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Month: April 2017



I keep seeing these inspirational quotes that say things like “you are enough” and “if Britney can make it through 2007, you can make it though today.” Admittedly, the last one makes me laugh. But to be honest, there are so many days when I feel like I am NOT enough and I may not survive to see dinner. Some people get this feeling especially during the holidays, with all the gift-buying, tradition-making, and party-going. I get this feeling in spring, during the last week of April and first week of May.

That is my busy time. Within 2 weeks, we celebrate 6 birthdays (two of which are Kirk and Reid). We are also big fans of the Kentucky Derby, and this year we are having a party. Reid will also be doing a school birthday celebration since he’s in preschool this year, which means I have 23 goodie bags to make plus a gift to buy to donate to the school. Plus the goodie bags for Reid’s birthday party, as well as food since it’s happening over lunch. Oh, and two cakes because his actual birthday is on the Derby so his party is the next day, but I couldn’t bear the thought of Reid not blowing out candles on his real birthday.

And then I need to plan out a little menu for the Derby party, make a cute hat (the reason I wanted to have the damn party to begin with), and actually cook the food. And get some booze, because Derby.

Notice how Kirk hasn’t been mentioned once? That’s because every damn year, his birthday sneaks up on me. May 1, for some reason, seems so far away until it’s April 30 and I see all those Justin Timberlake memes everywhere.

Makes me laugh every time. And then say “OH NO KIRK’S BIRTHDAY IS TOMORROW” and frantically try to pull things together. Kirk is such a thoughtful husband and seriously great gift giver that he deserves so much more than a hurried footnote on the year. But again, so many events. So many.

Part of the problem is that I am a perfectionist and people-pleaser. This means I usually throw a really good party, because I truly care about whether people have a good time, and my food and drinks are usually pretty great. There is nothing sloppy about my approach to entertaining. Just ask Kirk, who rolls his eyes everytime we have friends over for dinner and I bust out the plate chargers. But this perfectionist/people pleaser stuff also means I stress myself out pretty easily. I want all these cute Pinterest things at the Derby party, like a blind bourbon tasting, creating your own horse name, and a betting booth but I’m not sure when I’ll have time to put that together. I want to make Reid’s cake(s) from scratch but I feel like I’ll run out of time, and cakes are not meant to be half-assed. Not to mention Kirk’s birthday treats- I try to go big here, since it’s one of the only things I can do that he can’t. I’ll let you know how his tiramisu goes when I actually make it sometime in June.

Among all this, I have a few friends that have had babies, are moving, or just going through a crappy time. You won’t be surprised to hear that I show love with food, and I really want to make dinners, breakfast quiches, etc for them. It’s the kind of friend and neighbor I want to be- the kind that just shows up with some brownies because you had a bad day. But between the kids, our obligations, and everyday normal life, I am not sure when I can be this person. It kills me, because if my friends don’t have a quiche, how will they know I care?!

I’m not sure what the point of all this is. The past few days have been hard as a mother, and it’s just kicking off a long stretch of insanity. Just know that if you are feeling crazed, overwhelmed, or frantic, I  right there with you.

The Milk Bar

The Milk Bar

Spring break was last week, and while we had a great time doing some fun stuff around town, staying in pajamas until mid-morning, and playing with friends, I was pretty excited to get back to our regularly scheduled programming yesterday. Reid does pretty well with a schedule, and it’s no shocker that my super controlling, type A personality does as well. Sunday night I fell asleep with a smile on my face, dreaming of a quiet morning on Monday while Reid was at school.

Then he woke up with pink eye. No school for Reid, no peace and quiet for me.

For those of you whose children have never had it, pink eye is the worst. I mean not literally – it’s not life threatening or anything – but we now have to do eye drops 3x/day. Reid is really sensitive about things touching his eyes, ears, hair, etc. This makes haircuts REALLY fun, and eye drops fall into that category as well. I tried everything to get him to lay down willingly- bribes, taking away TV, threats, and finally sitting on him with his arms pinned to his sides with my legs. I controlled his head with my elbows and got his eye pried open with my fingers. We have to do this a total of 21 times. I told Reid if we didn’t, his eye will fall out of his head on the playground.

Fun times.

Anyway, something has been on my mind lately. When I got pregnant with Reid, I read tons of books, websites, went to classes, and got as prepared as possible. We hired a doula for the birth, and I thought that we were pretty ready. I did not prepare for breastfeeding, because I kept reading about how “natural” it is, how it’s what babies and mamas are meant to do. I didn’t even think twice about it- that’s how I would feed our new baby. I didn’t even learn to use my pump ahead of time because I didn’t think I’d need it. I owned no nursing bras or shirts, no nursing pads or lanolin cream. I didn’t even know half that stuff existed, or why I’d need it. I didn’t know what a lactation consultant did, or why I’d need one. I had no clue that there was more than one position to hold a nursing baby. I was clueless.

Then Reid was born.

It turns out that breastfeeding is really HARD. Reid was a super sleepy baby, so when I finally got him to latch on (a whole process in itself) he would almost immediately fall asleep. I confused this with him being done eating, so I’d try to put him back in his bed. Almost immediately he’d cry, because he was still hungry. This dance of latch-eat for 2 minutes-sleep-cry continued night after night. He never got into that “milk coma” that newborn babies get- he was just crying after eating. I felt so guilty, because this was supposed to be natural and easy, right? But it wasn’t. It was hard, and terrible, and painful (thanks engorgement). I felt lonely- Kirk was asleep in our room, and I was stuck with this baby in the nursery, so unsure of how to handle this, but Kirk couldn’t really help me because he lacked the proper equipment. I started to get a little resentful that I had to grow a baby, push him out, and then single-handedly feed him. This wasn’t fair.

I had my mom run to Target at 9pm on a Friday night to get me a manual pump because my electric one was too confusing for this first time mom to figure out. I pumped a little bottle for Reid, which also eased the pain, and he ate it right up and FELL ASLEEP. This was amazing! We talked to the pediatrician, who also felt that a dairy sensitivity may be at play, and decided about 3 weeks after Reid was born to switch to formula. He became much happier and slept better, and I hardly felt any guilt at all anymore. Sure, I wanted to breastfeed, but it just didn’t work for us. Plus, the difference in Reid’s mood was so clear- we made the right choice.

Three and a half years later, Sydney arrived. This time, I put all my effort into learning about breastfeeding, which I felt a little silly about being a mother already. I hired a private lactation consultant who came to my house to talk with me before Sydney’s arrival, and then came twice after her birth. I bought nursing bras, tank tops and shirts, pads, creams, and watched about 500 YouTube videos on latching properly. I talked to all of my breastfeeding friends about my plan, and lined up as much support as possible. I googled lactation support groups and knew where I could go almost every day of the week. I was prepared for the engorgement, the pain while the baby figures out how to eat, and the endless leaking once my milk came in. I set up goals for myself- Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, then the 6 month mark. I WAS READY.

Sydney is a much different baby than Reid was, and she caught on to nursing right away. She was still sleepy, but I could usually keep her awake enough to eat. My lactation consultant, Sam, came over about 5 days after Sydney was born, and helped me figure a few more things out. I struggle with the anxiety of not knowing exactly how much she was eating (one benefit of a bottle-fed baby), and she reminded me to just watch the baby. Syd was happy, slept well (for a newborn, anyway), was content after eating. Kirk and I developed a system where he’d sleep with Sydney in the guest room (her little baby noises would wake me up all night), and change her when she woke up to eat. I then fed her and put her back to bed. It allowed me to stay in bed for the most part, and I felt like Kirk was actually helping where he could. It was a good system.

I made it to my Halloween goal, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Around the 4 month mark, I decided to start supplementing with a bottle of formula before bed to make sure she had a full tummy before bedtime. But for the most part, I kept breastfeeding. We finally made it to the 6 month mark, and I was so happy. I felt pretty proud of how much we had done- I wanted to quit when Sydney had RSV and basically threw up most of what she ate, but I kept going. I wanted to quit when I was so, so tired of getting up in the middle of the night but I didn’t. I really wanted to quit when I got mastitis, and again when I had the flu, but I didn’t. I have so much love and support- it was so needed.

But now, at 6 months, I felt a little different about it. Sydney was becoming more and more distracted when she ate, and it was really difficult to feed her. Nursing took at least 30 minutes a lot of the time. I couldn’t just take her to her room where it was quiet- I still had Reid running around and terrorizing the house. I tried that once and came down to crayon all over the TV. Plus, I selfishly liked the idea that anyone could feed her, and I’d be able to have a little bit more of my body back to myself. So I started pumping and giving her bottles all the time. And guess what? She was still happy and thriving. As pumping got to be more of a chore, I weaned off of that and mixed in more formula. And guess what? She was still happy and thriving.

Today, at 7 months, she is 100% bottle fed. I sometimes miss the connection and bond I had with her with breastfeeding, but I don’t regret my decision. I do feel some guilt- not that I made the wrong choice, but that others will judge me for not going a full year. I’m such a people pleaser, I want everyone to agree with my decisions (on everything, really) regardless of whether it matters or not. I mean, the people who think I should have kept going aren’t exactly going to come over and help me feed my baby.

Sydney is doing great. She’s happy and so am I. Breastmilk, formula, bottles- it all ends up the same, in my opinion- with your toddler eating something they found on the floor at Target.


44 Days

44 Days

Three months ago, I had my initial appointment at the Center for Functional Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. I didn’t really know what to expect, and I left my appointment feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure if I would follow all of these recommendations. It seemed like a lot to take on, and this is coming from someone who has experimented with elimination-style diets before. I own tons of healthy cookbooks, and have a decent grasp on nutrition. But this wasn’t just going gluten-free: I was to eliminate a lot of favorites for a long time, and perhaps permanently. With the encouragement of my husband, family, and friends, I made the leap. This seems a little trivial, so be so concerned about my diet, but food is pretty emotional for me. It’s associated with happiness, holidays, fun family gatherings, traditions, and is my go-to way of connecting with others. You are new in town? Come over for dinner and drinks! You just had a baby? Here’s a quiche, casserole, and dessert! You had a bad day? I made you cookies. And so on.

So, for 6 weeks and 2 days (but who’s counting?) I didn’t have any gluten, dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, refined sugar, eggs, beef, pork, or alcohol. The first few days were tough. I had a lot of cravings, and the habit of having a glass of wine (or two, or three) in the evening was still strong. I missed having dessert after dinner (and lunch, and the more-than-occasional breakfast cookies). I struggled with what to eat for breakfast without eggs or cereal, which is what I usually had. I wanted to stop by Starbucks on the way home from Crossfit for a latte, like I did a few times a week. This sucked. So I made a countdown on my bathroom mirror like a prisoner counting down his sentence. This was helpful.

Then, around the 2 week mark, I noticed that my pants fit better. I stepped on the scale and realized I’d lost a couple pounds, but more importantly- I wasn’t as puffy and bloated anymore. I didn’t think I was bloated at all, but apparently I had been that way for so long, I assumed it was extra weight. So, maybe this diet is worth it, I thought. Seeing some results definitely provided some motivation to keep going.

Around week 3, I noticed that my mood and energy had improved. I was consistently happier, joking around, not as impatient with the kids. I felt really happy at the end of the day when Kirk got home from work- not because I was exhausted and ready to hand the kids over to him, but because I missed him and wanted to talk. It was a feeling I hadn’t had in about 4 years, since Reid was born. And, I was continuing to deflate like a balloon. Some friends commented on how I was looking, which was super validating for my efforts. These feelings continued through the completion of the diet, which ended on April 4th when I met with my doctor and dietician again.

There’s so much I could say about my experience, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll try to summarize it.

  • Weight loss: This wasn’t my primary goal (easing my anxiety and boosting energy were) but I figured I’d lose a few pounds. I did not anticipate losing THIRTEEN. I haven’t seen that number on the scale since I got married. I know that the scale isn’t reflective of overall health, but damn. This feels good. I did this without counting calories or macros which was so freeing.
  • Confidence: This is probably related to the weight loss, but I’m so much more confident in my own skin. I even bought a two-piece bathing suit that I might actually keep! And wear! IN PUBLIC!
  • Mood: This was the big one for me. Previously, I was sort of happy. Pretty pessimistic, sarcastic, kind of just making it through the day. I was happy if there was something to actually be happy about, like a fun party coming up, Sydney sleeping well, etc. Now, I feel generally happy most of the time. Of course there are still times I am irritated (I do have 2 small children after all) or upset, but I’m able to get over it/snap out of it fairly quickly. It doesn’t drag me down like it did before.
  • Palate: This was unexpected. My palate has changed a bit. I now happily drink my coffee black, no cream or sugar. A great treat for me is a cashew-raisin-toasted coconut mix, or maybe a rice cake with some almond butter. Sure, I still love the smell of a cake or cookies baking (I’m only human) but I don’t crave these things like I did before. This is huge- I was the kind of person who literally couldn’t walk by a dessert without sampling some. Cookies and brownies didn’t stand a chance in our house. We’ve had m&m’s in our house for several weeks (Reid’s treat for potty related stuff) and I haven’t even thought about them.
  • Energy: My energy levels definitely improved, as did my motivation to do things. I still think there’s room for improvement here, but things are better. I started lifting heavier at crossfit, completing workouts more quickly and with less rest in between rounds, and no longer wanted to just sit on the couch in the afternoon.
  • Habits: Still a work in progress, but a lot of habits have changed. I don’t have a drink every night anymore, nor do I feel the urge to pour a big glass of wine to destress at the end of the day. I don’t search for a snack before sitting down to watch TV, and I don’t always have a snack in between meals. I have a better sense of when I’m legitimately hungry versus when I’m just associating an activity with eating. Frequently, dinner is the last time I eat for the day- no snack before bed. I was unable to do this before.

At my appointment this week, the doctor and nutritionist discussed with me the plan from here on out. Over the next 10 weeks or so, I’ll reintroduce 4 foods: eggs, beef, pork, and soy. I can have some clear liquors and if those are tolerated well, a little red wine is ok. I have ordered a few more supplements to help balance things out, plus a thyroid medication to really help my body feel 100%. I’m so pleased with the results, and think most people could benefit from a diet like this to see how you truly tolerate certain foods. Especially if you feel tired, or bloated, or anxious- it’s worth it. Food is so, so integral to how we think and feel every day!

I would love to hear about others’ stories with elimination diets or how you’ve changed your life. What have you done to feel better?