Maintaining Identity in Motherhood

I have always wanted to be a mom and am completely okay with that being a big part of my identity at the moment.  At the same time though, I think it’s important to maintain some sort of identity outside of motherhood.  While I may not have as much time (or energy…) to devote to my hobbies as I once did, it’s important to me to not completely give them up.

Running Trail in Fort Worth, TX

A few years ago, one of my favorite hobbies, and a big part of my identity, was running.  I started running in high school to stay in shape when it wasn’t basketball season (I played on our high school basketball team…we were very, very bad, but I loved it).

I didn’t love running right away, it felt so hard, but sometime in the college years, I fell in love with it.  It didn’t hurt that I went to Georgetown in DC, which is surrounded by great running trails.  Also though, as an introvert, I craved solitude, which can be hard to find in college.

Running gave me that outlet and felt so freeing.  I ran somewhat sporadically in college.  I started training for a half marathon a couple of times, but kept injuring my foot, probably because I was playing lots of basketball with friends around the same time, and was not at all careful about preventing overuse injuries.

After college, I signed up for my first race, the Virginia Beach Half Marathon, and from there I was hooked.  I am a super competitive person and, while I am not fast, loved competing with myself and reaching new goals.  Especially as a newer runner, there are always new time and distance goals to strive for.

Spectating the London Olympics Marathon Trials in Houston – Go Kara!!!

I ran four marathons and a bunch of other races, and loved them all.  I briefly joined an early morning running group in DC, but quickly realized I really prefer running alone.  I would 1000 times rather listen to music while running than have to think about talking.

Walt Disney World Marathon with My Little Brother

I had a few injuries over the years, but they were all gone within a couple of months.  One day, I was running in Wisconsin while we were visiting my husband’s family and my left foot started to hurt.  I kept going.  I may have taken a day or two off, but then went back to it.  It wasn’t excruciating, just a nagging pain.  It got worse and worse and I kept on running.  I still wonder how things would have turned out if I had just stopped and gone to a doctor, or at least taken more time off.

Months later, I eventually went to a specialist and it turned out I have an extra bone in my foot, called an accessory navicular.  It’s a tiny little bone, but can cause tendonitis, which is partially what was causing me pain.  The bone itself hurt too.  The doctor recommended some different shoes and insoles and told me I should I go to physical therapy (which I did not do…).  There is a surgery to remove the bone, but it is largely unsuccessful.

I stopped running for months.  I would try again periodically, but even going for walks was really painful, which was one of the hardest parts.  I was teaching at the time, and was on my feet a lot, which probably didn’t help.

Anyway, this a long way of saying, I did not stop running because of James.  I actually started running again for the first time in a long time in my second trimester.  Probably because I had been resting more than usual, my foot finally started to feel a little better.  I was going slowly and only about once a week, but it felt SO good.

Similarly, I started running about once a week six weeks or so after having James.  I would either go on my treadmill in the garage or outside on the weekend while my husband was home.  Now that I can run with the stroller though, I can finally run outside more often again.

It feels so, so great to be out running semi-regularly again.  It also has me itching to do a race.  I want to sign up for either a ten miler or half marathon for sometime next Fall.  I know this is probably not smart in terms of my foot – but I’ve also mostly given up on it ever getting 100% better again and am not okay with never doing a race again.  I want to do at least one more and ten milers / half marathons are my favorite distance.

Now I just need to research and choose a race, which I love doing!  Any recommendations?  I’ll keep you posted…

Do you like to run?

Have you ever had a long-term injury?

If you’re a parent, how do you maintain your identity outside of parenthood?

Continue Reading

A Friday Snapshot

I was listening to this episode of the Happier podcast while walking around the neighborhood with James the other day.  One idea they talked about was making up a haiku in your head every day as a mindfulness practice.  I thought it was a fun idea and thought I might try it as an occasional blog post.

I want to keep blogging, but with James’s short naps recently, it’s become more difficult to find the time.  This lets me share a snapshot / moment in our day, even when I don’t have time for a longer post.

I came up with two while we were walking, and they really did help lift my mood and help me recognize the good in the current moment.

Quiet cloudy day

Looking down at tiny toes

What a precious sight

Walking now with you

The loop I walked when pregnant

Now we walk as two

Have a happy Friday and a wonderful weekend!

Continue Reading

The Weekend We Celebrated All the Things

Good morning!

We are back from our whirlwind weekend in Houston, feeling a little exhausted and very happy.

It was a weekend full of celebrations.

We left Austin in the late afternoon on Friday.  We hit a ton of traffic, but eventually made it, all in good spirits.

We only give James a pacifier on road trips, so I always have to snap a picture because I think he looks so cute 🙂

I must say though, I’m driving back to Houston next week without my husband and I am not looking forward to doing the drive alone with James.  He did pretty well, but definitely required a steady stream of toys / distractions to keep it together in the car for three hours.  Oh well, it will be worth it!

We got to Houston in time for little James to do a little light reading and play with his grandparents a little before going to bed.

Saturday we celebrated my little brother’s (also named James) birthday.  He flew in from Chicago for the occasion.  I hadn’t seen him since Christmas, it was so great to catch up!  I totally failed to take pictures, but we went out for a great, long lunch at an Italian place called Giacomo’s.

My husband then took James home for a nap so that I could go shopping with my mom, sister, and brother for some things for my sister’s wedding – so fun!  We went to BHLDN, a store owned by Anthropologie that specializes in wedding dresses, accessories, and decor…so many pretty things.

I did not get much sleep Saturday night, but woke up excited to celebrate James’s baptism Sunday morning!  It made for a very special first mother’s day for me and it meant so much to me to have my whole family there with us.

I want to re-dress James in his little outfit soon to get some better pictures.  We had to rush to the church right after he woke up from a nap and he was really ready to go by the time the service was over.  I think it’s safe to say his favorite part of his outfit was the bow tie.

We went back to my parents’ house for brunch while James took one more nap before we hit the road.  It was such a quick trip, but so, so fun.  And it wasn’t too sad saying goodbye since I’m going back in less than a week!

Do you live close to your family?

What was the best part of your weekend?


Continue Reading

Thanks Mama

Good morning and happy Friday!

We are busy getting ready to head to Houston for the weekend to celebrate Mother’s Day, my brother’s birthday, and James’s baptism…should be a busy and fun weekend!

Before returning to packing though, I wanted to stop in and say happy Mother’s Day.

Funny story – when I was signing into the hospital to have James, I had to fill out a few forms even though I had pre-registered.  I don’t really remember what they were for, but one of them required a parent signature.  I was super annoyed – why do I need a parent signature, I’m 30 and about to have a freaking baby?  Oh, right.  I was the parent.  They wanted my signature.  Whoops….

All this to say, I still kind of forget that I’m a parent half of the time.  To me Mother’s Day is still very much about celebrating my own mother, as it should be!

So I wanted to take a minute to say thank you to my Mom, the very best mom I could wish for.

Thank you for being completely unselfish.  Always.  I am honestly much more selfish than my mom and I worry about that sometimes.

Thank you for driving us all over town to whatever activity / friend’s house we wanted to go to and never making it seem like a burden.

Thank you for making everyday things fun and for always making time for us.

Thank you for always taking my side, no questions asked.

Thank you for making me feel like what I had to say was important and interesting, even when I was small.

Thank you for answering the phone to talk to me no matter what you’re doing.

Thank you for putting up with me as a teenager.

Thank you for showing so much love to little baby James.

Thank you for showing me how to be a mom.

Do you have any fun plans for Mother’s Day?

Continue Reading

Being Present and Some Modern Art

I have a tendency to be overly sentimental about time passing.  I think I started worrying about getting old when I was about 15.  I was not one of those kids who wanted to grow up; I knew being a kid was where it’s at.

Anyway, I spend a lot of time fondly remembering (romanticizing?) the past and wondering what the future will be like.  I am not always great about being in the moment.

When I stop to think about it though, this time, this particular moment, is definitely one I will be remembering fondly some day.  This is an especially enjoyable stage of life and I’m going to really try to stay focused on that and not worry too much about what’s to come.  Any tips?

James is at a really fun stage where he is still largely accepting of anywhere we take him, but has long enough stretches of awake time that we can really go do stuff.  It’s pretty great.

Saturday was one of the most relaxing days I can remember since he was born.  I read outside in the morning with a giant cup of coffee, and I read at night before bed with a glass of red wine.  The in between parts were pretty great too.

James took two, hour-plus naps.  I only did one productive thing during these naps (made James some healthified zucchini bread), and spent the rest of the time reading.  Sure, this was vaguely irresponsible, but so, so worth it.

We also went on a little adventure.  One of my goals for the month is to go somewhere new every week.  When looking for places to go, I came upon this excellent list of baby / toddler friendly places in Austin.  A bunch of them look great, but the first one to call my name was the sculpture garden at The Contemporary.  I’m glad I listened.

So I feel kind of like an idiot for not knowing this place existed, but it was super uncrowded even on a sunny Saturday, so maybe it’s not that well known?  I don’t know.  Anyway, Austin’s modern art museum apparently has a couple of satelite locations, one of which is an art school with a large, woodsy sculpture garden.  There are also indoor exhibits, but we didn’t do that part this time.

This is not a big open garden, but rather consists of little winding trails through the woods and along Lake Austin where you’ll be walking and then discover a big sculpture.

I think it’s the feeling of exploring and discovery that make this place particularly delightful.  It reminded me of a time my freshman year of college where I went to the National Cathedral at night with some new friends – totally different place, but it gave me the same feeling of entering a different world.

For those familiar with Austin, this place is right by Mount Bonnell.  I highly recommend it if you feel like wandering, contemplating, or staring off into space and looking like you have a purpose.

As a bonus, it was right next to a great looking park and nature preserve that may be next on my list of new places!  It has a peacock crossing so that has to be a good sign.

Thanks to my husband for many of the pictures in this post 🙂

What was the best part of your weekend?

Do you ever play tourist in your own city?

Continue Reading

Baby Led Weaning Update – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Good morning and happy Friday!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over a month since James has started eating solid foods.  It’s become such a part of our daily routine and he’s become so much better at it, I can barely imagine our day without it.

Overall, I’ve been a huge fan of baby led weaning (BLW), or really the hybrid approach we’ve taken (James eats with a spoon too – I put the food on the spoon, and he holds the spoon / puts the food in his mouth).  Here’s a little bit about our experience so far.

The Good

Fun: I’m sure feeding baby any way is fun, but I am seriously loving meal times with little James!  He gets this extremely serious look every time I bring him to his chair.  He eats so eagerly unless he is tired, and has started making little “mmm” noises, it’s just too much 🙂

Same meals: While, as I mentioned, we don’t often eat dinner together at this point due to timing, it’s getting to the point where I can sometimes give James some of what we had for dinner the next day for his meals.  I just put aside a portion before adding salt / anything else he can’t have.  I know this will be more and more true as he continues to try more foods and I love the convenience of it.

Social Eating: I love that I’m able to sit across from him and eat with him or chat with him while he eats since I’m not focused on getting a spoon in his mouth.  I like being able to model table manners and how to have a conversation.  I think these things are best taught by modeling, so might as well start young!  Along these same lines, I love that there is usually something we can offer him (sometimes just avocado) if we go out to lunch.

Fine Motor Skills: I can’t believe how much James’s ability to use his fingers to pick up small things has grown this past month.  I’m sure some of this is just due to his developmental stage, but I think part of it is also due to BLW because, apart from food, it’s hard to give babies opportunities to develop these skills since they want to put everything in their mouth and many tiny objects are unsafe.

He currently uses his thumb and two fingers to pick up little bits of food.  They don’t always make it into his mouth, but it’s amazing to watch him concentrate on picking them up and holding them steady.

Drinking from a Glass:  This is a little random, but watching James drink from his tiny glass (a shot glass from Ikea) has become a favorite pastime in our house.  I think it’s pretty much the cutest thing in the world.  When I first gave him the glass a month ago, it seemed like he would never be able to use it on his own, but just in the last week or so, he’s become so proficient with it.  He still spills of course, but is able to successfully hold the glass on his own and drink from it – and he loves it!

I did three things to help him with this skill:

1. I sit across from him and model drinking from a glass, holding it with two hands, before giving him his.

2. I hold his glass out to him, with my fingers on the very bottom so there’s plenty of room for his little hands.  When I just put the glass on the table, he knocks it over, but he can take it from me with great success.

3. Lastly, I started holding the glass up a little, by his nose, so he would lean his head back when he drank.  He’s still practicing this, but it has helped him actually drink the water instead of just blowing bubbles in it or sticking his tongue in the glass.  Now that he can use his glass, I’m excited to make him a smoothie soon!  Just in time for summer.

The Bad

Food waste: This is absolutely the number one downside we’ve seen.  It makes me sad to see all of the food that goes onto the floor and can’t be eaten.

I do try to minimize this in a few ways.  With something like a fried egg or pancake, where I could just hand him the whole thing, I cut it into strips.  This way I can put one strip at a time on his tray and if he drops it, the whole thing hasn’t gone to waste.  In generally, I only put a couple of pieces of food on his tray or placemat at once, usually one of each thing he is eating, so he can choose.  I think this helps him concentrate on picking up a specific piece of food instead of just swiping around aimlessly and knocking food onto the floor.

The Ugly

Mess: Ohhhhh the mess, my friends.  This depends on the day and what he is eating, but especially if he’s using his spoon for something like avocado or oatmeal, he is usually covered in food by the end, not to mention the chair and the floor.

As my friend Natalie wrote here, I do not think mess is a bad thing.  Mess is part of the process and I involve James in the only way I can right now – showing him and talking to him about how we clean up after eating.  As he gets older, I’ll involve him more as he becomes more capable of helping.  But despite the beauty and learning opportunities of a big mess, it can be a little tiresome at times 🙂

Fortunately though, there are plenty of foods I can offer him that are less messy (pancakes, banana, zucchini, egg, etc.), so I sometimes group messy foods together at one meal so, for instance, lunch cleanup will be super easy and dinner will require a more thorough effort.  He loves oatmeal for breakfast though, so breakfast is always super messy.

Gagging: I had read that gagging is a normal part of baby learning to eat, but it still terrifies me every time it happens.  Babies’ gag reflexes are further up on their tongues at this age to protect them from choking, which makes gagging happen more frequently.  From what I’ve read, this is a safer time for them to learn to eat finger foods because of this extra protection…but it’s still not fun to watch!  James has only ever gotten upset at all by this once though.  He normally just spits the offending food out and keeps on eating.

I’ll probably post soon on our experience with the weaning chair versus a high chair and on Jame’s favorite meals so far.  Let me know if you have any other questions about baby led weaning!

Continue Reading

Things Making Me Happy

Happy Wednesday!  It’s been a great few weeks over here and I just wanted to share a few things that are making me happy lately.

Neighborhood Park

We found a new park close to our neighborhood last week and I am loving it!  It has a paved trail as well as a much longer unpaved trail, a playground with sun shades, baby swings, a splash pad, and a pool.

I took James there last Friday and we had such a good time!

A road runner, off to play tennis!

I often miss our old neighborhood where we could walk to everything, including some really nice trails, but I admit that it was great to be in a nice park without the crowds of where we used to live (right by Zilker).  Because there are fewer people, we also see more animals, like road runners and rabbits.

New Mom Friends

Before having James, none of my friends had babies.  I’m pretty shy and introverted, so wasn’t sure I’d really make any new mom friends.  Thanks to the library though, I’ve met a couple of super nice women with babies almost the same age as James and it is so fun to have people who don’t mind talking endlessly about baby sleep and who can hang out and do baby-friendly things in the middle of a week day.  I feel so lucky to have met them!

Baby Brunch

I made James pancakes last Saturday and it made me so happy 🙂  I used this recipe and it was easy, healthy, delicious, and made a ton so I have a bunch of extras in the freezer.  I spread James’s pancakes with a little coconut oil and sprinkled with cinnamon.  I think this recipe would be easy to play around with and I’ll probably try a pumpkin or zucchini version soon.

It was fun to make something we could all eat together and to think that this was the first of likely countless times that we’ll enjoy a pancake breakfast together.  Also, I think the leftovers would be a great portable snack for James to bring to the park or something since they hold together well and are not very messy.

Front-facing Carrier

I really try not to buy all the baby things.  We did splurge on a new baby carrier last weekend though and it is making me happy.

James is super independent and wants to be moving around ALL the time.  I love this about him, but it can make it harder to take him places.  We have this Ergo and K’tan, but he’s never loved them and his disdain for them has grown now that he’s more and more mobile.  However, when we tried him in the K’tan facing forward, he got so happy!

Sadly, our Ergo did not allow baby to face forward and I really prefer the more structured carriers, especially now that James is getting heavier.  My friend Laura recommended the Ergo 360 to me and we are loving it so far!  I still don’t think James would be content to be in there for hours, but I’d settle for a happy baby while I grocery shop for 30 minutes or walk for an hour 🙂  I also love that this one has a lot less fabric on the sides than my original Ergo, so it’s less hot, which is important in Texas!

Stroller Running

We have the BOB Revolution running stroller (generously given to us by my parents – thank you!) and I finally tried running with it last week.  I had read that I could start running with baby once he was 6-8 months old and had great head control.  He just turned 7 months and has had good head control for months, so I decided to give it a try.

It was SO much more fun than I thought it would be.  I’ve always hated running with a lot of stuff – holding a water bottle, weighed down by winter clothes, etc.  That’s how I pictured stroller running would feel.  It wasn’t that way at all though, it felt great.  Sure, it was a little more challenging than running without the stroller, but since James is usually only happy in there for 30-40 minutes anyway, the added challenge is no big deal.

This will let me run outside more instead of the treadmill, and also get a workout in when James is awake so I get do something else during nap time.  I’m very excited about it!

This Guy

Always.  He has been so happy, talkative, and FUN lately.  He’s the best.

Continue Reading

May Goals

I have to say, typing out my goals for April made such a difference!  Instead of a bunch of vague, fuzzy stuff in my head that I wanted to accomplish, I had a very manageable list.  I definitely plan to keep doing this in the future.

First, a recap of April’s goals:

Conceptualize Playroom: Check!  I now have a very clear vision of what I want James’s playroom to look like.  I’ve mostly cleared out the office, and have purchased about half of what we need.  I just need to get a shelf, rug, and picture frames.  I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to buy, but I want to finish cleaning out the office before I actually buy it.

I’m most excited about the reading nook I have planned!  I already got this canopy and soft rug for it.

Prepare Garden Beds: This was the only one that was a big time failure…oops.  I didn’t even start doing this, and I’m honestly not at all confident that it will happen this month either.  I did acquire a few pretty potted plants for the back patio, and may just settle for that for now.

Make Family Dinners: Check!  This was mostly a success.  I did much more meal planning / cooking this month and found a few new staple meals that are very quick and easy, reasonably healthy, and taste good!

We did not really eat a lot of family dinners with James though, and I now realize we probably won’t for a while.  Because of his early bedtime, he usually eats around 5:00.  I honestly don’t really want to eat dinner that early, but also, my husband isn’t usually home by then.  For now, I’m settling for eating a snack with James while he eats, and will make an effort to eat lunch with him.

Watch Less TV: Check!  This may be the one that made me the happiest.  I finished watching West Wing and did not start a new tv series (until this past weekend…oops).  I occasionally watched a movie, but not being in the middle of a series I love meant that watching tv was not my go-to activity for the night.  I may designate one night a week as tv night or something, I’m not really sure.

Okay, on to May’s Goals!

Read More: This is my number one goal this month.  It’s already started to happen naturally because I haven’t been watching much tv.  I love to read and want to really get back into the habit of reading regularly.

Write More: I’ve never had any talent for (or really enjoyed) most artistic activities, but I’ve always loved to write.  I have a couple of writing projects that I’ve started, but haven’t worked on in a while.  There is one in particular I’m hoping to finish this month.  It’s a children’s book for James.  I know it will likely never be published, but I plan to print it with Pinhole Press, which lets you print your own board books, to give to him.

Go Somewhere New Every Week: It is so fun to take James out these days.  He is super friendly and smiley and seems to really enjoy getting out.  We go somewhere almost every day now, but I am definitely a creature of habit and we often go to the same few places.  We just moved to South Austin right before James was born, so I am still discovering the area.  I’m looking forward to taking James to new places this month, even if it’s just a different park or library of coffee shop.

Wear Sunscreen: I wear sunscreen when I go to the beach or know I’ll be outside all day, but I am not good about wearing it every day.  With the amount of time I spend outside, I know I should be doing this.  I want to finally make this part of my daily routine this month.

What are your goals this month?

Continue Reading

Throwback Thursday 2 – Childhood Memories: Pretending

Or, as Albert Einstein put it, “Play is the highest form of research”.

I read something recently that was so sweet it was heartbreaking to me.  It was about how you don’t really know the last time you’ll hold your child.  One day you’ll be carrying him along and not thinking about it and the next he’ll just be running around and not needing you in that way anymore.

That got me thinking, we don’t really know the last time we’ll do lots of things, and often don’t remember those “lasts”.

I don’t know if it’s the last time I played a pretend game as a child, but I have the clearest memory of playing an imaginary game outside with my friends in fourth grade.  It’s the last time like this that I have a memory of.

We were on a school trip to Crow Canyon Archeological Center in Colorado.  We were learning all about Native American tribes who had lived there and about how archeologists discover artifacts.  We also had free time to just explore and play.

I don’t remember there being any playground, but there were plenty of wide open spaces, big rocks, and a little creek.  I remember it being a sunny day with a blue sky, and a bit of a chill in the air.  The stream was cold.  I was crouched down by the water and we were playing some pretend game about being Native Americans in the society we were learning about.  I remember being so, so happy.

Thinking about this reminds me of how “play” really is the work of children, of how we need to give them time and space free from toys and media to just explore and exercise their imaginations.  We were playing and having the best time, but we were also processing what we had been learning about, making it real in our minds.

Do you remember pretend games you played as a child?

Continue Reading

A Long Family Weekend

Our weekend is still going strong over here as my father in law is here until Tuesday and my husband has work off, woohoo!  We’ve been having a great time and I wanted to share a few highlights.

Hanging out with Grandpa

The biggest highlight was definitely seeing James having so much fun with his Grandpa.  I wish they lived closer, but we are enjoying this time he’s here to the max.

My father in law flew in from Milwaukee Thursday night and got here just in time to see James eating dinner…always a show.  James hadn’t seen him since he was four weeks old, but warmed up to him right away and has been having a blast playing with him.

Town Lake Trail

Friday we went for a nice walk along the Colorado River on the Town Lake trail here in Austin (we don’t have a lot of lakes in Texas and have an odd habit of calling wide sections of rivers “lakes”..I don’t even know).  This trail gets really crowded, so it was nice to be there on a Friday with fewer people.

They may be a little hard to spot in the picture, but we saw a couple of Austin’s wild parakeets while we were out.  Some imported wild parakeets escaped from an RV park here in the 70’s and started a whole population.  We only saw two this time, but sometimes you see a whole big flock.

An Outside Run

On Saturday, my husband and his dad hung out at home while James napped and I escaped for a run around the neighborhood.  It was glorious.  I can’t remember the last time I went for a run outside.  I don’t mind the treadmill, but it is definitely not the same freeing feeling as running outside.  I listened to Counting Crows, one of my favorite bands in middle school / high school for most of the run and then Chromeo for the last mile or so when I needed an energy boost.  I love how music can take you back to other times of your life so clearly.

I ran somewhere between 4-5 miles, but I’m not exactly sure how far.  I used to always run with a gps watch, but I lost the charger when we moved last summer and I haven’t bothered to get a new one.  I kind of like just running how fast / far I feel like without thinking about the numbers.

Reading Outside

Sunday morning was too beautiful to stay inside and I spent James’s first nap time reading a book outside with a cup of coffee – pretty much the best.  If I could spend every morning doing this and every evening sitting out there with a glass of wine, I think I’d be pretty happy.

A Greenbelt Hike

The weather on Sunday was literally perfect.  It was a little cool in the morning and then just sunny with no humidity and not a cloud in the sky by the afternoon.  We wanted to walk on Austin’s Greenbelt, a rocky trail that goes all throughout the city, but even our BOB Revolution jogging stroller isn’t really cut out for it.

We decided to try the k’tan wrap with James front facing and he liked it about a million times better than facing backward.  He was giddy for the first half of the walk and never really seemed to mind being in there.  I’m excited about this because it’s so much more convenient to bring the wrap places than to load the heavy stroller into the car every time.  I may look for a more structured front facing carrier (we have an Ergo, but it’s sadly on rear facing).  Does anyone have a recommendation?

We walked on the trail for probably about an hour, stopping to look at the water and watching people (and dogs!) swimming and rock climbing.

We then took James home for another nap before all going to get some bbq.  It was a pretty perfect day.

What was the best part of your weekend?

Continue Reading