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We Took Pictures This Weekend.

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Mike and I realized we didn't have a lot (or any?) pictures of the two of us together during my pregnancy, especially now that my belly is so prominent. 

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Hiring a photographer was not in the budget, but my parents were nice enough to come over on Saturday and take some quick digital pictures.

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I am a little over 37 weeks pregnant in all of these photos.

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Here is this year's Halloween costume.

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After the quick photo session and some lunch, we stopped in at an eco-friendly baby store. They had this little area set up where they were encouraging customers to take pictures with a pumpkin, so we added some more photos to the day.

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Since we're now considered full-term, our baby in theory could come any time now.

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Yesterday we finished our sixth session of a six-week birth class.

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I'm fine with the baby coming a little early (if that's what the baby wants to do) but Mike and I both really wanted to get through October since it had always been in our minds that we were having a November baby. We just need to get through today and we're there!

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It is also my personal wish to get through the election before the baby is born since there is so much weird election energy in the air. We'll see if the baby agrees.

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We were able to get my parents/ our photographers in front of the camera for this one. Thank you Mom and Dad for helping us document this ninth month of pregnancy!

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More Baby Prep & Meal Freezing

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Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

Last week was a bit of a debacle because I was without a phone for a brief stint (I dropped it one too many times and went from I'll Just Continue Using My Phone Despite This Giant Crack in the Screen to I Can Literally No Longer Operate My Phone and Must Get it Fixed ASAP within seconds). No phone meant no pictures, which means a delicious vegetarian lasagna was constructed from scratch but there is no photographic evidence to share on the blog. Just know that after our baby arrives, the lasagna waiting for us in our freezer is a cheesy masterpiece stuffed with homemade seitan, mashed sweet potatoes and spinach. Also as you can see in this post, I did have my phone around when I was making a vegetable barley soup. All is not lost.

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For this vegetable barley soup recipe, I turned to The Vegan Pregnancy Cookbook. This book was instrumental to me, especially early in my pregnancy. As I've mentioned before, I couldn't even THINK about dairy or eggs without getting sick during my first trimester. I became a default vegan until I could stomach the ingredients again. My egg and dairy consumption remains significantly less than what it used to be, but I'm now back to eating non-vegan ingredients at least a few times a week. During early pregnancy, though: no way. This book was a godsend.

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Tomorrow I will be 37 weeks pregnant. I can reasonably expect to give birth in 1-5 weeks. Making it this far into pregnancy is surreal because here I am, uncomfortable and cumbersome, foreign in my own body, the most unlike myself I've ever been. On the other side of all of this a tiny person will greet me and become my own. I'm so excited about motherhood because I feel like in some ways it's the most "me" I'll ever be. The love I have for this baby is ready to pour out of me. In the meantime, I sit here uncomfortably waiting.

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Today I read an article about the idea of becoming a mom without becoming a mommy, i.e. entering motherhood without losing a sense of self-identity. In some ways pregnancy feels like a losing of oneself, which I assumed would translate mainly to my body. I've found it's seeped into other facets of my life, too. I've lost interest and drive in certain areas, though I'm not convinced that this is entirely bad. As a writer I've always had a scrappiness that's allowed me to devote myself to projects even when they didn't fully hold my interest. In pregnancy I feel too tired for all of that. I'm too tired to sell myself to editors or to try and write in a way that matches the vision of a company that's not my own. I don't feel like spending my hours doing work I don't love right now. That's a gross and privileged thing to say — let me own that upfront. It's also a true thing to say. Pregnancy is a weird process that brings up a lot of pure and crystalized feelings. I'm too tired for the rest. Am I really losing myself or am I becoming more myself than ever? 

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I love the idea of becoming a mom and not a mommy, of loving and nurturing a human without denying the interests that drove me long before baby came along. I think in particular for women who plan to stay home, the danger of immersive baby and kid culture is real. One minute you're a writer, runner, cupcake baker and book lover. The next you're a mom and housewife whose daily schedule revolves around a tiny human. I'm not saying I'm not excited to care for this tiny human — I am, more than I can even express. I'm saying there's a lot of pressure these days to become a certain kind of mom — the one who packs lunches that look like pieces of art and volunteers to coach all the activities and makes homemade costumes for playtime and hosts weekly playdates that include laboriously prepared appetizers and drinks for the other moms and joins all the Mommy & Me groups and goes from activity to activity and stays up all night gluing pieces from Pinterest-inspired art projects and dresses her kid like a mini fashionista and documents every moment on social media, all while keeping up with the housework and making nutritious yet delicious dinners (and breakfasts, lunches, and snacks) every day. If I become that kind of mother, when will I ever write another book? When will I go for a run? When will I spend time with my husband? When will I sit down with my child and just read and cuddle and be there and not worry about going somewhere or doing the next thing on the list?

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By mentioning any of this, I've already entered the dangerous territory of coming off like I'm judging other mothers. There is nothing wrong with Pinterest-inspired craft projects. There is nothing wrong with volunteering to lead your child's activities. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make your kid's sandwich look like a frog or pirate or ladybug and there's nothing wrong with keeping a clean house. Where things get tricky, I think, is when that pressure seeps in to try and do ALL THE MOM THINGS to the detriment of some or all of the Woman In the World things/ friend things/ spouse things/ independent person things. 

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Do I plan on being ridiculously devoted to my child? Am I ready to give away my time and space and energy and love in a way I never have before? Absolutely. I'll be the first to say it: this little person is going to be my world. I will do anything and everything I can to keep this person safe and happy. But I also want to write another book. I want to return to running. I want to read and bake cupcakes and spend time with my husband, family, and friends. I don't want to feel like a housewife (I frankly already feel like a housewife. It's impossible to work from home and not devote a big chunk of time each day to housework. It's there, in front of you, always.) I don't want to feel like MORE of a housewife. I want to feel like a person who has some semblance of balance despite the level of devotion required for this motherhood position. 

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I think that everything I'm saying is important for me, but I think it's important for my child, too. I want my kid to look at me as a complete person. I remember all the Mom and Dad moments from my childhood, but I also remember my mom as a potter and self-employed businesswoman. I remember my dad as a newspaper editor and tennis player. I remember our shared love of Mexican food and family bike rides, of road trips to Colorado and time spent outdoors. My mom made me a lot of clothes and Halloween costumes, but she had both the skill and desire to do so. My dad made a lot of elaborate meals, but he had both the skill and desire to do so. I do not feel that either of them lost themselves to parenting and although I've never asked, I hope they don't feel that way either. (Perhaps if I did ask, I'd learn a few things. Maybe someone wishes all those Saturday afternoons on soccer sidelines were spent in a yoga class instead. Maybe someone wishes another caregiver had been in rotation to give respite from the endless afternoons with us running around. I don't know, although I'm now curious and will make a point of asking soon.) Maybe it's impossible not to lose yourself just a little in the act of parenting, or maybe I'm blowing the entire thing out of proportion. I won't know until I get there.

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I'm going to have a baby soon and I cannot wait. I'm also going to keep writing, though not necessarily for other people. I'm already giving so much of myself to this one person — maybe I'll try and retain a little bit of my writing identity and make something of it in my own way. Financials are always scary but giving myself away to something I don't truly believe in is scarier. I'm going to believe in my own abilities. I'm going to believe in the relationship this sweet baby and I are about to form. I'm going to believe in our ability to navigate and figure out this new world together. I'm going to believe that I'll find my place again while remaining at home with a child. I'm going to believe that all-consuming "mommyhood" and devoted motherhood are not one at the same, and that I can be good at one without losing myself to the other. 

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Prepping For Baby: Freezing Vegan Mac 'n Cheese

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Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

Today I am 35 weeks pregnant. This means I can reasonably expect to no longer be pregnant and have a baby in my arms within 3-7 weeks. Three to seven weeks! It's crunch time. 

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Luckily, I'm feeling more prepared than ever. This is thanks in huge part to the shower my mom and sister threw for me this weekend. We had such a lovely weekend — my parents-in-law flew in from California, my sister and her family came in from Phoenix, and a sweet group of friends gathered at my parents' house. I like the term "shower" because I truly felt like I was being showered with love and generosity. Our baby is starting life with so many nice things thanks to the incredible people we know. 

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This week I decided to prep and freeze a big batch of vegan macaroni and cheese from the cookbook Hearty Vegan Meals For Monster Appetites. A monster appetite is exactly what I'm expecting to have when I start breastfeeding. 

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Symptoms I've been experiencing a lot lately: back pain, overheating, breathlessness. I still wake up every morning with Mike because I like the ritual of sitting down to eat breakfast with him before he leaves for work, but I often go back to bed for a few hours once he's gone in an attempt to quell some of the fatigue that's clung to me throughout pregnancy. 

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As my body grows, I feel increasingly vulnerable each time I step outside my front door. Vulnerable is a word I've frequently used to describe my pregnancy. My belly has become a magnet. People openly comment on it and stare at it. I'm carrying the thing I'm most protective of on the front of my body and I don't trust people not to crash into me or invade my space. I want to walk around with a bubble surrounding me at all times. I imagine this instinct will only grow once there's a baby in the flesh. I rarely thought twice about walking down a street alone before I was pregnant. Now this precious thing I'm carrying is prominent and visible. My physical abilities have slowed. My defenses are up. Walking through the aisles of a store feels like a battle.

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The bigger and rounder my belly gets, the more I like my pregnant body. I don't know how I'll feel after birth, but in my pregnancy I've noticed that the desire or pressure to look a certain way has decreased dramatically. I do not feel weird about the weight I've gained. I do not care that I don't wear makeup or style my hair most days. I do not care that there are only a limited number of outfits in my closet that work for me at this point in my pregnancy. There are people who find the physical changes of pregnancy incredibly stressful and I thought I might be one of them, but I'm just not. I'm tired. I'm excited. I'm hopeful. I love thinking about the future life of my little one. I love taking naps and eating good food and taking care of myself during pregnancy, which I know translates to taking care of the baby, too. I see my big belly and I don't know how to be anything but amazed. A little person is living inside that belly. If my thighs and butt have grown bigger in the process of pregnancy, so be it. I can't find the energy to begin to care. 

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I know I say this often, but I'll repeat it once more: having a pregnancy that coincides with a presidential election is stressful. I'm making a big effort to take care of myself and stay calm and keep my energy level positive because I think my baby is absorbing all of it. With so much negativity and toxicity surrounding the election in general and a certain candidate in particular, it can be difficult to not get pulled down with frustration and unease. I'm hopeful about the outcome of all of this and hopeful that I'll bring my baby into a more positive world, but in the meantime there's a lot of negativity and grossness that I'm trying to be informed about while absorbing as little as possible. I know a lot of the frustration and fear has crept in despite my best efforts, and I just hope my baby isn't picking up on too much of it. 

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We missed this week's birth class because we attended a wedding on Sunday and I'll be honest: there's a little less stress in our lives this week. It's not that they don't do their best to comfort and reassure us in the class. It's just that despite the comfort and reassurance, the fact remains that this body and mind of mine will be giving birth to a child soon and I can't really think of anything more vulnerable. There's that word again: Vulnerable. 

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The tofu in this recipe contributes to the creamy texture. This recipe may seem complicated, but from start to finish I don't think it took any more than 30 minutes to prepare.

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For several months now, I've more or less been waking up every hour to pee. It's an annoyance I'm grateful for, since I know it is training me for all those times I'll be waking up with my baby. Having our first child is such a strange experience because I can imagine all the things that are about to happen, but until the baby's actually here it's just a faraway vision.

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Is there anything more comforting than a creamy pasta dish? 

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Last night I went to a reading at Powell's with a small group of my friends. The reading was great but oh man: I was so hot and breathless. I don't know how much longer I can keep up normal activities as I delve further into the depths of a third trimester pregnancy. It may seem simple to sit in a chair for an hour, but when the pool of sweat and feeling of "Am I about to pass out?" hits, the idea of being propped up on pillows on my couch at home grows more enticing. 

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Creamy goodness!

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It feels like there is still a lot to accomplish before our baby arrives, but nothing at this point seems insurmountable. Thanks to an incredible support network of family and friends, we went from having NOTHING to an entire house filled with baby things. What does one even do with that much love? 

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I don't know exactly when this baby will arrive, but regardless of the exact date this is for sure our Thanksgiving baby. I've never been more thankful for anything in my life. For all my fears and worries, I'm mostly excited to meet the person I've been carrying inside me all these months. I know this person will become an individual entity completely separate from me, but right now the connection between us in undeniable. We are inhabiting the same skin. The baby is me is the baby, for now. 

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We're getting ready for you, Little Cupcake. We hope you like our home and our family. We hope you like the smell of a pasta casserole baking and the feeling of our arms wrapped around you. We absolutely cannot wait to meet you. 

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This world is kind of a crazy place, but there's so much love waiting for you when you get here. 

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Prepping For Baby: Freezing Flautas

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Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

Our little cupcake has been baking in my oven for over 33 weeks and we are getting more excited every day. We're also getting a little more prepared each day. From setting up the nursery to acquiring a lot of essential items through the generosity of our family and friends, we've been taking a lot of baby steps (see what I did there?) toward getting things ready for our new roommate.

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One of my big projects for this month is prepping and freezing meals that I can then easily heat up once the baby arrives. I typically spend a lot of time during the week cooking. In the first few months especially, I don't anticipate spending a lot of time in the kitchen. However, I do anticipate spending a lot of time hungry. (I've reached the hungry, hungry, HUNGRY phase of third trimester pregnancy and I know it will only increase with breast feeding.) In an attempt to make things a little easier on myself down the road, I'm freezing meals now so I can have quick, healthy options after our baby arrives. 

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The first dish I'm making and freezing is sweet corn and green chili baked flautas. This is a recipe from the original Thug Kitchen cookbook. It's a super simple recipe that only requires the ingredients shown above, so it's a great one for a project like this. It's also easy to double the recipe: one for this week and one to freeze for later. 

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I chose this dish because it's an easy way to squeeze veggies into a super portable meal. Flautas can be picked up easily and I have a feeling that will come in handy on certain days. A lot of the other meals I have planned are more casserole-based, but I needed at least one meal in there that I could easily pick up with my hands. 

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An update on pregnancy itself: Yes, I'm still incredibly tired. That seems to be the hallmark of my pregnancy. In the past few weeks I've also been quite breathless. Standing for even a few minutes can make me feel like I might pass out, but light movement like walking helps. As the little cupcake's apartment gets more cramped, things are getting more uncomfortable for me, too. I feel a lot of pressure on my organs, mostly my bladder and lungs. I like the idea of sharing this space with the baby but I have a feeling we'll both be much more comfortable when we're free to move around a little more. 

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Mike and I have been taking a birth class for the last two weeks. We were so overloaded with information after the first class that we both had trouble sleeping for the next week. Last night's class was better, though we still both woke up an hour before the alarm this morning, unable to get back to sleep. I think the birth classes are solidifying the realness of the impending labor, something I managed to not think about for most of my pregnancy. 

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The thing about childbirth is there's only so much I can actually do to prepare for it. My body will do what my body does, my baby will do what my baby does, and I will do my best to respond accordingly. Although the idea of childbirth is getting more real to me, I still feel distanced from it. I don't think it will be REAL-real until it happens. 

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Meanwhile, my baby is moving more. The issue of baby movement has been a touchy one for me because apparently my placenta is anterior and apparently this makes it more difficult for me to feel movements. It took a long time before I could feel even slight flutters. Now that baby is moving around (possibly doing laps?) in a way I can obviously feel, I am grateful.

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My emotions have surprised me. I do not get weepy over television commercials and I do not cry over nothing like the pregnant women in movies. If anything, I've felt less sensitive during pregnancy than I normally do — but more irritable and more vulnerable. I'm not a fan of strangers getting too close to me. I'm more likely to feel agoraphobic or claustrophobic while out shopping or in group events than I did before. I feel very protective of my body and my space. I feel less inclined to be polite to strangers. When I walked past a man on the sidewalk last week and he yelled out, "Boy or girl?" I just kept walking, ignoring a question I didn't feel like he knew me well enough to ask. Normally I step all over myself to be polite, even when that politeness hasn't been earned. Pregnancy has offered me many moments like this where I surprise myself. 

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Having a pregnancy that coincides nearly perfectly with a presidential election is probably THE most stressful thing to me. The idea that I could bring a baby into a world with a certain leader in charge is too stressful for me to elaborate. 

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By the way, these tin pans came from the Dollar Store and they're perfect for freezing. As an added bonus, we actually have an extra refrigerator and freezer in our garage. It's usually unplugged, but we're going to plug in for the next few months and store big batches of ready-to-go food.

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I think I've reached that point in pregnancy where despite my exhaustion, I have enough worries and emotions coursing through me that I can't easily lie down and take a nap. It feels like all the drama of life should stop and make room for my pregnancy, but that certainly is not the case. I'm still working but it's getting harder to concentrate and unfortunately my job requires nothing but concentration. I'm trying to reach out and be a good friend to people but I'm also trying to spend as much time as I can readying myself before the beautiful storm arrives. It's an overwhelming time but little things like freezing a batch of flautas help me to feel a little more in control. 

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DIY Day: Make Your Own Scalp Treatment

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Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

Pregnancy is full of fun physical symptoms like back pain, unquenchable thirst, fatigue, nausea and mood swings. The latest I can add to this List of Fun is dry scalp AKA dandruff. (In fairness I don't fully know if my pregnancy is the culprit for this, but I entered my third trimester and my head started to snow, so there seemed to be a correlation.) If you've been following my blog for awhile, you know that I've made a concerted effort throughout pregnancy to avoid products with ingredients that I'm not sure are 100% safe for my baby if absorbed through me. Since there are some highly questionable ingredients in store-bought dandruff shampoos, I decided to make my own dry scalp treatment. 

Due to the aforementioned pregnancy and the Super Brain that goes with it, I can't remember exactly where I found this recipe. I know I read it online, but I can't figure out where and therefore can't credit the source. As a writer this makes me feel kind of terrible but as an exhausted pregnant lady I think there are worse things in life. Anyway, here's what goes into the recipe:

2 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
2 T water

Mix the three together and that's it. I massaged the mixture into my scalp (bonus scalp massage!), waited 20 minutes, and rinsed it off with water before doing my regular shampoo and conditioner routine. My hair felt oily because of the olive oil and my scalp felt tingly because of the lemon juice, so I was a little worried about what I got myself into. It rinsed off just fine though (I shampooed twice) and left no oily residue. The tingling also went away after I rinsed. (In case it doesn't go without saying: Do NOT use this if you have broken skin. Lemon juice in broken skin would feel terrible.) 

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Once out of the shower and all cleaned up, I felt like a new person — a person who no longer had white flakes falling from her head! This was a quick and simple way to take care of the dryness and the bonus scalp massage felt wonderful, too. I don't think I would want to put lemon juice on my head every day, but I bet once a week or so this could feel like a real treat. 

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Running By The Numbers

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21 races in the last 21 months

(10 half marathons, 4 10Ks, 1 8K, 6 5Ks)

179.5 total miles

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11 half marathons in the last 3 years

144.21 total miles

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9 half marathons in 9 months

117.99 total miles

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7 half marathons with a baby on board

91.77 total miles

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4 half marathons in the 4-part Oregon Half Marathon series

52.44 total miles

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2 half marathons during my 3rd trimester

26.22 miles

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Pre-pregnancy PR from January: 1:47:06 (3rd place in my age group)

My pace was 8:10 per mile. I never stopped running. 

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Half marathon time today at 30 weeks pregnant: 2:45:43 (40th out of 43 in my age group)

My pace was 12:38 per mile. I walked all the inclines. I walked during all water breaks. I stopped to pee 3 times throughout the course.

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I fell running 3 times over the past 9 years.

I've never had a lasting injury — until my last fall in August, which tweaked my knee in a way that still impacts my running today.

My fastest mile ever: 6:58

My longest run ever: 16 miles

My plan for the next few months before baby arrives: light runs, long walks, lots of rest

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New Cookbook Day: RUN FAST. EAT SLOW.

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Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

I love cookbooks. New recipes, crisp pictures, fun ingredient ideas: a new cookbook opens up a new world. I get excited for cookbooks the way others get excited for clothes or shoes — I see a new one on the market and I simply HAVE TO HAVE IT. For many months I've been getting increasingly excited about the release of a cookbook written by four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan and chef/food writer/nutrition educator/runner/mother Elyse Kopecky called RUN FAST. EAT SLOW. After all my anticipation, the book was released in August and I finally got my hands on a copy last night during a talk the authors gave at Powell's at Cedar Hill Crossing. 

I'm excited to get cracking on some of the recipes, but before I do I already know I love this book. How do I know this? Shalane and Elyse have a food philosophy that aligns perfectly with my own. They may eat a lot more meat (they are particularly big fans of bison) and their athletic training may be way more elite than mine, but we still share some very similar ideas about food.

Particularly in this country and especially as women, so much of what we're taught about nutrition is bonkers. By focusing so much on avoiding fat, counting calories, and restricting ourselves, food is stripped of both flavor and fun. Restrictive eating leads to hunger which leads to binging which leads to restrictive eating which leads to hunger which leads to binging. Nowhere in that cycle is there room for enjoyment or adequate nutrition. For many years now I've believed — and KNOWN! — that there's a better way. In reading their book, I can see that Shalane and Elyse believe this too.

Their food philosophy is all about "indulgent noursishment." They believe that eating real food and not obsessing over calorie counts or micronutrients leads to optimal body function and satisfaction. We all have the ability to tune into the needs of our own bodies, but some of us have been conditioned for years to participate in diets and other restrictive styles of eating. We've lost sight of the power of our own bodies and minds.

I try hard never to turn food into a moral argument but the fact always remains that I DON'T FEEL GOOD when I eat processed foods or when I skip meals or when I let myself get so hungry that I'm willing to eat whatever is set in front of me. I feel good when I eat whole, real food. I feel nourished. I feel happy. Eating a real meal does not make me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating a bag of potato chips makes me want to turn around and eat a bag of potato chips. Eating real food — the kind that is prepared with fresh ingredients, contains substantial calories, and actually tastes good — is the bridge for everything for me. It's the bridge to a good mood. It's the bridge to a good run. It's the bridge to less stress and higher contentment. There is simply nothing in this world that can or will make me feel better than a healthy, home-cooked meal shared with someone I love. 

In this cookbook, Shalane and Elyse are not messing around. They do not shy away from healthy fats, which are both flavor and nutrient carriers. We've been so conditioned to be so scared of certain types of foods (like foods with real fat) while encouraged to flock to the very foods that will leave us less satisfied and more unhealthy (like low-fat foods pumped with extra sugar). These elite athletes are here to put a stop to this madness and I could not be any more on board.

I'll be trying recipes in the coming weeks and letting you know what I think, but for now I'm just pleased that a book like this even exists. At their talk they said this is the first book geared toward runners that doesn't contain calorie counts, which I find astounding. As someone who refuses to count calories and/or weigh myself* I think this is such a positive step toward establishing healthier food habits for so many people. In my opinion food is meant to be lovingly prepared and happily devoured. When a food relationship is all about trying to look a certain way or be a certain weight, life can get pretty miserable. I have no interest in a miserable life and every interest in loving the food I eat and the body I'm in.

*You don't weigh yourself?! How do you know how much you've gained in your pregnancy? I don't! And I also don't think it's important that I do know. I get weighed at every single doctor's appointment and I know they'll let me know if there's ever an issue. Otherwise, what difference does it make? Keeping active and eating healthfully have been my main goals throughout this pregnancy and as long as I'm sticking to that, I think that's all that matters.

But what about losing the weight after the baby is born?! Before I was pregnant, I thought this would be a concern. The more pregnant I get, the less I care. I want my baby to be healthy and I want to keep myself healthy and the rest just doesn't seem that significant to me. My body will look the way it looks. I will continue to focus on being active and eating healthy and my body can either follow suit or not. I'm much more interested in providing a healthy life for my child. I think the best place for me to start is to introduce healthy food habits early. I don't anticipate my kid caring about how soft my stomach is. I do anticipate my kid caring about whether or not the food I'm serving is delicious and satisfying. 

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

With Elyse Kopecky and Shalane Flanagan at Powell's in Beaverton

Life is crazy enough without making ourselves crazy about food, too. I say: eat real, good food and enjoy every bite. Then get outside for a run (or walk or whatever your preferred mode of activity is) and enjoy that, too. We're humans. We're alive. We're allowed to enjoy ourselves and it's totally possible to do just that while living a healthy life at the same time. 

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Staying Active During Pregnancy (When All You Really Want To Do Is Sleep)

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

Six months of pregnancy + six half marathons.

Psst. Check out my Patreon account to see how you can support my writing. 

Sometimes I think people get the wrong impression of me when they find out I've kept up my running (somewhat and so far) throughout my pregnancy. I've been called everything from badass to hardcore to unstoppable, but none of these descriptors ring true for me. The truth as I see it is that there is one reason and one reason only why I've been able to complete so many half marathons during pregnancy. That reason? I was already regularly completing half marathons before pregnancy. I was already in the physical condition necessary to drag my body over 13.1 miles.

There's nothing I've done during pregnancy to increase my strength or stamina in that regard. Every single week, I've run a little less and a little slower than the week before. During some runs I stop and walk entirely. Other days I skip the run to take a nap instead.

Do I think my routine was pretty badass and hardcore before pregnancy? Absolutely. That's how I was able to break a 1:45 half marathon PR. But since I've been pregnant? I've been in maintenance mode. I have dramatically scaled back the amount of time and effort I devote to running. It may seem impressive to some that I'm still getting out there, but I firmly believe the ONLY reason I'm able to do so is because I worked so hard for an entire year prior to getting pregnant. 

Here are a few things I used to do regularly that I no longer do now: Run fast. Lift weights. Do ab exercises. Do HIIT training. Run on an incline. Go outside and run 10 miles just because I know I can and I like to move my body. I don't do these things anymore. I certainly planned to continue lifting light weights throughout my pregnancy, but I just haven't had the energy. I planned on running more throughout the week, but I don't have it in me. I can complete half marathons still because the muscle memory is there and because I run JUST ENOUGH to not lose my base level of fitness. For the most part, though, I'm not running a lot anymore. 

I'm not saying any of this to disparage myself and try to convince you that running a half marathon while pregnant is nothing. I'm just saying that the reason why I'm still able to carry my pregnant body across finish lines is because I worked my ass off and then some for the year prior to getting pregnant. It's just as simple as that. I worked harder than I've ever worked and thanks to that, I'm still reaping some benefits despite the fact that I've slowed down a lot. 

One of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was go out and run 16 miles. My body was in the perfect shape to do it and I knew that wouldn't be the case for long. I wanted a super long run so I could navigate and process all the complex emotions I was going through: I was so excited, so happy, so nervous. Until then my longest run was 15 miles, but I knew I had it in me. I had to take advantage of my body's capabilities while they were still available to me.

Could I go out and run 16 miles today? No way. I can still push myself through 13.1 miles in a race setting but as far as runs I do on my own, the energy level is just not there. To me this is the most interesting thing about people finding out I run half marathons while pregnant: they act like I'm out being superhuman but meanwhile most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. To repeat: most days, I'm home taking a 4-hour nap. There's very little that feels superhuman about that. 

At this point in my pregnancy, I'm no longer a hardcore runner. My runs include walking breaks, pee breaks, food breaks, water breaks, and Let's Cut This One Short Today, I'm Not Feeling It breaks. It's important to me to try and maintain as much of an active lifestyle as possible despite wanting to spend my days napping and snacking, so what do I do? This is what I do.

I walk a lot. 

I take a weekly prenatal yoga class. 

When inspired, I do push-ups against the wall, tricep dips on the coffee table, and squats and lunges in the living room.

I run, but much less frequently. 

I walk up hills. 

I park far away.

I take the stairs.

I walk around the neighborhood. I walk the aisles of grocery stores. I walk up to Mt. Tabor. I walk. 

I have a few gentle prenatal workout videos.

Here's what else I do:

I rest. I sleep. I drink a lot of water. I make sure I'm eating plenty of calories. I listen to my baby and my body and cut workouts short when I don't have the right energy level. I avoid working out outside when the temperatures are too hot. I give myself a break because I'm growing a human and that counts for something. 

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This is why I feel a little strange when people act like the half marathons are some sort of HUGE accomplishment. It's not that I'm not proud of them — I am. I just don't want to give the wrong impression. Guys, I am telling you: when it comes to working out, I truly don't do that much these days. I don't have the energy to carry myself through long workouts. I adore my prenatal yoga class, which challenges my muscles but also feels a bit like a glorified nap. I love strolling around my neighborhood. On the days when I do feel like I have the energy, I love going for short runs. About once a month, I love completing a half marathon. For the most part, though, when it comes to my life day in and day out: I'm resting. I'm sleeping. I'm working. I'm in my robe on the couch. There is nothing badass to see here.

And right now, I think that's totally okay.

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Checking In At 27 Weeks

New closet for new baby.

New closet for new baby.

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Today I am 27 weeks pregnant. According to some sources, this means I am entering my third trimester. According to others, I’m a week away. Either way, I’ve made it a significantly far way into this pregnancy. Give or take an early or late arrival, I have 13 weeks to go.

We’ve made a few exciting changes and upgrades these last few weeks. We went from having tiny hole-in-the-wall closets in both our room and the nursery to having normal-sized closets in both. We painted the nursery. (When I say “we” I mean Mike and my mom painted the nursery. My dad and I were in charge of snacks.) Things are starting to feel like they’re coming along. 

As excited as I am about the impending arrival, I’m also finding it impossible not to be stressed about the expenses that keep stacking up. Apparently having a kid costs a lot of money. Who knew? I of course always knew this in an abstract way, but the reality is jarring. For a variety of reasons I’ve had a very dry summer in terms of freelancing, which has coincided perfectly with a pileup of expenses. (One of my main sources of income is for writing that’s used in schools, which during the summer is not in very high demand. I know things will pick up again when September rolls around, but in the meantime my internal voice sounds a little like: Aghhhghggghghghgh!)     

We’ve never been a truly “two income” household because although I’ve always had an income, it’s a paltry income that’s used for specific things like groceries and certain bills. Right now while my paltry income is even less than its normal level of paltry, I’m feeling the burn. As insignificant as it feels to “just” buy groceries, I’m realizing now that it actually is a pretty big help. Freely doing this each week without tapping into our joint account was a beautiful thing. 

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Today is my parents' 43rd wedding anniversary. I feel very fortunate because throughout my life, I was always shown that you don't need a lot of money to build a happy life. I was raised by a journalist and an artist (my mom's pottery studio was in our basement) who created years upon years of happy memories for themselves and their children. So while I do feel the strain of financial stress heavily right now, I feel confident that everything will work out and equally confident that this huge love I feel is the most important thing I can provide for my baby anyway. 

Financial stress (which will be worked out soon enough anyway) aside, things are starting to feel more real and exciting as we get closer to November. I’m also starting to feel more pregnant than ever. I’ve of course been pregnant all along, but my belly has now reached a point where it feels uncomfortable throughout the day and night. I finally broke down and bought a pregnancy belt that lifts my belly a bit when I run, which in theory keeps some of the pressure off my bladder and stops me from feeling like I have to pee every two seconds. I don’t know if it fully achieves this goal, but it is a slight improvement. 

I’m also still dealing with waning energy, a symptom that never truly went away even during that second trimester so many describe as a magical time in pregnancy. The end of the second trimester is a point in pregnancy when so many women experience a nesting instinct that makes them want to clean and organize everything before the baby arrives. I keep wishing that instinct will kick in for me, but for now my instinct to lie down and take a nap every day is still winning out. 

The most exciting thing that happened recently was that Mike felt the baby move for the first time. It was perfect timing, too: he had just professed his love for the baby and placed his hand on my belly when the little cupcake kicked Mike's hand in response. We’ve been trying for many weeks to get him to feel a kick, so it was an exciting and sweet moment for us. 

This lady is broke and tired and feeling more physically restricted every day. But I’m also full of love for my husband and our baby and our little family. I love the improvements we made to the nursery. I love the possibility of everything that’s to come. We had fun building our registry and thinking about our future life together. The expenses are relentless and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all, but we’re healthy and happy and getting ready. The hardest part now is trying to sit still and enjoy the next few months instead of rushing forward to November, even though we’re so excited to get there.

P.S. I’ve always loved this song and it seems especially appropriate now. 

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Super Brain

Baby Brain? Nope. Super Brain!

Baby Brain? Nope. Super Brain!

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I'm a huge fan of the One Bad Mother podcast. Hosts Theresa and Biz are big advocates of taking the judgment out of parenting and instead trying to be supportive of each other. They always make a point of saying "You're doing a great job" to each other and encourage their listeners to extend that message to other parents. When you see a mom dealing with a child's temper tantrum at Target, for example, tell her she's doing a great job. Parenting — and life in general — is difficult enough without dealing with the judgments of the so-called "mommy wars." When we're kind and patient and supportive with each other, things work out better for everyone. 

In an early episode (it was episode 14 if you're interested) of the podcast, Biz and Theresa talk with author Anne Kreamer about what happens to the brain after pregnancy. They discuss how they don't really like any of the terms commonly used to describe the brain shifts that take place with a baby on board. They don't like Mommy Brain, Pregnancy Brain or Baby Brain, all of which have a derogatory edge. They decide to come up with a new way to describe the hormonal, emotional, and chemical shifts. The term they come up with has a much nicer ring: Super Brain. 

"Pregnancy and childbirth actually cause your brain to shrink in size," Kreamer says on the show before noting that it can take up to six months after birth for the brain to go back to its original size.

Theresa points out how absurd it is that "as you're gaining responsibilities and adding more things to your life that you need to be responsible for and take care of and understand, your brain is actually shrinking."

Kreamer goes on to explain that from an evolutionary standpoint, it was never meant to be a mother's role to deal with the demands of a job after childbirth; it was her role to deal with the demands of her child. A child's survival depended on the mother's ability to care for him or her. In our modern world, or course, there is the expectation of parents to return to work as quickly as possible after childbirth and to juggle the roles of the job along with the responsibility of raising a child. 

"It's like going back to work with both hands and your legs tied behind your back," says Kreamer.

The biological responses of parenting are not limited to mothers. Kreamer points out that in men, there is a spike in the nurturing hormone prolactin and a plummet in testosterone. Add in the effects of sleep deprivation (mothers lose an average equivalent of four months of work in lost hours of sleep when they are nursing, Kreamer says) and the result is this: "If 4 million babies on average are born in the States every year, that means that there are 8 million parents at any time in the workplace completely emotionally gaga."

Parenthood changes the brain biologically. These changes start taking place during pregnancy. It's become a big cultural joke to make fun of the way women have a tendency to get emotional or spacey or foggy during pregnancy, but I've found that it's less hilarious when actually living through it. It is a fact that I am not thinking as clearly as a pregnant woman as I did before I was pregnant. One of the very first things I did early in my pregnancy was accidentally shred a check that was sent to me. Since them I've had a series of follies ranging from misplacing my keys to not being able to remember why I walked into a room to straight-up being unable to focus on some of the tasks I used to perform well. Every day when my husband gets home from work, our kitchen is half cleaned. It's like the part of my brain that remembers to finish cleaning the kitchen once I start has just shut down. My whole life has become a series of half-finished errands and projects. I get myself to the store, but then I forget why I'm there. I sit down at my computer to write, but then my brain goes blank. 

One theory I have about this is that parenthood in general and first-time parenthood in particular is so overwhelming that there's absolutely no way I could prepare for it if I was still as focused on all these other aspects of my life. This is the time when we need to be making decisions about the things we need for our baby, the life we'll provide for our baby, the way we'll set up our baby's room, and more. As hard as I try to focus my attention elsewhere (and I realize I'm overstating everything here and of course I have been able to write essays and blog posts and perform tasks and it's not as if my brain has completely stopped working), my focus just isn't there right now.  It is more difficult than ever to pay attention to the topics being discussed at social events or the events going on in the world. 

My brain is being used for such a super-sized task that I agree the only correct way to refer to it right now is Super Brain. I have a Super Brain because, in spite of how distracted and crazy I sometimes feel, I'm still getting some things done. And though the responsibilities we're facing now are nothing compared to what we'll face in a few months, it's true that we are taking on a lot right now. Getting prepared to have a baby has to be one of the most emotionally (not to mention financially) overwhelming things a person can do. We are incredibly excited but we are also like: Whoa. This is a lot.  

I'm giving myself some credit because it IS a lot. The financial cost is a LOT, as any parent can attest. The emotional cost is a lot. We're going to have a whole new person living with us — not just any person, but someone who we want to have the BEST life possible. This baby is going to be our family for the rest of our lives. That is huge. That is monumental. If I get a little overwhelmed thinking about it to the point where I forget about some of my other life responsibilities, I think it's okay. I think it will all balance out somehow.

Whatever you do, don't ask if I have Mommy Brain or Pregnancy Brain or Baby Brian. I have Super Brain, plain and simple. (On an unrelated but possibly slightly related note, I also have a bum knee every since last week's fall. Between my shrinking brain and swollen knee, I'm doing all right for myself.)

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I Fell Today.

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I fell today. This is the third time I've fallen running in a period of nine years. The first was about two weeks before my best friend's wedding, when I was all set to walk down the aisle as a bridesmaid. My twisted ankle was swollen and painful for a long time, but somehow magically felt fine on the big day. The second time I fell was about a week before my own wedding. I scratched myself up but didn't experience any major injuries. You can see a scab on my elbow if you look closely in my wedding photos, but other than that everything was fine. 

Today was my scariest fall because it was the first time I fell with a baby on board. The injuries to my own body are obvious from the picture above: I really scraped up my elbows and hand. The skin is raw and painful and because the knee injuries hit right where my knees bend, walking today has been a bit of a challenge. But obviously I wasn't thinking about any of that when I picked myself up and dusted off. Obviously I was worried about the baby.

In talking to a nurse at my doctor's office, I've learned there are a lot of good signs to my fall. First, the heavy scrapes on my knees and hand mean that I braced myself somewhat and therefore my belly didn't absorb all the impact. Secondly, I haven't experienced any scary symptoms like cramping or bleeding. Finally, I'm still feeling movement from my little one inside my belly. Tracking this movement has been difficult because I've only felt sporadic movements up until this point, but I am very happy to report that since the fall I have felt a few more sporadic movements today. Thanks to a lot of amniotic fluid and the still-small size of my baby at 24 weeks, my nurse (in consultation with my doctor) feels confident that the baby is okay. 

That news is wonderful, but it was still a terrifying experience. The irony is not lost on me that in trying to stay active and do something healthy for my baby, I ultimately put my baby in danger by losing my footing. As much as I try to eat healthy foods and use healthy products, I know I'm still ingesting things in the environment that have the potential to be toxic. There's no such thing as control here. (Side note: I've never considered myself someone who felt like she *had* to be in control, but when it comes to the health and safety of my baby it's true I want to control as much as possible.) But in the end, it doesn't matter how obsessed I am about avoiding certain ingredients or getting regular exercise or trying to put my best foot forward for the little cupcake in my oven. Sometimes my best foot forward trips on gravel and knocks me down in the dust.

I know this is only a preview of what's to come — there will be so many scenarios beyond my control when we're raising a child. But with the child still in my body, I'd like to think I can keep things as healthy and safe as possible. When I can't do that, I feel a little defeated.

But what matters is this: The baby is moving. I am not experiencing any scary symptoms. I think I shook both of us up a little today, but from the outside it seems we're both okay. As for me, I won't be attempting to run again until I'm fully healed. And even then, I think I'll get myself to a park or somewhere with softer trails and take it super easy. I love running and I think the running I've done until this point has benefited my baby, but as always I'll listen to my body and do what seems best for my little running buddy. 

Until then, Baby and I are resting with feet propped, ice pack on, and everything erased from the to-do list for the rest of the day. 

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From Krike's Kitchen: Banza Recipe #4, Spicy Pesto Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes and Nectarines

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Today I'm making another pasta recipe using Banza chickpea pasta. If you haven't been following my previous posts, here's a quick recap: Banza contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of traditional pasta. Banza is vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. Banza is made from chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. Banza is not paying me to speak on their behalf, but they did send me six free boxes of pasta. I have been using this free pasta to experiment with different recipes. In all previous weeks I've followed a recipe, but this week I challenged myself to create my own. I was inspired by recipes I've tried in the past but decided to go completely off-book and create everything from scratch in the moment. The result was a dish that has a creamy pesto sauce with a slight kick mixed with perfectly roasted savory tomatoes and sweet nectarines. 

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To me this dish screams summertime. I ended up using about a third of the tomatoes pictured here, plus two of the nectarines. While the oven preheated to 325, I sliced everything up and placed on a baking sheet covered with tin foil. 

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I sprayed everything with a little spray oil and sprinkled with a touch of sea salt. I baked for 15 minutes on one side, flipped everything over, and baked for 10 more.

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While those roasted, I assembled my pesto ingredients. I used 1 cup of soaked cashews (which I started soaking a few hours prior), 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup water, a package of basil, a clove of garlic, a sliced jalapeño, and salt and pepper to taste. If you're sensitive to spice, you could make this with either a deseeded jalapeño or leave the jalapeño out entirely. If you want to kick it up even more, add another jalapeño or choose a hotter style of pepper like habanero. For me, one jalapeño with all the seeds was perfect. 

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There are few things I love more than throwing a bunch of ingredients into a food processor and ending up with something tasty. Making this thick, creamy pesto could not have been simpler.

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From there I boiled a pot of water and threw my pasta in. One thing I love about Banza is that it cooks rapidly. (Did I mention I'm not paid by Banza? I swear I'm not paid by Banza. I just love their pasta.)

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I know I mention this every time I make a recipe with Banza, but I again want to reiterate that it has the taste, texture and appearance of regular pasta. If you're nervous about a pasta made from chickpeas, rest assured there is absolutely no chickpea flavor. This just tastes like straight-up delicious noodles. 

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Look at those beautiful shells, all drained and rinsed. (Do not skip rinsing. If you do, you'll notice a real starchiness and stickiness.)

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I loved the hint of green that came out when I folded the pesto into the pasta, but I couldn't wait for the bold pop of color I knew was coming with the next step. 

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I've been obsessed with roasted tomatoes all summer, but I think the real showstopper in this dish is the nectarines. A little sweetness in each bite makes this pasta refreshing and memorable. 

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The whole recipe took about 20 minutes to make. It is packed with healthy fruits and veggies but does not taste like "health food." This dish got the seal of approval from my husband, who I don't think immediately realized that I hadn't followed a recipe to make it. For a quick, light summertime meal, I think this pasta is perfect.

FROM KRIKE'S KITCHEN: BANZA RECIPE #4, SPICY PESTO PASTA WITH ROASTED TOMATOES AND NECTARINES

INGREDIENTS:
1 box Banza pasta
1/2-1 cup cherry and grape tomatoes
2 nectarines
1 cup soaked cashews
1 handful basil
1 jalapeno
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
Sea salt
Pepper
Spray oil

DIRECTIONS:
See above.

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Banza Recipe #3: Vegan Macaroni And Cheese With Roasted Tomatoes and Crushed Crispy Kale Chips

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This week I tried my third recipe using Banza chickpea pasta, which contains two times the protein, four times the fiber, and half the net carbs of traditional pasta. Banza is also vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free and egg-free. It is made from chickpeas, tapioca, pea protein and xantham gum. 

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Want to learn more about Banza chickpea pasta? Go here: eatbanza.com. Want to see the first recipe I tried? Go here: Banza Recipe #1: Creamy Avocado Pasta. Want to see the second recipe I tried? Go here: Banza Recipe #2: Mediterranean Pasta.  Also, in case you missed my original discussion about it, I wanted to again make it clear that I am not being paid by Banza by they did send me six sample boxes to try. If I didn't like this pasta, I wouldn't share these recipes with you. I'm sharing them because I think this is a delicious product and a great alternative to regular pasta when you're looking for a protein or fiber boost. 

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I knew I wanted to make macaroni and cheese with the elbow pasta, but I decided to mix things up and use a vegan recipe instead of traditional cheese. I thought a healthy pasta like this deserves a healthy pasta sauce. This sauce is loaded with veggies, nuts and spices. There's a lot of nutrition packed into this meal. For the mac and cheese I used this recipe from Vegan Yumminess. I followed the recipe closely and was happy with the results, though I would make a few changes if I make it again. 

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For this recipe you'll need  yellow or russet potatoes, carrots, onion, water from cooking, soaked raw cashews, coconut milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, optional cayenne pepper and paprika. I loved the flavor at the end, but if I were making this again I'd sub in sweet potatoes to give a little extra sweetness and creaminess. I'd also up the flavor intensity a bit by adding crushed red pepper or chili powder. Just a few tiny changes to fit my personal preferences. I love the simplicity of this recipe though: after cooking the potatoes, carrots and onion, I threw them and and everything else into a food processor, ran it for a few minutes, and voila: the perfect creamy sauce was done.  

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While all that was going on, I cooked my Banza pasta. To reiterate from every other time I've talked about this, Banza pasta looks, feels and tastes like regular pasta. Neglect to tell your dinner guests it's made from chickpeas and I guarantee they'll never know. 

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I love tomatoes in summertime and I especially love the combination of roasted tomatoes with pasta, so I knew I wanted to add some roasted cherry tomatoes to this dish. I took a container of cherry tomatoes, cut them in half, placed them on a cookie sheet covered in tin foil (easier clean-up), drizzled with olive oil and sea salt, and baked for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. I started the tomatoes first and then put together all the macaroni ingredients. 

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Before I was pregnant, I watched a few Food Network shows a handful of times. Since being pregnant, I have watched shows on the Food Network every single day. I am now obsessed with everything from Chopped to Master Chef to Next Food Network Star to Guy's Grocery Games to Cutthroat Kitchen to Cupcake Wars to Cake Wars and everything in between. I'll even watch the junior versions of these shows despite highly questioning whether it's really appropriate for children to be facing that amount of pressure on national television. I am now truly obsessed with the Food Network and my only explanation is pregnancy. People ask me about food cravings all the time and at this point in my pregnancy, I think food cravings are a myth. Food Network cravings, on the hand, are very real. I think I got started with it because I needed to take so many naps during the day to combat my pregnancy exhaustion. It was nice to have a show that wasn't too intrusive on in the background when I was napping on the couch. But then it became a whole thing. I like to watch Food Network while I'm doing my own cooking. I like to watch Food Network while I'm cleaning. I liked to watch Food Network whenever I need a few minutes to regroup, get energized, or wind down. There is no time, really, when I don't like to watch it.

My Food Network obsession plays into this dish because I knew I didn't want to just stick to a plain macaroni and cheese recipe. I asked myself: What would the Food Network judges want? I know they'd want a pop of color (the tomatoes were perfect for this) and a variance in textures. Since the pasta and sauce on their own are so creamy, I wanted to add something crunchy on the top to mix things up. An obvious example of this for most macaroni and cheeses is breadcrumbs, but I had already committed myself to making a super-healthy version of mac and cheese. In keeping with this goal, I decided to make crushed kale chips for my crunchy topping. To do this I laid de-stemmed kale out on a baking sheet covered with tin foil and drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and nutritional yeast (for a cheesy flavor that's not cheese), baked for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, flipped and baked for 10 more. When they were all done I chopped them into little pieces. 

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After draining and rinsing the pasta, I added the creamy sauce. Can you believe this was made from potatoes, carrots and onions? I've also seen vegan macaroni and cheese recipes made with butternut squash, which I think would be a nice addition. 

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Once the sauce was mixed in, I added the roasted tomatoes. Those Food Network chefs are right: adding a pop of color elevated this dish to a new level. 

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Next up, I mixed in the kale to give the dish even more color and also a satisfying crunch. Combining creamy and crispy textures is a beautiful thing. 

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Creamy. "Cheesy." Crunchy. Colorful. Savory. Rich. Packed with veggies, protein and fiber, this dish is a win/win for any day when you're craving something decadent but don't want to load yourself down with cheese and butter. 

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Running Half Marathons With a Cupcake in the Oven

6 weeks, 8 weeks, 15 weeks, 18 weeks and 22 weeks pregnanat

6 weeks, 8 weeks, 15 weeks, 18 weeks and 22 weeks pregnanat

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In the years before I became pregnant, running became a huge part of my life. It was my go-to source of stress relief as well as my favorite physical activity. I've never been very sporty or athletically inclined, but in running I didn't have to be either. I just needed to put one foot in front of the other. In the year 2015, I ran a race every month, ranging from 5Ks to a half marathon. For 2016, I had two goals: to continue running a race a month for as long as I could, and to get pregnant. I knew that if I achieved both goals, they would cross over at some point and play into each other. So far this year I've run seven half marathons — one for each month — and five of them have been with a baby on board. I'm planning on running a few more, and then I'm planning on taking the last few months of the year off. I may do some light running during that time, but I definitely won't be racing. 

Before getting pregnant, I sought out a doctor who would support me with both my baby and my running goals. I was lucky to find someone I relate to and feel very comfortable around; I feel confident having her as my doctor and I think she understands me and what's important to me in a way that not everyone does. She ran throughout her pregnancies, so I knew she would support me during mine. 

Pregnant running is vastly different from non-pregnant running. The goal is no longer speed. My pace has slowed dramatically and it continues to slow each month. I'm also not able to attack certain obstacles (specifically hills) in the same way, or often at all. I never shied from a hill before I was pregnant, but now I slow to a walk every time I encounter one. I don't want to get my heart rate too elevated, I don't want to get overheated, and I don't want to get breathless. This means that I'm going slower (sometimes completely slowing to a walk), I'm skipping the hills, and I'm taking everything at a much easier pace. 

An unexpected side effect of all of this is that during pregnancy, running has actually become more fun. I'm no longer chasing any time goals, so I'm free to go out and just enjoy my runs. Whereas before I would become frustrated if I got tired during a run, now I just slow down, guzzle my water, take in my surroundings, and enjoy the fact that I'm out in the open air. I don't even pay attention to my pace anymore. I stop a lot during my runs to pee. Sometimes I'll stop in the middle of a run and have a snack. I've changed my routes to stick to flatter terrain. During my pregnancy runs, I've noticed more in my neighborhood than I ever did before. Now that I've slowed down, I see more.

Another benefit during my first trimester was that running helped to quell my nausea. There were a few days when I felt too sick to go out, but once I finally got out there I felt so much better. Running has helped me to keep in touch with my pregnant body. I haven't been able to easily maintain strength training or some other forms of physical activity throughout pregnancy, but walking and running are movements I've been able to keep up.

So why run half marathons while pregnant? First reason: I signed up for the races before I was pregnant. Secondly, why not? I was in strong enough condition to run frequent half marathons before I was pregnant and I wanted to maintain that level of fitness for as long as I could. So far, it's been doable. Each of my five pregnant half marathons has been a little slower than the last and I know they'll just get slower, eventually getting too difficult to keep up. 

If I could do it again, I'd probably focus more on slower distances like 5Ks and 10Ks. But I have no regrets about the half marathons I've run. I'm proud of all this baby and I have accomplished together. I'm excited to see what we can continue to do. And I'm thankful that my stress level throughout pregnancy has been manageable thanks to our regular runs. 

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Cupcake in the Oven

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My darling husband Mike and I are so excited to be adding a new member to our family in November. We can't wait to meet our little cupcake and in the meantime, we've been learning a lot about pregnancy. If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that the way I envisioned my pregnancy and the way it's actually playing out are unbelievably different. If there's two things I know for sure, it's that this is okay.

I could not have anticipated how tired I would feel. I had this vision of pregnancy as this time when I would be motivated to sit down and write a book and attack my household chores and prep healthy meals and be full of endless excitement and energy all day, every day. It was like that, just like that, for a few weeks. But then the fatigue hit. Then the nausea followed. Then I realized there would be days when the single most productive thing I'd do all day was finish a writing assignment for work while reclined on the couch in between naps. I realized there would be days when I'd never change out of my robe. There would be days when I wouldn't make it out of the house. There would be days when I'd settle onto the couch to take "a 20-minute nap" only to wake up from a dead sleep five hours later. There would be days when I wouldn't write at all. There would be days when I would not work out. There would be days when I would not make it to the store or muster up the energy to fix a healthy meal. There would be days when I would eat chips and days when I would eat ice cream and days when I would go back to bed after my husband left for work and not wake up again until the afternoon. There would be days when a walk around the block was all I could handle. There would be days when I'd say, "Pizza? Absolutely. No way I'm cooking tonight." There would be days when I would throw up my breakfast and days when, no matter how exciting the prospect of our impending little one was, I simply could not work up the energy to feel joyful.

There were other days, too. Days when I did get dressed. When I did get more than just the bare minimum of work requirements done. Days when I ran half marathons. Days when I put together healthy feasts and cleaned the house and ran errands and felt like a productive member of society. I feel like what I've experienced in pregnancy is such a small preview of what's to come with my child: there are going to be such good days and such bad days and so, so many days in between. 

I'm not having a picture-perfect pregnancy, but I've seen enough turbulent and even life-threatening pregnancies to know I'm lucky. Am I enjoying every second of it? No, and anyone who says that didn't experience nausea or exhaustion. But I'm enjoying most of it. And though it's taken me awhile to get here, I'm finally to the point where I'm excited to share my experience. 

As a longtime vegetarian, one fear I had was that I'd crave meat during pregnancy. For the record, if this had happened, I would have eaten meat. I'm not depriving my baby of anything. Instead, the opposite happened. During most of my first trimester, my aversion to eggs and dairy products was so strong I had to avoid them almost entirely. This is how I found myself becoming a Mostly Vegan. On the rare days when the thought of eggs or cheese didn't make me want to throw up, I absolutely took advantage and got myself an omelette or grilled cheese. Most days, though, my body just wasn't having it. So I listened. 

The egg/dairy aversion lifted in my second trimester and I've been incorporating (small amounts of) eggs and dairy back into my diet. I've realized that I actually do like to limit my intake because the difference in how I feel when I eat a lot of it versus none is substantial. Most days I have either a small amount or none. Some days (I'm looking at you, Saturday) I have pizza AND nachos AND an ice cream sandwich. And then I wake up the next day and remember why Iife is more fun for me when I don't eat like that. In the end, it all balances out.

The first eight or so weeks of my pregnancy were somewhat breezy. I was tired but I didn't have any nausea and I had enough energy to more or less keep up with my regular workouts. Weeks 9 - 14 or so were more hellish. This was when I discovered that those cute late-night ice cream cravings pregnant women are always having in movies and commercials are B.S. A pregnancy craving is not "Oh my gosh, I just have to have some ice cream RIGHT NOW and I'll send my husband out to get some even though it's 3 a.m. because it just sounds SO GOOD!" A pregnancy craving is "There is literally one food and one food only that I can think about and not want to throw up, so I will do whatever it takes to get that food." For me that food was always something super salty like sour cream and onion chips or Wheat Thins, which was super bizarre for me because before pregnancy, I rarely used even a pinch of salt when cooking. Salt was just not my thing. In pregnancy, salt is SO my thing.

Before I was pregnant, I was running 150 miles a month, six days a week, at a sub-8-minute mile. Now I'm running about 55 miles a month, 2-3 days a week, and I'm creeping up on a 12-minute mile. I knew I'd be running slower and less, but I didn't expect things to decrease this much. What I discovered is that there were a lot of days when my energy level was simply too low to fathom going for a run. On those days I tried to walk instead, but even then there were some days I just had to skip and let myself nap instead. I've long been a proponent of listening to my body and giving it what it needs, but it is only in pregnancy that I've learned just how easy I need to go on myself sometimes. I am simply not willing to push myself for the sake of pushing myself when ever fiber of my being is telling me to rest, rest, rest. I know my body is responding to the needs of my baby — so if my baby needs me to rest, I'm going to rest.

I've been working very hard to supply my baby with an extremely nutritious and balanced diet. Once the nutrient quota for the day is hit, I allow myself treats. I do this often. Why? Because I'm HUNGRY and my baby is hungry and we already ate all the things we're supposed to eat, so now we're going to finish the day with an ice cream sandwich and not feel bad about it. Before I was pregnant, I so rarely ate the kinds of snacks I'm eating now. In the first trimester it was all about chips, crackers, toast, popcorn, and whatever salty morsels I could find. Lately I've been drifting back toward my natural sweet tooth, which means that first and foremost I've been eating a lot of fruit, and beyond that I've been having sweet treats of the ice cream and cookie variety. I try to make my own when I can and stick to cleaner brands when I can't — or occasionally I just go for it with the processed crap. I do. I thought I wouldn't get that stuff anywhere near my baby, but every once in awhile it sounds so good I incorporate a handful and move on with my life. Last night I had frosted animal cookies after eating a vegetable-heavy dinner. Balance, balance, balance.

So far the changes in my body have been both subtle and extraordinary. Pregnancy has a way of making you feel hideous by causing a slew of physical effects simultaneously. It's not just that you're gaining weight. It's that you're gaining weight at the same time your face is breaking out and the same time your hair is getting super dry and the same time your nose won't stop running and the same time your feet and legs are swelling up and the same time you have no energy to do anything, much less put on a cute outfit or do your hair or wear makeup. Huge kudos to the women who say they felt/ feel most beautiful when they're pregnant because that's been a difficult costume for me to wear. I'm not glowing; I'm sweating. My weight gain isn't going exclusively toward an adorable baby bump; my butt and legs and arms are getting bigger, too. I don't feel radiant; I feel tired.

That said, do I get what "they" say about being amazed by your body's capabilities during pregnancy? Yes. I've felt so much of my vanity float away during this process, partly because I'm too damn tired to give that much thought to how I look and partly because I recognize there's something truly magical about what's happening to my body. There is a human growing inside of me! Some nights I catch myself complaining to my husband about how big everything is getting and the fact that I keep breaking out along my jawline and the weird way a lot of clothes look on me right now. He always reminds me that underneath all that surface bullshit, our baby is living and growing inside of me. So maybe I don't feel my cutest right now, but maybe feeling cute is so beside the point anyway.

Would I trade this body for anything? No. There's a little cupcake baking in this oven and the bigger that cupcake gets, the less I care about the state of the kitchen. Let there be flour on the counters and batter on the floor. I can clean things up after this cupcake is born. Or I can not clean things up, and focus my energy elsewhere. Either way, there will be time. Right now I have more important things to worry about. 

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