Birthday Week Emotions

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Two years ago tonight I was just a few days away from the most incredible day of my life. The day we met Rylan. This week is full of emotions.

For all the things that signal the era of parenting we’re about to begin, the terrible two’s, I do already have a favorite. Conversing.

When Mike and I went to Mexico for five nights in June we left a little boy with a growing vocabulary. When we returned we were greeted by a little boy stringing together two, three and four word phrases, working so hard to tell us what he is seeing in the world around him and how he wants to be a part of it. My favorites…

  • Oh, hi mama!
  • Ry see it
  • Ry push it
  • I try it
  • I do it
  • Woah. Muscles
  • More milk please
  • Tona (i.e., Kona) outside
  • No Tona (again, how he says Kona’s name right now)
  • Tona barking
  • Tona no barking
  • No raining. Sunny out
  • Ry needs (insert a myriad of requests)
  • Oopsie
  • Daddy plays the drums
  • Mike guitar
  • Daddy/mommy made it
  • I see outside

There are so many more new phrases and every day he surprises us with a new word that I can’t even imagine how he learned it. Tonight it was frisbee and porcupine when we were reading one of his favorite Words picture book.

We also had a hilarious and all-boy conversation on Monday about who poops. He said “sorry mama” when I was rushing to re-change a fresh diaper before daycare drop off. I told him not to be sorry because everyone poops. He sat there for a minute, processing the information, and promptly asked, “Mickey Mouse poop?” We then had to go through every character of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse to talk about who poops. I am the mom of a boy, no doubt.

Ry will be two on Friday, and this birthday week is full of reflections for me. It feels like a really big birthday.

Last year I was an emotional wreck about stopping breastfeeding after 12 long but proud months. Ry’s walking was on the horizon but he was still taking his sweet time. Today he is running circles around us, daily, and tests our conviction as he learns how to press buttons and explore boundaries.

From birth to 12 months we made sure he survived. From 12 to 24 months the shift from survival parenting to ACTUAL parenting has been incredibly real…and fun, scary, exhausting, rewarding, confusing, and the list goes on. It’s hard not to obsess about every teachable moment and remember that he’s just two, and his “up please mama” requests are ever-fleeting. I am proud of Mike and I for stumbling through the transition and making the time to talk daily about what’s working, what’s not working and how to remain on the same page. Communication, listening and forgiveness is everything right now. Everything.

I’m going to be the mama of a two year old. It’s hard to comprehend. I am happy. I am tired. I worry to a fault. And, I am in love. I am head-over-heels in love with my family.

Ground Control to Tired Moms

Ground control. Come in ground control.

When I realized how long it has been since I blogged, and all that I’ve wanted to share, a play on these lyrics came to my mind immediately. I’ve lost radio contact with any sort of control.

Much of the aimless spinning is a result of summer fun. We’ve been camping, to a cabin in the Spanish Peaks, had playdates and taken Saturday morning swim lessons. I just completed round II of a twice-a-week 5 a.m. bootcamp that has me going to bed ridiculously early as I’m up to three, sometimes four, 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m. gym classes/week. Mike and I escaped to Mexico for several nights, just us, at the end of June and through it all I’ve managed to stay ahead of the laundry piles and keep some fresh produce in the house–though there have been very few home cooked meals. We’re all eating a smorgasbord of items with bagged kale salads dominating my lunch and dinner routine. So much so that Rylan sees any sort of lettuce and says, “salad mama.” At least it’s not ice cream, right?

But I can’t shake the feeling, or an obsession really, with all I am not doing. The house is what I define as surface clean. Drawers, cabinets, closets and storage areas are a hot mess, causing me anxiety nearly every day when I try to balance and shove items into a fake sense of organization. We owe wedding gifts dating back to last year and I have a list of about a dozen thank you notes I can never seem to write. Kona is still rarely, if ever, walked and I can’t remember the last time I exposed Rylan to a new recipe. I’m dying to get my hair cut but cannot find the time based on the other priorities I won’t give up. I think my car is blue, but I cannot tell underneath the layers of mud and dust. My eyes ache by the end of each day because I desperately need to go to the eye doctor. But when?

I am SO tired of bagged salads with a protein dumped on top…what I am eating right now. Bagged salads have become a symbol of how certain “me” priorities, like working out, have a domino effect. Having it all as a working mom is not only impossible, it’s a brutal facade that we have to be more honest about.

Yes, I choose to work outside the home because I’ve worked hard to get to where I am professionally and it makes me happy. I don’t want to get off the train. But I also need to work and the daily push/pull of giving work and family my all is all-consuming. Yes, Mike and I work full-time but that doesn’t mean we can afford a nanny who shops, cooks and cleans. Nor can we afford a regular cleaning person if we want to hold gym memberships, travel a few times a year and eat high-quality food. We both work to provide Rylan a safe and stable upbringing. Simple as that.

It’s only going to get harder too. People don’t just tell me that, I see it every day among the incredible moms I call my colleagues and friends. Soccer practice, dance classes, summer camps, homework–Mike and I will blink and soon the “problems” of toddlerhood in a dual-career household will be laughable. I will literally laugh at myself for being stressed.

Perspective. That’s my perspective right now.

Perspective that the angst and tears and stomach eating stress comes from such a deep and powerful love for my family. My obsession is not really about messy drawers. It’s about wanting to do everything so perfectly for my family. I want Rylan to have everything I can give him that’s isn’t necessarily a possession. Love, health, adventure, structure, discipline…and I want to do it all everyday and do it perfectly.

I guess I still haven’t accepted that the Pinterest mom is not real. She’s not attainable.

Ground control. Come in ground control. Can I get a home cooked meal, closet organizer and a hair cut?

 

 

Camping with a Toddler

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First Anderson family camping picture.

We did it. Camping with a toddler, check!

Albeit car camping without limits on what we could pack “just in case,” I am pretty proud of myself for rolling with it even though I was crazy nervous about the insane weather we’ve been having in Colorado. Let’s just say, thank goodness one of us (Mike) kept their head on straight in the days and hours leading up to the adventure.

I searched the Internet like a crazy person leading up to the trip to make sure I was packing all the right things. Again, we got to pack in a station wagon with a pod on top…for 2 nights. We looked a bit neurotic I’m sure.

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Rylan, almost 23 months, was all grins for his first full day of camping.

If your summer plans include a toddler and a campground, here are my car camping suggestions. If (and that’s a big IF) we get brave enough to do a backpack trek with Rylan I may need a Xanax before trying to pack. Just sayin’…

Toddler Car Camping Checklist

  • Board the dog (if yours barks non stop and is scared of thunderstorms/would keep the entire tent awake)
  • Load up the pack n’ play – just do it and thank me later
  • Stash more diapers than you think you’ll need
  • Bring (but hide) a special treat to keep him/her quiet at 6:45 a.m. when everyone else you are camping with is still asleep (i.e., charged iPad with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I dare you to judge)
  • Tons of snacks
  • Hand sanitizers – yes, plural
  • A good natural bug spray or one you make at home. And of course, I had all of my essential oils with me, and mainly used Purification for a few bug bites, DiGize for post-s’mores stomach aches and Peace & Calming to help me fall asleep
  • Only a few toys – which will get ignored for sticks and rocks
  • Numerous blankets if there is any chance of it getting cold at night + a warm sleep sack if they still use one. We absolutely love the Baby Deedee Sleep Nest and bought it a size larger just so he could have it for this trip
  • Tight layers for under warm PJs, gloves, warm boots and a warm hat – unless you are confident it will not get cold at night
  • Wine – for mama
  • A modified schedule – nap was a must but we were flexible on timing. Same for bedtime – he stretched much later than normal but had such a blast watching the fire
  • Friends – but only if they have a sense of humor

Now, go forth a book a campground! Toddler squeals and grins (and yes, meltdowns) in the great outdoors await.

How to Jumpstart a Fitness Habit

Credit: Aryaziai.com

Credit: Aryaziai.com

I’m not crazy. Nothing about nearly daily workouts while juggling a husband, toddler and a full time career is extraordinary. Believe me. Millions of people do it every day, especially here in Colorado, and do it much better than me. They complete Ironman competitions, run ultra-marathons and compete in Crossfit competitions. I merely get my butt to the gym however it’s possible at least five days a week. Sometimes I exceed this goal, while other weeks I come up way short.

But I am flattered and excited whenever friends or coworkers ask me how I get it done. Fitness has become a passion and I truly enjoy giving personal tips for how I went from never working out to craving movement every single day.

The quick answer, I made it a daily habit. No excuses. Never miss a Monday.

For me it took about two months (plus a few years) of tossing excuses to the curb and saying no to a few commitments in order for me to grasp how daily workouts are absolutely possible. Whether you are just getting started, or looking to increase from two or three days a week to something more regular, I always go back to the following:

  • Block the time on your calendar like you would a meeting or doctor’s appointment
  • If childcare is a juggle, sit down with you partner on Sundays and map out workout schedules for the week ahead. Then put those workouts on each other’s calendar
  • Respect the calendar and others will begin to as well
  • Become a morning person. I’m serious. The only excuse I can count at 5 a.m. is being tired. However, by 5 p.m. my excuses range from being tired and hungry to wanting to be the parent who picks up Rylan from daycare and starts dinner
  • Sign up for classes with a penalty for not showing up. Over time you might be able to get away from this, but it’s really hard to hit snooze when $25 for an Orange Theory class is about to go down the drain
  • Try everything. Yoga, bootcamps, treadmill classes, Zumba, barre studios – try EVERYTHING until you find a gym/studio, fellow gym-goers and teachers who you absolutely love. People under estimate how powerful of a motivator community can be for workouts, even if you work out solo at a gym. The heart of my motivation comes, here in Denver, from Qi Flow Fusion and Orange Theory Union Station
  • Fill the gaps when all you have is 20 minutes between meetings or nap times. Download any of the myriad of smart phone apps for working out. I love the ab, squat and pushup challenges along with PopSugar Active. Follow trainers on Instagram and steal their moves. Lunge around the house while talking to your mom. Just move
  • Accept that you’ll miss things, like a happy hour or daycare pickup, or get your butt up early so missing happy hour (or pickup) is never an issue. Daily movement does come with a bit of sacrifice
  • Be okay with being called “crazy.” I can’t tell you how many times I hear it from family and friends. But those closest to me know I am tremendously happier, less stressed and more sane when I spin, run or lift out my worries and daily stressors. The gym is my perspective. My place to realize I have it really damn easy and I am lucky to have health and love in my life

I am in the best shape of my life at 32, almost 33. I look back at college pictures and cannot believe the way I took care of myself (meaning, not at all). While I have always been on the thinner side, just lately have I become truly strong. Strong feels so much better than skinny.

Motivate when you’re ready. Find kindness for yourself when you are not. The latter is where I struggle most.

Here’s to good health!

Daily Fitness: It Is Possible

Credit: Aryaziai.com

Credit: Aryaziai.com

The world doesn’t need another fitness blogger. And I am absolutely not qualified to offer fitness advice or routine suggestions.

However, working out is a huge part of my “me” life outside of parenting, marriage and a full time career. In fact, my workouts are what allow me to do all of those other things semi-well. I also think I am a pretty good motivator…I think?

Here’s my belief. Under very few circumstances can I NOT fit in a workout. Finding and maintaining this mindset has been a long, slow evolution. I used to be the queen of excuses. Work is busy. I’m sore. I have an 8 a.m. meeting so I can’t go before work. I have plans after work so if I go in the morning I’ll miss seeing Rylan. It’s Saturday, I deserve a break.

But then I decided to try my hand at a 5 a.m. class, and it changed everything. It opened up daily opportunities throughout the week to work out without Rylan even knowing I had left the house. I also blocked time on my calendar once a week for a 4:30 p.m. class. This gave me a reprieve from daily 4:30 a.m. wakeups and still let me pickup Rylan from daycare, a small task that makes me smile every time.

I downloaded squat, sit-up and pushup challenge iPhone apps to get me moving on the days the gym just isn’t possible. My Jawbone steps tracker pushes me to park a little further or take the stairs.

I find ways to move daily. “Never miss a Monday” is a guiding mantra that truly keeps me on track. Healthy decisions on Monday set the tone for a stronger, healthier week.

I’d be lying if vanity isn’t a driver. Who doesn’t like to feel their best in a bathing suit or bounce back from a pregnancy, stronger and more fit than before? But it’s bigger than that. Much bigger. Daily movement is my Xanax. It’s one of the only assurances I can control to help me stay healthy for Mike and Rylan. I can’t answer emails or go down the Facebook rabbit hole when I am doing sprints in an Orange Theory class.

How did I function for so long without daily fitness?

This weekend I am lucky enough to be a part of The Blend Retreat (#blend2015) in Boulder, Colo. The bloggers who flew in from all over the country and brands that graciously gave bags upon bags of free product were inspiring to say the least. The experience also made me realize that I want to infuse more fitness and wellness into what I talk about here–through the lens of a hectic working mom of course.

I hope to create a culture of motivation here!

Moms. Step Away from the Superhero Cape.

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I was given an advanced copy of the book in order to complete this review. However, all opinions are 100% my own. 

Being selected by Kerry Rivera and Alexa Bigwarfe to review an advance copy of Lose the Cape, Realities from Busy Modern Moms and Strategies to Survive, is still a “pinch me” blogger moment from the tiny and inconsistent corner that is currently Lex & Learn. My initial reaction to the copy is even included in the opening “Praise for Lose the Cape” section of the new book! So cool.

And “praise” is an understatement for what Kerry and Alexa deserve.

My current state of motherhood is 100 percent unique. Rylan is his own person, Mike and I have our own marriage and the way we run our household only makes sense to us. And guess what? Every single parent on the planet is living, day in and day out, their own 100 percent unique parenthood journey as well. Perhaps that is why at times, parenting can feel so isolating.

This reality is also why I love this book. It’s written to be a reference for the widely varying stages of this insane ride. For example, the chapter about scheduling doesn’t really apply right now because Rylan isn’t signed up for a myriad of evening and weekend activities yet. However, I shed a tear (or 20) over the pages about laundry, mom guilt and the unattainable Pinterest standards fueling insecurity among mothers who should otherwise be lifting one another up. I. Don’t. Craft.

Here are just a few tidbits I took a highlighter to and want to frame next to my pillow…

Invisible lists. These are “… all of those “other” tasks we instinctively do as moms: scheduling appointments, organizing birthday parties, arranging summer camps and lessons, buying gifts for teachers and friends, filling out paperwork that comes home from school, and beyond.” YES!!! These are what I don’t articulate to Mike, yet lose sleep over and get resentful about, even though he’d be more than willing to help.

“Sixty‐three percent of couples with kids still living in the home argue over cleaning, according to a 2012 survey of more than 12,000 BabyCenter readers.” I’ve blogged about it before, but I implore soon-to-be parents to budget for a cleaning person. We have yet to fully work it into our monthly budget and cleaning is a HUGE (if not the main) source of stress for me.

“Your kids need to see you without a device permanently attached to your hand.” Guilty. Both of us. We have to get better about this after work and on weekends. Completely our bad.

“Stop being a martyr. NOW! You can find time and make “me” time a priority. Or, you can just be a bitch. You choose.” I actually have a lot of me time. I work out at least 4 days a week, travel, see friends, etc. However, I always have a LOT of guilt about this me time despite it keeping me sane, healthy and happy. See the next sentiment below!

‘“Lose the Mommy Guilt!” This stuff will tear you down, eat you up, and kill your soul.” TRYING! I do not think it’s feasible to rid yourself of mommy guilt altogether. In fact, on certain days the guilt actually makes me a more present, creative and thoughtful mama. But the (sometimes) soul crushing guilt of booking a kid-less trip or leaving him every day to work outside the home has to stop.

Moms to be. Moms in the newborn and toddler trenches. Moms carpooling all over the universe with pre-teens. We all need to take a deep breath, read witty and honest books like this during uninterrupted me time (preferably with hot coffee or a cocktail) and give ourselves a huge hug. We, and our partners, are kicking ass and probably don’t even know it.

If you like your cape, maybe vow to take it off once or twice a week. If the cape is dragging you down, toss it into the Goodwill pile or trade off cape days with your partner.

Our littles will thank us in the long run. I’m quite certain we are already incredible superheroes to them anyway.

Summer Espadrilles

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I love shoes. I used to dream about buying Jimmy Choos with my first bonus out of college when I started working. While 10+ years later I’ve never worked up the nerve to drop that amount of cash on one pair of shoes, my shoe closet runneth over with stilettos, wedges, sandals and everything in between.

Yet the one style always lacking was a classic espadrille. Talk about missing out on comfort meeting effortless style.

A friend from San Diego is a gorgeous world traveler whose Instagram account has always made me green with envy. A few months ago I noticed she was starting a small import business of espadrilles made in a small village in the French Pyrenees, either by hand or by the original crafting machines. Today, it‘s the only village in France which still offers handmade shoes based on traditional  production. Check out these stunning production photos! Intrigued, I stalked her pictures and website for months–always a little timid to commit to the price tag.

But as more and more of our mutual San Diego girlfriends posted pictures of their French espadrilles, I had to place an order.

I. Am. Hooked.

Her site, Basque In The Sunlight, makes you want to toss caution to the wind and book a trip to France. However, if that’s not possible do yourself a favor now that spring is finally here and treat yourself to a pair (or two) of these lovely, comfortable and versatile shoes.

For sizing you’ll want to order them so they arrive a bit snug. The shoes mold and stretch quickly. I am a true US size 7 and am very happy with the size 37 equivalent I chose. It was really tough to pick a color, but I like to have fun matching patterns, especially in the summer, and thought the navy + white/cream stripes would complement a lot in my wardrobe.

Next I have my eye on the “France,” “Citron” or “Bleu” colors. And don’t even get me started on the Pestemal towels she’s carrying–versatile enough to use as a cover up and beach blanket. They are made following an old traditional technique which uses wooden looms. These definitely have my name on it for Mike and my escape to Riviera Maya in June. I am eyeing the “Menthe” color.

I can’t say enough about Jen and what she has created. Follow her on Instagram for more drool-worthy style, travel and fashion goodness.

 

Hitting Toddlerhood, Literally

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Rylan…99% smiles, but with a growing slice of attitude.

Parenting a budding toddler is marked by extreme highs and maddening lows. I am grateful to be surrounded by friends and family who don’t mind my endless texts with questions and venting sessions about eating strikes and teething mayhem. Molars suck! But lately there is one behavior that is coming out more and more, and we will not tolerate it.

Hitting.

“Hands are not for hitting.” It is a book we read and, unfortunately, a phrase we’re using more and more with Rylan.

At 20 months Rylan is expressing frustrating and seeking attention through hitting. His teachers reassure me it is normal and so far he is responding well to discipline at school. There has only been one day where a teacher said he had more “calm your body” time outs than normal, and the next day he was much more gentle and cooperative. Currently, Rylan hits me more than he hits Mike, which drives me nuts. I also probably say no more often than Mike does and have a very low tolerance for tantrum-like outbursts.

I can usually anticipate what will trigger a hitting tantrum. Transitions from something Rylan likes to the next activity, even if he likes what is coming, triggers hitting at home and as of this weekend, in public. The worst! For example, if we need to end playing in the backyard for a bath, he will raise his arm and go to hit me when I pick him up. On Saturday he came with me to the car wash. He loved watching the cars and was happily eating snacks as my car was dried. When it was time for us to leave, he first threw his body onto the ground screaming. Then when I picked him up he proceeded to try and hit me. He was still swinging as I fastened him into his car seat! I was mortified and sad. Mainly, I wanted to turn around and tell everyone around me that he’s an incredibly well-behaved and happy dude.

My mom says I remind her a lot of herself as a mother of a toddler. She expected a great deal out of me, and I feel the same about Rylan. When he hits I am simply blown away. I can’t believe the same toddler who smiles 99% of the time can turn so quickly into those screaming kids I used to stare at in Target or a restaurant. I too find myself sometimes being the mother who is trying desperately to squeeze more applesauce out of the pouch before Ry’s world falls apart in the beauty aisle.

While hitting is a “normal” phase of toddlerhood, we’re unwilling to look the other way. I am about halfway through the book 1,2,3 Magic and need to get serious about trying the counting method it outlines. Hitting is an automatic “3” according to this philosophy…so multiple times on Saturday when Rylan hit I firmly told him “that’s a three” and we went into his room to calm down. His teachers also have us act very dramatic and say, “ouch!! That hurt mommy when you hit me. Is that a safe choice?” Depending on his mood, this reaction can make him very sad or he laughs at our antics. Ugh!!!!

But the biggest problem for me is consistency in public. He hit me in church on Easter and I just tried to have him keep it together since mass was almost over. I didn’t give him a “three count” and he wasn’t reprimanded. It was the same scenario at the carwash since we needed to get into the car and move out of the lane.

I am reassured by the fact that we are very mindful of his hitting already and that we’re being proactive now instead of in preschool or later when it can become a serious issue.

But my heart hurts every single time he hits.

Please let me know if you have any advice, tips or insights to share from the trenches. I appreciate it.

When Did…

When did Rylan become much more boy than baby?

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When did he learn to grab a hand and lead a person to exactly where he wants them to go? 

When did running replace walking? 

When did he start to sit in a regular chair and have a snack with me at coffee shops?

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When did he start truly enjoying the company of having his littlest pals over to play? 

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Of course I know the answers. It has happened little by little every day. But days and weeks are busy and this mama knows so much goes unseen when we are away at work five days a week. Let’s also be brutally honest. No matter how much I try to be 100% present at night after work or on the weekends, there are emails to be answered, dishwashers to be emptied and laundry to be folded. There are errands to run and the Instagram and Pinterest itches to be scratched. There are workouts to do and cleaning that never ends. I try to save all of these things (and so much more) for after he goes to bed. I try, I really do. And sometimes I succeed while many other days and nights I fail.

I also know he’s my first and I baby him way too much. “Can he eat that?” “Cut it smaller.” “Mama will carry you.” “He’s too little for that.” “Be careful, Ry!” I may give the poor little dude a safety complex.

But in March we had a tremendous amount of together time in Vail and then Florida, so these tiny changes that had built up over time became extremely evident to both Mike and me. In Florida I began to observe Rylan through a new lens. A lens with a little, unbelievably adorable toddler boy on the other side.

Sure, he needs help up and down stairs. And yes, I can still carry him everywhere and zip him into a sleep sack for bedtime.

But at times he prefers to walk or take the stairs “alone” with no help from mama/dada. I can ask him if he wants a cheese stick for a snack and he’ll answer yes or no. His vocabulary is popping like crazy and he tells me he wants to “dance dance” when he sees his CD player on the bookshelf.

It’s an incredible transformation. I am addicted to his curiosity, smile and even his moments of tantrums–because when he’s crying he is expressing his independence and trying so hard to make me understand why he wants/needs something. I cannot get enough of him.

When did it become possible for him to start growing up even faster than before?

Minor Miracle. I’m Reading Again

On New Year’s Day this year I made one formal resolution — to read again.

For nearly a year and a half Rylan was my excuse (and a damn good one) for being far to tired, busy and generally overwhelmed on a daily basis to read books other than toddler cookbooks and a random US Weekly Magazine.

Reading

As of March 26 I’ve successfully finished two fiction books for fun. No where in these books were tips for getting your toddler not to hit, or sneaking in spinach to smoothies. These books were all for me to relax and escape. It feels fantastic to reconnect with such a simple yet important habit.

First I read And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I absolutely loved it. The weaving of Afghan history through numerous, heart breaking stories kept me intrigued from start to finish. I cannot recommend this book enough.

This week while in Florida I was able to plow through the beach read Where’d You Go Bernadette. This one took me a bit to get hooked. But hooked I was by about a quarter of the way through and I really enjoyed the sassy, fast-paced story with its unexpected twists at the very end. It’s a great vacation or weekend read.

Next I’ve downloaded The Boston Girl and I hope to dive in over the weekend during one or two of Ry’s naps. Or at the very least, a few pages each night before bed. Reading, no matter how riveting the plot, is like NyQuil for me. Three pages and I cannot keep my eyes open!

If you have other recommendations I’d love for you to them! I’m determined to keep up a realistic but steady pace this year.

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