Recipe: No Added Sugar Banana Zucchini Date (Smash!) Cake

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They say that with age comes wisdom. But, for me, it took being responsible for another little life to finally smarten up about my eating habits.

Sure, Ben and I have always tried to eat healthy, which mostly meant forgoing sugary treats until we’d eventually cave into temptation…only to start a cycle of guilt, restriction and inevitable relapse.

But it wasn’t until I got pregnant that I decided to cut myself some slack and relax when it came to cravings. Although with space in the belly at a premium, you’ve got to make every calorie count.

When I stopped thinking of foods as “good” and “bad” and started judging them on their nutrient density, I felt empowered instead of deprived. Not to mention it felt great to fuel my body — and my baby — with whole foods that would help both of us thrive.

Enter Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates. I’ve partnered with them this year to help our family make the swap from refined sugars to a more natural alternative: whole foods that the body can recognize and pull nutrients from.

My 2015 almond milk experiment started what has become a passionate love affair with these little gems. Medjool dates deliver sustained energy from their combo of fiber and natural sugars, plus they’re packed with potassium to support muscle fuel and recovery.

So Wyatt’s first birthday “smash cake” became an experiment of sorts in substituting date paste for processed sugar. It may have taken me a few attempts — the first was too moist, the second was too dense — but the third time was a charm, as you can see from the shot below.

This recipe works for birthdays, but I think it’s even better made into muffins for a quick energy boost throughout the day. Finally, you can have your cake — and eat it (along with some very valuable nutrients), too.

No Added Sugar Banana Zucchini Date Cake

Ingredients: 

  • 2 small zucchinis, grated & squeezed dry (about 2 cups)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup date paste
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease muffin cups with coconut oil (or use muffin liners).
  2. In large bowl, mix together zucchini and banana. Add eggs one at a time.
  3. Blend in date paste, peanut butter and vanilla.
  4. In small bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add slowly to wet ingredients, stirring to incorporate.
  5. Spoon into muffin cups, filling each 3/4 of the way.
  6. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into muffin come out clean.

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Give it a try, and let me know what you think!

October Goal Check-In

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The end of October is always a little bittersweet, isn’t it? As exciting as it is to really settle into fall and celebrate Halloween, now we’re suddenly barreling towards the holiday season and a brand new year is just around the corner.

And has anyone else seen all the holiday commercials already?! I’m the first to admit I’ll be cranking up the Christmas tunes before too long…but October 26 was just too soon to start seeing ads about Santa and stuffing stockings.

All that aside, I’m still focused on sticking loosely to my 2016 goals before setting new intentions for 2017. So here’s an update:

1. Health & Fitness: In terms of a typical week, I’m now trying to move at least four or five out of the seven days. With a baby’s schedule and Portland’s rainy season to factor in, this means taking whatever I can get whenever I can get it: Namely stroller jogs, treadmill runs, cross-training on the Nordic Track (yes, you read that correctly; it was left behind by the previous owners of our house), plus a smattering of free weights.

And as much as I miss the accountability of a training schedule, it’s been refreshing to exercise for general fitness for a change. If there’s a day where a workout just doesn’t work out, it’s a relief at the moment to be able to take it in stride versus fretting about getting behind schedule.

2. Training: Speaking of schedules…just last month I mentioned there wasn’t a race on the horizon, but that may soon change because I’m mulling over a potential spring marathon. It’d be a change of pace from my usual summer training cycles focusing on fall races, and this time I’m also considering working under the general guidance of a coach to train smart and stay healthy while ramping up mileage.

3. Community: Our 2016 Team LUNA Chix Portland Run season has officially ended, and we celebrated with our annual party at Title Nine Portland on October 24. In addition to a fantastic group of community members joining us this year, I’m proud to say that we also managed to raise nearly $3,000 for Breast Cancer Fund.

As for next year, we’ll be changing things up a bit, so stay tuned for details! We’re opening applications for team leaders for the 2017 season in early December, so if you’re interested in getting involved with a dynamic group of women who are making a difference in the Portland area, along with getting in some great workouts and making new friends, like our Facebook page for updates.

4. Career: This has been an area where I’ve been feeling reenergized as of late. First, Fit4Mom Cedar Mill hosted a very cool “Mindful Mamas” event this month where we worked out together and then sat down with a life coach to talk about time management and priorities. Lesson learned: Make sure what you’re spending your time on is truly aligned with your goals.

Second, I signed a new boutique fitness client in the Portland area, and we’ve been hard at work on messaging, positioning and PR planning. I love working with business owners who understand the importance of connecting — not only with clients to help them get fitter and feel healthier, but also with the community to give back. So inspiring!

5. Life: Finally, I need to do a whole in-depth post on the glory that is ‘sleep training.’ But for now, I’ll just say this: If you’re having any trouble getting your little one to sleep — whether it’s through at night or just for regular naps, it’s a total game-changer. I’d go as far as to say it’s the best baby-related investment we’ve made because it provides the confidence to do what you need to do to help everyone get some more zzz’s.

The woman we worked with was simply amazing (parents, ping me if you want an intro), particularly because she specializes in minimizing the amount of crying during the process. I had heard horror stories of people having to camp outside of baby’s door enduring hours of screaming, but our experience was quite different. We had a total of 12 minutes of crying in protest the first night before Wyatt slept 12 HOURS.

There’s a lot that goes into it — both in terms of preparation and consistency in order to develop new habits, plus (duh) you’ll still have the usual hiccups now and then — but, overall, it’s been nothing short of life-changing. Chronic sleep deprivation (seven months, in our case) can leave you in a pretty dark place, so it’s pure joy to finally come into the light at the end of the tunnel.

Ready or not, here we come: Are you excited for the final stretch of 2016?

August Goal Check-In

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Hello again! After a few weeks of radio silence (aka first break from blogging in three and a half years), I’m finally coming up for air.

Truth is — and this is hard to admit — I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed at the moment.

While I typically pride myself in being able to divide and conquer (attributed, no doubt, to all those years putting out PR fires), I just haven’t been able to feel like I can get my head above water lately.

But the first step is admitting you need help, right?

So I took a hard look at things over the past few weeks, re-prioritized goals and am narrowing my focus when it comes to where I’m spending energy. Which means that my monthly goals have changed, and this check-in will look a bit different going forward for the remainder of the year.

As in, I’m going to quit beating myself up for not nailing my original goals this year; instead, I’m going to get real about how things have changed and celebrate what IS working.

For starters, training has taken a backseat. With everything else going on this summer (i.e. travel, moving and still trying to get Wyatt on a schedule), I simply don’t have the mental or physical reserves needed to get into marathon mode.

I did go back and forth trying to figure out how to train just enough to be able to complete 26.2 because I’m familiar enough with the distance…but ultimately came to the conclusion that doing something just for the sake of doing it won’t be as fulfilling as committing to doing it well later.

There will be more marathons. Just not this year.

Next — and it’s only taken me six months to realize this — it’s pretty damn near impossible to get any work done while home with a baby. Veteran moms, I’ll pause for a second here for you to stop laughing…but I had learn this on my own!

I don’t have full-time SAHM status, so the search is on for a part-time nanny to allow me to carve out regular work hours each week. That lovely #momguilt kept me from acting on this sooner, but I believe it’ll set a good example for our kiddo(s) and allow me to be a better mom in the long run.

And, finally, after fighting the good fight when it comes to infant-(lack of)-sleep, Ben and I are waving the white flag and hiring a sleep trainer. This is a delicate subject, likely fodder for another blog post, and although we’ve made some progress on our own it’s time to enlist help from a pro to get a decent night’s sleep.

In terms of what has been going as planned, Team LUNA Chix Portland Run is knocking it out of the park. Despite our usual location being closed for construction, our community rallies each week — and we managed to hit our season goal for fundraising for the Breast Cancer Fund this month. Boom!

Work-wise, I have yet to dedicate as many hours to growing my business as I’d like since Wyatt came along, but I’m fortunate enough to have a pretty awesome roster of repeat clients who want to collaborate on upcoming projects. So it’s there for the taking, as soon as I get the nanny situation sorted out.

Workouts are nowhere near what they used to be in consistency, variety or intensity, but I am getting back on track after our move and making it a point to explore our new ‘hood. With baby-in-tow it’s just easier now to take a stroller jog or hit up our makeshift home gym when if he’s sleeping.

Being in the ‘burbs has definitely been an adjustment after years of city living — i.e being a block away from everything before, whereas now the closest stuff is a 15-minute drive — but the trade-off for a little more breathing room was a no-brainer.

So rather than gunning after my original goals, I’m finding peace with discovering the new normal and what progress means for me, personally, as well as us as a family this year.

In fact, that seems to be a pretty fitting mantra — both literally and figuratively — when everything’s in flux, as it is now, and my Type A tendencies have me white-knuckling the ride:

When one door closes, another one opens!

Have your goals evolved this year? And how are you defining success as they change?

10 Ways Having a Newborn is Like Reliving Your College Experience

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From sleepless nights to getting schooled in all sorts of subjects, life with a newborn bears a striking resemblance to those good ol’ glory days of college. So I thought I’d share my top 10 ways having a baby is like starting freshman year all over again.

10. Mounting Expenses. Back then you spent your money on books, meal plan and extracurriculars. Now you’re draining your bank account on books, take-out and just about any gadget and/or invention under the sun that promises to help baby sleep.

9. Boot ‘n’ Rally. Popular among frat boys. Also babies.

8. All Nighters. The only difference? In college, you could sleep in ’til noon the next day to recover. With babies, there’ no sleeping in again. Ever.

7. Roommate Issues. It’s the luck of the draw. Some go with the flow and are easy to get along with. Others? Messy, loud and up at all hours.

6. Weight Gain. Packing it on, freshman-style, is a lot of fun thanks to beer and late-night snacks. With pregnancy, it’s more about the pesky final 15 that seems to linger postpartum.

5. Boobs. They’re endlessly fascinating to both hormone-riddled young men and babies, alike.

4. Knowledge. Talk about theory all you want, but there’s a big difference between book smarts and being able to apply that knowledge in the real world — or with a real human.

3. Hormones. Both teens and pregnant women are vying for front-row seats on the emotional roller-coaster.

2. Life Lessons. Just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, life has a way of showing you that you truly don’t know what you don’t know until you’re in the thick of it.

1. Growing Up. There’s a good chance you’ll be forever changed for the better after each experience.

Anything else you’d add to the list? 

July Goal Check-In

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Ever look back and marvel at how far you’ve come — yet realize how much you’ve veered off course?

That’s pretty much how I feel about this year’s goals at this point, but that’s the name of the game now: learning how to roll with the punches and adjust (and re-adjust) expectations. Chalk that up to another lesson of parenthood.

Regardless, one day at a time and one foot in front of the other, the important part is that we’re making progress, right?

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working in 2016.

Here’s where things stand currently:

1. Health & Fitness

We’re still working on getting a daily routine down (naps, anyone?), but I have gotten good at making little workouts happen in the nooks and crannies of our days. Even if it’s just a walk with the stroller, a stroll with the baby carrier or some at-home body weight exercises designed by one of my favorite trainers, I try to get at least 30 minutes of activity on the regular.

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In the absence of a regular fitness schedule, however, I’ve realized it’s also come high time to revamp my eating habits. Up until now, I’ve been using breastfeeding as an excuse reason to be more lax than usual…

But now that Wyatt’s getting more mobile, energy is the focus so I’ve been supplementing with Forelle, a new meal delivery service here in Portland that specializes in raw, plant-based meals  using whole, organic and seasonal ingredients that are sourced from local suppliers. Clean eating feels good again, even if it’s only for a few meals a week!

2. Training

Now that we’re creeping up on six months where I have yet to get a full night’s sleep, I’m starting to re-think the plan for this fall’s marathon. Although mileage is now up to double-digits on weekend runs, operating in a state of chronic sleep deprivation is hardly conducive to smart training — i.e. the last thing I want to do is get injured in the process.

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The good news is that my average pace per mile has been dropping steadily as I’ve been increasing distance each week. The bad news is that I’m nowhere near the kind of mileage that’s considered preparation for 26.2.

Walk/jogging is an option, for sure, but there’s something to be said for training properly for a race so you can enjoy the whole experience. Needless to say, I’ve been mulling over my options, so stay tuned.

3. Community

This month we switched things up at one  of our weekly Team LUNA Chix Portland Run practices and held a scavenger hunt with some of our favorite fitness stores and studios in the area (shout out to Bar Method, Barre3, Burncycle, Lucy, MUV, Revocycle, Title Nine, YAS, YoYoYogi and Zest Nutrition). Between bags of bars, coupons for free classes and all kinds of raffle prizes, everyone walked away a winner!

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But what I really want to address this month in terms of community is the fitness scene here in Portland. What I love about it is that there’s much more camaraderie than competition — to each his own with workouts, so there can (and should) be room for everyone to play.

However, this past month I witnessed something happen to one of my favorite studio owners that made my blood boil. Rather than go into a rant here, though, I’d just like to take the opportunity to commend the people and places who pitched in and redeemed our faith in the Portland fitness community — namely Industrial Barre and PureBarre Bend — as well as those who stepped forward and asked how they could lend a hand to a fellow small business owner in need.

That’s how it should be, folks!

4. Career

My consulting work with Pulse Creative continues to be a juggling act, schedule-wise, but is so worth it. Aside from working out, it’s the other small piece of my day where I can feel like the old ‘me.’

And what’s nice, I’ve learned, from having less time is that you get to prioritize projects — i.e. partner with great people and do only work that you love. Which makes the time spent doubly enjoyable!

5. Life

Finally, as I mentioned last month and the previous month, life hasn’t been without its lessons since Wyatt came along. The latest of which is:

It’s no longer about you. 

Well, duh, you’re probably saying. Anyone over the age of five knows this. 

But after years of being able to do what you want, when you want and how you want — from things as simple as setting sleep hours and eating regular meals to more complicated things such as work/life balance, training for events or, heck, even a date night with my husband — it can be a hard pill to swallow in the adjustment as a first-time parent.

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And what initially felt like a tug-of-war to not forget about what makes me ‘me’ or what makes Ben and me ‘us’ has become, well, a more comfortable shade of normal. It may have taken a handful of months and some newfound perspective — or maybe it’s just that there’s a flicker of light ahead at the end of the newborn tunnel — but I see now that it’s less about losing something and more about adding pieces to the puzzle.

What that bigger picture is, we don’t know yet; we’re still very much in the thick of it. But the prospect of creating it together, all three of us, is pretty exciting.

How are your 2016 goals coming along? 

10 Fourth Trimester Life-Savers

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Back when Wyatt was just a bump in my belly, I shared a few favorite firstsecond and third trimester essentials that helped us make our way through pregnancy together.

But have you heard of the fourth trimester? It’s the concept that the first three months after birth are quite literally an extension of life in the womb for baby.

And I’m not gonna lie: At times, it can be a rocky transition for everyone involved. Not only does baby need lots of attention, but mama also deserves extra TLC during recovery and those sleepless nights and days spent getting to know the newest family member.

As always, everyone’s experience will be a bit different, but these are just a few of the things that I found helpful for easing into motherhood. And by ‘easing in’ I mean jumping with both feet into the deep end. 

1. Nursing Tanks

If you’re nursing or pumping, not only will you need quick access, but you’ll also need something pretty forgiving as you change size throughout the day. Consider the Gilligan & O’Malley Nursing Cotton Camis part of your new mom uniform; at $20 a pop, they’re as budget-friendly as they are baby-friendly.

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2. Support Tights

Another staple in your new mom wardrobe? A pair of tummy-friendly tights, which are both comfortable and versatile as your body shape-shifts in the first few months postpartum. One of my favorites were Blanqi’s Highwaist Support Leggings, which not only help provide some extra core support but also come in handy when you’re between sizes.

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3. Nipple Butter

Whether you use it for nursing or as a lube with your breast pump, Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Natural Nipple Butter is the best stuff out there — period. It’s from a local company, it’s all-natural and it works, so do yourself a favor and stockpile this stuff by the case before baby comes.

earth-mama-angel-baby-natural-nipple-butter4. Breast Pump

Speaking of your ‘ladies,’ if you’re thinking of breastfeeding and/or pumping you’ll want something to get the job done without too much…collateral damage, shall we say? After trying the Medela Freestyle, which was awesomely small and portable, I ultimately settled on the Spectra Baby S1. It came highly recommended from a girlfriend, and I found it to be just as effective, but a lot gentler.

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5. Pumping Bra

If you’re a woman, you’re no stranger to multitasking. And if you’re a breastfeeding mom, you’re no stranger to multitasking while pumping. Enter the Simple Wishes D*Lite Hands-Free Pumping Bra, which is adjustable in size to sustain a perfect fit over time as a nursing mother’s size changes. Brilliant!

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6. Nursing Pads

And while we’re on the subject of milk, when it comes in you’ll want to be prepared with some disposable nursing pads to keep from leaking through your shirts, on the sheets…you get the point. But after your supply evens out, I’ve found these washable breast pads to be more comfortable and better at wicking away moisture.

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7. Robe & Comfy PJ’s

One of the best maternity investments I made in terms of cost-per-wear was this robe and nightgown set. I can’t say enough about how handy a lightweight cotton robe with pockets can be for keeping you warm when you’re up at all hours, as well as having handy pockets to stack bottles, pacifiers, burp-cloths, etc.

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8. Amazon Prime

Another invaluable investment? An Amazon Prime subscription, which is worth it’s weight in gold. From diapers to developmental toys and everything else in between, it’s a necessity in those early days when you need something — stat! — and can’t get out to the store. Simply search, click and it’ll be on your doorstep in two days.

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9. Meals

I cooked exactly two freezer meals and one batch of lactation cookies before Wyatt came, thinking that’d tide us over until I get back on my feet and had time to get in the kitchen again. HA! Little did I know we’d come to rely heavily on frozen foods, take-out, meal delivery services and the kindness of friends and family in those first few months. Have a friend with a new baby and want to know how you can help? Bring over a warm meal, and they’ll be forever indebted to you.

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10. Thank You Cards

I’m old-school and believe that any gift you receive deserves a nice handwritten thank-you. Save time — and your sanity — by stamping and putting your return address on a bunch of cards before baby arrives. That way you can write them as you go, ensuring you’ll get ’em out the door in a timely manner and also remember who sent what when the time comes.

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*Bonus: Netflix Subscription

Finally, no list of postpartum must-haves would be complete without the mother of all necessities during those first few months: a Netflix subscription. When you’re up at all hours night after night, it’s either stare at the ceiling while feeding or immerse yourself in a season — or three — of your favorite show (my choice was Orange is the New Black). So sink into the couch together and enjoy some quality cuddle time!

Mamas, what were your fourth trimester must-haves? 

June Goal Check-In

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If you’re around a new parent, inevitably, the conversation turns to sleep. As in, how much the baby is doing it or how little the parents are getting of it.

Because, as we’ve found out the hard way these past four months, sleep — or the lack thereof — is quite literally the linchpin of being able to resume any semblance of your former (read: pre-baby) life.

To paraphrase my recent conversation with our pediatrician: “On the spectrum of good sleepers to not-so-great sleepers…Wyatt is…closer to the latter.” At this point I like to think that he just prefers our company to the comfort of his crib.

But being up every two hours for feedings (and sometimes for stretches in between) means that we are still squarely in the survival-mode-holding-pattern of the “fourth trimester.” Which also means that goals are being chipped away at much more slowly that I’d originally anticipated. Such is the luck of the draw when it comes to babies!

So if you happen to bump into a new parent, try to refrain from asking them about their mounting sleep deficit. And maybe just offer to buy them a cup of coffee!

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working in 2016.

Here’s where things stand currently:

1. Health & Fitness

These days, I’m lucky when I can squeeze in some movement, but I’ve learned that the trick is being able to work out with your baby whenever possible. Thank goodness for Stroller Strides and Body 401K; not only are these great resources for getting strong and breaking a sweat, but they also offer a community aspect that’s much appreciated when you’re feeling apartment-bound.

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Another tip? Sign up for something — anything — whether it’s a gym membership, a package of classes or ClassPass. They’re great for motivation, but more so accountability; if you’re shelling out a few bucks every month for classes, you’re less likely to skip out on scheduling workouts.

2. Training

Tell me, does one run per week technically count as “marathon training?” Hm, I didn’t think so…

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Yes, I’m going against my two decades of running experience (and, let’s face it, my better judgment) by assuming I can swing 26.2 after logging such little mileage. But I’m determined to make it work and am slowly building up my base for that October event despite little sleep, less time, some travel and a move later this summer.

3. Community

One of the nights I most look forward to each week is Mondays with Team LUNA Chix Portland Run. We’re thrilled to see a few new faces each week, along with our regulars who are crushing it this season and never cease to amaze me.

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In addition to the weekly workouts, we’ve got some exciting events in the works for the second half of the season — from fundraisers and clinics to scavenger hunts and social hours. Follow us on Facebook for details, and check out our Instagram and Twitter updates for the scoop on what we’re up to.

4. Career

My self-imposed maternity leave from Pulse Creative officially ended this month. Wyatt will always be priority numero uno…but, I’ve gotta say, it feels so good to get back in the game and flex those mental muscles again.

Helping my clients communicate not just what they do but why they do it and connect with their audience continues to be both fulfilling and rewarding. And going back to my journalism roots with a few freelance pieces (be sure to grab the October issue of SELF magazine!) has also been fun.

5. Life

Finally, as I mentioned last month, life hasn’t been without its lessons since Wyatt came along. The latest of which is:

Sometimes all the hard work in the world won’t produce the results you want. 

You see, I was raised under the belief that anything’s possible if you put in enough work. That’s how I developed grittiness (some would call it stubbornness?) when it comes to going after goals.

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I still believe that a certain amount of that is good. But after experiences to the contrary during pregnancy, childbirth and parenting (more on that in another post), I’ve learned the difference between sheer tenacity and blind perseverance.

Another lesson? The really hard — and really amazing — part of parenting is that it’s less about trying to live up to an unattainable standard and more about being open to what works for your family.

After all, to quote another conversation with my pediatrician: “Happy families make happy babies.” And who doesn’t have that as a goal for their offspring?

How are your 2016 goals coming along?