Spring Dresses at Target for under $30!

And they all have pockets!!

As I was making my weekly Target trip a few weeks ago to pick up household supplies and and groceries, I noticed so many new floral and flowy spring dresses for women in the front of the store. At first I just walked on by since that wasn’t my typical style. But on subsequent trips, I noticed that many of the dresses, especially those by Universal Thread, have pockets. Dresses with pockets are a rare unicorn, so I ended up trying a few and here are some of my favorites.

Women's Tie-Dye Long Sleeve Tiered Dress - Universal Thread™ - image 1 of 8
I love the fabric and the ombre on this one.
Women's Floral Print Ruffle Sleeveless Dress - Universal Thread™ - image 1 of 8
Perfect for when you want to be comfy but a little dressy.
Women's Short Sleeve Shirtdress - Universal Thread™ - image 1 of 8
Perfect for running errands.
Women's Flutter Sleeveless Dress - Universal Thread™ Floral - image 1 of 8
You can wear this one to brunch.
Women's Gauze Tiered Tank Dress - Universal Thread™ - image 1 of 8
The perfect sundress.

Happy dress weather!

To read more posts about fashion click below!

How to Heal Diastasis Recti Part I: Breathing

This is the second part in a series about healing a diastasis recti. I’ve been healing my diastasis recti since my baby was born 16 months ago, and I’m proud to say that my gap is no longer considered a clinical diastasis, since it is less than one inch . For part one click here! And to find out how to heal your diastasis recti keep reading!

So you have diastasis recti, what now?

To recap, diastasis recti is an increased separation between the two halves of the outermost abdominal muscles, called the rectus abdominis, or the “six pack” muscle. It is a commonly seen issue with moms after they have a baby, especially after having multiple children.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dr-image-2.png
On the right you can see a significant diastasis recti occurring during pregnancy.

You read my other article, and already determined that you do indeed have a diastasis recti, and you are all ready do some exercise to fix it. And yet I’m going to advise you start healing your diastasis recti by correcting your breathing!

Why Start with Breathing?

Breathing is the foundation of our system and breathing properly sets the stage for all of our functioning. Deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve and the parasympathetic nervous system to rest and relax, also promotes healing and tissue repair by increasing oxygen, plus helps decrease neck and low back pain, as well as decrease anxiety and increase well-being.

All that is great, right? But how does correct breathing help heal a diastasis? Because if you use you learn to breathe properly connecting your diaphragm and pelvic floor, you will activate your core and strengthen your pelvic floor, and prevent pressure from going out and down, making your diastasis worse, or harming your pelvic floor.

The Core

Let’s backtrack for a minute, to understand the function of the core. You can think of the core as a cannister which manages the pressure of air that we breathe, in order to support and protect the spine and pelvis. If the diaphragm, the pelvic floor, the spinal stabilizers or deep abdominals are not in alignment with each other we are going have dysfunction.

Breathing properly helps us regulate that system. When you breathe correctly, on an inhale the diaphragm contracts down which puts pressure onto the abdominal wall and down onto the pelvic floor. On an exhale the pelvic floor contracts up, abdominal wall moves in and the diaphragm comes up, this creates abdominal pressure to protect our spine.

Relearning to Breathe Post-partum

During pregnancy, to accommodate your growing baby, the diaphragm gets pushed up, and the ribs get pushed out. In addition, the back tightens to offset the weight in front. Due to those changes, as many pregnant women can attest, it can be difficult to get a deep breath in or get a good exhale out. This can lead to a paradoxical breathing pattern, where you breathe into your chest and shoulders, overusing muscles in the chest and neck.

That breathing pattern can lead to other problems, since the diaphragm is rising on the inhale, it must come DOWN on the exhale. As you can see in the image on the left, that cause pressure down into the pelvic floor, and out into the abdominal wall. potentially leading to tightness and weakness and then possible prolapse and leaking, or causing or exacerbating a diastasis recti.

Postpartum, to get back into alignment, we need to bring our ribs back down and regain abdominal control to provide tension for the diaphragm. And often we need to relearn correct breathing after only being able to breathe in a more shallow fashion throughout pregnancy. Restoring the normal working of the breathing system is essential for healing a diastasis, because it helps bring the core into the correct alignment for function and breathing, as well as preventing prolapse or increasing a diastasis.

Side-lying Breathing

Getting my breathe on

My favorite way to start practicing 360 breathing is by lying on your side. Its the most comfortable and easiest way to breathe when you have a weak core and you are used to overusing your back and neck muscles. Breathe in through your nose, and out with a “haa” noise to activate your core. For side-lying breathing you want your side to come up when you inhale. When you exhale, your pelvic floor should rise to initiate the exhale and your ribs should come back down. If you are using a shallow breathing pattern your chest expands with neck and shoulders, and the side does not move. If your side moves, your diaphragm is expanding and you are getting air into your belly. That’s good! Make sure to practice on both sides so both sets of ribs get a chance to move. From there, you can practice breathing lying on your back, sitting, or standing.

It takes a lot of practice and commitment to change a breathing pattern but its worth it!

Disclaimer
**The content on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for diagnosis or care from a physical therapist or other health care professional.

Easy & Delicious Spanish Chicken and Rice

  1. Easy & Delicious Spanish Chicken and Rice

    • Servings: 4
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Rating: ★★★★★
    • Print

    A super-easy sheet pan dinner that is a real crowd pleaser too!


    I love an easy chicken dinner.  And a chicken dinner that cooks with a built in side dish is even better.  I’ve been using the Near East boxed rice for a while, boiling them in a pot as directed.  When I discovered they could be baked in the oven by adding the water and spice to a pan, I was happy.  When I then figured out that you can bake chicken on top of the rice and have a fantastic meal, I was thrilled! This all-in-one sheet pan, Spanish Chicken and Rice dish will be a winner with everyone in the family, adults and kids alike.  It’s become a real staple in our home lately.  You can also customize the rice, by mixing in canned beans (our favorite) or other mix-ins such as sausage, onions, peppers, peas and carrots, whatever your family likes!

    Ingredients


    Directions

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees
    2. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray
    3. Pour the rice from the box onto the pan and spread it out so it lies in a single layer
    4. Sprinkle HALF of the spice packet onto the rice (you can also add canned beans here to give the dish more flavor and body or any other mix-in you like with rice!)
    5. Then place the chicken pieces on top of the rice and sprinkle the rest of the spice pack on top of the chicken
    6. Bake covered for 1 hour, and then uncovered for 30 minutes.
    7. Enjoy!

Growing Up During a Pandemic

I took my one-year-old, David, to Stew Leonard’s grocery store yesterday, and he was extremely entertained by the fun displays and colors there, as you can see from his face below.

When going to a grocery store is one of the most exciting experiences you’ve ever had #pandemicparenting #pandemicbaby #davidmax #momlifeinleggings #stewleonards

See my post on instagram about it!

It got me thinking about how different his babyhood and early toddlerhood has been from his older sisters. I’ve been lucky enough to work part time for the past several years, so I was able to bring them to all kinds of classes, toddler gyms, the library, and other fun places. During this past summer and fall I was able to do outdoor activities with David, but now that its cold outside and cases are rising, we are not doing those kinds of indoor activities and classes, due to the risk of Covid-19 exposure. So going to a grocery store was an exciting experience for him!

I’m so excited that vaccines are becoming available, and really look forward to being able to get back to regular life soon, for so many reasons.

Sweater vests are somehow a hot fashion trend in 2020

Enjoying my new vest!

After spending the better part of 2020 wearing loungewear at home, a thought suddenly occurred to me, with the weather getting cooler. How can I be even more cozy and comfortable right now? And I realized that a sweater vest (with pockets OF COURSE) is exactly what I need in my closet.

Yup, Sweater vests are Popular Again.

And, it turns out that I am not the only one that feels that way! According to ITK , sweater vests are super fashionable in in 2020. And according to Lyst, searches for sweater vests are up 102% recently. (They also state that velour tracksuits are getting popular again. Everyone just wants to be comfortable nowadays!) I love it when I’m accidently on trend!

My interest in sweater vests was piqued when I was browsing Macy’s for some holiday gifts for my nearest and dearest when this beauty popped up in my search. It looks cozy, has a nice front and side drape, is nice and long and it has pockets!

Karen Scott Duster Vest, Order Here $23.99

Credit: Macy’s

Unfortunately though, that vest is sold out, so since then I’ve been on the hunt for something similar.

I ended up buying this similar style from Amazon.

A2Y Women’s Open Front Long Sleeveless Draped Side Pockets Vest Knit Sweater: Order Here $24.99

Credit: Amazon

I also ended up ordering this super warm and fuzzy vest from Bloomingdales, on sale right now!

Echo Faux Fur Colorblock Zip Front Vest: Order here $90.30

Echo - Faux Fur Colorblock Zip Front Vest
Credit: Bloomingdales

Here are some more cute options:

Ruffled Knit Vest, Order Here $49.90

Image 1 of RUFFLED KNIT VEST from Zara
Credit: Zara

Women’s Simply Vera Vera Wang Faux-Shearling Vest: Order Here $43.35

Credit: Kohls

Cybil Cable-Knit Sweater Vest: Order Here $158.00

Credit: Anthropolgie

If you enjoyed this post about comfy fashion, check out my post Why I am So Excited that Joggers are in Style Now!

Check Out my new Guest Post!

I usually just post my thoughts here for fun, but recently I had the privilege of having some of my writing published on the blog of Meredith Castin PT, DPT, aka the Non-clinical PT.

Check out my post there “7 Tips for Effective School-Based Telehealth.”

I was really overwhelmed as a school based PT when forced to transition to teletherapy at the start of the pandemic, and these tips helped get me start off on the right foot with new students.

And make sure to follow her as well!

How do I know if I have diastasis recti?

Does your stomach look “squishy” months or years after giving birth?  Do you feel like you still look pregnant way after your baby is born? Do you have low back pain? If so, you may have diastasis recti.  Although I learned about diastasis recti in physical therapy (PT) school I only got really interested once my own diastasis recti started really affecting me, causing back, hip, and even neck pain, after having four pregnancies in six years!

Me with the hubs, super preggo with #3 out of 4.

That’s why I decided to sign up for the Postpartum Corrective Exercise Specialist course by Dr. Sarah Ellis Duvall, so I can help heal my own diastasis recti and help others as well. Follow her on Instagram or Facebook!

What exactly is diastasis recti?

Diastasis recti is an increased separation between the two halves of the outermost abdominal muscles, called the rectus abdominis, or the “six pack” muscle.  Those muscles meet in the middle of the abdomen, joined by the linea alba.  During pregnancy that separation commonly widens.  This is a normal process, as the uterus presses on the abdominal wall as well as an influx of pregnancy hormones that cause connective tissue to soften. (1)

Photo: https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/blog/articles/healing-diastasis-recti

But the problem is that after the baby is born its not so cute anymore to have a widened gap.  This can lead to what is known as the mom pooch, and possibly the dreaded “when are you due?” question, after the baby is already born!    But as mentioned above, the issues with diastasis recti are more than just cosmetic.  Issues with diastasis recti can lead to pelvic instability, abdominal wall weakness, and lower back pain, and even incontinence. (2)

Wondering if you have diastasis recti? Read on to find out how to check for yourself**.

How to Check for Diastasis Recti

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
  2. Press your fingers horizontally into the middle of your abdomen on your belly button
  3. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor into a “crunch” position.
  4. Feel the right and left sides of your rectus abdominis muscle and take note the number of fingers that can fit into the separation, and how ‘squishy’ it feels inside the gap. A separation of more than two fingertips, is considered to be a diastasis recti. But the depth of the separation and how ‘squishy’ it feels inside the gap is important to note as well. (3)
Checking (and finding) my diastasis recti! (and my overgrown SCM and scalenes, yes I get neck pain! 🙂

5.Repeat this test again approximately 1-2 inches above and below your belly button to determine the length of the gap.

What Now?

If there is a diastasis recti, it is important to avoid traditional ab exercises; anything that frontloads the body too much can increase the gap and put a strain on it.  Exercises like crunches, sit ups, double leg lifts are best avoided.2Lifting is a big one too, especially with a baby! It’s important to lift by squatting instead of bending and bringing baby close to your body before lifting it.

More information to come!

References
1. How to Fix a Diastasis Recti.  (2016)  https://pelvicpainrehab.com/female-pelvic-pain/2306/fix-diastasis-recti/
2. Dubin, A.  Diastasis Recti Exercises: Do’s and Don’ts for Your Postpartum Pooch.  https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/my-body/postpartum/diastasis-recti-exercise-dos-and-donts/
3. Duvall, S. How to Check for a Diastasis. https://www.coreexercisesolutions.com/postpartum-corrective-exercise-specialist/

Disclaimer
**The content on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for diagnosis or care from a physical therapist or other health care professional.

Why I am So Excited that Joggers are in Style Now

For at least the past decade or so, leggings have been incredibly popular. Though despite their incredible popularity, they have also provoked a lot of controversy. We’ve all seen lots of think pieces about whether leggings are pants or not. But over the years many who at first thought leggings should stay in the gym came around to wearing them, because lets face it, they are comfortable!

I myself, despite some initial hesitance about how to wear leggings have come to fully embrace them over the past decade. As a physical therapist, I can be fairly casual in my work clothes, and like to wear things to work that wash easily. And then when I became a mom, I needed comfortable easy to wash clothes even more. And maternity leggings are the absolute best! So that’s how leggings and a tunic became my signature look, as seen below.

Popana Women's Tunic Tops for Leggings Long Sleeve Shirt Plus Size Made in  USA at Amazon Women's Clothing store
My Top 5 Go-To Outfits for Fall | Dresses with leggings, Outfits with  leggings, Fashion
Tunic with leggings | Outfits with leggings, Fashion, Leggings fashion

But recently, I started seeing hearing fashionable people talking about “jogger” pants. Upon investigation, these appeared to be similar to what we called sweatpants when I was growing up in the late 80s and 90s. As with the emergence of leggings, I was initially skeptical. This type of sweatpants had become incredibly out of style for the past while, it was hard to imagine them being somewhat fashionable. And as I said, I’ve become so used to the legging silhouette. But after seeing them everywhere for the past few weeks and months, I decided to pick up a pair of these to try at my trusty local Target store. (Is it ok for a mom of 4 in her 30s to shop in the Juniors department?? Asking for a friend.) I also picked up this pair, which is more of a legging/jogger hybrid.

Women's High-Rise Vintage Jogger Sweatpants - Wild Fable™ : Target
Women’s High-Rise Vintage Jogger Sweatpants – Wild Fable™

And I am in **love***. Leggings are definitely comfortable, no question, but joggers are so comfy and so much looser on the leg after being used to leggings. It’s a nice change. I’m just happy that something so comfortable is somewhat fashionable these days. And, they have pockets! And since many people are still working remotely and few people are seeing what your wear on your bottom half, its the perfect time to try out this trend if you’re still not convinced. I would pair it with a tucked in top and sneakers, like the model above, or a crop top and Uggs. With slouchier bottoms, you want a more fitted top that is not too long, like this one.

Women's Long Sleeve Slim Fit Cropped T-Shirt - Wild Fable™ - image 1 of 6
Women’s Long Sleeve Slim Fit Cropped T-Shirt – Wild Fable™

To be honest, I’m wearing my new joggers while I’m writing this post. In these uncertain times, at least we can be comfortable.

How to Encourage Your Baby to Walk

My baby learning to walk!

Walking is one of the most exciting and anticipated motor milestone in a baby’s life.  For many parents, walking is the transition point between babyhood and toddler life.  And there is a certain magic to seeing your child go from crawling and even cruising on furniture, to being able to walk on their own.  The look of wonder and pride and exhilaration on a child’s face as they successfully take those steps are priceless.

The average age for walking right around the first birthday (11-15 months) but the normal age range for walking is all the way from 9 months to 18 months.  So, there is a wide range of normal.  But still, parents are often eager for their baby to start walking by 12 months.   But just to calm you down if your baby doesn’t walk by their first birthday (and many don’t!) research indicates that whether a child is an early or late walker does not make a difference in how well coordinated or intelligent a child is by the time they reach elementary school age. (1)  That being said, let’s learn more about this exciting milestone, walking!

All of my kids really loved this push toy!

Which motor milestones come right before walking?

  • Pulling to stand– on average between 9-12 months (once they can pull to stand, make sure to lower the crib mattress to its lowest setting!)
  • Cruising (walking sideways holding onto furniture)- within weeks of pulling to stand on average 10-12 months
  • Standing independently-on average around 9-11 months

How can you encourage your baby to walk?

  1. Work Out!
    While they are learning to bear weight on their legs let them practice bouncing before they can stand, either on your lap or in a bouncer.  This strengthens their little legs, like squatting, to prepare them for standing and stepping.  But please keep their time in a jumperoo/exercauser/activity center limited to 15 minutes a day, because overuse can actually lead to delays in standing and walking, and can be bad for leg positioning. (2)
  2. Let baby move 
    Practice is key for learning to walk.  Let baby crawl cruise and stand as much as possible.
  3. Safety is key
    But once your baby is mobile, either by crawling, pulling to stand or cruising, make sure to baby proof by putting baby gates in front of staircases, bolting furniture to the walls, and keep away dangerous items and small pieces that a baby could swallow.  Also, keep an eye on your baby while they are practicing these new skills, since their balance is not the best while first learning.
  4. Go barefoot!
    Being barefoot is best when learning to walk to help strengthen the muscles in the foot and ankle.  When outside, or if its too cold for bare feet, I like the Robeez flexible soled shoes for early walkers.
  5. Give them motivation
    Move a favorite toy or snack just out of reach. A good trick is to put something your baby really likes a few couch cushions over so he/she can cruise over to grab it!
  6. And also a push toy
    I like the V-tetch one. It on amazon.
  7. But no baby walkers
    These have been banned in Canada, as unfortunately there have been some tragic accidents with them. (2)

When to Seek Help?

If your baby is not pulling to stand by 12 months or walking by 18 months please consult with your pediatrician.

Early Gait Pattern

  • Short, frequent steps
  • Arms up in high guard
  • Legs held in external rotation and wide apart for balance
  • Knees and hips are flexed
  • Flat feet
Note the legs turned out, wide apart, and knees bent. Got to love those cute baby legs.

By around age 3, a child develops a more adult-like gait pattern, with longer steps, arm swing, and heel strike. (3)

Disclaimer
**The content on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for diagnosis or care from a physical therapist or other health care professional.

 

References

  1. Oskar G Jenni, Aziz Chaouch, Jon Caflisch, Valentin Rousson. Infant motor milestones: poor predictive value for outcome of healthy children. Acta Paediatrica, 2013; 102 (4): e181 DOI: 10.1111/apa.12129
  2. Garrett M, McElroy AM, Staines A. Locomotor milestones and babywalkers: cross sectional study. BMJ. 2002;324(7352):1494. doi:10.1136/bmj.324.7352.1494
  3. Sutherland D, Olsen RA, Biden EN, Wyatt MP. The Development of Mature Walking. Oxford: Mac Keith Press; Blackwell Scientific; 1988: Chapter 11

Learning to Ride a Bike: Training Wheels vs. Balance Bike

As a Millennial, I fondly remember learning to ride a bike for the first time on my brand new shiny, pink bike with streamers. And to assist with the learning process, of course I had training wheels. Training wheels are the old school way that kids learned to transitioned from a tricycle to a big kid bike. Training wheels act as a tripod, keeping the bike steady and balanced while the rider gets used to pedaling and steering without also having to balance. However, once the training wheels come off, the rider has to relearn how steer and maneuver while balancing. This method works, but taking off the training wheels could get a little rocky for some kids.

Loving her bike. Never underestimate the power of a favorite character on the bike for motivation.

So in the past decade or so, balance bikes have emerged as a new way to learn how to ride a bike.

I have to admit that, despite being a pediatric physical therapist (PT), I was not so aware of the rise of balance bikes, so my older kids have training wheels.  But as I have become more aware of balance bikes and done some research, I bought a balance bike for my own children.  So far, my three-year-old is not interested, but we’ll see if the one-year-old shows interest.

What is a Balance Bike?

But first, what is a balance bike?  It is a bike without pedals that a child rides by pushing themselves with their feet on the ground.  As the child improves walking their feet, they will progress to lifting their feet and gliding by lifting their feet while riding.  Once the child gets good at gliding, they can often progress to riding a traditional bike without training wheels. 

Strider 12 Classic Balance Bike - Kids'
Strider is a popular balance bike brand.

Advantages of the Balance Bike Method

1. Balancing is one of the hardest parts of learning to ride a bike.  When a kid starts by learning on a balance bike, they are learning how to keep themselves balanced while maneuvering their bikes.  Training wheels take most of the balancing out of the equation while the child learns how to pedal, steer, and stop, but then the child has to relearn how to do all that when the training wheels come off.  If a child is already comfortable balancing himself on a bike, then learning the pedaling is sometimes easier than learning the other way around.

2. Turning and learning are different with the training wheels on and off.  With a balance bike and with the training wheels off, the way you turn is by learning into the corner.  But since training wheels prevent that motion, kids can fall off the bike by trying to lean.  Bikes with training wheels have large turn radiuses and can fall if turning too fast.   In addition, kids will have to relearn how to perform a turn by leaning when the training wheels come off.

3. Balance bikes are lightweight and have low centers of gravity.  When sitting on a balance bike, a child should be sitting with their knees bent and their feet on the floor.  That allows them to use their feet to scoot along, while balancing yet feeling secure.  With the low center of gravity children can stop themselves from falling and maneuver.  But even if they do fall, it is a short distance from the ground.

4.  Balance bikes can be a good option for some kids with special needs who in the past may have been unable to master a pedal bike.

So, to summarize, balance bikes reverses the classic process with training wheels which was learn to pedal, then learn to balance.  With a balance bike, kids learn to balance, then learn to pedal.

Training Wheel Method

However, the training wheels method can work for some kids too.  The classic progression “old school” way to learn to ride a bike was ride-on-toy->tricycle->bike with training wheel->bike without training wheels.  There was always that pesky learning curve when taking off the training wheels though.

(BUT a pedal bike must be fitted correctly or a child will not be successful at riding it. When first learning to ride, the seat must be low enough for both feet to comfortably sit flat on the floor. When the child gets more comfortable riding, the seat should be placed at the height where the child’s tip toes reach the floor. )

Advantages of Training Wheels

1.Learning to pedal first works better for some kids.  Even though proponents of balance bikes suggest that all kids will pick up the pedaling once they have the balancing down when transitioning to a pedal bike, there still will be a learning curve there.  Either way there will be a transition to a pedal bike whether its learning to balance or learning to pedal.  Some kids benefit from building up the muscle memory used in pedaling and can compensate for balance challenges later, when they are a bit older.

2.Skipping the tricycle and going straight to the balance bike can be challenging for preschoolers.  Not all are ready to balance and do the work of scooting their legs while balancing.  A tricycle to training wheels is more appealing to many.  And it is important that kids be motivated when attempting any activity.

3. Some toddler bikes with training wheels are really cute and appealing to kids.  My three year old is very excited to ride on her 12 inch Frozen bike with streamers and training wheels, and not interested in the plain unadorned balance bike. 

Amazon.com: Huffy 12 inch Disney Frozen Girls Bike, Blue/Purple: Sports &  Outdoors
My toddler loves this bike.

Bottom Line

Either method can work so should you spring for the balance bike?  There is a lot of evidence out there that balance bikes lead to a more seamless transition to pedal biking sans training wheels.  So, if you can afford to buy a balance bike and a regular pedal bike, it is probably a good idea.  Just be prepared that there is a chance your child might not be that interested in riding it, as was the case for my kids so far.  In that case, do not despair, the training wheel method can work too.

Disclaimer
**The content on this blog is provided for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for diagnosis or care from a physical therapist or other health care professional.