One of my resolutions for 2017 was to do more traveling. At the beginning of each month, I check in on my resolutions list to see how I'm progressing toward my goals, and I realized this month that I haven't touched my traveling goal at all. I can safely say that traveling is our favorite family activity (yes, even with a toddler). We love seeking out adventures, experiencing new places together, and showing our enthusiastic little one this big, wide world. So why have we been in such a rut these past few months?
Whenever we discuss travel plans, there always seem to be the same road blocks that come up over and over again. Money is one of them. Vacation time is another. When we put our mind to it, we do a decent job mitigating these things by taking weekend road trips. We don't mind driving and we don't mind staying in cheap hotels (as long as they are safe and clean), which gives us plenty of options for affordable weekend adventures. Yet this year we've barely managed to scrape ourselves out of our neighborhood to take a single day trip to the beach. Laaaaaaaame. So what's been the hold up? It finally dawned on my this past weekend....
Last Friday, I sent a text to Brandon in the morning telling him that I really wanted to get out of town to clear my mind after a hectic week. Like the awesome husband he is, he booked us a surprise weekend trip and had everything packed and ready to go by the time I got home on Friday night. We ended spending the weekend in Newport, which is a beach town about 3 hours from where we live. On our way down, I asked Brandon what the weather was supposed to be like over the weekend, and his answer surprised me: "I don't know, I didn't look." In my type-A brain, alarms and red flags were shooting up all over the place. What if it rained the whole time? What if we didn't get even get to play on the beach? How could he have adequately prepared not even knowing what to expect of the weather?
Well it turns out, the weather SUCKED. The whole time. It was rainy, windy, and really cold. It even hailed, and then snowed for a bit. But guess what - we had an awesome time anyway.
I realized quickly that one of the big reasons I'd been putting off travel plans was because of the weather. Oregon weather in the winter and early spring months is nothing to write home about. 95% rain, 4% hail, and a 1% (slight chance) of sun. Since we tend spend a lot of time outdoors wherever we go, I think that in my subconscious mind I was avoiding the possibility of going somewhere and not being able to do anything fun because of the weather. But Brandon's laid back attitude showed me different. We are not the kind of family that shies away from bad weather. We pack our rain boots and nerdy rain pants and outside we go. Moral of the story - I'm going to try reeeaaally hard to not even look at the weather forecast when we think of planning a weekend trip somewhere from now on.
Every year in the month of February, the winter blues really start to set in for me. I don't feel it much in November or December with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or even in January since we have a lot of family birthdays to keep up with. But come February, the dark and gloomy days really start to affect my energy levels and sometimes even my sleep quality. One of the culprits I'm sure is the fact that I live in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, a list recently published by smart asset.com ranked Portland, Oregon as #3 on the list of cities with the most depressing winters. #1 was Anchorage, and #2 was Seattle. (see article here https://smartasset.com/mortgage/cities-least-depressing-winters). Not too surprising, since this is typically what our weekly weather forecast looks like:
It was even worse when we lived in Alaska. In the thick of winter, the sun would rise around 10:30 am and set at 3:30 pm. During the week I would rarely even see daylight hours since I was stuck inside a building with very few windows at work. That left me with 10 precious hours to soak up the daylight during the weekend...10 hours TOTAL per WEEK of daylight! It was during this time that I really started to experience symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It was also during this time that I came up with some strategies to help me beat the winter blues.
1. A Happy Light. This was one of my happiest discoveries when we lived in Alaska. A Happy Light is a bright lamp that gives off spectrally balanced light (which is supposed to simulate daylight), designed to help improve mood, energy, and concentration. I generally turn mine on in the morning and set it on my dining room table while I eat breakfast and check emails/work on my laptop. I really do feel like it makes a difference in my energy levels for the day, especially the first part of the day. The general recommendation is to sit by the light for 30 minutes per day, preferably right after waking up. A word of caution: I tried to use the light in the evening when I was feeling down and it actually negatively affected my sleep that night.
2. An engaging book. After Avery goes to sleep, one of my favorite things to do is curl up in bed and get lost in a good book. Part of my struggle with the winter blues is having a really hard time falling asleep. I can't ever seem to turn my brain off, and will often lie in bed for hours trying to get to sleep. I get frustrated because I can't sleep, which makes me less likely to fall asleep, and so on. Reading before bed has been a lifesaver in this case. My book makes me look forward to getting into bed rather than dreading it. It also helps me shut off all the noise in my brain and focus only on what I'm reading. This is the book I've been loving this past week (review coming later):
3. Getting outside (even in the rain). This one is SO important for my sanity! One of my favorite rituals has become taking out the trash and checking the mail on work nights, because it gets me outside on days that I would normally be stuck indoors all day. On my days off, Avery and I make sure to get a little fresh air every day, rain or shine, and it helps enhance my mood and energy A LOT.
4. Regular exercise. Surprise, surprise, right? Some good workout music, my garage, and a hard sweat session always works in boosting my energy levels for the day.
5. A cozy home. During the winter months we spend a lot of time indoors, which is why I have started to make an extra effort during the winter to keep our home a cozy and relaxing place to be. An important part of this is keeping the house clean. I alway feel a sense of unrest when the house is upside-down, so Brandon and I have agreed to make a daily habit out of picking up toys, doing the dishes every night, etc. to help keep our house as clutter-free as possible during the winter. I also like to bring out soft throw blankets and candles in the evenings to add to the coziness of home.
6. Vacation planning. January and February are my favorite times to plan our vacations for the year. It helps me transport myself to a sunny, warm place even if the day is dreary and dark. This year we have a few camping trips, a summer Alaska trip, and a surprise trip on the books so far. The anticipation alone is enough to lift my spirits on a cold February day.
Any other suggestions for how to beat the winter blues? Please let me know in the comments!
Today, I want to share a little bit about what I do as a pediatric physical therapist. Besides treating kiddos with various diagnoses in a traditional clinic setting, I'm lucky to work at a place where I also have access to the amazing treatment tool that is hippotherapy. Rehab for hippos?? (what I typically hear when I first introduce kids to hippotherapy). Not quite. Hippotherapy = the use of horseback riding as therapeutic treatment delivered by a licensed physical, occupational, or speech therapist. When I first learned about hippotherapy, I have to admit I was skeptical. How could riding a horse be useful in teaching a child with cerebral palsy to walk? Or in strengthening a child with Down syndrome? I've been working with horses for over a year now and have learned SO much since then. I've seen first hand just how many therapeutic benefits riding a horse actually has, a few of which are I've listed below.
When a horse walks, the way their pelvis moves in a 3-dimensional motion very closely mimics the way a human pelvis moves during gait. A person riding a horse therefore gets very similar movement in their spine, hips, and pelvis as they would if they were walking. This makes horseback riding an incredible tool in teaching someone how to walk. The motion of the horse and the warmth of the horse's body can also help to ease joint/muscle stiffness for kids with high muscle tone or spasticity. On the other hand, kids with excess mobility at their joints (such as in Down syndrome) and poor muscle control can benefit from riding a horse too. As the horse moves, the rider must engage their core muscles and recruit balance and postural control strategies in order to remain upright and stable. If you've ever ridden a horse, you know that it takes some leg and core muscle action to stay on, especially when the horse moves over an uneven surface or changes its speed. As a therapist, I can take advantage of the various ways a horse moves (faster vs. slower, in straight line vs. tight circles, etc.) to achieve whatever goal I'm working toward with a kiddo. A big bonus is that the kids LOVE their horse time. You just can't bond with a therapy ball the way you can connect with a horse.
Ok, so now to step off my PT soapbox for a bit and get back to what inspired this post in the first place - taking Avery for her first solo horseback ride. Among the perks of working at a clinic with a barn and horses is getting to teach my own kiddo how to ride. The very first time I put Avery on a horse, she was 20 months old. This is how that went down:
She eventually warmed up to the idea, but would only ride if I was sitting with her. Fast forward several months to her second attempt this past weekend...
She did AMAZING! I was so proud of my little munchkin. She was sat up tall, kept her little body in alignment through sharp turns, and even rode with her hands high in the air using only her leg and core muscles for support. She wasn't afraid of the horse at all, either. In fact, connecting with the horse seemed so natural to her. All of our horses (we have 5) are so gentle and loving with the kids. They are amazing animals, and if you have any children, whether they need therapy or not, I strongly encourage you to give them an opportunity to connect with at some point in their youth.
I'm a firm believer in that everyone needs to have a happy place. I'm not talking about the cliche state of mind where you imagine yourself going when life gets tough. I'm talking about an actual physical location where you can go to escape stress, relax, rejuvenate, and feel completely present and at ease. Brandon and I had a conversation the other day about our "happy place" in each of the states we've lived in. In New Mexico, Brandon's was a haystack. He liked to sit on top of that haystack to watch sunsets as he was growing up on his parents' ranch. In Alaska, mine was the boat docks on the Homer spit. It had a fantastic view of Kachemak Bay and the mountains/glaciers jutting out of it. This past weekend, we got to take a trip to my Oregon happy place: Seaside.
Seaside is hands-down my favorite spot on the Oregon coast. It's small enough to be walkable yet has everything you could ever want from a beach town - a beachfront promenade, arcade, salt water taffy shop (where you always get free samples), aquarium, beach shops, brewery, hiking, kayaking, etc. etc. etc. Seaside also holds a special place in my heart because I have so many wonderful memories of coming here with my family as a kid. It was awesome to see Avery enjoying the things that I used to love (and still do) in Seaside, and we truly had the best family day that we've had in a long time.
What's your happy place? I'd love to hear in the comments!
Ah, Monday. I tend to feel the most motivated on Mondays when it comes to exercise, which is why I typically tackle my least favorite workouts on Mondays - upper body. Allow me to explain. My favorite type of workout: lower body. There are so many cardio options you can add in when you work out your legs, so I always feel like I get the best bang for my buck with lower body workouts. Next on my list: abs. Because, who doesn't love a six pack? Last on my list: upper body. I struggle to find good bodyweight exercises to work my arms/upper body. There are only so many push-ups and tricep dips a girl can do before she gets bored. And I get bored quickly. One solution I've found - circuit workouts. They are the answer to all my of low motivation, exercise burn-out, and upper body strength training woes. The fast pace and variety of a circuit workout always keeps me energized and engaged. I get a good sweat going and I'm usually done in 30 minutes or less. I put together an upper body circuit over the weekend that was actually (sort of) fun, and of course included push-ups and tricep dips. Here it is:
The other solution I've found to beat my upper body blues is a few pieces of exercise equipment. I'm all about minimalism when it comes to working out, but I have to admit that having some dumbbells and a medicine ball adds variety to my exercise regimen and helps keep me motivated. Okay, okay, I have a jump rope too. And a step stool. But THATS IT.
Guys. I have a new breakfast obsession.
I discovered Kefir recently right before a big winter storm was supposed to hit us. I went to the grocery store to stock up on essentials in case we wouldn't be able to get out of the house for a few days, and apparently everyone else had the same idea. The store shelves were literally empty. I'm talking a big, chain grocery store, yet they were completely out of milk AND yogurt (a winter storm for Portlanders is akin to an apocalyptic event). I need dairy in the morning to survive, so I just grabbed a bottle of Kefir since it was close to where the milk used to be. Best. Decision. Ever.
Kefir isn't called "the champagne of dairy" for nothing. It has a fizzy nature and is just the right amount of tart and smooth. It's basically like drinkable yogurt, but better. Its a much more powerful probiotic than yogurt, its high in protein, calcium and vitamin D, it has anti-cancer properties, anti-microbial properties, AND it's 99% lactose-free. I've been making smoothies every morning for Avery and I using Kefir and she loves it too. We have a system where she gets to pick our smoothie color for the day, and I get to load us up on vitamins/nutrients etc. For example...
Green smoothie = Kefir + spinach + banana + almond butter.
Pink smoothie = Kefir + strawberries + banana + chia seeds.
Purple smoothie = Kefir + frozen blueberries + banana.
White smoothie = Kefir + banana + flax.
I promise this post isn't a promotion or plug for Kefir in any way. Its just that awesome that I felt I had to share. I always buy the plain variety because it's lower in sugar and I can dress it up however I want, but the blueberry flavor has been calling my name and I'm sure it will end up in my fridge in the near future.
It's no secret that "me time" pretty much goes out the window when you become a mommy....with the sweet exception of naps. Aaaahhhh naps. Every parenting book and online forum says that toddlers generally nap until the age of 3. My little one, on the other hand, had different ideas. She stopped napping a little before she turned 2, which left me in the dark about how I was supposed to get anything done. Ever. Because at age 2, a busy toddler needs pretty much constant supervision/attention. It's been a work in progress but I've managed to come up with some ways to squeeze in a little "me time" on most days. Even in the absence of sweet, sweet nap time.
1. Quiet time where nap time used to be. Regardless of whether Avery sleeps or not, I've still stuck to our afternoon nap schedule. This means that between 1 and 2 o'clock, we wind down with some story time in her reading nook and then I put her in her crib. I tell her "it's nap time," give her a kiss, and tuck her in. About 4 seconds later, I watch through the monitor as she kicks the blankets off herself and starts jumping on the bed. She'll talk to her stuffed animals, sing, jump some more, do some weird yoga poses, and so on. She tried to climb out of the crib once, but we nipped that in the bud quickly by moving her mattress to the floor. No way she is scaling a crib wall that is higher than the level of her head (I hope). So while Avery has her "quiet time" in her crib, I take some time for myself to unwind. She usually lasts 20-30 minutes, which is just enough time for me to drink a cup of coffee and get a few household things done. I find that this really helps me get re-energized for the afternoon/evening and allows me to be more present and attentive with Avery. Plus I truly think it's good for her to have some time to herself too.
2. Early mornings. I've always been a morning person, but even more so now. I love the quiet and the solitude of the hours before everyone wakes up. I get ample "me time" in the early morning of 2+ hours during which I can easily fit in a workout, shower, breakfast, and some reading without interruption. It does mean that I have to get to bed early, often right after we put Avery down between 8:30-9:00, but I typically have no trouble crashing at that time after a busy day.
3. Digital babysitter. People have lots of opinions about this one- here's mine: I'm okay with Avery watching a little TV or the iPad when I need to focus my attention elsewhere. I usually let her watch a show while I cook dinner. And drink a little wine in the meantime. Of course we filter what she watches and limit it to educational kids shows (Frozen IS educational, thank you. Very important moral lessons). We also generally limit screen time to 30 minutes or so per day (on most days....). As an added bonus, Avery will generally agree to sit on the potty in order to "earn" her screen time. Win-win.
4. Human babysitter. This one is obvious, yet we find ourselves rarely using this option. Since Avery is with a sitter during our work week, we want to spend as much time with her as possible during non-working hours. The balance we have found here is to let Avery spend one night per month at her grandparents house so that Brandon and I can go on a monthly date night. It's been great for our marriage, and a great way for Avery to bond with her grandparents too.
5. Dedicated relax time. I've really tried to be intentional about taking some time each day to relax. Even if it's just 1-2 minutes of deep breathing (let's be honest, while checking my Instagram feed). I can always find 1 or 2 minutes while Avery plays, or while she is eating in her high chair, or even while she is watching her 30 minutes of TV. Again, it's a way for me to re-set and try to let go of any stress/worry so that I can be a better wife and mommy for the rest of the day.
6. Involving the kiddo. Counter-intuitive, right? Sometimes "me time" takes the form of me sharing something I love with Avery, and it's totally rejuvenating. Don't get me wrong, this is not easy to do. Late night baking with some wine in hand = relaxing. Baking with a 2 year-old = not relaxing. Fun, but not relaxing. It just has to be the right activity. For example, a low key workout. Avery likes to jam out with me to Toddler Dance Radio while we do squats, push-ups, tuck jumps, etc. Sometimes she likes to by my resistance too (see photo below). Another example is going for a walk. They are usually short walks and we typically stop at every fourth rock we see, but its quite refreshing to just be outdoors and see my toddler enjoying something that I love so much.
Any other ideas you guys have would be greatly appreciated! Especially how any "me time" is had with 2+ kiddos....
Our little munchkin has officially entered the toddler years. It was a little hard to find birthday party ideas at this age, being that she is a winter baby. She gets nervous when too many people are in our house, so a house party was out of the question. Too young for bowling, arcade, or an indoor jungle gym (the little ones always get trampled by the bigger kids). Too cold to do anything outdoors. And so forth. After talking to lots of mommy friends, we finally settled on an indoor bounce house place that is specifically for kids under age 5 called JJ Jump. It was fantastic. Adults are allowed to go with their kiddos into each of the bouncers, so there was fun to be had for everyone.
Since our little lady was turning 2, it was only right that she had 2 of everything this birthday. Two birthday outfits...
Two birthday cakes.... (the Humpty Dumpty a birthday surprise to Avery from her amazing babysitter...)
And 2x the birthday presents she got last year...
This birthday was a lot of fun because unlike her first birthday, Avery understood what was going on and was SO excited about all of it. We now spend more time than ever throwing birthday parties for stuffed animals and re-creating the whole experience. This one will definitely be hard to beat next year.
Hi friends! We've had a super busy week with lots of family in town and Avery's 2nd birthday. I plan on writing up a post about her birthday party when I get some time, but for now, I just wanted to pop in and share a fun new workout I put together over the weekend. It requires no equipment and incorporates a little bit of everything - cardio, lower body, upper body, and abs. I sped through this workout in about 20 minutes, taking a rest break only between the two pyramid sets. It's a sweaty one!
Icemaggedon was upon us this past weekend. It all started with a little dusting of snow on Saturday morning, which then quickly turned into freezing rain and resulted in ever accumulating layers of ice all over Portland. Flights in/out were cancelled, roads were closed, businesses shut down, etc., which forced us to stay home aaaaaalllllll weekend long. This was REALLY hard for my stir-crazy, type-A self who approached the weekend with a lengthy to-do list (which did not include being stuck at home for two days). Avery has some of my personality in that she gets stir crazy pretty quickly too, so this weekend I had to shift my focus away from my to-do list and onto finding ways to keep my toddler busy indoors. Here are a few ideas that work well in our household.
1. CAR WASH. 1 tupperware container containing water + 1 empty hand soap bottle filled with water and a little dish soap + 1 old toothbrush + 1 old kitchen towel = 1 squeaky clean set of toy cars.
2. PLAY DOUGH SURPRISES. What toddler doesn't love play dough? For a fun tabletop activity, I like to hide small toys (or a chocolate coin if I’m feeling generous) inside balls of play dough and have Avery open them to reveal the surprise inside. This activity is a gem because it keeps her busy for at least half an hour, sometimes more.
3. ART PROJECTS. Messy, for sure, but it helps my sanity to keep the mess art contained to a small area. I block off the entrance to our kitchen so that I only have a small portion of wood floor to clean up when it’s all done. Pretty easy. And to be honest, we could have made this even easier by skipping the markers, stamps, and stickers because all Avery really wanted to do was bedazzle everything in glitter (a girl after my own heart).
4. PEELING. Whenever I have a manual peeling project to do, I put Avery in her high chair and let her go to town. She LOVES peeling hard boiled eggs, small oranges, bananas, etc. This weekend, I gave her a dozen hard boiled eggs to peel for a casserole I was making. 40 minutes later I had 12 peeled eggs, ample time to assemble dinner, and one very proud toddler. Bonus - peeling is a great fine motor activity.
5. GROWING ANIMAL CAPSULES. I buy a pack of these every time I go to the dollar store. They are cheap an amzing. There are 12 capsules in a pack and when you put them in warm water, the capsules dissolve to reveal a foam animal inside. There is so much you can do with these things - try to guess which animal is going to come out, name the animals, name the sounds they make, match the animals to the pictures on the box, etc. Avery and I could do this for hours (toddler hours = lots of minutes).
6. DRY-ERASE ACTIVITY BOOKS. Whoever thought of this idea is a parenting genius. I can work on all kinds of educational stuff with Avery like tracing letters, learning numbers, identifying shapes and so forth while she stays engaged because she gets to draw all over the book we are learning from. AND THEN we get to erase it and do it all over again. It’s a bonus that she loves the erasing part too.
All in all, it turned out to be a great weekend. I had so much fun spending relaxed, quality time with Avery where we just got to focus on playing and nothing else. It was a good reminder for me to slow down and step away from my to-do list once in a while.
I’m Betty and I live in the beautiful pacific northwest. I'm a mommy. Vegetarian. Wife to a meatatarian. Pediatric physical therapist. Outdoor enthusiast. Enjoyer of fitness/healthy living. Even bigger enjoyer wine and chocolate lava cake. And hoping to find some balance between it all.