Giving Myself Permission to Push the Pause Button

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When your time becomes limited, it makes you assess how you spend it. With each new addition to our family, I have taken time during pregnancy to digest what my balance of motherhood and self-employment was going to look like. With my first, I was holding tight to wanting to still do everything. I didn’t want to lose my identity. I profoundly remember my mom saying, “Once you have the baby, trust your intuition, and the decision will feel clear and obvious.” And that is exactly what happened. When Cooper was born, I felt compelled to reduce the number of teams I coached during weeknights and weekends. Although it felt like a difficult decision to admit out loud, once made, I never second guessed it. Why? Because it was the right decision at that point in my life. 

Here is my insight. When you actually listen to your intuition, the promptings tend to feel less scary. At some point, if your decision doesn’t feel right anymore, you know you will listen and adjust your course accordingly. Until I had my second child, I never thought I would eliminate coaching completely from my schedule. But with some help through therapy, I came to the conclusion: “I don’t want to coach anymore.” At a certain point the feeling was undeniable, yet I still felt shocked by my decision. Coaching had been my life for over a decade. It wasn’t something I ever felt pressured to do because It was coming from my core.

So here I am during my third pregnancy, finding myself again consumed by the decision on how best to spend my time. With continued confidence that trusting my gut will only bring happiness, I have come to terms that starting January 2020, I am going to pause My Be Better Box and the Be Better challenges. Similar to coaching, Be Better Movement has been key to my life for close to eight years, so the decision felt huge. I didn’t want to let down all of the participants, all of the subscribers, all of the companies and Every Mother Counts. I didn’t want to “give up” on something I have put so much of my heart and soul into, but over the past couple of months, I have learned that taking time to pause and reassess is never a bad thing. The time I step away from the challenges will only bring clarity as to how best I can make a difference in the world of maternal health and women worldwide.

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I realize that sometimes we are so “in it” (whatever that might be), that it’s hard to see outside “of it.” Giving myself permission to push the pause button during this parenting-three-kids-under-the-age-of-four stage of my life has felt liberating. Like a deep breath of fresh air, I am ready for my next chapter of possibility. I love what my husband said: “You don’t have to end Be Better Movement if you want to pause the box and the challenges.” When he said it that way, I knew the truth of that statement. I am excited to continue documenting my motherhood journey and maternal health advocacy on the Be Better platform I have built. I am incredibly excited to start using my Masters in Social Welfare in the field of perinatal mental health. 

To all who have supported me on this journey, I thank you! Whether you were the founding members of Be Better who attended the workouts in Newport Beach and Dana Point; or my family and friends who signed up to do the challenges during the early stages of the movement; or the random strangers who became my friends; or those of you who are equally passionate about maternal health; or the My Be Better Box subscribers who feel excited about self-care and a cause, you all have inspired ME to be better. Thank you to all the Be Better Team Captains, teammates and participants who week after week complete and report the wellness challenges given to you. You were my driving motivation. 

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I want to give an extra shout out to my husband and my father who supported my commitment to grow something from nothing. My father was a primary donor to Every Mother Counts when you completed challenges. My husband found the energy, time and money to co-parent in a way that allowed me time to focus on Be Better. His love and support only pushed me. 

And to you I promise, I will finish the year strong, I will be proud of the 1158 people who have joined the Movement, the 3004 challenges completed year-to-date and the thousands of dollars raised for Every Mother Counts.  



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Living in the Moment Makes Mundane Moments Magical

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My mind never stops. Occasionally, I will ask my husband what he is thinking when he appears to be deep in thought, and he looks at me slightly confused. He then laughs while saying he is thinking about literally nothing, just monkeys clapping symbols together in his head. I can honestly say, I have no clue what it is like to have a mind that pauses. I remember during my high school years complaining to my mom that my mind literally doesn’t stop, and her response was accurate: “Sounds exhausting.” 

I have come to learn that my always-planning-analyzing-and-brainstorming mind is a gift given to me. It allows me to connect with people, explore the world and create. But like anything, without balance, strengths can become weaknesses. This week, I have become acutely aware of the paralyzing effect my over-thinking has on my soul when my mind won’t slow down or allow me to be present in the moment. 

I have an excitement about life I honestly hope never goes away. I love to travel, adventure, explore and experience. With that comes an eagerness to plan and to pack my schedule full of activities. That in itself I consider a strength, but for over a decade I have noticed I struggle with being completely in the moment during all of the moments I have been anticipating. For example, I might be loving a camping trip so much that I can’t stop thinking about the NEXT time we come back. Or, while driving to go to the zoo, I will be consumed with the details of going to the aquarium the following weekend. When admitting this weakness, it seems ridiculous and incredibly counterproductive to jump ahead before something is done; however, I think people do this more than we acknowledge. Another example: I love the anticipation of the holidays, but start grieving they are over before they are even complete.

I have never loved meditation until this week’s #bebetter52 challenge because it was hard and made me feel anxious. My mind raced to all the things I should be doing, or wanted to be doing, and then I felt frustrated at my lack of focus. But my desire to still my mind and body has been enhanced recently by the sadness I feel because I have a horrible memory. Also, my anxiety has increased because I sense life is rapidly flying by right before my eyes. I have convinced myself that by moving too fast, both in mind and body, I am unable to store the memory of actual experiences. I don’t know if that is 100% accurate or scientific, but I was looking through photos from a year ago and couldn’t believe how distant the memories felt. I want to be more present in the now. 

This week I have committed to intentionally slowing down through meditation. Below are the reasons that motivate me in this lifestyle change. 

Reason: I believe living in the moment makes mundane moments magical.  

In general, I dislike the 4:00-6:00 pm hour of parenting. The kids are tired, and so am I. I am lazier when they need or want me, and I feel guilty because I should be doing something productive, like making dinner or cleaning. But this week, I have decided to be engaged with them during this typically challenging time at home. I put all distractions away, turned on music, and we went outside and played. We made “tape shoes,” by pretty much taping up our feet. 

Then they painted their bodies. Surprisingly, I paused long enough to notice the sun on my skin and how peaceful my backyard felt. I enjoyed the afternoon by slowing down, and it felt magical. 

Reason: I want to feel closer to God and connected with what he wants me to do daily.

I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and as a family we attempt to go to church as much as possible. But since having children, it has felt harder and harder to still myself long enough to feel God’s presence in my daily life. I started listening to an LDS podcast called “All In and have loved these spiritual moments of reflection. I was surprised to hear a couple of interviews that emphasized how meditation has really allowed opportunities to connect to God in this overstimulated world. Therefore, I am allowing myself a few moments, which would normally be filled with scrolling Instagram, to stop and pray. 

Reasons: I want to improve my memory, not just recall it from photos. 

I want to remember the moments I am living with my children and husband. This has inspired me to try guided meditation through the HeadSpace App on my phone. I have done 7 sessions so far and am surprised how the basic steps of breathing and connecting with your body has helped. This week, I feel I have stamped certain moments during the day into my memory by capturing them not only by thought, but also by touch, noise and smell. I pause long enough to feel the sun on my arm, to notice the birds chirping, or to smell the flowers Cooper brings to me (which are, by the way,  Frozen characters Elsa’s and Anna’s secret magical medicine). I have come to the conclusion that even if I still have a difficult time remembering my past experiences, at least I will be living them to the fullest. 

Reason: I want to be more productive. 

I understand that productivity might seem opposite to living in the present moment, but the more meditative practice I have, the more I realize how my scattered mind always jumps to the next thing, making it difficult to complete a task. Every day, I have written in a little journal one to two mindful and intentional things I want to become as my mantras. Today was slow down enough to complete a task from start to finish. Often times, it literally requires my breathing in a couple of deep breaths, as the children jump around and demand my attention, to put the dishes away after I prepare a meal. Also, I am intentionally allowing empty space in my day rather than having to fill up every minute with something to do. 

Reason: I want to teach my children that “quiet time” is necessary and okay.  

Right now, my almost-4-year-old daughter is transitioning out of her nap. The problem is that both her brother and I need naps, and she needs to learn to have down time. It would be incredibly easy to throw on a Netflix show, but I feel it is incredibly necessary to learn the skill of relaxing without screens. This has been challenging, but she is getting better and better with practice. She will listen to audiobooks, look at books or play in her room alone for 30-45 minutes, which I consider a huge success at this point. For me, my relaxation comes from napping (completing turning off) or zoning out on social media or watching a show. So I am now practicing a little mediation before my power nap. 

 



First Trimester is Lonely

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I told myself I would wait until I missed my period to take a test. I had purchased a box of ovulating and pregnancy sticks off Amazon.com for $23, and I couldn’t resist the temptation. Afterall, 15 pregnancy test sticks were just sitting there waiting to be used with their amazing claim to work five days earlier than your missed period. What’s a wanna-be-pregnant girl to do?  I took the test seven days early on our anniversary because announcing the news on our special day would be incredibly perfect timing. But nope. Nothing. 

That night we boarded a flight to Hawaii with our two toddlers and, of course, the box from Amazon.com in my carry on. I waited a whole two days before I took out another test. I wanted to take the test alone with zero pressure. I mean, it was five days early. Although I could feel my heart pounding, I told myself that even if I were pregnant, it probably wouldn’t show up yet. In the bathroom of my brother-in-law’s house in Pukalani, HI,  I peed, put the stick on the counter and waited. Holding it up, I was convinced I saw a faint pink line. The pounding in my chest increased. I blinked a couple of times, trying to determine if there really was a line or if my desire for “a line” was tricking me. I took a deep breath and looked again.  My husband was out with his brother, the kids were playing outside and I was internally freaking out with excitement. There was only one adult home, my sister-in-law. Slowly and calmly, I walked over to where she was throwing water balloons with my daughter. In slow motion I showed her the stick. “Any chance you see a pink line?” With a shocked smile, she whispered, “Yesssss…”  I was officially pregnant. 

I couldn’t think about anything else. A baby. Growing inside me. A brother or sister for Cooper and Clark. All of a sudden, my awareness of what I was eating and doing increased. As I mentioned, we were on vacation in Hawaii, so no more Ahi poke from Foodland or hot tubs at the resort hotel. At that point, thinking of a creative way to tell my husband and close family members consumed my thoughts. After breaking the joyous news to him and my immediate family, my racing mind continued. Would we need a new car with three kids? When should I move Clark into Cooper’s room?   

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The second after finding out you’re pregnant, your whole world changes. However, unlike other important life events, there is sometimes a hesitation to share the life-altering news. And for that reason, the first trimester can became one of the loneliest times in a soon-to-be mother’s life. This pregnancy I assessed my hesitation. My emotions jumped all over the place within those first days of learning the news. I felt an overwhelming excitement to add another baby to our family, mixed with a desire to organize my life, sprinkled with fears that maybe I wasn’t actually pregnant or what if I am and miscarry, stirred up with intense hormones, remixed with general feelings of anxiety and nervousness, but always infused with love. 

Why women hesitate to tell:

First, perhaps women hesitate to tell because the news feels so special and sacred. A piece of me wanted only my husband and me to share this big secret before telling others. It was similar to when we got engaged, alone in the mountain town of Crestline, CA. It was at least 10 hours before I even told my family. For those 10 hours, it was only ours to know.  

Second, women might hesitate to tell because they don’t want to get their hopes up and later have something bad happen. At first, it is difficult to believe you are pregnant, especially before seeing a doctor. Then after your first appointment, you are nervous something might happen during the first trimester. You feel too vulnerable to fully embrace the excitement of having a baby when you know the possibility of disappointment. I felt this especially after I experienced a miscarriage before Cooper was born. Naively, I had allowed myself to love the unborn baby completely, without any hesitation. Then, at the ten week ultrasound, my perfect, happily-ever-after world collided with the world of harsh reality --no heartbeat detected.   

Third, I think women hesitate to tell others because if they do miscarry, they don’t want to discuss it with everyone, especially if they are not a verbal processor or if they value their privacy. Discussing the loss could be extremely painful. In my case, however, I needed to process the grief and found myself doing this with people who didn’t even know I was pregnant to begin with. 

All of these reasons are valid and have merit, which is why I, a verbal processing and far from private person, even find myself holding back from big formal announcements during the first trimester. But there is one problem: it is incredibly lonely. To me, it felt like I was hiding a huge, wonderful secret, one that I wanted to announce with joy from the rooftops!  Instead, I forced myself to celebrate within. And sadly, for many women this feeling of loneliness only exponentially becomes worse as the hours, days and weeks continue through the first trimester, depending on how horrible they feel. 

Luckily for me, my impossible-to-keep secret was discovered early on because of my morning sickness.

Around 5 ½ weeks I started getting really nauseous, and I had to tell my close friends because I relied on them for support. But faking it to the rest of the world still felt isolating. There were weeks I prayed daily for even a five-minute respite from the nausea. Dropping off Cooper at summer camp, I pretended to feel fine even though I had just thrown up in a 7-Eleven cup while driving only four minutes down the street. When people asked how our summer was going, I’d answer, “Great, busy…how are you guys?” when what I needed was a listening ear to vent to or someone to watch the kids while I slept all day. One day I couldn’t handle the sickness anymore. I didn’t even feel I could get myself up from the couch. In desperation, I asked my mom to fly down from Oregon to give me some temporary relief. When you are that sick, it’s hard to fake functional. Work was piling up, my communication with friends was limited and my functionality to be ME had disappeared. Yet, I still didn’t announce my pregnancy publicly to even some friends and family..

I am not sure I have a solution. Women have a right to choose when to share their news and when to keep it to themselves. More than anything, I am writing this piece to share my experience and highlight the real and rarely discussed isolation that many (perhaps most) women feel while they suffer alone at home with the emotional and physical changes happening internally that first trimester. Many times, I felt “wimpy” being barely pregnant yet struggling so much. Yes, first trimester is challenging, but as difficult as it is, it feels almost inappropriate to complain. I remind myself how great a blessing it is to be pregnant when many women struggle to become so. I remind myself how great a blessing this pregnancy is to my husband and me since the choice to become pregnant again was almost taken from us when I nearly died from hemorrhaging after giving birth to Cooper. Yes, I am incredibly grateful to be pregnant.  But first trimester still sucks. 



My “Ah Ha” Moments

Reflecting on my life’s journey, I can now see how every detail was meant to be. I see these details in meeting my husband. I see these details playing out with the births of my children. And I am beginning to see these details in how Be Better Movement came about and what it is developing into and will be in the future.  

Before my husband, I dated my high school boyfriend for eight years until he broke up with me the spring of 2008. I was devastated. I remember being totally confused since I felt so strongly I was supposed to be with him. So why did it end? Being a religious person, I prayed earnestly: “Why did I have to date him for eight years? Couldn’t I have learned what I needed to learn in four years, maybe even 6 years? Why eight?” The most beautiful part of life is when we gain clarity as to why things happen the way they do. I now know why. In that eighth year, my ex-boyfriend moved from San Francisco to Newport Beach, CA. During that year, I visited often and accepted a coaching job in the community. That eighth year is the only reason I moved to Newport Beach after grad school even after the break up. I established a life I adored in Newport Beach. It is also the place where I meet my now husband. My whole life depended on that eighth year.

This picture was taken a couple month into dating on our trip to Fiji

This picture was taken a couple month into dating on our trip to Fiji

I have always been a passionate person. I feel blessed to be able to discern with clarity what I want and when I should be doing something. This energy comes from inside me, and it sends my mind into turbo speed brainstorming, often creative and sometimes a bit out there. For the most part, I have always been wired this way. Am I a visionary? Maybe. I love to dream big, and I particularly love that burst of energy and excitement that comes when I experience my “ah ha” moments. And for those moments, I don’t mind losing sleep over.

With that being said, my big dreams are often overwhelmed with details, some of which I have no idea how to achieve. I am consumed with writing lists, yet paralyzed when starting tasks. And although I have had many moments of clarity--just ask my husband--I have probably had equal moments of self-doubt. On those days, I look at my husband and utter in exhaustion,“Why I am I even doing this?” Then my self doubts continue: "If I were to declare I am finished now, I bet only a handful of people would even notice.” I even had some of these moments two weeks ago.

I remember the moment I came up with the Be Better concept. I was falling in love with my now husband at the time. Only months into dating, I had “convinced” him to take a trip to Fiji with me on my way to Australia. Weeks later, I was  traveling alone through Australia, missing him terribly, but filled with time to imagine. I took a ferry to Manly Beach, a suburb of Northern Sydney, and remember walking along the boardwalk. The weather was crisp and clear. It was 2011 and I was trying to figure out how to incorporate my Masters in Social Welfare into my daily career. I don’t remember what sparked the thought, but I remember that amazing burst of energy and excitement.

Yes, that’s it!!!  I will create a community of women who will workout together. We will support each other while doing weekly challenges, and for every completed challenge I will find a company that will donate money to charity.

It has now been eight years since that sunny crisp day in Australia. Every detail of this eight-year journey has been for a purpose.

Be Better WORKOUT Dana Point

Be Better WORKOUT Dana Point

So here is a little history.
The Workouts:

Some of the ladies in my Be better workout in Newport Beach, CA

Some of the ladies in my Be better workout in Newport Beach, CA

January of 2012 (after that trip to Australia, summer of 2011), I started my first Be Better workouts. Four days I week, I would meet up with a group of impressive and outstanding women, mostly older women (mid to 40’s-50’s), and we would exercise outside and provide each other with emotional support through life’s ups and downs--sending children off to college, going through a divorce, moving, and grieving the death of a child. These same women started new businesses, embraced life with new transitions and, at the same time, celebrated my engagement, my marriage and my new pregnancy. We worked out for years together. To this day, these memories remain some of my favorite ones. Our time together was full of fresh air, love, support, exercise and advice.

The Charity:

It wasn’t until giving birth to my daughter that a new clarity began consuming my heart and mind. I wanted to focus on the movement, the cause. And now the cause was meant to be about maternal health because of my personal near-death experience during childbirth. My time became more limited, but my commitment became undeniable.  I still continued the Be Better workouts in Newport Beach because they gave me energy and strength, but I knew the time would come to an end after giving birth to my son in 2017.

Sparking a Multigenerational Conversation:

My mom and I.

My mom and I.

When I started Be Better, I felt my "audience" was just me. I thought the mission would only connect with women in their early 30's, moms with young kids, working moms who were busy and thankful for a schedule that outlined how to make simple improvements in their life. Thankfully, I was wrong. I am surprised it took me this long to realize that Be Better Movement is multigenerational and has always been. Women ranging from their 20's-60's are coming together to focus on self-improvement and a cause. Women in that range are also the ones buying the box. I am excited to start embracing this multigenerational conversation. Women are powerful when we come together with different life experiences and support each other. ⠀

Reshaping the vision:

This multigenerational conversation is ringing loud and clear. As a result, I will be revamping Be Better Movement to include more of myself and this multigenerational conversation among women of all ages.  The multi-generational conversation and support I experienced running the Be Better workouts is an experience I will forever cherish. Because I have the most amazing “older” women in my life, I am going to invest my time into sparking that conversation on my Be Better platform and, hopefully,  on a podcast in the Summer of 2019.

I am one mom who is on a journey to bring GENERATIONS of women together to BETTER their lives while raising money for CHARITY.

Thank you to everyone who has joined me in this life journey. I know I will have other moments of self doubt, but I know and believe that Be Better Movement will be become something far-reaching, inspirational and life-changing.  I wrote about personal life goals in my most recent journal entry:  “Focus my life work on being the best mother and wife possible, one who is thoughtful, intentional and present. Document and share supportive stories made up of generations of women. And create a legacy with Be Better Movement, one that my children will be proud of.”

Wish me luck.



Ever heard of the "carb flu"? Well, I survived it.

Picture from day one. When I almost gave in.

Picture from day one. When I almost gave in.

Ever heard of the “carb flu”? Well, I survived it. Hi, my name is Aly and I am a sugar addict. I have always loved sweets, not just fruit sugars, but Swedish fish, toffee, dark chocolate, chocolate shakes, nightly cereal and Trader Joe’s cherry licorice. My family jokes it is a curse from my mother’s side of the family, but until this month, I had no clue how deep my addiction was. I have heard sugar is more addictive than cocaine, and although I cannot, thankfully, make the comparison, I am here to tell you detoxing from a lifetime of sugar is no joke.

At the beginning of the month, I started a program called a 30-Day-Slim-Down by Nancy Andersen. Actually, I was originally interested in her Ab Rehab course for postpartum women dealing with diatrise reactis, but the 30-day-Slim-Down was part of a discounted package paired with the Ab Rehab, so I bought both. Nancy provides you a shopping list, meal plan with scheduled breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner. She is very specific. I first heard of the “carb flu” on her Facebook support group. 

Here is the truth. The first night I almost gave up. I was proud of myself for packing all of the proteins, veggies and healthy fats and loading them into the car before heading out to La Quinta for the week with the kids while Cory was away for work. I am lucky to see my Oregonian parents frequently as they own a house there to escape the wet Oregon springs. My sister was also in town from Portland checking out her hopeful October wedding venue in a boutique hotel in Palm Springs.

I vividly remember that night. I almost gave in. I couldn’t handle my body’s desire for sugar. Chocolate, an orange, berries, ice-cream, sugary cereal…I needed my fix. I can pathetically admit that that night I almost caved.  The thoughts circulating my head were as follows:

“Who wants to live their life like this?”

Healthy eating homemade chicken veggie soup while camping at Kirk Creek, Big Sur

Healthy eating homemade chicken veggie soup while camping at Kirk Creek, Big Sur

“Why even do this, if it isn’t sustainable after the month is over?”

“What is wrong with eating fruit at midnight, come on, it’s fruit?”

“A little bit of sugar is not going to make a difference.”

If it were not for my family’s eye rolls and “are you serious” comments, I would have called it quits less than 24 hours in. Finally, I convinced myself I just needed to go to bed, so I wouldn’t have to crave sugar anymore.

Four days later, I started feeling like I was getting a cold, not just a simple cold, but something far worse. I felt so ill in fact, I told my husband he might need to come home from work. I laid on the couch most of the day with toddlers climbing and jumping on me like I was a human jungle gym. I kept thinking about that Nyquil commercial where the mom is sick. “Moms don’t get sick days.” So true. What DO moms do when they are sick and at home? I convinced myself I couldn’t possibly be so addicted to sugar that my body was responding with flu-like symptoms.

You may feel fatigued the website said. Check

You may feel like you have a touch of the flu. Feeling blah, achy joints, headaches. Check.

Positive I had a fever, I called a babysitter to come for 4 hours in the middle of the day, so I could sleep. 

It sucked. But in less than 36 hours, I felt completely fine minus the runny nose. The reality that my body went through a full sugar withdrawal was eye opening. My body had been so dependent on it, that it protested when I eliminated it.

Views from our campground.

Views from our campground.

I am happy to report I am on day 17 and have less than two weeks left. I even packed up 3 days of meals for our family camping trip to the Big Sur, CA. Normally when camping, I live on snacks, processed food and junk. By the end of the trip all I want is an apple or maybe a salad. Instead, this time we ate campside chicken salads and snacked on veggies and hummas. I have already lost over 10 lbs and am not dependent on caffeine to survive my day. My body doesn’t feel hungry all day long. I can tell I am feeding it what it needs, and it is happy. I feel slightly overwhelmed by the effort to continue all of the healthy eating skills I have practiced thus far, but every day is less overwhelming. It is somewhat simple: protein, healthy fat and veggies every meal (with the occasional fruit once during the day).

I have learned the following during the last two weeks:

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- I had been eating my kids’ left overs and  snacking on their food.  A handful of blueberries in my mouth, before I put them on my son’s tray. Half a bowl of oatmeal my daughter didn’t finish. Left over bar my son dropped on the ground. I was a human vacuum, sucking up everything they didn’t want. And after frantically feeding them, I would declare I hadn’t eaten yet, and would make myself breakfast. I hadn’t realized it, but this was happening ALL DAY LONG. Half eaten toast, peanut butter pretzels, dried fruit. All day long.

-Eating healthy takes a lot more time and energy, more than I normally had or wanted to devote to it. I normally gave little thought to what I was going to eat or was eating. Shopping has to be thoughtful. This week’s #bebetter52 challenge to shop the perimeter is exactly how I am shopping. Tons of veggies, a little bit of fruit, eggs and meat/fish. There are a couple other items such as spices, salsas, non-dairy cheeses and oils, but 90% of my shopping is happening on the perimeter.

-Food prep at the end of the night is the hardest, but once you prepare the food, it simplifies your day. All you have to do is grab the food out of the fridge and enjoy.

- Since my husband and I have done the Slimdown 30 program, I am buying healthier food at the store and less snacks. Because of my heathy shopping, I don’t have as many snacks to easily throw at the kids. As a result, they are eating healthier, too. Today Cooper had the cucumber, hummus and hard boiled egg snack that I was eating and loved it. Tonight we had a zucchini pasta and shrimp dish that my husband loved, something previously he would have not even wanted to try. 

Hello, my name is Aly, and I am a sugar addict. I hope that this four week detox will help me realize that my sugar addiction is not healthy. They say, it takes 2 weeks to form a habit. Its been two weeks, and I am loving it.

A Tidy House: Something I can Inspire Towards but Shouldn’t be Controlled By

Picture of my beautiful mom and I at the beach, 1983.

Picture of my beautiful mom and I at the beach, 1983.

One of my motivations for writing Aly’s Angle is so my children, specifically my daughter, has detailed documentation about how her mother handled (or didn’t handle) the balancing act of motherhood. Increasingly since having children, I have found myself asking and wondering how my mom felt during these early stages of motherhood. I wish I could time travel and be a fly on the wall, watching my young self playing while my mom: played with me? cleaned? made dinner? I am sure the answer is all three of these at different moments, but it would be such a beautiful moment witnessing it with my adult, new mother perspective. 

I used to have this reoccurring dream. I was standing next to my mom as a teenager with a scar on my knee. This is a scar I actually received playing soccer during elementary school recess when I slipped on a sprinkler. Next to my mom and my teenage self is me as a five-year-old sitting on her lap with the fresh cut on my knee. And in my mothers arms is me, as a baby without a blemish. Myself, in three different life stages, enjoying the comfort of my mothers love. Every time I'd wake up from this dream, I would have a different interpretation of its meaning. I actually haven’t thought about the dream for years until writing this post. But I do remember, even as a teenager, wishing I could witness my younger self with my mom. 

One of the biggest questions I'd like to ask my mother is "How did you always kept such a tidy home?" My adult perspective answer is "She worked her butt off all day."

I have mentioned this before, but I will mention it again. I have never been the type to be dragged down by comparisons, but recently I have noticed two areas in my life where I find myself subconsciously comparing. This comparison produces a paralyzing resentment that makes me so discouraged, it feels impossible to improve.

First comparison involves the unfairness that other women can eat anything after having a baby and breastfeeding and not gain an ounce. I am not bashing these women, but to be honest, I am jealous. I resent the fact that my flat tummy has a mommy pouch now, and I have to work so hard just to lose a couple pounds. My metabolism as a child, the one where I could eat anything and still have a flat stomach, did not prepare me for this reality. I have come to the conclusion that until I can overcome my resentment, I will not lose the weight or get stronger. Forever, from this point forward, in order to look and feel great, I will have to take care of my body by exercising and eating healthy. Looking around, I realize the majority of women fall into this category. I just didn’t enter it until after having children. I'm at the point now that unless I do something to put my plan into action, I am going to stop complaining. A few days ago, I signed up for the Nancy Anderson 30 Slim Down and Post Pregnancy Ab Rehab to correct my diastasis recti (splitting of the abs). I am also doing Fit4Mom workouts in the mornings 2-3 times a week. When times get tough, and I know they will, I am going to remind myself that everything hard makes you stronger. 

My second comparison is about keeping a clean and tidy home. I honestly feel EVERYONE is better at it than me. Not only the mommy influencers I follow on social media, but all of my friends. What confuses me so much about this reality, or at least my perceived reality, is that I try extremely hard. I value a tidy house. Last month, I packed up 4 boxes of toys and asked Cory to store them in his car. So for a month, he has been driving around with the boxes of toys I wanted out of our living room. Sometimes, I blame it on our adorably cute (small) house because I don’t have enough room to store things. Other times, I blame it on the fact I work from home, so every down minute (kids taking naps or after hours) I am squeezing in work. Last but not least, I blame it on my self-diagnosis that I have adult ADD. I literally get distracted all the time. By the constant mess. Attending to two toddlers. Thinking of creative ways to make Be Better “better”. And, of course, the "to do" list always on my brain. I often go from halfway cleaning a dirty dish, to getting milk for a crying toddler pulling at my leg, to trying to get Clark to not put the dog food in the dog water, to remembering I have to cancel eMeals (free trial ends tomorrow). It's frustrating, exhausting, and annoying. I don’t stop moving, yet I feel I don't complete anything. Evidence, the half-cleaned dirty dish still in the sink.

This week’s challenge has made me realize a tidy house is something I can inspire toward but shouldn’t be controlled by. My house can be tidy one minute and a complete disaster the next. I've come to the conclusion that, like most things, it's all about perspective: If I try all day to keep a tidy house that means every time my daughter dumps a box of doll clothes on the ground, I am going to feel anxiety. I will be anxious about the battle of having to convince her to pick them up, or I am going to be upset that I am cleaning up after her.  So, I decided to change my perspective this week. When I see the mess my kids create, I will view it as wonderful evidence they are good at playing and learning through play. Of course, we will have to pick up the mess at the end of the hour, or the day, but until then, LET KIDS PLAY. Play is important for their development and it's viewed as incredibly educational. Instead of seeing mess, I am going to see learning.

Develop Tips for tidiness

Marie Kondo-

I have successfully kept a tidy house for over 24 without stressing about kids playing!

I have successfully kept a tidy house for over 24 without stressing about kids playing!

Okay, by now we have all either read the book or watched the documentary on Netflix. Get rid of the stuff that doesn’t bring you joy. The extra stuffed animals, the mismatched toys, the books already read or too boring to read. I have been getting rid of it and it helps.

Put away 20 items-

A couple of times a day I play a game with myself when I start to feel overwhelmed. I just count and put away 20 things. Throw away the yogurt, wash the spoon, pick up the orange peel on the floor, put away the dish, the cup, the knife, close the coloring book, water the plant, shut the microwave, etc. It helps and it's amazing how fast I can accomplish twenty small to do’s. 

30 Second Tasks-

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge has significantly helped. It is amazing how much I can accomplish in 30 seconds and at the same time realize how long 30 seconds actually is. I have worked on telling my kids that yes, I can read you the book, but I need to wash the pan I cooked the eggs in first. I want my kids to know it's important to complete a task and not just jump to the next one. I have been doing it all week long and all over the house. “Yes, I will wipe your bum, but I need to finish making my bed.” “Yes, I can grab your shoes, but I first need to put on a bra and put my clothes in the dirty hamper.” Once I realized that they benefit from the practice of being patient, it gave me a greater excuse not to respond to EVERY request the second they want it done.



My Happiness is Worth an Allotment of my Family's Time

After my first workout.

After my first workout.

I have always been a confident person. I don’t know where this resilience from caring what others think of me came from. I don’t remember moments of low self-esteem in middle school; I hardly remember them in high school or college; I was probably the only Mormon girl at UCSB active in a sorority who didn't care what either group thought about me.  This confidence almost crossed the line to naïvety. A piece of me didn’t waste time thinking about if others liked me because another piece of me thought, "Why wouldn’t they?" Maybe it sounds cocky when I document this attitude in writing, but it was more about confidence than cockiness.

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Fast forward 13 years after college, and my confidence is still intact. I believe I am a good mom and wife, I believe I am doing good in the world, but, man, I have never felt spread so thin or as tired, unattractive, vulnerable, and uncertain. There are many little moments during the course of a day when I feel this new-to-me self-confidence buster. For example, the other night around 8:30 pm, I decided to go grocery shopping at Sprouts. It’s just so much easier running errands without kids. So half asleep and grumpy because I am not in my sweats at home, I go. While there I am looking at packaged nuts when a man with a British accent comes up and starts chatting. I honestly feel shocked. I look around to confirm he is talking to me. Yes, he is, and it feels a little like he's hitting on me. (I probably had a confused face the whole time we were talking as I tried to figure out if he wanted to ask me a question.) Long story short, I never figured out if he was actually hitting on me, but that wasn’t my take home. My take home was how surprised I was that a man would find me attractive. When did that self-doubt develop? Deep down inside do I think of myself as so unappealing there's no way a stranger would find me attractive? Did I believe the only reason my husband finds me attractive is because he is my husband and I am the mother of his children?  There was a time I never second guessed a random talkative stranger's intention. Well, that night was a huge eye opener because I realized negative self-esteem was creeping into my soul.

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This lack of confidence is not just about my motherly postpartum appearance. I have felt it creep into my ability to keep a tidy home and balance motherhood and work. Any time you go outside your comfort zone, you become vulnerable and open to self esteem issues. There are moments when launching My Be Better Box I feel on top of the world. When I witness random strangers completing the challenges to better their lives, I know I am making a difference! However, minutes later, I can be my toughest critic. So when did my forever confidence become threatened? 

This week’s challenge could not have come at a better time. Entering the week’s challenge, I focused on the messages my children hear that will someday become their self-talk. I loved taping the Marigold Song Design post affirmation card from this month’s My Be Better Box in Cooper’s new Planet Box. She loved them, too, and was excited to show her teachers the adorable sloth that said “I accept and love myself” and the turtle that said “I can find an answer for every problem I encounter.” On my new letter board I put up a positive affirmation for my kids to believe about themselves: I am CONFIDENT AND KIND.

The positive messages geared toward my family were easy. Now it was time to come up with a meaningful message I could own. After much reflection my mantra, my positive affirmation running in my head became:

“My happiness is worth an allotment of my family’s time and money. I give myself permission, no demand, that I make myself a priority daily.”

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I love spending time with my family, and it's easy to devote this time to them. The majority of my day is spent planning fun, quality time activities outdoors (zoo, parks, Discovery Cube, walks to the circle and playdates) and indoors (dancing, reading books, bath time, snuggles, games). I love spending money on my family--on all the activities listed above, on clothes, on crafts, on healthy food, on muffins at Starbucks, etc.

But when it comes time to devote any time or money on myself, for some reason, I feel guilty. This is probably a very common motherly emotion since being able to spend time and money on our kids also makes us happy. But this week I realized how guilt is unnecessary and unhealthy.

For a while now I've been debating whether to sign up for FIT4MOM (aka: Stroller Strides). I knew I needed it because my membership to UFC gym wasn’t happening. The only times I was able to exercise around the kids' schedules happened to be 6:00 am and occasional weekday nights at 6:30 pm. Both of those hours turned out to be the LAST time I wanted to work out. I was so tired from a night full of “I have to go pee mama” or Clarky getting up because of colds. But the reason it took me so long to actually sign up was because I felt I should take advantage of the hour overlap when Clark was napping and Cooper was still at preschool to work. That way we could save the $15 per hour babysitting cost. I knew it was silly because I could somehow make up that hour of work during the week, but it was Guilt telling me to be resourceful. Analyzing the situation a bit more, I concluded I didn’t feel worthy of time and money being spent on making ME happy and healthy. But this week, I finally signed up and haven’t felt as happy, fulfilled, motivated and sore…in a long time. I'm outside, connecting with other mothers, exercising and spending quality time with my son (Cooper came once, too). I committed to doing it two mornings and one evening at beautiful parks in Anaheim Hills I didn’t even know existed 15 minutes away. I kept repeating in my head: “My happiness is worth an allotment of my family’s time and money.”

As a result, my kids' and husband’s lives were also enriched. I walked (Cooper scootered) to school the two of the three days she had school, we walked to the library, we played at three different parks and an indoor play space called The Coop. My husband and I went on a date night to a Korean Spa. (If you have never been, I highly recommend the experience.) I rediscovered my confident self, the self that has served me well my whole life!

10 Tips for Traveling with Two Kids Alone

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I consider myself a pretty confident flyer. I spent most of my 20’s traveling around the world, notwithstanding language barriers, embracing cultural differences and enduring long trips. (Sometimes spending 25-hour-travel days in airports and airplanes). However, nothing can prepare you for traveling with two toddlers. By definition a toddler is between 12-36 months, and I have a 13-month-old son and a 34-month-old daughter, so yes, I traveled by myself with two toddlers.

The morning of our flight, I logged on to Facebook and sent out an SOS cry to my mommy group to give me any tips for handling the journey without the help of another adult. Up until this point, my husband had been by my side, or I had convinced my sister-in-law or mother to fly home with me. I was nervous. Just ten days earlier when flying up to Portland, OR, from Orange County, CA, I looked at my husband in the depths of the chaos and told him there was no way we three could return home without his help. Clark was screaming in the back of the plane for a good 30 minutes. Flight attendants were handing me bags of chips for him to crinkle, and they even dimmed the lights so I could try to force him to sleep. And then...Cooper. She now has her own “big girl” seat, but when told to put her seatbelt on during take-off and landing, she acts like she suffers from extreme claustrophobia and throws tantrums as she tries to get the belt off. That’s just in the plane. In the airport she sees my vulnerability when Cory is off getting the luggage and Clark is strapped to my chest. Naturally, she thinks it’s hilarious to sprint in the opposite direction or to collapse on the airport floor. So yes, I become the mom dragging her screaming child by one arm to move her out of harm’s way. I mean, she literally tried to go the wrong direction down the escalator.

But I am happy to say my desire to seek adventure kicked in and I did it. I survived. So now, I think it only fair to pass on 10 tips for traveling with two toddlers alone:

1.     Do curbside check in if possible when traveling with two car seats, a stroller, a diaper bag, backpack, large check-on bag and two children. Curbside check is like magic. My dad dropped us off, helped unload the car and we only had to carry luggage five feet. By the time I entered the airport, I was two car seats and one huge bag lighter.  

2.     Bring stroller through security. I convinced Cooper to sit in the stroller all the way through security. With Clark strapped to me, I was able to take off my shoes, retrieve my laptop and ipads, set aside all the water and milk for kiddos, all without worrying about Cooper darting off. If you need to, give your children a sucker; in my case during the holidays, a candy cane distracted them during this busy moment.  Warning: Sometimes, but only sometimes, they require you to take off the wheels of the stroller and put it through the machine. If they had done that, I would have given them puppy dog eyes while politely asking if they could just run it through the other machine.

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3.     All about the mindset. When Cooper ran out of the bathroom while I was washing my hands, I could barely get the stroller out the door to chase her when about 10 people started pointing and asking--in a slightly judgmental tone--”who does this little girl belong to?” All I could do is say “she’s mine” and laugh at the situation. Being vulnerable allows you to connect with other people. I cannot tell you how many people offered to help, and without the slightest hesitation, I accepted and said, “Yes, please.” Most were women or older men and all seemed to smile in remembrance of when they once traveled with kids.

4.     Everyone tells you to bring snacks, I say bring Starburst. The amount of time it took Cooper to unpeel each one was worth the wrappers on the ground and the sugar on her teeth. Additionally, I bought multiple flavors of pouches for Clark and Cooper to eat which turned out to be a great form of entertainment. Clark was entertained for a good ten minutes, trying to put the cap on the pouch and taking it off.

5.     Ask for the whole row if there are any open seats. Even when traveling alone with one lap infant, the airlines always tried to leave an open seat next to me when they identified me as a Lap Infant Passenger (Alaska Airlines, anyway). My theory is they are trying to protect their customer satisfaction ratings because no one wants to sit next to a woman with a busy toddler on her lap. Luckily on the flight up, we sat next to an understanding 13-year-old girl who didn’t seem to mind Clark trying to crawl onto her lap to grab her seatbelt, water cup, and iPad. Another important detail I failed to remember when checking in (probably because I did curbside) is to always request an aisle seat. So literally while boarding, I realized I was in a middle seat and Cooper in a window. I had little time to plead my case, but I looked at the attendant and said, “I just feel bad for the person sitting next to us because I am going to have to get out a lot.” Luckily for me, she sensed my desperate cry for help and changed the person’s sit before she even boarded the plane.

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6.     Bring Ergo for the plane if you have to hold baby a lot. Clark is a 27-lb-one-year-old boy who just wants to walk, crawl and climb. The Ergo was a way to get a little back support while I bounced him alongside Cooper’s seat. Even with the extra support, my arms and back were super sore.

7.     Allow screen time. I made it a big deal to Cooper that on the plane she was going to watch a movie, normally only allowed on weekend mornings with daddy. I wish I had downloaded a couple of movies because it was almost impossible to connect to the internet and find a movie without Clark grabbing at the screen the whole time. Also, Cooper became obsessed with these 4-minute movies about sheep on Flight Go-Go entertainment, which meant every 4 minutes, I had to restart the movie. Additional screen-time tips: Find headphones that fit over your child’s ears. For us, a pair of adult noise cancellation Bose works best.  Also, if you have a cover for the iPad that folds back and allows you to hang it on the seat in front of you, I recommend that. It would have prevented Cooper from touching the screen and disconnecting the movie.

8.     Hydro flask with extra milk and a bottle, if not breastfeeding. I know this might be a no-brainer, but I had always been nursing when flying with younger kids. My daughter never took a bottle past 8 months old. So when the flight attendant looked at me with horror when I mentioned I had no milk or bottle for the whole flight, I realized I had done something wrong. I think I was just worried the milk might go bad. So on the return flight, I had a bottle and whole milk on hand. It worked for the desperate moments.

9.     Ask for help. I had to change Clark’s diaper in the middle of the flight, so I was forced to ask the random-mommy-stranger friend I’d made 45 minutes into the flight to watch Cooper while I did it. The flight attendants also mentioned they could help hold a baby during bathroom duty.

10.  Vow to help EVERY mom traveling alone on an airplane for the rest of your life. The experience traveling alone with two toddlers became an exciting adventure for me, one I had conquered by the end of the trip. I felt as if I had climbed a mountain and reached the top. Unfortunately, there will always be people who seem annoyed at the chaos of little ones while traveling, but do your best to look past them and find the ones who glow at the sight of children. And for the rest of your life, help those women traveling alone with kids. It’s an opportunity to connect with a fellow-traveling mom.



The Simple Friendship Between A TODDLER and 87 Year old

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My whole life when people asked me what my dad does for work, my muttered answer was always quite uncertain. Still to this day, I don’t quite understand the ins and outs of my dad’s career, but have been grateful that it has introduced me to world of assisted living facilities in the Pacific NorthWest. I found myself for many summers and my first year after college, working inside them. Many might cringe at the idea, but honestly, I enjoyed it. Maybe it was because of the caring staff and the quality of the buildings, but the atmosphere didn’t feel lonely or depressing. During the year after college, I was promoted from the cleaning and serving crew to the marketing team where I interacted with adult children struggling emotionally about “putting” their aging parents in a home. After our tour and my genuine enthusiasm about the advantages our community offered, they became excited about the independence and socialization their parent(s) would experience with us. I watched the social butterflies thrive during Christmas concerts, dinners and various outings and activities, but I also witnessed others who preferred to remain roombound. Some struggled with dementia, others with chronic pain, and it was almost impossible to persuade them to leave their 400-foot apartment-style rooms.

It wasn’t until earning my Masters in Social Welfare that I learned about the tragic statistics  haunting our geriatric population. According to Mental Health America, senior citizens make up 20% of the yearly suicide rate in America. Depression is a serious issue for the elderly, and many face chronic illnesses that contribute to this despondency.

When doctors put me on modified bedrest during my pregnancy, I was shocked at the isolation I felt being physically limited. Although I never struggled with depression, I felt dispirited for moments. I wanted to be outside, I wanted to visit with friends, but I knew I needed to slow down. It was extremely difficult for me to handle the bedrest mentally. And I WASN’T EVEN ALONE. I had my husband, my daughter and my mom helping out for the two and a half months I needed to take it easy. I was able to walk around casually and wasn’t limited to my bed. Even though I felt excited about welcoming our new son, I remember finding each subsequent day harder and harder. This experience gave me great empathy for the elderly or the ill. Some are widowed, some are bedbound, some are without hope.

That is why I felt grateful for this week’s challenge to connect with the elderly. I contacted a woman at our church to see if she had any recommendations about who to visit. She mentioned two ladies, Barbara and Peggy, both widowed and in their mid-late 80s.  So while Cooper was thrilled about our random cookie baking activity, I focused on who we were making the cookies for. I told her the cookies were going to make Barbara and Peggy happy because they didn’t have family nearby.

She quickly responded, “Then we will give them cookies and give them family to make them happy.”

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I explained that the ladies would enjoy the cookies, but our main focus was to make them happy by visiting them.  So on Tuesday, Cooper, Clark and I drove to Barbara’s home. When we pulled up, she was watering her front yard with a hose in one hand and her cane in the other. She was witty and happy to see us. I pretty much invited myself in, but she was excited to have company. Her house was dark and full of cluttered history. I am always fascinated by the history stacked on the shelves. The first thing Cooper noticed was a shelf full of old children’s books. Clark, true to form, noticed everything breakable within a 12-month-old’s crawling reach. We shared cookies and some water and listened to her stories about growing up in a remote town in Idaho. By the end, Cooper was on her lap reading a story. As we left, we promised each other another visit, next time at our house (which is a little more baby proof) and to continue our friendship at church. She waved good-bye and told us our visit had made her day.

On Wednesday we visited Peggy. Her house was bright and well organized by her adult daughter who was caring for her after a stroke. Something magical happens when the youngest and the oldest of the population interact. When watching almost-three-year- old Cooper interact with 87-year-old Peggy, I knew their friendship was meant to be. They both glowed while talking about simple things, laughing at shy smiles, and sharing cookies. Peggy managed to walk around her house with a walker and showed us her collection of Macy’s Department Store teddy bears and her bird that rings a bell on command. Cooper, of course, did not want to leave her house. I witnessed something beautiful as I watched two people, 85 years apart, share simple joys and connect so easily.

Barbara’s and Peggy’s stories about their children and grandchildren made me realize that when you are in your 80s, family is the only thing that matters. It made me think of memories of my own grandparents. Unfortunately, they all passed away at what I now consider tragically young ages (in their 60s and early 70s). Now that I have children, it's fun to witness their growing relationships with their grandparents. How lucky they are to have five grandparents who love them to pieces.

Merms (my mom)

Papa (my Dad)

Nani (Cory’s Mom)

Grandpa Clark (Cory’s Dad)

Grandma Tea Party (Cory’s step-mom).

While I do not consider them elderly, one day soon they will be, one day I will be, and at that time I hope to be visited and loved by family, friends and complete strangers delivering cookies.  



Hello. My name is Aly and I hoard toys.

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I never thought I would be that mom whose living room is over taken by toys.

Cooper’s new hobby is dumping out huge baskets of toys I have organized in the corner of our living room. At times the act is okay because it allows me 5 minutes while she is occupied rummaging through the pile of stuff. I need that time to nurse or put Clark down for a nap or to take a shower. But her passion for dumping out things has become excessive, and her dislike of cleaning them up is unbearable.

One solution would make my life much easier, yet it is difficult for me to do: give away her toys.

WHY ALL THE BATH TOYS?

WHY ALL THE BATH TOYS?

I don’t know why I don’t donate or toss them out. Maybe I feel sentimentally attached to the toy that at one point gave her so much joy. Maybe. But honestly, I think it is more the hope she will pull that toy out-- or more realistically, a piece of the toy set-- and find entertainment in it again. When I watch her find a random toy she hasn’t given attention to in months and finds some creative way to interact with it, even for a minute, it gives me hope. Actually, it’s a false hope: If I keep all her toys around, Cooper will have more to play with, thereby giving me more freedom around the house.

There are two problems with this belief.

#1 I am losing my mind with all the stuff and messes.

#2 She is only two and a half, yet I swear she seems bored of her toys. 

So this week’s #bebetter52 challenge centered around cleaning, and because I am focused on all the toys, I remembered a blog I read a while back. I google searched “mom declutters toys and kids play better,” and there it was. How Getting Rid of My Stuff Saved My Motherhood, guest post by Allie Casazza, The Purposeful Housewife. I feel so connected to her words. I encourage everyone to read it.

She states, “When I thought about my days and how I spent my time, all I saw were piles of dishes, an endless mountain of laundry, and picking up toys and books and markers and jackets and shoes and empty water bottles and paper artwork.”

“I had to keep moving or the house and the day would collapse. When I did press pause and spend some time with my kids, it felt like I had to pay the price – catching up on housework; making up for the time I missed living my life.”

“It’s not that I’m a neat freak (in fact, I’m probably pretty near the opposite). All this work was simply to keep the house functioning.”

So what did she do?

She went into her kids’ playroom and got rid of the majority of the toys (because she said they were bored of the toys within 10 minutes anyways). The thing that happened next was what I remembered. The kids thrived with less toys. They spent 3 hours the first day with the 10% of toys left, and they didn’t even seem to notice they were gone.

So this week I attempted my own experiment.  

THIS IS MY LIVING ROOM.

THIS IS MY LIVING ROOM.

While Cooper was napping, I took out three huge baskets of toys and two more smaller boxes and put them in our remodeled garage (my office). I wasn’t quite committed enough to completely get rid of them. I left one small box of animal figurines, a little cloth basket for Clark’s baby toys and her pretend kitchen against the wall she had not given much attention to in months. When she woke up, I was ready for the melt down once she noticed all her toys were gone.

THE OPPOSITE HAPPENED.

She became excited to see her box of animals. She pulled them out one by one, creating a zoo and using the kitchen to cook food for them. No joke, she played independently for over an hour with her animals. It has been two days and the only toys she asked for were her baby dolls. I told her to sit and read while I secretly went into the garage to grab the dolls. I came back with the dolls in hand, nothing else. She danced with the dolls, cooked them food, and read to them.

Conclusion: too many toys is never a good thing. I witnessed her imagination expand when she wasn’t so distracted by the mess and all the toy options. She was able to remain present. I don’t know why this is surprising considering I feel like I operate the same way. When I clear my desk of the papers, the notes, the mail…I am able to think clearer and be more creative.  When I clear the kitchen of the dishes, food, trash…I want to be in there cooking longer. And I want to clean it.

MY OVERALL PREDICAMENT.

The challenge this week posed a ongoing predicament: how can you spend quality time with your children and still maintain a clean and orderly house? Both are great goals. I reached out to you through @alysangle on Instagram this week asking for advice on how to handle the messes during this time in my life as a young mother, and I adore some of your responses.

From @cjonas5 “It is a sign that it’s a well lived home full of creative and happy minds.” From @larissaandrowan “I want them to have more memories of joy and fun and not just the tidy space. I’m okay with that, because this is our season. We are currently messy making memories.”

It was also fun to connect to some of our 52'ers who are very passionate about safe cleaning. Here is one of our own, Joo Linn, who highlights her love for Norwex rags. 

 

 

 

Ever Heard of Norwex Rags?

At Be Better Movement we love highlighting our 52'ers. Here is Joo Lin R who shares her passion for this week's #bebetter52 challenge and love for Norwex rags.

Hi - I’m Joo Lin on Be Better Team Awesome! I’m wife to a fantastic man and mom to four crazy awesome kids! I love organizing, spending time with my family, being active, and helping people.

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I love the mission of “Be Better” and the weekly challenges. They have introduced me to new things, some of which I love and some I don’t - ha! I appreciate the ones that have stretched me. I have had some wonderful conversations about improving ourselves so we can have more capacity to help others.

This week’s challenge of “Safe Cleaning Supplies” hits home for me. I believe in creating safe haven homes for families, specifically reducing chemicals as related to this challenge. My life changed when I was introduced to Norwex. I found a way to protect my family’s health, save money, and save time cleaning. Norwex specializes in microfiber products cleaning with just water to remove up to 99% of bacteria, virus, etc. from surfaces with proper care and usage. We also have other non-toxic enzyme products when cloth & water aren’t quite enough. I now feel comfortable teaching my kids how to clean alongside me because I’m not sending them to use toxic chemicals. I feel like our home is cleaner while spending less time doing the work. Enjoy creating a healthier home with this week’s challenge!

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I Wish I Had My Toddler's Love For Books

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I literally feel I have no time to read a book, but since focusing on this week’s #bebetter52 challenge, I realize that is not entirely true. Instead of reading a book in my limited spare time, I tend to zone out by scrolling on my phone or watching my favorite HGTV shows. Because my window of free time seems so scattered, maybe I rationalize that reading books is too big a commitment. Or maybe it is because at the day’s end, I am so spent that reading is too much work. Or maybe because most of my reading material has been birthing, parenting and self-help books, I’ve forgotten what it’s like to read a good novel.  Regardless of the reason, it is sad.

Favorite part of the book  Little Big Girl by Claire Keane

Favorite part of the book Little Big Girl by Claire Keane

When my mom and I started decorating Clark’s nursery, essentially a 9 x 7 office with a door out to our converted garage, we knew we were dealing with limited space. Mom suggested eliminating a chair in the room. I told her that idea was non-negotiable because I spend hours upon hours in that chair nursing and reading books to Cooper. So many emotions are linked to that one piece of furniture: preparing for Clark’s birth; transitioning from one to two children; wondering how a sibling would affect Cooper; and, most intensely, worrying if I would survive childbirth.  All of those emotions intensified when reading to Cooper at night before bed. I savored those sweet pajama cuddles while she sat on the side of my big growing belly. We would read, read and read. Often I would read another book simply because I didn’t want the moment to end.

I am lucky to have a toddler who is obsessed with books. It was difficult with a newborn at first to devote the time she wanted to read. Often I’d nurse Clark while trying to figure out a way to read books to her, but frequently she felt frustrated not being able to sit on my lap. Now that Clark goes to bed at 5:30 pm, I have about an hour and a half with Cooper alone. I commit this time to reading before the lights go off. I am convinced if I kept reading and reading, she would sit listening and listening. Most nights I am forced to limit the number of books to three. Now, on top of the books, she demands made-up stories by Mommy, full of horses, fairies and elephants, all going to the park. She fills in the gaps by using her imagination. It’s simply adorable. Instead of toys in her room, she has books: one shelf on the wall, two shelves on her dresser and three baskets on the floor. I know it might seem a little excessive, but it’s how she entertains herself when we are inside.   She sits down with the book resting on her little legs, sometimes independently reading to herself, other times wanting me to read to her, and just recently, she’s started reading to Clark.

This week’s #bebetter52 challenge inspired a mid-day trip to the library. We picked up 3 books for Clark, 3 books for Cooper and her new favorite, 3 audiobooks. I noticed the audiobook section at the library a couple weeks ago and thought she would enjoy listening to stories in the car. She does. We also borrowed a CD player from our neighbor, and she listens to the narrator read the book while she follows the cue to turn the pages. She has loved the audiobooks so much I downloaded an app called Epic! You can listen to the audio books or use the read-out-loud feature where you follow along.

Cooper’s Favorite Books

Little Big Girl by Claire Keane (mommy's favorite book- where a little girl becomes a little big girl when her baby brother is born).

Big Bear, Little Chair by Lizi Boyd (Given to her by Merms when she was an infant, still a favorite)

Owl Book by Martin Waddell

Peanut Butter and Cupcake by Terry Border (Given to her by her Cousin Noelle)

The Starry Giraffe by Andy Bergmann

Time for Bed, Fred by Yasmeen Ismail ( a random library book that has become a favorite)

Good Dog Carl by Alexandra Day (classic board book with little words, so you create the story)

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers (another great book to prepare for a sibling)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you See? by Bill Martin Jr. (and now Polar Bear, Polar Bear What do you Hear?)

The Disney series I just picked up at an antique store sale (19 books for $5)

For years I thought reading novels a total waste of time (yes, so type A of me). It wasn’t until I started travelling that I discovered how books can magically transport a reader into other worlds.  Reading can be both refreshing and entertaining, and I don’t always need to be exclusively learning or challenging myself. Sometimes one just wants a good storyline to suck you in. So, I decided this morning to find such a book. I went on Amazon and typed in Nicholas Sparks. Yup, I found a used book for under $5, and I am excited about it.

Do you have any good book recommendations?

 

Poop-covered baby in a Poop-covered room

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I am always trying to figure out the most effective way of doing things. During my grad school internship when I worked in a psychiatric ward in San Pedro, I couldn’t bear wasting time inputting my data into a system that seemed ineffective and from the stone age. Consumed with how tedious the process felt, I spent half a day creating a “better” approach. Luckily, my supervisor was impressed and not offended by my insight. I tell you this because this trait of mine is a blessing and a total curse at times.

How is it a curse you might ask? If anything appears “harder” than it needs to be, I am convinced there must be a better way. Latest case: the never-ending loads of laundry. Instead of simply doing it, I have created this paralysing delusion that I can figure out a better system. So instead of putting in a load, drying it, folding it and putting it away…I waste time creating systems.

Some days, I promise myself I will fold the laundry when Clark wakes up early from his naps and Cooper is still sleeping.  My reasoning is that it won’t feel like a waste of time because it is a fun, simple task we can do together. Other days I create piles in specific areas all over the house, forcing me, hopefully, to put away the clothes while the kids are playing in that room. I’ve  concluded some chores are always going to feel like work.

The only way I can bear this type of work is to make not-so-fun tasks teaching points. My most recent approach is modeling for Cooper and saying out loud, “Sometimes we need to do things we don’t necessarily like to do.” For me, it is laundry.

My goal this week was to figure out ways to involve my children in cooking and cleaning. Including them in the process makes it a more fulfilling and quality time activity, not something that takes time away from them.

This week we started with the dishes. I hate doing dishes because it feels impossible with a toddler who loves to climb inside the dishwasher and reach for knives. This week, however, I had the brilliant idea of sticking my water-loving, always-wanting-to-help toddler in the sink to help. We have done this a couple of days in a row now and, honestly, it’s good old-fashioned quality time mixed with a little productivity. I use Babyganics dish soap, so I do not worry about the chemicals.

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Cooper has helped me complete this week’s #bebetter52 challenge to make a protein breakfast by assisting me in blending our morning smoothie, packed with peanut butter and plant-based protein powder. With the blender on her little iKea table, she put in frozen berries (one at a time, may I add) and scooped the peanut butter. The process felt educational as we named all the vegetables (kale and avocado), fruit (banana, strawberries, blueberries) and seeds (hemp seeds). (Recipes for other protein breakfasts we tried can be seen below.)

Mom life is funny. We all live and operate within our own homes, but I am positive we experience similar challenges. On the other hand, “special” one-of-a-kind moments pop up from time to time that I wonder if other moms experience.

I am going to paint the picture of one of those moments.

Clark was eating in his highchair with only his diaper on because we do baby-led weaning which pretty much means…every meal is a complete mess with food all over the high chair, the ground (luckily, we have a dog), all over him and, once I pick him up, me.  I then carry him to the sink where I give him a quick bath. In the process I take off his diaper.

After drying him off, I decide to set him on the rug in his room without a diaper. I think, worse case scenario is that he pees, right? At that point, I receive a phone call. I go in the backyard briefly so I can think clearly and carry on an adult conversation for a minute. That minute is interrupted by Cooper running outside to say, “Clark pooped.” Quickly, I end the conversation to rush into a room AND baby all covered with poop. Literally, Clark was double fisting his own poop. It was in both hands, his head, all over the rug, and his toys.

At this point I have to think fast since our big golden doodle, Tucker, has decided poop is his favorite entrée since Cooper started potty training. If she stands up too fast, and I am not around, Tucker goes in nose first. She now knows she needs to sit on the potty after pooping until mommy can body block Tucker from the portable toilet. So, in this situation my first step is to put Tucker away in the backyard, where, of course, he yelps the whole time to add that extra element of chaos.

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Then the real fun begins. Cooper comes into the room and starts gagging. (We noticed Cooper’s gag reflex when Clark was barely a month old and started spitting up a lot. Okay, let me not sugar coat it, he literally would burp/barf up a waterfall of breast milk. It would spew everywhere each time I nursed. Doctors were never concerned, but I became so used to being soaked in regurgitated breast milk, I would rarely change my milk-soaked clothing. Well, whenever Cooper saw the puking, she’d start gagging, like straight out of the scene from Four Christmases. Her eyes would became watery and she’d gag, but she always collected herself and returned to her current activity.) Well, this time she walks into Clark’s room and starts gagging. I tell her to go in the living room so she doesn’t have to smell it. She leaves and announces, “I’m okay now, mama.” She comes back into the room. Of course, the smell is horrible, so she begins gagging again. Back to the living room she marches to refocus. I then hear another “I’m okay now, mama.” She comes back a third time…but this time she bolts out of the room. I follow. She is holding her mouth, and this is where the real fun begins. She throws up all over the living room, holding handfuls of it, looking confused as to what just happened. It was her first time throwing up, and she handled it like a champ.

So a poop-covered baby in a poop-covered room and a vomit-covered toddler in a vomit- covered room. How would you have handled this all-in-a-mom’s-workday experience? Hopefully, you’ll never have to find out.

To summarize, there was no efficient way to clean up this mess. It was a lot of baths, laundry, dishes (all the toys) and scrubbing. On a positive note, however, it seems hilarious now that is over!!

 

Traveling with kids is not a vacation, its traveling.

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Since becoming a parent, I’ve reflected more and more about my own parents and how they raised us when we were young. I wish I could travel back in time and watch my parents interact with my two-year-old self. I know what my childhood felt like from a child’s perspective, one full of love, support and adventure. But now that I have children of my own, I would love to observe it from an adult’s perspective. Recently, Cory and I took both kiddos to Maui and Oahu which started me thinking: I wonder what my parents packed for us on the plane? I wonder how they handled me when I threw a tantrum in a restaurant? Would they have set out on an adventure with two babies on a 6-hour round trip to Hana down a windy road?

As a child I vacationed often with my family. I use the word vacation because most of the trips included beautiful hotels, beachfront views, overpriced food and expensive excursions. Naturally, I loved every minute of them. These vacations comprise some of my best childhood memories. My dad is the one who planned our family trips to Hawaii, the Caribbean, Mexico and our Mediterranean cruise. It wasn’t until college I learned the difference between vacationing and traveling.

Traveling was a totally different experience with inconveniences, uncomfortable nights and basically a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants itinerary. During my senior year in college, I studied abroad in Belize for 4 months, which produced situations packed with all sorts of surprises. One might ask why Belize triggered my obsession with traveling? It was because I’d never felt so “in the moment." I grew to love the uncertainty of traveling, the craft of being open minded to new cultures and the adventure of the unknown. After Belize, I traveled to dozens of countries around the world including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Panamá, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Perú, Nepal, India, Kenya, Zanzibar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Germany.

Since having children, I have come to terms with the reality my travel adventures will look different for a couple years. While pregnant I declined multiple trips because of the Zika virus. Now I have two little ones, which doesn’t make it impossible to travel, just different. During Cooper’s first year and a half of life, she went on 18 different flights all stateside.  Since Clark joined our family, I haven’t felt confident enough to travel alone with two little ones, but I know I will get there. As for now, my husband and I tag team the our adorable and independent duo. 

Our Trip to Hawaii

As we installed the car seats at LAX and made our way home, Cory and I literally gave each other a high five. We had done it. We’d successfully taken two young kids to Hawaii. By my definition, we had traveled with the kids, sprinkling in a little bit of vacation.

We hauled around two car seats, a pack ‘n’ play, snacks, luggage, a stroller, a determined and independent toddler and a super wiggly 7 month old.

We stayed in three different houses. We are incredibly grateful for the family and friends willing to house our family of four. Even though many of the houses were kid friendly (Uncle Ry rented high chairs and a baby exersaucer), we didn’t have the comforts of our own baby-friendly stuff. We laid out towels under our children when they ate, we bathed with them in slippery bathtubs, and we slept in the same rooms, fully aware any noise from them would wake up the whole house.

We debated nap and sleep schedules daily. I was more determined than my husband to cater activities and outings around the kids’ naps. Sometimes that was an option, but most of the time impossible to do. Halfway through the trip I surrendered and just hoped they would nap in the car without having complete meltdowns by the afternoon. So everyday, mornings and evenings were packed with the uncertainty of how the kiddos would handle life outside their routines. And guess what? They TOTALLY figured it out. Yes, we had a few melt downs, but we adjusted with food, beach showers, carseat naps…and everything ended up “mo bettah.” All in all, the trip was amazing. It felt like we were gone for a month (in a good way).

To be completely truthful, I was very nervous that having children would limit my ability to travel. Yes, it looks different, but I can honestly say traveling with children is even better. You see the world through their little eyes which allows you to notice and find joy over the littlest things.

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The toad jumping across the sidewalk

The flamingos at the hotel we pretended to stay at for the day

The birds chirping at 3:30 am the first morning they woke up

Cooper announcing she is “brave” for swimming with floaties in the ocean all by herself

Literally smelling the flowers in the Hawaiian lei

Roasting marshmallows with friends at a bonfire in their backyard

The chickens at my aunt’s organic farm

After this trip I have renewed excitement about continuing my passion for adventure and travel with my children and husband.

Tips for traveling with two little kiddos

-Our bob stroller saved us: We loaded it with luggage, beach gear and children, depending on the adventure.

-Of course, bring your ergo to carry baby or toddler if they need to be strapped to your chest for whatever reason.

-Bring snacks for all car rides even though the kids will be filthy when you arrive at the destination. Just bring tons of extra clothes.

-Write down memories daily because so much happens and it is easy to forget.

-Bring reusable water bottles for the kids. We ended up buying a kid hydroflask and keeping it full during the beach days and car rides. (#bebetter52 challenge completed).

-Prepare to be up early (due to time changes), so plan a fun early morning activity. 5:30 beach mornings were the highlight of our trip.

-I brought tons of activities for the plane. Honestly, stickers didn’t entertain Cooper very long, and she was easily frustrated by them. Books and movies were the best entertainment. WARNING: Cooper doesn’t watch a lot of TV at home, and after she watched two hours of movies, her brain had turned to mush and her temperament had become much fussier…like tantrums that required us to hide in the plane bathroom to drone out the noise. Thankfully, they only lasted a few minutes.

Some great beaches for kids in Maui and Oahu.

Maui beaches

Grand Wailea (kid friendly next to hotels with pools and showers to rinse off babies)

Sprecklesville- Baby Beach (protected by reef)

Hamoa (not baby friendly, sticky black sand and big waves, just played in beach break)

Kaanapali beach (beach outside the Westin, bigger shore break)

Other kid activities

Maui - Iao Valley  (hike and play in stream)

Maui - Splash Pad (Maui mall)

Maui- Road to Hana, return backside Kaupo

Oahu – Kanu Farms (visit the Chicken Coop)

Oahu Beaches

Baby Makapuu (beach with tidepools for kids and surf next to it)

Baggers Beach (totally baby friendly)

Pipeline (top surfing wave in the world, just played in sand)

Bikini Beach (totally baby friendly)

 

Wake up: It's 5:15am

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All week I have attempted to get up early, like 5:15 am early, to find time for myself. I enjoy mornings, actually love them, but it’s been forever since I have felt rested enough to make the experience possible. With 10 months of restlessness while pregnant (too much information, but my first pregnancy symptom is getting up 5 times in the middle of the night to pee) to my babies being difficult sleepers (often up 5-8 times a night for the first 6 months of their lives), I have been sleeping in 2-3 hours windows for about a year and 4 months. But two weeks ago, we decided to ‘sleep train,’ and since I am not pregnant, my nights have greatly improved.

Two of the mornings I committed to exercising. I started attending a new UFC gym, the one my husband goes to. The feeling of finishing a workout before 7:00 am and then walking through the door all sweaty to find my husband cuddling babies in their pjs has been the best. Yes, I do love my sleepy-eyed mornings with Cooper jumping into bed, but then I start my days without a second to myself.

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On the mornings I didn’t exercise, I decided to devote time to writing. I have learned it takes committing to it the night before. So Thursday morning, I rode my beach cruiser to the Old Town Starbucks with my computer in the basket and reflected on motherhood and last week’s challenge to Walk for Mothers.

It was a wonderful week.

Life is amazing when you follow your passions. Luckily, when I am passionate about something, my heart literally beats a little faster and my mind floods with excitement. During Mother’s Day weekend, I was asked to speak on a maternal health panel by Annie, a postpartum survivor and active #bebetter52 participant. Annie and I connected instantly over email in our mission to raise money for Every Mother Counts, but it wasn’t until Cory and I drove down to attend the event that we met face to face.

During the event we spoke about how women can advocate for themselves throughout  pregnancy and the birth process and highlighted some of the blaring issues facing women in the United States today.

Here are some short videos shown on Saturday produced by Every Mother Counts highlighting the topic of Giving Birth in America.

BIRTH IN AMERICA: LOUISIANA

BIRTH IN AMERICA: FLORIDA

BIRTH IN AMERICA: NEW YORK

Annie mentioned something on stage when she was introducing herself and the panel of speakers. When planning the event, she realized that although her goal for the event was to raise money for Every Mother Counts and to bring awareness to maternal health issues worldwide, it was equally important to bring people together to connect. This comment stuck with me because it brought clarity to what motivates me. It is not only my connection with women worldwide but also knowing that through the Be Better Movement women are connecting with each other.

Mother’s Day has become one of my favorite holidays because the work I do daily is for mothers. This year, I spent it with the people who made me a mother--my wonderful husband and our two amazing kiddos.  Biking down to Orange circle, enjoying an early morning breakfast before snapping my annual picture by the fountain in middle of the circle made my Mother’s Day complete.

Over the last year, I have developed an even firmer belief in the power of women in the lives of their family and community. My personal goal is to create a movement where women can come together weekly and slowly improve their own health and wellness while impacting women’s lives around the world. Daily, I am incredibly grateful my heart beats faster and my mind floods with excitement as I work on the ins and outs of the Be Better Movement.

 

AWKWARD! SOMEONE CONGRATULATED ME ON MY PREGNANCY.

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A couple of weeks ago, I announced to my girl lacrosse players at Corona Del Mar High School that this coaching year would be my last. I actually made the decision in the summer but wanted to wait to let the girls in on my little secret. I have been coaching lacrosse at Corona Del Mar High School for ten years. I almost can’t remember a time when I wasn’t coaching lacrosse. Surprising how fast a decade can fly by. I started coaching when I was single, straight out of graduate school; now I have two babies and will be celebrating my five-year wedding anniversary.

I have experienced many sweet moments these closing weeks as I said goodbye to rival coaches, athletic directors and refs with whom I have interacted for years. This Wednesday, one particular ref announced during the pre-game coin flip that he’d heard the “news” and wanted to wish me good luck on my next adventure. It wasn’t until after the game we were able to talk in more detail, and he gave me the sweetest compliment. He said years ago one of my players was not handling the emotions of the game, and a timeout was called to address the issues. He recalls I took the player out of the game and encouraged her to apologize to him after the match.  He then continued, “It has been an honor to ref your games. Not all coaches would have done that.” I was thankful he took the time to reflect on such a memory with me. But then…oh, but then…he added, “And congrats on your pregnancy… is it your 3rd?” Oh-my-gosh, it actually happened…my post-belly pouch was so convincing he was confident enough to throw out a congrats! Although completely embarrassed, I confidently smiled and answered, “Oh, this is just a post baby belly.”  Awkward. Even now as I recount the event, I can feel the flush. Driving home, I replayed the uncomfortable moment in my head. Man, I can’t wait to get enough sleep so I can actually have the energy to start working out and exercising again.

It is ironic one of Be Better Movements mottos states, “We believe that only once you start caring for yourself will you have the energy to care for the world.” I know I won’t be able to be a good wife or mother if I do not start investing time and energy into my selfcare. I believe this statement to be true; unfortunately, my reality is far from this truth. 

To reiterate the point, this week I ambitiously decided to tackle potty training with Cooper and sleep training with Clark. Both of these incredibly important tasks are emotionally taxing and time consuming, so this week's #bebetter52 challenge has been difficult. I have been so consumed in watching Cooper’s naked little tush running around the house as I try to spot the first dribble of pee running down her leg, that it has been nearly impossible to notice anything else, especially opportunities to pay it forward.

BYE BYE DIAPERS

BYE BYE DIAPERS

I have been trying to follow the advice of Jamie Glowacki exactly as outlined in her book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right.The book gives an option to not nighttime train, which we decided was best since Cooper still sleeps in a crib. Why I am telling you this? As we were putting Cooper to bed two nights ago, we suddenly realized we were out of diapers. I couldn’t find a spare anywhere. Super frustrated I had to leave the house and run to Target, I jumped in the car and tried to beat every stoplight on the way there. Once I’d purchased my size 6 pack of diapers and some loose fitted boys’ toddler shorts (Coops is finding it hard to pull her pants down her cute chubby legs), I started speeding through the parking lot. Barely noticing, but also not really caring, I saw a man crossing the parking lot. I could have stopped but didn’t think I had to because of the distance between us, so I just kept speeding on. Let’s just say, I did not make his day better. The moment I saw his body language in my rear view mirror, I remembered this week’s challenge to pay it forward. It was an eye-opening reminder the world doesn’t revolve around my busy schedule, and I need to SLOW DOWN and notice other people’s needs.

The next day while meeting Be Better Intern Emilee for our bi-weekly meeting at Starbucks at the circle in Orange, I decided to stop and notice the people around me. Normally, Starbucks’ employees are super friendly and talkative, but this particular woman was not having a good day. I asked if I could possibly pay for someone’s drink behind me (which at that moment was no one). She pretty much told me I could only do it in drive through Starbucks. So instead, I bought a $5 gift card and told her to choose who to give it to. She wasn’t totally amused, but as I sat down waiting for my egg white and spinach wrap, I saw a man’s face light up when he received the good news that $5 off his bill had been gifted to him. She even mentioned it was National Pay it Forward week. Mission accomplished.

It has been fun since my rushed moment in the parking lot to search out opportunities to pay it forward. I decided to treat my lacrosse team to donuts at our once-a-year traditional 6am practice. I woke up extra early to head to the donut shop in the dark to pick up 1 dozen maple bars and 6 glazed/chocolate ones. While standing alone in the dark outside the window, I noticed a disheveled homeless man talking to himself as I walked toward me in the parking lot. I was aware I was alone and he was approaching. Within five minutes, four other people stood in line behind me, and the homeless man, now sitting on a bench, appeared less threatening. Carrying my box of 18 donuts, I thought about offering him a donut, but I hesitated. While I stood there debating, this jolly older gentlemen turned to the man and asked him if he wanted a coffee and donut. The homeless man grinned from ear to ear and announced a firm YES. I felt privileged watching a random act of kindness from a stranger more confident than I. So instead, I gifted the left over donuts from practice to our amazing neighbors, the Todds. 

 

 

 

Meet Be Better Intern: Emilie

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My name is Emilie Allen and I am a Strategic and Corporate Communication major at Chapman University. I started interning at the Be Better Movement because my passions aligned with the organization’s vision, and I was excited to help that vision grow. I have always loved all things related to holistic health and wellness, so promoting creative challenges that motivate others to try new things and be their best selves was a perfect fit! Additionally, I am very invested in conservation and protecting the environment. I love that I’ve had the opportunity to spread that very important message through my position here at Be Better.

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Outside of school and work I am an explorer at heart. I love all things outdoors from camping to backpacking and I am passionate about seeing the world. I am from Laguna Niguel, CA, so going to the beach is a necessity in my routine. Some of my other hobbies include cooking, hammocking, and of course writing.

For the movement, I write blogs, such as my most recent Earth Day Challenge, as well as help out with social media marketing. I have loved my experience working with this organization and hope you have all been inspired in some way by what we do here.

I Recognize the Importance of a Night Time Routine for my Children yet Completely Neglect My Own

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There have been different times in my life when I considered myself a “night owl” and other times when I felt I was a “morning person.” My night owl tendencies mostly ran strong during my years in school. Even in high school, I stayed up past midnight completing homework assignments. I felt most alive and productive during the night hours. Pregnancy and kids sure changed that feeling. Now in the evening hours after the kids are down, all I want to do is sit down on the couch and do absolutely nothing. I mean nothing. I don’t even want to put food back in the refrigerator or clean dishes from dinner. Looking around, I feel overwhelmed: my house is torn apart with clutter everywhere, and my list of to-do items is missing a few check marks. Nothing feels completely accomplished, and everything seems out of place.

All day long I look for little moments to get things done. I set down Clark for a minute (more like 30 seconds), hoping he doesn’t cry so I can dress myself. I rush around the kitchen acting like Cooper’s little butler, responding to her lunch commands. The second I sit down to enjoy the meal with her, she seems to need more milk or water. And I cannot keep up with Cooper’s newly found love of dumping out boxes of toys. Sometimes, especially while nursing, I take advantage of the time created by this 7 ½ minute distraction. It entertains her when I do not have the ability to interact with her other than asking her to please bring over a book so I can read it while Clark tries to get comfortable while nursing. As stated, all day long I am looking for little fractions of times to accomplish tasks. When night time comes and both kiddos are down, I am finally granted the time, but I am way too exhausted to capitalize on it.

So for this week’s #bebetter52 challenge to establish a new night time routine, I decided not to burden myself by trying to be productive in the evening hours. Ironically, I recognize the importance of a night time routine for my children yet completely neglect the need for my own.  If I start working at night on Be Better or lacrosse or on unfinished to-do’s around the house, my mind revs back up again, and I have a difficult time turning it off.

When thinking about what I wanted to add to my nighttime routine, I spent time reflecting on our nightly routines with the children. The reality is some evenings the nighttime routine with our kids goes smoothly and other nights it is tortuous. A couple of days ago my husband asked, “When do nighttime routines stop?” I had to think long and hard… “I guess when they can put themselves to bed, but I have no clue what age that is.” But even on nights when bedtime peace and tranquility are NOT easily found in our home, I find these brief episodes some of my most favorite parenting moments thus far. Here is a glimpse into the reality of these crazy evening hours.

A good night with two kids looks like this:

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We eat dinner with Clark sitting in the bumbo and Cooper in her high chair.

I start a super hot bath. Hubby plays with the kids while I jump in the bath until it is an okay temp for the kids to join. Yes, I love taking baths with them because I love baths, and it is so much easier than reaching over the side of the tub to soap them up. We play, and we talk.

Cory grabs Clark. I get out, dry off Clark and dress him in his pj’s. (Normally, this is the point when the crying begins.)

Cory then grabs Cooper. She runs around naked for a second. Then we put on her diaper and pj’s, brush her hair like “Moana,” brush her teeth to get the “sugar bugs” out and the “sugar bugs with their teddy bears” that sleep deep in her mouth.

I put Clark to bed in his crib after nursing, swaddling and singing.

Then we read books with Cooper. Lots of them. Sometimes we lay on our bellies in the room, other times we sit in the rocking chair. She demands we tell her “stories” and cuddle.

We put her in her crib, turn on lullaby music while she falls asleep.

A bad night with two kids looks like this:

I eat dinner while bouncing Clark because if I sit down, he will start crying. Cooper is demanding to get out of her highchair because she is “all done” and wants to play outside.

I start a super hot bath. Hubby takes the kids while I jump in the bath until it is an okay temp for the kids to join. Cooper doesn’t want to take a bath, so I take Clark first. Then Cory carries Cooper to the bathtub and tries to convince her to just take a bath for a second. With Clark in one hand, I am creating stories to motivate Cooper to sit down in the water and allow me to pour water on her head to get out the shampoo from her hair. She screams and twists, making the water hit her face.

Cory grabs Clark, I get out, dry off Clark and dress him in his pj’s. He is screaming.

Cory then grabs Cooper. She runs around naked and does not want to go to bed. Then the diaper and pj’s. These nights there is zero chance we are brushing her hair or teeth.  

I put Clark to bed in his crib after nursing and swaddling. He is screaming because he doesn’t want to sleep. When my husband is gone, Clark will have to cry for a couple of minutes while I try to put Cooper in her crib. I split my time between Cooper’s room and Clark’s, back and forth, to put the binky back in his mouth and to attend to Cooper.

Then we read books with Cooper. Lots of them. She demands we tell her “stories” and cuddle. She cries, telling us she wants MILK, or CUDDLES, or to say goodnight to TUCKER.

Both babies are now crying, so of course I know I must attend to Clark. I rock him and then try to nurse him back to sleep (which I know is NOT what I am supposed to do when sleep training).

We put Cooper in her crib, turn on lullaby music, and hope she falls asleep. I say goodnight, Cooper.  She keeps screaming and then finally falls asleep.

No wonder I am tired by the time they both fall asleep. Allowing myself time to be unproductive is necessary but still difficult to accept and commit to. So I gave myself a time to stop all things productive: 9 p.m. I turned off all electronics, I put my phone in the other room, I sat and talked with my husband, we went to bed at the same time (something I always used to do, but somehow got out of the habit of doing). I didn’t worry about the mess. I just enjoyed the night, allowing myself to regroup for another busy and amazing day.

 

I look 5 months pregnant when I am 5 months postpartum

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I look 5 months pregnant when I am 5 months postpartum. Sometimes, I get nervous in public wondering if people are going to congratulate me on my pregnancy when I am without my baby. How awkward would that be? Most of the weight is in my stomach, similar to when I was pregnant. I notice it when I carry Clark around because I naturally set him on my belly pouch, which makes a great little seat. The tummy ledge happened with Cooper, too. Over and over again people reassured me I would shed the weight once I started breastfeeding. It turns out that isn’t true for everyone. I didn’t lose the weight until I stopped breastfeeding and guess what, that was when I was already three months pregnant with Clark. Even though pregnant, within the first week of nursing I dropped 7 pounds. I calculated it the other day. I have either been pregnant or breastfeeding since April of 2015--3 whole years. No wonder my body doesn’t feel or look like it used to.

But guess what? I am choosing not to complain but instead to love my body. I have been blessed to be pregnant twice and am now blessed with two healthy babies. And after Cooper’s birth experience, I recognize with gratitude I am also healthy and alive. As I have mentioned before, with Clark I had a scheduled C-section. In forgetful moments, I find myself critiquing my C-section scar and the swollen section above it. I have learned that this is kindly referred to as a “mother’s apron.” Then I remember the promises I made before I gave birth to Clark, a promise to myself and to God that I would be grateful for any outcome as long as my baby was healthy, and I was alive--  even if that meant scars, tearing, bleeding, surgeries, etc. So when I look at my belly scar, my little mother’s apron, and my extra 15 lbs, I remind myself of these promises.

So the next step is how to love and embrace the changes in my body, without using them as an excuse to throw up the flag and surrender to the weight gain? How do I find time to exercise when I am barely finding time for other essential priorities like sleeping, showering and eating? The reality is I am still up all night with Clark. Last night I decided to write down every time I got up with him because the night would soon pass, I wouldn’t remember the exact number and I wouldn’t be able to give you a true accounting.

Well, he went down at 7:00 p.m. Then back up at 9:30 p.m. when I nursed him. I went to bed at 10:00 p.m. hoping that because I had just nursed him, I would get at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep. Nope. I was up at 11:15 p.m., 1:00 a.m., 2:30 a.m., 4:15 a.m., 5:15 a.m. and finally up for good at 6:45 a.m.

How in the world am I supposed to have energy to exercise when I am not sleeping? I am barely finding the energy to be a mom of two while coaching lacrosse and running the Be Better Movement.

My conclusion: Sometimes everything looks black or white to me. I am either going to be all in or all out. That is one of the reasons I love the #bebetter52 challenges. They are not telling us to change our whole lifestyle, but to just add little challenges weekly. I need to remember that eating healthier and exercising doesn’t have to be so dramatic. The reality is I won’t be able to fit hour-long gym sessions into my life right now or go on an extreme weight loss diet while I am nursing and need the extra calories.

I think it comes down to committing to eating healthier and exercising even though I won’t see the results in weight loss. This week, making healthy smoothies is my focus and a great way to sneak tons of extra nutrition into my diet and my family’s. Cooper loves the morning smoothies and so does my husband. When Cooper had a cold a while back, I loved the suggestion of adding an orange into a smoothie for the extra vitamin C.

I have made healthy smoothies for breakfast at least 3 times a week since Coops was little. At first the sound of the blender would scare her so I would always tell her when I was going to blend so she could cover her ears. Now i have cooper warn calrk for the noise to come.

I have made healthy smoothies for breakfast at least 3 times a week since Coops was little. At first the sound of the blender would scare her so I would always tell her when I was going to blend so she could cover her ears. Now i have cooper warn calrk for the noise to come.

Here is what I put in my smoothies this week:

Blueberries

Banana

Frozen Kale and Spinach (buy fresh, cut it up and put in freezer)

Hemp seed

Chia seed

Natural peanut butter

Plant-based protein powder

Coconut milk (chocolate flavor, which has extra sugar but so yummy)

A little coconut oil or avocado oil

Going forward this week, I am not going to be so black and white. I want to find the gray zone and do little things to improve my health. My goal is to love my changing body but at the same time to take care of it. Our bodies are truly amazing, and I believe it is a huge responsibility we are given to take care of them and LOVE THEM.

 

Including Kiddos in Holiday Traditions

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The  Monday before Valentine’s Day, I laid out Cooper’s Valentine’s Day outfit for her special V-Day date with daddy. Growing up, my sisters and I always received little valentine gifts from our dad, so I was excited for my husband to start a new tradition with his daughter. All day, I asked, “Are you excited about your date with daddy?” and her quick response, “Yes, ice-cream!” (I had casually mentioned they might stop for this rare treat, but it was now written in stone in her little mind.) The date was a success! Cooper came back glowing with happiness, reporting how she watched “snow” on TV, (aka the Olympics) and loved her ice-cream sundae. It has been fun including our kiddos in a holiday which previously only felt appropriate for romantic love.

On actual Valentine’s Day, I woke up extra early to meet new Be Better interns, Brielle and Sophie, down at the Starbucks at the Old Towne Orange Circle. We sat and  constructed the love notes and hearts we planned to scatter all around the circle. We couldn’t wait to see the reactions of complete strangers as they picked them up. Our task completed, we headed over to the circle and thoughtfully placed love notes on benches and red hearts on trees. When our work was done, we headed back to Starbucks to continue our meeting. The whole time, however, I was distracted, looking outside at random strangers picking up our letters and actually taking photos with the hearts. I felt giddy that somehow we were making people feel loved, maybe even a few who had grown to despise the holiday because of romantic relationships gone awry. Later that day, I was notified through the hashtag that people had found the Valentines. My hope is that in the future, I can include my kiddos in this holiday tradition to decorate old town with hearts and letters of love.

By focusing on giving love this Valentine's Day, I was amazed how much I didn’t care what my husband bought or did for me today. I feel incredibly blessed to be happily married. Probably because we just started a weekly tradition of going out on a date each week, staying home and cooking dinner in my pj’s felt like a perfect way to spend the night.

Today is the day after Valentine’s Day, and I feel motivated to not let this feeling of wanting to give love to others dwindle. So here I am, pulling out a pen and paper to write Anne from More Love Letters a handwritten letter. Tragically, she lost her husband, the love of her life, and she now struggles with loneliness. This whole experience has made me think beyond myself and connect with a stranger in need of love. I hope my letter gives even an ounce of comfort during this difficult time in her life.

Watch this inspiring TED TALK by founder of More Love Letters, Hannah Brencher