Monday, December 31, 2018

The Last Day of 2018

Greetings faithful blog readers,

I'm a little sad to say goodbye to 2018 because it's been such a great year to us. Obviously, the biggest highlight was welcoming our baby girl. It's hard to believe she is now nearly nine months old. 

What I'm most proud of this year is how we've handled the transition into parenthood. We don't always agree on every decision, but we respect each other and give each other grace. We allow the other to get some sleep sometimes, and five years in, our marriage continues to be a source of love, comfort, and encouragement. We definitely have a lot less time to ourselves now, but we treasure outings just the two of us all the more as a result. 

Also, we survived our first semester as working parents. The first two weeks were extremely difficult, but now I can honestly say that I love our childcare situation and I love my job again. This is a relief because there were a few days I cried in the parking lot and really thought I'd never feel normal. But now? I drop Willa off at about 8:45AM (and usually we're on time!), nurse her at noon, and arrive home between 2 and 4. Brendan typically picks her up around 2. I usually stay home with her one day a week. When the semester isn't totally crazy, Brendan typically gets to workout 4 times a week. I usually get in 3 workouts. Thanks to HEB curbside, we still find time to get groceries, and thanks to Brendan, we still are eating 95% of our meals at home. In short, we've found our new normal. And while there are always improvements to be made (we really need to find a way to incorporate writing into our schedules again), I'm proud of us. 

In 2018, I felt so in awe of my body. I gave birth (and it really wasn't that bad!), and despite an incredibly difficult start, I've been breastfeeding for nearly 9 months now. That has entailed pumping most everyday (even flying with the pump) and lots of effort, but I'm amazed in my body's ability to do it. Physically, I feel back to normal. The baby weight is gone, and while I'm not sure if all my pants fit again (some definitely do!), I feel happy and healthy, and one can always buy new pants. 

2018 was also an extremely special year for writing. My chapbook was released, I published two short stories ("What You Wanted All Along" and "Sugar Mountain"), won $875 in prize money, gave two readings, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. I wish I'd made time to write more this year, but I know that life is a balancing act, and I was juggling a lot this year. 

Teaching wise, I added a new course to my repertoire (American Literature II), and I can't wait to make some tweaks and teach it again next semester. 

And another huge highlight of 2018 was seeing almost all our family. We saw all of Willa's grandparents in April, saw Aunt Annie for a visit in May, attended an Austin family reunion in June, brought Willa to Connecticut and Maine in July/August, saw Aunt Annie in October and Gigi and Buddy in November, spent Thanksgiving in Austin and had a wonderful Christmas in Connecticut (photos below). I'm ending the year with a full heart and some very full suitcases. 

Christmas Morning

Matching PJs with Mommy, Aunt Annie, and Gigi

With Tom

With Great Grandma Nancy

Four Generations 

Ladies at Bee and Thistle Tea

Christmas Eve

Four Generations (Great Grandma Shirley, Gigi, and Daddy)

With Boompa (great grandfather) 

First Cousins Brendan and Katie and Second Cousins Willa and Laila (born 3.5 months apart)

My goals for 2019 are pretty simple. I want to write (hopefully before summer break, though I hope to work substantially this summer), travel a little for fun (would love to do our first vacation as a family of three), and host the holidays. I can't wait to see what 2019 has in store for us. I'll be eating a ton of black eyed peas for good luck tomorrow (and tonight, Brendan and I will be enjoying a date just the two of us). 

Happy New Year's Eve, my friends. 
I hope 2019 is wonderful for all of us. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Real Life, A Comedy

Greetings faithful blog readers,

I've received many nice compliments over the years from friends that read the blog; however, one thing the comments make me realize is my tendency to empathize the positive and skim over the less glamorous moments. I thought it would be funny to write you guys a list of the "real stuff" that has happened to us since Thanksgiving. Put together, the list looks hilarious. Obviously, I do not intend this as a complaint. My life is filled to the brim with people, circumstances, and stuff to be thankful for. I just thought you guys might get a good chuckle out of this!

Pertinent background information: the time between Thanksgiving and winter break is extremely busy and stressful at work for us because of finals. These two weeks were already going to be a challenge. Here we go, in the order I can remember things:

Monday, 11/26
I wake up with what feels like a giant pimple underneath my eyebrow. A look in the mirror reveals that my eye is swollen half shut. I take a hot shower, but I notice this is not just a pimple that's going to go away on its own. I call the doctor and make an appointment for the next day. I feel like I look like Quasimodo with my half swollen eye, but Brendan says it's not that bad.

Tuesday, 11/27
The doctor tells me I have an infected hair follicle (under the skin), and she prescribes antibiotics. I'm really not excited about taking antibiotics, especially while breastfeeding, but my doctor insists that I do so because the infection is close to my eye. She also insists I make another appointment for Thursday and tells me if the bump isn't smaller she's going to cut it out of my face and it will leave a scar. Um, great. I pick up the antibiotics and head to work for a major event I'm on the committee for. The antibiotics have to be taken with food, so I take them with lunch and then again with dinner.

That night, I discover that Zoe has a UTI about ten minutes before the vet's office closes for the day. I call them, but the vet is already gone. I quarantine Zoe to our bathroom with food, water, a bed, and a litter box. Between attending to Zoe and Willa, I proceed to get basically three hours of sleep.

Wednesday, 11/28
I wake up in the middle of the night to change and feed Willa feeling dizzy, but I assume it's just because I've hardly slept. I tell Brendan I'm going to take a personal day to take Zoe to the vet and rest. Brendan covers for my classes. I drop Willa off at daycare, drop Zoe off at the vet, and run an errand to Office Depot to pick up special paper for the certificates for the creative writing awards. I get home and start feeling really crummy. By the time it's time to get Willa, I tell Brendan there is no way I can drive. He picks up Willa and Zoe (who has received medication and a new prescription diet). I start throwing up. Brendan discovers I've taken my antibiotics incorrectly (not waiting 12 hours between doses, I've taken 6 pills in 18 hours instead of 24 hours). I spend the remainder of the day miserable and sick. Brendan takes care of Willa other than the nursing part, which I'm thankful I can do lying down.

Thursday, 11/29
The doctor is really pleased with how the antibiotics are working, so she tells me I have to stay on them but they shouldn't make me sick if I take them correctly. I'm relieved she doesn't have to cut my face open.

We have a normal weekend, and I'm feeling much better. On Sunday, I take my antibiotics with breakfast at 10:30AM. We're eating dinner at 7:30PM, and I'm not going to eat again at 10:30PM. I take the antibiotics three hours early. Brendan says this is much different than taking an extra dose, and I should be fine.

Monday, 12/3
I wake up feeling nauseous. Very very nauseous. It's a crazy workday, and I can't call out sick because I just missed Wednesday. I decide I'll try to suck it up, but I skip my antibiotics, assuming that's the problem again. I drink fluid but don't even try to eat. Finally, in the afternoon, I can't take it anymore. I call Brendan, and he gives me a ride home. As soon as we arrive home, I throw up. I continue to be sick for the remainder of the day with a 101 fever. I have chills and feel terrible. Brendan brings Willa home and entertains her. I'm amazed my body continues to produce milk, since I'm basically forcing myself to sip tablespoons of Gatorade, water, and apple juice but having much more luck just eating ice chips. I eat a few bites of macaroni as my food intake for the day.

Tuesday, 12/4
Brendan is sick, but his symptoms are a lot less severe than mine, thankfully. I realize Monday's illness had nothing to do with my antibiotics, and I restart them. After work, I realize that I am covered in hives head to toe. They don't itch and aren't very large, but they are everywhere, including the tops of my feet. Is this real life? I think perhaps it may be from the laundry detergent we used over Thanksgiving at my parents' house, but I still don't know if it was related to the bug I got or something I ate...they stuck around about two full days before disappearing. 

Thursday, 12/6
Due to terrible planning, we arrive home from the college holiday evening around 7PM and realize we need to bring about four batches of cookies to school the next day for various events. We have hardly any butter. I put Willa to bed, and we stupidly decide to find recipes from the internet that don't use much butter and make our own cookies. The first batch of sugar cookies tastes kind of like canola oil. We then decide to make almond cookies, but we don't want to use the food processor and wake Willa, so Brendan crushes almonds using a cutting is literally 10PM by the time we finish making said cookies. We should have just gone to the store. On the other hand, we laughed so hard about it, so I kind of don't regret it.

Saturday, 12/8
Mid cycle, the washing machine breaks. It is completely full of water. Brendan uses empty litter boxes to drain all the water out. We proceed to spend 3 hours shopping for a new washer, which cannot be delivered for another week (and we're honestly lucky to not have to wait longer). Willa is a total trooper during the entire ordeal (but I definitely find myself changing a dirty diaper in the car in the parking lot of Best Buy).

Sunday, 12/9
At 4:30AM, Lola is running around the house vomiting. I've been up since 3:30AM because of Willa. I clean up the vomit, and Lola proceeds to have diarrhea all over the bathmat. I clean that up too (and throw away said mat). At first, I assume the prescription diet doesn't agree with Lola, but Brendan says that he thinks she ate a dust bunny from behind the washing machine. Brendan says it is fitting because now the entire household has been sick! (Willa has a persistent cold, and Brendan went on antibiotics for a sinus infection right before Thanksgiving).

Monday, 12/10
Lola vomited twice but otherwise was fine. We didn't sleep well Sunday night, so we were both tired, but I made it through giving all my finals and the last day of tutoring. 

Tuesday, 12/11
Lola is fine today. The day was good, except driving all the way to school and forgetting Brendan had the car seat. The two turn lanes to get to our home are closed off, so there's horrible traffic. I have to remember to go a different route. It took me almost an hour to pick Willa up (since I had to make two complete there and back trips). I worked out for the first time in three was so hard. I've got to go everyday this week to make up for lost time. I treated myself to a mani/pedi, and it was like the most luxurious experience ever.

Will we ever make it through our grading stack? Will Lola and Zoe be okay? (Zoe goes back to the vet tomorrow to check on her recovery progress). Will we run out of clean underwear? Send elves. Send an extra car seat! Send a clone of me that has time to go to the laundry mat. Send hugs!

I hope you enjoyed my "real life" post.
It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

November Highlights

Greetings faithful blog readers,

I've been a bad, bad blogger as of late. I've been taking a break from most social media and using the time to read more, something that is important to me that I felt like I was losing time to do. I also struggle with blogging lately because my life feels so much about Willa, but I want to be mindful of how much I share. Finding a balance is hard. But sometimes, I stumble across old gems that make me remember why I do this. This blog is one big love letter (to Brendan, our families, and our friends). I write it to capture the joy and the tough stuff and everything in between. As Robert Frost said, "Earth's the right place for love: I don't know where it's likely to go better." 

Faithful blog readers, November was a month. It's the season to reflect, and we certainly have an abundant amount to be grateful for. There's "real life" unfolding around us: the demands of the end of the semester, the fact that we're both been on antibiotics (and working doctor appointments and sick days into already jammed packed weeks), even poor Zoe had to go to the vet (she is fine now), but I feel like we do a better job of taking things in stride lately. We laugh a lot. And the month was filled with so much good. Here's a look at the highlights.

Family Pics

Brendan has been such a good sport, you guys. In the last year, he's happily posed in maternity photos, newborn photos, and family photos. I owe him big time!

A visit from Brendan's parents, Gigi and Buddy 

The grandparents came, and we had a great visit. We played board games, took walks, cooked dinner, celebrated Gigi's birthday, and Gigi made us her chicken soup and froze some leftovers. Brendan and I got to have a date night, and Willa played hooky from school while Gigi and Buddy kept her.

 Willa's First Thanksgiving

Willa had a "project" at school: she had to "hide" this turkey, so it would survive Thanksgiving. She hid him behind the tree from Chica Chica Boom Boom. She did the entire project herself. We aren't the kind of of parents that do the homework. 

For the actual holiday, we traveled to my parents' house in Austin and attended a lovely feast with the most delicious everything hosted by my Amanda and Matt, the hosts with the most. Brendan and I made sweet potatoes, apple pie, and Brussel sprouts.

Willa got to see Corley and David and meet Cole (we didn't get a picture though!)

Willa Developments 

Willa is now 8 months old, and we can't believe it! Now that we transitioned her to the crib, we're all getting more sleep. We typically put her down around 6PM. She wakes up to nurse once before I go to bed (usually around 10/10:30). She wakes up one more time between then and 6AM when our alarm goes off. If it's the weekend, we will then move her to our bed, and she's happy to snooze with us until 9AM. She isn't much of a napper (some days, we're lucky to get in two hours total), but we still consider ourselves lucky. When we traveled, her sleep was really thrown off, and we were exhausted. Fingers crossed the Christmas holidays go better on that front. In other Willa news, she is eating twice a day (purees and baby oatmeal), army crawling, and interested in all sorts of toys. She is sitting up, and Brendan thinks she said "mama" this morning (but probably it was a coincidence).


On Netflix, we recently enjoyed watching Alias Grace. Recent reads include NutureShock, a research based book that will change the way you think about a few parenting issues (one of my favorite chapters addresses the need to discuss race with your kids) and The Opposite of Loneliness (a posthumous collection of stories/essays by Marina Keegan).

Writing Stuff 

Brendan successfully pulled off another Rebecca Watson Creative Writing Awards ceremony, which was my favorite ceremony yet. Every one of the readers did a wonderful job.

I found out this weekend that I was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. This news made my weekend! You can read the story, "What You Wanted All Along," here. 

We found time to decorate for Christmas, but our shopping is not at all done. It wouldn't be Christmas without wrapping on Christmas Eve anyway! With finals on the horizon, there is little time to think of anything else. At this point, we just want to finish out the semester in good health (and since we all have colds right now, maybe that's asking a lot).

Hope you and yours find some time to appreciate the season. Send tissues! :)


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!

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