Happy Mother’s Day!

Between my own moms and all my friends who are moms, I’m surrounded by moms all the time. I know that old boring stereotype — that women are catty, competitive with each other, jealous, petty, blah blah blah.

Mostly: bullshit. In all my time spent with my mom friends and women in general, I’ve rarely experienced anything like that.

On the contrary, it never fails to amaze me how women come together to support each other, lift each other up, and maybe most importantly and impressively, love each other’s kids.

To my moms and all my mom friends who let my kids curl up in their laps when I can’t be there, don’t bat an eyelash when my kids take their clothes off when we’re out to dinner with them, are willing to talk about our kids endlessly, are just as excited about every kid milestone and upset about every kid setback, also willing to not talk about the kids as much as possible, have an open door policy for my kids if I ever need somewhere to drop them off last minute, challenge me to always show up to a workout and understand and encourage (read: never judge or guilt me over) the need to prioritize myself, listen and laugh about the gritty motherhood stories and only try to “one-up” when it’s to say something their kid did WAY worse, understand that play dates are completely dependent upon nap schedules and don’t care when I show up 2 hours late or not at all, open their kitchens for us to drink wine in, and somehow do all of this while managing households, holding multiple jobs, cooking meals, packing school lunches, hanging up horrible artwork that doesn’t match their home decor, keeping multiple school and extracurricular activity schedules straight, maintaining marriages and friendships —

Happy Mother’s Day!

I love all of you badass chicks. You’ve made this ride much more fun and I couldn’t be the mom I am without any of you.

Best Pizza in NJ Throwdown, Entry #1: Rezza Trattoria

Pizza is one of the great loves of my life. I feel #blessed to have grown up in NJ where we have the best pizza on earth (New York, be quiet. Chicago, I love you endlessly, but no. Just no.) so pizza and I have been able to cultivate our relationship for the entirety of my life. It even lasted through 4 years of long distance while I went to school in PA. Yes, while I was in PA I did a little cheating with PA pizza but nothing we all didn’t do in college and certainly nothing I’m proud of. If anything, my infidelity made my true love stronger in the end. After 4 years in PA, I came back to NJ groveling on my knees for “real pizza.” (Also bagels but that’s another discussion entirely.)

One of my lifelong dreams is to order like 50 pizzas from all of my favorite pizza places in NJ and invite people over to taste test and vote for their favorites. A lofty, admirable goal, I know. Some dream of curing cancer, vaccines for all, clean drinking water… I, pizza parties. That idea has been in the works for a while though and I have consistently failed to execute so instead I hope to accomplish that here, in this blog, by myself, as a one person pizza party. Which is cool because given the choice between being at the head of a dictatorship/having the supreme opinion, or a democracy/having to listen to other people’s opinions, I choose dictatorship.

I have it narrowed down to 4 contenders right now and thoughts about which one is my ultimate favorite keep me up nights. Up until last week, after years of competitive vetting, I had my contenders narrowed down to three.

Then last week out of nowhere, Rezza Trattoria in Roseland unknowingly injected itself into the competition for my heart.

I’m actually embarrassed to admit that I had never even heard of Rezza before last week and probably never would have were it not for the kitchen renovation that has us in Livingston instead of Summit right now. So I’m calling it fate. Luckily my friend and one of the few people I trust for food and restaurant recommendations (looking at you, JK) came through in my hour of need when I frantically texted her for a pizza delivery recommendation in Livingston. I started salivating as soon as I started looking at Rezza’s pictures on Yelp.

And then that beautiful rectangle of dough, sauce, and cheese arrived. And I nearly died of love. And then I heated it up for lunch the next day. And my pizza world has been forever turned upside-down.

In my opinion, well-made pizza doesn’t travel well when it’s freshly made so delivery isn’t the fairest way to judge it. I absolutely loved the pizza from Rezza that I had delivered, but I liked it even better the next day, fresh out of my oven. So I knew I had to go to the actual restaurant to get a better read on it. After thinking about it literally nonstop for over a week, we went there last Friday. It should be noted here that I was nearly dead of exhaustion that day and we couldn’t get a babysitter to come until after 8:30pm and I almost fell asleep on the 10-minute drive there and I still insisted on going there. That’s how committed I was to this endeavor.

 

Fair warning: You’re about to see a bunch of pictures of non-pizza food and here is where I shall confess that I am a chronic over-orderer at restaurants. I have absolutely no shame about this and no intention of ever reforming. I need to sample something from as many sections of the menu as possible and, at Italian restaurants specifically, I absolutely have to get the pizza, the meatballs, and a pasta dish to be able to form a well-rounded opinion.

 

For appetizers, we had fried calamari, meatballs, and (OK it’s starting to sink in now just how much self-control I lack) a full dinner-sized order of rigatoni with vodka sauce. Everything was good. The meatballs were good, not the best I’ve ever had, but well seasoned and moist.  If I had to say anything bad about the entire meal, I would say the calamari was a bit salty. I would get it again, though. A little sodium overload never hurt anybody. Or maybe it has. Either way, I don’t care. The rigatoni with vodka sauce was really good. It came out scorching hot which I love, and had the perfect amount (read: tons) of creamy vodka sauce. When I got the pizza delivered I also got the cavatelli with broccoli and that was even better in my opinion. The buttery sauce had the perfect amount of salt and garlic and the cavatelli is home-fucking-made. HOMEMADE CAVATELLI. Mic drop.

Just kidding. I’m picking the mic back up to introduce the real star of the show…

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I mean, come on. This thing is just an absolute beauty and I’m not even mildly good at taking food pictures. This rectangular shape is their “traditional” pie. We got half fried eggplant/ricotta and half pepperoni/pineapple. That pepperoni/pineapple combo is the brainchild of one of E’s friends (4 years old) and all I have to say is don’t knock it til you try it. I order it everywhere now.

This pizza has the perfect texture. It’s chewy and doughy but still crunchy around the edges, complete with bits of burnt cheese on the outer crust. And the texture is maintained throughout the entire pizza, including the middle which is where a lot of places drop the ball. No soggy middles here! The sauce is perfectly sweet and they put just the right amount on. They’re generous with the toppings and both sides of the pizza were cooked perfectly despite having different toppings (and one of them was fried which can be tricky!).

After our disgusting dinner display, of course we still looked at a dessert menu and decided on these little donut things. I have no idea what they were called (not zeppoles) and I refuse to look it up but they were little deep fried bites of deliciousness with a citrusy tang (orange zest, I’m fairly certain) in the middle. I’m an absolute psycho about all fried food and also desserts in general so this dish had a high potential for failure for me but the execution was spot on. They came out hot, not soggy at all, and perfectly crispy. I could eat 500 of them.

We’ve been in Livingston now for about 3 weeks and I spend a portion of every day thinking about when is the next time I can have Rezza pizza. My self-imposed limit is once a week. I even went out to pizza with the boys last week (not at Rezza) and didn’t eat any of their pizza because well 1) R would’ve clawed my eyes out if I touched his plate, and 2) I was holding out to order Rezza. I don’t think the pizza love gets more real than that.

What do you look for in a pizza? What pizzeria has your heart?

A Rocco original

At this stage in the game, it rarely surprises me when my children (especially #2) do horrible things. I’m not one of those parents who errs on the side of “oh no, not my little angel!” In fact, not only am I surprised when my children don’t do something horrible, but I’m also usually the first to blame them when a horrible thing happens that might not even be their fault. Someone got hit with a stick on the playground? One of mine probably did it. A lifeguard is yelling and blowing his whistle at the pool? #1 is probably removing his swimmies and running as fast as he can to jump into the deep end of the pool and drown. Fire alarm going off in a restaurant? Yep, probably one of mine. (Just kidding, I don’t take these animals to restaurants.)

So when my MIL who was babysitting for a few hours during his naptime sent me the above picture of #2’s naptime artistry, I was unsurprised, unfazed, and otherwise unmoved. Want to side note here that I don’t blame MIL one bit. It definitely still would’ve happened if I had been the one at home with spawn of Satan at the time, though probably worse because I don’t look in the monitor nearly as frequently as she does because she’s a more caring person than I.

To answer a few questions: Yes, that’s Sharpie. And, no, we aren’t even in our own house right now. This artwork was created in husband’s grandparents’ house where we’re currently living while our kitchen gets renovated.

I can think of no better way to say “thank you” than:

“Hi thanks for letting us stay in your house for free. #2 left you an original piece of artwork. Media and materials: your wall, his entire body, sheets and pillow, black Sharpie. Enjoy!”

 

 

Of course the question becomes how did this 2-year-old get a hold of a black Sharpie? and I’m proud to report after careful investigation that I figured out the answer which is this: he found it days before, tested it out, and then stowed it under his pillow or mattress like a prison shank for use at an unsupervised time.

How did I come to this conclusion? Well days before, I had noticed some black marks on his brand new crib. I figured it came that way from the store (we got it on clearance just to use while we’re staying at this house) and didn’t think about it again. Days after his artistic expression and after the Sharpie had been removed from the house (because nowhere is safe, nowhere is sacred), I noticed additional graffiti tags on the printer which is also in his room. This means he found the Sharpie and did some testing with it days before hiding it in his crib to complete his final masterpiece.

I think my favorite part about the entire ordeal is where he colored on his head. Yes, he colored all over his legs and belly and arms and also his face and that was ridiculous too, but the funniest marks are the ones on his actual HEAD underneath his hair. Every time I brush his hair back to wash it I can see it under there like a tattoo that a prisoner reveals to his fellow inmates after going full skinhead.

In conclusion, everyone please turn your Sharpies in because I’m collecting every single one within a 50 mile radius before my white-on-white-on-white-on-white kitchen is complete and I have to move back into it with my crafty little prisoner.  God help us all.

One of my favorite Amazon Prime features — free books and magazines!

I talked a little bit about how I use the library to get most of my reading (and listening) material for free from the library in this post.  But there’s another way I get books for free that a lot of people don’t know about and I love to share with everyone.

Two of the little-known features of Amazon Prime membership (and who’s not a Prime member?) are Prime Reading and Amazon First Reads.

 

 

Prime Reading: Every month, Amazon makes thousands of books and magazines available to Prime members to read for free!

And if, like me, you’re an audiobook lover, they also have some titles available with Audible narration.  To access the books, you just need to:

  1. Be a Prime member (again, who isn’t?).  There is literally NOTHING else you have to do.  No buttons you have to click, no terms and conditions to sign off on.  If you’re a Prime member, you already have access to this feature.
  2. Go to this page to see which titles are available.
  3. Browse your little heart out.
  4. Click this huge “READ FOR FREE” button to have it delivered to your reading device (or if you’re dumb: choose the button underneath to pay for it)

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The book selection isn’t outstanding.  It’s definitely not a list of current New York Times bestsellers.  In my opinion, there are usually 1-5 books I’d consider reading.  To me, that’s fine, and sometimes I’ll try something new that I wouldn’t have normally tried.

I think one of the coolest sections of the Prime Reading library, though, is the magazine section.  These rotate in and out so I can’t say anything will be there for sure when you look, but I’ve seen a ton of popular magazines on there.  Rachael Ray, Food Network, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, People, Cosmopolitan, InStyle, Elle, Bloomberg Businessweek, Vogue, W, Martha Stewart — I’ve seen all of those plus so many more.  Here’s a direct link to just the magazines section.

I’m a sucker for magazines in the grocery store checkout line and this helps me get my magazine fix without having to pay $5 for something I just end up throwing away.  An added bonus is that I don’t have to carry around a magazine – I can literally download a magazine anywhere on my phone.  If I’m sitting in a line somewhere bored and don’t have anything I’m currently reading on my phone or Kindle, I have an entire library of magazines at my fingertips.

Amazon First Reads: Every month, Amazon editors curate a very short list of unpublished books for Prime members to read before they’re published.

This differs from Prime Reading in that you get just ONE per month and the list to choose from is much shorter.  I think there are fewer than ten each month.  It also differs from Prime Reading because you actually own the book after you download it.  You’re not just borrowing it like you do with Prime Reading.

To access this feature you need to follow all the steps above except go to this page instead.

I think because this list is so specific there are usually better titles on it.  Sometimes there’s nothing that interests me, but other times (like last month), there are multiple titles that pique my interest.  Last month I opted for the eating disorder memoir over the female serial killer true crime book.  Honestly, the only thing that could’ve made that decision more difficult for me would have been if there was a book about the death penalty thrown into the mix too because eating disorders and serial killers are two of my major interests because I’m sick in the head.

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Anyway, I like to pretend that I own Amazon and that they don’t own me (they do though) so I always like to feel like I’m somehow cheating their genius system.  I hope this post helps you max out your Prime membership and find some new stuff to read for free!


Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links which means that if you purchase through the link, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. If you found the information helpful and do decide to purchase anything I have mentioned, please do me a solid and buy through the link so I can be compensated for the time I have put into this.  I was not paid to recommend these products and all opinions are my own.

My favorite at-home workouts

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In a previous post I talked about my fitness philosophy and how I stay committed to working out.  One of the cornerstones of my fitness plan is working out at home.  I got some questions about what, specifically, are my favorite at-home workouts so I made a list!  Fair warning: the majority of this list includes Jillian Michaels because I have a major girl crush on her and why wouldn’t I?  You should, too.

  1. Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred.  An absolute classic.  I’ve had it for years and it still never fails to challenge me.  I think this is the first iteration of JM’s “3-2-1” workout format which is circuit training consisting of 3 minutes of strength, 2 minutes of cardio, and 1 minute of abs.  The circuit is repeated 3 times for a total of 18 minutes of actual work.  For me, the intervals are the perfect length.  I hate cardio but at only 2 minutes a pop, I can go balls to the wall for that short burst and then get some relief in ab work which is one of my strengths.  There are three levels on this one.  I happen to really like Level 1 and with a few modifications (heavier weights, different ab moves, planking cardio for added strength/less impact on my shitty spine) I can still get a lot out of it and feel sore the next day.  This is my #1 at-home workout recommendation, time after time.  It’s good for any level, is truly “full body,” and incorporates strength AND cardio which I think is the real key in changing your body.  And at 18 minutes, sorry but you’re fucking lying if you say you don’t have time for it.
  2. Jillian Michaels 10 Minute Body Transformation: Volume 1 and Volume 2 I love these for their versatility.  Another thing I love about them is that JM looks really pretty in them and her outfits are great and like I said… #GIRLCRUSH.  Each volume has five 10-minute workouts.  Volume 1 has Pilates, Cardio Burn (nearly killed me, yes it’s only 10 minutes, yes I still almost died), Booty Boot Camp, Calisthenics, and Kickbox Blast.  Volume 2 has HIIT/Plyo (I don’t really do this one because plyo isn’t ideal for my back), Hard Core, Animal Style, Lift, and Yoga.  Of these, the ones I do the most (in order) are Lift, Hard Core, Pilates, Yoga, Calisthenics.  One of my favorite ways to use these is to ride my spin bike for 15-20 minutes, hop off and do the 10-minute JM “Lift” routine for a good cardio/strength combo.  I also love to combine 2-3 of just these for a full body workout.  A lot of the time, that “combining” happens throughout the period of an entire day.  I’ll do 10 minutes in the morning, 10 in the afternoon, and 10 at night.  It sounds insane and inconvenient, but sometimes I only have 10 minutes at a time to give and it adds up! Or, if there’s a day when I cannot get my head around working out, I’ll tell myself I’m going to just do one of them.  Sometimes after I do the one, I’ll pick another either right away or later on in the day.  And sometimes I don’t and I’m totally fine with that because these are DENSE and effective in a very short period of time.
  3. Jillian Michaels 6 Week Six-Pack.  The title of this one suggests that it’s ab-focused but it’s definitely much more than that.  In my opinion, it’s full body and it’s about 26 minutes of actual work.  I like to throw this one in to mix it up because it doesn’t follow her traditional 3-2-1 format.  It’s one circuit of 10-15 exercises repeated twice.  There are two levels and, in my opinion, Level 2 isn’t really harder than Level 1.  I love all the different sit-up variations and all the low back work.  This one is really hard.  The first time I got to the end of the first circuit I thought the whole thing was done and then she said it was time to get back up and do it all over again and I nearly died.  I actually may have stopped completely because I just wasn’t mentally prepared.  OK, I did stop.  But I can do the whole thing through now!
  4. Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30. Basically the same as 30 Day Shred (the 3-2-1 circuit training) but there are 4 workouts on this one instead of 3 and instead of doing two strength moves for 3 minutes, you do three strength moves for 3 minutes which makes it go a little faster but I’m not sure my muscles fatigue as much.  It says the workouts are longer than 30 Day Shred, but it’s still the same number of circuits so it must just be the warmup and cool down that make them longer and who actually does either of those things anyway?  OK, probably some people do but I don’t because YOLO.  I really like all the workouts except for Level 3 – it’s just not my thing and it hurts my knee joints.
  5. Jillian Michaels Killer Body This has 3 separate 30-minute workouts, each focusing on a different muscle group — core, lower body, and upper body.  Each workout consists of four strength circuits separated by 1-minute cardio intervals.  I absolutely love the upper body one, even if I do almost faceplant every time I attempt the crossover pushups.  Mark my words: One day I will break my nose doing crossover pushups.  I like the lower body one and I don’t love the core one compared to other things I do specifically for my core (namely, her “Hard Core” from Total Body Transformations Volume 2 and 6 Week Six-Pack).  For me, it’s hard to get my head around devoting an entire workout to one muscle group but, as with all her workouts, it does end up being full body to some degree and it’s fun to mix it up.
  6. Cheap spin bike + Peloton app.  About a year ago, husband was talking about getting a spin bike and at that time everybody was getting Peloton bikes.  As spin novices, we decided it was completely insane to buy a $2000 piece of gym equipment that we might never use and opted for a (much) cheaper spin bike and said if we used it consistently we’d eventually upgrade to a real Peloton.  Well, we’ve had our Sunny bike for a year and we are definitely not upgrading any time soon.  The secret is the Peloton app, which is only $14/month!  This is the same app that the actual Peloton bike owners use, except they pay much more for it per month.  The reason they pay more is that their bikes actually link to the app so the trainers can see them and talk to them if they’re doing a live ride, they can be on the leader board, and they can see their actual stats.  We just strap our cracked-screen iPad to the front of our cheap bike and it works perfectly fine.  I don’t need to see specifically how fast my legs are moving per minute and I most certainly do not need to pay $2k for a bike plus $40/month to have a trainer call out my username mid-ride.  My philosophy is if I’m sweating, it’s working.  With the app, we still have access to all the same live rides and the entire streaming library.  You can filter by time (I like 15-20 minute rides), workout type (I like HIIT and climbs), and a few other options.  For at-home cardio, this is my favorite option because I’m a meathead and I like to put the resistance up insanely high so I can sneak in some leg strength work.

With all these options for at-home workouts, I find it really easy to mix it up, keep it fun and different so I don’t get bored, and also hit a ton of different muscles so none of them are ever “too easy” for me and I still get sore from all of them.

What are some of your favorite at-home workouts?

Also, and most importantly: Can at least one person get the Jillian Michaels 10 Minute Body Transformation: Volume 1 and do the 10 minute cardio and report back that they almost died too so I can stop feeling so bad about myself for that?


Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links which means that if you purchase through the link, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. If you found the information helpful and do decide to purchase anything I have mentioned, please do me a solid and buy through the link so I can be compensated for the time I have put into this.  I was not paid to recommend these products and all opinions are my own.

Vote for our countertops and backsplash!

We’re remodeling our kitchen.  Or at least we’re supposed to be but the project hasn’t even started yet and we’re already over a month behind.  But nobody cares about that.  The thing you came here for is the poll!  Because who doesn’t fucking love a poll?!

I’m pretty decisive when it comes to what I want in my kitchen.

In a word: WHITE.

I want it to look like someone threw a grenade filled with white paint right into the heart of my home.  But cleaner.  (Obviously this is a pipe dream and in reality it will be much dirtier.)  I want white cabinets, white countertops, white backsplash, white everything.

The only thing I’ve been wavering on is what to do for the backsplash.  After careful consideration I decided there’s no way I’m getting any kind of color in my backsplash.  I considered grey tiles and the glassy looking colored subway tiles.  They’re both a no.  If we’re doing a tile backsplash, then it’s going to be white subway tile with white grout (colored grout also a no).  I KNOW that white grout could be a nightmare in a kitchen, especially a kitchen that gets as much use as mine with children crawling (OK, walking) all over the countertops and spilling shit all day long.  And I really don’t want to live my life in fear of shit getting spilled on my backsplash.

Somewhere in this thought process the idea of a solid slab backsplash really started to stand out and now I’m pretty much set on it.  I love the clean streamlined look it has, I think it would make our kitchen look much more open and airy, and it would be by far the easiest option to keep clean.  Of course it’s also the most expensive option but I have good taste, what can I say?

We narrowed our options down to two quartz patterns: Borghini Gold and Minuet.

Borghini Gold (below) has more of a traditional “marble” feel with fewer, thicker veins.  The color leans more to the brown/tan (hence: “GOLD”) than grey which I didn’t think I’d want but the overall impact is a more subtle look.

 

Minuet (below) has much more marbling and an overall pattern and leans more toward grey than brown/tan which, when I saw it in person seemed to lend itself to a more stark appearance.

 

And here they are side-by-side:

 

So tell us what you think!

Are you a Borghini Gold or Minuet fan?  OR do you just think I’m insane for wanting an all-white kitchen with my psycho children?!!

 

My experience with Active Release Techniques (ART): Part 1

I should start this series by revealing what a huge mess my back is. I had a doctor tell me in high school that I wouldn’t be able to walk by the time I was 25 if I continued on the path I was on. Once I was 25, I had a doctor look at my X-rays and tell me he couldn’t believe I was walking around living a normal life without regular pain medication. Spondylolisthesis, former gymnast, cheerleader, stress fractures and misalignment, blah blah blah, whatever.

Suffice it to say: my back is a huge fucking mess. Also: I don’t fucking care and that’s not the point of this post.

I do Pilates, SLT (basically the amped-up-on-crack cousin of Pilates), and general core work for my back at the suggestion of a doctor and, despite the mess revealed by X-rays, my back has never felt better than it has since I started my regimen several years ago. I rarely get low back pain anymore unless it’s an acute injury which I’m more prone to because of my history but which I can avoid by being very mindful while exercising and watching my posture in daily life.

So imagine my surprise when I woke up a few weeks ago and couldn’t turn my head to the right! I couldn’t make it even 45 degrees to the right. I could hardly even turn it to the left. I couldn’t nod “yes” or shake my head “no.”

I will do basically anything to avoid making an appointment that requires me to leave my house, including walking around with a completely immobile neck for over 24 hours. So that’s exactly what I did for about 3 days. I finally realized that I had to do something about it when I was pulling out of my driveway to bring my kids to preschool and almost got pulverized by oncoming traffic because I was unable to turn my head enough to see out of my side mirror (#sorryhusband, never told you this). Earlier that morning, I also may or may not have dropped the 2-year-old onto the floor because my right hand was actually getting weak. (Honestly, he’s perfectly capable of walking and I shouldn’t have to hold him so much anyway so it serves him right.)

I decided to try a chiropractor because MDs in the past have always just told me I should a) get surgery or b) take pain meds/get regular epidurals, and neither of those options is my scene. My aunt is a chiropractor and told me about Active Release Techniques (ART) which is supposed to be really helpful for soft tissue injuries. I went on the ART website, found a provider, and made my appointment for that day!

I actually showed up to the chiropractor appointment which I’m still patting myself on the back for. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I could hardly make the left turn into the facility parking lot before my first visit.

When Dr. Todd first examined me, he was pretty appalled at the limited range of motion not just in my neck but all over my body. I have man shoulders and thighs and I’ve been thinking for a while that I need to do something to loosen them up so that didn’t come as a shock to me.

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(not actually me but it could be)

I started out face-down on a table with some kind of device on my upper back/neck that made my muscles tingle. I’ve experienced this device four times now and I’m still not sure what it is but the sensation is pleasant. Once I was fully cooked, my timer went off and the doctor reentered the room for the actual ART portion, which was not as pleasant.

My personal definition of ART is as follows: you in a room with a sadist/doctor poking and pulling your muscles aggressively in sensitive spots (and also in non-sensitive spots that somehow connect to the sensitive spots) with his thumbs and heels of his hands, oh and also he’s directing you to do specific movements repeatedly so he can get deeper into the sensitive spots. I was face-down, face-up, sideways, arms over my head, arms wrapped around my waist, reaching up, reaching across, retracting my chin… I think the only thing I didn’t do was stand on my head but maybe that’s coming in a future visit.

The whole thing took under 30 minutes and by the time I stood up, I had significant improvement in my neck mobility. I was shocked at what a huge difference it made in such a short period of time.

We proceeded to a different room where he showed me some exercises to do at home. I don’t think these were specifically related to my neck but I know chiropractic care is meant to be more of an all-over/“everything is connected” type of approach. The exercises seemed to be core-focused so I thought I’d breeze through them because I work pretty hard on my core and they were extremely basic. By the end of only about 10 minutes, though, I was surprised to feel some heat and shakiness in my core.

My neck is almost back to normal now, and typically this is when I’d jump off the treatment wagon and wait for it to heal the rest of the way on its own a.k.a. “never let it fully heal.” But for once in my life I’m going to stick it out for an entire treatment plan which is twice a week for six weeks. I’m two weeks in and I can already feel a huge difference not just in my neck and shoulders, but my hips and back as well.

I’m pretty excited to see what kind of a difference this process will make for the way my entire body feels. My hope is that it will open up my range of motion and help me feel more comfortable and not so “tight” throughout the day. Jury’s still out on that.

As for ART specifically, though, I’m a believer so far. I’m looking forward to having my neck back to 100% and I really do think ART will get it there. Here’s to the next four weeks of my first-ever completed treatment plan!

Here’s to strong women

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As a boy mom I’ve always wanted to edit this quote.

Happy International Women’s Day to all the badass chicks out there.

For my part, I promise to contribute at least two competent, respectful, and capable men to the next generation.

 

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Screen-free things to do with toddlers and preschoolers on a plane

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I by no means consider myself an expert on traveling with children. In fact, I consider a trip to the grocery store with children to be a “long trip.” I have done extensive vetting of toys, though, and the below list consists of some of my kids’ favorite portable, time-consuming things to do.

  1. Melissa & Doug Puffy Sticker Play Sets: My boys sit at the kitchen table and play with these for up to an hour. They’re slim, inexpensive, reusable, and quiet. R (age 2) mostly just stacks them on top of each other, puts them all over his (or more typically, the dog’s) body, or rips off the ones that E has meticulously placed on his own scenes because that’s what rude little brothers do. E (age 4) makes up stories about them and moves them around the scenes. There are so many different options so you’re bound to find something within your child’s interests: farm, careers, mermaid, safari, horses, pet store, pirates, dress-up, glamour, chipmunk house.
  2. Spot it!: One of my favorite games to play with kids and also with drunk adults. Seriously, bring it to an adult party and prepare to be entertained. Fun, simple, portable, and engaging. The regular version works for both kids and adults, but now they have Spot It Junior! made specifically for kids. And actually I just checked Amazon and they have about 500 other versions now as well, including ones for early readers, counters, Disney fans, sports fans, and so many others. I’ll be purchasing Spot It! Splash since a few too many cocktails have been spilled on my regular Spot It! cards.
  3. Playing cards: E got into playing cards a few months ago. Playing cards aren’t usually something I hear talked about a lot for kids under 5 but in my opinion, once they are starting to learn their numbers they can start to play War! Shortly after (thinking Kindergarten) you can start to teach them card counting and gambling! Kidding. I think Go Fish would work with this younger set as well. Standard cards work but these are my favorite cards of all time. I also like this set from Melissa & Doug for specialty card games.
  4. I Spy books: Obviously you can bring books on a plane but once you read a book, there isn’t much else to do with it. E loves I Spy books and they take up more time than a regular picture book. Even after you find all the things they ask you to find on the page, you can challenge each other to try to find other things on the pages. Some of our favorites are: Animals, Numbers, and Letters.
  5. Wikki Stix: Moldable, colorful sticks. Like Play Doh without the “Doh.” They take up very little space and they have the potential to take up a whole lot of time depending on how crafty you and your kids are. For the unimaginative (like my family) they also have cards to use kind of as stencils: letters, numbers, shapes.
  6. Ring Pops: A friend told me about this one and I have to admit I’ve never tried Ring Pops specifically but I am (in)famous for giving my kids ice pops or lollipops every single morning so they will keep quiet in the stroller so I can give the dog his 20-minute walk. I use Dum-Dums in the park, but I can see how a Ring Pop could buy you a little more time since, as far as lollipops are concerned, it’s a bigass one. You should see the looks I get in the park with both my kids in the stroller in their pajamas, sucking away at ice pops at 8:30 in the morning. #zerofucksgiven

And once all this inevitably fails, take out the f’ing iPad, throw some headphones on them, and close your eyes for what will probably be the only 10 restful minutes of your entire vacation.

Godspeed, hopeful travelers.

 


Disclosure: The links above are affiliate links which means that if you purchase through the link, I will receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. I was not paid to recommend these products and all opinions are my own.

Getting the most out of your local library

elibrary

When it comes to “things to do with kids” this one is a no-brainer. Libraries are free, they’re full of children, and they have tons of media and a steady stream of events for kids of all ages. My favorite things the library has to offer are book check-outs (so I can get them out of my already-cluttered house once my kids are tired of them instead of having to find a shelf for them) and story times/group activities. Libraries have so many cool activities now — traditional story times, of course, but also music classes, play groups, dance themed activities, arts and crafts, STEM, chess clubs, LEGO clubs, reading to therapy dogs, puppet shows, and on and on.

Sometimes I go to the local library and let my kid play with LEGOs or puzzles on the floor. READ: An hour of peace for me and if he gets too rowdy, the librarian can tell him to quiet down which is 1000% more effective than if I tell him myself to quiet down.

I put together a list to help you make sure you don’t miss out on all that your public library has to offer.

  1. Think libraries, plural. My particular location puts me within just a few miles of multiple libraries. You might not have the same close proximity but chances are there are at least 2–3 other libraries within a reasonable driving distance. You can go to any story time or special library event in surrounding towns — they don’t ID you at the door and kick out any kids from neighboring towns. Some events require registration but will still allow out-of-towners. Consider checking out (pun intended) the libraries in your surrounding towns. By opening your options to more locations, you’re more likely to find a story time or event that fits with the ever-difficult-to-plan-around nap and school schedule and also your children’s interests.
  2. Reciprocal libraries. This goes along with #1 on this list about “thinking plural” but this is specifically for check-outs. Most libraries have arrangements with other nearby libraries called “reciprocal borrowing.” This means you can use your local library card to check out items from another town’s library. Check your local library’s website for a list of reciprocal libraries!
  3. Museum passes! This is both my favorite and least favorite things to tell people about the library. Favorite because NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT THIS and it makes me want to shout it from the rooftops. Least favorite because I have an irrational fear of everybody flocking to the library after I tell them about it and booking up all of the museum passes so there are none left for me. Anyway, LIBRARIES HAVE MUSEUM MEMBERSHIPS. You can check them out like books and go for free!
  4. Think outside the book. There are so many things besides books that you can get from the library. They have books on CD, music, subscriptions to web resources like ABC Mouse, DVDs, personal movie players that you can plug headphones into, and so much more. When The Lion King was still “in the vault” a few years ago the only place we could find it was at one of our surrounding libraries! For the last road trip we went on, my 3-year-old checked out a bunch of books on CD which came with an actual physical book for him to follow along. It kept him busy in the car for 45 minutes a.k.a. AN ETERNITY.
  5. Subscribe to emails. I’m a huge library nerd so I get emails from multiple towns’ children’s programs. It’s easy to forget about a special library event or story time even if you have the story time calendar hanging on your refrigerator. The emails help me plan my week!
  6. Follow them on social media. Libraries are on social media now! Not long ago, one of my local libraries had an event with live penguins that my 3-year-old absolutely loved. Something completely free and fun to do on a Sunday afternoon that he still talks about and it all happened because I found out about it on Facebook! Now I make sure to follow all of my favorite local libraries on social media so I don’t miss out on any cool opportunities like that.
  7. Take home a calendar. My town’s library isn’t particularly active on social media and doesn’t have a great email subscription. Any time we go, I make sure to take home a kids’ calendar and circle the story times that work for us. I hang it on my refrigerator and it’s a good go-to for any days we’re looking to fill a couple hours.
  8. Take advantage of e-resources. This one is more for the mamas and the papas, though they do have kids’ e-resources as well. If I bought all my books I would be bankrupt and living in a house made of books right now because I’d have nowhere to put them all. I like going to the library and checking out actual books but it’s hard to find the time/not enjoyable at all to browse the adult section with two psychotic children in tow. My solution for this is my library’s e-library! They have SO MANY BOOKS that you can download for free (using your town’s library card) right onto your Kindle/Nook/iPhone/whatever device you like to read on. There are sometimes wait lists for popular titles but there are also still plenty to choose from all the time. Bonus: I never end up paying late fees (or “lost book” fees which happens in my house more often than I like to admit because it’s the ultimate #shame for a library nerd like me). They even have audiobooks for download! Dirty little secret about me: about 90% of the books I “read” in 2017 were actually books that I listened to. I get a lot of “reading” done while making dinner, folding laundry, washing dishes, taking recycling out, and even during late-night nursing sessions (not this year on the nursing sessions though, #blessup)! If it weren’t for audiobooks, I would miss out on a lot of reading, and if it weren’t for free audiobooks from the library, I’d be broke af.

So I’m obviously way more enthusiastic about libraries than most sane people, but I never said I’m sane. Let me know what your favorite thing is about your local library!