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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Last week’s questionable diet: the highs and the lows

Man, it is rough being a mom.

It is an all consuming “profession,” leaving me with very little time to think about anything else, especially my diet if I don’t plan properly.  And last week…let’s say I suffered from somewhat poor planning…😱

I started the week with good intentions, planning to have salmon for the first half of the week and chicken for the second half, with a bunch of veggies as sides.  But everything was thrown out of whack when the salmon I picked up didn’t smell/taste good.  Being too tired to go on another food shopping trip & too busy to eat full/proper meals, I just kinda grabbed whatever was convenient. Plus, shopping is such a chore now that I have Ava so I avoid making “unnecessary” trips out of the house (ANY trip outside of the house feels unnecessary now).  It takes so long to get out the door and when I do, I worry about Ava the entire time that I’m out.

Low lights (this is what happens when you don’t plan & cook your meals/snacks):

  • Fast food: Fried chicken
  • An endless flow of chocolate teddy grahams that I finished in about 3 days (it became my night time nursing snacks)
  • Lots of Pillsbury biscuits for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (haha, my weakness)
  • The candy Bunchacrunch (man these are good)
  • LOTS of snacking
  • Missed a few lunches–bad for many reasons.  When you skip a meal, you set yourself up to become ravenously hungry for your next meal and to overeat.  Also, meal skipping screws with your metabolism and sugar levels–no good.

Why did the above happen?  I was too lazy to plan properly in order to avoid these pitfalls.  Don’t get me wrong.  It is 100% ok to indulge and to enjoy food.  But I ate with no control this week, which is very dangerous.  Because before you know it, wreckless eating can become a pattern…a pattern that leads to unwanted weight gain.

I did have a few highlights though…

  • When I did mobilize midweek to go to the store, I bought another batch of salmon, which I grilled and ate with steamed cauliflower and sauteed spinach
  • Baked sweet potatos
  • Scrambled eggs and turkey bacon for a quick lunch (yay protein)
  • Strawberries and blueberries for a snack
  • Hummus & pita chips (though at the rate that I ate this, I’m not sure if it should truly be under my “highlights” list)

I drank lots of coffee this week…but also a ton of water.

What a random week of food.

Major highlight though, that has nothing to do with food:  I got to get a little exercise by taking Ava for walks when the weather was nice.  I look forward to more walks as the weather gets better!

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So why write this post? It is important to take inventory of what I’m putting in my body.  It is also important to recognize that I wasn’t on my game last week so that this week I can avoid such poor choices.

::Here’s to a better week this week!!::

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Wanna go out?

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Picture this…

You are on a terribly long line at the Post Office. It is so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. Now focus in, at the tail end of the line, there stands a mother with a stroller, gently rocking it back and forth as she awkwardly balances a large box to deliver on her hip. Notice how she nervously looks at her baby every two seconds when random yelps seep out from behind the covered baby carriage…

That mom is you (well, me).

I was that mom. Well, I was trying not to be that mom. You know that mom. The one you give disapproving looks at when her child screams in public. The one you glare at, judging her parenting skills as her youngster carries on like a lunatic in public. The one you shake your head at, swearing that if that were your child, they would never act like that.

Oh how I was desperately trying not to be that mom…

I was so afraid that my cute little darling would convert into a screaming #tyrant at any moment.

It felt like an eternity in that Post Office. But luckily I escaped with only a few minor disturbances.

Later, I told my husband my story and how nervous I was. Needless to say he thought I was crazy.

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“By-the-book Betty”

 

Images gathered from Google Images

Images gathered from Google Images. And yes, I own ALL of these books.

I recently took a quiz in a magazine that asked, “What is your parenting style?”. It reminded me of the types of quizzes that I used to take as a preteen in magazines such as YM (wow, anybody remember that), where by adding up the number of a,b,c,d, and e’s, the quiz would then offer an accurate assessment of one’s personality. The veracity of such an assessment is doubtful, but I’m a sucker for personality tests. 

On a lazy morning, under a pile of comforters and while “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” played on the tv (how could they not know?!?!…that discussion will be for another day), I took the quiz. At the end of the assessment, I found out that I’m a “play it by the book” type of mom-to-be. A “by-the-book Betty.” Initially I was perplexed…wasn’t I a “Cutthroat Cathy” (I have a “competitive streak”) or a “Plan-ahead Polly” (“long before you ever laid eyes on your baby, you were making plans for their future”).

Then I looked over at nightstand, on top of which sat stacks of baby books and magazines, each mostly read and with post-it’s and highlighted sections.

Perhaps that the quiz was pretty spot on. 

“Doing things ‘right’ is very important to you. You’ve gathered lots of parenting advice and follow it to the best of your ability…You go to great lengths to ensure baby’s health and safety (and excessive worry may have earned you a few gray hairs before your time).”
-Parenting & Newborn, April 2014

I have always had this immense desire to be as perfect as possible. Grades, work, life: it’s been an ongoing battle for the perfect answer, even though I know that such an answer doesn’t exist. This quiz made me realize that I’m already doing that with my unborn baby.  I’m on the quest for the perfect crib, the perfect nursery design, the perfect sleep schedule (remember, baby isn’t even here yet), so on and so forth. I need to let go of the imaginary reins that I think that I’m holding on to because perfection is imaginary. It doesn’t exist. And I certainly won’t be passing down this character flaw to my boo boo baby (endearing terms have already begun, even in utero). 

“While it is admirable that you want to do your very best, don’t be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes (because like it or not, you will make mistakes).”

-Parenting & Newborn, April 2014

“Perfection is so…mmm”
-Beyoncé, lyric to “Haunted”

Mothers (talking to myself), let go.  There are so many surprises during pregnancy that it is a waste of time to spin your wheels. Read as much as you can but don’t be obsessive. Create a safe environment for the baby, but not obsessively sterile (I hear that desire definitely disappears by the second baby), and enjoy the process.  Oddly, preparing for this baby feels much like planning for my wedding, with all of these “checklists”. I was a perfection monster when I began to plan my wedding but once I let go, I ended up with a wedding that surpassed my dreams.  I will try to remember that ever time I have a twitch to do things “perfectly”.

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