Meeting of the Moms

photo

Today, I decided to take Sophie to a MOM group, despite my reservations (based on my previous experience). I feel like Sophie could benefit for numerous reasons:

1. It’s important for her to get other kid stimulation. A great way to learn!

2. Doing outdoor activities is better for her lungs!

3. I am going out of my fucking mind, and if I have to listen to one more children’s song or play hide-‘n-seek or talk in a high-pitched voice as I maniacally trot behind my daughter because she is just learning to run so really playing hide-‘n-seek is fruitless at this point – I might internally combust.

So.

I pulled up to the beautiful community center exactly one minute past the starting time. No matter that this was Sophie’s nap time and she hadn’t yet fallen asleep. No matter that she hadn’t had a mid-morning snack and she was grunting at me as I tried to hoist her out of her car seat. We were doing this, dammit. I needed to meet more moms.

I entered the community center, feeling my heartbeat escalate. I always get nervous in new situations, especially when I don’t know anyone (hence being called a teacher’s pet most of my youth. Why? Because adults would actually talk to me instead of being stupid fucking kids with smart mouths, bad hygeine, and overly obnoxious ways of being. Who wants to play with that? Oh, yes, please make fun of me and call me names. That sounds like an awesome way to spend my once in a lifetime childhood.)

I entered the room and a pleasant (if somewhat harried) mother introduced herself and her children before slapping a name tag on my chest. I looked down at my tank top, realizing there was dried milk on both sides of my breasts. Perfect.

I readjusted the name tag and did a once over, noticing the rubbermaid bin of communal toys I knew Sophie would make a beeline for. Fat babies, thin babies and older children milled around, slamming toys into the concrete or looking generally disinterested. I met southern mom after southern mom, wondering where my people were. This was East Nashville, right? Where were the tattoos? The attachment parenting? The moms who didn’t look old enough to be my conservative aunt? Where were the women I could relate to?

I readjusted Sophie on my hip before reluctantly setting her down to run free. She sprinted to the toys and practically heaved herself inside of the toy bin, salivating on every ball, ramming colored pencils down her throat and palming giant wooden toys. I hovered over her, hoping she wouldn’t slam a cute baby in the face with the block she was holding.

I watched as all the moms – obviously comfortable enough with each other and their children to let them roam – sat and actually conversed. Instead of doing the same, I followed Sophie from room to room, as she tried to play with the big kids and screeched like a hyena as I tried to take her back to where the babies were.

Once the meeting began, we had to go around the room and introduce ourselves and talk about a milestone our child had just reached. Milestone? What milestone? I racked my brain. Sophie is literally cutting eight teeth at the same time, so she hasn’t slept more than three hours at a time in over a month. We got her out of our bed, finally, but would these moms think I was weird for co-sleeping that long? She could say a handful of words, do sign language and would mimic anything you showed her on the first try. But I didn’t want to come off like my child was too smart.

I listened as the moms discussed their three-year-olds writing poetry and handwritten letters and swimming a whole lap at the pool; one-year-olds talking and saying “dog” over and over; six-year-olds getting into prestigious schools; and then my turn. What was my milestone?! And where the fuck was Sophie?

While I was busy worrying about what to say to impress these women, all of their babies had magically transplanted themselves from playing back into the safe, plush laps of their mothers. My lawless child was over in the corner of the room, farting and stuffing a blue plastic ball in her mouth.

“Um, hi. I’m Rea. That’s Sophie over there. She’s 13 months. A milestone. Well, I’m really happy to report – and I think it’s a milestone but maybe it’s not a milestone but I feel like it’s a milestone -” (It’s over, idiot. You lost them already.) I cleared my throat and began again. “We haven’t changed a poopy diaper in over five months, so that’s something.” I shrugged.

All eyes bored into me. One mother rolled her eyes. One mother asked if I’d come over to their house. One mother said, “I have a three-year-old who’s not even potty trained.” Staring. Accusatory.

I began to backtrack. “Well, it’s not 100%. We just started when she was six months. And she caught on. It’s been easy.”

Accusatory mother’s eyes bulged. “Easy?”

“I mean for her. It’s easy for her. It’s very time consuming. You have to be able to be there, like, all the time. And she wears cloth diapers, so…”

So? So what? Now I sounded like an even bigger asshole who did nothing but trained my daughter to go on the potty like a “big girl” and cared so much for the environment that I only put my baby in the best cloth diapers.

“Is there a bathroom?”

Someone pointed out the door. I gathered my purse and Sophie and trilled, “I shall return!” before bypassing the very public bathroom and pushing through the glass doors. I kept walking until I was to my car and had Sophie safely buckled into her too-expensive completely yuppy Orbit car seat.

I felt my hopes dashed as I drove the short distance home. I was hoping to bond, to find a nanny, to make a new best friend who would magically also be my next door neighbor and just happen to have everything in common. And it wasn’t the women – they were all pleasant and lovely and sweet. They obviously meant a lot to one another. I just wasn’t one of them.

I suddenly missed Lauren (my Chicago soul sister) with a ferocity that shook me to my bones. I missed our walks and talks and disdain for all things organized mom. If she were here, we could grab a coffee and talk about how hard our lives were and how we never got anything done and if there was some way we could get a break so we could get some sleep then everything would be better.

I pulled up to the house and ran inside, the rain pelting my shoulders and Sophie’s freshly washed hair.

“Back to the dungeon,” I said. She looked at me and deposited a kiss on my arm.

“We’ll find you some friends. I promise. Mommy won’t ruin everything.”

I set her down and she took off toward Alex. He scooped her up. “How was it?” he asked.

“Don’t ask. I suck, I think.”

“You don’t suck. How do you suck?”

“Just in general.”

“You don’t.”

I shrugged. Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. But I knew out there, somewhere, were like-minded moms. And I would find them. I would.

So ready or not, here I come.

Eating My Words… And Vegetables

Me and the tiny.

Me and the tiny.

I don’t like to admit when I’m wrong.

Before I entered the baby sphere, people told me all sorts of things. I took their words of “wisdom” with a grain of salt, as I do with most advice, instead knowing that our baby would be different. Our baby would sleep by herself through the night from birthOur baby would never cry. Our baby would give smiles from week one, crawl at three months and walk at nine months. She’d keep herself entertained for hours and would never get sick. Our baby would not be an asshole toddler like most toddlers – and if she was, I could pretend she wasn’t ours. (I still might do this… I haven’t yet decided.)

These are the things I told myself as my belly grew and the panic took hold. How do you prepare for a child when you’ve never given thought to having a child?

You tell yourself lies.

Through these past eight months, there have been some truths to what people said, some surprises (mainly pleasant) and a new validity to life in general.

As one of my friends put it: “I feel like I’ve been sitting in a prison cell for the past eight months.”

“Except there’s no solitude,” I added. “At least in a cell, you can go to the bathroom or sleep whenever you want to. Can you imagine?”

Sercretly, I was horrified that prison sounded mildly more relaxing than my everyday life… no bills, no responsibilities, no hurling myself in front of inanimate objects, trying to shield my daughter from her own curiosity and pain.

One of the hardest (and maybe quite shallow) truths I’ve discovered is that our place has become a toy depository. From dog toys to Sophie’s toys, they litter our floors day in and day out, despite the colorful organizational cubes I have for them. Since we just sold her crib and bought a twin mattress to set up a Montessori room, I realized that the mattress is high enough that if she fell off of it, she could do some real damage. So until we can teach her boundaries, in addition to the toys, there are lots of pillows.

And once the toys started to flow, so did the dishes. We have somehow broken our no-dish-in-the-sink rule. And piles of laundry rule. And while Alex is gone all day, you’d think I would have nothing but time to make this place spotless. Yet, I don’t, and I shouldn’t care, but I do.

A cluttered home makes me feel crazy. So I am trying to adopt a new mentality, one that will keep me from going insane: surrender.

Since alcohol isn’t possible, I am channeling my inner Wayne Dyer and radiating love and happiness and the ability to just let go. I give love to all the plastic toys from China and the more eco-friendly ones from the USA; I salute the dirty Vitamix that gets used 45 times per day; I look at our bags of clothes and stacks of books still left to be donated outside our back door. I continually trip over them every morning as I try to haul Sophie in her car seat down to the car or schlep her and the groceries upstairs, where I always catch the car seat on a bag or a box, sending the grocery bags on my arms sliding down and hitting the ground in the process. (Why the fuck haven’t they made grocery bags that stay on your shoulders???) I always kick and side step and fight back the urge to scream from the top of my lungs. If only I could have someone watch Sophie for five minutes, so I could haul all this crap away and not have Neruda fly up and down the stairs with the speed of a hummingbird.

So, surrender. Yes, I must surrender. I try and remember this as I let go a string of curses every five minutes; as I look around and realize that while worrying about all the things to get done, I haven’t done anything. I try and remember to surrender as Alex walks in the door and I shout, “Thank God!” and grab a novel and a glass of water and sit down on the couch, where I may or may not move for the next few hours. (Bring on the awful reality television.)

This is my life, but this won’t always be my life. I will soon look back over this first year with such nostalgia, it will probably leave me short of breath. That’s probably because I will still be carrying Sophie around in the Ergo, long after she’s not supposed to be carried around.

For today, I am going to go play with my daughter. I’m going to pick up food from Native Foods and start on a delicious soup with all my new yummy produce from Fresh Picks for tomorrow. I’m going to work on relaunching reafrey.com so I can ramp up book publicity for Power Vegan and hope as many people will buy this book as Harry Potter (a girl can dream).

produce

I am going to kiss my husband long and hard, because today is our three year anniversary. I am going to marvel at how I ever got through a day without him, and feel pleased that I won’t ever have to.

We are a team. We are a family.

And I love every second.

HONEY LEMON FACE SCRUB

Rummage your cabinets for honey and sugar and add some lemon juice for a delicious easy face scrub.

Rummage your cabinets for honey and sugar and add some lemon juice for a deliciously easy face scrub.

While food recipes are great, sometimes it’s nice to shun expensive scrubs and make your own. If you have honey, lemon and some sugar, you can make a moisturizing scrub that will leave your skin clean and dewy in no time.

Ingredients:

1 tbs. honey

1 tbs. sugar

juice of 1/2 lemon

Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients together until well combined.

2. Apply to face and work hands in a gentle, circular motion.

3. Rinse well and pat dry.

My Third Trimester

It has finally arrived. The start of the last trimester… the home stretch, the “transition” from being pregnant to becoming a mother.

The countdown has begun.

And I couldn’t be more excited.

After a whirlwind weekend in Nashville (where we postponed our trip a day due to tornadoes), we flew in at the crack of dawn on Saturday, where my parents threw me a “non” baby shower, replete with Mimosas, coffee, scones, muffins, quiche, fritattas, some vegan fare, healthy salads and lots of raucous behavior (anytime my Mee-Maw is involved, it’s always raucous – I had to tell her to keep her hands at 10 and 2 when hugging my husband).

An eclectic mix of people poured in, and it was wonderful to see so many smiling faces; to see the support and love that Sophie already has, even before she has taken her first breath.

As we didn’t register for gifts, we requested gift cards and asked that people bring a children’s book to add to Sophie’s library. I am happy to report Sophie now has a huge stock of all my favorite classics, and I am dying to find a cheap bookshelf to display them.

On Sunday, my best friend (and amazing photographer) Nikki McFadden came over and took pregnancy photos (I literally cannot wait to get them!). Alex and I posed for a lifestyle shoot, brushing our teeth, lounging in bed, and then I did some nude profile shots in front of a window. It’s no secret I am quite shy about my body, but as I stood there, with life moving inside me, I somehow felt more beautiful than I ever have.

I cannot wait to frame a series and hang them in the nursery, so Sophie can see where she came from; so she can see how happy her parents were, even before she was born. I want her to look at them and to know how loved she was… how absolute our feelings were, are, and will always be.

That night, we went to a cool, divey place called The Pharmacy and feasted on falafel burgers and sweet potato fries. We celebrated my mother’s birthday and rose at 4:45a.m. to hop on a plane back to Chicago.

Our first baby purchase.

As I get back into the swing of things, I purchased our very first item for the little one: the Babyletto Modo 3-in-1 crib.

I unloaded her books and adorable yellow, black and white onesies that my parents got her; a natural wood comb and brush, and the cutest little shoes I’ve ever seen.

It dawned on me that we have a lot to do before her arrival, unless she is going to run around naked the majority of the time (which is a strong possibility with the cost of baby clothes these days).

I then looked at the hilarious composite constructed from The Bump with mine and Alex’s pictures (THIS is supposed to be what our child will look like?!) and laughed for about fifteen minutes straight.

I returned emails. I cuddled my dog.

I changed the sheets and did laundry and adjusted to yet another wacky day in the land of temperamental temperatures in Chicago.

And I thought about love. Something happened to me this weekend, as I protectively rubbed my belly and let others feel my daughter as she moved and rolled inside my body. I fell more madly and deeply in love with her than I ever thought possible.

I realized that when she comes, we will not own her. She will not even be extensions of us really, but a mere reflection of our genes and sensibilities. We will guide and shape her the best we can, but her decisions will become just that: hers and hers alone.

I am excited and privileged to get to know the little one inside of me. Whose sense of humor will she have? Will she be active? Will she be as loving as her father? Will she trample our puppy and have lungs the size of Texas? With every day that passes, I get closer to meeting the little girl I am so desperately in love with.

From a condo in a little segment of Chicago, it feels like the only thing consuming me. And for this moment, here and now, I am so grateful.

WORKOUT OF THE DAY: TABATA CONDITIONING

I get a lot of questions about how to “rev” up your fitness or shred certain body parts or just increase heart health. One of my favorites (and something I am dying to get back to) is TABATA. Tabata is performing an activity for 20 seconds at maximum intensity and backing off or resting for 10 seconds. Then repeating that cycle 8 times through  (which is equivalent to 4 minutes).

You can do it with running, burpees, lifting weights, yoga… the sky is the limit. One of my favorite little circuits is below. I am counting down the months until I can do this again!

TABATA:

Perform each exercise for 4 minutes and then move on to the next exercise. Take a 1 minute break if necessary after each Tabata interval. Make sure you are thoroughly warmed up.

Rowing (or running if you don’t have a rower)

Push-ups

Jumping lunges

Burpees

Plate push (Get on a carpeted area and grab a heavy plate. Drive the plate across the carpet for 20 seconds. Rest for 10. Repeat for 8 cycles. Don’t have a plate? Change it to bear crawls.)

This 20 minute workout will INCINERATE calories and exhaust you. Combine with any exercise you like for a quick, effective workout!

And follow it up with a green smoothie within an hour!

The 27 Week Itch

I am a little over 27 weeks pregnant – potentially 13 left to go. As I ruminate over this pregnancy, I marvel at its strength, swiftness, snail pace, fragility, and ability to consume my life in just a little under seven months’ time. I haven’t paid attention to numbers this much since grade school, when someone would ask, “How old are you?” And with all the maturity I could muster, I would say, “I’m eleven and a half.”

Now, it’s less than a week away from 7 months; 27 weeks and two days; 13 weeks left to go; 10 weeks until she’s technically “full-term;” or, as of next Monday, the official start of the third trimester. I feel like I am on the last leg of a very grueling marathon, and yet I haven’t even stepped on the pavement to begin the 26.2 miles. Instead, all of these numbers rattle around in my brain, preparing me for the greatest lesson in life with a child: expect the unexpected.

I have been surprised by the ever-changing shift in my mood. Some days, I am a bit saddened and drained. Other days, there’s such a surge of happiness and energy, I feel like I could do anything. Perhaps I am fueled by a new project, the fact that I’m seeing my family this weekend in Nashville, and that in a mere few months, life as we know it will change completely.

And I am excited by that.

Instead of letting time pass by, I revel in every moment Alex and I have together. I stare at him. I drag my fingers through his hair and whisper his name and trace his face softly. I memorize him – while he cooks or lounges or sleeps; while he leans over his computer and finishes up a project or laughs or tells me about his day. I enjoy the solitude that surrounds us as we cuddle up and watch a movie (or bad TV). I love our conversations at night, how we read beside each other in bed and share our favorite passages; how we constantly work as a team.

I love putting lotion on his fresh tattoo every morning, and the way he looks at me before he leaves for work. I love making his coffee and packing his snacks (already in Mom mode) and sending him off with a kiss and a hug. I memorize him, as he is now, before he fully steps into the role of Sophie’s father… while he is still just my husband, and I don’t have to share him with anyone.

I am not sad, just thankful. I am present and aware of all that is before us.

I feel calm.

However, despite that calmness, we have still yet to get Sophie anything. Instead, this weekend, we celebrated my book deal and shopped for more maternity clothes and ate way too much food and watched UFC with Chinese take-out. We visited some friends and looked at their now unused baby things and decided to purchase a stroller, a co-sleeper and a cocoon from them rather than going out and buying all new things. As I watched my friend manhandle the Orbit stroller with the adept skills of a pro, I got panicky.

“Do you still have the instructions?”

She sent me off with a Moby wrap and some swaddling blankets, which I promptly came home and experimented with. I looked at the tutorials online and grabbed my puppy as I tied the Moby wrap securely around me and tucked her inside. I padded back to the bedroom, where Alex was napping.

“Look what I did! It works!”

I looked down at Neruda, who was snuggled in against my chest. “Don’t get used to this, Tiny,” I said, giving her a kiss on the head.

It amazes me how many gadgets surround becoming new parents, and how clueless I really am – but how I am okay with that cluelessness – how I revel in it a bit, because I don’t want to spend all my time researching products instead of just trusting my instincts and going with the flow.

We will learn as we go, together. We will make mistakes, together. We will rise and fall and be exhausted and happy, together.

As a family.

As I prepare to launch into writing two chapters today, I find my appetite increasing. Lately, we’ve been making “easy” dinners: sprouted quinoa, grilled tofu or beans and an assortment of veggies. The kicker? Making your own sauce.

The next time you want that Asian flavor, try the following peanut sauce. It will give any boring veggies an instant kick.

Take a bowl of steamed veggies and sprouted quinoa...

Make your own healthy peanut sauce at home...

Mix it all together and serve!

Vegan Peanut Sauce (serves 8-10)

1/2 cup organic peanut butter (or peanuts)

juice of two limes

1-3 Tbsp. Bragg’s or coconut aminos

fresh torn cilantro, to taste

1/4 cup scallions, minced

water, to desired consistency

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender or magic bullet. Blend until smooth (add more water if too thick). Pop over veggies and enjoy!

Pregnancy Nutrition 101

Eat the colors of the rainbow...

Pregnant women like to eat – and they often like to eat a lot. I always like to remind myself that I am eating for 1.1, not two. I’ve marveled at how my appetite has actually stayed in check (but yet my belly keeps growing and growing as if I’m feeding her 3,000 calories per day).

As if eating healthy wasn’t hard enough, when you compound it with the extra needs for pregnancy, it can seem overwhelming. Tack a vegan pregnancy on top of that and your doctor’s eyes might bug out of her head. “Oh, you’ll never get the nutrition you need!” she might exclaim. “You need dairy for calcium, meat for protein and to take plenty of supplements.”

This is definitely not the case. While it’s important to know what nutrients to get (and to be as healthy as possible before you conceive) if you understand what vegetarian sources are available to you in plant form, it makes the job of proper nutrition a whole lot easier.

So, what exactly do you need? While every individual is different, there are some basic nutritional needs that all pregnant women need to adhere to:

Caloric Needs:

  • First trimester: 0 extra calories (unless you are underweight)
  • Second trimester: 250-350 extra calories
  • Third trimester: 450 extra calories

Make sure these extra calories come from good sources and not processed foods, like muffins or pizza. For example, a medium sized apple with 2 Tbs. of almond butter more than covers that 250-350 calorie range. Be smart about what you put in your body, so you can make room for your growing baby. The baby truly eats what you eat – you can set him/her up for proper nutrition by monitoring what you eat during pregnancy.

Protein: An additional 10-15 grams of protein per day should be supplied to the diet. If you are a vegetarian, these can come from sources like hemp, legumes, nuts and whole grains (other sources include enriched non-dairy milk, tofu, tempeh, nut butters, seeds, and higher protein pseudograins such as quinoa). To figure out your protein needs, use the following equation:

Your weight X .36 + 10 grams = daily protein needs

Vitamin B12: This vitamin is used for tissue synthesis. It is essential for a healthy nervous system and smooth muscle movement. B12 is not always plentiful in plant foods. Good sources include: chlorella, miso, nutritional yeast, fortified soymilk and tofu, and fortified ready-to-eat cereals. There is a wonderful product called Vegetarian Support Formula Nutritional Yeast, which provides the daily requirement for B12 in a little more than a tablespoon.

Iron: Many women suffer from anemia, even during pregnancy. Iron is tantamount to facilitate red blood cell health. Enough iron ensures the body is able to deliver oxygen-rich blood to the extremities. Make sure to eat plenty of leafy green veggies, such as spinach or kale, dried beans and legumes (especially split peas), pumpkin seeds, and dried fruits. If necessary, an iron supplement may be recommended if you can’t keep your iron levels up. (However, it’s always best to get iron from food as supplements can back you up and be harsh on your system.)

Calcium/Vitamin D: These vitamins help bones and teeth, which are important to a child’s development. 95% of the body’s calcium is stored in the skeleton. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. A little exposure to sunlight per day is good for Vitamin D as well as fortified non-dairy milk. Despite what the billion dollar dairy industry would like you to believe, you don’t have to ingest dairy to get enough calcium (as dairy is incredibly acidic and actually leaches calcium from our bones!). Eat plenty of leafy greens like spinach and collards, unhulled sesame seeds, tahini, calcium fortified tofu, soymilk or hemp milk, broccoli raab, figs, blackstrap molasses and sea vegetables. If you take a calcium supplement, make sure it’s vegetarian.

Zinc: Necessary for growth and development, zinc allows the body to use dietary protein as building blocks to regenerate muscles. It also helps in proper immune function. You can find this mineral in pseudograins (such as buckwheat, quinoa, wild rice, and amaranth), pumpkin seeds, nutritional yeast, peas, beans, brown rice, spinach, nuts, tofu and tempeh.

Folate: Folate is a B vitamin that is found naturally in foods. In supplement form, it is referred to as folic acid. You can up your intake of folate even before you become pregnant (around 400mcg per day), and around 600 mcg if you are pregnant. Eating plenty of dark, leafy greens, legumes, pseudograins, whole grains, and nutritional yeast provides plenty of folate.

The good news? Most of these plant-based foods supply a host of vitamins and minerals – they are good for you on all levels and should cover your pregnancy nutrition needs. Do your homework about what your body needs. If you are a vegetarian who is on the small side, discuss a caloric plan with your doctor to ensure you are staying on track and gaining enough weight. It’s important to get plenty of exercise as well. Take care of your body and pay attention to what you feed it. You are laying the foundation for a healthy, happy child.

So, what’s a day in my vegan life like? Lately, it varies but here’s a typical one (and yes, I am eating way too much fruit, but it seems I am on a fruit kick lately):

Pre-workout

Banana or dates

Post-workout

Protein shake (1 banana, soy or hemp milk, superfood blend, superfruit blend, superseed blend, 1 scoop VEGA whole food health optimizer, 1 tbs. raw cocoa, 1 giant handful power greens)

Mid-morning

Oatmeal pancakes (made with oats, water, and blueberries) smeared with 1 tsp. sunflower butter and fresh strawberries

Lunch

2 slices Rudy’s spelt bread (a rare occasion for me, as I’m not much of a bread person, but as of late, I am tired of salads)

mock tuna pate (made from almonds, onions, celery, tomato, garlic, coconut aminos, dulse, cayenne, mustard and sea salt)

lettuce, avocado, organic stone ground mustard

Afternoon snack

coconut poppers (recipe to come in a few days)

1 pear

handful of walnuts

Dinner

tofu, quinoa, and veggies cooked in coconut oil (red cabbage, broccoli, portobellos, red pepper, bok choy, zucchini)

Post-dinner

grapefruit

no-bake energy bar

Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven

Yesterday marked my 6 month (24 week check-up) at the doc. Before I went to Northwestern, I had a good workout (though, admittedly, it’s getting harder to breathe) and feasted on the following: oatmeal, blueberries, chia seeds, agave nectar, and sunflower butter. In a word: yum.

Over the weekend, I met with Agate Publishing about the possibility of writing a power eating book. Yesterday morning, I got an email from my agent that an editor (whom I love!) really enjoyed my book proposal for The Balanced Life and wanted more sample chapters.

So, since I am such a nerd, if you give me a project, I will stop everything in my life and get it done as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, as I said, I had to go to the doctor’s office. Normally a 10-minute appointment, this new doc was running an hour late. As I twiddled my thumbs in the waiting room, ogling the cutest baby I’ve ever seen and wincing at all the new mothers who looked exhausted, he finally called me back.

As I stepped on the scale, I mentally told myself the following:

1. You haven’t pooped today. (Yes, this is too much information, but I pride myself on being “regular”. I am a 2-3 times per day type of girl. It is only now, in the sixth month of pregnancy, that my system is becoming sluggish, and let me tell you, I am not a happy camper.) Total potential gain? 1-2 pounds.

2. You have to pee. (Even though I’d peed twice already, I had to pee again. My bladder can hold at least 1,000 ounces of urine at any given time.) Total potential gain? .5 pound

3. You have clothes on. (Not heavy clothes, but my huge earrings and scarf and jeans and shirt have to equate to something, right?) Total potential gain? 1 pound

I winced as the number hit 140. When I started out, I was 128, which means 12 pounds have been gained in 6 months. I was 136 a month ago. 4 pounds in 4 weeks? I don’t think so.

While this isn’t awful, I am still mourning the loss of the 130s… it will be quite some time before I am to return. But, return I will – with a vengeance. And it’s all for the baby – which makes it that much better.

My blood pressure was 106/62, despite being wound up from my impending deadline. Inside the room, the doc measured my belly and listened for the baby’s heart (which was over to the right – a place she likes to hang out, apparently). He looked at my chart and said, “So, you’re a vegan, huh?”

“Yep,” I responded. “Let’s hear it.”

“Hear what?”

“You know. You hear the term vegan. Just ask the question already.”

“Well, are you getting enough protein?”

“Plenty of protein. I’m certified in nutrition.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“Yep.”

There was a pause as he measured my belly. “So, you don’t eat fish?”

I wanted to ask him if he knew what a vegan was. What I really wanted to say was that we, as Americans, get double the amount of protein we need. And despite what medical doctors say, you only need the following equation to figure out the proper amount of protein:

YOUR WEIGHT X .36 + 10 GRAMS FOR BEING PREGNANT.

For me, this equates to 60 grams per day. My favorite sources?

1. Hemp protein

2. Quinoa and other high protein grains

3. Seeds and nuts

4. Legumes

Another shocking fact pulled straight from the studies in Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven? Get ready, folks: According to a Senate investigation, medical doctors receive less than 3 hours of nutritional training in medical school.

Three hours. That’s it. And yet, they are the ones who tell us to eat our protein and drink milk for strong bones. They are the ones who prescribe pills instead of telling us to eat whole foods. Never forget: it’s about money, honey. We are the ones who listen to doctors as if whatever they say is right all the time. We have to start using common sense and doing our own research. It’s your body – there is no one-size fits all mentality when it comes to anything in life, especially health.

It’s up to you to take responsibility.

And while I have taken numerous nutrition courses and read plenty of books, I have to say Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven compiles countless cited research and puts it all into one book (who knew?). It removes all the fancy “jargon” and gives you scientific facts and snarky comments, so you can’t write it off as some mumbo jumbo from two girls. It’s pretty solid.

My other faves?

Thrive by Brendan Brazier

The China Study by T. Colin Campbell

Read them. Share them. Digest them. They are truly life changing books. The best part? They are based on science, not opinion.

And since I am saying goodbye to my 130s, I thought I would bake some vegan banana bread in celebration. Healthy and completely satisfying (and technically not a vegan dessert, since I have sworn them off), this will cure any sweet tooth and get your day off to a great and healthy start!

Vegan Banana Bread

Ingredients:

(adapted from Post Punk Kitchen’s recipe)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup coconut palm sugar or sucanat

1/2 cup coconut oil, at room temp

3 very ripe bananas, mashed well with a fork

2 cups flour (I use whole grain spelt)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup oat, almond or soy milk (or any non-dairy milk that you like), mixed with 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 c. walnuts

1 teaspoon cinnamon

optional: vegan chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Spread an 8×4 bread pan with coconut oil.

3. Sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon.

4. In the food processor, mix coconut oil and sugar. Add bananas and milk.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Mix well.

6. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.

7. Pour batter into pan.

8. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour. Trust me, it’s so worth the wait! (Note: If you don’t use chocolate chips, you can probably reduce baking time by 5-10 minutes.)

 Enjoy!

Dear Sophie…

Our little girl, Sophie Leona Holguin

January 12, 2012

Dear Sophie,

I met you today, as a wand with warm goo brought you into my sight… and you were easily the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

Your little face with the tipped up nose and tiny lips. You, with your fisted hands and strong legs, and the brilliant fish scalelike quality to your perfectly formed spine.

You were conceived on a hot night at the tail end of summer in a loft in the middle of Chicago. The not knowing you were inside me for the first few weeks, as I cooked and coached and worked out, astounds me now. How could I not have known that you – you, this infinitesimal beauty, this concept, this once tiny poppy seed, would grow in just over 20 weeks into an actual human being?

We watched your heart on the monitor for a full hour… I could not turn away. Your four chamber heart, your jaunty legs, your blood flow, lit up in reds and blues like Christmas lights… both Alex and I watched every part of you as you were dissected and measured by the lab technician who wore a scarf around her head.

Now, I sit from my new home – the first home you will ever know, though you won’t remember it – and type a letter to you, on this frigid winter’s night. I hope you come to love winter as much as Alex and I do… I hope you run through the snow with abandon and let us warm your cheeks with our kisses and a big cup of hot cocoa. I hope you love this life as much as we do.

I hope you recognize how loved you are – already, even as you fidget and sleep and grow inside me. Even as you cannot comprehend what awaits you. Even when you do comprehend the world and it doesn’t always make sense to you. Let your sense of awareness guide you.

When we went to the doctor, the sky was pregnant with clouds. When we came out, the roll of your first photo session clutched tightly in my palm, it was snowing. It continued to snow all day – as I made phone calls and kissed your father goodbye and dropped him at work and walked around our house, ignoring deadlines and holding my stomach in my hands. I called your name out loud: Sophie. Sophie Leona Holguin.

My little girl.

The life that beats inside me.

Now, it’s late, and we can hear our upstairs neighbor, who is watching some movie with the volume of a ninety year old with two hearing aids. The tree directly in front of our window droops heavily with snow. I want to open the window and catch a snowflake on my tongue. The train tracks are muted by the white slush – there is a general buzz outside, and it feels like winter has finally arrived.

This will be a day we will always remember: the day we first met you, the day we fell in love with you on a monitor… how can this be going on inside me? How can you be so beautiful and I haven’t yet held you in my arms? How can you be ours?

I cannot wait to share our lives with you and to see what type of life you will have. I want to share words and poems and thoughts and music and give you the room to grow on your own.

I want to see you fly.

I don’t know much, but this much I do: I love you already, from the depths of my soul. There’s not much that’s unconditional in this world, but this is one of those unconditional things. My love to you. Alex’s love to you. Your grandparents’ love to you. It’s all ever after.

As if in assent, you make a movement inside of me. I feel the pressure of your little body pressing against mine. I smile. The heat kicks on. Neruda yawns. All is just as it should be.

I cannot wait to bring you home, Sophie.

I cannot wait to look into your eyes and say hello, Sophie.

I cannot wait to softly call your name, Sophie.

Smile, dear girl.

For you are meant to be.

 

Her Door

by Mary Leader

for my daughter Sara Marie

 

There was a time her door was never closed.

Her music box played “Fur Elise” in plinks.

Her crib new-bought – I drew her sleeping there.

The little drawing sits beside my chair.

These days, she ornaments her hands with rings.

She’s seventeen. Her door is one I knock.

 

There was a time I daily brushed her hair

By window light – I bathed her, in the sink

In sunny water, in the kitchen, there.

 

I’ve bought her several thousand things to wear,

And now this boy buys her silver rings.

He goes inside her room and shuts the door.

 

Those days, to rock her was a form of prayer.

She’d gaze at me, and blink, and I would sing

Of bees and horses, in the pasture, there.

 

The drawing sits as still as nap-time air –

Her curled-up hand – that precious line, her cheek…

Next year her door will stand, again, ajar

But she herself will not be living there.

 

The Truth About Pregnancy

As I was sitting at my perch today, pecking away at keys and forcing myself not to get on Facebook or check email but to finish my articles and work on some fiction, I was hit with some “truths” about pregnancy. Truths that no one necessarily tells you, and truths that no one really discusses pre, during, or post pregnancy.

While these aren’t universal truths, these are my truths (so hopefully, I’m not the odd one out).

MY TRUTHS/RULES ABOUT PREGNANCY

1. Bigger boobs suck. When you go from having no boobs to a cup size or so bigger, it affects everything: the way you move, the clothes you wear, how you feel in certain outfits, how tight your bras are… who knew? I have received more ogling stares from my husband than I would have ever thought, and he is an ass man. The truth about boobs: Why would any woman ever want to enhance her chest? I love having a small chest. I love how athletic it looks, how they don’t bounce when I run (and of course, now they bounce and pull, even when I’m just chasing my dog). When I look at the women with massive chests, I wonder how they do it: back aches, hefty bras, so much attention… nature is strange. So, I am an odd gal. I love small breasts. I can’t wait to get them back (and I’m trying not to imagine them as saggy lumps that I can throw over my shoulders – I know this often happens with breast feeding as well. I’m going to pretend it doesn’t.)

2. Never look at pre-pregnancy pictures of your body until you are back in shape (especially when you’re only halfway there.) I took a picture of my 5 month bump yesterday to send to my best friend and found this picture in the same “reel” and it made me want to kill myself.

Oh, memories... this is just before I got pregnant. Sigh.

Not because I don’t appreciate how I looked, because that’s all I appreciate now, but because I would STILL bitch and moan about not having a more pronounced six-pack, even here in this pic!!! I know giving birth to a human is more important than how your stomach looks, but here is the truth: I am terrified that it won’t go back. How does your skin snap back, really? How does it not hang and bunch and sag post-baby??? Please, someone explain this magic to me. You see the moms who you can’t tell had babies, who are in better shape, who can do it again and again and again with not so much as an inch of excess skin, and the moms who bear the scars to tell the story. How do you determine which camp you’ll be a part of? Genetics? Magic? Something else entirely?

3. I have become a professional spender. As we just moved, I feel like my full-time job is to buy crap for this condo, which will then be deemed mostly useless in the next place we inhabit (14 months and our lease is up… shit). We need to register for baby items, and I have no idea where to begin. I’ve pulled up Target about 5 times and the amount of stuff is astounding. I don’t know what we really need, what we won’t need, and what products are safe, not safe, etc. What did women do before Target and BabiesRUs? I was actually jealous of my mom when she talked about her umbrella strollers and just carrying both my brother and I around (no baby Bjorns then). There’s something amazing about that natural connection to your child: no gadgets or slings or shiny, bouncy toys… just human contact.

4. Nine months isn’t enough time for your baby to get done baking. I have been truly enlightened as to why children cry: the missing 4th trimester. If you look at other animals when they’re born, they are significantly more self-sufficient. Horses can walk and run within 30 minutes of being born. We can’t do anything, but our brains set us apart. However, babies spend the first three months of their lives trying to get back to one thing: the womb. We worry so much these days about spoiling our kids that we don’t always pick them up when they cry, but according to science and research, it’s virtually impossible to spoil a baby during the first four months of life. Even if you held your baby 12 hours a day, it’s a drastic reduction from what they received in the womb. All they’re trying to do is get back to that place (hence the five “S’s” that come into play: swaddling, side/stomach position, shushing, swinging and sucking).

For some reason, knowing that you will either have a baby with good state control (a child can self-soothe and deal with the transition from womb to world) or one who’s more passionate/emotional (i.e. colicky) soothes me somehow. It doesn’t mean you have a good or bad baby – it’s nothing you’re doing or not doing. It’s your child’s way of communicating; it’s their attempt to return to the place that housed and fed them 24 hours a day. (How about THAT for a child’s toy? A mock uterus… someone should jump on that pronto.)

5. I’m not glowing. I’ve literally noticed no change in skin or nails since I’ve been pregnant. I don’t think this is a myth, as I’ve seen women look radiant at all stages of pregnancy, but thus far, nada. My hair still sheds, I still have the occasional breakout, and while there might be a faint rosy tint to my cheeks, I can’t really tell a difference yet. Perhaps this is something that comes later… perhaps not. I take my prenatal 3 times a day, DHA, calcium with vitamin D and try to get a plethora of greens and antioxidants and drink a ton of water. Come on glow, I’m waiting.

Despite all of this complaining/venting/ridiculous commenting, I am excited. I’m embracing pregnancy, and I know the end of the second trimester and the third will bring me more surprises and changes than I can possibly comprehend.

Until then, feast your face on these delicious bars that I made yesterday while raiding my pantry.

Chickpea Granola Bars

Ingredients:

1 15 oz. chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. sucanat (or organic sugar)

1 1/2 cup oatmeal

1 cup whole grain cereal (I used Cascadian Farms multi-grain squares)

1 cup dried fruit or vegan chocolate (I used chocolate in this recipe)

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup natural peanut butter

1/3 cup agave or honey

3 Tbsp. coconut oil (or canola)

1 Tbs. ground flax

1/4 cup warm water

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Mix flax with the 1/4 cup warm water and set aside to let thicken.

3. Drain and rinse chickpeas in cold water, until all bubbles disappear.

4. In a bowl, toss chickpeas with sucanat and 1 tsp. cinnamon. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Stir once and then bake for 10 more minutes.

5. Add oatmeal to cookie sheet and bake for 5 more minutes.

6. In a separate bowl, stir peanut butter, agave, oil and flax (if using coconut oil, warm it to room temperature until it melts).

7. Combine the oatmeal and chickpea mixture with cereal, fruit or chocolate and remaining cinnamon. (If you are adding chocolate, it will naturally melt from the heat of the oats and chickpeas.)

8. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir to combine.

9. In an 8X8 inch greased pan, press mixture firmly into pan. Refrigerate until firm and cut into bars. Enjoy!

‘Tis The Season

As the holidays come to a close, I am looking ahead to the new year and all the changes it will bring. Driving back home yesterday, I was disjointed: part of me longed to stay in Nashville, snuggled up in blankets, breathing fresh air, sitting by the fire and taking long walks around my parents’ quiet, majestic neighborhood. Part of me craved the cute coffee shops and easy way of life, seeing my two best friends and endless laughter and movie time with my parents.

Coming back into the city was a bit jolting: unloading our luggage, hitting the gym after 7 hours of sitting still and then attacking packing boxes with the vigor of someone going to death row. Today, as I taped boxes and unraveled our lives from the shelves, I ruminated over this Christmas:

1. Neruda made her first road trip and was introduced to cats. The growling never ceased, but she adjusted pretty well, all things considering.

Neruda playing peek-a-boo

2. Over the course of the week (at almost 19 weeks now), my bump “popped” and I am now officially showing.

3. On Christmas Eve, as our family gathered, we feasted on homemade lasagna and carrot cake, my brother played saxophone to holiday music, my mother played the piano, the fire crackled, and we all laughed and talked.

4. I loved cooking with my mom and Alex, my dad sipping wine and making the Christmas Eve timeline. I even indulged in her spinach lasagna, breaking my cheese rule because it is just that good.

5. Christmas morning was majestic. Cups of coffee, the warm glow of the lights, and my family, all gathered around the tree, opening a few gifts. Later, Alex made brunch – thick slices of French toast, veggie sausage, and hashbrowns. We watched movies and stayed in pajamas the rest of the day and went for a Christmas walk that night. Every star was out, and I could breathe deeply for what felt like the first time in months.

6. Before Christmas, my grandfather came over to open some presents. My grandmother passed a couple of years ago, and in her absence, he has developed mild dementia. I have not seen him since the funeral, and he didn’t really know who I was. To demonstrate this point, he proceeded to hit on me – his own granddaughter – and my sister-in-law. I have never been so uncomfortable in my entire life…

7. We took Alex’s mom on a tour of Nashville, and as we drove by all my favorite spots, I could suddenly see our life there… not now, but in the near future, purchasing a home, going to the farmer’s market, and just living a smaller, simpler life with our little family.

8. I ate chocolate every day. This is only because it’s supposed to make my baby sweeter. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

All in all, it was a fabulous Christmas. I loved every moment spent with my family and friends… I know it won’t always be this easy or simple, and that families will become more fragmented and grow and change. But, for now, I am cherishing this Christmas and all that is to come after.

And as Alex and I scramble to get all our boxes packed for our move next Wednesday, we are counting down the days until we find out the sex of the baby – at the end of my 20th week on January 12. In the meantime, I am nursing a sore back and a growing stomach and marveling at all that lies ahead.

Happy New Year!

Brownies and Road Trips: Two of My Favorite Things

Yesterday was one of those days.

It started as I popped Neruda’s metal dish into the microwave. From there, the day quickly spiraled out of control, from miscommunication with clients to idiot drivers to melting chocolate on the stove in my usual glass bowl, only to have the entire bottom of the glass bowl break into the pan of water when I was on a deadline (and had no more chocolate), to getting stuck in a random carpool line for half an hour when my bladder was about to burst (and I didn’t have a child to pick up), to getting a “no” from the job I wanted after two months of waiting, to having the checkout lady at Whole Foods cough grotesquely into her hand and then fondle my groceries… (and the list continues).

Instead of crying (which would be totally expected in my pregnant state), I took a deep breath. I assessed the situation. This was just a day, not my life. Everyone was still breathing. It was a beautiful, albeit, frigidly cold day. And like so many things, if you get out of bed and stub your toe (or almost catch your microwave on fire, as in my case), you send yourself on a path of negativity. I wanted to get off that path.

And last night, I did. Alex and I attended Olson’s Christmas party, held at Hub 51. As we worked our way inside, I realized this must be what every Chicagoan does on Thursday night as we are snuggled on the couch: they are out drinking and mingling at Hub 51. Downstairs, the party was in full swing. I felt festive, and found it was so nice to be surrounded by new people – people I’d heard so much about but hadn’t yet met.

Quickly, I met woman after woman who was pregnant, just had a baby, or had been on the mommy track for quite some time. We yelled over the music and hours passed in the span of minutes.

As we left, I felt invigorated and so proud of Alex for slipping in so effortlessly with the group in only 3 weeks’ time.

As a celebration, I ate some of the delectable brownies I had remade earlier in the day and thought of our vacation to come. Not all the packing and moving that will come after it or the possible new job at Downsize Fitness when I return: no.

Only packing the car for the 7 hour journey to Nashville; bringing our pup, Neruda, for the very first time; seeing my parents’ warm smiling faces and their big house with the comfy guest beds; watching endless movies and eating delectable treats; taking walks around the quiet block, going out to long dinners, sitting at Fido with Nikki, eating hangover bombs and talking like no time has lapsed since we’ve seen each other; waking on Christmas morning to music and photographs and the tree, warmed by lights; brunch with the family and staying in pajamas all day to watch A Christmas Story and be sloths on the sectional with my husband, his mother, and the rest of my family.

These are the moments that fill me with the most happiness… simple moments, nothing moments, really, in the span of a life, but they are the ones that truly matter. It’s not the book deal or the one solid interview or the perfect article – it’s the experience.

As I touch my belly, finally budding and starting to show its own sense of life in this world, I am so curious as to who she/he will be and what they will hold dear to them.

For me, I will hold this holiday close to my heart, not because of what Christmas usually represents with presents (which we are not doing this year), but with family. I am fortunate to love my family and get along with them so well. This will be my last Christmas as an individual – before someone calls me mommy or the world views me with a new title or I experience an even deeper sense of love than I can possibly comprehend.

This year, I am counting down the hours until we leave like a child on Christmas Eve.

The apartment is quiet, save for the dryer, heating up the last load of clothes. Neruda’s bag is packed, full of potty pads, food and her interminable amount of toys. My bag is half-packed. Our snacks for the road are in a Whole Foods bag and ready to go. All I need now is Alex, walking through the door, so I can kiss the cold from his cheeks, hear about his day and feast on something delicious, as we continue to tidy our house, throw our clothes into a bag, and hit the road at the crack of dawn tomorrow for a new adventure.

These are the moments of my life… and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

Black Bean Flourless Brownies (inspired by the ever amazing YumUniverse!!!)

These flourless, gluten-free brownies are completely vegan and packed full of protein from black beans (I promise you can’t taste them). With just a few simple ingredients (and a few variations from YU’s recipe), this will satisfy any chocolate craving.

Ingredients:

3 cups low-sodium black beans, rinsed (25 oz. can)

1/4 cup coconut oil

2 cups vegan chocolate pieces (10 oz. bag)

2/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup pecans (optional)

1 cup + 2 Tbsp. coconut palm sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line pan or cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2. Rinse your canned black beans and set aside.

3. Melt your chocolate and coconut oil using a double broiler or microwave. *

4. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth. Stir in pecans.

5. Spread into pan or cookie sheet and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

*Note: If using microwave to melt chocolate, make sure to use a microwave safe bowl and lower power on microwave to half. Melt in 30 second intervals and then stir. It should not take more than a couple of minutes!