Wednesday, October 24, 2018

October Minutes

Greetings faithful blog readers,

October has been a full month as we've been grading tons, traveling for work, seeing family, and loving a busy 6 month-old; since I haven't had much time for blogging lately, I figured I can write a condensed version of all the craziness. Here we go:

Work Highlights:

I'm on the performing arts committee at the college, (along with one other faculty member), and we get to select the performers that come. It was so cool to see the first performer that I had a say in, Emmy Lou Harris, live on stage this month. Brendan was home with Willa while I went to the concert and after party, but he went to the lecture series solo last month to see David Petraeus.

Another highlight was attending a faculty-student appreciation dinner. I went with three of my students early this month while Brendan kept Willa. Brendan will be joining our English honor students at laser tag later this month while I stay home. This system of trading off on who stays home when work events coincide with bedtime has been working well.

SCMLA Highlights: 

This year's SCMLA was held in San Antonio. We left on a Wednesday after teaching and drove five hours. We only stopped once and Willa slept most of the way, which was great. My parents met us there Thursday morning, so they could babysit while we did our conference thing. We were both presenting on the regional fiction writer's panel. As always, it was a delight; this year, I even sold a few books! This was my 9th SCMLA, Brendan's 7th, and Willa's 1st. The best part was introducing Willa to friends from McNeese. 

My parents kept Willa Thursday night, so we could go out with our friends. We ate at Ocho, and we loved their all night happy hour on Thursday. Other San Antonio Favorites were Castabels and Schilos for brunches. 

It felt downright weird to be out and about without the baby, but we had a blast.

That Friday (10/12), we celebrated 8 years to the day of dating! My parents kept Willa while we went to panels during the day and also while we went out to dinner at Bliss. I can't say enough good things about Bliss: the food was delicious and the atmosphere was delightful; it was just what we were looking for to celebrate a special occasion. 

Apparently, that's the original space needle
We drove home on Saturday morning after brunch with friends. Willa slept almost the entire way! 

Family Highlights: 

We got a quick visit from Annie and Josh this month! The two stopped to see us while on a road trip, and we got to eat Thai food, play with the baby, and watch the Red Sox make it to the World Series together (yes, Brendan is so excited). 

Willa had a healthy six month check up and weighed in at 15 pounds, 7.5 ounces (31st percentile) and is 27 inches long (82nd percentile). She got her 6 month vaccines and her first flu shot. She was also given the green light to start on solids. So far, we've tried baby oatmeal mixed with breastmilk and pureed banana and apple. She is an absolute mess when she eats, but she seems to love it (though it's a bit difficult since she doesn't sit up without assistance yet). 

My mom friend Liz sent me a "medal" for "Valour in Breastfeeding," and I thought it was the sweetest idea ever. It's nice to have friends going through the same thing at the same time, and this made me smile, laugh, and feel loved. Thank you, Liz; we got this. 

We took Willa to her first pumpkin patch last weekend, but it wasn't a very exciting display at Fiddlestick Farms like the one we remembered from two years ago. Apparently, our big mistake was coming on a Sunday when the pumpkins had been picked over. We still got a couple of shots with our little pumpkin anyway, which was all we wanted. 

Writing Highlights: 

My story, "Sugar Mountain," was published in Philadelphia Stories. The story won 2nd place (and $750!) in their contest, and Brendan's story was a top ten finalist in the same contest. Brendan was also just named as a finalist in the Fairy Tale Review contest. We were just interviewed for the local paper about how our creative writing influences our teaching. 

Not-So-High Lights: 

We're getting very little sleep around here as miss Willa is in some kind of sleep regression. Also, our doctor encouraged us to start getting her acclimated to falling asleep on her own and in her crib, so we've started that process with naps. It's going well so far. At night, we're both in the "we'll give her her way if she gets really upset" parenting camp. Honestly, sometimes the path of least resistance is also the only path that involves us sleeping at all! 

I've had very little time for working out this month. It's the 24th, and I've only gone to four classes. Yikes! Fingers crossed we can make it to Mommy & Me tomorrow. 

I currently have a cold, a sore neck from sleeping weird, and a very bruised toe from a can of diet coke falling out of the mini-fridge and landing on my toe. 

My grading stack for the week is 22 papers down...31 to go (plus a discussion and journals. Send teaching assistants!) 

It has been cold, wet, and rainy most of the month! Where is our normal gorgeous October weather? 

How We Hope October Ends: 

With a Red Sox win & good weather for our babe's first Halloween, of course! This weekend=scary movie, pumpkin carving, and pumpkin seed roasting. 

How do you plan to spend the end of the month? Enjoy this last week! 


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

What Surprised Us About Parenthood (So Far)

Greetings faithful blog readers,

In honor of Willa's 1/2 birthday today, I want to share a few things that have surprised us about parenting so far. This list certainly is not meant to speak to universal truths about parenthood; rather, it's just what we've noticed about our experience. Anyway, here it goes!

Surprise #1 
We really don't like being away from her 

Pre-kid, I imagined vacations just the two of us and continuing to travel for work. I imagined running errands after work and leaving my kid in daycare.
Post-kid: I imagine family vacations. Plus, I think of all the exciting places we'll go just the two of twenty years. The second I'm finished with work, I'm practically running to the daycare. This isn't to say I don't appreciate an occasional date night where a family member is available to watch her (I do!); it's just completely different than I thought it'd be.

Surprise #2
Progress is Often Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Willa's baby book has a section for "sleep habits" each month. I imagined her sleep would get better and better, so you can imagine how thrilled I was when she slept 9 hour stretches after only a couple of months. However, I didn't consider that regressions exist. The last week or so, she has been up every 3 or 4 hours and went from eating 7 times a day to more like 12. It's a growth spurt and maybe she is starting to get sore gums, but it was tough. Sunday night, she slept 7 hours for the first time in a week, and on Monday, I felt amazing.

Surprise #3
You CAN Function With Less Sleep 

Pre-kid: I was the biggest "sleep baby" feeling absolutely wretched if I didn't get at least 8 hours of sleep.
Post-kid: I consider 6 hours decent, and I still function (for the most part).

Surprise #4 
It's Really Hard to Get Anything Else Done 

Even though my parent friends had warned me that getting a load of laundry done would be an accomplishment for a day home with a baby, I imagined that Willa would nap and we would accomplish chores, check email, grade, etc. In reality, Willa will nap in the car or in our arms. Otherwise, she'll nap in something (crib, swing) maybe for 20-30 minutes (unless she's at daycare--she will nap for them in a crib--teach me your ways!) Basically, our whole weekend is meal prep, laundry, and taking turns entertaining Willa so the other person can grade or do other tasks. We really don't mind, since we're making the choice to have her home with us more during the week (we pay for more hours of care than what we use); we just underestimated how totally consuming childcare is.

Surprise #5
She Fits Right In 

I'm surprised how much everything feels the same; we're totally ourselves around Willa, and it's like she has always been here. She is still in our room (see #1) in her bassinet, and she'll even "sleep in" with us on the weekends, which we are especially thankful for after she's up at night a couple of times. Wherever we go, for the most part, she's cool with it (with the exception of a high school football game--loud cheering during bedtime isn't her favorite). She's a part of our dinner conversation (sometimes screaming, but not in an angry way), and she is the funniest person we know. I thought it'd take more time for her to feel like part of our family, but it's so natural having her that it's weird thinking about before she was born.

Surprise #6 
Having a Baby Changed My Relationship With Lola and Zoe 

I'm sad to admit that I was rather grumpy about Lola and Zoe after we brought Willa home from the hospital, and I'm including this because no one warned me to expect this, though I've found it is really common after talking to friends. A baby is so much responsibility that meeting additional needs just felt like a lot on top of that, especially in the beginning. The cats would contribute to additional night wake ups, and I was very protective of Willa and terrified they'd jump into her bassinet. Luckily, those fears were unfounded. Lola mostly stays out of Willa's way while Zoe is now looking to make Willa a friend. Now that they've adjusted, the cats are not waking us up as much. Watching Willa interact with them is pretty adorable, and I'm a lot less overwhelmed than I was in the beginning. While we still have crazy moments, like taking Zoe to the vet 3 times in the course of a month to make sure her UTI had been properly treated--(it had been), we both love Lola and Zoe and their cuddles. These fur cats are, and always will be, our "original babies."

Surprise #7 
I'm Leaning Out (a Little)

Before having kids, I read Lean In and thought "totally," but I can say without a doubt that one of my best decisions was backing off of taking on teaching overload this year. I want to be able to give 100% to my students, and this means maintaining my own standards like fast grading turnaround and same day email response, so keeping my numbers manageable was key for me. If there's something going on late at work that's meaningful to the students or to the college, I will absolutely do it, but I'm more choosey now and won't attend every single extra event.

While I haven't found a great way to fit writing in post-kid, I know I will have time this summer. My new motto is "Right now isn't always," which is my way of reminding myself that this phase doesn't last forever. The things that are truly important (as writing is) are going to get worked back in. For now, I'm just giving myself some grace since I truly cannot "do it all."

Surprise #8
Breastfeeding is Really Time Consuming 

I never realized the amount of time that breastfeeding and pumping would take. I'm going to give a rough estimate that on a regular day, I spend 3.5 hours of my day breastfeeding or pumping. If Willa is going through a growth spurt, it may take up even more of the day. I never anticipated how much of a time commitment it would be, but I suppose I'll file that under things I'm glad I didn't know.

Surprise #9
We're Closer Than Ever 

Having a baby is difficult on a marriage: I don't recommend it as an action plan to strengthen a relationship. You will have less time for each other (and for yourselves), and you'll be overly exhausted; at times, you'll take the other person for granted. Things get real really fast, and your relationship becomes even more intimate as there is no room for pretenses of any kind. But at the same time you're in that fog, you are united for an amazing cause: to help this little person to grow up loved and nurtured. Brendan makes sure we maintain our sense of humor. We show our love for one another through dozens of little gestures throughout the day, and I feel lucky to be loving the two of them.

Surprise #10 
You Learn Fast 

Before we had Willa, we took all these classes at the hospital: baby care, infant CPR, breastfeeding, labor preparation. Right before she was born, I freaked out that I still hadn't mastered the swaddle. I tried practicing on stuffed animals, and my swaddles were a mess. Right after she was born, the task of being a mom felt so big and difficult. The first few weeks back at work, I remember feeling like I would never feel on top of things again. But all those feelings of inadequacy fade. I think because, through it all, your baby believes you can do it...and before you know it, you are.

Here's to the best half year, 

Friday, September 28, 2018

Healthy Recipes & Efficient Meal Prep

Greetings faithful blog readers, 

When we first came home with Willa, I secretly worried that we'd never have time to cook again; Brendan and I both find that eating the majority of our meals at home is key to staying healthy, and cooking has always been something that we enjoy. We both were concerned that we would rely more on the processed easy go-tos (veggie nuggets, boxed mac and cheese, frozen pizza), and that isn't something we want to do every weeknight. With less time, we've adopted three new strategies for weeknight dinners: meal planning, weekend prepping, and recipe doubling. 

Meal Planning isn't a new concept to many of you, but it is for us. We make a big grocery list and shop over the weekend where we decide the plan for the whole week. In the plan, we include leftover nights, which we plan to coincide with busier evenings (like this past Tuesday when Brendan had to be at a lecture and parent's night for Willa's school) or evenings we know we just won't have the energy. We're typically cooking four nights a week. 

Four nights a week would be a lot for us if each meal was taking an hour plus to prepare, but that's where our second strategy comes in. Once we're home from the store, I typically take care of Willa while Brendan goes on a marathon prepping binge (think slicing, dicing, making dressings, etc). It takes a few hours, but since it's the weekend, there's no stress and prepping can be done at a casual pace. I can put Willa in her carrier and do any activities that don't involve knives like putting food into containers and labeling them. This also creates less to wash during the week (and since I'm on dish duty, that gets three cheers from me!) 

Our third strategy is if we think a recipe will freeze particularly well, we double it to eat half and freeze half. Our frozen stash is for later this semester when we enter survival mode. If we add one meal to the freezer stash a week, it adds up. 

Here are recipes we've recently added to our repertoire. Thanks to Brendan for cooking these delightful meals; I'm adding in his notes. We hope this is useful to you and your family too. 

Farro Breakfast Bowl (we ate this for dinner). This was perhaps my favorite recipe we've made recently. Brendan added some grilled tomatoes and sauteed kale. Soft boiled eggs are my jam and make any dinner memorable. Plus avocado is on my love list. 

Sweet Potato Peanut Soup. This recipe was my find, and I'm so glad we discovered it. It was perfect for a cold rainy Wednesday, and it made leftovers for a second dinner plus three lunch size portions. 

Fire Roasted Eggplant Dal. Lentils have never tasted so good. Brendan added both kale and spinach, extra cayenne pepper, and extra curry powder. HEB sells the naan bread, and we topped it with plain greek yogurt. Yum in a bowl. This made leftovers for a second dinner.

From the inspiralized cookbook, this Beet Rice Superfood Bowl is delightful. It tastes so fresh and the uncooked beets were actually delicious, which surprised us. Hint: recipe says it makes 3-4 servings, but we ate the entire bowl just the two of us.

This Hot and Sour Seared Tofu with Sugar Snap Peas (note: may need to be a NYT subscriber for this link to work) was for dinner last night, and it was absolutely delicious (this and the Farro Breakfast Bowl were my two favorites). Brendan added bell pepper and carrots (hint: buy matchstick carrots and save yourself time). If you don't want to subscribe, our recipe for basil lime stir fry tastes similar. The saddest part was that it didn't make enough for leftovers.

Skillet Ratatouille. This was the night that Brendan decided to bake his own loaf of bread using this No Knead Bread Recipe. He says the process takes 24 hours, but most of the time the dough is just sitting. Both the bread and the Ratatouille were excellent...this felt like the perfect end of summer/beginning of fall dish. We got another dinner and a couple of lunches out of these leftovers.

Not pictured:

Broccoli, Cheddar, and Brown Rice Cakes. These are different but good. My favorite part about them was leftovers that are already perfectly portioned for lunches.

Sweet Potato Medallions with Almond Sauce and Chickpea Salad: These were wonderful. Sadly, they were so wonderful that we didn't have leftovers (it says it serves 4, but not in our experience!)

Now that the weekend is here, it's time to rest up, stock up on groceries, and prepare for another week ahead. Our last tip is that Saturday night is an awesome time for grocery shopping...where is everyone else?!

In other news: tonight, I tried Yoga Nidra for the first time, and I'm already a true believer. It was so relaxing. I felt like I was asleep, but I wasn't. If you like meditation, I highly recommend giving this a try. I made it to 10 workouts this month, and I hope to squeeze in another yoga class tomorrow morning. I'm wearing jeans that button again, but I'm still eating almost nightly ice cream. It's about balance, people.

Brendan and I are going to continue with our new Netflix obsession: Maniac. We hope everyone has a great weekend and cooks something scrumptious. Tell us what's on your menu. Let's recipe share!


Monday, September 17, 2018

One Day in My Life

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Back in the day, I used to regularly read several blogs where the writers would do "day in the life" posts. I always enjoyed reading them but also found them kind of cheesy. My day to day life is so different than it used to be though, so I thought it'd be fun to write one up. I know one day I'll enjoy looking back on this sweet and tiring time. Before I had Willa, it seemed impossible to me that I could manage a baby on top of everything, and yet, it quickly becomes simply the norm. I'm not good at taking pictures all day, so you'll have to use your imagination. Here goes my first ever day in the life post.

3AM--Lola wakes me up by scratching the chair in our room. I don't even open my eyes since I know who is to blame. I get her to stop and go back to sleep.

5AM-Willa wakes up and is hungry. Brendan changes her diaper, and I nurse her in bed. She kicks while nursing, and Zoe plays a game pawing at her feet gently. It's really cute and makes up for my 3AM wake up. I put Willa back in her bassinet and fall asleep.

6AM-The alarm goes off. Brendan knows that even though I say I want to get up, I don't really. He gets up and lets me snooze.

6:45AM-Brendan brings me coffee. I get up and drink it and pour myself some granola.

7AM-the reality that snoozing was a bad idea hits me. I now have an hour and a half to do all the things. Luckily, Brendan agrees to make me a sandwich. I defrost milk and get Willa's bottles ready for daycare before getting in the shower.

7:30AM-Willa is up. I brush my teeth, put on lotion and foundation, and put in my contacts before getting her changed and dressed. My hair is wet, and I am only wearing underwear. I nurse her and Brendan leaves for work.

8AM-I put Willa in the Mamaroo so I can load up the car, feed the cats, and pump. I put on clothes and realize my hair still looks completely soaked. I blow dry for one minute and put on pearls hoping this will make me look put together. You know what? I think it's pretty effective!

8:33AM- We are in the car. No traffic today. I am parking at daycare by 8:40AM. I feel like I have this down!

8:45AM-I drop off Willa and her carseat and unload her bottles and realize I forgot the sandwich that Brendan lovingly made me at home in the fridge. I feel very sad as I realize I have to make it until 4PM with a cheese stick and a yogurt and a package of peanut butter crackers. Oh life.

9AM-I teach my American Lit II class. We talk about "The Open Boat." I love my lit classes. Those hours just fly by.

10AM-I'm in the Language Hub for tutoring. Co-worker feels sorry for me and gives me a package of Bevita. Alright!

11AM-I'm back in the classroom. This time, I'm teaching Comp I. I've assembled a master outline from group work my students completed on Friday, and we're going over it. The technology in the classroom is having issues, so I need to rush through my lesson in 40 minutes to give the IT people 10 minutes to help my students with their MS Office 365 log ins. We're behind because of the technology issues, so I'm a little stressed.

12PM-I call the daycare. Willa is awake. Score! I use a 30 minute break I left in my schedule to go nurse her.

12:30PM-2PM. I head back to the office and eat the Bevita on the way. Once I get there, I eat my yogurt and cheese stick while catching up on emails. I manage to finish grading journals for the literature class. I do a lot of random tasks. I am haunted the entire time by the nagging feeling that I'm forgetting something important.

2PM-Back to the writing center for another hour of tutoring. It's early in the semester, so it's not that busy, but I do help some students with technology issues. Fun fact: "Use Chrome instead of Explorer" solves like 90% of problems students have.

3PM-Head to the faculty senate meeting. Can't help but participate. Get assigned to a committee. Why do I do this to myself?

4PM-Arrive home. Brendan picked up Willa after his workout and is unloading the dishwasher. I love that man! I change Willa and nurse her. Then I put her in the mamaroo and pump for 15 minutes. Then we play on the floor some and read a book.

5PM-Willa is cranky. Brendan gets dinner in the oven and gets in the shower. I nurse her to sleep. She will nap at home, but only if one of us is holding her. I don't know how daycare gets her to nap in a crib (but they do). Brendan calls his grandma to wish her a happy birthday. I check stuff on my phone while Willa naps.

5:30PM-Willa is up! We call Brendan's sister to wish her a happy birthday (yes, they have the same birthday) and keep Willa entertained by playing on the floor.

6PM-We eat dinner and entertain Willa in her rock and play. Brendan baked a loaf of bread and made skillet ratatouille. I thought he was picking an "easy recipe" and cannot believe that baking a loaf of bread is what he considers easy. Easy to me is like a box of mac and cheese. The house smells wonderful.

6:30PM-Brendan cleans the kitchen. I nurse Willa and respond to a couple of work emails. She is getting wiggly and easily distractible, so emailing is not ideal, but it has to get done. I change her, and we load her into the stroller.

7PM--We go on a walk around the neighborhood. The sunset is full of gorgeous pinks and oranges. The weather is a cool 81 degrees. I love fall here! Willa falls asleep. We check our mailbox on the way home. My $5 Pampers reward coupon arrives. Everything else is junk.

7:45PM--Brendan takes care of some yard work, and I give Willa a bath and get her ready for bed.

8:15-8:45PM--I nurse Willa and lie with her until she falls asleep. Then, I move her to the bassinet.

9PM--I eat ice cream, look at Facebook, send some emails, and type this post all while lounging on the couch. It's glorious! Lola and Zoe hang out with me and purr.

10:30PM--getting ready for bed; the cats erupt into a hissing fight. Lola licks the ice cream bowl. Sigh. Hoping I'll fall asleep before 11PM.

Goodnight world!

Monday, September 10, 2018

The BIG Transition (Back To Work)

Greetings Faithful Blog Readers,

Let me cut to the chase here. I'd LOVE to write a post for you about what we've figured out about making working full time "work" for our family, but that would be a relatively short post because the truth is we're three weeks in and everyday still feels chaotic and like we're making it up as we go. Still, I want to check in here even though I don't have much advice and talk about some things I've noticed during our big transition. Feel free to leave me a comment if you have any suggestions or just want to say "I feel ya."

1.) Everything Takes Longer!
If getting out the door for work pre-kid used to be a "production," now it's a Hollywood action movie in which I star as the comic relief. Everyday I pack my school bag (planner, class folders, and all the stuff that would be in one's purse), my pump bag (with pump, pump parts, and bottles), a cooler (with Willa's milk and my lunch/snacks), my water bottle (I'm SO thirsty, send all the water), and the diaper bag (cause you never know, and that thing has back ups for everything I should remember but probably didn't). Add to that my American Lit II book which weighs so much, and you can see why I don't even know where anything is.

2.) What Was I Saying?
I used to consider myself highly capable at multitasking and remembering everything. Now...wait, what are we talking about? I just need to write things down.

3.) Pumping Ain't Easy
It takes forever. It isn't nearly as effective as nursing. It's a necessary but not fun part of my day. Sometimes, to fit it in, I have to do it in the car while someone stalks my parking spot. At least we have electric pumps.

4.) You Can't Schedule a Baby
I stop by to nurse Willa, but sometimes she's sleeping, and I have to move to plan B (see car pumping). At home, she pretty reliably nursed every 2 hours, but daycare is a different story. You know that saying "expectations are the root of unhappiness"? I'm trying very hard to let go a little and realize that I don't have that much control over the schedule. Not knowing if I'll be able to nurse makes packing bottles and knowing how much to bring tough (especially since I don't want milk to go to waste). While I'd love to say we have a system in place, there's a lot of guesswork, calling the daycare, and sometimes miscommunication involved. I definitely stress about the feeding schedule, especially since Willa seems to hold out until we're together, and full bottles are being sent back home. She has started waking up in the middle of the night again to nurse, and it's often hard for me to fall back asleep.

5.) General anxiety: I got it.
There's what you intellectually know (that your baby is okay) and what you instinctually feel (that it's tough to be apart). One of the biggest hurdles of the last couple of weeks is just getting used to feeling a little anxious. I hope that the "fake it until you make it" rule works. I notice that the busier I am, the better I do.

6.) I'm Probably My Own Toughest Critic
As one of my friends said give yourself some grace. I really should start focusing on everything I DO get done in a day and not be hard on myself over where I fell short. Also, when I'm tired, everything feels more stressful and confusing than it probably should.

7.) I Value Our Time Together SO MUCH
Before I had Willa, I assumed I'd be fine leaving my kid in daycare so I could run errands or workout or whatever. The truth is, I don't like to be apart from her for any time longer than necessary. Brendan feels the same way, and usually one of us can get her by 2PM.

8.) 9PM is the new 11PM.
I can barely keep my eyes open any later.

9.) Leftovers are KEY
After a day at work and an evening taking care of a baby, cooking falls low on the priority list. We've been using our weekends to cook big meals (stuffed peppers, lasagna, quesadillas, chili, pasta sauce) and freezing our leftovers. This helps us keep variation in what we eat each night without having to cook during the week.

10.) I will be LUCKY if I can squeeze in 3 workouts a week.
I can probably get to the YMCA on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.  Other than that, stroller walks and lugging my ten bags around campus will serve as my exercise.

11.) Put a bouncy chair in your bathroom. This is the best idea ever. You can dance and keep your baby entertained while brushing your teeth. I don't know how you'd get ready otherwise.

12.) Keep a burp cloth in ALL YOUR BAGS. Save your work clothes.

One thing that does help me is reminding myself that each phase is fleeting. I will enjoy the good parts and remind myself that she won't be a baby forever when it all feels overwhelming. Being apart from Willa is tough, but when I teach, I'm in my element. Most days, the time goes by quickly, and I love getting her back in my arms.

When did you make the big transition back to work and how did you survive?

Send tips!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Greetings faithful blog readers,

A new school year starts tomorrow, and as I reflect back on these 20 weeks I've had with Willa and the time we had together as a family of three this summer, I feel incredibly grateful. Being away from her will be tough, but I will be able to stop in and nurse her at lunchtime each day, and we know that she is in great hands. I also looking forward to see her interact with other babies and to getting back into the classroom. I'll teach a new class (American Lit II) this semester, and I can't wait to get to know my students (which won't happen for another week. This week is just meetings).

As I reflect back on summer vacation, it would be easy to think to myself that I didn't do enough, but instead, I want to celebrate all that we did get to do!

A is for Austin
Brendan and I are used to romantic, adventurous trips each summer. This summer, our version of that was staying at my parents' house while they were on vacation. The change of scenery was much appreciated, and a bonus: it was the cheapest vacation we've ever taken!

B is for Breastfeeding
I troubleshooted breastfeeding this summer, and it finally became easier. Willa has grown 6.2 inches and gained 6 pounds, 5.5 ounces since birth. And I've been really hungry/thirsty! I've taken a break from pumping the last month of summer (and I've immensely enjoyed that break!), and we're starting daycare with 250 ounces in the frozen stash.

C is for Celebrate
My first Mother's Day, Brendan's first Father's day, many family birthdays including my own, fourth of July, and five years of marriage. Summer is like a never-ending party!

D is for Doctors Visits
This past week, Brendan and I both had our annual doctor appointments, Willa had her four month shots, and even Zoe took a trip to the vet (she had a UTI but thankfully is better now!)

E is for Embracing it All 
Being tired, having a baby that will only nap next to you, and getting very little done: it all comes with the territory of the infant stage. I'm glad that we embraced the changes.

F is for Family & Friends
We saw SO many friends and family this summer. A family reunion, my best friends from high school meeting Willa, and Willa meeting her great-grandparents and spending time with family in CT and Maine will forever be great memories.

Growing Up 
Willa is constantly rolling over, grabbing toys, and babbling. She can do so many more things now, and it's so fun to watch her grow.

H is for Hacks 
Life hacks that is. I'm on the hunt for every way imaginable to simplify chores and make life easier. I made a huge batch of chili this weekend, and we refrigerated half and froze half. I plan to do some freezer cooking every weekend. I'm also picking out outfits and packing lunches and the car the night before. Any other life hack tips?

I is for Ice Cream
Shout out to my favorite favor of the summer: Bluebell's Butter Crunch.

K is for Kimchi Fries 
Maybe my favorite discovery of all time. Thank you Chi'lantro!

L is for Lobster
Cause I ate a ton of it. 

M is for Maine
We made it up to Maine for the annual family vacation. It was a little more complicated with a baby in the mix, but Willa proved to be a great traveler. M is also for Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit because we actually got some sleep this summer!

O is for Organizing
Last week, I pulled everything out of my closet that doesn't fit or isn't nursing friendly and put it in a storage container under the bed. I also packed up things to send to Goodwill and to Dress for Success. I went through Willa's clothes to put away the stuff that's too small (she's wearing 3-6 month stuff now).

P is for Playdate 
Willa got to play with her friend Sadie a couple of times this summer, and we got to see Maggie Lyn and Atlas in Austin, Emma, Cecelia, and Theron in Connecticut, and Everett in Maine. We also saw Tucker in Midland! Baby mania!

R is for Reading
I did a lot of reading this summer, and luckily, not all of it was board books! I enjoyed reading Evicted, Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew DesmondWe Have Always Lived in the Castle and Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson, and Florida and Other Stories and Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff (I'm currently working on Monsters of Templeton also by Groff).

S is for Shopping 
Since none of my pre-baby clothes are nursing friendly (and let's face it, most of them don't fit) I did an online shopping spree at Seraphine and Milk this past week to get ready for the school year ahead.

T is for Twosome
Brendan and I got some quality time together. From our secret date to see Paul Simon to our anniversary dinner at Barley Swine, we got to take some time for just the two of us, which was much needed. We also got to go on some couple's dates with Amanda & Matt and Cassie & John.

W is for Working Out
We joined the YMCA this summer because they have free childcare, which meant we could both workout at the same time. Brendan loves the cardio and weight rooms, and I have taken so many classes (Barre, Yoga, Pilates, BodyPump, Zumba, RPM, Mommy & Me). I even told Brendan I was going to swim a mile one Sunday and then had to stick to it (that's 32 there and back laps, yikes!) Bonus: I've started to meet some new friends. We also have stuck to our morning family walks which help us get outside before it gets too hot.

Y is for Yard Work 
This one is 100% Brendan: he weeded, he cut back, he watered, and our front and backyard are in their full glory (promise to take some pictures). We saw a wasp the size of a hummingbird. It was horrifying!

I didn't cover every letter, but you get the idea. We had a nice last weekend of summer: Farmer's market, yoga, walking, cooking, and labeling everything for daycare. Wish us luck tomorrow as we head into uncharted territory. I'll never forget the sweetest summer of our lives!

Have a great Sunday evening!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Family Fun & Tips For Flying With a 4 Month Old

Greetings faithful blog readers,

Thanks for your patience with my absence! We've been soaking up summer, family time, and baby cuddles. Now I'm backtracking to tell you about our recent adventures and our tips for flying with a four month old.

When I found out I was pregnant, I did some quick math and discovered our baby would be around four months old in late July/early August when we often visit Brendan's family in Connecticut, and I was so excited. Getting Willa to Connecticut to meet her great grandparents and much of the extended family plus see her grandparents and aunt was a big priority for us. We knew getting there and back wouldn't be easy, but we were excited for everyone to see her. It was amazing to see four generations together all at once.

Brendan's parents hosted a lovely cookout, so we got to see Brendan's friends since elementary school and their families, plus his aunt Carol and uncle John, and neighbors. Willa loved meeting everyone!

Brendan's cousin Jeremy had a baby girl, Cecelia, just a few days after Willa! The babies got to meet. Plus, we saw aunt Jeri (Jeremy's mom) and cousins Sawyer and Spencer and Jeremy's wife, Jennifer.

After a few days in CT, we made the 5 hour drive to Maine. Willa did great; we only had to stop once. Check out this post for my car trip tips. Once there, we enjoyed blueberry picking, fishing, games, cooking, and kayaking. And of course Lobster Lobster! 

Blueberry Picking

We also introduced Willa to the lake, which she wasn't very impressed by (yet!) 

Plus, Willa met her cousin Everett who is just one month older than her (she'll have so many playmates!) 

Baby Swap

After a week in Maine, we took three planes (an eleven hour travel day) on Saturday, and we arrived back in Austin. Now that I've done five plane rides with a four month old, here are my tips (granted, your "mileage" may vary, but here's what worked for us).

1.) FLY SWA--Southwest Airlines is the most family friendly. Their open seating policy means that if there are any open seats and you travel with your carseat, you get to bring it on board for free. PLUS, they have family boarding immediately following the A group, so you never have to worry about getting separated. They gate check or check strollers and car seats for free. Gate check is fast too. Once, we even found our stroller already set up for us at the gate. Plus, passengers on SWA are chill. Since Southwest is like the bus of planes, nobody is trying to have some luxury experience, and in the summer, there are tons of babies and kids traveling, so if your kid freaks out, no one will even know to blame you! We always traveled SWA before kids because of the friendly service (is it just me or is American Airlines full of mean cranksters?) and now we will continue with our allegiance. Plus, thanks to points, I didn't pay for a single flight this summer!

2.) Book an EARLY flight. Our first flight left at 5:35AM, and Willa spent the 3 hour trip mostly asleep. On the way home, we weren't as wise, and it was more stressful. If you book early, there is also a better chance you can get a new itinerary in the event of delays or cancelations. The last thing you want is to be stuck somewhere overnight with a baby.

3.) If you plan to travel with a car seat, buy a car seat bag. Willa was a bit small for her stroller without the car seat, so we decided to bring both and gate check them. Realize that this makes going through security a NIGHTMARE as you will have to break down the stroller and send it plus the car seat through. Still, it was worth it to be able to run from one terminal to another when we almost missed a flight. The car seat bag looks like this (you can also find them with backpack straps instead of wheels) and the reason you want it is to prevent your car seat from being cracked or getting wet. Thanks for this tip, Laura!

4.) If you plan to travel with a car seat/stroller, consider gate checking. Gate checking equals less opportunity for your stuff to get damaged, and you can use your travel system to navigate the airports.

5.) Bring your own water bottle/snacks. Many airports have hydration stations once you get past security, and you will likely not have as much time to buy food with all the extra stuff you are dealing with, so it's really nice to have your own sandwiches, granola bars, trail mix, etc. On the plane, you can order a drink + water. Drink it all!

6.) Buy disposable changing table liners. Mine came from the now defunct babies r us (thanks Casey!) but these will do the trick.  Basically, you can put them down on the changing table (or in the car or on your breastfeeding pillow), and if your baby has an accident, you don't have a mess (just throw it away). If it's fine, I refold it for later use. On the plane, we changed diapers on our laps with one of these underneath (we were just dealing with wet diapers). With a little baby, this works fine.

7.) My Brest Friend makes an inflatable breastfeeding pillow, and my friends, it is amazing!! It inflates in less than a minute and deflates in seconds. You can fold it in your diaper bag. I used it for two weeks (indoors, outdoors, on planes) and it feels just like your normal breastfeeding pillow.

8.) Speaking of diaper bags, Brendan got me this one for my birthday, and it is GREAT for travel. The mom pocket is nice and big. It holds lots of diapers, toys, blankets, burp clothes, and the bottle pockets can hold 4 of the 4 ounce Philip Avent bottles. You want to overpack diapers and wipes just in case. About ten for a day of travel is a wise idea!

9.) If you are breastfeeding, I'd travel with one small bottle (3 ounces) of pumped milk just in case. When you can't get baby to suck on a pacifier but have to have her in the car seat (like if you have turbulence), it's a good option. Willa probably just drank drops from hers, but it got her ears to pop at least! Remember to take it out during security check.

10.) A note on privacy-- If you do get to bring your car seat on the plane, it needs to go in the window seat. If breastfeeding, mom can go in the middle seat for some added privacy. If we didn't get an extra seat, I picked the window. Travel with a cover if you want, but make sure to test it first. Lula Roe's Mimi is actually Willa's preferred cover even though I bought it the year before I had her! I think it's "retired" now, but you could probably still find one on a website like ebay or poshmark or look for a similar poncho. Photo of cover from a previous summer:

Though I had anxiety about breastfeeding, I noticed I wasn't even the only one on the plane feeding a baby (I think you only notice breastfeeding once you yourself are aware of it; kind of like how once you buy a new car, everyone is driving the same make/model). Southwest Airlines even states on their website that they support breastfeeding, so try not to overthink it! I did get one kid that turned around in his seat to stare, but no one else seemed to even notice.

11.) Toys to consider: Rainmaker (thanks Lauren for the tip!), baby Einstein take along tunes (thanks Gigi and Buddy!), and baby bug books (thanks Pam!). Make sure you have SO MANY pacifiers.

12.) Your Pump is a medical device, which means it doesn't "count" as a carry on. Just make sure only your pump and pumping accessories go into the bag.

13.) I bought this cooler to transport freezer bags of milk. I didn't end up pumping on vacation, but I think it would keep about 4 bags (about 24 ounces) frozen if you needed to transport milk home. I'll be road tripping back from Austin with it and can update you then (just leave me a comment if you're curious about its performance!) The best part is that you just freeze the cooler and don't have to hassle with ice packs. It's also small (the size of a lunchbox), so you could probably put it into another bag once you were past TSA.

While flying with a four month old isn't simple, it's doable. I have a feeling we'll become better at it but also know it will be a different ball game as she gets older. Thank goodness there are two of us!

We hope everyone's week is off to a great start. We'll be soaking up the last two weeks of summer time with our love. I also got my hair done today. I feel so put together as a result! I wanted something a little darker so it'd grow out better. Here's my end of summer lowlights:

Happy Tuesday to all!


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