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! :)


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