Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Important Routines

The word "routine" seems to have a negative connotation and imply that it is boring; something to get either through or over with. But our routines are what we spend the majority of our time doing. Because our daily actions turn into our weekly, monthly and yearly patterns, they become so intrinsically woven into our daily life that they become part of who we are. 

Our routines are the fabric of our being.

I remember my father heading out for morning runs when I was in middle school. He would leave the house before dawn and return while I was just starting to get ready for school. Although he never sat me down and actually had a conversation with me about the importance of running for well-being, somehow it registered. When I entered high school and didn't make the basketball team (on account of the fact that I didn't actually know how to play), track and cross-country came to mind. I never made the direct link to my father's influence, but it was there, as was the influence from my Mom. From a young age, my Mom took me with her to Jazzersize classes, which I loved, and we used to walk all over town, including to school and the grocery store.

I was on a run the other day and thinking about how thankful I am that I have running in my life and how it came to be one of the most important tools in my chest. Through the rough patches in my life, running has been my go-to activity. So much so, that I think of it as a panacea and a one of the key ingredients in a happy, healthy life. Running doesn't just make the tough parts easier, but also the good parts better. I hope that I can run throughout my whole life, just like this video.

My thoughts drifted to the routines and values that I want our little one to grow up with, and how I hope that one of those is regular exercise of some form. It doesn't need to be running, but I want her to get those endorphins in some way, to help shield and insulate her from the rough patches in life, like it has done for me. How can I facilitate that?

The answer became glaringly obvious: The best way to teach is to lead by example.

I feel this great sense of responsibility and also excitement  when I think about how I am her Mom and what role I play in shaping her experience in this world. I've dreamed about being a Mom my whole life and now here it is; show time. It is time to put into action all those child development and developmental psychology courses and articles I have read over the years and gather up all of the love my Mom gave me and give it to her. It's time to take what I cherish the most about my childhood and pass it on to her. It's also time to transform and reshape the less than desirable parts, so that I, along with her Dad, can give her the very best start in life. 

To be responsible for another human being is really the most important vocation in the world. Her childhood memories and experiences can be anything we choose to create, and will be something that remains with her long after we are gone. Is anything more important? 


Below is my list of what I plan to raise her experiencing on a regular basis, with the hope that these routines will become a part of her life when she's an adult.

Exercise - As long as we are alive, we're going to have stress. There are a ton of ways to handle stress that may help briefly in the moment, like over-eating or drinking, but only serve to make things worse in the long run. So many people seem to forget that alcohol is a depressant! I regularly tell my students that while we can't often control what happens to us, we can control what we do about it. Exercise doesn't make problems go away, but it certainly makes them seem smaller. Exercise has been proven to be as effective as anti-depressants, and that's why I run, even though I don't like it. We are in the process of adding to our home gym (garage) and are purchasing child gates (which we do not own!) so that she can be in there and watch us, safely. This was my husband's idea, he even said "I want baby A to grow up knowing we work out."

Attending church - Faith has not always been something that was there for me when I needed it, because I fell away from the Catholic church for many years. My journey back has not been easy, but it has been comforting. The stronger my faith becomes, the better I feel about how fleeting life is. Even when I was agnostic, there was no denying the comfort that I saw religion bring many of my closest friends, and I want that for her. We make going to Mass a priority on the weekends, but still have room to improve. Right now, we're attending at least twice per month, and we also go while we're on vacation.

Friends and family - Our family, which was never very big to begin with, seems to be shrinking. I always pictured my Mom as a part of her life and it pains me that she is not, at least not in the tangible sense. I want our girl to know and see that she has a very long list of people who have loved her from the start, and will love her no matter what, just like family. I also want her to know that we love family and are there for them when they need us, even if they have been unkind to us in the past. It's always best to turn the other cheek, be the better person, and forgive.

Cooking and family meals - I want my girl to grow up enjoying family recipes and the stories that go along with them. We rarely ate out growing up and this was part of the reason I weighted 115 pounds my senior year (I'm 5'7"). We all know home-cooked meals are healthier for us, but it's not just about what we weigh and how we look. I want her to have the cancer-fighting power of antioxidants and set her up for a lifetime of healthy eating. I also want to spend that time together in the kitchen preparing the food and all of the conversations about nothing (and yet everything) that will take place not just while we are cooking, but when we all put our technology aside and sit down together. To that end, I recently tried several different food and meal-planning delivery services before deciding on Blue Apron, which I will set up weekly when I return to work in the fall. Prior to putting this in place, it was all too easy to get busy and just have my husband pick me up fast food. The delivery also ensures variety, with me eating several vegetables in the last week that I hadn't purchased in the last year, but enjoy the taste of.

Daily walks - We walk at least 3 miles every evening, usually more on the weekends. While walking doesn't give me the endorphin rush of running, it is still a way to decompress and gives us more time to talk, and more time away from our technology. Our Baby A went on her first walk with us, around the block, my first night home from the hospital.

Reading - The flower girls from our wedding are approaching their teen years and their parents alternate reading to them every night until they fall asleep. I love this! I've been reading to baby A from the start, and she will now turn the pages of the books, though she usually does so when I'm mid-sentence. I joined a book club when she was a few months old, and also started going to our local library regularly for story time. Right now, I'm reading Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

Having fun and being silly - Life is just too short to be taken seriously. If you're successful in every way but are always stressed out and don't have fun, what is the point? I want her to grow up seeing her father and I being playful with each other, laughing and having a good time even (especially?) when times are tough.

Service to others - This may not happen on a daily basis, but can certainly happen more than just around the holidays. I plan to start volunteering with her when she's older, but there are also a lot of informal ways that this can take place throughout the year. Sometimes, situations where we can help others present themselves when we least expect it.

The love and care of animals - I grew up with animals and loved nothing more than helping care for them. I wasn't always good at it, as evidenced by the guinea pig that I left out under the eves when it rained, and found floating the next morning (he was in an aquarium, not a cage), but I always enjoyed it. We currently have a dog and a cat, but plan to get a bunny or chickens for her when she is older. Because we're in unincorporated Orange County, we can have chickens, how cool is that? We also want to get a puppy. If it were up to her Dad, we would have one right now, but I'm afraid of a nip in the face, and want her to be a little older.

A grateful heart - It is so easy to forget everything that we have to be thankful for, even when we're going through tough times. Remembering how much we have to be thankful for needs to be an active, rather than a passive, habit. This can happen daily, in small ways such as thanking God in our prayers, or sharing one thing that we're thankful for before dinner. We also have a "Blessings" jar that my friend Andrea gave me years ago. You write down something you feel is a blessing and read them weekly, monthly or yearly. I want to cultivate that in her, and when she passively mentions that she is happy that "......" I want to shine a spotlight on it and be in the habit of saying "Let's write that down!"

Travel - Routine travel means that when we're on summer break (or, Thanksgiving, Christmas or Spring), we travel. It's what we do. I want travel to become the rule, not the exception, for her. I want vacations to be normal and customary, instead of something that happens once in a blue moon. Now, this doesn't mean that we will always going on international trips like we are this year. It may mean trips to Hawai'i, up to Oregon, or even a long weekend at Leggoland. I want breaking our routine to be a part of our routine, if that makes sense. I want her to experience different cultures, see the world, and instill in her a love of continuing to travel. Right now, she has three flights booked, with two of them being international. I can't wait for her passport to get some stamps!

Playing piano - The idea of me sitting down at the piano to play songs just seems so appealing to me. I imagine her by my side, singing the words or having me teach her to play. Maybe we'll play a duet. There's just one problem: I can't read music, and I've never played the piano before. But, we do own a piano that was my Mom's, and tomorrow, on what would be her 65th birthday, we are getting it tuned and fixed (two keys don't work). I have also found a student who will give me lessons for $20 an hour, and plan to start when we return to work. With any luck, I'll be able to play a Christmas song or two by December, besides Jingle Bells.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

May, 11 Month Update

Our little one turned a year (!?) on May 26th, so for the majority of the month, she was 11 months old.

Baby A climbed her way into May. She started climbing up onto our couch and walking back and forth while holding on to the back of it and looking out the window. I was surprised to watch her turn around and carefully get off of it. She climbed up onto her tiny swing/slide in the back yard, and stood at the top of the platform and started shaking the swing back and forth. She liked the sound it made and also seeing it move. I can't help but hover, but do my best to let her figure out what to do and how to get herself back down. I was very surprised that she seemed to know to sit down and inch forward instead of blindly step off the mini-cliff. Then, the very next day, I came home and found her with Daddy in the same situation. Intending to just film her on the top acting like a little monkey, I actually captured her very first time down the slide all by herself!



She also started to try climbing into the bathtub. Usually in the bathroom while I get ready, she likes to stand and reach for her toys that are in a basket. Slowly, she raised her right leg, while looking at me. While I am not opposed to the word 'no' it certainly loses its effectiveness when used all the time. Instead, I followed what they do at daycare, and gave her a directive to keep her feet on the ground.

My birthday was the first Monday in May and when I went to visit her at daycare, they told me she would be moving up to the next room "soon." Little did I know it would be the very next day! While this milestone was a bit difficult for me to swallow because it is one more sign she's no longer an infant, she took it all in stride. The very next day, she spent the morning with the "big" kids (1-2 year olds) and did so well, that she was in there with them for half the day the rest of the week! They spend quite a bit of time outside, and she absolutely loves that. When I visited her the next day, her pants and even her shoes were dirty from crawling all around the play yard. They are on a bit more of a schedule in there, which they are starting to prepare her for by having outside play time when she usually takes her morning nap, so that she naps later and longer. But, if she still falls asleep around 10am, into her crib she goes. She is also still goes back over to the infant room after 12pm.



She gets dropped off just before 8am and picked up just after 3pm. I love the fact that she will just have a little over 4 waking hours at daycare before Daddy is there to get her, because their nap-time is from 12:30-3:00 pm. Also, they do art every day, which I love! She already "made" me several things her first week, for Mother's Day. I treasure them like I never could have imagined, and already picture them amassed in boxes in the garage because I'll never be able to throw even one of them out.

At the beginning of the month, I stocked up on baby food, not realizing that she would be off and running eating with her food and wouldn't need it. Here I was still cutting up her food really small, and daycare gave her two chicken nuggets during my lunch visit and apple slices. I found out the next day she finished them. She also began using her spoon and even sometimes getting food in there with it! She loves avocado, which I have started rolling in brown rice.

By the second week of May, she was routinely going down the slide in our backyard all by herself, with less hesitation. She also started standing briefly, yet steadily, with no support and walking while holding on to Daddy's hand. Right now, it seems like she is learning something new every day. She will point to things that she wants, such as her cup or a trip outside, and understands a lot of what we say.

May 12th was my best visit to daycare by far. I visited her in the morning, just after 10am, when she was playing outside. As I entered the gates, I found her in the sandbox with her buddy. 

At times, she would crawl off and play, only looking back briefly to see if I was still there. While I managed to steal some kisses and cuddles, she was a lot more interested in playing with the other kids than she was in visiting with me. This made me so very happy! She's spreading her spreading her little wings. 
Because she is making the transition to the big kid's room, she now stays awake until after 12pm, most days. This is new to her, because she is used to a morning nap, an afternoon nap and an evening nap. But one Friday, she was falling asleep at the lunch table. She would nod off, wake for a bit and eat, and then fall asleep while sitting up. They took her back to the infant room for her bottle, but she never fell asleep. Then, Dad came to pick her up a little early and brought her to my school to visit. By that time it was 2:30 and she still had not had a nap at all, but was still smiling as she made the rounds and said hello to all of my coworkers. There are countless things I love about this baby, but her happy, easy-going temperament is at the top of the list!


I feel like we have the best of both worlds with her sleeping routine. I put her down in her crib once she falls asleep, and I go into our bed. When she wakes up for a feeding (usually around 3am), I pluck her out of her crib and snuggle with her in the guest room. I usually fall back asleep before she finishes her bottle. 

Around the middle of the month, she started snuggling like she used to when she was an infant, laying on top of me, instead of in the crook of my arm. I didn't know what she was doing when she put her leg on top of me, and feared she was trying to climb over me. But she snuggled down once her legs were on either side of my hips and it was the best feeling in the world! One morning toward the end of the month when her tummy was hurting because of the switch to cow's milk, she "pushed" me over while we were both sitting on the bed so that she could snuggle down on top of me.

We had her first birthday party on May 21st and of course that warrants a separate posting, here. She was amazing, as always, and genuinely seemed to have a good time. I love all of the 1,000+ pictures that my photographer took, but the one below is one of my favorites. When I ask her for a kiss, she opens her mouth wide, and leans in. This is how she kisses Daddy, her dog, and her baby. It is so sweet to me and when she learns to pucker up, I know I will miss this.
*MUAH*
She's becoming more and more interactive and observant. She loves to point at things, and will sometimes bring me a book along with a command that sounds something like "Ga?"

On the last weekend of the month, we went to Pretend City and also the zoo. She had a blast at both and would walk around, using my finger for support. She would have a certain direction she wanted to head in and if I tried to go a different way, she would not. So I followed her lead. At Pretend City, she navigated by getting into one of the Little Tikes cars, and having me push her around. Then, when she saw something interesting, like baby chickens, she would open the door and go explore, returning to the car to be pushed again.

She also attended her first live theater performance and I was, and still am, shocked by how enthralled she was. The school performance of The Little Mermaid held her attention for a full 90 minutes! A budding thespian! 

On the last day of the month, my husband and I were sitting on the couch and she was going back and forth for tickles and cuddles. I moved so that we were farther apart, on opposite ends. She would walk to me, holding on to the back of the couch for support and fall toward me. I tickled her and she would laugh and laugh. Then, she would go over to Daddy, who would do the same and again, she would erupt with belly laughs. This went on for at least 20 times and was so much fun. There is nothing in the world that makes me as happy as seeing her happy.

Milestones:
  • FIRST STEPS 5/18 She was in the backyard, with her walker. I moved it a few feet in front of her, and she took two steps. Quickly calling Nathan to see it, she was able to do it again. Later that evening, she took 4-5 steps.
  • Now, 4-6 steps without support
  • Pointing
  • Can throw a ball, with pretty good aim!
  • Scribble with a marker or pen
  • Use spoon
  • Climb on couch, sit in kid's chair
  • Imitates gestures, such as learning to blow kisses. She puts her hand to her mouth and then outstretches her arm, right after watching us do it.
  • Bangs two objects together
  • Attempts to put shoes on
  • Pats baby on the back
Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • Falling back asleep on me
  • Her little "oh" face
  • Unsolicited kisses
  • "Gunga, gunga, gunga"
  • Walking around while holding my finger. 
  • Purposely finding my belly button, or her Daddy's. When she sticks her finger in it, we giggle and then tickle her, which she loves 
  • Going back and forth to us on the couch for tickles
  • How much she loves being outside
Routines we're continuing:
  • Singing to her: You Are My Sunshine, Amazing Grace (bedtime)
  • Reading children's books to her. She will now bring a book over to me to read, but often turns the page before I have a chance to finish!
  • Evening walks
  • Crocheting. I finally finished those darn suns and am searching for a new project to take with us to Europe.
  • Nightly prayers
  • Morning snuggle time - she now sleeps in the crook of my left arm.
  • This little piggy. She now anticipates the "Wee, wee, wee all the way home" part and will smile and scrunch her shoulders.
  • Asking "Where's Daddy?" or "Where's Trevi?" and cheering when she looks
  • Lunch visits - every day!
  • Peak-a-boo 
  • Brushing her teeth
Routines we're establishing:
  • She absolutely loves playing in the back yard and going down the slide. As soon as there is shade, we go back there, around 4pm.
  • Playing in her pool and with her water table
New Foods and favorites:
  • Quesadillas 
  • Cow's milk (30% milk, 70% formula)
  • Prune juice, due to the milk
  • LOVES avocados, green beans and strawberries, Greek yougurt and cottage cheese