quarantinis: 1 part planning

I will admit that my drinking has definitely increased during the Covid-19 pandemic. I typically have a glass of wine every month or two but have been having a few glasses a week. Thank goodness for our wine tour trip we take in December with my friends — we are well stocked for a few weeks.

It’s not all wine and dog walks though — last night, my husband and I had what was probably the most serious conversation of our relationship. It was about what we do if 4 gets sick — what is our course of action? 4 is medically complex on paper with a slew of respiratory diagnoses; in person, you’d never know but doctors and hospitals wouldn’t be able to view our busy boy and instead would need to rely on his medical records which are not particularly encouraging when we are both reading about respirator shortages and how other countries’ doctors have had to decide what to do and who to save.

Needless to say, it was a heavy conversation but we have a couple of plans in place. This made us both feel a little bit better. We are now on day 15 of being quarantined; my husband hasn’t been at work since March 3. Wild times. Still, we are optimistic — schedules have changed but our security has not. We are thankful for this because sometimes that’s all we can really point to for relief.

In other news, I figured I’d share some random musings and goals I’m setting for the next week or two:

  1. I am really happy I married my husband. Despite being cooped up in the house, we are calm and sane and he doesn’t get on my nerves.
  2. Every night, I’ve eaten a cheese tray. I love night snacking and it’s not a habit I’m likely to break; so, I think I’m going to try to switch to smoothies or fruit.
  3. In my mind, I’m the next Bob Vila. I am convinced I can lay new flooring in my bedroom. My husband is suspect of my skills but I used 7th and 8th grade metal and wood shop projects on my resume. (See #1 — the feeling may not be mutual.)
  4. I keep finding all kinds of clothes and handbags and shoes that I love online but am actually not ordering them all because I am not sure when I’ll be able to leave my house and I oddly am not trying to impress anyone at Whole Foods.
  5. My husband and I got an old school Nintendo, thinking it would be something fun to do at night. We are both terrible at it and lost interest almost immediately.
  6. Bath bombs/salts are really undervalued.
  7. My brain has been too bogged down with thoughts to focus on reading, which has been frustrating but I felt like I could write today so there’s hope!
  8. We bought 4 a two-wheel bike and are hoping that he will be a riding pro by the time the quarantine is over.

I am thankful for the outlet of writing and it’s really nice to be able to string some thoughts together today. My goal is to get back into my swing of writing because it’s always been something I so very enjoy.

I hope everyone out there is staying safe and healthy!

what a weekend…

I know we are all experiencing the fall-out of the Covid-19 virus that’s sweeping the world. I am not going to spend time dwelling on it but instead, going to write and reflect about the experience my family and I have throughout our time in-home.

My husband is a calm fella and doesn’t get worked up about much, so when he suggested we start grabbing a few nonperishables here and there (last month), I went along with it. We have some staple items — cereals, canned potatoes, pasta, rice, beans… nothing wild but enough to hold us over and keep our meals as consistent as possible.

With three kids in the house, any level of consistency we can provide is key. We have had a lot of conversations with the kids this weekend; last week was rough for them with the school musical being ‘postponed’ and my husband taking them out of school early, we just wanted to make sure they understood our concerns: They have everything to do with 4 having more than his fair share of respiratory issues.

Once we were all on the same page, we tried to think of ways to break up the weekend. Friday night, we played ‘name that tune’ and 13 was astonished that rap music is my choice of genre. We sang and danced and it helped to loosen things up. Saturday, we went for a long dog-walk in the morning and also celebrated the musical — my parents were to visit to see it and we had a custom cake made, so we had sugar overload and veggie burgers, which were promptly followed by naps. Then, we spent the afternoon taking a breather — everyone was exhausted from the previous week and just having some space to rest and watch movies was great.

On Sunday, we had a long conversation with 13 & 11. There’s a lot coming up in the next few weeks that are important to them and with school being canceled and restaurants being closed for at least the next three weeks, we wanted to give them space to share feelings and give them some strategies to deal with them. 11 turns 12 on Saturday and we won’t get to go out, so he chose a breakfast meal he wanted; last night, I looked up a bunch of mocktail recipes to make with it as a special surprise. The following Saturday, 13 turns 14 and we will have her choose dinner and I’ll find another mocktail.

We are trying to keep things light and moving — this afternoon, I walked the dog and the kids scream-sang karaoke songs through an app my husband downloaded. He also sang some with them — it was a really nice way to break things up and get some of that energy out. Later, my husband took 4 & 11 to clean the yard and 13 & I talked about relationships.

All in all, we tried to keep the stress of the outside world where it belongs and bring some lightness to the inside of our house. I’ll be using this space to reflect in the coming days/weeks and offer some ideas on things we’re doing while holed up in our home.

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.

feast of the seven fishes

The feast of the seven fishes is an American Italian tradition and for my family, it is how we spent Christmas Eve every year growing up. My dad worked in an Emergency Room and thus worked many a Christmas but almost always had Christmas Eve off, so my fondest memories stem from that. Each year, we would go to my Aunt Sherry’s and Uncle Mark’s house where UM would cook up his seven-fished feast: baccala, calamari and homemade sauce with pasta, smoked salmon, scallops, and a few other seafood offerings in my Aunt Suzi’s gumbo.

We used to have so much fun running around and eating and enjoying each other’s company. When my husband and I started spending Christmas together, we started this tradition with our own family. We stopped traveling and stringing ourselves out and kept with this Christmas Eve offering of love, merriment, and seven fishes. This year was no different; on the menu: shrimp cocktail, scallops, lobster stuffed tilapia, crab cakes, seafood stuffed mushrooms, and calamari.

As usual, our feast was a big hit (and so were the accompaniments of vegetable and fruit trays, my mom’s cheeseball recipe with crackers, and of course, Christmas cookies. This year, though, instead of feeling my usual joy and reminiscence, I felt a deep sadness. My Uncle Mark is no longer with us; he passed fourteen years ago on the 11th. His sons, my cousins, Mike & Jack have both since passed as well. Both passed three years ago in September and December respectively.

I don’t typically miss people who are no longer around and mostly just continue on with my day but this year was different. I am not sure if it’s because I’ve felt their presence or their absence (even though they wouldn’t be celebrating in MA regardless) but it’s hit me harder than it has before and ultimately, the feast that has brought so much joy and happy memories served a different purpose this year.

I have tried to make the most of the holidays this year. Tonight, after dinner, we had cookies and opened presents from our Bruttie boy. Brutus is known around our family for delivering gifts of pajamas and books each year: This year was no different, as each of the kids got pjs and MadLibs. So fun. For me, Brutus somehow managed to order a personalized mug and book with him pictures in cartoon form — it’s awesome and such a thoughtful collaboration with my husband.

I am hoping that the pit of sadness I’m feeling is lifted a little tomorrow. I took a yin yoga class today and my body was really resisting many of the poses. (Yin is not new for me — I typically take a Yin class weekly, actually.) I’m not sure if that class stirred up something that has me in my feelings or if it was the nearly three hour long chat I had with another cousin of mine today. Either way, I’m trying to breathe my way through tonight and hopefully, bringing in that new energy and out the old will help ring in the holiday cheer tomorrow morning.

Happy holidays to those missing loved ones — and a special hug to those dealing with addiction and/or the fallout around it.

breaking the cycle

Over the weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of attending an annual trip to the Finger Lakes region in NY with some of my closest college friends, their spouses, and a gaggle of other friends. There were 16 of us in total; six couples; two sisters and a friend; and another friend of the group. Ten of us are parents who were really excited for a kid-free, adults-only weekend — what a time to be alive!

We rented a limo-bus for the big wine event and spent the entirety of the day eating snacks, visiting wineries & breweries, wine tasting, and singing songs. Honestly, this is the next best thing besides a wedding reception and basically all that we have to look forward to as a time to let loose since we are all married. We capped the night off with a trip to a local bar that was within walking distance.

At the bar, we were all paired off and checking in with each other on recent moves, familial relationships, our kids, work, etc. This is not atypical. We are a group of doctors, engineers, marketers, educators, and law professionals (among other things). My friends and I seem to have similar familial backgrounds and strangely, so do our husbands — dysfunction, hurt, frustration rising to the top of the guys’ childhood experiences.

It is not lost on me that each man in this group serves as an amazing supporter of their wives, their children, and each others’ children. We are all the better for knowing one another and I cannot express my gratitude enough that within this group of men who have experience emotional abuse and more, each one of them has made promises to themselves to do better; to be better.

Each of these guys wakes up each morning, determined to be a better version of those who modeled parenting and manhood to them. Each approaches each day making deliberate decisions that encourage and better not only their spouses and children but society as a whole. Each and every day, these men break the cycle that was modeled for them — a cycle that set out to destroy the livelihood of those around them (and those including them).

My admiration runs deep for each and every single one of these guys who chooses to prioritize feelings and family over anger and abuse. We so often read about breaking cycles and statistically, we know how difficult that can be, so to be surrounded by people who looked at toxic relationships in their lives and decided they deserved better and their children will not get that exposure to such toxicity from them is really powerful.

Our bar chats were very serious, especially on the heels of a lighthearted limo ride full of wine, dancing, and scream-singing, and fortunately, our Wendy’s nightcap was also light and full of laughter, but those conversations between are so meaningful and I just cannot believe how fortunate my husband and I are to have such strong support from afar all year long and have such compassion and strength from this group of friends (most of whom we see once a year for this event and some of whom we only know because of this event).

On the drive back to MA on Sunday, I brought this up to talk to my husband about it and he noted it’s something that has stood out to him as well. We are all able to support each other so deeply because we all have respect for one another’s experiences and we trust that the support and advice given is genuine and out of care. We should all be so lucky to have such models around us and our families, pushing toward a new normal for all to see.

end-of-year goals

About halfway through November, I realized I didn’t set any written goals aloud but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working towards some. I recently met with a nutritionist who I talked to about trying to lose enough weight to get within my healthy zone — I know that more than weight counts for health and I’ve been definitely working on my health this year. I have lost twenty pounds with minimal effort and have maintained that loss through many trips and even more cupcakes. Still, I want to match that loss in 2020.

With the nutritionist, she recommended I actually increase my carbs intake. I’m certainly not on a low-carb diet and I eat lots of potatoes but she recommended using more oats, brown rice, and pastas. I also talked to her about incorporating more plant-based meals into my life. Before I met my husband, I rarely ate meat because I won’t touch raw meat and thus won’t cook it — it’s really easy to eat plant-based when you refuse to handle any proteins. I decided to largely go back to that (and take my family with me). My husband was easily on board because so many of his runner friends told him that moving toward a plant-based diet would help improve his running time.

Incorporating more grains and eating less meat kind of go hand-in-hand in my mind, so this has been a fairly simple transition. Trader Joe’s makes it easy enough to buy meatballs if the kids want to add meat to a pasta dish and last week, we bought a rotisserie chicken and my husband broke it down so that there was the option of adding chicken. 11 & 13 (especially) are big on meat eating; 4 is like me — he could take it or leave it. This is a central part of our end-of-year goals; basically, intuitive eating with foods and nutrients.

Additionally, I have been focusing on moving more. I have struggled to get into a routine and my nutritionist asked why I felt the need to be in a routine. She suggested I look into ClassPass, which has been great. My old yoga studio in the city participates, as do several in my immediate area — these classes coupled with my gym membership on campus and my at-home cardio equipment and weights should have me covered. So, my goal is to get to at least two yoga classes a week — I can typically fit them in on weekends and then take further advantage on days my husband works from home. On other days, I can just do cardio at home or use the spin bikes/Expresso workouts at the gym.

So, my goals around fitness are to keep on this path — do what I feel like doing and if I don’t feel like doing anything, try to talk myself into getting in a 10-min yoga video or a mile run. So far, this has been working for me and I’m hoping to continue to push forward with continuing this way.

Lastly, I’ve been straightening my hair more regularly, which has given me a big boost — hair, eyeliner, and mascara accompanied by high-waisted ‘mom jeans’ and crop sweaters.

With all this being said, here’s to ending 2019 in such away that encourages me to keep eating carbs and plants, moving my body in ways that push boundaries and ways that make me feel healthy, and getting myself ready for tasks like the grocery store.