I look 5 months pregnant when I am 5 months postpartum


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:



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


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

Cooper's Fake Cry on top of Clark's Real Cry


A crying infant produces anxiety in almost anyone who hears it. However, when it is your baby crying, the anxiety escalates even faster. You become focused on calming and consoling your little one so the baby is once again happy and content. Sometimes the crying stops by a simple pick up and bounce; other times, if you’re stuck in traffic for instance, you must reach behind the seat to hopefully secure a binky, no easy task. In these moments, I must say I do a pretty good job keeping my composure. But sometimes baby Clark is not my only distraction. In these moments of distress, Cooper is now demanding a binky and tries to out “fake cry” Clark's real cries. Most of the time I can handle even that chaos, but add to the mix my barking Goldendoodle, Tucker, that seems to bark at EVERYTHING since the birth of our babies, and I lose it.

It is just too much simulation.

So last week I felt excited to explore opportunities to find silence throughout my day. I noted many moments I could have invited silence into our home but tended to fill it with noise. For example, Cooper had her first dentist appointment at Treehouse Pediatric Dentistry with “Carter’s Mom,” aka Dr. Nasem Dunlop (most adorable pediatric dentist office by the way). Putting both babies into the car to begin our 25-minute drive was comically chaotic, complete with one loud real cry and another annoyingly loud fake cry. Sweating with anxiety, I strapped them both in their carseats and jumped in the front seat. Normally, I would turn on the 52 Sing-A-Long songs on Pandora and blast “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” the entire drive. But I decided to drive the whole 25 minutes in silence. To my complete shock, Cooper chatted to herself, sang little songs, looked out the window while observing the rolling hills off the 241 toll road. And Clark, after I reached around the seat to hold the binky in his mouth, fell fast asleep. And what did I do? I enjoyed the silence and relaxed, feeling content I had allowed quiet into the car.


I found myself continuing this routine throughout the week. Every time I reached to turn on the TV or music, I considered allowing silence to envelop the space. Many times, as Cooper played with her pretend kitchen in complete silence, I stopped and watched. Reducing the stimulation allowed her imagination to take over. Not to say we didn’t enjoy our morning dance parties with music in the kitchen, but I was okay with the silence this week and actually invited it in.

White Noise Machine

Ever since Cooper was 6 months old, we have blared white noise in her room as part of her bedtime routine. She first started calling it night-time noise and now white noise. When researching silence this week, I discovered constant noise all night long might not be good for little brains and ears. It turns out some of the white noise machines turned on full volume produce a dangerous amount of noise. The article from Science News titled, “Should you Hush that White Noise?” states, “Out of 14 commercial noise machines, three machines were pumping out noise louder than 85 decibels, the limit set as safe for workplaces. Above that limit, government regulations mandate that adults wear ear protection.”

At night I started feeling uncomfortable about keeping the sound machines blaring all night long in both of the babies’ rooms. So when we put the babies down, we set the machines at a lower volume than before and kept them on until we went to bed. I then tiptoed into the rooms and turned them off. I felt much better sliding under the covers knowing that for hours their little brains would be experiencing the benefits of silence.

My alone silent moments.


I decided to go on a late night run to Old Towne, Orange.  Arriving at the circle, I sat on one of the benches in silence for at least 5 minutes. I had jogged there without music and noticed the glowing moon and distant city noises. I sat on the bench and observed all the people walking by. I noticed the more silent it is around me, the louder the thoughts in my head become. This is something I have always known about myself, specific to my studying habits. I hated studying in a library because I became distracted with my thoughts in contrast to studying in a busy café. For some reason the stimulation forces me to focus my thoughts on what I am doing. Strange, huh? So instead of analyzing all the thoughts stampeding through my mind during my run, I let them come and go as they pleased, almost like sitting in a theatre witnessing a movie in my head. Interestingly, creative ideas to include in Be Better came to me as I naturally reflected on what I wanted to write for Aly’s Angle.

Although I have never previously enjoyed silence, this week I looked forward to creating silent moments throughout the day and have grown to appreciate them. Yes, I will still be naturally talkative, love listening to music and will most likely work best in stimulated settings, but I now understand the beauty of the proverb, “Silence is Golden.”

Our First Company Partnership: Pretty In Green Plants


With more participants joining the Be Better Movement daily,  we are committed to finding companies passionate about supporting you in your journey towards self-improvement by donating money to charity every time you complete a challenge and donating products to motivate you.  

Last week we were so excited about our first ever company Partnership with "Pretty in Green Plants. They donated an air purifying plant to one of our lucky participants, Carmen. 

Here is a blog written by Pretty in Green owner, Monica Dia Moreno, sharing details about her passion: plants.

Houseplants make us happy, we might not know why, but we know that they do. Having a well-groomed garden, going for a walk in the park, or even looking at a landscape poster have immediate psychological benefits. It reduces stress, improves concentration, and help us think clearer. But beyond these psychological benefits, plants make us healthier too. Houseplants clean our air of toxins, create live-giving oxygen, and even remove mold spores and radiation from our homes. Helping us to live happier, healthier lives.

My name is Monica, I am the owner and operator of Pretty in Green Plants, and promoting wellness through air purifying houseplants is my life passion in life and the driving force behind my business. I am a strong believer in setting ourselves up for success in small, everyday ways that have immediate results and give us the strength to conquer larger goals. Adding houseplants to our living and working spaces is one of those ways – plants are proven to lower blood pressure and anxiety, increase energy, productivity and concentration, decrease headaches, allergy attacks and asthma attacks, and help us sleep better, among many other benefits. Not bad for a little houseplant, huh!

At Pretty in Green, I aim to make plants available to all regardless of location or disposable income available to spend on greenery – plants to the people, I say!

No matter the region, budget, or free time, there is an air purifying plant for you! From the lowest maintenance plants, like Snake Plants, that require water every 3-4 weeks and can live in a close without natural light for months at a time, to engaging ones like Ferns that will keep experienced gardeners busy. There is the perfect plant for everybody.

Connecting with companies with similar missions like Be Better Movement, and being able to join forces to form and community and promote wellness together, is the most rewarding and exciting part of this journey. Knowing that there are people out there as committed to creating social good makes every bit of work worth it and I can’t wait to see the positive impact that the Be Better Movement team has over the years! Thank you for selecting Pretty in Green to support your Clean Air challenge goal!

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When I think I am Too Tired, An Instagram Notification Pops Up

 Cooper's kitchen and house plant.

Cooper's kitchen and house plant.

As most of your know, I am the founder of the Be Better Movement. I am also mom to two little ones and the head varsity lacrosse coach at Corona Del Mar High School. At times I thrive off managing this balance; other times, to be completely honest, I am overwhelmed by it all. But this week I want to talk about what has motivated and fueled me: you guys.

I started the #bebetter52 challenge three years ago in 2015. With the help of a handful of Chapman University interns, my cousin who write blogs, my mother-in-law who edits the blogs and donations from family members, we kept the vision of Be Better alive with countless hours of creative marketing and challenges. Many moments I wondered,  “Would anyone notice if I just called it quits.” But I decided to just put in another 6 months, then another, and another. The reason I kept going was the responses I’d read when people reported their completed challenge.  I felt guilty though because I was the only one reading the motivational accomplishments you were doing weekly. I looked for ways to build a sense of community but struggled to do so. 

This year I came up with the idea to encourage teams of five to complete the challenges, an idea that became obvious to me while coaching and witnessing the support teammates gave each other. When you do something as part of a team, you are not only held accountable, but it becomes fun. I envisioned team captains leading teams of four friends and/or family members. I envisioned group text chains sharing information about creative ways to complete each challenge.  By creating mini-teams, I knew participants would feel the sense of community I felt when calculating the total donations and reading responses.

Of course, we still embrace individuals signing up and completing the challenges alone, but creating Be Better Teams seems a game changer. Everything feels different. I stay up every night after the babies go to bed, working on ways to motivate you guys to complete the challenges. Doors are opening left and right because of your posts on social media. When I think I am too tired, an Instagram notification pops up, I read its complimentary depiction of Be Better Movement encouraging more friends to join, and I am rejuvenated.

This week alone:

Our audience has grown.

Our participation has increased and our #bebetter52 is flooding social media.

We had our first company partnership with Pretty-In-Green Plants.

After a family stroll through our downtown,  I walked into the Potting Shed in Old Town, Orange, to purchase a plant for the challenge. While Cory chased around Cooper and I had Clark, I was lucky to find the store owner, Jack, and asked his recommendation for air purifying plants. While showing me around the absolutely adorable I-would-buy-everything-if-I-could store, I asked if I could take his picture for the blog. What happened next is what I have been feeling all week-- the exciting potential of Be Better Movement.  Jack asked if I were available at 9:30 in the morning to share more about the Be Better Movement on his live radio show, Pots and Plants with Jack and Annie, KOCI 101.5 FM. So the next morning I sat in a radio station talking about you guys, the challenges and our cause.


So, yes, you bought a plant last week that not only improved your life but also raised money for Every Mother Counts. You may be unaware of the fact it was YOU who motivated me to keep pushing on. You inspired everyone who follows your post and, better yet, other Be Better participants who are following your hashtag.

Thank you for being part of the Be Better Movement. I cannot wait to see what this year will bring. Be Better has great potential to connect with companies, people and products that do good in this world. I am just grateful to be a part of this work.


Morning routine with a newborn: walking around, half dressed, reeking of regurgitated breast milk


One of the first questions people ask when they see me: “Are you getting any sleep yet?” Currently, a good night’s sleep is Clark starting the night sleeping in his crib, waking up at 10:30 p.m., at 12:30 a.m., 2:30 a.m. and 4:30/5:30 a.m. to nurse and going back to bed relatively easily. He normally ends up as our co-sleeper from 5:00 a.m. either sleeping next to us or on us the rest of the morning. And yes, that is a good night sleep. Let's not talk about the sleep I got last night which was spent on the couch cuddled next to his co-sleeper putting in his pacifier every 20 minutes to stop the crying. 

I am always surprised how moms seem to operate on so little sleep for months at at time.

To be completely honest, I struggled to create a morning routine with a newborn up all night. Unpredictable wake-up times with a toddler made it even more challenging. When morning comes around (depending on how the night went), all I want to do is savor those last few minutes in bed.  My amazing husband honors my desire, so he gets up with our toddler and starts her morning when we hear the early morning “Dada all done” calling from her room.

This extra time I choose to ‘sleep in’ creates a problem for me. When I hear my husband turn off the shower, it means it is time for me to get up. It is game time. I go one hundred percent into mommy mode. No time for me to look in the mirror, go to the bathroom, brush my teeth or take a shower. I remember feeling confused when I heard new moms say it was hard to fit in a shower. Now I know why.  First thing I do is nurse Clark. I soon become covered with spit up (he likes to projectile everything he ate all over me). I then walk around, half dressed, reeking of regurgitated breast milk most the morning. I change diapers, feed Cooper, and try to convince her to let me get her dressed. Sometimes I get lucky, and Clark is okay to chill in his rock and play during the mornings rituals; other times, I am bouncing, holding and wearing him, too. We read books, I try to clean, and some mornings I try to work when the babysitter arrives. It is not until afternoon naps that I take a look at the house and myself and realize we are both a hot mess.

All day long I struggle with the decision about how to spend my time. During Cooper’s nap, I think: should I clean the disastrous house, should I work on Be Better or should I nap?  It isn’t until night time that I have a chance to take a breath and focus on myself, oh and my husband.  As you can see, fitting in a morning routine is extra hard at this stage of my life, but it is also obvious why it is necessary. A hot shower or a morning jog would be wonderful ways to begin my day, giving some “me” time in a world fully focused on my kiddos right now.

So this week, instead of focusing on my inability to create an impressive morning routine, I reflected on the little things I love about our mornings at home. First thing in the morning, I love opening up all of the blinds to let in the morning light. I love getting up and kissing my babies and husband. I ask Cooper what she dreamt about, and she has different answers ranging from “horses and auntie Mads” to “pigs.” I love turning on music, allowing it to fill the room.  I love nursing in the morning because it feels extra cuddly. And even though I feel grungy by noon, I love I can do it all in my pj’s.

Mid-week I loved one of the #bebetter52 posts by Laura (a Be Better Team Captain). She states, “ Since I often feel like I don’t get enough one-on-one time with each of my loved ones, I decided to share my morning more with them. Today I woke up 15 minutes earlier (and got ready for my day) so that I could wake Larissa up 15 minutes earlier. We sat on her bed together and arranged her beloved toys on the end. Then we read a book. It was a morning filled with extra hugs and giggles.”

I decided to incorporate her morning routine into mine. One morning while still in bed, before the storm of responsibility hit, I enjoyed my cuddly time with Clark before Cooper woke up. Being present and slowing down my morning, allowed me to connect with my baby boy. I sometimes fear I am not able to give him the undivided attention I gave to my firstborn, but that is a topic for another blog.

So yes, I would feel much better if I were able to have a little me time in the mornings, but it might be a couple of months before I get a solid enough sleep to add showers and exercise.



I Just Can’t Think Through all the Clutter

 This is us going through toys and picking toys to give away

This is us going through toys and picking toys to give away

I grew up in a spotless house, not one with an uncomfortable, museum-like atmosphere, but one with an inviting, organized, now-I-can-relax feeling. My mom, a stay-at-home mother, valued a clean house. I always enjoyed the comforts of our home but never realized how much work it took to maintain that level of organization until I became a mom with a home of my own. I also didn’t realize how much more at peace and relaxed I feel in a well-ordered house until I experienced living in a home that rarely looks organized. I feel lighter and more focused when I do not see “stuff” littered everywhere. As it turns out, this was and is one of my mom’s biggest motivations for keeping the house tidy. She admits, “I just can’t think through all the clutter.”

We live in a small house, and for that reason I feel it is extra important to be on top of everything  that comes in. Our house is not dirty, but for some reason, I struggle to keep our house tidy. I have too much stuff everywhere. All day long it seems I am cleaning and putting away this and that. The kitchen will be clean until the next meal, and then it feels like a tornado has passed through. Maybe it is the fact I am trying to feed a toddler while holding an infant. Maybe it is the fact I don’t have the time or hands to clean as I cook. But clutter is everywhere and, unlike my husband whom I honestly believe doesn’t see the mess, it’s all I see.  

About a year ago I read a blog written by Allie Casazza of Purposeful Housewife titled, “How Getting Rid of My Stuff Saved my Motherhood.” I remember it so well because I related to her struggle as I was learning the balance of motherhood with Cooper, barely one year old. She discusses how she chose to be a stay-at-home mom but never actually spent quality time with her kids because of the constant cleaning and picking up to keep her house “functioning.” When she asked friends and family how they managed their home and kids, their response was a simple, “You’ll get through it.” What she did next has stuck with me all year as Cooper’s and now Clark’s toys begin to accumulate. 

“I went into the playroom – the room that was the bane of my existence. This was a room full of colorful bins, each bin full of toys. There were toys on the floor, in chests, in boxes, toys everywhere. I would send my kids in here to play and they would come out less than ten minutes later complaining of boredom. This room was pointless, and I’d had enough.

I started working through the room, making piles – keep, trash, donate. I got rid of every single toy that I felt wasn’t benefitting my kids. If it didn’t cause them to engage in constructive or imaginary play, it wasn’t staying in this house because it wasn’t worth the work it caused me. If I was going to clean up it was going to be the things that added to our lives; it was going to be only the things we needed and the things we truly loved.

 We love Christmas, but with the holidays come more stuff. Extra motivation to donate some items.

We love Christmas, but with the holidays come more stuff. Extra motivation to donate some items.

When I was finished, all that remained were trains and tracks, a couple of dress up costumes, books, and blocks. The trunk of my car was overstuffed with toys to take to Goodwill, my playroom was purged, and I immediately felt lighter.

The next day my kids ran downstairs for breakfast, and as usual, I sent them into their playroom to play, curious to see if meltdowns would ensue because of what I’d done with their toys. They walked in, looked around, said something along the lines of “Hey! It’s nice and clean, Mommy! Hey! There’s my trains!” and happily started playing.

I was shocked. I stepped out of the room, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat on the couch. To my surprise, my kids played in that room that day for three hours. Three hours! It wasn’t just that day either. They continued to want to be in their playroom for long amounts of time from then on. They started going outside more often, making up stories and scenarios together, playing tag, and creating art. It was as if I had unclogged their God-given gift of imagination when I got rid of their toys.

I took my purging into other areas of the house – the dishes, the clothes, the drawers and cupboards – and our whole home-life continued to transform. I was spending much less than half the time managing my house, I was playing with my kids, I took up homeschooling, my marriage even improved because I wasn’t a cranky maniac anymore. My depression lifted and never came back.”

So on that note, I absolutely loved this week’s Be Better challenge. In the spirit of giving, I looked around the house to find five items others would appreciate. I enjoyed the opportunity to think of individuals who would benefit from some of Cooper’s and Clark’s hand-me-down clothes and toys. Mom’s friends have been good examples of letting go when their child grows out of a stage. I was given bags of clothes for Cooper and Clark which I am now passing on to other new moms.

This year I began the giving tradition with my almost-two-year-old daughter, Cooper. We talked about choosing five of her toys to give to Santa so he could share them with other children. Although she wasn’t able to hand select the toys to donate, I spoke to her as if she understood completely. We went through all her toys and found two sets of blocks, a toy car, a pretend purse and one finger puppet to give away. This year I didn’t wait until Christmas Eve for Santa’s pick up, but I gifted the toys to my housekeeper who often goes to Mexico with used-items and hand me downs.

When completing this week’s challenge, I experienced what Allie from Purposeful Housewifes described in her blog. We reduced some of the living room clutter. Cooper played with her toys more and seemed to enjoy the experience. She wasn’t overwhelmed with the bins of toy options because I had condensed her toy selection to one bin. She seemed to feel the same way I do with a clean house, more creative and relaxed.

Looking for Be Better Team Captains

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The High Five #bebetter52

A Be Better competition where teams of five work together to complete the weekly #bebetter52 challenges throughout the year. It is a fun way to stay connected with friends and family throughout the year while striving your best to be better. Plus it is an opportunity to compete against other Be Better teams for incentive prizes throughout the year.


How it works?

Create a team

Pick 5 friends and family to form a team.

Decide on a team name and captain

The team captain will receive supportive content directly from Be Better Movement to forward to teammates. Once the team name is decided, please fill out Team Captain form.

Teammates join the movement

Have all teammates sign up for the weekly newsletter at www.bebettermovement.com/join/  

Make sure they add the team name on form.

Start group text message or email

Create a supportive network aimed to help hold teammates accountable in completing the weekly challenges. We encourage team members to share recipes, creative ideas and completed challenges throughout the week.

Complete and compete

Be Better Movement will be keeping track of all the completed challenges based on teams. Gifts and prize incentives will be given throughout the year.

Most importantly,

You stay connected to friends and family throughout the year while striving your best to be better and, at the same time, raising money for Every Mother Counts.

By joining a team or becoming a team captain, you are not committing to complete all 52 challenges.

Having Two babies is no joke


So it’s been eight weeks without an Aly’s Angle, but I have a good reason. On October 17, 2017, Clark Gregory Simons came into the world, weighing a whooping 9 lbs. 12 oz.

Having two babies is no joke. One baby was demanding, and I remember thinking no other mother has gone through the events of new motherhood like I was experiencing. Having two babies is a different kind of hard. The word summarizing my last 8 weeks is CREATIVE. You definitely need to be resourceful with this balancing act of two.

For example: How do you bathe a toddler who decides to put lipstick all over her face and hair while you hold a fussy baby in your arms?

Solution: Quickly set down the baby while you undress toddler girl. (At this point, of course, the baby really starts to scream.) As you undress the toddler, try not to get lipstick all over her clothes or yours. Stick the little girl in a bathtub filled with cold water because that is what she demands. The bathtub is a good place because it keeps her captive. Next, nurse baby boy while you sit on the toilet and try to convince big sister to wash her face by herself. Unfortunately, you must cut off nursing a little too soon because your sweet little toddler decides she is “all DONE” and is now climbing out of the tub. With one arm holds the baby, pull the toddler out of the bathtub with the other arm. Now you have a completely wet, naked toddler to dry and dress. Dressing and diapering big sis with baby bro in your arms is another story, especially when the baby is wrapped on your front and the toddler protests her diaper by frantically kicking .

On average, I experience about four of these crazy moments a day. Then, I oversee about ten more tamed-down versions of this moment and one full-on crisis moment. Today’s crisis moment happened around 5 pm when Clark did NOT want his diaper changed. He was wailing away while Cooper started to scream because her baby doll stroller had become stuck in the doggy gate. In a bout of frustrated rage, she throws her doll. The dog confuses the doll for a ball. Hyper dog now runs around the living room with the doll as my distraught toddler screams, “Doll back. Doll back!”  All the while, my 2-month-old is bawling while I try to put his clothes back on. During these moments, I only wish someone were capturing this drama on video.

Interlaced in these moments, I am blessed to witness the beauty of sibling interaction. And when one is napping, everything feels simple. I do my best to focus on spending quality time with the one, either Cooper or Clark.  My pediatrician gave me great advice: spend at least 30 minutes a day giving Cooper your undivided attention without baby Clark. I have come to realize this 30 minutes is important to me as well. My goal is to give that same attention to Clark because when I am nursing him, unlike with Cooper, I am not just gazing into his eyes. Most of the time I am reading Cooper a book, chasing her around the house, or trying to grab a toy.

I know life is going to be different for Clark than it was with Cooper, but I am determined to make “different” a good thing for him. I tend to analyze, which is my biggest strength but also my biggest weakness. I want Clark to be given the attention Cooper received, but it feels harder to capture all the little moments with Clark because of the adorable business of Cooper.  All parents out there, any suggestions?

How is Cooper adjusting?


Everyone seems curious as to how Cooper is adjusting to her baby brother Clark. Honestly, she plays more independently, and 80 percent of the time seems indifferent. Fifteen percent of the time she plays, sings, helps with her brother by getting diapers and watching me change him. Five percent of the time she wants to test the limit. Her light taps on his head end with a full- blown slap. Gently putting the binky in his mouth turns into hard press-forcing the binky in even when he doesn’t want it. I have found myself saying all day, “Be careful,” “Be quiet,” “Be gentle,” “You don’t want to hurt your brother.” All of a sudden I had the idea to switch the conversation. I decided to playfully tell my two-month-old Clark to be careful around Cooper. At the time he was kicking his feet in the direction Cooper was sitting. So I gently told Clark, “Baby, be careful not to kick your sister Cooper.” All of a sudden Cooper had this relieved look on her face which said, “Yeah, baby, don’t hurt Cooper!” I asked if she were okay and continued to remind Clark to be careful and gentle and not to hurt his sister Cooper. It honestly seemed like Cooper finally realized it is a two-way conversation that goes both ways in a sibling relationship.

My summarizing thoughts:


I think one of the biggest fears a first-time mom has when she learns she is pregnant with her second is a fear that somehow this new addition is going to change the mommy-daddy relationship with their first. At least this was a big fear of mine. I love the relationship I have with my daughter; I treasured the moments of just us. Thinking that special closeness could change terrified me. This is what I noticed.

Even without a newborn in the house, I believe most moms have moments wondering what happened to their sweet little baby when they turned two. Where are the days when we would just snuggle on the couch together? So even without a newborn, the mother-child relationship will always be altering and changing. Again my prayer is that different doesn’t mean bad. It just means different.

With a newborn in the house, everything your toddler does seems traumatically amplified. I don’t know if it’s because you want to create a peaceful environment for the baby and that’s not possible. Or maybe it’s because this innocent little creation sleeping in your arms contrasts so sharply with the little person trying to define her personality and boundaries. I feel lucky I exude most of my patient moments at home with my family, but I sometimes find my patience with Cooper feeling shorter. I don’t want to be impatient with any family member, so I have been reminding myself to breathe and to remember my intense feeling of not wanting a second to negatively affect my firstborn. My patience is something I can control, so I am working on it. Again any tips?

While I adjust to two babies, balancing #bebetter52 has been a little bit of a challenge. This week, however, I was excited to go to the story kidless and pick up some nutritional yeast. I haven’t had the time to make anything with it yet, besides sprinkling on top of pasta, but it does have a cheesy, nutty taste. Despite my multiple attempts to coax my husband to try it, he is grossed out by the name and won’t get close to it. I like it. I’m excited to try this Avocado Mac and Cheese dish I found online, complete with nutritional yeast.

Clark’s Birth Story


Clark’s birth story started the day my daughter Cooper was born. I didn’t realize this until after his birth when we began to settle into our home as a family of four.

Everything went exactly as I prayed it would. I surrendered control, trusting the doctors’ knowledge on how best to keep both Clark and me safe during his birth. So when they told me at 40 weeks and one day that their recommendation had changed from a vaginal delivery to a scheduled c-section, it felt like an easy consent. The doctors encouraged me to discuss it with my husband, which I did. I told him the way Clark comes into the world is immaterial. Only the outcome matters. I had three priorities, in the following order:

First, Clark is healthy and safe.

Second, I do not die.

Third, my fertility is preserved if possible.


At 2:05 p.m. on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, baby Clark Gregory Simons came into the world via c-section while I watched over the curtain into a mirror. For a variety of reasons, my doctors confirmed a c-section was indeed the safest method after baby Clark came out a whooping 9 lbs. 12 oz. and 21.5 inches long. During the remainder of the surgery, I focused on the cries of my new baby boy, the expressions on my husband’s face as he watched his wife and new son, and intently to my doctor’s tone as he stitched me back up. My baby’s cry was clear and strong. My husband’s smile was joyous and proud. And all the doctors’ actions and words were casual and calm. Everything went as planned. Was I surprised? As my doctor walked out of the room, he confidently said, “1, 2, 3.” My three priorities had been safely delivered.

The alone time in the hospital with our new baby felt magical.  Even though a short twenty-one months earlier we had welcomed Cooper into the world, everything felt new. The truth is everything was new and different. I wasn’t separated from my baby for the first eight hours of his life. I was able to spend that time with him tucked in my arms. And the most wonderful part was introducing our baby to his big sister. It was a moment I had envisioned many times during therapy. Visualizing the moment after Clark’s birth when we sat together for the first time as a family of four gave me great peace.

The differences between the two births of Cooper and Clark were extreme. From the second Cooper was born, the questions of whether I should have another child or if I would survive another childbirth weighed constantly on my mind. Every moment leading up to Clark’s birth was charged emotionally with the uncertainty of these questions. The emotions were not always negative either. I appreciated every moment of my pregnancy as though it could be my last one. I knew, I felt, I believed I would be okay. But it wasn’t until I actually was okay that the reality, the weight of these unanswered questions was lifted. Leading up to the birth, I can’t tell you how often the thought would cross my mind--would I return home to Cooper and Clark, or would I die?

I didn’t realize it, but the trauma of almost dying after Cooper’s birth had brought an intensity of emotions into my parenting and relationship with Cooper. So when everything went smoothly with Clark’s birth, in a way, I grieved the absence of intense emotions, both positive and negative. In no way am I alluding to wanting another traumatic birth. Everything had gone exactly as it was supposed to and as I had prayed for. It might sound strange, but back at home, it was like I had “nothing to worry about” anymore. The question of whether I would survive childbirth was answered. The worry over that possibility was no longer necessary, yet strangely I was uncomfortable with its absence. I had become accustomed to living with this intense, fear-laden perspective that with life now calm and peaceful, it felt foreign. I have always heard that people in abusive relationships gravitate or create emotionally unstable relationships because they are comfortable with that life pattern. It was kind of like that, and I felt shocked by these feelings. I needed to schedule a therapy appointment to figure out why I felt this way. I did not want traumatic to be my normal.

My therapist affirmed I had been existing in this heightened state of emotion, and it was now time to feel emotions in a healthy calmness. My anxiety stemmed from worrying that calm would somehow change my parenting perspective and connections with my children. I do not want my interactions to become commonplace or redundant or my intense feelings of gratitude to wane. When I read Coops and Clark a book, I want to be as present and excited as possible even though I might read that same book a dozen times to them. I want to appreciate all the chaos and not take for granted the everyday. My therapist mentioned I need to focus on the positive emotions that come from simple moments like watching Clark’s little baby breath, snuggling his newborn body and dancing with Cooper in the kitchen when cooking breakfast.

As I mentioned, Clark’s birth story started the day Cooper was born. A process of miracles made it possible. Hours of therapy made it mentally and emotionally happen. Personal and family/friend prayers answered made it spiritually possible. Support of family during doctor-ordered bed rest made it physically happen. Clark Gregory Simons, it is undeniable you are meant to be here as part of our little family. You have taught and continue to teach me that beauty is found in the simplicity of comfort and calm. People always told me that your love only expands when you welcome another child into your life, I can now confirm that is true.  And for those reasons and more, I am forever grateful for the birth of my two babies, Cooper and Clark.


Donated Blood Saved my Life

After the Las Vegas shooting, multiple news sources talked about the outpouring of support when hundreds of people lined up for blocks to donate blood for the victims.  For me, this story hit close to home because donated blood saved my life after my daughter’s birth. Months after my own experience with a blood transfusion, my family took it upon themselves to start donating blood in honor of me. Every time they give blood, they text or send me a picture. I haven’t been able to donate blood for years due to travel restrictions, pregnancy and now a blood transfusion, but I feel excited thinking about the opportunity to give back in that way.


This week I thought about the overwhelming impact ordinary individuals like you and I have when we try to make a difference in the world. With thousands of people suffering from the aftermath of multiple hurricanes and other natural disasters combined with the human-caused tragedies like the Vegas shooting, which killed 59 people, how does one not throw in the towel and say, “What’s the point?” My perspective comes from my experiences in Kenya. It is easy to become overwhelmed by the depths of each issue, almost to the point of feeling paralyzed. What can I do to make a difference? Will what I actually do have impact? If my actions don’t solve the whole issue, then what influence does my small action actually make? Many people probably feel a sense of helplessness over the tragedies of these past weeks. From personal experience, it is paramount to acknowledge what can be done and not to become overwhelmed with how small the impact might be. These individual small acts of kindness and donations add up and exponentially increase when people come together for a cause.

The Be Better Movement website states, “ We often feel we have to donate large sums of money to make a difference; in reality, it is the small things we do that add up over time. We at Be Better believe when we come together with one mission, we can make a profound change in the lives of women across the world.


This week’s #bebetter52 challenge--display a change jar-- reinforces this same concept. Saving money can sometimes feel like a monumental feat. It is like hiking. When you focus on the total mileage, you may feel overwhelmed and give up. However, if you take the challenge one step at a time, it’s doable. I’ve always loved hiking for this reason. You just continue one step, then another. By the time you turn around and look at the ground covered, often times you are surprised at how high you have climbed or how far you have walked.

I have to be honest. When trying to balance motherhood with growing Be Better, I have often wanted to say, “What’s the point?” Is it really making a big enough difference? I then remind myself not to become paralyzed by the big picture and to keep going on, one step at a time. Every week it’s my privilege to read the responses to the completed #bebetter52 challenges from all over the country. These responses motivate me to continue growing Be Better. Although the number isn’t grand at this point, the numbers add up week after week. Not only are these individuals making a difference in their own lives, but they are also raising money for Every Mother Counts, one challenge at a time. Just as the change jar doesn’t become full all at once, it is the little things that add up. My senior quote in high school--“Little Moments Make Life Big”--is a motto I will continue to live by.

Worrying does NOT equal Preparation


You know that feeling when you anticipate something big is about to happen in a movie? Your heart starts beating a little faster. You don’t know when or how, but the mood changes with excitement. We have officially entered that stage of pregnancy. Last week doctors gave baby boy permission to come whenever he would like since he was 37 weeks and weighed over 7 lbs. What that means for me is I am off modified bed rest. I went straight home after the appointment to pick up Cooper and hold her in my arms, something I was forbidden to do for over two months. Instantly, I was amazed at how liberated and confident I felt.

I am grateful to be given the opportunity to feel like myself again. To be there for Cooper and my husband. To cook dinner. Can you guess my dish of choice? Yes, squash. My mom returned home to Portland, Oregon, Monday night after helping with Cooper for almost five weeks straight, so Monday night I was on my own. I set out the ingredients, pulled Cooper’s table into the kitchen and started preparing my squash dish. To be completely honest, Cooper wasn’t as focused this time around in the preparing of dinner because she became distracted by her toy stroller. So while preparing dinner, I was also trying to sooth her love-hate relationship that comes with trying to put the doll in the stroller while it decides to slide back out. By the time Cory came home, I had moved dinner outside to our backyard and was excited to show off the meal I had cooked, standing on my own two feet, not forced to sit down based on doctors’ orders. I was thankful for this week’s #bebetter52 challenge because not only did Cory and I both go into the house for seconds, but it also gave me some direction on how to cook something healthy that night.

“Are you ready?” I remember this question before Cooper was born.

In general, I believe this question refers to “Is the nursery complete? Is the car seat installed? Have you packed your bag for the hospital? Because how in the world do you actually prepare for what is about to become one of the biggest life-changing events of your life?

You might think welcoming a second child would come with a sense of confidence. Maybe, but I am not quite sure. There are still many unknowns and a few newborn realities I have probably forgotten. I have come to understand I associate my readiness to how much energy I have devoted to worrying about it. If I haven’t wasted nights tossing and turning over the uncontrollable details of the “what ifs,” then somehow I have convinced  myself I haven’t prepared. How messed up is that? So the fact I haven’t had time or energy to worry about:

-the car seat

-the pushing during labor

-the nursing

-the sleeping disruption

makes me feel like I am NOT ready. The most comical part is the false association I have created in thinking worry equals preparation.  If my experience with Cooper’s birth story taught me anything, it is that being present is the only type of preparation over which you actually have control.

I need to remind myself worrying is counteractive to preparation.

I need to remind myself the reason I should confidently answer that question with a “yes” has nothing to do with worrying but everything to do with all the true moments of preparations.

-During therapy dealing with effects of PTSD of Cooper’s birth

-At the dozens of doctor’s appointments monitoring my uterus, cervix and other factors that would make me more at risk for hemorrhaging.

-While enjoying all the moments playing dolls with Cooper and talking about baby brother’s arrival.

-While reflecting on all the spiritual moments and confirmations that allow me to trust in God, over my own plan.

-While being at peace and grateful for a husband who brings such support into our marriage which allows me to feel confident and secure.

-And while nesting, creating a comfortable home to welcome baby boy.

So at this point, we are waiting. It is a crazy realization that as I sit here typing, my water could break in 10 minutes, or still be weeks away. I am currently 38 weeks, and doctors think he might come this week. I need to enjoy the moments when I am not wasting time worrying over things out of my control and enjoy the time together as a family of three.


Completing Tasks with a Toddler

I am really good at creating lists, and I’m really good at starting projects. Unfortunately, the most important task of actually completing the items on the list or finishing the project is where I struggle the most. It seems my intended project tasks take way longer than planned. At this point my mind starts playing tricks on me. Suddenly, I begin thinking about every other thing I should or could be doing instead of the task at hand.


For example: Instead of organizing my desk, I could be folding laundry, taking the dog for a walk, playing with Cooper, napping, running errands--you know, both the fun activities and the tedious chores around the house. Now when I add in the growing list of work to-do’s--sending more emails, listening to more podcasts, writing more blogs, growing Be Better through networking-- my mind hits overload.  The problem with this never-ending list of unfinished projects is I can never reward myself with the sense of actually accomplishing something. The visual of unfinished projects scattered around the house leaves me with an overwhelming feeling of defeat.

So this week the #bebetter52 challenge to focus on 15-minute tasks satisfied my intense 37-week-pregnant desire to nest before baby arrives and acknowledge the little mini-accomplishments I completed throughout the day.

Completing Tasks with a Toddler


Everyday I try to find creative ways to entertain and interact with Cooper. If I am in the right frame of mind, grocery shopping can be one of those ways. It involves slowing down, being patient, constantly talking and describing the different types of vegetables, fruits and foods I place in the cart.  Yes, it might take twice as long, but the experience is hundreds of times more pleasant for the two of us. So this week, I looked for other projects Cooper could help me with around the house, most of them taking 15 minutes or less, others longer.

Making Dinner: Especially now I am 37-weeks pregnant, cooking dinner is not something I put off most nights.  I am just not hungry, so I assume my husband isn’t either. Actually, I am amazed anyone can cook after 5 pm with a fussy toddler demanding attention.  This week though, I decided to carry Coop’s Ikea table into the kitchen, tie an apron around her chubby waist and involve her in dinner prep. Yes, it was twice as messy and took twice as long, but it was a hundred times more enjoyable than doing it alone. She learned the names of different grilled veggies while practicing to stir with a whisk.


Folding laundry: Again twice as long and twice as messy, but eventually we get the job done. I bring the basket into her nursery while I fold. She folds and unfolds, puts the clothes into the basket and then takes them back out. Recently, I started asking her to put the clothes in the appropriate drawers. If her patience runs out, which normally happens 15 minutes in, I simply leave the task unfinished until I can come back to complete. Involving her in the responsibility felt satisfying for both of us. The time may come when my little helper will put up a fight in terms of chores, but for now, she loves the one-on-one interaction.

Sense of Accomplishment

As mentioned before, I needed this week’s  #bebetter52 challenge. I realized my follow- through attention span is not even 15 minutes, so for me to remain focused on a single activity for 15 minutes felt like a major accomplishment in itself. Many times at the end of the day, I would look at my unorganized work space and throw my hands up in the air. But then I told myself, just work on it for 15 minutes. Cooper was already in bed, so that 15 minutes of dread turned into 30 minutes of productivity. My desk is still not 100% organized, but it is getting there. Every time the 15 minutes was up, I took in a breath to positively acknowledge what I’d accomplished. We deserve these little moments during the day to reward ourselves for our successes rather than to denigrate ourselves by feeling overwhelmed with failures.

My Tea Fantasy


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

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

Our current reality:

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

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

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

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

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


Not everything needs to be an annual tradition

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

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

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

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

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

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

The shift to live more present.

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


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

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

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

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

Planning Pregnancy with Cooper:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of my tips:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Mom delivers twins during Harvey as family evacuates.”

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

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

The article states,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Why do I get acid reflux while pregnant?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




New friends will One Day become Old Friends


Old Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Friends

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

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

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

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

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

Mommy Friends

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

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

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

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

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



Bed Rest and Honey Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwiches


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

Oh wait, it is probably all of the above.

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

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

 On bed rest enjoying a little honey snack

On bed rest enjoying a little honey snack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Flight attendant giving extra cookies for baby girl.

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

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

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

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

-My sister offering to babysit Cooper while I work.

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

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

Giving Up Trying to Control the Uncontrollable

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

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

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

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

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

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

How long will you wait till you do a hysterectomy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Modified best rest.  

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

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

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