Wednesday, March 22, 2017

God Loves Mommy and Me

We have found so much joy in our one-on-one dates with the kids. Things have been a little (a lot) hectic for us around here over the past couple of months so one-on-one dates have sadly taken a hit. We have grand plans to make them happen every weekend… but we often find our schedule changing at the last minute, some of us getting sick, certain things taking longer than we expected, etc. Before we know it, it’s Sunday night and we only managed to get to one of the dates… or worse, neither date.
Last weekend was yet another of those weekends. Ryan worked a half-day Saturday and then we had an afternoon appointment so we cringed when we said we were going to try to squeeze both dates in on Sunday.

Daddy took A to see a movie at a cool new-to-us discount theater and B and I had plans to go out later. But then we had a last-minute appointment and needed to run to the grocery store and, and, and… and before we knew it, it was already dinnertime. I considered taking her out after dinner for half a second but Ryan still needed to do a little work on his truck so he could drive it to work in the morning, and in all honesty, I was feeling way too sick to go out any ways.

So I apologized and promised her we would make a date happen this week, just for the two of us. And we did!

We waltzed into a local coffee shop and ordered a paleo banana muffin to split, then curled up on one of their comfortable couches to read God Loves Mommy and Me over the muzak.

B is two years old right now and very much into books, bunnies, and Mommy. This was a truly perfect book for her, as I suspected it would be, and she was entranced the entire time. When we finished the book she gave her standard post-book request, “Hold it?” so she could slowly flip through it and study each photo.

Me: “Did you like the book?”
Two-year-old: “YEAH! DID!”
Me: “What was your favorite part?”
Two-year-old: “Ummmm… bunnies! And Mommy!”

We finished our muffin, chatted about how her week has been so far, and snuggled.

While I know that we of course could have done all that at home, we would also have been competing with the sound of her siblings (and their attention) and with the chores that never cease popping up… and we wouldn’t have gotten to make such a sweet memory together.

I recommend God Loves Mommy and Me, for its sweet words and its sweet illustrations, to the toddler and preschooler crowd. Enjoy!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

11 ways moms of little kids can get in a good workout

When I was younger, I worked out all the time. Maybe even too much. I took dance classes and I tried cheerleading. I played basketball and volleyball in middle school. I took more dance classes in high school, and an aerobics class for credit one semester. At one point I was dancing six days a week. I took an hour-long dance class as an elective at school M-F, took two evening dance classes during the week, and had Nutcracker rehearsals on Saturday. I graduated high school and found myself running 5ks and training for triathlons. I took pilates and various dance classes in college, and a general fitness class that basically gave me credit to plow through books on a stationary bike or treadmill. Ryan worked on Saturdays and I enjoyed a run on our apartment gym’s treadmill before picking up our groceries. Sundays, my were a great day for bike rides or hikes.

When we took off in the travel trailer, there was a small gym at our first RV park. I rode my bike to work most days, but I used the gym when I didn’t. Then I got pregnant and found a prenatal aqua aerobics class, which I loved. I got two pregnancy aerobics DVDs and did those on the days I didn’t have aqua aerobics.

The baby came and I rested for six weeks, then we took walks every day. I did workout DVDs. We put him in a carrier on our chests and we hiked. I started attending the aerobics class at my church twice a week while Ryan had one-on-one time with our boy. I found a nearby pool and enjoyed the occasional alone day water-jogging at the side of the pool while I read a book.

Then the second baby came, and then the third. Somewhere along the way, working out became more of an obligation than an enjoyable habit. There’s just always so much going on, you know? I have a three-year-old, two-year-old, and nine-month-old. I’m tired. I’m busy. I mean, I’m writing this during nursing sessions and my sick baby woke me up four times last night. I fall asleep with everything on my to-do list crossed off, like, once a month.

I love good food (calories), I love feeling good, and I love the idea of my children growing up perceiving fitness as a natural part of their daily lives. So. Back on the wagon. Just in case you’re in the same boat as me…

11 ways moms of little kids can get in a good workout…

1. Get a gym with a daycare. Not really. Everyone knows this one is crap because a)your kids will just suck on nasty toys in there and get you too sick to work out b)they’ll be too sick to be allowed in like 80% of the time, which is ironic because they were never sick until you started coming to this gym, and c)they’ll just page you when your kid won’t stop crying after five minutes.
It is possible I’ve tried this like 47 times. This is on the list because someone will leave a comment suggesting it if I don’t.
   1a) Just kidding. No one comments here anymore.

2. Get a piece of home equipment. It seems like exercise equipment isn’t actually that hard to come by- you just have to have the money at the right time. I once mentioned to a co-worker that I was looking on Craigslist for a cheap used elliptical runner and she said, “Would you want a treadmill instead? I’m moving next weekend and I’ve been dreading moving it. I’ll give it to you for whatever you were going to pay for an elliptical.”
Then last year I found a recumbent bike on Craislist and emailed the lady to see if she’d give it to me in exchange for free Christmas portraits instead of the cash. She agreed, and now I use it several times a week.
I’ve also owned a mini elliptical and a mini bike pedaler when we were traveling, and I’ve seen those little stands that make your bicycle a stationary bike.
I find that the most enjoyable way to use my recumbent bike is when the baby is sleeping. I set the big kids up with coloring books, puzzles, or Legos, and then I either read my own book or read a chapter from one of their books (currently The Cul de Sac Kids and the Double Dabble Surprise) while they color/play.

3. Hike. There are bears where we live so I’ve only been brave enough to hike without my husband a handful of times, and always on the same over-crowded trail so it wasn’t that enjoyable… but in general, I think hiking is a really great way to get in a good workout with the kids. My three-year-old usually outlasts me so as long as we’re each wearing one of the girls we don’t even feel all that slowed-down by the kids.

4. Swim. Again, no way would I ever go by myself with all three kids… but I recently took my three-year-old swimming for our one-on-one date and we both had such a blast! Ryan is not a huge fan of swimming but that sometimes works in my favor when we all (rarely) go to a pool together. He is perfectly content to hang out on the steps with the kids and even though we mostly all stay together, I get to go swim away for some real laps for a while before I come back to help wrangle our little (sea)monsters. We have a big road trip vacation coming up and I am pretty excitedly anticipating a family swim session and a few nights of solo swim time.

5. Stroller walk/jog/run. The easiest, of course. I have three strollers. Is that ridiculous? Yes, it is. It’s okay. I have a great single stroller that holds our car seat, a simple umbrella stroller we got during an “emergency,” and a nice double stroller that is the main thing I’d take with me on a desert island, assuming it wasn’t all sand. Anything else we need, we can get using that double stroller. Bring food: Where are the kids?! Bring stroller: Here, strap them in here while I climb this tree and get us some coconuts.
I used to wear the baby and put the big kids in the double stroller but she eventually started to get too heavy for me to wear her every day. So usually now the girls go in the double and the three-year-old either walks or rides his balance bike beside me. Once in a while I wear the two-year-old on my back because, even though she weighs a few pounds more than her little sister, she is the lightest of my three children by far. Why is that, physicists?
We walk around our neighborhood, on a nearby paved walking trail, along a beautiful little park a few miles away, and sometimes through our (basically completely empty) mall.

6. Bike ride. I’m on the hunt for a good, cheap, two-seat bike trailer. We miss bike riding and have so many great areas available to us, it seems crazy that we never go! But alas, the baby is not a biker just yet and the two-year-old is the slowest balance-biker ever.

7. Exercise DVDs. I find these are best to do when the baby is napping. When she was really little I’d just put her in her bouncy seat but now she’s outgrown that. Sometimes the big kids will do the workouts with me, but mostly they just play in their room while I do them. When I get in workout DVD mode, I usually get one or two from the library each week to supplement the ones I already own. (Favorites: 1 // 2 // while pregnant, and admittedly sometimes when I'm just feeling lazy: 3 )

8. Dance/Yoga party. I really like to make fun 30-ish minute playlists and have living room dance parties with my kids, which is where I do self-led aerobics and get to enjoy their playful spirits coming through in the form of crazy dances. At the end, during cool down, we walk like certain animals (“Now let’s stomp like an elephant!” “Now let’s prance like a deer!”) and eventually stretch like certain animals… cat/cow, downward dog, etc.

9. Mommy-and-me class. There are mommy-and-me dance and yoga classes all over the place, toddler gymnastics classes that encourage parent involvement (though I’m guessing you won’t break a sweat here?) and whatever it is they do at the Gymboree classes that apparently take place in every single town except for the four I’ve lived in since my first baby was born.

10. Play! A few weeks ago we tried out a trampoline park and oh my word, so fun! I was seeing if I could still do toe-touches (yes, still got it!), doing wild and crazy leaps into the foam pit, you name it. I also like to play kickball or mini basketball with the kids, and sometimes when the tennis courts are really empty we’ll play tennis on one side while our kids play on ride-on toys (that we bring from our backyard, is that loser-y?) on the other side of the court. So far no one has been hit by a tennis ball, though I admit it’s probably coming. They’re too little right now but you better believe we will be inviting all their friends and their friends’ families over for big family dodgeball games when we get that barn I’ve been dreaming of.
A few months ago we went to the park I was running around and playing with the big kids while the baby napped in the stroller in my line of vision. I thought to myself, self, you should work on your upper arm strength. Go do the monkey bars. So I went over there to try. I did fail, but also one of my children ran out in front of my swinging legs and got kicked in the face. I’ve only ever told Ryan that story because it’s so embarrassingly awful. But in my defense, kid, why would you put your face in front of some swinging shoes? You should never do that.

11. Workout playdate. I plan one of these like once a month, then thankfully come to my senses and realize I’m not social a few minutes before actually inviting a friend over.
Maybe this is more your thing? Invite a friend over, send your kids off into their room to go beat each other with sticks, and enjoy six glorious minuets of workout DVD or something until someone comes running in shouting “HE HITTTTTT MEEEEEE!”
Talk about magical, right?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Sunday Sick Day

The kids have been sick all dang winter! They are finally better (hooray!) but now the hubby and I were sick this weekend. Even still, it wound up being a really fun weekend!

1- We tried a new-to-us treat, a gluten-free and dairy-free ice cream sandwich (I would say it was good but not worth the price) and a new-to-us Christian movie, Heaven Bound (releases 3/27). The premise is a home-robbery gone awry because the man being robbed is determined to hold his would-be robbers captive until they become Christians. There were a few things in the movie that made me feel like it's for older kids, probably more like pre-teens or teenagers, if you're going to watch it with kids... but just for Ryan and I, it was definitely pretty funny and cute. I got a free DVD in exchange for this review but the opinion is my own. Watch the trailer here

Put on Speakerphone and my mom read them Tawny Scrawny Lion while I put away groceries and worked on dinner. So stinking cute! She’ll read a little and then say “Okay, now turn the page!” and my three-year-old just follows along so happily while the two-year-old runs around and then hops back up to read with them again =] 

3-Husband took A on their father-son date and B fell asleep on the couch so I let C nap on my chest while I relaxed with a good book (Cold Tangerines). So nice, so very needed!

4, 5, 6- Park day, after quite a few months of all the parks being completely burried in snow! We mostly just stood around and watched the kids play today but we both agreed that seeing the joy on their faces made it so worth going out, even feeling like complete garbage. I told Ryan, "Okay. the snow's (basically) gone. We have got to start getting these babies outside every day again." It feels so crazy to think we haven't been out very much in the past three months when we're normally out every single day!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

This is my life.

The other day I had one of those horrifying moments where I realized with a bit of shock, this is my life.

This is. Right now. Today.

I’m living for the future again. Do you ever do that? Is this a problem I face all alone? I doubt it.

I’m getting so excited about our future home. I’m making my packing list for our upcoming road trip. I’m scouring my thrift store for books we’ll use in our homeschool future. I’m planning meals for next week, making a grocery list that will accommodate those meals. I’m packing away the clothes they outgrow so the next one can wear them when they hit that size.

But what about right now?

I don’t want to look back on my life and see that I was great at making lists and packing up totes of baby clothes. I want to look back and see that I took a lot of stroller walks and had a lot of great conversations. I want to have read a lot of great books and enjoyed lots of refreshing swims and to have kissed my husband too many times to count. I want to have hugged each of my children so many times that I can close my eyes and re-feel it when they grow up and move away. I want to sing songs even though I’m off-key, draw even though I’m nicht so gut, dance even though ain’t nobody trying to see that.

This is my life, today! I can’t plan ahead for those things and schedule them like appointments. I need to just DO THEM, NOW, WHILE I’M LIVING!

The great news is that the cure—doing the things that make me happy—is pretty painless. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Road trip food

Because of Celiac Disease and other food sensitivities in my little family, we pretty much never go out to eat. There is one all-GF restaurant in our town which is basically the only place we go, but it’s kind of meh any ways so we mostly just eat at home.

This is quite possibly the hardest thing about traveling for us these days, even with three little kids and potty training and diapers and nursing and…

So for the big road trip we have coming up, I’m already planning ahead.

What this mostly means is that I’ll be making a few PB&J sandwiches and cutting up some summer sausage to serve with crackers. I’ll also bring lots of fruit and a few healthy snacky sides. I’m contemplating bringing my mini blender so we can have green smoothies in the mornings. The kids will be getting fruit-and-veggie baby food pouches (they call them smoothie pouches) and easy veggies, like baby carrots, and we’ll supplement it all with health food store trips in whatever towns we’re stopping to eat in. 

We’ve come to terms with the fact that it’s expensive, but it’s worth it to us if it keeps everybody healthy.

In my excitement for the trip, I jumped at the chance to review Roadfood by Jane & Michael Stern. I was hoping to randomly find an all-GF restaurant somewhere on our route through this book but alas, there wasn’t anything. I did find a coffee shop we’ll be researching though!

Still, I think I can give this book a pretty fair review but checking out places we’ve lived/explored in the past, and by employing a little help from some family in other states! =]

That said, I do think this is a good book. I think there are a TON of places I would personally have included in the book if it were me writing it but I also understand that A) they of course haven’t eaten at each of those places and B) Not every good local restaurant could make it into the book even if they had. And really, C) just because I had a great experience somewhere doesn’t mean they did!

These are the places we/I have tried that were in the book…

Brandy’s Restaurant & Bakery and Bun Huggers of Flagstaff, AZ- I grew up in Flagstaff. I ate at Brandy’s many times because I went to high school across the road-ish from it, and later worked and had my first apartment within walking distance too. I even met Ryan’s mom there for the first time. I also ate at Bun Huggers one time. I have to say, I would not have put either of these places on the short Flagstaff list and can think of a ton of other places that would have made the cut instead if it were my book. Still, Brandy’s got a lot of praise from other locals so I think this is fair. I’d say Brandy’s has about a 50/50 rating among the Flagstaffians in my life. 50% love it, 50% could care less. I don’t really know anyone in Flag who talks about Bun Huggers as a favorite. Actually, I had forgotten all about it before the book reminded me of it!
Red Rock CafĂ© of Sedona, AZ- I have eaten here a few times but I don’t really remember anything but the pie… which is mentioned in the book =]
Hell’s Kitchen of Minneapolis, MN- Ryan and I enjoyed a lunch “date” here when we happened to see it on a Food Network kind of show while staying in Minneapolis. The baby was asleep in the stroller while we walked around downtown so we headed over there to eat. Getting the stroller in there was kind of a nightmare but I do remember the food being amazing. The “Hell” theme made me a little uncomfortable but I just sucked it up and still enjoyed my lunch. This place would definitely have been on my Minneapolis list, though I admit a couple other places would have been higher up.
Meltz in Coeur d’Alene, ID- I actually wrote about Meltz on the blog when we had our babymoon during my pregnancy with Baby B! This place is amazing and very much deserves to be in the book.

We may not try any of the restaurants, but I’ll definitely still be consulting this book before road trips in the future. I can always find a good coffee shop with a cool local atmosphere in it, and who knows, maybe there are all-GF places tucked away in here where we’re least expecting it.

You can find the book here, and you can read about some of our travel adventures here. =]

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.