Monday, December 31, 2012

Six week running streak

I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out how to fit regular, consistent running back into my life since Jake came in the picture. I miss it.

I think it’s because I’m really out of shape: in the get-up-and-just-do-it department. I’ve needed to exercise my do something now muscle. And my make-it-a-priority-or-else area is a little weak and jiggly, it needs some firming up.

So when my favorite running magazine posted a holiday running streak challenge – run at least a mile every day starting on Thanksgiving and ending on New Year’s Day – I thought it was just what I needed to get me back in the habit. I didn’t want to wait for the New Year to make a change.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fit in fifteen: a healthy holiday done the Mom’s way

Like many of you, coordinating gifts with Santa, planning for school parties and family gatherings has left me with little time for getting in regular workouts. In fact, schedules have become so hectic; I’ve taken a “holiday hiatus” from my boot camp fitness training. Not wanting to revert back to my old habits of hand-to-mouth exercising, I reached out to my bootcamp instructor Derek Mendoza, athletic supervisor for Sports Performance at Texas Health HEB for a little help. To accommodate this busy working mom’s schedule, he suggested a great 15-minute workout routine (see below) that uses only my body weight!

With it, I’ve successfully been able to incorporate a good workout in with Christmas musical practices, holiday parties and family gatherings, etc... even with a small amount of time. It has also helped me keep my fitness goals heading in the right direction until I have the time to devote to my regular training again.
Although this joyous season will come and go, I’m determined to making health and wellness a permanent part of my life.

How do you balance being a busy mom with your health and wellness goals? For all you busy working moms out there, try my 15-minute workout and let me know if it works for you too!

Each station should be 20 seconds before taking a 10-second break/transition into the next station. Repeat until all eight stations are complete. Take a one-minute break and repeat the circuit two more times for a total three rounds.

Station#1 - Forward lunge (left leg only)
Station#2 - Forward lunge (right leg only)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sibling Give and Take

I didn’t realize that arguments between siblings started so early.  Preston, 5, and Emory, 2, obviously love each other, so why is it that they have already begun fighting?  I thought that I had a couple of years left before the sibling fights began.

What sets them off?

Toys - Preston has a toy that Emory wants or Emory has a toy that Preston wants.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Graceful parenting

Most moms I know are harried. Some dads are, too, but, mostly it’s the moms who show signs of unraveling – one short yank on the guilt string from a child or one pull on a perceived criticism of their parenting skills, and they come undone faster than a snagged thread on a just-purchased sweater.

And who can blame them. Motherhood is a low-paying gig with a tough audience; a precarious juggling act with flaming light sabers and exploding Lego pieces; a barefoot walk on glowing coals while balancing a stack of Barbies on your head.

Graceful parenting often seems unattainable. I try, like the rest of my comrades, but most times I stumble through it, feeling guilty that I’m not measuring up or feeling frustrated or unappreciated.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Holiday Race

Though I talk about how I am a planner, I do have some areas where I tend to procrastinate as well.  I must admit, Christmas tends to be one of those areas.  However, this is our first Christmas with Shelby and I think she might have cured me of this particular procrastination practice.

I was moseying along with our usual routine of getting out all of the decorations, starting to make my Christmas list and deciding who would be where for what Christmas meal and celebration.  Kudos to my hubby because he got his part of Christmas done quickly.  All in one weekend, he put lights on the house, the trees, the bushes and even went out and got us a real Christmas tree.  What did I have done?  Not. A. Thing.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Less Commercialized Christmas

It’s Christmas Time which leads to reflection on what is Christmas really about. It had become so commercialized within our family. I wanted my children to understand the real meaning of the season so what should a Mother do?

A couple of years ago after watching the children open all the presents and hear them talking about what they didn’t get, I realized we needed a reality check. So, plans for the upcoming Christmas were looking a little different.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Breaking the "rules"

So I’m pretty sure my seven-month-old, Lucy, thinks she is too “big” for baby food. The last month has been a lot of trial and error. At the rate she’s been going I’m pretty sure she could keep nursing till she’s 26! She has been a great eater and breast milk has more than agreed with her, look at those cheeks! When I learned that I would be staying at home, just after she was born, I was in no rush to introduce a bottle. Now you should know that my first born spent the first eight weeks of his life in the NICU which meant I spent eight weeks pumping every two hours, not even kidding. So I was more than excited NOT to pump this time around.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A New Pediatrician's Perspective

Miss A had a fitful night of sleep on Friday night and woke up Saturday morning complaining she didn't feel well.

We reluctantly scrapped our plans of going to the zoo and canceled a playdate with a dear friend.

I called the pedi from bed at 8:01 and they made us an appointment for 8:45. Thank goodness for Saturday office hours, but we had only 30 minutes to not only pack a bag for the pedi, but to pack a bag for Granna and Bapa's. We decided we would go there for the day for some QT.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

When the truth hurts

My little princess is nearing age 5 and with her growth and maturity has also come a mouth and vocabulary to go with it.

Now I’m not naive enough to think that Lily would always stay my sweet little girl that worshiped her mother and never spoke anything out of character fit for a Disney princess.  I am a little surprised, however, at how quickly her brain processes and some of the things she says. One thing about four (almost five) year olds: they are brutally honest!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cookie Cutter Christmas

Christmas time brings the smells of cinnamon, spice and all things nice…especially warm baking cookies! The average person gains a few pounds over the holidays as indulgent goodies are everywhere in sight! However, you can enjoy your favorite goodies by cutting out or replacing the higher fat and sugar items for their slimmer baking counterparts.

Now, don’t substitute every single ingredient because you might alter the taste and integrity of the end result.  However, making a few substitutions will help lower the fat and calories of your product!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Santa Photo

I don’t know what to say about this picture … except that I am so glad it turned out exactly like it did.

When my wife, Lauren, and I got married 7 years ago, her first job was at Neiman Marcus’s corporate office. As a part of her job she often found herself in the flagship store downtown and thought it would be fun, if we had kids someday, to take them there for the classic Christmas picture with Santa. This year was our second of this “tradition”—as I lovingly point out to Lauren—where we drive by literally hundreds of Santas to patronize a store that abruptly laid her off during the 2008 financial crisis …but that is what’s great about sentimental things: you often block out the negative details.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Going overboard

OK. I admit it. I’m going over the top with the Elf on the Shelf thing this year. I think my son is starting to suspect that it’s me. But that’s not stopping me from having fun.

On the off chance that you haven’t heard of Elf on the Shelf, the elf shows up sometime after Thanksgiving with a story book. He’s named by the kids and then spends the rest of the holiday season hiding (translation: parents wake up in the middle of the night realizing that they forgot to move the elf and promptly panic.) I kept forgetting to move the elf the first couple of years, so last year I started to be more elaborate with the elf and decided that he’d be doing little pranks. The problem is that once you start that, the kids have expectations.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Holidays with a little one

Although my immediate family is spread across the country, we make an effort each Thanksgiving to come together for the holidays. This year was no different than any other, but my baby girl did provide some entertaining and memorable moments I won’t soon forget.

This year, my parents and my sister’s family all came to see me – a request I made known months in advance. Being more than 30 weeks pregnant, I lacked the desire to travel by ground or air. So, my sister drove from Alabama and my parents flew in from Colorado.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A really bad joke

with WOWO2 at 5 months old
A WOWO and a Blanket walk into a school.

A WOWO and a Blanket get left in the cubby all night long, all by themselves.

Mom freaks out. One of her worst nightmares is realized.

Two-year-old freaks out. She compulsively looks for hours for Blanket and WOWO before bedtime.

If you're waiting for the funny punchline, you're not going to get it. This was our very real and very scary night the other night.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sometimes you need another Mom

Seven months in and I am FINALLY starting to feel comfortable with my new job.

I have dreamed about this job since I was a little girl and I used to play and pretend this role over and over again with friends and family. And now that I am really doing it, every single day it is a lot different than I could have ever imagined. What’s my new job? I am now a full time SAHM, stay-at-home-Mom!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sleeping beauty in her sleeping bag

After 12 long months, we finally got my daughter out of the lair she’d cobbled together out of an old Dora kiddie couch, some tattered pink blankets and a fur-covered doggie bed. It’d been her sleeping spot. It was a compromise, really. The middle ground between her bed and Mommy and Daddy’s.

It was surprisingly easy to get her out of there. I promised her we’d makeover her room from the Tinkerbelle-green nursery she’d known for the entire four years she’s been alive to something so unbelievably cool she wouldn’t be able to resist sleeping in it. Something mermaid-y. Fairy-y. Cupcake-y. Teenager-y. She went for it.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Curing the Gimmies?

Just like any parent, all FOUR of my big boys' parents worry about the kind of young men we're raising. We work hard to teach them responsibility, kindness, decency, compassion, etc. Most days, I feel we're on the right track. The boys are often praised by teachers, friends' parents, even complete strangers for their behavior. However, they are still kids. They have their "imperfect" moments. Right now, it's a case of the “gimmies" (pronounced GIM-meees).

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Silence Renews

At work I am surrounded by busy people typing, meeting, talking on the phone, laughing and moving around. In the car I have the radio going most of the time. At home there is rarely any silence between the kids, cats, dogs and the bustle of day-to-day life. (And I don’t know about you, but if the kids are silent, it’s time to investigate.)

How often do we have a truly silent moment?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reminded by a Child

Preston and Emory, ages five and two, are so excited about Christmas this year!  How fun it is to see their eyes twinkle and their smiles widen each time they see Christmas lights in the neighborhood or hear a Christmas song on the radio.

They were both overjoyed as we put up the Christmas tree and decorated the house with Santa and Snowmen this week. 

Emory:  That’s Santa Claus! (Talking about a Santa that stands on the fireplace.)
Mommy:  Yes, it is.  What does Santa say?
Emory:  Ho, Ho, Ho.
Mommy:  Merry….
Emory (singing): ….had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb…

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Top 5 things I have learned since becoming a Mom

You know that old expression about making all your mistakes with your first child, and learning as you go?

That’s exactly the path my husband and I set out on nearly five years ago with the birth of our first son. We heard all the general advice and tucked it away in case of emergency, but for the most part raising Max has been nothing but trial and error. Neither of us really knew what we were doing when we started and we really don’t know how we’re going to face the coming years with him, but we know everything will turn out fine. You only make some mistakes once.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Who’s on First?

My toddler’s vocabulary and conversational skills are growing by leaps and bounds lately. I’m honestly amazed by the new things he comes up with on what seems like a daily basis. It’s been fun to have the beginnings of "real" conversations with him. Of course, some are more amusing than others. Last night, we had this conversation after leaving our favorite local taco truck.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Volunteer Overload

Moms, it’s that time of the year. Schools are gearing up for fundraisers, churches are doing their fairs and carnivals, and there are not enough hours in the day to do what needs to get done.

There’s a saying that if you want something done, ask a busy person. They are more likely to finish the task. But as the one who is always being asked, are you finding it hard to say no?

I have to admit. Sometimes it’s easier to say yes. Sometimes I think, “OK, just this one thing” which always ends up being a series of more tasks. And the person doing the asking is just as busy as I am.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The one year baby itch

1-month-old Jake
I should really preface this with a disclaimer: my husband and I don’t have plans for another baby at this time. It’s just not practical right now.

But it seems my hormones, or whatever inner primal biological mechanism is responsible, would like to dispute that plan.

It started when Jake was about 9 months old as a rumbling of a feeling that began to crescendo. I had dream after dream about being pregnant or going into labor. I started imagining pregnancy symptoms each month. And every time I see a Mom at the hospital holding her newborn close to her chest, I feel a longing so strong it hurts.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The baby book

I admit it, I am a planner. I really like to be productive and check things off the list. I have to confess, though, there is one item I have not gotten to circle back to since Shelby was a couple of weeks old: her baby book. 

I made sure I had it in my hospital suitcase so we could capture her very first footprints. Check. Made it to the hospital and home with the book and footprints. Also have all of our hospital bracelets that mark the record of us all being there that will go in the book. 

When I was on maternity leave for 12 weeks the book was one of my “to dos” on the list before I returned to work. I did send off for hard copies of the gazillion photos we took those first 8-10 days and I wrote down some key details in the book, like when I went into labor, when she arrived, our first night home, etc.  Since that day it has sat in the box that it came in just glaring at me. Taunting me. And now, my daughter is nine and a half months old and I still have not returned to it yet!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mother's intuition helps shape care of preemies

Kate and NICU nurse Lesa Gabbert
Kate McCasland’s premature birth 18 years ago made a difference for all preemies who have since come through the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

With the support of Kate’s caregivers, Mom Jane McCasland tried a simple technique she saw on a television documentary set in Africa to help with Kate’s progress. Kangaroo Mother Care, a now often-used method that involves simple skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby, provides a number of benefits including regulation of baby’s temperature and heartbeat and promotion of breastfeeding.

Today, on Kate’s 18th birthday, she and her mother were reunited with the doctors and nurses who cared for Kate while she was in the NICU.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Teaching my daughter to be well

I’m not exactly a couch potato.  But I’m not the picture of fitness, either.  My fitness regime tends to come in spurts – either I’m doing a 60-day hot yoga challenge, burning 1,000 calories per workout, five times a week, or I’m doing…well…not much of anything except trying to stay afloat while juggling life, work, and motherhood and still maintaining some semblance of rest and well-being in my own life.

The great thing about yoga is that, in addition to being the best workout I’ve ever done, it brings a sense of balance, calm, strength and flexibility – externally and internally.  There is a level of determination I reach in each workout that is therapeutic.  In that moment, I know that I am fully invested in something that is just for me.  And in the hectic world that is my life, moments like those are rare.

Friday, November 23, 2012

How becoming a stepmom changed the way I watch football

In June 2012, I had the privilege of becoming a stepmom to an amazing 15-year-old. He’s a carbon-copy of his dad at that age. I can say this with complete certainty because I met my husband when I was 12. We had lockers next to each other every year from 7th through 12th grades.

I’m an avid football fan and always have been. I’m one of those people you’ll hear yelling, "Get him!" "Crush them!" "Where were you going?" "Did you bring your brain to the game?" You get the picture. Many who know me have found this behavior baffling since I tend to remain a sensible and calm person in most all other parts of my life. But reason is suspended for the four quarters of a football game, and I would become one of the screaming masses.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Simple thanks on Thanksgiving

I packed up the kiddos and we headed into Fort Worth to attend our first foster/adoption Thanksgiving dinner this week.

It was a room filled with hundreds of families from our placement agency and our boys were quite excited to stay out a bit late on a school night and have the chance to hang out with other children. As you can see from the photo, it was nearly 40 degrees and the kids are a smiling and giving thumbs up!

It was nice to meet other families who were foster parents hoping to adopt as well. I had small conversation with other foster moms and we shared our stories. It was a sense of therapy for both of us I think given the great sensitivity and veil of privacy we have.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Be careful hanging those holiday lights!

One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions – a close second to scarfing down my Mom’s delicious green bean casserole – is hauling out the Christmas decorations! I’ll never forget the year we attempted to hang our outdoor Christmas lights ourselves. It was that peak at the top of the garage that really got us. As the wind picked up, our confidence plummeted, and we wisely decided that lighting the second half of the house wasn’t worth our anxiety or risk involved.

As it turns out, fall injuries are a common cause of trips to the ER during the holidays. Dr. Terence McCarthy, emergency physician on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, offers tips on how to safely deck your halls:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Pinspired first birthday

I had great intentions for Jake’s first birthday: a handful family members, a smash cake, and a camera. Low maintenance yet memorable. Uncomplicated.

But these things have a way of snowballing right under you. For some reason, I didn’t really think anyone besides my family would be interested in coming, until my best friend mentioned she really wanted to be there. So then my brain scampered off down a rabbit trail of inner conundrums and self-imposed stress about party throwing options – would other friends want to come? Where would I cut off the guest list? Do I have enough room in my home? What about friends with kids, what activities would I have for them? What should the theme be? Wouldn’t it be even more memorable with a cute theme and homemade decorations?

And then, even knowing it was a dangerous move, I let the lover-of-all-things-creative in me answer the siren call of Pinterest’s procession of party planning goodness. There was no reigning me in at that point. “Low maintenance” was officially tossed out the door.

In the end I did decide it was best to leave the guest list really small: a handful of family members, my best friend, and one of Jake’s baby friends who is the daughter of my friend/co-worker. This was a good move on my part because my normally very social baby boy seemed a little scared at first by the amount of people there focused on him.

And now, some Pinspired projects:

I made the birthday banner on the wall using scrapbook paper and ribbon themed with owls, trees, and fall leaves. I’d decided the party theme would be autumn/owl/woodland. It’s inspired by a few different ones I found on Pinterest.

Autumn-themed food descriptor set in a pine cone. Delicious pumpkin hummus recipe. We also had “twigs and berries” (pretzel sticks were the twigs) and s’mores that we made on an outdoor portable fire pit.

I had 13 balloons, each for months 0 – (almost) 12 of Jake’s life, with a photo of him during that time tied to the end and a leaf-shaped label. I saw this done on Pinterest for someone’s wedding anniversary, with each balloon carrying a photo from each year they’d been married.

Owl lantern lights. The idea was mine, but I found the pattern for the owl faces and the idea for using cupcake holders as wings from things I saw on Pinterest.

Owl and fall leaf cupcakes. (From a bakery.)

Baby photos:

My little man loved his cake.

I love this shot of Jake walking with his new wagon walker and me in the background being an overenthusiastic clapping Mommy.

It turned out to be a great day for everyone. Though I’d spent many a late night working on my projects, I was happy with how they turned out and I loved making his day special. I will treasure them forever.

What did you do for your child’s first birthday? Did you keep it small and simple or did you throw a big celebration?

Megan Brooks is a Sr. Public Relations Specialist for Texas Health Resources, Stepmom to a 12-year-old, and Mom to a 12-month-old.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Our first trip to the ER

Much like almost everything that has happened in the last 20 months of parenthood, our first trip to the ER with Elliot was nothing like what I expected. The reason for this can be easily traced to the fact that I watch too much TV and tend to base my expectations of real life on what I’ve seen. For instance, the night Lauren gave birth, I envisioned us rushing to the hospital, Lauren screaming in the passenger seat to hurry or the baby may have to be delivered in the car. In reality we sat around the house for hours, not sure if she was actually in labor, then calmly drove to Texas Health Dallas and had a very serene birth experience.

You’d think I would have learned my lesson about over-dramatizing life events … but no.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Turkey time

Growing up my Mom was the quintessential stay-at-home Mom helping with class art projects, being homeroom Mom, going on field trips, leading Girl Scouts, etc. She also was the queen of crafty projects around the holidays having a treat at the ready.

As an adult, I’ve taken her lead and surprised my workplaces occasionally with treats from projects past. One of those is candy turkeys at Thanksgiving. Countless candy turkey posts have floated around Pinterest, but I have to say I like these the best. Why? Because they are easy. So, so easy. Like a turkey done in less than a minute easy. And if you’re making for a group that means you could have treats for the whole class done and cleaned up in less than an hour. And who doesn’t need an easy project around the holidays?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Adjusting expectations

Upon Amanda’s arrival, I felt something deep inside that something didn’t feel quite right about her. I can’t explain it. You can call it instinct, intuition, but there is a feeling that Mothers have when they know something isn’t quite right with their child that only Moms can sense. I shared my concern that I felt something wasn’t quite right with others who made the placement but they assured me, she’s perfect!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The piercing of the ears

A mother always says she never wants to see her child in pain, so when I put my child in a painful situation a couple of weeks ago, I felt a bit guilty. But now that it’s over, I don’t feel so bad (I’m sure Nandi would look at me crazy, thinking, “Yeah, that’s easy for you to say!”). Nevertheless, my baby girl looks even more beautiful with her birthstones sparkling in her ears.

The experience was far from easy, and I’m just glad she won’t remember what Mama and Daddy put her through, all in the name of beauty.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dress Up Your Thanksgiving Dinner with a Healthy Twist

Thanksgiving day is typically associated with juicy turkey, mom’s best side dishes, and grandma’s pumpkin pie. It’s a day dedicated to family, friends, and indulging in our favorite holiday foods. However, this day does not have to be as high in calories as most people think. Without getting rid of your traditional family favorites, you can implement some healthy twists to make your basic dishes nutritious as well as delicious!

Casseroles are common Thanksgiving dishes that are typically laden with fat and high in calories. However, with a couple of recipe twists, your casserole can slim down and still taste just as great. One way to do this is to substitute a vegetable casserole for a traditional, high-fat casserole. Vegetables are low in calories yet high in nutrients and thus great fillers for a traditional casserole.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Listen to your mothers

I’m not a big fan of help — never have been. I’ve been pouring my own milk in my cereal since I was about 3 years old, thank you very much. And if something’s wrong with the TV or any one of the half-dozen gaming and/or sound systems connected to it, don’t call my husband to fix it. I’ve got it under control.

Until it comes to being a mom. Then I need all the help I can get.

There is nothing like the joy, the challenge, the exasperation of preparing two tiny human beings to be contributing members of society. The longer I contemplate this, the more I realize that it truly does take a village. And (no surprise here) the villagers who’ve provided me the most help are mothers who have a few more years’ experience on me.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Birthday ups and downs

There are so many great things about being a mother. My favorite is knowing that there is a little person out there that loves you unconditionally. Whenever you see him, you are instantly in a better mood (unless he is screaming uncontrollably, then you just want to cry with him). My least favorite part of being a mother is the dreaded planning and implementing of a birthday party. Talk about horrible. Now granted there are some great memories that come from birthdays, such as balloons, cake, family, and friends. There are some aspects of a birthday party that are not so great, and it was not until I became a mother that I realized this.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sense of Humor at 38 Weeks

Last weekend, right at 38 weeks, my husband and I strolled through Sam’s Club Warehouse, partially looking to make a decision on getting a membership and partially to see if we could get this kid moving into the “ready” position for birth with a little walking. What we came out with was a story I’m certain my husband will be sharing for years to come – as a matter of fact, it’s already “immortalized” on Facebook.

As we are strolling through the frozen foods testing samples, we come up this unassuming older lady with some frozen tortilla rolls.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Story of Sebastian

Recently, we moved from the home that our daughter has known since she was almost three years old. Breaking the news of the move to her was not pleasant, so we knew the week of the move wouldn’t be any better.

I wasn’t really sure how to approach the situation, but had read that giving her something new to focus on would be a good idea. I agreed. My husband and I decided we needed to talk things over to figure out what that new focus would be. We solicited several suggestions from friends and family who mentioned everything from a new chore to having her help decorate her new space.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to entertain your toddler – and yourself

My husband and I usually go all out for theme parties, so it’s no surprise we do the same for our children. Every once in a while we like to pick a fun activity to do with our four-year-old son, Max, and make it a theme night – something he can really get into.

Max loves trains and cars more than anything in the world, but of course not everything can be about trains and cars, so we use these theme nights as a way to broaden his horizon a little; to show him there’s more to life than transportation!