Monday, September 22, 2014

A letter to 226 pounds

Dear well-meaning woman at the DMV,

It all started so well last Friday morning. You called my number and I hoisted my six-month-old baby boy on my hip while balancing a purse and a coffee mug so clumsily. I just knew we should've brought the stroller in with us, but we didn't. You see, my husband Eric and I came together to renew our Idaho driver's licenses together, as they expired on the same day, and we figured one of us could hold Arlo while the other filled out paperwork and got a new photo, but, sigh, we were wrong.

Eight years ago we had just moved to Boise from Minneapolis. We'd left little two-year-old Lucy at my mom's house where we were living in her front driveway in her camp trailer while searching for a new home. It was our sixth wedding anniversary and a hot summer day; my hair was shorter and less silver. I was wearing a cute striped tank top I'd got for a screamin' deal at Old Navy. My license photo was, dare I say, cute. And after pouring over the Idaho drivers manual the night before, I'd just passed the written exam. Whew.

This morning Eric and I stared down at these old licenses we were about to surrender to you with delightful nostalgia. Look at these young kids, we said. So much life lived since then - different jobs, many more babies, a new home.

Not only did we look different - younger - I also looked back at this 30 year old girl with fondness. She was about to get so much stronger than she ever imagined. Which is why, dear lady, when you asked if all the info on my drivers license was the same, I laughed.  Everything is different, I thought. But I said, No, my address is no longer my mother's driveway. It's a house, an important sanctuary I call home. Done, you said. Easy enough. Anything else?

Yes, my hair is no longer brown, obviously, I laughed. Looking at my side-swept silver locks with bright red highlights and back to the wee baby in my arms you seemed confused. Well, what are my other options? I asked. Sandy, red, white, gray......

Gray. My choice.

You eyed my conspicuously. Ummmmmm, okay. Anything else?

Yes. I have not weighed 140 pounds since I first got this license when I was 16 years old. I now weigh 226. No one has ever changed it. I'd like to change it.

You furrowed your brow and would not look up at me. I knew all these proclamations made you uncomfortable and I know you were trying to help, really. No, no, we can just put, how about, 180?

200? I countered.

You changed the subject to sweet Arlo and suggested I hold him down low, at my waist, so his head wouldn't be in the photo. I got to see the image on the screen, not a cute girl anymore, but a wise woman, nearly forty, with a double-chin. You filled out my paperwork for me, as my jiggling arms were full of motherhood and confusion and you cooed.

I didn't have the energy to fight the fight this time. Your 'helpfulness' (lying about my weight) did not really help me, though. In fact, it made me feel bad and shameful when I'm really proud and happy to now weigh 226 pounds.

Twenty-two years ago that 16 year old girl would've never seen this day coming. But she'd be so proud of the big mama I've become. So, eight years from now in 2022 when I renew my driver's license again, maybe you'll listen to me. Maybe I'll speak louder, stronger and demand the 226.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

THRIFTY: 6 lbs of Gummy Bears

A few months ago we happened upon a gigantic 6 pound bag of gummy bears at our local Costco. We laughed about it because it's Dr. Brown's most favorite candy, but it was only about $8, which was really a steal when I started thinking about it. So, much to his surprise, I tossed it in our cart.

I knew, however, that if I didn't do something smart and creative and snacks-sized with these treats immediately they'd all be eaten within a week. (The doctor and his two daughters have incredible sweet-tooths. Teeths? Whatever.) So I opened the bag and divided them immediately into 8 oz. canning jars. That bag filled SEVENTEEN of these jars. 17. I was amazed, and thrilled. I doled out one jar every day or two for them to share, hiding the other 16 in a top secret box in the garage. (I'm not mean, for reals. It's just that they would've gone out to the garage and gotten more jars and eaten them all quickly. I'm so serious.) They lasted for weeks this way and if you do the math, each jar came out to something like 48 cents for 8 oz of gummy bears, which is such a deal.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

STYLE: The Best Fatkini

Who in their right mind is going to post pictures of themselves in The Internets in a bathing suit when they are a fat woman, amIrite?! And a bikini, no less. Well, lots of women, including myself. It's pretty much become a movement, really, in fat acceptance and Health At Every Size circles. (And I've written before how I'm proud to part of those circles.) Hell, it's become a movement in any womens' circle, really. And a lot of it started with blogger Brittany Gibbons who, in 2011, did a Ted Talk where she stripped down to her bathing suit on stage and not long after that, posted a photo of herself in a fatkini on her website, and she ain't no thin girl.

She inspired us all to do the same. Don't hide under long clothes in the summer. Buy a bathing suit and own it. Get in the water with your kids (which I am doing in all these photos: at Roaring Springs Water Park, drinking beers in a hot springs in the Idaho mountains, tubing in Warm Lake and floating in the river outside of Atlanta, Idaho). Flaunt your fat in the sun. Let sand stick to your cellulite and sweat drip down your cleavage. It's what summer, and life, is all about.

I bought my first fatkini in 2013. It was black and white striped and so darling and fit like a glove, perfectly snug in all the right spots. It was comfortable, and really, barely a two piece, with a high-waisted vintage-type bottom with skirt like scrunching fabric in the front and a halter on the top (a fashion blogger I'm not, obviously). I wore it like mad that year, pushing the bottoms under my growing pregnant belly while I wore it to prenatal water aerobics twice a week for nine months while pregnant with baby Arlo last year. I wore it so much that it eventually wore thin and gave out.

I loved the style and fit so much that I ordered the exact same one again from in a size 2x. It was on sale for less than $30 (a steal!), but only available in red. The suit was recommended by another blogger, Rachel, who ordered the navy anchor print and rocked it on her website (although her image was sadly stolen and used for a diet company's promotion because sometimes people suck).

It's the Catalina Suddenly Slim bikini from Walmart and it appears they are all sold out online now so (I'm kinda freaking out about what I'm going to do when my red beauty gives out, but it's holding up great so far.)

I'm not gonna lie, when I first put on my black and white striped one just over a year ago and wore it to the city pool with my daughters for the first time I was a nervous wreck. I was self-conscious and felt like everyone was staring at me. Turns out, many people (although likely not as many as I first thought) WERE looking at me, because they thought my suit was so cute and I looked great in it. I found this out, as many, many women have complimented me on my suit every time I wear it in public. It really is cute and much more flattering than these images (snapped unplanned by my youngest daughter) show. And it's so comfortable to wear and now I don't really even think about it being a two-piece and whether or not people approve of me wearing it. I feel great in it, it's comfortable, it's darling, and I get to enjoy the water with my family. It's made me brave enough to share unflattering images that my daughter Alice took of us having fun together, just because she loves me. And that's all that really matters.

Friday, September 5, 2014

KIDDOS: Boise Bench Junior Master Gardeners

As School Garden Coordinator for my daughters' little elementary school on the Boise Bench near our home, I have spent the last two years learning about, building, and growing our school's first veggie garden and native plants garden. I wrote (and received!) a $2000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation and received a training grant from the Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS) as well. Bringing growing and earth-friendly practices to children has become somewhat of a new passion of mine and has been so much fun to implement.

Part of this adventure included learning about the Junior Master Gardener certificate program. It's just like the adult version, but a bit more playful and can be taught as a community club or a 4-H program. Also, the leader can be an invested parent like myself, and isn't required to have Master Gardener certification. All I had to do was purchase the teacher's manual and some textbooks for our kiddos and find some interested children around ages 8-12 and we were set. My friend Kelly offered to be my co-leader, which has been a great help having baby Arlo around, and we quickly got 6 kiddos who were interested. (We could've opened it up to so many more who have expressed interest, but we just can't manage that many with the two of us.)

The curriculum is so much fun and we began meeting for an hour and a half every Thursday during the summer at Borah Park in Boise, where we also rented a community garden plot for our little gardeners. We've organized field trips, like the one pictured above to the Boise WaterShed Educational Center for a wastewater treatment plant tour, and even made some "crop art" out of seeds and recycled wood to enter in the Western Idaho State Fair (we won a third place ribbon!).

The kids have had a blast planting flower seeds, weeding, capturing bugs, journaling in the garden, and doing art projects like pressing flowers and leaves and making them into cards, as pictured above. (Really, the little girl above was having fun, I promise.)

We have invited guest speakers, like Jan the Worm Lady, from Capital City Public Market, to come and teach us all about worms, their importance in our gardens, and help the kids build a worm compost system.

Our crew continues learning and finishing up the projects and lessons in our book until February, when they will all graduate with their Junior Master Gardener certification. Next week we are having an apple harvest party here at my house, picking, peeling, coring and baking an apple dessert from our little urban mini orchard. After that, we are creating a scarecrow for the Idaho Botanical Garden's fall festival Scarecrow Stroll. Soon we'll be wedding and cleaning out our garden and will start meeting in our homes after school each week, but you can bet will still be digging around in dirt, brought inside in buckets.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

KIDDOS: Best Baby Buys {part 2}

I had read stellar reviews of Aden + Anais muslin swaddle blankets on several mommyblogs before Arlo was born, so I splurged and bought myself a 4-pack from Amazon and was that ever a good idea. We LOVE these blankets. You can see we brought the monkey print one to the hospital for Arlo's birth and it became a feature in his hospital birth photos and therefore a keepsake. They are the best for swaddling wee babes tightly with warmth, but are very breathable. Perfect for winter and summer alike, I can't express enough how much we use them. Arlo is still wrapped in one every night and there's always one in the diaper bag. They also make great makeshift nursing covers on the go without leaving me sweating like mad on these 100+ degree days. They cost about $34 for a 4-pack, so an average of $8 a piece.

{photo courtesy of}

We started using Aveeno natural oatmeal formula baby wash & shampoo when Lucy was just a few months old and fell in love. It seems less harsh than the Johnson & Johnson products and less drying on soft baby skin. It's also tear-free, and since it's a hair and body wash, it's all we use on our wee ones for years (until the girls' hair was long and ratty enough it needed separate intense conditioning treatments). I usually get it from when I order our Nature Babycare organic diapers and it's really not that much more expensive than other brands, around $5 for an 8oz bottle, and you can find it anywhere, like Target, Walmart or Walgreens. 

{photo courtesy of}

Another item we've been using since Alice was born over six years ago are these glass bottles from Evenflo. I freaked out about BPA in plastic bottles and started using these when our babies drank milk and we love them. My kiddos never drink more than 4 ounces at a time, so these little bottles are perfect. Some people are afraid of their babies/toddlers dropping the bottles and them breaking, but we've had them chucked across concrete and tile kitchen floors and never had one break at all. You can find these everywhere (again, Target, Walmart, etc.) and at just around $5 for a package of four, they are so inexpensive and worth it (sans BPA).

Something else we've had for over ten years and has been a life-saver is our Baby Bjorn front pack carrier in navy blue. All our babies have ridden close to our hearts in this device, and have viewed the world from the safety of our chests. Dr. Brown (the hubs) loves that it is unisex and easy to put on for daddies as well. It retailed for about $80 then (my dad bought it for us for a baby gift) and they are still pretty expensive, but you can also find barely used ones on craigslist and used baby stores for like $20. They hold up SO well, also. I know there are a million other kinds of baby carriers now, but this has remained a favorite of ours.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

ARTSY: Art Party Boise

When Tahirih Cahill of e11even Shades Studio contacted me in February about coming over and showing what her mobile art studio, Art Party Boise, was all about, I was super pregnant. Like, ready-to-pop-dilated-to-3-centimeters pregnant. So, as excited as I was about learning more about her cool small business idea, I had to wait until May to act on it.

I knew that my super artsy daughters, Lucy and Alice, would love a mother-daughter date night painting, and Tahirih agreed. She sent me several samples of paintings she thought the three of us would like, and be able, to do. Of course I picked the quirky little owl with hipster glasses.

The concept is brilliant: Tahirih or one of her staff artists (that's right, she's had to hire two new gals to help her out given the popularity of her mobile studio of late) comes to your house, or business, or the park, or wherever you choose, brings the supplies, and teaches you how to paint a lovely acrylic piece for your home. There are various sizes and styles to choose from and the idea is that everyone is an artist. She's right.

She got the idea from talking with a fellow mom friend, who wanted to do something fun with her other mama friends, a ladies night out with wine and the like, but all the things that make it hard for mamas to get out - like newborns and the cost of babysitters - were a problem. So, why not bring the mamas night to the mamas in her own comfortable place, making it less expensive and easier? What a great idea! The prices range from about $10-$25 per person, and include all the supplies and you leave with your own masterpiece.


It was a bit of a challenge to find something to paint that would fit the range of 'talent' from my six year old Alice to my thirty-eight year old self. Tahirih did a great job - and walked us through our owl process. I put out some snacks from our new Trader Joes - organic strawberry lemonade and a bowl of kettle corn - and daddy took Arlo for a walk. The whole art party lasted about an hour and a half.

Here's our completed paintings, all hung in a row above our play kitchen in our family room. The cattywampus arrangement wasn't intentional, but I kinda dig it. Fits the playfulness of the paintings and the play area and, well, our family style. In order from left to right is mine, Alice's and Lucy's.

Alice, my ever self-critical artist, didn't love how her owl turned out at first. She said it looked nothing like Tahirih's and looked like a bat. We thought her puffed out wings made her look like she was about to take off in flight. I think she's perfect. Like Tahirih said, "There are no mistakes in art." I couldn't agree more. And, I think, we're all sold on a girls birthday painting party for next spring.

Find our more about Art Party Boise on her website or Facebook page. Thanks, Tahirih!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

KIDDOS: Best Baby Buys {part 1}

So, baby Arlo Valley Brown was born a little over six weeks ago on a gorgeous Friday morning, March 21st. He waited until one day after his due date and the spring equinox because he probably wanted to be an Aries like both of his sisters. He was big and beautiful with the darkest hair, weighing 8 pounds and 14 ounces and measuring in at 21.5 inches. We are over the moon.
Needless to say, I've been busy staring at our bundle of joy and trying to cope with the changes that happen when you have three kids, not to mention my copious volunteer duties around town. Whew. That means no blogging for a while, especially when you have to type one-handed, as baby boy continuously occupies the other.
Daddy's on duty at the moment, and I've wanted to write a little series on best baby buys - sort of my take on a few things I can't recommend more to new moms, especially since this is my third go around. It KINDA makes me an expert. Just sayin'.
{Image courtesy of}
First up, I was lucky (smart) enough to start prenatal water aerobics at just 17 weeks pregnant and I couldn't have made a better move. I don't know why I didn't do it with my other pregnancies, but it was amazing. Just $30 a month for one hour classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings every single week in the warm water of the local rehab hospital pool? It was wonderful. Not to mention the friendships I formed with other beautiful bellied women. Here in Boise you can sign up through St. Lukes Hospital here. If you're expecting, trust me on this.
{Image courtesy of}
My dear friend Kristin had the brilliant (BRILLIANT, I SAY) idea to sign me up for MealTrain, this fantastic and free website where your friends and family can sign up to bring you meals on dates you pre-select. This is perfect for people having babies or in the case of sickness or death or any major life-changing event. We just finished up getting SIX WEEKS worth of food from friends, from homemade feasts to Jimmy Johns delivery to gourmet boxes of ingredients from Blue Apron. The girls loved the surprise dinner menus and I couldn't be more thankful and amazed by the graciousness of others. As my friend Melanie said, "MealTrain is like having a church lady committee without having to go to church." AMEN, sister.
{Image courtesy of The Laurie Berkner Band blog}
Ten years ago when Lucy was born my dear friend Betsy introduced me to Laurie Berkner, who she saw on a cable television show on Nick Jr. She had a CD and it was catchy and cute and not annoying to listen to on repeat. Laurie and her band play and write the kind of music parents love as well, and we quickly became fans. We now own all of her CDs and they get resurrected with each new baby in our family. She has her own little indie label and you can buy her CDs for cheap from there, if you're old school like me, or download them. I can't recommend getting one (or all of them) enough. Take a listen to the song that stole my heart.