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.

Mighty Mug Review + Giveaway!

Anyone who knows me (or follows my Instagram page) knows that I have a slight addiction to…coffee.

I can’t start any day without it.  It annoys my husband to no end.  This meme probably explains it best:

From Instagram, Livingfortwoplus

From Instagram, @Livingfortwoplus

Here are some others that summarize my relationship with my cafecito:

Some of my favorite coffee memes, gathered from Instagram.

Some of my favorite coffee memes, gathered from Instagram.

So when I got an email from a company named Mighty Mug asking if I wanted to try out one of their travel mugs and see if I liked it, I was intrigued.  Their claim is that they created a mug that doesn’t fall over easily (click here for a demonstration).  After checking out their videos and reviews, I found out that they use some sort of magical technology where the mug sort of suctions (but not in the way you’re thinking) to whatever surface it is on, so when bumped into, it doesn’t spill over.  Yet, it can be lifted effortlessly.  I was ALL about that life–especially since I have a 9 month old daughter who moves through my house like a tornado and a dog that desperately runs & jumps  everywhere to get away from her.

I used to say this all the time to my high school students when I was a school teacher. One bump into my desk could mean a ruined day.

I used to say this all the time to my high school students when I was a school teacher. One bump into my desk could mean a ruined day. Created on someecards website.

I decided to purchase a cute red travel mug.  I use it a lot at my house to keep my coffee warm because it seems to take an eternity for me to finish my coffee in the morning. The mug does a decent job keeping my drink warm.  And it does a pretty good job not falling over.  My husband and I fool around and try to flick it or make it fall over, haha.  ::Two kids over here:: One caveat though: do not punch the mug and expect it not to fall over.  It will fall.  The mug is really protecting you from those day-ending accidental bumps.  Earthquakes not included.

The nice guys at Mighty Mug are letting me give away a mug to one lucky reader.  Click this link and enter to win!  Contest ends on Friday, September 18th, 2015.  I’ll announce the winner next Monday! Good luck and I hope you enjoy the mug as much as I have. 😀

Contest details

One lucky winner chosen at random will receive a $30 gift card to purchase their very own Mighty Mug.
The $30 gift card will cover one of our $19.99 mugs and free US shipping. If the winner is outside of the US, they’ll need to cover the costs above $30.
Entries will be collected through Friday, September 18, 2015 9pm EST.
Disclaimer: Contest is run exclusively through Mighty Mug.  Livingfortwoplus.com is not` responsible for the administration of this giveaway or the selection of a winner.
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Ava’s Precious Pink & Gray Nursery!

I am so in love with my daughter’s nursery.  It is my, ::ehem:: I mean her, sanctuary. I worked on it for months.  And now that we spend so much time in it playing, I thought this would be a great time to showcase it.

For those who have followed me, let’s not forget what this room USED to look like. 

You can see the full project at projectnursery.com!!

I organized all of my inspiration on Pinterest.  I love that site!

General nursery inspiration: https://www.pinterest.com/livingfor2plus/little-girls-nursery/

Specific items for Ava’s room:  https://www.pinterest.com/livingfor2plus/avas-room/

Nursery organization ideas: https://www.pinterest.com/livingfor2plus/nursery-organization/

If you like what you just read please click to send a quick vote for me on Top Mommy Blogs- The best mommy blog directory featuring top mom bloggers

The End of the Road…

Credit: Flickr, user Vincent Brassinne

I recently stopped breastfeeding.  Stopped.  As in no longer nursing my little one.  It wasn’t really my choosing.  It was the result of a long decline in my milk production shortly after I returned to work post-maternity leave.

I enjoyed a very abundant supply of milk for many months, for which I am very thankful.  I know of many women who wished that they could have breastfed, but were not able to produce milk or had other issues.

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9 oz of milk in one pumping session. The glory of the early days! Credit: Instagram, livingfortwoplus

I had a pretty uneventful and easy breastfeeding journey, comparatively speaking.  Though I did have a rough start.
Post nursing session. Credit: livingfortwoplus

Post nursing session in the hospital.  I was so lucky that my hospital was so supportive to breastfeeding mothers.  Every single nursing session (think: every two hours), there was a lactation consultant there to help me.  I will be forever thankful to my hospital and lactation consultants. Credit: livingfortwoplus

Ava needed to eat constantly and I was always sore (which is common for almost all breastfeeding mothers–> see my previous post on helpful nursing items HERE ).  I was also engorged (click to see what “engorged” means). A lot. This caused a lot of discomfort.  More than discomfort.  These clogged ducts were PAINFUL.  But after a rough first couple of weeks, I came to really enjoy breastfeeding.  I looked forward to it.  I loved cuddling up with Ava and being her source of comfort.
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First weeks home post-nursing session.

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Breastfeeding was not always “glamorous” or as romanticized as the books may make it: real life, it was exhausting early on and I fell asleep many times with Ava still latched on.

I loved being able to rock her to sleep or to watch her get “milk drunk” after a feeding.  And although sometimes I felt like people didn’t quite understand why I was working so hard to feed Ava when a simple formula bottle would do just fine, there were just too many benefits to breastfeeding for me to give up.  
Credit: Livingfortwoplus.com

Ava at about 2.5 months old; Credit: Livingfortwoplus.com

When I went back to work, Ava was about 3 months old (almost 4).  My supply dipped tremendously.  There was never a convenient time to pump at school.  I was always rushing.  Always afraid that someone would walk into whatever room I was in.  I had people unlock my LOCKED classroom door.  It was awful.  Signs didn’t help.  My school didn’t foster a culture of support for post partum mothers.  Although there were people on the staff who were supportive, the overall structure of my day made it overwhelmingly hard to pump when I needed to.  I would have needed to be able to have someone cover probably two 20-30 minute segments of my classes.  And of course, this was impossible.
Before work one day, early in my return from maternity leave.  This was a very overwhelming and hectic time in my breastfeeding journey.

Before work one day, early in my return from maternity leave. This was a very overwhelming and hectic time in my breastfeeding journey.

Combined with recently returning after a very long maternity leave and feeling like I was drowning in responsibility, I began missing pumping sessions.  There was just no time.  I was constantly engorged.
But everyday I would look forward to 4:45pm, when I would get home and nurse Ava.
As the weeks went on, my supply dropped and dropped and dropped.  I felt so guilty.  I made tons of lactation cookies and drank lactation teas, but nothing could take the place of what actual nursing or pumping sessions can do to sustain or boost milk supply.  By the end of the school year, I was pumping maybe 6 oz all day at school and needed to supplement while at home. (Some info about pumping:  First, my pump was free through my insurance plan, which is a pretty common practice nowadays.  Here is the pump I used.  I really loved the company.  They replaced my pump free of charge when it broke.  I hated pumping though….just being honest!)
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Pumping every free moment I had. This was earlier on, when I could make about 4 ounces in one sitting.

Soon after, this is all I could pump in one session. :(

Soon after, this is all I could pump in one session. 😦

I vowed to get my supply up while at home during the summer.  I did skin to skin, tried new cookie recipes (awesome cookie recipes HERE and HERE), and herbal supplements.  And it helped for a little, but my body was definitely nearing the end.
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I ate tons of delicious cookies that did help out a lot.

I then took a month long trip to NY.  Ava and I were out almost every day, making it so difficult to nurse but so convenient to give bottles.  And I started noticing that I could go the whole day without the urge to nurse.
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Such a great trip to my hometown. But it was definitely the nail in my nursing “coffin”.

Now we are here.  I’ve now gone several days without nursing.  And while I know that this day had to come at some point, it still saddens me that this stage in our relationship is over.  I’m not depressed.  Just in awe at how quickly everything is going.  I really loved nursing and am so glad that I was able to go almost eight months! But I’m trying to get over my guilt of feeling like a bad mom—maybe if I tried harder, I could have gone longer.  But honestly, maybe it was a blessing.  The same week I stopped nursing was ironically the same week two teeth sprouted in Ava’s mouth.  Maybe I escaped by the skin of my teeth the dreaded biting while nursing.  But I was willing to risk it, just to nourish my little girl.

Now we are in a different chapter! Having fun with solids!

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Yoga Today: Namaste

I love staying fit and healthy.  The cool thing about working on your health & your fitness is that you can do a lot of things to achieve the two.  For example, one crucial part of staying fit is to get active.  And there are a ton of things one can do to “get active.” One of my favs is attending a yoga class.

Yoga can mean so many things during just one class.

Easy to modify

It is an activity that can be modified to meet you where you are.  A good yoga instructor will offer alternate poses to decrease or increase the intensity of each one.

Relaxation

It is an activity that can relax you.  And it’s an activity that can be surprisingly intense, depending on the session.

Strength training

At LA Fitness, my class today was very fast paced and focused on my core: just what I needed to get my day started! We did slow head stands, during which I could feel my stomach burning!

I documented my whole morning (and then some) on Snapchat.  If you don’t have it downloaded, I highly recommend it! Friend me at livingfor2plus At first I was skeptical about using Snapchat, but my students showed me that it is actual a great app. Now I love using it to document my workouts, what I eat, and the cute things that Ava does!  Here is a preview of today’s post, which will only be up for another couple of hours (so hurry up and add me as a friend so you can see more!).

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STANDING?!

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Ava has been really mobile during the past month.  At the beginning of July, I worried a little about Ava not being able to sit up on her own–she would always tumble over and need assistance while sitting.  By the end of July, Ava has not only been sitting up on her own, but also crawling, rolling, and pulling herself across the floor.  And, as you can see in the picture, she is standing on her own! Reminder: Ava is only 7 months old, almost 8 months as of the 2nd.

My aunt warned me this would happen.  She said that one day, I would randomly find Ava standing in her crib. Yesterday, I was looking down at my phone, about to send my husband a text message and I happened to look up at Ava (my every 2 minute habit). My heart stopped–there she was STANDING! STANDING!!!!!!! And as if I could doubt how she found herself in that position, she lowered herself and then pulled herself up again!!! Amazing.

This girl literally amazes me every day.

Ava: “I’d like to give a special shout out to my Jumperoo, which I practiced in every day!”

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Fueled and focused

Working out. Not my number one favorite activity in the world. I would much rather be a lazy bum on the couch, eating a mix of chocolate and popcorn while sipping a glass of white wine. But I can’t do that. Why? Because working out is a means to an end. It is how I stay healthy and fit. And if that means sacrificing a few hours a week to ensure a healthy inside and outside, then I’m down! 

Being that I’m not all gung-ho about working out, making sure I’m fueled and focused throughout a routine is super important to me. If I don’t get a good snack in before my workout, my workouts end on a very flat note. 

  

FOOD

I like to snack on granola bars before a workout. Something with a long lasting energy punch. I love Nature Valley Crunchy Oats N’ Honey and Nature Valley Trail Mix Fruit & Nut. My husband on the other hand, uses powdered energy boosters to get him revved up. I’ll be honest, I’ve been a little scared to venture into the “powder” land. But my husband keeps telling me they are awesome and they’ll probably boost my drive for the gym. I came across ETBFit products, which include powders & supplements. It seems like the productline is more naturally dervived & cleaner than others, so I’m thinking about trying them…especially since I’m almost out the door with breastfeeding, and I’m almost always worried about what may affect her. 

After my workouts, I often get a smoothie at my gym. I’m usually famished by the end of any workout routine. 

MUSIC

  
The worst thing you can do is forget your headphones at home…

Music is probably my single most important motivator when it comes to working out, which I’m sure many people can relate to. I have several workout playlists but my most frequented ones are “Spanish Workout,” “Gym,” and “Pop.” Here is a small sample of songs on each list: 

Spanish Workout:

“Vivir Mi Vida”, Marc Anthony

“Ven Báilalo” (Reggaeton Remix), Ángel y Khriz

“Mayor Que Yo”, Baby Ranks, Daddy Yankee, etc 

Gym:

“Don’t Like Remix”, Chief Keef, Kanye, etc

“Clique”, Kanye

“Wild for the Night”, A$AP Rocky 

Pop:

“We Found Love”, Rihanna

“Uptown Funk”, Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

“7/11”, Beyoncé 

Whatever my mood is the day of my workout determines my musical choice. For high intensity workouts, I almost always select the Gym playlist. It really hypes me up!! I include warm up and cool down tracks, like Ed Sheeran “Thinking Outloud.” 

  
GOALS

Another super important motivator for me is having a clear image of my goals during my workout. Not just short term goals, but the long term “where do I see myself in xx months” type of goals. The goal I held onto during the spring was how I wanted to look when I visited my hometown for the summer: long and lean. I even had a body crush, though I don’t look anything like her magnificent demigoddess body. But the image of longer, leaner muscles, a tighter waistline, and an overall slimming of the body all kept me super motivated during my workouts. 

  
From Instagram account Mistyonpointe

And finally, take lots of pictures of your progress. It’s nice to look at where you started to where you are now. 

  
What do you do to stay “fueled and focused”?