Happy Second Birthday, Blog!

Two years I’ve been blogging, now. So much has changed in that time. My life, my children, my eating, my friends, my path. Let’s delve into some of the transition and transformation, shall we?

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When I first started the blog, I had two preschoolers and a baby at home. Now, I have two preschoolers and a first grader. For the first time in seven years I am neither pregnant nor raising a baby!

Two years ago, I was a dairy-allergic omnivore who proudly pumped three times daily in order to donate breastmilk. Now — still dairy allergic — I eat a plant-based, gluten-free diet, and my former true omnivore husband has since become a pescatarian like our daughter. I am no longer pumping or a 24-hour boob buffet, but I am nursing my littlest 2-3 times daily, mainly for comfort in the morning, rest time, and before bed.

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Back when the blog was new, we used to have preschool in the morning, rest time, a playdate, dinner, then bath and bedtime. I had little flexibility to volunteer at my childrens’ school or do more than a brief outing away from my littlest, as I was on 24/7 boob duty. Plus, I was exhausted. The way I knew I’d somehow managed some REM sleep the night before was if I actually managed to properly brew my morning tea. Now, all three kids generally sleep through the night in their own rooms.

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Though our weekday schedule is a bit more chaotic these days, I am freer than I once was. I have taken on and given myself more duties over the past two years. I volunteer at my daughter’s school every-other week or so and plan most of my middle son’s class parties, which is funny because though I am a planner I do not consider myself much of a party planner. I lead one of the two bi-weekly mom meet-ups for my sons’ school, which is a gathering I only developed this year. Though small, it has created a lovely community and outlet for shared knowledge. I often have coffee once a week with a cherished friend, volunteer weekly as an ambassador at a yoga studio, and somehow grocery shop, cook, clean, and meal plan between school drop-offs and pick-ups.

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No longer the baby he was when this blog began, my youngest attends preschool two mornings each week. My middle son goes four mornings, whereas two years ago he only attended two days per week, They both have individual time with my mom on Wednesdays, which is a beautiful thing. Meanwhile, my eldest is in full-day school five days a week as opposed to her old schedule of four mornings at preschool. After we pick up my eldest from school, we make a quick jaunt to the playground and back home for homework time. Next comes dinner and extracurrilculars in some frenzied order.

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Two years ago, my middle son enjoyed gymnastics and swim classes at the community center. Now he is finishing up his current Tae Kwon Do session in favor of his much preferred figure skating lessons. He loves skating, or as he calls it: “dancing on the ice!”

Two years ago my daughter was doing ballet and swim classes at the community center. She now enjoys her Tae Kwon Do classes, with a long-range goal of earning her black belt, and cherishes her weekly yoga classes at a local coffee shop. She wants to take up piano but I have yet to wiggle that into the schedule and budget.

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Back when I started this blog, my life revolved around food: meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking, pumping for donation, breastfeeding, helping others navigate nursing hurdles. I desperately wanted to continue my coursework to become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC.) I have since realized that the IBCLC goal is a distant if not wishful aspiration. The 1,000 patient hours alone that I would need to complete — in addition to further course requirements — before I even sit for the certification exam are not attainable for me in the foreseeable future, at least not considering my personal family priorities and preferences. Instead, life has shifted me towards yoga.

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Two years ago my exercise mindset was all about shedding weight and gaining muscle. A very: “Push! Push! Push! No pain no gain!” mentality. I was unforgiving of myself and expected nothing but forward momentum. Jillian Michael’s “30-Day Shred” and PiYo were my jam, as I could do them at home during naptimes. Then, I started yoga via Boho Beautiful on YouTube in late 2016. It sparked a change in me that has extended into all parts of my life.

I have moved from doing daily at-home YouTube-lead yoga to doing self-lead in-home daily yoga and in-studio yoga 2-3 times per week. A favorite yoga teacher-turned-friend spurred me to become a yoga ambassador (story here) with the goal of entering yoga teacher training in the fall. I, then, plan to earn my kids yoga instruction certification. I never would’ve suspected this shift two years ago but I look in all directions now and love it wholeheartedly.

The person I’ve become and who I am becoming, my winding life path, the people I’ve encountered and welcomed into my life, the relationships that have deepened and those that have passed, my children’s development and growth as unique individuals, my ever-strengthening partnership with my husband… all of it is different. All of it is good.

Considering how much in my life has changed over the last two years, I cannot imagine what I’ll be writing two years from now. Thank you for following me on my journey! Tag along for the ride, surviving and savoring parenthood one day at a time.

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Three Things I Learned from My Kids

Being a parent, it isn’t always about what we teach our kids. It’s often about what they teach us. About the world, life, ourselves, happiness. They may be small, our needy germ-covered offspring, but they are wise in that, “I may eat Playdough and lick trashcans, but I know how to be truly happy” kind of way that only dogs and children master.

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1) Wonder. As my 2.5-year-old youngest child and I attempted to complete an errand at a local craft store — frequent tantrums firing and fizzling like bottle rockets on the 4th of July — I experienced the store through his eyes. THE WONDER!

“Look, Mommy!” A wall of model vehicles towered above him. “So many colors!” He exclaimed, walking among the silk flowers. “One more second, Mommy!” He pleaded as he gazed in awe at the miniature fairy house decor. “Mommy, I hold your hand. Come over here!” Basket upon basket of vibrantly hued faux fruit. This wasn’t just an errand for him; this place was a marvel.

He ooo’ed as we walked past the bike store, ahh’ed as we strolled past flower displays in the pharmacy, stopped short in amazement as a suped-up pick-up truck idled outside of Whole Foods. An errand was more than an errand because his world was full of wonder. In turn, the world became more beautiful and vibrant for me too.

Since parenting three children, I find myself seeking out the beauty, the wonder, the “wow” in the ordinary. The heart-shaped leaf on the driveway. The massive construction vehicles as I sit in traffic. The budding trees as I walk down the sidewalk. The colors in the produce section. The world is amazing if we choose to see it. My children have reminded me how.

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2) Play. As a stay-at-home mom of three young kids, I play every day. What a gift! Walking down the sidewalk, I crouch down with my littles and hop over cracks. On the playground, I bounce with them on the seesaw. At home, I do silly voices while reading and chase them in the cul-de-sac. We bring snack time outside. We play “Go Fish”, “Connect Four”, and “Guess Who?” I become a human rocket launching my littlest into the air by way of my lifting legs.

Life is more fun when we play. My kids help remind me to not take myself and my life so seriously. They reintroduced me to the beauty and necessity of play. With play we are more active, vibrant, joyful, and full of life. There’s no better way to be. If you’re not full of life, what are you full of?

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3) Shift.¬†Priorities, attention, schedule, route, perspective, goals, plans, outfit choices… my kids have required and taught me to shift often and in countless ways.

What childless me thought I would do or say as a parent has shifted. My priorities have greatly shifted. What used to be my plan a year ago has shifted. Who I used to be has shifted. How I eat has shifted. My hobbies have shifted. How I see and engage with the world has shifted. My body has shifted. My tolerance for others’ crap has shifted. And that’s OK, no matter what “Jenny from the Block” may proclaim. Shifting is good.

I’m stuck in a long check-out line, I shift my attention and find ways to distract the kids: “Where’s the color blue? Do you see a balloon? How many lights can you find?”

I’m in traffic and I decide to downshift my emotions, releasing my plans and accept that, “what will be will be.” I shift my focus away from the brake lights and my filling bladder to any surrounding fun I can find. “Look at that loader, kids! What do you think is in that box truck? Look how pretty the sky is! Who wants a car dance party?”

I shift to survive. I shift to keep the peace. I shift to feel peace. To be happy.

A Family First

This year is the first year we could all go sledding. All five of us. What a feat!

For the first time in nearly eight years, I finally wasn’t pregnant or nursing a newborn. No one was too little to enjoy careening down a snow-covered incline. We could all do it together. This was new territory.

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All three kids — 2.5, nearly-5, and 6.5 years old — successfully bundled and buttoned in layers to ward against the March snow. The Hubs and I suited up — ready to herd — and off we all went. Trekking through winter’s last hoorah on our way to the neighborhood sledding spot.

Two sleds, three kids, a few tantrums, and a good 20 minutes later, we made it. Up and down, giggles and snowballs. It was a time you store away with easy accessibility in your mind. The kind of recollection you revisit like an old slideshow, smiling at the mental memory reel. A treasure.

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This excursion was the doorway into our new chapter. One of slightly more freedom. More opportunity for new experiences and adventure. More cohesiveness as opposed to divide-and-conquer.

This year we break away from 10 years of trying to conceive, pregnancy, and babies. No more naps or diaper bag, onesies or highchair, bibs or booties. The baby gates are still in use, but the Pack-and-Play is long stowed away. We are in a different place this year.

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And I’m not as sad as I thought I’d be. I feel ready. Open. Welcoming to the new life season unfolding before us.

It will be a good one. I know it.

The Life of an Allergy Mom: Food Allergies Suck

Food allergies suck. My family of five has a slew of dietary restrictions ranging from veganism to severe food allergy. Do we enjoy ourselves and our meals daily despite our many food limitations? Of course. Food allergies still suck though.

My eldest child is a dairy intolerant pescatarian. My husband is simply a pescatarian, who probably shouldn’t eat dairy but he does anyway because: cheese! My middle child is dairy allergic and has a severe Epi-pen requiring peanut allergy. I am a dairy allergic and gluten intolerant vegan (who is also allergic to pesticides, weed killers, latex, and raw potato… yep, that’s a thing.) Fortunately, our youngest has outgrown his infant egg allergy and now only has skin sensitivity to many soaps and lotions. We are dietary divas. I never envisioned this as my life. But here we are.

Every nutrition label thoroughly scanned, an Epi-pen in every bag, safe stand-in treats available at school in case of class parties or birthday goodies, sorting through holiday candy before the kids mistakenly ingest foe, navigating social gatherings and invitations with an eye for safety and inclusion without burdening, reviewing menus before entering a restaurant, always bringing snacks and meals when we travel. Life with food allergies requires research, forethought, and planning. It’s not an impulse game.

Due to my middle son’s severe peanut allergy, I perceive peanuts and peanut products as rattlesnakes… they may be benign or they may kill us, but there’s no telling which it’ll be. The general public, though, does not share my perspective.

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I can’t read recipes or posts regarding food that mention peanut butter without having a visceral reaction. It is no longer food… it is a lethal substance. To others,, though, peanuts are as wholesomely American as apple pie under 4th of July fireworks. I am, in turn, a bothersome inconvenience. A menace to quick brown bag lunches and trail mix everywhere.

This weekend at the zoo, we were standing watching the sea lions when mama protection mode took over me. A young girl walked up from behind us nibbling a sadwich and siddled herself directly beside my middle son. There they stood watching the graceful animals twirl and glide through the blue water. Her sticky hands beside his on the tank glass, entranced. Cute scene, right?

Then, before I registered what I was smelling, I — on forceful instinct — hurriedly shuffled my children out of the exhibit. My heart raced, my mind and body laser focused on remaining outwardly calm but achieving a quick escape.

Only as we reached the safety of the sidewalk did my mind settle enough so that I could recognize the offending scent: peanut butter.

I just bolted out of a zoo exhibit because I smelled a condiment? In no other life journey is this normal, unless you’re an allergy mom like me.

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I don’t ask “why me?” because why NOT me? Why should it be someone else? But I do really dislike food allergies. I loathe having to special order, to carefully research products before buying, fearing a common food item I once enjoyed, and others thinking segregating my child is the ethical move. It’s safer and more convenient, but is it kind?

I also loathe not having a solution that doesn’t irritate/burden others. I loathe having to make requests to keep my child safe or being seen as “that allergy mom.” I feel sad hearing that my child had to sit away from others due to food allergies. I am happy that my children are resilient.

Despite it all, I love my life. I am grateful. I love my children, idiosyncrasies, gifts, allergies, and all. Allergies are just a part of things for us.

This is life as an allergy mom.