at our gym primarily to tone my core and strengthen my lower back. And by tone I mean dig around and see if there are any intact muscle fibers still connected in that region. It has been hard. But good. And it gives me hope that if we're blessed with another pregnancy or seven in the future, my spine isn't going to give out. 

So there you have it. One Whole 30 done, one whole new perspective on food and nutrition, and one very reformed beer aficionado who now prefers seltzer water. Most of the time.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Meat me at the weekend: the Whole 30 draws to a close

I am going CRAZY trying to gut it out for the last couple days (hours, really) of this Whole 30. Full disclosure folks: I cheated. Twice, by my conscious reckoning.

The first time was on Day 23, last week, after a full morning spent wrestling Evie at Children's hospital when it turned out she needed 5 vials of blood drawn. I think they maaaaaybe got 2.5 ml before her vein blew (what a lovely turn of phrase) and the poor, sweating lab tech solemnly vowed he would rework the math on her orders and make that minuscule amount streeeeeetch to get all the required tests. She fell asleep 4.3 seconds after they pulled the needle out of her arm and I fell open-mounted into a bottle of pinot noir at 6 pm that night. So shoot me.

Ironically, Insatiable. Possibly would have been compliant if blended with gallon of olive oil  in background.
The second time was the night before last, after hearing the news of my grandpa's death (not a shock, but still an emotional day for my family) and fielding phone calls from siblings and cousins all day long. I'm the eldest grandchild and child in my family, so I was tapped to be the official harbinger after my dad delivered the news. I fished a hidden IPA out of the meat drawer (see a pattern here?) at dinner time and what do you know, one sip led to another and before that bottle was gone, I had chased it with a fistful of frozen chocolate contraband fished from the freezer. The punchline is thus: my #1 temptation to stray is always liquid in form, and alcohol renders chocolate irresistible to me.

By far the greatest thing about this past month has been the level of self knowledge gained. I have an infinitely better understanding of why I crave things, of what my "triggers" are, so to speak, and of just how powerful food and alcohol are in their influence. I'm delighted with the weight loss of course, (we'll get to that in a minute) but the self mastery Dave and I have both gained in the dietary realm is priceless.

So first, the good. Absolutely the increased fortitude in the face of brownies and Guinness is at the top of the list. It's also been really fun, oddly enough, to discover things that are entertaining/rewarding/pleasurable that don't involve food or drink. Date nights this past month have been more about chatting and snuggling and reading books and drinking tea at Barnes and Noble until 10 pm and less about dropping $60 and 4,000 calories on fajitas and margs before crashing into bed by 8:45. I think it has been good for our relationship to have to stretch a bit to think of alternatives to the standard dinner/drinks itinerary, and I know it has been good for our budget.

Obviously, the weight loss has been awesome. I don't have final numbers yet because SUNDAY is our official end date and I'm being mildly obedient to the method, but last week I cheated and weighed in to find a very pleasant 9 lbs were missing. I'm also down a jeans size and almost a shirt size-and-a-half. Dave is many notches down on his belts and frankly is looking ridiculous in some of his dress shirts (and super hot in his suits) so I think he has at least a dozen pounds missing from his frame, too.

They love when I selfie.
Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, the energy. I still feel tired in the afternoons but the mornings are like a different person is living in my body. I wake up and feel decent, I can speak in full sentences, and I don't need more than a coffee or two to get things going (and to have them stay going. No more afternoon caffeine cravings!). I also don't stagger into the kitchen screaming for carbohydrates and pushing my kids out of the way to get to the toaster. I still miss the idea of bread but honestly, I'm totally content with the eggs/meat/fruit rotation we're trapped in. It's fine. It's better than fine because it keeps me going till lunch and it really kills the cravings if you never indulge them to begin with.

Our takeaway from this Whole 30 experience can be summed up in one word: moderation. Do I think we'll keep eating Paleo as a rule? Probably. Except when we break the rule. I'm envisioning a 6 days on/1 day off framework that can flex accordingly to account for feast days, cocktail parties and date nights. What I'm not envisioning is adding back grains and dairy into every meal, or even into every day. I'd love to keep our diets at an 80/20 ratio, but we'll have to experiment with adding stuff back in to see how our bodies and our brains respond. I'm not willing to go back to the way I was eating though, or to the power food once had over me. I feel so much more free within this ridiculous framework, and so much more able to institute discipline in other areas of my life. And my kids are eating better.

Now if you'll excuse me I've got to get back to the staring contest I'm having with the box of TJ's sea salt dark chocolate almonds purchased for Sunday's great reawakening. 36 hours to go...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

5 Favorite Denver area thrift stores

(Is five favorites still a thing? I'm so tired, and it seems easier than writing something meaningful or intellectually stimulating, so yay for lists.)

I thought I'd share some of my trade secrets since a couple local readers (hi guys!) asked, so here you have it, my top 5 picks for thrifting in the Mile High city:

1. Goodwill Glendale (behind Super Target and, um, Shotgun Willy's in Glendale. Awful.)

This is the holy grail of the big blue G. A veritable smorgasbord of Target rejects and overstock, and guaranteed to be bursting at the seams with practically the entire displaced population of Mexico if you venture in on a 50% off Saturday in the am. Se hablo espanol. Not even kidding a little bit.

Totally worth the drive for: home goods, furniture (really, really great for furniture. The best I've seen in the whole Denver metro), Target overstock with tags still on and everything, women's shoes, home decor.

2. Saver's Littleton (Littleton Blvd. and Windermere)

My regular stomping grounds. Sign up for a Super Saver card and everything is 30% off on Thursdays. Bring something to donate and receive a 20% off coupon in return. Saver's is like Bed Bath and Beyond in that there is always a coupon you can use and you're an idiot if you don't have one. Seriously, I will bring in like a single outgrown polo shirt and some ratty jammie pants to toss in the bin and receive a lovely little green coupon in return. Simple.

Stokke high chair for $3.00. 
Good for: men's, women's and children's shoes (seriously, I've found multiple pairs of Sperry's, J Crew, Stride Right and Converse), toys (see Lightening McQueen) kitchen ware (pyrex, baking sheets, mixing and serving bowls), art and wall decor, and the odd piece of furniture, women's clothing and kid's clothing. The BEST selection of kid's clothing in town. Children's Place, Crew Cuts, Baby Gap, Carter's, Tea Company, Janie and Jack (occasionally) ... they have a huge selection. I've bought almost the entirety of our boy's wardrobes at this Savers.

3. Saver's Highlands Ranch (C-470 and, um, another street. It's next to Babies R' Us and Lodos)

This location is much nicer and newer than Littleton, but their selection isn't quite as good, at least for kid's clothes. It's still pretty good though. A decent women's selection too, and fantastic books and linens (curtains, fabric, etc.)

4. Goodwill Highland's Ranch (Broadway and County Line)

Another Super Target scrap heap, loaded with Nate Berkus, Dwell Studio and Threshold items still wearing their orange clearance tags, and home to the not-so-occasional set of pristine sheets in various sizes. Also great for curtains, pillows, linens, bedding, lampshades, frames, and some furniture. Their clothing sections are sub par, but their home goods more than make the trip down south worth it.

5. Goodwill (Hampden and I-25)

This is probably the most hit or miss of the bunch, but we did find our family room couch and recliner there for $30 and $35 respectively, and I've found a few other great pieces of furniture there in the past year (IKEA kids' table and chairs, radio flyer tricycle, patio chairs, coffee table). They have a great women's shoe selection as well, and a new toy section that is slightly better priced than going straight to the big box stores. Their seasonal decor (the store's actual decor, not what's for sale) is straight up traumatizing around Halloween (read: now) so consider yourself warned if your kids are sensitive to blood and gore and, um, severed limbs. Joey is still scarred from last year's trip around this time, so I try to avoid taking the kids to this location.

Hope this fuels a fun thrifting weekend for some of my Denver readers. Just leave anything with the initials J. Crew for me, m'kay?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thrifted lately

You guys seemed so intrigued by my uncanny ability to wear other people's discarded clothing and sit on their rejected furniture without gagging, so I thought I'd give you a peep at my fall wardrobe ala Saver's.  Ready?

First up: long chambray tunic, on me, New York and Company, $7.99. Children's place flannel, on Joey, $2.49, Baby Gap sweater, on John Paul, $3.49. Baby Gap jeans, on both boys, $3.99 and 2.99, respectively. Stride Right shoes on John Paul, toddler size 7, $4.00.
Check out Voboril Photography if you're local, her work is stunning (and fast! Some proofs hit FB hours after our shoot)
 Next a tiny tot piece: Children's Place flannel worn by Mr. President, $2.49.

Banana Republic boatneck pullover, with a little bling, $5.99 (this one had literally never been worn. (Sorry I'm such a weird selfie poser.)

Nude cutout flats, women's size 8, Ivanka Trump, $7.00
(I googled these and they allegedly retailed for $120 back in the day. I don't advise anyone to google "Ivanka trump nude cutout," for the record.)

Cheetah print blazer, Ecri, woman's 10p, $8.00. Dave isn't sold on this, but I promise it's darling in person. A little big, but it'll layer well.

The chambray tunic agin. It's SO flattering, and it's lined with spandex or something on the inside. Come to think of it, so are my jeans...

Ralph Lauren floral tunic, women's M, $5.99. Ugly on the hanger, super cute on.

I've also picked up a few more items for the kids recently that aren't pictured, including a toddler size 4T Columbia jacket for $8.00, a Baby Gap denim jacket for Evie doll in size 6 mo for $4.00, and some Converse low tops for Joey in a toddler 9 for $5.00.

A few takeaways: these items were purchased from 2 different Saver's locations over a period of a week and a half or so - so be prepared to pop in a couple different stores and to take a little extra time to find the pieces you're looking for. And be prepared (sorry, honey) to find something on a day you're not looking for yourself, per se, ala my darling new ballet flats.

Thrifting is not as convenient as hitting up Target, but it's a lot cheaper and (for me) a LOT more fun. I love stopping by even when I have all three kids with me because I can bribe them with a trip to the filthy used toy aisle for some unstructured free play time at the end of a visit if they give me 15 well-behaved minutes up front.

I vastly prefer in person thrifting to the e-variety, but I live in a city with a plethora of thrift stores to choose from. I like to try on different brands in person because every designer fits so differently, and I also like to see a bold or unusual piece in person because I'm kind of a conservative wallflower when it comes to embracing new trends. However, if you live in the wilds of Canada or have 9 children under the age of 12 or if you just hate stores, I could see how Twice, etc. could be vastly preferable.

Hope you enjoyed!

And p.s.,  thanks for all your prayers and comments about Evie. At printing time we've seen a physical therapist, a pediatric nutritionist, a chiropractor AND had a full panel of labs drawn and so far there's a seemingly random assortment of little things that she's behind in, and other things that are looking just fine, and then some really weird stuff like one hip socket being super flexible and one leg coming up shorter than the other (due to muscle tension, not because they're actually different lengths. So...I don't really know.

Right now she's seeing a chiro and a PT regularly and we've got all kids of at home exercises to practice with and...we'll see. Maybe she's just a short princess who has been waited on hand and foot her entire life (ahem) and therefore hasn't paid her tummy time dues. Maybe she has a thyroid problem or is low in some important vitamin or mineral which might be inhibiting skeletal growth. Maybe she's a late bloomer who will simply be darling and short and rock a 28-inch inseam and therefor need to purchase expensive, custom denim her whole adult life.

All I can say is, thank God we're in the US of A because this would NOT be a fun process in bella Italia. And thank God this isn't a regular occurrence in our house. I have so much empathy for parents whose children face serious health issues after spending just a handful of hours in children's hospitals these past few weeks, and I'm so grateful we haven't been called to that particular challenge thus far.

She's precious and she knows it. Lookit those short femurs.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Parenting from behind the screen(s)

I'm over at Catholic Exchange today spouting off all kinds of aha's about how best to compete with your iPad for your toddler's attention. Full disclosure: we don't actually have an iPad. But we do have pleeeeeeenty of shiny screens in this house...

See you over there!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

9 months on, 9 months off

I realized yesterday as I was bent upside down coaxing volume into my limp postpartum locks that on the morning of Evie's 9 month birthday, exactly 9 months to the day of her arrival ex utero, I felt like myself. And I was so grateful.

My eldest son punctuated my moment of epiphany by wandering into my bathroom, looking at my washed and styled hair, cocking his head to one side and announcing: "You don't look like my Mommy. Why did you do that to your hairs?" 

It's called a curling iron, son. And your future wife can thank me for setting that bar niiiiiice and low.

When Joey was a baby I obsessed over the concept of "nine months on, nine months off" and was fanatical about trying to coax the nearly 60 lbs I'd gained off my petite frame. I couldn't fathom a future where I walked around borderline obese, and I lamented the boxes and boxes of White Cheddar Cheezits I'd thoughtlessly tossed back while cooking my plump firstborn turkey. Jillian Michaels and I did hard time together most afternoons, and I tried my pre baby pants on once a week, crying in defeat when they wouldn't ascend any further than my hips.

When I finally arrived at the magical number (not even on the scale, but in the pants) I promptly got pregnant a second time and resigned myself to more of the same, only with 100% more gym dedication. I still gained 50 lbs, but I worked out 6 days a week and I was definitely a "fitter" second time preggo. And you know what? The weight came off a little easier, too. But both times I spent a good amount of my post partum "recovery" period doing anything but recovering. Mostly I vacillated between binging on tortilla chips and sticking to a strictly-regimented Weight Watcher's plan which imperiled my milk supply and left me feeling guilty and anxious. (Disclaimer: WW is probably a good fit for lots of people! But for me, with my history of eating disorder, it was a match made in body shaming hell.)

This time has been different. This time I've been more aware that yes, it's frustrating to be bigger and softer and slower than "normal," whatever exactly normal means anymore, but that it is, in fact, temporary. I've spent more time enjoying the baby and less time bemoaning the body. Do I still bitch about my love handles to my sister and cry on the phone to my best friend about my pants size? I mean, absolutely, but it's not the all-consuming focus that it once was.

I wanted to share with you guys some things that I think have helped this time around be my most pleasant postpartum period, mental illness aside.

First, I bought a new wardrobe. Not like a new, new wardrobe, but I went to a couple cheap stores and picked up a 2-sizes-too-big but fits just right right now pair of dark wash, high rise jeans and a plethora of flowy, forgiving tops. I also kept my Blanqi locked firmly in the torso position for the entire 4th trimester, and I was happy. And so were my sprung out hips.

There's nothing more depressing (too me, anyway) in the sartorial realm than shimmying into a big-ass pair of blown out maternity jeans while your 3 week old voms on the bed beside you. Nothing quite like it. Do yourself a favor and retire those belly banded beauties as soon as you check out of hotel hospital. (Unless you had a c-section, because I've heard they're easy on the scars. But otherwise I really can't fathom a reason to put yourself through that.) Old Navy and Walmart are pretty much everywhere, and you can score yourself a $15 pair of skinnies to get you through the dark times.

Second, set measurable, realistic fitness goals, not weight loss goals. My FitBit and the step-counter app I downloaded were invaluable tools that helped me hit my 10,000 step per day target starting back in the spring, and they helped me reacquaint my tired mommy body with physical activity not involving pushing or lifting. On the (many) days I didn't get any further than yoga pants, I at least had some hard evidence for the work I'd put it.

On the matter of physical fitness, it helped me tremendously to retrain my brain to see activity as directly correlated to overall wellness and success in mothering, not only as a means by which I might attain blue jean nirvana. Once I stopped seeing "working out" as some vaguely punitive means by which I might become hot one day and started realizing the real, tangible benefits of physical activity on my energy levels and domestic acumen, something clicked for me and I wanted to work out. Not just to have "worked out," but I craved the actual process instead of obsessing over the desirable end. Game changer, big time.

Finally, I embraced the stupid expression. At least internally. Sitting in Mass with a gassy newborn and catching sight of a skinny friend a few rows up, bouncing her 3-week-old on a slender hip? 9 months on, 9 months off.

Seeing on social media that your college roommate just ran her best ever half marathon time while her 3 month old watched from the sidelines? 9 months on, 9 months off.

Standing in the dressing room at H&M with a 7-month-old sausage strapped to your chest, trying to translate European sizes into US and feeling a stroke coming on when you realize your current size? 9 months on, 9 months off.

Tugging in vain at the zipper on your favorite cocktail dress while your 14-month old tugs at your suddenly shorter hemline, impeding your preparations for a long-awaited date night?

9 months on, 9 months off was just a number, after all.

You were never actually going to *get* your pre baby body back, anyway. Because that body was transformed and transfigured by new life. And no amount of low carbing or tread milling or denim shimmying can erase those effects.

But know this mama: there is a day in your future where you will see your altered and perhaps slightly haggard reflection in your bathroom mirror and you will feel like you again, promise. It might take a few months longer than you expect, and it might happen on a totally different timeline than you envisioned, but she's in there. You're in there. I promise.

And happiest 3/4's birthday to my petite principessa. You're certainly not the size your mama envisioned that you would be today, Genevieve, but you are utterly lovely to behold, and you're super easy on your mama's back.

Silver linings, right?

Friday, September 12, 2014

7QT: Whole 30 update, baby milestones, and 100% more bacon

1. Can I just start out by saying thank you again for the overwhelming flood of love and support this little blogger received thanks to my pity party of a post on Monday? Well, I'm grateful. And I'm glad I'm not the only crazy in the bunch, as so many of you have reassured me. Solidarity in psychosis.

2. We're on day 13(!) of the Whole 30 and it is going so well. I mean so, so well. Last night we went on a date to Barnes and Noble where we sat side by side for 2 hours in dead silence, drinking tea and reading books we had no intention of purchasing. It cost us $4.17. It was awesome.

The last time we had a date night that cheap I think was...never. Do you know how much more expensive it is to drink something other than flavored water and go to restaurants? Yeah, who knew? But obviously this way of being is not a lifestyle. At least it never could be for us. Has it become less painful now that we're almost at the halfway point? Much. But do I still fantasize about giant glasses of wine and slabs of chocolate cake with salt and vinegar chips sprinkled over the top? I've said too much...

3. If I can take one more take to talk at you about my food, I will just go ahead and post the following to evidence that ain't nobody suffering in this house. Behold my lunch:

Homemade green apple, acorn and butternut-squash soup with coconut milk and curry. With bacon on top. This is not a restrictive way of eating. At least not when it's snowing in bleeping September and I don't mind roasting winter squashes in my oven all afternoon while I dress my urchins in rags from last winter and resolve to go glove shopping soon.

(Recipes here and here. I loosely adapted both to accommodate my very large acorn and butternut squashes, and it is friggin delish. I'll write it all down one day, but just know that it's very hard to screw anything up with squash in it. And there's no dairy! And it's so creamy.

4. This girl. 

When she's not busy gnawing off my nipples (TMI TMI why can't I stop?) and yelling mama and dada, she's busy throwing my parenting for a loop by refusing to look even somewhat interested in crawling, scooting, pulling up or growing legs or feet. (I mean she has legs and feet. They're just pretty much the same size they were at 3 months.) I'm sure she's fine and I'm 100% sure I'm one of the craziest moms on the block, but I'm still taking her in for a weight/development check this afternoon just to rack up one more copay in the name of neurotic parenting. Can't help myself. (She'll be 9 months old on Monday.)

5. Bacon. Can I be frank with you? We've gone through a pound of it since yesterday morning. Can I be more frank? By "we" I mean "I."

Be still my heart? Like, very, very still. Maybe as in no longer beating?

But I'm thisclose to fitting into a size 10, which is crazy because I was a healthy 12 in my magic mom jeans when this adventure started. I've even been able to start running a little bit again, and I feel good. Like really, really good. Power to the pork products.

6. Do you have a grasp on your child(ren)'s temperament? I was mildly obsessed with this book in college and then I was chatting with a girlfriend this week and she brought up the junior version, which I'm dying to get my e-paws on. And she dropped a bit of a bombshell in so doing. While describing her incredibly sanguine firstborn son I realized that she was also describing my unbelievably social firstborn, and I may have had a stern chat with the Man upstairs about why He saw fit to saddle an introverted choleric melancholic with an extroverted sanguine with egomaniacal tendencies. Oy vey. 

7. Hearing/Watching/Reading: Currently spinning in my virtual playlist. Currently streaming on my Amazon prime. Currently hanging out on my nightstand. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Not done yet

You guys.

Thank you. Thank you for the overwhelming outpouring of support and encouragement (are those the same thing? Kind of.) that you shared via comments and emails the past couple days. Dave pointed out to me shortly after Monday's post that it seemed like kind of a Dear John letter for the 'ol blog, but nope, not the case.

I'm not going anywhere. Except perhaps to a shorter duration of total time spent on line. Which will probably and hopefully result in more good content here, not less.

In the interest of full disclosure, I just flopped a piece of bacon across my keyboard, quite by accident, and now my cursor is greased.

(Whole30 Day 12: Keepin' on keeping on.)

Breakfast: 2 eggs, 2 slices bacon, some dried apricots, 2 shots black espresso
Lunch: 1 million pistachhios, 1/2 cup of leftover beef stew (paleo-ized for compliance) half a cucumber, 2 strips of bacon
Dinner: Acorn squash soup and roasted veggies
Snacks: slices of ham, pistachios, apple slices

You're the best.

Monday, September 8, 2014


I have a confession to make.

I've been suffering from a bit of blog drift lately, for lack of a better term. It crystalized for  me last night as I found myself cornered at a dinner party with a social media wizard asking me about content and SEO and stats and the like, and my only explanation as to what my brand was "about" was a sort of half-ashamed (or perhaps fully ashamed) mumbling of how I wasn't very professional or organized or monetized or anything-ized, and that I was "just a mommy blogger."

He wasn't very impressed.

Nor was I.

I've been experiencing a touch of discomfort whenever I log on lately because rather than getting right to the point and putting virtual pen to paper as I was long accustomed to, I've slipped into the habit of spending exponentially more time reading more and more content across a wider spectrum of all manner of digital publications.

This is not bad! This is good. It is absolutely necessary and essential and life-giving for a writer to read. And it's best practices to read what other players in your field, so to speak, are putting out there.

But so much of what I've been reading has been in the pursuit of entertainment and distraction and, almost imperceptibly at first, but inarguably now, comparison.

I'm finding that many nights as I sit clicking through to "just one more" article or post or essay that I'm not actually reading to learn things, or to grow in virtue, or to experience the world from another person's point of view; I'm reading (and I'm ashamed to admit this) to compare myself, to compare my life, to measure my abilities and my gifts and my accomplishments against a virtual composite of someone else's highlight reel. And I generally come up short.

I'm not anti-internet. I'm not anti-social media either, though I don't have personal accounts on Facebook or Twitter. I know myself well enough to know that I can't be trusted with an Instagram account, either, because the temptation to capture all the moments and edit all the scenes is just too great.

In short, I'm a crappy blogger. At least in the sense of the blog as a means to connect with a broad audience across a spectrum of channels, and to facilitate interactivity within the community that forms. When I started blogging 8 years ago it was simply an outlet for an overactive and overly-analytic brain that saw patterns and deeper meanings in everyday experiences. I never foresaw the social aspect of it, but I was delighted when people actually started reading the things that I wrote.

Now that readership and interaction are so crucial to the whole blog experience, I feel kind of like a stranger in my own land. Almost every time I sit down to write these days I find myself asking not, "does this matter to me?" But rather, "will this generate page views? Will people respond to this? Is this likely to perform well?" All of which are totally stupid questions for me to be asking because this blog is not monetized, it's not my job, and the internet isn't a popularity contest.

What I am emphatically not saying is that monetization or sponsorship or professionalism are negative things. By no means! I'm just working through my own neurosis here, trying to understand why I get a sinking feeling in my stomach whenever I see another fellow mommy from the digital trenches has risen to the top via a book deal or a cool collaboration.

A rising tide lifts the whole harbor and all that, yes. But my broken and selfish human nature sometimes prevents me from celebrating when others accomplish what I long to do.

The blog for me was never about becoming anything else, until I started to look around and see that for some people their blogs were becoming something Else. Something bigger and better and more exciting than tap tap tapping out funny travel stories or recaps of hard days in the mother hood.

I don't know where I'm going with this except to resolve to refocus on my original purpose for this space. Or, gosh, maybe to define that purpose, period. And maybe to clean out my feed reader from the superfluous 18 daily missives from Apartment Therapy and the likes. And to step away from the computer at a set time in the evening and just be.

I don't know. I just don't. But one thing is for certain; I'm so glad you're reading. And if you'll bear with me as this little space weathers digital menopause or whatever exactly is happing, I promise to stop making bad picture collages and trying to do design of any kind.

Except in my living room. Can't stop, won't stop, moving the couches.

You're the best. Really.

Whole30 Day 10: Nope. Not doing any more of this. I'm done.

At least that's how I feel. And according to everything I've read about days 10-11 for the typical Whole 30-er, I'm not alone. I guess something like 90% of people who quit do so today or tomorrow. I feel that. Here's why:

- I'm tired of nuts
- I'm tired of not having a liquid reward at the end of a long day of parenting
- I want pancakes
- Meal planning is exhausting. Quesadillas are easy.
- Produce is boring. Grocery shopping has become a dull exercise in leaf combing.
- I want pancakes.

See? Not a single good reason. Here are the reasons I'm not actually going to follow through on my feelings (a sign that this actually might be really healthy for me in and of itself):

- I feel less sluggish in the mornings
- Actually, that's an understatement. I jump out of bed willingly when one of the kids summons me now. Weird....
- My pants are all fitting looser.
- I have more energy (not a ton, mind you, but enough to see me through to bedtime. Gone are the wretched 3pm crashes.)
- I am not thinking about food in between meals (well, except for the pancakes. But I had to conjure up that craving on my own, it didn't assault me like a thug in a dark alley out of nowhere.)
- My kids are not seeing a mommy who mindlessly snacks all day long.
- Date nights and social engagements have been...challenging. (I'm putting that in the 'pros' category because I think it has been a stretch, in a good way, to have to think up scenarios that don't revolve around food or drink, and to have to practice discipline in those situations that do.)
- It's stupid to eat a certain way just because somebody says it's the right way. And's working.

So 10 days down, 20 more to go. And football season already officially underway with nary a beer sampled. Next up, getting off coffee.

JKJKJKJK. I'm not that crazy.

Have a Monday. I know I am.

Friday, September 5, 2014

7 things that are actually pretty awesome about being a SAHM

(linking up with the next big name in broadcasting, Jen Fulwiler)

I think anyone who has spent even a cursory linger or two around the blog knows that I have lots to say about the trials et al. of being a mother of the homebound variety. Sure, I mix it up with the occasional story of warm fuzzies, but there are plenty o' tales of woes and oh-no's to keep you entertained. And I stand behind them. In fact, sometimes I stand over them, mopping and disinfecting.

But today I thought I'd bring a different flavor. While I was choosing an outfit this morning (for mySELF, not even for a small person.) I thought to myself, it is pretty sweet that I get to determine the dress code for the day. Heck, I have unilateral sartorial autonomy! I'm basically a style editor and producer at the haute couture daily edition of Uebbings unlimited. And that's a cool job.

So I present to you a curated collection of 7 really cool things about being a stay at home mom.

1. As alluded to above, I have ultimate dress code authority. For now, it extends over our entire brood. Sure, my almost 4-year-old has some opinions and favors wearing his adorable (thrifted) Converse without socks, but since I vetted and/or purchased every item in his wardrobe, even when he digs through his dresser to assemble a getup that would do a drunken farm animal proud, it looks...decent.

For myself, while pregnancy and the dreaded after effects certainly have a massive influence over my options, I get to choose how dressed (or undressed) I want to be for the day. Lately I've been leaning toward the more dressed end of the spectrum, because it feels so nice to have a put together outfit on, even when I'm just running errands and hunched over a laptop tap tap tapping away on a project during nap time. My girlfriend sent me a link to this girl's daily outfit feature on Instagram (which I don't have, but she cross posts them to Pinterest) and we both fell deep and hard. So today's outfit credit goes to Karla Reed.

2. I make all the food decisions. If I don't want my kids to eat something, I don't buy it. Will they occasionally get their sugar-seeking paws on something at a friend's house or celebration? Of course. And does it matter? Well, we have no food allergies in our family, so nope, not really. 90% of our diet is under my direct jurisdiction, for better or for worse, and so for now, while they're young, I'm focusing on training up little palates to eat broad and wide across the produce aisle, and to snack on protein instead of always binging on carbs. Check back with me in 4 years when everybody's wills and opinions are stronger. I'm sure I'll eat my smug words. (Full disclosure, they're snacking out of a plastic bowl of TJ's cat cookies and Goldfish crackers I set on the front porch right now. Like stray animals.)

3. I get to take naps. Okay that one's actually only relevant when I'm 5 minutes post partum because once the hazy first few weeks clear, I return to my usual neurotic self who cannot, for almost any reason, nap when at home alone with the children. Anxiety abounds, sleep evades.

But still, the potential for napping exists. And my boss won't bust me if I try.

4. Leading me to my next favorite: the flexibility to pursue meaningful, soul-expanding work during the varying pockets of flexible time I find throughout the day. Since Joey was a newborn I've been editing and producing content for Heroic Media News, and I also contribute to Catholic News Agency, Catholic Exchange, and complete the occasional project for Our Sunday Visitor and Endow.

Obviously the caveat here is that writing is what I do, and it can be done from anywhere, but I truly believe that due in large part to the internet and emergent technology and a workplace made a little more humane by ever-increasing influence of the feminine genius, women today, at least in our culture, have more opportunities than in all of human history to make something beautiful, oftentimes in a non-traditional work setting, and to be compensated justly for it.

5. I can call "do-over" on a day that's heading straight to hell. 2 pm and everyone is screaming? Time for a quick trip to Target for a coffee for mommy and some dollar spot browsing for the small ones. (Lucky me, they're still gullible enough that we can return their playthings at the conclusion of our Bullseye session without actually purchasing any more crap to bring into the house. Mostly.)

This means I can hit up the petting zoo farm down the road if I feel like it and the weather permits, or I can make the proverbial 3 am phone call and load up the Odyssey for a 50 minute drive down to grandma's house where terrible coffee, a sun-drenched kitchen and a fenced-in trampoline await us. Pure joy.

6. I don't miss anything unless I want to. (Please know that I am not saying this to offend or wound any moms who choose to work outside the home or who are compelled to do so for reasons beyond their control. I respect you, my friends, and I am grateful for the unique contributions you are making to the economy and to the social order. Truly. I'm just speaking out of my experience on this one.)

This one is a fine line I stumble along every day, because on the one hand, children, give me some peace and quiet and go watch Peg+Cat or throw dirt at each other in the back yard. Please. And on the other hand, almost every night at bedtime finds me holding a chubby head against my chest and stroking soft baby hair and wondering where the days are going, and the years too, for that matter.

The truth is I have a front row seat to every milestone, every success, every tantrum, and every sibling altercation. I can choose to intervene and correct, or to sit back and let the natural order of things play out. Or I can check out entirely (guilty and guiltiest) telling myself that my physical presence is enough for them. And sometimes it is. But more often than that, they want more. They want my attention, they want to captivate me and to share the joy of learning something new about the world or about life. And I'm here to give that to them, if I can pry it out of my selfish and sleep-deprived little grinch heart. And that is such a privilege.

7. I can take the ages and stages as they come. My 2 and-a-half year old son is ready to potty train. I, on the other hand, am not. Potty training means to him, I think, wearing Lightening McQueen tighty whities and whizzing on the pine tree in our back yard at his leisure (thanks, idolized big brother). And many, many pairs of soiled pants per day. Since there's no pressure to get him up to code for daycare or preschool or really, anything, I can take my sweet sweet time and wait until he's 3. Or 11.

Right now my oldest is unbelievably snuggly. I love that he comes up to me and professes his love and admiration over and over again throughout the day. I'm so glad I can soak up this age so that when his dominant, fiery extroverted personality kicks back into high gear I have the sweet memories of a snuggle bunny who just wants to beeeeeeeee with me.

So there you have it, long winded and intensely specific to my experience, but true enough.

What are you favorite things about being a mom who stays home?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Whole 30 day 6: the Dreadnoughtus

Today some scientists who used some scientific methods by which they surmised a giant-ass dinosaur the likes of which all of planetary history has been to this point unaware, (well, except for its compatriots, I suppose) announced said creature to the world.

World, I give you dreadnoughts.

Sometimes I listen to NPR, and other times I click on interesting links about astronomy and geology because science! (Which I'm actually kind of unclear on, at least as far as physics and chemistry go...) 

But back to the dinosaur. I couldn't help but feel, as I noted on ye olde Facebook page, a kind of deep, spiritual connection with this marvelous beast who could, apparently, (though how in God's name anyone could know this is unfathomable by this proud bachelor's degree holder in mental health and human services) "would have potentially adapted to be able to eat 24 hours a day, nonstop, with a minimal amount of sleep."

How could I not feel immediate and irrevocable kinship with such a creature? Needing to eat 24 hours a day and surviving on a minimal amount of sleep?

Call me, Dreaddie, we'll go to happy hour when September ends.

So day 6 dawned today, and I was not too exhausted upon waking, which was a really great change from being so, so angry at the rising of the sun that I could hardly even look anybody in the eye until 8:40 am. Really nice change.

Fast forward to lunch time and I found myself happily serving up quesadillas and goldfish crackers (nothing but the best for my snowflakes) and not twitching and slapping my own hands away from my mouth. Then, in the really craziest part of it, I waited until baby was fed, naps were started, and preschooler was occupied with quiet time before assembling and eating my own 1:24 pm. That is literally the longest I've ever waited to eat lunch in my entire career as a stay at home mom. Usually I'm eyeing the stove clock as it flips from 10:59 to 11 am, one hand poised over the grande bag of Veggie Straws and the other hacking cheese into cubes. 

I mean I live for lunch. It's this beautiful intersection of savory carbs, uninterrupted internet browsing and sweet, sweet (short lived) silence during the nap/quiet time hour(s). 

Whole 30 lunches are not those kind of lunches. It's hard to get excited about lettuce wraps, especially when there's no cheese involved. The silence was still golden, but there were no tortilla chips to keep me company.

This post is wandering but I promise I'll tie back to that super weird intro. Promise.

By 6 pm I was getting into hangry territory when I burst in the garage door with all kids on deck and found my sweet, sweet husband leisurely gathering the ingredients for paleo spaghetti (squash) and meatballs and I might have snapped a bit. We persevered though, and 45 minutes later our flourless Italian feast was on the table. 

Five minutes into that delicious dinner, a decidedly unfamiliar sensation knocked on the door of my subconscious. 

Hey, stomach, you're full now. You can stop.

I looked down at my half empty plate in wonder, and I realized that without the soft, crusty baguette accompanying a bowl of seasoned olive oil and balsamic, there was nothing pushing me onward to finish this meal. Weird. And so freeing. 

So I boxed it up for tomorrow's lunch and went about our evening routine and then some. I actually dismissed daddy from bedtime duties and KP to go watch some football, so good was I feeling.

"I got this, babe," I smiled and shooed him out the door.

I think he half walked, half ran to his car, looking over his shoulder to see how long it would take me to start sobbing and begging him to come back because "I'm so tired! I need more help!"

But it didn't happen. And I feel fine.

I guess I'm not a dreadnoughtus any more. I feel more like a human, albeit one who needs probably more sleep than the average person, but who can feel pretty great on 8 hours, a single shot of espresso and a whole lot of vegetables and bacon.

Day 7, I'm looking at you.

(I should note, while I've attempted the Whole30 a couple times before, this is the furthest I've ever gotten without cheating. The slope is slippery, but I'm treading cautiously onward, interested to see what another week or two on the plan feels like. And there's a reason it's got a "30" tacked on to it: it's only a month. I mean, you can do anything for a month. I think. I can.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Top 5 Costco buys

You might even say they're my favorites.

Seriously, I've been thinking what's lacking around these parts lately is that je ne sais quoi that makes a mommy blog a mommy blog. Readership cannot thrive by pure intellectual stimulation alone.

So in an all-time low I present to you a rousing rendition of "what's in my double wide shopping cart?" I mean, aside from the sample drippings and chubby, flailing limbs.

Breath baited?


Here it goes.

Without fail, every time I hit up everybody's favorite warehouse store (on average, once every 3 weeks), the following 5 times make their way home with me:

1. A crate of San Pellegrino. $13.85 is kind of pricey for 12 sparkly bottles of water, but then you do the math on what 12 bottles of wine would cost in terms of actual dollars and expanded waistlines resulting in yet more clothes shopping, and you will throw that bad boy on your under-cart shelf (along with possibly throwing out your back) faster than you can say 'Lenten happy hour.'

2. A million dollar package of delicious USDA select steaks. But there's a catch: see those 4 steaks pictured above? Well I can wave my magic butcher knife and voila, they will yield about 10 actual, recommended portion sizes for adults. Think that sounds crazy? Yeah, I do too. 4-6 oz of steak doesn't look like much on your plate. But when you're slicing it thinly for salads, mixing it in with roasted onions and peppers for fajitas, or just straight up grilling it to eat with a few veggie sides, it's enough. And it tastes so good, so much better than average grocery store meat! So I drop around $28 on a single package at the beginning of the month and then, we eat steak. I can't stand the taste of cheap beef, which brings me to my next favorite...

3. A triple pack of Kirkland's Best organic ground beef. Is $18 for 5.5 lbs of ground beef stupid? Yes, yes it is. But it tastes like shredded steak, and it is delicious, and my family is content to eat meat 4 times per week instead of 7, so it's really a win/win. Aside from the summer-long meatzapolooza of burgers on the grill, I generally only use ground beef for meatloaf, tacos, taco salad and ragu sauce, so all of those are stretchable meals that can make a pound of ground flex to feed a crowd.

4. Moooooving on. In our #4 spot we have a 2 lb brick of whatever cheese the boys are fancying this week. (Nothing yellow at the moment will cross their lips. Who even knows?). I usually buy Tillamook extra sharp cheddar because it is delicious and you can hack quarter pound slices off the end to eat with your glass of red wine and the log remains the same giant size it was when you unwrapped it, but since this month is all about temperance and abstinence and suffering, I let them pick boring old monterey jack, and the store brand at that. But the takeaway lesson is this: you do not need to buy shredded cheese, ever. Unless it's fresh parmesan, and then I totally absolve you because that is hard to shred and ain't nobody should be consuming the rancid powdered stuff from a can. (I'm not judging you, I'm just trying to educate the uncheesed masses of America. Put down the green cans. It's not real.) What I'm saying about cheese is that it's super super super affordable if you're willing to do your own shredding.

5. Last but not least, the lovely leaves. A boring 6-pack of Romaine lettuce that lasts through one million lettuce wraps and dinner salads. $3.29 for 6 heads of lettuce? Hell to the yes.

Happy shopping, card holders. And don't forget to keep your receipt out when you exit.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Me and my spray paint labored all week

Well not the entire weekend. First we, as in the husband and I, not the Krylon and I, jaunted downtown Friday night to watch the notorious Rocky Mountain Showdown at the Bronco's stadium. CU (go Buffs?) vs. CSU, grain alcohol, public transportation, tailgating in a Prius, half nekkid fans everywhere, Oreo McFlurry at midnight.

I don't think there's anything more to tell.

Saturday dawned and I told myself, self, it's time to whip this house into shape. Get in the car, we're going to Saver's.

I was on the hunt for a bookshelf or low table to use the in kids' school corner, something to go on the wall over our bed, and a handful of other might wants and must haves. I try to have a list going in so that when I'm caught up in the moment of delight over a $2.99 price tag on some piece of ... something, I can reign myself back by asking "was this on the list?" or at least, "could this potentially work instead of something on the list?"

Never go thrifting unless you're willing to walk out empty handed. Otherwise, you'll be doomed to enter into the damning karmic cycle of what Dave affectionately calls "renting from Goodwill." I'll let you scratch your own pretty little head and figure that one out.

Bottom line, crap in = crap out.

So here's a few cute things I ended up with:

This little cutie was still sporting it's Target tags and rang up at 3.49 with my coupon (I am one hundred years old in this post.) because it was missing the shattered central mirror. No problem though, because Dave has put a moratorium on any more mirrors entering our house (also, our closet doors are mirrored. not my fault.) for the time being, and I was looking for a pop of color anyway. So

I unscrewed the backing, hit it with some turquoise spray paint, waited 4 minutes, smudged it, repainted, waited 8 minutes, and then screwed it back together. It looks awesome over our bed, and I swear it winks at me when I walk into the room.

Love love love our bedroom now.
Next up, while not a thrifted project, I got really grossed out about our pantry yesterday around 7 pm and started snapping pictures of it. I guess with you fine people in mind, but mostly to shame myself into doing something about it.

(forgive me, I'm 13 years old and I just learned how to make a picture collage:)

Horrifying, right? It's like Food Hoarders.

In my (our?) defense it was 60% spices, but I am still ashamed.

So I hit up the Dollar Tree this morning and found some not hideous plastic containers and, armed with my trusty can of white Rustoleum and some elbow grease, I emptied, cleaned, touched up and then re-stocked our closet of chaos into what Joey is now calling "the grocery store in our house."

Looking at these pictures, I see that he's right. We have food in abundance, enough that we can display it on shelves and actually take the time to make it look pretty, meanwhile the world is starving...I don't know, I just feel kind of crazy for caring what my food storage situation looks like in the face of poverty. I didn't mean to go there, I just think a lot about this post whenever I'm in my kitchen now, and it kind of makes me feel like an ass. A grateful ass, but still.

 Anyway, here's the big reveal:

SO MUCH BETTER RIGHT? And I didn't even mop the floor. I give it 4 days. But what a lovely and organized 4 days it will be.

Finally, the dirty dirty you all came here to read: the Whole 30. We're on day 4 and it hasn't been that bad! I feel convicted that potatoes - real potatoes, not the heinous sweet varietal - have saved my bacon this time around. It's like a whole other food group has been made available! (Hey, I'm Irish.)

So day 4, cravings are only minimal, and I have a decent amount of energy considering it's 3:45 pm right now. In about an hour I meet with Katie the thigh punisher, so I'll report back with any traumatic accidents involving my quads and the stairs. 

A quick menu recap: 

Breakfast: eggs with avocado and salsa
Snack: green apple with almond butter
Snack: (still breastfeeding, the proof is in the second snack...) handful of almonds and raisins 
Lunch: turkey rolled up in romaine leaves with mustard, raspberries
Snack: (DON'T YOU JUDGE ME) roasted golden potato cubes with olive oil
Dinner: Steak, bacon, roast brussels sprouts, green salad with o & v

Riveting content today. You're welcome!