Wednesday, March 25, 2015

We Don't Have a Coffee Table // My Parenting Wins

Parenting has been a trial and error situation; we had a pretty good idea of the type of parents we wanted to be and what we wanted this child-raising thing to look like but really, you don't know shit until you are in the thick of it and trying to make it all work in real life. Am I an expert? Hell no. Do I make mistakes? Absolutely (all parents do!). But as I approach baby number two, I think there are a few things that I have learned along the way that have really worked for our family and hopefully they can help out at least one of my many friends who are expecting their first bundles of joy. Consider this one in what might be a few of the big things we have done that have been wins (I promise to share the fails too, because we have definitely had our share of those!). If anything, this is something I can come back to when I am having a day of fails to remind myself that we are (usually) nailing this parenting thing.

We don't have a coffee table.

Our living room floor is dedicated to dance parties or massive train track set ups and sometimes a dinosaur picnic with wooden steaks and felt peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We eat dinner together at our kitchen table every single night. There is no other option, and even if there was, there wouldn't really be because this is what we do. Coffee tables take up room and are just one more thing my kid (and soon kids) can bounce their faces off.

We really do eat dinner at the kitchen table every single night and it is usually a home cooked, no processed-food meal. 

Am I superwoman? Nope, but having dinner together each night makes me feel like it sometimes. I work 40 plus hours a week and have a lovely social life and somehow manage to raise a kid (while growing another one) and have an awesome marriage and still make good meals every night. This is because anyone can do this if you make it a priority. I guess the trend is now called "meal planning" but every Friday night for a the past couple of years I have made a shared note in the iCloud of our weekly dinner menu and then make a grocery list (AnyList is awesome) for my usual Saturday morning Stop and Shop run with Maddie.

What do we eat? 

I have some rotating favorites, like my homemade marinara on whole wheat spaghetti (which Maddie would prefer every night) but I get free recipes emailed to me (Real Simple and Food 52) throughout the week that I save up and try out as much as possible. Some get saved and put in my recipe book and some never get spoken of again (like these terribly soggy slow cooker stuffed bell peppers that I flopped last week).

I try and prepare things the night before or get up early and have Maddie help me chop things before I leave for work. I am also a realist and plan the weekly menu based on our activities for the week. Monday nights are tight because we have my weekly OB appointments so we always do a slow cooker recipe that is ready when we get home; Thursday nights are both of us at home so I do something a little more complicated since Matt can hang out with Maddie and keep her entertained for me. Wednesday nights we have a family dinner night at my AILs (which used to be called "two hand dinner night because it was the only night we could do that with a new baby) and Friday nights we usually treat ourselves to take-out to relax after a long week.

What are the benefits for us?

We only spend about $120 a week on groceries, which also includes breakfast and lunches for everyone for the week. The majority of what we buy comes from the produce, dairy and grains section so we get a lot of bang for our buck. That whole idea of shopping the perimeter of the grocery store first is spot on, and we always go between breakfast and gymnastics class so I don't buy a ton of weird stuff in a hangry phase.
We also eat healthy, which is probably why I have gained about thirty pounds less this pregnancy than my first; we eat together and Maddie is involved in the kitchen, which is awesome. She loves to whisk and measure things and has a respect for knives and hot stoves. Also, we get built in family time every single day  (no iPhones or toys allowed at the table). Research shows how incredibly major the impact of eating together is and I hope this is something that we can stick to with baby number two and throughout the years.

So that's something that has worked for us and made our lives a little more awesome and manageable; anything you do that I'm missing out on?

Pizza sushi? It could totally happen on the food blogs.
Helping me with homemade marinara.
Mixing is her JAM.
At least the cookies she eats are made from scratch....
This kid does not eat meat unless it is a slice of deli meat from her deli counter BFF.
My grocery store bestie (at Ikea).
And sometimes we make cakes from scratch for no reason but to eat them!

Monday, March 23, 2015

5 Things I Love // 2

It's countdown to baby number two over here (I'll be 38 weeks on Wednesday) and I'm in full nesting mode when I'm not making sweeping changes at work because, why would I ever make things easy for myself? We've made some awesome progress on my house to-do list (kitchen back splash and bathroom decor) but now we just have to wait until we can actually open the windows to do some painting projects. At some point we are redoing the bathroom into a double sink situation but that can wait until after the baby is here (or so my husband tells me).
So now we wait, I wash things and make extras of dinners to freeze and hope I can get things on autopilot at work for a couple months. Here's five things I'm loving lately as we hunker down and wait to meet this baby girl: 

Special time with the one who made me a Mama. As soon as I saw that positive sign on my pregnancy test and felt the thrill of getting to bring another baby into our family my thoughts immediately went to my relationship with Maddie and how a sibling would affect that. I don't have siblings and this whole things is foreign to me and I have definitely felt worry and guilt about whether Maddie will be as happy and extroverted and overall awesome. Will there be awesome benefits of having a sibling? I'm sure there will. She has a playmate and a partner in crime and someone else to take on roller coasters and maybe someday a best friend and confidante as an adult. I'll let them be who they are and decide their closeness but all I can hope now is that Maddie knows how much we adore her and have cherished these few years getting to know her.
And since that time is about to come to an end, I have been trying to make our days together as awesome as possible: little impromptu lunch dates, extra snuggles while reading our books at night and her very first sleepover at our house with her best friend.

New smoothies! This smoothie, which seriously does resemble a thin mint and this one, which is super yummy and filling for such a simple recipe. I sure do love smoothies and cannot wait for produce to be back in season so I can try some new variations.

Face primer. Despite my love of all things make-up and having tried a lot of variations of it, I have never used face primer until I started getting it in my monthly Birchbox and I feel like it has been a major game changer. It not only brightens my face but it helps my foundation stay longer (I use Bare Minerals) and I just feel super put together with it on. I don't have great skin so I have to fake it, and I feel like this really helps my face look so much better. Birchbox for the win, yet again!

New hair. I decided to lighten up and go ombre before the new baby comes and I am loving it. It is definitely a change over the last couple of years of straight brunette but I miss going lighter in the summer and am looking forward to some lovely beach blonde hair (and mostly just the beach). I am going to grab some John Freida shampoo for taking out the brassiness that I read good reviews on and hope that tones me out a little (ah the never ending cycle I go through of dark to light and dark) but because I have a super talented colorist she totally made it work for me in one try.

Postpartum thoughts. As much as I love being pregnant, I am getting pretty excited to have this baby on the other side of me, not just to meet her but to get ownership back of my body. I miss running fast and clothes shopping and bending over without makings all sorts of weird sounds. I miss sleeping on my back or stomach and wearing heels for longer than a few hours. I have already found my first half marathon and am looking at the Louisiana Marathon in January as my comeback 26.2. I am so excited to get back out on the pavement and start a true speed workout plan and OMG I JUST CANNOT WAIT TO RUN AGAIN.

Off to go to the bathroom for the thirteenth time this hour :)

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hey! It's me!

You may not have noticed, but I am not a professional blogger. No one is paying me or giving me things, and the only people that read this consistently are probably a handful of friends and my husband, but I still feel this huge obligation to post and get weird guilt when a  lot of time passes between posts. I guess it is because I so love to come back to this spot and look back on this life of mine and I feel like I am going to forget something if I don't write about it, much like my beloved Dear Diary of my teen years and my absurdly melodramatic travel journal from Europe. Also, I just like to write; I like to come here and put words to my feelings and experiences and put up sweet pictures of my little one for the few people that read this to look at. 
This paragraph has nothing to do with anything I am going to write about, but is also kind of an apology for not taking time to write, to my future self reading over these posts and my friends who always read and make me feel warm and fuzzy when they bring it up over brunch weeks later (thanks, ladies!). 

LIFE IS NUTS, Y'ALL. Here are five reasons why:
1. There is a baby coming into our family in like four weeks! Maybe even less! What!? I feel like I have been pregnant forever (ie, since the day we moved into our new  home which doesn't even feel that new anymore) and yet I have no idea how nine months has passed and this huge baby is living in my belly.

2. Three year olds are SO awesome. Seriously, this is by favorite age so far. Madeleine is hilarious and says the funniest things and is so incredibly smart; she can school you on seahorses and Godzilla and the proper term for any baby animal and does it so darn adorably! I love our little chats when she and her nanny pick me up from work and how she engages with me about my day and tells me stories about everything she did. She is the best and I cannot wait to see her be an awesome big sister.

3. I got a promotion! It was officially announced today but it has been a few months in the making and I am pretty excited that it is real. It has been a tough few months of hard work and not quite knowing where things would land, so this feels like an awesome accomplishment. Also, getting a director spot right as I am about to go on maternity leave makes me feel pretty bad ass; I guess I will have to give the new baby some credit as my co-worker on this project.

4. The snow might actually melt before next winter! Well, this is more a hope than a reality but I saw temps in the 50's on the extended forecast and I almost wept with joy. I am so very sick of cold and ice and snow and I cannot wait for it to be gone. I want to be outside, to feel the sunshine on my face and to not have to slalom to the train every morning more than ANYTHING. This has been a hard winter and I hope that everyone is as happy and appreciative as I plan on being once the warmer weather hits.

5. I am in super, duper nesting mode and have a few house projects that I am begging Matt to help me finish before we bring this new baby home. There are a few things that I want to do that I have had to accept will need to wait because we need things like open windows and the ability to see past my belly to do them, but I am excited to knock some things off our to-do list before the month is over and then start thinking about what we can do once I am back to work and our lives and income are a little more back to normal. 

Well, thanks for letting me catch up! Have an awesome weekend and enjoy some pics of our life lately while you are at it:
One of her Godmamas caught that at Mardi Gras!

Go B's and healthy teeth!

A day at the aquarium (hi Myrtle the Turtle!).

This kid loves sea life. 

She has gotten really good at helping me make cookies (and eating them too!)

Choo, choo! It's the dinner train!

Turtles at the EcoTarium!

This picture SLAYS me. I love her.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Lent, 2015

The Eucharistic Minister had good form in ash distribution!
Happy day after Mardi Gras, also known as Ash Wednesday, also known as the day that everyone does a lot of double takes about the smudge of black on my head (though not as much as if I lived elsewhere since, well, Boston and all us Irish Catholics).

We celebrated Mardi Gras on Lundi because Matty has class on Tuesday nights, and due to having the day off for President's Day it worked out really well. I got to spend a lot of time in the kitchen making jambalaya, cornbread and king cake, all from scratch! This was the first time I had done jambalaya all the way from scratch, including the Cajun spice that I mixed myself and I must admit that it was amazing. We put out a little decor from our travels to NOLA, put on some beads and threw Rebirth on the speakers and had ourselves a pretty awesome lil' party (though I did miss the Abitas this year, sigh).

Due to the current situation complete, utter, terrible, chaos in Boston we have been driving in to work each day, having our nanny take the car home, and then doing the loop backwards to pick us both up from work and get our nanny home safely. What was once less than an hour has turned into at least three both ways and it is making me want to die cry both die and cry.
Madeleine is, how do I say this, not a morning person. She likes to wake up, lounge around and maybe think about changing out of her pjs at 8am, though she would be pretty content to wait until closer to lunch to get up and at 'em. Having to drag her out of the house at 6:45 has been a test in patience and replacements for cuss words like I have not had to deal with in quite a while. So this morning with our eye on the 6:45 mass at our old church we figured we would get up at 5 and pray a lot that we would at least be able to carry her safely to the car as she kicked, screamed and generally made for another lovely winter morning.

And then, a Lenten miracle. Not only was she fed, dressed and ready to get out the door with a coat AND boots but she was actually quite pleasant and....this is where things get crazy....she colored quietly in the front pew with just the occasional excited comment about the goings-on in mas (totally appropriate and made our awesome former priest smile a lot). Y'all it was a LENTEN MIRACLE! We even got a chance to chat with said former priest who happens to be on the board for the school that we are applying to for Maddie and he offered to put in a word for her once her application comes up. It is good to be in with God's men on the ground, I tell ya.

So here we are, Ashes on our heads and ready for the next 40 days of preparation for Easter. This is my second Lenten season pregnant and once again I cannot fast, but I am trying to be mindful of what I eat today and not be extravagant (while still sticking to no meat).
Friday is our weekly take-out night and we have discussed moving it during Lent because it does not seem like much of a sacrifice to spend a bunch of money on seafood or something fancy every night that we are supposed to be reflecting on sacrifices, penance and the Easter season. The ads for cheese pizza and lobster bake specials around this time do not lose their irony on me.
As for what I am "giving up" for Lent this year, I have again chosen to give up some of my free time and spend a bit of time meditating and reading the Bible each day. I would love to get up early and meditate on the rosary and maybe squeeze in a Psalm before I begin my day, so that is what I am aiming for.
I tend to feel very close to the rosary when I am pregnant, probably because I learned how to pray it the day before we found out I was pregnant with Madeleine. Something about being a mama just makes me feel that much closer to the ultimate mama! I may even be a mama of two before Easter comes around and then I will have lots of late nights to spend reflecting on the awesomeness that these little babies have bestowed upon us.

I hope you all have a lovely, reflective Lenten season and that someone finds a better way to tie the Easter bunny and Church Easter together than we have been toiling with at our dinner table!
Just had to throw in this pic of my Valentine's Day date with my littlest heart warmer.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Snowy Day Trip to the World of Madeline

You guys, really, this snow! We have had more snow this past month than has ever been recorded in the history books...and this is Boston so you know we know history! There is just SO much snow and no longer anywhere to put it. It really is absurd, and I hope that someday summer really comes so I can think back to it from a warm spot in the sand and laugh. Really, I just hope summer comes...

Of course, the more snow the less we get out, which is the pits. One energetic toddler and one restless, preggo mama plus four feet of snow is just a terrible equation. So, instead of letting the snow beat us down on Sunday, we decided to brave it all and take a trip out to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to see a special Madeline exhibit that is ending soon: Madeline at 75: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans

I had read about the exhibit when it was in NYC over the summer and was going to try and see it there, but once I found out it would also be in MA, I decided I could wait and save the trip coordination. Little did I know that this winter was going to be a snowapocalypse, especially when I put it in our calendar for the second to last weekend it would be running. However, never to back down from a challenge, my husband the amazing shoveling machine got us out and on the road just in time for Maddie to have a road PB and J for lunch.  The roads were nice and clear, snow and traffic wise, and aside from the side roads we had to take from the turnpike to the museum, it was totally uneventful. Mostly because we saw a YAK farm. Yep, awesome things are going on in Western Mass and I saw my first yak because of it.

The museum was open (which I started panicking about at exactly .03 miles go to) and there was hardly anyone there, so we had the run of the place! The exhibit was amazing; so many great paintings of all different sizes from the Madeline books as well as early comics and other sketches by Ludwig Bemelmans. My Madeleine has been very into drawing all the time so she brought a sketchpad around the museum and did some drawing as she felt inspired to do, Since it was so empty, the museum staff also let us know right before a storytime was happening in their library, so we got to hear one the the 2015 Caldecott winners, The Adventures of Beekle (so cute!) along with another new book called The Hug Machine (which very much reminded me of a certain toddler). After storytime we checked out the regular exhibit of Eric Carle's art and then made our way to the studio where Maddie made her own book, which is about circles and colors and is likely coming to a future Caldecott listing.

On our way out we hit the gift shop and I managed to spend less than what was in our bank account (it helps that we own every Madeline book already and I have forbidden myself to buy anymore tote bags!). We always let Maddie pick out one souvenir and she went for the most awesome thing: a Madeline shadow puppet set! Definitely a perfect new addition to our snowed in arsenal back at home and something I am sure we will get a lot of use out of as we read the books together with the new baby.

We stopped for sandwiches and apple cider donuts at a market near the museum and made our way back into Boston just as the snow started to dump down again but got home before driving became scary. All in all a total win and well worth the long drive just to be out of the house! I would have been super disappointed if we didn't get to catch the exhibit while it was running, so I am extremely thankful that the rest of my gang was into a little adventure too.

The exhibit, Madeline at 75: The Art of Ludwig Bemelmans runs until February 22nd if you have a free day to get out there, we totally recommend it!

This is my new favorite picture of these two. 
Her love of books makes my mama heart so happy.
I want all the art we saw for her room!
Working on her book in the studio.
My little artist. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Things are not well. As a matter of fact, they are pretty unwell.

Work. OH work. How does one maintain an open door policy when the need to shut the door and cry is so great? Something has to give, but it hasn't.

Home. My home sweet home that I do love so much but the project list is not moving because it is a daily task just to keep it together with a very energetic toddler who cannot get out and run around and be a toddler. Our commute time home has doubled, even tripled, on most nights so we get home, get dinner and get to bed. The time we spent playing and coloring and getting a few things done is spent on the road staring at brake lights and snow banks as high as the eye can see.

My me time. I see the runners on the Esplanade with their millions of layers and frozen tears and don't remember my own runs against snow drifts with chapped red legs and impossible miles ahead. I just miss it. I am so, so jealous. I want to get up and layer up and go for a run in this terrible shit outside. If I  do happen to wake early to go to the gym and hop on the treadmill it just takes so much effort. Shoveling that I physically cannot do. Sliding up and down the driveway. Calling just to make sure the gym has even opened. I haven't had a good, solid run in maybe two weeks and it is breaking my heart.

This new baby. Oh this poor second child without any hint that she is on her way with the lack of newborn accessories that have been readied. I need to pull clothes out of the basement and wash them and fold them and get them ready for teeny tiny arms and legs, but the idea tires me out and we still need to go get the changing table and bins that we plan on buying to house them because who needs a crib at this point anyways. We are co-sleepers and the crib is in pieces and will eventually make its way up too but not right now. So it stays in the basement with the other things, waiting for us to make a move before these last 9 weeks fly by and she is here. Maybe we should at least get some diapers...but the hospital was so generous with them last time that we could probably last at least a week on those freebies alone.

But then, there is a good day, A Friday night that ends in (and is punctuated by) tears leads into a Saturday morning of having slept in extra late, A toddler who wakes up fresh faced and excited about the day. A grocery and Target trip that is fun (and ends up costing less than our weekly budget calls for), Gymnastics class where there is no need for me to threaten having to leave because her energy is so great that she can't stop tackling her friends. A quick trip to the library where there is a clean spot right out front and a book that I was at least #180 in the queue for ready for me to pick up. A nap that is not met with tears and screaming and banging on the door, but instead lasts so long I have to wake up from my own and sneak into her room to snuggle her awake. My dear husband coming home from all day at school to take Maddie off my hands and let me cook a new recipe and start my new book. A glimmer of hope that despite three more days of snow, maybe someday spring will be here. Maybe we will wake up on Sunday and say 'fuck it' and get out of the house for an adventure anyway.

This is winter, maybe our hardest yet, but there is always a spring, even in the middle of a snowstorm.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Currently // January

These 'Currently' posts are one of my favorites to do but somehow I haven't done one since October...oh holidays/life/ridiculous New England winter blizzard chaos. Good thing there is so much fun stuff to catch up here we go!

I just finished one of Damien Echol's books, Life After Death, and it was so, so good. If you aren't familiar with him, Echols is 1/3 of the West Memphis Three, a group of young men convicted of murdering three young boys in West Memphis Arkansas then sentenced to life (and death row for Echols) with absolutely no evidence outside of the WM3 being into metal and wearing black. I started following the case in high school after hearing Jello Biafra speak about them and eventually wrote my undergrad thesis on them, which included an interview that I managed to do with Eddie Spaghetti from the Supersuckers (another huge supporter of theirs). When I was pregnant with Madeleine they were finally set free through a screwy method using an Alford plea in which they could claim their innocence but have no rebuttal against the system that robbed them of 18 years of their lives. There are a great deal of movies (Paradise Lost and the new West of Memphis) as well as some great books, but this was the first of Echols' books that I had read and it was really good. It focuses more on his life in prison and his coping mechanisms more than the specifics of the case and it just made me really glad I decided to keep my career away from the system and in the part that actually helps people because my God our prison system is just so fucking terrible. I know this, and I have been in there and seen it with my own eyes, so for anyone that has not this book is a great eye opener to where your tax dollars are being wasted.
I have moved onto my first H.P. Lovecraft book now....keeping it light with my winter reading I guess!

Like a hibernating pregnant lady still, but now with more awesome smoothies for breakfast because I got a ninja for Christmas and it is the most awesome thing ever. I reintroduced flax and chia into them and have been alternating between this smoothie and some variation of frozen strawberries and banana with greek yogurt and nutella or peanut butter. I am also trying to remember to have lemon water first thing in the morning (and I do manage to have it all day at work), which I think has kept my skin from totally freaking out in this terrible cold weather. Also, really appreciating that Pinkberry just rolled out a ton of new flavors for my third trimester; I know it had to have been just for me, right?

Thinking About
Tiny babies! Especially this one in my belly that is getting huge and wriggly and will be here in just two months. I have started thinking about packing a bag for the hospital and getting all the tiny clothes up from the basement to wash and put away. I am so glad that we are doing this a second time around and I know that I don't need to get the crib out yet (yay, cosleeping!) or worry about buying all the things. We can just relax and wait for her to get here and then figure out the craziness of two kids once she gets here :) Tomorrow we are taking Madeleine to a sibling class at the hospital so she can see the maternity ward and look at the new babies in the nursery, which we are all pretty excited about. I can only imagine that this pregnancy feels like forever to her (I feel ya, girl) so we try and keep her excited with things like this as well as bringing her to all my prenatal appointments. She has seriously become a pro with that heartbeat listening machine and I think she feels that this is her baby just as much as it is Mama and Da's, which is the absolute truth. We are so excited to meet you little lady, now please get your foot out of my rib cage!

No long runs and too many good books has kept my podcast listening to zero, but I have had a few solo trips in the car lately where I have found myself blasting either the Black Flag or Murder City Devils stations on Pandora and been pretty stoked on it. In anticipation of being able to run more than a few miles I have thought about picking up the Audible app, but that is still far enough in the future that I will just keep rocking out to the same stuff I have been listening to for the past two decades on the treadmill.

I recently finished the entire series of The Sopranos and am now working through Orange is the New Black and Shameless. When you only spend about an hour watching tv each day it tends to stretch things out, but I figure that I have lots of late nights to really binge watch after April.

The awesome relationship that I have with my husband and how damn good we are at problem solving together. I have had some difficult things going on lately in addition the regular stresses of life and pregnancy and he has been juggling a well-earned promotion (with a promoted work load) as well as two hard classes in school, and we have that whole toddler raising situation and, well, things have just been a little overwhelming, to put it mildly. Instead of taking it out on each other we have been able to identify that we are stressed and made some good plans about how to manage it, how to get out of certain situations and how to make sure that we keep ourselves grounded and focused on the things that really matter. Life sure isn't perfect, but having such a rad partner makes even the hard times so much more manageable and always forces me to remember how far we have come in our lives, which coincidentally started 7 years ago tonight! Crazy to think that the super handsome (and might I add super polite) boy in the bar has become the best thing to ever happen to this life of mine.

Glad I finally got a chance to sit down and write; I think I am even going to prepare some posts for the week since I feel like there is so much going on that I don't want to forget to share; and speaking of sharing, here are some wintry pictures from the past few weeks!

Ps. Happy Superbowl Sunday! GO PATS!

First blizzard in our new house!
What happens when you run out of things to do during a blizzard.

Finger painting, a neat freak parent's nightmare.
She could paint all day (well, at least a couple hours worth of it).
Two of the four minutes she cared about being outside. 
And the other two, It took more time to get her dressed...
Target and hot cocoa before the storm!
Seriously, so much hot cocoa.