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Family, Simplify

There is nothing simple about being pregnant while raising a toddler

I have met my match. Try as I might to keep our family life simple and under control, my lack of energy often goes head-to-head with my 3-year-old daughter’s willpower. And she is a good kid. I just don’t have much energy these days.

There is nothing simple about being pregnant while raising a toddler or preschooler. There just isn’t.

And with a high risk pregnancy I have to take it easy in addition to dealing with my malaise. Of course, my daughter takes full advantage of my weakened state. I try to maintain boundaries, and sometimes I succeed, but often I do not.

Honestly, I am just plain worn out at the end of each and every day.

It doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mama, it’s a lot to handle.

When you are pregnant with your second (or any child after that, I’m sure) you realize how good you had it when you were pregnant with your first. You had time for naps. Glorious naps.

Your older child doesn’t care if you sleep. Ever.

So right now is all about survival.

It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it in the end. 🙂

Family, Fitness

The Skinny on Prenatal Yoga

What should you know before attending a prenatal yoga class?

Even if you have never taken a yoga class before, when pregnant you should consider taking prenatal yoga. I am sharing my experience so you have an idea of what a prenatal class may include. Classes and instructors vary, so always let the instructor know that you are a new student and share any physical limitations before class.

I was restricted from engaging in any kind of physical activity during my first pregnancy, including yoga. This time my doctor allowed me to start taking prenatal yoga (with modifications) at 5 months pregnant. I was ecstatic and immediately began researching classes. Luckily I found a popular class right here in my neighborhood and enrolled right away.

What was the class like?

At least 20 other participants at various stages of pregnancy lined the room before each class. We started our practice by introducing ourselves, sharing our due date, what we were expecting a boy/girl/surprise, and at what hospital we planned to deliver.

The instructor was very warm and interested in building community between the pregnant mamas. The community aspect is really important since we were often talking about how the various yoga poses would prepare us for labor. It was serious girl talk, and you want to make sure that you are among friends when talking about such fun topics as squatting through labor and how to encourage your pelvis to open.

It is the community and friendships that seem to bring people back even more than the yoga practice itself.

During class we engaged in vinyasa flow, connecting breath to movement. The flows were modified to meet our prenatal needs, but flow we did, and our entire group was very intent on making sure we could master the breath before labor.

I found the flow similar to other yoga classes I had taken in the past and barely missed the poses that we avoided (more about poses to avoid below). We always started our class standing, moved to sitting and eventually ended the class in a side lying final relaxation.

I was the only one in the room who used yoga blocks, which surprised me. Rows of yoga blocks were stacked against the wall but the instructor didn’t mention using them, so people didn’t. In my third trimester I found poses like triangle and side angle so much easier with a block. Looking around the room I noticed many participants out of alignment in these same poses, forced to lean forward in their changing bodies. They would have received a much greater benefit if they would have used a block and stacked their joints, allowing for elongation and opening.

Honestly, if you plan to take prenatal yoga and the facility doesn’t offer yoga straps and blocks, then I highly recommend you bring your own. Your center of gravity changes throughout pregnancy and you will be glad you have them to maintain alignment. You can buy a yoga strap and block at stores like Target to Walmart or order them from Amazon.

Prenatal Class Exclusives

During our prenatal class the sense of community was so great that our instructor had us chanting at the end of class. And not just typical yoga chanting. We chanted for our friends in class who were at or past their due date. Specifically, we chanted for their cervix to open.

Yes, seriously.

And it was awesome.

There is nothing like 20 pregnant mamas chanting, “Open Susie’s cervix” 5 times while the entire class is settled in a very deep squat.

The families watching their children’s ballet class next door must wonder what is going on as they hear the chanting through the wall. The idea of their bewildered expressions while we chant makes me smile.

The particular chant mentioned above might be the brainchild of the teacher who leads this particular yoga class. In other words, you can’t expect cervix chanting in a prenatal yoga class because these results may not be typical. 🙂

Ultimately, what is the benefit of taking a prenatal yoga class?

Yoga is a great way to stretch, but it is really about the community of women in the room with you. In what other fitness class can you joke about cervix dilation, your changing body and the other aspects of labor and pregnancy without having to weigh your words?

If you are pregnant, it’s worth a try if you have clearance from your physician.

The Skinny on Prenatal Yoga for Pinterest

What yoga poses and exercises should you avoid during pregnancy?

Many of the poses you should avoid in the second and third trimesters include:

  • lying on your back (nope, not even happy baby pose)
  • inversions (no headstands, shoulderstands)
  • lying on your belly
  • deep back bends (no wheel)
  • deep forward folds
  • deep twists
  • hot yoga
  • any pose that doesn’t feel right

Forward folds, twists and other poses that become difficult may be modified as possible.

Family, Simplify

The challenges of simple living when you run a brick-and-mortar business

I daydream that my husband and I own a business that allows us to work from home, or better yet, from any location we want.

Yet my husband runs his family business, so that is not the case. And there is nothing simple about running a brick-and-mortar small business.

When employees don’t show up, then guess who must step in? Yep, we do. When a customer demands something above and beyond, they demand to talk to the owner. And guess who that is?

No one cares as much about your business as you do.

And I’ll share with you a dirty little secret kept by many small business owners.

Once you have been burned by employees or vendors, then you become smarter, and you may hold your cards closer to your chest. This means that you are less likely to let go of work that you really should allow someone else to do. But you won’t let it go because you have been taken advantage of, and you still aren’t over it.

Sigh.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but for most of us it doesn’t mean the ability to shorten our work weeks. At least not yet. Simple living when running a brick-and-mortar business

It means doing the most important work to build your business, safeguarding what you need to, and then delegating the rest.

There is an art to knowing what work you should do yourself and what to delegate to others. Sometimes it all seems too important to delegate. And that is when life really gets out of balance.

I’ll be honest. It can be frustrating sometimes.

We are learning to step away and scan the whole business system to make more strategic decisions. It is just too easy to get lost in the day-to-day details of running a business and not take the time to think of its future direction and how to be more efficient.

But if we can continue to force ourselves to look at the big picture on a regular basis, that means that we can spend more time with our family away from work.

Luckily, our home life is fairly simple.

And when you already live simply at home, it gives you breathing room when the small business isn’t quite there yet.

Family, Fitness, Health

Can I Exercise with a High Risk Pregnancy? How to deal when bed rest puts the brakes on your life

When high risk pregnancy puts the brakes on your life as you know it, including your workout routine, it can be a time of mixed emotions. So much changes so fast.

Fortunately, you are not alone and you may be able to still move your body. Here’s my story.

My Story

In 2012 at 15 weeks pregnant with my daughter, I learned that I needed an emergency procedure called a cerclage to keep my cervix from continuing to funnel open. If it wasn’t corrected quickly, I was going to lose my baby.

At the time I was teaching several fitness classes a week. I honestly didn’t understand the severity of my predicament. “Can I still sub my yoga class tonight if I just sit and talk my class through it?” I asked.

My perinatologist replied, “No, you are done. You are going to go home and lie down and come back tomorrow for the procedure. You are done teaching fitness until after your pregnancy.”

Whoa! Reality check.

Of course, my number one priority was my baby, so I called up all of the places where I taught fitness and let them know that I was on medical leave effective immediately.

I am extremely thankful to have had a perinatologist who discovered the issue in time to save my baby. I was on strict or modified bed rest for most of my pregnancy and my daughter was born at full-term.

You Are Not Alone

But I’m not going to lie. Going from being super active to bed rest was a rough transition. And if you are going through this right now, know that you are not alone. It is OK to mourn your active life even while you are thankful for modern medicine and the chance to save your baby. I was a wreck because I felt guilty for missing my workouts. It also felt so selfish. But being put on bed rest or being told to severely modify your activities means a loss in independence. I realize now that we don’t have to feel guilty for our mixed emotions. It is pregnancy after all. You are allowed to be emotional. 🙂

Can I exercise with a high risk pregnancy? How to deal when bed rest puts the brakes on your life

Now I am 29 weeks pregnant with our second daughter and have a cerclage again. But this time, rather than an emergency cerclage, I received a preventive cerclage at 13 weeks, which means that I can walk around, work at my desk and engage in most of my normal routine. I still can’t walk up and down stairs very often and am prohibited from cardio exercise. I am also not supposed to lift anything over about 10 pounds, including my 3-year-old daughter. It’s a very different experience, but what is the same is that I am no longer allowed to workout.

Workout Possibilities

For most women with high risk pregnancies, especially those of us with a cerclage or preeclampsia, any movement that will tighten our core or put excess stress on our uterus or cervix is a problem and a big no-no.

In 2012 I was itching to move because I went from being highly active to not active at all. I asked my doctor if I could try a video I found online called Bedrest Fitness. After I described its use of resistance bands to strengthen arms and legs when you are in a reclined or lying down position, she agreed. Of course, if you are on bed rest or told not to exercise during pregnancy, it is important to ask your doctor if any exercise, including bedrest fitness, is right for you.

Most of all, I have learned patience through this process. Right now, at 29 weeks pregnant, I can still engage in my daily activities, but I have no idea for how much longer. At any Dr. appointment I may learn that the stress on my cervix is too much, and back on bed rest I go. I’ve accepted this fact and have learned that I need to go with the flow. I also just finished this inspiring book, which is a great read for any Mama on bed rest.

Through my 2 pregnancy experiences so far, I have let go of my workout expectations for the good of my baby’s health. And with some research, I was eventually able to find a very modified form of exercise that was approved in my particular case.

I also continue to meditate in a modified position. It helps relieve my pregnancy anxiety. I recently started meditating again after a long hiatus, and every time I come back to it, I wonder why I ever stopped in the first place.

And so I continue to use resistance bands to workout, but rather than tightening the core, I breathe so I relax the core as I work my arms, legs and upper back. It’s the opposite of everything I learned as a fitness instructor, and it works beautifully in my particular situation.

So for all of you Mamas out there with high risk pregnancies, know that your restrictions may feel like forever now, but keep learning what you can do to stay fit. Even if your physician says all you can do is roll from one side to another, meditation and positive visualization will get you through.

Update September 2017: This month I launched a new website, Surviving Bedrest, as a place for women with high-risk pregnancies to share their journeys and help other women who come after them. It also includes resources curated by mamas for mamas. The site is still in development, but if you would like to share your experience with others, please let me know (and you don’t even have to be a writer, we can help you with that).

 

7 Tips for Simple Flights with a Toddler
Family, Travel

7 Tips for Simple Flights with a Toddler

Despite the fact that my husband and I are veteran travelers, I was still really nervous (terrified) to fly with our toddler. I put off our first family flight for quite awhile. Now after several flights of varying duration with our toddler, I have learned that you can make it through with proper planning and a bit of luck.

It is not possible to eliminate all toddler meltdowns, but you can greatly decrease the probability by following these simple tips.

#1 Do take snacks for the plane even if food will be served. I guarantee your toddler is not going to like most of the food served. And bring finger foods. Crackers and apple slices = win; spaghetti and meatballs = humiliating mess.

#2 Don’t forget their favorite snuggly stuffed animal AND blanket. Having their snuggly will help them fall sleep once the excitement of being on the plane has worn off. Some budget airlines like Southwest don’t pass out blankets anymore, and who wants a frozen tot? A familiar warm blanket is where it’s at.

#3 In addition to snacks–bring a sippy cup of their favorite drink. Does your toddler love juice and you hate it? It doesn’t matter. Bring the juice. During take off and descent, let them drink from their sippy cup to allow their ears to pop. And if it has to be juice, for the love of god, water it down. You don’t want to deal with a sugar high on an eight hour flight.

#4 While waiting for the plane, walk around the airport with your toddler. And I mean walk with them, don’t push them in the stroller. Let them walk and run all of their wiggles out before getting on the plane.7 TIps for Simple Flights with a Toddler

#5 Bring a few activities for them to do on the plane. This means quiet and portable activities. Coloring book and crayons if they can color on paper without defacing the plane itself. Those triangle shaped crayons are amazing because they don’t roll away–perfect for when you are strapped in. Bring stickers or those magnetic sticker books (my daughter’s favorite) for at least an hour of entertainment for kids who are beyond the put-everything-in-my-mouth stage.

#6 Do NOT be afraid to change your toddler on the plane. If your toddler is still in diapers, then you may have to change a dirty diaper in an excruciatingly tiny bathroom. Believe it or not, not all airport bathrooms have changing tables. It is a good practice to ask the flight attendants about the changing table situation when you board the flight so you know the go-to bathroom in a pinch.

#7 Relax. Your toddler will scream. He will stare at the passengers behind you while licking his lips because he wants some of the candy they are eating. She will slither down to the ground and try to crawl under the seats. Know that other kids have done the same and that the other passengers will live to see another day. If an embarrassing moment happens, apologize, redirect your toddler, and continue to count down the number of seconds until the plane lands.

These are some of the tricks that we have used with our toddler to make air travel somewhat pleasant. It’s not rocket science, but it pays to be prepared.

I’m still working on being a relaxed traveling parent. I chant the #7 tip to myself over and over as we prepare to board an airplane as a family. “Relax, relax, relax. My job is to minimize collateral damage for the other passengers, not completely eliminate it. Relax, relax, relax.”

It usually works.

Here is to a successful flight with your little ones.

Do you have any tips for simple travel with a toddler?

Family, Simplify

Minimalism for Family Members

What do you do when you have embraced minimalism and the people who live with you are reluctant to do so? What can you do to motivate your loved ones or roommates to get on board? Is that even possible?

Our Story

I have been obsessed with simplifying for years. In 2009 I tried The Compact for a year and did not buy anything new with only a few exceptions. My husband has been supportive of my efforts, though he hasn’t completely embraced them. He already deplored shopping, and when I announced that I was going to buy nothing new for a year, he thought it was a great idea. When I invited him to join my experiment, he looked at me and said, “I already do that. You are joining me.”

I got a little miffed because he had the luxury of not buying clothes and other “stuff” because I did the shopping for him. He is also the kind of person who has a hard time letting go of stuff he has acquired even when he no longer needs it. I thought that he would cry uncle in the middle of my Compact year and realize how much I took care of him. He did not. Instead my husband went happily about his business, and if he went shopping for anything besides groceries, I never knew about it.

Simplifying Can Be a Solo Journey

So my journey toward a simpler life has been mine alone. As a couple we value experiences over things and we usually think hard about most purchases before adding anything to our home.

But when it comes to decluttering and purging old items that we just don’t use anymore, I am on my own. My hubby has had no interest in constantly culling through his closet or papers to get rid of what he no longer uses.

So I have worked hard to respect his space and things, working on my own clutter, trying to reduce what I have while leaving his stuff alone. All in all, it has worked pretty well. He doesn’t have a lot of stuff, but his organizational methods are a bit scattered, and it doesn’t bother him one bit.

His way of doing things has helped me work on my patience. I realize that our living space is not mine alone and I can only live by example. Right now I am reducing all of my papers. Granted, my papers have been hidden in file cabinets, but why do we even need them? If I scan most of my documents, then we can donate my file cabinets and make more space, which will make me happy.

minimalism-for-family-members“New” Ideas to Simplify from the Outside

A couple of weeks ago my hubby came to me very excited and said, “I just learned this new way of figuring out what clothes you actually use. You just turn the hangers around backwards, and then as you use clothes from the hangers, you flip them back around. After 3-6 months, you figure out which clothes you actually use by which hangers are turned around to the normal position. I am going to do that. It totally makes sense.”

I just stared at him for a moment before asking, “When did you learn this?” He looked at me and answered, “I don’t know, recently on some podcast…I think. Isn’t it great?”

“Yes, it is great.” I replied slowly. When I first started reducing my clothing I employed that exact method. In fact, I reversed my hangers a couple of different times. I talked to him about how great it was and how surprised I was by how many clothes I didn’t actually wear. I think he was listening. I’m sure he nodded or said “uh-huh.” But memory being what it is, he forgot. Likely, right after I told him.

When he heard the same advice from another credible source that was not his wife, he was in a different place in his life. He was ready to hear it. And most importantly, it was not being imposed on him from inside the home. It was his own idea.

And when I told him that I had mentioned the hanger reverse trick years ago, he told me that he didn’t remember, shrugged and apologized. “I really can’t wait to try it,” he said again. And I am not one to stomp on his enthusiasm for decluttering.

Why the Messenger Doesn’t Matter

I share our story to give hope to those of us committed to decluttering and simple living. You may have significant others, children or other family members who do not share your enthusiasm. That’s to be expected.

Forcing our loved ones to jump on the decluttering train does not work out well.

Living by example is a better way.

It doesn’t matter from where your loved ones learn their lessons to move toward a simpler life.

If you feel like they are never going to get on-board (and it is still important to you), see if you can find relevant information from people THEY respect for an outside perspective. Allow your loved ones to digest it on their own time.

Because if we push too hard they will resist and then resist some more.

So it’s best to stop pushing and live by example.

For now I am looking forward to seeing how many hangers are flipped back to their original positions at the end of my hubby’s hanger experiment. I might even volunteer to take the clothes he no longer wants to our local clothing closet.

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