Monday, November 30, 2015

The Stress Equation

In several weeks our second child, Wyatt James Seal, will arrive...possibly before the end of the year.

In several weeks, we will celebrate Christmas and exchange gifts with family friends.
So much joy and thankfulness, coupled with overwhelming anxiety, sprinkled with panic.
Family fun, quality time with friends, endless lists, sleepless nights, emotional eating, short tempers, lots of money spent.

Can I get an "Amen"?! This little equation above is part of the reason I called my OBGYN last week with some concern over being in pre-term labor. That and the fact that B made a grand entrance three weeks and two days before his due date. 

My doctor, Crista Thomas, has been great. She was not privy to my first delivery, so I have filled her in on the fun and we have adjusted my appointment and testing schedule accordingly. But last week I had some pinching pains in my lower abdomen and tightening around my belly; I felt short of breath and just "not right." I called the office and they told me to go ahead and come in. I was hooked up to the fetal monitor and told to rest for 20 minutes. Instead of resting, I snapped a pic, texted Dad, and answered emails. I was laying down; that counts as relaxing, right? 

The bottom monitor is for Wyatt's heart and the top is for my "contractions" (there were none).
Then I got to see Dr. Thomas. And my suspicions were shot down (thankfully)...not pre-term labor. Probably some gas pains, coupled with second pregnancy and some anxiety. 
  1. The gas pains were a result of a MASSIVE friends-giving meal and being pregnant in general can cause some digestive discomfort. So the pinching question was answered. And the meal was totally worth it. 
  2. Second pregnancy means a looser pelvic floor. Dr. Thomas put it this way - for your first pregnancy, the pelvic floor is a like a hard bowl. By the second, it is more like a hammock. This means the baby feels heavier against your pelvis and can lead to the tightened feeling around your belly. #Awesome #pelvicfloor #onlypregnantwomencare 
  3. Throw some anxiety over the thought of going in to labor early (and the holiday season) and you get a paranoid pregnant woman panting in your office. There is my shortness of breath. 
Doctor's orders - Miralax twice a day and try to sit on the couch, snack and relax. A week later and I am feeling better. Relaxing has been penciled in for some time around April. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

There's a boat in the camera!

Recently we had some family photos taken. It was long overdue, considering the last photos we had done professionally were in May 2014 and didn't include Dad! So we enlisted an old friend, Meredith Carroll, to get some family of three (plus) shots. We had about an hour and decided on a natural setting at Ross Bridge. Per usual, I was anxious about these pictures weeks in advance...
What will I wear? What should B wear? Should we match, coordinate or just see what happens? What if I don't sleep well the night before and look puffy? What if B doesn't behave and we don't get any good shots of him? Is the time frame OK? Should he nap before or after? Should we eat before or after? We all need haircuts immediately. Do I even remember how to put on real make-up? 
Normal concerns; they all seem valid. Luckily, my MIL is a mind-reader and found something for B to wear (for these AND Santa pictures). She is a saint and we are so thankful for her initiative when it comes to things for B, our house, and just life in general! 
B learned the word "reindeer" that day. 
The week of, I made it to the Swanky Stork to pick something out for myself. I quickly found two things that I couldn't part with, so I was set. Now it was time for Dad to select his attire. He went through several rounds of options before finding something just perfectly "Fall" that coordinated.
Coordinating greens throughout, subtle but effective.
Whew! Now it was all down to the day. We got an early start to the morning, thanks to B, but ended up rushing out the door - how does that happen?!? B slept in the car and woke up when we arrived, not in a great mood, but he perked up with some gummy snacks. So we were off. It took Mom and Dad some time to warm up for the camera and focus. Meredith instructed us not to look at B and try to make him smile, but to look at the camera and focus on smiling ourselves! Great advice. This is why half of our every day pictures turn out with one of us looking drunk and the other talking. To get B to smile and focus, you have to get creative. 
Show me your teeth! Cheeeeeeeeessse! Look here at the camera! Do you see yourself in the camera? If you look at the camera you will see a boat! There is a boat in the camera! Do you want some crackers? Give us one more smile and you can have some crackers! See how Dad is smiling, smile like Dad! 
It was exhausting. But Meredith assured me by the end we had some good shots. And she was right!

The framers... 

"There's no boat in that camera, but I'll grin anyway."

Just like Dad.

B loves his boots.

We love our sweet B.

And the outtakes...
B is five, Dad is asleep and Mom looks like she hasn't slept in days.

What happens after an hour and you say "Cheeeeeeeese" for the 400th time.

"Kiss Mommy!" or eat her face...

Mid "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"

"No, I will not hug baby Wyatt" - B
"Please get your hand out of my crotch" - Mom

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Healthy Eating Tips

I started to call this post "Diet Tips," but don't want to perpetuate the idea that I am on a constant diet. These are tips I stuck to while trying to lose weight and have continued to use while changing my lifestyle to healthy eating. Some things I have loosened up on for sure.

1. Count your calories. Religiously. Everything. Use an app that already has tons of food in the database. I liked My Plate from but hear great things about other tools. I have read articles from nutritionists recently that don't like calorie counting, but I needed the control and limits while trying to lose weight and learn.

2. Measure your food. The calories on packages are only per serving size, so get the measuring cup out. The one thing I never did was weigh my meat portions.

3. Snack wisely. You will be hungry, your metabolism is cranking, prepare snacks that you like and won't binge on. Nuts are hard for me because you get so few for the calories! But you can eat a good portion of raw baby carrots for next to nothing or a gigantic apple sliced into thin pieces or even pretzels. Trick yourself by eating and chewing more of these foods for less calories.

4. Just stop eating some things for a while. Seriously moderate cheese, bacon, candy, alcohol and other high calorie foods that supply little reward. Hell yeah, cheese is good. It's also incredibly fattening and will suck up your calories. Eat it once a week and make it count, savor it, sip that glass of wine slowly.

5. Hot beverages are your appetite-curbing friend. Few things can cut your appetite like a mug of hot tea or black coffee. Limit the use of sugar, artificial sweeteners and cream. If you use it, put it on your calorie count!

6. Don't starve. You might feel like it at first, but you will get used to a smaller amount of food after a week or so. But don't be miserable all the time. If you are hungry, eat something...just eat something healthy (a piece of fruit, baby carrots, popcorn, etc.). See item #3.

7. Eat food that you like! Grilled chicken doesn't have to be boring; eat pork and red meat and fish! Change it up with all sorts of spices or, literally spice it up with hot sauce! Don't eat the same food every day or you will be dying for a cheat meal by Tuesday.

8. Don't obsess over protein, fat, and carbs. Try to eat everything evenly without going overboard on one or the other. And I know fruit has carbs, but's fruit. Just be sure to track it in your calories because it will cost you more than veggies!

9. Eat the rainbow! The color of food is an indicator of it's nutrients, so eat everything. Don't just eat the green veggies, try orange (sweet potatoes and carrots), red (tomatoes, peppers, radishes, red onions), white (onions, cauliflower), purple (eggplant, cabbage).

10. Make it easy on yourself.

  • Buy frozen vegetable steamers that are unseasoned or lightly seasoned.
  • Bagged salads are super convenient and provide variety.
  • Cook a couple pieces of chicken one night to have leftovers.
  • Have canned tuna or other easy to grab proteins on hand.
  • There are tons of items in individual servings. Buy those if you are crunched for time even if they are a little more expensive. (i.e. nuts, yogurt, hummus, carrots)

11. Watch liquid calories. Alcohol is always what people try to avoid, but be careful with juices, smoothies and soft drinks. Just don't drink soft drinks, they aren't made of anything real!

12. Learn how to order at restaurants. I learned from my sister that you can basically make up a meal at a restaurant. She has some of the most difficult orders there are, but most places are more than willing to accommodate. Try a salad, no cheese, no bacon, no egg (unless you need the calories), dressing on the side (at first, just don't use it), add grilled chicken, steak or fish. OR a grilled lean meat with veggies and a side salad. Just because the menu details the side items doesn't mean you have to stick with those. Double up on veggies.

13. Drink more water than you thought possible. I started at 8 glasses a day. I now drink closer to a gallon of water a day because I am thirsty! Keep a LARGE bottle with you at all times. Go for the liter and try to drink one before lunch, one after lunch and more water with dinner.

There are so many more little things that I could share, but hopefully this is a good start and helpful!

Mom and B's Day of Fun

Recently, I took off work for Columbus Day because the daycare was closed. Not a problem, right? A day off work should be welcomed! To be honest, I wasn't super excited. Being a working mom keeps me sane and smitten with my adorable child. Not to mention, Columbus Day was a Monday and Dad had been out of town that weekend. So really, we had almost three full days together.

Over the weekend, we had been to Let's Play Birmingham (BIG HIT) and spent the evening playing with soon-to-be-because-we-said-so BFF, W. So that was for him, but that morning we had been to Target, the farmer's market, and picked up around the house. Not fun for a toddler.
The ball pit was a hit for W and B.

Aunt Mantha also enjoyed the toddler area!
Shot of the toddler maze at Let's Play. Aunt Mantha mastered it all!

By the time Monday rolled around, I was a little tired. When I decided to take the day off I committed (myself) to doing nothing but activities that B would enjoy; hence, "Mom and B's Day of Fun." 

We loaded up early and headed to the McWane Center. We were the third people in line, got our tickets, and set out to the exhibits. We quickly breezed through the main floor because there were mainly older kid activities. Then we got to the main event - Itty Bitty Magic City. The look on B's face was similar to mine when I find out my mother-in-law is cooking Italian food for Sunday dinner - HELL, YEAH.

There were trains, a firetruck, a water play area, house setup, mini grocery store and diner, vet's clinic, car workshop and jungle-gym thing I can't really explain. He spent about two hours exploring and LOVED the trains. I knew we were broaching the "too tired to leave peacefully" so I bribed him with the promise of a cookie. We left around 11:45 am and walked to Edgar's Bakery downtown. He noshed on goldfish and a peanut butter and honey sandwich in the stroller. Once at Edgars, he got a M&M cookie and I got a cappuccino and enjoyed them on the terrace overlooking 20th street to watch the trolleys, buses and busy people. B promptly fell asleep on the walk back to the car, slept the entire way home and for another hour once we got home. Just enough time for me to enjoy a lunch at home with Dad.

Huge train set.

Driving the spaceship!

And the firetruck. When the front seat opened up, he was all over it!

Putting his tray in the oven.
The oven mitt! He watches mom cook a lot.

After nap time we packed up again and headed to the park. Trussville has great play space in the "downtown" area. There is a large mall with tennis courts, a community pool, and two good parks. Aunt Shell met us there. B snacked on pistachios and ran Aunt Shell ragged. Mom was already tired...and a little pregnant!
Loving the swing!

Does this whale go any faster?

The horse doesn't move quickly either...
After the park we headed home for dinner with Dad. B was in a great mood and the day was fun! Why wouldn't he be? I wasn't trying to direct him all day. While at home we have rules and chores - laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc. If I had tried to actually work from home it would have been a nightmare and, honestly, consisted of lots of cartoons.

And I enjoyed the day seeing him try new things and experience activities that are on his level. I was impressed by his focus and curiosity at the McWane Center. He was able to navigate the new situation and really learn from his surroundings. And it confirms that our sweet baby is getting so big and changing every day. 

Now...back to work for some down time. Need to rest up for the holidays and baby #2!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Could've bought a pumpkin at Publix...

...but you really don't get the experience! And how weird does it look trying to position your unwilling child in the pumpkins next to the produce and floral section?

This weekend we ventured to the Old Baker Farm annual Pumpkin Patch in Harpersville, AL. I did a BAD job of prepping Dad about our visit. He was confused as to why we drove nearly an hour to what he was picturing as a field of pumpkins. Little did he know it was SO much more...involved and costly.

Why did Barrett have a collared shirt and jeans on? Photos. Why was Mom dressed in jeans, boots and something other than a t-shirt with make-up on and hair done? Photos. Why are we driving to Harpersville, to the middle of nowhere, to get a pumpkin when we have three on the front porch? Photos.
Lots of photos.
We met some of our BFF's at the pumpkin patch, with their TWO kids, the youngest of which is just a month old. We decided during our trip, the whole experience warranted a blog post with a list of tips. 

Photos with pumpkins, in a vintage truck with sunflowers and cotton.
So here are some things to remember when visiting the pumpkin patch:

Take a wagon or stroller. The ground is not level so a jogger or wagon would probably be best. For your convenience, there is stroller parking right before the hayride. And beware the stroller jam that can occur when people have exited the hayride.

It's dirty and dusty and potentially muddy. Wear boots or shoes you aren't concerned with getting too dirty. It is a farm, after all.

Bring a camera! Photo ops everywhere. It's presh. There were people who didn't have children out there in fringe booties and sweater dresses lighting instagram and snapchat on FIRE. #pumpkinpatchselfie #whyareyouhere

Don't try to carry a toddler or baby AND a pumpkin. It ends badly for the pumpkin, and then you have to start over. This is not what you want; you worked hard for that damn pumpkin and the tractor for the hayride is pulling up...just grab whatever is closest as a replacement and call it a day.

Or just let the kid carry the pumpkin! W trying his best.
Baby wearing is a definite must if you have one small enough for a sling, backpack or other carrier. Having two arms is a huge convenience for hoisting yourself onto the back of a trailer that is covered in hay and picking pumpkins and chasing other children and avoiding pumpkin vines.

Baby wearing Exhibit A. Popcorn can also be seen in this exhibit, as well as family-of-four preciousness.
The popcorn was a lifesaver while waiting in line for the hayride and getting back to the car. We happened to visit on the fall festival weekend so there were vendors selling everything from food to crafts. Popcorn is the perfect, occupying snack for kiddo and Dad. Otherwise, bring your own snacks.

Cash or check ONLY. It was $10 for everyone two and above which includes a pumpkin. FYI - B turns two in November if anyone asks.

This should be an ad for cotton or toddler clothes.
Photo op in front of the old house. We started a trend, people were lining up after us.
So head out to the pumpkin patch as a lovely fall activity! Besides, it's Decorative Gourd Season, motherf*$&#@s

*If you haven't read the article at this link, PLEASE do it pronto.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Take Them Food: Restaurants to Try

Here in the South we like to take people food. New neighbors get baked goods, new moms get entire dinners. It's awesome. People come see the baby, hold the baby, and bring you food. Then they leave...and you can stuff your exhausted face in your bathrobe while breastfeeding. I can't wait!

I will say the etiquette is different depending on the family. When some of our BFF's had their first child, we brought them dinner and we stayed to eat with them. But most of the time it's an early evening food drop with limited baby viewing. You rub yourself down with sanitizer and coo away.

Restaurants in Birmingham have gotten wise to the idea that people not only take meals to others, but sometimes just need a good dinner to pick up and serve to the family - no cooking involved. I have done some research recently because of new babies in the family and thought I would share a list of options. I know there are more, but this was what I came up with pretty quickly.

Ready to Eat -

  • Urban Cookhouse - Crestline, Summit, Homewood. Pick up meals after 3 pm.
  • Maki Fresh - Rice bowls for four, definitely unique. I haven't had the chance to try this one yet.
  • Taziki's - Many locations! Pick up after 2 pm.
  • Zoe's - Multiple locations, two different serving size options.
  • Costa's Mediterranean - Trussville and Hoover. They have all sorts of options for 2 or 4 person meals. You can also get their baked pastas uncooked and ready for the freezer!
  • Little Donkey - Homewood. I could only find the info on the "taco packs" under the online take-out ordering. Four options with sides. Another one I haven't tried, but their tacos are damn good. Now if we could just get to-go cocktails...
  • Taco Mama - Crestline Village. One option that feeds 4 hungry people!
  • Iz Cafe - Hoover (Rocky Ridge) and English Village. They have a monthly menu of take home meals available Tuesday thru Thursday.
  • Jim 'N Nicks - Many locations! And you get the option of buns or cheese biscuits...cheese biscuits, every. time. please. thank you.

Cook at Home (or freeze for later)

  • Ashley Mac's - Cahaba Heights, Inverness, Riverchase."Gourmet To Go" casseroles and prepared foods (appetizers, desserts, salads, etc). Definitely get dessert and pick up a dozen sour cream biscuits for you and the lucky recipient. They just melt in your mouth!
  • Homewood Gourmet - Homewood. Rave reviews from everyone who has received one of these bake-at-home gems. Don't forget the gigantic cookies and/or brownies. Remember...bathrobe eating is better done with dessert in-hand.
  • Dishn' It Out - Crestline (next to Saw's Juke Joint). Extensive selection! I often peer through the windows at their freezer collection while waiting to eat at Saw's.
  • What's 4 Supper by Edgewood Catering - Homewood. I haven't tried this place yet, but they put out a weekly menu that looks great. They offer frozen and freshly cooked.

*Most of these places do have prepared foods (chicken salad, pimento cheese, etc) but they specifically offer a "Meal for 4" or "Family Dinner" option that is all ready to eat when you walk in the door.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Weight Loss: War vs. Journey

In 2005 I weighed 200 pounds. I have lost 70 pounds. 

Both of those statements seem ridiculous to me. The first because I vividly remember the day I weighed in at Curves in Auburn; I immediately felt all 200 pounds crashing down. The second because I never intended to lose 70 pounds.

So when I started to contemplate this post, I couldn't decide whether war or journey aptly described the past 10 years. 

War: a sustained effort to deal with or end a particular unpleasant or undesirable situation or condition.
Journey: a long and often difficult process of personal change and development.
I am definitely going with war. Journey sounds nice and poetic, but let's be clear, losing weight is a WAR. It is a war with your mind, your body and your relationship with food and sometimes other people. 
Circa 2007-ish. Weighing in at around 180-185. 

Dad and I's engagement party (2007). 

When you decide you have to change your body, it starts with a "diet." Eat less, drink less; workout more, sleep more. For some people it starts with a pill or shot or prepared/packaged foods. Either way is fine; neither way is sustainable. 

In it for the long haul and want to win the war? Get ready..."sustained effort" is part of what defines a war. When it comes to losing weight and getting healthy, a sustained effort is THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. There will be times of peace, when you are happy in your workout routine and in a good rhythm of eating healthy and maintaining portion control. Then there are the battles...when cake seems to be taunting you and french fries are your complex carbohydrate. 
Vegas 2009, slimmed down but still around 150.
I am an emotional every emotion I feel is better served with food. In my better times I control this well by eating healthy foods and proper portions. In stressful times, I have to refrain from sitting on the couch with a carton of ice cream after scarfing down half a pizza, with a salad on the side. Can I get another glass of wine, please? 

Luckily, I have a supportive husband and a good workout routine that helps keep me motivated. My goal is not to lose anymore weight, but maintain and feel good about what I eat and feed my family. 
Fall 2011, goal weight achieved around 135.
And I have gained tons of tips and tricks over the past 10 years. I think the best tips I can offer are - 
1. Be prepared - plan your meals, including snacks, drinks and desserts.
2. Eat smart - the biggest eye opener to me was calorie counting. Working to lose weight does not mean you have to starve. 

I'd love to share more about the changes I made in the last 10 years to get me where I am today. Feel free to reach out with questions or comments! 
July 2014, steady at around 130 for 3-4 years now...minus pregnancy #1 and #2. 

*Note: I wrote this article months ago, but am just now happy with the content. Since I am currently 23 weeks pregnant my food and workout regimen have been altered accordingly, but have not changed drastically.