E.’s birthday is coming up in exactly one week and I can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that she will be four years old. It seems unbelievable to me that this little bundle of beautiful that I brought home after 42 weeks of gestation has morphed into this person who walks and talks and thinks such amazing thoughts.

But she has.

And amidst the planning of birthday parties, the gift ideas, and hopes for her upcoming fourth year, I’m realizing that the year she is leaving behind hasn’t just been a time of extreme growth for her, but for me, as well.

I think it’s rare for us to stop and realize how we’re in the process of growing and changing. It happens so subtly that it’s easy to sort of glide through it and then, maybe a few years down the road realize, “Wow, I’m totally different.” But sometimes we catch ourselves in the middle of a massive mental rewiring and can sit in awe of the change of which we are capable.

While there are so many things I want to work on in my life (as we all should), I am very proud of the person I’m becoming. The decisions I make are more thought out, better research, more clearly understood. I’m less impulsive, can control myself (anger, eating habits, for one), and have a better understanding of who I am. I know that 24 is young and that I have many more years of self-discovery to come (all of which I look forward to), but after years of feeling a little wobbly and a little in-between, it is incredibly reassuring to know that you do change and that growing up isn’t so bad.

Parenting from the Inside Out by psychiatrist Daniel J. Siegel and early childhood expert Mary Hartzell attempts to tackle the age old fear of “becoming your parents.” Through gaining a more concrete understanding of yourself as a person and building a “coherent” story of your past, Siegel and Hartzell claim you can better communicate with and parent your children (without leaving the nasty emotional scars your own parents supposedly left you). The book focuses largely on the concepts of attachment (and those who practice attachment parenting may already have an idea of the neuroscience behind this or will be pleased to have the science for why attachment parenting is a good idea presented to them), making interpersonal connections with your child, and how you can facilitate emotional and empathetic growth in your child.

The book feels as though it is largely intended for parents who do, perhaps, have a genuine fear of repeating the mistakes of their parents. The few examples given in the book to illustrate concepts often feature parents whose childhoods include abusive or distant mothers or alcoholic fathers, and have since grown up, had their own children, and now are having difficult times attaching themselves to their children. For those of us who had really very good childhoods (though my parents would be the first to admit they weren’t perfect – but they did a good job, as far as I’m concerned), it might feel hard to understand why we might have difficulties as parents, as we lack the traumatic beginnings.

What I particularly liked about the book were the more or less scientific explanations regarding brain function in both children and adults, giving me a better sense of why we act the way we do. I also liked the examples that showed alternatives in how to communicate with your child, which I’ve started to employ with my own daughter. For the most part I agreed with the concepts the book presents, like acknowledging your child’s emotions and experiences in the world (which could vary from your own) is an important thing to do and encourages positive emotional growth. I also thought it was nice that there were “inside out exercises” at the end of each chapter, which gave you an opportunity to explore the concepts talked about in each chapter and how they apply to your life.

What I particularly disliked about the book amounts to a bit more than what I like, unfortunately. I did not think it was particularly well written or organized. I think a lot of the information was presented in a confusing way and was, frankly, a bit boring. If I’m going to spend my time reading this book when I have a lot of other things to do as a busy parent, at least make it a bit more entertaining. I also felt that while I don’t mind technical explanations of things (what with all the jargon, regardless of how well they define it), I also need lots of good examples to back it up. I needed to see what they were talking about in action, and there were very, very, very few examples. The book would be so much more powerful if I had a more solid concept of what exactly was being discussed. I also think examples would make working with the “inside out exercises” mentioned above a bit easier to do. And finally, along with the exercises at the end of each chapter there were the “Spotlight on Science” articles, which I thought were totally redundant and boring. They were basically a tangent on a particular scientific aspect of a concept discussed in that chapter. After getting through a chapter I really had no interest in delving further into a concept.

Overall, the book did have some helpful points, and I am curious to read another book I have featuring Daniel Siegel, despite my feelings regarding this particular book. I think this book would be most helpful for someone who has had a difficult upbringing and would like to shed light not just on their parenting but also on their own past as well and how to reconcile the two.

Rating: * * * (out of five)

I tend to get obsessive. I latch on to an idea and can’t seem to let go until I’ve exhausted every aspect of the idea (and if it’s inexhaustible, well, then we’ve got a problem). Lately I’ve got a few things I feel like I just need to write about, because I am completely obsessed.

1.) Vermont. I about a upcoming family vacation (the first out of state) to Vermont this summer. Well, this afternoon we finally reserved a campsite at a state park on Lake Champlain for two nights in August. Holycrapiamsofreakingexcitedimightpuke!!!!! I’ve started complying lists of things I want to do and places I want to go. The trip is 20.5 weeks away (you know I’m serious when I pull out the decimals), but I’ve already started putting together a supplies list. Granted, that in and of itself isn’t so unusual (I’m a super organized camper, otherwise I’d go insane), but doing it five months ahead of time is a little wacky, even for me. Must be the crazy summer-like weather we’ve been having in Maine.

2.) Whole and real foods. I’m still learning what exactly qualifies as “whole” or “real” (or if those two concepts are the same or even related), but the gist is, I’m starting to get a little obsessive about the food we eat. I think it goes hand in hand with the fact that I’m watching how much and nutritious the food is that I am eating, and I’ve always tried to be conscious of what E. eats. Now, however, that I’m not obsessing as much over delicious chocolate cake or cheesy potatoes, my food fixation has shifted to how exactly nutritious and healthy and safe our food actually is.

3.) Women’s (my own, specifically) health. Between exploring the options available to pregnant women when it comes to their care, learning how to track my cycles (something all women, in my opinion, should be taught), and all the craziness that has been in the news lately regarding birth control, Planned Parenthood, and politicians and some members of the government deciding they need to stick their noses where they don’t belong, I’ve found myself becoming extremely passionate about women’s healthcare and access to services for and information about their bodies and how to properly take care of themselves. It has become so ridiculously empowering to know so much about my body, what I can do, without the help of anyone or device or medication, to decide whether or not I want to get pregnant, maintain reproductive health, and just have this intimate knowledge of my whole self.

4.) Babies. I have full-blown baby fever (example here, and please check out the comments area, my cousin Kate offers up some great information). We are so, so ready to have another and the summer (one more reason I can’t wait this next season!) can’t come soon enough.

5.) Above all, I cannot get over my family. I am more in love than ever. There has been so much growth between my husband and I in our relationship. I feel more and more ownership in role as a mother and the love I have for E. is one of the most overwhelming feeling in the world. I am getting my hands on lots of literature, lots of ideas, and doing lots of thinking to help expand and secure my role and abilities as a mother and wife. I take such tremendous pride in who I am in my family that I can’t help but obsess a bit over it.

What are your obsessions or can’t get enough of?

Recently I wrote how I have lost twenty-four pounds since the beginning of January. I am by NO MEANS a weight-loss guru, expert, advice-giver person or anything like that. BUT I have, maybe, found a few things that have helped me immensely over the last couple of months, and I’m more than willing to share them here. I would like to note, before I share, that these are things that have been working for a person who is going, slowly, from a total couch potato/overeater/binge eater to a relatively healthy, lighter person. I’m not sharing tricks that have helped a kind of overweight person lose ten pounds. This is just the beginning of a longer shift in my lifestyle.

With all that said, here is what I’ve been doing:

1.) Weight-Watchers. I have not been as faithful in my following of points (I tend to lose track around supper time – or just simply don’t track what I eat for supper some nights), but I do try to record everything I eat, including that candy kiss I picked up in the ELL room before lunch at work. Weight-Watchers has given me a better sense of what I should be eating and how much. Even on the days I’m not recording as well as I could I’m still eating far less than I had before. The best thing this program has done is give me perspective on what I’m putting into my mouth.

2.) A nutritionist. I started seeing a nutritionist back at the end of January and she is completely amazing. With her help, I’ve started putting how I relate to food into a healthier place. I’ve gained a little more control over my life when it comes to meals. She’s helped me get the hubs more on board with my eating and weight-loss efforts. She’s made me feel good about what I’m doing, even when I don’t feel like I’m doing a great job. If you have access to a nutritionist, I strongly recommend seeing one – it’s like a therapist for your relationship with food.

3.) Tea. Drinking something warm fills you up. I’ve found that if I keep a variety of yummy teas on had (citrus-y with spices tend to be my favorites), it makes it easier to turn to a steaming cup to help fill my belly in the evening. I’ve also found that if I make my tea time “special”, it’s more likely to be satisfying. How do I make it “special”? Well, I usually settle down in our living room (which is always quiet after E. goes to bed) with a book or magazine and slowly drink and savor my tea (and the alone time). The combination of the tasty tea and revitalizing time alone is just as satisfying a chocolate bar. Really. (In January I would have scoffed at this, but now I completely buy into it).

4.) DO NOT DENY YOURSELF. Dude. If you want chocolate, eat it. Seriously. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t, occasionally give into temptation. I mean, yes, there was a time (two weeks ago) where I wanted chocolate every day in large quantities. Now that I’ve changed my eating habits and have worked hard to keep up with them as much as I can, my cravings for chocolate (and other tasty treats) have died down considerably. Do I still have a hard time? Yes. But I’m not buying a bag of Reese’s and downing them in one sitting. That is huge for me.

5.) See the forest, not the trees. If you beat yourself up over how well each and every day goes you’ll never move forward. I still struggle with this. If I perceive myself as “failing” at my eating or exercising on a particular day, I can get really depressed and start to drag myself down, which leaves me vulnerable for falling back into a cycle of binging or serious overeating. Not cool. I have to remind myself that to not focus on one day (or even one part of a day, because more often than not, most of my day goes well in these areas), but on the overall effort. Am I eating better than I was? Yes. Am I exercising more than I was? Yes. Are both of these things becoming easier to do? Yes! Okay, so, overall, am I being successful? Absolutely!!

This is what has been working for me, and I hope it will continue to do so. I do worry about potentially hitting a plateau, but I also try to remind myself that I cannot worry about things that haven’t happened yet. At this point, all I can do is push myself harder and move forward.

Have you had some weight-loss success? What has helped you?

Last spring I lost about seventeen pounds. For whatever reason (a reason I should probably discuss with a therapist), I gained all of that weight back. In the midst of that weight regain, I sort of forgot that I was putting the weight back on and bought two pairs of shorts in a size smaller than what I was wearing, thinking they would fit – I didn’t even bother trying them on.

One pair did fit…for about a week. The other didn’t even come up past my butt. A wee bit discouraging, to say the least, and all this non-fitting probably helped me spiral back out of control with my eating and total lack of exercise.

I recently hit the really incredible weight-loss milestone of twenty pounds gone (it’s actually more like twenty-four now…with only 76 left to go). With that momentum behind me, I decided to take a leap and try on those pairs of shorts.

Wouldn’t you know it – they fit!! Well, mostly they fit. Both were a little tight, so I set them aside, leaving both, along with a skirt that fit, but not quite right, on the bannister in our upstairs hallway, right where I walk out every morning and exercise. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying them on from time to time to see how they fit, and each time they feel just a bit more comfy and look just a bit better.

Finally, this weekend, the first pair, which are a bit longer with cargo pockets, fit just right enough that I wore them out (yes, in March, because wouldn’t know in Maine this year mid March is the new late June?). The second pair, adorable and just a tad bit too short, are still teetering on the edge of fitting just right and being a bit snug. I’m going to wait to wear those until it’s actually summer time, when I’ve lost more late and hopefully my legs are a bit more toned up.

I am really, really excited to have progressed this far since January. I’m learning to look more at the big picture than fret over individual days (erm, like today…) and to take pride in what I’ve been able to do, besides shed the pounds. I’m less driven by my “need” to eat. That desire and then relief I used to feel when I let myself binge no longer sits on my shoulder. Exercise is becoming easier and more fun (and addicting!). Cravings I once had have started to dissipate. I’ve become almost as vain as I was in high school (which is pretty hard to do).

There is still a long way to go before I will be satisfied and feel as though I am at a healthy weight for me, but for the first time ever I feel as though that goal weight off in the distance is truly attainable.

One of my favorite memories of growing up are family vacations. We never did any very extravagant trips – no trips to Disney, anyway – but my parents tried to take us places, sometimes not all that far from home, and made those little family adventures fun.

Now that I’m grown up and E. is getting older (I can hardly believe she’ll be four in less than a month) and we’re contemplating the next addition to our family, I’m itching to make a go of our first real family vacation this summer. Because I’m in education I’m lucky enough to have the entire summer off (I guess it balances out the fact that I get paid beans), so I’ve got a solid two month stretch to figure out when we’ll go (and luckily, the hubs has hardly used any of his vacation time since he started his “new” job last June, so he’ll have a few days saved up as well).

While we’re not sure just when we’ll be going, a destination has been picked:

We live in Maine, the vacation state, the way life should be, we’re open for business (our latest slogan from our wonderful governor – you can decide for yourself if I’m being sarcastic or not). Even when I didn’t live here as a little kid, we still vacationed here, because my grandparents’ had a home in the town where we eventually moved. I love Maine, and I totally encourage people who haven’t come to visit, because this is an amazing state, from the beautiful western Mountains with it’s ski resorts and great hiking, to the coast with it’s sandy beaches and yummy lobsters, to the north, with it’s ridiculous amount of untouched land and state parks to explore.

I’ve been coming to and living this state my entire life. I get to be on “vacation” every day. We didn’t go anywhere except Old Orchard Beach last year and didn’t do one night of actual camping all summer long and we didn’t feel like we missed it, because there is so much to do as a tourist in your home town.

BUT.

This year we want to start a tradition of checking out different states, start camping again, and spend time learning about what else is out there for fun, food, and people. We chose Vermont as our first destination because it’s close, neither one of us has ever really been (I went once to check out the University of Vermont and didn’t get to see much of the state or even Burlington, for that matter), and I lived in Massachusetts, we live in Maine currently, and New Hampshire is crazy close, so we go there frequently and will probably return for our anniversary at the end of August, SO Vermont was the next logical stop.

I am so incredibly excited. My last out of state vacation was back in ’98 or ’99, when I was still in elementary school (we visited Virginia, Maryland, and D.C. – a vacation I so want to recreate for E. when she’s older). The few glimpses I got of Vermont when we visited UVM’s campus about seven years ago have stuck with me all this time later and I’m looking forward to seeing those mountains, picturesque fields, and quaint towns and cities all over again.

I’m pushing hard for a camping trip not too far from Burlington and on Lake Champlain. Husband wants the Green Mountains (if someone can give me a general idea of the proximity of the Green Mountains to Burlington, that would be amazingly helpful). In the end, I don’t think I’ll mind too much where we end up – I’m just excited to be going somewhere different, even if, in actuality, it’s not all that different from Maine.

Other places we plan on going this summer:
The White Mountain National Forest for a more unplugged camping trip (basically, there are sites you just walk up to and pitch a tent – no room for our pop-up there)

Old Orchard Beach, which is a perennial vacation spot for our predominantly French Canadian family (OOB is THE vacation spot in Maine for French Canadians – I hear more French there than English, for the most part).

Scituate, Massachusetts is on the south shore of Massachusetts (my mom’s old stomping grounds) and is where my aunt currently lives. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’ll invite us all down for a stay again this summer at her beautiful home just a short walk from the ocean.

My parents’ house is across the street from a lake that provides miles and miles of great boating, swimming and fishing. We love visiting, and it helps that their house is lovely and only 20 minutes away.

Our local beach! It doesn’t get better than a cute little sandy beach on a lake, a picnic lunch, and a few hours of playing in the water, laying in the sun, and then going for an ice cream afterward!

Lady Stuff is Cool

Don’t you love discovering really cool, new things?

I do!

While I was surfing the web last night, stalking different midwives in the area (because, you know, it’s not like I’m obsessed with having another baby or anything), I made a really super neat discovery – in Bridgton, Maine. I already knew about the Birthwise midwives and midwifery school, but I had not realized they had opened a clinic that offers a variety of free (FREE!!!) services, including family planning and fertility awareness education.

As it happens, I’ve just purchase the Holy Bible of fertility awareness, Taking Charge of Your Fertility, and when I read that these two services were offered (again, for FREE) at the clinic, and may have started screaming like a half-crazed, middle-aged lady at Oprah’s Favorite Things taping.

I want to do this so bad.

So, I e-mailed them tonight (because I’m a chicken and can’t make phone calls, plus it was evening and was sure no one would answer, and I hate leaving messages almost as much as I hate making phone calls). I e-mailed to see if I could schedule an appointment, because I’ve gone completely insane and just want to talk to someone professional about making babies so I can feel like we’ll be able to do just that sometimes soon.

I know I’m completely off my rocker and am probably over-sharing (I can see my mom breaking into a cold sweat right over this, saying, “Oh, God, Kirsten, don’t be that person!!!”). But, I can’t help it.

Plus, informing the few who read this blog of this discovery serves another purpose: now other people know about it, too. The free services provided are more than just baby stuff, but also basic lady health stuff. In a time where many programs are under threat that support women in taking ownership over their health, it’s important to know about what different programs are out there and to support them in some way, even if it’s just spreading the word.

Dirty Jobs

We’ve all got chores that we hate (dishes, ugh), and maybe we’ve even got some that we like (laundry – or at least folding it; I’m less good at putting it away). And then there are the chores that just skeeve you out.

Like the toilet.

In the past, I’d wear a pair of yellow dishwashing gloves every time I cleaned the bathroom then throw them in the wash afterward. While the dishwashing gloves were probably getting clean, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that they’d repeatedly been in my toilet. Yuck. Even my love for non-disposable items couldn’t keep me from feeling gross every time I donned those gloves.

So, when given the chance to use disposable gloves from , I jumped.

Now, this is going to sound really silly, but I’ve actually worn a lot of disposable gloves in my time (due to work) and this particular brand/type is what I prefer. They’re lighter weight (though still leak-proof, which is nice when you’re cleaning your yucky toilet), fit nicely, are powder and latex free, and don’t get my hands all sweaty and gross (which thicker, more opaque gloves do, and trust me, it’s not fun). What’s more, a box comes with a hundred at only $9.20 (here’s a ). That’s fifty toilet scrubs – so for me, that covers about a year.

I’ve also taken a couple of pairs out and stored them with our family’s first aid kit. While blood doesn’t make my stomach turn quite as much as the contents of a toilet (recently used or not), for safety precautions, it’s good to wear gloves, especially if it’s not a family member you’re working on, but your kiddo’s playmate or a friend who’s come to visit (who’s head inadvertently meets with a bocci ball – true story).

If you’re sick of reusing the same dish/cleaning gloves over and over OR you’re purchasing more expensive pairs of disposable gloves in the cleaning aisle of the grocery store or Wal-Mart, reconsider. Magid’s EconoWear nitrile gloves do the job just as well and comfortably, but with a bigger supply and therefore better price.

Disclosure: This is a review of the product EconoWear by Magid Disposable Nitrile Gloves. I was provided with a free sample. All opinions are my own.

What You Do When You’ve Got A Fever

I’ve gots the fever.

Baby fever.

And what’s a girl to do when she feels so emotionally ready for another little one, but all the pieces haven’t quite fallen into place? Why, she dreams about all the little baby things she wants to have when baby number two makes his (or her) appearance.

Now that we’re a few (almost FOUR) years into this whole kid shindig, I think I’ve been able to give myself some perspective on what crucial “stuff” I want for our next baby that we might not already have (or were decimated in the multiple moves we had to endure or from over use).

Here are the top ten things that I think we need and really, really want.

1.) An electric breast pump. Word to the wise, if you anticipate having to pump more than just rarely, get an electric breast pump. It will save you hours of stress and probably some discomfort. We weren’t really able to afford an electric pump with E. and I felt like they were too pricey to put on a registry for someone else to purchase, so we went without. I will not do that this time, especially since I’m sure I will have to pump a lot as I plan on going back to work after I have our second (assuming the world doesn’t end this year, or something, being 2012 and all).

2.) The Joovy Scooter. I have a Joovy jogging stroller and I love it. While I don’t really jog per say (though I’m trying), it’s a dream to push on almost any terrain (including along the water at the beach), folds compactly into my little Ford Taurus, and just sort of looks cool! Now I want the Scooter to be our new stroller to replace the old Graco (which lost a wheel about two years ago), because the jogger isn’t really the place for infants, PLUS, it is a wee bit bulkier than a regular stroller. AND the Scooter allows you to place an Graco infant car seat inside of it (I probably didn’t describe that well, but hopeful the above picture gives you an idea), which leads me to number three…

3.) The Graco SnugRide 35 Infant Car Seat (preferably in Zurich). We had a Graco car seat, which I loved, but mysteriously disappeared after we transitioned E. into her “big girl” convertible car seat on her first birthday. I loved the Graco car seat and am all over getting another, even if the old one is found. Because, let’s face it, I like pretty things and I like the Zurich pattern way more than the pattern of our old car seat (though that wasn’t bad, either).

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4.) Cloth diapers. There are so many reasons why I want to cloth diaper. The eco-friendly factor. The cheapness factor (after you get over the initial expense). And, okay, let's face it, since I'm a cute-things dork, the CUTENESS factor. I had wanted to cloth diaper with E., but since we were a) completely broke (versus only kind of broke now), and b) didn't have constant access to a washer and dryer, it just wasn't really in the cards. The next time around we will certainly be cloth diapering, hopefully with full success.

5.) A GOOD breastfeeding book. You change as you grow as a parent and adult. Or, at least I hope people do and I’m not the only one. Because, I’ve changed a lot. Prior to having E., I researched nothing. In my defense, coming from an age of technology, where I researched everything online in high school and college, I’m not entirely sure if I fully remembered how to look things up in a book, and while I was pregnant I didn’t have reliable access to the interwebz. So, I knew very little about what was going on with my body, with my baby, and what would happen afterwards, at least beyond what a couple of pregnancy books told me (which, trust me, was a enough at times…can we say paranoia?). I knew very, very little about breastfeeding. I had a couple of pamphlets and there was a chapter or two in my pregnancy books, but nothing in-depth. Plus, I received limited help at the hospital. I was also burdened with a “know-it-all” attitude that prevented me from really pursuing help. It made breastfeeding HARD and unnecessarily stressful and not at all the experience I wanted. I feel with the extra help of a book specifically on breastfeeding and being able to show that I don’t know everything and ask for more help will make a difference.

These are the top five items I really, really want/think I need the next time around. In short, some other stuff I think will make it’s way into my home are:
6.) Trays made for freezing homemade baby food, plus a new blender…maybe (having made baby food before, I really do think these are necessary).
7.) A bouncer.
8.) A co-sleeper (rather than a bassinet, which we had and never used)
9.) Nursing bras and/or shirts.
10.) One of those band thingies that helps your belly go back to normalish.

So, are any of my items completely useless? Or do you have a better idea? What items do you totally wish you had the first go around?