A summer away from my family

This summer has been rather…interesting, and I’d like to take the time to share what I did, since it was quite an unconventional way for a wife & mother of a 1.5 year old to spend their time. (I should probably say that this YEAR has been rather interesting but more on that in future posts).

I spent six weeks during the summer in graduate school. Yes, graduate school. Cool, right?

Such a gorgeous campus.

I was accepted into a prestigious program that works with my currently hectic life the best way possible. In four consecutive summers, I take a full course load of rigorous graduate classes in order to obtain my Masters in Spanish. It is a bit lengthy, however, it is a much better option than trying to work full time, go to school full time, take care of my daughter/family and my house for two years straight. For six weeks each summer, I pack up my stuff, leave my family, and head to Middlebury, VT to work and to learn. My time is still hectic because I am committed to working full time for my online teaching job year round; but then again, it is less chaotic than if I had to balance everything else for two years straight.

what a great study location

So what did I do with my young daughter?  My husband, who was extremely supportive of me continuing my education, cared for her full time along with my MIL.

Shoutout to my husband for doing a superb job taking care of our daughter for six weeks! The real MVP along with my MIL!

Surprisingly or maybe unsurprisingly I got some mixed reaction when I told people about my summer plans.  I would say that many were either skeptical or discouraging of my grad school goals (6 weeks away from home):

  • “Are you sure you want to do this? You should really think about Ava. She is going to be so sad without you.”
  • “That program sounds so amazing! How did you even find it?”
  • “That program sounds nice…maybe you can just do one summer now and then continue it when Ava is older.”
  • “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

So I decided to stop telling people and to keep my plans quiet. Hence my radio silence on all social media platforms for several weeks.  Well, that and I was insanely too busy to keep up with Facebook & Instagram.

And I get it…6 weeks is a long time to be away from one’s family. But it is a month and a half out of the whole year. It’s not like I want to run away from my family. Here is a look back to something I wrote the night before I left for Middlebury:

It’s 11pm. Late. Well, late for me. I spent the whole day running around, packing, cleaning, seeing family. I should be tired. But I’m not. I’m having a flashback to when I was in high school–the night before school started. I wouldn’t be able to sleep. It seems so dorky to admit (who cares, I’m a well adjusted 30 year old now), but I wouldn’t be able to sleep the night before school started because I was so excited to start school. What were my teachers going to be like? With whom would I have class? What would I learn? Would I finally like my Spanish teacher (I didn’t like a lot of my Spanish teachers–how funny)?

Well tonight is like that. Because tomorrow, I begin my journey north to my grad school program. I will be doing my Masters in Spanish, over the course of four summers. I am pretty darn excited.  I’m finally going to focus on a subject that I’ve always loved.

But I’m also petrified.

The program is six weeks long. Six weeks of full immersion in the Spanish language. Six weeks away from my little Lima bean and hubby (and doggie). That may seem like an idyllic situation to many (vacay from the fam–woot woot), but I’m freaking out.  This is NOT a vacation. I literally can’t imagine my life without my little nuclear family. I can’t imagine not having them there, to hold, to kiss, and to tell them all that I love them. To kiss away the boo boos. To make yummilicious dinners that makes everyone go “mmmmmmmmmmh!”  Ava literally does something new everyday. Last week, she started saying “bubbles”–her first clearly pronounced word with intent. She gives kisses on command, whether in English or in Spanish. She gives big hugs. And when she thinks you’re sad, she goes up to you and pats your back.

How will I survive the summer?”

I missed my family (dog included) dearly during the six weeks. I probably talked about them way too much while I was at school.  But how empowering to take the reins of my life and to get up and to say, I will still work on my education and better myself, even though I am a full time mommy/wife/teacher (that should be a profession title. “What do you do?” “Oh, I’m a mommy/wife/teacher.”  “How fascinating.” :D). I’d like to think that Ava would be proud and understanding of the fact that I decided to get my masters in a subject area that I adore and to better myself in my knowledge of all things Spanish/Latinx/Hispanic. Also, the effect trickles down to her, since I am better equipped to teach her Spanish.

I felt a bit like a rebel feminist this summer all for taking classes as a married, working mother. I was one of probably a few students that I knew who was married AND a parent of a small child. But I made it! With less tears than I thought. And with all As!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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the no sleep grad student, as evident by various under eye bags

The experience was worth it. The benefits outweighed the risks. This summer was so enriching. I felt “smart” for a change. Real life has no clear right or wrongs but the academic world does and I can navigate that world well. I usually feel quite lost and often insecure when it comes to the “real world”. But give me a book in Spanish and tell me to write an essay about it–I’m DOWN. Tell me to study a list of prepositions in Spanish that “don’t make no damn sense” and I’m already making flash cards to study them.

somehow, i understood these notes perfectly. #gradschoolflow #keepup #beastmode

two personal obsessions this summer: cuba & son cubano

 

 

Some other mommy friends thought what I was doing/did was inspiring. One person said, “you’re making me think about myself now. What is it that I want to do with my life?”

I’m still not sure what exactly is my next step in life.  Teaching online gives me the flexibility to do what I like but also to run errands and to care for my daughter. But I feel like there is a next step in my career.  Or that I’m supposed to be taking it up a notch. I’m just not confident in what that is.  But at the very least, I know that it will involve Spanish.  😃

Here are some more pictures from my experience, in no particular order:

 

The drive home.  An alleged 9 hours. LIES. It was 12 hours!

 

The PokemonGo bug bit me…

 

The sunsets were magnificent.

 

Last day of class silliness with Snapchat. 😛

“Please, Manolo, no more rules about the subjunctive! We will kill ourselves (/each other?)! We love you!” hahahahaha

Grammar class was always fun with this character!!! #lovegrammar #teamManolo

 

Even during a trip to visit family in Burlington, I couldn’t escape my Afro-Latino/Caribbean obsessions.

 

Oda a mis cafecitos: Queridos cafecitos, como les amaba  /  Sin ustedes, no hubiera aguantado / Todo el estrés que me pesaba.  / Los ensayos, las lecturas y mi trabajo. / Pero siempre estaban, dulces y calientitos / Mis amorcitos / tan ricos y benevolentes ❤ jajajajajaja 😀 (to say I loved my coffee is an understatement) 

 

The sky was more expressive and beautiful than any other sky I’ve seen.

Breakfast of…champions? Well, champions who want to gain several pounds by the end of summer 😦 Project workout has commenced to right all of my wrongs.

My fav. café

 

off to class/a clase

those clouds.  it’s like a painting.

Hospital Must Haves

It seems like just a few days ago that I gave birth to one of the most awesome little human beings in the world…

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A few minutes old.

Ava Grace.

She went from a pink faced little cherub to a bouncing and darling baby.

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Perhaps because I have now joined the “mommy” club, I’m noticing that my Facebook mini feed is full of pregnant women and new mommies.  I remember just a few years ago, it was filled with a ton of people getting engaged & married.

Maybe it’s the age–that almost thirty age group that is now cranking out cute little babies like no tomorrow. And I swear, with all the vitamins and health conscious measures that we are all taking, we are certainly creating a race of bionic, ridiculously smart & advanced children (my baby included, of course!).

Being that we are all crossing the threshold into motherhood together, I often get questions from expecting mommies, such as what did I bring to the hospital when Ava was born? Or, what did I find useful the first few weeks of motherdom?

The daunting task of preparation.

I hope that this post is helpful to those who need it or are interested in any nursing product reviews.

1. Pinterest

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First things first: I am an admitted Pinterest junky, and I have no interest in rehab. In my humble opinion, Pinterest is honestly one of the best social media gadgets out there!  I made this board to organize all of my ideas and tips related to baby care, including packing my hospital bag. Later, I created this board which is exclusively dedicated to packing for a hospital/diaper bag. 

My favorite pin:

I liked this pin because it streamlines what you should bring for all parties involved–yourself, the baby, and the hubby (people always forget about him, but he is an integral part of the team! At the very least, he can get an extra t-shirt). Big takeaways:

  • make sure you bring your iPad or whatever Internet/video enabled device that you own
    • I was able to videochat with friends and family who couldn’t visit me in the hospital. It was so beautiful to show off Ava to my East Coast family and friends.
  • don’t forget your “college shower” flip flops.
    •  I forgot mine and had to shower in socks…annoying and awkward, to say the least.
  • nice nightgowns
    • These are a good idea because 1) you want to be comfortable, 2) new and nice pjs make you feel special, 3) you’ll naturally look good for pictures and 4) you don’t want to get a two piece pj set just in case you get a C-Section (think about it: waist bottoms rubbing against a fresh C-Section incision…bad idea).  If nursing, you’ll want some nursing friendly pjs, like ones with the bra snaps or ones that button down in the front. I got pjs similar to the ones below:

2. Nipple cream

I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed. But in the beginning stages, breastfeeding was really uncomfortable and painful.  Particularly when (::TMI warning::) my nipples got dry and cracked from nursing every two hours (or less). I couldn’t live without this Boobease Natural Nipple Balm (Amazon, $12.79). This is particularly great if you are allergic to wool--most other brands use lanolin, which is a wax made from wool bearing animals. I happen to be allergic to wool. That would have been an awful surprise those first days, so buyer beware!

3. Nipple pads

In the first few days of nursing, your breasts are incredibly sore.  These gel pads were such a life saver.  Just place them in the fridge and then stick them on–super simple, and super soothing.  These are also useful after milk comes in and breasts become engorged.  I used to put on the nipple cream and then these pads…even though the box said not to do so. It just felt so divine!

4. Your own comforter

Why, oh why, do hospitals never have nice, thick comforters? I suppose that on a mass level, they would be difficult to keep clean and sanitized for patients. But in a cold hospital, I knew way in advance that the extra warmth was necessary. I was so glad to have my comforter. Not only did it keep me nice and toasty, but it also smelled like home. This is very calming in a hectic environment, when doctors were running in and out of my room every minute.

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You can’t see it, but I am all wrapped up in my blanket.

5.  Ear plugs & Eye mask

Image source:  eBay.

Image source: eBay.

I was very lucky–my hospital was almost like a luxury hotel stay.  But even in this lovely environment, there was still outside ambient noise and light leaking in through the door.  My ear plugs and eye mask were crucial in allowing me to get a few hours of sleep.  For me, sleep was hard to come by those first few days–I was so amped up on adrenaline but exhausted at the same time.

6. Mints 

Image source: Google image

Image source: Google image search

This is a great tip that I never used.  A friend of mine warned me to bring some mints to the hospital just in case there was a delay in the c-section.  As many know, you can not eat anything the day of a surgery, c-section included.  She advised that sucking on some mints can cut the hunger pains as the hours pass.  Lucky for me, my surgery was scheduled early.  However, it was delayed and probably would have been performed later in the day, but the monitors started going crazy and my doctor decided Ava had to leave NOW!

These are my top must haves. What are yours? 

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8 Week Magic

I love Ava. But she has become REALLY awesome after she reached her eighth week of life. ❤️

On Feb. 2nd, I took Ava to her two month check up. She was a champ and took her shots like a pro. The doctor said that now she should start spacing out her feedings and sleep longer. Truer words were never said!

Literally, starting that evening, Ava started to spread out her feedings! Ava has been sleeping much longer and occasionally sleeps through the night.
She also has been smiling and laughing more! And the best part: she babbles…we have the best nonsensical conversations ever!

Life has been quite exciting for her since she’s turned two months old…

Ava’s grandparents came to visit from NY.

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She got all dressed up in her nautical gear for a midday family lunch date.

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And she matched her outfit with her momma.

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Later that week, she got to go out again for a late lunching with her grandparents (Ava has a busy social calendar).

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Selfie alert! Ava is unamused.

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Ava got dressed up in hearts and flowers for Valentines Day. She spent the day at home with her parents.

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She’s such a ham for the camera!

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Namaste Pregnant Women ;)

During my pregnancy, I’ve tried to stay pretty active, which included walking, gym time, and yoga. I’ve continued to exercise, despite dealing with different health concerns—particularly my on-going nausea (hyperemesis gravidarum) and rhythmic Braxton Hicks (BH) contractions. BH contractions on their own aren’t terrible (when sporadic—it’s the body’s way of practicing for the real thing), but when they come rhythmically (every ten minutes, then five minutes, then two minutes…), they can be a sign of pre-term labor.

As a result of the contractions, I am now on a modified bed rest. Therefore, I have to take it easy with how active I am. But luckily, my doctor gave me the thumbs up to prenatal yoga classes. 👍

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At yoga class, from my Instagram

Prenatal yoga classes have been by far my favorite form of exercise because:
1) the poses do not put too much stress or strain on my body
2) they maintain and increase flexibility
3) I can still perform many yoga poses, even during my current modified bed rest status
4) I can do it ANYWHERE! I am my own yoga machine and equipment
5) I can target areas that need stretching or that are contributing to my overall aches and pains
6) yoga has a very calming effect on me (and baby Ava)

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About nine months and getting ready for yoga

Everyday I spend time performing a sequence of poses. I often target these areas: my hip flexors/round ligaments, back, and hamstrings. Funny enough, my hip flexors and hamstrings were areas that I would also target with stretching/yoga poses pre-pregnancy. The only difference is that I rely much more on yoga now to help alleviate my aches and pains. Here are my favorite poses, that can be done pre- and during pregnancy.*

*make sure you do your own research as well & consult a physician before beginning any exercise regimen 😉

1) Cat/cow pose
Work that back!

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On all fours, you round your back like a cat. Usually, you would invert it as well, but my yoga teacher did not recommend that for pregnant women. Hold the pose for a few seconds and breath deeply through the pose.

2) Ankle to hip opener
Work those hips!

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Source: Google images

Sitting with your legs crisscrossed (right leg over left), turn to your right and place your hands on the floor. Bend gently in the direction of your right leg. Hold for a bit. Switch your legs and bend towards the left side.

3) Triangle pose
Work those hips/ligaments, back, and hamstrings

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Source: Google images

This is my FAVORITE pose. This is an insta-cure when my hips or ligaments hurt. Stand with your legs wide open and your arms stretched out, shoulder level, wide open. Angle your left foot towards the left, while keeping your right foot still pointed to the front. Then, kind of like a windshield wiper, drop your upper torso in the direction of your left foot, arms still outstretched (you will kind of look like a clock). Bend your left knee a bit. When your left arm passes your knee, hold the pose. FEEL THE STRETCH IN THE RIGHT SIDE OF YOUR BODY! Repeat steps on the opposite side of the body.
–I love this pose so much that I would do it in the bathroom at work when my hips hurt. ❤️

4) One legged king pigeon pose
Work those hips/ligaments, back, and hamstrings

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Source: Google images

In a runners pose, drop your right leg all the way to the back, almost as if you are about to do a split. Fold your left leg, as if you were going to crisscross that leg (so one leg is pushed back in a split, and the other is folded as if it were crisscrossing another “imaginary” leg). Slowly bend over the left, folded leg. You will feel such a great stretch in your hips and legs.

5) Eye of the needle pose
Work those hips/ligaments

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Source: Google images

I love this pose. Lay on your back. Straighten your left leg and cross it over your right leg. Holding your right leg, bring your leg towards your chest. Hold it for a few breaths. Switch sides.

I highly recommend taking prenatal yoga. Anybody have any good poses to share? Share below in the comments.

**I am not a yoga specialist. Feel free to look up the different poses to find out more information. But before you do anything, make sure to consult your physician 😉

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Quick Meals: Easy (Healthy) Turkey Chili & Spanish Stew

When my parents would visit me in college (many moons ago), they would often bring tupperware filled with various frozen foods. These little frozen containers were perfect for those busy days filled with classes and studying, which left me no time to prepare a healthy meal. Hungry? Grab a frozen container of pasta & ham, or curry chicken, or Spanish rice with pork! Insta-meal! This way, I got home cooked meals (not to mention, healthier food choices than commercial frozen meals) quickly, with little effort.

Fast forward to a decade later ::cringe::. One of my biggest pregnancy worries is how I am going to juggle all of the “pluses” of life–which include food preparation. I shared my worries with a nurse and she recommended that I start mass preparing food to freeze. That way, at least during the first couple of weeks of having a newborn in the house, I won’t have to worry about food. Genius! So now that I am home on an early maternity leave, I am slowly preparing foods to freeze.

Last week I made my favorite Simple Turkey Chili Sauce. Please, please, please take a look at this recipe. It is so easy to make and is ridiculously tasty. It also freezes really well– stews like this can stay delicious for 3-4 months (<~see link to foodsafety.gov, which I use often).

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Tips–> I personally enjoy milder flavors, so I use a very light hand when adding the chili powder. Keep that in mind when adding the different spices!

To keep my calories low without compromising taste, I pour the cooked chili over quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”). Some people haven’t heard of this magic grain, but it is a low calorie superfood that is the perfect substitute for pasta, rice, or couscous. It cooks similarly to pasta or rice–you just boil it in a pot. Quinoa is also high in protein and gluten free. It’s just amazing–buy it and cook it up.

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Cooked quinoa–a low calorie, fluffy, and nutritious grain with a mild flavor

This week, I will be making my favorite slow cooker recipe, Cocido Madrileño (Madrid Stew). The main ingredients are chickpeas and meats. While not a perfect representation of the stew I am used to from Spain, it is the closest and easiest one that I have found. It is important to note that this recipe has many variations, so not all stews may look the same (learn about it here). Cocido is amazingly delicious. Honestly, I can’t wait to make it this week–eat a little for dinner and freeze the rest. Though the last time I was supposed to freeze it, my husband and I ended up killing the whole thing…I’m hoping to exercise more discipline this time around.

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My last batch of Cocido right after it finished in the slow cooker.

Tip–> I don’t buy the chickpeas that need to soak overnight–I just throw canned chickpeas into the slow cooker. Serve the Cocido with brown rice for a healthier spin on the meal. This dish also tastes really good with cornbread or platanos/maduros. But keep in mind that those two side dishes can add a bit of calories to the overall meal.

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Old post from my Instagram account, Livingfortwoplus

If you have any dishes that freeze well, please share! I’m 34 weeks along–not much time is left until I’m going to need to start defrosting these meals. 😉

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