Plastic-Free July

Although I did have a few new year’s resolutions for 2019, this year I mostly focused on a list of monthly challenges for myself. They felt like mini goals to keep things fresh and let me try more of the things I’ve been interested in. Was this a good idea? No, probably not.
Self-care January was pretty awesome. It was a great way to finish up my maternity leave and force me to focus on me. Highly recommend.
Snail mail February felt a bit overwhelming at times but I wrote around 14 letters, several of which resulted in return mail- a win!
Minimalism March was mainly weekends of purging and tidying which was very cathartic. I need more of this in my life!
April is where things started to go downhill. Originally slotted as focusing on yoga, I changed it to No Expectations April. Even with utilizing YouTube, creating a daily yoga practice felt unrealistic. Do I want one? Sure. But at the end of March was when I felt like my insides were starting to crumble. Living a no sleep, new baby life alongside a full-time job and an ever growing realization that I had developed postpartum depression meant I felt like a shell of a human being. I wasn’t sure what the expectations were but I knew I was holding myself to a high standard and I wasn’t living up to it. Thus, No Expectations April. May and June followed in loosey goosey suit.
I did however take a stab at Plastic Free July. Plastic Free July is an actual thing (Instagram handle, hashtag and all) which made it much more fun and motivating to do. Since this was my first year doing it I had pretty low expectations. I wanted to use the opportunity to say no to plastic where I could, identify where I was unnecessarily dependent on plastic and see where we could improve. I didn’t ask my family to make any adjustments although I did make it clear what I was doing and I did make some changes in our grocery shopping.

Saying No:
With a few exceptions, I was able to say no to all single use plastic. Several times at work I used a piece of plastic cutlery without thinking about it although mostly I’ve been reusing them to make them not-so-single use. I’ve never been good about remembering my travel mug but I made a special effort to keep it with me so I wouldn’t have a need for disposable coffee cups and their plastic lids.

Room for Improvement:
Groceries are tough y’all. Since I work 40+ hours a week and have two children in diapers, I have limited opportunities to shop around in multiple stores. For the most part, I need to be able to go to my local grocer and get what I need but my local store does not have a bulk section.

I made a special effort to go to Whole Foods and the farmers markets but neither provided as many plastic free options as I might of thought. Our local Whole Foods is small with a limited bulk section and I realized many of the items I was buying from farmers were still wrapped in plastic such as meat or cheese. Even berries and cherry tomatoes were coming in plastic containers there. Oy.

My family did not directly complain but I did cut out cereal, chips and crackers from our grocery lists since they all come in plastic bags. It made for shitty snacking, so I welcome ideas here.

Also, on my to do list is to create and utilize plastic free alternatives for eating out. We’re doing great on carrying:

  • Reusable water bottles
  • Reusable Ziploc bags- we recently upped our game with some Stasher bags!
  • Reusable fork and spoon for kiddos
  • Reusable pouches for pureed food

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But we need to include:

  • Straws for adults and kids
  • Cutlery for adults
  • Back up travel mug for those who can’t keep theirs clean (I don’t want to name names but… it’s both of us)
  • Cloth napkins to take plastic free to zero waste
  • To-go containers

Plastic Free July was not actually free of plastic but it was reduced and a good exercise. We ended the month by signing up for a compost pick up service which I’m pumped about! You can bring your compost to the county for free but that’s unrealistic for me right now so I’m willing to pay for convenience.

The unintended upside of this challenge is that all my favorite unhealthy snacks are wrapped in plastic wrappers. No more mid-afternoon candy bars!

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The Magic of Siblings

I’m sure no one is surprised my blogging has dropped off since we became a family of four. Or even more so since I went back to work. Blogging was once something I really enjoyed and thought a lot about. On the way to work or in the shower, I would mull over things I wanted to share. The things in my life that were taking over, small or large. I wanted to share about sleepless nights, about introducing solids, about the way your identity totally changes becoming a parent.

Now, on rare occasions, I think, “Didn’t you used to have a blog?”

Austin hit seven months recently and now typically sleeps through the night. We are on the verge of a dependable routine (yes, I know I just jinxed it). He has started to eat food with varying levels of success. Haines seemed to love everything that came his way while Austin acts as though I’m feeding him a lemon. Perhaps he will be our picky child. We still call Austin “baby brother” more often than not and Haines is definitely increasingly interested in his new friend. He vacillates between trying to keep every toy away from his brother or singing him songs and giving him kisses.

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Chokehold action

Having two kids has made my mind a chaotic mess. I wish I could say the fog has lifted but I still very much feel wrapped up in the daily grind of survival. Today Tyler and I took turns eating dinner while the other walked Austin around. During Tyler’s turn to eat, I took Austin outside and thought, “Tonight is a survival night.” Survival days/nights are when you remove all expectations and just make it through. It was a perfectly fine evening with many adorable moments but it was also an evening where we just needed for everyone to eat, everyone to take a bathe and everyone to go to bed. And so they did.

This will sound stupid so bear with me- having a second child is a lot of work. I’m not sure I’d recommend it. As a new parent you think one child is difficult (because it is) and then you have a second. Holy cow. But you already know how to parent, which is helpful, and most importantly you know that this too shall pass. You become resilient. And you learn that multiple kids is crazy but siblings is beautiful.

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My heart explodes on a daily basis watching the boys interact. Austin has always looked at Haines with total love and awe, as I’m sure he’ll do for quite some time, but now Haines is developing his own feelings for Austin. He’s interested in what he’s doing. He wants to be a part of his day. I know not all siblings become best friends and to hope for such may be naive, but I can’t help but feel I’m watching two people fall in love. It is not always kind or sweet. It is often selfish. It is always real. It is authentic. It feels like the beginning of everything. Siblings, I’d highly recommend.

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The Birthday Question

Recently I was asked “a birthday question” of “What have you learned this year?”

What a fucking question.

What more could I have possibly learned this year? (Kidding, clearly I still have a long way to go.)

I have learned that I sell myself short. Sure, I knew this but I used to think of it as humility or sacrificing for the greater good. I realize now it keeps me from feeling like I deserve to ask for things- money, job title, support, friendship, time for myself. It’s funny how my children have been the ones who have taught me selflessness but also to advocate for myself. Tonight I kept one arm outstretched to block Haines from picking the blueberries out of my salad as the other arm spooned pureed carrots into Austin’s mouth.  Also, that moment pretty much sums up motherhood.

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I learned about boundaries. Boundaries are the key to relationships of any kind. It’s not something I ever understood the value of. They had a negative connotation. Shouldn’t our most meaningful relationships exist without boundaries? Anything goes! But boundaries are as simple as expecting honesty from your spouse/friend/parent or drawing a line between work and home. In parenting boundaries feel particularly few and far between but they can still exist if you choose them. It is not a bad thing to move a baby into their own room or to insist that a toddler maintains their bedtime simply so you can be alone for once. It is not bad to say, “Play by yourself for a few minutes” and mutter “…before I lose my shit.”

I have learned I am strong, resilient and patient- three words I would not have used previously to describe myself. Were these qualities there all along? Surely, they have not just sprung to life but whatever the case may be- I feel them now. This is as much due to being able to push through when things are hard as it is knowing when to call it quits.  

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I learned about the constantly evolving human. Even if we cannot change our bodies, our circumstances, our income, we can change our minds. We can change our outlook. We can change our perception. And that can change your whole life.

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I have so much more to learn and wonderful people to learn it with. Thank goodness. Here’s to 33.

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Self-Care January

I am a person of lists. And goals. I love lists of goals. Even lists of lists of goals. So when my friend @thenewchrissy declared that she would be doing monthly challenges for 2019, I jumped on board. We share a lot of interests and values but I modified her a few of her challenges to fit my needs.

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A lot of folks start the year with Dry January. It makes sense considering the overindulgence of the holidays but I wanted to start the year off on a different foot. With only a few weeks left in my maternity leave, I wanted to focus on just enjoying it and relaxing as much as possible before it was back to the grind. Thus Self-Care January.

Self-care on maternity leave (especially at the end of one without pay) is not spa days or days alone in self-reflection or girls weekends. It is a 30 minute bath at the end of the day with a magazine. It is going to the grocery store alone and walking the aisles very slowly. It is choosing not to fold the laundry and painting my toenails instead. It is getting outside everyday.

Having a reminder that I needed to make time for myself was really helpful as I faced going back to work. The prospect of going back to work has, in my experience, been worse than the actual return but it’s still painful.

It’s hard to be present even in the parts of my job that I enjoy (which is the majority to be fair) when I’m aware of all the things I’m missing at home. Is he smiling right now? Is he cooing? Is he thinking about rolling over? (Yes, yes and not yet.) I race home to divide my time between two amazing, demanding children. One who wants cuddles and to be nursed. Another who wants to read books or tell me things like “I ride in Dada’s truck” (it’s not fascinating but it’s still cute). On my first week back of work, Haines was sent home from daycare with a fever and I was ecstatic to spend the following day with him. With Austin safely tucked away at my mom’s, we watched a movie, took walks and played hard. I loved it.

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Still at the end of the day, I was ready for a moment of me. I went to bed at 8. Best self-care decision ever.

February’s challenge is Snail Mail which I’m really looking forward to. I used to be an excellent pen pal but now I’m incredibly inconsistent. This month is going to be an opportunity to get back into one of my favorite activities.

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2019: Seeking Me

2018, oh my. You were a beast. You were a beast to a lot of people. But you also brought me a lot of clarity and focus. And a brand new baby so thank you for that.

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I had wanted a lot of 2018 and I definitely got more than I bargained for (ex. baby). I had hoped for a year of tiny adventures (oops, how about one big baby?) as well as:

  • Save an emergency fund- Yes!! We have a fund that we have not yet touched, although mostly due to the generosity of others. Still that fund is there and holding strong for inevitable rainy days.
  • Keep a clean house- Yep. But then we had a baby so we’ll revisit this one in about ten years. Or more.
  • Learn to balance priorities at work- Honestly I learned to prioritize my home life over my work life which was not my goal. So this is still an area of growth.
  • Be present- Sometimes I was successful, sometimes not but this is a lifelong goal.
  • Drink less caffeine- Sure did. Cause I was pregnant. Now I have two children. So, currently not a goal.

I love the new year.  I love setting intentions and coming up with resolutions. In case you can’t tell, I’m a list maker. I’ve already been working on my 2019 bullet journal (bujo if you’re hip). List after list!

Because I like to go overboard with my lists, resolutions and hopes and dreams for the new year, this year is three-pronged.

First, a word for the year: Perception. I have a tendency to let my perception of events take on a life of its own. I call it spiraling. Something happens to interrupt my day- an incident, an email, a conversation, me- and before I know it that moment that I perceived as negative has attached it to many other negative thoughts and is now spiraling out of control. I start to lose my grasp on reality. The reality is my life is good, my day is good, my children are good, etc. One thing should not knock me off course. With that I strive to take a step back and better evaluate the moments in my life for what they are- moments and not something more substantial.

Part two is 12 monthly challenges. I was inspired by @thenewchrissy’s 2019 monthly challenges and decided to tag along for a few as well as make up my own.

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Part three is a more traditional resolution.

Be me. I want to be authentic as best I can whenever I can. And in a lot of ways, I don’t know what that means. For a few years now I have unconsciously worked to confirm my style, my manners, my preferences to better fit my work or being a mom or whatever. Now I want to figure out- just what are my favorite bands, my favorite books? What do I like to wear? Where would I go if I could go anywhere? What do I care deeply about? Other than lists, preferably. The fog of babies has not lifted but I can see it clearing ahead of me and without wasting any of the preciousness that is life with littles, I will still seek me.

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Reconnecting with this person. Not her clothes though…

 

So Long Summer!

I basically blinked and found September was almost over. It will be Tyler’s birthday in only 3 days, which typically signals the start of fall for me.

August and September were challenging months personally but also marked with wonderful times.

Family:

Tyler’s father, brother and my future sister-in-law came to visit in August for a beach weekend. It was great to have the time together, although the highlight was watching Haines interact with everyone and learn to love the beach!

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My mom moved to town! Unfortunately she only got to spend one night in her new house before we evacuated for Hurricane Florence but her house is still whole as are all of us. I have never lived in the same town as either of my parents as an adult and I’m excited for this new adventure!

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Step 1: Convince your mom to move to Wilmington. Step 2: Let her spend one night in her home before evacuating. 

Haines:

Baby boy has freaking blossomed over the past month or so. Today we played “night night” for probably 30 minutes. This is a great game where I laid down and got tucked in with a blanket and Elmo over and over again. It wasn’t my idea! I hope we get to play it again.

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Regardless Haines is talking and singing nonstop. He is imitating everything we say and do- a very scary prospect- between total fits of rage. We have entered the time of tantrums, which I am not pumped about but recognize as a necessary evil in his growing up. One day they’ll stop. Just like one day he’ll go to college, right?

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Baby #2:

Baby boy is growing away! I had actually lost a little bit of weight in early September, only to gain 11 pounds in the last two weeks. 11 pounds!!

Apparently we only have 5 weeks left until his arrival (assuming he’s as punctual as his brother) which completely freaks me out but I also spent WAY too long looking at baby Haines photos today which made me very glad we’re doing this again.

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On the flip side, our community of Wilmington, NC is deeply suffering right now from Hurricane Florence. There is so much destruction but our house survived intact, as did my mom’s. We have a lot of yard clean up to do but that is a small price to pay. We are incredibly lucky. Flooding and downed trees have devastated homes and our neighboring communities. It is hard to believe this is our town.

If you are interested in providing support to those in southeastern North Carolina, Nourish NC, Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina and the Red Cross are good options.

 

 

So long spring, hello summer!

I’m sad to say May is gone. It’s an annual tragedy. May begins quietly, sweet with budding flowers and not too hot. The humidity waiting in the wings but not yet present. By Memorial Day June is not just knocking at the door but full force body slamming it. Humidity has taken over. The heat has picked up and I’ve given in and turned on the AC. Damn you southern summer. I am not strong enough to keep the windows open.

May, as always, proved to be the best month of the year so far.

We went to the aquarium not once, but twice! (Thank you year long membership!) We finally checked out the Children’s Museum which proved to be a huge hit (more on that tiny adventure later).

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Tiny crab

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Standard post-aquarium position

The family trekked to Winston to see my mom, a trip that included a lot of nostalgia cleaning out her attic, walks in my favorite places and the best fried chicken.

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I got another year older, which is one of my favorite activities. I’m glad it doesn’t happen more than once a year but I’m very grateful to continue on this journey!

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Our garden is starting to show life. Our yard is in bloom. We’ve already been to the pool twice, which is proving popular with Haines.

My dad came for a visit, a long overdue trip! As he lives overseas, he hadn’t gotten to see Haines since he was still new to the world. Not surprisingly he immediately took to his Granddaddy.

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Haines is talking more and more each day, imitating all the words we say to him. Baby #2 is growing away (as am I) and I’ve started to feel him kick and roll around. The summer is off to an incredible start.

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