As I’m writing this, my son is in surgery. It’s a common surgery for kids [tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy] but still requires a general anesthetic, an OR that I’m not allowed to enter, a two week recovery time, and a fair amount of fear.
I could go into all the reasons we decided to have this done – but the truth is, we are trusting our doctors. Theo was hospitalized twice before he turned one and has always struggled with breathing issues and chronic ear infections and mouth breathing. So there are reasons. But we didn’t have to have the surgery. We could have continued to treat his issues as we have been. We could have waited to see if he grows out of it. We could have told the doctors that we don’t think he should have this done because he’s so young and there are risks.
But I can’t pretend that I know more than the doctors who have recommended this procedure. And I know that they are recommending it because they are trying to do what is best for my son.
In the end, I’m not a doctor and I don’t know anything about tonsils or adenoids. I take my kids to see a pediatrician I trust regularly because I am not knowledgeable enough about healthcare. I need a professional’s help.
Like the first time I took Theo for a routine well visit and told the doctor that he was fine. Two breathing treatments later we were headed for the ER where he was hospitalized for a week. Or the time I took him into the pediatrician because I was worried about his hearing and it turned out that he had a double ear infection that required two rounds of antibiotics.
I clearly need doctors for my kids.
In the western world today, it is common to question the doctor, to look for advice on the internet and from friends, and to think that we know better than the professionals. And while I think it is important to advocate for yourself and make the best choices you can for yourself and especially your kids [I gave birth to my babies at home, you may recall], there comes a time when you have to trust your doctors.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently – even before this surgery came up – because I saw a rant on Instagram about doctors hiding lots of vital, black label information from patients. As if the entire medical world is out to get us. Trying to trick us into doing all these things [vaccinations, flu shots, epidurals, etc] that are really going to hurt us instead of help us.
I don’t believe that the medical world is out to get us and I think it’s a sad perspective to have of a profession that is trying to make [and keep] people healthy.
I, of course, realize that the issue is more complex than I’m making it out to be in this short post, but the main point is that we all need doctors eventually and all we can do is find the best doctors available and then trust them.
Theo is fine, by the way. And hopefully on his way to fewer encounters with doctors in the future.
Laundry used to consume WAY too much of my time, so last year I established a designated laundry day once a week. It works great [so long as my partner doesn’t sneak loads into the washer – which he does FREQUENTLY] except that a week between washes means that I have to be more proactive about stains.
And I’ve already admitted that I’m super lazy about laundry. Historically, if one of the kids have played with their pasta sauce or rolled around in the mud outside or poured hit chocolate down their front – well, I would set the clothing aside until I threw it in the laundry. And quite honestly, if it didn’t come out in the wash…well, who cares? These little kids clothes are like $5 for a pack of three.
Well, times have changed. Or rather, I have changed. It is no longer okay for me to trash stuff that I am just too lazy to clean properly. I am so embarrassed that this used to be my attitude toward clothing, as if it is disposable just because it is inexpensive.
[I could go off on a huge tangent here, but I will spare you in this post.]
Part of zero waste, minimalist, and simple living is about taking care of your stuff. Dare I say, it is a HUGE part. So, it’s time for me to put my big girl pants on and handle my home like I actually value everything in it.
Confession #2: I used to “Shout it out.”
You are all familiar with the Shout stain-remover, right? Miracle worker, really.
There have definitely been occasions when I spilled something on my favorite t-shirt or – god forbid – a shirt I borrowed from a friend and had to do an emergency Shout session. [Shout sessions consist of soaking and spraying and scrubbing and praying – on the knees if necessary – and then repeating until the stain is gone.] I mean, for real, that stuff works!
BUT, Shout comes in a plastic bottle that I would rather not buy again. So when I stumbled upon the stain stick, I was super excited to give it a try.
Remember that aforementioned hot chocolate incident? Well, here you can see the aftermath. The other shirt has a banana stain that has already been washed and dried [oops].
I followed the instructions on the stick: “Wet stick and stained area. Run into fabric and lather. Wash as usual.” Very simple.
Good as new!
The banana stain, however, didn’t fare as well, so I have learned a valuable lesson: pre-treat IMMEDIATELY.
I’ve been using the stain stick to pre-treat all our messy clothes with excellent results. And we have A LOT of messy clothes. I have four children under the age of six, folks. Things get really messy around here.
Confession #3: I’m not perfect and that’s okay.
Sometimes, despite my best intentions, things sit dirty and stain and it’s a bummer. But I am only human. I’m trying to do my best. And I think the stain stick over the plastic bottle is a step in the right direction.
I originally intended to write about how I learned to accept my postpartum body – until I realized that I most definitely did NOT accept my postpartum body. And, honestly, that’s okay.
But first, a [lengthy] preface.
I recently read Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis and Hunger by Roxane Gay. Both of these women endured trauma – like earth-shattering, heart-breaking, I-cannot-even-imagine-going-through-that kind of trauma – and both women responded very differently. [Theirs are not my stories to share, but you can check out their books to see what I mean.] Reading their very personal stories from their own perspectives gave me some perspective of my own – and reminded me of two very important things regarding body image issues.
We are all different.
These women responded differently, and society would have us believe that one was right and the other wrong. But, that is not the case. Their responses were different because [DUH!] they are different people.
One of the biggest mistakes we make regarding the human body is to assume that there is a one-size-fits all way to look, eat, exercise and be healthy. Every human body is unique and has to be treated differently. And every human body is occupied by a different soul that is dealing with real life shit [excuse my language, mom] that will have an effect on their body. That’s ok. There is no set standard, set weight, set body fat percentage, set pant size or anything else that everyone must strive to reach. The standard of health – what it looks like and what it takes to achieve it – will be different for every human being.
Because, look, we are all different.
We are all complicated.
I’m going to share my personal journey and my perspective, but I will be the first to admit that this stuff is complicated because we are complicated. It’s not as simple as just eating a 1,200 calorie diet and spending 30 minute on a treadmill each day. There is so much more that goes into health and wellness, so much societal pressure to conform, somuch baggage we have to carry around, so much pain and fear and anxiety – and all of it affects our bodies. We cannot expect to find simple answers – or that the answer we find for ourselves will be the answer for everyone.
But, we do have to find that truth for ourselves.
My Truth for My Body
My truth is that I am happiest when I am healthiest – and that means exercising regularly, eating clean and getting enough sleep.
Fitting into my jeans is just a perk.
Before I had babies, I worked really hard for four years to become the healthiest version of myself. I started running [and back then I HATED running]. I learned to cook [and man, I REALLY HATED cooking]. I cut back on the alcohol consumption [and I REALLY LOVE sangria] and fast food consumption [and I REALLY REALLY REALLY LOVE French fries].
But I was terrified that these healthy habits that I worked so hard to establish would be derailed by having a baby. I was terrified that I would never lose the dreaded “baby weight.”
[I’m super ashamed to admit this because “baby weight” – or gaining any weight – is a privilege that many do not get to enjoy. But that is my truth.]
With each of my four pregnancies I gained 50-60 pounds. And after I had each of those babies, I knew that for me to get back to the level of health and energy and activity that I love so much, I needed to lose that weight.
So, I chose to change my postpartum body rather than accept it.
But, at the same time, I have accepted the things I cannot control.
I’m fine with my stretch marks and my wrinkly stomach and stretched out belly-button, and all that. [It’s a little weird but I actually like my stretch marks because I intend to have a badass body again and stretch marks will be the only proof that this body birthed four babies.]
I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is nothing wrong with wanting to change your body – or improve yourself in any way. I want to love myself, but I also want to work on myself. I accept that I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t mean I can’t improve. I will never have the perfect body or be perfectly healthy, but that is not an excuse to not do what I can.
Of course, as a personal trainer, my wish is for everyone to be on a journey to their healthiest self – but I also recognize that some people are on different journeys, pursuing other things. And that’s ok. The other side of this issue is that we never have the right to judge another person’s journey.
I hope whatever journey you are on it is in pursuit of your best self – whatever that may look like for you.
In 2019, I read 40 books, I fell in love with yoga, I learned to knit, I spent more time outside with my kids, I visited the dentist TWICE, I made my own cleaning products, and I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby.
All-in-all, it was a great year.
This, my friends, is what New Years resolutions are all about. They are NOT just to set and forget. They are supposed to change you. And when they are effective, they are AWESOME.
This year, I have goals that are BIG. They are so big, they are a little scary. I’m almost afraid to state them – but these are things I truly want to accomplish, so I’m going to go for it anyway.
New skill: learn Spanish
Health: run a marathon, swim regularly, improve flexibility
Personal: go back to school for nursing, pursue kidney donation, volunteer regularly
Blog: improve blog design and function, organize and categorize posts
Family: establish family mealtime routine and guidelines, take international trip with Brett
Minimalism: minimalist game in January, remove 30 unused items per month, log all [non-consumable] purchases
Environmentalism: buy milk in glass, switch to safety razor, wooden dish brushes, and straw broom.
Humanitarianism: donate more money this year, sponsor another child, commission quilts for donation
As I’ve said before, I LOVE making resolutions [or goals] because it is so helpful for me to focus on specific things I want to change or improve or learn or accomplish in the new year. Maybe you hate them, maybe you’re indifferent, or maybe you have your own way of goal-setting. Whatever the case, I hope that 2020 is a year of tremendous personal growth and accomplishments for you.
Before I get started talking about my highly customizable, completely zero waste, delicious and hearty vegetable soup, I need to admit a few things…
First, I am not a chef. I would barely qualify as a cook if it weren’t for the fact that I now find myself in the unfortunate position of needing to cook…A LOT. I don’t know if the sheer quantity of meals I prepare is enough to call me a cook, but I still don’t feel like one. In fact, I’ve always hated cooking.
“Baking have I loved and cooking have I hated.” [Good ol’ scripture reference from the religion of my youth.]
Anyway, to be fair, I’ve become a decent cook. I can prepare a whole meal without needing to consult allrecipes.com and I very frequently “wing it” with good results. I’ve even found myself creating my own recipes!!! This is totally out of character for me – but, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention. [At least, I think that’s a saying…]
Secondly, this is not a recipe.
Sorry about that.
This is more about encouraging everyone to look through the fridge or the pantry and find what’s just hanging around unused and forgotten and throwing it all in a big pot with some water and seeing what happens.
It’s an adventure really. And I love adventure!
So, let’s get on with it.
Why Vegetable Soup is AWESOME
Vegetable soup is a staple in my home for many reasons:
1. It is versatile. I have never met a vegetable that didn’t like to be in a vegetable soup. I also love to add quinoa, lentils or rice in for fun sometimes.
2. It is zero waste. I never have to add the ingredients for this soup to my shopping list because the whole point is to use up what I have lying around. And, believe me, I’ve thrown some random things in my vegetable soups [all edible, I assure you].
3. It is easy to make ahead and reheat. In fact, I usually make this while my kids have their quiet time so that I don’t have to worry about four staving children nagging me for dinner. I also always make this when my husband works late because I can make it earlier in the day so dinner time is a breeze. Soup is also great for freezing.
4. My kids love it. I love it too. [My husband is iffy on it, but that’s only because he doesn’t believe that anything without meat or cheese is real food, so don’t listen to him.] In fact, my vegetable soup is the only thing that I can count on my picky two-year-old consistently eating.
5. It is SO GOOD FOR YOU! I frequently encourage my personal training clients to up their vegetable intake by trying to have two different types of vegetables at every meal. This soup could haveDOZENS! Most people are not getting enough vegetables, so this soup can really help [and a salad at lunch goes a long way too].
How to Make the Vegetable Soup
Ok, so I already admitted that this is not a recipe, but I will walk you through the basics.
Step 1: Find and chop all the vegetables you want to use. Literally any and all vegetables will do.
Step 2: Cook them in a stock pot with a little oil starting with the hardest vegetables and then moving to the softest. [Or just throw them all in at once and move to step three. Feel free to be lazy with it. It’s all going to simmer in the end anyway.]
Step 3: Add water to cover and bring to a boil.
Step 4: Add anything else like beans, potatoes, quinoa, rice, sweet potatoes, other vegetables you might have forgotten, anything else you found lying around in the fridge like a leftover jar of pasta sauce, etc.
Step 5: Let boil as long as is needed for everything to soften then let it simmer for…as long as you want. Or take it off the heat and let the flavors meld. Or serve it up right away. Up to you.
Note: always taste and season as you go. May need some salt. Maybe some pepper. Maybe some chili powder. Maybe some garlic. Maybe some onion powder.
[Again, this is not a recipe.]
This is literally how I’ve made soup once a week for the past year and it has always been delicious.
…but it clearly doesn’t always look appetizing…
Pictured above is a corn, onion, celery, potato, quinoa soup – which turned into more of a stew cuz that quinoa really soaks up the liquid. Very hearty and delicious.
Here is a carrot, onion, corn, green bean, and chickpea soup.
Now this soup had A LOT in it: carrot, onion, tomato, sweet potato, black beans, quinoa, kale, and a few other things I can’t remember…
Ok, in this one I added shredded chicken, BUT IT WAS GOING BAD, I swear! If you’re a meat eater then it’s totally fine to add some meat! And top it with cheese! [But really, I’d prefer you not because a plant-based diet is better for you and the planet.]
Just had to throw that in there.
Anyway, vegetables. Eat them. Throw them in a pot with some water and salt. Delicious.
On a road trip from Chicago to Detroit last month, we passed a billboard on the I-90 interstate that said something to the effect of: without truckers there would be no food.
The purpose of the billboard was to thank truckers during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week back in September and – don’t get me wrong – I’m appreciative, but I would not starve without truckers.
I am surrounded by local farms where I can buy my food so I don’t need to have it shipped from half way across the country [with the exception of some foods we can’t grow in the Midwest like bananas and avocados – but those are hardly necessities]. In fact, we should all be concerned by the fact that most of the food in grocery stores and supermarkets are transported by long-haul trucks from their place of origin. According to a Business Insiders article, without truckers, the grocery stores would run out of food in three days [read about it HERE.] To me, it is actually kind of sad that they are shipping in food from all over the map when food [often the same kind of food] is being grown by farmers right in my home town.
Having food shipped all over the world is not the best, healthiest, most economical, or most sustainable approach to feeding humanity, which is why we purchase a CSA share from a local farm each year.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.
The way a CSA works is local community members pay a price up front for a certain share in the crops produced on the farm. This provides security for the farmer in the event of a bad season and provides delicious, local, and in-season food for the shareholders. We’ve only had our share for two seasons, but we’ve already seen first hand how unpredictable the farming business is. And still, the benefits to spending my grocery budget in this way are totally worth any “risk.”
Here are some of my favorite things about our CSA:
1. My farmers are awesome. I literally know my farmers. That alone, to me, is super cool. And, what is more, these men are a part of my community. They employ community members. They are helping our local economy. I am proud to support them.
2. My food is picked when it’s ripe. My food isn’t picked when it’s green and then sprayed later to make it appear ripe. My food is also picked within a week of me picking it up.
3. My food is grown ethically. I know that my farm takes care of its employees. I don’t have to fear that I am buying food that is grown by a system that takes advantage of people [as many food sources do].
4. My food is grown organically. My particular farm [Rustic Road Farm in Elburn, IL] is applying for its organic certification, and they are very open and honest about their methods of farming.
5. My food is the real-deal misfit produce. You’ve probably heard about all the businesses selling the “misfit” produce that is rejected by grocers. Well, my food is the legit stuff. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It teaches me and my kids that a head of lettuce doesn’t have to look like those fancy plastic wrapped ones in the grocery store. It is food. We all need to be less picky and less wasteful.
If you’re considering getting a CSA share, my only advice is DO IT. If you have any questions about CSAs, let me know! I’d love to share more of our experience.
Also, you can read about our experience last year:
A reader asked me this recently, which made me realize that I owe everyone an explanation. I hope that the title of my blog has not been misunderstood to mean that I have something against makeup or against wearing makeup, because I don’t.
A few years ago I started a blog about motherhood. At that time, I had already stopped wearing makeup, so the title was literal, but at the same time, I meant it figuratively because I was trying to say that I’m sharing the real me – not some edited-for-the-internet version of myself, or the “gram-able” get-my-good-side photos of myself. I chose the name for the same reason that I don’t wear makeup – because I don’t need to hide behind perfection. I like showing people the real me – the same me that my kids see when they drag me out of bed in the morning, the same me that just ran five miles on the treadmill at the gym, the same me that’s too busy to care whether I look good or not. Everyone sees the same face – my real face.
Why I don’t wear makeup
It’s not that I NEVER wear makeup. I do wear makeup occasionally – for professional family photos that we get taken once a year and my anniversary dinner date with my partner and, of course, Halloween [my absolute favorite reason to wear makeup is for a costume!], and a few other special occasions.
In high school, I started wearing makeup partly as way to hide my tragically oily and acne-ridden face from the mean kids in my class and partly as a way to just be normal, like every other girl. But the downside that no one told me about was that eventually I wouldn’t feel comfortable in public without makeup, that it would be a time consuming [not to mention expensive] process every morning for the rest of my life, and that it would make my skin problems even worse.
Then fast-forward ten years and I had become a fitness fanatic on a super clean eating diet and I had just given birth to my second baby, a handsome little boy, and my skin was glowing from all the pregnancy hormones and the clearest it had ever been, so I stopped wearing makeup.
And I never went back.
That’s pretty much it. I was tired of feeling like I looked bad without makeup. I was tired of the breakouts. I was tired of buying products to try to make myself look beautiful. And it took a while, but now I’m very happy with my plain face. I no longer feel the need to put on makeup. When I do wear makeup, it is just for fun. I don’t need it to feel confident or beautiful anymore.
Side note: I do work outside the home, though only part-time, and I have a customer-facing, sales position as a personal trainer but I still don’t feel the need to put on makeup. That being said, I work at a gym where people aren’t dressing up or trying to look their best [well, most people anyway], so I don’t feel pressured to put on a face the way I might if I were back in the corporate world. Still, I’d like to think that I love my natural self enough to not bother with the makeup.
My [nearly] zero waste beauty routine
Turns out, the best way to have zero waste in the beauty department is to embrace natural beauty and not waste time or money on beauty products at all.
[Jonathan Van Ness would KILL me if he heard me say that – sorry, Jonathan! I love you!!!]
However, that being said, I do try to be hygienic [I say “try” because I have four little kids, so sometimes just showering is a struggle – let alone shaving or exfoliating or any of that extra stuff]. So here is my “beauty” routine [can I even call it that?]:
I brush my teeth. I use this beautiful bamboo toothbrush that I love. I am still working through my toothpaste stash [and have been for the past two years…] but I already have some toothpaste tablets to try and will make the switch as soon as all the Colgate is gone.
I wash my hair. I use bar shampoo and bar conditioner. This current coconut shampoo bar is from Lush and smells amazing!
I wash my body. I use all natural, package free bars of soap from wherever I can find them. This current beauty is from an apothecary vendor at my local farmers market.
I shave occasionally [aka rarely]. I’m still working through my obscenely huge stash of disposable plastic razors. I want a safety razor SO BADLY. I think I may just donate my unopened packages of razors to a local shelter so I can make the switch right away.
I clean my ears. I know people say not to do this. When I first went zero waste, I stopped buying q-tips. “Shia Su said I don’t need them, so then I don’t need them!” ….but I do need them. I’ve had drainage problems in my ears since I was a kid and after about a month of not cleaning my ears I could barely hear. So I buy the paper kind and compost them.
I don’t wear deodorant. If my hands get dry, I use the aquaphor lotion we have for the kids. If my lips get chapped, I use the family lip balm we all share.
[Jonathan Van Ness would be SO ashamed of me right now…]
I do own some makeup. I’ve been using the same tube of bb cream for the past five years, I kid you not. I am also still using the same mascara and eye-liner. I have literally not bought any makeup since before I had kids five years ago.
My skincare treatments
I don’t have any scientific evidence to support this statement, but in my experience, clean eating and exercise are the absolute best skin care. I used to spend tons of money on special creams and exfoliants and acne products, but nothing ever cleared my skin until I cleaned up my diet.
Since puberty, I’ve had super oily skin. I used to wear a crapload of that powder foundation to try to tone down the shine on my nose. It was gross. But since I’ve been eating plant-based, whole foods, my skin is not oily at all. If anything, it is too dry. I sometimes actually put coconut oil on my face because my cheeks get dry. [I would have NEVER put oil on my face ten years ago!]
I do get the occasional pimple like every human being, but I don’t hide them with makeup. It’s not fooling anyone anyway. I choose to own my blemishes instead. I just let them be and they go away. In my experience, makeup only makes it worse.
My plan for wrinkles
Well, I have noticed that I am getting wrinkles. I took a picture with my daughter the other day and when I looked at it, I was surprised at all the wrinkles. [Darn you improved cellphone cameras!]
This is the picture:
I’m not implying that they are bad or that I’m not happy because I have wrinkles – it was just the first time I noticed them. I’m starting to look older, which for me is a positive thing since people usually think I am in college.
Things may change as I continue to age, but at this point, I don’t understand why the world tells us that wrinkles are bad and to be prevented at ANY COST. Wrinkles aren’t ugly. They are a sign of age, yes, but age isn’t a bad thing either. Age is a privilege. Age is wisdom. Age is something to be proud of. I intend to embrace my wrinkles rather than fight them.
In the end, how you present yourself to the world is a personal choice. Beauty is a complex thing and everyone wants to look and feel their best, so I’m not trying to discourage anyone from doing any beautifying that makes them feel good. But no matter what face you choose to show the world, I hope YOU know that your real face is beautiful and you don’t have to hide it.