Stay Curious.
Dig Deeper.
Nurture What Matters.
Be BoldHeart.
Enjoy Your Life.

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The BoldHeartMama desires to enjoy living out the choices that she’s made for herself and for her family. She is a relentless learner: curious, inquisitive, and open to the possibilities of her life and of the human condition. She understands that there isn't one right way—she asks questions that dig deeper to make sense of it all and to find her own path.

She pays attention to and nurtures whatever it is she really cares about, letting go of the rest (for now) knowing she can't do and be everything all at once. She embraces her imperfections in favor of "good enough"—her imperfect self, her imperfect home, her imperfect mothering, her imperfect desires—and she never stops evolving as a woman and mother. She is a BoldHeart, authentic and true to herself.

The BoldHeartMama knows there is only this one life and she's all in. She is present and engaged and making things happen. Her intuition is her guide. She seeks to be inspired and relies on her creativity and her resourcefulness to solve the big and little challenges that she and her family face together as they navigate their relationships and their world.

The BoldHeartMama is willing to take calculated risks to make her biggest dreams come true. She is living out her BoldHeart in the moment, making small moves and taking little steps that add up, and she's cultivating a good life for herself and her family in the process. Read More!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday in the City

We haven't had a free weekend day in a long time: no commitments, no schedule to keep.

An intense storm last night caused power outages throughout the city, and the community was bustling even earlier than usual this morning to clear the streets and yards from downed trees and limbs.

Sultry conditions at 6am foreshadowed the heat that came later in the afternoon, but we decided to get out for an early walk for breakfast and coffee while it was still relatively cool, and then Roscoe and I drove to the farmer's market to pick up our berry share.

Apricots, plums, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and peaches are all in season right now, and we got some of each. Roscoe also stopped at his favorite tent Sugar Baking Co. to chat for a long time with Morgan, as has become his routine, and to choose his usual Saturday morning treats to share with the rest of us.   

We also found some cherry tomatoes, pink and yellow brandywine tomatoes, golden and red beets, cantaloupe, potatoes, and string beans. Nap was fast approaching and we didn't have time to venture to the larger and busier South of the James market. We were happy with what we had foraged so we went home.

After snack Andy took the boys for a walk at nap time and I logged a couple hours working at my computer, editing a summary report of an evaluation that we conducted a few months ago.

When the boys woke up I got a turn to nap and then around 2pm we packed up our bathing suits and snacks and headed out for some water play. There was little shade but the kids were content in the water and a local band was playing nearby so Andy and I just kicked back with iced coffee and our goodies from the market--it's rare to find an activity for the kids that doesn't require our constant involvement so we thought it was especially nice. We kept the drinks flowing and the snacks coming but the boys were hot and ready to go after 45 minutes so we did a little shopping and then grabbed dinner to go.   

Merritt has been asleep for an hour now and Andy is putting Roscoe to bed as I type this.  We've planned a discussion for this evening to hash out roles and responsibilities for each of us now that my job is winding down and I have more or less assumed the role of a full-time stay at home mom. We've needed to shore up our expectations on both sides so this will be a good opportunity to outline a plan and to establish boundaries for each of us as we are both moving in new directions professionally.

Another Summer storm is brewing outside, the wind's kicking up and the thunder rolling.
Stay cool and happy Saturday night to all!

Friday, June 29, 2012

What I learned from NaBloPoMo

Tomorrow is the last day of NaBloPoMo and I've learned a few things this month:

1. I enjoyed a self imposed reason to write every day
I liked that I was able to blog timely posts this month--a mothers day post near mothers day!--and that the requirement to develop content to publish every day encouraged me to venture from my typical blogging formula. Which leads me to my next point . . .

2. I need to think less, and write more
I spend too much time wondering whether an idea or topic is worthy of posting. The posts with the most hits this month were not the ones that I would have bet on: potty training, my thoughts on getting pregnant again, my lack of postpartum weight loss, and pinterest. I feel more freedom to write what's on my mind and to post whatever I feel like sharing.

3. I am censored in my writing
The audience of Marbles Rolling spans all of my circles, professionally and personally. Sometimes, I think of starting over with an anonymous blog and other times I don't feel like worrying about it, relationships be damned. But of course I don't do either of those things. Instead I keep an ongoing mental list of banned topics (and it just keeps growing). If you blog, maybe you can share with me your perspective on striking balance? 

4. I finally figured out why I blog

I've been blogging for a few years now and in that time the content and the frequency of my posts have fluctuated from posting every day, to posting only a few times a month, to 3 times a week, and sometimes more or sometimes less. It ebbs and flows with my energy, but at the end of the day I am a writer. This blog has helped me to own this very basic and essential part of who I am. Writing is my process. 

Though in the last year, especially, I've wondered to myself and to many people close to me, "Why do I blog?" or even, "What is the point of all this blogging?" I've been searching for meaning and direction, and a better understanding of my goals so that I can maximize the potential of this online space. In signing up for Pathfinder day at Blogher '12 (coming soon in August!!) I was hoping to discover something new that would bring clarity, but in making writing a priority this month I think I figured it out on my own. 

I blog because I need to write, it grounds me in my own experiences. I blog because I want the boys to know who their mother is, before they could ever really know me. I want them to know how passionate I have always been about them and for the life of our family. I blog as proof that we were all here, living this together. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Merritt's 16 month appointment

Merritt's weight is in the 25th percentile and he grew taller since our last visit in April so his height is in the 50th percentile. Neither his pediatrician nor I mentioned his prematurity today, which feels like a worthy milestone. He's just yer average 16 month old.

I had the rare opportunity to observe Merritt in his natural habitat, as Andy would say, without the variable of big brother in the picture because my sister offered to hang out with Roscoe in the waiting room.

In an environment of relative peace I observed Merritt maneuvering around our tight-quartered patient office and then when he sat down, how he coolly turned the pages of a book with his little fingers full of intention and ease, his curiosity engaged to explore each page, and his effort to catch my attention so that he could show me that he knew the animal or the sound that it made. The whole scene suggested that we've comfortably entered into whatever comes after the baby phase.

Just like that. (In hindsight, anyway.)

A warm sense of dumbfounded relief washed over me because I love this age, between 1 and 2, and our experience with Roscoe was that around this time we hit a new stride that felt easier than what came before. I'm not 5 months pregnant right now, like I was when Roscoe was this age, so we're primed to actually get to experience and enjoy the happy progression of independence that has just recently commenced. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What is thrilling, anyway??

I'm using a writing prompt today from the the NaBloPoMo June 2012 list
Would you ever go bungee jumping?

Generally, I like to play it safe with secure investments, lots of planning, always taking the long view. Caution and intention. 

I don't easily embrace change, I am challenged to thrive in times of uncertainty, and I don't enjoy risk if it involves anything that I might miss if I lose it, or that with some level of planning I couldn't recover from if the decision didn't pay off.

I like thrills every now and then, but not cheap ones just for the sake of them.

I'm not a physical sensation seeker. I've never had the desire to bungee jump. Sky diving, helicopter tours, parasailing, and hang gliding each attract me with intrigue to see the world from new perspectives. I think scaling walls and rock climbing would be a rewarding sport, particularly the adventures involved with seeking out new spots and routes.

If I'm honest I'm sometimes too practical, stifled by logic.

I know that every activity that we engage in presents a certain level of risk and that so much of what feels safe or feels risky is related more to how much power we feel we have in a given situation and less about what is truly safe or risky.

I've felt a heightened state of awareness since the kids were born, their very existence only magnifies for me the unpredictability and uncertainty that exists in life, which then demands acknowledgement of my own mortality. That is honestly the most frightening thing I can imagine, short of losing one of my own children. 

Sometimes I wonder if this new mindset means that I'll never again get to do anything daring or reckless. I'll always be their mother and my desire to protect my own person and health in order to be present for my family will never wane.

I often feel stifled in default mode, constantly seeking safety and control, which predictably leads to intense yearning for something wild. (I admit that I am susceptible to boredom.) I alternate in these cycles sometimes for good and sometimes not.

Perhaps what is more interesting is to wonder if I'll ever want to do any of those kinds of activities again or if my idea of what is thrilling, fear inducing, challenging, fun, or adventurous will continue to change with time: white water rafting and flying over hawaii in a private helicopter replaced by choosing yarn for my next knitting project or securing a date with my husband to scout out properties on which to build our dream house.

Would you ever go bungee jumping? What thrills you?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Berry CSA: weeks 7, 8, & 9

I'm really behind in posting about our berry CSA.  I love, love, love community supported agriculture, but at some point in every season, I think to myself, "Oh no. Not more . . . ."  The week before last it was strawberries.  During the fifth week of our veggie CSA it was snow peas and cucumbers.

The fruit is always gorgeous, fragrant, and so pretty to look at. It really should be consumed within the first few days after we pick it up at the market or it starts to look drab and necessitates being baked into something.  I have no excuse for letting some of their perfect berries go to waste.  I know. I feel terrible.  I just couldn't think of anything more to do with those strawberries, and I'm the big fruit eater around here and I was sick for a couple of these weeks with zero appetite.

Here's what we've been eating and (in some cases) tossing:

Week 7: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
Week 8: blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries
Week 9: blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, apricots

Our recipes over the last few weeks have been uber simple: berry salads with honey glazes, or yogurt toppings; berries over ice cream; berries in oatmeal; berries with whipped cream.

I bake a fancy cheesecake in the winter months that has a delicate sour cream layer on top and I always make sure to whip up a little extra topping so that I have plenty to "taste test" without impacting the final product.  All of that to say that I made a batch of the sour cream topping and used it as a dip for the berries, and it was really good.

I'm not terribly precise when I do this, but I mix in a small bowl approximately 3/4 cup sour cream, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, and 1 tablespoon of sugar (you can use brown or white).  You can add more or less sugar and vanilla depending on your taste.  It pairs well with strawberries and blueberries in particular.

Speaking of blueberries, we've been eating a lot of blueberry pancakes. A lot. We enjoy a good breakfast-for-dinner at least once a week.

The very best pancake recipe that I have ever made, and that we've been making for several years comes from the Joy of's true!  Actually, I first saw the recipe when I watched the McNeely's on the Food Network one evening back in 2010.  We've been making them ever since, but recently I was looking through my joy of cooking cookbook and the recipe is EXACTLY the same, except the McNeely's add pecans.

They are so perfect.  Fluffy, tender, and a little on the sweet side.

The recipe for the "Best Buttermilk Pancakes Ever" (or depending on who you ask, "basic buttermilk pancakes", or "buttermilk pecan pancakes"):

DRY ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

WET ingredients:
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
Whisk wet ingredients together in a large bowl.
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and gently whisk them together, mixing just until they are combined.

Place blueberries on each pancake after the batter has been poured.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Merritt uses his words, a video clip

At this age communication is like a word game. Check out this little video of Merritt eating his dinner at the end of a long cranky day. I'm just trying to guess my way through and this was the first time I heard him say the word corn.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A day away, a night to make up for it

Blackberry ice cream on the stoop, earlier today
After a long and warm day spent staffing the Birth Matters tent at the Veggie Festival, I came home feeling energized only to find my boys huddled in the bathroom, Roscoe into his third bout. It was thirty minutes past Merritt's bedtime and when I picked him up he placed his head on my shoulder and nuzzled into the crook of my neck where he hung out subdued for a bit before he started to whimper. Tired.  Not feeling well.

Andy gave the run-down of the afternoon: snack, a trip to the park, a television show. Roscoe said he was feeling sick, Merritt wouldn't eat any dinner, Roscoe threw up, Merritt couldn't be put to sleep with Roscoe alternating between the couch and toilet.

Mid-conversation Merritt started to heave and then threw up. Then Roscoe. Then Merritt again.

Then the boys were put to bed, and promptly fell asleep. They've each woken up three times since then (it's only 9:30pm). More of the same.

Andy says he's not feeling well.

I'm hoping whatever this is stops with the kids, and I hope it passes fast. I wish I could take away the  panic that sets into their whole bodies when they can feel they are about to be sick. As their Momma, in times of otherwise helplessness, I am relieved that the one thing that they really seem to want and need is me. I fear a long night ahead but if doling out extra belly rubs, and wiping hair from damp foreheads to blow cool air over their little faces is what makes them feel safe and even a little bit better, well I can do that all night long. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

On potty training: a post for people interested in this sort of thing

Roscoe showed interest in potty training around 18 months, but I was working 4 days a week then and our nanny at the time didn't seem particularly interested in facilitating his transition out of diapers, which really was fine because he seemed so young and we had a new baby due in a few months and it felt like a bad time to push a big developmental milestone. So I said, "oh, after the baby is a few months old, then we can try." At that time, I thought that Merritt's birth would bring the end of my work, so it seemed that I would have more time to devote to potty training "once work ended." Well, we all know how that story went.

I've put off potty training (or potty "learning" as some like to call it) at least three separate times since then: once when the postpartum period and life with two under two was a lot tougher than I thought it would be; then, when work's end was on the horizon (yet again, but not really though); and finally when we decided we were moving to Richmond.

In May, Roscoe turned three, the average age of potty training. While we don't call it potty learning around here, I do believe that child readiness is the single most important factor to success, and Roscoe has made a few big leaps in progress over the last month or so.

His journey has looked something like this:
  • 18 months - 24 months: We bought a potty chair and a stool so he could reach the sink. He was interested to sit on his little potty with all of his clothes on, and even went through a phase where he would ask to sit on it a few times a day. He liked to hang out in the bathroom while we used the toilet. He enjoyed helping with and learning about the process: handed us toilet paper, flushed the toilet, or washed his hands when we did. He would take his diaper off without warning, loved to be without it. At this age he was not bothered a bit to sit in a dirty diaper, he had more interesting things to do like play.
  • 24 months - 33 months: Basically the same as 18-24 months except he had zero interest in sitting on his little potty. We bought a potty seat. Diaper changing also became a serious battle. Momma and Poppa grew tired of grown up poops in a two year old's diaper. Roscoe loathed having to take time away from life to get a clean diaper.
  • 34 months: I asked him why he didn't like to sit on the potty. Roscoe said he was "scared he would fall in", which really surprised me because we've never talked about anything like that with him before, I thought those kinds of fears didn't really exist without some suggestion. We relocated the stool from the sink to the regular toilet, and relocated the potty seat from the bathroom closet to the regular toilet. He liked the new arrangement and would sit on it when he felt like it. We would ask Roscoe if he needed to go potty, he would reply no, then 15 minutes later we'd realize that he needed a diaper change.
  • 35 months: One day in the backyard Roscoe proudly demonstrated that he could pull his pants up and down. He would poop or pee in his diaper then find us to tell us, "I peed..." or "I pooped...change me." He asked to sit on the potty to pee before bath and was successful. 
  • 36 months: He would wake up mostly dry in the morning, and sometimes dry after nap. He continued to demand diaper changes after peeing or pooping.  He would get really upset if he peed, even a little bit, in his diaper before bed and would demand a change. He declared that he needed to pee on the potty, but decided he was done less than 30 seconds later so I offered a cupcake as a reward for peeing now or later, or whenever. He sat with determination and 4 or 5  minutes later we heard shrieks of "I did it!" 
  • 37 months: Same as last month, but now he says things like, "I'm peeing in my diaper." (present tense!) And we'll say, "Do you want to go in the potty?" And he'll reply, "No, I'd rather just go in my diaper."
See!? Progress!!

Every kid has their own journey out of diapers, and I'm excited for all of us that this Summer may mark the end of Roscoe's.

When did your kiddo make the big transition?  Any tips?

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    Another hot one

    We welcomed the first official days of Summer with temps close to 100 degrees. The return on investment of our $4.00 sprinkler has been great.

    Lots o' muddy baby bums, coming right up!

    *More pictures taken by their nanny.  I don't know what I'm going to do without my camera for THREE weeks!!?

    Painting with Pudding

    If you want to avoid boxed pudding mixes, we've enjoyed this homemade chocolate pudding as a snack and for dessert--it's definitely not just for painting with!

    Speedy Chocolate Pudding (adapted from The Family Dinner cookbook)

    1/2 cup sugar
    2 tablespoons cocoa powder
    3 tablespoons cornstarch
    3 cups regular milk
    4 ounces milk or semisweet chocolate chips
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    Stir the sugar, cocoa powder, and cornstarch together in a medium-size saucepan. Gradually stir in the milk. Heat, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture begins to boil and thicken, about 10 minutes.

    Add the chocolate. Turn off the stove. Gently whisk until the chocolate is completely melted.

    Stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour into small custard cups if you're going to eat it, or onto a plate if the kids will be painting with it.  

    Can be served warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

    *My camera is at the Nikon repair center, because Merritt pulled it off a counter by its strap and the LCD screen is broken. These photos were taken by the kids' nanny.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    Preventing another preterm birth

    I mentioned last week that in preparation to conceive another baby I intend to do everything I can to best prepare my body to carry our next baby to term. Most importantly I want to have a healthy baby.  Also important, I want to avoid a stay in the NICU and I want to have the opportunity to experience another birth at home.

    I trust midwives and believe in the midwifery model of care. There is one freestanding birth center in Richmond and I was excited to learn that I could go there for my annual exams and for other women's health issues not in the context of pregnancy or postpartum care. I don't plan to give birth at the birthing center, but I am grateful to have the option to work with women who share my values and beliefs around well-woman care.

    I brought in a list of questions I had been gathering related to preventing premature rupture of membranes (PROM) and preterm birth and we chatted at length about what exists in the literature and their experience and observations around these topics.  For much of the conversation there were two midwives in the room and we had a little pow-wow reviewing my birth histories, and discussing a plan of action moving forward.

    My midwives are collaborating with me, not dictating, and I'm driving my care. There's no telling the course of my next pregnancy, but I do feel like I can use the evidence that exists as a guide to facilitate a better outcome.

    There are many known risk factors for preterm birth and I only detail here the ones that are personally relevant, but you can read a comprehensive list at the March of Dimes website.  Having had one preterm birth puts me in the greatest risk category for having another preterm birth, so I'm taking this seriously.

    My research is still evolving, but there are definitely some things that we know:

    Child Spacing: pregnancy spacing of less than or equal to 12 months is associated with higher incidence of PROM and premature birth. 
    Testing Positive for GBS: women who are GBS+ are more likely to experience PROM
    Circulating autoantibodies: women who have circulating antibodies in their bloodstream (thyroid related) are less likely to carry to term and more likely to miscarry.
    Bacterial Vaginosis and other infections: highly correlated with PROM

    Nutrition also plays an important role in healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

    Possible nutritional preventive measures include: fish oil, iron, magnesium, and zinc, as well as folic acid, bioflavonoids (orange pith!), selenium, vitamin C, and higher protein intake. Some of these vitamins and minerals are associated with strengthening the amniotic sac, which is protective against infection and PROM, while others boost the immune system. I doubt that the exact mechanism for each of these is clear, but the greater body of literature shows significant positive associations, even if small.

    With Roscoe, my first sign of labor was when my water broke around 1:00 in the afternoon at 38 weeks and 2 days. Still considered term, but on the early side, especially for a first baby.  My labor was very fast at 5 hours and 23 minutes. Similarly, my water broke around 1:00 pm with Merritt, although much earlier in the pregnancy. A midwife adage that mine relayed is: A water that breaks at night is labor. A water that breaks in the day is something else (infection, a malpositioned baby, etc.). That is not to say that labor won't proceed as a result of the PROM but that labor wasn't the primary cause of the water breaking.  Eight to ten percent of women experience PROM as the first sign of labor, so while common it is not normal.

    Here is my plan:
    1. I am giving my body more rest time between pregnancies. The spacing will probably be around 24 months.
    2. I will wean Merritt before I conceive again. I know that many momma's nurse older siblings through pregnancy with no problem. I nursed Roscoe through my pregnancy with Merritt, and I will never know what affect it may have had, but since my amniotic sacs may be weaker, and nipple stimulation can induce uterine contractions, it's something that I am choosing not to do this time.
    3. My practitioners will be aggressive from the start to screen for potential vaginal infections
    4. I will follow the Brewer Diet advocated by Dr. Bradley. My midwife did note that she doesn't typically suggest 100 grams of protein for her momma's but that given my risk factors she definitely would.
    5. As we always have I will be working closely with my endocrinologist to ensure that my tsh levels are in the normal range.  This is the best protection against high levels of circulating autoantibodies.
    6. I'm going to be more diligent about flossing my teeth, and gum health in general, including visiting the dentist more regularly. Periodontal disease is highly linked to preterm birth.

    In addition to a prenatal vitamin, I will take supplements for vitamin c, fish oil, iron, and folic acid. I want to investigate further selenium, magnesium, zinc, and maybe bioflavonoids (an herbal supplement), especially optimal dosing. My preference is to take in the necessary vitamins and minerals through food rather than supplements, and bioflavonoids aren't regulated.

    I will continue to exercise through this next pregnancy, as I did with the other two. I will also do my best to reduce unnecessary emotional stresses (no plan yet for how to accomplish this!). And I want to look into the MTHFR genetic variants to see how that may have had a role in our experience and what I can do the next time around.

    Are you aware of any other evidence-based steps that I can take?  If you experienced PROM or premature birth with one of your babies did you have a similar experience in subsequent pregnancies?  Did you do anything differently?

    Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Father's Day 2012

    While Andy slept-in this morning we headed out around 6:30 for a chilly walk and some breakfast. For Poppa we brought back some coffee and a pastry. Then, after descending on the darkened and quiet bedroom, we bomb-dived the bed covers and delivered his wake up call. 

    My parents drove down, our babysitter arrived, and we left the kids to nap. Andy's parents met us at Conch Republic and were seated on the deck with the city skyline and the river in front of us. It was a phenomenal view, so very pretty and serene. The spread at brunch was so vast it was delightful, and included some really incredible seafood--the smoked mussels were my favorite.  

    My (1st) plate!
    Andy and his Dad
    My Mom and Dad
    Afterward we explored the river on foot for a bit and then headed back to hang with the little guys.

    Like I do every year I bought the boys a set of t-shirts. I asked Craig from Adventures in T-shirt Land, a local seller at our farmer's market, to make a mini stencil of his hip RVA design so that the kids could declare affiliation too. He delivered!  (Kiddie sizes are now available at the SOJ farmers market. Go get 'em!)

    You can check out what they've worn in past years: 20092011, in 2010 they wore "prosciutto" and "'lil prosciutto" from Wooster St. Meats.

    Also like every year, it was a challenge to get a good photo of the three of them in their tees.

    Last activity of the day: grocery shopping
    Happy Father's Day to all!

    *Merritt broke my camera, so we used the iphone today.

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    To a hot and happy summer

    Despite the fact that I am still working, Summer is here and I'm really looking forward to creating a fun-filled, low stress time for all of us. This morning we brainstormed a list of activities that we hope to do together in June, July, and August.

    -Visit an aquarium
    -Visit the pet store
    -Visit the National Zoo (to see see the monkeys)
    -Visit our cousins in NC (a solo, overnight, weekday trip!)
    -Open air bus tour of DC or a trolley tour of Richmond
    -Swim lessons
    -Kidzville at King's Dominion
    -See a movie at the theater
    -Visit our former neighbors in our old 'hood (and maybe go to the pool!)
    -Harvest from the garden
    -Take a nature walk
    -The Flying Circus Airshow
    -The Flying Circus Hot Air Balloon Airshow
    -Walk the Vita fitness course at Byrd park
    -Body paint
    -Splash park at Stony Point
    -Fly a kite
    -Walk across the Nickel Bridge
    -Feed ducks
    -Homemade popsicles
    -Outdoor Summer concert
    -Paint with water
    -Make ice cream in baggies
    -Slumber party with friends in NOVA
    -Rent a movie to watch together
    -Roscoe gets to plan dinner
    -Go out for breakfast
    -Visit Grandma and Grandpa
    -Meet up with our Bradley friends in NOVA
    -Tubing the James River (Adults only!)
    -Paint at the clay studio
    -Collect river or beach pebbles and paint them
    -Water balloons
    -Ride public transit (metro or bus)
    -Camp out, even if it's just in the backyard
    -Children's Museum of Richmond
    -Baby pool in the yard
    -Butterflies Live at Lewis Ginter
    -Week at the Beach
    -Bike ride adventure
    -Finger paint with pudding
    -Rain walk
    -Splash park at Lewis Ginter
    -Dance party
    -Visit Tippy and E
    -Meet V at her comunity pool
    -Try a new playground
    -Visit Jamestown Settlement
    -Explore the river, find a swimming hole

    I left a few spaces blank so that we can add more activities as we dream them up. I've already thought of five more since I snapped the photo above. Maybe we'll get to all of these, and maybe we won't, but we'll never be bored!

    What do you have planned this Summer?  Care to share?  Maybe we can add some of your ideas to our list! (Especially if you are local.)

    Friday, June 15, 2012

    losing baby weight

    I recently started losing the weight that I gained when I was pregnant with Merritt.

    Kind of anti-climactic at sixteen months postpartum, right? 


    But let's take a little trip through the last couple years.

    Here I am in Kauai, HI in 2008 in the high-range of a normal weight for my body. (Post Grave's Disease and a few months before we TTC).

    And here I am 6 weeks pregnant with Roscoe after I lost ten pounds from the above photo:
    Go Nat's!
    I gained forty-six pounds with Roscoe and here I am with my sister on Mother's Day, one week before giving birth to him:

    Five weeks after Roscoe was born I had just fifteen pounds to lose: 
    Look at that little sweetie-boo!
    If you followed my weekly McFatty Monday posts, you know I didn't lose those fifteen pounds until Roscoe was a year old. Even then, I lost twelve of them, not the full fifteen. 

    Weeks 1, 12 and 20 of McFatty Monday progress to lose the final 15

    Then I gained 4 pounds in the two months we spent trying to conceive Merritt.  Here I am posing 6 weeks pregnant with Merritt and headed to the office for a meeting.

    Nearing the end in late January:

    Three days before Merritt was born:

    I gained 28 pounds during my pregnancy with Merritt and I lost none of it in the 5 weeks that we spent in the NICU. I ate hospital food to stay alert and to keep up with the insane schedule I was keeping. I was stressed beyond anything I've ever experienced and I gained weight while we were there.

    When I finally brought Merritt home from the hospital, losing weight was on my mind but remained such a low priority that I never could commit to it.  

    When Merritt was 5 months old I joined a CrossFit gym. I needed to do something to feel like myself, but the timing wasn't ideal. I had a nursling at home (who was still very much in the newborn phase), and I could commit to only 2 or 3 days a week. I was also carrying around an extra thirty-five pounds so I felt clumsy and awkward and out of shape. And embarrassed and miserable. But I kept going.

    Then we moved to Richmond where I joined a new CrossFit gym. I go 4-5 days a week usually at 6am, which really deserves its own post so I won't elaborate here about how incredible it is and how I can now do unassisted pull-ups and toes to bar (and deadlift 270lbs)! It has been very rewarding and I love that I have that time set aside to devote to my fitness.

    Eight weeks ago I got serious about the diet component and have lost 14 pounds, which feels like great progress, but I still have 22 pounds to lose before I arrive at my pre-babies weight. The surprising news is that I feel a greater level of comfort in my own skin, even now, than I've ever felt in my life. I'm not sure what to attribute that to. But I like it.

    Is it the self-love work that I do every week with my therapist?!  The fact that I have two little souls to show for my effort and who depend on me to give them perspective in life--one that deservedly does not include negative self talk and loathing? Or maybe it is a desire to experience my life with my boys, through my body, feeling it all, and without regrets. I don't want to hide in this body. I want to live in it. And I want all the freedom that comes with that.

    Maybe I will keep you updated on my journey back to baseline, it was motivating last go 'round!

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Chocolate Cake

    This recipe is one of my favorites. It was Roscoe's second birthday cake and so it will always be special, but it is really, really good. Even if you don't think you love chocolate cake.

    Rich, and moist, perfectly sweet (not too much!), with a mildly intense chocolate flavor that pairs oh-so-well with the buttery frosting. As you can see, we devoured it.

    I promise it was pretty before we dug in.


    3/4 cup cocoa powder
    1 cup boiling water
    3/4 cup sour cream
    2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
    1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
    1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    2 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    Preheat the over to 350. Lightly coat two 9-inch round cake pans with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.

    Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl and stir in the boiling water to dissolve and make the cocoa "bloom." Whisk together until completely smooth. Let cool completely, and then whisk the sour cream into the cocoa mixture.

    In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together with an electric hand mixer set on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the cooled cocoa mixture and the vanilla.

    Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt over the batter and fold in gently, using a rubber spatula, until the flour is completely combined into the batter.

    Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.


    1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    1 cup milk chocolate chips
    1 stick unsalted butter
    1 cup sour cream
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    Large pinch of salt
    1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted

    In a large microwave safe bowl, combine the semisweet and milk chocolate chips with the butter. Heat on high for 1 minute. Stir the mixture together. If the butter is not completely melted and the chocolate chips do not easily stir smooth, heat again at 15-second intervals, stirring until smooth. Using a hand mixer set at low speed, beat in the sour cream, vanilla, and salt. Gradually add the confectioners' sugar until the frosting is smooth and spreadable. Oh my gosh, this frosting is good.

    Adapted from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey. Treats for Kids.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2012

    Thyroid ablation, a postpartum update, and never before seen photos

    In 2007 I underwent thyroid ablation with radioactive iodine. I was 24 at the time and the process of coming to the decision to have the procedure had filled the many preceding months with anxiety and turmoil.

    A radioactive isotope. Intentionally (yet strategically) destroying a part of my body. A 6-12 month wait required before trying to conceive. The possible side effects. The permanence of my decision. It was a lot to weigh at such an inexperienced and young age.

    As it turns out, the procedure was a simple one. My thyroid was scanned to determine the correct dose. A tech arrived with the formidable lead container. I swallowed a capsule of radioactive iodine, chased it with some apple juice and spent the following week in my pajamas, housebound to minimize other people's exposure to my radioactivity.

    (circ. 2007)
     I received a handout with instructions similar to those listed below, and hunkered down.

    Instructions to reduce exposure to others after I-131 RAI treatment
    ActionDuration (Days)
    Sleep in a separate bed (~6 feet of separation) from another adult .......................................1-11*
    Delay return to work ................................................................................................................1-5*
    Maximize distance from children and pregnant women (6 feet)................................................1-5*
    Limit time in public places .........................................................................................................1-3*
    Do not travel by airplane or public transportation ...................................................................1-3*
    Do not travel on a prolonged automobile trip with others .......................................................2-3
    Maintain prudent distances from others (~6 feet) ...................................................................2-3
    Drink plenty of fluids ................................................................................................................2-3
    Do not prepare food for others ................................................................................................2-3
    Do not share utensils with others ............................................................................................2-3
    Sit to urinate and flush the toilet 2-3 times after use ..............................................................2-3
    Sleep in a separate bed (~6 feet of separation) from pregnant partner, child or infant ..........6-23*
    *duration depends on dose of I-131 given

    Stimulated by a hormone called TSH, the thyroid gland regulates metabolism and uses iodine to make thyroid hormones (T4 and T3). It is the only organ in the body that uses iodine and so the radioactive isotope goes straight to the thyroid where it is absorbed.  The tissue of my thyroid died over the course of a few months, my hyperthyroidism (low tsh, high t4 and t3) became hypothyroidism (high tsh, low t4 and t3), and I began what is a lifetime dependency on synthetic t3 and t4.

    I take a small pill of levothyroxine every morning and the drugs regulate my body like a healthy thyroid gland would. My TSH levels were in the normal range when I got pregnant with each of the boys, but pregnancy involves a higher demand for these hormones because they are also responsible for the growth of the fetus and for building the baby's thyroid gland. During pregnancy I get blood tests every 3 weeks so that my dosages can be closely monitored and increased as needed. Usually, by week 12 or 16, my doctor has found the dose that I will need for the remainder of the pregnancy and I stay there until the baby is born.

    In the postpartum period, it is the reverse, a slow ramping down of the levothryroxine dose in order to return to a normal baseline. It has been 16 months since Merritt was born and I am STILL incrementally decreasing my doses.  In fact, 2 months ago, I was feeling off and asked for a test to confirm my suspicion. The results showed that I was hyperthyroid again--too much levothyroxine. My prescription was decreased from 112mg to 100mg but just 6 weeks later I was feeling lethargic and out of it (and requested another blood draw) only to learn that my TSH was lower than it had ever been in my entire medical history.  Over the weekend it was confirmed to be 19, on a normal scale of .3 -3!

    With the help of my former docs at Georgetown hospital in DC, I was able to secure a semi-emergency appointment for tomorrow morning with a new endocrinologist at the local academic medical center to get some answers and hopefully to get my hormones back on track asap. I cannot tell you how challenging it is to manage day to day when my levels are off.  All the little things required of me are downright exhausting and I want nothing more but to crawl into bed. Clearly not a viable option, with a 3 year old and a 1 year old underfoot.

    It has been almost four weeks of this and I am happy to learn that my thyroid is the culprit, so that I can do something about it, but I have also been feeling a little desperate for a resolution. Thank goodness for our nanny (who is back with us a few blocks of time each week), and good friends who bring dinner to our doorstep.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2012

    Squishy socks

    A soft pair of pretty socks is something that I have been wanting to knit for a few months now. I have a lot of socks, but they are mostly of the athletic variety. Socks are great in the summertime for lounging around the house in the air conditioning. 

    I'm gathering materials to knit these pom pom peds and I cannot decide which color combination of yarns to choose.

    Purl Soho describes their Anzula's Squishy yarn like this: "with super soft superwash merino for flexibility and comfort, a touch of nylon for durability, and a splash of cashmere for bliss, Squishy is the ultimate fingering weight yarn. Add to its sumptuous feel the beautifully hand dyed palette of sophisticated, quirky colors, and you will fall in love too!"

    I'm hooked, but I'm a tactile shopper and it's hard to make these kinds of purchases online without getting my hands on each skein to compare the colors in person. 

    Maybe you can help me out? The body of the socks will be one color with a contrasting cuff and pom pom.  With two skeins of yarn I can make four pair of socks.

    Here are a few combos that I like:  
    Persimmon + Shitake = summer romance
    Shitake + Avocado = pickle
    Clay + Charcoal = newspaper
    Shitake + Apricot = abalone seashell
    Avocado + Persimmon = strawberry fields
    Apricot + Clay = sweet dreams
    Which combination do you like the best?
    (It doesn't have to be one that I've listed here.)

    UPDATE: I ended up buying one skein each of Clay, Charcoal, and Persimmon. I'm gonna mix it up!
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