RED RASPBERRY LEAF TEA

Drinking red raspberry leaf tea is another one of the remedies recommended by my midwife during my third pregnancy, and I was hooked from the first cup. Red Raspberry leaf tea is rich in nutrients and antioxidants and is used to strengthen the uterus which can help shorten labor and aid in a healthy delivery and recovery postpartum. It’s recommended you don’t drink it until week 32+, where up to 3 cups can be drunk per day throughout the last few weeks up to delivery; it’s something I look forward to each pregnancy! One cup a day is *allowed during the second trimester (*always check with your doctor or midwife before trying any natural or herbal remedies as their potency can be surprisingly strong. Red raspberry leaf tea may help induce labor, so you don’t want to drink it too soon.) I like to hope that it was partly the reason my third and fourth births were extremely quick and easy, and I’m looking forward to drinking it in just a few weeks! It tastes good hot or iced, with lemon or without. Occasionally I will drink it hot, but my favorite way to drink it is on ice. I always buy my loose leaf tea at our local health food store where I get to scoop and measure it myself. Here’s the “recipe”, as simple as can be!

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea Recipe

1 Tablespoon loose leaf red raspberry leaf tea + 1 cup boiling water

steep 15 minutes

drink warm or pour the 1 cup of warm tea over ice and add enough water to fill a large glass

During the last few weeks of pregnancy I like to double or triple this recipe (2-3 Tbs. tea + 1 cup boiling water) and after steeping, pour the warm tea over ice in a water bottle and fill with cold water to the top, leaving the tea ball in the water bottle. Let me know if you use red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy and how you like it: hot or cold?

7 WAYS TO EASE MORNING SICKNESS

I think all women who have ever experienced morning sickness would agree when I say that whoever named the nausea of the first trimester “morning sickness” clearly never had it. Although, if it were labeled “all day sickness” some of us might have been scared away from ever being pregnant in the first place. I suppose confining it to a nice, little, manageable part of the day makes it a bit less intimidating. I really struggle through the first trimester, and if I hadn’t been so determined to give our oldest daughter siblings, we would have one kid right now, and the amount of time I spent hovering over the toilet those first four months would be to blame. However, I did suffer power through, and over the course of five pregnancies I picked up enough tips that by the fifth, my toilet hovering was minimal. Here are a few of my absolute must-do’s during the first trimester that have helped ease my nausea. Let me know if any of these have helped you as well, or any additions you might add to this list!

Epsom salt bath

I’m going to start with this one because it’s never on lists of things to do to help with morning sickness, but this is something my midwife recommended to me my third pregnancy. I wasn’t sure if it was a placebo she was tossing my way to keep me distracted or not, but I decided if there was even the smallest chance that it could help, I was willing to try it. The reasoning behind it has to do with a magnesium deficiency, and I actually think it does help. I keep an embarrassingly detailed journal of all my pregnancies, and on the weeks I regularly took baths in epsom salt, I’ve noticed I was less sick. Every single time for 3 pregnancies. Coincidence? Maybe, but there’s absolutely nothing to lose soaking in a tub. I normally follow the directions on the bag for the amount of salts to use and then dump in a little extra and then stay in at least 20-30 minutes.

NEVER let yourself get hungry

This should be extremely obvious, but it was apparently really hard for me to comprehend. The very earliest feeling that hits before the nausea of no return is hunger. For me it’s hunger so fast and so bad I don’t even realize it’s hunger, instead I assume it’s a need to throw up. When I realized this feeling began with hunger (around pregnancy number 3) I realized I could avoid the worst of the sickness by eating sooner rather than later; normally about every hour and a half. HOWEVER…

Protein is Important!

…this did not include a few crackers and ginger ale. I would eat roll after roll of ritz crackers to fend off the sickness only to hate ritz crackers and still feel empty and sick. By pregnancy number 4, I realized protein was a pretty important key, partly because protein helps you feel full longer and partially due to other nutrients our bodies need that are in protein rich foods. I ate all forms of non meat protein with my 4th, and it really seemed to help, but what I really discovered the fifth was that there is a HUGE difference between meat protein and non meat protein. Cheese, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, vegan protein shakes, milk, and eggs all helped me not feel horribly sick, but steak, hamburger, and sometimes chicken could actually make me feel “normal” and stable. It was a huge revelation, and I’ve happily eaten way more cheeseburgers without the bun the past 6 months than I have in the past 6 years.

Lemon and Peppermint Everything

During one of my very first appointments of my first pregnancy I asked the doctor what I could do about my incredibly oversensitive gag reflex; how was I supposed to brush my teeth if my toothbrush was always gagging me? Her advice was to laugh and tell me to just not brush my teeth, obviously. I ended up finding a new doctor (not just because of the bad oral hygiene advice.) It’s a difficult problem when just seeing a hair on the table can make you actively gag in the middle of a meal. The nausea can at least be felt and planned around, but there’s not much you can do about an unpredictable gag reflex. Then I discovered the magic of lemon and peppermint. Unfortunately, I think part of the gag reflex is mental and tends (for me) to be egged on by smells. And stray hairs *ughggg*. Sucking on a lemon drop or peppermint altoid (STRONG mint flavor with real peppermint in the ingredients) and using lemon or peppermint essential oil (*in this necklace I was gifted a few Christmas’ ago) to smell in lieu of any unpleasant odors helped avoid many moments of being sick. I diffuse peppermint throughout the house and add lemon to my drinking water: everything is peppermint or lemon during those first few months.

Carbonated Water

Burping always helps–an unfortunate reality. When my go to fizzy drink was soda pop, though, I felt like I was limited because of the caffeine and sugar. Then I discovered carbonated water; any brand, any flavor does the trick. You get the satisfaction of the bubbles going down, bubbles coming up, and you can drink it all day and all evening without the consequences of too much caffeine or sugar.

Cut Sugar

Somehow milkshakes always sound good when I’m in the first trimester, but for some reason the sugar never settles well. I’ve actually discovered I feel much better when I avoid sugar as much as possible. About half an hour after eating protein I always feel good, but half an hour after sugar I would feel worse. It’s really a win-win because keeping your blood sugar levels within a safe range is also important during pregnancy, and less sugar can help slow weight gain.

Sleep

The last tip that really doesn’t even sound like a tip is to get plenty of sleep. I’ve had pregnancies with young toddlers (less than 2 years old) who don’t sleep through the night, which means I don’t sleep through the night. It’s a world of difference when I’m sleeping a full 8-10 hours a night + a nap whenever possible! I know this isn’t always possible, but it helps so much it’s worth giving up anything else to get even one extra hour of sleep.

I remember spending so much time googling “ways to help nausea…” and “is it normal to….” throughout my first couple pregnancies; I felt like there had to be more help related to morning sickness. But, until there’s a magic pill to take away the constant nausea (other than the sleep inducing nausea suppositories I took during my first pregnancy) the best we can do is share tips and tricks with each other, and remember it will all be worth it in just a few short months!

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3 REASONS YOUR WORKOUTS MAY NOT BE WORKING

 

 

I’ve spent the last 9 years either pregnant and gaining weight or working to lose that weight. I’ve realized a few things watching 45-50 pounds come and go so many times: it’s easier to gain than to lose, breastfeeding is my weight loss secret weapon, and without breastfeeding losing weight is a TON harder. No amount of studying for my degree in health or studying to become a personal trainer could compare to the “hands on” learning that postpartum put me in!

One of the biggest frustrations I think most of us have with our weight is when we’re actively trying to lose weight but our hard work seems to not be doing its job. There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to the gym and grueling through uncomfortable workouts just to see the scale stay the same, or worse go up. It’s enough to make me want to just quit sometimes; if working so hard isn’t doing anything for me, why continue pushing myself? However, before we quit, there are a few things to remember– important things that explain why those workouts may not be doing what we’re hoping they will do, and a few things we can change to actually see results. 

 

First, our bodies want to stay the same, so working out makes us hungry and subconsciously causes us to eat just enough extra food to stay at the same weight. It’s called homeostasis, and it’s the body’s way of staying balanced. It’s hard to break this balance, but it’s not as difficult as we make it. We complicate it with talk of slowing metabolisms, special diets, etc. but it really boils down to this simple formula: calories burned must be greater than calories eaten. The hard part is keeping the calories eaten less than the calories burned long enough to actually burn fat because one cheat day can make up for an entire week of working hard, and your body will happily remain balanced and at the same weight.

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Next, it’s painful for most of us to admit, but we often aren’t working out as hard as we think we are. Most of us don’t have to move very much during the day. We’ve been privileged/cursed to be able to live completely sedentary lives and still survive just fine. I’ve been keeping track of my steps this pregnancy with this Garmin watch Pete purchased me a couple years ago, and I’ve been attempting to make the step count as close to 10,000 each day as possible. It’s been motivating, and more than anything, I’ve learned how few steps I actually take in a normal day if I don’t try to be active. Even with kids, I can go an entire day with fewer than 3,000 steps (or traveling less than 2 miles.) This means if I want to get 10,000 steps (about 4.5 miles for me), I need to spend more than 30 minutes walking. Whoever created the step counter was a genius, and basically helped all of us realize how little (some of us) move in our daily lives. I’ve used this and this and even one of these to track my steps, and they all work great. 45 minutes or more feels productive enough to make us think we can skip a day here and there, but if we’re hoping 2-3 days a week for 45 minutes will give us results, we’re going to be disappointed. If you are spending those same 45 minutes doing an intense workout, you will not need to workout intensely every day, but you will still need to walk at least 30 minutes on the off days. Especially if we spend our entire day sitting still, it takes a lot of intentional walking/movement to expend the energy we need to to lose weight. I like to attempt the “magical” 10,000 steps each day and then do about 3 intense workouts throughout the week, often involving weights or strength training. Realistically my daily steps are closer to 8,000 and many weeks I do 1 intense workout instead of 3, but setting high goals that I know will give me results helps me see where I’m slacking, so at least I’m not surprised when I gain a couple pounds or fail to lose weight when I’m trying to.

Finally, the part that ruins it for most of us: we don’t need to eat as many calories as we think. Along with our privilege/curse of a sedentary life, we have also been “gifted” with extremely delicious and available food. In reality, we can easily eat all the calories in one meal that we need for an entire day. There are so many helpful apps and websites where you can type in the foods you eat each day to see how many calories you are eating, and it’s extremely helpful to use one of these when you feel like you’ve gotten off track. I like to use one for about a week or so, just to remind myself what foods or what time of days I am overeating. We often eat because we’re bored, because food tastes good, and sometimes because we’ve trained ourselves to avoid the feeling of hunger. It’s also very easy to eat too much when we are hungry because we eat too quickly. Eating slowly and intentionally can help your body realize when it feels full enough without overeating. A good rule is to stop eating before you’re full and give your body 15-20 minutes to decide if you actually need to eat more or if you just want more because it tastes good.

Counting steps and calories are both extremely helpful skills that can be learned and done more organically once you’ve gotten used to knowing how many steps are “enough” each day and when you’ve eaten enough. Keeping a regular tally of calories in and steps taken sounds like a chore, but once you’ve done it for a week or two it becomes second nature to go out for an evening walk for extra steps at the end of the day and to stop eating before you’ve eaten too much.

The most important thing I’ve realized when it comes to weight loss is to be consistent, and stop worrying so much about the small mistakes and the last 5-10 pounds. I’m not sure if it’s being in my 30’s, but stressing out about a perfectly flat stomach just feels unimportant now (even when I’m not pregnant!) Being overly concerned with appearance isn’t what drives my desire for working out and staying fit as much as it did once upon a time. Feeling good, being in control of my body (not letting hunger or food control me), feeling strong, and having clarity in my mind are my motivators now. What about you? What motivates you to workout? Do you struggle with any of these points? 

DOUBLE BATCH BANANA BREAD

I woke up today and noticed gnats in our fruit corner, and that normally means it’s time to bake something. I use my trusty 25 year old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook for pretty much everything. While the kids were busy doing their morning schoolwork, I threw together a double batch of banana bread for our mid-morning snack. The only tip I can add to a basic banana bread recipe is to double the batch, so you can share a loaf with a neighbor!

Double Batch Banana Bread

3 cups flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

2 eggs

2 cups mashed bananas (5-6 bananas)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cooking oil

Grease loaf pan of choice on sides and bottom.

Mix dry ingredients.

Mix eggs, bananas, sugar, and oil in a separate bowl.

Add banana mixture to dry ingredients; stir and pour into pan/pans.

Bake 35-50 minutes at 350° (more time if you made 1 deep loaf, less time if you divided batter into 2-3 loaves. I used 3 small loaf pans today, and they were done in 35 minutes.)

SUMMER THINGS

We may have started our fall home school routine last week, but that doesn’t mean summer is over. We’re still in the thick of it; the air is beginning to smell hot and stale, and we realistically still have two months of summer ahead. Naturally my favorite season tends to be the next one, but I’m trying to make my favorite season always be the current one. So, instead of looking ahead to fall, I’m trying to enjoy summer for what it is, and pull as much out of it as we can. Currently, my late summer includes:

Walking…I’ve been walking every evening up and down our little street. When we first moved into our house, I loved our house, our yard, the woods behind our house, but I didn’t particularly like our street. Once I started walking it regularly, though, I’ve really grown to love it, and the people have become familiar neighbors who I have little chats with about their pets and their trees, and it’s become one of my favorite ways to end the day. There are 27 houses on our street, and getting to know the people in them one small conversation at a time makes the world feel a little friendlier and safer. My goal this pregnancy has been to walk 5 miles a day (about 10,000 steps) and for the first time ever, I actually lost a pound during pregnancy. (That wasn’t the goal, and never should be unless it’s something a doctor has recommended, but I began this pregnancy heavier than any of my others. I’ve only ever seen the scale go up during pregnancies, so it was a surprise!) It gets harder and harder to stay motivated to move while pregnant, so making it a habit not based on how I feel each day, helps me keep going even on days I don’t want to walk. And most days I feel better once I have gone out and exercised because that’s often what exercise does!

Baking…One of my resolutions this year was to bake less to make my life simplier, but then I remembered I love baking, so I’ve been enjoying it more again. This summer I made my first batch of hot rolls that made our entire house smell like grandma’s house, which I decided I needed to do more often. The kids all love to take turns helping me, and even though it’s sometimes hard to let them help, I try to always let somebody put on an apron and be my little helper. They’re learning while they’re young and interested in helping so that when they’re older and don’t jump at the chance to be near whatever I’m doing, they’ll already know how to do things in the kitchen. The girls are already volunteering to make things by themselves, and while I’m not quite ready to let them loose alone with a recipe (they’re 6 & 8), I’m excited for the day when they can stretch their independence and accomplish a meal without me!

Cold Suppers…Sometimes when it’s so hot outside, a hot meal is too much. Sandwiches, wraps, and noodle salads are refreshing when it’s feels too hot to eat anything warm. We’ve been having BLT wraps with fresh tomatoes from the farmers’ market every Saturday, and it’s become a tradition we look forward to all week! 

Book gathering…I’m slowly working through one book the past couple months, but I really don’t read very much in the summer. I’ve been stacking up a few on a special corner of the shelf for fall/winter when the longer hours of darkness welcome long books. It’s not that I don’t have time in the summer, I just don’t feel as interested in reading when the sun is out and there are things to do outside.

Praying…finally, we have been praying through some things over the past few months, and it has been a defining aspect of our summer. It’s funny how we naturally want to follow our feelings and make quick decisions, but wisdom often tells us to wait, make decisions slowly, and not be quick to decide things we might regret later. I’m thankful for a husband that encourages slow, prayerful decision making; waiting until we are in perfect agreement on things can take time we would rather not spend waiting in an unknown, but we know it will make the end result sweeter because we were 100% together in it. 

What about you? Does summer end when school starts, or do you let summer stretch until the weather agrees it’s time for a change of seasons?