Selfish Sanity

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Parenting strips away overall selfishness. From the moment your tiny human joins the world it’s never “all about you” ever again. However, I am 19 months into this parenting gig and have realized that I still carve out ways to be selfish. Why? Because it is these me-centric choices that some people try to make you feel guilty about that keep me sane, balanced and happy.

I think every mom (stay-at-home, working outside the home or some combination of the two) needs to feverishly protect her selfish sanity time…whether it is a few hours each month or a couple weekends per year. For me, that means:

  • Daily (or as close to it as possible) workouts
  • Skiing on weekends (Mike goes in the morning and I take the afternoon). This, I know, isn’t a forever reality once Rylan has weekend commitments like sports and friends that keep us in Denver most weekends
  • Not talking on the phone after Rylan goes to bed in order to spend time with Mike, watch trashy TV, catch up on work or just zone out on Pinterest. I cannot handle phone conversations after 7:30 p.m.
  • Tacking on a pedicure or quick mall trip to family errands, especially if Rylan is napping. I have a lot of guilt about not being home anytime during the weekend when Rylan is awake. But if he is napping, all bets are off.
  • At least one girls trip per year – be it overnight and close to home or somewhere that requires plane travel

I love Rylan and Mike more than anything, but to be the best mom and wife I know how to be, I have to wave the white flag from time to time. I still have and want to be Alexis. I feel recharged and recommitted to my family and work every time to steal away for a few moments of me time.

And to be fair, I have to remember to let Mike do the same. He still plays in his band and practices weekly. He snowboards most Saturday and Sunday mornings. He is going on a guys trip the first weekend of April from a Thursday to a Sunday. He golfs in the summer. These things make him a better dad and husband too.

Call me selfish. I don’t really care. It’s how we do things right now.

Celebrating Stella

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On Friday evening Mike, Rylan and I will travel home to California to celebrate the life of Grandma Stella, my dad’s mother. She passed away on Saturday surrounded, most importantly, by her son and four daughters.

Her 92 years were rich. Not with great material wealth, but with family, friends and one forever soulmate. I cannot even begin to imagine the happiness and joy that surrounded them when they were finally reunited in a world beyond ours.

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Grandma, her beloved Joe and all five kids!

Grandma Stella had a smile that shined across a room and stories that could go on for hours. Her ability to exude pure joy was effortless, and came in the form of hugs, pride in everything her family did and food–so many of my memories are wrapped up in her in the kitchen prepping our favorite Italian fare and eventually, her overseeing operations in the kitchen when her son, daughters and grandkids took over the heavy lifting.

Saying goodbye is never easy. I am thankful every day that I have not endured the loss of a parent, so I know our dad and aunts are feeling something completely different–and each grandchild and great grandchild is as well.

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Dad perfecting the secrets of her sauce

I am grateful she did not suffer for weeks after her fall. I feel blessed that my memories of her ravioli are so fresh that I can almost taste the ricotta. I will cherish the way she held Rylan as a baby as she told me how wonderful it is to be a mother and how no one will ever love your children more than you do. I feel lucky that Mike was a part of my life when she was and that he’ll understand why I’ll want to hold onto as many of our Anzalone family traditions that she helped shape while we can. I am grateful to have been one of her grandchildren.

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Meeting Rylan

While a funeral is never a reason anyone wants to travel, I know we will celebrate and honor her memory fully this weekend. Her grandchildren and great grandchildren will come from near and far–a gathering that she would have bragged about for weeks and weeks to anyone who would listen. We’ll look at pictures from black and white memories of her childhood in Massachusetts to just a few months ago during the holidays. There will be many tears but, I’m hopeful, double the laughs, smiles and tight hugs that she was famous for giving.

And the best part? She and Grandpa Joe will be watching it all. Taking it all in, bragging to anyone who will listen about their incredible family–the smartest, most successful and beautiful family there ever was.

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Muffin Tin Magic

To be clear, this post is about muffin TINS. Not to be confused with muffin tops.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the bad pun.

I often wonder if I had a day or more at home during the work week if my stress about meals would lessen a bit. I am fairly diligent about maximizing my time (who am I kidding, I can’t sit still) and imagine being able to squeak out a crockpot or two most days, even if Rylan was hanging from my legs begging for attention. But alas, this is not our reality.

When it comes to meal prep I have to be a weekend warrior. Yet now that ski season takes us away from home most weekends, I am even more stressed about how to keep healthier meals stocked in our fridge and freezer for lunches and dinners. Tack on the fact that Rylan and Mike both love meat and I haven’t eaten chicken, beef or pork in 2+  years and things get really complicated. Therefore, I usually have to put Rylan first, myself second and poor Mike has to eat whatever I can scrounge up for him. Sorry babe!

So lets talk about muffin tins. Muffin tins are a frantic mom’s answer to making toddler-size meals that can be frozen individually, defrosted in the fridge all day and then heated up in seconds for a mostly homemade meal moments after racing through the door at 6:15 p.m. with a hungry toddler angrily screaming for “more more.”

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Muffin Tin Recipe Sanity Savers 

Breakfast – Baked Pancake Muffins 

Healthy Snack – “Sneaky” Veggie Muffins

Dinner – Mini Chicken Pot Pies and Muffin Tin Meatloaf (I add mixed frozen veggies to sneak in even more peas and carrots to Ry’s day)

Those are four SUPER basic ones to start with, and I have half a dozen more on my Pinterest board that I want to get to very soon. I mean, how will Rylan be able to resist French Toast Cups, Oatmeal Cupsor Mini Lasagnas?

Please share links to your favorite family meal prep recipes in the comments! I am always on the hunt for new ideas to broaden our plates.

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!

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.

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.

Recipe Survival Guide: Spiralizer Edition

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Credit: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-spiralize/

Time. There is simply never enough.

Choosing sleep means less blogging or gasp, reading of real books that aren’t about nap scheduling and behavior milestones. Choosing the gym means deli meat (organic of course, we really do try), string cheese and frozen veggies for Rylan’s dinner more nights than I’d like to publicly admit and fewer home cooked meals than I daydreamed about when Rylan was still on only breast milk and I glorified family dinners at the table together.

Still, I do my best to keep a few meals in rotation these days so that Rylan’s tastes expand and I don’t fall back to cereal every night for dinner. I never thought Cheerios and cold milk for dinner could get old but it has become pretty bland and boring.

My #1 tip to busy households with or without kids? Treat yourself to a spiralizer. Now. Like, stop reading my blog, go order it on Amazon, and then come back here to keep reading.

Okay. Did you order it? Good.

Being able to turn one raw zucchini, some shrimp, capers and the squeeze of a lemon into a healthy one-dish dinner in a few minutes is insane. On spiralizer nights we’re eating healthier than ever and I crave the leftovers for lunch at work the next day. Better yet, one incredibly smart blogger has dedicated herself to spiralizer recipes AND launched an iPhone app. An app for spiralizing! Healthy dinners are saved (one – two days per week, in the spirit of full honesty).

Recent spiralizer sanity savers:

Can’t wait to hear if you are obsessed with terms like “zoodles” as much as I am. Please share your favorite spiralizer recipes in the comments!

Project Sippy

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Our doctor, like most, encouraged us to have Rylan off a bottle sometime around his first birthday, with an emphasis on “by 15 months.” I thought to myself, duh! That won’t be a problem and I will not miss washing all the stupid Dr. Browns parts.

Fast forward to 13 months and some change. We, with the help of his amazing daycare teachers, weaned him off bottles during the day by mid-August. He’s happy to drink two – three ounces of cow’s milk from a sippy with morning snack, lunch and afternoon snack. Since seven months Rylan has had success with Zoli cups for water. We worry about getting the straw clean though, so we’ve opted to teach him to tip his head back and use a Playtex for milk.

Yet his morning and night bottles haven’t budged. Why you ask? I am to blame.

I’ll take full responsibility for clinging onto those bottles because I miss nursing and love cuddling him while he contently wakes up in the morning or slowly winds down at night. For the morning we’ve weaned him down to just three ounces in the bottle then offer a full sippy when he sits down to breakfast. I know that after a day or two of tears, he’d probably accept a sippy upon waking. But I simply can’t bring myself to rip the bandaid.

So “Project Sippy” isn’t failing because of Rylan. Morning and night bottles feel like my last connection to Rylan as a true baby. I cherish it.

So there you have it. My admission. Check in with us at 15 months to see if I make the doctor’s cut off!

Transition to Toddlerhood

We’re transitioning to toddlerhood. It is just that simple. And I can’t believe it.

So what better time to finally share Rylan’s professional birthday photos from July as I shake my mom head in disbelief and bring you up to speed on 13 months…

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You already know that Rylan is walking. Despite predictions he is not yet running, thank god, but he moves fast. He is not a fan of our main baby gate in the kitchen that keeps him from tumbling the back stairs that lead to more, steeper basement stairs. When I close it there are usually tears.

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There are also what I refer to as “fake tears” and back arches when we:

  • Close the fridge
  • Close the freezer
  • Get near the changing table
  • Change most diapers
  • Let Kona eat from the floor around him while he is still eating
  • Get near his car seat, especially in the morning
  • End bath time
  • Pass the back door without going in the backyard

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I’m assured by late-night blog reading and the Highlands Mommies email threads that this is all incredibly normal. And, quite frankly, I already knew that based on having nieces and nephews.

Luckily, his episodes are rarely more than a minute or two and because we’re on to the next thing and try very hard not to give in, he’s quick to move on as well. Sometimes I feel like a hard ass but I know what’s fake and what’s real.

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The other HUGE change is the move to one nap. This one was not initiated by Mike and me. Instead, the one nap phenomenon seems to be a universal daycare move around 12 to 13 months. I was shocked when it was mentioned and questioned everything we’ve come to love about daycare. Then, I calmed down and started talking to parents around me, with kids at all different sorts of daycares. One nap wasn’t a crime being committed against our sleep-loving family. Turns out, it is a common shift.

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It took several weeks to stretch his mornings and he has fallen asleep in his lunch. But we’re pretty much there and our weekend mornings have become so much more fun and flexible, having until about noon before we need to be home. But make no mistake. If we had a nanny I’d still be clinging on to two naps for as long as possible.

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Summer flew by with our first official family vacation to San Diego and trips sans-Rylan. Travels included Sonoma, Lake Tahoe, Breckenridge for me and Rylan, Crested Butte camping for Mike and friends…we’re incredibly fortunate.

However, I also feel like we missed out on some fundamental hometown experiences and vow to slow down and savor being in town more next year. We’ve yet to go to the zoo, did not try a single museum and only went swimming a handful of times. Our fall is shaping up to be just as hectic with weddings to attend in Aspen, Mexico and Southern California. Ski season is never tame but at least we’ll be in Colorado for a few months following Thanksgiving.

Thankfully Rylan is oblivious to my disappointments about over scheduling. He’s happiest in our backyard with bubbles or in the basement having a dance party. Life is unbelievably sweet right now. I am smitten with our budding toddler and am MY happiest when we’re having boring, quiet family weekends. Those weekends are what keep me centered and grounded.

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With every huge milestone and the challenges they bring, I can’t believe how much I love being his mama. I also owe a tremendous THANK YOU to Sarah Hill for another amazing round of family photos. We could not be more thrilled with your ability to capture Rylan’s personality. If you live in, or plan to visit Colorado, there is no one I recommend more for affordable and fun family sessions than Sarah.

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