On Sabbath

Rest does not come naturally to me. I am really good at pretend rest where it appears I am resting, but underneath it all my mind is racing through a running to-do list that never seems to stop. It is so hard for me to fully rest, but my heart and soul desperately needs it. The truth is, I could find things to do and work on 24/7. If you have seen our dirty floors you will know what I mean. If I wanted, I could be on a non-stop cleaning streak. There are also hours and hours of more work I could do to pour into my blog. If I let it, I could be constantly writing, constantly researching, constantly emailing. I don’t think we ever will reach a point in our days and lives where we can say everything is perfectly done and clean and finished. We still are here on earth, heaven is coming. Since there will always be another load of laundry to do, more crumbs to sweep up, another post to write up; we must set boundaries that allow for rest. If we don’t, we will constantly be in a state of busy. And this is not good for anyone. This is no way to live. Not only is burnout just around the corner, but not stepping away from my own work misleads me in believing that I am in control. It misleads me in believing that my work somehow plays a factor in my salvation. Only God saves me. I know this, but let me just do a few more good things, just to be sure. I hate typing this, but if I am fully honest, it is very easy for someone like me with this people-pleasing heart to quickly fall in the traps of a work-centered gospel, rather than a grace-filled one. All this to say, I desperately need rest in my life. And I am not talking about rest in terms of napping and Netflix. I am talking about a rest that restores body, mind and soul. A rest that reminds me of my weakness and points me to the greatness and fullness of God. The world will keep spinning if our washer and dryer that is typically always running stops for 24 hours. The world will keep spinning if the sink becomes a tower of dirty dishes. The world will keep spinning if I stop producing, planning, performing for a day. I think of God as he created the whole world. If the Lord that made the universe, takes a rest day, how much more does this little, weak, selfish mother need rest?

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating he had done before” (Genesis 2:2-3).

This day of rest is holy. It is sacred. It is untouched. I know I easily forget the holiness of this sabbath day. It is so easy for calendar schedules and busier seasons to get in the way of this sacred day of rest. It is also so easy for my mind that has a tendency to be incredibly legalistic to also get in the way. I definitely have had sabbaths where I spend most of the day worrying about what I can and cannot do or pointing out to my husband what is and is not restful. That is no way to sabbath either. There are so many amazing resources and teachings when it comes to this idea of rest. First and foremost, the best resource will always be the Word. If you are interested in really understanding God’s heart for rest, there is no better place to start than in scripture. We have also found the teachings of John Mark Comer, a pastor of Bridgetown Church in Portland, to be very helpful in understanding Sabbath and learning ways to live it out.

We by no means have figured out our perfect way to sabbath. We have weeks where we really end our sabbath feeling rested and rejuvenated, and we also have days where we fully messed it up. Like most things, the sabbath is an art and practice. You would think rest should be an easy thing, but even rest takes planning and practice. This is true without babies and kids; however, when you become a parent, sabbath can become even more logistically challenging. Diapers still must be changed, babies still must be fed and cleaned and watched over. Your sabbath is going to likely look different based on the season you are in, but I am convinced that regardless, you can still incorporate a sabbath into your life, it might just not always be a 24-hour period or exactly how you might imagine “rest” to look. This is the thing that can tricky, there is no exact formula for a perfect day of rest. Rest is personal. What I find to be restful and restoring to my soul, another person might classify as work. For example, I know some people enjoy exercising on their sabbath. They might run or even go to a fitness class. For me personally, sabbath entails zero running and exercise. I run throughout the week, sabbath is my day off from running. I need to step away from it. While I love to run, in a lot of ways, running is still considered work to me.

Sabbath is an art form and it is a type of worship that is largely personal. There is no formula or exact steps you must take. With that said, here are a few things to consider that have helped us as we have built a sabbath that allows for rest and worship.

Choose a Day

When you sabbath is going to vary based on a myriad of different factors, but for us sabbath is on Sundays. Sabbath does not need to be on Sunday. Especially if Sundays are days of work for you, choose another day in the week that makes sense. Sundays mostly work for us, but there are weeks where we need to adjust our day. Maybe for you, it is Wednesdays or Fridays. I don’t think the Lord is concerned with the day of week, he just wants our hearts.

Set Boundaries

This is incredibly important, especially if rest does not come naturally to you. I am the type of person that literally needs to pencil in times of rest into my calendar. I have learned that if I do not set the time for it in my calendar, it simply will not happen. It is important to realize that your sabbath likely will not happen on its own unless you set parameters around when it will actually occur. Again, I do not think the Lord is concerned that we sabbath for exactly 24 hours a week. He wants our hearts, I don’t think the number is as important to him; however, whether we sabbath for a 4-hour time period or a full-length day, I think He does want that time to be set apart from the rest of our days. For this reason, it is important for you and/or your family to set parameters around when sabbath will start and end for you. Since we have a baby, we have found that what works really well for us is using bedtime as the start and end of our sabbath. For us, typically this means that our sabbath officially begins Saturday evening around 7:30 pm once Hudson has fallen asleep and ends around 7:30 pm on Sunday when he goes back to bed. This rhythm is incredibly helpful for my busy mind. I know that if I want the floors to be cleaned or the laundry to be folded or that blog post to be published, I must get it done before Hudson falls asleep on Saturday evening. This often means leaving things unfinished. And that is okay! It slightly drives me crazy, especially when I am almost done, but if I don’t follow this boundary, a few more minutes of work, easily turns into a couple hours. The work will be there in 24-hours. I am not that important. Things will keep on spinning. No one really cares if my post or podcast is a day or two late. I can stop and rest in the Lord.

Plan Ahead

With setting boundaries, you must plan ahead. I have already alluded to this, but if you know that all Sunday you will not be working, it is essential to ensure that you get the important things that must be done before your sabbath. This might entail staying up later for one night in the week or getting up earlier. By setting one day of the week for rest, you will find that you can actually be more more productive in those 6 days. Plan those 6 days well so you can fully rest on the seventh.

Figure Out What is Most Restful to You

This may sound obvious, but this can take some trial and error. Like I previously mentioned, what one person finds restful, another will deem as work. Figure out what activities are the most life-giving and soul-restoring to you. We have not yet done this as a family, but I think a fun way to get the whole family involved is to create a list of your family’s favorite sabbath activities. Post this somewhere the whole family can see. Allow this to guide your sabbaths. For our family, some of our favorite sabbath activities include: going to the beach, hanging out by the pool, going on a walk, getting doughnuts or coffee or some special treat we typically would not have during the week, reading, watching a movie, baking cookies together, seeing close friends or family, disconnecting from screens, and the occasional nap (or for someone like me that can’t take naps during the day, just lying with my eyes closed for a few minutes). It is also important to note here that the activities we choose for sabbath largely depend on how the previous week leading up to sabbath looked. For example, if it was a particularly busy week filled with events and people, we would try to spend more time with just the three of us and might stay home more. If it was a less crazy week, we might try to get out of the house more and spend time with good friends. While most often are sabbaths seem to involve just the three of us, getting together with people we love can be incredibly restoring, but it also cannot be. Let’s just be honest, being around people can be work. If you do choose to enjoy fellowship with others on the day you practice sabbath, I think it is important that the time you meet them is established as being more flexible and they are people you can fully be yourselves with. That way it can be life-giving, rather than life-draining. This idea of setting a more flexible time is important. Most of our lives seem to be dictated by times. For us, it feels so rejuvenating to have a relatively empty calendar box that is not filled with the pressures of times and places. Our very best sabbath days are the ones that were fully blank and we freely chose how to spend our day.

Allow for Grace

The thing with many spiritual practices is that it is very easy to turn the discipline into a rule and become very legalistic about it. I so easily fall in this trap! Our sabbaths quickly start to fall apart the moment I start nitpicking. The moment we start concerning ourselves with what is and is not allowed on sabbath, is the moment our hearts are no longer receiving the Lord’s rest in the correct way. As I have already alluded to, I do not believe God is as concerned with the smaller details; He simply wants our hearts. Our sabbath is not suddenly ruined if we need to stoop down and clean something up off the floor. We are human, which means even the way we rest will not be perfect. Is that not humbling? We even mess up rest! What beautiful evidence for our great need of His grace. Sabbath is all about recognizing our great need for a Savior. It is about recognizing that our own work is insignificant and we daily and momentarily need the grace of God. Allow for this grace. You will have sabbaths that you mess up. That is okay. He will give you another try next week.

Spend Time Alone with God

Lastly and most importantly, spend some valuable time alone with the Lord. This could be through reading the Bible, praying, meditating on how God has moved in your life in the past week, and journaling. We have fully missed the point of sabbath if this part is not included. Sabbath is way more than eating doughnuts and lounging on the sand. It is getting, good quality time to remember all the amazing work the Lord has done and continues to do in our lives. It is about loving God more and receiving his love and grace with open hands.

We need rest. We need God. We can’t do it all. It’s all really that simple. Sabbath is not just something you should do, it is biblical. We are called to rest and worship. We are called to have a day set apart. A day the Lord calls Holy.

Favorite Products for Training

One of the reasons my heart is so fond of running is the simplicity of it all. Compared to a lot of other sports, running does not require much. There is not a lot of equipment or gear required. You don’t really need to drive to a specific arena or location. All you need is to lace up shoes and make that initial step out the door. You, shoes, pavement, some level of commitment; that’s really all that is required. When you begin to start adding the longer miles, this simplicity remains the same, but there have been a few products we have used in this training block that have kept the legs feeling good and our bodies energized. We were fortunate enough for a few companies to send us free products as we trained for this marathon. Some unexpected, like coffee, but let me tell you, even the coffee you drink makes a difference. From coffee brewed at 5 am to protein smoothies post-workout, these little choices matter. The running part only can be done for an hour or two per day. Obviously, that part is largely important, but think of all the other hours in a day. There are so many things you can use and consume in and out of the act of running that will absolutely impact your performance. Here are some of the products and brands that sponsored us that we have really loved.

Photo Courtesy of http://www.maurten.com

Maurten Gels

Prior to marathon training, the only performance gels I had used were Gu Energy Gels. While I loved the different flavors of Gu, they always left my stomach feeling weird and my mouth feeling dry and dehydrated. Then enters, Maurten. If you haven’t heard of this company, you really should check them out. There is science behind their gels. They are specifically crafted in a way to avoid the GI distress that a lot of other performance gels, packed with sugar and extra flavors, can cause. They are still packed with carbohydrates, but the hydrogel technology of Maurten makes it soft and smooth on your stomach. For all of our long runs over 15 miles, we have been taking these Maurten gels. They give energy when mine begins to fade around that 8th and 12th mile. We really have been loving these gels and excited to use them come race day.

Photo Courtesy of http://www.primalkitchen.com

Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel

I have finally found a protein powder that I can feel good about. In college, our training room fridge was always stocked with Muscle Milk drinks, so that is what I drank. It was accessible, free, and convenient. I did not particularly love the flavor and I tried to just not look at that long ingredient list that I could not pronounce. Then enters, Primal Kitchen Collagen Fuel. I love this protein powder for two main reasons. For one, it is both dairy and soy-free. This is a big deal in the protein world, where it seems like tons of protein powders are milk-based. For most of my training I have needed to be dairy-free. Primal Kitchen’s collagen fuel has been the perfect dairy-free recovery drink. Primal Kitchen’s protein powder is coconut-based, which gives it a really yummy and natural flavor. The simple ingredients and very natural coconut flavor mixes really well in smoothies and even coffee. I usually put the vanilla flavor in my smoothies and it adds a really nice creamy flavor. Secondly, I love that it is collagen-based. If you are unfamiliar with the benefits of collagen, you can read about them here. Collagen is amazing for your hair, skin, nails, but I mostly love the way it makes my joints feel smooth and strong. I typically have issues with my lower back and hips, but the pain literally went away once I began consistently taking the collagen fuel. Everyone’s body is different, but I know that collagen is key for my body, especially when it is under the pressure of a ton of miles.

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Photo Courtesy of http://www.zensah.com

Zensah Compression Socks

Of course the running shoes are important, but you can’t forget about the socks. Good quality socks matter. They are even better if they help promote faster recovery and prevent injuries like shin splints. Prior to this cycle of training, I never wore compression socks much. Now, after trying out Zensah’s compression socks, I am a huge believer in the value of them. There are tons of compression socks on the market, but I really love the quality of Zensah and the super fun designs. They also sent me a pair of race socks with flying pigs on them, which I am pumped to race in. I have really noticed a difference in my legs from wearing these compression socks. I have even done a couple tempo workouts and a long run in them. I actually felt faster wearing them. I love how my legs feel so much more supported. After super hard workouts or the really long runs, I would go to sleep in the compression socks and definitely noticed a difference in the freshness of my legs the next morning.

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Photo Courtesy of http://www.mrespresso.com

Mr. Espresso Coffee

Dreams really do come true. We are officially coffee sponsored! For the past 3 months of training, 4 bags of free coffee beans have been sent to our house. I will always run if free coffee is on the line. In all seriousness, Lance and I have become huge fans of Mr. Espresso coffee. When getting prepped for marathon training, you might not be thinking about what coffee you are drinking, but all the details matter, and if you are a running, coffee drinker; you know the important role coffee can play pre-run. Let’s just say, coffee is absolutely necessary for any day, but especially prior to runs. It is part of the routine to get ready for a run. I really am not that big of a coffee snob, but quality does matter to me when it comes to coffee. You can taste the quality in Mr. Espresso. We have really enjoyed tasting their variety of flavors. Just by a quick look at their site, you can tell that they take coffee really seriously. They are all about quality and the taste of their beans really sets them apart. Our coffee for the past few months has absolutely been better than our typical Trader Joe’s coffee. Morning routines matter pre-run, find a coffee that can help get you energized and ready for the miles.

Photo Courtesy of http://www.tracksmith.com

Tracksmith Singlet and Shorts

In high school, it was green and gold. In college, it was crimson and white. These were the colors on my singlets that I raced in. Now, it is Tracksmith. To say I’m excited to race in our beautiful, cream-colored Tracksmith jerseys, is an understatement. If you haven’t heard of this running apparel company, you need to click on that link above and read all about them. Their mission, their high-quality, their unique style, and overall love for the distinct running culture, sets them apart. One of the many reasons I love this brand is how deeply rooted they are in the running culture. This is a brand for runners by runners. As someone who is not an elite runner, but takes running seriously, their brand and mission really speaks to me:

“We honor the Amateur Spirit upon which the sport was founded and champion the Running Class — the non-professional yet competitive runners dedicated to the pursuit of excellence. We offer well-considered and authentic products for training, racing and recovery. In everything we do, we aim to celebrate, support and add to running’s distinct culture.” -Tracksmith

The non-professional, yet competitive runners dedicated to the pursuit of personal excellence. That is me and I love how they put language to my relationship with running. Tracksmith has much more than just racing singlets. They have a wide selection of running gear that all gives off that vintage, running feel. I am obsessed with the style. It is simple and classic. Their products really are beautifully designed and their packaging is top-notch. You feel important as you open their boxes. Every detail is carefully thought out. I could not think of a better brand that I would want to represent in our race.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I love the simplicity of running. You don’t need much. I am all about running and training with a minimalistic mindset. I don’t want to be overloaded with unnecessary products. Every single brand I mentioned above, I believe in and highly value their quality. You don’t need much to run well. Just you, shoes, pavement, commitment. But hey, a good cup of coffee, gels that don’t kill your stomach, well-designed compression socks, dairy-free protein powder, and a beautifully-designed singlet, can’t hurt either.

5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Mom

We all have different experiences when it comes to motherhood, but for me, becoming a mom was a million times more draining, sad, and dark than I ever would have imagined. The commercials definitely do not paint motherhood in this type of way. They show the pretty parts. Just like social media. We seem to mostly scroll through happy babies and joy-filled mamas. And these are definitely parts of motherhood, but there is so, so much more. There are the nightly crying sessions (by both baby and mama). There are the deep and real feelings of rejection and failure when your baby screams every time you are just trying to feed them. There is that chart you are obsessively tallying how many wet diapers your baby had. There is the paranoia that keeps you on edge every minute of every day. There is the fear that they are not getting enough milk as you drive again to the hospital to weigh them, hoping for just a few more ounces. There is the pressure, the anxiety, the uncertainty.

A year ago, I was in a dark place. You wouldn’t have been able to really tell by the smiley pictures I posted on social media, but internally, I was struggling. I was utterly exhausted from pumping and nursing and nipple shields. My brain was bursting with feeding schedules and numbers of wet diapers and ounces of weight gain. They told me it would be hard, but I think this is the problem. Hard is just not specific enough. Hard I could handle. Hard is like a 20 mile run. It’s hard and painful, but you know that you’ve got it. You have the experience and miles prior to back you up. It hurts but deep down you know you will hit that 20th mile. That is hard. I can do hard. But motherhood is not even comparable. As a new mom, you don’t have those previous miles as back up. It is all new and you absolutely question: Am I made for this? Can I handle it? Can I make it to that 20th mile? Motherhood is much more than hard and exhausting. I feel like that was a lot of what I heard. And my thought was okay, but I can handle not sleeping as much. I did it in college, I can do it now. But here’s the thing. It is more than just not sleeping. It is the physical element of it all. It is the rocking, the shushing, the nursing for hours on end. That is what makes it all so exhausting, forget the barely sleeping part.

I really wish someone more specifically told me how it was going to be hard, not just that it is hard. Because like I said, 20 miles is hard, but rejection, failure, lack of sleep is something entirely different.

While Lance and I did a fair amount of research and preparation before Hudson’s arrival, there was still so much that happened in those first couple months that I was mentally not prepared for. So, if you are a soon-to-be mama and have done the big things they tell you to do, like taking a birth class and buying all the latest baby gadgets, but haven’t thought as much about what life will actually be like with your new baby and changed body, this is for you. Here are the 5 things I wish someone told me before becoming a mother:

1. You will spend HOURS Each Day Nursing

In one of the baby books I read, there was a section about breastfeeding schedules. It was this neat, laid-out chart. It specifically stated the feeding times and stated how the baby will spend about 15 minutes nursing on each side. I can clearly remember reading this a couple weeks before Hudson was born and thinking, I got this, this will be easy. I will just follow this schedule, set a timer, and we will be good. While this book had a lot of helpful information, the way it made out breastfeeding to be was so far off from my experience. I was absolutely unprepared for the physical demands of it all. I was unprepared for how I would feel when Hudson refused to latch and screamed and wanted nothing to do with me. No lactation class can fully prepare you for that type of rejection and failure. Even when things got a bit sorted after seeing a lactation consultant a couple times, I still was completely overwhelmed with the way nursing quickly took over my life. All my decisions seemed to revolve around it. It controlled what I could eat, good-bye butter and ice cream. It controlled what I wore, no more buttons and dresses. It limited me. I knew every couple hours I would be tied to the glider for close to an hour. It would not be relaxing or peaceful or sweet. There would be tears, sore muscles, and milk everywhere. Breastfeeding in those early days was way more of a time commitment than I was prepared for. I wish I knew. A year later, it is entirely different, Hudson nurses for about 5 minutes. It now is sweet and peaceful and comfortable. And this is the stage that is easy to remember and pass on to others; however, it definitely was not always like this. It changes quickly, but if you are an expecting mama and plan to nurse, try to get mentally prepared for both the physical demands of nursing and the time you will invest. It is 100% worth the struggle and the time and the initial discomfort, but know that it takes time for both you and baby to learn and get into a good rhythm. Be patient. Don’t set timers, just listen to your baby, they will let you know when they are done. And watch lots and lots of tv, or have something to help pass the time.

2. You Will Become Obsessed with Poop

If you look back on my camera roll to a year ago, you will find lots of pictures of Hudson’s poop. I needed evidence to show to his pediatrician to try and figure out why he was so fussy and uncomfortable all the time. I felt like a scientist when it came to baby poop. I was obsessed with color, texture, frequency. I can specifically remember many of my google searches leading me back to this nice chart. I had no idea I would care so much or be so interested in someone else’s poop. You become a parent and suddenly you care about things you never thought you would. Prior to baby, I had no idea how much the poop could tell you. For us, it was the mucus and strands of blood that helped us figure out the cow’s milk allergy Hudson had, which is a very common allergy, especially for C-section babies. I say all this as a reminder that your baby will likely not poop in the way you expect. There might be days where there are no tally marks for poopy diapers and you will be freaking out. There also might be days where there are tons of poopy diapers but there is also blood, and you will be freaking out even more. This may sound strange, but I do wish I had done a bit more research of the types of baby poop in terms of color and texture. I think this would have saved some valuable time and stress.

3. You Will Also Become Obsessed with Ounces

I had no idea how stressed I would get over Hudson’s weight gain. In my head, it was all pretty simple. Baby is hungry, baby eats from mom, baby gains good weight. This is seriously what I was expecting and again this expectation was far from our reality. Baby might be hungry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he or she will eat the way you want them to. You will do everything you can just to get them the ounces they need. You will use syringes, supplemental nursing systems (SNS), really anything to get them milk to get them to gain weight. I did know that babies lost weight in hospital, but I had no idea how much they could lose in such a quick amount of time. In two days Hudson was already down 10% of his body weight. I also was unaware at how his weight loss would feel like entirely my fault. I felt so terrible in the hospital. I felt like I wasn’t giving my baby enough nutrients and that it was all my fault. If you choose to exclusively breastfeed and do not supplement with formula, it can feel like a ton of pressure on yourself to make sure your baby is gaining enough weight. I became a bit of a crazy person when it came to ounces. I would drive to the hospital every week to weigh him. I would weigh him, then nurse him, then weigh him again. I would quickly do the math in my head to see how many ounces of milk he took from me. This may sound crazy, but this was my life those first couple months. I am so happy I was able to nurse Hudson, but for someone with my type of personality, it was really difficult not knowing how many ounces of milk he drank per feeding. This little method of weighing and subtracting the two weights, helped calm my anxiety. Just know that as a new mom, you brain will think only in ounces. Your life will temporarily revolve around the ounces. Just embrace it. Pretty soon, they will be hit the double digits in weight and your worries and concerns will drastically decline.

4. You Will Not Feel Normal

Every time I sneezed or laughed I would have a sharp pain on my C-section incision. I dreaded when I felt a sneeze coming on and I tried to avoid laughter, which sadly was not very difficult in that first month. My experience is slightly different since I had a C-section, but I was surprised at how long it took for my body to recover and feel normal again. I definitely had a mindset that I would bounce back super fast. I am young, healthy and tough. I can give birth and get back to normal life. I don’t need that much recovery time. I will be good. This is what I told myself, but I was so wrong. It doesn’t matter if you are 24 and in good shape, having a baby is trauma on your body. You will not be the same after. And you definitely will not feel normal in that first month. It took me a solid four months to begin to feel like myself again. And if I am really honest, it hasn’t been until recently, like a year later, that I have felt really normal. I can leave the house with just a backpack with wipes and a snack and I know we will be good. This confidence takes time. It is a huge mental and physical adjustment. It takes a lot of getting used to, but you do hit your normal again, it is just a new normal. Last week I ran my workout in my sports bra, no shirt. This is a big deal. In college, this was normal. If it was hot, I would be running in just a sports bra. I also had abs, not really 6 of them, but I had a solid 4. Let’s just say postpartum life did not give me any pack of abs and there was absolutely no way I would be running in just a sports bra. And here’s the thing, last Wednesday, it was humid, I had 4 hard mile repeats, and I was wearing a long sleeve (the clouds deceived me). I went to the bathroom and I had a choice. Suffer in my long sleeve or just not care and rock the postpartum look. To be fair, my body has gotten back into a similar shape as I was pre-baby (definitely less abs, though). While my stomach and everything doesn’t look that much different, it is more of an internal feeling. I felt so insecure, timid and unsure of myself as I left the bathroom stall with my sports bra on. I tell this story because I think it’s important. The things we used to do all the time, the way we felt about ourselves and our bodies, will forever be changed. We are not the same, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still run in sports bras. I get it, that might not be your thing, but don’t be afraid to do the things before baby. Maybe for you it’s that bikini stuffed at the bottom of the drawer or that dress gathering dust in the closet. It might look and feel slightly different, but there is no reason postpartum you can’t rock it.

5. You’ve Got This

You’ve got this. You do. It might not feel like it in the moment, but you will figure it out. Your baby will get enough milk, however you choose to feed your baby. They will grow and gain enough weight. They will have normal poops, sort of. All those little worries and daily anxiety attacks will eventually begin to fade. You were made for this job. There is no better mom for this child than you. You can do it. I wish I could of told all this to myself a year ago. I am not even sure I would of believed myself. There are some really hard days in those early months. It is easy to question if you were made for this role, but you were. God knows what He is doing. He has you where He wants you. He will equip you. Trust His plan. It might look very different from your expectations, but He knows exactly what He is doing. You’ve got this because He’s got it.

Marathon Training Tips

So you want to run a marathon, but you have no idea where to start? Then, you are in the right place. I am going to break down my training to give you some tips and inspiration when creating your own plan. The idea of 26.2 miles can feel very daunting, even for someone that has been a runner for over 10 years. The key is to start small and build from there. Especially if you do not regularly run, you cannot just jump into high mileage and workouts. You need to slowly acclimate your body to the mileage. There are tons of training programs you can access online. A popular one is the Hal Higdon training programs, which I am linking here. There are different plans based on the type of runner you are. I think these plans can be a great starting point, but I also think it is important to craft the plan to your specific body and life. Don’t be afraid to get a plan and then make the proper adjustments that make sense for you. Don’t be afraid to change around days or to increase mileage on certain days and take days off when you are struggling. I am not training with the same intensity I did in college; therefore, I am not in as good of shape. However, this is one of the first times where my body feels genuinely good and strong. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that I am in charge of my own training. The truth is, you know your body best. If you are disciplined, there is no better coach to have than yourself. Who knows your body better? With that said, no one should train for a marathon alone and isolated. Even if you are largely making decisions on your training, you should still absolutely consult with someone else to make sure you are on the right track. Marathon training is hard work, if possible, find a tribe that helps keep you motivated and consistent.

If you are postpartum and beginning to train for a marathon, you can go back and read my specific tips for postpartum marathon training, here.

Today, I want to give more specific training tips for marathon training. I am not a coach or by any means a marathon expert. This is my first ever marathon! So, I get it, maybe not the most credible, but there is this quotation that makes me feel a bit more credible when it comes to marathons:

“To run your best marathon you have to be in your best 10K shape. To be in your best 10K shape you have to be in your best 5K shape.” -Randy Thomas, Women’s XC Head Coach at Boston College

I have lots of experience when it comes to training for fast 5Ks. This is really the base of good marathon training, but of course the mileage and longer steady states must be added. So this might be my first time training for a marathon, but I have years of 5K training under my belt. I also believe a huge aspect to good marathon training is patience. You can’t jump into that 20 mile long run. You have to build and build and patiently await the 26th mile. It will come, and you will be ready.

These tips are definitely more geared to the busy person that is trying to squeeze marathon training into an already hectic schedule. This is for those that love running, but running is not everything. This is for those that want to hit their goal, whatever that might be (BQ, sub-fill-in-the blank hours, or just crossing that finish line), but do not want training to take over their lives. So if you’re still with me, and saying yes, yes, yes, that is me, then here are 5 tips to consider when beginning to marathon train:

Start Where You Are

There are tons and tons of training plans to choose from, but I think one of the best ways to create a training plan that works for your body, is starting exactly where you are and slowly building from there. I am not going to get into the technicalities of the training plan because there is so much variation based on running background, but I think a general rule of thumb is to start with what you have been doing. So for example, if before you decided to run a marathon, you were running 4 miles, 4 times a week. So, 16 miles per week. Start that as week 1 of training. In terms of start date, that will also vary based on running experience, but as long as you aren’t going from zero running, 4 months out is plenty of time to build. If you are going from literally not running at all, I would give yourself an extra month to just work on getting used to running occasionally. Back to my example. If you start with week 1 at 4 days of running per week, averaging about 16 miles, then each week, you will want to slowly increase by no more than about 4 miles. Again, this is a very basic way of thinking of it, but that number 4 was a helpful tool to help me build. I also started at running 4 days a week. I naturally increased this to 5 and then to 6 days a week. You will reach a point where it is easier to increase weekly mileage by having a really easy 4-5 mile run on one of the days you typically took off. You will also want to choose the maximum volume you wish to hit. There is definitely a point where more miles is not necessarily the answer to a faster marathon time. This is known as the law of diminishing returns. Choose your number and try to not go over it. This is again very much based on experience and your personal body, but for me, I am finding that 60 is a good number. Again, I have built to this type of mileage and I have only hit 60 for the first time about 6 weeks out from the marathon. I am staying at 60 for about a month of training and then will taper (cut back on mileage) last 2 weeks before the race. While this is definitely not crazy high mileage for a marathon, I know my body, I know my life, and right now 60 is what makes sense.

Designate a Day for Tempo Runs and Long Runs

And stay consistent! Every Wednesday is my workout days. I am at the point that I don’t even think about it. I just know that Wednesdays I need to push myself. I also then know that Thursdays and Fridays, I recover and just run based off of effort. That leads to the big long run days, which I choose to run on Saturdays. I treat Saturdays with extra care and importance. To me, these are the most important days of training. I think it is essential to have this type of training rhythm. Our bodies are smart and I believe they respond well to the same patterns over and over again.

Be Particular About Pace

Depending on your goals, pace will play a different role into your training, but regardless if you are going for the Boston Qualifier time or want to hit sub- 4 hours, pace is important. Again, lots of theories on how to pace, but based on my college training I am used to using VDOT pacing. Here is the link to the best VDOT calculator. I love this method of training because it makes pacing very straightforward. Even if you have not run a race recently, you can put your goal marathon time in and it will calculate your pace for the race, but if you click on the “Training” tab next to the “Race Paces” tab, it will give you the mile pace for easy/recovery runs, T-pace (threshold or tempo pace), I-pace (interval pace, so think mile repeats), and R-pace (repetition pace, so think hard and painful). If you get anything from this whole piece, this should be the takeaway. This is a great to make sure you are on target to hit your goal pace. Final thing on pacing, pay attention to it on workout and long run days, but really try to go off of effort on the other training days. On my easy runs I rarely look down at my pace. There is something to having runs where pace is not the focus, just feeling good and getting in the miles.

Train on Terrain Similar to Course

Know the course you are running ahead of time. Each course is different, so do your research to find out what type of course you will be dealing with (flat, hilly, rolling, down hill). Based on the course, make sure you are getting in runs that expose you to those elements. If you are running a really hilly course, it doesn’t make sense to only run on flat surfaces. Find the hills in your area and incorporate them into your runs. You can also incorporate hill workouts by doing harder effort hill repeats. The best situation of course, is to get to train on the course, but for most of us, this is not always possible. Even if the race will be your first time on the course, try to replicate it as best you can on training runs.

Take Days Off!

Your body needs rest. It is easy to fall into the more is better trap, especially when you are training for 26 miles, but your body needs proper rest to be able to absorb training. I am the type of person that sometimes struggles with rest days, especially when I am anxious about hitting my goal time. It really helps me when I think about taking days off from running as a way to get better and help my body absorb the training. Changing your perspective on rest and days off make it so much easier to allow your body the rest it needs. I often think about how an extra 8 miles will not do me that much more good, but it can definitely cause injury or burnout.

I hope these tips can help as you start your marathon training! If you do have a marathon on the calendar, I would love to hear which one and how training is going. Leave a comment below!

Marathon Wednesday Series

Happy July! July over here in the Capel household is a big month. It is marathon month. We are just 25 days out from our first marathon. In just a few weeks, we will be flying to San Francisco, leaving Hudson for the first time (more on this on this to come), and celebrating our 4th anniversary the best way we know how (running 26.2 miles together!). Every Wednesday, for the month of July, I will be posting all things running and marathon training related. This will be a 4-part series that will cover the following topics:

  1. Marathon Training Tips
  2. Best Products for Training
  3. Recovery (this will be specifically geared towards the non-elite runner that does not have same access to recovery facilities that a pro runner has).
  4. Marathon Motivation (this will be a special post filled with responses from people I surveyed about what motivates them to get to that 26th mile).

If you are beginning to train for a fall marathon (Chicago, New York), I hope this series can be a helpful resource for you! I think this will be a fun month filled with (hopefully) helpful information, but also just filled with stories and inspiration that can help get you out the door and lacing up your shoes.

Marathons are not everyone’s cup of tea. I get that. Even as a runner, training for this marathon has been pretty brutal. It take a lot of time and a consistent effort. So, I get why not everyone has the desire to run a marathon. However, I really hope that this series can somehow inspire you to put something on the calendar a few months out. Put something on the calendar that will require you to work on a consistent basis. Create a goal and a plan. This could be a 5k race, it could be a local triathlon, it could be a challenge you make up for yourself (choose a distance and a mode of travel). Whatever it is, put it on your calendar and take it seriously. I cannot emphasize enough how impactful and important it has been to me, especially as a new mother, to have this marathon as a goal. It has been an outlet. More than an outlet, it has given me a purpose outside of changing diapers and making snacks. It has reminded me of my deep love of running. It has given me back a confidence I forgot I lost.

So with that, happy July and happy marathon month! I will see you back here tomorrow for all my best tips for marathon training.

10 Reasons I Love MOMS Club

As I have already written a lot about, motherhood is hard work. It takes a village. You need a team, a community, a tribe behind you. In the first few months, I tried to prove I could do it all on my own. I tried to prove to God, myself, my husband, and those random strangers that I was supermom. Help? No, I got this on my own. Even in that very first month, after still recovering from a C-section, I wanted to show everyone that I was fine. It is funny looking back, but reading my journal from a year ago some of the things I was doing in those first few weeks were silly. I lifted the car seat on my own, even though I could literally feel the strain on my new incision. I cleaned out the entire refrigerator, I reorganized the pantry, and I cleaned our kitchen counters way more thoroughly than I do now. I took Hudson out on way too many outings, all again in an attempt to prove (mostly to myself) that I was still living my normal life. I could do all the same things I used to, I kept telling myself. I was trying to do it all on my own. I am not exactly sure why, but I very strongly felt this need to show everyone how capable I was. I think part of the reason was that I was staying at home. If I was leaving my job as a teacher to fully focus on being at home, well then I better be the best mom I can possibly be. Those first couple months I drove myself (and probably Lance) insane. I isolated myself to the point of balling on the bathroom floor. If you have read a lot of my posts, this scene on the bathroom floor always seems to crop up in my writing. It was a literal low. It was July 29th. I was exhausted from a day of again trying to prove to the world that I had it all together. It was yet another night of failed breastfeeding. Another night of pumping, and I was about to lose it. I was losing it. I am thankful for that bathroom floor, because in my head that was the turning point. Things got better from that point. I had my moment of sulking on the floor, but then I got up and I began to let go of the things out of my control. I also found community through my local MOMS Club and this helped me for the first time not feel fully alone. Those first couple months I was constantly googling, constantly on all these different mom and breastfeeding forums. In some sense this was helpful, but there is nothing quite like an actual community of real moms that you can connect with. There are so many local mom groups and classes that you can join. While MOMS Club is more geared towards stay-at-home moms, there are so many resources and groups for all types of moms. Here is a resource from Motherly of 10 amazing mom groups. I can only write what I know and that is my own experience with MOMS Club. And my experience has been so positive. Joining the club has been hands down one of the best things I did in Hudson’s first year. It was a game changer. It allowed me to meet others moms that were so kind and nonjudgmental. It allowed me to have activities to occupy my time during the day. It allowed Hudson the opportunity to interact with babies and older kids. It ultimately helped me get off that bathroom floor and feel so much less alone. So, if you also find yourself in a similar place I was in on July 29th, find a group of people that can remind you that you are not alone and that you’ve got this. I feel thankful to have community within our church, but I am also thankful for the club for giving me a group of women that have also been in my same exact place of struggling with this new stay-at-home life.

Since I love lists so much, here is a list of the 10 reasons I love my MOMS Club.

1. There is always an event or activity to do

Every month, there is a calendar of events full of activities! There is basically an event every single day of the week. This has been so helpful to have set activities to go to for our daily outings. On days when I have no idea what to do, I look at the calendar and know that something fun is happening. In the early months, it was so helpful to have a reason to get out of the house. It made me feel less alone because I knew there would be other moms and kids there as well. By joining the club, I immediately had a calendar of things to do and amazing ladies and kids to do them with.

2. I have met many friends

I was used to having my work friends that I could eat lunches with and chat with every day. It was a weird adjustment to lose that. The club gave me a group of friends that I now can also eat lunches and chat with. These lunches just look different now. They often are picnic-style in a park. I am thankful that even though I am staying at home, I can still have a community of work friends, aka, mom friends.

3. Hudson has met many friends

The club has also been a great way for Hudson to socialize and meet other babies around his age and also be around older kids. I can so clearly remember one play date in particular where I was so touched by all the older kids being so kind to little, 4-month old Hudson. We were at the park and they were all surrounding him and giving him such sweet attention. It was in that moment that I felt like we were exactly where we were supposed to be. I have loved seeing how all the older kids have become such great friends through MOMS Club. I can’t wait for Hudson to make amazing friendships with all the other babies his age.

4. It is a Greate Value

This is a more trivial reason, but some of the different mom groups and classes can be really expensive. MOMS Club costs just a yearly due of $30. The club offers a value so much greater than 30 dollars. It has been such a valuable resource and community.

5. It is Local

I love how there are so many chapters available based on where you are living. It is really nice to be part of a group of people that all live in the same zip code. It makes it super convenient to attend the different events because most of them are just 10-15 minutes away. It was our neighbor just a few houses down the street that originally told me about MOMS Club. I am so thankful she did! It has been great to feel like I am more apart of our local community through getting to better know our neighbors.

6. It is Diverse

One of my favorite parts of the MOMS Club that I am a part of is how diverse the group is. I love that it feels very much like a melting pot. Diversity is very much encouraged and welcomed here. It is so great to have a group full of women of different colors, backgrounds and perspectives.

7. It is More Than Just Play Dates

The club is much more than park play dates. I love that there are a variety of other things offered through the club. From monthly general meetings that usually involve a speaker or a topic to discuss to parties and events specifically for the moms. There are mom’s nights out, holiday parties, and seasonal parties for the whole family. I love being part of something that encompasses so many elements. I love how it also helps me get out of the house just for myself to be with other moms and enjoy time together without kids.

8. It is Structured

Along with missing my work lunches, it was the structure of the work week that I also really missed. I really appreciate how official and structured MOMS Club is. There are the monthly general meetings, the weekly emails sent out with reminders of upcoming events and there is a board made of a few members that lead and make sure the club is organized and runs smoothly. While I never was part of the student body government in high school, I love how being part of the club feels like I am part of something that is governed and structured. The meetings are called to order. There is a president and treasury. There is an agenda and a budget. There is a newsletter. There is an installation dinner. For someone like me, bringing a little structure to the chaos of mom life is very much welcomed.

9. It is Easy to get Involved

As an extension to my previous point, the club is structured in such a way that makes it very easy to feel involved and part of the community. There is lots of room and flexibility to utilize your gifting to help support the club. You can be involved in the club in big ways, like serving on the board. Or, you can be involved by occasionally hosting a play date or event. There are also coordinating positions where you can be in charge of organize a type of event each month, for example, Hands On Play Dates, Mommy Time, or Baby Play Dates.

10. It Celebrates Motherhood

Probably one of my very favorite parts of the whole club. I love how I have found a group of ladies that all fully embrace and celebrate both the challenges and joys of motherhood. Becoming a mom has been the very best job of my life and I feel so thankful for MOMS Club for giving me a community that validates and celebrates our job as being mamas. From monthly events just for moms and the mystery mom gift exchange, I feel celebrated for everything I do as a mom and also celebrated for who I am when I don’t have a baby on my hip.

If you’re reading this and thinking: I need this in my life. Here is a link to the MOMS Club website to get more information of the club in your area!

Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

It is officially summer! Summer has a different meaning for everyone. For some of you, it might not feel that different because you still have to work. For the teachers, it is a glorious time off, but if you have little ones, it is an adjustment of figuring out a new routine. For stay-at-home moms, summers can become more work as you adjust to having your older kids at home more often. Regardless of your feelings towards summer, my hope is that wherever you find yourself, whether that be a house packed with little children, moving out your last child to college and about to be empty nesters, or hands full with a 1-year old who is in that awkward in-between phase of desiring independence, but still being wobbly and out of control; you can enjoy it and soak in as much sunshine as possible. I can only write from where I am and that currently is being at home with that wobbly and out of control 1-year old. I am finding this phase to be a lot of fun as he is becoming a little person, but it also has been a challenge because he is still at a place where he is not quite that active toddler that can do more things on his own. He thinks he is, but he is not quite there. He is not yet walking, so wants to crawl when we are out, which often results in very dirty hands. I have been struggling with finding the right activities to occupy him with. When I search for summer activities with a toddler, I have found that a lot of the ideas seem to be a few months ahead of him. So, if you are with me, and also find yourself in this awkward in-between phase of baby-toddler, I want to give you a list of 5 ideas of things to do this summer. Most of these things are not revolutionary, but hopefully it can give you some inspiration if you are feeling stuck. I am finding especially as he is getting older, the best for both of us often involve getting out of the house. While especially as a new mom, getting out the door can be a real challenge. So, if you are in a place where getting out of the house a ton just doesn’t feel possible, that is absolutely okay. Give yourself grace. Take baby steps. I just had a great conversation with another mom this past week about the pressure the sun brings. The weather doesn’t always match our mood. For me, I am in a season where I am welcoming the sun. I want to soak it all in and be outside, but it is very likely that you are reading this and the sun coming out feels like more pressure to get out. Maybe for you winters are easier because there are more excuses to stay inside. Wherever you are, I hope you can try one of these ideas and if not, give yourself a lot of grace. There is a whole lot of fun to be had at home too!

5 Fun Summer Activities with a 1-Year Old

1. Go to a baseball game

I get it, MLB games can be expensive, especially when your little one might not be the most focused on the game. But, the nice thing about going with a little one is they won’t mind if you don’t get the best seats; it is more about the experience. They will love the people, the lights, the colors. I would also take advantage of going to the ball park before they turn 2, so you don’t need to buy them a ticket! We recently took Hudson to his first game at Yankee Stadium. He had a blast. A major tip if you choose to take young kids to a game is to check and see if they give out “first game” certificates. Someone informed us about this at the game. We went to the guest services office and within seconds Hudson had a personalized certificate. This was an amazing souvenir that was totally free! I believe a lot of stadiums give out these certificates, so be sure to ask or research it for the specific stadium you will be attending. We are located in Los Angeles, so I am linking here Dodger Stadium’s policy. Based on the website, it looks like you need to email a request for the certificate beforehand!

2. Picnic at the Park

Take advantage of the nice weather and instead of the same old lunch routine with food flying from the high chair, take it out to a park. Some of you reading this may be thinking I am so sick of the park! And I get that feeling too, so maybe this summer you could try some new and exciting parks that you have not been to. You can make an outing and adventure out of it. Parks that have wildlife and ponds are always a plus because it adds an extra layer of interest. If you are local to the South Bay Area, Wilderness Park in Redondo Beach and Polliwog Park in Manhattan Beach are two parks we recently went to. Both of these parks have a pond with turtles, ducks and coy fish.

3. Visit a Farmer’s Market

Here in Southern California there are tons of farmer’s markets. This is a great outing with a one-year old. Hudson loves sampling the fruit with me! This can be a fun way to get your kids excited about trying different kinds of foods they might not be used to. Take a look at the different markets in your area and try to find one that is especially kid-friendly. I love going to the farmer’s market in Manhattan Beach because it very much catered to little ones. There is a train ride that runs every week at the market. It is just $2 and it is a fun activity for Hudson. There is also a balloon man and face painting!

4. Beach, Pool, Splash Pad

The beach with a newborn was not always the most enjoyable experience for me, but this summer, the beach is much more relaxing and fun. Hudson is so happy when we are at the beach. Sand toys are already a huge hit with him. He doesn’t really use them correctly, but he loves holding the shovel and different tools. The pool and splash pad are two other fun water activities. You can sign your toddler up for a swim lesson or you can find a pool and just spend some time getting them used to the water. At this age, I am not even sure it is worth spending money on swim lessons. We have a pool, so I am planning on spending some time with him in the pool getting him to enjoy the water. We just went into the pool for the first time this summer and we used the Swimways Baby Spring Float. It worked well and he seemed to really enjoy it. Taking a visit to a splash pad is another fun way to get your little one enjoying water. For us, Hudson is still not walking, but the splash pad will be especially fun when he can walk on his own.

5. Try a Local Class with Kid Pass

When you get tired of the typical park days, it can be fun to give your toddler a new experience. I recently discovered Kid Pass, which is very similar to the Class Pass model, but geared specifically towards kids and families. You can do a free month trial and get 5 credits to use at the different classes and facilities they offer. I just tried it for the first time yesterday and it was awesome. We went to a Gymboree class and Hudson had the best time. Not to mention, it was totally free! He got to interact with babies his age and he got to release lots of energy. Not to mention, it was fun for me and he was entirely entertained and happy for a full hour. Kid Pass is a great way to try classes out without a huge investment or risk. It is a great resource to get tangible ideas of things to do to get out of the house.

And if that doesn’t satisfy, here are a few other things we plan to do this summer: visit daddy at work, visit other family members we don’t typically see as much, take a train ride to San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm (AAA has a discounted rate and kids are free under three), visit the zoo, visit the aquarium, visit a children’s museum, make ice cream at home, take a nature hike, attend free summer concerts, and play dates with our MOMS Club (check out my post this coming Saturday for more about MOMS Club).

Like I said, I know, nothing revolutionary, but if you are feeling overwhelmed with how to occupy a very active and energized one-year old this summer, I hope this can give you a little inspiration. Also, remember, you are not a camp counselor. Don’t feel crazy pressure to have every second of every day planned. Part of the fun of summer is freedom and rest. Make sure there is also a lot of free and restful days. Happy summer!

Staying Motivated For an Audience of One

Last night I went to bed feeling absolutely exhausted, discouraged and unmotivated. I was exhausted because I am running 60 miles per week. I am basically at the same mileage I was at in college, except I no longer live a life revolved around running. 60 miles plus a one-year old that still wakes up multiple times at night is not the best combination. I was discouraged because I spend a lot of thought and time pouring into my blog posts, but I still feel like only my husband and mom and a few very kind people read it. It has been months of writing and writing and writing, but the numbers are just not where I thought they would be. These two places of exhaustion and discouragement lead to the ultimate feeling of lacking motivation. Let’s just be real honest here. It is so much easier to be motivated to work hard when you know people are watching and are invested in you. It can be a real challenge to have this same type of motivation when it feels like no one really cares or no one is watching. Thinking back, I had it pretty easy in college. I had a team, coaches, a university that were all watching, all supporting, all expecting something from me. At the time, I hated the pressure, hated being told exactly what to do, but now I realize how helpful this can be. However, there is also something when these things are stripped away. I have never loved running as much as I do now. And no one is watching, no one is telling me what workout I should do on the track, no one cares how fast I go. I could not run today and no one would even know. The same goes with writing. No one truly cares if I keep posting (or at least I don’t think so). I am pretty sure if I stopped tomorrow, I wouldn’t get any emails or complaints or pleas to keep on writing.

All this leads to my point: regardless of the audience you have, all that you do should be to please the only audience that matters, God. He is my audience of one. The only audience that truly matters. Again, if I am being fully honest, I so easily lose sight of this. It is so easy to get caught up in caring about the followers, the likes, the page views. It is so easy to have your motivation be tied to external praise. I often care way too much about what other people think of me and way too little of how God views me. I hate admitting this, but this is the place I often find myself in. The problem here is that when our motivation comes from the approval and applause of people, our work will ebb and flow. When everyone is watching and clapping their hands, we will work super hard; however, when they all get distracted by the next new thing, our work will decline or even full on stop. The people can’t be our motivation or even our barometer of success. They aren’t reliable. They simply don’t matter nearly as much. They have no say in our salvation. They don’t know our hearts. Even when no one is watching, the Lord is. I know He sees me. He knows my heart. He reads every blog post before I even write it. While I can get so easily distracted and focused on the wrong things, I am thankful to be reminded that there is only one audience that is motivating everything I do. Strip away the crowds, the team, the readers. What do you do when no one is watching? Do you still go out and run as hard as you can? Do you push yourself to uncomfortable places when there is no one else to chase down? Do you keep writing even when no one is reading? It is in these places and these seasons that I think the Lord shapes within us a character that is built on Him, not people. This is what my heart has desperately needed for a very long time. And for most of my life, I have had an audience, specifically with running. I was in the front of the pack. I was being watched, recruited, wanted. Now, it is just me and the road and God. And like I said, I have never loved running more. There is something to getting down to the raw and simple elements, that allow your love and passion for something to become authentic and real. It is easy to love something and pour yourself into something when you are being praised, but it becomes an entirely different thing when you still pursue it, still return to it day after day, with no feelings of need to prove or please, but simply because you want to work hard for the Lord.

After going to bed with these feelings of discouragement, I woke up to verses reminding me of where my true identity lies.

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” Isaiah 40:31

Where does your hope lie? Is it tied to people? Approval? Money? Popularity? Or is it tied to the only one that truly matters? The Lord. Who are you working for? People or your Heavenly Father? I ask these questions because my own heart desperately needs to hear them. I will very quickly grow weary if my hope is in people. I will very quickly stop running the race if my hope and motivation lies in their applause. This is no way to live. I am so thankful that even when it can feel like no one really cares that much that the Lord is my constant audience that cheers and loves me regardless. So, even when no one seems to care, no one seems to be watching, I will keeping running, I will keep writing, I will keeping trying as hard as I would as if the whole world were watching. The whole world might not be watching, but the One who made the whole world is, and what better of an audience is that?

If you can relate and also struggle in this area. I hope you can be encouraged wherever you are at. Remember that God has placed you exactly where he wants you. Whether you are an executive or in the midst of changing diapers, your work matters and the Lord wants you do it with your whole heart, working for his glory, not the approval of humans.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24

5 Tips for Planning the First Year Birthday Party

Before I was ever even pregnant, I would dream about being a mom. These dreams always consisted of two things: snacks and parties. I thought about making fun snacks for my kids when they got home from school. I thought about the snacks I would bring after their soccer games for the whole team that would be tied together with cute ribbon that matched the colors of their jerseys. And I thought about the elaborate, themed parties I would plan. I thought about the organic, homemade cake I would make for our babies. I thought about the different games I would make up that would go along with the theme. I thought about the millions of little crafts I would do to make the party unique. This is my brain. I know some of you reading this probably think I’m nuts, but this is truly the things I would dream about and get excited for. Then, reality hits. The fun snacks become squeeze packs you quickly grab as you rush out the door. The organic cake becomes boxed funfetti cake. The truth is, it is so much easier to be the “perfect” mom from a distance. I think this is part of the reason it is so easy for us to judge others when we aren’t living through their experiences. It is so easy to say, when I am a mom, I will do it this way. I won’t do x, y, and z. And I will absolutely do all these things. And I can’t believe she chooses to do that! Everything becomes different when you are actually in it. I never understood parents letting their kids co-sleep with them. Now, I totally do. When you are exhausted and they are again waking up for the 5th time and its 2 am, you do what you need to do to get sleep for everyone. I never understood allowing your kid to use the iPad at a restaurant. While I am still trying to not do this one, I totally understand now why parents do this. You have to choose your battles. There are worse things.

I always want to be the best mom I can be, but some of the expectations and goals my 13-year old self dreamed up is much harder to follow through on then I expected. It just is not always going to happen the way I dreamed up in my head. That is just life. I tell this story to remind you it is okay if the first year birthday party is not perfect. It is okay if you used boxed cake. It is okay if you are scrambling to put all the decorations up as people are arriving. It is okay. I think the thing I forgot about when I dreamed up these mom expectations is that I will have my hands already full with babies and responsibilities. Sure, I could pull off a really great party with all the stops if I had unlimited time and wasn’t tied to nap schedules and feedings, but obviously that is not my reality, and I am assuming it is not yours either. So, when it comes to that big first year birthday party, no matter how you choose to celebrate, I hope you can give yourself some grace and really enjoy this big milestone, rather than stress out about that organic cake.

For those of you in the middle of party planning or beginning to think about it, I have compiled a list of five tips I learned along the way.

1. Keep It Simple

Some of you reading this, might be thinking, obviously, but if you are anything like me, you will find a way to make even the simplest things overcomplicated. I am pretty sure I chose Hudson’s party theme, which was “Hudson’s Rookie Year” when he was 6-months old. This gave me tons of time to overthink and make everything far more complicated than it needed to be. The reality is that this is just a first year birthday party. In the whole scheme of things that should be occupying head and heart space, this should not rank super high. There is nothing wrong with desiring to create a well thought out and creative party, but the danger is when you overcomplicate something that is meant to be light and fun. I really wish I kept things a little simpler for myself. You don’t need to do everything DIY. There is no need to make mason jars look like baseballs to hold the utensils. You can just put utensils out in the box. The simpler the better. Choose maybe one or two things that are especially important to you. Spend time crafting and investing into those things, and then make everything else easy and simple. For example, maybe to you, a homemade banner for the high chair is a special piece to you. Invest time, energy, and care into that banner and then buy a few other decorations that you don’t need to make.

Besides feeling the need to make a craft out of everything, I also tried to do way too much. There were the 4 banners, one of which I cut out a picture of him from every month. There were the cupcakes and the smash cake, which my amazing friend Hannah helped make look like a baseball. There was a time capsule for people to write notes for him when he turns 18. There was the party favor cookies. There was a guess how many peanuts in the jar game, which I made my poor husband count out for me. You know something is wrong when the night before the party you spend over an hour at FedEx printing and cutting out time capsule cards, and other random printables I found on Pinterest. This was too much. I made things too complicated. Don’t be like me. Keep it simple.

2. Setup as Early as Possible

This is a tricky one when you are having the party at another location outside of your home. As much as I wish I could of gone over to the park 2 hours earlier, it was just not fully possible since I had Hudson and that was during his nap time. I probably should of planned ahead and had my parents bring him to the party as I set up even earlier. It all was fine, but it felt more rushed and chaotic setting up, so I didn’t get time to take photos of how everything looked before people began to come. I wish I got more photos of how everything came together. If you also plan on having the party at a park or different location, I definitely recommend having a plan for someone to watch your little one so you can fully focus on getting everything together.

3. Limit Pinterest Intake

I love Pinterest just as much as the next person, but just like Instagram for me, it can quickly become unhealthy. I remember when I was initially planning Hudson’s party and beginning to pin things to the “H Turns 1” board, I would walk away feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and not enough. Maybe for you there is no issue with Pinterest, but if I am being fully honest, my people-pleasing, comparative heart can’t take Pinterest in large doses. Know yourself. Limit Pinterest when needed. I think I was on it a bit too much, and I tried a bit too many pins for the party. Pinterest is an amazing resource for inspiration and initial ideas, but be careful not to get too carried away with it all. The thing is, we see all these amazing displays and DIY crafts everywhere, but it is just ONE pin. They did one pin very well. I am sure their whole party was lovely, but I doubt they also did every pin they had on their party board. We can’t do it all! Don’t get weirdly comparative or overwhelmed, like me. Like my first point, choose 1-2 pins to recreate. There is no need to go Pinterest crazy. Use it as a start part for inspiration and then just focus on your party, not theirs.

4. Designate People to Help in Specific Ways

Our families are the best. They are so helpful in everything. They helped out so much by bringing food, setting up, and cleaning up. If you don’t live close to family, seek out a friend or two that could help give you a hand. I also would recommend being very specific with what you need help with. Ask them to bring a specific food type so you don’t even need to occupy headspace for that area. I would also have a set plan for day of setting up. This is one thing I wish I had done. I was so focused on all the little crafts I was doing for the party that some of the bigger concepts, like where everything will actually go, was not as thought through. Make a plan that includes exactly where you want everything. Then designate each of those tasks with the people that are helping you out. This way there is a clear plan and everyone has a thing to do.

5. Let Go of Perfection & Have Fun

You survived the first year! You have changed hundreds of diapers, endured sleepless nights, and poured out endless amounts of love. If you are anything like me, you have also cried a ton this past year. You have been down, exhausted, unsure. But if you also are anything like me, you have never smiled so hard, laughed as often, or been filled with as much joy as you have built an unbreakable bond over the course of this year with your little one. This bond did not happen over night. Like with any good thing, it takes time, patience, love. And you did it. You endured. You got up off that bathroom floor. And you have this amazing little baby that seems more like a kid than a newborn. Isn’t it amazing what type of change a year brings? All this is reason to celebrate! So whether you choose to throw a massive party or would rather just gather close family and sing over cake, celebrate and enjoy this huge milestone. It does not need to be perfect. It does not need to resemble Pinterest. Of all that I learned this year, the biggest thing is that I need to let go of all those expectations in my head. I need to let go of that organic, sugar-free carrot cake I was planning on making from scratch for Hudson. Boxed funfetti is just fine. The reality is, they don’t even eat much of the cake. So don’t make things too hard for yourself. Perfection is not possible. Let go of it. Have fun and celebrate your sweet little one who has changed your world in the very best possible way.

New York City with a 1-Year Old

It was around when Hudson was just a little over a month old that Lance and I booked tickets for New York. At this point we were still relatively idealistic when it came to the demands of life with a baby (and maybe we still are), but we felt this longing to take Hudson to see a city that means so much to the both of us. While I would not say we named Hudson after the river, the connection the name has with New York made the name for our first son feel even more right. New York is an important part of our story, I don’t want to go into the details, but New York changed things for us. God moved in that city for us, he brought renewal and forgiveness and hope. The summer going into our junior year, I made the decision with my friend Lyndsey to live on the campus at NYU. You are probably assuming I had a job or an internship in New York. You would think, but it wasn’t the case. No job, no internship, no true reason, but a feeling. I write this with a thankfulness that I was able to make this type of decision without logic or reason, I fully understand the privilege in this. I am grateful for loving parents that allowed for this to happen. So, I booked a ticket, arranged my living situation in a dorm at NYU and trusted God that there was a reason this city was placed on my heart. While I never ended up landing a dream internship or a job that made my resume look extra impressive, I did spend quite a lot of time on the Upper Westside with a little girl named Shira. For some reason or another, this is where the Lord wanted me. He didn’t want me in an important office. He wanted me in an apartment playing with all the dolls that Shira lovingly called her “sisters.” He wanted me in the Barnes & Noble on Broadway where we spent hours reading books. He wanted me in Riverside Park to help show Shira what kindness and sharing looks like. Looking back, I am so thankful for this time, but I would be absolutely lying if I were to say at the time I wasn’t insecure or embarrassed about it. Where are you working? What impressive internship do you have? Those questions were the common ones asked to someone who is living at NYU for the summer. It is hard to not feel disappointed when my answer to that question was being a babysitter. It just didn’t seem to stack up to everyone around me. But here’s the thing. When I think back to that summer, I was exactly where God wanted me. While what He handed me did not look nearly as fancy or impressive as those around me, it was what I needed in that season. With the flexible schedule of my role as nanny, I got to have much more adventure. That summer created a heart within me that is so fond to this bustling city. New York is much more than pizza, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty. To me, New York is getting out of comfort zones. It is the steps at the MET. It is Yankee games. It is black dresses and rainstorms. It is being truthful at Washington Square Park. It is lobster rolls and soda. It is 10 mile runs at 9 pm. It is baguettes in Central Park. It is new friends and the Brooklyn Bridge on the 4th of July. And it also is a lot of soft-serve ice cream.

All this to say, I love this city. And now I love it even more because it is filled with all the memories listed above plus all the new ones we made with Hudson. On the surface, a trip to New York might not seem extremely baby friendly, but we had a great time in the city with a baby. To be fully honest, it was absolutely exhausting, but if you are strategic with the things you choose to do, see, and eat, New York City with a baby can be a blast. Like with a lot of what I write, babies change things, but that doesn’t mean a trip to New York cannot still be busy and fun. Here are 5 tips for a New York City Trip with a 1-Year Old:

1. The Baby Carrier is Your Friend

While you can definitely use a stroller throughout the city, we found the baby carrier was the better option. We only took out the stroller for our runs, every other outing we used our Ergo baby carrier. The carrier makes navigating around all the people so much easier and it also makes traveling by subway smoother. We also found the carrier a great way to get Hudson to nap on the go. We were always out in the afternoons during his typical nap time.

2. Parks, Parks, Parks

While New York is more known for their main parks, the city is filled with tiny parks that are perfect for little ones. We literally went to a new park every single day. We had specific plans to go to Central Park and Washington Square Park, but all the other parks we visited were ones we organically stumbled upon. We found that Brooklyn Bridge Park was extremely kid-friendly. This should definitely be on your list if you are traveling to the city with little ones. Not only does this park offer beautiful waterfront views of Manhattan, there is a nice boardwalk to walk along, plus great little playgrounds. There is also Jane’s Carousel, which is a fun attraction for kids that only cost $2. Riverside Park was another favorite of ours. This park is in the Upper Westside. If you are in this area, this is another great park for walking or running, and there are a variety of playgrounds scattered throughout. We went to Dinosaur Park. This is a fun one to visit especially if you have a dinosaur lover in the family. There is a triceratops and hadrosaur sculpture. We got some pictures with Hudson on top of the dinosaurs, which was fun. Along with a playground and swing set, there is also a splash pad that a fair amount of kids were playing on. A lot of parks have splash pads, which is one thing I wish I planned for. If you plan on visiting New York in the summer, definitely pack swimsuits for the kids. Central Park, Washington Square Park, Hudson River Park are also great options that are filled with playgrounds. While we didn’t visit any of the play areas in Hudson River Park, we ran through it nearly everyday and there were always tons of kids and babies out. This is another very kid-friendly location. We found that when Hudson was beginning to get antsy from being in Ergo or stroller for extended amount of time, stopping by at a park was a great break for all of us. The amazing part of this city is how wherever you are in the city, it is likely a park is very close to you. Take advantage of all the amazing park options New York City has to offer.

3. Picnic, Picnic, Picnic

While you might be tempted by all the amazing restaurants the city has to offer, the reality is that they are not always the most kid-friendly. We literally only went to one sit-down restaurant on our entire trip. There are so many great markets, food hauls, and take-out places. Our favorite spot was Chelsea Market. Not only is it in a pretty central location (and right off the high line), it offers a large variety of food options. This is great, especially if you have a family with different taste preferences. One of the nights, we got Korean noodles from Mokbar and took them to eat on the high line. We ate yummy noodles, while having a clear view of the Statue of Liberty. Grabbing food to go and eating at all the various parks I mentioned above is really the perfect option for little ones. You will be so much less stressed because you don’t need to contain their noise level. We also found that Hudson was in the carrier a lot during the day, so picnics gave him some much needed time to crawl and explore. If you are visiting during the summer, I would highly recommend Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. This happens every Saturday in the summer. There are so many amazing food options. Again, great variety for the whole family. It is also in a beautiful waterfront location with grassy picnic spots. It is a really pretty place to get some family photos in. If you are in the mood for lobster rolls, I highly recommend Luke’s Lobster. This is definitely one of my very favorite meals in the whole city. There are various locations. We went to the Union Square location and had a nice picnic in the beautiful Washington Square Park. On our last full day, we visited Columbia University. After walking around campus, we stumbled upon Milano Market. This was an amazing spot. The food was so fresh and the overall feel of market felt very New York to me, from the strong accents of the men behind the deli counter to the beautiful display of cheesecakes. This is a great spot to grab picnic things and take to either Central or Riverside Park.

4. Take Hotel Breaks

New York is not the most restful city to visit. Part of what makes the trip fun is squeezing in lots of things; however, if you are traveling with a baby, it is important to schedule in rest for both the parents and the little ones. While we were not in our hotel much, we made sure to have at least an hour at the hotel before dinner to recharge and give Hudson some time to roam free and play with toys in the Pack ‘N Play. Not only was this needed for Hudson, it was very much needed for us as well.

5. Skip the MET

The MET is one of my very favorite places in the whole city. I love it. We bought our tickets ahead of time and planned to go before we went to the Yankee game. We barely had any time before the game and visited the museum for literally 10 minutes. Thankfully, the tickets lasted for three days, so we were able to return on Sunday. While it was still nice to get to visit one of my favorite places, it did feel a bit forced with a baby. Hudson had zero interest in the Degas paintings I usually admire when visiting. The one amazing part of the MET is the rooftop garden, which I highly recommend for amazing views and photos. If you do have kids, this can be a nice place for them to roam around and for the parents to sip something bubbly. However, if you do have babies, it might be better to just skip the MET. Instead, I would visit somewhere a bit more kid and baby-friendly. There are children’s museums and zoos throughout the city, which I think might make a better family outing. Here is a list of more kid-friendly things to do in New York.

Hopefully you found this helpful! I would love to hear if you have any good suggestions or tips when it comes to New York and little ones!