Friday, October 22, 2010

Nutrition... The Differences in What We Eat

I am a nutrition freak. I have my weaknesses (ice cream, coffee, cookies...), but I am obsessed with healthy eating. I track my calories most days and try to make sure I have met my daily carb, dairy, protein, fruit, and veg intake.

I know... obsessive. Oh well.

However, balanced meals in Cuenca are VERY different from my idea of balanced meals. Here, the key word is CARBOHYDRATE. Now, unlike many of the expats living in Cuenca, I live with Cuencanos. We live in my mother-in-law's house and my mother-in-law cooks. (On a side note, I would like to state for the record that I am not complaining. My mother-in-law is an amazing cook and makes delicious food. I am simply pointing out the differences between my own views and the typical Cuencano food that we eat in our home... I am grateful that I have someone who cooks so I don't just eat cereal, yogurt, fruits, and veggies... Now that I have a baby and am a full-time mom. Because I know if she wasn't here and didn't cook that's what I would do) Okay, back on topic... so it is not uncommon for us to have a meal that consists of meat, salad (ice burg lettuce and tomato is very typical),  rice (of course!), potatoes, and mote (hominy). Many in the household will pile their plate full of rice (at least 3 cups of rice, which comes close to 1,000 calories just in rice), then have a cup of mote, and possibly some potatoes.

For those of you who don't know much about carbohydrates (many of you will tune out now, I know it), if you consume more carbohydrates than you burn off, they will be stored as fat. This fat is very hard to get rid of. So, you're better off overloading on proteins or veggies than carbs. But, whatever....

My plate typically has 1/2 cup of rice OR potatoes OR mote, a fist-sized portion of meat, and the rest salad.

I really miss having my own kitchen to be able to prepare the foods I like to make. I miss having time to cook the foods I like. Food is one of those things that really can make your day (or break your day).

My ideal meals consist of things such as portabella mushrooms stuffed with Parmesan cheese, basil, and walnuts baked with a white wine/olive oil drizzle. Bruscuttas with pancetta, some sort of hard cheese, fresh basil, garlic, etc. Barbecued chicken breast with a lemon and pepper marinade with grilled veggies and a spinach and strawberry salad with a very light balsamic dressing. Roasted veggie panani sandwiches with herbed goat cheese.. This, my friends, is food!

There are dishes here I love such as ceviche (great balance of a healthy protein and veggies), batidos (you get a healthy combination of dairy and fruit), homemade soups that use broccoli and other leafy veggies, etc. But I do miss my own obsessively balanced creations that I made when I had my own kitchen.

To the future and eventually having my own place to cook again!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Learning to Love a Postpartum Body

It's been said that a postpartum body is like a war zone. Now I'm not sure if I would go that far, but I will say that I feel as though my body will never be the same again.

My abdomen has always been the smallest part of my body. This is no longer the case. Many of my shirts don't fit because my breasts are larger from breastfeeding. I even had to buy new bras because my old ones were too small. I have a giant scar across my lower abdomen from my c-section, my "linea negra" is hanging around and doesn't seem to be getting any fainter, and I still have 4 pounds to lose to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight...

Since most women struggle with their postpartum looks, and I am one of the crowd, I thought I would go against the grain and show off my postpartum body with the hope that this exercise will help me realize what an amazing feat my body has successfully completed, and help me love the transformations in my body that I can't change, and motivate me to work to reverse what I can.

The day Kesha was born (38 weeks pregnant)
Day 1 of being home post c-section (so a little more than 24 hours after Kesha was born)
My stomach was still huge and looked like I was still pregnant. There was so much swelling from the surgery, and of course you still have tons of fluids inside you from 9+ months of being pregnant.

My stitches from my c-section. This was taken just a few days after surgery. Since my belly was still so big when I got home I had Arturo take a picture of my stitches so I could see what they looked like. Just imagine, you get the same cut and type of stitches on your uterus too...

One week post c-section. You an see how big my belly is still. Because a c-section is a major abdominal surgery there is so much swelling post operation. It was a tough recovery for me and I still have that beautiful scar to show for it.

Two weeks postpartum. Now I'd like to throw in here that I had some sort of stomach thing where I couldn't keep food or liquids down for about 4 days. My stomach is not this flat all the time. The minute I eat something it balloons out and it looks like I have lots of extra belly fat (which I essentially do have)

I am now 6 weeks postpartum and I would like to say that I look WAY better than I do in the photo above, but that's just not the case. I look the same. I was just given permission to partake in any and all physical activity I would like to, which is fantastic, and I hope I can report that in the coming months that my body has returned to normal. Until then, I thought you would all like to see updated photos of my scar and "linea negra".

Many people say 10 months on 10 months off, so I am trying to keep that in mind as I look at my slightly torn apart body. I also look that bump in the first picture, look at my scar, and realize that an amazing, tiny person came from me and that, although I shouldn't let myself go, it's okay for my body to be this way right now, and that it was all worth it!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Missing Fall, and All That Comes With It

I love fall. Leaves majestically changing to shades of red and orange before the make their descent to the ground, carpeting it with their regal hues, crackling fires in the fireplace, rain drizzling its way down to the earth through gray skies, pumpkin patches full of excited children (and adults) looking for the perfect specimen to turn in to the Halloween creation of their dreams, watching as the days get shorter before your eyes, curling up on the couch with a hot cup of tea watching through the window as the world outside changes...

There is something truly magical about change. Many of us fight change. We like to remain in our comfort zone; things around us remaining constant and known. Nature knows otherwise and models constant change and adaptation as a norm. Maybe this is why I love fall so much. It is exemplary. It is how we should all strive to be... adaptable, flexible, and open to change.

Or then again maybe I just like the cider, fires, rain, pumpkins, and a sense of security and warmth being inside when its wet and dark outside.

I wish we had fall in Ecuador,

Mom's Visit, Photos I Haven't Posted Yet, and a Mishmash of Things I Haven't Writen About Yet

My mom is the best! She is so amazing, in fact, that she took 3 WEEKS off work to come and spend time with me and her cute little new granddaughter! Not only that but she flew 12 hours, stayed in a house with 5 other people (4 of which do not speak English), and hung out in a country where she can only get her point across and not necessarily understand what people say in response. (to be really fair my mom's Spanish has improved a lot since she took Spanish I and II this past summer before coming to visit)

She has been gone almost two weeks now (yes, I am just getting around to posting this) and I miss her heaps! I can't wait until I can go home and visit with Kesha (although we're not sure when that will be). It is fun to send my mom and dad pictures of Kesha as she grows and changes, but I do wish she were closer. I know we made the right decision moving so far away, because both Arturo and I can be home to raise her, rather than sending her to daycare, but I do miss my parents a lot and wish they were closer to hug and kiss their granddaughter!

Here are a few pictures from my mom's time here in Ecuador...

Mom's first time holding Kesha

Mom hanging out with Kesha in the sun

 My mom and Chela (my mother-in-law) with Kesha who is wearing the same outfit that I wore when I was two weeks old

Mom with Kesh in Paute (right outside of Cuenca)

Mom breaking open Toctes (like walnuts, but different) with rocks in "El Campo" (Paute)

Mom and Nico playing the guitar at Aida's country house in Paute

 We will miss you Mommy/Nana! No es adios, es hasta pronto! We love you! xo

While my mom was here we also got to go and see Aida's son-in-law's Peruvian step horses (caballos de paso). I didn't have pictures of them before, but now I do. So here they are!

I can't remember what else I wanted to write about, but have many other topics, so I'm going to start another entry...

Monday, October 11, 2010

New Endeavors

Along with our El Nomad work, Arturo and I have started a blog called El Nomad Recommends. In this blog we review and recommend businesses in Cuenca (here is the link to the blog Our goal is to provide people (expats, prospective expats, students, travelers, etc.) with information about quality businesses in Cuenca.

Thanks to Randy and Karen, we have also decided to become what we call facilitators. Our service is helping expats who live in Cuenca, or are moving to Cuenca, navigate the new system, negotiate prices, translate documents, etc. We opened a page for this as well. It can be found here

We're excited about these endeavors and look forward to working on our new projects!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Baby Blues and Struggles as a New Parent

I'm going to start this by saying I LOVE my daughter and I LOVE being a parent!

Having said that, I've really struggled with the baby blues. Those that knew Arturo and me prior to Kesha's arrival know that you couldn't keep us put. We were always moving, going to the gym, coordinating social activities, traveling, etc. We are also very committed to what we consider to be a more natural way of life.

Our commitment to a more natural way of life has led us to make certain parenting decisions. We are exclusively breastfeeding and plan on doing so at least for one year, if not until two years (which we have read is ideal). At this point we are not pumping and are only, literally, breastfeeding. We are also doing an "on demand" eating system. This means that we do not dictate when Kesh eats, she tells us when she is hungry. It has worked well for her and she is growing very quickly and is super healthy! (it has also worked wonders for me and losing my pregnancy weight!) We also seem to have formed an excellent bond and spend much of the time talking, reading, or singing. However, this plan severely restricts my lifestyle (wow, that sounds super selfish). I can't leave the house without her because she has no eating schedule. Once I decide to workout again I will have to pick activities that include her coming with me. This counts out gyms, pools, yoga classes that aren't mommy/baby (which I don't think they have in Cuenca, but I haven't looked yet), the oh so popular biloterapia, and other such activities. Basically, I can work out at home and walk with her.

At some point I would like to start pumping and mixing in bottle feeding (not switching entirely), but I'm not sure when to do it. I was hoping to do it at 6 months, but I really can't imagine having this schedule for the next 5 months... One of our solutions was to go to a 2-3 hour period every day where we feed her pumped breast milk from a bottle. However, I have huge hesitations about this. Primarily I feel like a selfish mother wanting to do this. I have no problem with breast milk production (I know, you wanted to know that), and no problems feeding my daughter. Why should I not give her all that I have? Arturo and I talked about how I could use those hours to have a bit of time for myself, sleep, workout, reduce my stress levels by getting a massage, my nails done, etc... things that would make me happier and thus make me a better mother. But I'm not sure what to think or to do about it. I haven't made up my mind yet. But I know I need to find some solution because I feel stuck in the house, which is a horrible feeling for someone as active and nomadic as me.

So, I am also struggling with is feeling like I'm stuck in the house. Because we're not pumping and I have to be with Kesh at all times we, naturally, have to think about her when we chose our "going out" destinations. We rarely take her out at night because of how cold it can get, which means our late night hamburger runs we did while I was pregnant are out of the question. I stay home while Arturo goes out. We took Arturo's cousins out to see the city of Cuenca the other night and while they got out of the car at each site, I sat in the car because it was too cold for Kesha. I know as she gets older this will be easier, but right now it's hard on me. Once again, I feel horrible saying these things because they're so selfish, but I just need to get them out.

The other thing I'm struggling with is pacifier usage. Kesha likes to "eat" to calm herself, which can get very tiring for mom. However, our pediatrician told us that he highly recommends NOT using a pacifier because they're like crack to babies. They get confused about if they're hungry or not and they become obsessed with their pacifier and it is very hard to wean them off of it. So we decided not to use one. But I can sit forever with Kesh "eating", half asleep. But when you try to pull her off she wakes up and is upset. This is especially tiring in the middle of the night... a pacifier sounds like such a good solution, but can I justify helping myself out by giving my baby the baby version of crack? (like I said, doctor's words, not mind haha)

Lastly, I'm struggling with baby talk. I'm not a baby talk person. I like to enunciate so Kesha hears correct sounds and the correct words. When people use baby talk I feel like they are talking to my child in the same way that they would to a really small, stupid dog. She is a person with a developing brain! Teach her the right way to speak please! Well, here baby talk is the norm and makes me want to rip my hair out! I have no idea how to ask people to please enunciate and speak to my child like a human being rather than a stupid animal, but I haven't figured out how to do that yet.

Kesha is really a joy and puts up with a lot from us (like us dragging her at 2 weeks old to go shopping in la Casa de la Mujer and to the mercado 3 de Noviembre at 4 weeks old). She is a really good baby, isn't colicky, sleeps at least some every night, and is a good eater. She is social and does well when other people hold her (unless she's hungry) and is so much fun to watch grow and develop. But, as I'm sure everyone who is a parent can contest to, I am having a hard time adjusting and deciding how I want to parent. I'm sure I will figure it out, but I just needed to put my thoughts down somewhere.