Monday, December 01, 2014

After three months away...

(This post was written yesterday afternoon.)

My last blog post was almost three months ago. When I started this blog, I used it as a tool for self-reflection as I worked to lose weight, and as a means of sharing my experiences along this journey. So much has changed since my first blog post; lately, I've been thinking a lot about this blog's place and purpose in my life. 

Blogging about blogging. Yeah. That's happening.

Originally. this blog was intended to help me stay accountable with my weight loss and exercising. It also provided me with a way to track my accomplishments, which have included losing a whack of weight. But now? I don't know. I took three months away from the blog.

Since Trudy was born, my blog posts have mostly been about her. Losing weight and exercise have not been the sole focus of my life now for quite some time. Recently, I've used this blog as a way to update friends and family on our new little family's life. But I came to a point where the blog was no longer feeling like it was helping make me feel connected. It started feeling really one-sided and lonely. It did not facilitate much, if any, interaction. I thought that by sharing photos and experiences via this blog that I would be left feeling more connected with everyone I care about, most of whom are thousands of miles from Miami. (Note: This is not a commentary on any of you beloved readers. This is merely my thoughts about blogging functioning as a means of interaction. Perhaps I could work harder to make the blog more interactive? Ask questions? Is this the point of the blog? Or was I/am I perhaps seeking a kind of interaction that my style of blogging simply cannot provide?) 

My recent blogging experiences have felt like nothing but unnecessary work. After blogging, I was left feeling the exact opposite. I realized, following my post in early September, that blogging had become a chore. Without any big announcement, I stepped away. No one really noticed. I freed myself of any feelings that I had to post. 

I've read some of the blog postings from the last year and see them as blogging for blogging's sake. They also reflect a lot of inaccurate, selective representations of a chapter of my life that has been incredibly challenging. Since Trudy was born, this blog has been a reminder of how different things are from how life was when I weighed 150 pounds... when I was exercising twice a day and eating a ridiculously low amount of calories. Truth be told? I've longed for those days, especially in the last year. I long for the freedom to focus on optimal health. I long for the simplicity and the feeling of accomplishment that came with totally transforming my life. But maybe, even then, blogging was not a good thing. Did it call too much attention to food and exercising? Sometimes I wonder if, while serving as a helpful tool for reflection, it also contributed to what was (when I was at my lowest weight) an unhealthy obsession with tracking my food intake and exercising.

My blog represented a success story with a lovely story arc. Girl gets super fat. Girl loses 110 pounds. End of story, right? But then girl has baby and everything changes. How does girl reconcile everything, in light of this? Giving birth to Trudy left me face-to-face with a unwelcome guest--memories of a former fat self that I thought I'd left behind. I had hoped I was done with fat Jill. She was lost. She was miserable. I'd hoped that she could only ever be located in my rear-view mirror, found only on the "pages" of this blog.

I love Trudy, don't get me wrong. She is the best thing in my life (tied with Bryn, of course.) But I think it's time for me to get real--if I'm gong to blog, it needs to be truthful. So, yeah, I suffered from the baby blues for a few weeks after having Trudy, as a lot of Mom's do. But my baby blues developed into full-fledged depression. I think this happened in "large part" because of the my weight gain. And when the baby and baby-related weight didn't just melt off in a matter of minutes, I fell deeper and deeper into a dark, hopeless place.

And now I'm crying at Starbucks.

I am not at all ashamed to say I was depressed. Many things have led to this less-than-perfect storm. On top of the challenges of bringing a baby into this world, I was doing it with very little support or family nearby. (Note: This is not at all, in any way a comment about Bryn. He has been the best Dad and partner I could have ever asked for on this journey. But we are, by virtue of our situation living here in Miami, quite isolated.) I fought to breastfeed Trudy; it took me several AWFUL weeks to get it figured out. Then, the darn baby wouldn't take a bottle. I've done EVERY feeding (yes, we are still going!) since the tiny human came into this world. I've been more-or-less attached to her for fifteen months, leaving me (by choice, yes, I know) with little time to get away. I gained 42 pounds with the pregnancy. I was left feeling hopeless and fat, with little opportunity to address the situation in the way I wanted to (quickly... lots of exercise... restricted eating.) I also had the whole pressure of the dissertation looming overhead. I felt overwhelmed and constantly anxious. I felt unable to write, to focus which only made everything worse. I never knew when I would get a chance to work since Trudy's schedule was so unreliable.

And the blog. Oh yes, this blog. It served as a constant reminder of what I saw as me being a huge failure. I had "let myself go." I hadn't bounced back to my super-sporty ideal self within three minutes of giving birth. I was a mess. My negative, critical self-talk only made things worse. I tried to make things seem like they were amazing and happy via this blog... but they weren't.

Right around Trudy turning a year old--around the same time I stopped blogging--I started feeling able to make some really positive changes. I felt rested and Trudy's schedule was a bit more reliable. I finally felt like I had the energy to focus on losing weight and exercising again. I made a plan to work on my dissertation EVERY DAY, no matter what. And I started seeing someone -- a psychologist. I started talking about what I was going through and gave myself permission to stop judging and hating myself. 

Just as all of the negative things combined to make me totally miserable, all of these positive changes brought me out of a dark, terrible funk.

At the beginning of September:
  • I started tracking my food intake and set a daily caloric intake limit. I allowed myself some flexibility but stayed diligent about 80% of the time.
  • I started exercising. I went to the gym as much as I could and started running again.
  • I started getting up nearly EVERY DAY at 5am to work on my dissertation.
  • I started talking to Bryn about my feelings and asking for help when I needed it.
  • I started crafting. Art therapy, seriously. It may sound crazy, but I started little projects that helped my mind calm when I was feeling overwhelmed and left me with small accomplishments that I could share with others.
Crying again. 

Let me tell you what all of these little changes have done for me. Small changes which I have maintained now for almost three months:
  • I've lost nearly 30 pounds. Together with the 12 pounds I dropped in the first few months after Trudy was born (including delivering her little 7-pound self), I am down right near 165 pounds, where I was before I got pregnant! I still would like to lose a bit more, but I'm giving myself time and space to let this happen. I've been working towards eating and living such that I do not suffer every day. It takes longer to reach my goals but I'm doing it in a more sustainable way.
  • I've kept exercising, though an upper-back injury (muscle strain, nothing structural) has taken me out of the gym. I've been doing physio for a bit and am feeling about 90% "back" to normal. I still run whenever I can, usually at least once a week. I also walk 3 to 5 miles each and every day. When I don't know what to do with Trudy or feel like I'm overwhelmed, I walk. It works for me!
  • I have completed a FULL DRAFT (oh god, really crying now) of my dissertation. 7 chapters, 52,601 words. Still lots to do, but I'm excited to be moving forward.
  • I feel good. I feel hopeful. I don't cry as much as I have in the past few months. I am looking forward to the future. I enjoy Bryn. I enjoy Trudy. I am starting to enjoy life.
And, gosh darn it, I'm really proud of myself. I need to pause and take this opportunity to say that I've worked really hard to get where I am. I am working on not being too hard on myself. I need to celebrate these victories. I am in a good place right now, and I feel confident that I am heading towards a GREAT place. Beautiful family. PhD in hand VERY SOON, I hope. Job, maybe? In the future? Strong body, strong mind. HEALTHY. Happy.

You know, looking back on all of this, I've learned a lot. It's okay not to be happy. It's hard not to be happy, but it's okay. Part of what made my struggle with this extended postpartum depression was that I was constantly feeling like there was something wrong me because, no, Taylor Swift, I couldn't just shake it off. It was something more that required me to talk steps to help myself. Having Trudy and dealing with everything that happened as a result of this life transition has made me stronger and wiser. My body is different as a result of childbirth. And my mind is also different. This whole process has changed me and continues to change me in ways that I never could have anticipated.

Ups and downs. Happy and not-so-happy. This is the way things will go. Weight will be gained, weight will be lost. NOW IS NOT FOREVER -- this is a powerful mantra that I recently adopted. It reminds me to treasure those sometimes fleeting, happy moments and gives me perspective when the bad stuff happens ("this too shall pass.") The best thing I can do for myself, and model for my beloved Trudy, is be flexible to deal with life's unpredictability. I think the postpartum depression hit me hard because I was dealing with more change than I could handle. I felt I'd lost my body and my mind. I was far from "home." I felt unable to do any of the things I needed to or wanted by virtue of the overwhelming amount of work that Trudy required at the beginning of her life/my life as a Mom.

So, what's the verdict with the blog? From now on, I'm only going to blog when I want to. I'm not going to blog when it feels obligatory or like a chore. I'm going to use the blog as a way to reflect and share, but I'm not going to expect it to serve as a way to connect with people. When I miss my loved ones, I'm going to call them or write to them. The blog, really, is for me, and about me. If it facilitates interaction, that's awesome. If my musings and reflections are of interest and benefit to someone else, even awesome-r.

Speaking of obligatory blogging, I should note that I do not have the energy nor interest this year to devote to Gym Christmas. Maybe next year? We'll see. I am so thankful to those of you who asked about it, and encourage you to formulate your own challenges this time of year, should you feel so inspired.

Some updates from the last few months.

Trudy continues to grow! She is not quite walking but we anticipate she'll take her first steps very soon. She is scooting and stands by herself every now and then!

As I mentioned earlier, Trudy's into a nice schedule these days, though I'm worried she may drop her morning nap in the next little while. She's been sleeping like a champ at night (12 hours solid most nights) and two naps in the day (usually 1.5 hours each), which means I've been able to get lots of work done most days.

Trudy is starting to talk more and more. Here she is at 13 months (mid-September):

We had a great Hallowe'en. Trudy went as a "gog" -- her favourite word and animal.

We went on a trip in early November to Milwaukee, WI for Bryn's annual theory nerd gathering. Trudy had a great chance to hang out with some of her favourite theory babies!

Trudy's been starting to play well by herself. She also likes to talk to herself.
Check out this video from right around 14 months (mid-November):

We just got back from a trip up to New Smyrna Beach for Thanksgiving with some wonderfully generous and loving friends. On the way back to Miami, we stopped in on some friends in Altamonte Springs and met their new two-month old son! Another theory baby!

Like I said, Trudy's getting close to walking!
Check out this video from just a few days ago:

In school-related news, I've had two papers accepted to a conference in Tampa in February 2015. One is a paper taken from my dissertation and the other is a joint paper on applications of cognition research to music education. 

Bryn and I also both had entries published in a SAGE encyclopedia, which arrived in the mail just last week. He did four shorter entries while I did one big one (2500 words) on community music:

I've also started volunteering once a week in a local school's music magnet program. I help out in the classroom with whatever the teacher may need!

So what's next? Well, after a few months with relatively little traveling, Trudy and I are off on a big adventure on Wednesday. We are flying to Victoria, BC. 13 hours (including 3 flights) each way. Sadly, Bryn has to stay behind and work. We'll be gone for a week.

As part of my self-imposed art therapy, I've done a whack of Christmas crafting. I'll try to share some of my creations in a future post.

And to close things out, a sneak-peek at Trudy's Christmas shoot:

Happy December!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Taking to the skies with a tiny human

Trudy has been alive now for just over a year. In that time, she and I have traveled on 20 airplanes. I guess that's what happens when your family lives thousands of miles away, your baby flies for free, and you have a flexible work schedule!

This blog post summarizes some of my thoughts and experiences from these travels.

Trudy's First Flight

Miami to Charlotte; Oct. 2013
The very first time we took Trudy on a plane was late November 2013 when she was just over two months old. We traveled with her to SMT in Charlotte, NC.

I found that traveling with such a tiny baby was easy; I just breastfed her anytime she was upset and she slept for most of the remaining time. There were tons of distractions when she was awake and people eager too "ooh" and "ahh" at her.

This trip was really straightforward and proved to be an excellent first-time flight for us. One plane, Miami to Charlotte, each way. Bryn was there with us for support and to take shifts when necessary. Trudy was so little that she easily fit on our laps. She ate and slept pretty much all the way, both ways.

Plane Trip Number Two

Miami to Toronto; Dec. 2013
Our second trip on a plane with Trudy was to Canada in December 2013. Trudy was four months old. She was bigger and more engaged in the world but she was still really fun to fly with. We flew Miami to Toronto on the way there and spent a bit of time in Ontario. Our first flight was awesome; we had an entire row (six seats!) to ourselves, so I was able to take Trudy's car seat on the plane. She slept in it for a bit and I got some reading done: so awesome. (Side note: look how bald I am in that picture! Pregnancy really took its toll on my poor hairline. I forgot how bad it was. Thankfully, it's all starting to grow back.)

After Christmas in Ontario, we then flew Toronto to Victoria (that was a long haul!), and our flight on the way home was from Victoria to Calgary and then to Miami (an even longer haul.) 

You can see my travel nursing pillow in the picture to the right; I was so glad to have it yet again for this trip! My strategy for this trip was much the same as the first. Nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse. I found that Trudy was not so bothered going up or going down, but I still tried to nurse her during these times just to keep her quiet and comfortable.

Going It Alone

My first solo trip with Trudy was in May 2014 when she was right around 9 months old. I found that novel food, novel toys (with a broad definition of "toys" as anything that she can play with that won't kill her), breastfeeding (I took my full-size pillow and it was well-worth it), looking out the window, and watching videos of herself/looking at pictures of herself on my phone was a good mix of activities. (Horribly vain creatures, aren't they? These babies?) I opted for the window seat each time so that I could nurse with *some* privacy and got up once to walk around/change Trudy each trip. I saved these stretch-and-change trips for the half-way point of each flight to give us a break.)

This trip helped me develop an "on-board entertainment" strategy. I had a carousel of in-seat activities through which I cycled through on a non-stop basis. This included toys, food, looking out the window, singing songs, changing Trudy's position (facing forward, facing backwards), letting Trudy see over the seats at the other people on the plane, etc. I kept populating the list of things and, when I ran out of new ideas, returned to the beginning and just kept going. When nothing worked, I nursed her. If that didn't work, we got up and walked around a bit.

At this point in Trudy's life, she was crawling. I let her go for it in the airport since she'd be cooped up for quite some time. The trip to Seattle included two flights each way (through Dallas/Ft. Worth), so I did this every chance I got.

I brought tons of disinfecting wipes with me this trip to clean her up after her airport exercise and to wipe down the tray tables, arm rests, and windows when on the plane.

To and from Seattle, a few shots; May 2014

Veteran Flyers

After the epic Seattle adventure, we did a trip to Oklahoma City (via Atlanta) and home to Miami (via Charlotte) followed shortly by a trip to Canada for a few weeks (which involved flights to Toronto, Winnipeg, back to Toronto, and then home to Miami with an unexpected stop in Ft. Myers!)

About to fly to Winnipeg from Toronto; July 2014
ATL-OKC, June 2014

I completed my second big solo trip with Trudy just a few weeks ago when we flew to Detroit and then drove up to London for a week.

DTW-MIA; August 2014

Now, looking back on things, I have a pretty set list of things to pack and bring when I fly with the Trudinator--a list that has expanded and grown (and changed!) as Trudy's needs and abilities evolve. In very basic terms, here's what I usually take:
  • Stroller: We found taking a base (this one) and our car seat worked best. Put 'em together and you have a stroller, and then you've got a car seat with you when you need one. The car seat can be belted into a car without the base (which we never brought along on flights). We could fold-up the base easily (with one hand) and could take everything right up to the gate before boarding the plane. I did do one trip with the Ergo carrier, but I didn't like it. Sure it was great to be "hands-free," but when you're spending so much together time on the plane, it's nice to be able to put the baby down in a separate space to get your body back while you're in transit.
  • We messed with storage bags for our stroller and car seat on our first trip, but found them to be a HUGE hassle. Putting the stuff into the bags before boarding and taking it out after getting off the plane was not worth all of the effort nor the cost of the stupid bags.
  • Travel nursing pillow (when Trudes was really small) or a full-size nursing pillow (which I started taking when Trudes was around 9 months.)
  • Blanket: I always use a blanket to prop-up Trudy's head when breastfeeding. I traveled with one that was light and easily packed but big; it came in handy in many different situations.
Victoria-Calgary-Miami; January 2014
  • A few cloths: I found it really helpful to have a few smaller blankets or cloths to use to cover Trudy's eyes and ears when she did finally fall asleep. Planes provide awesome white noise once they are in motion but you have to be careful about timing sleeping (if you can) to avoid all the noisy and intrusive overhead announcements.
On our way to Seattle; May 2014
  • Diaper bag or Backpack with all the fun stuff - diapers, wipes, CHANGE OF CLOTHES, plastic bag, toys, food, medicine, water, etc. etc. etc. (All the stuff you Moms already know to bring.) I started taking a backpack when I traveled alone with Trudy because I wanted something that would allow me to have both hands free at all times and something in which I could easily transport my laptop.
  • Food and water for me, especially when traveling alone. I never had time to stop and get food when traveling by myself with Trudy. On my most recent trip, I packed a whole bunch of mini chicken burritos and snacked on them all day. They saved my life. You can also bring water and whatnot. As long as it's "for the baby" you'll get through security, no problem.

Generally speaking, here are some thoughts on other aspects of taking to the skies with a tiny human:
  • Flight Timing: I have no advice here. I've tried flying at all different times of day with the Trudes, up to a point. I have yet to fly at night or overnight. For us, a travel day screwed up naps no matter what. Trudy would grab a bit of shut-eye when she could and I just ran with it. My preference is definitely for early morning flights, especially with baby still needing two naps during the day. That way, if Trudy just has a short nap in the morning, she can usually get a good one in the afternoon once we are off the plane and settled at our destination.
  • Multiple Flights in a row: We've done two flights back-to-back several times. It makes for a long day, but it's doable. I prefer one flight with a break, and then another flight the next day. We did this in the summer on our way to Winnipeg and it was great. We flew to Toronto, stopped for a night, and then continued on the next afternoon.
  • What baby wears: I found the planes to be cold so I always dressed Trudes in long-sleeved and long-panted outfits (which was outside the norm for us here in Miami!) And ALWAYS bring a change of clothes! We've had some epic body fluid failures on the plane.
  • What you wear: I always dressed in layers and wore a top where my boobs were really accessible. 

At the airport:
  • Skip self-check-in: I didn't pay hundreds of dollars to check myself in. Especially when traveling alone, I would always go directly to an agent for help checking-in. 
  • Security: Some airports have awesome "family" lanes where things are a bit easier. I found the security agents to be really helpful when I was traveling alone with baby. They would assist me with getting everything through the scanner (especially breaking down the car seat and stroller.) You take baby out the seat and carry her through the x-ray machine in your arms.
  • Pre-boarding: Board early if you can. WestJet and Air Canada are all about this, as is Delta in the US. Both American and US Airways didn't allow pre-boarding for people traveling with kids under the age of 2. Even if the airline is not allowing you to pre-board, ignore your assigned group or zone and get on the plane with Group/Zone 1. 
  • Gatechecking: When you get to the gate, you can check whatever you brought with you (stroller and car seat, for us.) Each airline is different about what you're allowed to take. I always go up to the counter to see if I can get the gatecheck tags in advance of boarding. I find it speeds things up for everyone. On our OKC/Texas trip, we gatechecked our items but they never made it on the plane! It was crazy. We eventually got them back (they went to Newark while we headed to Charlotte.) I still don't know how this happened. As a result of this, we now have labels with all of our contact information on both the car seat and stroller.
  • Ask and ye might receive: If a plane is not full and there is an open seat for the baby, you can take the car seat on. Ask about how full the plane is at the counter before getting on the plane. I always do this, just in case. On our most recent flight home to Miami from Detroit, the plane was basically empty. We got moved to an open row, I took on the car seat, and, voila, super easy trip!

On the plane:
  • Aisle vs. window: I've tried both. With nursing as much as I tend to do on planes, I found the window to be the best, especially if traveling alone with the baby. I like the privacy and the ability to rest my head on the window to catch a few winks when Trudy falls asleep. Aisle was dangerous because if someone had to get out and the baby was asleep, it meant waking her up to move in order to let the other passenger out of the row.
  • A bit of screen time: I'm not big on screens for the baby in our everyday lives but used my phone as a distraction whenever I needed to. Trudy had a lot of fun taking pictures and videos, and looking at pictures and videos of herself.
  • Breastfeeding on the plane: If you are packed on a plane, in the window, and traveling by yourself, breastfeeding on the plane can cause you to become a bit more cozy with your neighbor than either of you may like. When traveling alone, I always told the person next to me that I would be breastfeeding. They never seemed to have a problem. I do my best to be discreet while still making sure that both baby and I are comfortable. I found that turning my body a full 90 degrees to face the window was sometimes helpful, especially when Trudy was so long that her legs would kick the poor person next to me if I did not. When I had multiple flights in a row, I would try to sit on different sides of the plane because I found that, for privacy and comfort, I always ended up nursing more on the side closest to the window. Switching sides allowed me to keep things balanced!
  • Changing diapers on the plane: I found change tables on some planes, but not all. Delta never had them. If I had the room/space, I would just change Trudy on the seat. You *can* change a baby in a change-table-less airplane bathroom, but it's no fun for anyone. You can use the airsickness bag to deposit diapers. Some flight attendants will ask for you to bring the diapers to them; others say just to stash it in the bathroom garbage.
  • "Making nice" with other passengers: Trudy is a great flyer and I (thankfully) never felt that she was a real annoyance. I do, however, always offer to buy the person next to me a drink or snack as thanks for "putting up with us." No one has ever taken me up on this. Every time I've sat next to a stranger, so far, they've been wonderful. Most of the time it's an older person with grown kids and seeing Trudy brings back all kinds of lovely memories that they share! I've found that people on planes loooooooooooove babies. Well, I guess I should say, more accurately, that people on planes love HAPPY babies...
  • Asking for/accepting help: Yep, do it. Whenever it's offered, especially when traveling alone. Appear helpless if you need help and people will rush to your aid. I think that *most* people are good and kind and decent, and seeing a baby and mom "in need" gives folks an opportunity to show that they are good and kind and decent. My best example of this was at the car rental place when returning the car in Detroit prior to flying out. We were staying at a hotel a block from the rental place. I had SO much luggage and it wasn't packed for the plane since we still had an overnight hotel stay before we flew home. I didn't want to take the car rental shuttle back to the airport and then another shuttle back to the hotel, so I just casually said, "Oh, well, I guess we'll just walk to the hotel." One of the car rental guys immediately jumped in and said "he can't let us do that." He loaded us up into a car and chauffeured us to the hotel! Woo.

I remember being really scared about flying. Now, I look forward to it. I'm sure things will increase in difficulty once Trudy is walking, though we keep pushing her over to delay that as long as humanly possible. We have a bit of a break now until our next flight, which is in late October!

(One other note, re: an item I've flown with pretty much everywhere. I love taking along this portable high chair. It packs in our duffel bag and I've found it to be amazing. Highly recommended.)

Trudy livin' large in Seattle; May 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Four Trips in Four Months: Final Installment

What a summer it's been! The final installment of "Four Trips in Four Months" saw Trudy and I travel to London, Ontario for a week. We flew to Detroit, grabbed a rental car, and drove up to London.

On the plane (left); heading to Canada (right)

This trip had a few purposes: 1) to attend a conference at UWO; 2) to see my dear friend Alison get married; and 3) to visit with family and friends.

The conference was a graduate student gathering at UWO entitled WUGSOM (Western University Graduate Symposium on Music.) I gave my paper on the first day of the conference.

WUGSOM program.

Looking back on things now, I am really happy with how everything went! It's been a while since I got up in front of a group of people and did anything. It was great to see that I could still do it! This marked the first time I did any kind of public talk about my dissertation. It felt great to talk about the project I'd been working on for so many months now.

The title slide of my presentation.

How fitting that my presentation would be centered on a travel theme...

It did me good to be back at UWO. I must say, though, it was surreal to be walking around campus with a BABY in tow. I couldn't help but think back to THIRTEEN YEARS ago when I first stepped foot on campus to begin my undergraduate degree.

Such a beautiful place.

I pointed out to Trudy some important spots -- where Mommy and Daddy first started dating (our beloved Sunset Street houses) and where we got married (in Medway Hall.) Again, totally surreal but awesome. It's amazing how powerful place is... and Western holds some of the most powerful and important memories in my life so far. I felt really grateful to be able to share that with Trudy.

On Saturday I saw my beloved friend Alison get married.

Beautiful family! Congrats, you three!

The ceremony was at her home, in the backyard. My god, she was a STUNNING bride. I was so thankful to have been able to join her for such a magical and memorable event.

Trudy and I were able to do a lot of visiting with family and friends on this trip! Highlights include Trudy having a chance to hang out again with her cousin Zoe and a trip to Brantford to see Trudy's buddy Noah and meet little Miles.

Zoe and Trudy read a book (left); Noah, Trudy, and Miles tinkle the ivories (right)

The Brantford trip was really special to me. I call Noah, Trudy, and Miles "The 19th Club." They were all born on the 19th of months in close succession in 2013. Noah was May 19, Miles was July 19, and Trudy was August 19. I count their Mamas among my favorite ladies (not to mention their Dads are pretty cool, too). These folks are very special to me since we were all pregnant together for the first time.

Trudy also got a lot of snuggles from her Amma and Bopa. They (and Bryn's sister, Joellen) helped me out tremendously while I was at the conference - many thanks!

Trudy loves her Amma!

Before I knew it, we were back in the car, headed for Detroit.

Windsor/Detroit border, heading back into the US.

We stayed overnight near the airport and flew out early the next morning. The flight back was amazing. The plane was 30% full, so we had an entire ROW of seats to ourselves! I brought on Trudy's car seat and we had lots of space to spread out.

Baby on board!

This flight marked Trudy's 20th plane right in her short little life! What a frequent flyer. Other than Trudy developing a wicked case of diarrhea and a bit of a cold, we had a wonderful trip.

Four trips in four months. Done.
I think we're going to stay put now for a little while!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Trudy turns one


I am the mother of a one year old!
Happy Birthday, dear one.
It's hard to believe what we were doing a year ago today.

The past year has challenged me and thrilled me in so many ways. Both Bryn and I feel that Trudy is the best "thing" we've ever done; she's such a bright light in our lives. She brings us so much joy and happiness! 

We hosted a small party for Trudy last weekend. It was a wonderful gathering!

Trudy had a chance to spend some time with her BFF Lola, who turns one only a few weeks after Trudy. The party featured lots of good food, drinks, and conversations. It was as much a celebration for Trudy as it was for me and Bryn: we survived our first year as parents!

Now, I love celebrations. I love giving gifts. I wanted to make Trudy's birthday extra special by making her a gift -- something that we could both enjoy together. One day, while out on a walk, I found a box thingy on the side of the road. When I came upon it, I immediately thought I could repurpose it into an amazing puppet theatre for Trudy. I think it was some kind of candle shrine? It had some black on the interior which I would guess was from candles burning and it smelled very "artificial," if you know what I mean.

Repurposing my treasure ended up being a big project. I took the entire thing apart to see if the structure would work without the back wall -- an essential step so that it could be transformed into a theatre!

All the parts got sanded. 

Next step was priming. Another big job.

A lot of finnicky painting, several trips to the hardwore store, and one stop at Michael's for paint later... VOILA. A Trudy-rrific puppet theatre to celebrate a special little girl's first birthday.

We have it in her room now and it's a great forum for puppet shows. Thanks to Bryn's Dad for making the puppets! They were a very thoughtful gift to Trudy for her first Christmas.

Off to celebrate the day with my favourite tiny human!
And then, tomorrow, we're off on another adventure...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August Updates


Bryn's sister, sister's special man-friend Matt, and our niece/their little one Zoe (6.5 years old) came up from Costa Rica this past week for a visit. It was a great chance for cousins Zoe and Trudy to spend some time together! The highlight of their stay was a trip to the Miami Zoo, where we saw all kinds of amazing animals. I really loved the rhinos and giraffes. Trudy told me that her favourites were the monkeys.

While visiting, the crew headed down to the Keys for a weekend visiting some friends. Trudy and I stayed back to watch the pugs and to give me a chance to get some writing done. I also took that opportunity to bake in anticipation of Trudy's upcoming first birthday party. What a brilliant idea... home alone with 13.5 dozen small cookies and brownies... whose idea was that?!

The coconut cookies on the left are going to be party favours and (what's left of!) the peanut-butter-stuffed mini-brownies on the right will be served during the party. (The recipe says they're cookies but I think they are far more convincing mini-brownies. I cooked 'em in a mini-muffin pan and they turned out great.)

School Stuff, Life
I am happy to report that dissertation writing is HAPPENING and going well. I managed to knock out first drafts of two chapters over the past few weeks, thanks in HUGE part to Bryn taking on a lot of Trudy duties. It's really nice to have him at home to take her when I need to get some writing done. Trudy also makes the BEST writing break. There's nothing like a dance-party with an almost-one-year old to take your mind off a stubborn passage or difficult section of writing.

I try to get outdoors when I can. It has been SCREAMING hot lately which makes it difficult. Trudy and I love to go walk by "our pool" to check on the progress. I'm thrilled to update that the pool is opening on AUGUST 16th (!!!!) and has a few hours of lane swimming each day. The flyer I picked up from the community center says that it is restricted to kids over age 3, but I'm hopeful I can convince them to let me take Trudy in to the splash pad. I am going to go the first day it is open to check it out. I CAN'T WAIT.

I don't get out as much as I'd like to anymore for long bike rides or runs. I'm trying to get as much writing done as possible while Bryn is home to help out with Trudes. I did get out for a ride two weekends ago to my favourite spot out by the water.

I love that view. It never gets old.


I got a spiralizer to try out making veggie noodles and whatnot. It's an amazing contraption that turns things like zucchinis and sweet potatoes into noodles. It also has a chopping blade that can come in handy for veggie prep. I've been spending a lot of time learning about its possibilities by reading this site. My first recipe attempt was Mediterranean Zucchini Noodles. Sounds delicious, right? Zucchini noodles with olives and artichokes and feta? Who wouldn't love that. Well, me. I somehow forgot in my excitement to SPIRALIZE that I don't really like zucchini unless it's mixed into something else (like veggie enchiladas or in a pasta sauce.) Thankfully Bryn loved the recipe so it didn't go to waste. I am going to try again later this week to make a Brussels sprouts and bacon dish with sweet potato noodles.

I've been making a lot of "power bowls" lately for lunches. I cook up some quinoa in the rice cooker, saute a bit of kale on the stove top, and then mix those together. I put a bit of meat on top (whatever we have left in the fridge), some raw veggies, nuts, and a bit of sauce (usually teriyaki sauce or something like that.)

They are easy, nutritious, and excellent fridge-cleaners.

While Bryn's family was visiting, I made an old favorite for dinner: Ranch Chicken Chili in the slow cooker. That is a recipe that never disappoints.

I also made an Eggless Chocolate Cake for dessert; it was easy and delicious. There's still half of it in the freezer (along with the 13.5 dozen cookies mentioned earlier.) I'm really testing my willpower here.

To balance the sweets, we've been eating salad whenever we can. I like to prep six or so at a time so they are always in the fridge, ready to go. 

We had some friends over for dinner about a week ago. We made peas and cheese (an FSU family favourite, thanks to Neil) and a lovely almond cake with blueberry compote and whipped cream for dessert. 

Oh, and I tried this recipe for stuffed buffalo chicken breasts a few nights ago.
 It was a big hit and went very well on top of a salad.


Our little love nugget continues to grow like a weed. She's constantly eating!

Trudy's really starting to develop a hilarious little personality:

She loves to shake things and dance and ga-ga-ga as much as possible.
She's a maniac (on the floor.)

Next up: TRUDY TURNS ONE (can you believe it?) and the fourth and final installment of "Four Trips in Four Months."