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On Being a Good Nanny Mom

It took me a long time to get comfortable with the idea of having anyone help me with my kids, especially on a regular basis. This past October I hired a nanny for the first time. I was hesitant, nervous, and unsure about how it would work out. I wrote a post a while back on how I ended up with my nanny, and everyday I’m glad I took my time to find the right fit for our family. We still have our nanny, and we adore her.

It’s important to me to be a good “nanny mom.” I want our nanny to feel like a member of our family, and I play a big role in that. Here’s how I went about creating a special relationship with our nanny.

+I’m clear about what I need and want. I told her that I care about two things: I want my kids safe and happy. I told her our family safety rules (wearing bike helmets, no running down the stairs, wearing shoes outside, etc…). I showed her where all the toys are, told her what my kids liked to do, and I encouraged her to take the lead. My children are to treat her with respect, and I empowered her to require it from them. But, I really just want them all to have fun. I don’t care if dishes are left in the sink, toys left out, etc… I want everyone safe and happy!

+When I need extra help, I ask for it. I needed help with the kid’s laundry, so I asked her, if she had time, to put the clothes away for me. The other day I needed help picking up before the cleaning ladies came, so I asked.

+I care about her. I always ask her about her weekend, her boyfriend, her family. I want to know her! And I want her to know us. I share about our weekend, what I’m working on, etc… Our nanny is an opera singer and wanted to teacher her own voice and piano lessons. I encouraged her to put together a Facebook page with her services, I shared it far and wide, and now she’s built a successful side business.

+I make our home, her home. I encourage her to bring any food or drink and leave it at our house. I show her where to find our K Cups and tell her to have as many cups as she wants. I showed her all our snacks, teas, etc… It got cold one day, and I sent her a message and told her to take my jacket out of the closet and wear it when she took Michael outside.

+I’m a super good communicator. I tell her what’s going on, what I need to do that day, why one of the kids might be in a bad mood, etc… We have each other’s cell phone numbers, so if I think of something, I text her.

+I’m understanding. Sometimes she’s running late because of a traffic jam or she missed her alarm. I tell her NOT TO RUSH. We’ve all done it. On her second day, Thomas fell outside and slightly scraped his forehead. She told me right away, and she was so bent up about it, she teared up. I assured her this was not her fault. Thomas is a new walker, and he’s going to fall down. I followed up with a text to her that night, assuring her he was totally fine, I wasn’t mad, and these things happen.

+I tell her how much I appreciate her. She’s one in a million, and I let her know.

Our “L” is the sweetest, kindness, most thoughtful and caring young women, not to mention smart, ambitious, and charismatic. We are just crazy about her. We’ve built a special relationship, and I’m so grateful for it. We can all be ourselves around her, and that’s important because she’s doing a very personal job for me, taking care of my kids in my home. She’s a huge source of support to ME! The other day I walked in after a stressful experience, and I cried. Cried right in front of her. And she gave me a big hug, exactly what I needed. I see this gal three days a week, greeting her in my bathrobe. She’s not just our nanny. She’s our family member.

Don’t be Afraid of the Bike // What is RPM?

I love teaching RPM (in-door cycling). So I get so sad when people tell me they are interested in trying in-door cycling. But they’re afraid of the bike.

Sad!

Don’t be afraid! I know it’s a piece of equipment. And it looks intimidating. And uncomfortable. And has a lot of knobs. But you needn’t be afraid because you control the bike! You turn the knobs, you tell the wheel what to do.

So, let’s start with the basics.

What’s RPM?

RPM is high intensity interval training on a stationary bike. It’s a cycle class where you ride to the beat of the music. During class you’ll sit, stand, climb, and race. You control the resistance dial, so you control the work out.

What happens during a RPM class?

There are eight tracks in a RPM class: warm up, pace, hill climb, mixed terrain, intervals, speed work, mountain climb, and recovery/stretch. It’s not important to know the order – you’re instructor will lead you through. The class is designed to mimic the conditions you might encounter on a ride outside: hills, stretches of flat road, big climbs, etc… During class you will work hard, recover, work hard, recover, work hard, recover. That’s that high intensity interval training that’s so effective for fat loss. The RPM class is only 45 minutes total. But this class proves you don’t need to work out longer to have an effective work out.

So what’s the deal with the resistance dial (the knob, that thing you turn)?

The resistance dial is where the work is at. That dial controls the weight on the wheel. Turn to the right, it’s harder to push. Turn to the left, it’s easier to push. You’re instructor will say to turn the dial up or down. When your instructor tells you to turn it up, how much should you turn? A good rule of thumb is: turn it enough so you feel a difference. Each of the bikes can be a little different. Some of them you barely have to touch and you feel a difference. Some of them you need to crank to feel a change. What is this change I should be feeling? When you turn the wheel, you should feel the bike pushing harder back at you. Your legs will need to work harder to stay on the beat.

What if I don’t want to turn it up?

This is your ride! If you’re not feeling it, then leave that dial where it is, especially if you’re new to RPM. Maybe start with tiny turns up, see how you feel. Then work to increase your load over time. When I first started riding, I didn’t turn it up very high. Now, I’ve been indoor cycling for almost eight years. So now I can really turn it up. Don’t compare how much you turn the dial compared to your neighbor. He or she could be an accomplished cyclist while you’re just starting out.

I don’t know.  That seat looks terribly uncomfortable.

So let me just help you with that fear and say, yep, it’s uncomfortable. But only for the first couple rides. Give it at least three times. It takes a while to get comfortable on the seat. And it looks like it won’t support you, right? It will. All it takes is time to get comfortable on the bike.

Here’s an example: I was three weeks post-partum after a vaginal birth with Michael. (And one that resulted in a hematoma.) But there was an open audition for RPM instructors at a gym I wanted to work at. And this was a limited time opportunity. So I auditioned to teach RPM, three weeks post-partum after a somewhat complicated vaginal birth. I sat on the bike seat and everything. And I felt fine.

So, that’s proof that once you get used to it, that bike seat will feel as comfortable to you as your favorite chair.

Okay.  But what about those fancy shoes I see people wear?  Do I need those?

Those shoes are bike shoes with SPD clips. The shoes “clip” into the pedals, which is optimal for riding because it allows you to better use your whole leg. Meaning, you push down with your quads and pull up with your hamstrings. The shoes especially help with the pulling up motion. The shoes are stiff, as opposed to sneakers which have bend and flex in them (so you can run, jump, etc…). That said, do you need them?  If you’re new to cycling and unsure if you want to commit, then don’t worry about it. Snugly fit your sneaker into the cage on the pedal, and then take a good deal of classes. If you find you take a couple cycle classes a week and you’re really enjoying it, then spring for some shoes (they will run you $75 as a starting base). If you only cycle in doors with those shoes, they will last your forever.

Okay, I’ll come.  Now how do I set up this bike?

Ideally, get to your cycle class a few minutes before class starts and ask your instructor to help you. No need to be shy about this. We love helping people get set up on their bike! But, if you’re feeling shy, here’s a few tips:

+Stand next to the bike seat with your feet flat on the floor and your hips square (so one hip bone is next to the seat). Raise or lower the seat so that it’s in line with your hip bone.

+If your bike seat moves forward and back, a good rule is, the distance between the handle bars and the seat is about the distance from your elbow to your fisted hand.

+The handle bar height is mostly a comfort thing. The higher the handle bars, the “easier.” Generally, the handle bars are in line with your seat. As you get better at cycling, lower your handle bars as much as is comfortable. The lower the handle bars, the more you’re engaging your core. (Note: If you’re just starting out and/or pregnant, keep the handle bars up higher. That will help you stay more comfortable on the bike since you won’t be leaning forward as much.)

+Now hop up onto the seat to test the seat height. Sit up with your hips back in the saddle. Stop your legs with one knee bent and the other leg down. There should be a slight knee bend in the down leg. Just slight. If you’re leg is entirely straight, you’re seat is too high. If you’ve got a super knee bend, you’re seat is too low.

Especially when you’re new, the bike will feel weird. I always tell my class: if at anytime the bike doesn’t feel right, hop off and adjust. You are never stuck on the bike. Never. Even if we’re in the middle of a climb.  Just hop off an readjust.

Why is this class good for me?

High intensity interval training is the fastest way to get in shape. The intense work sessions tap into your biggest calorie burners: fast-twitch muscle fibers. The interval training taps into the fast-twitch muscle fibers, which your body will use to continue burning even after class.

RPM is also great for people with knee issues. The low-impact nature of bike riding allows people with knee issues to get a great workout without slamming on their knee joints.

Cycling is fast way to get in shape. Combine cycle classes with BodyPump and some mindful eating and good sleep patterns, and you’ve got a recipe for getting in shape quick.

Okay, what do you say?! Will you try RPM?

The Mixing Bowl Salad // How To Make A Delicious Salad You’ll Actually Want To Eat

I love ordering salads at restaurants. Restaurants have all these ingredients to mix together into tasty entre salads. I’d order a salad and wish I could come up with a way to make them as tasty at home.

Turns out I can. And it’s not as hard as it looks or require as many ingredients as I thought. Certain ingredients morph well and let you make a variety of salad options.

Before we get started on the ingredients, I must share two tools I use: a large mixing bowl and a salad chopper.

Why a mixing bowl? When I eat salad for a meal, I want it to be a MEAL. Not some little side salad (side salads are fine, as long as I’m serving it along side something else). To make these salads as big and a protein packed as possible, I make them in a mixing bow. The mixing bowl gives me lots of room to mix up my ingredients, too.

To get my greens finely chopped, I use a chopper. Do you need this? No. You can shred up your greens with your hands if you like or use some other tool. But this tool isn’t that expensive, I use it all the time, and it doesn’t take up that much room.

Okay, let’s get mixing!

Ingredients:

+Some sort of greens. I like spinach (I chop it up using the chopper), and I also love this “slaw” I get at the grocery. It’s broccoli and carrot slaw, and I love the texture in my salads. I don’t like taking a giant bite of lettuce. Chopped up spinach and the slaw give a nice crunch and bite.

+Some type of seasonal vegetable. Lately I’ve been using butternut squash since it’s in season and easy to get. I buy the pre-chunked cubes at grocery and roast them (Coat the cubes in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes until fork tender). I’ve also used sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, carrots, etc… (mostly roasted or pan sauted). Mix, match, or just use one.

+Some sort of grain. You can leave this out if grains are not your thing. I like to make a batch of quinoa and toss a little in my salad. I like the texture it adds. You could do tabbouleh, couscous, rice, etc… Remember, these are starchy, so if your goal is fat loss, omit or just use a small amount for that texture fix.

+Add some crunch. I like pumpkin seeds, slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, etc… A little bit goes a long way.

+Hummus (or tzatziki). I prefer hummus, and I buy it from the store. This takes the place of salad dressing. You can also do hummus and tzatziki.

+Some good cheese. I mean good cheese. Something with a strong taste like feta, goat cheese, sharp cheddar, etc… If you go bland (like American cheese), you will need a lot more to get a good taste. If you use a good quality cheese, a little will do you.

+Some protein. I love meat, so I do meat. If you don’t like/don’t do meat, pick your favorite vegetarian option with some protein. I like to add bacon, chicken sausage, ham cubes, shredded chicken, etc….

+Additional items: chopped up apples, a few dates, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, grapes, avocado, etc…

It took me some trial and error to find my favorite combinations. But I made a vow to not eat any more tasteless salads (or food!) without compromising my healthy habits, and this mixing bowl salad does just that. I am super full after this salad (I pile on the greens and make the greens the biggest helping), and I feel satisfied from all the protein and rich sources of good fat. I think the “secret” is just adding a little bit of some of those other ingredients (like the quinoa) to beef up your salad without compromising your goals.

One other note: I prep the pieces at the beginning of the week. That way, when it’s time for lunch, I just dump it all in.

What do you like in you salads? How can you adapt a less healthy salad to make it work for you?

On Memory Keeping and the One Second Everyday Video

I used to scrapbook, way back before Kate was born. While I never felt all that “good” at it, it was fun. So many pretty pieces of ephemera and all that gorgeous paper. After Kate was born, I tried Project Life, and I stuck to it okay for a couple years. But it was just something I could not keep up with soon after Michael was born. And by the time Thomas came around? I didn’t know where I put my scrapbook stuff.

I love taking pictures, and I love ordering canvases and prints of those pictures to display and hang on my walls. That’s about all the memory keeping I’m capable of. I don’t make photobooks. I’m not scrapbooking anymore. So I just print pictures every now and then, and, really, most of are out date by the name I get them on my walls.

Then, this year, I heard about the app 1 Second Every Day. At first, I was skeptical. I mean, how much can you capture in 1 second?! What good would that be? It turns out, you can capture plenty in 1 second. And it’s super meaningful, especially all strung together.

I’ve been using the 1 Second Every Day app for a year, and it’s easily one of my favorite things. At first I wasn’t sure what I was doing, so those earlier snapshots aren’t the best. The shots were a little dark, shaky, and sometimes going the wrong day (vertical rather than horizontal). And sometimes I’d forget.

But I kept at it, and I’m so glad I did. Sometimes I still forget, but that’s okay. I just keep going. I’d rather have something rather than nothing. And sometimes I capture kind of the same things a couple times in a row, for example, I have several shots in a row of bath time. But, again, I figure I’d rather have those videos than not.

There are two things I particularly love about this project.

One: it shows movement and growth. There’s something so fun and alive about video, and this app captures it so beautifully. And it’s so fun to see the growth of the kids. When I started this project in January of 2016, Thomas could barely hold is head up. And now he’s walking!

Two: the kids love it. They remind me to take the video. They love seeing themselves. And since it’s only 1 second everyday, it’s something that’s short and sweet, and I don’t mind watching over (and over) again.

I didn’t always remember to take a video. When I didn’t I imported one from a similar time frame. Or I stuck in a picture. At first I was super bummed about it. But then, when I strung it all together? I loved it. It didn’t matter that sometimes it was a video and sometimes it was a picture and sometimes I had the video going the wrong way and sometimes it was black and white and sometimes it was color. Because that is my life. MESSY! I’m glad I kept going.

I am back using it again this year, and it is my hope I can do all video, everyday, with all the video going horizontal. But if I slip up? It’s okay. I know I will still love it. You can watch it in YouTube here.

Have you tried this app? What do you think? How do you like to keep your memories?

 

The Yirah of Sarah

Last year, at this time, my pal Kelsey announced her Year of Kelsey. At the time I was still breastfeeding and Thomas wasn’t yet a year old and no one was sleeping. I knew our family was complete, and I was eager to get my body to myself (So long, breastfeeding! Good riddance to you!). And I really wanted everyone to sleep.

At the start of 2016 I knew it would be my last year having a baby and my last year using my body to sustain life. And that in 2017, I’d do my own year.

Now here, at the start of 2017, I’m done having babies and praise be I’m not nursing anyone. Dan told me the other day that I’ve been pregnant or breastfeeding since 2009.

SINCE 2009!

Now, I’m aware of 1) how blessed I have to have three healthy children and 2) that many women have many more children and are thus pregnant/nursing for longer. But everyone’s hard is hard. And that was hard. And now it’s my time.

Time for The Yirah of Sarah.

(Yirah, what? Hang on. I’ll get it it.)

I find this both thrilling and terrifying. Which is why I picked YIRAH for my word for the year. I picked it after I read Tara Mohr’s book (highly recommend, by the way), Playing Big. In a post on her blog, she writes:

“There is a second Hebrew word for fear, yirah. Rabbi Lew describes yirah as “the fear that overcomes us when we suddenly find ourselves in possession of considerably more energy than we are used to, inhabiting a larger space than we are used to inhabiting. It is also the feeling we feel when we are on sacred ground.

If you’ve felt a calling in your heart, or uncovered an authentic dream for your life, or felt a mysterious sense of inner inspiration around a project or idea, you recognize this description.”

Yes. YIRAH. I’ve felt that so many times. And then I stepped away. Because I decided I wasn’t good enough, didn’t deserve it, yada yada yada.

But not this year.

This year is the Yirah of Sarah.

I’ve thought a lot about what I want to do for this year, and I’ve got a couple ideas, all centering around these concepts of connection, creativity, and community.

+Finish my book. I AM SO CLOSE.

+Define my style. I did a good job this year of donating/selling clothes on thredUP that don’t work for me, and I’ve also done a good job at finding the styles, brands, and colors that do work for me. Now I’m looking at what’s left, and how I can create a functional style that works for all the kinds of work I do.

+Deepen my creative community. I finally realized this year that I struggled with periods of sadness NOT because I don’t like what I do but because I don’t have a community. So I got to work on addressing that. I created a Facebook group where I hope podcast/blog listeners/readers can connect with me, each other, and my podcast’s guests. And I also created a local community of creative women, and so far we’ve been in person a few times, and I’m eager to see where else I can take that group.

+Dive deeper into my current fitness programs/try some new things. This March, I will have been teaching group fitness for five years. I don’t want to get stale as instructor, so I’m looking to take some trainings and also expand my fitness net. I’m already signed up to take an advanced instructor training for BodyPump in a few weeks, and I’ve been trying out a local yoga studio. I’m super interested in mind-body connection, especially since I realized that exercising is a form of spiritual practice for me, so I’m excited to dive deeper into the world of fitness and mind-body connection.

+Plunge into my creative ideas. I HAVE SO MANY IDEAS. And, like everyone else, not enough time. But, I know I can more than I think I can, especially if I don’t spend precious time pondering my ideas and if they’re good enough and just doing them. I plan to dive into those creative ideas by writing everyday, exploring photography and videography, and experimenting with other creative projects, like furniture painting.

I think that should keep my pretty busy. What do you want to do this year?

How I Found My Nanny

For the past couple years I’ve been working part-part time for New Dimensions, Inc. Yep. The company that built my home. Nope. I did not receive a free house.

I have more to say on my job later. But this post is about finding a nanny.

I tried to skate along without childcare for a long time. Until the point where it became ridiculous. Why didn’t I want childcare? I don’t have a great reason. I like to do everything myself. It felt complicated to add another person to our mix. And I didn’t want to deal with it. And I didn’t work quite enough hours to justify help to myself.

But then I was asked to increase my hours and define the type of job I wanted to do. That opportunity I could not let pass me by.

So it was time to get help.

Dan and I decided that the nanny route would be best for us for a couple reasons:

+I did not want to pull Michael out of his preschool and into a different facility.

+I did not want to drive to three different places to drop off three kids every morning and every afternoon.

+Financially, a nanny would be a better fit than paying for two kids in daycare.

I was resistant to a nanny because I didn’t know how to manage that relationship. I also didn’t know how to go about finding a nanny. I wanted someone who would feel like a member of our family. Someone I would feel comfortable around in my bathroom (because I’m often not dressed until 5 minutes before I have to leave the house). I doubted that I could find that person.

At first, I asked for personal recommendations. I interviewed a couple of people, but either I didn’t feel a good connection or the days/times didn’t work out or both. I tried posting on my mom’s group Facebook page. I tried asking other preschool moms. But no one felt like quite the right fit for our family and our needs.

Very reluctantly I opened a care.com account. I’ve heard people who had great success on care.com. And people who didn’t. But we needed someone, and I was running out of options.

At first I felt overwhelmed on the site. There are a lot of caregivers. And trying to sift through them to find a match felt impossible. Here’s a few things I did:

+I created a very specific ad. I clearly spelled out the days and times I needed. I also asked for someone who was okay with pets and could drive. And also someone who would be willing to care for a child home sick from school. And she couldn’t live too far away.

+I put up personal information about us. I added a picture of our family. And I was upfront in saying I wanted someone who felt like a member of our family. If someone didn’t want that type of relationship, that’s fine. But then we would not be a good match.

+I was clear about who I was and our life. I said that I sometimes worked from home, sometimes would be gone all day, sometimes would be in and out. I needed someone who was okay with that.

I think being clear in my ad helped the people who were applying. When they messaged me about the job, I made sure a candidate was okay with the days/times before having her over for an interview. Sometimes I found the candidate met almost all the requirements…but could not work Wednesdays. Wednesdays are a must for me, so I had to be clear on that point.

I received several good matches, so I asked the candidates to come to our house to meet us. I needed a potential nanny to meet all of us – Dan included – because, I wanted someone comfortable with everyone in our family.

When I met with potential nannies, I was interested in a couple things:

+Can we communicate? Communicate is SUPER important to me. I know things will come up, she’d be stuck in traffic, she’d have a question about something with the kids, etc… I’m okay with all that – just tell me! I wanted someone who I felt could communicate well and let me know if she needs anything, if something’s going on and she needed help, etc…

+Good judgement. I prefer to not have to give a lot of directions. I wanted someone I could give minimal direction to and have her make herself at home and come up with a routine that works for her and the kids. Since she’s in charge, I need to trust her that she will keep everyone safe.

+Willing to do a few things for me around the house. I desperately needed help just putting the kid’s laundry away. If she was willing to help me with just that, I’d be over the moon.

+Kind. Someone who is kind is super important to me.

+And, of course, someone who loves the kids. If she could communicate and exercise good judgment, I wasn’t too concerned about her years of experience with kids. Just that she loved them in her way.

I’m so happy to report that I found her! I could not have found a better nanny if I cooked one up in a lab!

I can’t remember if she messaged me or I found her, but she was willing to come meet us, and I felt a connection to her from the minute I opened the door. She was honest, an excellent communicator, and I could tell she would be a great fit for our family.

Our sweet nanny, L, has been with us for a couple weeks now, and we all adore her. I’m glad I waited and really thought about what I needed and who I wanted to work with. L feels like part of our family, and we are truly lucky to have found her. I view her as a part of my support system – she supports me as much as she helps with the kids. She’s so easy to talk to and a dream to work with. I never worry when she’s in charge. I know she can handle anything, and she will let me know if she needs help.

I’m so impressed with her, and I tell her all the time how much we care for her and value her. She’s just the best.