Rowan Reilly Mitchell

newborn baby boy

We had another baby.

Rowan Reilly Mitchell was born on February 2, 2016 at 12:23 pm. Like the day of his sister’s birth, this Tuesday was a minor “holiday”, unseasonably warm and a day before the due date. Unlike that experience, this one was relatively calm and quick, with labor only lasting about 15 hours altogether.

According to legend, the Celts organized their year according to trees. The period of late January to mid-February centers on the Rowan tree, and the strong wood and red berries figure into several other ancient mythologies. Just as does the name Iris (which has meanings within botany, Greek mythology and explanations of human evolution), Rowan comes with a colorful richness of which we didn’t even know when we simply liked the sound of the name.

Our new wee one carries it well, especially as his ruddy complexion heightens during his little fits of rage (having one’s diaper changed is apparently a maddening experience).

So, once again, I go on official hiatus. Enjoy the rest of your winter, and sail easily into Spring!

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Color Your Brain Happy

coloring page Tibetan

When we talk about good health, we talk a lot about food, physical activity and sometimes even sleep habits.

We might toss around ideas about stress reduction and exercising our brains to maintain faculties and ward off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Perhaps you’ve also heard the current conversations on the downside of chaotic lifestyles that keep us constantly on the go.

For many of us, daily life is busy – too busy. And this can contribute to poor habits around diet, exercise, sleep, stress and brain health. Worse, because a lot of us relax by flipping on a screen, we’re further contributing to some of the trouble around sleep and stress.

What to do? My guess is you’ve caught wind of the coloring book trend for adults… if not, just know that over the past year, stores have increasingly carried coloring books full of intricate designs, and grown ups are raving about the loveliness of losing themselves in the hobby.

For a few months now, I’ve had “color” on my to-do list (ridiculous evidence of my own busyness). This past weekend, I finally crossed it off the list, but I plan to put it right back on there. It was incredibly relaxing and mood enhancing to complete the page pictured above, which is from a book I’ve had for years and barely touched. I received a book of mehndi designs for Christmas, and I plan to try a page from it next.

Why is coloring so enjoyable and even healthy as a habit? According to the Cleavland Clinic, coloring:

  • Takes us out of ourselves, becoming like a meditative practice.
  • Relaxes the brain and distracts from life’s difficulties because of its simplicity.
  • Is without consequences if we don’t do it perfectly, so is fun and not stressful.

My colorful friend up there isn’t exactly an amazing work of art, especially as I only used about eight colors and did minimal mixing and shading with them. It’s not about making something that looks incredible. What it is about is slowing your brain, using your hands and not relying on a screen to distract you from real life.

I can’t wait to do it again.

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January is Blue

trees winter snow

Blue and green are next to each other on the color wheel, but around this time of year, they couldn’t seem more opposite to me.

When I look outside right now, I see white, gray and, if I’m lucky, a blue sky (and sunny sparkles). Still, even when the sky is also gray and white (as it usually is… this is Michigan), the world has a bluish cast to it.

Even the cat is feeling the lack of outdoor green. It’s been an ongoing battle to keep him from eating my houseplants.

Fortunately, I like blue. While its paler incarnations invoke icy landscapes and wintry skies, the deeper, brighter blues put me in mind of exotic climates and sensual fabrics.

Still, without any green (or red), blue is just kind of cold, and I’m already dreaming of March with its glimpses of Spring and St. Patrick’s Day decor.

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Pregnancy Weirdness II

33 weeks pregnant

A little over four years ago, I wrote about some of the odder things I’d experienced with pregnancy, many of which I hadn’t seen in other “weird pregnant things” articles.

Since I’m back where I was around that time (though about six weeks further along), I figured I’d do it again, especially as my body has been kind enough to try out some new things this time.

Bleeding After a Transvaginal Ultrasound

Apparently, I bleed while pregnant, and it’s not really a thing of concern (for me, so far at least). It’s actually happened more in this second pregnancy, but I’ve remained pretty calm about it. Of course, any bleeding should be reported to your doctor or midwife, just to be sure. While it’s usually a very small amount, I bled noticeably more after a transvaginal ultrasound. Most likely, the probe bumped up against my cervix and irritated her.

Rh Factor Fun

I am Rh negative (my red blood cells do not have a particular protein), which essentially means my body could develop antibodies to a baby who is Rh positive (as most people are, including my husband). I had the immunoglobulin shot that prevents this during my pregnancy with Iris (around 28 weeks), and it was planned for this time. I actually got the shot twice due to bleeding early on. Again, any bleeding, call your doctor, especially if you are Rh negative.

Crazy Dreams and Sleep Disturbances

I don’t remember this happening as much the first time. My sleep in the first trimester was horrible. Obviously, my sleep is less sound than before I had any kids. However, I found myself having wild, vivid dreams and being wide awake in the middle of the night with no prompting from the world external. First trimester sleep disturbances are common, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy.

Saliva/Drool Quantity

Something else I noticed while lying down… I was fortunate enough not to have “morning sickness” (beyond nausea when I let my stomach get too empty), but my mouth was definitely producing more fluid than usual during sleep and tooth brushing. Another common happening, but no more fun because of that.

Swelling

No lymph node trouble this time, but my forehead got the tiniest puffy when I developed a sinus infection in the autumn. It’s still a little swollen. After being assured by a few medical professional that it’s nothing to worry about, I just try to ignore it when I look in the mirror. I think my ankle area might be a little bigger this time too…

Frequent Braxton Hicks Contractions

It’s common for women to experience more of these in a second pregnancy, and I kind of feel like it’s happening all the time. While Braxton Hicks contractions do not signal actual labor, they are uncomfortable and make me want to do absolutely nothing. They increase when I am more active, and make getting around tougher. At 35 plus weeks, I experience them several times every day, and have to stop and rest more often than I’d like.

Restricted Movement

I’m not talking about bed rest or the need to sit from exhaustion. I mean I simply can’t move as much. With Iris, I easily continued Zumba until days before her birth. Despite being heavier and cautious, I could lift my legs and follow the quick dance steps. This time, it’s like my hips are stiffer and Just. Won’t. Go. I think it’s because this baby is significantly lower than Iris was, and it’s messing with the mobility of my entire core.

Abdominal Muscle Soreness

I dealt with this last time, and it’s come back even stronger now. By the end of the day, the skin and muscle just below my rib cage, and only on the right side, is sore to the touch (and without it). Sometimes, it even wraps around so I can feel it in my back. I’m also more tender farther down my abdomen, as this baby is lower and (feels, at least) bigger. While it’s nice when the OB tells me the discomfort is more common among mothers who are “in shape,” it’s exhausting when I just want to find a sleeping position that doesn’t hurt.

With four weeks to go, I imagine I’ll encounter a few more weird things about pregnancy. As this is likely the last time I will be pregnant, I probably won’t know how much weirder it can get. I admit a little curiosity, but contentment in taking others’ word for it.

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My Head Feels Pregnant

cup hot tea

Having a three year-old is demanding.

Being 28 weeks pregnant is tiring.

Writing for a living is hard work.

Throw a head cold in there, and you’ve got a Katie who wants hot whiskey and a day in bed more than pretty much anything.

But, that’s not an option.

I’m not complaining. This is that for which I signed up. Well worth it. Still, it’s not easy doing what needs to be done when my head feels more full than my abdomen, and that’s saying something at this point.

So, I’m in need of some “home remedies” for a cold, as I’m not interested in messing with the majority of OTC remedies at the moment. The following list is a combination of things I found on the Internet, and a few that I do on my own to increase comfort:

  • Take a hot shower, during which you press a hot, wet cloth against the full and hurty parts of your face and neck. When the weather gets drier, I also love hot mist humidifiers.
  • Consume hydrating fluids frequently. Water and (pregnancy safe) herbal teas are great. Broth and fruit juices can be high in salt and sugar, though can also offer the nutrition you need, so read those labels. Hot fluids also have benefits.
  • Ingest honey for a sore throat. I usually prefer raw honey, though that’s something to be careful of during pregnancy. A salt water gargle is another option.
  • Get some fresh air and light exercise. Iris and I took a walk last night, and while it was cold enough to make my ears hurt temporarily (not gonna lie – that sucks with congestion), the movement and brisk air felt really good.
  • Eat clementines, because Vitamin C, fiber, deliciousness and simplicity.
  • If you like nasal irrigation, consider a neti pot. Be sure to use distilled or boiled (lukewarm) water, because brain-eating amoebas suck.

For now, I’m just happy that this appears to be a common cold. This past January, I ended up with a fever of 103 degrees plus, and was pretty much incapacitated for a day… something that hasn’t happened since I was living on fast food and cocktails. A plain old full head is far preferable, even if I can’t take drugs and shoot whiskey with raw honey.

Knocking on wood as we speak.

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I Sang with Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney seated pink piano

I did! Me and 19,999 other concert goers.

This was a huge thing to cross off my bucket list. I’ve been a fan for decades, and credit much of my life’s soundtrack to the Beatles and their various offshoots. For years, I’ve been bound and determined to see at least one former Beatle while he or he is still making appearances.

Several weeks and a chunk of cash after I heard Paul McCartney was going to be in Detroit, the husband and I sat in our side view seats, sharing pizza and waiting for the show to begin. We weren’t sure what to expect from the 73 year old musician, and I’m happy to say we were delighted. For three hours straight, Paul played and sang and moved non-stop. Then he did two encores. He gave the crowd what they wanted, talked about his new wife and creative endeavors, and owned his success. Perfection.

It’s like he’s been doing this for a few years or something… And I’m not the only one who was impressed.

Sometimes, it’s worth it to spend a little more than you should, and do something that would make your younger self ecstatic and proud. You’ll never regret it.

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Squash, Pickles, Cider

acorn squash uprightIn recent years, I’ve tried to eat more squash in the autumn. It’s cheap and delicious, and looks good sitting around the counter this time of year.

Last week, as part of my effort to combat the pregnancy sweet tooth and eat vegetables with my three year-old, I came up with an evening meal that was high in veggies and hearty to boot. Better yet, Iris ate it all without argument. That is the true victory.

Squash Food Bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2 small pats butter
  • Seasoning to taste
  • 2 servings cooked brown rice
  • 1 handful diced baby bella mushrooms
  • Olive or grapeseed oil

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds (reserve for roasting, if desired) and place one small pat of butter in each half. I added a little minced onion, salt and pepper. Place in a baking dish, in about 1/4 inch of water, and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  3. Cook your rice and set aside (I did mine in a veggie broth).
  4. Heat a little oil in a stovetop skillet, and sauté the mushrooms for maybe 5 minutes.
  5. When the squash is finished, and has cooled for a few minutes, stir up and scoop out the flesh.
  6. I used most of the rice to make beds for the squash in our two bowls, put the cooked squash on next, and topped it with the mushrooms. Mixed together, the three items made a delicious main course.

We also had my take on this dill pickle soup, which is basically a light potato soup with chopped pickles, a little pickle juice, a few squirts of mustard and a couple tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt (easier than the flour and sour cream ordeal in the recipe). I also threw in a large collard green leaf.

Along with a cup of Michigan cider, and the promise of the last of the chocolate Goblin Cake with strawberries for dessert, this was the perfect thing for us after a brisk walk. Some days, there is nothing as satisfying as eating (and feeding a child) healthfully with food that is filling and delicious.

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A Little Love for the Eggplant

eggplants

Last night, I made baba ganoush, because last week we went to Gita Pita, and now I am, once again, obsessed with Mediterranean food (or at least the idea of it).

I found a simple recipe for the baba ganoush (I added minced onion and raw tomato), and plan to return to the downtown restaurant when my budget adjusts for the cost of preschool. It is a day for which I wait with bated breath.

The thing is, it was just really nice to have success with an eggplant. As vegetarians, we’ve not spent the time with eggplant that we should, and our history of botched attempts goes back to the beginning of our marriage – long before we stopped regularly eating meat and boxed meals. Eggplant Parmesan, simple roasting and oddities like vegan “bacon” were all disappointing failures.

But this… it’s a lovely, seemingly lighter alternative to hummus (which I love). Now I’m wondering how a half-and-half blend of the two would work…

For something completely different: If you’re in the Grand Rapids area, join me and a bunch of cool kids tonight at EmbodyGR, a local non profit focused on yoga, community and service. They have childcare, it’s free and there will be tea. A great way to find calm on the first day of ArtPrize, and set the tone for the close of your week.

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New Adventure!

preschool girl flowerThis morning, we brought our almost three-and-a-half-year-old to preschool. Overall, it went very well, but I must admit to feeling a touch of sadness (as does her dad).

Iris’ expression here is reflective of not only the early (to us) hour, but our family’s swing between excitement and hesitancy. For us, as parents, we’ve handed our baby over to strangers who care about her no more than they do other students, which is a good thing. We have an extra monthly cost, which is never ideal. Iris is going to learn for fun and, in some cases, the hard way. Like I said, good overall.

For Iris, as a first-time student, this has to be weird. She’s not shy, and had no problem kissing us goodbye as she played with a dollhouse. But I’m guessing things will be less smooth at nap-time. Really though, I can’t stop thinking about how she’s already experiencing something I never did – preschool. Children outpace their parents in so many ways, and it starts early.

Of course, I’m also admitting to a personal upswing in all of this – more time for work and personal projects! My Mondays and Wednesdays will be starting earlier and progressing less chaotically (until February, that is), and this could mean great things for my career. I had 30 years of me-time before Iris, and I do look forward to regaining a small piece of that.

But, come 5pm, my little Squishy will be picked up by a very eager mother, who misses her face and questions already.

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Stuff Stuff, Baby

little girl happy baby announcement

Blog posts – what are those?

I really have been neglectful, and I’m sure it bothers me more than it does you.

Here are my excuses: Belated 1oth anniversary celebration, birthday dinners, prepping for preschool, out-of-town family gathering, out-of-town training program, bunny-sitting, outdoor concerts, frozen yogurt and a giant surprise 30th birthday party for my baby sister. Oh, and doctor appointments… nausea… extra sleep… late night ice cream…

For those yet unaware, we are expecting our second child in early February, and he’s happily making himself known on a daily basis. All three of us are excited, along with our invaluable friends and relatives. Today marks 18 weeks… it’s gone so fast, yet the 22 week road ahead feels so long.

So, parenting two small humans is a breeze, right? Barely noticeable increase in demands, right?

Trying to fool myself is futile – I’ve been a nanny.

In the meantime, autumn holds all sorts of adventures for our family, though I’m not quite ready to give up on summer. Summer means the DQ up the street is still open.

To your Labor Day!

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