The Last Bag of Milk

5.17 AM on a Monday morning Luke was born. The NICU was rushed in to check him out as there was meconium in my water and they had concerns about his lungs and breathing. The moment I laid eyes on him my whole world changed. I only saw a quick blur of blonde hair and a naked butt as they rushed him to the warmer to check him out. He immediately started crying and so did I. While the NICU team checked him out my husband and I were clutching each-others hands bawling trying to tell him from across the room that it was alright. “It’s alright buddy, mommy and daddy are here” I remember saying through tears. When they were finally done checking him out they put him on my chest. He was perfect. He was tiny and blonde and snuggly and grunty.

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The first pumped feeding. He’s pretty much made this face at me ever since when I try to get him to eat.

Within the hour we tried latching for the first time. He stayed latched on for a good 20 minutes or more. It seemed fine at first but when he pulled away I started bleeding and realized that I was in a decent amount of pain. Over the course of the rest of the day we tried again and again to latch. We tried different techniques and had multiple lactation consultants come in to help. One of them was able to recognize that he had a tongue tie. The tongue tie was clipped soon after and it still did not give me any relief. By the end of the day I was in so much pain and the latch was so difficult that I started calling Luke “Shark Bites.” The lactation consultant recommended trying to pump as she could see I was so close to giving up on direct breastfeeding. If we could at least give him some colostrum that would be extremely beneficial.

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The first picture I took of my boy the day he was born.

So there I was 9 PM on a Monday night holding my tiny perfect newborn attaching myself to a machine. Nothing had ever felt so foreign. I had never been so tired. Labor had started the previous Saturday at about 6 PM and it was a long mostly sleepless weekend full of walking and contractions. But there I sat, holding my new baby pumping. I was advised to pump every time he ate. So that’s what I did. That’s where my pumping journey started. For the next three months I pumped every two hours around the clock.

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At his first doctors appointment, I even did my hair! Kinda…

Pumping is a mental struggle. Kind of like what I think running a marathon might be like (since the most I’ve ever ran was a 5K… which was a struggle too. Ha!) Your nipples get bruised and swollen. You have engorgement. So many things can impact your supply and since you can constantly see what you are or aren’t putting out there is a constant level of stress. There were countless times that I worried about not having enough milk to feed my baby. I remember being at my in laws house within the first month he was born and realizing if I wanted to feed him that night it would be dependent on whether or not I could pump enough for another feeding because I had already run out of bottles. We didn’t even have any formula on hand and I really didn’t want to buy any. I was at Dillons soon after and almost bought a can of formula. But I stopped short. I didn’t want to go that route unless I had to. When I got home I googled ways to increase my supply and went at it. I got brewer’s yeast, blessed thistle, almond milk, more oatmeal and I started power pumping. Slowly but surely I was starting to make enough to be a couple of bottles ahead. A full fridge was a huge weight off my shoulders. I felt like I could finally breath again.

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I was soooo proud of this output. It was a huge feeding for him at the time.

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How was he ever this small??

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Never far from the pump. I’m pretty sure the sound it made was white noise for him based on how frequently he heard it.

Eventually I was able to build up my supply enough to where I was able to freeze a few bags a week. Slowly but surely I started building my stash. I was so proud of being able to fill that freezer. By then we had also discovered that Luke was dairy intolerant so regular formula really wasn’t an option anyway. We would have to go with the crazy pricey stuff. Not only did I feel the need to provide for my son I was also driven by the desire to save a boat load of money on pricey formula that could still upset his stomach.

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Living that pump life on his first road trip to Nebraska.

Eventually we inherited a deep freeze. By 11 and a half months I had more than enough to make it to his 1 year birthday and plenty more past that to make sure he transitioned to solid foods easily. I slowly weaned from the pump. Our routine then became setting out milk in the fridge to thaw for that days bottles or sippy cups and I gained so much time and freedom back from that machine.

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My handsome growing boy

I’ve seen some moms do a pump smash session but I can’t bring myself to do that. I’m forever grateful to that nipple sucking machine for helping me feed my son the best he could have for the first part of his life.

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Taking matters into his own hands.

Last Friday, a normal day like any other I took the last bag of milk out of the freezer for him. I remember the day I filled and froze it. I wrote on it “Last Bag <3” Pumping was a labor of love. A sacrifice I made for the little boy who had so completely stolen my heart and changed my world. Having been dairy free that whole time though I was also simultaneously dreaming of pizza and a mint chocolate chip shake from Braum’s.

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His last fresh bottle ever.

Friday passed like any other day. He enjoyed his last cup of my milk ever and the next day moved on seamlessly to his favorite almond milk like nothing had changed. But I felt a change. Subtle. Just a slight pivot. My sweet snuggly blonde newborn is no longer a baby. He’s now a little boy running around chasing the cat, stubbornly asking for what he wants, stealing chocolate at every chance, demanding visits to the mixer and blender, helping with the vacuum and curious about the world around him. So much has changed in the last 21 months. But one thing will never change; I love my boy more than anything.

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The last bag

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Drinking his last cup of mommas milk with a Mr. Incredible sticker stuck to his elbow.. how many of these stickers have I washed without knowing??  😐

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My handsome, sticker and book loving boy looking so grown up (and Claire the basset always close behind awaiting a snack)

Hours pumped 724

Total time spent pumping in days 30

Ounces 10,450

Gallons 81

Ounces saved 4,000 +

Months pumped (almost) 11

Milk till 20.5 months

9 months dairy free

Ounces donated over 1k

Luke Journal #3

One of those cliché mom things that while it is cliché is so very true, is that you never can go to the bathroom alone or without interruption.  Usually you follow me into our master bathroom.  At the time I don’t realize it but you generally have something in your hand that you inevitably drop into the soaker tub.

Oftentimes I don’t notice it until later in the day, typically while I am getting ready for bed after the day is done.

So far I have found the following in my tub:

Magnets

Measuring cups

Tablespoons

Extra Large Milk Bones

Applesauce pouch

Your kitty

Books

Hamburger patty mold

My hair brush

Moana

Tupperware

Deodorant

Hair Spray

Face wash

Hair putty

You have also scared yourself silly multiple times by pushing the jet button and have infinitely grossed me out by putting your mouth all over the faucet and handles.

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Dairy Free Banana Oat Muffins

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What is this… two posts in one week?? And one of them a recipe at that?

Luke’s latest obsession has been the mixer and the blender. By latest I mean for the last two months we HAVE to make frequent trips to visit the cubby in the kitchen where these two appliances are stored. Usually I leave the door open as well because we can’t not see our favorite mixer and blender when we’re passing by.  Seeing as how Luke is my little helper with almost everything I often juggle holding him while making all of our meals and snacks. If it includes a mixer or the blender that’s even better! You don’t NEED to use the mixer for this recipe. It could easily be done by hand. I just use it because it makes his day that much better.

Here is the line up of ingredients. Of course I forgot something though… not pictured is baking soda and baking powder!

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First things first… mash your overripe bananas!

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The next thing I do is load up my blender/food processor with whole oats so they’re ready to dump in with the dry ingredients.

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This is after about 30 seconds of processing. They don’t have to be perfect. Just as long as most of them are broken down pretty well.

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Next I cream the sugar and eggs together in the mixer. Again, you don’t have to use a mixer if you don’t want to. We pull it out for these simple muffins because Luke just loves to see it in action. I let the eggs and sugar cream for about two minutes. You just want to see some of the sugar start dissolving. Next I add the oil and let that go on high for about 2-3 minutes. It should turn lighter yellow in color and increase in volume just a touch.

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Look at that awesome mixer go “vroom vroom”!

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Next add the mashed bananas and applesauce to the mixture. Mix on low just until they ingredients are combined.

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Then add all of your dry ingredients.

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Mix on low until just combined. If there are a few lumps that’s ok. Like with a lot of batters you do not want to over work the flour and create a sticky gluten mess. Chewy muffins are not what we’re going for here!

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Next up spray your muffin tins, or if you’re more organized than me and actually added cupcake liners to your grocery list you can line your tins with paper liners. I never seem to remember them however so I just use a generous amount of oil spray to prevent them from getting stuck.  I fill the tins pretty full. Because there isn’t a whole lot of flour in this recipe they don’t rise as much as a recipe that only uses flour. When you have ground oats in something they tend to absorb a lot of moisture.

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Then throw them in the oven once it’s up to temp and voila! Golden brown muffins.

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Bonus: your house will smell like warm spices and bananas. Heaven!

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Recipe

2 Bananas Mashed

1 Cup Whole Oats Ground

2 Eggs

½ Cup Sugar

½ Cup Vegetable Oil

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce

1 Cup All Purpose Flour

1 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

1 tsp Salt

2 tsp Cinnamon

½ tsp All Spice

1 tsp Nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash overripe bananas in a small bowl. Set aside. In a blender or food processor measure 1 cup of whole oats. Process until ground finely. Cream sugar and eggs together in a bowl or mixer until light and frothy. Add vegetable oil. Beat on medium speed 2-3 minutes. Add mashed bananas and applesauce and vanilla extract. Mix until combined.  Add all dry ingredients. Mix just until dry ingredients are wet. There might be a few lumps and that’s ok. We don’t want to overwork the batter. Grease muffin tins and measure the batter in. For me this recipe makes 6 regular sized muffins and an entire pan of mini muffins .  Bake for 12-14 minutes for the mini muffins and about 17-19 minutes for the full sized muffins. Enjoy!

When You Love A Brother

I am the only girl in a family of three brothers. I am the second born. They taught me to play hard, be tough, throw worms and kick really hard.  We are all separated by about three years accept for the younger two which are only separated by 1.5 years. We were raised in a very conservative Baptist Christian home and we were home schooled.

Being home schooled is not an experience that I enjoyed. It’s not an experience that my mom or brothers enjoyed either.  But that is probably another story for another post. Unless you want to sit and read for another two hours.

We have all broken from our family taught faith of protestant Baptists, but in different ways. I’m now Catholic. My older brother realized that he didn’t believe the Bible could be a viable accurate document and once he felt set free from those principles engrained in us growing up he came out.  One of my younger brothers identifies as atheist, and the other as agnostic.

Growing up my older brother and I were best friends. We were inseparable.  Almost every morning he would wake me up by sitting on the edge of my bed. He just *had* to tell me about the book he had read the night previous. Usually it was something from the Lord of the Rings series. My groggy self often tuned most of it out.

We had, what I understand now as an adult, dealt with our difficult upbringing by dissociating from our surroundings. Being homeschooled there was not a very solid structure and no escape.  Most of the time we read books or played. Books were our alternate reality. Our stuffed animal family was another alternate reality that we visited on a regular basis. We created characters and stories and made things the way we wanted them to be. We carried this well into our teen years. At the time it was something I was embarrassed about and would have been mortified if my friends found out. I knew it was weird that we were still playing that way as older teenagers but I understand now that it was our escape, our way of protecting ourselves from a harsh reality.

When he came out I was shocked. Those words were barely spoken in our home growing up, it was never a possibility I had even remotely considered. Very quickly I was forced to watch my best friend struggle with his new realizations and life from the sidelines. It was a very dark time for him, and by proxy myself. I would occasionally get glimpses into what was going on in his head and life and they were terrifying. I lived in fear for a good solid year that I would lose my brother forever. It was also agonizing to deal with the pain of losing him short term. It took a very long time for him to reach out to me again. Seven years.

During that time I’ve come to realize and let go of the notion that things might ever be like they once were. We are both very different people then the boxed in, tied down children that were struggling to find their way in a 900 square foot house.

My younger brothers have had their own set of obstacles. Part of their childhood consisted of my mother trying to “fix” them by restricting their diets. No sugar, no food dye, nitrates, MSG, high fructose corn syrup. The list went on and on. Items were constantly being added.  In reality what my mom couldn’t handle was 4 children in a 900 square foot home and a loose structure and in inadequate education for herself to educate all of us. They grew up feeling like they weren’t normal, like something was wrong with them. In fact, my mom would tell them something was wrong with them. She would set them up for failure.

It’s no wonder that all of us have struggled in a plethora of ways.  Somehow through all of it I’m the only one who maintained a steady course. I’m the one who didn’t have that let loose party gene. Sure, I made mistakes and did things I’m not proud of but there was much I needed to learn and a lot of it was learned on a fast track.

I worry though. A lot. I’m the only one who still has some semblance of the faith that was pressed upon us growing up. I believe in a higher power and I also believe in a moral standard. Without the accountability of a higher power though many people don’t subscribe to any type of moral code. Unfortunately I see that reflected in their lives and choices. It causes discord. It causes distance.

So what does a sister who dearly loves her comrades in arms, her survival partners do? I pray for them. I listen to them. I welcome them. I love them. And I hope that it’s enough. I hope that things work out ok in the end. I hope they know how much I love them.me and the boys

I’m So Good At This Blogging Thing- Struggling With Balance As A Mom

Somehow it’s almost been an entire month since I’ve posted on the blog. I have a MILE long list of excuses: sickness, stress, teething, Holidays, more stress. I could go on. I keep thinking of things I want to write about, or Luke journals I need to try to quickly jot down, but just have not had the time or not made enough of an effort to make the time.

My intent was to have far more consistent content not because I have some enormous plan but because I enjoy writing and I’ve missed being able to sit down and get some thoughts and feelings out. However, not all days are easy and add to that the busyness of the holiday season more often than not I opted to slow down and snuggle with my boy or take the extra time to play with him and do something fun. That’s what fills my mama heart up more than anything, quality time with my boy.

Also, have you heard of this “blogmas” thing?? Boy howdy would I completely fail at that. How do people have that much time? My goal going forward is to past at least twice a week.

This last week I really buckled down and started tracking my food and making time for exercise. My hope is that as I get more consistent with my schedule and my self-care that I’ll be able to find space to also write a few times a week.

So how do we achieve balance as busy working mom’s? I wish there was an easy answer for that but most of the time I end the day feeling like I still have 20 loose ends that need to be tied up. The best thing I try to focus on is one day at a time and trying to give myself plenty of grace. We are people with feelings, problems, and needs just like our kids. We aren’t always going to be 100%. On those days that you’re struggling it’s OK to snuggle and watch a movie or let the laundry and housework slide for a bit. Our mental stability is so much more important to their development than a spotless house.

When I look back at my childhood I don’t remember the messes or the clutter. I remember my mom struggling with migraines, being unhappy where she was at in life and trying to escape from us. God bless her heart she was a full time stay at home mom homeschooling four of us. She didn’t like it and we didn’t either but the situation didn’t change and we all were stuck in that 900 square foot house all day every day. That took a toll on her mental health which she ultimately took out on us.

Make time for self-care. If I’m faced with the choice between writing and getting my exercise in for the day what I need to choose at this point in my life is exercising. Losing weight was SO easy when I worked full time. I stuck to the meals and snacks that I packed myself each day, I had a designated lunch break where I could go work out every day and the weight came off relatively quickly and easily. Now I have full access to my kitchen and my sons Teddy Grahams (I swear, they are laced with CRACK they are so good) and I don’t get lunch breaks. He has consistent nap time but usually I’m trying to cram my work into that time slot and don’t always get that done either.

So, I will continue on one day at a time. Choosing to be gracious to myself, not always having good days and blogging as much as I can fit in. Hopefully you’ll stick with me as I’m not going to be pumping out consistent content like some sites, but I will always be honest and open.

Luke Journal #2- Melting My Heart Into A Puddle

By far my favorite thing that I’ve taught you is how to give kisses. I first started teaching you how to give kisses when you were about eight months old. After a while of demonstrating a kiss on the cheek you started imitating me, but you put your own little Luke spin on it. You would only give kisses on the nose for the longest time. To make it even better you often pair a kiss kiss (what we call it) on the nose with the most adorable cooing. After a while you graduated to giving a kiss full on the mouth.

About a month ago we had just stood up after the homily to recite the Apostles Creed together at Church. I was facing forward towards the priest and tabernacle and holding you on my right hip. You took a good long look at me, grabbed my left cheek, turned my face towards you and gave me a huge kiss. In one simple move you melted my heart into a complete puddle.

Yesterday as I was getting you ready for bed and putting you in your jammies you looked right at me and said “Mom”. This is still a fairly rare occurrence. You can say it, but you usually only say it if you’re mad or frustrated with me. I leaned down and asked you for a kiss kiss and you made your cooing sound, said “Mom” again and gave me a kiss.

I hope I never forget these moments when you are able to completely totally melt my heart.

Next on the list to teach you: saying “I love you”

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The Weight Loss Struggle as a Mom

Well, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve been able to post. Luke and I were taken down by a cold for over a week.  PLUS I in all of my wisdom decided it was a good idea to switch to one nap a day before he hit 18 months. So, throw in both of us not feeling well on top of trying to transition it was a rough week.

Something that’s been on my mind a lot has been my insecurity and unhappiness with my own body. As long as I can remember I have considered myself overweight. I can look back at pictures from my childhood and be reminded by a shirt or outfit that I thought I was fat and miserably ugly. Looking back I can see that not only was I not fat but I also wasn’t miserably ugly either. I’m not sure where/why all the negative self-talk started at such a young age. It’s always been something that I have battled.

This continued into young adulthood. It wasn’t until after I met my now husband and moved to a desk job that I actually started packing on the weight. A lot of weight.

Both my husband and I gained a lot of weight the first few years of our marriage. We went to Saint Lucia somewhere in the middle of that weight gain and signed up for an excursion to hike the Pitons. Some 4,000 something feet in the air. What they don’t tell you is it’s not a trail. It’s basically a stair master of rocks all the way up. I couldn’t do it. 20 minutes in I literally started weeping on the trail because I was so out of shape and heavy. We of course had driven two hours to get there in a van packed full of slim honeymoon-ing couples. I proceeded to go back to where our van driver was waiting for us with a bunch of locals and sat quietly crying for the next three hours waiting for everyone else to make it to summit and come back down.

You’d think that that was rock bottom, and at the time I thought that it was rock bottom as well. But it wasn’t. We went back home and for another year or so I continued eating poorly and being lazy.

So, what changed? To be honest, I’m not sure. I didn’t have another weeping in front of fit people moment, and no one “fat shamed” me, I was just done treating my body like crap so I stopped. I signed up for Weight Watchers with a group of women at work and I stuck to it. Over the course of 8 months I lost 62 pounds. I worked out usually 5-6 times a week sometimes twice a day. I felt happy with my body. For the first time in my life I had to buy smaller sizes and wanted to look for tighter clothes to show off the new me.

Then I got pregnant. While it’s perfectly normal to gain weight during pregnancy I gained a lot of weight, almost as much as what I had previously lost. Pregnancy was not easy on me. I’m pretty sure my son is made up of 50% Goldfish and 50% Rice Chex because those are the only two things I could keep down for a very long time. I struggled with food and smell aversions. I struggled with energy and most of the time movement would make the nausea worse. I had no energy to make food and most food didn’t sound appealing anyway so we went back to eating out a lot.

After my son was born I exclusively pumped for 11 months due to a bad latch. During this time I went back on Weight Watchers but I immediately saw a dip in my production and went back off of it worried that I wouldn’t be able to feed my son. Instead of focusing on eating a balanced diet and whole foods I basically gave myself license to eat whatever I wanted. To make that worse I had to go dairy free due to an intolerance my son has so I felt like I needed to treat myself in other ways to make up for all the pizza and nachos I was missing out on.

Long story (semi) short I am still over weight. Not quite as heavy as when I first started Weight Watchers, but not that far off either. So what’s standing in my way? I think a lot of it has to do with the struggles of being a stay at home, work from home mom. Sometimes I completely forget to eat or don’t have time to eat so I reach a point of hunger (starvation, really) where I just have to eat something. ANYTHING. Usually when I’m at that point I almost always make poor choices.

Going forward I’m going to try to implement the following 5 tips to help me remember to take care of myself:

  1. Drink lots of water

I used to guzzle water. Honestly, I think I drank about a gallon a day when I was pumping because I was SO thirsty all the time. Now I have a small human demanding that I share with him and sometimes it’s just not worth the fight or I end up forgetting to run to the kitchen and take a sip from my hidden water bottle. But, I need to just suck it up and drink more water.

2.  PLAN

PLAN PLAN and more PLAN

Meal plan, time management, snack plan. If I don’t plan ahead my menu and shopping list for the week bad things happen. Chips are consumed, drive-through’s are driven-through, and chocolate is binged upon.

Try to have some healthy snacks always at the ready. These are some of my favorites:

  • Reduced fat string cheese
  • PB and sliced apples (or just sliced apples)
  • Pre-washed fruit
  • Air-popped popcorn (I really like Skinny Pop, Smartfood Delight, and boom Chicka Pop. They all have a great variety of flavors to try)
  • Whole wheat crackers and hummus, or your favorite veggie to dip in hummus

3.  All Things in Moderation

I have never had success with a radical diet change. I can’t cut out a food group or a whole set of food. I find that I have the most long lasting success when I try to focus on protein, fruits and veggies, whole grains, some carbs, and minimal sugary treats. Don’t get me wrong, I still indulge in chocolate pretty much daily, but I try to limit that to a square or two of dark chocolate.

4. Go Easy on Yourself

Slip ups are going to happen. That’s ok. One bad day, or meal, or snack are not going to destroy all the work that you’ve done. Declaring the day or the entire effort a failure will. Each meal, each snack is a new opportunity to make a good decision and take care of yourself. I try to give myself one meal a week, usually on the weekend where I give myself permission to order whatever I want and get dessert too. That one meal is not going to put 10 pounds back on my stomach. It will help deal with a craving. I can make it through the week much easier knowing that my cheat meal is coming. Remember, all things in moderation! Once I get back in the mode of eating well I usually can’t crush a whole plate of nachos like I used to anyway, so the “damage” being done is not as significant as you might think. We all need to enjoy ourselves every once in a while.

5.  Baby Steps

Pre-child I could work-out during my lunch breaks, spend half a day meal planning/prepping, and go on a long walk with my husband in the evening in addition to the lunch time workouts. Now I’m lucky if I get in a 15 minute walk some days. I have found that the more I plan ahead the easier my week goes and the more likely I am to get in a workout. Try to give yourself enough time to prep and plan and then aim for a workout 3 or 4 days a week. If it just isn’t going to happen that day set smaller goals like get outside with your kiddo and chase around that ball with them. Just a little bit of fresh air and movement are better than none, plus you are setting a great example for your kid. The more they see you move and be active the more a way of life it will be for them too!

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Getting some sunshine with my boy and Charlie the Basset Hound