BREATHE + GLOW

make mindfulness your default mode

Tahini Roasted Almonds

LindsyComment

Savory. Crunchy. Super freakin’ delicious.

Tahini Roasted Almonds are a daily dose of yum in my mouth. They can be a dose of yum in yours, too!

Almonds and tahini are both brilliant sources of calcium. If you’re looking for a nutrient-dense, portable snack, these are the way to go.

My husband and preschooler love Tahini Roasted Almonds, too. I store them in a mason jar on the counter so they’re always handy for a quick snack, meal side, or impromptu picnic. They would be great for packing your kiddo’s bento box!

 

Aside from calcium, Tahini-Roasted Almonds are good sources of:

  • Protein (one of the main building blocks of your body)

  • Unsaturdated fatty acids (promote vitamin absorption, increase energy)

  • Magnesium (helps with digestion, calms nerves, increases energy)

  • Potassium (regulates blood pressure, anxiety, metabolism)

  • Iron (prevents anemia and fatigue)

  • Fiber (regulates blood sugar and keeps you regular)

 

Other ways I love to use tahini:

 

  • In a salad dressing (oil, vinegar, and tahini)

  • As a sauce on grains, veggies, and beans

  • In a smoothie

  • Spread on toast in lieu of nut butter

 

More reasons to eat tahini from MindBodyGreen.

INGREDIENTS

1 cup raw almonds

1 T tahini

1.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, combine almonds and tahini with a spoon until the almonds are evenly coated.

3. Spread the almonds across the baking sheet evenly. Make sure none are piled on top of each other!

4. Roast in the oven at 375 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.

5. Let the almonds to sit in the oven for at least one more hour. This will allow the tahini to dehydrate, leaving you with unsticky almonds. Hurray!

6. Remove the almonds and store in a tightly sealed container for up to two weeks.

 

IMG_2752.JPG
IMG_2754.JPG
IMG_2756.JPG

Galacta-gold! Beans, Greens and Grains Bowl

motherhood, recipesLindsyComment

 

Are you seeking the perfect, easy lunch? Something warm and comforting, but healthy too? Maybe even something that helps you make more milk for that baby of yours? I've got a meal for you.

 

Somewhere in my return to work from my first maternity leave, I created this dish. I don’t remember how it came to be - just that I concocted it out a strong desire to MAKE MORE MILK.

Barley, beans, dark leafies, and sesame seeds (via tahini) are all galactagogues, aka milk makers. This is super easy and feels oh-so-nourishing to eat, so it’s no wonder that it increases your milk production. Ideally, I cook up a batch on Sunday afternoons and portion it out for my upcoming week’s lunches, but this doesn’t always happen. There have been many mornings when I cooked this while eating breakfast and getting ready for work. It’s a snap.

To make it even more of breeze, use these quick-cooking bags of barley and farro. You can get them at Trader Joe’s, and recently I have seen a nearly identical version at TJ’s sister store, ALDI. They cost the same (at least in my area). It will shave about twenty minutes off of your cook time, and it’s already measured for you.

 

Disclaimer: I’m an ad lib cook. I write recipes the old-fashioned way, in a somewhat vague manner that assumes the reader has some knowledge of cookery and is not afraid to improvise. Cooking times and measurements may vary. Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts and tweak something if its not working for you. This is how I make this recipe. It does not have to be the way you make it.

 

 

image.jpg
  1. First, grains. Make life easy-peasy and use the quick-cook bags from Trader Joe’s or ALDI. I alternate between barley and farro. Alternatively, you can use 1 cup of pearled barley. Make sure to rinse it first.

image.jpg

2. In a 3-5 quart pot, combine grains with 3 cups of water. Let come to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes

image.jpg

3. Toss in enough torn kale to fill up the pot. (I’m using a 3 quart saucepan here. You could definitely go bigger and probably should, as I usually end up adding more kale later on.) Cover the pot and let kale steam until wilted, about 10-15 minutes. Add a little more water if needed.

image.jpg

4. Add 2-3 cups of beans. Again, you can hit the easy button and use rinsed canned beans. If you have the planning skills to use dried beans, I applaud you.

5. After this, I portion out the in gredients into glass containers for my work lunches. I drizzle about 1 tablespoon of tahini on top of each serving.

image.jpg

So what do you think? Any additions, subtractions, or other tweaks? It has been a lifesaver for me, so let me know how it works for you!

image.jpg

Lentil Quinoa Broth Bowl

recipesLindsyComment

So in my daily visits to the NICU, the nurses would often shoo me out the door to take a break and refresh. On one particularly dreary March day, I ventured out to Panera Bread and discovered their new menu addition. Broth Bowls. Oh. Yum.

I ordered a Lentil Quinoa Broth Bowl and boy, did it hit the spot. Warm, filling, and just the right amount. I felt healed and energized afterward. Best of all, it seemed easy to recreate at home.


This is a versatile dish; I have enjoyed this bowl for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Plus, it’s a good meal for a breastfeeding mother, as it includes whole grains, legumes, and dark leafy greens.

Disclaimer: I’m an ad lib cook. I write recipes the old-fashioned way, in a somewhat vague manner that assumes the reader has some knowledge of cookery and is not afraid to improvise. Cooking times and measurements may vary. Don’t be afraid to follow your instincts and tweak something if its not working for you. This is how I make this recipe. It does not have to be the way you make it.

image.jpg
  1. Measure 1 cup of quinoa and 1 cup of lentils. Rinse thoroughly. Toast in 1 T of oil for a couple of minutes.

  2. Add 2 cups of water, let come to a boil, and cover, simmering for 30 minutes.

image.jpg
  1. Toss in enough torn kale to fill up the pot. (I’m using a 3 quart saucepan here. You could definitely go bigger and probably should, as I usually end up adding more kale later on.) Cover the pot and let kale steam until wilted, about 10-15 minutes.

image.jpg
  1. Boil some water. When boiling has ceased, mix about ½ cup of the water with 2 tablespoons of miso. Mash miso with a spoon and combine with water. Add ¼ cup of soy sauce or similar (tamari, shoyu, or liquid aminos).

  2. Pour soy/miso mixture into the saucepan. Add another 4-6 cups of water and continue to simmer for ten or so minutes to let flavors combine.

image.jpg

Top with a halved hard-boiled egg and a slice of lemon. (Totally forgot the lemon when I shot this, but add it. It adds another element.)

Enjoy!

What would you do with one year of paid parental leave?

motherhood, parenthood, life changesLindsyComment

What would you do with one year of paid parental leave?

Netflix made the news recently for its progressive decision to allow employees to have one year of flexible time off for the first year after having or adopting a child. And it would be paid time off.

In other countries, this is standard practice. Chile grants eighteen weeks paid, or thirty-five weeks if you live in Norway. But here in the United States, where we’re supposed to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and do everything ourselves, we have no form of paid maternity leave, even. Forget paternity leave. Out of 184 developed nations, only we and Papua New Guinea have no paid maternity leave. Check out this chart from Bloomberg to see how other nations stack up against the U.S. in providing paid time off. Read the whole article here.

So what would I have done with one year of time off after having my son? First of all, I probably would not have returned to work after twelve weeks. I’m not sure who came up with the twelve-week benchmark, but that person had obviously never given birth, nor cared for a crying infant in the middle of the night for weeks on end. At twelve weeks postpartum, I had just barely figured out how to make myself presentable and get my son ready to go out the door. Granted, my maternity leave was during the coldest winter in recorded Chicago history, so we hadn’t gotten out much.

It’s hard to say what exactly would have happened, but observing the situation from the viewpoint, this is what I would consider a great plan:

 

  1. Stay at home until at least 16 weeks postpartum - maybe 20.

  2. Return to work on a part-time schedule - as in, four-hour shifts instead of eight-hour shifts.

  3. When baby is about nine months old, return to full-time shifts. (Nine months is when I remember things becoming noticeably easier and I started to think, “I can do this!”

  4. Enjoy the fact that all of the times I needed to miss work - for his viruses, sick calls, many ear infections, and all the times I caught something from him - will not be taken out of my sick or vacation time. They will be part of the flexible “year off.” This is a big one. I calculated that  i took about ten sick days after returning to work, but before my son turned one year old. This is just what happens when your child goes to day care. After missing only three days due to illness in my six years on the job, I ended up spending an entire week out with an upper respiratory infection, and I also somehow got two ear infections. The last time I’d had one, I’m sure I was only a baby myself. (Of course, having to take sick days would not irk me so much if they didn't mean my pot of days for a future maternity leave was dwindling.)

Again, this is all speculation. Maybe if I had eased back into work, rather than diving right into the deep end, it would have been even more difficult to go back to a full-time schedule. I doubt it, though. It is an exhausting time, full of worries and learning and making mistakes. Many would agree that having a child is the biggest life adjustment you will ever make. So is taking time to readjust the rest of your life fair and reasonable? I think so.

So, what would you do with a flexible year off after having a child? I’d love to hear what you think!

7 Ways Low Vision has Affected My Everyday Life

life changesLindsyComment

Last week, I wrote about the decline of my vision and learning that I have a hereditary disease called optic atrophy. Sometimes it’s hard to explain to people what exactly is wrong with my eyesight. For most people it’s a retinal problem, whereas I have issues with my optic nerve. Most people can see well with correction, but I can’t. Since I can make my way around without glasses pretty well (as long as I’m not driving), people sometimes don’t quite understand where the problems lie. Am I nearsighted or farsighted? I think it’s all a bit more complex than that, and I’d like to tackle it in a later post. For now, though, I’ve created a list of the way my vision problems show up in everyday life.

Driving has become both a chore and a privilege.

  1. Driving has become a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I’m glad that I can still drive at all. I’ve been driving myself around since I was sixteen, and to have that taken away would be hard to grasp. On the other hand, the act of driving has changed a lot for me. I can’t drive at night. It’s hard to tell the difference between red and green lights (I look at their position instead of their color). Living is the age of GPS is something I'm incredibly grateful for, since it makes navigating unfamiliar areas so much easier. I’ve always been a cautious driver, but now I’m extra-cautious. Because what the majority of people can see from fifty feet away, I can only see from twenty feet away. Since my vision has changed gradually, this adjustment wasn’t something I noticed very much. When I think back on what driving was like for me ten years ago, though, I’m kind of amazed at how easy it seemed. However, I don’t actually recall all of that clearly, which leads us to…

  2. I don’t remember what having 20/20 vision was like. Sure, I can think back on how I used to be able to see a classroom presentation from the back of the room, or use a laptop in my actual lap (!), but I don’t remember the clarity of my vision. My husband might point to something out in the distance, and I feel surprised that he can see it, because I don’t remember what normal vision can do.

  3. Overhead menus are my worst enemy. Note to coffee shops, cafes and the like: Please always have a paper menu prominently displayed in your establishment. Panera Bread succeeds at this, Starbucks does not. I can’t read those overhead menus. I’m guessing I’m not the only one, either. If I’m with someone, I can ask, but that is really tedious, and it makes my skin prickle that I have to stand there and listen to my mother or friend recite soup and sandwich options. I have also been known to pull up the menu on my smartphone so I can place my order, but it’s not a perfect strategy. So please, stick some paper menus in a stand. I know they’re not earth-friendly, but most people just put them back after looking anyway, so it all works out.

I use the Magnifier when working on the computer these days.

 

4. Using the computer is literally a pain. A few months ago I was prescribed eight weeks of physical therapy because of neck pain. I’d been dealing with a shooting pain from neck to elbow and one day it peaked to the point of near-immobility. While I might be able to place some of the blame on picking up a toddler multiple times a day, the real reason was that I was straining forward to read my computer screen. After that, I finally faced the facts and got real about my needs. I started using the Magnifier (docked at the top of my screen), asked for a wider monitor at work, and I do my best to keep my posture in check. This was another situation where my vision changed slowly and I didn’t realize what I needed to work better. I do have to add that technology is my friend. I can zoom in on my mobile devices and customize the size of the text when reading ebooks. These features make my life easier.

5. If I’m in a big crowded area, I might lose sight of my companions. Taking note of what Stephen is wearing is routine now, because it’s the easiest way to spot him later. My blurry distance vision just can’t distinguish faces that well. This also means I’ll need to be extra vigilant when watching Hunter at the playground, and if he ever plays sports, I probably won’t be able to follow him on the field/court/rink.

6. Big screen TVs are the only way to go. Not that I would advocate for watching a lot of television, but when I do, a big screen is always better. I’m used to our gigantic 54-inch tv by now, and when I encounter say, a 19-inch, I’m appalled at how little of the show I can actually make out. It’s Blurrytown for sure. I used to love watching French movies, something I did often when Stephen and I first started dating eight years ago. Now subtitles make my stomach turn a bit at the amount of work involved, for something that should be a relaxing activity. The same goes for watching a presentation or reading song lyrics off the screen at church. Unless I sit up front (which I do a lot more of now), I can’t make out the words or images.

 Lucky for me, colored pencils are labeled with their names.

Lucky for me, colored pencils are labeled with their names.

7. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to teach my own kid about colors. In fact, I’ve even thought about putting labels inside some of my clothes so I know I’m grabbing the navy shirt and not the black one. Shopping online is often easier than shopping in a store if I’m trying to color-coordinate fabrics, because the color is listed in the description (not to mention the convenience of keyword searches). Standing in HomeGoods, trying to decide if the rug I’m looking at is  pale pink or gray? Not fun. I take solace in the fact that many things in life are always the same color: red stop signs, blue skies, yellow daffodils. These are things I can share with my son. (The human mind is so interesting. Once I know what color something is, I can clearly see it as that color. I need to learn more about this.)

Summertime, Then and Now

LindsyComment

I remember summers. Waking up to bright sunshine and birds chirping, the lazy roll of a breeze coming through my bedroom window. The fresh smell in the air and the distinct promise of a beautiful and endless day.

summer girl

I grew up in the countryside of a rural town in a rural county. There was nothing upon nothing, just gently rolling hills, leafy trees, dirt roads that gave way to fields, woods and streams. My brother and I had free range to go exploring, like most kids we knew. We’d go for walks to pick up cans on the side of the road, which we recycled later for change. Our cousins would ride their bikes to meet us at a bridge halfway between our houses, several miles over rough fields, but our only mode of long-distance travel at that age. We would strip off our socks and shoes and wade in the creek below to cool off.

Sometimes my parents worked the second or third shift, and my brother and I would stay with my grandparents for three or four days at a time throughout the summer. Grandma and Grandpa lived in the same village, in a different parcel of countryside. Life revolved around the farm and its work, with early pancake breakfasts and picnics carted out to the cornfield at noon. We sat at the edge of the field under the trees, eating ham sandwiches and cantaloupe, drinking sweet tea out of a canteen.

wheat

Every summer I either attended or helped with Vacation Bible School in the village’s only church, an organization to which my family was tightly bound. Each morning that week was filled with songs and nature walks and free ice cream cups from Prairie Farms. It was a bustling time for the children of the community, because most of them didn’t actually attend our church. Events for children, especially ones that provided free childcare, didn’t happen often. This was a special time for kids and parents alike.

The first Saturday in August heralded the town’s Fish Fry, a day of fanfare in our tiny hamlet. The volunteer firemen spent the day frying up fish, while people from surrounding towns flocked in to eat potato salad, coleslaw, and homemade pies and cakes. There was always a band, and a beer tent, and kids’ games. Sometimes a group would set up a dunk tank as a fundraiser. The day was spent in comings and goings, riding my bike into town and back home again, reveling in the unusual amount of people and activity.

My husband experienced this same kind of freedom growing up in a town that houses the state university. His mom gave him the boundary of streets he needed to stay within and told him to come home when the old-fashioned lampposts lit up. He and his friends would roam the cobblestone streets, playing pranks and making snack runs to the nearest convenience store. When it was hot, they found plenty of shade under the century-old trees lining the streets. It was not unlike the childhood recounted by Bill Bryson in The LIfe and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, even though it took place nearly forty years later.

As an adult, I still find summertime glorious, especially the dawn the each day. Sometimes I actually break out into a rendition of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” Indeed, there is a nostalgic quality to summer that makes me want to watch lovely summertime musicals like Oklahoma, The Music Man, and especially State Fair. The days may be glorious, but are most often spent inside, battling cruel amounts of air-conditioning. I have resigned myself to summers spent working, because that is the kind of career I have. What I have not resigned myself to is the kind of summers my son might have.

Much talk has been generated over the loss of childhood freedoms: they don’t walk or bike anywhere alone, they don’t play freely or utilize their imagination, and playgrounds are childproofed to the point of no fun. I’m not going to talk about that, except to say that I think a boomerang effect has begun, and I don’t think that this tendency toward overprotection, by parents or society in general, will continue.

hazy meadow

Here in the suburbs, it seems that most children attend a day camp of some sort during the summer. This kind of organized activity runs opposite of our free-wheeling childhoods, and I think it will likely be where my son spends his summer days. Day camp certainly isn’t a bad option, and yet it sort of seems like school in disguise. Where will he learn to make choices about what to do with his day, when the decision is already made for him? Every. Single. Day.  

My true hope is that he will be able to spend significant amounts of time downstate with his grandparents, where free time for children is still a large part of life. There he can experience the  fullness of summer days and the endlessness of nature. He can fish in the pond, build a fort in the woods, wade in the creek. He can decide what exciting thing will happen that day.

Then he’ll have a taste of what it was like. He will know.




How Low Vision Changed My LIfe

adulthood, life changesLindsyComment

It's one of those things that we often take for granted; the simple ability to see clearly. Most people with blurry vision can bring things into focus with the right pair of eyeglasses. I am not one of those people. Growing up with 20/20 vision, I never thought I would be. I prided myself on how well I could see. Several years ago, however, my eyesight began to change, and I learned that I have a hereditary eye disease called optic atrophy. 

Most people get glasses because there is something irregular about their retina. The doctor would tell you my retinas are "perfect." What is not perfect is my optic nerve. Basically, when my retinas take in all the visual goodies and send them down the information highway to my brain, half of the report gets stuck on a dead end. Since about half of my optic nerve has atrophied, only half of the info my retinas take in is processed. Glasses help a bit, but since there is no way (yet!) to repair an optic nerve, I'm kinda stuck. Here's the story of how my life, and perspective, changed.

how low vision changed my life

 

December 2008: i visited a Sears Optical location for an eye exam. I remember this as being a strangely grown-up endeavor, somewhat exciting. This was just a few months after beginning my first professional job, and I was learning the ways of health insurance and in-network providers and the like. It seemed like a very adult thing to notice that maybe I needed glasses and hey, I could handle this on my own. There were no nerves, just a healthy sense of optimism.


At the exam, though, things took a strange turn. For my entire life, I had passed any eye exam with ease. Even just a year and half before, I had gone for one when my mom noticed I was squinting a lot, and there was no apparent problem. Now, though, I couldn’t seem to focus. First one corrective lense seemed better, and then the other did. The optometrist asked me to come back and have my eyes dilated; they appeared to be over-strained and we needed to relax my eyes to get a proper reading.


The dilation only helped a bit, because we still couldn’t get a 20/20 reading with any of the correction options. “Talk to your family,” she said. “See if you have any history of vision problems.” As Stephen and I drove home, I called my parents and told them about the whole situation with some puzzlement, but no worry.


“We do have a history of vision problems,” my dad said. “Cone dystrophy.” This was news to me. Here I was, twenty-three years old, and I had never heard a word about it. My dad went on to tell me that not only did he have this condition, but also my grandpa and my father’s cousin. They all began to notice a decline in their vision in their 30s or 40s, and while it couldn’t be corrected to 20/20,  it had never been a big problem for them. Well, okay then. This was not a problem.


I called my optometrist and gave her the information, and we set up another appointment to find the best correction and choose some glasses. She referred me to some local ophthalmologists to get a better idea of what I was dealing with. Life went on.


February 2011: Two years later, I decided to visit one of the ophthalmologists. It seemed like my vision may have declined a bit more. It seemed like the right thing to do.


At the checkup, I failed the color vision test. I had a terrible time taking the exam, feeling frustrated that there were so many lines I couldn’t read. The very patient and sympathetic doctor referred me to a specialist in the field, a doctor affiliated with the University of Illinois-Chicago. I took the number, but didn’t call right away.


April 2011: A couple of months later, my twenty-sixth birthday was on the horizon. I needed to renew my driver’s license. Although I had received an offer to renew it by  mail, because of my safe driving record, I went in person because the letter said that was what you were supposed to do if you had gotten glasses since your last license renewal.


I was a little nervous about this, but I consoled myself that if my vision were that bad, surely the doctor would have pointed it out at my exam a couple of months ago.


I failed. Peering into the little viewfinder goggles at the DMV, every line of letters looked like an ant colony. Nothing seemed to form a coherent shape that I could read or even guess at. The clerk seemed unsympathetic, but gave me a form to take to my eye doctor. I left feeling humiliated and shattered, holding it together just long enough to make it home, and then I cried.


Sobbing, I called my parents. I called Stephen. “What am I going to do if I can’t drive? How will I get to work?” The worst thought, the one that I didn’t say out loud, was that I was losing my vision. That I might actually go blind.


I went back to the eye doctor a few days later and told her the story. “Call Dr. Fishman,” she reminded me. We completed my eye exam. It wasn’t the best-case scenario, but it wasn’t the worst, either. My vision clocked out at 20/50, meaning that I could still drive...but only in daylight.


At work, I told my boss with a strained voice. This would mean my weekly evening shift was no more; instead, I would only work during the day. The following November, when the days began to shorten, my hours would be 8-4 instead of 9-5. This small change was actually a problem since we would need extra coverage at the desk on some days, and I felt slightly ashamed of the disruption I was causing.


June 2011: Stephen and I went to see Dr. Fishman in the city, at the Chicago LIghthouse for People Who Are Blind or VIsually Impaired. Visually impaired, that was me. I wasn’t particularly happy about this whole trip. For one, I was growing to hate eye exams and the way they made me feel. For another, I felt like there wasn’t anything they could do to help, so what was the point?


It proved to be a great step forward, though. They were used to people who couldn’t see well, so the exams were playful and encouraging. I didn’t feel like a loser. After spending a lot of time with a resident, we heard him consulting with Dr. Fishman in the hall. And sight unseen, Dr. Fishman diagnosed me not with cone dystrophy, but with optic atrophy.


As it turned out, there were some key indicators of cone dystrophy that I just didn’t have. The two diseases could easily be mistaken for each other, when looked at broadly, but it was obvious that I didn’t have it. And the dead giveaway, apparently, was my very pale optic nerve. The paler the nerve, the more cells that have gone dead.


We concluded that my relatives had likely been misdiagnosed, and traced out the family tree. It was hypothesized that even though the onset of my atrophy occurred earlier than other family members, it had likely plateaued and would not worsen. I took lots of tests: field-of-vision tests, color vision tests; x-rays that scanned my eyeball. Since this was a teaching hospital, about eight different residents took a look inside my eyes, shining the tiny light and bringing their faces close to mine. I was there for four exhausting hours. At home, I took a nap.


Since then, I have visited Dr. Fishman and his team once a year. My vision has worsened only marginally since then. We’ve talked about my son, since there is a 50 percent chance that he has inherited the disease. I hold out hope for something to make it better. One of my Google Alerts is for search results on “stem cell optic atrophy”; there is speculation and very-early-days testing on the ability of stem cells to regenerate optic nerve cells.


Mostly, I’m happy to have my vision at all. As Dr. Fishman likes to remind me, what I do have is still pretty good. Just now, reading over this post, I noticed the word failed more than once. Even though it is true in the literal sense, and I most certainly felt like a failure at the time of those tests, I think I'll stop using that word when I think about my vision. What I should do is succeed. I should succeed at being grateful every day. It's so easy to get sucked into a land of sadness and pity and what-ifs. Together, let's be grateful for what we have.


Gratitude, gratitude, every day.

Little Golden Books, and How My Mother Shaped My Life

motherhood, booksLindsyComment

 

Earlier this week Laura Vanderkam posted about a contest Story Worth was hosting. The theme a story from you mother’s life that inspires you. While I wasn’t interested in entering the contest, it did get me thinking of what I would write about. 

                                               Some of my favorite Little Golden Books as a child.

                                              Some of my favorite Little Golden Books as a child.

Beginning when my brother and I were very, very small, my mom made sure that reading was a part of our life. Every time we went to the grocery store, we selected one Little Golden Book to add to our collection. While Golden Books were meant to be affordable (they cost about 99 cents in 1986), it would have been easy to say that these books were unnecessary. My family was strictly low-income at this time, and frugality was always in play. Even all of our Christmas presents were secondhand, although my brother and I were none the wiser and the gifts were perfectly wonderful.

My mom knew, though, that it was important that we have our own books. We lived in a very rural area and didn’t have a public library of our own. A few years later my mother would start to pay for an out-of-district library card and take us weekly, another testament to her wisdom. At this time, though, that was less of an option. Besides, she knew that being surrounded by books in the home was something that children needed.

For years, I would revisit our bookshelves and page through the many books we had collected. I would pause at the nameplate in the front, reading “This Book Belongs To __________”, where my brother and I had penciled our names in childish writing (we inscribed all of them in one night, reveling in the process). Just last month, my mom asked me if I would like to take some for Hunter’s own library.

So where does this leave me today? I’m a children’s librarian. An avid bookworm my entire life, i could have ended up in any number of professions. Somehow I landed here, preaching the gospel of children’s literature and “read to your baby.” Would I be here if my mom hadn’t filled our shelves with books, reading to us every day? If she hadn’t surrounded me with literature so I could pick up a book at will and familiarize myself with the written word?

Wondering does nothing. None of us has the power to know which forks in the road led to where. All I know is that I am happy I have a mother who knew this was important, and did what she could to make it a part of our life.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.*



The Great Second Child Debate

motherhood, parenthood, familyLindsyComment
The Great Second Child Debate

I have heard a lot of parents voice this thought, and you probably have, too.

Should we even have a second child?

After all, we’ve started sleeping all night again! We can leave the house without an hour of prep time for feeding, blowouts, and three outfit changes. I’m done with pumping/bottles/baby food/diapers. I have my body back.

We said these things, even though we’ve always planned on two.  It also somehow seemed significant that we had such a good baby. How could we have another baby and come away unscathed? Surely the next child will not be nearly so easy, and then it will be Game Over.

Plus, it won't be like doing it all over again. It will be like doing all over again, with a toddler underfoot. My father-in-law likes to say that two kids aren’t twice the work, they’re triple. Furthermore, how could we take this special time of babyhood away from Hunter, starving him of attention? He’s still so little, how could we do this?

Of course, if you told us to wait until he was older, we would say we don't want the children to be spaced far apart. This was our conundrum. So. Onward we go, to the research.

Research is my thing. I’m an infoholic, and gathering all the research makes me feel calm, informed, and productive. When we were just considering trying to have a baby, I read books of essays about having kids, not having kids, not sure if one would have kids, etc. It didn’t really matter; I knew I wanted to have kids. Somehow, though, it made me feel less chicken about the whole thing.

The research began with Babycenter, because they are usually the first search result for anything baby-related. The “expert” advice to have another baby before your first is two or after they are four was useless to me. My casual observations of families (and as a children’s librarian, these are many) have shown me that almost no one does this. Most people seem to go somewhere between 2 and 3 years apart, and that was kind of what I was feeling myself.

On I went, to The Alpha Parent. This was more helpful, sharing the pros and cons (yes!) of spacing your children 1, 2, 3, or 4+ years apart. What I learned from this was that it doesn’t really matter how the children are spaced. There will be positives and negatives with any spacing; you just have to choose which ones matter to you most.

Finally, I found a book called Twice Blessed by Joan Leonard. This one was interesting. In the first chapter it lists common reasons for wanting a second, explores the issues of timing and birth order, and then delves into age spacing. This is where I got the two best pieces of information about when:

This obvious yet insightful bit of advice gleaned from many parents of adult children: “Think about when you and your husband are emotionally and financially best ready to have another child. It will be better for you, your marriage and your children.” (p. 10)
This beautiful nugget of data: “Parents with closely spaced children wished that they had spaced them farther apart, and parents of spaced children wished they’d spaced them closer.” (p.10, cited from the book The Second Child: Family Transitions and Adjustment by Robert B. Stewart. I am planning to find this study because no parameters or percentages were cited. Context is key! I’ll update you with what i learn.)

In conclusion: it doesn’t matter how they are spaced, as long as you, the parent, are comfortable with the spacing. And you will later wish you had tried for the opposite, anyway.

Tried is the imperative word here, because let’s face it, we really don’t have that much influence on when (or if) the second child will be born.

                                             Age spacing: the closer, the better? Shown here with my brother, circa 1987.

                                            Age spacing: the closer, the better? Shown here with my brother, circa 1987.

Despite the lack of control, it is something I obsess over. Since Hunter was about six weeks old, I’ve been thinking about when we would try for baby number two. Not because I was ready; I just wanted to be prepared. About once a month, I would ask Stephen, when do you think? Every time, he would say, I don’t want to talk about it. Hmmm, okay. I would remove all barriers: If we had plenty of resources - time, money, help - what would the ideal child spacing be? He would say, Doesn’t matter, because we don’t have all those things.

So I began to think it would be later. Perhaps Fall 2015. This was my opinion.

December 2014: Having a conversation about...something. The context of this conversation is now forgotten. All I know is that out of the blue, Stephen said, “We should start trying right now.” Um, whaaaaat??? He went on to say that he didn’t want Hunter to spaced as far apart as he and his brothers (three years) because it always felt like they were never in similar stages of life. Well, thankyousir, for answering the question I’ve been asking for a year.

So I took some time to think about this, and to be honest, I felt the same as he did. My brother and I are eighteen months apart. This was great for us, although I suspect it was not so great for my mom. However, life was beginning to get easier, I was feeling more capable, and we felt that letting nature take its course was the easiest way to make a non-decisive decision.

Since then, it’s been a lot easier to wrap my brain around the idea of having two. It also seems that the longer I’ve been a parent, the more I realize that it’s not worth all the analytics. For instance, you get used to the roller coaster of child development. Every month or two, life takes another turn and you learn to adjust your routine, your technique, your opinion. This kind of hard-core adaptability training makes planning and research and what-ifs seem pretty inconsequential.

I’ve also begun to let go of the other (unfounded) fears: that Hunter will be robbed of his babyhood, his alone time with us, and that since he is so easy/good/wonderful that there is no chance we will be so lucky a second time. Remember what I said above, about the roller coaster? It turns out that Hunter is not always so easy/good/amazing, especially not right now as he is embracing toddlerhood. Screeching, stubborn, into everything. So maybe it will all balance out.

As it stands, we are letting things happen naturally. We don’t want to put it off, and yet there are times when I wouldn’t be disappointed if it took a little longer. For example, if it happened after our vacation, so I could enjoy the wineries and breweries and the hot tub. Or if it happened after my cousin’s wedding, which happens to be at a winery. (Are you seeing a pattern here?) Of course, there is never a perfect time, and we know that - that’s why we’re just giving it a go.

However it shakes out, it was meant to be.



The Happy Mediavore: May Edition

the Happy MediavoreLindsyComment
The Happy Mediavore

Reading:

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin - I’m a Questioner! And a lark, and a finisher...
This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh - adorable, heartwarming, genuine. This book is so creative, too. Each entry in Ratchet’s creative writing journal follows a different format: persuasive, screenplay, concrete poem.
How She Does It by Anne Bogel - Like many, I love anecdotes, and this ebook is packed with them; there are so many examples of how many tweaked their work to make it fit their season of life.
The One by Kiera Cass - Teen books are my favorite. This is the last in a trilogy about teen girls vying for a prince, Bachelor-style. It takes place, of course, in a future dystopian society. Somehow this series manages to be serious and frothy at the same time.
The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick

Listening:

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett; read by John Lee - The third book in the Century trilogy. The first two were excellent; I found this one to be less so. The pacing is very uneven to me and it seems as though he could have actually written a fourth book. There is a just a massive amount of time covered in this one as compared to the first two novels in the saga.
Serial podcast - We binge-listened to this one over Easter travels. Addictive.
Rough Draft podcast by Demian Farnworth of Copyblogger - Lots of great information for web writers here, in convenient audio format!
The Book of Mormon featuring the Original Broadway Cast - Husband took me to see this musical for my birthday. On the drive home, I was happy to find this album in my Amazon Prime Music app. Very catchy songs here.

Watching:

The Americans, Season One - We’ve watched the first two episodes so far. I’m enjoying it.
Once Upon a Time, Season Two
House of Cards, Season Three - finished!
This vegetable gardening course from Craftsy
The Chef’s Table - A new Netflix docuseries following a different chef in each episode. Just watched Episode 2 featuring Dan Barber and I wanted to cry. Blue Hill Farm is so beautiful, as is Dan's cause in making food and farming healthy and real again.

Weekend Links

weekend linksLindsyComment

Happy weekend! Here's what I've been looking at.

How to Understand an Introvert (as explained by Introjis) - via Introvert, Dear - The best summary of introversion I have ever seen.

Scientists Aren't Immune to Gender Bias - via Futurity - Just another sign that we can do better.

Wet Hair Styling  - via The Beauty Department - Summer is drawing near, and I am looking forward to letting my hair air dry.


Think Big, Love Small - via Momastery - Glennon shares a heartfelt letter to a hurting teen.

Four Things to Love About Turning Thirty

adulthoodLindsyComment

What’s the best thing about turning thirty? While I don’t really know, I feel like that’s the point. The thirties hold a different kind of promise than the twenties did. The exploration, the course-setting, the “who am I/” has given way to a deeper, more established path of life and identity. Here are some of the reasons why I’m happy to verge on a new decade.

Four Things to Love About Turning Thirty


  • Thirty feels like an accomplishment. Somehow I feel that I’ve made it. At thirty, I know things. There is wisdom in this mind of mine. There is a considerable amount of experience to draw from. Some things I’ve learned: the perfect time to go to bed; how to make my needs heard; how to birth a baby! Some things I have still not learned: how to change a tire; how to grow vegetables that actually produce a harvest; how to french braid my hair (or do pretty much anything with my hair, alas).

  • I’m not in my twenties anymore. Let’s face it, being a twenty-something is not always fun and games. The twenties often involve a lot of messy, life-shaping decisions regarding education, career, and relationships. Building this foundation is really stressful and overwhelming, hence the Quarterlife Crisis. Goodbye to that.

  • It’s another milestone birthday. Usually I don’t go in for big birthday celebrations; a dinner out with my husband  has been the standard for the last seven years. Having an excuse to honor myself is especially needed now that I am fully entrenched in parenthood. The last time I had an important birthday was nine years ago. Thankfully, this birthday will be much different from my twenty-first. Dancing around a bar called Shenanigan’s while guys buy me shots of Wild Turkey (eeewwww!) sounds like zero fun now, and it wasn’t that much fun then (see above). I will be doing dignified grown-up things like going to the theater and having brunch, thankyouverymuch.

  • I’m finally growing into myself. People have told me all my life that I have an old soul, so this is a bit like playing catch-up for me.  It feels good to become older, wiser, and more me. After all, for years I’ve heard people say they are happiest in their thirties, so I feel like I have a lot to look forward to. No, the physical side of things is no picnic. Last summer, I saw a picture of myself smiling and thought, “Crow’s feet! Seriously?” I have to get past it, though. Life is life, and I’m here to live it.


I know that in many ways, age is a rather arbitrary factor in what life brings you. There is nothing magical about being thirty that will keep me from dealing with problems I faced in my teens and twenties, or those I might face in forties, fifties, and beyond. All I'm saying is, the view looks pretty good from here.

The Zen of Breastfeeding

motherhoodLindsyComment

Ah, breastfeeding. Such an intense and controversial topic. Let’s just start by saying that I breastfeed; it is my choice and I feel that everyone should make the choice that is right for them. Alternate circumstances may have taken me down a different path, but this is how my story goes.

 

Breastfeeding has not always been easy for me. In the beginning I found it to be exhausting, worrisome, and far too demanding. I may not have felt this way (or felt it so strongly) if things had taken a different course. Babies are unpredictable, though, and mine came an entire month early. This meant that in addition to giving birth earlier than I expected, I also had to contend with things like pumping at home for a few days and visiting my son in the Special Care Nursery when I could. We tried breastfeeding at those times, but let’s just say it was a learning process. He didn’t have a strong “suck” and he also fell asleep...like, a lot. So there I was, massaging milk out for him and trying to wake him up every couple of minutes.

It was hard going for the first few months at least. Besides the crazy amount of energy breastfeeding takes, the hunger I felt was out of control. It was worse than when I'd been pregnant, and I was too tired and busy to feed myself properly. Hunter continued to need the assistance I described above until he was almost four months old. Once I got the hang of it, though, it was easier to feed myself (like grabbing some hummus and pita before sitting down for one of our forty - yes, forty - minute bf sessions). I also started to download  books to my iPhone and read. When it was time to turn a page, I just had to swipe my thumb. That came in really handy at night when I needed to stay awake (or thought I did).

Then my baby got older - and more distracted. Watching television or reading while I held him was not working out, and he constantly looked around our living room to see what was going on. I had long loathed the act of going into his room to breastfeed. Having to go back there and sit in the glider, quietly breastfeeding, felt like being exiled. That was what I did when we had company, and it always felt so dull to me. After a while though, it seemed like the best choice. I was no longer interested in trying to keep Hunter focused on the main event.

Soon, though, those moments in the glider became somewhat magical. It helped that Hunter was much quicker now and that he didn't need my help. I was free to hook on the Brest Friend and let him be, while I leaned back and enjoyed the solitude. It took me awhile to realize what I was doing during these quiet times, but I realized I was restoring my mind, sorting out thoughts, daydreaming, praying. The truth of this hit me one day while perusing a copy of Parents magazine. There was an article about working meditation into your parenting life, and one of the moments to take advantage of was while feeding your baby.  The section states:

"Consider your rocking chair or glider to be your meditation cushion, where you focus exclusively on your baby and your breath. 'Instead of thinking about all that you should or could be doing at that moment, allow yourself to rest and be soothed by the rocking and quiet time with your baby:'"

Now that I'm more mindful of that time, I've been careful to keep to-do lists and other "working" thoughts out during that time.

Hunter is seventeen months old now, and he still seeks out that time together. At times it can seem inconvenient, but mostly I want it too. I wouldn’t say that I’m meditating, and I’ve never really tried to at that time. I do, however, relax my body, close my eyes, and enjoy the freedom from busyness. I am doing what I need to do, and there is nothing else that I need to do at that moment. It’s especially wonderful at the end of the work day, when we’ve just gotten home. My natural instinct would be to jump right in to chores and other “always-there” tasks, but this forces me to take a break and spend time with my darling dear son. Of course, I also like it when he starts playing games with me and launches into a giggle fit. So worth it - for me.

If someone had told me a year ago that breastfeeding would become one of the most peaceful and pleasant moments of my day, I would've given them the side eye. But now it's true. It’s just one of the many, many aspects of parenthood that has surprised me.

Has anything about parenthood turned around for you?

Free Easter Printable: I Know My Redeemer Lives

printablesLindsyComment

Celebrate Easter with this free printable! Happy Easter to all!

How to Begin

writingLindsyComment

I started reading Gretchen Rubin's new book, Better then Before. In it, she writes about forming habits. The part that I was reading spoke to the difficulty of beginning. The first step requires nothing special, really; there is no secret in how to begin. There is no need to wait for the perfect day/time/whatever. Just do it.

That is something I have been struggling with in starting this blog. I have found myself putting off the writing part of it in order to work on the aesthetics. Ooh, I need the perfect header. I don't like this background. I have to add my Pinterest board to the sidebar. Because naturally no one should view my blog in less than perfectly-ready form. Of course, I have taken the first step. I did write a little a bit already. Then I got sidetracked, and maybe a bit scared. Rubin's book also addresses the phenomena of how, when we think about whatever it is that we've been putting off, it makes us feel bad and we push it to the back of our minds even more. This has certainly happened to me.

When it comes to writing, I find that my clearest, best thoughts come in the earliest hours of my morning, which can be a pretty crazy time of day. Hunter wakes up at 5:30 and then there is the whole getting-ready routine. If I can get out of the house early enough, I try to squeeze some writing time in before work. A lot of days this doesn't happen, though. Often I'm left with maybe only ten minutes, and I dismiss it as not being enough time. Or I decide to devote myself to other matters. There is always something else. More often, I end up with time to write later in the day, but I don't even try, because I think I can't gather my thoughts well enough to make it worthwhile.

I can do it, though. I just have to remind myself why. One of my most deeply ingrained habits is walking every day. Throughout college, I walked or biked to campus and work every day, and since starting my current job over six years ago, I've walked at least twice a day, with fifteen minutes at lunch and fifteen minutes before or after work. To make this happen, I've had to arm myself with certain things: tall, fur-lined snow boots; a heavy down coat for those awfully chilly below-zero days; quality gloves, hat and scarf; an audiobook to listen to because it helps me zone out from the sometimes terrible weather. On top of this, I remind myself why I should walk. Being outdoors and breathing in fresh air energizes me and clears my head. It brings more inspiration to my work. The extra blood flow revives me in the middle of the day. It's good modeling for my son. And of course, health reasons. .

Making a deliberate choice to do something every day (or every week, or however you slice it) can be extremely difficult, especially when it requires managing your time in a certain way. Every day. Forever. It's an intimidating thought. That's the way I viewed parenting before I actually became a parent. I always knew I wanted to have children, but when the time to start saying "When?" rolled around, I wasn't quite sure when the right "when?" was. I was enjoying the carefree life my husband and I had, and wasn't so sure I would like to give it up. The other couples in our small group were trying, so we began thinking about it more. Was now the time to decide that we were going to try to add someone to our family, someone who would need us every day, forever and ever?  My husband and I took a favored approach to decision-avoidance: Let's just see what happens! And we promptly got pregnant. Cue the surprise. But at least I didn't have to make the decision. It was made for me.

So many new habits have been formed because I forced my own hand into parenthood: rising early, managing time super-efficiently, spending less money on non-essentials. This doesn't seem to be something I can do with writing, though. I have to make the choice every day, the same way I do with walking.  Writing isn't going to wake me up in the morning with its cries or tug on my leg in the evenings. It doesn't snuggle up to me with a book, squeal with laughter, or blow me kisses. I have to choose writing, and then take action.

Hopefully, as I continue reading Rubin's book, I will find more answers about making my habit stick. For now, though, I will just have to remember to tell myself why it needs to happen...and then make it happen.

What habits do you struggle to begin? What have you found helps you?

Six Free Printables: Let's Do Life Together

printablesLindsyComment

I have been part of a fabulous small group for the last two and a half years. Boy, do I love these people. Through church events and friends, somehow we four couples came together to form a family. We were all about the same age, same life stage, and had similar worldviews and interests (It is important, for instance, to know that your fellow small groupers would be cool with having wine or beer at a meeting). So in the fall of 2012, when we all started heading down this road of groupdom, it was often said that we were "doing life together." This was pretty meaningful for Husband and myself. We moved to Chicagoland after finishing our degrees and had a pretty flimsy support network. No family and just a handful of friends who lived in Chicago proper, so we saw them maybe once a month. Finally, after four years, we had found our people, our family. It was time to do life together.

Our small group took this to heart. We shared our life stories, we went out dancing, we celebrated birthdays. And then...we all got pregnant. By some miracle of timing, we all had babies within five months of each other. It is hard for me to imagine what life would have been like these last couple of years if I hadn't been going through it all with my friends. Us ladies have sent so many group texts about pregnancy blahs, postpartum pain, and motherhood that we could probably compile it all into a book (although I am quite sure we wouldn't want to).

Still, life got in the way. Parenthood changes a lot of things, and our group felt this times four. The last year or so saw a big shift in our focus (kids! sleep!), and only recently have we all started to come back to a place where we can say we're all in. Some of this is because our babies are getting older, and some because we are feeling able and ready for more. We got a big dose of inspiration a couple of months ago, as our church was studying the early church, the Acts 2 church. There was a call to emulate the values and actions of this group of people, and the pastor shouted, "Let's do life together!"

In this spirit, I made a set of printables featuring this phrase. I hope it acts as a reminder for me, and for others as well. It can also be interpreted as a motto for your family, or you and your partner. Whatever the case, choose your flavor below, as I've made two deigns and different colorways for each. The PDF prints out as an 8x10.

 

The Writers of Parenthood Let Me Down

LindsyComment

I recently watched the penultimate episode of

Parenthood

, which ended its fabulous six-season run just a few weeks ago. This show has been a bright spot in my evenings over the last several months. I discovered its existence in September and my husband and I blazed through all six seasons just in time for the series end.

This last bit of the show was highly emotional. (

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

) Amber delivered her baby, an event that she had been scared about as a young single mother. But as Zeek and Camille stepped into the hospital room to see their first great-grandchid, Amber was sitting up on the edge of bed, happily bouncing her son and rocking side to side. Cue the record scratch. My husband, bless him, actually caught the absurdity of this. "What? She wouldn't be able to sit up like that!' I don't know. Maybe she would. At twenty one years old, youth is in her favor, but it still strikes me as unlikely. I certainly couldn't sit up without support right after giving birth, and I didn't have an epidural. My abdominal muscles were just exhausted, and ohmygoodness, everything hurt.

Something I have enjoyed immensely about Parenthood is that it touches on the reality of parenthood and family life in a way many shows do not. It is overly dramatic, yes. In almost every episode there is an overreaction of some sort, or an easily avoidable miscommunication. It's a tv show, so I will excuse that in the name of entertainment. But what I'm talking about are the things I've never seen on any other show, like when Kristina is preparing to go an important party while her daughter is still a newborn. She has trouble finding something to wear because she is breastfeeding and her dresses are not up to task of covering her ample cleavage. As this is happening, she talks about how she doesn't even really want to go, because she is tired and she will have to pump and she will miss her baby. To top off the evening, she is finally starting to enjoy herself at the party when she realizes that she has started leaking milk onto her dress. I have been there; I'm sure many of us have. Those are the kinds of moments that show truth and deserve admiration.

One thing that has always bothered me about this show, though, is how it depicts childbirth. Including Amber's seene, there have been four labor and delivery episodes on the show. With every single one, I hoped that one of them would break the standard tv/movie method of portraying this event. Which is to say, I hoped that at least one of them would show the mother beginning to feel contractions without immediately rushing to the hospital. The veil on this major life event has been lifted mightily since the early days of television. I would venture to say that most adults know that a woman does not need to rush to the hospital upon feeling those first contractions, that she (and her partner, if there is one) are actually encouraged to time the contractions and make their way to the hospital when the contractions have been five minutes apart for about an hour. This, of course, depends on many factors, like how far away you live from the hospital, if your water has broken, or other issues that indicate you might want to hustle over there. But I think at least one in four of these ladies could have staged a more true-to-life birth. In fact, I think it should have been Amber. Here's why:

  • Amber had two false alarms before her actual labor. Since she had already rushed to the hospital on two previous occasions, it would have made a nice juxtaposition to see her having a slower-paced labor.
  • There was a big emphasis on Amber's relationship with her mother, Sarah, throughout this story. She was relying on her mother to help her since the father was not in the picture. Instead of having Sarah pick Amber up in the middle of the night and take her to the hospital immediately, why not have Sarah come over in the middle of the night and coach Amber through her contractions? A 20-second montage of this (pacing, crying, breathing deeply) set to emotional music and capped with them arriving at the hospital and the subsequent pushing (which they did show). I think that would have been a great way to honor their relationship without boring the audience.
  • They owed it to their viewers to depict a realistic labor and delivery, and Amber was their last chance. Why not take a step back and say, hey, let's break some ground here and make this one different. (And by different, I mean like the majority of the population.)

I will miss this show. I will miss its moments of truth amid the drama. But I do wish it had not downplayed this particular area of life. I expected more from a show that seemed so real.

What are some ways this show touched your life? Are there other shows that portray parenthood in a way that seems very true (or very false)? I'd like to hear other's thoughts.