How a Germaphobe Survives Preemies

If you saw my twins in the yard, you would never know that almost a year and a half ago we were in a self imposed quarantine and didn’t leave our bedroom or allow others to come in for about four months. No, I’m not joking. For four months, I obsessively monitored every object that came past my bedroom doorway, washing and sanitizing teethers, blankets and pumping equipment, and avoided physical contact with anyone that was not my husband or my mother. I nursed and pumped around the clock. I did this all in the name of the premature immune system, and avoiding cold and flu germs from school aged nephews and nieces, and commuter family members. By the spring of their first year, my girls came down to the living room and played at a distance from my young nephews.

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When my girls were born eight weeks early and at the start of cold and flu season, I did not hesitate to establish rules of contact and visitation with family and friends almost immediately after leaving the hospital. Family members would describe me as a germaphobe even before having children, so it was no surprise to them that I would be hyper sensitive to hand washing and contact when they realized I would be bringing home not one, but TWO fragile humans from the NICU.

As I pick up spoons caked with avocado and beef off the floor and wipe them on a paper towel before returning them to the lunch bowl, I reflect on what a journey this has been. I have never feared fresh air and sunshine, just germs from other people and their tiny people. From the time the girls were a month old we were bundling up and taking regular walks all over the neighborhood, but we hung a small plastic stop sign from their stroller that we received as part of our exit packet from NICU, that read, “Please wash your hands before touching mine.” It was awesome. It stopped everyone from reaching in a grabbing baby fingers (which immediately go into their mouth,) and many people shared with us that they wished they had something like that when their children were small, because it becomes an awkward task asking strangers not to stick their hands in a baby’s face. Some people don’t mind at all, and some talk about how these encounters build up immunity. I kept telling people, one day they will be sneezed on, they will eat dirt, and will roll around with all of the other kids-their immune systems have some extra developing to do now though, even more so than a full term newborn. We’ll get there.

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When spring arrived and my girls were about four months old, I gradually allowed young cousins to interact closely with the babies. We set out a large blanket on the floor and big kids and babies could play on hands and knees or crawl and giggle next to each other as long as big kids washed hands and no one was sick. I did not allow any toys that went into the girls’ mouthes to be touched by the kiddos though. Unfortunately at this point, that was usually every object they encountered. If cousins wanted to hold babies, we’d wait till after bath time or when they were out of their school clothes and sports uniforms and washed hands. Kisses were on top of the head. Even with adults, I would place a burp cloth over clothing so the girls weren’t licking or laying on a dirty shirt. I continued to breastfeed, and we avoided several stomach bugs and upper respiratory infections. By the time it was summer, our requirements were simple: wash your hands before touching the babies, and if you’re sick, stay away. The baby toys were handled more, and the girls started playing off of their blanket and on foam squares or the carpet.

We ate lunches and dinners on the front porch in our camping high chairs and spent a lot of time outside. In late summer, we took a big family trip and enjoyed floating in the lake and playing outside with our cousins. For their first birthday in November, we had a big birthday party withIMG_0931 lots of family and friends. I was still nursing. The girls were passed around to everyone, but I still kept a close eye on anyone that looked ill. I would gently usher the girls away from a coughing adult or send kids to wash their hands when I saw them wipe their noses.

Once H&G were walking, things got interesting! Walking and teething will break a mother that fears germs. Especially when there are twins and you cannot make your eyeballs move in two different directions simultaneously. Not only are they putting everything imaginable in their mouthes, but now they can get to it on their own, and sometimes in that instant you’re not looking!

Things that I’m pretty sure my toddlers have eaten:

-Hair
-Dirt
-Leaves
-Shoes
-Bird Poop <—-I thought I was going to have a heart attack!* But they were fine, and so was I 🙂
-Books
-Paper
-Lint
-Twigs
-Pebbles
-Really, REALLY old food that they managed to find deep down in the crevices of their high chairs
-Old Almond Milk
-Plastic
-Clothing tags
-Each others boogers <—Twin life
-Bugs

And one time I pulled a PENNY out of my daughter’s mouth. That could have been very dangerous, but luckily she gave herself away. We’re STILL teething, so I know the fun isn’t over yet!

My reactions to toddler noshing have mellowed, because I really have to pick and choose what is going to take up time and attention. Not everything can be earth shattering or send my blood pressure through the roof. So these are my hard NO’s:

-Don’t touch or eat poop
-Sick people stay away

-Avoid chemicals/pesticides
-No touching/eating garbage, whether on the floor or in the can.

Even if we’re under the weather, we will always get sunshine and fresh air. We still want people to wash their hands when they come home from a store, a school, or any busy public place. We eat mainly organic foods, and my girls and I have been dairy and soy free because of allergies. I very recently (at 18.5 months) stopped nursing my twins. This was bittersweet and I definitely cried. It marked a new stage for my growing girls and made me feel like my security blanket of providing that little extra immunity for them disappeared. I’m happy to say though, that at 19+ months we have lived alongside several flus, stomach viruses, upper respiratory infections, and croup, and have never been sick with any of them. I hear that we’re bound to catch something between now and 24 months, but I feel like my girls have strong immune systems now. I’m so thankful that we were able to give that extra time to develop and ease into interactions with a very large circle of family and friends, and I am so thankful that I was able to breastfeed twins for as long as I did.

You know you’ve made progress when other people are running around, pulling all sorts of things out of your toddler’s hands, and you’re like, “ehh, it’s fiber.”

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Finding Your Tribe and Other Resonating Memes

As I write this, I reflect on a weekend filled with family and events-celebrations and stress, laughter, great food, children running around, and schedules.

Since my girls have been born, I have an increasing awareness that I don’t quite connect with others the way I used to. This is not a bad thing, but it’s different, because I’ve transformed, and my family is growing. Sometimes, it feels sad, like something has been lost. Other times, it’s empowering because being a mother forces you to use your brain differently, like learning an instrument or speaking a different language. I see the world through changing lenses. There is the individual, the caregiver, the educator, and the partner. Mothers are now on my radar. I understand the way they drive, and why they sleep on the couch until you come home.

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The thought is not original, but a good friend sent me an internet meme one day that put words to this idea that your energy attracts others with your energy. The meme read: “You’re vibe attracts your tribe.” I think of a tribe as individuals that share a common energy that usually drive them towards common goals. Many people who I consider part of my “tribe” are not mothers. They’re not even women. Conversely, there are many women and mothers that I don’t feel very connected to. These individuals have different priorities, and their lives have aligned differently to attain their goals, so our paths don’t cross much, either by chance or design. And that’s OK. 8671909

Being an adult means that there are choices. You are no longer confined to the small circles and limited perspectives that you once grew up with. Sometimes your vibe changes, or the tribe changes. Instead of forcing a connection, it can be a freeing moment to realize that there are others in the world with shared goals, that engage regularly in positive and encouraging dialogue, and that infuse their interactions with joy, enthusiasm, clarity, and support even when they’re just passing through.

This brings me to another favorite meme-ok, it’s actually a quote from Heraclitus.

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He’s a good person to meme out with if you’re looking for quotes about change. I’ve realized that trying to recreate a golden moment in time is not only impossible, but a waste of the precious present. Even if you reconnect with the “tribe,” after a long time away, and you tinker with all of the variables to closely resemble that original experience, it will be different. Time is transformative. It may still be wonderful, but it will never be the same, and that can be exciting and memorable in its own way.

So now I segway to soaking up the good stuff. This will sound super dramatic and may even elicit an eye roll, but I live every day as if it were my last. Perhaps the thought of backpacking across Europe just popped into your head-something you’ve alway wanted to do. Or maybe you’re thinking of starting your own business as you reflect on a less than satisfying job you’ve plugged away at for years. For me, I think about the giant, whole body hugs I get from my girls.quote15 There is seriously nothing better. I have not lived my day to its fullest until I’ve thoroughly snuggled with my babies and kissed their cheeks, blown raspberries on bellies, and tickled baby feet. When I hear the tandem squeals of laughter, or get to sing to both of my girls sitting in my lap, I think to myself, I could die happy. And I mean that. I do wish I had traveled more before children, (who doesn’t?) and I would love to add some professional accomplishments to my bucket list, but really, those are all a far second to being present in the moment and really enjoying my children.

That’s all.  Just good vibes, and grateful for another day. ❤

The Spirit, The Wallet, and The Ego

At the start of this year, I pledged to embrace the mantra: Local, Home, Hand. This was a conscious effort to incorporate more homemade and handmade pieces into my life; frequent small businesses and support local artists and artisans. The idea behind this was to become more thoughtful about consumerism and to connect more personally with the people making the goods and providing services.

I’m happy to say that so far, everything is going according to the plan. Well, almost.

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I recently started a business (yay!! 🙂 ——->insert shameless plug here,)<——— and I felt a resurgence of creativity that had been dormant for about a year now. A few months ago, the hyper focus of raising my twins very gradually shifted from all about the girls, to mostly about the girls, with a side of mommy’s art time. Drawings started to fill my half-used sketch book, and I revisited some shelved t-shirt designs. It was the spark I needed to light that creative spirit again and give me a sense of accomplishment apart from being a mother.FullSizeRender

Time home with my twins made me realize a few things about style and comfort. Personally, I needed both: clothing and accessories that were stylish, and could function for daily parenting activities. This was the inspiration for the Ginger and Hazel™ business. My girls have become very interested in hats and headbands and learning how to put things on and take them off, so these items were in our daily rotation of interesting things that could entertain and educate. Also, my babes are still pretty bald, so they require head gear pretty much everywhere we go since the weather has been cold here in the Northeast.

A typical night around here is putting the girls to bed and then staying up till about 2am cutting, pinning, and sewing fabric, and sharing pictures of items and events on social media. Essentially, I hit the ground running with my girls at 7:30/8am, and then 12 hours later, clock out as “Mom” and clock in as Juliette, the hippie-ish, sort of crunchy, art student that dates (married) the tattoo artist, and stays up all night making cool things.IMG_0638-1 It’s like the old me comes out at night. I should definitely be sleeping more. But the truth is, I love it. I love the thrill of making something with my hands. So much so, that I’m willing to sacrifice precious sleep to do it. It’s good for spirit, I can feel it.

So then there’s the reality of running this small business. There’s money spent collecting materials and tools. I’ve set up an Etsy shop where people can purchase my handmade items, and I’ve sold hats and headbands directly to friends and family. Direct sales are the most profitable. Profits are good for the wallet.

And finally, the retail experience. This is where it gets interesting. Retail offers great exposure and validation for your product or brand. FullSizeRender-1When you find one that shares your vision and aligns with your values and expectations, it can be a wonderful partnership. It’s exciting seeing your item in a store, even if your profits may initially take a hit. This is great for the ego. And I’ll be honest, I take a lot of selfies modeling my own products with my girls. After two babies and very little sleep, a couple clicks on the ‘like’ button is damn good for the ego too.

So, looking to the future, the questions hang in the air: Will you be successful? What is success? I’m happy to say that I am personally making some fun and creative items for family, friends, and maybe you, but at the end of the (very long) day, I’m really making them for me. Through Ginger and Hazel though, I get to share. ❤

You can check out some of our handmade products here! 🙂 :

www.etsy.com/shop/GingerandHazel 

 Find us on Instagram: @gingerandhazelcoIMG_3826

#Rewearthedress

In August of 2014, hubs and I celebrated 6 years of marriage, opened a new business, and had made it through 9 months of raising twins while co-habitating with family. We hadn’t been out on a date since the girls had come home from the NICU, and barely had free time with each other.

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While running my hands over the many garment bags hanging from the rolling wardrobe in the basement, I saw the thick, white vinyl that protected my wedding dress. It was such a lovely dress. Simple, no frills. I wondered if it still fit. I remembered how I went shopping for it by myself, and bought the sample off the rack at the bridal boutique to save money. After alterations, I STILL ended up paying the equivalent of several car payments for something I would only wear for a few hours. Why did I do that again? And it’s pretty widely agreed upon that the wedding dress shouldn’t be worn again. So, essentially this is a very expensive, single use item. Like a very elaborate up-do or makeup job that looks great for the night and comes off by morning. Some people would argue that a wedding dress is a valuable keepsake, or heirloom. They would preserve their dress (which of course costs more money,) to pass on to family. But I have found that most dresses end up taking up valuable space, and people are left with a relic that no one has the guts to donate or repurpose. Or they don’t know how. Some people have imagined beautiful ways to reuse heirloom dresses, or display them for all to see, (check out some of those ideas here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danielle-tate/10-creative-things-to-do-_b_5194277.html ,) but not everyone has the space or time to do that. So I thought to myself, why can’t I wear this again?

From this thought came #rewearthedress. Because on the one hand, it’s just a dress. Wearing it to a restaurant (or around the house, or letting your kids play in it or with it, or drawing on it…)lessens the pomp and circumstance. It makes a statement about how silly it is to place so much value and importance on a dress. It’s a piece of clothing, just like a shirt or a pair of jeans. It’s amazing that entire television shows are devoted to wedding dresses. There are some people who place more importance on the dress than finding the right person to wear it with. But on the other hand, it’s a (sometimes pricey,) wearable memento from a very special day. And it’s one hell of a conversation starter. My dress is a very tangible reminder of the day hubs and I made vows to one another and danced all night with our closest friends and family. I enjoy telling people about our great party and my great partner. And it is fun! It made me feel pretty and a little impressed with myself that I could clean up and get into it after months of wearing pajamas and nursing babies around the clock.

I made a plan to wear my wedding dress again for our 6th anniversary dinner date-no matter where we decided to go. To my delight, it still fit-probably a little better than it had pre-twins thanks to nursing. Hubs, being the roll-with-it kind of person that he is, was all for the idea, (one of the many reasons I married him!) We made plans to eat at a clubby, local sushi place, and had babysitting all lined up.

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Three days before our anniversary, a slight eye irritation was beginning to really bother me. It seemed I was developing a pesky stye. Hot compresses were applied, and I skipped makeup. The day before our date, my eye was so swollen shut, I had to go to the doctor. I was told I needed antibiotics, and possibly a trip to the ER. Aweeeesooooome. It was pretty disappointing. Murphy’s Law in full effect. We debated rescheduling for another weekend, but waiting weeks to get out alone for a few hours to celebrate an anniversary happening at that moment, just didn’t feel right. So, I improvised. I grabbed some sunglasses and a fedora, and wore the dress anyway. We never actually made it to sushi, either. By the time we were out of the house and made our way to the restaurant, my face was puffy and uncomfortable and shaded by sunglasses, so we decided a quiet, well-lit, casual meal would be better. So, we went to our local taco spot and tucked my dress under the small, wooden table where hot sauce sits in a condiment caddy made out of an old six pack box. We ordered nachos and tacos and sat face to face (sunglasses,) and had our first childless conversation, with the lights on, out of our home. Hubs held my hand across the table and told me I looked beautiful, and afterwards we visited the shaved ice shop.

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The whole outing happened so fast that we drove around just to stay out a little longer with each other. We talked about our babies a lot, but also about our wedding day, and life before the girls and plans for the future. It was really nice. I told hubs that if the dress still fits, I’d like to wear it every year on our anniversary-even if next year we decide to stay in. Why not? I’d love to see more people wear their wedding dresses again. Hell, even if that dress has outlasted the marriage, don’t let it just sit in the closet! (Check out what this guy did! http://pulptastic.com/wife-leaves-husband-gets-little-creative-wedding-dress-see-hilarious-results/ ) It gets people remembering, and talking. People perk up when they talk about their wedding day and start to tell the stories of how they met and the people that were there along the way. I read somewhere that taking photos on anniversary vacations in the wedding dress is a thing.  Maybe for our 25th. 🙂 #rewearthedress

I’m Too Young For A Retrospective!

Throw back Thursdays, Flashback Fridays. It’s nice to look back sometimes.

This guy.

This guy.

Recently I started throwing back to some old artwork. After 15 months of reading board books and making animal noises, it was good to be reminded that at one time, I was a creative person. Not even just a little creative, VERY creative. Involved in art making. Owned-a-potter’s-wheel, an-easel, hung-six-foot-drawings-from-the-ceiling, stayed-up-all-night-silk-screening-T-shirts, and-made-my-own-stationary, kind of creative.

And then two years went by and I didn’t pick up a paintbrush. How did this happen? My potter’s wheel became a table for old shoe boxes filled with photos, or tubes of paint that were also neglected. Really pathetic stuff. All of my paintings, drawings, and photographs from college were shuffled in and out of storage units, basements and attics so many times, I didn’t know where much of it was anymore. I was starting to feel a bit like I lost my security blanket. I needed my creative things around me. They reminded me.

I’m too damn young for a retrospective! I was thiiiiiiis close to reminiscing about my days as an artist, ready to gather all the painted, polished, carved things in a box and tuck them away in some dusty trunk packed in an attic to show my kids someday. My art skills peaked in college, and I was done, I told myself. Hubs is the artist, I’ll just manage his career.

Then one day I’m flipping through one of my many sketchbooks and looking through some old t-shirt designs I never had the chance to print. There’s a pen in my hand, and I start doodling in the margins and kind of playing on the sidelines of my sketches. Three piles of laundry sat next to me. This is a waste of precious time, I think, no direction, no plan, no purpose. The pen rolled smoothly over the page. Babies started throwing toys out of the playpen. Who do I think I am calling myself an artist? You’ve lost it. The pen kept moving. Almost time to make baby food. It can wait ten minutes. The pen didn’t stop. You have no idea what you’re doing, this doesn’t look like anything. But the ink started to fill the page.

A pen is the best way to jump back in, because once you put that sucker to paper, you can’t erase it. No going back, you’ve made a mark and should probably just keep going.

I’ve been asked: why spend so much time hand making party decorations, editing photos, even decorating a room that you won’t be staying in very long? It’s because these small acts are exercises in creativity-or maybe just a warm-up. They’re also the residual effects of an artistic existence. Creative emissions need grounding, even in the most mundane of activities.

And now, there’s me and this pen, moving forward.

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I am Groundhog’s Day. Bill Murray, Please Visit Me (if you are in good health.)

Little boxes in the sky to
Little boxes in the ground

Your hair left lifeless in the brush
Like a relic I would hold it up

Examine all these pieces of you
I never saw before

A few things. Reflecting this week on how lucky it is to have family still in my life, and nearby. The luck of being born into this time and place-to travel without greasing hands, or worry about clean health care facilities. To have quality food and water ready and available when needed. For health. For the joys of all the seasons, even the impassable conditions of winter.  So much to be thankful for.

Life has felt a bit like Groundhog’s Day this past year. Days are very similar around here-babies nursing, diapers, electronic devices, organic baby food, family, music, ABCs, and books. The same routines happen everyday. It can be quite nice, actually. The only variables are the occasional visitor, sickness, death, or hubs needing to work later than usual. It’s winter, so my self-imposed seclusion is, in my mind, completely practical, but renders entire weeks uneventful. Of course Bill Murray and the movie Groundhog’s Day had me thinking about this today. In the movie, Murray experiences the five stages of grief as he is forced to relive each day in the sleepy town of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and then acceptance.

For me, there is a similar process that happens after having children and deciding to stay home, although I think the stages may happen in a different order, or sometimes simultaneously.

First, there was happiness, excitement, and love. There was some denial about being a parent.  Am I really a parent? Am I even a grownup? There was anger-in the form of frustration as I learned how to do this new job.   I was tired, sometimes delirious, and therefore, impatient. On a daily basis, there is bargaining with babies-trying to get them to stop crying, or eat a new food.  There has been some depression about the loneliness of being the stay at home parent, and the uncertainty of the whole situation. My confidence, talents,  and self-worth have been questioned. 

 This year has been my personal Groundhog’s Day. Those that know me, know that I am in love with my children.  I’ve deliberately avoided visits, certain outings, and social invitations to tend to a list of needs and wants for my family. My choices have been aimed at the best health and interests of my children. This was exactly what I wanted, and I’ve cherished this time with my daughters.  But, even getting what you want means making sacrifices. I guess I’ve mourned my social life a bit, and that sense of freedom of driving solo in the car to a friend’s house, or taking a shower at an unplanned time of day.  I’ve missed the excitement of things out-of-the-ordinary, and surprises.

So I’m thinking, to liven things up around here, Bill Murray should visit me.  Given Bill Murray’s kind, and spontaneous nature lately, I’m thinking this is not as crazy an idea as one might think. He’s been spotted at bachelor parties and engagement photo shoots, so why not add feeding some avocado to twins in high chairs to the list? It would certainly brighten my day. We don’t have to talk about anything special, we can just hang out. Just one thing though, Bill, (if you’re reading this,) I just ask that if you accept my invitation, please be in good health.  I’m a bit of a germaphobe, and we just narrowly avoided the flu, so I can’t handle any sick visitors right now.  Personally, it would make a great story to catch the flu from you, but I can’t take that chance with the babes. Friends of Bill, agents, colleagues-please pass this along. 🙂

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Another thought about Groundhog’s Day the movie: Murray’s character gets to work this day out until he’s nearly perfected it.  There is something so Zen about that.  I’ve looked at my time home in a similar way. Every day I’m trying to master parenthood, but I’m also finding comfort in accepting the repetition. There has been beauty in the simplicity of our days, and real quality time spent with my girls. At first, the day was just a series of daily tasks played out while snuggling and carrying my toddlers.  But now, I’m drawing again, and reading, and starting to see friends more often. Hopefully these positive karmic seeds will help to grow healthy, loved, creative, and balanced individuals, myself included.

So I’m adding another stage to my stay at home parenting. Something more than acceptance, between joy and appreciation, next to love. I don’t have a name for it yet.  It will help me welcome these next few weeks of winter though, all snowed in with my girls. That’s where I’ll be tomorrow when my little alarm clocks start chirping to start the day. Happy Groundhog’s Day! And Happy Winter!  Bill, we’ll be waiting for you. 🙂

Below are some photos I took while visiting the town of Punxsutawney, PA.  It’s a beautiful, small town of Victorian homes and painted statues dedicated to the city’s most well-known icon-the weather predicting groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil. Hubs and I passed through on one of our road trips on the way back from Canada and Chicago.

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This is My Brain on Packing

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Leave the flat-iron, take the local honey.

Snow day over? If the novelty of drinking tea and shoveling snow has grown stale, you’ll probably be setting your sights on a relaxing getaway, a change of scenery, or maybe even a staycation where you can temporarily suspend the demands of reality.

If you’re planning a trip for two or the whole family, a little forethought could save you time packing and loads of stress before your trip starts.

Here are some quick and useful tips to help you get out the door faster, and happier.

And here is my brain on Venn Diagrams:

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Who doesn’t love a good old Venn Diagram?

1. Spend a little time on your computer.
Sit down for ten minutes and open a text document. Visualize your day, start to finish, and imagine all the items and foods you use throughout the course of a day. Write down everything that needs to make its way to vacationland with you. If you’re like me, you may want to turn these items into a check list that can be printed and used each time you travel. It’s always a good idea to leave some blank check boxes too, in case items change for different times of the year or certain foods or medications need to be included. You can check out my version here:

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It looks a little over the top, but I spent a little time making it once, and now just slightly edit it and reference it whenever I travel!

2. Cover all the major categories: CATVEGI. Yup, CATVEGI. It’s so ridiculous, you’ll remember it.

Clothing
Accessories (hats, shoes, sunglasses, etc.,)
Toiletries
Vitamins/medications/special foods
Electronics and chargers
Gear (camping chairs, pool floats, etc.,)
IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS. This includes, but is not limited to:
-Drivers license
-Passport
-Plane tickets or any physical documents that provide proof of reservations or travel

3. Think Small. Either invest in travel size bottles or reuse existing toiletry bottles for new products. I’m a big fan of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps and take them everywhere with me, so I purchased a small bottle of their soap once, and constantly refill it from my gallon containers to travel with. I’ve also saved small face wash pump bottles and cleaned them out to use for lotions.

4. Seal it up.  Secure all toiletries in ziplock bags before packing. This prevents them from leaking on other items in your luggage. Save your bags to reuse for future packing. I keep a wad of zip locks in the closet that are strictly for holding small items, not food, and use them over and over again. You can also try the plastic wrap trick (see links below.)

5. If possible, get double.
Many people have several of the same items already laying around the house. Hair ties, travel size deodorants, bath sponges, hair products, and makeup can be put together as your travel set. If you can get duplicates of certain items, it will make packing and UNPACKING easier.

6. Grab and Go Ready. Keep your toiletry bag prepacked and ready to go. Fill it with your travel set of items, in their ziplock bags, and tuck it into a closet or under the bed so you’re ready to go when you head out of town. All you’ll need to do is throw in the bigger items like blow driers, if you need them.

8. Aim for Arm’s Reach. If you’re packing for babies (like me,) make sure all of the items you will need right away during travel are reachable in your car, and in your diaper bag. Items needed first should be stored at the top of your bag, and outside areas of your car. When we’re taking long car rides and stop mid-way for an overnight rest, we pack a smaller piece of luggage with just the pajamas and outfits for the following day so we don’t have to unpack the whole car.

9. Imagine the Kid Zone. Consider how you will entertain your little one and provide a safe space wherever you are going. You may need to pack toys for the car, outlet covers for your hotel room, or a playpen, depending on where you’re headed, and the age of your child. A playpen may be bulky, but provide the most safe and secure space for your child wherever you go.

10. The Staples of Travel.
Keep a gallon of water and some water bottles in you car along with a roll of paper towels, some tissues, and empty trash and laundry bags. These little extras will come in handy, trust me! Pack disinfecting wipes with you. These can be used on everything from gas pumps to the hotel room remote.

Check out these creative packing tips here from Buzzfeed:

And I love that the folks over at Howdini reuse their old toiletry bottles and seem to use ziplock bags as much as I do.

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H & G sincerely hope you enjoy your vacation and get to kick back and relax! 🙂 🙂

How to Prepare for Snowmageddon

  1. Buy 4 pints of ice-cream. Nope, better make it 5.
  2. Stock the cabinets with cookies-mostly chocolate chip, but throw a pumpkin spice in there because it’s cold and snowy outside, jeez!
  3. Call at least three people to discuss impending doom.
  4. Rearrange the cars in the driveway so you can all get stuck anyway.
  5. Cancel all plans for the next several days. Absolutely nothing can get done. Laundry-no. Dishes-no. Work commitments two weeks from now will probably be iffy. In fact, this is pure survival mode.
  6. Research how to build an igloo.
  7. Gather all shovels near the front door so you can dig them out after it snows.
  8. Sweatpants.
  9. Ask the neighbor with the snow blower how their family is doing.
  10. Locate all sci-fi trilogies and romantic comedies on DVD. Watch Sesame Street instead.

….and get yourself an awesome sibling that can make this!

Eating for Three: Making Food Choices while Nursing a Baby with a Dairy Allergy

Bubble Tea at Ten Ren Tea House in Chinatown, NY

It can be frustrating till you get the hang of it, but there are foods you can still enjoy! Bubble Tea at Ten Ren Tea House in Chinatown, NY

Before I had my girls I ate a healthy, balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, meats, grains, dairy, and sweets. As a creature of habit, I would thrive on eating certain foods every day around the same time. After work I’d rush home to devour a greek yogurt with crushed walnuts as an afternoon snack. During a two month span of time I ate a chicken and apple sandwich with mixed greens and balsamic on whole wheat bread everyday for lunch. For breakfast, I ate two eggs with fresh fruit and a green smoothie. This lasted an entire spring. While typing this, I’ve dropped some oatmeal and fresh blueberries on my daughter’s head as I’m nursing her (the oatmeal is my latest breakfast kick.)

Hubs likes to point out my ability to intensely focus on things for months at a time, and then wake up one day and sit at the table, crinkle my nose, and push a favorite food away from me in disgust. The level of saturation has been reached.I guess I can understand how this unnerves him.

There’s a word for what I have, and we hear people use it all the time. It’s called: efficiency. Oh, is that not the word you were thinking of? What were you thinking?

Look up the definition of efficiency, and you’ll see that this makes perfect sense. Eating efficiently means that by consuming the same foods everyday I am able to plan and organize in a certain way, provide the right amount of fuel for a body that is working full-time or teaching classes at the gym, and create a smoother meal flow without having to think much about it.  Figure out the formula, keep the house stocked with those foods, and pack the same thing every night in the refrigerator. I knew exactly how long it would take me to eat my sandwich, and didn’t waste time buying drinks from vending machines or hunting down utensils. When my needs and my schedule changed, my meals adapted. Totally efficient.
I don’t mean to suck the fun out of food and variety. I love dining out, trying new restaurants, and taking impromptu trips to China Town for bubble teas and Italian cookies. These things were reserved for dinners or weekends though. The rest of the week’s meals happened like clock work.  That’s not a rule or anything, that’s just the way it worked out.

Dining out is a bit trickier now, but it can be done! Call ahead to find out about allergy friendly options.

Dining out is a bit trickier now, but it can be done! Call ahead to find out about allergy friendly options.

I think my eating habits prepared me for the day I was changing one of my daughters’ diapers and saw blood.

There’s something about your own child’s blood that creates that flush of prickly panic. The twins had their blood drawn from them in the NICU for testing, but those were very controlled and planned instances. Nothing had prepared me for this. There weren’t any cuts or scratches, and at 4 weeks old, surely it was too late for a mini period ( see #3 http://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/newborn-worries-not-to-worry-about/ .) I immediately called the pediatrician, and was informed that this could be the sign of a dairy allergy triggered by dairy in my breast milk.

After the call I went on the internet (that was a great idea,) and scared the hell out of myself. Fortunately, I did come across some excellent resources for moms of babies with dairy and soy allergies and intolerances. I throw soy in there as well, because soy can elicit similar reactions from babies with dairy issues, so many times the alternative recipes out there exclude both of these ingredients. Sites such as MSPI Mama provide recipes you can check out here http://www.mspimama.com/p/recipe-index.html . MSPI stands for milk soy protein intolerance.
In the months following, I took more photos of poop than should ever be taken.  I will spare you the graphic images-you can be responsible for your own nightmares by googling them yourself. I went on an insane elimination diet. I call it insane because it seemed to drive everyone else around me crazy-especially my mother and husband who were trying their best to be helpful by providing home cooked or store-bought meals for me while I nursed around the clock. First, I cut out dairy, then soy, and still saw blood so I had to look for “hidden dairy” and really start to read the labels of all the foods I was consuming. It wasn’t enough to not eat cheese or yogurt. I had to make sure there wasn’t any butter, lactose, or casein in my meals too. I stopped eating all nuts. I gave up citrus and also avoided broccoli, cauliflower, beans, onions, peppers, and spices because I suspected these were causing gas or reflux.

So what did I eat you ask? Well, it was a fortunate coincidence that my family was trying out a Paleo diet at the time. Paleo excludes dairy, grains, processed foods and added sugars. Many of the foods available to me at the time were perfectly safe for me to eat.

Now remember, I am a creature of habit and efficiency, so once I found the magic formula for creating a dairy/soy/nut/citrus free meal, I ate it frequently and in large quantities.

My mother, who is a complete ROCK STAR, and cooked for me EVERY SINGLE DAY, could barely keep me fed and satisfied, bless her heart. I ate like two large men. She would cook for me and hubs, and I would eat both portions and be famished an hour and a half later. Twin breastfeeding burns a ton of calories! Hubs joked that keeping me fed required an extra income and was a part-time job for my mother.

Apple pie a la mode? Not so much, anymore.

Apple pie a la mode? Not so much, anymore.

These are my go-to foods.  With the exception of some of the meats, all the other items are almost always stocked in the kitchen.
Meat:

Bison
Chicken
Beef
Pork
Venison
Duck                                                                                                                                                Lamb

Vegetables:

Sweet potatoes
Turnips
Kale
Spinach
Romaine lettuce
Carrots
Beets
Plantains
Artichoke hearts

Fruits:

Apples
Pears
Bananas
Blueberries
Dates
Avocados
Grapes
Watermelon

Grains:

Rice
Oatmeal (gluten-free)

Oils:

Coconut oil
Olive oil
Avocado oil

I also researched companies that made dairy and soy free treats and compiled a list of them to save you the trouble! 🙂 Ooh, I’m so excited to tell you about them! Sweets! 🙂

So Delicious brand coconut milk ice-cream http://sodeliciousdairyfree.com/product_groups/dairy-free-desserts
Luna and Larry’s organic coconut bliss ice-cream http://coconutbliss.com
Alternative Baking Company cookies http://www.alternativebaking.com
Nana’s cookies-oatmeal raisin was the one I loved http://www.nanascookiecompany.com
Enjoy Life products http://enjoylifefoods.com/?gclid=CK7tkJTwq8MCFUpp7AoddGgAtA
Select Udi’s cookies http://udisglutenfree.com
Cybele’s cookies http://cybelepascal.com

I can’t lie to you, friends.  Some of these alternative, allergy friendly treats are pricey! In fact, paleo eating can be very pricey because of all the organic, grass-fed meats that are used, and the amount of fresh produce purchased weekly. There is definitely a discussion in here for another time about accessibility to quality foods for all. But I would say this: if you can stretch your budget, isn’t good, quality food a great investment? Food is definitely a huge monthly expense for us now that we have two babies to feed and we feed them organic meats and produce.

Chocolate truffles? Nope.

Chocolate truffles? Nope.

And for those of you out there doubting that a coconut milk ice-cream can taste like regular ice-cream, I’d say don’t compare them.  Appreciate the new, allergy friendly version as its own wonderful treat. Cheese and milk replacements? Ehhh, I’m not personally interested in those.  It was easier to say goodbye to pizza and bagels entirely than eat poor imitations of them. I live in New York after all, I can’t be eating fake pizza and bagels. As for the Alternative Baking Company cookies though-I rave about them all over my website.  They are amazing cookies, allergy friendly or not.

It has now been 14 months of an altered diet, since I’m still nursing.  I have reintroduced all except dairy and soy back into my meals, but have decided that pastas and most breads don’t need to make a comeback, at least not yet. For now, this new food routine is working and has been totally efficient. I hope if you find yourself in a similar situation, you figure out what works for you and your babe, and find some foods you love!

This post made me realize just how many photos exist of me stuffing my face. Please enjoy them.

Fancy food truck cupcakes in Chicago.

Fancy food truck cupcakes in Chicago.

Lobsta rolls in New Hampshire.

Lobsta rolls in New Hampshire.

Paninis in Rome.

Paninis in Vatican City.

Falling in love with artichokes all over again in Rome.

Falling in love with artichokes all over again in Rome.

Cross Country Remembered: Part 1

Since 2003 I have driven across the United States about a dozen times.

CF071063_2048

Photograph of Art Bell by Ian Allen. http://www.ianallenphoto.com/Art-Bell-for-Time

Well, I drove about 200 miles in total.  Hubs did almost all of the driving, and I was co-captain, ready with a Red Bull for my pilot or a jab to the ribs at 3AM through a star speckled stretch of Arizona. We chased Coast to Coast AM as it faded in and out of radio stations while we propelled through the long black stretches of interstate, pondering our place in the vastness, listening to the intriguing discussions of George Noory and Art Bell.

Ian Allen's photograph of Art Bell for Time. http://www.ianallenphoto.com/Art-Bell-for-Time

Photograph of Art Bell by Ian Allen. http://www.ianallenphoto.com/Art-Bell-for-Time

I imagined Bell broadcasting from somewhere in the middle of Nevada from a steel base resembling the UFO from Flight of the Navigator.  Callers would connect with the radio hosts  and describe their latest alien abduction stories or delve into government conspiracy theories.  Occasionally we would tune in to Unshackled, the Christian radio drama, or begin a grand rotation of CDs, many of which were mixes scrawled with my handwriting and hearts all over them.

The Explorer hummed with gentle thuds of thousands of insects being collected like snow through the darkness. We smelled worn-in and earthy and our fingers were sticky with jerky and trail mix. When I absolutely couldn’t keep my eyelids from drooping I’d drift to sleep and wake up, “still in Tennessee,” or “still in Texas.” When I saw hubs’ eyes glaze over, we’d pull off the highway and slink past wide loads and semis, pulling in to well-lit parking spaces, armed with a hunting knife tucked in the driver side door. The doors would lock and the heat blasted, but then I’d pull coats and blankets around my knees and over my head after the last bits of warmth evaporated. Hubs could sleep straight up, no pillow, head back, mouth open and snoring. I’d wake, groggy from the biting cold, or snoring, or because the parking lot lamp lights were blaring down on me for all to see.

When my bladder was ready to burst, I’d clutch my bag and look menacingly into the still dark, too quiet of dawn, trying to imagine looking crazier than anything or anyone that might try to approach me as I made my way to the rest room. Once inside, I kicked open every stall door and checked around every corner. Using rest stop facilities were careful balancing acts of not letting anything touch the counters, walls, or floor of the bathrooms. I used elbows and feet and bottles of hand sanitizer, managing to brush my teeth, wash my face, and wipe down my armpits with some paper towels and soap. All of my toiletries were safely tucked in bags or pockets, away from communal surfaces. During the day I’d be interrupted by women entering the restrooms, clearly on shorter trips,  who usually looked much more embarrassed than I did at the sight of my road-grooming routine.

In the mornings, the windshield would heat up and warm the whole car, and soon we’d be driving, windows down, searching for a pancake and eggs kind of breakfast. There were waffle houses and local diners, IHOPs, Cracker Barrels, and rest stop gas stations that sold spotted bananas and granola bars.

The most southern West/East running Interstate.

I-10 is the most southern West/East                   running Interstate.

Just north of the I-10 is Interstate 40.  It passes through the panhandle of Texas

Just north of the I-10 is Interstate 40. It passes through the panhandle of Texas

Interstate 70 passes through the middle of the U.S

Interstate 70 passes through the middle of the U.S

Just north of I-70 is Interstate 80.

Just north of I-70 is Interstate 80.

Mornings meant so many possibilities. It also meant looking like a hobo in broad daylight. Greasy hair was accepted on the road though. On one particular trip we detoured to see the Grand Canyon. The drive off our main course was much longer than I had expected. We had been two days in the car already, I had my period and was crampy and grumpy. I wanted nothing more than a shower and a warm bed. When we finally arrived at the rim of the huge expanse of the Grand Canyon, I lumbered out of the car, threw a hat on top of my head and covered my face with sunglasses. Although we had arrived, it felt like we hadn’t. It was too big to take in. There was an impossible amount of space in front of us.

This is amazing! Ok, lets leave.

This is amazing! Ok, lets leave.

The striped walls of rocks stacked infinitely until they faded to a washed out pink and gray as far as the eye could see. People were specks all along the landscape and some took clever photos pretending to stand on the cliff’s edge. We stayed for maybe an hour and a half, walking around and taking pictures. Then, I decided, it was time to go.  At that moment, that breathtaking view could not replace the pure joy of a warm shower.

We visited New Orleans during one of our journeys. Our hotel room was cheap because we had agreed to take the handicapped accessible room, complete with guard rails around the bed and a shower-distinguishable only by a shower curtain, but otherwise completely open to the rest of the tiled bathroom. We indulged in great food and watched a parade march through town, weaved in and out of artists booths in the park, and admired paintings and street artists. We watched crowds extend their hands to balconies and shout excitedly as beads were tossed to them.  A year later, hurricane Katrina would devastate the entire area.

During another trip we stopped at an ostrich farm to feed the birds and purchased enormous, thick shelled ostrich eggs to paint on. We stopped at landmarks, and took detours. We pulled up to three mammoth crosses erected on the side of the road in Texas and watched people pray and cry. There were “Four Corners” and “Twin Arrows,” and long sections of highway punctuated by green signs that promised food and gas. Hardees suddenly becoming Carl’s Junior, burgers with mustard, to Subway sandwiches with avocados on them.  200 miles till the next gas station.  Riding with the gas light on in the middle of nowhere. Pretty electric.

We’ve been to ghost towns and closed towns. Many of these were open on the second-Tuesday-of-every-month-except-in-a-leap-year- kind of deals for limited amounts of time, so they were hard to catch. But we had no set schedules.

now open

One day we pulled into a mysterious trailer town set against a barren desert landscape. It was the only visible community from the road for hundreds of miles. The campers were arranged in rows to form streets on the dirt. The local hairdresser’s trailer was marked with an old painted wooden sign that hung from a retractable awning over the front door. A few doors down another wooden sign read “Auto Repair,” another “Food.” Each trailer blended into the next, except for pots of faded fake flowers, dream catchers, or rusted hanging chimes. In the center of town, edged with a homemade wooden fence were about three dozen long hills of earth and gravel. It wasn’t until we drove closer that we realized each pile was a grave, marked with a small wooden cross. We crept around the tiny town in our truck, kicking up dirt, waiting to see a single inhabitant, spinning stories in our heads.


Check back for more on Cross Country Remembered…