And by "we," I mean "me."

Obviously.

I took the photo above this past weekend on a quick day trip to Blue Ridge. It's a small town in the mountains with lots of cute shops, restaurants, and sights. The plan was to go apple picking, a cute little family trip that Gabriel won't remember but will still fill our hearts. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same plan because there was an hour+ wait to pay for the tickets. So, instead, we walked around the area, had a couple wine slushies (us, not the baby) and then rode over to downtown Blue Ridge.

Well, that was packed too. The parking was full. The wait times at the restaurants were long. We were chasing the post-daylight-savings sun. So, after stopping in a couple shops and admiring the town, we decided to just head back home and stop at the nearest Chick-Fil-A for a late lunch.

One the way back, I pulled over to the side of the road to document the beautiful scenery.


Later, while I was going through my phone to vet the pictures, I found this snap (below), from the exact same day (November 9) four years ago.



A couple years back, there was a petition circulating on the social media circuit about changing Halloween to the last Saturday of Halloween, instead of having it on the 31st. That way parents didn't have to worry about rushing home from work to get their kids ready if the holiday was in the middle of the week. I remember thinking to myself just like Americans to want to change a whole holiday to fit their consumeristic agenda.  In the words of Allison from Hocus Pocus, "It just so happens that Halloween is based on the ancient feast called All Hallows Eve." It marks the day before Day of the Dead, and to change Halloween would mean changing a period of observance honored by people all over the world.
No matter how many times I wipe the drool, it instantly reappears.



Tierra randomly sent me this blog URL the other morning, and without hesitation, I clicked on the first "routine" post I saw.

Fun fact: I am a sucker for routines.

Morning routines, night routines, work routines, cleaning routines. I love them all. I love my routines. I love your routines. I love the routines of perfect strangers. I am a routine voyeur. What better way is there to peek into the world of another person? Routines are so telling and intimate if you look closely enough. The things we do every day without really thinking about it are pretty much built into our brain wiring, right? I love brain wiring insight.

👀

I have written about my routines over the years (work/morning), and even though they have changed as of late, I still hold on to some semblance of a system to get me through each day.

Here are some things I do daily, no matter what.



I'm not much of a science geek. When given a choice, I'd choose an art-themed activity over a science-themed one any day of the week. However, Atlanta is not like Washington D.C. in that we don't have very many free museums around town.

Thankfully, the first full weekend of each month, Bank of America cardholders have free access to select museums around the country. In Atlanta, our options are Atlanta History CenterCenter for Civil and Human Rights, and the High Museum of Art. I've been to all of these, but I was still determined to find a fun and free family activity on this hot summer September weekend. So, we headed just north of Atlanta to Cartersville, home of the Tellus Science Museum.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised! First of all, the grounds are stunning; every inch is perfectly manicured.

Ruby Falls is a 145-foot high underground waterfall located within Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. I had been to Ruby Falls once with my mom a few years back, and it was a cool experience, but not something I was itching to do again. 

This time around was different from what I remember. The tour was longer, there were many more callouts to the various formations inside the caves and more lights and signs, which took away from the organic beauty of it all. It's just like humans to mess with nature for the sake of commercialism. The formations, however, are still quite a sight to see. 




We decided to get out of town pretty last minute. One minute we were talking about maybe going somewhere and within the hour we were booking the hotel. After a bit of searching, we found BODE. It's not quite a hotel, but it's not quite an Airbnb either. I'd describe it as a cross between the two, but more than anything, it's super millenial.

Here's why:


When I was in college, I was seeing a guy who mentioned taking me on a trip to Chattanooga for the weekend.

Chattanooga? That little po-dunk town 2 hours north of Atlanta? I had been before and was not impressed, and I told him as much. It was a cool town, but there really wasn't much to do.

Believe it or not, he didn't drop my ungrateful behind right then and there – probably because he had a whole host of faults that I don't have the time or energy to mention at the moment. Now, about a decade later, I had the itch to getaway, but we have a baby in tow, and the budget won't allow for an extravagant vacation at the moment, so where did I turn? Chattanooga.

Granted, it's probably changed so much since 10 years ago, but it's such a cute little town! The downtown area is small in comparison to Atlanta, but it's super easy to navigate, not nearly as congested with traffic, and filled with lush greenery and cute little local shops. And! There was a Peet's Coffee coffeeshop across from our hotel! It honestly made me never want Starbucks again. We need one in Atlanta. But I digress.
WARNING: TMI ahead.



♥♥♥


There’s a reason I don’t enjoy staycations. When I’m at home for days on end, I notice everything wrong with my space: the dog hair along the baseboards, the cracks in the ceiling texture, the sparse spots in the wall paint, the list goes on... and on. It’s a curse. There’s a potential project lurking in every corner if I look hard enough, and when I’m camping out around the house, I’m looking – hard.

I usually have all of 15 minutes to eat a real meal these days. When I’m grocery shopping, I buy instant oatmeal instead of old-fashioned oats, frozen waffles instead of classic waffle mix, ready-made and pre-washed salad packs instead of plain lettuce and an assortment of toppings, pre-packaged chicken salad from Costco, et. cetera.

At this point, I can make a bacon (bits), egg and cheese scramble in all of five minutes and have the kitchen cleaned up in less than 10 - you know, in case my child decides he must eat then and there... no matter what I’m doing. And I have to stay nourished and hydrated to maintain my breastmilk supply, so skipping meals is out of the question. I can tell the difference when I haven’t eaten enough over the course of a day.

It has honestly taken me all day to write these last two paragraphs on the notes app in my phone, which further proves my point. I NEED QUICK MEALS FAST. Crockpot meals are easy, yes, but even those take too long to prep at this point. I can confidently say I’ve mastered a few simple recipes over these past few weeks, which brings me to the point of this post: a naan pizza recipe.

I’m not even sure you can call it a recipe because it’s so easy. It cooks up in 5 minutes and pairs well with some of that ready-made salad I mentioned earlier. It also pairs well with a crisp rosé... in case anyone’s wondering.

Ingredients
Naan (Kroger and Aldi both have delicious naan)
Pizza sauce (plain, roasted tomato sauce will suffice in a pinch)
Mozzarella cheese (whole milk preferred for a creamier texture)
Seasonings (garlic powder, parsley, and crushed red pepper are my favorites)

Directions
  1. Turn the oven on BROIL
  2. I usually cut the naan in half, since I might not have time to eat the whole thing before it gets cold, and the “pizza” tastes best fresh. Pop it on a pizza pan or piece of foil. I use foil for quicker/easier cleanup.
  3. Spread the sauce on the naan
  4. Top with cheese
  5. Sprinkle on the seasonings
  6. Put the “pizza” in the oven for 3-5 minutes, depending on how crisp you like the edges. I like mine slightly charred.
  7. Enjoy!

🍕🍕

P.S. My old faithful super easy homemade iced latte recipe — from almost five (!!!) years ago — has also come in handy.
P.P.S. As soon as I have time to gather the ingredients, I’ll also be making some ginger peach sangria.  

Hello, from the fourth trimester.

What day even is it? Somehow a whole month has passed since giving birth and I can hardly tell the days apart - they all blend together at this point.

I’m supposed to sleep when baby sleeps. Can I also eat when baby eats? Clean when baby cleans?? Et. cetera?


On May 14 at 11am, we arrive at the birthing center. The pains I have been feeling since Wednesday are finally showing signs of consistency. I am 4cm dilated, and my cervix is “paper thin.” They offer to let me stay and proceed with an augmented induction to help things move along more quickly. However, I, being stubborn in nature, refuse. I do not want to force baby out. I want baby to come when baby is ready. I make the choice to go home until labor labor progresses naturally.

We leave, grab lunch and hang out around the house for the rest of the day. I tell myself to relax and enjoy these last few moments of what will soon be my old life. Time goes by so slowly.

17 minutes after the clock strikes midnight on May 15, J leans over and wishes me a happy anniversary. He kisses my tummy and tells the baby to hold off one more day. This day is ours. We have staked out claim on 5/15.

I tuck myself into bed and try to get some sleep. I struggle. I sleep intermittently, waking more times than I can count from the pain. As I time each wave, I feel strangely relieved by the inconsistency. It’s not time yet. I push through with deep, concentrated breaths. The pain will start to subside after every eighth inhale. With each contraction, I tell myself how easy it will be to make it to the eighth breath. If I can just make it to eight, I will get a break.

Mid morning arrives, and I retreat downstairs where the air feels cooler and less stuffy. I catch up on some missed episodes and make sure to stay well-hydrated, hoping it will help my muscles stay relaxed.

We spend most of the day in separate parts of the house: him upstairs, me downstairs. I catch myself crying in the bathroom because we’re having the worst anniversary, ever, and i feel like it is my fault.

The contractions intensify. I tell J we may end up back at the hospital again later; it might be a close call on our anniversary. We both agree that whatever happens will be the way it was meant to happen.

Soon I start watching the clock, waiting for the rush hour to pass. The thought of suffering through stop and go traffic as my labor progresses makes me shudder. The 7oclock hour finally arrives. I gather my things and ease into the passenger seat. Everything I do is taking twice as long as normal. I feel physically impaired.

We sign into triage at 7:45. The nurse checks my cervix. I am 5cm. We are staying. Baby is coming soon. J steps outside to grab our bags, make calls, and update our family while my vitals are monitored. He says my mom and Meredith are on their way, and I fuss at him for telling them to come so soon. Labor takes hours. Waiting around all night is an inconvenience. He explains they do not care. They just want to be here for us.

At 8:30, I am wheeled off to the laboring room. My water breaks as I climb on to the bed. i feel warm liquid trickle down my leg. I apologize to my nurse. She tells me not to worry and mentions there is meconium in the fluid, which means baby had a poo inside the womb. This is an early sign of distress.

I am hooked up to an IV and given a cocktail of fluids. I press through the pain as I wait for the bag to deflate and I can finally receive the epidural. Intense pressure overtakes my lower body in waves. They crash against each other. The contractions are coming back to back. My pelvis feels heavy, like a soaking wet cloth that someone is twisting to wring out the water.

Relief no longer comes in eight inhales...or 10... or 12. I lose count.

I start to lose my will power.

Laying down makes it worse. I need to stand. I need to sway with the waves instead of trying to float above them.

J helps me off the bed and holds and rubs my hand. I snatch it away. I prefer to suffer in solitude. He looks helpless, but i am in too much pain to feel guilty for this moment of rejection. I snap at him for asking me questions about the pain. How can I concentrate on breathing if he keeps asking questions? I apologize for my tone. He tells me it is okay. Everything will be okay.

My mom arrives as another contraction hits. The sound of her voice is soothing. She asks why I am standing through the pain - another question. I am frustrated, but even in agony I know better than to snap at my mom. I tell her it feels better than laying down.

The anesthesiologist arrives. He explains how the process works while he and the nurse get things set up. Another contraction comes and goes. They are still fiddling with syringes and gauze and utensils i cannot identify. I tell them their window is closing. I will not be able to sit still upon insertion if another contraction hits. My mom steps out so they can get started.

I hunch over and hug a pillow while the doctor applies a numbing agent. He says to let him know if I feel a sharp pain on my left or right side. This helps him decide exactly where to inject my spine. I feel a pinch on the left side and wail out in pain. He says I am doing good and to keep letting him know if and when it hurts. I feel another contraction approaching. The nurse grips my shoulders to make sure I stay still. The needle in my spine when the wave hits. I wail out again as he completes the spinal.

I sit back on the bed while the contraction passes. I hear my mom’s voice behind the curtain, and Meredith’s.

The pain dulls and the nurse inserts a fetal monitor and catheter. She covers me up and lets mom and Mer in the room. We all get settled and chat for a bit.

After a while the nurse rushes in and turns me on my side. Baby’s heart rate has dropped. Baby does not like how I am positioned. I am given an oxygen mask and told to breathe deeply. It is not helping. They turn me to the other side. Baby’s heart rate stabilizes. Nurses clear the room while I labor on my side for the next couple hours. I keep asking J for the time. We finally make it past midnight. This will be the most memorable anniversary, ever.

We watch tv and wait. I can hardly see the screen with the way I am positioned, so I just listen.

Around 3am, my nurse comes to check my cervix. I have stalled at 8cm, and I am starting to swell. She has the midwife come in to discuss next steps. Baby’s heart rate dips after each contraction, then it steadily creeps back up, and the baseline is now too high. Tachycardia. Decels. I rack my brain to recall medical terminology from all the times I helped J study for his EMT certifications. I follow along as the midwife explains, but I also retreat away from the room and to the back of my mind to calmly make sense of everything. I come back to room when I hear “c-section.” I start asking questions about how things are progressing versus what “should” be happening and wrestle with the idea of continuing to let my body do what it was created to do, or having a medical team step in and assist.

My mom asks the midwife to send in the doctor. She means well. Having worked in hospitals for most of her career, she trusts the word of a doctor over a midwife. She needs an M.D. to explain the situation. This she makes clear to everyone in the room without saying very much.

I look at J and realize this baby in my belly is not the only one in distress. My love looks tense. He stands near the monitors and watches our heart rates as they change with each contraction. He looks sad and worried and anxious and scared. I reach for his hand for the first time since my water broke. I may suffer solo through the physical pain, but I need his support to ease the emotional aches.

The doctor arrives. The charge nurse accompanies. They explain the complications in greater detail, and we all get a better understanding. Meredith asks what the recovery will look like for a c-section. I ask if their team performs VBACs and how many c-sections is the limit for a growing family: no, and her recommendation is 4.

I ask for some time to think and talk it over with my family, but what I really need is for the staff to leave the room so I can take time to internalize the change of events. The nurse checks my temperature again. 100.4. I am now showing signs of infection. This is the reddest of flags.

My family and I talk for a bit. J and I are given a moment alone. I ask what he thinks. He says I should let them move forward as discussed. All they need is my consent. Consent.

Around 4am, the doctor comes back. I consent. Things start moving more quickly. J receives garments to wear in the OR. I receive more fluids and a dose of anesthesia through my epidural line. I am warned it will give me the shakes.

I am rolled down the hall to the operating room. The shakes hit. Hard. My jaw feels tight, like it might lock from chattering so intensely. I try to focus on stillness, but stillness never comes.

J stays back for a moment. He cannot be present while they make preparations. We are soon reunited. I can feel him by my side, but the shakes are too strong. I can barely look over. I wait for the doctor to get started, but I realize things have already began when I hear the word “nuchal.” My brain starts working to recall more of my limited medical knowledge, and I realize this means my umbilical cord was wrapped around baby’s neck.

I hear people shuffling and moving around the room. Is the baby out? I listen for a cry, a grunt, a wail... something. J asks if it is a boy or girl. Boy. One of the nurses says it is a boy. I ask again to be sure I am not hallucinating.

“It’s a boy?”

“It’s a boy.”

I go back to focusing on stillness. The drug cocktail is making me sleepy, but I cannot go to sleep. I have to hear him cry. So many things have gone wrong today, but if I can at least hear his cry, I will know everything is fine. I cannot close my eyes until I hear him cry.

I turn my head to J and tell him I cannot stop shaking. I tell him I feel sleepy.

My eyelids feel like anchors on my face while I wait to hear baby boy’s cry.

I lose the battle. I close my eyes.

I open them again, briefly. I am being rolled to the third floor. I hear the nurse say we will be staying in suite 55. I close my eyes again.

I open them again. It is bright outside. My mom is sitting on the couch across the room. Baby boy is in my arms.

I try and I try, but I cannot recall all the moments in between.


***********
Gabriel Kaleb
Born May 16, 2019 at 4:40am
6lb. 10oz. 20 in.




This humble bowl took about two hours to make from start to finish since everything was from scratch. I had to chop and roast the sweet potatoes, make sauce a homemade sauce for the meatballs to marinate in the slow cooker, boil the rice, and chop and sauté all the veggies (kale, carrots and bean sprouts, hidden at the bottom of the bowl).

I fully understand why it’s so difficult and expensive for some people to eat a healthy diet. Frozen rice would’ve been quicker and easier, but it’s way more expensive. Yes, I could’ve bought the kale that was already cut, washed and pre-packaged, but it was twice as much as the whole leaf version. Sure, I could’ve just dumped a bottled sauce on the meatballs, but those are full of sugar, preservatives and other crappy ingredients. Cutting corners with our food adds up, yes, but it usually saves time - which is a seriously valuable form of currency! The domestic struggle is real out here.


Classic burger buns have one advantage over my beloved lettuce wraps: they're way less messy.

*******

Farm Burger
Multiple locations throughout the Southeast
3.5/5 stars, would recommend

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