Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Oscar Wild


Oscar turn 2 last month. 2! Years! It's been over a month since his birthday but I'm still in shock. I mean, we went from this little babplaying soccer:

video 
To this flipping toddler:
video 
To this running, talking little boy:
 

But wonderfully enough, he has stayed a very happy child through all the changes. He is developing his own unique and wonderful personality. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy this age. Two is generally looked at as the "terrible twos" but I find watching them change from baby to kid is just fascinating. He has plenty of fits, louder and more screaming than I thought possible from him, but thankfully he's usually quick to calm down given the proper response from us (which is as little response as possible).

He's quite an athletic child, who spent most of this last year climbing everything he could from our bed, his high chair, and the latest, the bathroom counter! He's learning to jump high enough on the mini trampoline to scare me. And if he's in the mood, can run for almost half a mile. All of this physical ability is wrapped up in a small little package. At 33.5" (28%) tall and 25 lbs 9oz (18%), he's sitting on the low end of the growth chart. This doesn't concern us in the least since at this age, Sebastian wasn't even on the chart. And Oscar is incredibly healthy, catching many colds that Sebastian brings home from preschool, but never seeming to have more than a stuffy nose and maybe one crabby day from them. He still sleeps like a rock for 10 solid hours at night and a 1-3 hour nap in the afternoon. But he makes up for all that rest by being incredibly active while he's awake.

He is teaching me more every day about life, and just like his brother (in this regard), showing me how amazing life is when you're just happy to be alive. That's why little kids are so wonderful. They're a constant reminder of how great this moment is right here. Not earlier or tomorrow, there's no real concept of time. Just right now and how much fun, sadness, excitement, anger, or love can be had in this one moment. And the freedom to be exactly who you are, which no real restrictions being set by society yet, just total transparency into how they are feeling every minute of the day. It's refreshing and reminds me to care less and less what anyone else thinks. How much happier would the world be if everyone was truly doing what made them happiest each moment? We'd all be like children again. :)


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mommy Body

I want to talk about women's bodies. Bellies, boobs, butts, even thighs, arms, and backs. It's all affected by pregnancy, nursing, and just from aging. After having a baby, most women are left feeling a little stretched and saggy. I'd say most women feel bad about it at some point, mostly due to postpartum depression. And some woman are never able to accept the state of their post-pregnancy body. I think a lot of this unhappiness with our bodies does come from society. Whether it's the media, your family, friends, significant other, or let's be honest- ourselves, many women feel pressured to "get their bodies' back". Well ladies, guess what? You can't have it back. Not 100% the way it was. And why should it? It's ridiculous to expect that our bodies will stay 18 forever! That's just a part of life. Even if you don't have kids, your body will sag eventually, it just happens a bit sooner with pregnancy.

I'll be the first to admit that looking at my body after each baby was totally depressing. Each time there was that shock, oh my god will all this skin go away? My boobs, belly, and thighs were covered in bright pink stretch marks. Would they fade? And after weaning both times, staring in the mirror at tiny, deflated flaps of skin that used to be boobs was horrible. I allowed myself a moment to grieve each time. And then I kept going. I bought bras that fit and shirts that were looser around the waist to hide my "mummy tummy", and I exercised. Oh man did I exercise my ass off. After Sebastian, I did P90X until I injured my shoulder and was unable to do a single push-up. I ran so much after having Oscar, that I hurt my knee to the point I couldn't continue exercising (see previous posts). Now I firmly believe that if I'd taken my time getting in shape then I would have avoided those injuries. All of my joints and ligaments were still way to loose from hormones to be exercising as much as I did. I knew it was happening too because each workout meant pain, either during or after, in every joint, especially my pelvis after Oscar. But I ignored it. I would not use having a baby as an excuse.

In reality, a little baby weight should be the least of our concerns after having our abdomens stretched to the max and giving birth. Whether you birthed vaginally or by c-section, you have some serious healing to do! And what do the doctors tell you? 6 weeks! You'll be fine, you can do anything after 6 weeks! LIES! Such a harmful fucking lie. Instead they should be saying, rest! Go for walks, do gentle yoga. Spend time with your newborn, who in the blink of an eye will be all grown up and you'll be wishing for another baby just for those precious baby moments. 6 weeks needs to be at least 6 months. And they should give you a list of physical therapy exercises to help strengthen your hips and pelvis. And if you experience any pain in your joints when you try to workout, you should wait! Carrying around a couple extra pounds of flabby skin for a few more months isn't worth a bunch of injuries. Trust me on this. Not to mention, your body will still not be exactly how it was, so if that is your expectation, you'll still be disappointed.

So I have to ask you momma, do you like feeling this way about your body? Do you enjoy that society or whatever has made you feel so shitty about what's happened to your body, even though what happened was a completely natural part of life? No, of course not. No one likes feeling like crap about themselves. So don't you want it to change? I know I do! So how can we change it? By one smart decision at a time. Don't make your decisions about your body so rashly. Give yourself time, and I mean years of time, to heal. Remind yourself that what you went through gave you a beautiful human being that was well worth the damage. And try to feel proud instead of depressed. So what if you're saggy and have stretch marks everywhere? You have a child! Do you know how many women can't even have a child, or struggle to do so, and we're bitching about some loose skin? Think about that for a moment. Next time someone you know makes a comment about post-baby bodies that makes you feel shitty, don't be afraid to speak up. Remind that person that there is nothing wrong with the fact that our bodies change from having a baby. They should change. And we should be proud of that change instead of sad. Changing our view of ourselves is the first critical step. Then we really should be trying to change society's view on this. After all, do you want your sons and daughters to feel like shit about themselves? Of course not, you want them to be confident individuals who take good care of themselves and don't listen to the bullshit from the rest of the world. If you want them to learn that, you have to model it. It's the only way.

So mommas, take care of yourselves, that includes being nice to yourself, in all of your thoughts and actions. And significant others, be supportive. I'm so thankful to have such an amazing human being like Brian as my support. He's never once said a mean thing about my body, and has always encouraged me to feel better about myself. If you're eating healthy and doing gentle exercise when you can, nothing else should be expected of you. Especially not your own unrealistic expectations.

9 months pregnant w/
Sebastian (baby 1)
About 4 months
postpartum w/ Sebastian
About 3 years postpartum
w/ Sebastian, finally
feeling good
Missing post-baby
picture from Oscar...
I was too depressed
to allow a single body
shot! :(
9 months pregnant
w/ Oscar (baby 2)
20 months postpartum
w/ Oscar


Friday, January 15, 2016

Perspective

It's been a little over 3 years since we were told Sebastian likely had NF1. Since hearing this news, I went through all stages of grief. First was definitely denial. Here I stayed for a solid 4 months, from the moment the pediatrician told us her suspicions until we got the results of the DNA test. Then it was anger. Anger that this was my child. Mine. This happens 1 in 3,000 births, why his birth? Then bargaining... what did I do wrong? What could I have done different? What can I do now? Once I did enough research to finally convince myself that there was nothing I could have done, or could even do now to change it, depression set in. For me that depression has not gone away fully. It's a lot better, but if I think too hard on it, I am consumed by too much sadness, too much helplessness.

Since we first received this news, we've taken him to 6 specialists (neurologist, geneticist, opthamologist, physical therapist, orthopedic, and developmental specialist), plus had him evaluated by the school district by another physical therapist and an occupational therapist. The consensus from all of these doctors was that he was doing great for a child with NF. All that was needed was the little bit of help he received from an OT on learning to write. Even that, in retrospect, I think all he really needed was more time to catch up to his peers. After the last doctor, we vowed to take a break from all the specialists, who despite saying he's fine, all want to see him annually. But we decided they can fuck off because that's too many damn doctors appointments for a healthy kid.

However... with a disorder like his, it's hard not to worry about every little thing. Sometimes you want to just ignore it and others you can't help but think, if I ignore this will it turn into something horrible? Something I could've prevented if I'd done something sooner? In the last several months we had become concerned with a few things. Sebastian's been in gymnastics for 2 years and made little progress. He's also been crying whenever we try to get him to run too fast, and consistently complains about pain in his legs. After much discussion we decided we needed to make sure we were truly doing everything we could. I knew that meant it was time for a check-up with a neurologist to see if he really did need an MRI.

We said if we ever needed to take him to a neurologist again we'd find another one. Well the only other place that seemed worth our time was OHSU, who is booked out until the end of the year for new patients! What if there really was something wrong? I just didn't want to wait that long. That's when I really started thinking back to the neurologist he'd seen, and I was remembering that hard denial I had been experiencing during that time. I have written less than nice things about her in more than one post. Now that I'm out of the denial phase, I can honestly say, she didn't do anything wrong, she just did her job. But since I didn't want to hear that there was anything wrong with my little boy, I wrote her off pretty quickly. I realized it wouldn't have mattered what any doctor had said or done at that point, if it wasn't good news I didn't want to hear it. With this realization, we decided to give her another shot.

We saw her this morning. She asked us lots of questions about the leg pain, and all the specialists we'd seen since our last visit with her. She did her evaluation of him again and her results this time were very good. She says he's actually doing really great, and she sees no need for the MRI. Her tune seemed to have changed a bit as she didn't seem to recall being that concerned about him needing the MRI last time. Maybe it was just how I was feeling then, or maybe she has changed her mind about when an MRI is needed, who knows. But there was nothing wrong with her abilities as a doctor this time, I think it was all about perspective.

Amazing how often in life your perspective can change so drastically, and how different everything is when it does change. I have been flooded with a huge wave of relief since hearing that he doesn't need an MRI. Maybe that's not such a big deal for some people, but for me, where I was at with my concern for him, it was the exact thing I needed to finally help me into the acceptance phase of this grief. Obviously this day could've gone very differently, and there's no guarantee something won't change for him in the future. But for now, I'll take this moment and enjoy the hell out of it because my baby is ok.




Friday, January 8, 2016

Healthy Holidays

Well I've made it over 5 weeks into this elimination diet (more on that in my last post if you missed it) and I can honestly say this has been the healthiest holiday season I've ever had. I did not realize how bad my timing was for this craziness until I'd already started. I debated stopping and waiting until after the holidays, but I realized how much it helped me say no to the ridiculous amounts of sweets that are everywhere this time of year. Since most all sweets have sugar cane, unless I made it myself, I didn't eat any treats except homemade raw vegan cheescakes. Oh and these bad boys, thank you Trader Joe's →

My knee is feeling pretty good these days. And my stomach and headaches are also much better. Since they're not happening as often, it's a lot easier to tell if I ate something that bothered me. But the best thing about this diet is learning even more about how much shit they put in our food. I've been reading ingredients and educating myself on food for years. But trying to avoid eggs, yeast, dairy, soy, sugar cane, and all the other stuff on my list, has been even more illuminating than I could've guessed. More about that once this crazy ride is over.

So what have I been eating? Oh there's still lots of good food out there. Like Mediterranean sweet potatoes, and another version of this w/ flat bread (I make homemade yeast-free flat bread or use tortillas). And this amazing tandoori chicken we made last night. Best homemade Indian food we've ever made by far.

Being the holidays, there was lots of yummy turkey on-hand so I ate many turkey & veggie wraps with my homemade garlic-free hummus. Breakfast was the biggest challenge but I found an easy and delicious vegan muffin recipe that I added several heaping tablespoons of flax and hemp seeds (these saved me on our road trip to NV). Our pancake recipe was thankfully already vegan, I just had to make some substitutions, and also added flax and hemp seeds to this too. And for my birthday I made a raw, vegan banana cream pie. Soooo good.

The other half of this recovery is the physical therapy. The therapist thinks most of my problem is my scoliosis, which I agree. He does postural pictures each session so we can track my progress and it's pretty crazy to see that my left shoulder is higher than my right, my right shoulder hunches more forward then my left, my arms turn out, my knees turn in, etc. So the routines he's giving me are geared towards fixing my posture. Each exercise by itself seems pretty easy. Things like squeezing a block between your knees or ankles, doing shoulder bridges, downward dogs, wall sits, and other things you wouldn't think to be difficult (until you do 20-40 reps of it). But the real challenge is making the time for it as the full routine usually takes about 45 minutes, and I do this every single day. I'm sure this helps progress come quicker so I'm doing my best to be on it.

The first couple weeks were good, mostly hip strengtheners that had my hips popping and a little sore, but feeling good and strong, like it was helping my pelvis go back at least a little closer to where it was before birthing a giant baby. The third week was more shoulder and spine work, that I overdid the first couple of days leaving me in a lot of pain. After a couple days of rest, massage, chiropractor, and an extra week of taking it easy on the routines, I was better. I felt it happen again the last couple days after starting a new routine so I'm going to take it easy for a few days again. I think my back is being quite reluctant to this change, so I'm going to give myself more time with each routine.

We've made definite progress and I'm confident this will help me in more than just running (cycling, yoga, sitting in front of a computer 40+ hours a week, etc.) I can't wait until he says I can start trying to go for short runs, as in my mind, how it feels sitting here means little compared to how it feels running. But patience is a virtue and all that shit so I'm doing my best to not get antsy. At least we got to go hiking in the snow when we were in Nevada for the holidays, and I even tried snow shoeing for the first time. It's amazing how walking up a hill at 5000 feet elevation is bit more challenging then I remember! But still beautiful.

Heard of deer in the neighborhood!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Journey Into Natural Medicine

I'm going to take you on yet another adventure into the world of medicine. Except this time, it's the world of natural medicine, and it's not for Sebastian (yet), but for me.

As many of you probably know, I love to run. Running brings me peace. Few things can de-stress me the way running does. For the past 6 months, I've only ran a handful of times because each time brought excruciating pain in my knee. Not the I'm out-of-shape kind of pain, but the, oh-my-god-stop-now-before-your-knee-breaks-in-half kind of pain. My knee has given me lots of trouble most of my life, I even tried arthroscopic surgery when I was 17. It didn't seem to help, just made my knee weaker. I've continued to run over the years, not increasing distances until the last 4 years. It would hurt every now and then but usually a few days of rest and I'd be back at it. After having Oscar, I jumped back into running and cycling a bit too aggressively I think, and by spring, my knee started to get progressively worse. I took the summer off from running and just tried cycling, but my knee continued to decline. I spent several months only walking and doing yoga with still no improvement.

Friends and family started to ask, why don't you go to the doctor? I've been through the medical system enough times in my life between my own health issues, Sebastian's, and other family members, that I have a pretty good idea what they can do for me. Expensive MRIs and X-Rays (that will tell them little) and over-priced physical therapy (none of which my insurance will fully cover), drugs, and more surgery, and then more drugs. Since none of that sounded appealing, I started researching natural remedies for knee injuries. I read a fair bit about the anti-inflammatory diet. Being the foodie that I am, it appealed to me that I could simply change my diet and all my aches and pains would go away. But researching these days is frustrating. One article tells you to not eat this but eat this, while the next says the opposite. I cut back even further on the little bit of arguably unhealthy food I was eating without much change. I even tried gluten-free, but only made it about 3 days before I was starving, crabby, and more frustrated. The more I read, the more it seemed to me that you can eat all the best foods, but none of it matters if you're eating the wrong food for your body. I figured it would be worth my time and money to find out exactly which foods my body wasn't liking.

Luckily for me, a naturopath moved into the office down the hall from mine, so I stopped in for a chat and found the rates for the food intolerance test and doctor visits fairly reasonable (since of course my insurance will not cover any "alternative" medicine). I scheduled my exam, drilled the doctor with tons of questions on it's validity beforehand, and decided it was worth a shot. I also have to note that this is the first doctor I've ever been to that did not weigh me. Fascinating. Maybe because I was there about knee pain and not to lose weight? Still, every other doctor on the planet always wants to waste their time on "the number", so it was refreshing to not go through the normal stress of stepping on a scale. Anyways, the doctor also recommended a free consultation with a physical therapist. Not the typical kind, but a gym here in town that does boot-camp type classes, personal trainers, chiropractors, massage, etc. Since this place doesn't do a lot of insurance work, their rates were less than half of what we paid at the in-network place for Sebastian. I figured it was worth a shot as well.

Right before Thanksgiving, I received my food intolerance results. 14 things showed up on the test as having a reaction, only a few with high reactions (eggs, yeast- bakers and brewers, and whey), and the rest with moderate to mild reactions (milk, sugar cane, kidney beans, soy beans, green beans, oats, almonds, cranberries, mushrooms, and garlic). The recommendation from the doc is to try to avoid them all (plus all alcohol, yep FML) for 6 weeks, then we'll slowly introduce each one back into my diet and see if my symptoms come back. Aside from the knee pain, I'm also hoping to help my chronic headaches and occasional digestive discomfort.

At this point you're likely going, wait a second, how could food be making my knee hurt? The theory is if you have an intolerance to a food you're eating, it creates inflammation in your digestive track that can then increase inflammation in the rest of your body, potentially causing many problems. If you've ever talked to anyone who's ever suffered from a food intolerance, they'll tell you how amazing they felt after removing the offending food from their body. I know many people have their skepticism about food intolerance, which is understandable because it's a difficult thing to prove as there are so many factors at play here. But I am willing to be the guinea pig and document my experience for you all.

I started this post right after I got my results and failed to finish it. So now I am over 2 weeks into this diet and 3 sessions into physical therapy, and my knee is already showing improvement. Of course since I'm doing both at the same time, I won't know which one is really doing the trick until I'm done, but honestly I think they are both helping. More details about what the hell I am able to eat and how crazy intense this physical therapy is in my next post.

Random Picture that has nothing to do with this post, but it just cracks me up

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake

This year for Thanksgiving, I decided to forego the traditional pies, and a variety of other traditional recipes, in place of healthier ones. Part of this was just because that's how I roll, and part was because I'm on a very strange diet, which I will share with you the whys and what's in my next post. I've made this one with berries several times with success, so wanted to try it with pumpkin. And it did not disappoint.
I'm definitely not a food photographer
A note for anyone who hasn't tried a raw, vegan cheesecake...it doesn't taste like real cheesecake, but it tastes damn good and is much healthier, especially if, like me, you have a dairy intolerance. So here's my version adapted from the berry one and this pumpkin one.

(Mostly) Raw, Vegan Pumpkin Cheesecake with Coconut Whipped Cream

Ingredients:
Crust
  • 1/2 cups dates (buy pitted or remember to remove pits yourself. My food processor makes a horrendous noise if I forget to remove the pits.)
  • 1/2 cups nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds or hazelnuts, whatever you like)
  • pinch of salt
Filling
  • 2 cups cashews (soaked overnight)
  • juice of 2 medium lemons
  • 1-2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2ish cups pumpkin (I cooked mine first but they say you can just soak it for a few hours if you want to keep it raw)
  • 1/3 cups maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1/3 cups coconut oil
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • pinch of salt
Whipped cream
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk or coconut cream (refrigerated)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

The night before:
  1. Soak the cashews overnight (or at least 5 hours). 
  2. Put your can of coconut milk/cream in the fridge overnight. 
  3. If cooking the pumpkin, I sliced it into quarters, place them on a foiled and oiled cookie sheet and bake at 375 until tender (40 minutes to 1 hour, depends on the size of your pumpkin). Peel and refrigerate until cold.
At least several hours before you want to eat it:
  1. Throw nuts and salt into food processor or high-powered blender and blend until well ground.
  2. Add dates and blend until it's well mixed and binds together when pressed.
  3. Press the mixture into the bottom of a springform pan if you have one (it's on my Christmas list, so I just used the only round pan I had, but you could make a square cheescake, why not? Make sure it's a fairly deep pan though.)
  4. Next warm up the coconut oil (I just microwave for 30 seconds or so- not the raw way but I'm impatient) and pour into food processor along with maple syrup, cashews, lemon juice, vanilla, and spices and blend until well mixed.
  5. Add the pumpkin and blend again until thoroughly mixed and as smooth as possible. This may take many minutes of blending. Pour this mixture on top of the crust and even it out. 
  6. Place the cake in the freezer until solid (a couple hours at least).
  7. Open the can of chilled coconut milk/cream and scoop out the hardened cream into a bowl. Using an electric mixer, whip the coconut cream until fluffy. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat to combine. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  8. Remove cake from freezer and let warm up at room temperature until easily cut. Or struggle to cut it and get brain freeze when you take a bite.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Enough

I'm exhausted. Physically, mentally, emotionally. My kids sleep through the night, so it's not that. It's just life. It's all of the things I am doing, things I should be doing, and things I wish I could do. It's all piling up. My yoga teacher said someone once told her stress is the difference between how things are and how you want them to be. That pretty much sums it up I'd say.

The reality is there are 24 hours in a day. 8 of those are spent sleeping (or trying to), 9 spent working, so that leaves a measly 7 hours for all the other things in your life. Wait no, not really 7. At least an hour just getting ready, another cooking or some sort of food prep. Most days there's 1/2 to a full hour exercising (even if that's just walking the dog or chasing the kids). An hour of cleanup and playing with the kids. An hour of bedtime routine. What's left, 2? If you're lucky. Half an hour to get ready for bed, and at least some time to spend with your significant other, or even if you're single, some sort of adult conversion outside of work. So maybe you get like 20 minutes a day to yourself? 20 minutes for all the other things I want to do in life.

What else could I want? I like to write. I like to sing and write music with Brian. I like to curl up with a good book or watch a good movie. I like to garden. I like to look up new recipes. I like researching things I'm interested in. I like sorting through all the crap in my house and giving away as much as possible (a never-ending project). I like to do crafts and make things for family and friends. Oh right and some day I want to volunteer and travel and go on more hikes and and and...

And I'm supposed to be a good wife and mother, daughter, sister, friend, neice, cousin, employee, co-worker... I'm supposed to concentrate on my career while being an amazing mother. I'm supposed to make all their food homemade from organic ingredients which requires me to spend a fortune on food and an enormous amount of time baking and cooking. I'm supposed to worry about how my body looks during all of this? Fuck that.

Enough goddammit, enough. I can't do it all. I shouldn't feel like this, like I'm supposed to do it all. Who's making me feel this way? Society? Who is that exactly? The media, friends, family, the government, the mob, who??? Oh right, there isn't one person to blame. I can't control anything except myself. That's taken years of therapy for me to truly believe.

But I really can't. I can't make the world change. I can't even get Sebastian to stop wiping his nose on his shirt. So why do I stress about all these things that I literally can't do, change, or control in any way? Enough, it's time to stop this stress. I don't want to want life to be different than it is. I want to enjoy it for what it is and who I am right now. Not who I'll be after I learn to be an amazing wife, mom, career woman, blah blah blah. I can just be me and enjoy who that is.

I'm actually pretty awesome. And I am enough.