Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Discovering my diastasis recti, and how I am healing it, Part 2

A couple of weeks late, but I am finally back for my 6 week update on my diastasis recti and how I am using the Tupler Technique to heal it.  If you read Part 1 of my journey you might be curious about my experience over the last 6 weeks.  If you haven't read it, please do, as it explains WHAT diastasis recti is, why it is important to check for it, how I discovered I had it, why I chose the Tupler Technique to attempt to heal myself, etc. 

Doing the Exercises
As I mentioned in Part 1, the Tupler Technique is no small commitment.  That became more and more true the further I went with the program.  You are expected to complete the specified exercises 3 times a day.  The number of "reps" and sets of exercises gradually increase (as your transverse muscles get stronger and can handle more challenge) and therefore take a little bit more time to complete as time goes on.  I would say that at first it took me 5-7 minutes to do the exercises (3 times a day).  By week 6 I would say it usually took me more like 15-18 minutes to do them.  That is no small thing when you're home with 4 small kids, homeschooling, and barely have enough time to take a bathroom break during the day as it is!  Making time for the exercises required planning ahead and prioritizing them over other things some days.  I found that I just HAD to do the morning ones before my kids got up and we started our day.  Otherwise I would never pause long enough to do them.  I tried to do the mid-day exercises as soon as I put the kids down for afternoon naps.  Defintely NOT what I wanted to do as soon as I finally had a few quiet minutes to myself, but I did it anyway.  Healing the diastasis was just that important to me.  I knew that I was committing to the program, wanted to do it the right way, all the way, and have no excuses to not see results. I did the evening exercises after the kids went to bed while I watched part of a show or something (little reward for myself, if I had to sit there and do them, I might as well be pleasantly distracted ;-).  Of course there were days here and there where I didn't fit all of the exercises in!!  That usually happened with the middle of the day sets if we were out and about or just too busy.  But I very rarely (as in, almost never) just let myself be lazy if I was at home and just didn't "feel like" doing them.  That's where my competitive nature comes in handy for once, ha!  I wouldn't let myself just not do them without a good reason.

The splint is annoying.  It just is.  However, it definitely loosens up after the first week or two and you just get a lot more used to it!  At first I couldn't imagine how I would wear the thing for months on end, but it really wasn't that bad after the first week or two.  I started in summertime in Colorado.  It's hot here, man!  I had envisioned trying to wear a thin, tight-fitting tank top, then the splint, then another loose-fitting tank top or t-shirt over to "hide" the splint.  But after the first day I realized that I actually didn't care at all what it looked like.  I probably only covered it up with another layer a couple of times in 6 weeks!  I bought the tan color and the black color (not necessary to buy 2, but I wanted to be able to wear both colors and work out in them so I needed to be able to wash them easily without worrying about not having one be dry, etc).  I bought a few tight-fitting tank tops from Target.  Just basic, black, wife-beater style (what an aweful description!) and one with prettier lacy straps.  I wanted them to be fitted so that I could wrap the splint over them and not make them bunch up and look weird.  A lot of the time people didn't even notice I was wearing the splint when I wore the black one over a fitted black tank top!  And if someone asked, it was just a good opportunity to share about an issue that people need to be more aware of anyway.  I don't worry about covering it up or hiding it.  I just don't care that much what it looks like....and it's hot in Colorado!  I really did wear the splint around the clock (except for showering) for the whole 6 weeks.  Like I've said, if I was going to go to all this effort, I wanted to do it right!  Do the exercises diligently, and wear the splint as directed.  Here is a picture of how I wore it just around the house every day.  If I went out I usually wore the black one with a black tank, but I never took a picture wearing that one, apparently.

The Ups and Downs
The ups...  As the weeks went on I definitely felt my TA (transverse abdominals) getting increasingly stronger.  I got into more of a habit of engaging my core constantly during all of my daily activities.  My bellybutton went back in after being "out" post babies.  My low back stopped bothering me.  And honestly I was finally more than just "hopeful" about having a fairly flat stomach after 4 kids.  My abs looked BETTER in the mirror, even though I had completely stopped exercising for the time being.  (It's always nice to exercise less and look better...ha!  If only that worked all the time...)  I could definitely tell it was working and as I checked myself (at the bellybutton, and about 3 inches above and 3 inches below) I saw the finger width begin to close.
The downs...  As the reps/sets increased each week it was harder to make time for them.  Still doable!  But challenging.  I also found that it is extremely important to keep your neck and shoulders relaxed while doing the exercises.  It is easy to tense up and hunch your shoulders as you're concentrating on counting and thinking about which core muscles you're using, etc.  I make a very conscious effort every time I do them to keep my shoulders down and relaxed.  Otherwise you run the risk of building up too much tension in your upper back and neck which can cause problems.  I was aware of this all along so tried to prevent that from happening.  I could tell that I was still getting really tight in my neck about weeks 4/5 and I was about due for a trip to my chiropractor.  It depends on how you feel about "alternative" treatments, but I think chiropractic and massage are important, or at the very list beneficial, while doing this program. The human head is heavy!  When you add in a lot of "head lifts" 3 times a day it's bound to put stress on the neck and shoulders from dead lifting that weight (even if you're using correct form).  Having your spouse do a few minutes of deep massage on your neck and shoulders helps a ton!  And if you're feeling that it's still tightening despite that, a chiropractic adjustment and some of their pressure point work to release tension is key!  I learned my lesson the hard way.  I felt my neck and shoulders getting more and more stressed and I kept putting off a visit to my chiropractor because we were busy starting the school year and I put myself on the back burner.  Then during week 6 I tilted my head back in the shower to rinse my shampoo and totally tweaked my neck!  It was under a lot of strain already and I hadn't been good about loosening it up with massage.  That little movement in the shower was just the last straw and I heard a few little pops and knew what I had done (been down that road before).  Couldn't turn my head without pain!  Anyway, went to my chiro that afternoon and took and few days off of doing the head lifts (kept up the seated contracting exercises) to let things settle down in my upper spine.  Just something to be aware of!  The exercises work, but they do put consistent stress on your neck and shoulders 3 times a day!

My 6-week check in
When I started the Tupler Technique I asked Brooke (the licensed Tupler Technique gal I saw in Denver - check www.diastasisrehab.com for someone local to you!) if it usually takes the whole 18 weeks to heal it, or if it really varies between clients.  She thought I could potentially heal mine closer to 6-10 weeks with the program.  That is because I already had some core strength built up (not great transverse, but not starting from zero, either), I have been a life-long athlete, familiar with how to isolate and use particular muscles, wanted to be disciplined following the program, etc.  I also exercised throughout a couple of pregnancies, and in between pregnancies when I had time (not too long because my kids are all fewer than 2 year apart!).  I had also been working out hard for 6 months or so prior to discovering that I had diastasis recti, so I wasn't concerned about losing weight or changing my diet.  I really just needed to heal the diastasis and that was the only issue. Brooke does a great thing with her practice in that she does free "belly checks" for anyone who wants to come by.  Fabulous way to know for sure if you have diastasis, how bad it is, and what your personal plan could look like to fix it (group class, DVD's on your own, 1 or 2 private sessions with her, etc).  I paid for a 1-hour consultation with her to begin the program, but then went back to see her at 6 weeks for a free "belly check" so she could check my diastasis progress, write down my updated measurements, and take a second set of pictures.  I was nervous to go because it was kind of my "moment of truth" for someone to officially tell me if my work was paying off, and how much further I needed to go for complete healing. 

Well, let me tell you, that was a shocking appointment!  First she looked at my guide book where you log all of your check marks each day for the exercises.  She said I had been extremely consistent (I missed some here and there, but I guess she could tell that I was very intentionally about sticking to the program).  She checked my abs (as you are supposed to do while lying down on the floor) and hesitantly, but excitedly, pronounced me "healed" from the diastasis!!!!  After only 6 weeks!  I was stunned!  If you remember from Part 1, I started with a 4 finger gap at all 3 spots (bellybutton and 3 inches above and below) and my connective tissue between the gap was considered "deep" (as in you can press deep in between your abdominals when you're checking for diastasis) on bottom and middle and "medium/deep" at the top (out of shallow, medium, and deep options).  After 6 weeks my measurements (top to bottom) were now 2 fingers wide and "shallow" depth, 2.5 fingers and medium/shallow, and 2 fingers and shallow.  If you've been pregnant then anything approximately 2 fingers wide or less is considered normal.  Some separation occurs naturally during pregnancy and no one ever has zero gap between their abdominals.  That's why the connective tissue functions to keep them together and strong.  So even though there is still a slight gap, it is considered healed and normal.  The connective tissue is a major factor so going from deep to shallow is a big improvement!  The middle place you measure, right at your bellybutton, is always going to be a little different than above and below it because the bellybutton is there and is always going to make the connective tissue  slightly weaker there, so a shallow/medium depth in the very middle is "normal" for me after 4 pregnancies!

The proof is in the pictures...
Well, I kept debating whether or not I really felt like posting a picture of my stomach online for who knows how many people to see.  Not exactly something I was looking forward to.  However, when I began researching diastasis recti I had a really hard time finding any articles or blogs that showed before and after pictures of people who stuck with the program.  A number of them posted pictures and measurements when they started out, but usually they dropped off and didn't continue with the splint and exercises.  So, in the spirit of hopefully helping someone else on a similar journey, here are the pictures for you.  The first two are the day I started.  Herniated bellybutton and it's pretty obvious that I have diastasis recti!  These pictures show what I looked like being back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, working out hard for 6 months, and my stomach looking WORSE the more crunches I did.  This is as bad as it's ever looked after losing baby weight.  That's how I knew something was wrong: exercise was only exacerbating the problem.

Day 1 of the Tupler Technique
 The second set of pictures were taken at my 6 week check in with Brooke.  Same camera, same lighting, same room as the first set of pictures.  And these were after NOT working out at all for 6 weeks.  Obviously all those crunches I was doing were making the situation a lot worse!!! (If only I had known about this before and saved myself a lot of time and head ache!).  These pictures are after 6 weeks of doing the Tupler Technique exercises, but no exercise beyond that.  In fact, I think I even gained a pound since I stopped working out during the program.  My bellybutton went back in after only a couple of weeks.  (SIDE NOTE: in the second set of pictures I still think my bellybutton looks a little jacked up at the top even though it's back "in."  That's because during college I made the very wise decision to pierce my bellybutton.  Not that uncommon, right?  But when you're a college soccer player...not so smart.  Even with it all taped up it got ripped out during one of my soccer games, which left a nice little scar, which then stretched during 4 pregnancies.  Live and learn....Dad, be proud that I'm finally admitting it was stupid - and thanks for not disowning me at the time).
Week 6 of the Tupler Technique
 Here is a side-by-side of just the front shots so you can see the difference.  Of course it doesn't always look exactly like this and may look different depending on the time of day, if I've been doing the exercises, etc.  It is normal for your muscles to stretch out as the day goes on and your stomach to bloat a little bit by later in the day.  So even though it won't always look exactly like this, I am looking forward to learning more core exercises that are not crunching, in order to continue to improve my core strength and keep definition consistently.  There are plenty of ways to work your core with stabilizing exercises, planks/push ups, standing and side lying exercises, etc.  I am just now on a mission to learn as many of those as I can to replace traditional ab workouts!
Day 1 vs. Week 6
Where I'm at now...
Honestly?  I'm totally paranoid that the diastasis is going to open back up again now that I'm not splinting.  Brooke assured me that all I need to know is that I have a great measurement for what to do and what not to do in order to make sure it doesn't separate again: as long as you can keep your transverse at 5th floor when exercising, that exercise is fine!  If you can't keep it at 5th, then don't do it.  Those terms make sense once you start the program ;-)  I am doing the TT exercises 2-3 times a day, and also starting to add in total body workouts again (slowly!).  I have never had to exercise with modifications in mind or really having to think that hard about what I'm doing.  It's a whole new world now!  My brain hurts just thinking about holding my TA correctly during each repetition of every exercise, making sure I'm doing "belly breaths" (so as not to add extra strain on the connective tissue), etc.  But it's inevitable that I need to learn to work out with these muscles in mind, so I might as well get used to it.  I am attempting to return to the Bikini Body Guide (aka My Favorite Workout).  However, it does incorporate quite a bit of core work on the floor (crunches, jackknifes, leg lifts, etc) which I will need to swap out for "diastasis friendly" core work.  If I go along and decide it's just too much work to change so many things in the routine, then I will try a different work out program which uses primarily standing/stabilizing/side-lying core exercises.

Now you know one of my biggest fears: that the DR will return and go back to the way it looked before.  I guess actually writing that out is a form of accountability for me.  I will post pictures in 2 or 3 months once I've settled into a consistent workout routine, without splinting (except for during exercise, at first), and see how things are looking.  I'm curious, myself!  And a bit nervous.

Important Thought: 
You CANNOT heal the diastasis, then quit the program and not incorporate exercise into your daily life, if you expect it to stay healed.  Think about it.  You'll spend weeks and weeks building that transverse muscle and doing exercises 3 times a day.  If you just quit everything all together and return to life as you lived it before, of course the diastasis will re-open!  Any muscles that you build will not keep their strength without continued exercise.  Now I begin the journey of learning to modify every exercise I do.  Bicep curl include a TA squeeze from 5th to 6th (as they say with the TT).  A push-up includes a core tightening squeeze at the right point.  Everything from now on should incorporate a transverse muscle work out.  It's a bit overwhelming, but I am determined to keep the diastasis closed AND be in good shape!

Thanks for sharing in my journey.  I really hope that my story and the pictures are helpful for someone out there, since I myself had a hard time finding the type of step by step blog post that I was looking for.  Please feel free to share on Facebook, or leave a comment if you're in the same boat!  It always nice to know we're not alone in something new, and potentially discouraging at first :)  Blessings!


Monday, August 10, 2015

Discovering my diastasis recti, and how I am healing it, Part 1

Hello!  So, my most recent post was all about my favorite new workout...and why it's awesome.  Today I'm going to tell you about why I've had to STOP working out.  Greeeeat, right!?  It's a major bummer, but a definite necessity.  I will try to keep it fairly short...but I'm not very good at that.  (HERE IS THE LINK TO PART 2 OF THIS POST)

I've been loving my workout (link above) for 6 months or so.  Post baby #4 I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I saw results.  So encouraging to have toned arms and legs again (after a lot of hard work!), and feel much stronger in my daily activities.  I could see more and more definition at the top and on the sides of my abs, but the mid-lower sections of my abs seemed to be looking WORSE the more core workouts I did.  "How is this possible!?" I thought.  All of the crunching, planks, leg lifts, etc., and I felt like I now looked 3 months pregnant, instead of (just!) 2 months pregnant as I always felt post baby #3 and #4...  And I should note that I was back down to my pre-pregnancy weight, and looking much more "fit" all around.  I was pleased with the muscle definition in my arms and legs and everywhere else!  I think that is exactly why I started to think that something wasn't right in my abs.  It wasn't a "baby weight" issue, and I was lean/muscular everywhere else.  It doesn't ad up to look worse with more and more exercise and strength.  I was also starting to have some low back pain.  Enter: Diastasis Recti.  Why this condition is not more common knowledge and something that EVERY woman is taught about during and after pregnancy is completely beyond me.  It is so very common, and yet almost never diagnosed.  And even if it is diagnosed, there's no suggestion that you could potentially heal it!  So what IS it, you ask?  Well, I am going to borrow someone else's definition since it's summed up better here than I could ever word it.  From www.diastasisrehab.com:

"Diastasis Recti, a condition often ignored by the medical community, is a problem that screams for more attention, and that is why Everybelly® should be checked for a diastasis recti. 
Everybelly® means all women (baby or no baby), men and children.  Many people have a diastasis recti and just don’t know it!
A diastasis recti is a separation of your outer most abdominal muscles. The job of these muscles (called rectus abdominis), is to support your back and your organs.
So why should you care if your muscles are separated? Because separated muscles are weak muscles. Separated muscles cannot do their job of supporting your back and organs. To achieve a strong core, your muscles must be close together.
When the muscles separate, the connective tissue (linea alba) joining these muscles stretches sideways.  This sideways stretching of the connective tissue causes it to become thinner and weaker.  So what happens is this weak saran wrap-like connective tissue is now ineffectively supporting your belly button, back and organs, instead of the muscles if they were close together.
The cause of a diastasis is from continuous stretching of, and intra-abdominal force and pressure on, this connective tissue that joins your outer most abdominal muscles. Right smack in the middle of this connective tissue is your belly button which is a weak spot. That is why when the connective tissue stretches sideways your belly button will become an “outie”.  Pregnancy and doing crunches are examples of intra-abdominal “force” on the connective tissue. Wearing a front loading baby carrier or being in a hands and knees position are examples of “pressure” on the connective tissue.  Movements where you arch your back will flare your ribs. This flaring will stretch your connective tissue. An example of this movement is swimming.   
Everyone is born with their muscles separated! Usually, the muscles come together when we are three years old after our nervous system has developed. But this does not necessarily happen with everyone.  Because our belly button is a weak spot in the connective tissue, even if the muscles do come together, there is always the risk that they may come apart again.  
A diastasis can be closed on anyone at any time.  It does not matter when you had your baby or even if you have had a baby at all! Closing a diastasis is all about healing the connective tissue.  Everyone’s connective tissue will heal at a different rate. It depends on the “condition” of your connective tissue.  The weaker your connective tissue the longer it will take.  Also, the connective tissue on people who have stretch marks will take longer to heal.
Healing the connective tissue is all about putting it in a better (narrow) position, bringing blood flow to it and protecting it when doing any type of activities so it is not being stretched nor does it have any intra-abdominal force or pressure on it.
So if you stuck with me through all of that reading, nice work!  You may have gathered what I learned, which is this: crunches and all traditional "jackknife" type core movements (like a crunch) are the absolute WORST thing you can do if you have diastasis recti.  Because I didn't know I had it, I had started making it worse with all of the ab work I was doing.  Depressing, right!?  The reason so many moms look a couple of months pregnant indefinitely after having babies is because the connective tissue is weak and your abdominal muscles don't hold your organs in as well as they should.  Kind of creepy to think that the little "mommy tummy," as it's often referred to, is your organs pushing out further than they are supposed to!  Also definitely explains the low back pain I was starting to experience.  If your core isn't strong and doing it's job, other parts of your body will definitely suffer.  And all the crunches in the world won't make your core truly strong if you have diastasis recti!  I've learned it has nothing to do with weight or how all around "fit" you are (unfortunately!).  It is easy to check yourself to see if you have diastasis recti (look it up online like anything else).  If you do, then you should definitely not be doing any jackknife exercises, which I learned the hard way!  And, I would strongly encourage you to look into how to "heal" it.  People do physical therapy for all kinds of injuries.  Think of this as physical therapy, to heal an "injury" you sustained from pregnancy.  And this could happen after 1 or 6 pregnancies!  Doesn't matter how many times or how long it's been since you were pregnant.

As I started researching and reading I continually came across the "Tupler Technique" (www.diastasisrehab.com) as a way to heal diastasis recti.  Plus I had one friend who highly recommended it and used it after each of her pregnancies for a quick heal.  I wish I had known before and during my 4 pregnancies so I could have healed it right away, instead of making it worse!!!  Google will give you diagrams and definitions, and there lots of exercises on Pinterest that you can do, but in my opinion, in order to truly heal it correctly and permanently, you HAVE to learn the correct way to do so.  Otherwise you risk re-opening your diastasis if it's not fully healed and if you haven't learned what movements to avoid (aside from just crunches).  There are a couple of other programs out there with a comprehensive healing plan.  After many late nights reading blogs and vlogs and reviews and websites, talking it over with my husband, and running it by my chiropractor, I decided on the Tupler Technique.  But you don't have to just take my word for it!  Do some digging and see what looks best to you! 

So now that we all know WHAT diastasis recti is, how extremely common it is, and that it can be healed, I will touch on what it looks like to go through the program.  The TT (Tupler Technique) requires that you wear an elastic splint 24/7 (except in the shower).  Yeah, it sucks as much as it sounds like it might.  It's not painfully tight at all!  Just annoying to wear.  But I totally understand the importance of it now.  You also do exercises 3 times a day.  I think the easiest way to explain them is like doing kegals, but for your abs (all you moms out there know what I mean!).  Learning how to isolate and strengthen specific parts of your core.  The program is technically 18 weeks.  Extreme diastasis can take longer to heal, and on the other hand it can take fewer than 18 weeks to heal, as well.  I am praying I can heal mine closer to 6-10 weeks!  You can't do any exercising for the first 3-6 weeks (depending on the severity of your diastasis).  THAT is the part that kills me!!!  I finally did all this work to get back in shape...and then I had to stop.  Completely.  That's why I wish I had known about it sooner before I even started working out (I wait until baby is about a year old to start working out so I can be done breastfeeding since exercise compromises my milk supply).  When you start working out again it's gradual and you need to modify things so you don't make the diastasis worse.  It's too much to describe in this post, but the TT DVD shows you how to start exercising again, or you can do your own thing (like I plan on doing) if you have good body awareness and can isolate those transverse abdominal muscles correctly while you exercise. 

Even when I do start working out again, I will never be able to go back to doing "crunch" type exercises.  Ever!  It can reopen your diastasis very quickly.  So even once you're fully "healed" you can do all kinds of planks, stabilizing workouts, side lying and standing core exercises, but never crunches again.  If you can picture "hinging" at the waste, that movement is fine.  But lying on your back and curling upwards in a crunch motion makes it physically impossible (no matter how great of shape you're in!) to activate your transverse muscles, and that's how you widen diastasis recti.  Not good.  So for me....and many many many more people out there...goodbye crunches! (which, really, I am not that upset about, to  be honest, lol)  Once your diastasis is healed you can return to most regular exercise!  YAY!  The workouts I've been doing rely heavily on planks/push-ups/burpees/etc.  I will go back to doing the same workout program, but will significantly modify the "ab day" workouts.  Taking out jackknife movements and replacing them with diastasis-approved core work ;-)  Push-ups and those kinds of things are fine once you're healed!  As long as you can hold in your transverse, any exercise is fine.

I purchased the splint and DVD and guidebook (to track your exercises) all online.  I was going to put off starting the program until this fall.  I didn't want to wear the splint when it was hot outside, and selfishly I wanted to continue working out for a couple more months.  But after really thinking about it, I realized that was kind of stupid, ha!  I had stopped doing all of the core parts of my workouts.  So I was getting stronger in my arms and legs and pushing myself, but my core was getting weaker.  That's a recipe for injury, right there!  Your core is vitally important for all kinds of exercise.  But I couldn't strengthen my core until I healed the diastasis.  Plus, my husband and I play co-ed indoor soccer and it was scheduled to start in a couple of months.  I couldn't play soccer during the 6 weeks of no exercising.  As much as I didn't want to, I realized there was no point in delaying once I knew what was inevitable.  So I got ready to start!

A friend of mine in Seattle realized she also had diastasis recti.  She went on the TT website and actually found a local Tupler Technique Licensee.  I decided that after watching the DVD I still had some questions I wanted to be able to ask someone, and I also wanted someone to check my diastasis and measure how bad it was to make sure I was doing it correctly.  I didn't need a "class" to do the program with - I am pretty self-motivated and am very aware of different forms of exercise.  But I wanted someone to just make sure I was doing the exercises correctly, check my measurements, and then I could go do it on my own.  I found a local TT Licensee in Denver and reached out to her for help.  If I was going to give up working out for a period of time, and wear the darn splint, I wanted to make sure I was doing EVERYTHING right so I could heal it as quickly and completely as possible.  No "trying" the program and half way getting it right, and then wonder why I didn't see the results I wanted.  I wanted to do it well.  We set up a 90 minute meeting so I could ask all my questions, she could check my diastasis, and we could walk through the exercises together to make sure I was on the right track.  She was fabulous.  Worth every penny.  I got my questions answered and it felt a little more legit than just buying the DVD and products off of a website ;-)  You can start through a Licensee and get the products you need through them.  You can have group accountability if you need.  I had just already purchased the DVD and what I needed so I was only looking for a little bit of help getting started.

As of today, I am 2 weeks in to the program.  You guys, I can't even tell you amazing it is to see results within the first 4 or 5 days.  This program HAS to be done consistently and with dedication, otherwise you will NOT get the results they talk about.  My stomach is already flatter just after the first week.  In my second week I noticed another crazy thing.  Post-pregnancy my bellybutton had gone from "in" to being flat and weird looking.  Again, you moms know what I mean...  Nothing jacks up your stomach like pregnancy, lol.  A herniated bellybutton can be no big deal, but can also turn in to a bigger deal!  Something to have checked out.  Well in the second week of the program, my bellybutton was back in again.  It hasn't looked like that in 7 years, ya'll.  Such a random and unexpected "perk" of healing diastasis!  Anyway...

I am going to continue doing the program myself at home, and then go back to Brooke (my TT "person") at 6 weeks so she can check my diastasis, re-do all of my measurements, compare before and after pics, and just get a report of how I am doing and how close I am to being healed.  She took side and front view pictures of my stomach the day we started, and she will take pictures again at 6 weeks.  If I get up the courage to post those, I will ;-)  I plan to do another blog post after my 6 week "check up" to show my personal progress and discuss other bumps in the road or discoveries along the way.  I am hopeful for no more low back pain, and a fairly flat stomach after having 4 kids!  Both of which I thought might never happen - no matter how hard I worked out. 

Once you're at your goal weight and working out regularly, it's so discouraging to realize you may not be able to get your body back as much as you'd hoped.  And OBVIOUSLY I will NEVER look the same as I did before babies.  Nor do I want to!!  I love to be in shape, but that looks different after babies, which is perfectly normal and expected.  I honestly don't mind the few stretch marks and other "changes," because my body has been used exactly as it was intended, to grow and deliver and feed 4 precious little people.  It's miraculous, actually, when you think about it.  And it is an honor and a gift to experience.  However, I honestly did hope to not look 2-3 months pregnant for the rest of my life ;-)  And I hoped my low back pain would stop once I wasn't carrying tiny humans inside my uterus all the time, lol.  I read another blog post about "body after baby" issues.  I don't remember all it was about, but the title was one I think of often: "My Body, Broken for You."  As a Christian that phrase is very significant.  A reminder that Christ's blood was shed, his body pierced, and his life given, to pay for my sins.  To give me eternity in heaven.  But I also now think of it as a tiny tiny way in which our bodies, as mothers, are broken for our babies.   It is worth the sacrifice 100%.  It's kind of a cool reminder that as moms (and dads!) we set our own needs and desires aside on a daily basis, and put our kids needs above our own.  It pales in comparison to Jesus' sacrifice for us, but I think being a parent gives us a glimpse of His sacrifice for us in the same way we make sacrifices all day long for the sake of our kids.  Parenting is definitely a humbling way to begin to understand our Heavenly Father's love for us.  Anyway, I know that was a RANDOM tangent in this post, but I think it ties in well when we think about our bodies after pregnancy.  I am not striving for some kind of perfection - just strength and no more back pain!  Sometimes when I look at my kids, or if I look at myself in the mirror, I smile and think , "my body, broken for you, and it was so worth it."  I would do it 1,000 times over.  I can still be okay with that, while at the same time having a strong core to take care of and play with my kids and exercise without fear of injury. 

One more note and then I will wrap up this jumbled mixture of thoughts.  I wish everyone knew about diastasis recti, even before and during pregnancy!  It is crazy to me that there are post-natal workout DVD's that are full of crunches, without any mention of diastasis recti.  And that there are some DVD's out there that may mention diastasis, and what to not do if you have it (which is better than nothing!), but do not offer alternative exercises or any mention of the possibility of healing it.  Please, spread the word!  Encourage friends and relatives to do their research and check for diastasis.  Share this post if you think someone might benefit from my story.  Check in again later when I do my 6 week follow up post.  It's not something I was dying to post about - showcasing my own insecurity with this issue, ha!  But I think it's invaluable information and something I wish I had known a long time ago, so I am happy to share if it will help someone else with their body image or back pain or whatever other side affect they are experiencing.  Hopefully my next post will contain some pictures and measurements to compare from before the program, to 6 weeks in!  Feel free to share.  And stay tuned :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

My favorite new work out...and why it's awesome

Greetings!  Great news.  I have finally found a work out program/routine that I LOVE.  And I have done many!  Thanks to my friend Lindsay, and her awesome blog (http://lindsayleighbentley.com), I found the perfect work out for me right now.  Just for some background, as far as my exercise experience...  I have been a Division 1 athlete, a Division 2 athlete, had personal training, worked out at gyms, done weight lifting at home, done DVD workouts at home, have tried to get back in shape in between 4 different pregnancies, etc.  I have been extremely fit in college, extremely unfit after having a baby and not having much time to work out, and everywhere in between.  I can say with this work out program I feel the most all-around fit that I've ever felt, aside from the few years of college soccer, of course.  My goal was to gain my muscle back, feel strong, and not worry about being in pain or hurting myself when I'm running around with my crazy kids, carrying 2 at a time up the stairs, or playing a game of soccer.  When I am nursing a baby I have found that really any amount of exercise affects my milk supply.  I don't want to jeopardize any nutrition for the little ones!  Not everyone will have that problem, but thought it was worth mentioning.  I have to wait patiently until I'm done with that to start working out.  I started this guide the day after I weaned baby #4 ;-)  I have to say, I'm not a fan of the name of the program.  At all, ha!  But if you can get passed the name, it rocks.  Drum roll please...Bikini Body Guide by Kayla Itsines

Why I love it...
  1. You can do it at home, at a gym, or on the road.  Personally, I love working out at a gym.  Some people don't, but I do.  In this stage of my life, it's just not a season where I can easily and consistently get to the gym.  My husband travels so even if I wanted to go super early, I can't count on him being home.  I have 4 kids, so inevitably someone would be sick and couldn't go.  I homeschool our kids, which means every spare minute of my day seems to be used up between school and food and household duties.  It's just a season where the only way I can count on getting a work out, is if I'm home!
  2. It takes 30 minutes.  Period.  The time requirements don't increase with the work out intensity.  It just takes 30 minutes.  I've always wanted to try some of the P90X type work outs, Crossfit, Insanity, etc., but I don't have 90 minutes to exercise!  Relating back to the first point...I don't have much spare time in my day.  With 4 little kids it would take me 30 minutes just to get everything packed and ready and in the car to go to the gym, lol!  I would have plenty of excuses not to fit a 90 minute work out in to my days.  There is really no excuse not to find 30 minutes to work out ;-)
  3. It is designed specifically for women.  Sorry guys, but this one is just for the ladies.  Kayla understands how a woman's body response to various exercises differently than a guy's.  I am not looking to be a super ripped body builder.  I want to look lean and strong, but still feminine. 
  4. It is cardio and strength training simultaneously.  I used to spend 30-45 minutes lifting weights and THEN somehow try to find a way and find time to fit in cardio.  Not anymore!  30 minutes a day and I've covered both.  I've also always hated leg workouts.  When I was designing my own weight lifting routines at home, I always slacked on leg exercises, doing the minimum.  This program covers upper body, lower body, abs, cardio,, etc, without letting me leave out things I don't like!  Like I said, all-around fit.
  5. Minimal equipment required.  You don't have to spend a ton of money.  The program itself is cheaper than 1 month at most gyms!  I already owned a set of free weights and a bench (thank you, Craigs List!).  I only use a couple of dumbbells, a medicine ball, and my only purchases specifically for this program were a yoga mat and a Bosu Ball (not required, she shows you alternatives if you can't buy one, but I found one on mega-sale at Big 5).  You can certainly do the program without a bench, but I have definitely enjoyed having one on hand already to use.  I don't have a fancy set up.  I had hoped to clear out a space in our unfinished basement and set up to work out down there, but it hasn't happened yet, so for now I just work out in our bedroom!
  6. I am dead tired exhausted after every work out.  If I'm going to dedicate a small amount of time to working out, I want it to kick my butt.  I want those minutes to be worth every second!  I've found that the level of difficulty increases perfectly from week to week.  Each work out is HARD, but do-able, and the next week never feels any easier, ha!
One personal opinion to note: you have to be able to push yourself.  This is not a personal trainer, it's not a group class, and it's not even a DVD where you have an instructor you have to keep up with.  This is an eBook and you follow it as hard as you can, working against your timer, pushing yourself as hard as you can.  If you don't think you can be your own cheerleader and not let yourself quit, then it might not be for you.  With this workout you definitely get out of it however much you put in!  I love the challenge of racing the clock, jamming out to Pandora, and kicking my own butt in a work out!  But not everyone will want to do that.

There is an optional dietary guide to purchase as well.  I am happy with my diet and very much believe in organic/non-GMO, Whole foods, full fat, real sugar, etc.  I can't vouch for her dietary guide because I haven't personally seen it.  If you need help in that area, it would be worth checking out, I just can't speak to it since I didn't feel the need to change my diet.  Just wanted to get my work outs figured out! 

Kayla does a cool thing in that she includes 4 weeks of "pre-training" for ladies who have recently had a baby, or just haven't worked out in a while or at this level.  Me and my ego thought I should just skip the pre-training weeks.  My husband brought me back down to earth when he reminded me that A) I recently had a baby, and B) I hadn't worked out at an intense level for a over a year and a half.  My prideful self decided to start at week 2 of the pre-training...why am I an idot!?  LOL!  I should have just started with the beginning of pre-training since it was my first time working out post baby #4.  Anyway...the pre-training weeks are not a waste.  I was just too used to being in shape and didn't want to admit that I was completely NOT at that point ;-) 

Just so you can see what the work out pages look like, here are some screen shots:

Pre-training week 2

BBG week 10
Big difference between pre-training and the end of the guide!  I had to humble myself to do modified push-ups (first time in my life!!!) at the beginning, but now a whole work out of regular push-ups is no problem.  I love feeling fit!  And I love that it only takes 30 minutes!  Here it s a picture of my little work out corner of our bedroom.  Not much space or equipment required, I promise!  I follow the work outs on my lap top, iPad, or phone.  Whichever eReader I prefer. 

  The eBook lays out your work outs 3 days a week.  She also includes options for doing 30-45 minutes of low intensity cardio.  I go for a 30 minute jog once a week, and I play indoor soccer once a week.  That's it, folks.  I don't have time to go on long runs.  I have 4 kids so I can't exactly strap them all in a stroller and take off!  And I hardly sit down all day because I'm so busy with "littles" so I figure that counts for exercise too, right!? ;-)  Anyway, that might have been way more info than you cared to read about, but I am excited about it, love how I feel (I'm on week 10!), am actually able to see my abs again after 4 kids, and wanted to share now that I can say it's tried and true.  Check Kayla out and get going towards feeling and looking your best!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Celebrating Mother's Day "Real Life" style

In honor of Mother's Day yesterday I thought I would give you all a little glimpse into our "real life" experience.  This was my very first Mother's Day with my husband home all morning.  Background: until a few months ago he had been working at a church leading worship (in a part or full-time capacity) since we started dating! As Mother's Day is always on a Sunday, that meant that he was gone before sunrise every year and didn't get home until lunch time (or later!).  I spent 5 years getting the "littles" up by myself on that morning, reminding them what the day was and telling them to give me hugs and kisses and wish me a "Happy Mother's Day," which they did, and then they would promptly forget about me for the rest of the morning, of course, because that's what preschoolers do!  To be expected.  Rushing through breakfast, clean up, kids' church clothes (which I finally learned to put on AFTER breakfast since they inevitably spill on them even if they're typically clean eaters), nursing the baby, getting spit up on, and trying to get myself ready for church somewhere in there...we were a vision!  The house always often looked like a tornado went through it by the time we left.  We usually arrived semi-on-time, hair bows somehow only slightly askew, and me exhausted and sweating profusely (even if I didn't look like it).  Eventually I would collapse in my seat for the service and enjoy the 75 minutes of time to think outside of my little world of mothering and (hopefully) pay attention to a message about things much bigger and grander and more important than myself.  Jesus' story instead of mine.  Sometimes it's hard to snap yourself out of the "fog" and remember that the world is much bigger than your little life when you have a bunch of little ones taking every ounce of physical energy from you :)  In other words, Mother's Day has always been just a normal Sunday for me and the kids and the working husband.  (Though I should note that Robin almost always left a card and flowers on the counter for me to discover when I woke up!).

This year was completely different, so wonderful, and a perfect celebration of motherhood.  Notice that I did not say that it was peaceful and quiet and relaxing.  In fact, it was none of those things!  It was loud, messy, busy, chaotic, rushed at times, and hilarious at others.  Pretty normal as far as things usually go around here with 4 kids ages 6 and under (that sounds so much easier than it did a few months ago when I had to say 4 kids ages 5 and under, ha!).  It had a very apropos ending, I must say...

After nap time we did some errands at the mall and planned to eat dinner around there afterwards.  Robin (bless his heart) wanted to go somewhere a little nicer than usual to celebrate me.  That obviously nixed Chick-Fil-A and anything along the lines of Red Robin.  But at the same time we didn't want to go somewhere too much nicer because it needed to be kid friendly and not break the bank.  By the time we narrowed down our options everywhere had a solid 45 minute wait, with nowhere to sit in the waiting room.  Obviously this does not work when your kids are 6, 4, 2, and 14 months.   We finally drove to a restaurant we like that was about 15 minutes away and had no wait (Mellow Mushroom, if you're a local!).  It fit the bill of a little nicer than usual, kid friendly, not going to break the bank, and no wait time.  For some reason our food was taking a really long time to come out and the kids were trying to hard to be patient but were on the border of losing it...  They even wanted to pick off of our adult salad plates while they waited for their food ;-)  When the food finally came, Tessa (almost 3 yrs old) suddenly said she wasn't hungry.  Of course that did NOT go over well considering that we had just ordered her her own meal (which we don't always do for the littlest ones!).  We gave her "the look" (all you parents know what I'm talking about), gave her a short (and pointless) lecture about eating the food we just bought for her, and commanded her to take a bite (like any normal parent would do, right!?).  She refused and this went back and forth for a minute or two.  The other kids were whimpering and trying to wait for their food to cool down so they could eat it, and Robin and I were a little bit annoyed that we couldn't start into our own meals because we were trying to convince Tessa to eat hers. 

Finally Tessa caved to our parental authority and took a bite.  VICTORY!!!  Until about 9 seconds later...  She looked a little pail, was squirming in her seat, making some pathetic noises, and coughed/gagged.  Robin looked annoyed again for a second and then I put the pieces together and said, "put your napkin under her mouth right now!  She's going to throw up!"  Yep.  Called it.  She puked ALL over herself and the booth seat we were sharing.  Robin tried to catch it in the cloth napkin.  Didn't even come close to getting all of it (valiant effort, honey!).  So, Tessa is now soaked from her hair to her socks and scream-crying (I think that should be a word), the other kids are just starting to eat their food, the table next to us is just staring at us, Robin and I haven't even started our dinner, and we have a couple of nice black cloth restaurant napkins full of vomit.  We literally started laughing.  The irony of the day and moment!  We very rarely go out for a sit-down dinner with the kids.  And of course the night we decided to splurge and go for it, this happens.  Robin said, "Happy Monther's Day!"  We called our server over and told her we had to immediately box up all of the food she just brought out because we needed to leave.  One look around and she understood our "situation."  The other kids started the wind-up-to-cry since they were so hungry and had only take a couple of bites of their food.  I told them they could keep their whole to-go box on their lap and eat in the car.  Tessa is still scream-crying.  We used the rest of the cloth napkins (sorry restaurant staff!) and a whole lotta baby wipes to clean up the booth and Tessa as much as possible.  Still laughing at this point.  Then we packed up all of our kid gear, guided the soaked 2-yr-old out of the restaurant, and took our more-expensive-meal-than-usual out to the car.  After I got Tessa changed into dry clothes and buckled her in to her car seat and promptly fell asleep (as in, drooling on her shirt).  Poor baby girl!  We dragged her around a mall and took her to a restaurant where we made her take a bite when she clearly had good reasons not to!  I wish I had documented the restaurant scene, but I was a little too distracted... 
Sicky girl driving home
Anyway, that was our Mother's Day saga.  We laughed about it, we survived just fine.  It was truly just a picture of what motherhood (and fatherhood!) is all about.  Putting your own needs (like hunger and a nice meal!) aside in an instant and doing whatever has to be done for your kids.  Sure it was a bummer to pack up and leave before we had eaten, but we were honestly not upset about it.  Might have had something to do with the fact that we felt guilty for making her eat when she must have felt nauseous!  Around 8:30 pm Robin and I finally sat down in the family room and ate our dinners with a glass of wine.  That just how it goes, folks!  Over the last few years I have watched some good friends, some aquaintences and some relatives go through unimaginable trials with their kids.  Infertility, losing babies late in pregnancy, and fighting for their kids' lives through various conditions.  I can't even begin to fathom what they have been and are going through.  I think it's important to keep the perspective that every day with our kids is a gift no matter what.  An immeasurable blessing.  I could care less that our dinner out was cut short.  I got to spend the day with my whole family.  I had to take care of a sick kid.  Well, that is life as a mother!  I am so happy to do it.  So thankful to be able to care for my babies.  Blessed beyond words by a husband who provides for us and loves us.  Parenting isn't glamorous, but it is priceless, and I am thankful for every single day I get to do it.

Speaking of...  One more highlight of my day.  My 6-year-old son left me the sweetest gift.  He colored a picture for me, folded it up as neatly as possible, and put it on my nightstand.  Along with $.44 as a gift.  He can't open his piggy bank by himself, so while I was gone the day before he must have grabbed all the change he had from his nightstand.  Change that hadn't yet made it into his bank.  And he gave it to me as his own, unprompted Mother's Day gift.  He has always been so generous and these little acts are one of the best things in this life.  I love that he thought of me on his own, and gave me all he could find.  What a sweet gift!  He stole my heart 6 years ago, that kid...

It was a really, really, really wonderful Mother's Day.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My favorite parenting resources (so far!)


So we've been at this parenting thing for 6.5 years now.  Sometimes we feel like we've got a decent handle on things.  Oftentimes we feel like we have no idea what we're doing still.  Ha!  (Some of you are thinking, "Man, that's a long time!  They must be experts by now."  Others of you are shaking your heads, chuckling, and saying, "Oh honey, you've barely scratched the surface of parenting...  You've got it coming to you still!"  I tend to believe the latter, myself)  One thing we know for SURE is that the following resources have been incredibly influential in forming our parenting "tool box," if you will.  I won't go in to a ton of detail about each resource, but I thought I would share a little blurb about each since I've had many friends ask me what we have found that works, where we got certain ideas from, etc.  We are still learning every day and are fully aware that we have many many years of challenges ahead of us as the kids get older and progress through different stages.  But so far in the journey, these are resources that we have loved!  Some are more philosophical in nature, others are more practical, and some are a good mix of both. 

I would like to preface this list by saying one thing first...  We believe that a major portion of our lifetime is devoted to raising our kids and training them up in the way they should go, so taking the time to seek out wise counsel from veteran parents, and reading, learning and praying about parenting resources to use is valuable time very well spent.  We don't see results overnight, and we didn't spend just one Saturday taking a class.  We have invested A LOT of time in the following materials (be it on our own watching DVD's and reading, or in a group setting ) and we can't think of anything else more important, so it's been worth it to us!  Life is busy, there are many other activities and hobbies and pursuits (and kids!) to take up your time, but I would encourage you to find some parenting resources that you feel good about and invest the time in your little people now so that you can reap the sweet rewards down the road.         

Growing Families International is an organization that we have grown to love over the last 7 years. This link takes you to the "About" section on their website if you want to learn more about their philosophy.  They fall in to the "both"category - philosophical and practical.  Some of the materials we have purchased the DVD and workbooks and done them on our own.  Other times we have been able to find a local class here in Colorado (through Cherry Hills Community Church) to go through the material as a group with fabulous facilitators.  All of the books, CD's, DVD's, etc can be ordered from the GFI bookstore.

Image 1
The bookstore link above shows all of the available parenting resources.  We started with their "Preparation for Parenting" material when we were pregnant with our first baby, learning about how to help baby get on a flexible yet predictable routine with eating and sleeping, and answering many of the rookie parent's questions on what in the world to expect with a tiny new human in the family!  We proceeded to go through their Babyhood Transitions material, Prep for Toddler and Toddlerhood Transitions which covers everything from naps, starting solids, highchair behavior, methods of correction, expecting/understanding/dealing with tantrums (I mean, we all think OUR kids won't do that, right!?  Riiiiiiight...  And then you actually have a toddler and you experience reality), ideas of how to structure a toddler's day, etc.  Most recently we did the Parenting from the Tree of Life series parts 1-3 in a group setting.  It was FABULOUS!  This series starts off giving lots of background for how important it is to speak words of LIFE into our kids, how to know and speak your kid's (and your spouse's!) love languages in ways that matter to them, and many of the Biblical responsibilities of parents.  Then it moves into the practical advice which is GOLDEN.  Their teaching on obedience, correction, discernment, encouragement, and everything in between is incredibly valuable.  I would say this material starts being applicable around age 4+ up through pre-teens (they have another series for parents of  pre-teens and teens.  Lord have mercy, we personally aren't there yet ;-).  I truly don't know where we would be without the principles of GFI.
Image 1
The next resource is a booked called Creative Familiy Times: Practical Activities for Building Character.  I LOVE this book for littler ones!  It's very short, concise, practical advice and "how-to's" to structure your toddler/preschooler's day.  We do book time, play alone time, blanket time, talk time, date nights and all kinds of little ideas from here that have been game changers for our days at home.  It's such a small book it's hard to see how much valuable information could be packed in there!  Super practical. 

Creative Family Times: Practical Activities for Building Character - Hadidian, Allen, and Hadidian, Connie, and Wilson, Will, Sr.
Another book that we love is "Why Can't I Get My Kids to Behave?"  It's so good!  I'd say this book starts being more applicable for ages 4+.  Definitely still some stuff in there even for teenagers!  This one is a good mix of the philosophical/practical.  Lot's of great tips and the reasons WHY behind behavior and correction and new habits to form.  Good stuff.
The last book on the list for today is "Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus."  This is probably the most important book.  You can read every manual and how-to and parenting self-help book on the planet, but if you are missing passing on the message of Grace to your kids all day every day, then you're missing the whole point of parenting.  I'm preaching to myself here, ya'll!  I'm about 3/4 of the way through this one and need to finish it ASAP.  It is a message I need to hear.  Over and over.  It is beautiful and refreshing and practical and encouraging and life-giving both for the reader AND for the kids who will hopefully reap the benefits as parents read :)  We have loved Growing Families International and all of their material, as I first listed, but I think it's important to pair this book along with those resources.  It is possible for some people to get so caught up in the formula of "do this" as a parent and your kids will be guaranteed to "do that," but sometimes it doesn't work that way.  Even if we follow the parenting handbooks to a "T," we are all so very very human, and will make mistakes constantly (parents and kids!), and this book helps you understand that and how those mistakes are redeemed by Jesus all day long.  Even when we feel like total failures as parents, this book is a sweet reminder that God is ultimately overseeing our kids if we let Him, and it doesn't matter how many times we fail.  It only matters that we point our kids towards Him and His saving Grace when we do fall. 

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus
There you have it!  Whenever anyone asks me for any kind of thoughts or advice having to do with parenting, it's almost guaranteed to come from something on the above list.  There are SOOO many ideas and opinions out there and it can get overwhelming as a parent, so hopefully this list will narrow down a few options for someone out there :)  Many blessings on your efforts!
(I should go finish reading the rest of "Give Them Grace" right now...my patience wears thin when my husband is on a business trip and I'm wrangling 4 little ones on my own.  Here's to keeping my cool and giving them - and me - GRACE tonight!  Amen!?)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Audiobooks: why we enjoy them, and which ones we love!

I have mentioned on Facebook a few times how much our kids enjoy audiobooks.  And I enjoy listening to theirs, as well!  Here are some ways we use them and a list of ones we have collected so far.

We started out using audiobooks during lunch time.  With 4 kids so close in age (6, 4, 2, and 1) the volume of chatter and whining questions and conversation distracted them from eating, and I grew very tired of telling everyone to "be quiet and eat your lunch."  Enter: audiobooks.  They started eating much more quietly (and therefore, quickly!) so they could hear the story.  That was a golden discovery for a couple of years.  These days we listen to some of our Classical Conversations (our new homeschool community - more on that subject later) memory work CD's during lunch instead, but we use audiobooks other times of the day.

Currently we use audiobooks a few different ways.  Tyson (6 yrs old) no longer takes an afternoon nap.  I need him to have quiet time in the afternoon because a) the other 3 kids are napping, and b) I need a break from questions and kid duty for a couple of hours!  Ty usually gets to listen to an audiobook in the school room while he does some quiet "table time" (that's what we call special activities that we get out to use only at the table for the designated person) like Legos, Magnatiles, Zoob manipulatives, puzzles, etc.  He loves to be around people all the time and will constantly tell me things or ask me questions from the other room during his "quiet time."  But when he's listening to an audiobook he is completely captivated by the story and really just does his own thing.  I love it because it gives me a mental break and my own time to get things done without constant interruptions from that adorable 6 year old face.  Here he is using his new favorite art "tool:" Ed Emberley's Drawing Book: Make a World

Afternoon quiet time
Another time we use audiobooks is when all of the kids have some free time together (dangerous, I know!) and want to get out an activity like coloring books or puzzles.  They are much quieter and focused on their OWN activity (as opposed to arguing or trying to play with someone else's things) if they are all listening to a story together.  It definitely makes something like coloring last a lot longer if they are engrossed in a story!  Of course the 1 year old and 2 year old don't have as long of an attention span as the big kids do, no matter what, but it still helps and they listen as the come and go from the school room and play room. 
Saturday morning puzzle time
Car rides are also another time we use audiobooks.  Sometimes we listen to music or just talk to each other, but audiobooks definitely come in handy in the car.  Quiet time is a huge benefit of audiobooks, of course, but there are also other reasons we love them!  I wish I had a couple of hours every day to sit down and read aloud to the kids.  I enjoy doing it, they love listening, and it's SO good for them for many many reasons!  But being a "stay-at-home-mom" of only little ones (meaning they aren't yet old enough to do much for themselves, and certainly aren't that much help to ME yet, lol) as well as a "homeschooling-mom" means that there are so many demands on my time every day that I don't have nearly as much time as I would like to read aloud to my kids right now.  We still do read aloud time as often as we can, but I always wish it could be more!  Audiobooks make up for what I cannot do during this busy busy seasons with only littles.  They can listen to quality literature with rich vocabulary and increasingly complex story lines for hours and hours on end.  So GREAT!  We purchase many books that many would say are "above" their cognitive abilities, but I would argue that kids understand and retain more than we give them credit for.  We always try to buy the unabridged version of books.  Plus, hearing a wide range of vocabulary helps them to constantly build their own "library" of words :)  Anyway, there you have some of the "how" and "why"!  Now for the list of auidobooks that we own so far!  There are many more out there once you figure out what you and your kids like.  The library also has quite a few to try!  I will try to update this post every so often when we add new ones to our collections.

These are my favorite for younger ages (2+ yrs) and for when all of the kids are listening together:
These ones are a little more complex, but you could still start them with 2 and 3-year-old younger siblings so that multiple ages can enjoy them together:
  • Charlotte's Web (unabridged)
  • Great Stories from Your Story Hour.  These are a mixture of short history and adventure stories teaching values and character traits for all ages.  This link is for Volume 1, but there are many more!  So far we own Volumes 1-5.  You can purchase difference places online.
  • Peter Pan (unabridged)
  • King Arthur and His Knights.  Jim Weiss has narrated many popular stories in these shortened versions of classics.  We buy mostly unabridged, like I mentioned, but there is also a time and a place for these short stories as an introduction to classic literature.  I can't wait to read books like Treasure Island to my kids, as well as them reading the stories on their own, but until their old enough we really enjoy Jim Weiss' versions.  This is one of many (our local library has quite a few).
  • Adventures in Odyssey: For God and Country.  We definitely listen to some Adventures in Odyssey!  So far I try to stick with the more historical and biblical stories.  These are more for fun and not necessarily building their vocabulary ;-)
  • Classical Kids Volume 1.  The kids LOVE these!  There are about 4 CD's in each set and they combine beautiful classical music with narrations about Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven, etc.  I knew the kids would enjoy these, but it's surprised me how often Tyson chooses these for his quiet time.
  • Classical Kids Volume 2
And lastly, these are our newest ones we are starting to collect as they are a little more advanced.  Our 6-year-old definitely gets into the story, even though at times he doesn't catch everything in the whole plot.
I think that's all we own so far!  I love adding to our collection as often as possible.  I can't wait to get the Little House series, the Chronicles of Narnia, and so many more from my wish list.  Hope this post was helpful for some of you!


Let's try again...

Well once again it's been quite a long time since I posted on here!  I honestly forgot this blog existed for a while there.  Four babies in five years will do that to you...  I lost half of my brain (and my ability to be on time to anything) somewhere along the way! 

Recently I have had a number of friends ask for advice about certain parenting subjects, recipes we use, my favorite baby and kid gear, play and quiet time activities that our kids do, our first year of homeschooling, audiobooks the kids listen to, etc.  So I've decided to *TRY* to do a few posts on here when I can (in all my spare time!) in order to share that kind of information from our little daily world here in Colorado.  We live a pretty small life, full of lots of love and laughter and plenty of...challenges, ha...but I love it and wouldn't trade it for the world.

Thanks for checking in with us.  Here's to yet another attempt at getting around to posting on the blog more than once every 2 years!