Recovery Mode.

July 4, 2014

July 4, 2014

I just did something crazy.  I’ll tell you all about it, but first, a little background:  2014 was a terrible, terrible year for us.  It started out fine, exciting even.  We were expecting our second child, a baby boy, to join our darling daughter.  My husband, Jake, had just gotten a new job, we were making progress on our house, everything was happy (actually, I’m kind of an angry monster when I’m pregnant, but I mean we were generally happy).  Then Jake’s grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.  It was disheartening, of course, and a difficult blow for our family, but it was just a diagnosis.  Then, in April our beautiful baby was born, and he was amazing, and his sister was amazing and they were so cute together and everything was wonderful.  Except, when you have a second child it’s really hard.  So much harder than anything I had done before, and Jake’s law firm didn’t really let him take any time off.  Splitting myself in two to care for a freshly minted two year old and a baby who had been a fetus just weeks before was unreal.  I couldn’t lift my daughter, because I had a c-section.  They both needed all of me, which was impossible.  Then I went back to work.  Holy. Crap.  Now I was split in three.  Then, the first week back, we had a long weekend for Independence Day.  We relaxed, and spent as a family, and my daughter went swimming and ate popsicles.  Then we got a call, and another call, and another.  My grandmother was in the hospital.  Jake’s grandmother was in the hospital.  Jake’s dad was in the hospital.  My grandmother died soon after and I flew, alone with a very sick (just a severe cold, thankfully) three month old to mourn with my family.  The baby vomited mucus and breastmilk all over me in the middle of the night.  Both nights.  All over the bed.  I flew home.  Jake’s dad was really sick, a brain tumor.  Jake went back to his old law firm (and they were wonderful), and traveled to be with his family and help care for his father.  The baby woke up every hour, screaming in pain from constant ear infections.  We took the kids to Illinois so Jake’s dad could meet the baby.  We were there for two weeks and we lost him.  It was the hardest two weeks.  The kids were sick, the baby had yet another ear infection and had to go to urgent care for antibiotics…we had rescheduled his tubes surgery to go to Illinois.  No one slept.  It was too cold to be outside, especially for tiny Texans.  I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a family who had lost its patriarch days before.  My cousin died, unexpectedly, the same week.  I had just had a sweet conversation with her at my grandmother’s funeral where she complimented the obituary I wrote — high praise as she was an English teacher — and she spoke fondly of her new granddaughter.  There was so much tangible grief, that the kids soaked it up and it manifested in tears and tantrums and wakefulness.  Then we came home, and tried to be normal, but the baby had surgery and Jake’s grandmother died; two weeks after we lost his dad.  Since then we also lost my uncle and Jake’s other grandmother.  Seven people in seven months.  I don’t know how we survived that year.

And yet we did.  The shadow still looms, though, and so I did something crazy.  I tried to change everything.  You can’t do that.  You can’t fix everything at once.  I spent the last few weeks touring preschools and setting up a nanny to make things easier.  I went so far as to basically offer her the job.  Then I took it away the next day.  I panicked.  It was too much change, and a total 180 from where we are.  In my effort to simplify, I made everything more stressful, and I think the last year made me see how badly things can go.  All I could see were the worst-case scenarios.  What if the nanny was in a car accident while driving the kids somewhere?  What if someone was injured and she panicked?  What if it didn’t work out and we had to start from scratch?  What if, what if, what if?  I couldn’t do it, it was too much.  So we have a new plan…no changes.  I’m still working to simplify, because that’s just necessary, but no major life decisions right now.  We’re not in a good place to make them.  We need a year of calm before we do something crazy like getting a new job, or having another baby.  We need a fucking break.

Keep It Simple, Stupid

How I spend my lunch hour: eating gross food in my car.

How I spend my lunch hour: eating fast food in my car while running errands.

I’ve never been one to keep things simple.  I tend to overdo, over-plan, and over-whelm.  There’s definitely a feminist message in there: you can minor in gender studies all you want, but that doesn’t make it easy to crawl out from under the expectations of women.  I always joke (because I’m HILARIOUS) that I have three full time jobs : my actual full-time day job, my mom job, and the third and hardest job – the totally manufactured and unnecessary job of keeping up with society’s expectations.  The good news is as I get older, I’m finding that I’m starting to give zero fucks about the last one.  Ok, maybe not zero yet, but I’m getting there.  I’m turning 32 this weekend, and this year my resolution is to simplify my life.  EVERYTHING about my life.  Here’s what I’m thinking so far:

I need to get rid of the crap that is taking over my house.  ALL OF IT.  Like 80% of my belongings.  This book has been recommended by the entire internet, so that means it will definitely fix my life. Right?

Simplifying my kids’ routine seems worth a try (even if it’s fruitless).  I’ve been working on something like this, but in the interest of simplicity maybe I’ll just buy one.

I love the idea of a dinner schedule.  I had a similar idea that I quickly gave up on because it took a ton of planning, but it would be so awesome to have a loose theme to go on.  You could make a different kind of taco every week to avoid a rut, but still know you make tacos on Tuesday.  I would love to extend it to other meals and snacks as well.

I’ve thought about coming up with a work uniform for YEARS.  What will I wear?  I’m kind of thinking I’ll go more of the capsule wardrobe route than full-on uniform, but I have a TON of clothes and hardly anything to wear.  I would like to reverse that situation.  My husband wears suits to work, and he gets completely dressed every day while I’m still standing in my closet with a blank look on my face.

It’s also time to return to a paper day planner.  I love my iPhone as much as the next millennial mom (and by love, I mean hopelessly addicted to the detriment of myself and those around me), but it’s just so much easier to be organized on paper.  More of my thoughts on this here.

I would much rather spend my time doing this than running sad lunch errands.

I would much rather spend my time doing this than running sad lunch errands.

I have no idea how or when I’m going to implement these changes.  Per usual, I’m over-thinking and over-complicating the process, but I’m hoping I can get started soon! I’ll keep you posted!

Easter Basket Theme Eggstravaganza!

I know, lame pun.  Sorry.  Anyway, day three is a few more ideas to throw together for a last minute Easter basket!  I hope you have a great holiday, and I wish you all three day weekends!

easter theme3

Little Artiste: Paint/Smock/Brushes/Art Jar/Watercolor Paper

Sweet Athlete: Jumbo Tennis Balls/Tiny Tennis Racket/Assorted Balls/Sneaks

Outdoorsy Cutie: Bubbles/Jump Rope/Easter Egg Sidewalk Chalk/Bug House

Garden Partier: Garden Tools/Garden Tote/Gloves/Paintable Pots

 

 

Easter Basket Theme: Traditional

Today’s theme is going to BLOW YOUR MIND.  Are you ready?  It’s boring traditional.  There’s something to be said for keeping it simple. Easter is, after all, a religious holiday.  Why not keep things basic and about the holiness of the occasion?  Also, this theme is great for babies and young toddlers who want to be included but aren’t really ready for a big celebration.  All my daughter had in her first basket was one stuffed chick, a sweet book, and a couple of eggs filled with cheerios and cheddar bunnies and she loved it because she was a baby and babies are dumb are overwhelmed by too much celebration and tons of gifts.

easter theme2

Top row: Bunny/Chick/Lamb/Duck

Middle Row: Pat the Bunny/The Runaway Bunny/The Bunny Rabbit Show

Bottom Row: Pastel Eggs, Cheerios, Cheddar Bunnies, Puffs, Cadbury Cream Egg, and Bunny are all available at your local grocery store or Target.

And here are some religious book and movie offerings if you would prefer:

easter books

The Story of Easter/The Story of Easter/My Easter Basket

The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story/A Very Veggie Easter Collection

Easter Basket Theme: Summer Fun!

summer easter basket

Girls: Swimsuit/Sunnies/Flops/Fedora/Flamingo Towel

Boys: Swimshorts/Sunnies/Flops/Hat/Crab Towel

Toys: Mini Beach Balls/Squirt Guns/Popsicle Molds/Sprinkler

When I give gifts I like to pick a theme; a color, an upcoming event, a favorite food…these things make gift giving so much easier and hopefully more special than a pile of random crap.  I didn’t do it this year, because things have been CRAZY lately with weddings and birthdays and events galore, but from here on out I think I’m going to extend my love of themes to Easter baskets.  I did it with our Christmas stocking this year (everything in my daughter’s stocking was purple, her favorite color) and it was a hit.  So this week I’ll share three last minute Easter basket themes for those of you who procrastinated (like me) but don’t want to run to Target and grab a bunch of junk (also like me).

I live in Texas and Easter is pretty much the beginning of summer around here, so I think it would be super fun to put together a basket celebrating the beginning of pool season!  If you have any candy-free and or super fun basket ideas feel free to send them my way!

And if you really wanted to go all out, you could make a basket out of a towel and pool noodle!  I mean, I don’t want to work that hard, but I love the idea!

Traveling With Small Children: Road Trip Edition

We don’t live near any of our family members (and none of them live near each other), so needless to say we do a fair amount of traveling.  We’ve learned that as enticing as the speed of flight is, it’s best to drive when we can so you can load up your car, and not worry about schedules.

Photo Via Every Mom Needs

Toddler and Baby Travel Tips

1: Don’t do it!  Just kidding.  Sort of.

2: Break your media rules.  We don’t let our kids have any screen time during the week, and limit their screen time on the weekends.  We also don’t let them use screens as distractions at restaurants and on vacations because we are gluttons for punishment.  During travel time, though, they can watch ALL THE MOVIES.  I don’t care if my daughter watches Frozen four times in a row if it gets us to our destination in peace.

3: Snacks.  Pack a million healthy snacks.  If you don’t you’ll have to grab whatever you can get at gas stations along the way, and will end up with upset tummies or sugar crazed monsters.  There’s something to be said for snacks keeping kids occupied in the car.  My son will sit through anything if you offer him some cheerios.  Bonus points for pre-packaging homemade trail mixes.  My daughter likes to hunt through her bag to pick out the good stuff.

4: Blankets.  More than you think you’ll need.  In the winter it might be chilly, in the summer they double as sun shades.  You can roll them up to prop up sleepy little heads, and use them as towels in a pinch.

5:  Fun books.  Seek and find books are great for older kids, and interactive books like “Pat the Bunny” are great for older babies and young toddlers.  Plus, you have them strapped down so even the wiggliest kid has to sit and listen.  Sticker books are also great.

6: Be flexible, and stop a LOT.  We have one potty trained kid and one in diapers so stopping frequently is a given.  It took me a long time to stop worrying about schedules, and just stay calm and remember we’ll get there when we get there.

7: But do plan a little.  Drive during sleepy times.  If you can drive over nap time or leave around bedtime things will be much more pleasant (if you’re lucky enough to have car sleepers).  We also try to find a Chick-Fil-A to hit up around lunch or dinner so the kids can play for a half hour or so before we get back on the road.  It works wonders!

8: Pack a couple changes of clothes for your kids.  There will be a blowout, or someone will barf, or a kid will spill their entire drink all over themselves.  Maybe all three will happen.  Be prepared, and by prepared I mean bring these plastic bags.  You NEED them.  I promise.  They contain and mask the smell of even the grossest incidents until you reach your destination.

9: Sit in the back seat if you fit.  My kids are still really little, and things go much more smoothly if I ride in the back for part of the trip.  It’s not the most comfortable, but neither is listening to an 11 month old cry for an hour.

10: Be organized.  Have separate bags for everything.  A fully stocked diaper bag.  A bag for snacks.  A bag for toys.  If you’re getting in late make sure your suitcase is accessible so you can just grab it and run inside.

Bonus tip for nursing moms:  Get a car adapter for your pump and use it during the drive.  Kills time, and you’ll have bottles ready to go on your trip!

The Easiest Chicken Pasta

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I really really like to cook.  I love making big fancy meals, and making sure the food we eat is healthy and delicious.  Unfortunately I don’t really have time for any of that these days.  We’ve been eating a lot of grilled cheese (surprisingly time consuming!) and takeout.  I do have a few simple and delicious recipes though, and here is my favorite:

Super easy chicken pasta:

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1 package whole wheat penne

1 package baby spinach or spinach/kale mix

Juice of 2 lemons

1 tablespoon dill

3 green onions

1 package traditional crumbled feta (lowfat is fine too)

2 cooked chicken breasts, or leftover rotisserie chicken, shredded

Olive oil (about 1/4 cup)…you want enough to make it feel saucy, not so much that it’s gross.  It’s best to add it after the lemon so you get a better feel for the amount of liquid you need.

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Boil the pasta according to package directions.  While the pasta cooks combine all other ingredients (except the spinach) in a mixing bowl.  In the last minute of boiling add the spinach to the water to wilt, then drain the pasta.  Return the pasta to the pan, and mix the prepared “sauce” into the pasta.  Serve warm or chilled.

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It’s really simple and delicious.  I usually take this to my friends when they have a new baby because it’s light and nutritious (don’t worry, I supply cookies as well), feeds two adults (or even two adults and a young child or two) for two meals, and it reheats well or tastes good cold if you don’t have time to do anything but stand in front of the refrigerator and shove things into your mouth in-between newborn nursing sessions.