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.

Our Hearts Beat Against Each Other: Baby Hugs

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

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

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


Be Better from a Busy Mom

Each week, Be Better Movement wants to feature some of our active participants completing the challenges around the country. We all come from different places, different life experiences and different cultures, but have one thing in common. We are committed to turn self improvement into global improvement. We hope that you become inspired by the stories told. 

Hello! My name is Lauren Hall.  I am a mother of two kids, soon to be three, ages three and under.  I am excited about this week’s challenge: PLAY.  I knew I could successfully complete the challenge and that it would not only benefit me, but my children as well. As a mom of little ones, the meal prep, cleanup, dishes, laundry, sticky counters, dirty floors, etc. seem never ending. Our entire day can be, and typically is, consumed by these daily “chores.”  I have a hard time setting these tasks aside and allowing myself to play without any other distractions or to-do’s.

What I loved most about this challenge is that it goes hand-in hand with one of my New Year’s resolutions.  This year I made a resolution to play and focus on my children for the first 30 minutes of our day before giving any of my attention to chores, housework, and meal prep.  It has made a world of difference in how our day goes.  The “love language” of one of my children is quality time and physical touch. Through the simple act of “play,” I can fill up her cup, so to speak.  The challenge helped keep me more aware and conscious of setting some of the less important things aside and giving my attention to the most important people in my life.  I really enjoyed the time I spent playing with my children this week, and I hope to continue setting aside time on a daily basis to be the fun and silly mom they love me to be.  

I am so happy to be a part of the Be Better Movement.  This is my second year completing the challenges.  The challenges are easy to fit into my busy schedule, and they are little weekly reminders to constantly think about bettering myself while also making a global impact.  Raising money for the charity Every Mother Counts definitely helps motivate me to complete the challenges.  I had an experience seeing first hand the labor and delivery rooms in Kenya, and it’s an image I will never forget. (see pic).  I love that the members involved in both the Be Better Movement and Every Mother Counts are dedicated to helping mothers worldwide have the care they need during childbirth.

Whether it’s to better yourself, your family, or to make a global impact, I invite you to participate with me in the Be Better Movement.  I promise, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.  






Aly's Angle: I am not a foodie.

I am not a foodie. I am too lazy to be a foodie. Most of the time I eat because I have to keep enough calories in my body to function. Before Cooper was born, I rarely sat down to actually eat meals. I don’t know how I landed into such a bad habit as an adult. As a child, we always had family dinners. Maybe sitting down to eat felt like a waste of time, so I’d simply eat-on-the run while driving and working. And who likes to sit down alone at a table and just eat?

Since Cooper started eating solids, I have been reminded that eating is an activity that requires you to sit down. I actually enjoy sitting with her, TV off, and eating together.  Her pediatrician, Dr. Kovzak, recommended I do baby-led weaning with Cooper. Prior to that 6-month visit, I had never heard of such a thing. I bought a book and listened to my doctor’s  guidance.  Starting at 6 months, we sat down to eat as a family and essentially fed Cooper what we were eating (with common sense modifications). No fruit purees, only healthy whole foods.

Shortly after, we started feeding her whole strawberries, avocados, whole grain bread, cheese, chicken, etc. She loved it. We laughed seeing food all over her face as she double-fisted handfuls of healthy food into her body. She loved it until around eleven months when a double-ear infection and a 3-week-long cold hit her hard. She lost all interest in food. In desperation, I gave her anything she wanted. As it turns out, she LOVES Pirate’s Booty. It began as a cheddar-cheese-puffed-snack meal starter, but it turned into the only thing she would eat. Putting healthy foods on her tray was a futile effort because she’d quickly fling them onto the floor or into Tucker’s waiting mouth.

So a couple weeks ago, I stopped buying Pirate’s Booty completely. The doctor at her 1-year appointment gave me this advice:  Give her dinner, but if she starts throwing it to the ground, simply say, “Cooper, this is what we are having for dinner. If you do not want it, I will put it in the refrigerator until you’re ready.” Then when she appears to be hungry again, bring it out.

Things are much better. She is eating broccoli dipped in hummus, soybeans, cottage cheese, whole wheat bread with peanut butter, and warm oatmeal with bananas.

The most challenging part of this “feeding my family journey” is figuring out a time to cook. In addition to being a working mom running Be Better Movement, I also coach high school girls’ lacrosse. By the time I return home from practice, cooking dinner is out the window. That is why this week’s #bebetter52 challenge to cook protein pancakes is totally doable, mostly because I can fix them in the morning.

And guess what? Cooper LOVES them.

The first protein pancake I tried on Monday was ½ cup of raw oats with 1 egg white and 1 whole egg. My raw oat concoction included raw oats, hemp seed and flax seed mix, both from Trader Joe’s. (Any left-over oats must be refrigerated afterwards because of the hemp seed.) I cooked them like pancakes and topped them with peanut butter and raw maple syrup. So yummy.

My second protein pancake was a little more, let’s say, creative. I smashed one banana and put in 2 Tablespoons of my oat concoction,  2 tablespoons of cottage cheese, 1 whole egg, 1 egg white and a capful of vanilla.  I then topped it off with some cinnamon. I would love for you to guess how it turned out?

It looked horrible. It wouldn’t cook into a formed pancake. I learned banana burns really fast. However, it was absolutely delicious. Cooper gobbled up 2 ½ mushy protein pancakes and wanted more.

I am grateful for this week’s challenge because it motivated me to be a good example to Cooper about how to slow down, eat healthy and actually taste and appreciate your food. I hope to start most mornings with different variations of protein pancakes because they are easy, delicious and packed with nutrition.