Cleaning house


Does anyone else dread the weekend because they are faced with a mountain of dishes, laundry, and other housekeeping chores? I remember every Saturday growing up was dedicated to doing the chores, but since leaving home I’ve tried to manage my housekeeping in a way that allows me to enjoy my weekends. Unfortunately, since having a baby it means my house is a disaster and I feel increasingly stressed by the idea of cleaning, organizing, and getting the house into shape.

Part of the challenge with my house is we bought a “fixer-upper” and moved in the same week that our daughter was born. Before moving in we needed to change the insulation in the house because asbestos was found in the attic, and once in the house, we needed to change the bathroom sink, vanity, light, and toilet. Given that we literally just had a baby, we did the changes in stages and spent weeks with random bathroom fixtures hanging out in the hallway or littering the backyard. 

The move also marked the official merging of two lives and all of our worldly belongings. For anyone who has gone through this process, it is disasterous… especially when moving into a smaller home. I had a 1500 sq ft. townhouse and my partner moved from his home of the last 15 years and brought his car hobby. Our basement is filled to the rafters, our driveway packed with 4 cars, 2 trucks and a trailer, and our backyard scattered with car parts, a snowmobile, a canoe, and assorted debris from our first attempt to “organize” the basement.

There is a part of me that is a little embarrassed (well, really embarrassed) by the state of our house and yard. We are very nice, normal people, who actually want to take pride in the look of our home, we just aren’t there yet. In the meantime I have an incredible amount of stress and anxiety every evening and weekend, knowing that I have a lot of work to do.

So, I’m looking for advice because I have no idea how or where to even begin. Send me your tips and ideas for organizing kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and laundry rooms. Help me organize my jewelry, Tupperware, kids toys, and mail. The goal is to find economical solutions to everyday mess, or recommendations for how to optimize the space in a small kitchen, bathroom and laundry room!


Food for thought


Last March I had a baby, and like many new moms I was eager to get back to my pre-baby shape. So, last summer I joined Weight Watchers to help me get back on track and better understand my nutritional needs as a new mom. This was the first time I had ever officially gone on a diet and I was really surprised with what I learned. When I’m hungry, eat fruits and vegetables.

I know it seems silly, but I didn’t ever really understand this nutritional basic. Before joining the program, I thought I knew about healthy, balanced eating, portion sizes and not to eat a lot (or any) processed foods that are high in fat or sugar. I always had fruit or vegetables at every meal, love salad, grow vegetables in my garden in the summer, indulge during berry seasons, but fruits and vegetables weren’t part of my snack food routine. 

With everything I do, I try to learn a lesson and take this lesson forward with me. My experience with Weight Watchers was a good one, not because I met my goal weight (in fact I never actually set a goal weight… or ‘finished’ the program for that matter), but because I transformed my way of thinking about food and snacking.

Now, I say I didn’t finish the program, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t achieve success. Simply incorporating veggies into my snacking has allowed me to lose more weight than I ever planned to. Initially I wanted to fit comfortably into my pre-baby clothes, which I did… but it didn’t stop there. 8 months later I’m 10 lbs lighter (132 lbs) than my average weight before having a baby. This is a consequence of one, easy nutritional change. Sure, I’m active, I chase after and play with my toddler, and breastfeeding definitely helped I think, but in hindsight I think I owe my silhouette today  to veggies.

I don’t expect that it is that simple for everyone who is trying to lose weight, in fact I really admire those who are on a sizable weight loss journey (sorry for the pun). I think it is unfair to simplify diet and nutrition, or ‘what works’ for those who have a significant amount of weight to lose, but I think there are lessons that can be learned in the little things. However, I do hope this thought for the day might encourage others who are packing their lunch today.

This is my challenge for the week!


zusana light squat

Starting on Sunday, I am throwing down the gauntlet for myself and any of my followers who are wanting to tone their thighs. We are going to be doing 30 squats a day for 7 days. I’m not talking about half squats either, I mean full butt down past your knees squats.

Already masters of the squat? Do the squats while on your toes – the killer.

Who’s with me? You can tag them on to the end of your workouts and on your days off just a quick warm up, squats then 5 minutes walk and stretch to cool down.
Can’t do a full squat set? Don’t worry, alternate 5 sets/6 reps full squat then half squat.

Remember to do them in sets with a break in between to prevent burning yourself out! Also have your toes pointed out at a 30 degree angle, that way if you’re struggling…

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No babysitter… no excuse!


So I’ve mentally made a commitment to log my accomplishments, no matter how small. So far, they are all pretty small. 3 minutes of exercise one day, I think I managed a 3 km walk another day… both are pretty pathetic and I need to get off my butt and really start working on fitness changes.

I saw this picture the other day and decided it needed to be my inspiration for the weekend. My partner is working this weekend so it is an opportunity for me to challenge my commitment. Last weekend he was away and I felt pretty accomplished – out at the dog park taking our little monster for a long run both days, with baby in tow, followed by grocery shopping, errands, cleaning the house and a little social time for me with friends. But, I wasn’t able to get to the gym, which is something I genuinely enjoy,

I suspect most people with kids find it fairly easy to find the excuse not to take time for their health or their body because it is difficult to incorporate kids into activities meant to improve individual fitness. The advent of jogging strollers has created a cult of “stroller-cisers”, which I tried to do, but didn’t really fit in with the other mommies (I’m pretty shy and don’t easily integrate into new groups… especially when I feel like I’m out-numbered by yuppie moms). I also love the chariots that go on the back of your bike, but I’m reluctant to do anything more than a leisurely ride with a little one following behind. There are also now child-minding services at the gym, which I really took advantage of when I was on maternity leave, but since going back to work I haven’t really taken advantage of this opportunity.

These are my excuses and I need to get over myself because any exercise is an improvement to what I’m doing now, and I know I’ll have more energy and more fun if I’m getting back into the things I love. Plus, I want to lead by example. I want my little girl to grow up active, adventurous, and living the examples I’ve set for her.

I have many things on my “to-do” list for the day and for the weekend, but number one is getting to the gym…. after writing this post 🙂

Stop wishing, start doing


After creating this blog yesterday I realized a couple of things… First, I am conveniently in a wedding about 87 days from now, which means it’s pretty good timing to try and reach some health and fitness goals. And second, just the thought of doing this is getting me motivated!

So, this morning I woke up with a plan: measurements, before pictures, and getting my partner on board! We’re ready and it isn’t as bad as I thought. My rear-end is certainly not something you would see in a fitness magazine, but I do think I’m in a good starting position.

That’s the good news. The bad news is I tried to squeeze in 10 minutes of core exercise this morning before work and I only managed 3… yes, 3 minutes. How pathetic is that!?! With a sick and cranky little girl who had me up half the night, I was exhausted, trying to make her breakfast, eat breakfast myself, give her a bath, get her dressed, get myself ready for work… the list goes on. What’s even worse is those 3 minutes were squeezed into a 3 hour time frame (6 to 9am). There is definitely room for improvement here… I can do this!

I am ready to get back to it and finish the other 7 minutes when I get home — along with a run and good stretch. Nothing worth having ever comes easy, so I have to make this exercise thing a priority by negotiating an hour or so around a committee meeting at 6pm for the Board of a charity that I’m on, making dinner, getting the baby to bed, studying for a French test that I have on Wednesday night, and hopefully spending a little time with my partner. I think the dog will need to come with me for my run. Multitasking is what women do best, right!?!

I’m already exhausted. This will be a long 89 days…

Day 1 – initializing the experiment

There is a rule in business – the 90 day rule. It basically states that whatever you do today, you will see the benefits of 90 days from now. I’d like to test this out… or at least measure all the little things that occur over the course of 90 days. In the spirit of science and discovery, I will make this a little study of life, growth, change, and accomplishment.

The question: do we notice change? My hypothesis, if we don’t measure our life’s activities, we don’t see or notice the change that occurs around us. Likewise, if we don’t set goals, we don’t work towards meaningful change.

Over the next 90 days I will observe and record the activities, events, accomplishments, and change that affects me and those who I have the most influence on: my 1 year-old daughter and partner. I include my daughter because she changes so much every day and I love watching her grow… I think I’ll be amazed by all that happens with her. I’d also like to see how this quiet experiment affects my partner. He has his own complaints and musings about how he would like to lose weight, get back to the gym, finish building a fence, get started on building a garage, have time to work on his car with his buddies, and balance his own work-life stress. 

So here it is… my baseline data:

I’m a 33 year old mother with moderate activity, fitness, and energy level. I have a regular office job as a public policy officer and while I really love the people I work with and feel inspired by some of the work I do, I feel like I could do a lot more and I’m disappointed in taking a “step back” in my career for the time being. I would like to be more active and I’m feeling “squishy” after having a baby. I read blogs and articles about amazingly-fit “normal” people and I want that to be me, but struggle with motivation, energy or support at home to really commit to being a super-fit mom who is always out hiking, biking and running with the baby and the dog. I don’t always eat well and find difficulty balancing time for myself with making sure every moment counts with my daughter, chores and housekeeping, walking the dog, keeping in touch with friends and family, renovations and yard work, feeling romantically/physically connected to my partner, and getting to the gym. 

My partner works hard in a skilled trade, but he’s always exhausted, his body hurts most of the time, and his energy level always seems drained. He put on quite a bit of “baby” weight and hasn’t managed to lose it but always talks about how it is a “priority”.He has grand ideas for a garage we are planning to build, but I’ve placed other things on the to-do list (like having a fenced yard for the dog and the baby) and we are on a  limited budget so we are trying to do most of the work ourselves. The spring and summer are his busy months with work and he works a lot of evenings and weekends, so it will be interesting to observe the changes over the next 90 days.

My little girl is a perfectly sweet little 13-month old who doesn’t quite walk, has a few words and sounds and is just learning how to put it all together. She inspires me each and every day and I know I will be amazed with all that she does.

So, here goes nothin’!