22 September 2014

Four Months Old

Eli is four months old!

Our little guy turned four months old on Saturday, the 20th, but I waited to share this post because I wanted to get his stats from today's doctor appointment. He weighs almost exactly the same as last time, not quite 14 pounds. He is an inch longer at 23.75 inches. The pediatrician said he looked and sounded perfect and that all developmental milestones look great.

He is still in size 1 diapers and 3-6 month clothes. Thank goodness. That'd be weird if our 4 month old grew out of those in a month. His hair is starting to grow back in. He is definitely a brunette, and his eyes have stayed blue so far. Eli is a talker. He tells sad stories, exciting stories, everyday stories. He loves to talk to whoever is in the computer when we FaceTime and whoever is in the TV. He loves to chime in on whatever conversation his momma and dad are having. His language has evolved from a sweet cooing to nothing short of a dolphin squeal. He has certainly found his squeaker box and could not be more proud. The pitch level is impressive. And, he giggles. It doesn't happen that often, and he definitely makes us work for it, but it is the best! There is never a time Eli and I don't leave the house with saliva and spit up all over both of us. He gnaws on his hand like it's the most magically delicious object on the planet. He has found his feet, but his buddha belly gets in the way I think. Eli is an ambi-turner! He rolls over to both sides now. He hasn't rolled from his back to the front yet, but he is making moves in that direction. His thing now is learning how to reach and play with toys during tummy time. He is trying really hard to sit up, but this activity has to be supervised. He has done a sit-up from lounge position to face-plant position on the couch. Lesson learned. He loves playing in his exersaucer- another priceless hand-me-down. It is a toy with a round tray surrounding a seat. It allows him to "stand" with 360 degrees of fun toys. Which is perfect because standing seems to be Eli's main objective most of his waking hours. And it allows momma to cook dinner. Win win! Our sweet boy has started tracking us. It doesn't take long for him to get very upset if he watches either of us walk away from him. Eli is so obsessed with his dad. He has started reaching for both of us, but when dad walks in or starts talking to him, Eli is all smiles every time. He has days of hating riding in his carseat. He can hear us but can't see us from the backseat, and that apparently drives him crazy. He is still a great sleeper. He goes through phases of waking up at night to eat, but still sleeps through most of the time. He is usually asleep anywhere from 8-10pm, and the wind-down begins about an hour earlier. It is now pretty predictable that Eli is going to let his discomfort known to all if he's not home after 7 pm. He gets a little irritable when he is sleepy--no idea where he gets that.
 (These and other factors lead us to believe that Eli has FOMO syndrome. FOMO, fear of missing out, is a non-rare condition that leaves one curious as to the events, despite the pleasantness of said events, happening with or without this person's participation. Eli seems to exhibit a high level of FOMO, especially when threatened with fatigue.) 

This month has been the most difficult and the most rewarding of the four. He naps less and is needing quite a bit more attention. There is a definite difference between our sweet boy now and the newborn we brought home. Hubs and I are making many adjustments and re-learning our roles in the midst of some pretty heavy external stressors, so we are tired...to say the least. We are just so depleted most days. But we can't get enough of this growing boy and wouldn't go back for the world!

16 September 2014

30 Day Challenge Results

The results from my self-imposed 30 day challenge aren't really what I expected. What I was hoping to gain from this challenge is not really measurable. More like an idea that my overall quality of life would be enhanced. Don't get me wrong, I still believe that implementing these habits will accomplish this. But I found that there are a few pretty profound circumstances that are contributing to this particular "rut" I am in, so to speak. I mean, feeling down or sluggish can definitely be helped by making healthy choices, but when you're bleeding, sometimes you need more than a bandaid.

Week one, I was inspired. By the end of it I was completely sore and exhausted. I expected this, but it was like being tired on top of being tired. I hit a major wall...The first week!! Hubs said he was with me and convinced me to keep going. I totally thought I just needed to muscle through, because starting a new program is going to present an obstacle. It is going to be hard.
The second week, I continued to struggle with wanting to make some changes without the energy to do so. I was exhausted and hungry all the time. Hubs said the other day that I eat like a 15-year-old boy. Oh, the joys of nursing. I was still motivated to work out, but found out quickly that if Hubs can't make it to the gym, Eli is not about to let me out of his sight. Enter: made-up baby-weight work outs. Seriously, I just hold him while doing a modified workout. It gets the job done.
Stephanie and Gentry are our workout buddies. If we can't make Crossfit or our husbands work late, we can walk/run on the bike paths around base. I mean, we kinda think the view in Alaska doesn't get much better than this.
By the time week three rolled around, the load hadn't lightened and I was super discouraged. I knew most of how I felt was that I was adjusting to these changes. But I was also coming to realize that my body and mind were not responding normally. At this point, I should be seeing a positive response, but I felt myself slipping into more stress. The changes I had committed to making were not drastic or new. But I still needed to take a step back. I definitely wanted to continue, but I started thinking through how to make things as easy as possible. I spent a couple of days during the week researching and making 20 healthy crockpot freezer meals. We are loving the convenient dinners and new recipes! I'll put up a blog post soon about how I did it. 

So, for the last week, my goal was to not completely give up. I made it to CF both days (woo hoo!). I stuck to our dinner menus, but didn't feel a lick of guilt about not eating clean otherwise. I opened up about the funk I have been in with a couple of supportive friends, which is therapeutic in itself. And I ordered essential oils.

[ Let me just detour for a second to tell you about these essential oils. (1) Not too long ago, I had two cysts come up underneath both of my arms that resulted in a very unpleasant out-patient procedure at the hospital with a very unpleasant two-week recovery time. Another cyst was starting to develop. Hubs and I were considering the best time to set up another procedure. I called my friend who has replaced most of her medicine cabinet with essential oils, hoping to borrow an oil that could combat this specific type of cyst. I applied it twice a day for two days, and it was gone. (2) She also gave me a couple of samples: one for mood and one for hormones, both supposedly helpful for postpartum blues. Three days later, Hubs told me that he could see a significant difference in me. The only thing I had done differently was use the oils. ]

You know, I used to be an "all or nothing" kind of gal when it came to making certain decisions…like a 30-day revamp of all things health with a 3- to 4-month old. Some of you older wiser women are probably elbowing each other and chuckling at the new-mom learning how to cope with being a new-mom. Having an infant is hard. It just is. All by itself. But we also have several additional external stressors that are weighing heavy on us.

But now I see these things and know it's going to take more than cutting back on sugar and going to the gym twice a week to combat them. In some aspects, I feel worse off than when I started. I think sometimes, when you start digging, you start finding. I totally thought sprucing up the stuff on the surface would make dealing with other stresses easier, but it just shifted things around and showed what needs tending to first. It's just an opportunity to do things differently. I'm learning what works and what doesn't, and I'm still moving forward despite "failing" at the challenge. So, I don't feel like this project has been a total bust. I don't feel better per se, but I feel like I'm learning what I should, if that makes any sense. You know how it doesn't feel good to get a splinter out? But you know you need to go through the process of getting it out for it to feel better? That's kind of what I mean, but bigger. Maybe it's more like setting a broken bone before it can heal. What's the emotional equivalent of that?

Sometimes, the hard things reveal what's most important. It takes a deep bravery to make those things the biggest, the loudest, the greatest. It takes just as much courage to reject everything else. It requires a level of grace and support that is deeper than convenience. However, I've never lived with other things overshadowing the most important ones and not been lost. To me, it is worth the fight.

So, I didn't reach my goal of a 30-day challenge. But it did reveal what I needed to find for now I think. The boys that live this life with me? I just want to love them well. The dishes can wait. The gym can wait. Other people can wait. I'll get around to these things. First things first, you know?

What's your most important thing?

14 September 2014

Just Enough

"He uncovers mysteries hidden in darkness; he brings light to the deepest gloom.” Job 12:22

In a season of being drained and depleted, being void and vacant, with a new tiny life to lead and a new anticipation of separation, Hubs cancelled Saturday night plans, picked up dinner, and scrubbed the tub. Epsom salts, candles, cheap champagne, Lumineers Pandora, and me. He kept the bitty babe and the game on TV out of earshot so I could stop and soak. 

Not everyone gets to do this. Enjoy a warm bath or a beautiful noise. Love and be loved.
The salt in my tears met the fresh pool on my chest, and I was grateful. It was real rest. The first in four months.

The Lord is in every flicker of light, any lyric or silence, the tiniest wave of water, every shadow and sip, if I'm only still. He's in every soothing, stretching muscle, every joint and tendon. Deep to the bone. Calming my thoughts. Echoing straight to the heart of me. He's the tiniest light in the dark, a glow from the floor of the rented guest bath.

It was just enough rest to recognize the smile lines on my sweet man's eyes again. To think my baby's cry was cute again. I came downstairs, having a little to give for the first time in a long time. Those moments of not being needed, of not being taken from, was just enough. I think God pursues us in these moments so He can remind us He's there in those other ones too. He is gentle and good. I took a bath and I drowned in His grace and I was a little bit new. New enough to love again.

How reassuring that a bath can wash me clean from the day and wash me clean from such emptiness and exhaustion. Even for a moment. It wasn't a cure, but it let me start again. Things didn't change when I snuck away, but I did. Just enough. 

13 September 2014

Blueberry Muffin Egg Sandwiches

So, the other morning, I woke up starving. Between the caloric output of feeding a 3.5 month old (the physical production and riddance of baby milk calories plus those calories burned while wrangling a fifteen-pound squirmy baby shake weight), and newly-added workouts, I am hungry ALL OF THE TIME! Like, waking up in the middle of the night and eating oatmeal kind-of hungry. And those of you who know me / my fellow sleep-deprived mamas know that if I am getting my butt outta bed and taking the time to walk downstairs and make myself food, I am really, really hungry. Because sleep takes precedence over all other things. Including showering. But apparently not eating. So, now that your appetite is surely whetted... 

Another irony of this post is that I am in a currently-failing 30 day challenge of eating clean, drinking water, and working out. The 30 day challenge is almost a total bust. Except that it is showing me what healthy habits work and what doesn't in this new baby-dictated world of mine. Like for instance, a total overhaul of healthy habits in 30 days doesn't work. 

However, I am slowly making healthier choices. 
Like instead of just eating six blueberry muffins with butter to curve my carb craving, I added eggs. See? Healthy(ier).
I'm sharing this with you because not only was this weird breastfeeding craving absolutely delicious, but it was also ridiculously easy. And delicious. And easy. I'm not really down with gross and difficult recipes, so, if you're not either, I'd say this was a delicious, easy win that I thought you might wanna try. 
I was taking a mental assessment of my pantry and fridge during an early morning feeding. Ok fine. I was awoken by my sweet baby whining in his crib. And as I lie there in my soft, warm bed hoping he might drift back to dreamland, my empty tummy started talking. And I listened. So, I got up and fed little man, during which I devised a delicious plan to feed myself.

Tummy: "You know there's a pack of blueberry muffins back there." 
Me: "Mmmmmm, oh yeah! Eggs and turkey bacon would be healthier though."
Tummy: "But blueberry muffins. Just add water."
Me: "What about an egg sandwich? We get carbs, and I get to tell Hubs I ate eggs. Crap! We don't have bread."
Tummy: "HELLO…blueberry muffins. Just put it in them."
Me: "Gross! Wait. …. sweet gracious, you're a genius."
They were every bit as delightful as they appear. I bought more blueberry muffins mixes at the commissary the next day. 
But the whole wheat kind. See? Healthy(ier).
I stopped stuffing my face long enough to send a picture text to Hubs just to show off what I was eating. Then I sent one to a friend too. I simply could not sit alone and devour such a treat and not tell someone. Or two someones. So, when Hubs got home for lunch (he gets to come home for breakfast AND lunch and it's the greatest), I had muffins and eggs left to share. (I know, right?! Quick, someone fist bump me for not eating every crumb.) Instead of bacon, he topped his off with last night's left over beef roast. (I never really had super strange preggo cravings. Conversely, Hubs concocted a cold chicken breast, slathered with peanut butter, and topped with a pickle one time. Seriously, he is the most handsome weirdo.) At least maybe a couple of you might be comforted that you have substitution options here.
Anyways, this was delicious. And easy. Here's how:

Serves: Two 
Disclaimer: the "two" is representative of Hubs and me and might not equal "two" of you and yours. It might serve three of you. Or two adults and two littles. If you have the self-control of a tabitian monk and would only partake of a single one of these babies, gather a flock of five other monk-like friends to meditate on these flavors with you. Or, if you can put away some food, like Hubs and I can, you will be finished eating this six sandwich fare, and long for more. But if we're being honest, I could eat all six in one sitting. Serves: One.

What You Need
1 12-hole muffin tin
1 package of blueberry muffins (makes 6)
5 eggs
6 slices of bacon, cut in half (I used turkey bacon)

What You Do
Grease all 12 muffin tins. Mix muffin mix as directed and scoop into six of the tins. In a bowl, beat five eggs and then use a measuring cup to scoop equal(ish) amount of egg into the remaining six tins. (I realized this was the best technique after the fact, so I don't know…maybe a 1/4 C cup would do the trick?) I baked as directed for the longest suggested time on the muffin mix package. So, 22(ish) minutes at 375 degrees for a dark, non-stick pan. 

Once that is in the oven, fry up your bacon. Just sizzle in a pan on medium to medium-high heat, flipping as needed. I pre-cut the slices in half so that they would be sandwich-size when done. And it's sooo much easier to flip while cooking. So, six slices yielded 2 half-slices per sandwich. But, as I always say, when in doubt…MORE BACON. Ok, I don't think I've ever actually said that. But I believe it. Unless it's flimsy. Then, why bother? It's like it's half-done. Restaurants that serve flimsy bacon make me nervous because it's just poor attention to a very important detail. Like, hey restaurant, what other important details are you satisfied leaving flimsy, huh? C'mon, crisp it up a little. digest digress.

When the timer went off for the muffins and eggs, I let them linger in there a little longer until the tops of the muffins really began turning a nice golden brown. Also, the eggs will bubble up. Like, each one will be one big bubble. When you take the tin out of the oven, let it cool for a few minutes. The bubbles will flatten. You can peel the top bubble layer right off, if you so desire. Or leave it on. It's tasty either way.

Half your muffin. Layer egg and bacon in between. You know, like a sandwich. Enjoy! 

08 September 2014

Mike Comes to Visit!

Hub's dad came to visit! He was here for a week over Labor Day weekend. Mike does not have a granddad name yet. We all thought about it some, but he concluded that he's ok for now to wait until Eli can weigh in on the decision.
The first full day Mike was here, Hubs took him on a climb he'd been dying to try. I wanted him to check out the difficulty of the hike first, so Eli and I stayed back to finish some homework. They seemed to feel accomplished, but said they walked right into a cloud as they reached the top. It was cold, with no view, but they summited! We all took naps afterwards. Most everyone else has needed a day and a half to recover from the long travel time to Alaska. But Mike climbs a mountain. A week after completing a full Ironman. He is one strong granddad! 
When they got back, we had delicious steak and veggies (Hubs is a grill-master) before heading out for ice cream!
Saturday was Bama's first game of the season. Hubs and Eli dressed accordingly. 
Don't worry- this is not the only gameday-appropriate apparel hanging in Eli's closet. 
After the game we went on a beautiful hike at McHugh Trail. We know there is more exploring to do along these trails because we never made it to any of the views we had heard about. But it was still a perfect clear day and I was glad for the shade.
Hubs and I finally get to check this box on our Alaskan to-do list....we saw whales! We caught a glimpse from the view up by the trailhead, so we drove down after our hike to watch the belugas at Beluga Point. So excited for our first whale sightings! There was a whole herd of them hanging out. But before heading back to our house on Beluga Ave (not kidding), we stopped at one of our new favorite places for dinner: the Turnagain Arm Pit, a southern BBQ place off Seward Hwy. 
Eli was happy to be home after a fun-filled afternoon. He loves to show off his standing-up skills!
Sunday we went to church. Eli is starting to be way more interested in his surroundings, so sitting through a service is getting to be a bit of a challenge. He hasn't gotten the no-talking-in-church memo yet. Then the guys went hike Flattop. I didn't go on this hike either because the boys wanted to make it to the top. Apparently the last stretch is a pretty difficult climb. Hub didn't even take his favorite chiweenie hiking buddy.

Monday was Labor Day. Mike & Hubs went to Eagle River Nature Center while I stayed back to get homework done and food ready. Eli and I wanted to go this time, but we didn't make the cut. I think Hubs was making the most of all this father-son time he was getting! I also think he was starting to like trekking with someone more his speed. Eli needs to start training, because he is really slowing this train down! Jessie has clearly put in her time; you'll have to look hard in the photo of Hubs below to find that even she got to tag along. I guess they made do without their photographer.
On Tuesday, Hubs went back to work. Mike and I made a trip to the PX so he could pick out an outfit for little man. Can't go wrong with OshKosh! While we were there, we met a friend of Mike's. Mr Wallace used to fly with Mike and lived with him on a deployment. The Wallace family now lives in Anchorage, so he stole Mike for an afternoon of bike riding and frozen yogurt.
Wednesday was pretty low-key. Mike and I strapped Eli in the stroller and took a walk down to Starbucks. When Hubs got home, we went out to eat at Snow Goose and for another round of ice cream. 
Thursday came quickly. Mike made a trip to the library during our lunchtime nap, then Eli and he kept me company while I prepped food. Eli loved his conversations with his granddad. And so did I! It was a great visit of catching up and getting to know each other better. We had dinner at Olive Garden, where Eli really found his voice. He is so proud of his new (and very loud) squeaks. He does not like being left out of a good chat. We headed to the airport from there and said goodbye for now!