Monday, January 28, 2013

Your Guide to the Weight Room: Equipment

I'll admit, the first time I walked into a weight room without my husband, I was overwhelmed and pretty intimidated. I felt like I was walking into a forbidden, exclusive club and that the proverbial record would scratch, all the big sweaty boys would stop what they were doing and turn their heads to look at the poor little girl who was obviously lost.
I waited for someone to tell me that the aerobics room was on the other side of the gym or ask me where my mommy and daddy were. None of that happened. Everyone was too busy listening to Mudvayne on their iPods and checking out their sweet biceps in the mirror to even notice I was there. I even made a few friends. Guys started asking me about my routine and making small talk and eventually everyone knew who I was and I was more comfortable there than any other part of the gym. Not so scary after all.

If you want to avoid the initial shock that I endured upon your first visit, you need to know about three pieces of equipment: the squat rack, the power rack, and the bench. There will be a lot of other junk there, but most of it is really just that. Junk. For the love of fluffy kittens, avoid the Smith machine at all costs! Not only is it completely useless, but it doesn't allow you to move the way your body naturally should. DO NOT use it. Please? That is the only thing I beg of you. (That and not doing 100 reps of bicep curls with 3lb. weights.)

M Squat Rack -

Squat Rack: Squats are one of the best exercises you can do for your body. Not only do they improve lower body strength, they also help you develop coordination and balance that will serve you well in any athletic endeavor. Also, they'll give you a great ass.
     You can place the bar at a comfortable height. (It should be just a tad lower than your shoulders when racked.) The safety rails will catch the bar if you need to "bail" (or drop the weight). They ensure that you don't hurt yourself or break any of the equipment. Trust them! As your form improves and you start to push yourself to lift heavier, you can rest assured that you won't kill yourself. In five years of doing barbell squats, I have never needed to use the safeties, but I feel better going bigger because I know they are there. 

Power rack -

Power Rack: The power rack is like the squat rack, but the rack and safety rails are completely adjustable so you can use it for multiple exercises. (Or if you are a shorty like me, you may prefer to squat and bench press here because you can customize it to your comfort.) Again, the safeties are there for your benefit. And if you fall backward (which is extremely rare, but IF!) the weights are completely contained and can't pin you.

Weight Bench -

Weight Bench: There's not much to it. The rack is adjustable, again, so you can place it at a comfortable level for you. You should be able to get the bar off the rack without rounding your shoulders or really "reaching" at all. Another request: regardless of what the bros in Tapout shorts are doing, DO NOT put your feet on the bench. This is a weak and unstable position and will become very dangerous once you start lifting heavier weights.

Like I said, don't worry about any of the other equipment. I promise this is all you will need, at least at first. And this may be an unpopular opinion, but I'm right so I don't care, but DO NOT pay for a personal training session. I'm sure there are reputable personal trainers out there, but most of them will teach you whatever cool things they learned in Men's Fitness and overwhelm you with jargon. If you aren't dependent on your trainer, you stop booking sessions and they don't get paid. I'll talk about form with you in the next part of this guide, and lead you to some sites with good videos and good advice for female lifters.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shifting focus.

All right, ladies and germs, I'm going to be doing a lot of cloth diaper-related reviews for our local CD store, Mami's & Papi's, so my blog will be shifting focus a little bit toward fitness and green living. (Don't expect me to tell you to do "lots of reps with light weights" because you know that's not how I roll.) ;)

With that being said, today is deadlift day. Hooah!

 *I lied. It's squat day. I'm dumb. But I'm still going to wear these socks.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Why do I Lift?

I've had trouble getting motivated for my lifting sessions lately, so I decided to take a cue from my husband. As part of his pre-workout routine, he watches videos on YouTube of crazy strong guys lifting insane amounts of weight. Being me, I am partial to my "Fitness Inspiration" board on Pinterest, so I decided to scan through my pins and a couple videos and it made a UNIVERSE of difference.

I usually schlep into the garage begrudgingly, with a "let's get this over with so I can say I did it" kind of attitude. Then I wonder why I "can't" lift as much as I should be able to. This time, I started with a slightly heavier warmup weight and actually focused on what I was doing instead of thinking about the million other things I could/should/would rather be doing. If you're in a workout slump, I highly suggest spending 10-15 minutes watching videos or listening to music that gets you pumped before your workout.

My husband is also great at calling me out on my crap like how I talk about fitness on my blog but I seem to hate working out. Well, that's when I started this list. This way, if I need a kick in the pants, I can remind myself WHY I lift. So here we go, in no particular order:

1. To prove that mommies can be strong too. You don't have to give up on yourself once you have a baby. You can get your body back, but it takes work! After eight months, I am now below my pre-pregnancy weight and my muscle definition is starting to return. I want to be able to say, "I didn't have a flat stomach until after my daughter was born. You can do this, too!"

2. To provide a good example for my daughter. I want her to see that the power rack isn't just for the boys. It makes me sad that so many women miss out on this opportunity to better their physical health because they are intimidated by the equipment. My baby WILL NOT be afraid of the weight room.

3. To practice what I preach. I feel horrible giving advice to people about making time for your work out, getting motivated, living an active lifestyle, etc. and then sitting on my couch for days at a time before finally dragging my feet to the garage for a session. I won't be that girl anymore.

4. To defy my genetics. I look forward to being in great shape well into my golden years. My grandmother had two heart attacks and was diabetic. My father is only in his early 50s and has already had a heart attack. My aunt actually died of a heart attack. I won't accept the idea that it will happen to me. I refuse to succumb to my predisposition for health problems. I will break the cycle.

5. To beat the boys. I love knowing that I am already stronger than most girls my size and age. I want to be stronger than the boys, too. I've always been a little competitive that way.

6. To reach, and then surpass, any goals I set for myself. There is nothing more rewarding than looking back on the progress I've made and remembering that there was a time I couldn't do what I am doing now. Every rep, every pound, is progress toward my goal. Then I get to imagine how much further I can push myself.

7. To crush stereotypes and misinformation about lifting heavy weights. There is life beyond the treadmill and your 5AM spin class. Those things may help you lose weight, but they won't make you strong. Lifting heavier weights will not make you look like a male bodybuilder. Lifting heavy weights won't even make your husband look like most male bodybuilders. That's what steroids are for. My current deadlift max is 155# (don't judge, I'm just getting back to training) and I looked in the mirror a few minutes ago. Just for your reassurance, I'm definitely not the Hulk.

8. To raise eyebrows. I have imaginary conversations with strangers in my head, and I want to be able to tell them, "Yes. I do work out." And when they ask, "Like Zumba? Pilates? What?" I will be able to say, "Pssh. I can lift more than you weigh, bro." And leave them speechless. Bam! Silly, I know. But I want that. I want the reaction. I can't help myself.

9. Because strong is sexier than skinny. People go to some dangerous (and not-so-healthy) measures to "lose weight" when they really should focus on how they treat their body, and some people are what we call "skinny fat" which means they are thin but don't have very healthy habits. I deserve to be healthy. I deserve to be strong. I deserve to look and feel beautiful. I am worth the effort. And so are you.

10. To look better naked, because who doesn't want that?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

REVIEW: Country Save laundry detergent

For the first few months of cloth-diapering, I used Tide Original to wash my diapers. There is no clear stance on Tide from cloth diaper experts. Some swear by it, others claim it will ruin your stash. I figured I would start out with Tide and see if I had any problems. At first, I didn't.

Back home in Central Florida, we had soft water. I never had an issue with my wash routine. Once we moved to Texas and started using the luxurious (*eyeroll*) city water, my laundry lost its luster. (The English teacher in me refuses to edit the alliteration.) Every load seemed to be slightly dingy and my diapers never smelled completely clean. I considered changing detergents, but never really got around to it until I had a conversation with the lovely ladies (kids, today is brought to you by the letter 'L') at my cloth diaper store, Mami's and Papi's--yes, I am in there a LOT, at least once a week--and had a sample of Country Save thrown at me. :D

I figured it couldn't hurt, and I had heard great things about Country Save from other mamas. I threw it in with my next load, and I was relieved to find that they didn't look or feel as grimy as they did when they were washed with Tide. (I'm telling you, I said a secret prayer every time I opened the lid on my washer that it didn't smell like ammonia and/or poop.)

Why is Country Save considered safe for cloth diapers? It doesn't contain any fragrance, dyes, phosphates, or optical brighteners that could affect the integrity of the fabric. It is also:
  • Completely biodegradable
  • Gentle for sensitive skin but tough enough for battlefield conditions!
  • Ultra-concentrated - actually get 40 scoops of detergent out of a 40 wash box!
  • Septic Tank Safe
  • Gluten free; no coconut-derived ingredients
  • EPA - Design for the Environment Certified
My hesitation to buy any "specialty" detergents has always been cost, but Country Save is actually (wait for it) almost HALF the price of Tide! (According to their price comparison chart, Country Save costs about $0.12/HE load whereas Tide HE costs about $0.23/load!) That makes my cheap behind VERY happy. As soon as I figured this out, I went back to M&P's (as we local folk affectionately call it) and bought a 10lb box.

I've been using it with my cloth diaper laundry ever since with absolutely no complaints and I can rest easy knowing that I'm not prematurely wearing out my diapers with the additives found in most commercial detergents. Also! I can use it with my regular laundry and not worry about "wasting" the expensive stuff on non-diaper loads. In fact, as soon as I run out of this batch of Tide, that's exactly what I'm going to do.

If you haven't tried it yet, you can order a sample here. As a skeptic, I can appreciate your reluctance. ;) HOWEVER, if you trust me, just order the big box.

***I've said it already and I'll say it again, I will only review products I have used and I will only provide positive reviews for products I can confidently stand by. My reputation may not mean much to y'all, but it's pretty much all I've got. ***

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Self-Soothing Myth

"If you don't let her cry, she'll never learn to soothe herself."

How many times have you heard this? Does this tired advice make anyone else's face do this: o_O? Has anyone here raised an attached child who literally never learned to soothe herself?

As a first-time mom with a newborn who cried more than (what I considered) "normal" for a baby, I always found this well-meaning piece of advice completely frustrating. However, I was desperate and sleep-deprived, and I guessed it made sense. She had to "learn" to calm herself down. Babies have to learn, right? (Because being ignored when I'm upset sure cheers me up!)

Why does it seem that when it comes to physical development, we are always reassuring parents that babies will "grow out of" frustrating phases, e.g. potty training. "Nobody goes to Kindergarten in diapers." More words of wisdom basically telling parents to be patient. But, when it comes to crying, for some reason we are supposed to teach them as early as 3 months of age. Does this not seem ridiculous to anyone else? Is it JUST ME?!

In the past 7-8 months, I have been told the following:
"If you pick her up every time she cries, she's going to learn that she'll always get her way. We are born manipulators; she's manipulating you."
"There's nothing wrong with letting her cry. It helps her lungs develop."
"You stick your boob in her mouth every time she makes a peep. What is she learning from that?"
"Well, this is what you get for spoiling her."

(When I express any frustration about parenthood, it's apparently my own damn fault because I choose to respond promptly to my child instead of getting around to it whenever I'm in the mood or "training" her to not be so "dependent.")

Some of these gems were uttered by people who, in the first trying months of Baby J's life, told me that I shouldn't get so upset when she cries because, "That's the only way babies know to communicate." A few months later, suddenly crying has turned from a form of communication to a form of manipulation? Not adding up. Sorry. 

First of all, I've only taken three psych classes in my life and I know that babies are unable to distinguish between wants and needs. They have no concept of manipulation. For Pete's sake, my child didn't know she had FEET three months ago! Her cries convey a message of hunger, sadness, boredom, pain, over-stimulation, fatigue, confusion, fear, and discomfort. There is no little Stewie Griffin brain mechanism churning in her head plotting my demise (or sleep-deprivation.) And who says her want/need for my attention or physical touch is any less crucial to her development than her need for a clean diaper or a full belly?

Secondly, there have been mountains of scientific evidence showing that children who are attended to promptly and consistently actually learn to become more secure and independent than those who are forced to "figure it out" for themselves because they learn that their caregiver is available to them if they need help. There is MUCH more risk of psychological, intellectual, and physiological damage when you leave a baby to cry for prolonged periods of time.

Mamas, hug your babies! It's OK to respond to their needs. It's your job, and it's what we are wired to do. There is a reason we are upset by the sound of their cries. That twinge in your gut is valid. They are not crying to ruin your shower, or disturb your slumber, or keep you from getting things done. Whether they need a nap or just some cuddle time, it is still a need. 
With the overwhelming evidence AGAINST just "letting her cry" instead of attending to her needs, I'll take my chances. I apologize if this post seems disjointed, unprofessional, or rude. This is something that has weighed heavily on my mind (and angered me to the point of high blood pressure) for quite some time and I needed to get it out there. 


7 Things Parents Should Know About Baby's Cries - Dr. Sears

Science Says Excessive Crying Could Be Harmful - Dr. Sears

Spoiling - Dr. Sears 
Cry It Out: The Potential Dangers of Leaving Your Baby to Cry - Dr. Ben Kim
Maternal Instinct is Wired into the Brain - Tara Parker-Pope

Sunday, January 13, 2013

REVIEW: MilkMakers Lactation Cookies


     Breastfeeding mama confession: I have never had supply issues, but about 3 months ago, J-Bean decided she wanted to nurse exclusively on my right breast. When I initially noticed this becoming an issue, I began to pump and hand express my left to keep up supply (and more importantly, symmetry.) Of course, I kept trying to get her to nurse on both sides, but it soon became clear that she was just not interested and I all but gave up on poor Lefty.

     Fast-forward to last month and I am chatting with the lovely ladies at my local cloth diaper store. I mentioned that I blog, and before I left, I was given a MilkMakers lactation cookie to review. I go into all of my reviews a skeptic, and this was no exception. But, let me tell you... I definitely noticed an increase in my supply, especially on the left side. Was it my imagination? Maybe. But more than likely, it was actually the natural galactagogues. (I learned that word from the manager at Mami's and Papi's! She is the local LLL leader.)

     From the MilkMakers website:
What's a galactagogue?
Lactation cookies are a traditional lactation remedy. Our recipe uses oats, brewers yeast and flax seed. These are natural galactagogues, which means that they help promote an abundant supply of breastmilk.
If you're in need of a breastmilk boost, try eating one to two delicious lactation cookies every day. While every woman's body is different, most moms notice an increase in their milk supply after a few days.
Store milkmakers in the freezer to maintain freshness. They'll soften up after just a few minutes when you take them out.

     If you are in need of a boost (and you don't enjoy the maple syrup smell side effect of taking Fenugreek) MilkMakers cookies are a pretty darn tasty option! You can order one of two flavors: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip (which I tasted and can TOTALLY vouch for, especially when dunked in coconut milk. *drool*) and Oatmeal Raisin, which is dairy-free.

Ordering options:
- Starter pack (10 cookies, $19.99)
- Mom on-the-go (20 individually wrapped cookies, $39.99)
- One month supply (30 cookies, $49.99)
- Monthly subscription ($49.99 monthly, FREE shipping)

     With any order aside from the Starter Pack, you can choose one flavor or a combination of both. With your One Month Supply or Monthly Subscription, you can also choose bags, individually wrapped cookies (great for throwing in the diaper bag), or a combination of both.

The fine print:
* Each cookie is 220-230 calories. Factor that into your daily intake if you are still trying to shake those last few lbs of baby weight. Luckily, they are organic and fairly healthy calories.
* If you have allergies, these may not work for you. Both recipes contain wheat, soy, and eggs. However, the Oatmeal Raisin recipe is dairy-free, both are nut-free, and gluten-free options may be available in the future.
* Yes, you can make them yourself. There are recipes floating around the internet for lactation cookies that include the "milk-making" ingredients (oats, flax seed, and brewer's yeast) but some of us cannot bake cookies worth crap (or just don't have the time) and brewer's yeast can be expensive and hard to find.

     If you're struggling to maintain a supply or plan to go back to work, order a Starter Pack in your preferred flavor and see what happens. At the very least, you'll be treating yourself to a couple yummy cookies a day. ;)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cloth diapers: a grassroots industry in a capitalist society

Cloth diapers are becoming trendy. Usually when certain movements, styles, or products become trendy, big business jumps on the chance to turn a quick profit. When profit takes top priority, quantity goes up and (generally speaking) quality goes down. In the case of cloth diapers, however, I have noticed a mutual understanding between manufacturers and consumers.

There are obviously exceptions, but most producers of cloth diapers and diapering accessories are small businesses or started out that way. With the help of Etsy, HyenaCart, and similar outlets, individuals and small companies are able to sell their products with very few overhead costs. This aids in their ability to focus on the quality of their products instead of paying rent, utilities, staff, insurance, inventory, etc. Many of these businesses even specialize in (and pride themselves on) custom orders.

The brick and mortar stores have a place in this industry as well. At least, the small locally-owned ones. They deliver personal services that Target and Babies R Us can't even dream of matching. (I dare you to ask the cashier at Wal-Mart if she knows your name. She probably won't recall any conversations you've had about co-sleeping or poopy diapers either.) Most also offer classes on wash routines, babywearing, breastfeeding, and parenting. My local store, Mami's and Papi's, is literally a Mom-and-Pop shop so I know that the money I spend is going to the food on their dinner table, homeschooling supplies, and bill payments, not speedboats, mansions, and private planes. The best part, if you have any questions you'll almost never hear, "I don't know if we can do that. Let me ask my manager." And if you do, you know you won't have to wait 20-30 minutes to speak to said manager.

Cloth diaper consumers, again there are exceptions, are also willing to go out of their way in terms of time, money, or both, for quality and to support WAHMs and small businesses. There is a reason that your chances of finding cloth diapers at national retailers is slim to none. They can't compete! Let's keep it that way, mamas! Continue to support your favorite businesses and keep QUALITY the priority of this industry.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

January makes eight.


     We are officially 2/3 of the way to your first birthday. Wow! Where do I begin? This past month has brought all sorts of milestones. First, you started crawling. Then Mommy and Daddy had to splurge on a baby fence to keep you corralled in the living room. Soon after, you started pulling up on the couch and the recliner, and (your favorite) the TV stand, which is now blocked off by three pillows and a ruck sack.
     You celebrated your first Christmas! First, Grandma and Grandpa U came to visit and they spoiled us all! While they were here, you cut your first tooth! Then Grandma and Grandpa W treated us to a vacation to a B & B in Salado and you got to meet Auntie Erin for the first time. (You LOVED playing with her!)

You <3 these blocks!
     You got a few toys, books, and clothes, (and diapers!*squee*) but nobody went overboard, which pleased Mommy.

     I love you more and more everyday, so much sometimes that I feel like my heart is going to explode. To keep that from happening, I just smother you with hugs and kisses. And I will keep doing that until you stop letting me.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Best laid plans...

Well, Whole30 will just have to wait. Of course, the night before I had planned to start prepping my meals, I got a nasty stomach bug and meat and eggs still don't sound very appealing. I did make a yummy salad:

-shredded chicken
-grape tomatoes
-baby spinach
-artichoke hearts
-olive oil
-balsamic vinegar
-a dash of garlic salt

Not a lot of prep at all. The chicken took the longest, because I thawed it and then put it in the slow cooker for 3 hours on high. Other than that, all you have to do is peel and dice or slice the cucumbers and throw everything together. :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A goal without a plan is just a wish.

     After a chaotic holiday filled with long car trips, visits from the family, and TONS of food, I think now is a great time to reset our habits and routines. Improve upon the healthy ones, and ditch whatever isn't helping you toward your goals. I think most people have the best of intentions when they make a list of New Year's Resolutions (as they do with diets) but very few come up with detailed plans on how to achieve (or maintain) these "goals." Whatever your goals or resolutions are for this year, don't forget to make a plan.

     One goal I have (a "wish" of mine for several years) is to maintain a primarily grain-free/sugar-free/dairy-free diet. I've tried and failed the 21-day Sugar Detox. I'll admit I was pretty unprepared for just how horrible I would feel after only ONE day. I've posted before about how sneaky and unrelenting an addiction to carbohydrates can be, and my brief experience with trying to shake it was proof enough for me that it was time to gain control of what I was putting into my body.

     While I don't know if I can physically handle something as extreme as a detox right now, I am still committed to ridding myself of this dependence. I've looked into trying the Whole30, a similar (short-term) plan intended to help reset your palate and stanch your cravings. The main difference for me (aside from the obviously longer time table) is that the Whole 30 is not quite as restrictive of fruits. While meals should be mainly comprised of lean proteins and vegetables, fruits are not... forbidden. (Sorry. I couldn't help myself.)

     I will be doing my grocery shopping today and meal prepping tomorrow, so Thursday will be Day 1. If anyone is interested in joining me, here are some helpful links:

Whole30 shopping list:

Whole30 meal-planning template:

Whole30 forum:

Whole30 Daily (paid subscription)