I can. I will.

I don’t even know where to start. I’ve been struggling for days to find words to describe my workout Thursday morning, to describe the feeling I had as I finished my first round of Body Back (yes, first; yes, I’m going back for more).

squat jumps.

pushups.

reverse crunches.

bicycle crunches.

burpees.

mountain climbers.

Sure, those words work. And this week, yoga, barre, Body Back, Stroller Strides, Fit4Baby also work.

strong.

brave.

feisty.

understanding.

forgiving.

humble.

grateful.

love.

Those words work too. In yoga the other day, we were asked to set an intention for our practice. Mine was understanding. To be understanding of myself, and my limits; and of others and their limits.

As I began my workout, that I knew would be grueling, that morning, humble popped into my head. I’m humbled and grateful for what my body does for me each and everyday, for responding when I ask it to. I’m humbled that my brain listens when I tell it to STOP saying “I can’t” and start saying “Of course you can”.

I finished off Body Back 17 pounds lighter, 4″ smaller almost everywhere, standing taller, running faster, doing more pushups, situps, squats and holding a longer plank. I finished it knowing that when I want to have a class do a spiderman pushup, or a pushup to side plank, I can do that, and look damn good doing it. I can be an inspiration to others…that’s a heady feeling.

But I’m not done.

Now that I see what I’m capable of, what my body can do for me (you’d think after birthing three children, I’d have some sense of it, but it took a lot more), I want to continue to be faster and stronger. And then, I want to turn it around. I want to pay it forward, give it back. Because this feeling? It’s not mine. It has to be given…has to be shared. I’m so proud of myself and the hard work put in to get where I am. I can’t wait to take other mamas there, too.

I can. I will.

Watch me.

Advertisements

Exceeding expectations

I’ve been thinking a lot about that phrase lately. Well, the last few days anyway. You see, in my blogging absence, I’ve been through just a few things. Namely, a major injury. A major injury that precluded me from running the Rock n Roll Half marathon. I pinched a nerve in my shoulder, resulting in a completely numb arm, for the better part of a month. Then a partially numb arm for a while, and so on. I’ve been through 4 months of physical therapy, and 4 months of not running much, and 4 months of wondering if I’d ever get back to “normal” and be able to do things that make me really happy.

And then I realized that I could. Suddenly, my arm was feeling better. Well, not suddenly, but still it felt like that. And I graduated physical therapy (got to ring a bell and everything). And I’m starting to train for a half in August. And I began Body Back. And it dawned on me that, at age 32, I’ve exceeded all expectations I ever had for myself. Now, I know that sounds kind of sad, but I think I had rather low expectations, and I had zero confidence in what I was capable of. Those who know me well might wonder at this, as I seem to be a pretty confident person, and I am, but I have always had a lot of self doubt.

I’m not a runner.

I’m not strong.

3 kids? Are you crazy? (well, yes, yes, I am.)

I’ll never be thin.

If you’d asked me 6 years ago if I’d ever thought of running a half marathon, I’d have laughed in your face. If you’d asked if I ever thought I’d have 6 pack abs, I’d have guffawed. If you’d suggested I should have three kids, I might have hit you. And thin? Well, nah. It’s just “not my body”.

But am all those things. I am a runner. I am now one of those people who can just hop on a trail or treadmill and run three miles. Like it’s no big thing. And the whole time I choke back tears because 2 years ago, this seemed impossible. I look at my stomach, after giving birth to three kids, and smile at the muscles that I can see developing. I look at my arms and shoulders and love seeing the strength I’m working so hard to build. I’m smaller than I’ve been since high school, and well, that’s fun too. I have three beautiful children who drive me entirely crazy, but I can’t imagine a life without.

At 32, I have already exceeded all expectations of myself.

What’s next? For me, the sky’s the limit. I don’t know what’s next. I want to be stronger, faster, healthier. I want to motivate more mamas to believe that they CAN be amazing, awesome, strong, and to not feel limited by genetics or your body, or your kids.

And so, in some ways, this is a bit of a love letter. To myself, to my husband (for giving me the time and encouragement to keep going), to my friends for cheering me on, and to Hilary and the Stroller Strides crew. There is seriously NO WAY I’d be here now if I’d not met you.

This Hour

In a (very) random burst of inspiration, fueled by serious lack of sleep, frigid temperatures, and beautiful sunlight, I stepped outside today to take a few shots of the wheelbarrow. And then I walked back in, and proceeded to shoot for about an hour, my life. It’s mundane, but looking back through it tonight, it’s beautiful. I’m feeling grateful today for simple pleasures: popcorn, laundry, library books, beautiful fabric, napping children, forts, iphones, and now, at 10pm, wine.

What’s your resolution?

So, last year I resolved to be more present. For lack of a better phrase, I failed. Badly. But in my defense, I got pregnant at the end of January, went through a challenging pregnancy, packed, moved, gave birth, and just tried to keep my head above water for the better part (ok, all) of 2011. The year was a total blur.

Not 2012. I’m determined to not let that happen. This year, I will not only find ways to be more present in my friendships, my parenting, and with myself, but I will also add to it intention. I need to stop letting life smack me upside the head, and start taking it by the hand. I don’t believe I can necessarily accomplish one without the other.

And, to top it all off, I want to be braver. I already think I’m a pretty ballsy person, but I’m not sure that balls=bravery. I find that I often play it safe, choosing the less controversial, the less adventurous, the safer options. Not this year. I’m 32, and I’m ready to push the envelope even more than I already do. I’m not sure what challenges this will involve, but I’m excited to find out.

I’m not crazy enough to try to commit to another 365 photo project, but I will be reviving my 52 project. You can look forward to seeing those pictures highlighted here on the blog.

I’d also like to begin to accept submissions for uplifting birth stories. They don’t have to be homebirths, but they do need to be positive. I know SO many women who’ve had such varying experiences, all beautiful, that I want to share those in one place. Bonus points if you have photos, since y’all know how much I love pictures.

And did I mention that I signed up to run the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in June? You know, just a half. Just 13.1 miles. And I hope to journal my training here, and share more about my running journey.

So, you know, not much. Just a few little things. How ’bout you? What are your resolutions this year?

Editing to add: I’ve challenged my whole family to a 365 project of sorts: 365 miles in 365 days. A fun, sort of competitive way to get healthy as a family (my brother, sis-in-law, and parents are in on it). I have a feeling a few of us might go double or nothing…

Struggling

I struggle with so many things as a parent; we’d be lying if we said we didn’t. I struggle to get my toddler to eat, my big girl to stop dawdling, my littlest to sleep. I struggle to run 2 miles, to hold a plank for a minute. Somedays I struggle to get a shower or eat breakfast. But these are physical struggles, and I know they can be overcome with hard work and perseverance.

But this is not that sort of struggle. The one I’m wrestling with these days, under the surface of all the other daily struggles, is my belief system, and thus, the beliefs we raise our children with. We’re not very religious people. Spiritual, yes. Religious, no.

We were both raised with a bit of a mishmash of religions. Me, everything from Presbyterian or Mormonism, Judaism to Catholicism (seriously, all of that, one childhood). Michael, raised in an Ashram with world religions all around, but Eastern religions pervasive.

Neither of us gave religion, or what religion we’d raise our kids with much thought. We didn’t think we’d need to. Raise your kids to be good people, et voila, it’s all good. But what we forgot is that we live in a religious society, one where Christianity is everywhere, and we’d encounter religion constantly.

Ryan came home from school the other day with a little rhyme about making the #7: “Through the sky and down from heaven, that’s the way to make a seven.” Of course, she wanted to know what “heaven” was. And here’s where I start to bumble. For someone who’s pretty good with words, I was at a loss. Because really, I don’t know what heaven is. What do I believe in?

I tried to explain as best I could: dying (which is still a tricky concept for her), up above the sky, where God is. Oh, wait, God. There’s another subject she’s unclear on. Again, because I am. (and none of this is to discount Michael’s role in all this, it’s just that I’m the one home, so I get the big questions that usually require immediate answers) Ryan’s told us before that God doesn’t exist. Which probably means I got a little too existential with one of my explanations, and little Miss Literal took it to heart. OK, fine. But God does exist. Maybe not literally, but in some sort of bigger way, something bigger than us, must. Humans have named that God, and given it a (male) persona, but I don’t know if I believe that.

A sweet friend posted a link to a blog the other day; it seemed quite appropriate for Christmastime, and certainly rang true for me.

Women can tell this part of the story this Christmas, the glimpse behind the veil, the life lived in the in-between of the stuff of God. There is a story on your lips, isn’t there, mama? of how you saw the face of God in the midst of fear or pain or joy and understood, really understood, Mary, not kneeling chastely beside a clean manger refraining from touching her babe, just moments after birth but instead, sore and exhilarated, weary and pressing a sleepy, wrinkled newborn to her breasts, treasuring every moment in her heart, marvelling not only at his very presence but at her own strength, how surrender and letting go is true work, tucking every sight and smell and smack of his lips into her own marrow.

(http://deeperstory.com/incarnation/)

It’s what I find wrong with so much of religion; it’s all about men, and how men have made it, forgetting the very humanness of birth.

Michael and I have major issues with organized religion, and we’re both pretty clear that we don’t believe in Jesus as savior. But beyond that? But you can’t raise kids on what you DON’T believe in. I feel like I need to define my beliefs, and maybe it’s less for the kids and more for myself. And maybe I don’t think beliefs can really be defined in such a quantitative way. Maybe I need to explore Buddhism more. Sometimes, I’m quite jealous of friends who have such defined belief systems. It would certainly be easier for me to have one. But I don’t.

Part of this has come up as a natural introspection post-birth. Birth really does bring out the spirituality in so many of us. Part of this is due to the holidays, and our desire to create traditions for our kids, and wondering how to define them without the context of Christianity or Judaism (Solstice?).

So, where do I go from here? I’m not sure. I did find two books that might help: Raising Freethinkers: A practical guide for parenting beyond belief and Parenting Beyond Belief: on raising ethical, caring kids without religion. I’ll let you know where this all lands as it evolves.

What I do know, is that I believe in goodness, and family, and love. And the sun and the moon, and that it all keeps turning. And as the Mamas and the Papas sang, “to everything, there is a season, and a purpose under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).

Giving Thanks

It’s the cool thing to do this month. Apparently. I’ve been busy and missed the memo that I was supposed to update the world as to what I’ve been thankful for each day.

However, in our house, we’ve been practicing thankfulness, gratitude, and the beauty of fall, all at once.

Have you heard of a tree of gratitude?

It can be done any way you like (we found inspiration here). We found branches in our yard, plopped them in a vase, cut “leaves” with my paper punch and used strips of fabric to tie them on.

The idea is that you write something you’re thankful for. Not every day, not in any sort of prescribed way, but rather when the mood strikes you. The idea is to remind yourself of what is really important as we head into this holiday season. In our house, we’re finding this especially important with a nearly 6 year old who wants/needs everything.

We also invited our friends who joined us for our “welcome Asher/warm our house” party to add what they’re thankful for. Really, anyone who comes by our house is welcome to add to it. We’ll save the “leaves” to read next November.

So, what am I thankful for? In the grandest sense, community. I’m SO grateful for the wonderful community we’ve found in the area. I never expected it, and cannot express how overwhelmed I’ve been with gratitude these last many weeks.

Thank  you. May your Thanksgiving be full of gratitude, family, friends, and, of course, good food.

Welcome Asher Eleanor!

I’ve been debating how to start this story…it seems so typical, so normal, and yet, of course, as with her sisters, she deserves her tale written out. And it is miraculous, like all births are. And it is silly, like births in our house seem to be. And, as is the trend, it is written with a baby in a sling, by a tired, vaguely incoherent mama.

As we’re both sitting here, wondering how we ended up with THREE kids (much less three girls!), I’m literally left wondering how I’ve got this tiny baby in my arms. Again. I know, I’ve been in denial for quite some time about it all, and even blogged over at Motherhood Unadorned about my feelings towards this pregnancy. And I’d LOVE to say it’s all roses and lilies now that she’s here, but I’m not sure. Yes, Asher belongs here, clearly. And yes, much like when Finleigh arrived, and when Ryan arrived, she just fits. But I’m still left wondering – how the hell did I end up with a third child?

We had plans to head to the pumpkin patch on Sunday. I really, really love fall (I’ve surely blogged about that before), and Halloween, and my birthday (on the 24th – you can send presents), and despite knowing I’d be 39w pregnant, I was excited to go to Enumclaw to hang out with some friends and do the patch with the girls. Finleigh was teeny last year, and enjoyed watching it all, but couldn’t partake. Ryan remembered it all and was SO excited to go back. I just love to take photos of it all! We joked that baby better wait, as Enumclaw is about an hour from home, and how would that explanation go to the police/fire/paramedics? “Please drive past 4 hospitals to deliver this woman to her home so she can give birth?” Um, yeah. But, as nothing was happening that morning, we hustled our buns together and got out of the house. I had some suspicions that it would be soon as I’d done a massive grocery trip the night before, and insisted on having chicken chili in the crockpot before we left, but you know, just because I teach this stuff doesn’t mean I recognize it in myself. We’ll get to more of that in a bit.

The girls had a blast at the pumpkin patch, and we had fun warming back up at our friends’ home nearby. They had delicious homemade soup that was a teensy bit spicy (I should have guessed…) and the girls played hard. We got home, all in one piece, and without a newborn, and settled in for our usual crazy, zany dinner/bath/stories/bedtime routine.

I always spend a fair bit of time in my classes talking about what things parents can do at home to kick start labor. It’s an amusing topic and always gets the class laughing: walking, exercise, spicy foods, sex. Yes, sex. What gets your baby in there will get your baby out! And, since I was quite done being pregnant, well, yeah. And as expected, contractions started shortly thereafter. But I expected them to fizzle out…after all, just because the other two came at 39w (ish) didn’t mean I thought this one would. I half expected her to wait until Halloween!

About two hours later, I called the midwives to chat, and see what they thought might be happening with these contractions. See, she’d tried to escape at 37w, and I wasn’t really enthusiastic about calling them back out for nothing again. But, neither of us was really excited about having another unassisted birth, either. Michael was totally amused at this point – this was basically a total repeat of Finleigh’s birth, only with slightly less disbelief from me. We thought, yes, maybe early labor, as I was clearly dealing well and could move and talk through these, but should try to go to bed soon and maybe take a shower to relax. I watched one more episode of Big Love (love that show) and then showered and went to bed.  I remember sort of sleeping through contractions, and feeling them but not waking for them, and thinking that if they didn’t keep me up, then they weren’t anything. Really, at this point? Really, Katy? Now we’re talking about 5 hours of contractions and you still don’t really think you’re in labor?

At 2:30am, I woke up to a stronger contraction, and got up to hit the bathroom. I went back to bed, thinking this STILL wasn’t really it. I laid in bed, drifting in and out of sleep for another hour, and then the contractions got more intense. By 4am, I woke Michael, and we decided it was time to call the midwives back. They asked if I thought they should come, but I had to hand the phone over to Michael to tend to a contraction. I’m sure the conversation was something to the effect of, “yeah, um, you need to come now”.

We moved to the living room, and texted a few friends who wanted to join us. I was still thinking we had a while at this point. Contractions were strong, but not unbearable, and I was dealing well. I kept telling myself that I can do anything for ONE minute (though they felt longer). Of course, doing anything for ONE minute every 30 seconds for any length of time starts to SUCK. And then when you realize you are having an even harder time coping, and you are no longer quietly breathing, and you can no longer stand on your own, and you’ve got to hold on FOR DEAR LIFE to your partner, that yep, this is labor and you’re going to have a baby in the very near future. Of course, at this point, I’m still thinking that I’ve got a while, and why the hell do I give birth at home where there’s nothing stronger than ADVIL??

And then, holding onto Michael and trying to CLIMB to the ceiling, I hear the MW say that she thought I was pushing. Pushing? Brilliant!! I should totally push! That might be fantastic! So I pushed. And I was really glad they got the plastic table cloth under me as I announced that I was peeing. Nice, right? Birth is the great equalizer, folks. One of the MWs said she was taking my pants off (what’s with me trying to give birth in my damn pants?), and I remember her trying to actually get my pants off my ankles and me saying something to the effect of “leavethemthefuckalone”. I was pushing. One LONG push. One LONG contraction that really didn’t seem to end. Except it did. And there was her head. I reached down, instinctively. This was the first time I’d ever done that. I felt her head: soft, hot, velvety. Her cord was wrapped around her neck, and the midwives were working it off. And then I had to push again. I pushed hard. Harder than I did with Finleigh…I worked for this kid. One huge, long, hard push (or four, I don’t remember), and out she popped.

7 pounds, 5 ounces, 20″ long. At 5:20am, October 17th. As the sun was thinking about rising on a beautiful, cold, clear, crisp fall morning. My favorite kind of morning.

I crashed on the couch, exhausted, elated, and still shocked. I’m pretty sure Michael was equally shocked, but I honestly have no idea. We didn’t talk, I hardly talked to anyone. I labored. And then I birthed. With so much wonderful support, but in my own world the whole time. I couldn’t have done it without any of them, but I did it alone. If that makes sense. I just laid there, on the couch, with her on my chest, shellshocked. I had a baby. She’s here. In my arms. Michael went to get Ryan, and we both hoped she wasn’t disappointed that she missed the birth (again). This time, she’d get to see the placenta!

She was elated to see the new baby…her new sister. She asked what we were naming her again. Oh yeah, her name! We’d been quiet on the name this time, since we shared her sex. And because I wasn’t entirely sold on it. But now that she’s here, it’s perfect. It suits her to a “T” and suits our family quite well. It “goes”.

Asher Eleanor.

Asher means “fortunate, blessed and happy”. Eleanor means “light” and is the name of my great aunt, my dad’s Aunt Rene.

We are, indeed, fortunate and blessed to have this sweet girl join our family. We were surprised at her intentions to join our family, but are truly, truly blessed to have her here with us.

We also find ourselves truly, truly blessed with friends and family and friends who have become family. Though no one made the birth (again- we’re just too quick for that), we had so many sweet people be a part of Asher’s first day. Lindsay came to say hi instead of heading out for her morning run, Kirsten skipped half a day of work to feed us and hang out with our big kids, and be a part of a very, very normal birth (which I know was insanely difficult, and also, hopefully, cathartic), Ruth took our biggest sister out for a special outing on her own, and so, so many others have helped in tiny, countless ways. I don’t know that any of you will ever really understand how important our “family” here in Seattle is.

Asher truly, truly is a blessing to us all.

I heart running.

I never thought I’d utter those words. Never. There are a lot of things in life, and a lot of things I’m capable of, but I never believed that running was one of them. I’ve always liked the idea of it, but didn’t think I could.

About 8 weeks ago, I signed up for a Running Club through my local Stroller Strides group. I thought that, since we’d start out slow, and I’d be with friends, that this would finally be my ticket to running. I won’t say it’s been easy. The day before running club started we found out we were expecting our third baby (now affectionately referred to as “tres”), and of course I worried about it being a good idea. A quick pep talk from my coach, Hilary, confirmed that I would be fine, I’d been running at Stroller Strides for months and we start so slow it’s not a big deal.

That first day, when we were running 60 seconds at a shot, and I was dying. I didn’t believe that I’d make it to that 10k in May. I didn’t even sign up for it. I really wasn’t sure I could do it. Running is 90% mental, and only 10% physical. Your body will do what your mind tells it to. And that first day, I was scared. I didn’t think my body would ever cooperate with my mind.

Fast forward to tonight. Running 2.5 miles straight. We did it on Saturday, but I bonked hard. I walked more than I wanted to, and I let my mind lead the way. No good. Tonight I went into this run believing I could. At the first sign my brain started to take control and tell me I couldn’t do it, that I should stop and walk for a minute, that that was OK, I turned up the music and ignored myself. I CAN do this. I WANT to do this. I WILL do this. I WILL run 2.5 miles tonight. And my feet hit that pavement, and found a stride I could keep up with, over and over again. I found songs that worked, that motivated me to keep going, and I kept that volume high, so I couldn’t hear myself say it was OK to stop. It’s NOT ok to stop.

Today was the day I was going to run 2.5 miles.

And I did.

And I did it 11 weeks pregnant.

I think I can now officially describe myself as a runner, and I couldn’t be more proud.

1/365

1/365, originally uploaded by RE Peanut.

Yep, I’m starting the year off right and got this one taken yesterday, in a random stop off on the way home from IKEA. Fin needed to nurse, and Ryan needed some run-around time, so off we stopped. And caught this beautiful flare through some beautiful trees, at a beautiful park by the water.

I think it’s a nice way to kick off the New Year.

Happy 2011, y’all.

Playsilks

We LOVE playsilks around here. They’re one of those things that I kind of thought would be cool, and have turned out to be one of the best toys in our house. Why? To start, they’re open ended, which rocks. They’re beautiful colors and feel amazing. And kids of all ages can play with them, so they’re just as safe for the baby as they are fun for the big kids.

Ryan got a handful of them for Christmas last year, and they were the HIT of the day. Even my brother and sis-in-law had fun with them, and we all decorated the dog!

Making them is silly easy, too.

You’ll need:

Silks (I buy mine from Dharma Trading Company)

Gel Food Coloring (can be bought at any craft store in the cake decorating section)

White Vinegar

Big Pots

Boiling Water

How to:

I always prewash my silks, so I can only recommend doing that. They wash and dry beautifully.

Presoak them in a lot of vinegar and a little water (enough to cover) for about 20-30m. This is not rocket science and it really doesn’t matter how much you use (a cup, maybe).

Boil the water in the big pots. How much you use will depend on how many silks you’re dying any one color. I’ve done this in large batches (when making lots for gifts) and in smaller batches (this year, for Finleigh).

Add 1/4t to 1t of dye, again depending on how many silks you’re doing and how deep you want the color to be. I’ve found the blues/purples to “stick” the best and end up very saturated while the reds seem to fade more when rinsing.

Add a tablespoon to 1/4c of white vinegar.

Drop your silks in. The more room they have to swim, they more even the color will be distributed. If they’re squashed, they may wind up pretty mottled. But they really do look cool either way.

If you can, leave them on the stove, simmering, until all the dye is out of the water (and in the fabric).

Rinse them in very cold water until it runs clear.

Hang to dry.

Play with them!!!

Finleigh’s getting these this year, and they’ll be stuffed into a handmade box for her to pull out, just like tissues, but less wasteful and I won’t be pulling eaten, slobbery tissues from her mouth all day.

**Note, if you’re making the smaller handkerchief sized ones, you can do this in the microwave. Same method, but instead of boiling in pots, dissolve the dye in some boiling water in a mug, then add the silk, then nuke for 2-3 minutes. Rinse and dry as above.

And, if you’re just not crafty, or don’t have any desire to cover yourself and possibly your kitchen in food dyes, there are a whole bunch of etsy sellers making them.