Saturday, September 16, 2017

Capturing the Sights and Sounds of Your Children: Living Room Study

     It was one of those rare mornings, the ones where I got up way before the kids, and was super productive. Being industrious is my natural bent, but with a nursing baby, I am flexible with my sleep schedule.

     It was actually an accident- I woke up at 4am, my 6 year old curled up at the edge of our queen sized bed like a cat. Ironically, everybody else was soundly sleeping, and I would have liked to be also, but apparently my body was extremely grateful for 6 whole hours of uninterrupted sleep and decided it was high time I get up. I lay back down, hoping to drift back to sleep, but knew all was lost by ten minutes. I decided to make something of it, and head down to the garage for a spin workout.

    40 minutes later I decided I was on a roll, so I figured I'd drive to the local coffee shop to grab a couple coffees for my husband and I. Then I made breakfast. All before 7am!

The kids decided they didn't want what I made, but I was feeling too good to let it bother me, so I said...OK, and off they went with empty bellies to play. This was working out really well! I grabbed my daughter's nature study book and found on the first page a tutorial on "how to observe nature". As a lover of nature, studying it is really something that I do without thinking about it. But I really appreciated how the tutorial brought me back to the simplicity of just using our senses and writing down short, descriptive blurbs of what is happening.

So I grabbed a chair, and sat in front of our garden.

I had not been sitting for 30 seconds when I heard a muffled high voice and saw smudgy hands trying to push open the glass door. Okay, I can do this with one child out here...

Sit. Listen. A bird calling. The tall grass bobbing in the morning breeze. The sun peeking out over the neighbor's house. The scraping of manufactured plastic on the bricks, accompanied with bubbly spitting noises. Clammy hands gripping my more squishy than I realized thighs. Play with me! Be  this, be this!

I sighed deep, knowing that I would not be able to ease into the sensations of nature. It would have to wait for another time. I felt slightly discouraged since capitalizing on these moments of inspiration didn't come often, but quickly realized the blessing in disguise.

Nature would always be here, but my children would not.

My days are filled with constant interruptions, messes, squabbling, and many other unpleasantries that mothers are all too familiar with. There are days where I wish that my home looked like the Real Simple magazine I scanned through at a midwife appointment one time. But, it will not last forever. In fact, if the old ladies at the grocery store are right, it will go by faster than I realize.

The thought occurred to me- what if I forget what it feels like to have a little baby look into my eyes while I'm feeding her? Will I remember the disgusting feeling of vomit sliding down my shirt or stepping on food that was declared unfit for eating? Will I remember the satisfaction that my husband and I feel after a night of tag teaming and putting our 4 kids to sleep, and hearing no noise from their bedrooms? Will I have answers and funny stories to give to my children, when they are in the throes  of child rearing and need encouragement or wisdom? When I am old and wrinkly, and need perspective on my life, will I struggle to draw upon those memories? And if I can muster them up, will I remember them accurately?  Will I remember what it was like?

So I put down my notebook and picked up a plastic bear, satisfying the 2 year old beckoning me to play at my thighs, thankful that God had showed me the gems sparkling in the sand.

It took only 2 minutes for her to exhaust the excitement of her game, and then bumbled up the stairs to find her brother and sister. I grabbed my sketch book and sat down at the table and began my observations in my own living room.

What did I see, hear, feel, smell or taste? My living room was a mess; toys scattered on my cabinet, my decorations out of place. I fought the urge to fix it. There was nothing complicated about it, but satisfying knowing that I was beginning a new habit of capturing the fleeting moments of my children's short stay in my home.

I still stop to watch a centipede scurry across the sidewalk, or to listen to a quail in the distance. But I am going to start paying more attention to the wild "animals" in my own home, because they won't be here for long.

Monday, September 4, 2017

You Have Permission...

Our house was filled with the usual sounds of the late morning as I did my morning routine in my bathroom- several feet pitter pattering throughout the halls, the sounds of wild animals squawking. 

My daughter and her entourage of 2 younger siblings filed into my room, showing me her latest costume.

"Look! I'm a SCUBA diver!" She had put together a backpack as her oxygen tank, and her doctor's stethoscope as her breathing tube.

My kids can almost always be found pretending to be this or that, creating some of the most creative get ups with just about any kind of scrap toy. This is completely normal in my house.

But this morning, I was impressed with her creativity. It reminded me of children's ability to take seemingly normal things and transform them into new creations. To have the perspective that something has life beyond what society prescribes to it. To give the world permission to see things differently.

This is why children are a gift. Somehow through the storms of life, we adults come out limping, creating beliefs to help us cope with the pain. We want to be safe from ever experiencing whatever we came out of. And as time marches on, the cement of those beliefs set, and we experience life with 
this new normal. We don't feel the heaviness on our feet, until a childlike mind shows us that we can run again.

When I saw my daughter, I thought Sometimes we just need permission...

A backpack is for putting school things in.
A stethoscope is for checking patient's hearts.
Goggles are for swimming.

Until somebody has eyes to see beyond.

What cement has set around you? What cement has set around you?

Perhaps you believe you are too old for school. Perhaps you have given up on finding a spouse. Perhaps you've been told you can't wear this or that. Perhaps you've been told your dreams are silly.

No, you probably didn't hear anybody say these actual words. But perhaps you heard it through a friend's facial expression. Somebody laughing. A facebook post. Or perhaps it was only you who stopped you.

Sometimes we just need permission.

So here is my prompt to you:

Ask yourself what things you used to dream about. When did they get buried? By what did they get buried? What beliefs have "cemented" you in? What do you need to change in your life to breath life into these dreams again?

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Simple Foot Exercises

I had mentioned in my last blog post about tips on switching to minimalist shoes, that I would be making a video on some feet strengthening exercises. Here it is!

What exercises have you found helpful? Please leave a comment below, and share this video if you found it helpful.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Tips for Running in Vibrams

Yesterday was 4th of July. The day when hundreds of San Diegans flock to the beaches, lakes or parks with a carload of food, drinks and games to endure a long sweaty day with friends and family. And the cherry on top, an hour long firework display.

Me? Oh, no. I do not like crowds, long waits, traffic if I don't have to. And with 4 children under 7 years old, my husband and I have decided that we are okay with forfeiting the normal holiday bustle for now.

But anyways, I took the opportunity to do an outdoor workout while my husband was at home with the kids during nap. I've done about 2 easy post-partum runs, with my normal Asics tennis shoes. It's been going well, so I decided my body was ready for some  minimalist footwear integration. So I grabbed my Vibrams and headed to the lake...where I quickly had a SMH moment when I saw the traffic, crowded parking, and blaring music.... LOL.

 As I slipped on my old purple Vibrams, I realized it had been just over 5 years since I started running in them. I remembered the changes I had felt in my feet and body, and how I had learned that you really need to be prepared in order to avoid injury. So I decided I would write out a few things that I've learned along the way, just in case YOU are thinking about taking the toe shoe plunge. :)

1. Practice a mid/toe strike stride BEFORE you switch over.

 Most people strike the ground with their heel much heavier than they ought to. Your foot is (ideally) the first point of contact with the ground, and therefore is designed to absorb the shock and your weight. Your foot was designed to absorb shock and transfer weight through the middle of foot via the plantar fascia, to the toe, not the heel of the foot.

This is important even with "normal" running shoes. Many repetitive injuries can be avoided just by improving your stride. But it is IMPERATIVE that you run differently with minimalist shoes. Traditional running shoes have much more material, and this helps with some of the shock absorption, even if you are running incorrectly. Minimal shoes offer very little shock absorption, so it's really on your feet to do the job, and if you don't, you can end up with stress fractures, tendinitis, and other repetitive injuries (not fun! I know!).

So how does one "run correctly"? I am no expert in this area...but there are several different schools of thought. I'm not one for reinventing the wheel, so I will let you do the Googling. But essentially, in order to strike the ground with more of your mid foot, you need to have a shorter stride. Pay particular attention how it feels to push the ground away with your toes. You may need to run much slower to play around with this.

2. Consider your weight

As I mentioned above, switching over to minimalist shoes increases the chance of injury if not handled carefully. If you are just beginning  your weight loss journey, or are still significantly overweight, hold off on switching over. I actually don't think running is ideal for people who have a significant amount of weight to lose. But if you are at the point of running, focus more on losing the weight and improving your foot work before trying these shoes. Slow and steady wins the race, you won't be doing yourself any favors if you injure your feet/legs because they were not ready.

3. Strengthen your feet

Because your weight will be more evenly transferred to each of your toes, the little muscles will be used more. Your runs will be more enjoyable if you aren't constantly stopping because your feet get tired. Do foot exercises in between your minimal shoe runs. Also, increasing the soft tissue in your feet will assist in shock absorption. I will be posting a video soon what I do for strengthening my feet. ***UPDATE*** HERE is that video :)

4. Take stretching seriously

This tip naturally follows the above tip, because, anytime you are contracting your muscles, there is the chance they will lose elasticity and range of motion.  Can you say PLANTAR FASCIITIS??? A healthy muscle is strong, yet has the ability to release. If you do not take the time to stretch not only after your runs and other workouts, but also other days of the week, you may very well get plantar fasciitis. I have had this more than once (and have overcome it)- it sucks, and is preventable. I have my own method of stretching and dealing with plantar fasciitis, I will also be posting this soon.

5. Don't use minimal shoes exclusively

Keep running with your normal shoes also. As with any workout program, you want to keep things varied. Your body will appreciate a break from the extra work that minimal shoes require, and you will be using your body slightly different with normal shoes, which will assist in your overall strength and fitness. You may also find that some minimal shoes are not really suited for say, trail running or hiking. Or for running in the rain. Take those opportunities to wear your traditional shoes.

6. Take care of your shoes

Like I mentioned above, my shoes have lasted me 5 years. There is some degradation of the glue, but hey, it's not that bad! Keep your shoes in room temp places (NOT IN YOUR BURNING HOT CAR). Air them out. Don't put them in the dryer.

7. Pay attention to (and address) your body

This is an all across rule to health and fitness. Have you been having painful heels? Does your back hurt the day after a run? Are you experiencing plantar fasciitis? In my experience, most people don't respect their bodies. And they pay for it. Don't make this mistake- you are better off stopping and addressing an issue than ignoring it so you can do that 5k you paid for. It may be the difference between being able to run when you're 60 or sitting it out.
Hopefully you are not neglecting the other areas of fitness such as strength, flexibility, good nutrition, and stress management. Treating your body with respect in these areas can help avoid injuries across the board, and you're more likely to have success with trying out minimalist shoes.

Well, that's all I've got! What about you?
Have you made the switch? What changes have you noticed?
Please leave a comment and share if you found this post helpful!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Easy Lunch: Iron Smoothie

It's Monday again, which means it Monday Food Prep day for me. Since I devote myself to prepping food for the other days of the week, I pick really fast and easy lunches to reduce my overall workload for the day. Smoothies are one of my favorite ways to do this. I also love smoothies because they are great for gradually adjusting kids' taste buds to new flavors without the visual and textural shock. I ultimately have the goal of seeing my kids shriek with excitement at the announcement that wilted spinach is for dinner...but let's start small, people, okay? ;)

So today, I decided I would make an "iron-focused" smoothie. What that means it that I choose foods that complement iron absorption. 

I'm not one for recipes and measuring. I almost never repeat the same recipe exactly how one is supposed to. I just throw in whatever I feel like. I would encourage you to experiment too! If you want to try more kefir to cocoa ratio, go for it! You may explore that your kids really like the flavor of spinach and can add more as you go!

So here's what I did today, and my kids LOVED it!

-Mango flavored smoothie (I got it at Sprouts) Protein, added vitamin D, Calcium
- Frozen Spinach: Iron, Fiber
- Cocoa powder: Iron, flavor AND it doesn't hurt to tell your kids there is healthy chocolate in there
- Peanut Butter: Iron, protein
- Banana: I mostly added this for flavor...banana has a great flavor next to chocolate.

So technically, Calcium and Iron are not friends; meaning, one inhibits the absorption of the other a little. Iron rich foods (like spinach) have something called oxalic acid in it, and it binds to Calcium. But before you say "What's the point then???" remember that your/kids' bodies will absorb some, and the goal of healthy food training is not simply for our bodies' health, but for overall health; to experience a wide array of textures, flavors, and smells, all while enjoying social interaction with others.

But back to the smoothie: here are a couple of things I've learned along the way:
 - If you have a toddler, a child who doesn't handle utensils well, or just a straight up messy child and want to minimize the mess, add a little flaxseed meal to the smoothie if it is runny. This adds Omega-3's, and absorbs much of the liquid. 

- blend on "liquefy" setting; the spinach can be rather fibrous, making it difficult for small kids to handle...and it freaks them out a bit...

- if you want to increase iron absorption even more, add a fruit that has vitamin C, such as strawberries 

Let me know if you try this recipe, or what changes you made to it! And please subscribe and share if you found this helpful!