My Tea Fantasy

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My little toddler is verbal just like her mother. She is starting to say everything on her mind. All week as I boiled a kettle full of water for my herbal tea, she would point to the oven and say “Hot...hot water.” When I actually poured the cup, she’d reach for my mug, and I’d have to say, “Mama’s.” Trying to distract her little hands from accidentally knocking over the tea,  I’d give her a drink of water. After a minute of unsuccessfully grabbing my tea, Cooper finally accepted the steamy hot mug was something she was not allowed to touch.

I have always marveled at people who find time to sit early in the morning, peacefully enjoying a cup of hot tea. When I envision my most happy, centered self, it involves this fantasy: getting up early, brewing a cup of herbal tea and sitting outside at sunrise to  listen to music or write in my journal or read the newspaper.

Our current reality:

The getting up early part is a routine now--a little voice whines from the nursery around 6:30 each morning wanting dada or mama. That is Cooper’s call she is ready to get out of her crib. Most days, Cory gets up first to spend time with her before work. Around 7:15 am, it is my turn to take over. Most mornings, I am grateful for a forced reason to get out of bed. It allows me plenty of time in the morning to sit and eat breakfast.

As I mentioned, brewing the cup of tea isn’t the hard part. Drinking the cup while sitting down is the challenge. So this week, my solution involved dragging Coop’s high chair outside in the backyard. While I fed her breakfast, I sat on the outdoor couch. I am uncertain why breakfast outside doesn’t happen daily because the weather has  been stunningly beautiful in the early mornings. In our city, Orange, CA, we have a population of wild parrots that flood the neighborhood of Old Town. Most mornings you can hear them fly by the house, and some mornings they will stop in your yard. If you are trying sleep, good luck, but if you are up early, it is quite a treat.

Listening to music is a norm now in the mornings, but this week I replaced 52 Sing-a-Long tunes with Jack Johnson, Hawaiian Music and some Beach Boys.

Journaling? Well, that is not happening in the mornings anytime soon. Even though Cooper is held captive in her chair, I do not have quite that much time to think. Besides, I would rather have our little toddler one and two word conversations and kiss dada off to work.

I was grateful for this week’s #bebetter52 challenge because I also found a new place on the kitchen counter to showcase my herbal teas. It is a gentle reminder in the morning to start boiling the water, making it extremely convenient to reach for the tea of the day.

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Not everything needs to be an annual tradition

Contemplating this week’s #bebetter52 challenge to be “more present,” I find it impossible to analyze without connecting to the deeper meaning of life. I don’t mean to be too intense, but it’s true.

It’s only when you realize you are not present that you start becoming present.

One summer I sat out on the back deck of my parent’s backyard in Oregon. It was a beautiful day in 2008, and I had found a cozy pillow to lie on next to the fire pit I had enjoyed during the summer nights. I had just graduated from grad school at UCLA, and the uncertainty of what to do next was all too real. Months earlier my heart had been broken by a boyfriend of eight years, and I felt more nervous than excited by the prospect I could do ANYTHING with my future.

I had vivid memories of that summer when I started reading the book The Power of Now, by Eckhart. My mind was blown.

Quotes like this one caught my attention: “The moment you realize you are not present, you are present. Whenever you are able to observe your mind, you are no longer trapped in it. Another factor has come in, something that is not of the mind: the witnessing presence.”

I had been wasting away my life by allowing my head to be consumed by fears of an uncertain future. My mind was a runaway train when it came to planning out the unlimited number of possibilities that could occur.  I was under the false belief that worrying about my future somehow better prepared me. Instead, the distraction of the “what ifs” only confused and paralyzed me. Detached from what was present, I was missing out on important moments that could have ACTUALLY prepared me.

The shift to live more present.

It was that summer I decided to travel the world. I had to “figure out life” and until that point, traveling was the only time I felt truly present. The days would feel long, packed with enriching experiences. I was convinced that in different countries, days would go by in slow motion but weeks would speed by.

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I was living in the present. I returned from a month in Ecuador, weeks in Kenya and a month in India and Nepal and felt shocked that months had gone by. I was present in the new cultures-- what I was seeing, smelling, tasting--and I embraced not planning, believing that by releasing the tight grip of a planned schedule, I would let life take me where it wanted. As a result, I reacted to every moment, good or bad, with the mindset it created an experience that would teach me something.

Why was it difficult to continue this outlook on life once I returned home from my travels? When reflecting back to those days in 2008, I believe these travel experiences slowly helped transform my life from one in my head to one in the present.

However, the struggle to be present is still something I deal with daily. I am a planner; it’s just the way my mind works.

Let’s take one of the more current examples of my ability to ruminate over details that only distract me from the present. To some, these might seem valid questions, but my mind never simply asks and allows me to sit back and observe. it starts to plan.

Planning Pregnancy with Cooper:

“What if I were to get pregnant this month? Cooper would be born around the holidays.

If Cooper is born around the holidays, I wouldn’t be able to go home to Oregon for Christmas for the first time in 33 years? Or could I? When are babies allowed on a plane? (quick Google search) Dang, looks like they need to be at least 8 weeks old.

If I don’t go home, I will be stuck in sunny California during Christmas (which to me seemed the end of the world).  I don’t want to be in sunny weather. I like the cold. Maybe I can take a newborn to Big Bear Mountain, just so it feels like Christmas.

But what if I can’t get pregnant then? What if I wait and Cooper is born during lacrosse season. Who will coach while I am gone? Would I hire a babysitter to come to the field? Would I leave the baby at home? How long would it take to pump a bottle if I am on the field all afternoon? You get the picture. My mind can be a runaway train.

Meanwhile, those moments wasted in my head will never be gifted back to me. They are gone forever. And guess what? Cooper was born on January 10th 2016, days after Christmas and New Years. I didn’t go home for Christmas. Instead, Cory and I enjoyed a very special holiday, just the two of us, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our little girl. On that day, I was extremely present, able to embrace the treasured last moments of just Cory and me. It was a Christmas I could have never planned or prepared for--it just happened.

What percentage of my days, of my life, do I live unaware of the present?

Luckily for me, my struggle to live in the present isn’t as deeply rooted in anxiety as it is in excitement to PLAN and DOCUMENT.

I like to obsessively plan. Many would say it is one of my strengths, and I would agree. But does the need to plan take away from the present? Or am I simply creating moments that allow us to embrace the present. I think there is a balance.

I also have to document.  Most of the time I feel that unless I document something by journal or photo, it didn’t happen. And worse, if the moment goes by undocumented, then I grieve the memory gone. What in the world is this about? Maybe it’s because I have a horrible memory. Maybe remembering good times brings me great joy.  Again, I think there is a balance.

But I now recognize the unsatisfying feeling of not being fully present compared to the joy of being fully aware in the present.

Some of my tips:

1.     Don’t start grieving the end of holidays before they have even begun. This is also true of the weekends. How many times do you wish for the weekend, and then once the weekend comes, you start worrying about work?

2.     Set down your phone the majority of the time. Take a picture or reflect on the moment at the end of the day in a journal, but don’t fall victim to having to document everything. I have seen too many moms take photos and then automatically look them over, deciding which ones to post-- while memories pass right before their eyes.

3.     The big picture can be paralyzing. I am a big thinker, but when it comes to the daily grind of checking off items from my to-do list, I allow this “think big” tendency to paralyze me. For example, what is the point of pulling garden weeds if one day (years from now) we are going to rip out the backyard and hire a landscaper to redo the whole thing? Recognizing the items I need to accomplish in the present makes the present more enjoyable.

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4.    Not everything needs to be an annual tradition.  Every time I enjoy a moment, I have this temptation to start daydreaming about the next time we will do it. For example, I love holiday traditions and a highlight last fall was taking Cooper to the pumpkin patch. Before the experience was even over, I was talking to my friends about how excited I was to do it again next year. Although I believe in the importance of traditions, I am not fully living in the moment if I start planning the following year’s tradition before the current one is over. My enjoyment of the tradition is lessened by my consuming need to repeat the tradition.

5.    Anxiety is worrying about the future and depression tends to focus on analyzing the past. As I prepare for the birth of our son, it is easy to be consumed by the past trauma of what happened to me after Cooper was born and what is to happen in the future. By doing so, I will miss out on being present during the birth of our son. My main motivation to be present lies in my commitment to be present during these limited moments as a family of three and the welcoming of our newest addition. I never want to reflect back on these times and wish I’d been more present.

To summarize, let me end with my favorite new quotes:

“Past and future are in the mind only- I am now.”---Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj

“Life is available only in the present moment. If you abandon the present moment you cannot live the moment of your daily life deeply.”---Thich Nhat Hanh

“The meeting of two eternities, the past and future….is precisely the present moment.” –-Henry David Thoreau

What would I do if I went into labor during Hurricane Harvey?

What would I do if I went into labor during Hurricane Harvey?

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It is difficult to imagine an event that could stop me from simply getting into my car and driving 15 minutes to check into labor and delivery at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach. But this week, while watching the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey on Houston, Texas, I can’t help but think about all the women waiting out their last weeks of pregnancy. Would they go into labor during one of the worst reported floods in Texas history? Would the stress of the event induce labor?

The thought made me Google, Houston floods and labor.  This is what came up.

Women in Labor Saved from Houston Floodwaters After Neighbors Formed Human Chain.

The hurricane came, and these newborns refused to wait out the storm.”

Mom delivers twins during Harvey as family evacuates.”

(VIDEO) TV Reporter Meets Baby He Helped Deliver During Harvey: “A Chance to Smile.”

The story that stood out the most to me was the story of Andrea Smith and her husband, Greg, who were both doctors. They recently moved to Houston in late July for advanced training in their specialties. As I read their story, they seemed as prepared as a couple could be--way more prepared than I could ever be with their medical knowledge. When they woke up the morning of the hurricane with Andrea in labor, they were trapped in 2-3 feet of water with no way to get out. They reached out to the Coast Guard and local hospitals for help, but no one was able to come to their aid. Luckily, their apartment complex is home to doctors, nurses and EMT who work at the nearby Texas Medical Center. They arrived at their door with sutures, scissors and other supplies.

The article states,

“Luckily, someone reached out to a fire station — and the rescuers stopped by on what appeared to be a large garbage truck.” The Smiths’ neighbors then formed a human chain to help Annie wade through the water — which at that point was waist-high — to get to the truck, and the firefighters were able to escort her to the hospital, where she gave birth to baby Adrielle at 1:59 a.m.on Monday morning.

I cannot imagine the level of uncertainty that would come in that situation, especially now that I am deemed high risk. Again, it reminds me how blessed I am to have access to high quality doctors who are supervising my prenatal care and to reliable transportation to top hospitals. At the same time, it puts into perspective that in the event of a natural disaster, this could all change. I am motivated by the stories above. Random strangers worked together to help these pregnant women deliver these newborns in scary circumstances.

This week I am incredibly grateful for the #bebetter52 challenge for two reasons. Let’s talk about the first and more important reason. This week I have felt affirmation as to why I am working hard to build Be Better Movement. For all completed #bebetter52 challenges, money is raised for Every Mother Counts. The weekly donation of $1 per completed challenge might seem insignificant, but when multiplied by 52 weeks and completed by all participants nationwide, the impact grows exponentially.

It has been interesting to follow the efforts of Every Mother Counts during hurricane Harvey. They sent out a newsletter which states,

“Every Mother Counts is supporting our friends at Circle of Health International (COHI)through our Maternal & Child Health Emergency Fund. COHI, based in Texas, is working with their partners throughout the region to identify pregnant women, families with newborns and medically fragile children to help connect them to critical healthcare and safety.”

In the face of natural disasters, I believe funds should go directly to organizations that know the community and its needs. I appreciate Every Mother Counts partnership with COHI. All the money from the Be Better Movement raised toward Every Mother Counts is going to the right organization to guarantee the greatest impact to help women access essential maternity care worldwide.

The second reason I have enjoyed this week’s challenge is because it has seriously helped with my heartburn.

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Why do I get acid reflux while pregnant?

According to thebump.com, acid reflux is “when stomach acid doesn’t stay put in your stomach and creeps up into your esophagus. Acid reflux is more common in pregnancy because progesterone, the main hormone of pregnancy, slows your digestive system. That, combined with the pressure of a growing baby, increases the possibility stomach acid will make its way upward."

I remember experiencing acid reflux with Cooper. Suddenly in the middle of the night, a burning mass would appear in my throat, and I felt like I was choking. Cory would laugh as I’d dramatically sit up from sleep, acting like I couldn’t catch my breath because of this strange need to cough and burp.  I, too, would laugh because it was a dramatic reaction but an involuntary one. For weeks of my pregnancy with Cooper, I had to sleep in a propped up reclined position, which helped tremendously. Even in labor when the nurses had me too far reclined, I’d feel that choking feeling creeping up and demand I be propped up. Magically, the second she was born, the curse of acid reflux vanished.

So far this pregnancy I’ve encountered less morning sickness and acid reflux, but, coincidentally, this week the acid reflux choking sensation resurfaced. One of the natural remedies I used while pregnant with Cooper was a tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV). It is a strange irony.  With reflux, acid comes up your esophagus, yet here I was treating my problem with an acidic vinegar that stung as it went back down; however, I felt an intense relief from the pain.

As I reached for my trusted home remedy of ACV, I decided to do a little more research. Thank you heathline.com for your advice. I needed it.

-It’s thought that this home remedy helps balance your stomach pH by neutralizing stomach acid.

- It should be diluted in water (which I was NOT doing). The ratio should be one tablespoon of ACV with 8 oz. of water.

- You can prevent the acid from damaging the enamel on your teeth by using a straw and rinsing your mouth right after.

-Consider adding honey if the ACV is too sharp or sour for your taste buds.

 

 

 

New friends will One Day become Old Friends

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Old Friends

When I say old friends, it doesn’t mean they are no longer my friends. It is a treasured title, one that reflects years of memories together.

“Alyson Vislocky is turning 14, 13 is out the window and 15 is up the street.”- Stacy

This weekend I celebrated my 35th birthday. Every year I receive a phone call from my friend Stacy who sings this magical song to me. It started 20 years ago (oh, my goodness!) and has been a little present I receive either live or by voicemail year after year. Of course, the lyrics have changed slightly, such as my name from maiden to married, but the consistency of the tradition stays the same.

This year, I received the phone call one day late and it sounded like this,

“Alyson Simons is turning 35, (yesterday), 34 is out the window and 36 is up the street.”

Just like the little changes in the song-- and even the fact that the song came a day late this year--our childhood friendship has also changed. I used to be bothered by change, but over the years I have embraced the fact that friendships are not intended to remain the same. Friendships grow and change during the course of one’s life, but that doesn’t mean their significance is lessened. The memories created with old friends will always be treasured, and any new memories created will one day be old memories. There is something special about old childhood friends because they know where your life journey began. The silly middle school moments, the songs you jammed out to, the boys you dated and the stupid mistakes you made. I treasure my childhood friends and the significance they had and still do have in my life.

New Friends

Beth and I, FOR baby boy shower. We have been friend for 10 years now.

Beth and I, FOR baby boy shower. We have been friend for 10 years now.

Nine years ago I moved to Orange County after graduate school. This was the first time in my life I was forced to make friends without the commonality of schooling. I moved to Newport Beach knowing only one person, my ex-boyfriend’s friend Beth, who became my roommate for over four years.  She moved from Minnesota, and like me, was a plane ride away from her family. We were two girls in their mid-twenties, single and ready to mingle. However, one problem: it felt impossible to make friends. Where were we supposed to meet friends?  The bars at night? I remember on multiple occasions spotting an eligible friend at the gym and trying to figure out the best “pick up line” to see if she wanted to simply be my friend.  The scenario played out something like this...

“So, do you live near here? Cool. Wanna hang out sometime?”

We both knew we were in this awkward period in our lives between college and marriage with kids. I was confident friendships would come once I had children, but I also knew that time was years down the road-- if I were lucky enough to have kids. Thank goodness, random friendships developed through random events (assistant coaches, be better women) and, of course, I had Beth by my side the whole time.

Mommy Friends

I hope one day, all my new friends will become my old friends.

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge happened at a perfect time. Through texts, flowers in the mail, phone calls and a birthday party, my OLD and NEW friends showered me with birthday love.

As predicted, since Cooper’s birth my ways to meet new friends has expanded. I am happily out of the house and more in the community engaging in playful activities. I have meet some of my closest new friends through a Facebook group created by my friend Jessica in Orange County, a group of women who gave birth to babies during the winter of 2015-2016.  I found another close friend one early morning in the middle of old town Orange circle as I listened to her read a story to her daughter, a couple months younger than Cooper. We just clicked. I have meet two more moms at storytime at the library.

Living so far away from family, I realize my friends have become like family. I am grateful for my old and new friends who have reached out to me over the last weeks while I am on bed rest.  With so many friends spoiling and serving me over the last month, I didn’t have the chance to feel lonely or alone. I hope this experience will always reminds me to reconnect and serve my friends. And I believe it is never too late to reconnect or serve.

I was even lucky enough to have one of my best friends from college randomly in town for a wedding in Newport Beach from the Bay Area.

 

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Bed Rest and Honey Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches

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Being on modified bed rest has been harder than I expected. Maybe it is increase in pregnancy hormones, the lack of vitamin D, the achiness I feel from laying down majority of the day, the inability to do things I want to get done, or the grieving about not able to spend quality time with Cooper before her brother’s arrival.

Oh wait, it is probably all of the above.

The hardest part of being on bed rest is the mix of emotions I feel. Of course, it’s all worth it, and I would do it for the full 40 weeks if it meant a healthy son, but at times it is tough. I don’t enjoy acknowledging how difficult it is because, for some reason, it makes me feel ungrateful and weak. Negativity is not an emotion I like festering inside of me, so I have actively been trying to look at the positives of bed rest.

1.     Before 28 weeks, I was feeling a little detached from this pregnancy because I was distracted by a busy toddler. I was more focused on the actual birth of my son. Now, I am almost solely focused on the baby itself.

On bed rest enjoying a little honey snack

On bed rest enjoying a little honey snack

2.     I have a growing appreciation for all the people who have been watching and entertaining Cooper. Having to rely on people for almost everything (picking her up to put her in her crib, grocery shopping, cleaning up, etc), gives me a new perspective on what others might need when it's my time to serve in a similar situation.

3.     It forces Cooper and me to become used to a little more separation which will inevitably happen when brother arrives. Instead of being uncomfortable with new people, she gets excited for the new adventures I have organized for her to go on. Because I can’t do everything, she is becoming more independent.

4.     I can take naps--and, boy, do I love naps.

5.     I get to work on Be Better and connect with amazing companies and women.

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge has been a great one for me. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches with bananas only requires a limited amount of prep time, which allows me to make them quickly while standing. I have come up with a creative solution to feeding Cooper that allows me to feed her without lifting her into a high chair. We bought a little IKEA table for her to sit at to eat. It melts my heart seeing her little feet inches off the ground swinging in pride as she attempts to eat on a big girl chair.

We should treat everyone with kindness-- as if they were pregnant.

It seems the bigger my stomach grows and the more I waddle, people are increasingly generous with kind words and actions toward me.  To be completely honest, I accept each one fully because not only am I on modified bed rest (no lifting little miss toddler who is throwing a tantrum), but I also have hit what I think is a third-trimester wall. I don’t remember feeling this way with Cooper, but with baby boy, I am nauseous, tired and not feeling like my energetic self.

While returning home to Southern California, I started thinking: Is it my visual appearance that beacons constant kind deeds my way all day? I have been overwhelmed by the acts of kindness not only from my own mother, but other mothers, from women and men I know as well as from complete strangers. I have felt more connected to people as they serve me. Oftentimes people share relatable moments from their own lives or talk about their pregnant daughter with a little one.

Looking around the airport, I started wondering how many individuals waiting to board the plane also deserve this sort of kindness. Possibly, they might be feeling worse physically or mentally than I, but they disguise their pain behind forced smiles. My conclusion:

We should treat everyone with kindness-- as if they were pregnant.

The airport offers multiple ways to show kindness. At first I felt unable to give back to others with my limited capabilities, but an opportunity presented itself while I waited for my stroller to make it through the TSA security line. Anyone who has ever experienced TSA lines can relate. You have a wild child out of his stroller. You try to pick up all your bags, put your shoes back on, etc. And for some reason, it takes a ridiculous amount of time to get the stroller through--I am talking 10 minutes.

After patiently waiting for my stroller--which finally arrived within the normal 10 minute wait, I watched my mom chase Cooper around the terminal. Suddenly, I noticed a mom in desperate need of some kindness. She had a one-month-old baby boy strapped to her chest and an unhappy 13-month-old daughter squirming out of her loose grip by her hip. She was attempting to gather her luggage on the belt while holding on to both kids all by herself. Earlier in the security line, I had seen both kids, happy and content in their double stroller. I knew the 10 minute wait with two kids would seem an eternity. So here I stood, watching with my empty stroller. Knowing I was unable to actually hold her daughter due to my limitations, I quickly offered my empty stroller. She jumped at the opportunity to set down her unhappy wiggle worm. We sat down together. Her daughter, now happy, waited for her stroller to do the transfer. After a small pep talk wishing each other good luck on the plane and a gracious thank-you, we departed ways.

When the world seems filled to the brim with negativity, we must slow down enough to notice the acts of kindness displayed in little and big ways. Gratitude is the antidote to self-absorption, and kindness can only flourish in a world with hope and love.

Here is how others have served me over the last couple days:

-My mom decided to fly back down to Southern California with me to help with Cooper while I await my next appointment. All day long she gives and gives as she takes care of me by taking care of Cooper.

-Women distracting Cooper during the plane ride by waving and playing peek-a-boo.

-Flight attendant giving extra cookies for baby girl.

-Trader Joe’s employee offering to carry out my groceries to the car.

-My mother-in-law building a beautiful garden in our backyard.

- My husband getting up early to play with Coops while I sleep in.

-My other mother-in-law editing all my email drafts to be sent to mommy bloggers.

-My sister offering to babysit Cooper while I work.

Too many to list. I have witnessed people giving random compliments to each other at Starbucks. I have watched people letting others cut in line at the grocery store when they have fewer items. It is a beautiful sight when, despite all the tensions brewing over political and religious differences, KINDNESS wins. In every place I have traveled, people can be seen extending kindnesses to each other. In the bush of Kenya, in the mountains of Nepal, in the hills of New Zealand, kindness is what bonds us together.

I was grateful for the timing of this #bebetter52 challenge.

Giving Up Trying to Control the Uncontrollable

The closer I move to our son’s due date, the more frequently I am asked, “How are you feeling about giving birth again?” I do not mind the question since I have been so public about the complication after Cooper’s birth, but my answer seems to depend on the day. Luckily, most days I feel incredibly at peace because of my newly found realization.

I am the type of person who needs to prepare when feeling anxious.  As a student, I only felt confident taking tests if I had put in--what I felt was--an appropriate amount of prep time. Over and over I have “over” thinking what type of preparation I need to feel “ready” for our son’s birth in October. Should I attend birthing classes? Should I hire a doula? Should I practice calming meditative techniques? Should I do all of the above?

I have learned the only way I can prepare for the upcoming event is to accept this truth:  I have absolutely no control over the uncontrollable. This might seem simple, but during this pregnancy I have been tested daily to adopt this philosophy at its deepest level.

When my OBGYN appointments began, I came prepared with a select number of questions, all incredibly situational, of course. I am not sure what I expected. Maybe I wanted my doctor to outline every possible outcome. It didn’t take long for me to realize he was not going to play my “what if” game.

Below are some of the main questions I asked. (Not the totally irrational ones that pop into my head as I toss and turn in the middle of the night.)

Will I hemorrhage? If I do, will medicine make it stop this time?

How long will you wait till you do a hysterectomy?

Will laboring look like it did with Cooper, water breaking, pushing 1.5 hours?

Will I have a big baby, which can increase hemorrhaging?

Would you do a scheduled c-section at any point? At what point? Why?

Can I have a natural labor? Why would you not recommend it?

Over and over again, he told me many of my questions were going to depend on the pregnancy and what is going on in the moment. Occasionally, he would outline around five different situations, just to prove to me he was the highly recommended expert, and I needed to hand over the control to him.

The reality is there are WAY too many unknowns. As much as I try to stop imagining situations that could happen during or after delivery, for someone like me, that is enough to create anxiety on its own.

I have been going to therapy every two weeks. I recently said,

The experience after Cooper’s birth felt like a car accident coming out of nowhere. I got hit, I fought for my life and I survived the crash.

Our son’s birth feels more like a cancer diagnoses. I have time to grieve, worry, and obsess over all the possibilities. The only difference is I DO NOT HAVE CANCER, and there is a 75% chance no car accident will happen, not even a fender bender.

My conclusion:

The only way for me to prepare is to acknowledge I cannot be distracted by the “what if’s” because, by doing so, I will not be present in the moment. Being fully present in the moment is the sole way to be my strongest and most confident self. Being strong and confident is necessary, both physically and mentally, to safely deliver our son.

I was present in the moment with Cooper’s birth, and I give credit to that being one of the reasons I am alive. I dealt with what was happening, I wasn’t paralyzed by fear, I reacted and I survived.

I need to enter our son’s birth by allowing it to be whatever it is supposed to be. He is a different child with a different birth story. I must allow him to be unique by not assuming anything, by being present in the moments leading up to his birth, during his birth, and after his birth.

So what does being present in the moment look like to me RIGHT NOW?

Modified best rest.  

As I mentioned, this is a different pregnancy. Last week at one of my high risk doctors’ appointments, they noticed my cervix is half the size it should be, and I am already effacing, NOT the ideal situation since I am only 29 weeks pregnant.

So no sex, no exercise, no walking long distances, no picking up Cooper. I need to relax as much as possible. Being present in the moment is making sure baby boy stays inside me a lot longer. Since exercise is not a possibility for the rest of pregnancy, I am going to focus my being-present-in-the- moment energy into feeding my body healthy food so that baby and I will get the most nutrition possible to be strong for our big day.

I am grateful for this week’s #bebetter52 challenge because it motivates me to focus more on the food I put into my body and its nutritional properties. I am going to the store today to pick up some turmeric root to try a turmeric drink packed with all good ingredients: a tropical carrot, ginger and turmeric smoothie.

A Book I want to Pass on to Cooper

How do you tell your child no more books when they beg you to read more? Cooper, in her little soft voice, says, “mooore,” and then signs a book by opening and closing her hands like a book.  I tell her only one more before I sing a song and gently lay her into bed. Oftentimes, she begs for more.

I love that Cooper loves books. It brings back many fond memories of the childhood books I used to read. Thankfully, my mom saved a lot of these books so that one day we could read them to our babies. Well, the time has come. Before Cooper’s baby shower, my mom asked me to name my favorite childhood book. Without hesitation, I replied, “The one with the big red strawberry.” At the event, I opened up a present to find my original book titled Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey Wood and Don Wood. Flipping through the worn pages, I couldn’t believe all the illustrations I remembered. This book has now become one of Cooper’s favorites. There is a moment in the middle of the story when the bear tries to eat the strawberry. The author writes,  “Boom boom boom” to describe the bear tromping through the forest. After hearing this story a dozen times, Cooper now calls strawberries Boom Boom Booms.

Since I am in Oregon for two weeks, I decided to visit the well-known book store in the heart of Portland, Powell Books, with my mom and daughter. Powell’s is the largest independent new and used chain of bookstores in the world. We packed up the car and took the 20 minute drive into the city to the bookstore that occupancies a full city block between N.W. 10th and 11th Avenue and W. Burnside. For any bookstore lover, this place is heaven on earth. Without a toddler in tow, I could easily spend a full day roaming the floor to ceiling bookshelves. With a toddler, it is more like damage control. Cooper ran around pulling off books from the shelves and plopping down on the floor to turn pages. As I was trying to prevent page tears and attempting to somewhat clean up the mess, she moved on to the next book. With the distraction of a little storytime hosted by one of the employees for Cooper, my mom and I were able to walk away with a couple of good children’s books.

My book agenda: I wanted a book to read to my daughter about Oregon and another book that introduced the concept she was going to be a big sister to a baby brother.

Luckily, I found both. The book titled Little Big Girl almost made me cry as I scanned the illustrations (gotta love those pregnancy hormones). The images definitely look like Cooper and what I imagine her soon-to-be brother will look like. I want to write a little message in the book and make sure I keep it for her so that one day, when her kids become big sisters or brothers, she can read it to them.

I Have Book ADD: Aly's Angle

Hello, my name is Aly and I Have Book ADD

Most of our family lives in Oregon, so every summer I hope to take Cooper (and soon baby boy) for a summer trip. On Wednesday, while sitting on a plane to Portland, I was reminded of the stark difference between how my time is spent now, specifically at the airport, compared to how it was spent before motherhood. During pre-boarding moments, I would be reading a good book or scrolling my phone, just trying to pass time. Now,  distracting and occupying a toddler in a public setting fills that time.  During the last couple of times at the airport, Cooper is obsessed with pushing her stroller around the terminal. Unfortunately, this normally results in Coop pushing the back bar of the stroller from her knees on the dirty airport floor, or worse yet, Coop ending up face down on her stomach because she moves too fast.  I am not a germ freak, but how gross.

During the plane ride, I used to enjoy the secure feeling of being settled in my seat before reading a good book and then finally closing my eyes and nodding off. Now, I act as a jungle gym trying to contain Cooper as she climbs, waves, pretend laughs and “talks” through the whole flight. I have yet to have her take even a 10-minute nap on any flight since she turned one. I now consider reading a complete luxury.

When I read.

Someone watching me read might think I am very studious because of the way I write notes in the margins of the books; however, the reality is quite different. I have horrible retention. If I do not write something down or take notes, it goes in and then right out. That is why reading books digitally (especially educational, non-fiction ones) is difficult for me. I need a book in my hands, I need to highlight, and I need to take notes. The problem for me isn’t as much reading something digitally versus non-digitally, it is finding the time to read at all. On a side note, I have an obsession with bookstores. I would love to take Cooper to Powell’s Books this weekend in Portland to show her how magnificently beautiful a bookstore can be.

I have book ADD.

Like most of the things I do, I struggle to complete one task from start to finish. This is also true with the books I read. Generally, I have three books on my nightstand and, depending on my mood, will read a little from one at night.

Titles of my most current reads:

- The Gift of Giving Life: Rediscovering the Divine Nature of Pregnancy and Birth by Felice Austin, Lani Axman, Sheridan Ripley, Heather Farrell,Robyn Allgood

- The Vaccine-Friend Plan: Dr. Paul’s Safe and Effective Approach to Immunity and Health-from Pregnancy through your Child’s Teen Years, by Paul Thomas M.D.

- Blog, Inc: Blogging for Passion, Profit, and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho

The reality is that finishing these books will probably take me a year, but I hope for the next two weeks while in Oregon, away from my husband 😞 and nighttime hours a little lonelier, I will be able to find more time to just sit back and read at night.

The Curse of the Haole Rot

Hard to see but she has white spots on her shoulders and back.

Hard to see but she has white spots on her shoulders and back.

One thing I love about my daughter’s pediatrician, Dr. Kozak in Tustin, CA, is she always proposes natural remedies before prescribing medicine. For example, the first time I asked what I should give Cooper for a cold, she suggested I give her a fruit smoothie with a whole orange in it for the vitamin C to boost her immune system. That recommendation started my absolute trust in her advice. So, I guess I wasn’t surprised with her suggestion to use coconut oil last week during Cooper’s 18-month appointment when I pointed out that she takes after her mom and is getting those summertime dry skin white blotches on her tanned little body.

My husband, when we first started dating, called the white patches on my arms, Haole Rot. He said, “You know how you get those right? Damp towels.” What in the world?!? I replied. He laughed, explaining that in Maui everyone gets haole rot by using wet towels that never dry because of the humidity. Despite the comical name and our ongoing laughable debate, the locals from Hawaii are not loonie. According to Medicine Mama, Haole Rot is “clinically known as Tinea Versicolor, and it is actually a fungal growth of yeast that occurs naturally on the skin.” This type of yeast can cause discoloration of the skin that looks like white, pink, red or brown spotty patches. They do not tan and can increase in warm weather. Has my husband been right all these years? Are we cursed with Haole Rot?

I’m not quite certain I can answer that question without a professional dermatologist diagnosis, but our symptoms definitely seem more fungal like Tinea Versicolor than itchy or irritated eczema.

So last week in preparation for this week’s challenge and to manage our growing skin issues, I started putting coconut oil on Cooper’s back. The problem is coconut oil is oil. So I would take her chubby naked body and rub her down with moderate amounts of the oil. I found myself nervous with what to do next. Do I put on her pj’s?  Was the oil residue going to get on my clothes while we snuggled and read bedtime stories? On her crib sheets at night? That is when I realized I wanted something coconut oil based but with the consistency of a cream. This is the moment I decided to be like my close friend Nicole Carnese and her company Cocos Organics.

I remember when Nicole started her company to create homemade remedies in her kitchen. Now she owes a company committed to organic, plant-based skincare. When I say committed, I mean it. She has no chemicals in her products, only ingredients you can pronounce. She doesn’t use plastic, only glass jars. I love her Instagram post from last week: “I’ve got 99 problems and coconut oil solves like 86 of them.” So without her knowing, I went out and bought all the ingredients I thought necessary for our anti-haole rot/eczema cream.  Buying the ingredients highlighted how truly clueless I was to the items on the list.

The recipe suggestion is from Dr. Axes, titled “Eczema Cream.”

Ingredients:

-1/2 cup of raw shea butter

-1/2 cup of coconut oil (optional: ¼ cup olive oil or almond oil)

-1 tablespoon of local honey

- 30 drops of lavender essential oil

- 8 drops of tea tree essential oil

- optional additions: 5 drops of geranium essential oil and/or 5 drops of myrrh essential oil

Raw Shea Butter:

I paid $9.99 at Sprouts for 7 oz. of raw shea butter. There were a couple of options, but I chose  Now Solutions Shea Butter. I was confused about measuring the quantity of raw shea butter into a measuring cup. I thought because 4 oz. equaled half a cup, I would use only ½ the container. I was wrong and am probably the only one in the world who didn’t know that fluid ounces are totally different than weight ounces. I used the whole container.

Coconut Oil:

I used refined Organic Refined Coconut Oil.

Local Honey:

Sometimes local honey can be a little bit more expensive, but it is important because it contains immune-stimulating properties that help the body adapt to its local environment.

Lavender Essential Oil:

Luckily, my mother-in-law Sue Hunkins is a distributor for DoTerra essential oils. I was able to go into her stash and handpick every oil I needed. The best part is she has a book that outlines all the benefits of the oils, including which oils are safe for pregnancy. All oils used have been given the thumbs up when diluted with coconut oil.

Tea Tree essential Oil (or what DoTerra calls Melaleuca Oil)

And Geranium Essential Oil

The experience of combining all these ingredients was relatively easy but surprisingly messy, considering I have never melted shea butter and coconut oil together. Yes, the kitchen looked similar to the way it does when I cook--dishes, spatulas and pots everywhere. Now that I have made it, I realize it doesn’t need to be as messy.

My Be Better ladies holding their little ziplock bags of haole rot cream.

My Be Better ladies holding their little ziplock bags of haole rot cream.

I placed the shea butter and coconut oil into a jar. Next, I placed the jar in a saucepan of hot water, turned on the burner until the water boiled, and melted the butter and oil. This step took about 5 minutes. I then added the honey and essential oils.

The original directions said to put the jar in a refrigerator to harden the mixture a little bit before mixing to lotion consistency. For some reason this step made me a little nervous. My liquid shea butter and coconut oil were not solidifying even in the refrigerator, so into the freezer the mixture went, maybe a little too long. But just in time I took it out, mixed it in a mixer for 5 minutes and lo and behold, success. I had made homemade eczema cream.

To be completely honest, the recipe made way more than I expected. I filled up a small glass jar (just so Nicole Carnese would be proud) and then a huge glass water bottle. I put the extra in zip-lock bags for my be better workout ladies. I love the smell, I love the way it feels on our skin, and I love that it is made from natural ingredients. Most of all, I am surprised at how satisfying it is to made something from scratch.

 

Little Moments Turn Big

Little Moments Turn Big

Aly Simons

Recently, I was interviewed over the phone by one of my spring interns, Chandana, who wanted to write a journalism piece on my story and her experience working with the Be Better Movement.  After about 15 minutes into the interview, she asked, “What mark do you hope Be Better leaves on the world?” Wow!  I hesitated, thinking how complex yet simple my response could be.  My assessment of Be Better Movement this week is not only limited to this question, but also to the fact I have 13 weeks until the arrival of my baby boy. With two babies under the age of two on the horizon, where and what I devote my time and energy to needs thoughtful consideration. I will only carve out time from busy days with my family for things I firmly believe in.

That being said, I bought a new planner called the Self Journal. I have been waiting for it to arrive because I needed a new tool to guide, motivate and inspire me during the next 13 weeks. I needed to be FOCUSED.  The truth is I have a little bit of an obsession organizing my days with daily planners and, for the most part, “non digital planners” work best for me. The Self Journal arrived today, and after reading through the first 27 pages about maximizing one’s effectiveness, I wrote down the following :

My morning gratitude (The journal asked for 3 things)

-The Todd girls, who are the most flexible babysitters in the world.

-My husband who was willing to drive back from work to deliver my phone which he accidentally took.

-Eating and enjoying breakfast with my daughter before I head out the door to coach.

Outline a schedule for the day

-I produced a to-do list. Set a goal and a target for today

My goal: To gain 1200 subscribers to the Be Better Movement by October 15th. I want to attract the attention of companies inspired by our community who are excited to donate on behalf of our completed challenges. More subscribers equals more bigger impact.

Today’s Target (Most important tasks of the day to help me reach my goal):

-Read 25 more pages of my new blog book entitled, Blog Inc: Blogging for Passion, Profit and to Create Community by Joy Deangdeelert Cho.

- Write Aly’s Angle on Yerba Mates

-Go through a list of women networking companies and choose 10 to contact.

Back to Chandana’s question. I paused and then replied,

“The mark I hope Be Better Movement leaves on the world is that change happens by making little improvements in your life one day at a time. All of these little moments turn big when combined together. The beauty of Be Better Movement is that while each individual challenge may seem trivial, when added together, a lifestyle change happens. This is also true of the donations to Every Mother Counts. An individual may think a meager weekly contribution of a $1 to charity from a completed #bebetter52 challenge will have little impact, but that dollar, combined with the completed challenges of a woman in Texas, a woman in Oregon, a woman in Hawaii, etc., creates an impact that is exponential.”

The importance of authenticity when starting a blog-based company has been emphasized over and over in the book I am reading. When discussing this concept with my friend Nasem, she said, “Perfect because you love empowering women.” The truth is I am most passionate about inspiring and empowering women toward self and global improvement. This journey toward “Being Better” is ingrained in me, oftentimes overwhelming me. It is why I have an addiction to buying planners. Life can be an arduous and daunting journey, which is exactly why I created Be Better. I believe women need a little support in this journey toward self-improvement.  I know I do.

It has been 2.5 years since the #bebetter52 challenge started. With your help and my trusted daily planner, I hope to reach my goal of 1200 subscribers by the time the baby is due, October 15, 2017.

My three-part mission for the Be Better Movement: 

-To grow a community of women (specifically mothers) inspired to complete weekly wellness challenges nationwide to improve their lives and the lives around them.

-To raise money and awareness to improve global maternal health care by providing participants an extra incentive to complete challenges.

-To collaborate with companies interested in repurposing their advertising budgets by donating to Every Mother Counts for every completed #bebetter52 challenge.

I Have a Confession

I Have a Confession

Aly’s Angle

I have an embarrassing confession.  I do not drink alcohol, but in high school (completely clueless about what I was doing), I would justify drinking caffeine instead. It was my silly attempt to fit in with a group of under-aged drinkers. They all knew when I brought out my caffeinated beverage, I was in “party mode.” My 17-year-old mind rationalized this action because, to me, caffeine was “legal” and less toxic to my body. Many people might agree with my logic, but the only problem was I wasn’t casually sipping on a cup of hot tea.

I grew up in a town outside of Portland, OR, and graduated from high school in 2001, right around the time Red Bull became popular. I remember at some point toward the end of senior year, a large group of senior girls--me included-- thought it would be fun to go on a camping trip in the middle of a cow pasture. I have no idea where this pasture was, but our makeshift campground was surrounded by cows, lots of them. Our high school camping trips always screamed, “Time to Party!” So accordingly, I decided instead of beer, I would drink Red Bull. Knowing this outing would be our last big camping trip of the year, I packed six Red Bulls in a cooler. At sunset, people started drinking their beverage of choice, so I decided to crack open my first Red Bull. Long story short and six Red Bulls later, everyone was passed out asleep, and I was wide awake. The ridiculous amount of caffeine I ingested almost triggered a panic attack. I freaked with every sound the cows made as they walked through the tall, dry grass. All night long, I watched the moon as my heart raced and my eyes remained wide open.

Although embarrassed to admit my ridiculous decision to OD on caffeine that night, the experience made me vow to stay off Red Bull. (To be honest, I did have some Red Bull moments in college.)  Since then, however, I have tried to limit caffeine as much as possible. My two pregnancies have caused me to seriously reflect on what I eat and drink. As far as healthy caffeinated beverages go, these are my recommendations:

Don’t Drink at all

Coffee

Black Tea

(As a Mormon, I choose not to drink coffee or black tea.)

Try to Never Drink these “liquid poisons”:

Energy drinks

Soda

Do Drink

Yerba Mate

Being pregnant with my daughter, breastfeeding, and now expecting a little boy, I have become extremely conscious of my caffeine intake. I find it surprising that the American Association of Pregnancy suggests limiting caffeine to 200 mg a day, an amount that seems high to me. With that being said, I always stay under that recommended allotment and set my own limit at 100-150mgs. I also pay attention to the type of caffeinated drink. I would never drink an energy drink, and I avoid soda. Therefore, this week, I was excited to do more research on Yerba Mate. I was pleasantly surprised to find out, in addition to the caffeine boost, Yerba Mate has tons of other health benefits.

A part of me still thinks relying on caffeine at all for a boost during the day isn’t the best habit. Ultimately, if I could gain my energy from a good night’s sleep and nutritious food choices, I would consider it an accomplishment. More on this week's #bebetter52 challenge to drink Yerba Mate.

 

 

 

Day trips with a Toddler: 3 words of Advice

When deciding this week’s #bebetter52 challenge, we knew it would be a more ambitious undertaking than normal challenges. It would require our members to go outside of their comfort zone and explore different locations within a day trip. That is why we timed it around the long Fourth of July weekend.

My natural instinct is to plan trips, normally overnight ones. The idea of a “staycation” seemed appealing, but I often feel overwhelmed by the work I need to do when home, such as the stacks of dirty laundry. But this long Fourth of July weekend, I embraced being home and decided to be in “vacation-mode” for the whole four days my husband was off work.

So what were our “staycations”?  Simply, 6 day-trips to the beach.

Saturday-

We enjoyed Huntington Beach in the morning while dada surfed. Then we returned home for mama and baby naps. (I honestly try to nap every day when Coops naps.) Then we ended our day with a sunset beach picnic at Big Corona Beach with friends.

Sunday-

We returned to Huntington Beach for a bike ride and some beach time while dada surfed before we headed back home for a nap and then church. Then we hosted a backyard BBQ at our house with twelve of our friends and their babies. We filled up splash pad pools for our kiddos to play in, and they had a blast.

Monday-

A long afternoon was spent at El Moro Beach in Newport Beach with friends.

Tuesday-

In the early morning we rode our bikes down to Huntington Beach to see the Fourth of July parade. We returned home completely exhausted, but we somehow rallied, getting back into the car to head back to the Back Bay in Newport Beach to watch the firework show in the evening.

The last four days of busy day trips to new locations outside our neighborhood made me realize a couple things:

1.     Day trips can happen before scheduled naptime if you start early enough. We managed to get a nap in everyday back at the house.  Cooper naps around 11:30 a.m., but on the Fourth of July she didn’t go down until 1:30 p.m. It was essential for both Coops and me (being 25 weeks pregnant) to get in those naps. I was utterly tired from carrying her and chasing her around on the sand for four sunny days. It was a good tired though, the type of tired I remember after being in the pool all day during the summer.

2.    They do not have to be expensive.  It was powerful to learn we didn’t have to book an expensive trip to create memories. The moments, while simple, were some of the best times we have had as a family of three. Maybe it was great fun because it was so simple--just the beach, bikes, swimming, sun and quality time.

3.    Quality Time is my love language. For some reason, this weekend filled me with an abundance of love for my husband and baby girl. It also gave me a chance to envision what life will be like adding a baby boy to our family in October. I feel grateful my husband and I enjoy hanging out. And not only that, we love being parents together to our little daughter, Coops.

With that being said, I hope everyone had a chance to take a fun day-trip over the fourth. If not, I encourage you to create some memories this weekend with family and/or friends. Remember, it doesn’t have to be an all day event or be expensive. Just find a new location to check out and go on a adventure. Good luck.

My Lifetime Relationship with Music

There was a time in my life I considered myself a “music” person. No, I was never good at recognizing random “indie” artists and never filled my weekends with three-day music festivals, but I always had music on. This week during the #bebetter52 challenge, I reflected on how the music I listened to during certain periods in my life mirrored the events and feelings going on at that time.

Joshua Radin and Duffy

My first dependence on music happened when I tried to heal after a serious break up with a boyfriend of 8 years (yes, you heard that right, eight years). It was after graduate school in 2008, and I was pretty broken up as I struggled to figure out my identity without him.  During the first month, I walked around like a zoomie, tears constantly streaming down my face at all the inappropriate moments. The only time I felt able to constructively reflect was while listening to music. It was the type of sad music that would make anyone cry, but for some reason it made me feel connected to others. I liked that others could relate to the pain I was feeling.  That summer, I decided to book my “travel-the-world-and-find-myself trip.” I started in the Dominican Republic (where I meet a sailor from Mississippi), continued to Ecuador for the month (to learn Spanish), flew to Germany (to visit a friend), and stopped in Kenya (where Mississippi boy met up with me) to volunteer with Kenya Keys. Mississippi and I continued our travel escapades to Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. The months traveling were accompanied by headphones gently playing music which became the soundtrack to my journey. Now whenever a Joshua Radin or Duffy song comes on the radio, I transport back to this life-changing year that forced me to heal. For many years, 2008 was not only the most difficult year of my life, but also the best year of my life.

Fiji

Interestingly, my taste in music changed the second I met my husband, Cory. The need to listen to sad reflective music vanished, and the soundtrack became reggae, artists like Fiji and SOJA.  Living in Newport Beach at the time, we jammed out to light-hearted music during trips to the beach with my goofy Goldendoodle (dog child), Tucker. Cory wooed me with his rendition of Jack Johnson while sitting on my bedroom floor with his barefoot and salty blond hair.  These flirty courting moments turned into true love as we moved to the lighthearted beats of the music we were listening to. Cory walked down the aisle to take me as his bride to the song “Chant of the Island,” by Fiji. It was perfect.

You are my Sunshine

In the hospital while waiting for baby Cooper to arrive, I vividly remember a comment made by my mom. She was surprised I hadn’t made a soundtrack to play during my labor. I said, “My attachment to music isn’t as strong since I’ve meet Cory because I am happy.” The nurse overheard the comment and sighed a big ‘aahh!!’ It was true. I no longer found myself in deep reflection because my life was fun, easy and full of so much love. But after the intensity of Cooper’s birth, the emotion of being a new mother, in addition to the traumatic event of almost dying, my need for music came rushing back. During those first weeks of motherhood, the sweet chime of baby nursery rhymes playing gently in the middle of the night became the soundtrack to my healing. “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”  We listened together, and I would cry, my heart flooding over with gratitude. Music became a necessity again.

Today’s music:

This week, I made a conscious effort to turn on music in the morning and in the evening instead of the TV for background noise. I discovered I enjoy lyrical music way more than instrumental, especially classical music. For some reason, classical music has the reverse effect on me; instead of relaxing me, it makes me want to rip out my hair. So I played instrumental music both Coops and I liked. Conclusion: We love Hawaiian music and smooth jazz. We started our morning by practicing our hula moves in the kitchen. At the day’s end, we listened to a little calming jazz during her bath time.  I would be lying if I didn’t mention that the middle of our day was jammed packed with Disney songs and sing-a-longs. But today, I turned on my Pandora shuffle and crossed my fingers, hoping a little Joshua Radin, Duffy and Fiji came on so I could transport myself back to all the moments that made me who I am today.

Maternal Health in India

Despite numerous social welfare organizations fighting for the cause, maternal health in India still needs major improvements. Quality aspects in maternal health care have long been ignored by the Indian public health system. Most women in the rural areas of India  either do not have proper access to healthcare or are unaware of what to do during a pregnancy. A research study published by Princeton University asserts that more than 40% of Indian women are underweight when they begin their pregnancy. So from the start, women are headed toward an unhealthy pregnancy. The results of this research study highlight the need for government intervention in terms of maternal health monitoring.

It is not the lack of access to medicinal support, but because of the influences of a patriarchal society that maternal health is difficult in India. The status of a woman in India is much worse than in any other county. Because most women in rural areas are married off at a young age, they are likely to become pregnant soon after marriage and expected to keep quiet, work hard and eat little. The lack of respect for women in Indian society is a glaring telltale for the cause of this problem.

Not only do these women have a low status, but they also all live in a disease-filled environment. 70% of rural Indian households defecate in the open, a practice that is bound to multiply intestinal diseases and parasites. Though certain mental health programs are trying to alleviate the problem by distributing free food in impoverished areas and offering cash incentives for hospital deliveries, the problem cannot be solved until the focus is shifted toward increasing weight during pregnancy.

The gravity of the situation is recognized by Every Mother Counts, a non-profit organization dedicated to making pregnancy and childbirth safe for every mother. They are active in informing, engaging and mobilizing new audiences to take action and raise funds that support maternal health programs around the world. To support this cause, the Indian Club at Chapman University recently teamed up with Be Better Movement.


On Thursdays, April 27th and May 4th, Chapman University’s Indian Club set up a table in the Attallah Piazza with a goal in mind. Offering free Henna tattoos and playing Indian music, club members rallied to increase awareness and to voice a call to action. They urged passersby to subscribe to the Be Better Movement in support of increasing maternal care in exchange for a free henna tattoo. The club received many interested people who were willing to engage, some because they wanted to get a henna tattoo and others because they wanted to support the cause. Ultimately, the publicity for Be Better Movement brought successful results and we are closer to making the world a safer place for mothers and their babies.

Eating Oranges in the city of Orange, CA

In 2013, we bought a house in the city of Orange in Orange County, CA, and guess what? We even have orange trees in our backyard. So this week’s citrus challenge was not challenging at all. I love seeing old photos of Orange packed with orchards of citrus which, until the 1950s, was the backbone of the local economy.

From mid-December to mid-February our backyard produces enough oranges to feed the neighborhood. One year, we put a box of oranges on the sidewalk with a sign that read, “FREE! Take as many as you want.” When our backyard oranges slowly disappear, I buy my citrus from two sources:

  • Our bi-weekly Fresh Farm to You box often comes with a couple oranges, lemons and/or tangerines.

  • Cooper and I also go to the farmers’ market every Tuesday at Irvine Regional Park, particularly because the $3 parking fee is waived that day, but also because we love the produce there. This week I bought a $5 small bucket of tangerines.

Lessons on Vitamin C

When Cooper was sick earlier this year, her doctor told me to start feeding her mid-day smoothies with a whole orange blended into the mix. For some reason the concept “blew my mind” although it should have been common sense. What is the first thing we often do when we think we are getting sick? We grab one of the Emergen-C packs loaded with Vitamin C, an essential compound in maintaining a healthy immune system. Ever since then, I try to add an orange to her smoothies

Cooper has gone through moments when she LOVES eating Cuties (you know those small mandarin oranges with a cute name), but recently she puts them in her mouth, sucks out the juice and then throws the rest on the ground.  On a positive note, she is still getting some of the nutrition.

As I mentioned, this week’s #bebetter52 challenge was easy, but I have enjoyed the excuse to eat more and more citrus this week.

 

Be Better from a College Student at Tufts University

Hello! My name is Lauryn, and I am currently a senior at Tufts University, about 5 miles outside of Boston. I am studying biology and am interested in pursuing a career in health care. Although I have loved my time on the east coast, I am excited to be returning to the Bay Area for some warm(er) winters and quality time on the outdoor hiking trails.

I have been a part of the Be Better Movement for about a year and a half after a friend referred me to this community. I am not going to lie though; it is a struggle to keep up with the challenges week after week. As a college student, it is easy to focus solely on what is going on within your “college bubble.” However, I am motivated by the fact that each challenge I complete not only benefits admirable charities such as Every Mother Counts, but also improves my health and well-being.

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge is to eat citrus. Citrus provides me with Vitamin C, essential to staying healthy when interacting with patients at a hospital. Because I love citrus already, it was relatively easy for me to incorporate into my meals this week. In fact, the hardest part of this challenge was remembering to buy citrus at the grocery store!

Since citrus is the main focus of the Be Better Challenge this week, I tried to be more mindful and creative with the drinks and food I put in my body. For example, while I normally drink plain tap water, this week I added lemon or lime wedges to my water. I could not believe that such a small change would actually impact my mood throughout the day! I felt more awake and present in class.

This week, I also baked salmon with lemon and brussel sprouts, which I served over spaghetti with a brown butter, lemon, and rosemary sauce. It was delicious and nutritious! This recipe is actually one of my quick, go-to meals during the week.

I had so much fun with the challenge this week, and I can’t wait to complete more in the future!

 

Just Breath by Katherine

This week’s #BeBetter52 Challenge: Breathing.  Sounds pretty simple, but when you get down to it, I think we all forget to stop and take a breather every now and again.  With two young kids, two dogs, a full-time job, and a husband who works primarily during evenings and weekends, I completely understand the need to take a moment to center and calm myself in the midst of chaos.  

For a couple of years now, I’ve been taking hot yoga as often as possible, sometimes up to five times a week.  I love the hour session that calms my brain.  Doing yoga, and concentrating on my breathing when my mind begins to wander, has allowed me to apply this to my everyday stresses.  When my kids are yelling at each other, or me, and I feel like I am going to scream, I focus on my breathing.   When my husband does something I disagree with and I want to bite his head off (I’m human after all!), I focus on my breathing.  When I am so overwhelmed with all of the activities on our calendar, and I’m schlepping children from activity to activity, I remind myself to focus on my breathing.  It doesn’t always work – but yoga reminds me to seek the inner calmness and peace that comes with it.

Though I’m not able to participate as often as I’d like in the #BeBetter52 challenges, this one speaks to me loudly and clearly.   Everyone has so much going on in their world, and breathing is a major element that can help you take a moment to put priorities into perspective.  

Our Hearts Beat Against Each Other: Baby Hugs

We all know someone in our life who is just a "huggy-type" person. For me, it was my Grandma Kathy. I remember disappearing into her hugs, nestling into her squishy arms and laying my head on her chest. Yes, I was her grandchild, and I never thought to ask my mom if grandma was that way with her own children. Since having a baby of my own, my desire to kiss and hug this little girl is all encompassing. Sometimes my love is so intense I smoother Coops with my kisses and hugs, not wanting to stop even when she starts pushing me away. Until about a month ago, Cooper did not like to snuggle, and our only snuggle time happened while nursing. Originally, I had planned to stop nursing when she turned one. But as one year came and went, I found myself not wanting to give up those precious moments when Cooper wrapped herself around me while nursing. They were moments I treasured and didn't want to give up. Thankfully, the weaning process became easier on “mama” when I recently discovered that the less I nursed, the more she became a true cuddler. Not only with me, but also with Cory.

I did attempt to give out more hugs this week, but my main focus was to enjoy the snuggle sessions Coops gave me daily. Whenever she felt sleepy, either before or after a nap, she blessed me with a hug. She would rest her head on my chest while sucking her thumb and lightly rubbing my neck. I then lightly rubbed her little back as her breathing slowed down and she completely relaxed. I know these moments of a toddler snuggling her mother are short lived, so trust me, I am soaking up every minute of it. In our moments of embrace, I feel a sense of complete calm and connection with my little one. Our hearts beat practically against each other. I believe all the facts are true regarding the physical and emotional benefits of hugs, and I want my baby to always know I am here for a hug.

I cherish all the hugs given to and from my husband. Sometimes a long hug after a particularly tiring day can be a cure all. I am grateful for the ones who taught me to hug and to the ones who allow me to hug.