What Mommy Gets.

Evenings are crazy, am I right? Hurry home from work, hurry and make dinner, hurry and play, hurry and baths, hurry and bedtime, and hurry to get the house picked up before exhaustion sets in and you crash. And I’m not even running kids to and from activities yet! Sheesh, I’m tired just writing that!

In our house, I put my 21-month-old (Kate) to bed and my husband puts my 3.5-year-old (Lucy) to bed. It’s at least an hour with each kid by the time books are read, prayers are said, songs are sung, cuddles are had and they finally fall asleep. And yes, we usually stay with the girls until they fall asleep.

Not very often, but sometimes, Lucy asks me to put her to bed. I sigh and usually try to pawn her back off on daddy. I know what you’re thinking and I agree with you: that makes me sound like an absolutely terrible parent. But if  I put my 1-year old and my 3-year-old to bed, we’re talking 2+ hours of bedtime routines in an evening where time is already limited. It’s not that I don’t want to put both of my kids down for bed – because I think that time is so special. But when my husband is putting Lucy down, it’s the only time of day I get to pick up the house, catch up on work, or fold several loads of laundry while I mindlessly watch a rerun of Last Man Standing. Damn that mom guilt!

Monday night, I had just finished putting Kate down when I popped in to say good night to Lucy. As I headed downstairs to clean the catastrophe left over from our busy weekend I heard Lucy say, “Daddy, did you put me to bed last day?” (Last day: her sweet reference for anything that’s happened in the past.) I knew what was coming.

I had barely made it downstairs when I heard the pitter patter of little feet over the sound of running water that I had JUST turned on to begin dishes. I turned around to see Lucy with her hands behind her back and a big smile on her face. “Mommy! YOU get to put me to bed tonight! Daddy put me to bed last day and you get to put me to bed tonight!”Shannon Lu

I sighed and looked around at my kitchen in shambles and back to my smiling 3 year old who was so excited to tell me that I get to put her to sleep tonight. So on to hour number two of bedtime I went: we brushed teeth, went potty, read books and snuggled.

As I laid cuddled up next to her as she drifted off to sleep, I began thinking about what she said: Mommy, you GET to put me to sleep – like she was giving me a gift. Like I was the lucky winner that night. And boy, was she right. I’ve been specially chosen by my Creator to care for and love this sweet little soul and I GET to put her to sleep. Wow.

There are a lot of things I get to do as a parent. I GET to fight with her every morning about brushing her hair. I GET to listen to her whine at dinner every night about how she doesn’t like whatever is on her plate. I GET to break up the fights that are already happening between my children. And while I sometimes (i.e. often) get overwhelmed with all these things I “get” to do, I sure wouldn’t change a thing.

I also “get” lots giggles, kisses, love, and tickles. I “get” to experience the feeling of pure joy that I didn’t even know existed until I had kids. I “get” so much from my girls that if I think about it too much, my chest begins to tighten and my eyes fill with tears because I am overwhelmed with all they give me. There are a lot of people who would give anything to “get” to do some of these things I that I sometimes take for granted, and I’m so thankful my children remind me daily, in their own sweet ways, just how lucky I am.

Does this mean that I’ll never push her bedtime back onto daddy? 🙂 Heck no – I’ve got to keep my sanity! (Judge if you want, can’t blame you.) But I’ll certainly be more conscious of “getting” to put her to bed and enjoying these precious moments. Lord knows it goes too fast.

Oh and by the way, my rockstar husband cleaned the entire main floor of our house while I “got” to put my 3 year old to bed. Yep, I’m pretty lucky and my life is pretty darn good.

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Let Go and Float!

My husband knows me so well.

For Christmas, he completely surprised me with a gift card to Omaha Float Spa for three one-hour floats (read: an hour and a half all to myself…three separate times!! Every mom’s dream). My hippy heart was so excited.

This weekend, I finally jumped on the opportunity to float. My time in the tank was unlike anything I have ever experienced and I couldn’t wait to share! Disclaimer: This post is longer than allowed in Blogging 101 and I apologize in advance. Skim at your own risk!

According to it’s website, Omaha Float Spa dissolves 800 pounds of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate)  into a shallow pool of temperate water, hoping to create a healing experience similar to a mineral salt bath at the Dead Sea. Epsom salt baths are part of my ordinary wellness routine, but this (obviously) takes it to a whole new level!

Why Float?

One only has to read a few of the MANY benefits to understand how valuable this experience is. Some studies suggest that 80% of us are magnesium deficient; mainly as a result of the nutrient content being depleted from our soil (see my post here) and our over-consumption of caffeine and sugar (yep, guilty).

Why is magnesium so important? It is used by every organ in our body and is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions, impacting things like blood pressure, metabolism, immune function, serotonin production, digestion and more! SO IMPORTANT!!

Since the skin is our largest organ and is made of pores, our body is easily able to absorb things from our environment through the skin (hint: think twice about what you’re a putting on your body). Soaking in Epsom Salt creates a reverse osmosis state in your body, drawing in magnesium and pushing out toxins. Also, SO IMPORTANT. Our every-day life exposes us to environmental toxins through the air, water,  food, personal care products we use, etc. How nice it is to completely relax while letting the Epsom Salt do all the detox heavy-lifting. Thanks Epsom Salt – I owe ya one.

Plus, floating provides a space to relax, relieve stress, meditate, pray, brainstorm, etc. Read more benefits of floating here.

My Experience.

The spa has a zen-like feeling from the moment you walk in; cool colors, quiet music and a fabulous smell. Shelley, the receptionist, checked me in and answered some of my initial questions. She had me fill out a health form/waiver and showed me to my private flotation suite. Because it was my first float, she recommended that I start with “The Cabin” instead of diving right into “The Capsule” – it’s less claustrophobic. I obliged, although I am looking forward to trying The Capsule next time.

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My suite had a chic-cabin feel in that it had a modern-looking barn door as decoration. Not much is needed, but it was very nice – it had a bench to set my things on, a shower adjoined to my tub, a towel and a robe. Shelley provided me with a couple of “props” that I didn’t end up using: a small foam noodle to place under my knees and a head rest. She instructed me to shower with body wash and wash my hair with shampoo (no conditioner) immediately prior to floating. She then told me to put ear plugs in as the salt water can irritate the ears and finally, turn off the lights. I’d be ready to float!

 So I followed instructions: shower, ear plugs, lights, float!

I stepped into the tub (separated from the shower by a shower door) and there was soft music playing. Shelley informed me that the music would play at the beginning and then turn off, allowing me to enter a completely sensory-free experience.

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The room was warm, but not like a sauna. I was informed that the water in the tub was about 98 degrees – comfortable. Not hot, not cold. I sat in the tub and my legs floated up to the top of the water. Totes cray! I then laid back, and wouldn’t you know it, I floated! It took me a minute to relax – I think we are ingrained to keep our body stiff from our days of learning to back float. So I had to tell the muscles in my arms, shoulders, core and thighs to relax. And relax they did – along with the rest of my muscles!

 I did a pretty good job of relaxing and just “being” for about 35 minutes (meditating). Then I got antsy and started doing things like lifting my arms up out of the water (hard to do, for whatever reason) and gracefully moving my head back in forth, in which I was imaging my hair was flowing like a mermaid’s.  Naturally, I got water in my eye and HOLY COW that hurts like a bizzo! Thankfully, Shelley warned me that this might happen (perhaps she also tried having mermaid hair?) and had a spray bottle of fresh water and a towel handy. So after the painful eye situation, I decided to take it easy on arm tricks and mermaid impressions, and thought I better stick to floating.

Mermaid Shan
Mermaid Shannon
After an hour, the soft music begin playing again, signaling that my float was over. I showered again, washing away the salt. I grabbed my robe and (carefully) ran to the restroom down the hall because I had to pee terribly. I drank a lot of water prior to my float, but I believe it was my body quickly flushing toxins from my body. SO cool!

I got dressed and thanked Shelley. She offered me a bottle of water and asked if she could schedule my next appointment.

My Results.

Beyond detoxification, I observed many changes in my body as a result of my float.

  • Immune boost – I had been battling a cold all week and my symptoms were greatly improved after my float. I honestly couldn’t believe it; significantly better in an hour.
  • Soft skin and hair – I immediately noticed how soft my skin was. Seriously, SO soft (and, still super soft over 24 hours later).
  • Elevated mood – I was in a calmer-than-usual mood and just all around happy. Energized.
  • Eased muscle pain – I’ve been having pain in my right hip and it was temporarily relieved (Back today though. Need to visit my chiropractor! 😊)

Bottom line? I loved my experience and would highly recommend it. I can’t wait to do my next float! Note to husbands out there: not a bad gift for your wife!

Drop me a note if you’ve done a float! I would love to hear your experience.

Float Your Boat

2016 : Lessons Learned

Another year gone. Another year spent here on Earth. Another year of growth. As 2016 comes to a close, here are my five take-aways…

1.) Being present is tough.

My “resolution” for 2016 was to be more present….mostly in regards to the time spent with my children. Less time worrying about tomorrow, less time being fascinated about what’s going on in my social network, less time stressing about what I wasn’t getting done.

Being present is NOT easy! I still have work to do in “being in the moment”, but I made progress this year. I was more aware of my actions and attitude. I put my phone away and made conscious decisions not to check it (which is quite painful, really). I stopped to play with my kids, even if it meant prolonging the disastrous mess that was my house in 2016, and I tried my hardest not to worry about that which is out of my control.

Thank goodness for my little ones who demand my attention 24/7….they hold me accountable! They won’t remember if the house was clean or the laundry was put away but they will remember the time we spent playing, dancing and reading books.

It is my responsibility as a mother to honor this.

2.) It’s OK to let relationships go.

I think one of the most joyful, yet painful, things to go through in life is the evolution of a relationship.  Some relationships stand the test of time. Others slip away slowly. Others painfully and abruptly end. Some simply evolve. Life circumstances change. We grow up. We get busy. Our interests or priorities transform.

It seems like this was my year for the “friendship evolution”. While it was painful, I’ve learned its OK. It’s really OK to back off and let people go. Holding on to what “used to be” isn’t healthy for you or them. You’re both simply….different.

And once I got through the pain and truly felt OK with letting go, I was able to see the relationship from a 10,000 ft view. There is a reason they were brought into my life; they’ve help shape who I am. And then there is a reason we moved on. I’m thankful for the memories and I’m thankful for what I learned through them.

And, I realized that I can still care about them. I can love them for who they are and appreciate the journey they are on, even if it’s no longer my journey, too.

In the meantime, I’ve really appreciated the excitement of new friendships – it’s so much fun to find someone who just “gets” you. And there is nothing quite like the strengthening of old ones. I’m blessed with some of the best.

3. Having the confidence to leap before you see the net is super super scary.

“Leap and the net will appear!”

I feel like this has been playing over and over and OVER again in my head for the past 7 years. But it’s so dang scary. Where is that line between following your dreams, and making choices that have the potential to negatively affect others (i.e. my husband and kids)?  Why can’t we have a crystal ball that tells us, “YES! Please proceed!” or “NO you idiot! That’s a dumb choice!!”?! Ugh!fe33da69589b162ad4d8d9baa2197619

Part of me thinks that if I can’t get something out of my head, I need to go for it. I’m VERY thoughtful in the (major) decisions I make…I plan, I research, I read, I seek out information and opinions and then I decide. But I’m not afraid to try something new or go against the grain. I’m not ultra-conservative and risk-averse but I’m not really risky, either. I’m totally and completely moderate.

But I am afraid of failure. I wish I could be like an entrepreneur who isn’t afraid to fail…because they know that eventually, they’ll succeed. And they DO! How do you remain a realist and grounded, while still reaching for the stars and following your dream?

Drop me a line if you’ve got this all figured out, because I feel stuck.

4. The art of being mindful.

Mindfulness: “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”

I have always believed that our thoughts become our realities; that we are in control of our own destiny. So, I really started to work on my own thoughts in 2016. I started dabbling in meditation. I started reading positive affirmations. I wrote intentions for my “dream life” and started affirming it.

But most of all, I started to pay attention to what that little voice in my head was saying all day long. And it mostly revolved on me not being good enough. Not being a good enough friend, wife, mom, employee, sister, daughter, human. Mostly, these thoughts affirmed that I wasn’t worthy of love. “Not being good enough” and “unworthy of love” was my reality. I’m a perfectionist and my own worst critic.

I consider it a success that in 2016, I simply REALIZED I was doing this. Now that I am more mindful of my negative thoughts, my goal for 2017 is to nip them in the bud and begin replacing them with positive, empowering ones.

5.) Learning to keep my mouth shut.

Oh boy, this one was a doozy. It took me 31 years of life to REALLY realize that if I have an opinion or an idea, I really don’t have to share it. So, I blog instead! LOL. I blame it on my birth order and being the oldest 😉 Don’t get me wrong, I have a filter. I work in development and fundraising 101 is that the donor or prospect does all the talking.

But, I don’t always follow that rule with family, friends and co-workers. I can have an idea, but sometimes, mine isn’t the best. And I can have an opinion, but I don’t really need to share it if it may hurt someone I care about. And most of all, I need to look beyond myself to see someone else’s point of view; it’s not always about me.

There is no possible way I could say this any better than these two wonderfully insightful ladies, so I am going to quote Meg Davies and Jenn Locke at Demanding Joy:

“Sometimes we have to choose whether it’s more important to be right…or to be happy. Sometimes it’s better to keep our opinions, grievances, and complaints to ourselves in order to show love and respect to others who are important to us.

It doesn’t make you weak to bite your tongue when motivated by love. We can show love and patience instead of having to prove ourselves right if the issue doesn’t really matter more than the person and the relationship does.

It’s possible to authentically live your truth and let others live theirs at the same time. And it’s such a beautiful thing when both parties do this for each other — that’s how long-lasting, lovely relationships are created.

People we love are more important than just about anything. Let’s remember to choose our battles wisely.”

The crazy awesome thing is that ALL of these lessons will continue my growth in 2017. Thankfully, I was perfectly made by my Creator to be an imperfect work-in-progress and I can’t wait to build on the progress I made this year! (see, it’s progress that I can even admit that it’s OK that I’m imperfect!)

I am so excited for what 2017 will bring! I’m looking forward to a sugar detox, deepening my yoga practice, planting my first garden and more restful nights. I can’t wait for TWO Eric Church concerts, weekend family trips to our favorite small town get-a-way: Willow Lake, some much-needed time away with our friends (locations TBD) and some BABIES to be born to some very good friends (read: they aren’t mine! I get to snuggle them and let others enjoy the sleepless nights!).

Most of all, I look forward to celebrating small, every-day victories and making memories with those closest to me. That’s what life is really all about, isn’t it?

Cheers!

Selecting Supplements: A Quick Reference in Sorting Out Quality from Crap

I’m a big proponent of consuming QUALITY supplements. Why? Here’s a few reasons:

  1. A diet consisting of processed and preserved foods doesn’t give us quality nutrients our body needs to function at a high level. And, are you eating the recommended amount of fruits and veggies each day? (the Standard American Diet) I’m totes guilty of eating processed foods and not always eating all the fresh stuff that I should….I’m a work in progress, people!
  2. Thanks to modern farming and the use of fertilizers, the soil where our food is grown has been ripped of nutrient-dense vitamins and minerals, leaving our fruits and veggies also depleted of these important elements. Furthermore, fresh foods are often shipped long distances and stored for long periods of time which causes nutrient quality to decrease. Buy local and support Farmer’s Markets when possible! Best for you AND the community!
  3. Can’t forget to mention those pesky (understatement) pesticides and herbicides. Do they effect the nutrient content of our food? Of course they do! The chemicals in our food, combined with the chemicals in the air, water and beauty/self-care products we use daily, increase our need for extra vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to combat formation of free radicals and the attack on our immune system.
  4. Many fruits and vegetables are genetically modified to improve visual appeal and crop yields, not nutritional value. So the mixing and mingling of all those genes ultimately brings the quality down and disrupts the natural awesomeness of the food. Just say NO to GMOs….selecting-supplements_

What are some important elements to consider when buying supplements? Here are some things to look for and consider:

  • Ingredients and Source. Our bodies were made to absorb nutrients from real food. Are the supplements made from raw food, making them more bioavailable? (ideal) Or from synthetic chemical “nutrients” made in a lab? (not ideal) Do you know where the ingredients come from? Where they are grown and what farming practices are used?
  • Organic and non-GMO. This is more of an issue of what to keep OUT of supplements. If pesticides/herbicides deplete the nutrient content, seems pretty counter-intuitive to consume supplements that are made with harmful chemicals, right? Read my blog on the importance of organic here.
  • Production and Quality. Are they made in pharmaceutical-grade facility? Recommended by doctors and practitioners knowledgeable about nutrition? (read: not all physicians are created equal) Tested for quality? Packaged responsibly?

Trust me – if you are going to invest in your health and buy supplements, be sure to take a little time and research the company. Check out their website for the above. Supplements bought at Target/Wal-Mart/Walgreens are most likely going to be a huge waste of your time and money. Head over to Natural Grocers, Whole Foods or order online.

Supplement companies I use (bonus: recommended or approved by Dr. Patricia Ryan, MD, CCN aka Dr. Mom/GiGi): Thorne Research, Metagenics, Garden of Life, Rainbow Light, Body Bio, Perque, and Nutriwest.

Happy Supplementing!

Black Bean Brownies

Gluten-free. Guilt-free. Yummy-full.

Have fun watching your friends faces after you tell them they are eating black beans in their brownies!

Disclaimer: Are these as good as Betty Crocker boxed brownies? Hell no! But they are pretty darn good and much more healthy. Enjoy!

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I have no guilt letting my littles eat these!

In Blender:

  • Add: 3 eggs
  • Blend for 10 seconds
  • Add: 1 can drained & rinsed black beans
  • Blend one minute
  • Add:
    • 2 tsp vanilla
    • ¼ cup cacao powder (or cocoa powder)
    • 3 tablespoons of coconut oil – melted
    • 1/8 tsp sea salt
    • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • ½ cup coconut sugar
    • 3 tablespoons of raw honey

      bbb
      Yaaaa-um!
  • Blend all of the above
  • Add:
    • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
    • 1 tablespoon almond flour
  • Blend again
  • Bake at 350 degrees
    • 30 mins in 8×8 pan or
    • 15 mins in 13×9 pan or
    • 18 minutes for cupcakes
    • Grease pan with coconut oil

 

 

You Were First.

To my oldest daughter as my second baby turns ONE:

What a year it’s been, sweet little one. I am in awe of what a big girl you’ve become over the last year and in watching you become a big sister. I am beyond proud of you.

Before little sis came along, my life revolved around you and only you. Your every cry. Your every movement. Your every breath. I was there.

Although you really didn’t understand the change that was about to happen in our lives, you could certainly sense it. Mom&Lu2014You instinctively knew that I wasn’t going to be able to be there for you in the same way I had been the 23 months prior.  And it pained me to know I wouldn’t be able to be there for you in the same way, too. Thankfully, you have an unbelievable bond with daddy, and it’s been awesome to watch how close you two have become.

On the eve of your sister’s first birthday, I was reflecting on where I was at that moment one year ago. I thought a little bit about being in labor and my excitement to meet Baby #2. But most of all, I thought about you. For 23 months, bedtime was always ours. Yours and mine. Our time to reconnect from our busy day. On that night one year ago, I rocked you to sleep with bittersweet tears in my eyes. I knew I was in labor and that everything would change for all of us.
But mostly for me and you. I held you extra-close, for extra-long, while you drifted to sleep. Daddy took over as your default “bedtime keeper” after that.

My sweet girl, you are so smart and so thoughtful. I can see the wheels turning in your head as you think through situations and experiences. Your ability to reflect and reason blows me away. You are constantly observing. And as a result, I don’t believe for a second that you are unphased by any of this.  I am thankful that you allowed me to “test” my parenting skills on you (bless you!). I am not perfect, and this last year has shown me that over and over again. But you never give up on me and you always give me another chance to make it better.

Life’s not easy for a two-year-old, especially when you add in a new sister.  But you’ve weathered the storm and have come out on top. Your tears may be fierce, but so are your kisses. I promise you that it will all be worth it. I promise you will be a better person for having siblings – they will push you and shape you in ways no other will. It has been amazing to watch this shift and formation in you already begin. I look forward to watching you grow into a leader; not only of this family, but in all you do. Little sis is so lucky to have you. And, she will always be there for you – you will have a best friend for life.

I look forward to our ever-evolving relationship – I know it will ebb and flow in the years to come. But my heart holds dear that special time spent when it was just me and you. My love for you is not less because your sister came along. Thankfully, as I learned, a mama’s heart grows in love, making room for new additions. You are my soul and my greatest teacher. A part of my heart will always be with you, a part that no one else in this whole world will get to claim as theirs. You were my first. You made me a mom. And you are mine.

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Organic : Prioritized

The importance of eating organic (and non-GMO) has been written a million ways by a million people way smarter than me so I’m not even going to go into how EXTREMELY critical it is! (Robyn O’Brien is my fave blogger/expert on this topic if you want more info.)

So, how does the average person on an average budget know how to prioritize? I really struggle in making decisions on where to splurge on organic and when its OK to buy conventional. And if you’re anything like me, I dread coming home after a grocery store visit to my husband asking, “K how much did you spend this week??” So, I wanted to share a few tips.

Now, I must include a disclaimer: most of the information I share in the post comes from my mother, Patricia Ryan-Carlson, MD. I quickly picked her brain while she gave Kate a bath last week (seriously, she’s the best) on why she recommends certain foods MUST be purchased organic. Her order of importance is as follows:

1.) Meat and Dairy – MOST IMPORTANT

Why? The pesticides and herbicides are fat-soluble, meaning they accumulate and are stored in the fatty tissue of the animal. The EPA reports that meat is contaminated with higher levels of pesticides than any plant food. Animal feed that contains animal products compounds the accumulation, which is directly passed to the us. In addition, antibiotics, drugs, and hormones are a standard in raising and slaughtering livestock, all of which accumulate and are passed on to consumers as well. Ick. So much ick.

Grass-fed beef (and butter/milk/yogurt/cheese) and free-range chicken and eggs (Note:  not just “cage free”) are absolutely worth the splurge.

2.) Fruits and VeggiesDirtyClean

Why? There can be as many as FORTY (40!) different pesticides sprayed on each piece of produce (strawberries being the biggest offenders). Check out the Environmental Working Group’s list of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15 here. This guide can help you prioritize which produce items are critical to buy organic and which ones are OK to purchase conventional.

Quick tip: While fresh is always the best, I am big consumer of frozen organic fruits and veggies. It’s totally cheaper!

3.) Everything else: Grains, snacks, processed goods

Work this stuff into your budget when you can. Thankfully, grocery stores like Bakers, Hy-Vee and Costco have their own store-brand organic items. The smallest ingredient list is best and avoid HFCS and artificial dyes. And, remember: just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

My last tip? The 80/20 rule: be good 80% of the time. 20% of the time, give yourself a break. Perfection when it comes to any sort of “diet” is unrealistic. (Hellooooo Bruegger’s bagels and cream cheese).

K sorry. One more tip: Baby steps! Start small. Small changes over time DO make a difference. Slowly move more organic items into your diet.

Cheers!

Kate Berries

Picture because…who doesn’t love a cute baby eating organic berries?!