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The Mom Bod

In December of 2017, I weaned Little Bug from nursing. It was a slow process that we started in early November, and was mostly due to the fact that I was going to be gone for a number of work trips over the next several months and I was completely uninterested in pumping during those trips to maintain my supply. I also got my tonsils and adenoids removed the day after Christmas last year (stayed tuned for a post about what that was actually like). As a result, I gained almost 25 lbs over the next few months. For the past year I have been trying to come to terms that this is likely what my body is going to be like now. I have always been on the thicker side with powerful legs and arms, so I probably should have expected my body to settle into a normal that was not exactly my ideal image.

I struggled for a lot of last year with trying to diet and having no success. With my intestinal issues, losing weight is a struggle because of my limited diet, and the fact that exercise triggers episodes. I am also perpetually exhausted because my body is constantly in a state of distress from the IBS. I can usually walk, do yoga, or occasionally ride my bike, but even these activities sometimes trigger an episode. I know that this is partly a mental thing too, like my body is in flight mode just in case I start to have an episode, so I am pretty much always on alert during exercise. I also have one other fun element that makes exercise difficult; I have a histamine reaction during exercise in the colder months. Basically my body has a histamine reaction when my skin is cold and my blood is pumping. For a really long time I thought that this happened to everyone, but when I mentioned it to my doctor about three years ago, she had me do some testing and my body does some weird stuff when it is stressed.

So where does this leave me now? In a place where I am trying to accept the body I have now, even though it is not exactly what I want. I am learning to dress myself better, to accentuate the areas of my body that I am pleased with (my hips, my butt, my shoulders) and to avoid accentuating the areas that I am less thrilled about (my mom stomach and my back area). This also meant that I had to accept the clothing size I am wearing now, which is about a size and a half bigger than where I would ideally be. I’m sure many of you have also seen the Netflix “Tidying Up” special with Marie Kondo. And this has helped me so much to accept my size. I had been keeping clothing that I was sure I would fit into again at some point, and it was so freeing to just let all of that go. I opened up a Poshmark account and I’m selling a lot of these pieces on there. The rest I donated to a local charity and even that brings me joy (Thanks Marie!) because now someone else can love those clothes, even if I no longer do.

As a result of this new me, I’ve been trying to come up with a new wardrobe that makes me feel good about myself and is also comfortable. Some of my go-to wardrobe items now are:

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Converse shoes

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Dry January

Two years ago, Mr. Starfish came home from a January business trip all excited to tell me about a conversation he’d had with a British colleague. While a group of them were at a business dinner, he noticed that everyone was drinking except the aforementioned British guy, who uncharacteristically ordered a club soda instead. When my husband asked him about it, he learned about Dry January. For those not in the know, Dry January is simply the practice of abstaining from alcohol in the first month of the year. My husband loved the idea of trying this – after the excessive drinking (and eating!) of the holiday season, it’s a way to get your health and habits back on track.

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After hearing about this challenge two years ago, Mr. Starfish and I attempted Dry January together last year in January 2018. Mr. Starfish accomplished his goal. I did not. To be honest, last year my heart wasn’t really in the challenge. I had several social events on my calendar that month which included alcohol and I wasn’t interested in giving up that component. I also was under severe work stress last January and a glass of wine at the end of the day did wonders to help me through mounting work-related anger and frustration (thankfully, I left that job a few months after that and haven’t looked back!). Last year, I definitely cut back as a result of the Dry January challenge, but I still consumed alcohol five days or so during the month.

Coming in to January 2019, I was way more interested in the challenge. I felt that my drinking was becoming a habit and I wanted to see if I could moderate it. I also had no work or personal excuses. Mr. Starfish was also super stoked about repeating the challenge – he’d been successful the past year and felt empowered and healthier and in control because of it. Finally, this year felt different because Dry January has grown in popularity in the U.S. When we did Dry January last year, no one had really heard of it in our social circle. But this year, it’s popping up more frequently; articles like this one from the Wall Street Journal are not uncommon. For me, it has been helpful to see so many people embrace the idea and take on the challenge; I feel less isolated by the challenge.

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Career, Parenting, and Chronic Illness

I am a full-time working mom of a five-year-old, and I also deal with multiple chronic illnesses daily. Me working is necessary for our family. Not only that, but I genuinely enjoy the work I do. It is definitely not what I saw myself doing, but two things majorly changed my trajectory: chronic illness and becoming a parent.

I didn’t really accept myself as chronically ill or disabled until quite recently. Now, I was always a sick kid, and was diagnosed with my brain structural abnormality, Chiari Malformation, in 8th grade, but I didn’t really think of how it would define me: for years, my symptoms were low, and I was able to live a fairly “typical” life. I went to college, majored in religious studies, graduated in 3.5 years, and married my husband, who I met there, two weeks after our commencement ceremony.

Both my husband and I went immediately from college to graduate school. I attended seminary, pursuing a whopping 85 credit Masters in Divinity, with the original intention of becoming an ordained senior pastor of a church.

How quickly things change!

The day we moved into my grad school married housing, I found out I was pregnant. I have talked about my pregnancy here before, but it was extremely difficult. I was so sick. Still, we needed some income, and my hours at seminary were much more flexible than my husband’s law school hours, so I took on a part-time job at a children’s consignment store. I’ve had lots of odd jobs like that over the years, most directly related to working with children or education. The arrow has always been pointing that direction: but it took my pregnancy for me to realise it.

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Five Years Old

As of very early this morning, at 12:44 am, I will have a five-year-old. Five years. It feels like it flew by, but it was also sooo full of memories, good times, crazy times, sad things, and everything in between. LeLe was the little rainbow baby that came into my life and gave me the chance to be a mother to her. She was so little when she was born, just a tiny squish. My greatest memory of all time is pushing her out and being able to hold her for the first time. She was perfect and she immediately pooped all over everything, which should have been a premonition of how strong willed she is. And now here we are five years later.

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The other day we saw a girl in the grocery store that was probably about 6-years-old and she was wearing a grey sweatshirt with little white dots and a rainbow colored zipper pull. It was the same sweatshirt that LeLe had as a tiny baby. I remember seeing it in Carters when I was around six months pregnant, and knowing that I had to have it for my little girl. It was one of the first things I bought for her and every time she wore it, I was so happy inside. All of these intense memories came flooding back when I saw this other girl wearing the same sweatshirt. It is really easy to forget old things, memories that fade and are replaced with others, but that sweatshirt represented everything I hoped for when I was pregnant with my rainbow baby.

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Watching my Brain Get Better (oh, and buying a house!)

Watching my brain get better is quite simply the best. Every time I can do something new or remember something I couldn’t before is a vote towards health and proof of constant improvement. It’s exciting and hilarious because seemingly little things are a big deal to me. For example, remembering where I put the clean towels! Victory.

It’s really strange to have both a skewed concept of time going by and a constant reminder in my children that it is passing. It’s also a very weird age for me or time of life to be watching time slip through my fingers. My two kiddos are really little and I know this time is so precious with them, but I want so badly to keep getting better that I’m basically willing it to go faster. And let me tell you – it seems to be working. A win for my health but not too much for staying in the moment and appreciating the little things.

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IMG_0149 (Rachel Roff's conflicted copy 2018-12-29)

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A Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Baby Shower

One friend gave birth yesterday, another friend staying with me is due on January 21st (I’ll be in the delivery room!), and I have 2 other friends that are pregnant. These are first, second, third, and fifth time moms, and it’s been so much fun revisiting the pregnancy stages that I left behind long ago.

Yesterday my friends and I threw a surprise baby shower for a mom-to-be due in 3 weeks. One person owns a party supply store so she did the decorations. Another is a baker so she made the desserts. I pulled together a scrapbook and an activity, while others planned games and purchased prizes. We rented a room at a nice hotel in town, which cost less than $8 per person for a delicious lunch and dessert. There were 20 guests that split all the costs (about $20 pp — things cost much less here), and I loved how much of a team effort it was to throw a lovely shower that we planned in one short week over a group chat!

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Old baby shoes and plastic rattles were spray painted gold!

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13 of Charlie’s Favorite Book Series for 7-8 Year Olds

I believe one of the most powerful ways to get your kids hooked on reading is to get them into a series. Graphic novels were the gateway for my kids once they became independent readers. But once they transitioned to chapter book series with more complex plots and so many more options, that’s when they really became super bookworms! We go to the used bookstore twice a week here to satiate their reading needs, and I just thank the US and the UK for providing so many awesome used books to the Philippines!

I have not read most of these books personally, but I’m going off of which books my kids have enjoyed most. These are some of the series Charlie has really enjoyed the past two years!

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Horrible Histories – This nonfiction series is THE BOMB! I believe they are from the UK, as the books focus on telling stories about European History in a funny and interesting way that kids love. The series also includes Horrible Science, Horrible Geography, and Murderous Maths. We must have at least 100 books in the series and as soon as we buy a new one, Charlie has to read it right away!

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I Survived – Since Charlie loved Horrible Histories so much, I started looking for other historical series and came across, I Survived. These historical fiction books tell the stories of young people who have survived real life disasters like the Titanic, Pompeii, September 11th, etc. They’re relatively short books, but are very well researched, and are perfect for the little history buff in your life.

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