Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Self-Imposed Time Out

After this giveaway, I will be taking about a week off from blogging, the internet, and my computer in general. I know I've been in and out, and I guess it's because I am kind of ambivalent about the blogging world right now. I want to write, I want to share, but the games get so exhausting and overwhelming that it stops being fun. The frustrating part is that I have SO MUCH to write about and I am too busy to do it! I need to be able to clear my plate a little before I can take the time to do any quality writing. (Which sucks, because I am so excited to have new readers!) I keep saying, "One day, this will be running like a legitimate blog. One day..." But I can't keep up!

I also live with anxiety and depression and my symptoms have been worse since our big move. I feel the constant pressure to be a good mom and wife and I feel like I can't do everything I need to do, which makes me feel inadequate and worthless (as long as we're being honest...) So, what happens instead is I pretend my daily responsibilities don't exist and drown myself in stupid tasks (like playing Candy Crush or watching Season 2 of The Walking Dead for the fourth time.) Of course, that's counter-productive and makes everything worse. The dishes and laundry won't do themselves, and obviously my daughter needs me. I need to dig back in my memory to my early therapy sessions and do what I know will HELP:

1. Make lists. My "wiring" makes it difficult for me to prioritize, so in my head, getting the mail is just as important as showering and checking Facebook is right up there with showering. The only way for me to fix this is to physically write out a list and put things in order of importance from 1 to whatever. This forces me to see what needs to be done FIRST and what can wait. If I don't do this, I get overwhelmed by EVERYTHING that needs to be done and end up doing nothing.

2. Work out. It's tough to get motivated when you are dealing with even a small bout of depression, but medical studies have shown that exercise is proven to help with depression and anxiety. There are both physiological (releasing endorphins, lowering blood pressure) and psychological (gaining confidence, feeling healthier) benefits of exercise.

3. Eat cleaner and healthier foods. I haven't even looked at a Paleo recipe in MONTHS. When I start getting depressed, I tend to eat foods that appease my need for instant gratification. For me, that's anything sweet. A box of cherry cordials from Valentine's Day, cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies, etc. And because of my addiction to sugar, it just snowballs out of control from there. To the point where I NEED to eat at least one sugary food a day or I get a miserable headache.
4. Drink more water. In addition to cleaning up my eating habits, I need to drink more water. This will help me feel full when I am only craving sweets and not actually hungry as well as fighting off fatigue and those nasty headaches.

5. Meditate and play with my baby. Instead of turning to TV and games, I need to work on my breathing (which will help keep my anxiety in check) and PLAY. Nothing in the world makes me happier than hearing my little girl laugh. Getting on the floor and making silly faces, or making a fool out of myself by singing and dancing for her, is truly the best therapy for me right now. So instead of wasting my days on time suckers, I will live in the REAL world for a while. The internet can wait.

Here is what I am working on right now:
Reviewing products for Mami's and Papi's (my awesome local cloth diaper store/baby boutique.)
Becoming certified as an Elite Personal Trainer with ISSA.
Custom orders for my Etsy store.
Organizing and keeping my home.
Watching my baby girl grow up.

So, there is the top of my "Priorities" list. I love to write, but the blog will have to wait until I have a few things figured out. Thank you for understanding! <3

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Handmade from the Heart *GIVEAWAY*

Happy Valentine's Day!
To celebrate Valentine's Day, I've joined the Blogging Mamas Network in the Handmade from the Heart Giveaway Hop!  This Event is all about the Love for Handmade things - each blogger involved, including me, has a great prize for you to enter to win!  

My sponsor, Unique and Chic Creations, is offering a tutu wreath like the one below to one lucky winner!

After you enter my giveaway, be sure to hop around to all the others.
And you definitely don't want to miss the Grand Prize...

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fine print: Open to US only. Winner chooses any two colors and letter initial they'd like. According to Jenny, So Easy Being Green, and the Handmade from the Heart participating bloggers are not responsible for sponsors who do not fulfill prize obligations. Anyone found to have fraudulently claimed an entry will be reported. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

SPONSOR SPOTLIGHT: Unique and Chic Creations

Megan Hamer (KraftinMommy on Etsy) is a former elementary school teacher who now stays home with her baby girl and managed to turn her dream hobby into a business. Full disclosure: She's the sister of an old friend and she specializes in LOVELY custom decor for kids' rooms and events. I super-heart (go ahead and cringe, people, but I mean it!) her work and she has agreed to sponsor me for the Handmade from the Heart giveaway event which begins on TOMORROW!

Her shop features an array of adorable and attentively handcrafted gifts for the littles in your life. She makes name plaques and personalized letters to hang in a nursery or child's room, unique diaper bikes (as opposed to diaper cakes), and ribbon wreaths and banners for any celebration-worthy occasion!

Megan has offered a small tutu wreath, similar to the one above, to the lucky winner of our Handmade from the Heart giveaway!

Quite literally, a rainbow of colors to choose from. You can match ANY decor!
Something about theses wreaths just makes me so happy! I personally plan to order one in orange and blue so I can represent my Florida Gators out here in Texas. ;)

In addition to shopping her Etsy store, check out her blog and follow Unique and Chic Creations on Facebook and Twitter to keep up with sales and giveaways she has going on!

Friday, February 8, 2013

It has been 9 short, incredible months.

Oh, Little Monkey...

I'm typing this in bed from my iPad and you are sleeping right next to me. Funny how I was scared for so long about letting you share my bed and now I can't imagine putting you anywhere else. You are spending more and more time in your own crib, it is attached (sidecar) to ours, which is great because it means more room for everybody!

I know I can never describe you as calm, laid-back, or quiet. You are loud and crazy (just like your mommy!) and such an awesome person. I wouldn't trade a single thing about you. Not even the number of times you (still) wake me up at night, because I know not to long from now, I am going to miss our o'-dark-thirty nursing sessions. You still cry most of the time if I leave your sight for even a second, but I think you're falling in love with your daddy because as soon as he comes home, you smile and squeal and crawl toward him at an impressive speed and suddenly I don't exist. It's fine, I don't blame you. He's a handsome fella. ;)

You are growing so fast, I have to remind myself that soon these moments will all be memories. They aren't ALL fun, sweet memories. For instance, I would love to make a sandwich with two hands again or shower with the curtain closed. But I know I have to take advantage of you wanting to spend so much time with me before it becomes "uncool" or whatever you kids will call it 10 years from now.

You have been doing the most awesome things lately! In the past couple weeks, you've gone from pulling yourself up onto your feet, to standing by yourself, to taking legitimate BABY STEPS! I can't believe the girl who wouldn't roll over until three months ago is going to be walking soon. That's crazy! You also keep stealing my food. You have officially shown disinterest in purées and you made your point very clearly when you ate half of my banana yesterday and then stole my apple from my lunch this afternoon toting it around the living room and gnawing on it like a little squirrel. I get it, you're a big girl. Time for big girl food. *sniffle*

Nakie baby chewing on my apple.
Every day I think, "There is no possible way I could love her any more than I do right now." But then the next day, I do.

A million hugs and kisses,

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

REVIEW: Sew Silly Designs

I know I said I was moving away from cloth diaper-related posts, but I saw Kammie, the mama behind Sew Silly Designs at a local community fair and I caught myself drooling over her diapers. I am such a sucker for cute prints, and I kept going back to stalk her table even though I didn't have any money. I contacted her a few weeks ago about possibly reviewing a diaper of hers and she sent me one! *yay*

The first thing I noticed was how lush and soft the inside of the diaper was. And the insert is made with the same cotton velour material as well. [I hate when a cover or AI2 is minky inside and then it gets covered by a less luxurious diaper or insert, so this made me happy!] According to the Sew Silly Designs Etsy store, "The insert is made with 2 layers of matching CV and 6 layers of absorbent, all natural fiber, pre-washed bamboo fleece."

Another thing I love is that this particular diaper is an AI2 with a cotton outer layer and a hidden layer of PUL, which means it looks like an adorable fitted, but doesn't need a cover!

This is a one-size diaper, which means it has three different rise snap settings, and they run a bit larger than typical OS diapers, so they should fit babies from 10lbs. through potty training. You can even use the shell as undies while potty training!

At first I had issues with gaping at the legs, but I am certain it was user error, because the next time I put it OTB, it didn't seem quite as bad. If the insert seems a little thick, you can always switch it out for a trimmer one in your stash. (I used a BabyKicks hemp insert the second time just for comparison's sake and it worked just fine.) The only change I would make to this diaper is adding an extra row of waist/hip snaps to reduce "wing droop." It's purely aesthetic, as it doesn't affect the function of the diaper at all. Lucky for you, if you want a double row of snaps, you can request one for $1.50 extra.

All in all, I LOVE this diaper. I honestly do. It fits my chunkster around the thighs, which is a feat! The print is one of MANY adorable prints she has available. It also fits around the waist with room to grow. If you have a small or thin, lanky baby, the waist snaps cross over for a tighter fit.

Where can you get a Sew Silly Designs cloth diaper?
You can find OS AI2s, newborn AI2s, and OS fitteds in the Sew Silly Designs store on Etsy. She also does custom orders!

If you want to see what prints she has in stock, LIKE the Sew Silly Designs Facebook page! Stalk away, I know I do!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Mastering the SQUAT

[This guest post was written by my amazingly smart and talented husband. He taught me everything I know about lifting. Please take the time to read what he has to say. It is a bit long, but provides important safety information that could not be omitted.]     

     When it comes to getting the most bang for your training buck, it doesn't get better than squats.  People have been scared away from the squat rack for years because of misinformation, either regarding possible health concerns from squats, or confusion and conflicting information about form.   

     This confusion makes sense on a certain level, because the squat can be a complex movement to perform, and if performed wrong there is in fact the potential for injury. But with the right resources you can use squats to SAFELY improve your strength.

                Many have argued that the squat is not a safe or natural movement. If you are concerned, simply watch any young child pick something up off the ground. Perfect squat form! 

Photo by of willsansbury via Flickr

Photo by CrossFit Chicago, via Flickr

     You may have trouble with squats at first. Humans are meant to be able to squat down to the ground. Instead we spend all day sitting in chairs and never walking more than 10 feet without requiring some form of transportation. The result is that our hips and hamstrings tighten up as we age, to a point where squatting seems as foreign to us as, well, running.  Or jumping. Or anything we're supposed to be able to do but can't anymore because we're lazy.

     If you watch an Olympic weightlifter and a powerlifter squat next to each other you'll probably notice a lot of differences. Some prefer to keep their stance at shoulder width, while others prefer to place their feet much wider apart. Some hold the bar a little higher on their back, while others hold the bar a bit lower. 
     The only real limitation as far as where you hold the bar on your back is that if you get too high, you'll find that the bar starts to sit on your spine, which is definitely something to avoid.  The bar should always be on muscle as you hold it.

Olympic lifters:
Photo: CrossFit Chicago via Flickr.
Photo: Maloney Performance

Photo: Ironman Magazine

Photo: CrossFit Oakland

     Now let's look at what all of these strong people are doing the same. They all push their knees OUT to the sides as they squat down. You may find while squatting that as you start to push yourself back up your knees start to come in towards each other. This is a big no-no. Push your knees out hard as you complete the entire lift. It may help to think of trying to push the floor apart under you with your feet.  As your hips get stronger, your knees will stay out on their own.
     Another thing you'll see in the pictures is that the back is arched and the butt sticks out. A slightly arched back can hold more weight than one without an arch, and keeping an arch in your back will also tighten your core muscles and protect you as you begin to lift heavier weights.
     In the end, there are 2 simple thoughts that you need to keep in mind while squatting -- butt back, knees out. Start the lift by sticking your butt back like you’re trying to sit on the toilet, then push your knees out as if you have a gut and you need to make "room" for it between your legs as you squat down.

     One thing is for sure; almost everyone you see squatting at your local gym isn't going deep enough. The general rule for good depth is that you should go down to parallel. For our purposes, parallel means that the hip is at the same height as the top of the knee, resulting in the upper thigh being parallel to the ground. Focus on stretching every day, as well as keeping your knees out and butt back, and go as deep as you can. Eventually you'll find that you can reach parallel with no problems. If you want to get the most out of squats, there's nothing wrong with going even deeper than parallel.
      So, if our goal is to go as deep as possible, when do we know that we are going too far? Well, as you descend, eventually you'll reach a point where you lose the arch in your lower back and your butt begins to tuck under. This is known as "butt wink" in the lifting world, and it should be avoided. Do your best to stop just shy of this point, and you should be getting great depth in your squats.

                 DON'T be afraid to go deep. It's more effective to take a lighter weight and squat it deep with good form than to throw a ton of weight on your back and do half reps. In fact, this tendency to do super heavy half-squats is the main reason why squats got such a horrible reputation. When you stop half way down all of the pressure is put on the tendons on the front of the knee as you stop and change direction. If, on the other hand, you descend as far as possible, the pressure is evenly distributed throughout the entire structure of the knee. This leads to a healthy, strong knee that will allow you to be more active throughout your life.

 HOW MANY REPS SHOULD I DO?               
     So now that we know how to perform a squat, the only thing left to figure out is just how many squats we need to do. My suggestion to you is the keep your sets of squats at 3-8 reps. I know, this goes against most advice you'll get. Magazines will all tell you to do higher reps for "toning". Let’s talk about toning; it doesn't exist. 

4 things can happen when you exercise:

1. Your muscles get bigger.

2. Your muscles get smaller.

3. You lose fat.

4. You gain fat.

     I understand that it probably isn't your goal to get "big". Don't worry. Getting huge muscles doesn't happen accidentally. It takes years of effort with a focus on gaining size to get huge muscles, if it happens at all. Instead, what people usually refer to as "toning" is a combination of gaining a little muscle size while losing some fat. So don't be afraid to gain a little muscle size. This is part of the reason why I suggest lower reps per set compared with most conventional, fitness magazine-style advice. 

     Another reason to keep your reps lower per set is that you should NOT be going to failure with squats. This will lead to a severe breakdown in form that could lead to injury. The third, final, and most important reason I suggest lower reps is that it is MUCH easier to keep good form if you keep your reps under 10. You're going to get better results from 6 sets of 5 than you will from 3 sets of 10, because you'll be able to use a little more weight with better form, even though you'll end up doing the same number of reps.

Take Home Points

  • Keep the bar on muscle, not bone.
  • Start the squat by sticking out your butt, then descend by pushing your knees out to the side.
  • Go deep, but not so deep that your butt tucks under.
  • Keep your reps at 3-8 per set. 
  • Keep your form tight.
  • Don't push yourself to failure.

                Squats can be the biggest weapon in your exercise arsenal. They can reshape your butt and thighs into statuesque hunks of gorgeous Greek granite, and make your joints so healthy that you may be able to do super human feats, such as picking up a pen from the ground without having to hold onto a chair or table. Do you really need any more coaxing? Get to it!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Your Guide to the Weight Room: Form

[The FULL "form" portion of this series is going to be split up because I want to be thorough and give you enough examples and information. My husband is also ghostwriting each post for me and he has a full-time job, so it may take a little longer than I expected. (Does it count as ghostwriting if I tell you he's doing it?) Anyway, here is the intro and some links to great sites for female lifters.] 

Instead of wasting your time with "butt boosters" and "slimming swirls" (true story, those are actual "moves" published by Fitness Magazine. EYE. ROLL.) or doing 100 reps of bicep curls with 3lb. weights, there are THREE moves you can do that will activate all major muscle groups, and you don't need to be a professional choreographer to figure them out.

Cut your time at the gym while getting a full-body workout with squats, deadlifts, and bench press. Each exercise activates most (if not all) of your major muscle groups. This is something you will not get from machines. The reason there are 1000 machines at the gym is because they all focus on ONE muscle. What a waste of time. As long as you use proper form, the "big three" are all you need to get started in the weight room.

Some of my favorite "Motivation Inspiration" sites:
The Petite Athleat
Real Girls Lift Heavy
Elite FTS training logs (I <3 their pics/videos!)
     Jennifer Petrosino
     Molly Edwards
     Hannah Johnson
     Julia Ladewski

These girls all lift competitively, they are all strong, and they are all real. Everyone starts somewhere, and these chicks inspire me to keep getting stronger so I can end up far far away from where I started.

What gets you motivated to work out? Videos? Pictures? Quotes? Music?

Obligatory disclaimers:

*If you are working with free weights for the first time, practice in the mirror with no weight at first, then start the lift with just the bar. And PLEASE use a spotter!

*Yes, some of the videos in the links are of girls lifting really heavy weights. PLEASE don't let that intimidate you. The idea is to watch their form. Good form should be the same regardless of your height, weight, age, or gender, and whether you are warming up with an empty bar or going for a max.

*I am not a fitness professional. I just play one on the Internet. 

*I am not a doctor. I cannot diagnose or fix your aches and pains.  

*The information presented in this blog is for your entertainment and should not be used in place of medical advice. Use your common sense when making choices regarding your health and safety. Please and thank you. ;)