Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

If I were really on top of my game, my family would be going as the characters from Downton Abbey tonight!

We're not.  Moose is going as a police officer or firefighter (he is a bit confused about the distinction between the two so I bought both dress-up costumes and he can pick when it's time to trick-or-treat); Mouse is going as a pumpkin with the hat I finished awhile back.

I'm going as a princess in disguise.

With so much fun stuff for the kiddos today (and rightly so!), here's a bit of fun for the mommies, too.  I don't know how I managed to miss the BBC's Downton Abbey spoof last year!
Part 1
Part 2 If you were going as a Downton character, who would you be? 

Image credit (as best as I could trace back)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fitness Friday: The Early Bird Gets the Workout

Alarm Clock 2
I've been a (mostly) early morning exerciser since I got married during my second year of law school.  As the years have passed, and responsibilities mounted, I've discovered that, for me, if it doesn't happen first thing, it probably doesn't happen at all.

Which is not to say that I'm all happy and rosy come 5 a.m. when that alarm goes off!

I've fallen off the morning (and therefore, exercise) wagon more than my share of times.  I mentioned the other day that I'm having a tough time finding a new rhythm since becoming a mom for the second time, and this especially pertains to my exercise time.  Despite the fact that Mouse is sleeping beautifully through the night (I swear, I've done nothing different with her than with Moose, who waited until 14 months to give me real sleep), I'm having a tough time conning myself into setting an alarm.

The great irony is that, while I did not have to gain any pregnancy pounds to have my child, I am starting to see and feel clothes fitting a bit tighter now that she's here! (Eek!)

But enough is enough, so today I am sharing some of my favorite tried-and-true ways to get back to an early morning exercise routine.  (As with so much, this is what works for me; my hope is that some nugget will work for you, too.)
  1. Small bites.  If my goal is to get back to waking up at 5 a.m., I may start with 5:45 first and schedule a 20 minute workout.  When that doesn't feel like torture, I dial it back to 5:30 and increase to a 30 minute workout.  Less shock to my system means I'm much more likely to stick with it.
  2. Dress for success.  Yep, this one is almost cliche, but it works for me.  I get dressed in my workout clothes before I go to bed.  Less excuses in the morning, plus a few extra minutes to slurp some coffee!
  3. Fuel up.  I'm not (too) ashamed to say that my coffee maker is set to start up when my alarm goes off.  By the time I'm up, teeth brushed, and contact lenses in, the pot is brewed and ready for me.    If you're not a coffee drinker or can't stomach it on an empty stomach (I used to be in this camp), try a little calorie boost.  A couple of energy chews (my favorite are from Honey Stinger) will help get the juices flowing without doing too much caloric damage.
  4. Start easy.  I know better than to jump right back into a 5 a.m. PlyoX wake-up call when I've been lazy for awhile!  When I'm easing back into the early a.m. routine, I give my body a break and start with a yoga warm-up.  Yes, it means less minutes sweating, but I'm way less likely to turn off the alarm altogether (which would mean zero minutes sweating).  When I don't mind spending the time, there's no better way to start the day than the A.M. Yoga for Your Week DVD (5 segments, each 20 min. with a different focus - e.g. hip openers, twists).  However, when I want to start easy but I still need to get down to business, a good 5-10 minutes (like the below five minute routine from Tara Stiles) does the trick.

What are your best tips to start (and stick to) an early morning exercise routine?

Photo Credit: Alan Cleaver

Disclaimer: this post contains a few Amazon affiliate links. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Anchor {Mindful Mothering Mondays}

In case you can't tell from my absence from this space, I'm having a bit of trouble finding my "new norm" since Mouse joined our house.

I returned to work two weeks ago, and while it's just three days a week in the office, because it is my own law practice, I can't entirely check it at the door when I leave to come home.  And invariably, when I walk in the door at 6pm with both kiddos in tow, Mouse wants to eat (regardless of when her last bottle was), Moose wants a snack and to go outside, Daddy M is either just walking in or came home early and is out for a run, and then there's the matter of dinner.

I'm not complaining.  Just stating the challenge.  The beauty this time around is that I know I will find a new rhythm.  I've been on a healthy slow cooker recipe bender.  I've learned to feed Mouse one-handed while I feed myself one-handed.  Some other stuff hasn't come together yet (like regular exercise; or regular knitting), but it will get there.

The one thing I have managed to maintain is a "special game" for Moose on the days we are home together.  The "special game" is the devolution of my attempts at Tot School.  Try as I might, even before Mouse, I couldn't seem to keep up with all I wanted to do with Moose on a weekly basis to compliment what he gets at preschool.  However, along the way, I learned that he loves sensory play and I've managed to keep a cache of sensory play ideas in my brain (and Pinterest) to pull out on the days we stay at home together.

And these "special games" - something he looks forward to - have been an anchor for me as I otherwise seem to drift and bob about.

Sometimes they're impromptu and non-themed (shaving cream, transferring ice cubes between large measuring cups).  Other times, when I've struck lucky at the dollar bins at Target (or similar), I manage to put together a theme (like the autumn one, above).

Whatever the specifics, they all seem to be a hit.

Which means that, wherever else the day goes, I can count at least one success.  And right now that's enough to keep me going - ironically anchored and, therefore, able to sail on to finding a new norm.

Linking up with Lydia for some mothering inspiration to start the week.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy (Review by a Never-Been-Pregnant Mom)

I am beyond delighted to be the seventh stop (and first Luminous Mystery) on Sarah Reinhard's Rosary Blog Tour!
To celebrate the launch of her new book, A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy: Walking with Mary from Conception to Baptism, Sarah Reinhard invites all of us to spend her blog book tour praying the rosary together. Today, she shares this reflection on the Baptism in the Jordan:
Jesus didn’t need to be baptized any more than he needed to be presented at the Temple when he was a baby, and yet he did. It was an act of humility, though I didn’t fully appreciate it until I broke my arm on my thirtieth birthday.
There I was, with a two-year-old and a great deal of pain, with work still to do and no idea how I was going to get it done. At one point, I swallowed the hard lump in my throat that must have been my pride and sent an email to a few close friends asking for help. I wasn’t even sure how I needed help, but they were only waiting for the okay to come over: within hours, I had a hot meal for my family, the leaning tower of dishes was being addressed, and a cheerful friend was insisting I lay down while she let her girls play with mine.
There’s a lesson for moms of all stripes in this mystery. There’s a great generosity in offering help, but it requires humility to accept help. There’s a beauty in sharing our gifts with others, in offering and giving. There’s an equal beauty, too, in letting others serve and in smiling and saying, “Thank you.”
There’s no need for long explanations, for defenses, for excuses. Look to Jesus in this mystery, and see the joy of the Father’s approval. Look to John, and see the glory of the recognition of the Savior. 
As we pray this decade of the rosary, let's hold all those brave women who have said yes to difficult and challenging motherhood in our intentions in a special way. Don't forget, too, that we are praying for an increase in all respect life intentions as part of our rosary together this month. (If you’re not familiar with how to pray the rosary, you can find great resources at Rosary Army.)

Our Father . . . 
10 - Hail Mary . . .
Glory Be . . . 
O My Jesus . . .
If you're a regular reader here, you know that we were blessed with an addition to our family in late August. 

Um, wait a minute, Vik, I thought you adopted?  What are you doing reviewing a book about pregnancy?

Despite the fact that I did not become a mom through my own pregnancy and physical labor, Sarah graciously asked me to be a part of her blog tour (even though I suggested I might not be the "right" voice to contribute).

Sarah's inclusion of an adoptive mom on her Rosary Blog Tour exemplifies what is wonderful about her new book: it is balm for a Catholic mother's soul, regardless of where she finds herself on the winding road of motherhood.

A Catholic Mother's Companion to Pregnancy is a treasure trove of both practical and spiritual tips.  I initially grabbed my autumn rosary (yes, I have seasonal rosaries . . . ) and Mouse and dove into the latter sections of the book dealing with birth (and post-birth).  There, I found Sarah's voice encouraging me, as she does in today's reflection, to accept the earthly help of my friends, and also reminding me to turn to God even (especially!) when the days are long and the nights longer - and suggesting real ways to do so meaningfully despite the fast-moving world around me.

As with her previous writing, Sarah encourages her readers to reach higher while remaining completely grounded, honest and real - there are no guilt-provoking expectations here. 

As the days passed and the newborn fog lifted, I found myself sneaking peeks at Sarah's earlier chapters on conception and pregnancy - a world I have never experienced and no longer expect to find myself in, personally.  I was stunned and touched to the core to realize that many of the emotions and spiritual trials I experienced during the adoption process are mirrored by women going through the physical process of becoming a mother - the uncertainty, the expectation.  I wish I would have had this encouragement during some of the darker days before Moose came home with us, and I can see myself turning to Sarah's words to draw me closer to Mary and her Son should we ever decide that Family M needs a third baby.

Without, I think, intending to, Sarah captured something I've said all along about becoming a mom: regardless of how you do it, it is a labor of love.  Sarah's new book is an incomparable resource for Catholic moms, no matter how you labor. 

You can find a complete listing of the tour stops over at Snoring Scholar.. Be sure to enter to win a Nook (and any number of other goodies) each day of the tour over at Ave Maria Press.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Links: Random as Falling Leaves

Links and things of late that I love . . . because they tickle the corners of my mouth  . . . or stretch my grey matter . . . or touch my heart . . . or make me want to take that last swig of coffee, get up from the computer, and do something special with my day.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Cheap Date {Mindful Mothering Mondays}

I always have really lofty plans for enriching activities for Moose - especially so when it comes to sensory bin activities.  And, in most cases, my intentions are far grander than my delivery.  I've scoured Hobby Lobby and sourced at Michaels.  Some of my bins have come to fruition, others are still pipe dreams. 

Particularly lately, with Mouse in the house, too, I haven't found the energy to put a whole lot together.  And between the great outdoors, a growing car and block collection (thanks to friends who have brought little goodies for him when they came to meet his sister), and Mouse to dote on, he certainly hasn't starved for things to do.
But when we woke up last Monday, it was raining, and he had a friend coming over to play.  What to do?

I can't even tell you what inspired me, but I grabbed two clean food storage containers and into each put some rice ($1.27 at the grocery store) in each, some truck erasers ($1 bin from Target), and some puff balls leftover from the Tot Tin project ($1 at the dollar store).  I gave each bin a spoon saved from a froyo treat and a small drinking cup.  Each easily cost $5 or less.

Which means, in bang for buck terms, it was a HUGE success!

The boys scooped with spoons:


They scooped with hands:

They filled the cups (and dumped them out again):

And when the rice inevitably got dumped out on the trays, we got out some front-loaders and dump trucks, and they boys really got to work!
And when they were finished, they argued over who would sweep the floor for me:
All told, the $5 bins bought us about an hour of fun (stopped only because it was seriously lunch and nap time!).

Really, I shouldn't be surprised.  Just last week, I marveled that our ordinary is their extraordinary.  And I think we all have a story to tell about an expensive toy spurned in favor of a simple, free or inexpensive find. 

I would do well to remember that despite the glitz and excitement of the toys on the market today, my little ones are, really, a cheap date, and I should KISS (keep it simple, silly).

Linking up with Lydia and her inspiring friends.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Field Trip {Mindful Mothering Mondays}

Do you remember school field trips?

I do.  Not all of them, but more than a couple.  The Museum of Tolerance.  Camping trip to see Halley's Comet.  Historic reenactment at the Stagecoach Inn.  Many seemed so life-changing and eye-opening at the time, and while some still do (I probably won't see the Comet again in my lifetime) others have been dimmed by the passage of time, and age, and newer or repeated experiences.  But, at the time, they were new and novel - they expanded my horizons.

In the name of intentional mothering, we talk frequently about being purposeful with our kids and planning activities with their development in mind.  But, even so, I lose sight of the fact that what is mundane for me expands my kids' horizons.

Last week I was brave and ran errands with both Moose and Mouse for the first time.  I wasn't overly ambitious: Whole Foods for gripe water and PetSmart for cat food.  But what started as simple became a fantastic field trip for Moose!

Once inside Whole Foods (because, really, who has ever come out of that store with just the one thing they came for?) we found ourselves at the cheese counter.  The friendly cheesemonger offered me a sample of five-year aged Gouda (yum!).

"I want some," Moose declared, and (after extorting a "please") I broke off a piece of mine to share.

"I like that!"

And the tickled cheesemonger hands Moose a small container with about a dozen small pieces of the older-than-my-kid Gouda.

Without pressuring, the cheesemonger then offers a balsamic-infused cheese, and another that is made from a blend of cow, goat, and sheep's milk.  Except now he hands two pieces to me for every taste - one for me and one for Moose.

Moose offers an enthusiastic and unsolicited "thank you" to each.

We end with a two-year Gouda, which Moose declares he doesn't care for as much as the five-year.   The cheesemonger smiles and as soon as we walk away, Moose asks if we can "do it again sometime?".

Next stop is the pet store and before I can even steer the cart toward the cat food, Moose spots the cats available to rescue.  Followed by the fish and the finches.  He recognizes each and moves on quickly.

Until we get to the small mammals.

"Mommy, what's that?"

It's a rat, who obligingly stops bathing and comes right up to the glass to give Moose the once-over.  I explain that it's sort of like a mouse (which he knows from books), and that they're actually very smart and make good pets.  Moose converses with the rat for a good five minutes before we actually make it to the cat food aisle.  We find ourselves returning again on the way to the register.  

Other than the tantrum that ensued when we finally left, I came away with a warm, fuzzy feeling that, without really meaning to do anything other than brave some errands with both kids in tow, I gave Moose a fantastic field trip.  Some day in the not-so-distant future, grocery runs and pet food stops will be mundane for him, but this time it was new and extraordinary.  He expanded his palate and discovered a new animal friend.

And I am beyond pleased that I recognized it as it was happening and slowed down to let him soak in the novelty and expand his horizons.

If you are looking for a Monday pick-me-up, please join me over at Lydia's place for wonderful encouragement in the spirit of the sisterhood of mothering!