Not Your Perfect Christmas Mom

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I love Christmas. The lights. The music. The times when people take an extra moment to smile or hold a door for you. Putting up the tree and turning on the twinkling house lights after a long day at work. I love it all. And when you have a child who stares at lights and decorations with pure wonder, it’s hard not to get even more swept up in the magic. I feel like I am getting another shot at my childhood as Rylan begins to grasp each holiday with more excitement and curiosity.

Yes, the holidays are also stressful. There is never enough time to accomplish all the things that the crafty Pinterest moms seem to finish. Do not even get me started on Martha Stewart Magazine’s holiday issue. The day I buy twine and create my own Christmas tags from fresh cinnamon sticks is the day you can…well…that will simply never happen. Even more, finding the perfect gift has always been a source of anxiety each year. I obsess over getting it right for each person on my list.

But not this year.

There will be no “12 days of Christmas cookies” from a gourmet food magazine baking in our oven. I will not simmer homemade hot apple cider and as of Dec. 15, not a single Christmas movie has been watched. Rylan, age 16 months, may or may not make it to Santa’s lap this year. In the past few weeks I’ve barely clung to a gym schedule and it isn’t looking any better this week as we juggle late-afternoon meetings, early-morning daycare conferences and outings with friends who we do not see much of anymore. I went from a strict cleanse to York Peppermint Patties and Malbec. A dear friend is bringing a present for me to use in a girls-night-out gift exchange because she knew I’d never make it to the store. Speaking of stores, if a gift wasn’t on Amazon Prime or found during my two hours of shopping two weekends ago, it won’t be under the tree. Rylan made no holiday crafts for his grandparents nor did I get to that personalized 2015 Shutterfly family calendar I swore we’d give as gifts this year.

We simply do not have the time or energy to let the holidays turn into a holi-daze. I refuse to “give in” to the pressure of creating the perfect Hallmark-worthy holiday. Lord knows as parents we are under enough pressure every single day of the year.

Instead, I am determined to start conversations about the many things we’re so lucky to have this season. Health being number one. If I could ask Santa for a healthy family and child every year I would do so without hesitation. Love being just as important as health, or some may argue even more so. I love my family and friends fiercely and this year has shown me first-hand that love isn’t a given. It must be nurtured and worked on every day.

It feels extremely liberating to admit a bit of failure, by Good Housekeeping standards, at the holidays. Will you join me?

Overdue Cleanse Recap and Life Lately

photo[1]I went from mindfully cleansing to the whirlwind of holiday travel and family time, and then just like that, it is December.

The Conscious Cleanse was certainly a bright spot, albeit difficult, in my fall. By the end of the 14 days I had stuck with it completely, aside from the optional transition weekends since weight loss was not my goal. Mike was a huge supporter by giving me time and space on the weekends to grocery shop and prep a significant amount of food. Certain recipes flopped (mushroom gravy) while others are now a forever staple in our kitchen (curried carrot soup). I didn’t get to the bottom of all my questions about food sensitivities but did confirm that I certainly feel much better without dairy, gluten and highly-processed foods. I have reintroduced just about everything given the holiday season but in significant moderation, especially coffee, sweet treats and generally unhealthy processed snacks.

If you need a reset, I urge you to consider the Conscious Cleanse. I won’t lie, it can feel like a lot of work so you need to be mentally prepared to shop and cook 99% of the time for the two weeks. But through this process you learn so much about yourself and the two weeks fly by quickly. You learn what triggers you to eat when you aren’t necessarily hungry, like boredom and stress. You learn that it doesn’t take up your entire weekend to prepare a few meals or pre-portion out salads and green smoothie packs for the week. You learn that a small piece of dried fruit or cup of herbal tea with honey can replace ice cream or a cookie for a sweet treat before bed. You learn that it’s worth the mental shift in how you approach food to feel lighter, more energized, less bloated and truly refreshed.

Cleanse aside, life is crazy but also fantastic. Mike and I are busy with work and I am trying to wrap my head around taking off from Denver most weekends in December and January to go skiing in Breckenridge. When will I cook, clean and do laundry at our house??!! First world problems, I know.

Rylan continues to thrive but also throw us for more loops, courtesy of general toddler craziness. Recent 16 month head-scratchers include:

  • Increased neediness being super clingy overall…especially in the morning and at night. However, his teachers have told us several times in the past month that he has been “very emotional” throughout the day, with little things sending him into a tizzy of tears
  • Crying whenever we set him down if he is not in the mood to play
  • Fake crying when we tell him to stop doing something or “no”
  • Exploring the reaction “no” gets when he says it to us or shakes his head when he doesn’t want to cooperate
  • Early wake time OR crying very hard at bedtime – these are sporadic but can quickly throw the day off track
  • Refusing to eat favorite foods, like yogurt, and a complete refusal to eat leftovers unless we space them out by at least one day in between
  • One month+ of a rash around his mouth that we’ve showed the doctor twice but can’t get to go away on our own

Mike and I spend more and more time looking at each other in disbelief. Thankfully we also chuckle, a lot, but there have been so many days when we’re simply stumped on how to handle these changes. We are on the same page on how we approach certain situations, such as meal time. Neither of us want to be short order cooks and the foods on Rylan’s plate are what stays. That said, I know much bigger battles are around the corner and I am nervous about having to make consistent discipline decisions sooner rather than later. Many friends have recommended reading Parenting With Love & Logic and I hope to find time to order and read it over the holidays.

Toddler tantrums aside, Rylan makes my heart explode with pride and love daily. He gives the sweetest hugs by leaning in his whole body without using his arms. He is so proud of himself when he learns a new word and spent most of Thanksgiving week yelling HHHAAAAMMMM for ham. He loves music and dances on demand. The way he says mama and dada is full of love and admiration. I want to bottle up his little voice forever.

I hope you have all been well and have happy holiday plans ahead!

Conscious Cleanse Check In

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I am writing this as I round out day seven of my Conscious Cleanse experience. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t exhausted. But not from lack of food. Far from it in fact. I am worn out from the immense prep it takes on the weekend since weekdays do not allow much time for anything other than survival. This weekend I shopped on Saturday, prepared a slow cooker meal for Mike and Rylan and roasted beets. I should have done more on Saturday…

Sunday morning brought a rush of prep requiring the Vitamix since our kitchen is so close to Rylan’s room and blending during nap would lead to complete chaos. Homemade almond milk, zucchini hummus, beet hummus, dressing for the roasted beets and sunflower seed dressing for the week. I also snuck in my green smoothie for breakfast. It combined frozen pitted cherries, kale, spinach, banana and pear. Amazing.

Once Rylan was down for nap I quietly carried on with my prep — rainbow chard and white bean soup, salads through Wednesday, wild rice salad, cauliflower mashers (not my favorite), green smoothie packs for the week and pre-portioned veggie snack bags for easy snacking with hummus. Mike also lent a hand by making a batch of meatloaf in muffin tins for Rylan. There are a lot of great recipes on the Conscious Cleanse website if anything sounds appealing! You certainly don’t need to be cleansing to enjoy these.

Prep aside, this is an incredible program. My body is resetting more and more each day and I have never felt more hydrated. I am learning new habits, like grabbing a handful of veggies instead of always reaching for crackers or other carbs. I’ve learned that life is possible without coffee. Forgoing wine for more than a week at this point means I am sleeping sounder than ever.

I know I won’t stay free of coffee, cheese, wheat, wine and sweet treats forever. Life is too short and a hot cup of coffee hits the spot before a long day. Wine will flow through the holidays and I look forward to sharing in a few glasses with family and friends. And if the cleanse ended today, I think I’d opt for a big piece of garlic bread.

But I’ve learned that life doesn’t end when you cut out dairy, wheat, alcohol and processed foods. Reconnecting with salads, veggies and grains is more than possible with pre-planning. At this point of the cleanse I am learning so much still.

Here’s to the home stretch!

A New Journey: The Conscious Cleanse

Screen Shot 2014-11-02 at 2.07.52 PMMonths ago I was contacted by organizers of The Conscious Cleanse in Boulder, Colo., based on my blog. They gave me background on the concept and asked if I would be interested in participating in the November cleanse for free in exchange for talking about my journey.

 

At first I was skeptical and intended to decline the kind offer. I’ve been lucky post-baby and lost the weight quickly with regular exercise and a mostly-healthy diet. In fact, I struggled keeping enough weight on while breastfeeding in my final months and sought advice from a doctor and a nutritionist. “Cleanse” only meant weight loss to me at first and I imagined Mike and my parents being angry with me for choosing to give it a try.

So I responded to the email with my concerns and anticipated the Conscious Cleanse coach would bid me farewell. However, she responded with a lot more information about the benefits of this cleanse and pointed out that there are no restrictions to the amount of food you can eat during the 14 days. I was intrigued.

It has been a busy summer with lots of travel, adult beverages at weddings and on-the-go eating. I have always had my fair share of stomach problems and the endless summer and fall celebrations did me no favors. I’ve also noticed an uptick in my coffee cravings and sweets have been my downfall for as long as I can remember–made even harder to control while breastfeeding earlier this year.

Therefore, I decided to embrace the 14 day Conscious Cleanse with intentions other than weight loss. My intention is to clear my body of what I know doesn’t agree with me, but I consume anyway…mainly dairy. To take a break from alcohol before the holidays and test how gluten and wheat impact my digestion. To drink a lot more water and determine if my breakouts improve. To see how clean eating impacts my stress and anxiety levels along with sleep patterns. To rely less on frozen and prepared foods. To get out of my comfort zone and reconnect with scratch cooking despite our hectic dual-working household schedule and Rylan’s needs.

I intend to monitor my weight closely during the next 14 days to remain healthy and energized and focus on all of the other intentions that led me to accept the Conscious Cleanse challenge.

Day 1 begins tomorrow, Nov. 1, and I am glad that I’ve followed many of the recommended Transition Day tips. I cut out coffee last Thursday and seem to be through the headache phase. With just a few slips, I have mainly avoided processed sugar, gluten, wheat and dairy as well. The result? I won’t lie. I’ve been pretty fatigued up until today (Sunday) and experienced a lot of frustration at night when I would normally grab a “sweet treat” before bed. But I am committed to giving this my all for the next two weeks and once it is over, again embracing my 80/20 approach to eating that kept me feeling my best through my pregnancy and first months of Rylan’s life.

Today started with a shopping trip that kept my mainly to the perimeter of the store, avoiding packaged foods, dairy, etc. Once home I made big batches of quinoa and brown rice for the week, along with pre-portioned salads for dinner and lunch. I also downed the most delicious green smoothie I’ve ever had. The Conscious Cleanse recipe called for spinach, banana, blueberries and a bit of raw almond butter. It was like a milkshake! Then I used my Vitamix to make homemade hummus and pre-sliced veggies for easy snacking. Tonight I’ll broil salmon, make a quick pesto for zucchini noodles and break out the Vitamix again for a raw carrot soup to serve over quinoa on cold nights. My fridge is bursting with vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables. It is going to be a good week.

I look forward to sharing periodic updates here. Let me know if you have questions about this cleanse and I’ll share my honest opinions!

Sparrow Park Goods & Co Review

Disclosure: I was generously given a product to review and keep, but all opinions expressed are completely my own. 

It is hard for me to believe that I have blog readers beyond my family and a few close friends. While my teeny tiny corner of the Internet is just that, small, it means a great deal to me that what I share means something. Therefore, I was shocked and truly appreciative when I received an email from a CU Delta Gamma alum, Jennifer Andersen, who has kept an eye on my blog for the past few years.

Her note was extremely thoughtful about how hard it is to maintain a blog and congratulated me on this feat. Jenn also filled me in on the exciting launch of her own company, Sparrow Park Goods & Co, and extended a very kind offer to test and review a beautiful Roll-Up Blanket

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From the second I clicked through to the Sparrow Park Goods & Co website I was intrigued. I am as girly as they come and love gifts and products that feel extra special, and aren’t mass-produced and owned by a million other people.

Jenn has created an American-made lifestyle company with a passionate focus on supporting other local small businesses. Her products are designed in Oklahoma City and produced by a small manufacturer in Chicago. Bright, fun and chic are three words that summarize what you’ll find on the site now and in the future as Jenn introduces new products soon, such as table runners and linen napkins–all of which will be gorgeous no doubt.

She let me choose the Roll-Up Blanket that best suited our style and I selected Indigo Dot after a lot of back-and-forth because I also loved the Capri and Elephant Parade patterns. As soon as the box arrived I could not wait to enjoy it with Rylan as he absolutely loves being outdoors. Stylish? Beyond! But function is also important given the investment. My favorite features:

  • Large enough for several adults or a family: 72”x57”
  • Water-resistant bottom – I am not a fan of a wet butt after sitting in damp grass at the park or outdoor concerts
  • Machine washable versus several competitors that are dry clean or spot clean (Hello! Have you watched a kid eat before?)
  • Roll-up and buckle design, with built-in straps for carrying, makes it neat and easy to store in the car or a closet

Colorado is experiencing the most beautiful and warm October. Afternoons scream for outdoor play, picnics and long walks to admire the changing colors. Last weekend my mom and dad were in Denver for just a day and we took advantage of our backyard after Rylan’s nap. It was the perfect time to use my blanket!

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Rylan was happy as could be that his afternoon snack was served up picnic style. Kona was thrilled to have his little sidekick in the grass with him and waited patiently next to the blanket for dropped crumbs. The cotton top is extremely soft and you can instantly see and feel that everything about the blanket design is thoughtful and of the utmost quality. The zippered pouch is adorable and when we take this to outdoor concerts next summer it will be the perfect place to stash a phone or even a bit of cash. I also can’t say enough about the fact it is waterproof.

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Jenn is onto something and I am honored that she chose me to help her spread the word about the launch of Sparrow Park Goods & Co. I am also thrilled that she created a 10% off discount code (LexAndLearn) for all of you to use in Step #2 of the checkout process.

As we enter the season of shopping for gifts, the Roll-Up Blanket is perfect for outdoor loving moms and moms-to-be who appreciate when chic style meets function! I would also love to gift a blanket like this for engagements or weddings with a nice bottle of champagne and some outdoor wine glasses.

Supporting small, women-owned businesses with an American-made philosphy like Sparrow Park Goods & Co feels great and it’s important to do so when you can. Jenn, thank you for making Lex & Learn a part of your launch journey. I wish you all the best and can’t wait for the new products to be introduced!

Be sure to follow Sparrow Park Goods & Co. on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Featured on Breadwinning Mama Series

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You guys. Have you ever formed a new blogger crush, only to have that person reach out and offer to feature YOU as part of your favorite series on their blog? Me either…until today!

Kerry at Breadwinning Mama writes a fantastic ‘Her Juggle’ series in which she profiles other working moms in a Q&A format. She reached out to me via Twitter to ask if I’d be interested in sharing my perspective and I jumped at the chance. A few nights later I stayed up way past my self-imposed bedtime to answer the questions. The process felt therapeutic and uplifting.

I hope you’ll take a moment and head over to Breadwinning Mama today to read my ‘Her Juggle’ Q&A. And while you’re there, sign up to receive her latest posts by email. I know I’m way too busy these days for the nightly blogroll reading I used to do, so waking up to her fresh perspective, advice and journey is refreshing and motivating.

Thank you, Kerry, for this honor!

Our Days at 14.5 Months

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Recently I’ve become slightly obsessed with finding and following other working mom bloggers and social media influencers. Two that I am especially loving right now are Breadwinning Mama and What Would Gwyeneth Do. Breadwinning Mama has a “Her Juggle” series spotlighting working mamas and how they juggle, struggle and thrive. Reading the Q&A’s has felt like a big hug lately. I love seeing when other moms wake up, how they handle household chores and where they too feel like work or family is getting all their attention–never quite equaling out. When Mike is not traveling and my morning meeting schedule allows for a workout, a “favorite” day tends to look a little something like this.

  • 5:30 a.m. – One or both of our alarms go off. We hit snooze in denial
  • 5:50 a.m. – Mike hits the shower
  • 6 a.m. – I get up, make the bed and throw on workout clothes
  • Pre-6:50 a.m. – I try to fit in a variety of tasks, such as packing my lunch, starting a load of laundry, sorting mail, starting the dishwasher, meal prep for dinner, and preparing Rylan’s breakfast
  • 6:50 a.m. – I head to the gym and Mike takes over where I left off on breakfast for Rylan
  • 7 a.m. – Some sort of spin/barre/yoga class clears my head for the day and then I shower and get ready at work
  • 7:30 a.m. (ish) – Mike gets Rylan dressed and takes him to daycare across town (We love our daycare but did not count on the traffic when we thought it was only slightly out of they way. It can be a nightmare)
  • 8:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m. (ish) – Calls, meetings, emails, more meetings, media pitching, writing, planning…in PR no two days are ever the same but it’s fast-paced and the days fly by
  • 5:15 p.m. – I bolt out and fight traffic to get Rylan, then fight it home and hope to be in the door by 6 p.m. or a bit after
  • 6:15 p.m. (ish) – Rush to get something resembling nourishment on Rylan’s plate before he totally loses it. We’ve now started giving him a small snack so that I can try and cook more rather than dump random things on his dish
  • 6: 45 p.m. – Bath
  • 7:00 p.m. – 7:15 p.m. – Play in Ry’s room or at least attempt to play depending on how well he napped at daycare
  • 7:15 p.m. – 7:25 p.m. – Accept Rylan’s eye rubbing, give him a bottle (you got me…haven’t cut that last one out yet) and put him down for the night
  • 7:30 p.m. – bed – My bedtime is all over the place. Some nights I barely make it to 8:30 p.m. while others I stay up past 10 p.m. to work or watch TV with Mike. I always regret staying up past about 9 p.m. though. And during this time I finish my morning to-do’s…laundry, meal prep (tonight I roasted butternut squash for tomorrow), email triage, blogging, organizing, cleaning. Basically, I can’t sit still. No time for that

Woo hoo (sarcastically typed). When I decide to have a “take care of me morning” at the gym (once or twice a week) I get very little time with Rylan overall. Not much changes if I flip this and workout at night either. So I am down to about two – three workouts a week, sometimes four depending on our weekend, and try to make the most out of them by taking as hard of classes as I can. When Mike travels there is typically no working out with drop off and pickup duty. I shower by 5:45 a.m. at the very latest when he is out of town and tend to fall into bed around 8:30 p.m.

Balance, my friends, is a misleading word. For years I chased balance, even before having Rylan, and failed to achieve it. So instead I am in a reset mode. At work I am 100% in and know it’s okay that I don’t always have time to stop and think about Rylan during the hectic days. At home I am increasingly strict with myself and Mike about putting down the damn phones unless something is urgent with a client or media. 

It feels good to give you a glimpse into our days right now. For me, reading about how other moms juggle is inspiring so I hope my approach to the chaos us helpful to you as well.

Travel Guilt – How Do You Deal?

I can’t tell you how many times I was asked in Rylan’s first year, “have you guys been able to get a night off?” In fact, I used to be the asker of this same question before becoming a mom myself. Pre-Rylan, I never realized how loaded of a question it could feel like for parents on the other side.

Rylan will be 14 months this week. Many moms and dads at this point simply have not had the opportunity to get away. Perhaps the little one has been sick or not sleeping through the night well making it tough for outside caregivers. Or maybe there is no family nearby and the cost of a sitter, especially overnight, is prohibitive. Other times, mom and dad have gotten away but never together. One might travel for work and another sneaks in a boys or girls trip while the other stays home.

Mike and I are very much the opposite. In 14 months we have had the chance to have several nights off, the first one being at about seven weeks when Mike’s sister gave us a night of sleep. But beyond just a night, together we have had a couple of weekend and extended weekends away as well. Chicago, Lake Tahoe, Aspen, Sonoma and upcoming, San Miguel de Allende in Mexico. Seriously, it is a bit over-the-top.

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All of our weekends away start the same way for me. I have some guilt before we leave but it is bearable. I get excited about our couples-only adventure and know Rylan is in incredible hands with Mike’s family or my parents. Then when we are away, I miss him throughout the day but soak up sleeping in, having a glass of wine with lunch and not being beholden to a nap and bedtime schedule. Yet all of this contentment starts to wane the morning of our last day on the trip.

I wake up with a knot in my stomach about wanting to get home to Rylan. I ask myself, “why did we stay the extra night” and consider earlier flights or drives (and yes, I have changed flights). When we finally get home to Rylan I am twisted in knots again because nine times out of ten, we have work the next day and he’s back off to daycare.

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There are no “make up” days as a parent, especially when you work full time outside of the home. When you miss a weekend, it’s gone. Monday comes faster than you can imagine and it is back to squeezing in a few hours a day before and after 8+ hours at the office.

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I am not complaining. It isn’t lost on me for a second that we are incredibly fortunate to have grandparents, aunts and uncles who welcome Rylan into their homes with open arms. I also know, and am told by many, that our marriage and individual sanity will remain stronger thanks to our adults-only excursions this year.

But the guilt. Oh the guilt…

Please tell me it gets easier? Or if it doesn’t, can you please tell me how you make the guilt eat you up just a bit less?

This Happened: Sweet Potato Noodle Shrimp Puttanesca

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In about 20 – 25 minutes total, I turned this heap of spiralized sweet potato into a one-pot Sweet Potato Noodle Shrimp Puttanesca. And about five minutes after that, our bowls were empty. Recipe, of course, a la Inspiralized. 

Sunday got away from me so I used a few spare minutes before dashing to work Monday morning for prep. I took out frozen shrimp and placed it in a glass bowl to defrost in the fridge all day. Whenever I do that I cover the shrimp tightly with plastic wrap and have never had an issue with smell. I also peeled and spiralized my two large sweet potatoes and stored the “noodles” in the fridge in tupperware.

After Rylan went down (he was in no shape to wait for this dinner tonight after barely napping at daycare…but that’s another story) Mike peeled the shrimp and I completed the rest in minutes. We did skip the red pepper flakes so Rylan can hopefully try it tomorrow and I did not get anchovies because, well, I don’t like them. I also opted to use dried parsley instead of fresh because we have a busy week and I knew it would go bad.

BEHOLD!

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Apologies for the poorly-lit iPhone food shot. It’s simply all I have time for these days, and I have no aspirations of achieving professional food blogger celebrity status. I cook, we eat and then I share recipe links when I can. Let me know what you’ve spiralized lately!

San Diego Family Vacation

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Fall is knocking on Colorado’s door, so what better time to revisit our “California Dreamin'” mindset and finally download pictures from our incredible San Diego August 2014 vacation. Mike, Rylan and I flew to San Diego to spend a week with my parents, brother, sister-in-law and their kiddos, Jackson and Olivia. It took a few trips to the beach for Rylan to understand the sand but he loved the water right away. He squealed and screamed when the waves washed up on his legs and was very brave with the cold water temps. I see a surfer boy in the making!

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IMG_9215The first Anderson-Anzalone vacation was a huge success. Our house was steps from the beach and the grandparents took tons of kid shifts so we could go do things like paddle board yoga, surfing, regular yoga and of course, cocktailing. Mike and I lived in San Diego for five/six years respectively and it still has a huge place in my heart. We created countless memories there and met some of our most treasured friends. It was neat to play tourist and introduce Rylan to his first of many vacations in Southern California.

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My heart was truly heavy when it was time to say goodbye. It was such a special vacation for us all. Rylan adored looking up to Jackson and Livy. It’s clear Jackson is a very good big brother and cousin. He was patient with Rylan, shared his toys and didn’t even mind when Rylan gave him a good head bonk while trying to play. Even though we live in different states I look forward to Jackson, Livy and Rylan being close as they grow up.

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The Anderson-Anzalone vacation tradition will continue in 2016. Next year Mike, Rylan and I will travel to Florida with his family. I wish we had enough vacation days and money to travel with both of our families every year! We’re so lucky to be very close with both of our parents and siblings. Family is everything.

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I think all of us will struggle in 2016 of whether to pick a new destination (Hawaii anyone??!!) or go back to the exact same location. There is something to be said for picking a special location to make years, even decades, of memories as the kids grow up. San Diego, you are amazing.

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