{Those 20 Milers…}

Yesterday I ran 20 miles. Then I celebrated.

It wasn’t the first time or the last time I will run 20 miles. I actually have no idea how many times I’ve run this specific distance. I do know we work so hard to achieve goals that forget to appreciate what we do to get there. We judge ourselves and dwell on our failures and missteps along the way to reaching our goals…and I’m over it. I’m currently as slow as I’ve ever been with my running paces, but I celebrated my accomplishment because it is just that.

20 miles has such significance for me. It’s so much more than just breaking out of the teens for mileage. It’s the distance that you look ahead at on the training plan. The long run you both dread and get excited for. It feels like a test of your training with its outcome a measure of how the big race day will go (it’s not always accurate, but it feels like it sets a tone). It’s the confidence builder we need before 26.2 and is often the starter of the taper. 20 miles is a barometer of the type of training I’m doing. One 20 miler is a just going to finish marathon. Two or more 20 milers and I probably have a time goal.

It’s the long run I failed to complete because of mother runner life in my last marathon training cycle before running the San Francisco Marathon last year. As a result, it’s the long run distance I haven’t run since before I had kids and got pregnant in 2014. It’s a mileage goal I haven’t checked off since having my kids… until yesterday that is. So yesterday I celebrated the one distance that has always meant so much to training for a marathon, and that I can finally cross off my training plan again.

I think we all need to celebrate more of our successes and those little victories we casually overlook or dismiss on the way to a bigger goal. These little successes set a tone and give us hope in our daily lives that we can achieve bigger things. They make you feel that pride that no one or no bad life event can take from us. We keep them as ours and use them on days when life throws its challenges at us.

So this 20 miler I’m celebrating a little longer, a little bigger and because I love champagne. I made a goal to do something every day that makes me happy. Running and champagne both do that for me.

What little victory should you be celebrating right NOW?!?!

Sarah

{Being Honest About Food}

My first round of Whole30 is done and all the treats are before me. Well, not really. It felt nice to be able to enjoy a treat yesterday, but I also really don’t want to go back to the way I was eating. I did feel slugglish after the sugar and it felt, well, gross.  It kind of reminded me of how I had let things slide since adding grains back into my diet last February.  I had also started experiencing some digestion issues, fatigue and acne since returning to the school year.  Knowing I wasn’t feeling my best and worried that each month my symptoms were seeming worse, I delved into Whole30 hoping for a solution to what seemed to be unconnected symptoms other than food.

The past 30+ days have been the perfect reset to remind me why I like eating so clean and of how good I can feel.  I am starting to believe that most health issues truly are connected to food. I am feeling better than in months, lost a few pounds (no idea how many, but I feel it in how my clothes fit), my skin, nails and hair are looking better than ever and I’ve had more energy than I can recall in a long time.  I’ve also felt stronger on my runs lately.  My digestion issues have improved, although they are not completely gone, and I have had no major acne since beginning Whole30 (two very small clogged pores is all!).  It’s hard to quit something even when it’s a challenge with results like this.

In a strange way there was and is an ease with restriction. It doesn’t matter what I was craving or what foods were in front of me… if I was not eating them, then I couldn’t have them. I am no stranger to elimination and restrictive diets.  I did not eat dairy for a year when my son was a baby and I was breastfeeding as he had issues with the dairy proteins through my breast milk.  Four months after adding dairy back into my diet I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes with baby number two and the carb restrictions began.  Seven and a half months after having baby number two we found out she had FPIES to all grains and bananas.  I spent the next almost nine months eating no grains or bananas.  I also did not eat any added sugar for two months after getting her diagnosis to help clean up my eating and better my gut health.  Less than a year after returning to eating without restrictions I started my first Whole 30.

Saying no to Whole30’s food restrictions was also easier than it sounds because there was a reason for it-healing my body and breaking my bad habits.  I understood that a slip up meant that food protein would be in my body and affecting my bodies healing process with the full extent of a setback not something I could really know.  This process also led me to realize as much as I did not think I had much of any sort of emotional attachment to food, I learned that I wasn’t really being honest with myself.  On really stressful days I noticed how much I wanted a sweet treat to help the day along or a latte from Starbucks to help me cope with that days challenges.  Not having those emotional supports led me to learn to handle those emotions without food.  I found myself reading more than scrolling.  Sticking to my workouts more than wasting time. Writing in my gratitude journal instead of snacking or having something sweet.

I’ve also realized over the years than sometimes allowing the cannot haves back in to my diet is a slippery slope. A few this usually leads to a few more after a while.  Sometimes I use restriction because committing to saying no or avoiding certain foods is easier than the slippery slope of I will have just one or today I can have it because…without it turning into every few days.  Whether this is uniquely me or due to following some sort of restriction diet for the last almost four years, I don’t know for sure.

I do feel I’ve got a new respect for my body and a greater understanding of what these foods can do along with why limiting or avoiding them is important. Armed with the knowledge I gained from It Starts With Food, I know I can’t unknow what I now understand about food and the body. Still, I feel a little unsure of what to do next and am defaulting to all Whole30 foods otherwise as I follow their reintroduction plan with my own spin. It’s scary (and also empowering) to bring all the foods back in and have to face the reality that a specific food might not be a good choice for me.

Going forward I plan to carefully reintroduce each food group one at a time to really see how each affects my body following their suggested introduction plan (with a few of my own modifications). What’s the point of the sacrifice of the last 30 days if not to really learn how each food makes me feel. I’m interested in avoiding dairy (I didn’t miss it) and gluten except for on special occasions going forward (if they don’t give me problems during the reintroduction). Other than missing enjoying a beer here or a slice of pizza there, these two food groups are not that appealing to me any more. I really know I feel best when I eat clean, real foods despite our modern fast pace and busy mom life chaos always challenging this.

In a world where we often rush and cram food mindlessly into our mouths without thinking about it, I really found so much value in reading this book and completing this experience.  It forced me to really look at my eating habits, investigate some health concerns I was having and how foods might be the cause, and it got me to be honest with myself about my emotions and how they are tied to food.  The experience also got me questioning how I feed my own kids and what I am teaching them about food.

There are so many stories of success out there with Whole30 healing digestive issues, autoimmune issues, diabetes, and a host of other concerns with people’s health.  If you are struggling with something health related I urge you to explore food as a way to heal along with seeing your doctor.  I did visit a doctor who offered no explanation for my symptoms or suggestions other than to keep doing what I am doing and come back in a few months if my symptoms worsen.  This experience with a medical doctor was exactly what I expected it would be, but I went to make sure I checked that box.  Then I took my health into my own hands…er, kitchen!

If you’re interested in beginning your Whole30 journey and experimenting with what works best for your body, here are a few of my tips for success:

1. Meal Plan and Prep-Have a plan every week for what you will eat each day and prep as much as you can ahead of time. Hangry people with no fast fixes are not pleasant and they make Whole30 feel harder than it has to.

2. Research your grocery store options! Living in a small town I learned quickly my options were even more limited. I could not find any compliant deli meat, bacon or non-almond nuts (all had peanut protein listed as an ingredient). I also struggled to find any not standard grocery store items like sunflower butter, ghee or clarified butter. I had to make trips to the next larger city to find these things.

3. Read It Starts With Food before and during your Whole30. It explains the why for each restriction in such a way it makes you want to keep going.  Without understanding why a food group is off limits the restrictions will seem too extreme to some (no dairy, no legumes, no grains, no added sugar, no alcohol, no processed foods).  Several times I found myself wanting to quit due to failed meal prep or not finding something at the store. Reading this book helped me stay the course because I understood the why behind what I was trying to do and how it would benefit me in the long run.  The bottom line for me is when I’m concerned enough about my health I’m not sure what I wouldn’t try if it meant feeling my best.

4. Use a daily tracker to stay on track. I found perhaps more satisfaction than I should have in shading in a circle after a successful day of following Whole30. I love commit 30’s trackers on their website such as the one above.

5. Consider doing a trial Whole30 and using what you learn to set yourself up for a successful Whole30. 10 days in I forgot to put my lunch in the refrigerator at work only realizing this 4 hours after it sat out. Having to throw away my lunch was frustrating because I also threw away ten days of progress. There are no Whole30 compliant lunch options in the community in which I live (I’m pretty sure).  That night I figured I might as well have a couple beers since my meal was not compliant in several categories.  I accepted the failure and took a few days off to better prepare (meal prep and grocery shop) and then restarted my 30 days. I felt much more prepared the second time I started because of what I learned the first ten days.

6. Surround yourself with at least one person who will encourage you (or at least not be a completely negative force on what will already by difficult).  For me this was my husband.  He didn’t always love that I was doing Whole30, and he might have enjoyed a few beers and treats while noisily savoring their deliciousness, but he did talk me off the edge a few times when I was starving (because of bad planning!  When you eat as they suggest you will not be hungry!) and frustrated and just so done with this process.

7. Find healthier swaps for your favorite foods. Your tastebuds will adjust! There are so many ways to replace less healthy for more healthy with a little research!

Food education is something I find to be so important. I also believe all of us has a unique body. What works for one may not work for all as they state in their book, but starting somewhere and taking responsibility for your health is always imperative. Learn about the food you eat.  Be honest with yourself about how you feel right now.  If it’s not your best or what you believe can be your best, then you are in charge of changing that.  We all deserve to feel our best, and food is a big part of that!

Who else has done Whole30? What was your experience?

Sarah

{Hard Days}

With a heavy heart and a discouraged soul, I logged a few miles less than my training plan called for this morning. I walked away from a daughter saying, “I don’t want Mommy to run in the basement” despite not being more than two meters from her at any point during the 14 hours the day before. While I pushed “go” on the treadmill a Gigantosaurus (who is really enormous 🦖) roared his displeasure with me taking a few miles to myself.

Truthfully it’s been a hard week. Perhaps the most frustrating part of my life currently is that despite my Type A tendencies and all my planning and organizing it’s accepting that I actually have little control of my own life. It’s something I fight and tell myself isn’t true, but weeks like this remind me that I am under the control of two tiny people.

Their early wake ups and the winter weather causing my husband to leave even earlier than usual in the morning are making working out in the A.M. impossible. I live a life where if it doesn’t happen in the tiny window of planned time, then it won’t happen because there is no later or move it to here or adjusting.

When the husband also surprised me on my midweek long run night with an unplanned late meeting and daycare calls work to pick up a sick child early, along with all the early, early wake ups (why do they have to wake up between 5:00 and 5:15???) and leave times, I’m not so gently reminded I have no control over these things.

I said I wouldn’t let these things weigh on me or get me down, but I did and I have been. It’s hard to want something, but literally feel like you can’t make it happen. Some days are so challenging, but I know I’m a better mom for making a bit of time for me. I know I have to let things go in this season of life, but some days are just hard. The important thing is I keep moving forward.

Unlike some, getting to the starting line of any marathon for me is filled with missed runs and training plans that didn’t go as planned. I do the best I can with the supports and resources I have. As I reflect and stretch myself to find some learning from this hard week, I acknowledge that perhaps the beauty in the hard days is appreciating the good days more.

The marathon journey isn’t in the 26.2 miles ran on race day. It’s the hours of training, obstacles and focus that come from committing to training and accomplishing that training as best as we can. My training is never as planned, perfect or easy. I’d hate for anyone to think it’s all easy for me. It’s not. Ever.

But it’s worth it.

So I keep going. I shake off a hard week. It doesn’t have to be perfect or as planned. I move forward knowing this because it IS worth it. With fresh eyes I see my kids as the amazing little people they are. Sometimes they just need their mom, and that won’t always be the way it is.

Sarah

{26.2…again}

I have this silly dream of running 26.2 in every state that I just can’t let go of.

There is just something about 26.2 that pulls you back in.  Runner’s World recently featured a collection of stories, 26.2 Reasons We Love the Marathon, about what makes this distance just so special.  I thought about making my own list, but they just got so many of them spot on that I can’t dictate the difference between their ideas and my own.

Some of my favorites from their list:  it’s a reason to travel, post-race beer, the good its runners do for worthy causes, it’s an excuse to get a new wardrobe, the signs (on the course), because it takes over your life-and it’s awesome, the unique thousands of fans cheering on runners, the post-race feast, the swag, it makes the world a better place-really!, playlists, finding your own **** yeah moment (if you don’t know Shalane Flanagan then this means nothing to you), running the same course as the professionals, the best shower of your life afterwards, the runner’s high and the final .2.  People joke about the last 1,155 feet, but the final .2 moment is different for every race.  It is truly a moment that is unique and rewarding and special every time.

This goal has never been about accomplishing the list as fast as I could.  I never wanted the goal to interfere in an overall negative way with life in other ways.  I like the slow process of building on this goal every year.  I like getting to really see a place when I run a new state whenever possible. Each year it is fun to plan where the next race(s) will be.

So it is, I find myself training again.  Spring marathon training officially began last Monday for me. Even though the snow and cold are just taking hold for good, I know that in a few months (ok, more than that perhaps) warmer weather and greener sights will be back. To help me tackle my ultimate goal, stay on track all winter and feed my need to explore, I’m signed up to check Indiana (Carmel Marathon) and South Dakota (Brookings Marathon) off the 50 State list this coming spring. While I’m excited to get back to following a training plan, I was kind of enjoying running when I could and focusing on the BeachBody LIIFT4 program.

This training cycle I will be running 4 days a week and lifting 3 days a week. I’m going to continue another round of LIIFT4, but I will follow the workouts consecutively by doing 3 each week. My weeks will not match up with the program weeks because of this. The eight week program will become 10.5 weeks long. I know yoga is going to need to be a regular part of my training along with a focus on core and hip work.

Due to running these upcoming races six weeks apart, my mileage will be a little higher than training for San Francisco. That was a pretty low mileage training plan to begin with as I eased my way back into training for my first post-babies marathon. I’m thinking my body can handle this now.

If I’m being honest though, I do have some serious concerns about how I’m going to make all this happen, but having a goal race on the calendar is usually the best way for me to stick to something. I feel my best self when I’m active and training for a race. To accomplish this, I HAVE to get better about getting to bed earlier. I HAVE to get better about leaving work right away a couple of days a week. All of these things will enhance my overall health, but actually doing them is a challenge. My new Fitbit will be reminding me everyday of what my goals are.  And like I mentioned before, 26.2 sort of just pulls you back in.  It can make you irrational in a wonderful way.

As with any new training plan I try to focus on my week ahead only. Dwelling, stressing or worrying about future week plans does not build confidence. When I see some of the miles on my training plan in two or three months, I can start to feel intimidated. Even though these upcoming races will be my 16th and 17th marathons they never get easier really. Running 26.2 miles is always going to require hard work, perseverance and overcoming unexpected obstacles. While my body knows what to expect and can complete the distance, it doesn’t mean it’s a cake walk for me.

I can’t wait to explore two new states on foot. Half the fun of my goal is getting to see a new city/state, taste yummy food and local beer, and feed my exploring needs.  I will be posting training updates to help me stay accountable and to serve as my training log since these are helpful to look back on.

26.2.  Here we go…again.

Sarah

{Goodbye School Year}

Goodbye school year. Hello summer.

The end of a school year is filled with so many emotions. The last few summers have really stopped me in my tracks and made me think about how quickly the years pass. I find myself reflecting on my teaching of course, but on everything else too.

My kids have grown so much. Moved on to new milestones and phases. Their baby faces growing more big kid each month. I feel so sad for moments to be done already, but so hopeful for the years to come. I always am reminded I only have 18 summers that they are mine. I need to make the most of them. Memorable. Quality. Present. Filled with love. Connections. Sticky fingers. Ice cream. Sandy feet. Lake water. Summer strolls. Swimsuits. New adventures.

The end of the school year challenges me to think about if I’m living my life in the way that makes me happy and fulfilled. If I’m being honest, I’m not. I’ve got some things to work on. How can I make mornings less rushed? Playtime more connected and make the most of family time during the school year? How can we make more moments to connect as a family and not just follow the routine of what has to be done? How do I fill up their cups and still meet the demands of life? How do I fill up my own cup?

The end of the school year is a chance to try new things. Slow down some. I look forward to new adventures, travels and places this summer.

The end of a school year is also a chance to see how far we’ve come. How much we’ve grown, and how much life can throw the unexpected our way, but that despite the challenges you somehow end up ok. A new normal takes over.

And grown we have. A year ago we had just received a preliminary food allergy diagnosis for my daughter and we were waiting to see our new allergist. A week later our lives changed forever. No grains or bananas of any kind for our daughter until at the earliest she’s 2-3 years old. Worse case scenario-ever. It didn’t seem so horrible at first until you start reading food labels. Corn is in everything.

This end of school year I celebrate how far we’ve come. What once seemed so overwhelming, challenging and impossible has become our norm. Our sweet Aria girl is growing and thriving without an entire food group. As a family we’ve learned so much and changed so much too. You can’t unlearn and unread what you’ve seen. It has changed us for the better and made us stronger. I know that whatever challenges we are given we can overcome them.

We’ve learned how to meal prep like a boss. We know that wherever we go that might occur over meal time or where food is offered we must bring our own. We know that when we go to restaurants, we must still bring our daughter’s food. We know every eating surface must be washed before she sits to eat. We know to watch other toddler’s hands for snacks she can’t have. Our love for Starbucks is just so big because mama loves coffee, but also because they actually have snack foods our daughter can eat.

This school year I cut, prepared, packed, dated, labeled and carried 180some breakfasts, lunches, containers of almond milk and breast milk, and days worth of snacks every work day for her to eat each day at daycare. Every night we washed those containers and repacked them for the next day. Despite it feeling more normal it was never easy.

We are embracing the world of a young toddler who wants what others have, but doesn’t understand why she is the only one who can’t. Mama and Aria twin at eating a lot to make her feel more a part of the group. If I eat what she eats she doesn’t seem to mind so much.

We are constantly looking for grain alternatives and reading food labels in hopes we might find a new food for her to eat. We have the opposite problem of most toddler parents in that she often will only eat fruits and vegetables. She’s never had candy, juice, fast food, processed anything, or sweets other than fruit sweetened or honey sweetened on a rare occasion. Lara Bars are her treat.

She can’t eat the birthday cake at the party. She can’t have the doughnut on the family stop. She can’t have the candy when trick or treating. She can’t have the treat at daycare. She can’t enjoy the family tradition desserts on holidays. We try to find alternatives to make her feel included but its not always possible. It’s a hard lesson she just has to learn.

Her brother has learned many of the things Aria can’t have saying, “Aria can’t have that. She’s allergic.” When he’s not sure, he asks if she can have it. He’s learned to eat almond flour crackers and pancakes because they really are pretty good and we aren’t always getting two kinds of things. It’s also safer that way. He knows to pick up food she can’t have in case she might get it. As parents we are expert scanners of our surroundings at all times. Think of how often someone accidentally leaves something out unintentionally where a curious toddler is just waiting to find it.

As a family we’ve had to change how we budget. We’ve given up haircuts and colors and nights out to spend significantly more on food each month. We know it’s healthier for all of us so it’s not the sacrifice it seems. Plus many people don’t get Aria’s allergy and mistake what foods she can have so leaving her with others is still scary for us.

Having a ten month old at the end of last summer eating virtually no solids due to her previous violent reactions to food before will do that to you. Seeing your child’s growth slow on the growth charts will scare you like that. Thankfully we always had breastfeeding to carry us through until a few months ago.

This school year we’ve grown, celebrated, struggled, faced challenges and overcame. Here’s to looking ahead to the next year. Looking to the unknown. The fun filled days of sweet summer. Those slow down and smile moments with kids. Reflecting on what we have, where we are headed and how far we’ve come.

I’m ready for this summer thing!

Sarah

{Giving Up My Stilettos…Sort of}

I’m giving up my stilettos. Seriously, I don’t wear them anymore.

About two years ago I first thought about the irony of my blog title and Instagram profile since wearing stilettos wasn’t and isn’t really something I do anymore except on rare occasions. This post has sat in my draft folder for six months waiting for me to finish it. For some reason, I’ve been hesitant to share my world lately.

Despite being adamant that becoming a mother wouldn’t make me give up the old me, that’s exactly what has happened. What is even more,  I don’t even miss it that much.  Okay…some days I do, but those are usually the “I don’t have to,” lots of whining and exhausted days. These kids just change you in so many ways. And, really, heels just hurt now.

Truth be told, I fall asleep most nights moments after I sit down (often around 9:00-9:30) or while pumping before bed.  I can’t handle late nights and wouldn’t want to imagine what the next day would be like after really getting crazy.  I don’t even really drink anymore.  I had less than 6 glasses of wine this past summer and have had no beer since my elimination diet began mid-June.  It has now been six months since I enjoyed a beer.  (I do miss that.) My one glass of wine a week works just fine for me now.

I can count on one hand the number of kid free moments the husband and I have had together in the last year plus, and it’s kind of okay with me for now.  After having my second baby I also learned, through much research, that all that heel wearing likely contributed to the abdominal separation that I am still battling. And battle it has been.

To think of how becoming a mommy has changed me is almost indescribable.  I’ve become much softer (literally and figuratively), think of myself less, consider what others might be going through more, and ask myself how every choice I make will impact my kids.  I find joy in much simpler things.  I feel like I need less and want less.  I make sacrifices every single day. I ride tire swings even though it makes me so nauseous just to see that big smile and hear that laugh.

I’m now a tea drinking, grain-free and sugar-limiting, La Croix drinking, bone broth making, collagen in my coffee, library card holding patron, hair pulled up most the time, baby wearing, head rubbing, one more story reading, momma hold me, kiss it all better mama.  To think kids wouldn’t change me entirely was crazy, yet you won’t see my blog name changing.

In a way the title still fits.  As a busy, and often overwhelmed, mom I still have things I want for myself even if they are different things or perhaps not actually “things” at all.  Although I really struggle when it comes to taking time for myself, it is a struggle I will always be battling.  How do I give my kids meaningful experiences, fill their cups full, teach them what they need to learn, run a household, work full time, breastfeed as long as baby girl is interested, and still have any time and/or energy for myself? How do I do that without taking away from the important things listed above and not feel guilty. When I figure it out I’ll let you know, but my guess is you might be waiting for a very, very long time.

Stilettos represented the social life I once had, and going out and having fun.  In a way, stilettos now represent the old me.  I am a Gemini.  While I don’t subscribe to astrology too much, I’ve always found myself to have two distinct personalities per say.  Part of me loves social time and getting out with friends and the husband.  Staying at home for more than one weekend a month used to send me into “I’m-going-to-go-crazy-if-I-don’t-get-out-of-here” soon mode.

On the flip side, I was also always craving my alone time. Just me and my sneaks on the pavement or the trail.  My mind going to a state that I never found anywhere but running.  Running made (and still does) me a calmer, happier and a better version of myself when doing all the other life things.  I was always trying to balance my social life with my running life.   Going out on Saturday night and having a long run Sunday…the two just don’t go together, but I was never completely happy settling for just one of those things, constantly going back and forth on my personality spectrum trying to make both work.

Now Sneaks and Stilettos represents a similar challenge in finding time to myself.  Those rare moments where I feel like my old self.  The pre-mom self who didn’t worry ALL the time about her kids about EVERYTHING.

Do they feel loved enough?  Will they like each other?  Like really like each other and be friends as siblings when they grow up? How can I help them form this kind of relationship?  Am I shaping them to be kind and generous people?  Are they learning what they should be learning? Should he be counting higher, naming colors, imagining more, playing with other kids his age more?  Are they going to have clothes to wear for that upcoming whatever?  Did I order more probiotic?  What will be our next food trial?  Is she reacting to my new vitamin? Should I be more concerned that she is not walking yet?  Are his ankles turning in when he walks?  Are they getting all the vitamins and nutrients they should?  Why is he so scared of bedtime?  How can I help him be less worried and scared of the dark? Are they happy?

How in the hell am I going to continue to survive the upcoming school year making everything from freakin’ scratch for my grain-free and sugar limited diet. How do I continue to accomplish my school goals and find time to pump at school?  Will this girl sleep through the night soon? How will I juggle all this and still be a niceish person?  How many moments will I miss while they are being taken care of by others?  Wait, did I change the diaper size on our next Amazon subscribe and save order?  Crap, I think that bill is due today.   My mind goes on and on.  So much noise.  So much worry.

Sneaks and Stilettos now represents the balance I try to find between being a mother and getting in time for myself.  It represents my effort to quiet some of that noise and worry in my mind.  I know after not having that balance for the past months that it is not good for me or for anyone when I don’t take care of myself.

Sneaks and Stilettos is about playing with my kids without distraction from my phone and giving them my full attention and later getting a solo drive to Starbucks and back for a little mommy recharge.  It’s about going out for a girls night and having a glass of wine after putting my kids to bed. Sneaks and Stilettos is about what brings me balance between mom life and still feeling like me the most-EXERCISE.

Exercise is a time to shut that worry off if only for minutes at a time.  It brings me a sense of carefreeness that is almost nonexistent once you become a mom.  You know, the before kids freeness.  I need to move my body to feel like myself.  I need to be outside and experience the simple joys of nature and sunshine to recharge. Exercise lets me forget that someone always needs something.  Someone is always sick or has some new thing just starting.  It takes me back to a time where there wasn’t always something that had to be done.  I maybe thought there was but, let’s be honest, there really wasn’t.

It’s a time where there are not meals to be planned, groceries to be bought, budgets to balance, new clothes to order, bike helmets to be replaced because someone left it on the trunk of the car and mom didn’t know and drove off and it fell into the road and got hit by a car (this just happened a couple months ago), and so on.

It’s just me and myself.  My shoes on the pavement.  My own breath.  The wind in my hair. Music I chose for myself (no Old McDonald).   Sneaks and Stilettos is now about letting me feel like myself again for small moments so I can be the best version of myself the rest of the time.  It’s about choosing me and doing what I need for myself a few minutes each day, so I can be more selfless and present for my family later.

Sneaks and Stilettos was always about finding balance within myself, and finding happiness between the have to dos and the want to dos. That hasn’t changed even though almost my entire life has.  Despite all the worry and life changing moments, I would not go back to my old life if I had the choice.  Those giggles, hugs, first moments, sticky hands, tender nursing sessions in the middle of the night, even my son’s endless “why?” comments these days are all worth it.

As I finally get back into running, training, exercise classes, blogging and finding an inevitable unbalanced version of balance in my life that brings contentment again, I feel like my blog title is even more symbolic of my life today.

While you won’t literally see me in my stilettos much in the future, you’ll still see me trying to fit in what stilettos now means to me in between chasing my two kids in my sneaks.

Sarah

{Adjusting Expectations}

At a yoga class I attended this summer the instructor wrapped up class with a quote about most of our anxiety coming from expectations we create. I couldn’t agree with this more. Summer was a first hand look at this exact thing.

I expected summer to bring less stress and chaos. I expected to have more family time. I expected to be closing in on the end of breastfeeding as my daughter neared her first birthday. I expected to have more time for myself and to get back to running more with some time off from work this summer. I expected to be starting to plan my daughter’s 1st birthday where I expected her to playfully smash her birthday cake.  I expected her to enjoy her first taste of the good stuff while covering herself in the sugary sweet frosting.  As I should know by now, life often has other plans.  Life often doesn’t go how we expect it to.

I’ve been silent on this blog for some time too overwhelmed with life to find time for it. Not running and training “enough” to warrant writing anything. In fact I was pretty sure I was going to give this blogging thing up, my Facebook page unpublished for months now.

The other day I worked on back to school stuff for my classroom all day. Despite not feeling ready and having the usual anxiety, it feels all the more overwhelming knowing I will be juggling more than ever before. Typically this time of year means eating less healthy because we have so much to do. We might have a take and bake pizza or grab some fast food to give more time to work and our kids.  Healthy eating takes a little bit less priority. Not this year.

Our family kicked off the official start to summer in my book, Memorial Day weekend, with what we thought was a really bad stomach bug for Aria. Beginning four hours after dinner, she threw up four times with the last time seeming to be the very last contents of her stomach. She was so clammy and up all night in and out of sleep and crying out often. Multiple times I said to my husband, “I’m taking her in to the ER,” as it was the middle of the night. I was pretty sure they would tell me it was a virus and send me back though, so I gave her until 5:30 a.m. for the clammy, crying out in pain symptoms to improve or I was taking her in. The next day Aria had diarrhea, but seemed better.

We gave her a few days break from solids and by Wednesday she seemed herself again so we gave her baby oatmeal for dinner which she’d had a few times before. Two hours later she was having trouble falling asleep so I got her up and she began vomiting again. After multiple times vomiting to the point of vomiting bile and dry heaving, I knew something else was going on. During the night she nursed and seemed ok, so I felt very confused.

The next morning she had the hugest, most disgusting diaper I’ve ever changed. It was completely filled with mucas and reeked of bile. She otherwise seemed herself. The poop was so concerning I immediately called the clinic when they opened. That morning she nursed and drank breastmilk fine and had a few more diarrheas. We saw her pediatrician early that afternoon.

As most moms do when something is wrong and they want answers quick, I turned to the internet for answers.  I did some research the night before and our pediatrician diagnosed her with what I had suspected. FPIES. Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome. We were instructed to stop all solid foods and got a referral to a Pediatric Allergy Specialist. I felt relieved to have a diagnosis, but the more reading I did the more I realized this wasn’t really a diagnosis you want (for more info visit the FPIES Foundation website).

The day continued from there and after more diarrhea, Aria refused to nurse or take a bottle of pumped milk for hours. She went five hours without a wet diaper. I called the nurse advisor. I was told if she didn’t have a wet diaper in the next couple hours she needed to be brought in for fluids due to dehydration. An hour later she took in an ounce of milk, but Aria stopped being playful and talkative. She only wanted to sleep and still refused to drink anymore. An hour later, after seven hours with no wet diapers, she finally had a small, but wet diaper as I was packing her up to go to the ER.

Our appointment for allergy peds was set for two weeks from then. During this time she had a reaction to the Tylenol we gave her either to the dye or corn syrup ingredient. We still are not sure which and will not give her that again.

At our appointment the pediatric allergy specialist confirmed the diagnosis of FPIES.  I was instructed to remove all grains from my diet and bananas since those both triggered severe reactions. We were to trial new foods and keep a detailed record of when, what, how, etc. followed the food trials as well as keeping track of every bowel movement she had.

Summer began with a different start than we expected. Summer became learning about how to eat grain and sugar free and meal prepping.  For reference foods in the grain family include bamboo, corn, wheat (in any form), rye, barley, homily, millet, oat, popcorn, rice, sorghum, and sugar cane.

Being a teacher it shouldn’t be surprising I have a love of learning.  I love learning new information about topics of my choice.  This summer FPIES research, meal planning and “healing” my daughter consumed my life and became my passion.  I looked to people who had been through this journey before through the internet.  I read anything related that could help me create an action plan moving forward.  The tricky thing with FPIES is every case is different and it is considered a rare food allergy that is relatively new.  While there are some common trigger foods, any food can be a trigger a reaction since all foods are made of proteins (note: not the protein food group).  So where do you begin?

All this reading has led to a complete lifestyle change for my family. We had always taken probiotics although not always so consistently. That has changed. Each of us has a probiotic we take each day.  My morning coffee is now filled with collagen proteins. My soups contain my own homemade bone broths. I’m making my own yogurt in my new Instant Pot. We enjoy kefir on most days as well.  I feel like we stepped back in time and imagine life for Laura on Little House on the Prairie might have been sort of like this.  Okay, perhaps that’s hyperbole, but in today’s on the go, prepackaged, easy fix eating world it often feels like I live in a different world than my friends and family.

Meal prepping was not a foreign concept to me by any means, but meal prepping took on a whole new life this summer.  When you can’t fall back on anything pre-made you have to be organized.  When you can’t rely on eating out EVER when you don’t have a plan, you make sure you have a plan or you starve. Plan it is!

In addition to learning how to feed myself all over again, each week led to a new food trial that had to be carefully measured, timed and charted. I created and made entries in her poop journal each day. When introducing a new food, we gave the new food for several days increasing the amount each day. Each day what, the amount and the time given along with any symptoms was recorded in her food log.  We then took a few days off and retried the food. No reaction meant it was a pass. A safe food to add to her list. A reaction like her two prior and we were told to bring her to the emergency room for fluids and further treatment as the dehydration can lead to shock. We were lucky with her first two that she did ok without intervention since both reactions were severe.  We learned after the fact she should have been brought in, but we had no idea what we were dealing with at the time.

This summer as I immersed myself in everything about my daughter’s diagnosis, I saw my expectations for summer disappear. Each day was filled with all the usual requirements of being a mom to two young kids, but now I had to meal prep everything, research probiotics, and learn so much about the basic human need-eating!

I learned how to make bone broth and yogurt and kefir.  I learned where to buy things like collagen and stevia sweetened anything if I ever wanted something other than fruit to taste sweet. I learned how to make a latte I like with no sugar added or sugar cane. I learned you can buy almost nothing off the shelves in America without it containing sugar or some kind of grain product. I quickly learned that many foods you wouldn’t even expect to contain sugar or corn in some form or both.  I saw our grocery bill rise to crazy amounts to buy all the fresh foods and ingredients to try to enjoy some of the “regular” foods we enjoyed as a family on occasional such as pizza (now almond flour or cauliflower crust pizza with sugar free tomato sauce and cheese without added starches so it doesn’t stick together).

While people enjoyed the summer eats like s’mores, ice cream, popsicles, cookout food and fair food I stood by (often hungrily) and reminded myself what was really important was my daughter’s health. I drank six glasses of wine all summer and gave up all other alcohol. When your daughter is refusing all solids it makes you do whatever you can in the hopes something will help.

I delved into books about the microbiome and how altering steroids and antibiotics can be, along with our diet.  I read about gut health at least a thousand times in some format or another. All of this led to me developing my own theory as to what led us to this point.

All of her allergy related issues began after a steroid treatment she received at 2.5 months old followed by a vaccine a week later. The day after the vaccine she had her first bloody and mucas filled poop. Add on a dose of antibiotics in April and her poor gut is really out of sorts. I’m no doctor, but all signs point to a relationship between these events and her allergies. I’m not saying correlation is causation, merely that there seems to be a connection. Also, I believe vaccines are important so we are vaccinating our children, but that a child being healthy when they are given is so important. Not having a fever does not necessarily mean your child’s immune system is functioning the way it should be.

This brings me back to my point of adjusting expectations. On a recent podcast from The Minimalists they admonished the word busy because they said if you say you’re too busy you really are saying your life is so chaotic that you have no control over it.  Except that is exactly what life is like in my house.  Too crazy and chaotic to control or really dictate on most days outside of what has to be done i.e. keeping children alive, meal planning, prepping food, food trials, household chores, researching FPIES and reading about related information.  To accomplish all of the above means giving up some other things like fun with friends, running, time for myself, and time with my husband.

Something so simple as giving up grains and added sugar in reality is life changing. It means giving up convenience, going with the flow, lets stay a little later, and we’ll just grab something to eat. I also realized I gained a new perspective on healthy eating. I lost weight. I eat way better than I ever have in my entire life. I can have dairy again after all those gut healing measures. I truly believe we can have all those convenience foods, but they come at a cost-our health.

Adjusting my expectations for the summer has changed my views of food and nourishing my family forever. In a weird way it’s hard to be upset about this when I know in the long term it will be a good thing for us. I only wish I’d have come to this knowledge and thinking in another way. I used to think I ate healthy until this summer. Now I know I do.

Going grain-free had become such a part of my life I plan to share a lot more recipes and resources for anyone interested in how we eat, healthy results or our FPIES journey. Journey it will be as we learned at our last allergy peds appointment that Aria will be grain-free until age 3 or 4 when they will decide when she is ready to go in to the clinic for a food trial.

I’ve learned a lot about adjusting expectations and setting them in the first place this summer. I’ve learned a lot about what really matters this summer. I’ve also realized that my world and my family’s world has become quite different than others, and we are learning how to make life work for our family while we navigate these new waters while still trying to live life the way we want.

I expect this will be full of ups and downs, but we will adjust our expectations as we go.

Sarah