11.09.2014

The End of Maternity Leave

Tomorrow will be a very difficult day.  It's my first day back to work since my son was born.

Before I go on, I'd like to acknowledge that "very difficult" is completely relative.  I'm fortunate to have a job, and fortunate that the most difficult thing I can think of right now is leaving my two children in the loving care of their paternity-leave-blessed-father while I return to a job outside the home that I don't hate.  I know that to some, this sadness will seem indulgent.  I realize there are many who are searching desperately for a job, and many who may have a job, but no reliable childcare.  Through those filters, I can see that I should only feel grateful.  But right now, in my un-filtered perspective, I feel sad.

I've been through this before, when I had to go back to work after my daughter was born.  It was terrible then and it's terrible now.  I know that moms need little breaks away and time to themselves.  But that's different from going back to work, outside of the home, after a new little baby is born.  He's nearly 13 weeks old, and I've never been away from him for more than 2 hours.  And I've only been away from him for 2 hours once, when my cousin babysat the kids while P and I went out for a speed date, literally down the street.

I'm fortunate that my husband gets 12 weeks of paternity leave.  I know he loves both A & E.  I know he is a great dad.  He's a better dad than lots of dads.  He's engaged, very loving, very playful.  He cooks, he cleans (yes, really!).

But I also worry that he doesn't get just how much work it is to be home with two kids.  I realize part of this feeling may be coming from a place of feeling unappreciated for the work I've been doing.  But a lot of it is genuine concern that he will be overwhelmed.  I have been repeating over and over to him how important it is that E get closely supervised tummy time, stick to his nap schedule, etc.  He's reassured me many times that all will be well, but I still just worry.  It's a lesson for me in letting go of control.  But the thing is, I'm not good at letting go of control, and I'm especially bad when it's about something like my kids' day to day lives.

Then there's the terrible feeling of sadness just because I'm away from my babies, no matter who they are with.  I want to be with them.  I want them to be with me.  I don't want them to be with someone else, no matter how competent and capable they are, no matter whether it's their own father.  And this probably is also a major reason that I am "worried" about them home with daddy.  It's more that I want them to be with me instead.  It's a terrible guilt feeling, really.  Not guilty like I will get caught by the mommy police.  Guilty like I feel I am doing them a disservice by not being with them.

Let me be clearer.  Our family's financial situation requires that I work outside the home.  In addition, I do get a lot of great things from my job.  I use my brain in ways that I don't use it while I'm home with my babies.  (I also will point out here that when I am home with my babies, I use my brain in amazing ways that I don't use it while I am at work outside the home.)  I have great work relationships that are very fulfilling.  I enjoy my job.  I am excited by the possibility of growth in my career.  I am proud that I am able to contribute to the financial well being of my family.  All of these things are great.  I am grateful for my job, my career, my opportunities.

But I love my babies.  It's more than a catch 22, more than a double edged sword.  It's nearly unexplainable.  It's so unique for each mother that I almost don't even want to attempt to explain it.  Sometimes I'm happy, sometimes I'm sad.  Sometimes I think I'm sad, but I'm happy and sometimes I think I'm happy, but I'm sad.

I don't know how much (if any) of it is fueled by feelings of external expectations.  How much of it is fueled by the expectation that I should want to be "fulfilled outside the home"?  How much is fueled by the expectation that I should want to be home with my babies?  Sometimes I feel that none of these feelings are from external expectations and sometimes I feel that most of them are.

What I know is that I enjoy being with my children.  I enjoy spending my day-to-day with them.  I like that they will have memories of everyday, mundane activities with me.

What I know is that it is extremely difficult, and emotionally and physically taxing, to be home with them.  And I rarely feel that others acknowledge how difficult it is.  People say, "Oh yeah, that's hard!" but do they realize that it really is?  It's so much constant work that part of me is looking forward to the break that I'll get by going back to a rather demanding job.

What I know is that is is incredibly rewarding and wonderful to be with my children.

The point is not really whether I feel sad, happy, depressed, anxious, excited, energized or even confused.  The point is that I feel all of these things.

I know there's a perpetual debate about who is the better mom: the stay at home mom or the work outside the home mom.  That debate sometimes trickles into outright war territory.  But as I prepare to go back to work tomorrow and I prepare to learn again to navigate my own path, I have hope that all moms can find support in each other.  I hope that all moms can acknowledge, even if they themselves don't have mixed feelings about their particular choice (or lack thereof), that other moms are doing their best for their children, too.  Sometimes that includes doing things that we don't necessarily want to do, whether it's staying home when we really want to be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies or going to work outside the home when we really want to be home with our children.

I've been struggling to narrow the scope of this blog, and I think that I've finally figured it out.  I'm trying to figure out how to be the best mom that I can be.  For me, it's by being the healthiest mom I can be.  Not just physically, but mentally as well.  It starts with making the absolute best of whatever we have.  I'll continue to blog about our home (making it the homey-ist I can), our DIY projects (making the best of our resources for our home), our diet (making the best of food), our money (making the best of our finances) and our journey as a family (making the best of our time together).  I'll also be adding posts about how I personally am balancing my roles, as well as how I'm creating a healthy work-life balance.  It's all tied together.  And who knows... maybe one day I'll be writing a post about how wonderful it is that I've found a way to be able to spend the majority of my time with my children!  One can hope!

So, today is the last day of my maternity leave, and tomorrow begins the balancing act again.  I hope that by documenting it all here, I will gain a little more insight into our own lives.  And maybe I'll start to better appreciate for myself just how much work it really is to be a real mom.

Have you struggled with these feelings?  Any advice?  Leave it in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna

Whole 30 (but not really) - days 7, 8 and 9

Well, it's gone fairly well!

I haven't noticed anything super dramatic as far as mood or energy.  I have a little bit more energy, but nothing out of this world amazing.  The most surprising thing so far is that I actually do like the food.  We definitely do not feel like we are on a "diet," and this is absolutely a lifestyle that we can adopt.  So that's good, I guess.

I do with that I had gotten my blood work done to start with so that I could see whether there were any dramatic changes in that area.

Here's our food for the last few days:

Day 7 (Friday)

Breakfast
Sausage, eggs, bell pepper

Lunch
Tuna (bell peppers, salt, avocado, olive, dill pickles), over Romaine lettuce, some olives on the side

Dinner
Crockpot chicken, roasted veggies

Day 8 (Saturday)

Breakfast
Sweet potatoes, over medium eggs, sausage (so so so yummy!!)

Lunch
Crockpot chicken, left over mashed sweet potatoes

Dinner
Sausage and roasted butternut squash, avocado (not the best dinner, wasn't even that filling or yummy)

Day 9 (Sunday)

Breakfast
Over medium eggs, sausage

Lunch
Tuna (bell peppers, salt, avocado, olive, dill pickles), over lettuce, some olives on the side

Dinner
Home made carnitas, bell pepper strips, left over mashed sweet potatoes, a little guacamole

Tomorrow, I go back to work (more on that in a separate post).  I've already made my lunch and will have to work very hard to resist temptations.  At least while I'm home, I can avoid putting myself in tempting positions.  That and I can snap at someone (like my sister) if they offer me something I'm not wanting to eat because of the plan we're on (like delicious snack sized Kit Kats).  At work, I have to stay nice and polite and civil AND refuse the yummy snack.  Might be difficult.

But I have to remember that Friday is just around the corner, and we'll be in Disneyland, and I'll be testing my willpower in not-so-strict circumstances.  :)

TTFN,
Alanna

11.06.2014

Whole 30 (not really) - Days 4, 5 & 6

Day 4 wasn't bad, Day 5 wasn't terrible either.  I still haven't had any unbearable cravings.  But I also know that this is only for 2 weeks, so maybe that's why?

In the It Starts With Food book, they talk about some foods that are technically allowed during the Whole30, but that they suggest avoiding because the foods trigger emotionally unhealthy responses.  Well, I found some of those foods for myself.

As we were walking through Costco, I came across their dried fruit aisle.  My downfall.  I checked the labels and only bought the fruits that didn't have added sugar.  We bought some dried granny smith apples (yum, seriously) and some dried mango (OMG yum).  While our daughter loves these snack and they are healthy alternatives (compared to what she might otherwise eat), these are not good Whole30 snacks for our house.  Specifically, they are not good Whole30 snacks for the mom in our house because I cannot control myself and eat way too much of it.  So, note to self that I will not be purchasing these in the future OR if I do purchase them, I will remind myself they are not approved for my Whole30.

Now for the foods:

Day 4

Breakfast

Sausage, eggs, bell peppers, avocado

Lunch

Tuna (tuna, avocado, olives, onions, pickles, bell pepper) on lettuce

Dinner

Tacos!  (without the best parts: no tortillas, no cheese, no sour cream) Ground beef, seasoning, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, bell peppers

Snack

Mangoes, dried apples


Day 5

Breakfast

Sausage, eggs, bell peppers, avocado

Lunch

Left over tacos: ground beef, lettuce, salsa, guacamole, bell peppers

Dinner

Turkey meatballs (homemade) and oven roasted veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes; Patrick had some broccoli)

Snack

Mangoes, dried apples

Day 6

Breakfast

Sausage, eggs, bell peppers, avocado

Lunch

Left over turkey meatballs, guacamole, veggies

Dinner

Baked chicken (olive oil, salt, seasoning, lime); mashed sweet potatoes (ghee and salt)

Snack

Mangoes, dried apples  (MUST STOP!!)

So tomorrow is Day 7.  I feel really proud of ourselves for getting as far as we have without any slips or cheating.  Yay, us!  (But I would really like a mud pie, some creme brulee and perhaps a mojito-- or two.)

TTFN,
Alanna

11.03.2014

Whole 30 (but not really) - Day 3

We still haven't hit the wall of wanting to physically harm everything around us.  So far, this has been pretty handleable.  I had worse cravings today, but nothing terribly difficult.  I really want some Halloween candy and a coke Icee.

I will say that if I didn't have Patrick doing this with me, it would be quite a bit more difficult.  The fact that he's doing it (and doing so so well!) is really encouraging for me.

Now today's food!

Breakfast

Eggs, chicken apple sausage, bell peppers

Lunch

Tuna salad (tuna, avocado, French's mustard, pickles, sliced olives, bell peppers, almonds) on romaine lettuce, grapes

Snacks (overdid the snacks today, so will have to work a bit harder tomorrow)

Banana, raspberries, grapes, almonds

Dinner

Crock pot chuck roast with onions and carrots, grapes

The dinner wasn't that big of a hit.  It tasted good, but not great.  We won't be making it again.

Overall, I'm feeling a bit better than I felt before.  My skin inflammation on my shoulders has gotten a tiny bit better.  My skin seems nicer.  I haven't noticed any major spikes in energy, but those could be around the corner.  We'll see!

TTFN,
Alanna

11.02.2014

Whole30 (but not really) - Day 2

Today wasn't much more difficult than yesterday, but I did think a lot more about the foods that I wish I could be eating (youu whooo, Halloween candy!).  I'd like to eat some Oreos or a Snickers, but I am not going to cheat.  I'm only doing the 14 days, like I've said multiple times, so I have to be able to do it.

As I write this, I do have a bit of a headache, which may be from the lack of sugar, but I can't say for sure.

I've nearly finished It All Starts with Food.  I like it.  It's helpful and does explain the reasoning behind the rules for the Whole30.

Here was today's menu:

Breakfast

Scrambled eggs with Aidells sausage (chicken apple), orange bell pepper (hey... if it ain't broke...)

Lunch

Leftovers from last night's dinner (chicken) with cut up raw orange bell pepper

Snack

Now, I'm not supposed to be snacking, but I am feeling a little hungry between meals.  Hopefully it goes away.  The book says that means I need to add a little bit more fat to the meals.  I'll try that tomorrow.  At any rate, my snacks: handful almonds, few black olives, 1/4 apple with some almond butter.

Dinner

Leftover chicken from last night, roasted veggies (sweet potato and brussels sprouts)


I feel pretty good.  Some of that is probably from eating well and some of it is from being proud that I've been able to stick to this.  I know it's only 2 days so far, but I'll take any little victory I can get!

TTFN,
Alanna

11.01.2014

Whole30 (but not really) - Day 1

This blog is meant to be where I document various aspects of our lives: parenting our awesome kids, home-ifying (you know, making a house a home) our house, the balance between being a full-time work outside the home mom and being a Mom.  Basically, where I document what I'm doing to make my life the best it can be.

In that spirit, I decided to revisit the Paleo lifestyle.  I lived the Paleo lifestyle, or a version of it, over 5 years ago and felt great.  I had energy, my weight loss was seriously effortless, I felt great.  But then I fell back in to old patterns and habits, and I'm back to square one.  Well, square something, at least.  I also have since had two kids, and the pregnancies left some stuff behind.  (Very minimal stuff, though.  Most of it is not pregnancy related.  That's just a cop out for me, I guess.)  

We decided we would get back into the Paleo lifestyle, starting with a Whole30.   Go to the Whole30 website to get all of the details, but the main idea is a solid 30 days of eating cleanly, no grains, no rice.  Eat vegetables, high quality meats and some fruit.  No cheating, no slip-ups, no cheat days, no excuses.  For 30 days.

I know myself fairly well.  I would not be able to do this through Thanksgiving.  Or Christmas.  That's just setting myself up for failure.  But we want to do it.  So we decided we'd start our 30 days on January 2.  That gives us the best chance for success.

In November, Patrick will run a race in Disneyland.  We will also probably see some of our friends while we're down there.  I know that for me, the 30 days can't overlap with that trip, either.  I won't succeed.  So we're doing a Whole14 until then.  (There are varying opinions on a shortened Whole30.  I don't really care about the opinion that it shouldn't be done unless you're doing it full throttle.  I get it, but I don't care.  I'm doing it this way for now and will ultimately do a Whole30 later on.)

All of that to say that today was Day 1 for us.  It went well, and I feel pretty energized for the rest of these 2 weeks.  Here's what we ate and how it went:

Breakfast

Two eggs, scrambled with white onion, yellow bell pepper and Aidells Chicken Apple Sausage, black coffee.

Lunch

Avocado tuna: 1 avocado, partially scooped out.  Use the scooped out avocado as the fat in your tuna salad, which is one can of tuna, the avocado, orange bell peppers, white onion, some salt and pepper and some black olive.  Prepare the tuna and scoop back into the remaining avocado.  Eat from the avocado.  Yummy.

Snack

Dry roasted almonds, black olives

Dinner

A variation on the Balsamic Chicken recipe found here.  We used stewed tomatoes instead of diced and used Avocado oil instead of EVOO.  It turned out great, but it was a different dish.  We'll try it again as the real recipe.  Our toddler loved the chicken recipe.  (She'll be eating the same things we eat during this two weeks, as always, but we also will supplement her meals with grains as appropriate.  Though, in reality, she tends to eat the Paleo way on her own: eating just the chicken from her tacos and just the meat from her sandwiches!)

Roasted carrots and sweet potato.  This was a huge hit!

As far as the feelings of today: I wanted to cheat, and so did Patrick.  But we didn't cheat.  And you can only imagine how difficult this was with some Halloween candy staring at us.  (We had a few pieces of Halloween candy on the counter this morning, left over from last night.  We hid it away before the end of the day so we wouldn't be tempted.  Other than that, we followed the advice to rid the pantry of tempting foods.  We sent all of the yummy food from last night's party home with our guests.  :(  )

Even though I wanted to cheat, I didn't feel like I was depriving myself of anything today, really.  I mean, I would have normally eaten a TON of candy, and I didn't do that, so I was holding myself back.  But I didn't feel miserable and I didn't feel like it was deprivation.  It felt more like exerting control.  But apparently, according to the timeline, this feeling won't last.

No headaches.  No super strong cravings.  Overall, a good experience and good day today.

Oh!  We did take before pictures and we did weigh ourselves.  Considering that the pictures are in our underwear so that we can really see our bodies, those pictures won't be posted here.  And considering that 10 years in, I still haven't ever told Patrick my weight, that won't be posted here, either.  But for documenting purposes, I'll say I weigh X.  Then if I lose any, for example, 10 pounds, it will be X-10.  If I gain (what?!), it will be X+10.

Just so I don't get called out by the Whole30 community, I want to be sure to point out the following:
  • I'm not really doing the Whole30 since I'm not committing to 30 days.  I get it.
  • I also should be sleeping more.
  • I am reading It Starts with Food, which I purchased through Amazon.
Have you done a Whole30 yet?  Did you like it?  How'd you feel?  Any tips?  Please leave them in the comments!

TTFN,
Alanna