Monthly Archives: December 2012

Obligatory New Year’s Eve Resolutions Post

…. In which I don’t make any resolutions. Well I sort of do… hear me out.

I was struggling to write this post, or make any resolutions, but could not fathom why. Then I read this post over at Healthy Tipping Point and it helped me understand my feelings so much.

I look back at 2012 and think… Hmmmm… how did this go?

Ringing in 2012!

Ringing in 2012!

In January I started seriously job hunting, which entailed many long trips.

Job hunting trip to Houston

Job hunting trip in Houston

In February I fell pregnant.

Big Fat Positive

In March I presented to the American Heart Association, and had my last vacation in a while: a wonderful hiking trip through Utah and Arizona.

Canyonlands hiking

Canyonlands hiking

In April I went house hunting, and in May I bought a house.

Us and our new home

In June I traveled to San Francisco to speak for NIH, said goodbye to many wonderful friends in Alabama, moved State to Texas and immediately started my new job. (I also celebrated my first wedding anniversary).

I worked very hard June-November, submitting 3 grants in 3 months.

In July I traveled to New York, and in September, 8 months pregnant, I traveled to San Antonio to present at a conference.

Central Park

Central Park

In November I had my son, suffered severe complications, and very quickly..

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in December I went back to the office.

So, 2012 involved (among other things): finding a job, buying a house, moving State, starting a new job and having a baby.

I. Am. Exhausted.

Happy, but exhausted.

Post race... happy, but exhausted :)

Post race… happy, but exhausted 🙂

Looking back at 2011… it wasn’t exactly quiet. I got a grip on my postdoc academic career, submitting a grant which was funded, and submitting about 10 papers, which were eventually published. I whittled my body into shape, achieving ‘visible’ abs for the first time in my life, and got serious about fitness, culminating in a Tough Mudder 1/2 marathon.  This was also the year Wes proposed, and I got married (twice) – not so much personal goals, but time and energy consuming happy occasions.

I was pretty tired by the end of that 😉

So, what now? I am looking for a change of tact. I am now looking to seek contentment over happiness (or perhaps as well as). Let me explain… I am a very happy person. I think anyone who knows me (even people who have only known me a short while) would describe me as extremely happy.Everything above made me very, very happy. However, perhaps it is a Type A personality trait: I am rarely ‘content’.

A good example of this is: Getting fit enough (actually getting fit at all!) to run a 5K easily made me happy… but then I had to run a 10K, which also made me happy… but it became a 15K and a 1/2 marathon.  Having a great boyfriend made me very happy… but I wanted to marry him… and have a baby… Doing well in my postdoc was wonderful, but I had to publish more… have more students… submit more grants than any other postdoc at UAB… get a good faculty position…

And so it goes. Always very happy, never very content. This has a darker side, because I am never content with anything much, and while that be OK for running PRs, and Science publications it is not so great when you start to want to improve your husband, and your house, and when you look around and don’t like where you live because you could live somewhere with better walking… and better shops… and less guns… and so on. Things you don’t have the power to improve can quickly make you unhappy when you are always striving for everything to be better.

Cliched now, but true for me.

Cliched now, but true for me at the moment.

So, for just a while, it is time to stop. My resolution is to seek the kind of contentment which will allow me to look back at the end of 2013 and say ‘I am happy, and I am content’. I want to be content with my house, and content with my beautiful son (who I love so much I want to cry when I say that), and content with my amazing husband (who yes, can be cranky and difficult, but is also hilariously funny, beautifully sweet and who puts me & Sam first like no one else ever could).

This doesn’t mean that I am going to lie about eating cake on the sofa and not trying at anything (although that doesn’t sound like a bad plan 🙂 ). It means I am going to work on the things I have, without always having to be ‘bigger, better, best’. I can work on small steps which will allow me to be content with what I have. So, I don’t really have resolutions, more ‘vague things’ I would like to do in 2013:

I would like to be content with my house, so I hope to work in decorating and refurbishing it, and make it make it a lovely, welcoming place to be, and reflection of mine and Wes’ tastes and personalities.

More beautiful rooms like this, please.

More beautiful rooms like this, please.

I would like to be content with my career, so I hope to build a research program which is defined not by papers and grants (although they must surely come!) but by the exploration of novel ideas, and the possibility of generating results that could truly improve human health.

I would like to be content with my family, so I hope to spend more time with them, just enjoying them, and understanding who they are where thy come from. I hope more time together will help me always remember their good qualities.

Pretty good family to be content with.

Pretty good family to be content with.

I would like to be content with my body (it is funny, the more you workout, the more you lose, the leaner you become… the less content you are. Or so it was for me). To work on nourishing it, keeping it healthy, appreciating its awesome power, and loving it for what it is.

So… no resolutions. No steps. No goals. 23% chance I will go crazy in March and roar ‘I must achieve something’ and make a huge ‘goals’ list and be running a full marathon by June. But for now… No tick boxes for me – I personally have had quite enough of those the past 2 years. I just resolve (I guess there is a resolution there) to stop, enjoy what I have, and seek contentment. I don’t see this as a permanent state of mind, more of putting down some good foundations for the future. Building a safe and happy base, from which I can take on more work responsibilities, or have another child (high on my list of thigns I want to eventually do) – all in a healthy, stable, happy environment.

I hope to be putting down some solid roots, so a strong tree can grow.

Happy New year y’all 🙂 Have a wonderful 2013!! What are you striving for in 2013?

Image credit

http://lifechangequotes.com/the-serenity-prayer-reinhold-niebuhr/

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An Early Start on 2013 Resolutions

The title of this post is a bit misleading. I don’t really have any resolutions, but I do have some things I would like to do in 2013 (if you get the distinction). One is to turn our house into a home. The house we live in now is gorgeous structurally: large spacious rooms, wooden floors, sun room, dining room bathed in light. But we have not done much with it, other than move our stuff in, and keep it fairly clean and tidy.

I have not owned, or settled, somewhere for 3 years. I previously owned a flat in London, but I was heinously broke and struggled to deal with how tiny it was – it was a beautiful place, but very cluttered with all my junk (and animals). Then I rented in Birmingham – one nice apartment and one hell hole. Now Wes and I own our own home, and intend to be here a good 3-5 years at the least, I am more motivated to try to do something nice with it – something personal, something Better Homes and Garden-y. It has struck me how nice it is to go into Sam’s room which is properly painted, has a color scheme and decorations and so on. So, with the zest I previously applied to changing my body, I now intend to change the house.

First up: cleaning out my wardrobe, which was an absolute abomination.

This is how it started (and this was a GOOD day):

Messy wardrobe

Messy wardrobe

Yeah… it was bad. So, I put Sam in his jungle gym of entertainment and hilarity:

Fisher Price rainforest jungle gym

So amusing to a 7 week old

And set to it. These were my steps:

1. Take EVERYTHING out. Yes. Everything.

Empty wardrobe

Empty wardrobe

2. Sort it into piles:
‘work trousers’, ‘work skirts’, ‘work tops’, ‘work dresses’
‘weekend trousers’, ‘weekend skirts’, ‘weekend tops’, ‘weekend dresses’
‘sweaters’ ‘evening dresses’ ‘long dresses [not evening’], ‘vest tops’
‘pyjamas’, ‘sports gear’, ‘lounging around the house’

piles of clothes

This is actually organized believe it or not

Note: This is the ‘you have to break eggs to make an omelette’ stage. Also note: if you have been let off other house chores to get this done, and that person who is slaving away cleaning the kitchen sees this, they may go bananas at this stage. Weather the storm… weather the storm.

3. Go through RUTHLESSLY. Remove everything that doesn’t fit (NO it will NEVER fit), is tattered, is only in the wardrobe for sentimental reasons, is ripped or torn, doesn’t have anything else that goes with it or you always put on and take off again.

4. Then look at each pile and remove even more items if the pile is too big for your lifestyle e.g. I have not worn an evening dress for 3 years (sob)… I don’t need 11, no matter how beautiful they are. I don’t need 24 work dresses (yes really).

Every empty hanger is a piece of clothing given to charity!

Every empty hanger is a piece of clothing given to charity!

Yeah, the above pic shows how much I got rid of. Ouch.

5. Rehang in the sections from stage 2.

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All told, it took about 7-8 hours (over 3 days) but felt MARVELOUS when done. Future projects will be more crafty (I am making a blind this weekend… bit nervous about that) but this was a great, and needed, start to sorting this place out.

Monkey stayed with me most of the time, but graduated to his tummy time mat 🙂 :

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Running after Sam

Sexy running gear. I said: SEXY running gear, m'kay?

Sexy running gear. I said: SEXY running gear, m’kay?

Well, it took six weeks to get clearance after the great bleed of 2012, but I finally got the go ahead to go running. Part of me really wanted to get back at it… part of me really wanted to keep lying on the couch eating cookies and going ‘lalalalala, I just had a baby, I am supposed to look like this; lalalalalala, I lost so much blood it is not safe for me to get myself my own mimosa, let alone get my butt moving. lalalalalala’. Those parts were not evenly sized.

But… back out there I got. Initially, I planned a ‘test’ run. 2 miles to see how I would do. As I sanctimoniously said to everyone “I am just going to see what I can do… I mean obviously I don’t expect to be running at my old 8.30 pace or my old 11 mile distance… so I’ll just check I can do this before deciding on a training plan” I clearly, clearly, meant “I fully expect to be running at my old 8.30 pace and my old 11 mile distance”.

And took off.

I struggled my way at 10/mile pace for the 2 miles with a walking break.

TOLD.

But, I have persevered (if not with my previous zest and commitment, but I have persevered)… 1 week later I got down to not walking and going for 9/miles. Booyah.

Then, on the 26th I was feeling charitable and affectionate towards the wee one, so I decided to take him out in our “jogging” stroller. Baby trend expedition if anyone is interested. It is labelled as for jogging, but it not really – plus Sam is so wee we have to keep the car seat, the heavy car seat, in. I said “Obviously, I don’t expect to be pushing a heavy stroller and keeping my new pace” but I clearly meant… well… you get the picture. I google safety tips for taking a newborn jogging (<;—- totally do this), wrapped up Sam super warm as it was only just above freezing and off I went:

Double swaddle and warm hat

Ow. It was hard. Muscle achingly hard. My arms ached after ,5 mile as it takes quite a bit of welly to stop the stroller wobbling all over Houston’s crappy pavements (sidewalks, yanks) . Plus, given that the place for your hands is quite high, it also means you end up expending a lot of energy going up and down (stop sniggering at the back) not forward. But it was fun watching Sam.

Yeah... I am kind of cute to watch.

Yeah… I am kind of cute to watch.

My pace dropped to 9 min/mile.

Overall I wouldn’t recommend stroller jogging if you are interested in race training, and this is a speed / stamina run. However, if you just want to get out an burn some calories: go for it. Me? I am somewhere in between. Running fits in with a broader sport program for me, so I think I will take Sam out for short runs every 1-2 weeks. It will challenge and build my muscles, and may help with pace when I am less encumbered.

Now I have my eye on a 5K on the 1st… Wes won’t commit to coming with me as he is possibly going to be hungover, so my motivation has dropped a little. Also, I am not sure about taking a jogging stroller on a 5K race – anyone done it? Is it a problem? Does it annoy other runners? I get the feeling this is a fairly informal race (you can run or walk). I do really want to do it, but I don’t want to mess up anyone else’s experience, so may have to miss out. Makes me feel like this:

Learned how to pull at Mama's heartstrings indeed.

Learned how to pull at Mama’s heartstrings indeed.

Anyone else? Thoughts / experiences with taking a stroller to a race.

Christmas 2012

In the style of last year’s post, here is the blow-by-slow account of the Frazier-Wood Christmas day!

The day started when Sam woke at 1 am for his feed. Wes offered to go and ‘rock him back to sleep’, and although I was fairly sure this would be ineffective, I did not want to be overbearing, so I watched Wes go. At 1,38 Sam was bought back into our room as Wes realized he was hungry. Wes confessed that he really wanted to wake up with the 2 of us, and so suggested Sam slept in our bed. This was a treat and Christmas Day had begun!

In a very poor-parenting maneuver, Sam can basically feed himself if I lie on my side in bed and position him in a certain way. I usually do this from about 6 am to buy myself some extra shut eye, but must have done it when he came in, as the next thing I knew it was 8.30 am, and Sam and I were waking up. A 7 hours sleep = a Christmas miracle I was happy to take! I went down and put part of the breakfast on (Peaches and Cream French toast I had made the night before):

Peaches and Cream French toast

Peaches and Cream French toast

Luckily Santa has been (I think he was still around 😉 ):

Itlian Greyhound Father Christmas costume

Walter Claus

And we opened our stockings while the french toast cooked:

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Wes got tools, belts, boy stuff, and I got hair bands, craft paint and nail polish: girl stuff 😉 Sam was pretty instrumental in helping me open mine:

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The we poured mimosas and made the rest of breakfast. I whipped up my first ever, from scratch, biscuits and some bacon. Wes made eggs:

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I chatted to my parents on Skype and we slowly opened presents throughout the day (last one was at 5 pm). I loved my sewing machine, baby food cook book and craft stuff, and a kindle and some earring from my parents.

Then I gaily went to prep the turkey before realizing…. I had zero idea how to prep a turkey. What was one to do? I took the wrapping off and called Wes to ask what the heck was this big red thing sticking out of the turkey. He removed the ‘nose’ (giggle giggle) and I declared the turkey ‘ready’. In response to Wes’ doubtful face I threw some butter in the cavity, and some salt in the cavity and on the skin and added pepper, garlic powder and poultry seasoning. I covered it in tin foil and popped it in the oven, poured myself another mimosa and we watched National Lampoon’s Christmas vacation. After 2 hours I went to put the potatoes in to cook, and realized that in spectacular fashion, the oven was not on (!) But the oven light was. Whoops. So, I actually put the oven on, started to actually cook the turkey and hurredly made a lunch out of breakfast leftovers. Oh well, this gave us time to open more presents! What I wanted to do was open Sam’s presents, but he spend most of the day like this:

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and I am big fan of the adage ‘never wake a sleeping a baby’ (the advice to wake him after 3 hours of sleep never quite seemed advisable to me, and luckily not to my pediatrician either). So, Wes and I opened our presents without little Sam.

Then I prepared lunch; given that the last 7 weeks had been a little hectic, and that I had clearly never made Christmas lunch before, and had a newborn to care for, we kept it simple. Turkey, sage and onion stuffing, roast potatoes and orange glazed carrots followed by apple streusal pie and red velvet cake.

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It was all surprisingly delicious and seeing as we did not eat until 6 pm (I also read the chart wrong and mistimes the turkey by about 2 hours, so that took longer…) Sam joined us:

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Then we got to open his presents (woo!… video to follow).

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For only the second time in his little life, Sam was not down at 7 and for the first time, he was not down at 9. In fact, he chose the grand old time of 11 pm to go to sleep, although he didn’t cry or whine, just sat up and cooed and played, and periodically looked very sleepy:

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As can happen with a baby, the day flew by and not as much got done as I would have thought. Nevertheless, it was a perfect Christmas 🙂

Linzer cookies – ish

Linzer cookies jam sandwich cookies shortbread

Last week we took reindeer cupcakes to say thank you to my OB team. Yesterday we took Linzer cookies (ish) to my pre-labour / labour team at Texas Children’s Hospital (something I hope to make a yearly event). Sadly our lovely nurses, who were universally awesome – Naval, Tracie and Heej – were not there, but we left them in the nurses’ station. I hope they get them before they go stale!

This is probably not a true Linzer cookie, as it is just shortbread sandwiched with jam. But hey… these are very cute to make. Here is my recipe:

2 cups butter
1.5 cups sugar (I used granulated; superfine / caster would be better)
2 egg yolks
4 tsp vanilla essence
4 cups of flour
pinch salt

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

egg white
extra sugar
raspberry jam

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Preheat oven to 375

Like all my baking recipes, I threw all the top ingredients into my Kitchenaid. You could use an electric mixer, or – gasp – do it by hand (

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Bake for 5 mins. Brush tops with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

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Bake for another 5-8 mins. WATCH CLOSELY and remove at the first sign o browning. Put blobs of jam on the bases only. Let cool (This is KEY). Then smush the jam around the bases and sandwich a top ontop.

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Serve the deliciousness, or display as a present.

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Yum. We managed to only keep 2 for ourselves 🙂 Done with these cutters, they may be cute for a baby shower too.

Sam at 6 weeks

7 weeks - big boy now

7 weeks – big boy now

Happy 6 weeks Sam!

I originally intended to update Sam’s progress only every month, for the first year or so. But he has truly changed so much since the last update, it was hard to let it pass. 6 weeks seemed to be a major turning point, with many milestones, for Sam.

His smiles have become more plentiful, and although he recognized us before, he shows true pleasure to see him Mum or Dad now. He is starting to recognize and grin for set sounds as well, like the specific way I say “Hel-lo”. He can be distracted from boredom or grumpiness by us now and this seems the first stages of true interaction.

smiling 6 week old

Big smiles now

He can also come out of the house without fussing. When he was under 3 weeks, Sam could just fit in with our daily routine – sleeping when he needed to and only crying if his feeding schedule got messed up. At about 3 weeks this all changed, and he spent most of his time crying out of the house – even if well fed he would only be quiet if he was attached to the breast. It was as if he had reached a level of awareness where he could say “Hey – something is different. Things are unsettling and I don’t like it”. Wes and I didn’t mind, but family outings were a thing of the past – we would take turns going out with someone staying at home with Sam. Now, as long as he is fed and rested, he is fine to come out again, as if he has reached a new stage where he recognizes change, but is OK with it.

At Sweet Paris, a Houston creperie

At Sweet Paris, a Houston creperie

He is staring at objects now – for short periods. Wes says he has seen a few reachings for objects (I haven’t – sob! Sad side of a being a working mother) but we are not sure if they are accidental or deliberate yet. He also turns his head deliberately when he hears us. So rewarding!

Did I hear Mummy's voice?

Did I hear Mummy’s voice?

So, they seem like small changes, but Sam seems to have made a huge leap in terms of recognizing the outside world and interacting with it. It came at a price! From 3-6 weeks he was pretty fussy for stretches of time, when suddenly it passed.

Not too much more of this :)

Not too much more of this 🙂 Just 4 weeks here.

I also packed up all his newborn clothes (AND ALL MY MATERNITY CLOTHES – Woo hoo – back in my regulars!), which was sad for a moment, but exciting when I saw all the awesome 0-3 month clothes awaiting him. My little dress-up doll 🙂

He'll hate me for this outfit in a few year's time.

He’ll hate me for this outfit in a few year’s time.

Everything else is pretty much the same; sleeping 7-11-2-4-5-6-8.30. I still climb into bed with him, in his room, as that 4-5-6 waking schedule used to be his gassy time and he would crying in discomfort a lot. He has that much more sorted now read:He doesn’t need me! But I still climb in. We still snuggle. I will hold on to waking up with him by my side for a while yet.

Morning snuggles

Morning snuggles

Feeding is still on demand, as he is still exclusively breastfed, although as I move back to full time office life, I suspect he will be supplemented (I can only really pump every 2/3 hours in the office), and still feeding fairly haphazardly, with no real pattern. I guess a pattern will be more likely to emerge naturally then as he will take full bottles and not little ‘snacks’ like he does with me.

Milk coma

Milk coma

Parenting is still the greatest joy I have experienced. Every day I find a new way I love it, and a new way I feel I love Sam. He is such a good little sleeper that I am not tired (although I still go to bed at 9.30). Everything – even night feeds are just fun, fun, fun. My favorite times remain shared bath times, dressing him each day, playing with him in bed when he wakes up and dancing with him around our kitchen / living room.

One of our dances. Sam's getting into it!

One of our dances. Sam’s getting into it!

He’s my little buddy and, with his father, the world to me.

Lookin' sharp. It's what I do.

Lookin’ sharp. It’s what I do.

A cheeky post on the importance of hobbies

My hobbies? Hiking, playing piano, painting my nails, doing my hair and make-up, reading, crafts of any type, sewing, cooking, baking, decorating cupcakes, making cake pops, dressing Sam, running, camping, taking long baths, dining out, visiting new cities, bicycling (when my bike isn’t stolen… grrrr…), Liverpool FC, listening to new music, growing orchids, growing veggies, weight-lifting, shoes.

And more.

My Christmas presents?

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Wes’ hobbies? Alabama football, guns and Diablo 3.

His Christmas presents?

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There is a lesson here 😉

Even Sam did better as he has one more to come from us:

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People SAY it is not about the presents… but they are the people with no… er… hobbies… 😉

What have you asked for for the holiday?