valentine’s day

I’ve never really appreciated or enjoyed Valentine’s Day until I became a parent. As a single girl, my gal pals and I would head out on the town and dance the night away; as a coupled girl, flowers are always welcome but phony gifts and pre-fixe menus never really enticed me. As a mom, though, it’s a fun way to celebrate with little gifts and themed meals.

So, what’s the plan for the day —

I found myself at Target a few weeks back and raided the $1 section — I found a few coloring posters, which seemed like a nice little February vacation activity, emoticon chocolates, and “punny” valentines. What a fun little treat to arrive home to at the end of the week.

Then, there’s the dinner — the dinner is the best part. I am going to do lasagna roll-ups. We made them a few weeks ago (maybe I will post a recipe if I can remember to do things like write down measurements and take pictures) because a friend from high school has posted pics many times of her rolls on social media. They are really good and a lot prettier than my messy lasagna pans.

I am going to arrange two rolls on each plate in the shape of a heart.

I know, I know.

It gets better, though. 4 and I are going to bake chickpea blondies tomorrow and zucchini brownies. He wanted to do heart cookies, so we are going to use the cut-outs once the desserts have cooled. We are also going to make some blueberry muffins for Saturday morning breakfast. He is the little baker of the household — 13, our other resident baker, will be dazzling us with some scratch-made peanut butter-chocolate cupcakes during the break.

Gifts, lasagna, and healthy treats for this Valentine’s Day win!

holding space

I have not made writing nearly the priority it should be this year. My semester is full of research and my “day-job” has been full of meetings, feedback requests, and letters of recommendation. Last week, I even had to return THREE unread library books but I’m planning on grabbing some more next week because I’m traveling for some field work and *should have some time to read.

The last couple of weeks have been a bit much — 13 & 11 came home and shared tales of stories/thoughts their mom had about their dad and me. It was a lot to swallow and honestly, I’ve been processing it rather slowly. Manipulation can be so great that even you start to question what the truth is at times, and fortunately, my friends and my yoga practice help to center me when I need it most.

The last couple of days, I really reflected on all of the people in my life who make time for me and hold space for my family. I am doing field work in VA at the end of the month — I have plans with a handful of friends there for dinners, drinks, yoga, and ‘talking library’. Each of these friends have arranged schedules around mine to visit and each of these friends have rearranged their schedules over the years to hold space and time for my family. These are friends who’ve, without a thought or question, have invited a family of five + dog to stay with them (regardless of home size); and my favorite, friends without children who have spent their days visiting zoos or even time at the Magic Kingdom.

In addition to my friends in DC are my friends from home — people I’ve known my whole life, friends from high school, and my college friends. All of these people make efforts to spend time with us on our visits back to PA. They have invited us to their homes, met us out for dinners, caught us at ballgames, and one college friend even introduced herself to my husband, 13, and 11 at Disney Springs over the summer because she recognized them from pictures.

Lastly are my friends in MA — the people who spend every Thanksgiving and Easter with us, who’ve done so before having children and do so now still; people I’ve met through school and work who check in and ask how everyone is doing, even when the conversation isn’t about our families. These are the people who manage to keep me sane when parts of my world feel like they’re spinning and I am ever so grateful for their grounding nature.

I am so fortunate to have these people in my life and it has me thinking more and more about others who hold space and time and love for not only me, but for my family. Sometimes, life can get busy or hectic or cruel and when those moments happen, it’s nice to be able to sit back and realize that those most important and those whose opinions matter are the ones who continue to hold space.

jan reflections, feb goals

I’ve been pretty pleased with the start of the year. I’m back to my mat, consistently, at home and maintaining my practice in the studio. In fact, this month, I met a goal I’ve been working towards for the last decade. I do not feel extraordinarily proud of many of my accomplishments but this one was a zinger for me and I almost cried when I got myself into crow post at yoga last weekend. Who knows how long it will take me to perfect the pose and do it with consistency but this was proof to me that showing up and prioritizing yoga for the last year truly has made a difference. For February, I want to continue this and support my practice with a little weights and cardio — I am not setting goals around this because 1. it’s not my preferred form of exercise and 2. I don’t want to feel obligated to move in any kind of way; thus, trying to add some different types of exercise 2-3x next month is all I’m really hoping to do.

Veganuary went pretty well for us. I had pizza a couple of times and while we did have those few slip-ups, we were 100% vegetarian for the month. It felt good but I’ve also found myself missing meat at times, so I am not sure how the next month will go. I’m hoping to lessen desserts; they are by far, my biggest weakness and even with the vegan-January, I still managed to consume some. I’ve been enjoying just buying much of the same foods at the store and then varying the spices and cooking methods. It’s required much less planning and has given me what feels like more freedom in the kitchen.

My spring semester has started but another goal for February that I have is to continue reading books that are not school related. I have read a lot about nutrition in the last month but I have a few novels to get through.

Additional goals that I have are to continue with my dog walks: It’s cold and the winter weather makes things a struggle but I do find on the days that I walk the dog in the morning, my day is better and I tend to be more active. The best part, the dog is so excited to get out for the walks that it just makes the day a little brighter.

Overall, the goals are pretty similar as they always are — listen to my body and do things that it responds well to (like more yoga and less sugar). I’m excited to see how February goes, especially with some upcoming travel to look forward to!

what vegans eat

I posted earlier in the week about our Veganuary experience — so far, so good. Today, for football playoffs, we made quite the vegan spread. I texted my parents — their doctor has recommended they go plant-based for years, but they think all she wants them to eat involves kale and salads. I wanted to prove them wrong — that there is more than meets the palate than just bowls of raw vegetables. Enter our football food:

From top left: vegetable pizza (served cold: broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, Kite Hill ranch dip, and vegan cheese); homemade egg rolls (with broccoli slaw & mushrooms) and four dipping sauces; salsa and Siete queso (with RoTel tomatoes); buffalo dip (made of cashews, artichokes, and buffalo sauce); and spinach-artichoke dip.

It was quite the spread and while I am not certain how vegan we will remain after our month-long challenge, I think these recipes will make their way into our standard rotation. (In truth, the spinach artichoke dip has been in our regular rotation for years.)

My parents are curious now, though, so I think that’s good — they want us to make this stuff when they come to visit next. I feel like them admitting curiosity is a step in the right direction to them taking their doctor’s orders.

veganuary, part 1

So, my husband and I are smack dab in the middle of Veganuary; typically, we start the year doing a Whole30 and I know many who do ‘dry January’. W30 is our usual way to kick off the year by nourishing our body and lessening the sugar intake after the holiday season where my favorite breakfast/lunch/snack/dessert involves my mom’s peanut butter Hershey Kiss cookies. They are amazing.

Usually, by week 2.5, I’ve stopped eating on the W30 because I am not a big meat eater. This year, I’d read about Veganuary and this seemed more up my alley because I love carbs and I love vegetables. So far, it has been great. Unlike W30, if you slip up, you do not have to start from the beginning; with the exception of two incidents (pizza and carrot cake), I have remained 100% vegan.

I am doing a lot of cooking but not any more than usual — one thing that I’ve been more mindful of is lunch. I am typically awful about making and eating lunch. I’ve been doing a lot of pb&j on sprouted bread and also, baked potatoes. They’re not the most exciting lunches but I’m actually eating lunch daily and not waiting until 3PM to do it. I’ve also been having dessert oranges after nearly every meal. It’s my favorite thing about winter — I just love oranges and I have the kids hooked on dessert oranges too.

Dinners feel really nutritious. I’ve been using mirepoix that I buy precut from the grocery store. I NEVER use onions in my cooking because I don’t like them but these are diced in small pieces and I’ve been reading about health benefits, so I’ve been using this in pretty much every meal. The kids don’t seem to notice. I’ve kept at not eating beans more than a couple of times a week; I’ve been trying to keep soy products to once a week; and buns (veggie burgers are delicious) and pasta, once or twice a week; and then soup. It’s a pretty well-balanced offering, I think and isn’t much different than how we’d typically eat except there are is not meat or cheese.

Last weekend, my husband wanted football food for the playoffs. We made our usual lineup of buffalo (chicken-less) dip where we used cashews, artichokes, and hot sauce. I was skeptical but this dip was outstanding and literally tasted like the chicken and cheese laden dip does. SO GOOD. We also made a spinach-artichoke dip; we use the recipe from TrueRoots and just had to make a couple tweaks (almond yogurt; vegan mayo). These dips were fantastic and I think we may make them again this weekend.

So, the food piece has been good. A few other benefits we’ve noticed — better sleep, more energy, less anxiety, and something my husband brought up at dinner tonight: nail health. He’s noticing his recovery time is better and I’m noticing that exercise is easier for me as well.

Overall, we are both pleased with the first half of this month and I’m looking forward to reporting on the second half. I hope it continues just as well.

review of the decade

I hoped to get around to doing this before now but time slipped away. I’ve been doing things that work for me and bring me peace: yoga, vegetable consumption, and dog walks mostly. I haven’t really set aside time to write but I did make a point to add it into my planner this week because it’s also something that I enjoy.

My old neighbor posted this article on Facebook at the beginning of the year: https://www.workingmother.com/christina-fattore-unedited-decade-in-review-twitter-thread?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook  She also added her own decade in review and after much reflection, I wanted to do the same.

My rainbows and sunflowers review would look something like this:

Got Brutus
Moved to Boston
Hired as an English professor
Ran a few half marathons
Started practicing yoga
Traveled the world: China, Vietnam, all through Europe & the US
Got engaged
Got married & gained two bonus kiddos
Bought a house and can now walk to the beach
Grew our family through adoption
Took a sabbatical & started a graduate program (again)
Became a SAHM

My unedited review would be a bit different; of course, it would include all of those things but there are so many events that led up to these, some related and others not:

Devastated by having to end a toxic relationship; sold my share of our house before moving
Burnt out as a high school ELA teacher
Went through infertility & medical interventions: Surgeries, drugs, IVF.
Did not respond well to fertility meds and felt like a shell of my former self
Struggled with extreme anxiety; couldn’t exercise during IVF
Miscarried twice
Collapsed at Epcot (during miscarriage)
Lost two cousins to opioid overdoses
Lost myself and worked hard to find myself after IVF
Dealt with significant anxiety during adoption process
Struggled with identity as SAHM

Everyone acts like going through struggles are necessary to come out on the other side and of course there’s something to that but sometimes, I think it’s okay to acknowledge that what got you to the other side was nonsense and was unnecessary. Either way, I’m here now — mostly thriving — still struggling with the identity/SAHM piece but trips to see friends has definitely helped. To date, I trust my husband with a needle more than any medical professional; he’s given me HUNDREDS of shots over the years and I’m grateful for his patience though we both could have gone without all of the strain on our marriage while trying to grow our family. Still, here I am. Standing. Practicing yoga again. Walking my dog every single day (usually 3-4 times despite having a decent yard), and trying to stay grounded each day.

I really appreciated the piece that everyone sees and internalizes over what the whole reality is. Obviously, those closest to me know all that I’ve experienced over the years and I’m most grateful for those people who have chosen to listen, love, and not judge regardless of my messiness at the time.

happy new year

It is officially 2020 — I don’t know about you, but the idea of staying up until the ball drops is not particularly appealing to me at this age. I was asleep before 10PM and I have no regrets.

Today marks the first of the year and with the first, a lovely dietary challenge. Typically, my husband and I do the Whole30 in January and it’s something we look forward to. What’s not to appreciate about loading up your body with nutrients and nourishing what was is left behind of a month of sugary, boozy indulgences?! This year, though, we are trying something different: Veganuary.

I almost can’t believe this myself except that aside from our Whole30 rounds, I lean more toward vegetarianism than that carnivore life. I do like steak but easily pass on chicken and do not eat pork. This seemed like a good way to test out this lifestyle and see how it makes us feel. I’ve done a ton of reading on it and spoke with my doctor at my last physical. I am to follow up with her after our month to make whatever adjustments may be needed if we choose to adopt this long-term (figuring out B12 basically).

I am at the point in my life where I need to be making my physical health more of a priority. We don’t eat a lot of junk foods and I rarely drink — I consume plenty of water and exercise (though not as regularly as I should), so I really want to be more intentional with this in the coming year. In some of the books I’ve read, they talk about how diet is more responsible than heredity for things like heart disease and this is the primary driver of our vegan test. We really want to see if we can live a more plant-based life because we don’t want to struggle with some of the health issues our parents have.

My other January challenge is going to be to get back more in the swing of yoga. I’d like to challenge myself to set aside even just 10 minutes to reset each day. I also want to get back to taking classes during the week and plan to use my ClassPass for studios closer to my house than my typical place in Boston (though I will be heading there on weekends to practice). For me, practicing yoga definitely makes me a better wife, mother, and overall person. I need to keep this in mind when I am feeling frazzled and am fighting the reset my body so clearly needs.

For the first time on a vacation, I went to yoga. We spent the last few days of the year in DC and it’s always something I’ve talked about but this trip, I did it. I walked a mile to a POWER yoga class and IT.WAS.AWESOME. The class only had two other attendees because it was just days after Christmas, so I basically had a private class. It felt great to sweat it out on the mat and then take a leisurely stroll back to the hotel before heading to the National Zoo. This is something I’d like to keep striving for — at least one or two yoga classes a trip to keep me centered and reflective of my gratitude.

I’m hopeful that a few trips are in the cards for this year: Another DC adventure (with a side of yoga and my cousin’s college graduation), a trip to PA with the kids where they get to run around my parents’ farmette and head into Pittsburgh for a Pirates’ game, and hopefully a trip to Florida or some other place in south when the weather starts to change next fall. Travel is something super important to me and I’m fortunate to do a fair bit of it. I’d like to keep that momentum moving forward this year because it is something that allows me to feel like me as a person, not just me as a mom.

I don’t tend to make resolutions or set too many goals for myself for the coming year. Last year, I established a great routine with diet and exercise. I was able to keep that routine going until our Disney vacation and then getting back into the swing of things with yoga became increasingly difficult — there was always something going on in Boston that I had to plan around: races, wedding, and summer traffic in general. I’m hoping that with ClassPass, I’ll be able to maintain that schedule closer to home.

The last piece and, possibly the most challenging, is to figure out what I want to do when my son starts school. I started in a library program and while I did enjoy one of the classes I took, I am not certain that librarians’ roles in schools is what I am really looking to do. I feel like my career life is at a standstill and I’m not certain how to really navigate it. I am scheduled to take two classes in the spring but may cut that back to one only. I am really at a crossroads here… Aside from this piece, I look forward to moving through the year with intention, purpose, and kindness leading the way.