Category Archives: Health

I Miss Yoga and T-Shirts

yoga first t-shirt

Well hello there. It’s been almost seven months, hasn’t it?

Turns out two kids are more time consuming than one. Surprise surprise.

Rowan is a lovely little person who is now sitting up, eating some foods and figuring out just how much noise he can make with his voice and his hands.

He is not nearly so content as Iris was as a baby. Back then I sort of hoped that any future babies would be more cuddly and attached to me. I got my wish, and then some. No complaints – it’s just more challenging when it’s 24/7.

The first few months of Rowan’s life had some difficult patches. By his two-month well-baby appointment, he’d stopped gaining weight, required an ultrasound on his spine and had a mysterious red spot on his bottom lip. While all tests and efforts resulted in our now very healthy baby, I had my share of freak-out moments this spring.

But, all’s well. And the cute little strawberry on his lip (properly known as a hemangioma) should fade with time. As a side note, we had no idea that his pre-birth nickname of Baby Vamp would be so apt. The kid literally always has blood on his lips. Goes well with the pale skin and widow’s peak.

As for me, I find a second baby to come with far less culture shock than a first. With Iris, I had to adjust after a decade of what was a mostly free-spirited adulthood. With Rowan, I was used to a more structured existence.

However, by the time Iris was this age I was back to exercising regularly and more frequently taking a night off, when I could wear normal clothes that didn’t center around easy access to my chest.

I’m really beginning to miss yoga, and wish I could wear some of the t-shirts in my closet.

Then I remind myself that the Squishy will never be this squishy again, and decide to enjoy the time I spend laying with him on the couch and feeding his fabulous little face.

I’m going to try to do this again before another seven months pass.

Happy Wednesday!

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Color Your Brain Happy

coloring page Tibetan

When we talk about good health, we talk a lot about food, physical activity and sometimes even sleep habits.

We might toss around ideas about stress reduction and exercising our brains to maintain faculties and ward off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps you’ve also heard the current conversations on the downside of chaotic lifestyles that keep us constantly on the go.

For many of us, daily life is busy – too busy. And this can contribute to poor habits around diet, exercise, sleep, stress and brain health. Worse, because a lot of us relax by flipping on a screen, we’re further contributing to some of the trouble around sleep and stress.

What to do? My guess is you’ve caught wind of the coloring book trend for adults… if not, just know that over the past year, stores have increasingly carried coloring books full of intricate designs, and grown ups are raving about the loveliness of losing themselves in the hobby.

For a few months now, I’ve had “color” on my to-do list (ridiculous evidence of my own busyness). This past weekend, I finally crossed it off the list, but I plan to put it right back on there. It was incredibly relaxing and mood enhancing to complete the page pictured above, which is from a book I’ve had for years and barely touched. I received a book of mehndi designs for Christmas, and I plan to try a page from it next.

Why is coloring so enjoyable and even healthy as a habit? According to the Cleavland Clinic, coloring:

  • Takes us out of ourselves, becoming like a meditative practice.
  • Relaxes the brain and distracts from life’s difficulties because of its simplicity.
  • Is without consequences if we don’t do it perfectly, so is fun and not stressful.

My colorful friend up there isn’t exactly an amazing work of art, especially as I only used about eight colors and did minimal mixing and shading with them. It’s not about making something that looks incredible. What it is about is slowing your brain, using your hands and not relying on a screen to distract you from real life.

I can’t wait to do it again.

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Pregnancy Weirdness II

33 weeks pregnant

A little over four years ago, I wrote about some of the odder things I’d experienced with pregnancy, many of which I hadn’t seen in other “weird pregnant things” articles.

Since I’m back where I was around that time (though about six weeks further along), I figured I’d do it again, especially as my body has been kind enough to try out some new things this time.

Bleeding After a Transvaginal Ultrasound

Apparently, I bleed while pregnant, and it’s not really a thing of concern (for me, so far at least). It’s actually happened more in this second pregnancy, but I’ve remained pretty calm about it. Of course, any bleeding should be reported to your doctor or midwife, just to be sure. While it’s usually a very small amount, I bled noticeably more after a transvaginal ultrasound. Most likely, the probe bumped up against my cervix and irritated her.

Rh Factor Fun

I am Rh negative (my red blood cells do not have a particular protein), which essentially means my body could develop antibodies to a baby who is Rh positive (as most people are, including my husband). I had the immunoglobulin shot that prevents this during my pregnancy with Iris (around 28 weeks), and it was planned for this time. I actually got the shot twice due to bleeding early on. Again, any bleeding, call your doctor, especially if you are Rh negative.

Crazy Dreams and Sleep Disturbances

I don’t remember this happening as much the first time. My sleep in the first trimester was horrible. Obviously, my sleep is less sound than before I had any kids. However, I found myself having wild, vivid dreams and being wide awake in the middle of the night with no prompting from the world external. First trimester sleep disturbances are common, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy.

Saliva/Drool Quantity

Something else I noticed while lying down… I was fortunate enough not to have “morning sickness” (beyond nausea when I let my stomach get too empty), but my mouth was definitely producing more fluid than usual during sleep and tooth brushing. Another common happening, but no more fun because of that.

Swelling

No lymph node trouble this time, but my forehead got the tiniest puffy when I developed a sinus infection in the autumn. It’s still a little swollen. After being assured by a few medical professional that it’s nothing to worry about, I just try to ignore it when I look in the mirror. I think my ankle area might be a little bigger this time too…

Frequent Braxton Hicks Contractions

It’s common for women to experience more of these in a second pregnancy, and I kind of feel like it’s happening all the time. While Braxton Hicks contractions do not signal actual labor, they are uncomfortable and make me want to do absolutely nothing. They increase when I am more active, and make getting around tougher. At 35 plus weeks, I experience them several times every day, and have to stop and rest more often than I’d like.

Restricted Movement

I’m not talking about bed rest or the need to sit from exhaustion. I mean I simply can’t move as much. With Iris, I easily continued Zumba until days before her birth. Despite being heavier and cautious, I could lift my legs and follow the quick dance steps. This time, it’s like my hips are stiffer and Just. Won’t. Go. I think it’s because this baby is significantly lower than Iris was, and it’s messing with the mobility of my entire core.

Abdominal Muscle Soreness

I dealt with this last time, and it’s come back even stronger now. By the end of the day, the skin and muscle just below my rib cage, and only on the right side, is sore to the touch (and without it). Sometimes, it even wraps around so I can feel it in my back. I’m also more tender farther down my abdomen, as this baby is lower and (feels, at least) bigger. While it’s nice when the OB tells me the discomfort is more common among mothers who are “in shape,” it’s exhausting when I just want to find a sleeping position that doesn’t hurt.

With four weeks to go, I imagine I’ll encounter a few more weird things about pregnancy. As this is likely the last time I will be pregnant, I probably won’t know how much weirder it can get. I admit a little curiosity, but contentment in taking others’ word for it.

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My Head Feels Pregnant

cup hot tea

Having a three year-old is demanding.

Being 28 weeks pregnant is tiring.

Writing for a living is hard work.

Throw a head cold in there, and you’ve got a Katie who wants hot whiskey and a day in bed more than pretty much anything.

But, that’s not an option.

I’m not complaining. This is that for which I signed up. Well worth it. Still, it’s not easy doing what needs to be done when my head feels more full than my abdomen, and that’s saying something at this point.

So, I’m in need of some “home remedies” for a cold, as I’m not interested in messing with the majority of OTC remedies at the moment. The following list is a combination of things I found on the Internet, and a few that I do on my own to increase comfort:

  • Take a hot shower, during which you press a hot, wet cloth against the full and hurty parts of your face and neck. When the weather gets drier, I also love hot mist humidifiers.
  • Consume hydrating fluids frequently. Water and (pregnancy safe) herbal teas are great. Broth and fruit juices can be high in salt and sugar, though can also offer the nutrition you need, so read those labels. Hot fluids also have benefits.
  • Ingest honey for a sore throat. I usually prefer raw honey, though that’s something to be careful of during pregnancy. A salt water gargle is another option.
  • Get some fresh air and light exercise. Iris and I took a walk last night, and while it was cold enough to make my ears hurt temporarily (not gonna lie – that sucks with congestion), the movement and brisk air felt really good.
  • Eat clementines, because Vitamin C, fiber, deliciousness and simplicity.
  • If you like nasal irrigation, consider a neti pot. Be sure to use distilled or boiled (lukewarm) water, because brain-eating amoebas suck.

For now, I’m just happy that this appears to be a common cold. This past January, I ended up with a fever of 103 degrees plus, and was pretty much incapacitated for a day… something that hasn’t happened since I was living on fast food and cocktails. A plain old full head is far preferable, even if I can’t take drugs and shoot whiskey with raw honey.

Knocking on wood as we speak.

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A Little Love for the Eggplant

eggplants

Last night, I made baba ganoush, because last week we went to Gita Pita, and now I am, once again, obsessed with Mediterranean food (or at least the idea of it).

I found a simple recipe for the baba ganoush (I added minced onion and raw tomato), and plan to return to the downtown restaurant when my budget adjusts for the cost of preschool. It is a day for which I wait with bated breath.

The thing is, it was just really nice to have success with an eggplant. As vegetarians, we’ve not spent the time with eggplant that we should, and our history of botched attempts goes back to the beginning of our marriage – long before we stopped regularly eating meat and boxed meals. Eggplant Parmesan, simple roasting and oddities like vegan “bacon” were all disappointing failures.

But this… it’s a lovely, seemingly lighter alternative to hummus (which I love). Now I’m wondering how a half-and-half blend of the two would work…

For something completely different: If you’re in the Grand Rapids area, join me and a bunch of cool kids tonight at EmbodyGR, a local non profit focused on yoga, community and service. They have childcare, it’s free and there will be tea. A great way to find calm on the first day of ArtPrize, and set the tone for the close of your week.

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Scrambled Eggs, Asparagus & Farro

farro egg asparagus

A while back, I talked about trying to work farro into the family diet. So far so good, and here’s another example.

I’m certainly not the first to pair eggs and asparagus. I don’t even do it that often. But, I had both on hand, as well as some prepared farro. Always a fan of one pot/pan meals, I decided to put them all together. Turns out, the combination is great for starting your day with protein, fiber and anti-oxidants. Better yet, it’s easy (especially if you have some farro or other grain already prepared).

Here ’tis:

Ingredients:

  • Olive/grape seed oil
  • 4 stalks asparagus, ends trimmed and sliced into 1″ lengths
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup or so prepared farro ( I make mine with a little minced onion and cilantro – no salt)
  • 2 quality eggs
  • Hot sauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat half a tablespoon or so of the oil in a pan.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the asparagus and green onion. Saute to desired softness.
  3. Add in the farro, heat and mix with vegetables.
  4. Crack in the eggs, scrambling them with veggies and grain.
  5. When eggs are cooked to your preference, dish ‘em up! I like to add some Cholula on top, though I imagine any hot sauce would work.

At some point, I’d like to try this with quinoa, as I’m sure it would be delicious. Generally, if eggs are involved, I’m going to love it.

Enjoy!

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Quinoa Fridays

eggs sprouted quinoa

So, perhaps you know about my odd oatmeal-with-egg-and-hotsauce breakfast.

I’m still doing it most days of the week (though the technique is a little different). Iris also eats it, but with less hot sauce. In typical three year-old fashion, she swings between loving and hating cooked oats.

A while back, my sister-in-law was talking about her fondness for farro as a breakfast dish. I decided to try it in place of oats, and was pleasantly surprised. It got me thinking… could any grain work? I’d been trying to up my quinoa consumption, and thought this might be an easy way to do so.

Turns out I’m a genius. Or, maybe eggs and grain are just pretty tasty in general. Either way, I’ve now got the quinoa-egg breakfast in rotation, and have declared the last morning of the work week “Quinoa Fridays.”

My husband is amused at how excited this makes me every week. Whatever. Food is my favorite.

So:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup dry quinoa
  • 1/2 cup water
  • dash dried, minced onion
  • dash dried cilantro
  • one egg of quality
  • hot sauce

Directions

  1. Pour the quinoa, onion, cilantro and water into a small sauce pan.
  2. Bring to a boil, then turn to a low simmer, cover, and let cook according to directions on quinoa package (maybe for a minute or two less).
  3. When the quinoa is nearly finished, crack in the egg, recover, and cook on very low heat for 5 to 10 minutes (until egg is to desired consistency).
  4. After turning off the heat, let the pan sit covered for a few more minutes. The steam will loosen any quinoa stuck to the bottom of the pan.
  5. Uncover, dash in a little hot sauce, and devour.

Happy Wednesday (Quinoa Friday Eve Eve)

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Get a Pet

orange cat face

11 year-old Ted is less than thrilled with the 3 year-old…

I’ve loved felines my entire life, but did not have one to call my own until the age of 23. While it’d be dishonest to say it was an easy adjustment in every way, the full truth is that the small amount of extra work is well, well worth it.

According to the Humane Society, these are the reasons to adopt (rather than shop for) a pet. In addition to these points about saving an animal’s life and not supporting puppy mills, adopting a pet can be good for your physical and mental health. Would you like a healthier heart and better mood? Walking a dog gets you exercise, fresh air, vitamin D, social interaction and all that comes with it.

For my part, I ended up with a partner who’s had cats his entire life, and can’t really imagine it any other way. As long as we’re able to care for one, we’ll have a kitty or two hanging around our furniture and heads at bedtime. We’ll also have cat hair here and there, and occasional vet bills. Small price to pay for those purring nuzzles and hilarious antics with the laser pointer.

When kids are involved, pets offer even greater value. For many kids, the death of a pet is their introduction to loss, and a chance to understand in a very real way what the absence of a physical, living being means. Caring for pets is a responsibility, and being around those that go outdoors can even minimize allergy risk for children.

No question about it – adopting a pet is good for you, animals, kids and the larger society. Finding one is easy, and caring for one is as natural to human nature as anything. This is one of the simplest ways to put some good out there in your world.

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Traditional Tacos and Basic Rice Noodles

I can’t get enough. I have a problem. Please send help (by which I mean gift cards to Tacos El Cuñado and Pho Anh Trang).

Somewhere in my late-Winter/early-Spring attempt to get back on the healthy wagon, I overcame my craving for boxed mac-n-cheese and rediscovered east Asian and authentic Mexican food. Now, I’m finding any excuse to stop at the market’s taco counter, and steadily increasing my home supply of rice noodles (only because the preferred Vietnamese restaurant is on the other side of town).

First, the tacos. Forget greasy cheese, limp lettuce and meat sauce. These traditional-street-food babies bring together warm corn tortillas, vegan options like tempeh, rice and beans and nopales (cactus), pescetarian favorites like shrimp, and fresh pico de gallo and avocado. Most of that food is local, I might add. If I get a taco trio (for less than $10), that leaves me enough to do a tasting at the distillery a few steps away. Ok, just kidding (so far. Talk to me after this weekend).

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Sweet Potato Brownie Report (for you, Shawna)

Last week, a friend posted a recipe to my Facebook wall. Due to some diet restrictions, she is unable to eat the creation herself, and so included this message:

Please make these, eat them, then report back to me how wonderful they taste so that I might live vicariously through you.

Your wish, dearest, is my command. With pleasure.

Incidentally, my husband is allergic to sweet potatoes (poor guy), so Iris and I will just have to eat these on our own (excepting the piece my mother’s reserved).

First, understand that these are not going to taste just like a traditional brownie. However, they are the yum. The texture is reminiscent of the gooiest of brownies, with tiny crunches from the almonds. I found that the sweetness was enough to satisfy that sugar craving, without making me feel like I’d had a week’s worth of treats in one bite. Served warm, it seems to kick the crap out of any marshmallow-creepy-Thanksgiving-sweet-potato dish (sorry – unroasted marshmallows spook me).

Note that I milled my own brown rice flour with our Baby Bullet, and similarly ground the almonds. I also pitted the dates, which was super simple and fast.

Outside of the tiniest amount of butter in the maple syrup substitute I made, these things are vegan. They are gluten free. The only refined sugar is in the syrup. For the most part, these babies won’t run counter to a healthy diet. Sweet (potato).

So, click the words for your sweet potato brownie recipe.

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