Sunday, October 16, 2016

Five Things I Learned from My 100 Days Project

So for anyone keeping track, back in August, I decided to do a 100 Days Project wherein I would write something every day for 100 days. But my last entry was written on Monday and today is Sunday. That’s basically a whole week where I haven’t written anything here. And I think I’m done—at least with this project. So the real title of this post should be: Five Things I Learned from My 60 Days Project. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Writing is still my number one. I still do it, in some form or another, every single day—both for my day job and for fun. And doing this for the last 60 days has actually taught me a ton: about priorities and timing and choosing the things that are really important. Here are a few of the things I learned:

You can make time: When I first started this whole thing, I was most worried that I wouldn’t have much time to dedicate to it. I work a full time job, have a house and a family and a whole bunch of other boring life responsibilities. But I found that, since this was something I wanted to do, I could find the time when I needed it—in the morning, after Luca went to bed, on my lunch hour. And I also found that since JB knew how important it was to me, he was up for helping me find the time too. 

Three times a week is a charm: What I did notice though, was that I really only wrote things that I felt were of quality about three times a week. The other days, especially on Fridays and Saturdays, often felt forced—I was doing it more because I had to then because I wanted to. And while I know that sometimes the best things comes out of holding yourself accountable, I also want to be able to put the time into the things I actually want to write. Which is basically how I ended up at 60 days instead of the full 100.

Planning is good: Some weeks I would look ahead and think of the things I could write about. It was good to work sentences around in my head and think about new or different ways to structure things. Those were about where to eat on Cape Cod, and how to wake up early for the gym and what 33 looks like.

But off the cuff works too: But then there were the days when I had nothing and I sat down in front of a black screen and something came out. Some of my favorite pieces ended up being written that way: the were about values we want to pass on to Luca (this is one of my all-time favorites, actually), on the importance of practice, and on being mindful.  

Inspiration is everywhere: That’s a super trite statement, I know. But the truth is it’s the truth. I learned this from my magazine days, but if you’re paying attention, ideas are all over the place. In the moment that makes you stop in your tracks. In a podcast you listened to. In a conversation you had. Hell, in that random thing you overheard or that comment you read in that Facebook group you just can’t seem to pull away from. Of everything this project has made me think about, this is the one I want to keep on hand the most. Realizing that even the most mundane, everyday things are full of inspiration and meaning is the secret to making it all worthwhile, I think.

So here we are, 60 days out, and I’m pretty proud that I’ve kept it up this long. I’m still going to write as often as I can, and I’m so happy that I was able to find this space, to find myself here, over all this time.

It’s been like getting back to the core of things—and now it’s figuring out what it all looks like from here.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Weekend in Burlington, Vermont

One of the most common things you hear after you have a kid is the importance of “date night.” I’m not putting it in quotes because it’s not a real thing, but mostly because it IS such a thing. Some people complain they don’t get to do it enough, other people seem to do it every week—and I would guess most of us fall somewhere in between, trying to hang with our person whenever we can, while still dealing with all the daily life stuff.

Which is why, other than an overnight at our cousin’s wedding last year, JB and I haven’t actually been away, by ourselves, since Luca was born. (Though lots of times when we go out to dinner or out with friends, L will sleep at my parents’ house.) They were up for extending the babysitting a couple days, and so we decided, in part to celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary, to head up to Burlington, Vermont for the weekend.

It's a 5 hour drive and though we planned to get on the road early, that didn't actually happen. We wound up stopping in Albany for dinner at New World Bistro Bar, though, and it was totally worth it. 

It was late by the time we got up to Burlington, so we called it a night. The next morning we were up--not that early!!--and were happy to be in walking distance of basically everything. They have a great farmers market on Saturday mornings, so we walked around there before have breakfast at Monarch & the Milkweed. The waffles are basically four mini waffles stacked high, and are so good! (I tried to take some artsy food photos but, a food photographer I am not, so no go on those.) 

It was overcast and a little windy, but it wasn't cold or raining so we decided to go for a long bike ride along the Burlington Bike Path. We wound up doing 20 miles total, which was awesome. I was pretty proud of myself until we turned around to go back: it was so, so windy and so much harder that I almost couldn't hang. I made it in the end, though, hah.

After the ride we went to American Flatbread, which Dorna and Maulin had recommended--and it was great. 

That night we walked around Church Street, going into a few stores, before finally heading to The Farmhouse Tap & Grill for a late dinner. I loved the vibe of the whole town--it's young and fun and just so charming. I could totally imagine living there. (We obviously Trulia-ed all the cute apartments we saw :) 

On Sunday, we went to The Skinny Pancake for crepes and then walked around a bit more before getting on the road. The foliage was sort of half and half the whole time, but on the drive home it was amazing. Despite all the hype, fall still manages to get you every time. 

Anyway, I know everyone says it, but the weekend away was just so nice. JB had picked the place and the hotel and it was perfect. I get why people stress the importance of the whole date night thing--it was good to reconnect and put ourselves first and all that. And of course we missed L and talked about him a ton, but from the photos we were getting, he had himself a pretty good weekend too. 

So, here's to connecting and to remembering who we are, and to being ourselves, all at the same time. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Here and Now

Sometimes, when I'm not sure what I want to write, I let my mind wander. I could come up with this kind of list, or that kind of list. I could write about one thing or another, on and on until something clicks or settles and there you go. One of my favorite parts of working in magazines has always been the pitching and the brainstorming. I'd sit on the train and let my thoughts jump from one thing to another, a concentrated effort to be creative that usually resulted in at least a couple good ideas. 

Nothing has really stuck out today. Maybe a list of things I did today? That's navel gazing at its finest. Does anyone else care that I folded a couple loads of laundry today? That I went to work, that we had burgers for dinner? Maybe I will one day, though probably even I won't give much of a second thought to that. 

I could write about other things: that Amanda Knox documentary was, in the end, super interesting. I didn't follow the case much at the time, but I'm going to wholeheartedly agree with the Internet that that Nick Pisa guy was the worst of the worst and basically gives all journalists a bad name. Same goes for that misogynistic investigator. Definitely worth a watch. 

But mostly I've got some of the same things on my mind that I've had all week--about balance and decisions and trusting the process. 

And so I'm going to choose the here and now, forget about the rest and go put those folded clothes away, instead. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Taking Stock this Week

Cooking: Last night there was chopping and cutting and sautéing. Tonight there was Greek food from our favorite place. 

Drinking: I’m actually just about to try this pumpkin rooibos tea I got from Trader Joe’s. But actually, Anish bought this green juice from Wegman’s when we were in Pennsylvania over the weekend. It has apple cider in it, which I’m guessing is part of why it taste so good. We don’t have the store near us, but if you do, I highly recommend.

Reading: Still on My Brilliant Friend, which I’m sure I’ll get into once I stop falling asleep after reading a page—which is my fault, not the book’s fault.

Wanting: To go through my latest Stich Fix again. I tried on everything quickly, but so far there’s a blouse and a sweater I want to keep. I’m debating the jeans, so I want to go through it all again. Why didn’t I do this sooner? 

Looking: Forward to a weekend in Vermont, just me and John.   

Wishing: For bikes and hikes and leaves and good food

Enjoying: Spending time with good friends, talking over dinner

Watching: During lunch today I started watching the Amanda Knox documentary on Netflix—the first half hour seemed pretty interesting.

Wondering: What we should get Luca for his birthday—he turns 2 at the end of the month

Loving: That Minted’s online invitations are free (at least until Dec. 31)—I used the site to make the invites for Luca’s birthday and getting the RSVPs emailed to me has been the best.

Hoping: This cold finally gets better. It feels like it’s been forever.

Needing: To make a list of what we need to get accomplished in the house over the next few weeks/months.  

Wearing: Fall scarves again!

Noticing: (And loving): Fresh flowers, a surprise today from JB 

Knowing: Timing is everything.

Thinking: About how to make a firetruck costume for L for Halloween—every time you ask him what he wants to be, he says firetruck. Not firefighter, mind you. Just the actual truck.

Bookmarking: Everything on Pinterest related to a lumberjack/woodland creatures birthday party. We’re just doing a family thing for L this year, so I wanted to do something not super kid-ish, but still cute.

Snacking: On popcorn, as usual

Giggling: Over “old” videos of Luca—I put old in quotes because these are from just a few months ago, but already he’s changed so much.

Feeling: Content

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Balance in the Bigger Picture

After dinner, I was downstairs with Luca in the playroom. We were painting and playing tools and building a racetrack. It was the most ordinary of nights—and I found myself feeling so grateful for it.

For coming home from work and cutting up sweet potatoes and chopping peppers and setting the table. For talking to John while Luca built a pile of stuffed animals and jumped into it, over and over. Even for the yelling when Luca threw the rest of his food on the floor, saying he was “all done.”

Our nights can sometimes be all over the place, and so often we’re tired and have to-do lists full of all the things that likely won’t ever even get done. Sometimes having a regular, old, plain, routine kind of night is exactly what you need.

Life feels so different sometimes these days. Things that I would have prioritized at one point, I just don’t now. Things that I would have jumped into full force feel like they just have to wait a little longer. Goals and thoughts sometimes have to hold on for a second while I find my footing—or instead they just have to be put on pause for more than a few seconds.

I wrote this whole thing a few days ago that wasn’t coming out right, but it was basically about how I’m learning about balance in a new way these days. Not balance in the loaded sense, of course—that awful word that gets dressed up in better work benefits and conversations about coming in an hour late and then staying at hour later. Not in flex time or time off.

Not in measured time, I guess.

I'm learning about balance in the bigger picture. That some things work right now, and some things will work better later on. It’s a fine art this balance—figuring out what to go for and what to hold off on. Figuring out what makes the most sense in this given moment, in this season. Will you regret, or will you not even bother looking back.

And, no matter what, it’s hard. It’s hard to remember that life isn’t linear. That this may be your season of racetrack building and construction paper coloring or your season of 60-hour work weeks or your season of loud music and late nights.

That it’s compromise, in the best sense of the word. It’s betting on yourself, really. 

And maybe that’s what these regular, old, plain, routine kind of nights help me remember.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Weekend Scenes: Sesame Place

The rain wound up holding out for us this weekend, which was great. Also great? The fact that the threat of rain meant that the crowds weren't too bad at Sesame Place, which I can imagine is crazy packed in the summer. I'm guessing this is the secret to amusement park going? 

We went down to Sherry and Anish's on Saturday afternoon, had dinner and the hung out for a bit before calling it an early night. Parenting life and all that...but seriously, one day we won't be tired all the time, right? 

The park itself isn't huge, which is great with little kids--and it was even smaller since the water rides were closed for the season. Everything was dressed up for Halloween, including lots of the kids who came in costumes. (Ours didn't.) They had lots of cute things set up, like trick or treating stands throughout the park where kids could stop and get some cookies/pretzels/etc. 

We started off at the carousel, and then went on a bunch of other rides. I know the park is geared towards younger kids, but I totally appreciated the fact that Luca, at almost 2, could go on almost everything. 

The lines weren't bad either, though we did learn a thing or two about patience and waiting your turn. 

This happy baby hung out in the carrier most of the day and barely made a peep--she was just taking it all in. It's crazy to think that next year she'll be running around with the boys. 

We stayed for the parade, which was adorable--and worth the wait till 4pm. The boys also got some pre-parade lollipops. Let's just say that one fell on the floor, there were some tears, a replacement and then all was well with the world. 

It was such an awesome day and I'm so glad we got to hang out for the weekend. I wish these three kiddos lived closer--Sherry and I grew up across the street from each other--but hopefully these kinds of days will mean they'll stay close, no matter how far they are. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

What to Take on a Road Trip

We're spending the night at Sherry's and we're headed out in a few minutes. Even though it only takes a couple hours to get there, we're still gearing up. And by that I mean that we're taking the 5 things we always seem to take with us on road trips these days. (The truth: this list is nothing new, just getting it down for the record of it): 

  1. Coffee/tea. Because if one of us falls asleep it's all over. (And that someone is usually me.) 
  2. Change of clothes for Luca. We learned this one the hard way when we were driving from San Francisco to LA this summer and wound up with a car full of um, gross goldfish. (Sorry.) 
  3. Podcasts. We did Revisionist History on the trip to Cape Cod and we're going to listen to How I Built This or Young House Love Has a Podcast this time. 
  4. Snacks. When we drove through Spain on our honeymoon our snacks were much tastier/healthier things like manchego cheese. These days it's Trader Joe's trail mix for the win. 
  5. Stickers. Maybe it's just our kid, but stickers can keep him occupied for so long. And when that fails, I'm no where near above giving him the phone. :) 
What do you bring with you? 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Night

For some reason I can't seem to totally kick this cold, so John's going solo on the toddler bedtime routine and I'm hanging back and drinking lots of tea and binging episodes of Call the Midwife. Does anyone else find that whenever they watch that show they want to have all the babies? Well, that and every time I see those women giving birth in their beds at home I can't help but imagine myself doing that--and delivering the 10 pound baby I wound up having...

Anyway, so all that to say that I'm taking it easy tonight, especially since we're headed down to Sherry's tomorrow for some much needed Nemmy, Luca and Lexi time and a trip to Sesame Place. I'm actually excited to go to the park (who have I become?), so I'm hoping the rain holds out.

So on that note, it's back to tea drinking for me.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Summer to Fall

There’s a part of me that’s blaming all this on the change in seasons. Maybe it’s the extra light that comes with the summer, the longer days, the fact that there’s always someone in the office on vacation. It all feels a little more free, doesn’t it?

Things didn’t feel that crazy this summer, not in the way they did last summer, at least. We did a million things and we went a million places, but there were lots of other days when we hung out at home, in the backyard, walking to the park and around the block. I worked out and we grilled burgers and we went on vacation.

But then quickly, it all kind of changed. Fall is always busy for us, with birthdays and long to do lists that involve apples and pumpkins and changing leaves and buying big, bulky scarves. They’re good things, for sure, but they’re all things that kind of snuck up on me. One day we’re bbq-ing and the next we’re ordering butternut squash soup and wondering why it’s dark at 6:30.

I can wax poetic all you want about how much I love fall and how I’m happy to wear plaid anything. (Catholic school forever!) But it just feels really fast this year. Like the rug was pulled out from under me or something. The routine I had going has changed and my workouts are all over the place (slash non-existent at the moment), we’re doing lots of leftovers and I still haven’t folded the laundry from last weekend.

Mostly, the idea of just sitting on the couch and watching lots of TV sounds super appealing. Maybe it’s the all-over-the-place-ness of the summer that’s finally catching up with me? Maybe it’s just my body gearing up for a long winter spent mostly inside? Maybe it’s just me making 1 million excuses?

Last week when I was eavesdropping on listening to some conversations in the nail salon, one woman asked another if she liked working and having a baby. And the woman said it depends on the week. I can relate to that on a few different levels—but mostly to the fact that these days, things in general just seem to change week to week.

One week we’ve got it all under control, the next week we’re down to the last diaper and hoping that the “emergency” one you keep in that pocket of the stroller is still there.

I’m trying to get back on track—crossing those small things off the list that feel like they take up the most mental room and making decisions that will hopefully free up some more time for us.

And then mostly I’m trying to remember that one week it’s this, one week it’s that. That fall comes with it’s own feelings. Maybe the days are shorter and maybe we need more layers, but maybe there’s a freedom in that, too.

[photo via unsplash] 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Taking Stock this Week

Cooking: If heating up counts as cooking, then we’ve heated up soup that my mother-in-law made this week. so good and so needed. 

Drinking: Tea, orange juice, seltzer. I’m not feeling that well and it totally shows. 

Reading: I ditched Commonwealth for a second and started My Brilliant Friend—Miriam and Joe got it for me for my birthday and I couldn’t wait to read it.

Wanting: To get back to the gym—since I haven’t been feeling that well I haven’t gone and it’s about time.

Looking: For those photos, still. Did I mention my thoughts on procrastination?   

Wishing: That a chef would magically appear in our kitchen every day and make us super healthy breakfasts, lunches and dinners and also have snacks just out and ready to go when we walk in the door. A girl can dream?

Enjoying: Fall clothes. I went to a couple stores with Luca today after work and got him some new pajamas and a fall jacket, and then I got myself a couple new tops.

Watching: How to Get Away With Murder. Pitch. New Girl. Bring on all the fall shows!

Wondering: If Luca being in school means we’re going to be sick all year

Loving: What a small world it is

Hoping: It doesn’t rain this weekend

Needing: A clean house

Wearing: My new leather jacket. It was my birthday gift. (And also on super sale, which made me happy) 

Noticing: That there are three different sized trucks on my coffee table

Knowing: That things will work out the way they’re meant to. I think I always say some form of this, though it often relates to different things. This time, I’m feeling like we need to take a step back and look at the whole picture and what we can do to streamline some things—and then we need to actually do them.

Thinking: About how far we’ve come.

Bookmarking: This commercial. Yes, I realize it’s a commercial—for Ikea no less—but it all goes by so fast, doesn’t it?

Snacking: On Toblerone

Giggling: At how everything is “great” to Luca these days. And mostly to the little conversations he has with himself. He’s just such a happy kid, and I really hope he’s always that way. 

Feeling: Comfortable

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This Is 33

I turned 33 yesterday and I’m not really sure where to start. The truth is, maybe I don’t have as many thoughts on this as I thought I did. It’s not a milestone, which we’re taught to reflect on and measure against and so I’ve been writing and deleting sentences for the last half hour.

Some start with today: It’s early and I’m on the couch with some tea and not enough hours of sleep. John left for work already, a long drive to meet a client, and Luca is still sleeping. I can hear him turning over in his crib, sighing just slightly. He’ll wake up and there will be Sesame Street episodes and sippy cups full of milk.

Some start with a reflection: Yesterday, I was buckling Luca into his car seat as we were leaving for school and work. He was talking to himself, as 2 year olds often do, and I was running late, as 33 year olds often do. And I stopped, thinking that this is what life looks right now: breathless and always running a few minutes behind, caught up but also as in it as I can be.

Some start with nostalgia: I am in a dorm room at the start of a new semester and we are sitting cross-legged on the floor. I am wearing heels and buying a “going out” shirt, it was blue or black and paired well with jeans. I am waiting in line somewhere, reminding someone of a reservation. I am dropping expensive drinks and I am dancing and I am laughing. I am wine tasting and cake eating and I am in a furniture-less room, in a new house, with my favorite people.

Some start with lessons learned: This past year has been all about settling into a routine—what works and what doesn’t and what we can change to make it work for the moment. I’ve slowly, slowly, slowly started to realize some standards I need to let go of, some expectations that don’t need to be met. Some messes that are ok as is.

You probably know where this is going: maybe this is what 33 looks like. All these sentences taken together, the then and the now, jumbled up to come up with something new. And I have to tell you, as flawed and tiring as it can all be, I really really like the way it looks from here.