A Personal Challenge

Those faithful followers may have noticed that my posting has been less than normal recently (and my "normal" is defined by approximately once per week).  The reason is due to a new personal challenge - I have decided to run the Disney Half Marathon in January 2012!  

I am not a normal fitness guru.  Fortunately, I have been blessed with good genes and never really had to work to "appear" to be fit.  In truth, I'm probably as far from fit as can be.  So why would I decided to take on such a demanding challenge?  Well, multiple reasons...

In high school, I was selected to take a seminar on "The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Teens" and in that seminar, I had to essentially define my "bucket list" - the list of things I wanted to accomplish in my life time.  One of the items (next to amateur piano competition and learning how to play the harp) was to run a marathon.  In my naive mind, I don't think I realized that a marathon comprised 26.2 miles.  26.2 sounds ridiculous, but 13.1 sounds doable. 

Secondly, the Hubby and I have started to talk about planning for Baby #2.  When I was pregnant with Roland, I ended up on bed-rest at 30 weeks until the completion of my pregnancy - 41 weeks! What a better way to get in shape and do my part to get my body ready for pregnancy mode! 

You may be asking, "Why all of a sudden?"  Well, I recently attended a seminar by Eric Greitens, a Navy SEAL, Rhodes Scholar and CEO of The Mission Continues (a non-profit for wounded veterans) where he spoke of his humanitarian travels during college, his Navy SEAL training and deployment abroad.  I am not yet finished with the book (finding time to do all my hobbies is tough) and will post when I am finished however, I must say that Eric is one of THE most inspiring people I've met.  His message is clear, he is a true leader who "talks the talk, and walks the walk."  The book prompted me to do a lot of soul searching.  In Eric's talk, he used the analogy of a compass and spoke of small changes we can make in our lives that can really change the total course of our lives.  

This is my new challenge and I look forward to learning from those of you that have been through this challenge.  Keep coming back for progress updates! 


One Evening, One Chicken, Multiple Dinners!

One thing is for sure, there is just not enough time in the day!  For the past few weeks, I have been struggling with planning for dinner.  By the time I leave work (thanks to my reminder meeting notice), pick Roland up and get home, it's 5:00-5:15 and I have one hungry kiddo...not to mention Mama!  In addition, the Hubby and I recently started running, completing our workouts around 6:00 PM so there's not much time during the evening to plan a meal.

I started this week with a mission...find something that is nutritious, easy to make and will last through the tough part of the week (Tuesday and Wednesday).  Tonight was the night!  I have two original recipes for you.  All you need is one night and one chicken!

C3B-PO (Chicken, Carrots, Celery, Bok Choy, Potatoes, Onion) 
For all you engineering nerds, a play on the famous C3PO Star Wars character...if nothing else, it will surely help you remember the ingredients at the grocery store!) 

  • 3 - 48 oz cans of reduced sodium chicken stock
  • 1 - 7 lb roasting chicken
  • 2 cups carrots (eyeball) 
  • 2 cups celery tops (eyeball) 
  • 1 onion, halved
  • Water, as needed (see below)
  • Sea salt, Pepper
Place ingredients in a stock pot and add water so that the chicken is covered.  Place over low heat (if you're doing the evening run!) or put directly on high, bring the soup to a boil then reduce to a simmer to  thoroughly cook the chicken.  This should take about an hour and a half to two hours.  How do you know the chicken is done?   The chicken should start to fall apart.  Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to cool.  
  • 5 Potatoes
  • 3 heads (medium size) of Bok Choy
  • Large bunch of parsley
Add the potatoes, bok choy and parsley to the stock pot.  Simmer over medium heat for 40 minutes to cook the potatoes.  In the mean time, when the chicken has cooled, prepare the chicken.  Remove the outer skin and discard.  Set aside the two chicken breasts (to be used in a separate recipe below) and put the remaining chicken in the stock pot. About 10 minutes before you are ready to serve, add in about 2 cups of frozen corn.  

Boil macaroni noodles (or your choice noodle).  When the noodles are finished cooking, you can start to assemble the soup bowl - but remember to add olive oil to your pasta so it doesn't stick! Right before you serve it, add a freshly chopped pepper as a garnish for some crunch! To ensure that it was good before I posted, I had the Hubby test the soup.  Here's what he had to say: 

"Mmmmmmm....Are you going to describe just how much I love this soup in that blog?" 

This second recipe literally came to me as I was grocery shopping last night.

Handful Thanksgiving Chicken Salad
All you need is a handful to measure the ingredients and the flavors really resemble Thanksgiving! 

  • 2 scallions
  • 2 handfuls of shelled walnuts
  • 1 handful dried cranberries 
  • 2.5 handfuls of grapes, halved
  • 1 chicken breast, shredded (reserved from the chicken above) 
Mix ingredients in a bowl and lightly dress with a low-fat golden caesar dressing.  Two notes: 
  1. To shred the chicken, work with the chicken while it is still warm.  With two forks, gently peel the chicken apart
  2. "Lightly dress" - a light stream of dressing drizzled around the bowl, twice
You can serve this plain, over lettuce, or in a pita.  I chose the pita for a quick and easy lunch! 

And there you have it, "One Evening, One Chicken, Multiple Dinners!" And remember, you have one left over chicken breast that can be used for a meal on Thursday...a meal of your choice!

The produce (bok choy, scallions, pepper) came from our community garden, a 25x25 foot plot we manage at our local community garden.  This is our third year gardening and I think we finally figured a way to keep the deer out!

Enjoy the recipes and feel free to modify as you see fit! Would love to hear your comments if you decide to make the meals!


Meeting: 'Time to Go Home', Attendees: Me & My Kiddo

If you are like me, as the end of the day approaches you find yourself faced with a ton of emotional dilemmas...
  • Should I stay and finish this one last report? 
  • If I could only finish this last task, I could start tomorrow with a clean slate....
  • I need to catch up with my boss...  
  • Ugh...Roland is going on 9 hours in daycare...9.5 hours in daycare...10 hours in daycare, I'm a terrible Mom.  
Yes, it's the never ending battle between work and home and it has been a recurring theme in my life for the past few months.  For some reason, I could never effectively manage my start/stop work routine however that all changed last week.  

From mid-May through the first week in June, I was on a travel extravaganza between business travel and personal vacation: Philly, Dallas, Philly, San Juan, Philly, San Diego and back again.  For those three weeks, I managed to see my little kiddo for a whopping 2 days.  Yep, you read correctly, 2 days.  I returned to work last Monday, June 6th and after managing three weeks worth of email catch up, I wasn't able...correction - didn't make it out of the office until 5:15 at which point Roland was approaching the 10 hour mark at daycare.  Enter stage right: super Mom Guilt and frustration.  I was royally mad at myself.  That was my tipping point...after leaving work that day, I vowed that I would try my hardest to NOT make that the norm.  

So what did I do?  

Well, when I got to work on Tuesday morning, I set up a recurring meeting notice every day at 4:30 with a reminder at 4:15.  My goal was to leave every day at 4:15 when the reminder popped up however if I had to wrap things up, I would leave work promptly at 4:30.  This would allow me enough time to get to daycare, pick up Roland and make it home by 5:00.    

I also communicated with my team, including my boss, to let them know that I would be making an effort to leave every day at 4:30.  I would always be available via blackberry, if some emergency would arise.  Additionally, I have the ability to log in to work from home, at night.  While I don't want to make this a nightly occurrence as I'm a firm believer in work/life balance, it is an option if I need to catch up on work.  

So far, it's working out quite well.  Since I set up the meeting notice, I've been able to leave work at 4:30 and the guilt is out the window!  


Back to Basics

My main reason for starting this blog was to help educate and inform new mothers (and fathers) on the REALITY of what to expect the first year...especially for the families where both parents work.  As I navigated through my first year, I realized that there was just some stuff no one talked about.  Perhaps its the 'school of hard knocks' mentality, perhaps the acclimation period is so short that everyone forgets, or it could just be that those that have experienced it feel it's just best for you to experience on your own...whatever the case, I knew that I wanted to share my experiences and hope that SOMEONE out there could learn from my (our) experience.

The Hubby and I have been together for just about 15 years now (gasp, oh...my....goodness).  Yep, we were high-school sweethearts.  We did everything just about the opposite of the norm.  We had a long distance relationship while he started working and I was finishing up school.  We lived together before marriage, and actually planned our wedding before getting engaged.  To top it off, we opted for a non-traditional wedding...a wedding on the beach in Maui and to this day, I would not trade it for the world (nor do I feel that I've missed out on anything).

Signing Marriage License with Rev. Valentine
As we progressed through our first year as parents, we had our ups and downs.  And the majority of the downs were due to one simple problem - miscommunication.  Simple. Stubborn. Miscommunication.  (And more blog posts to come on that!)

Our plates were full. We both had careers requiring us to work 40+ hours a week.  We were trying to figure out the optimum schedule for daycare - who would do pick-up? who would do drop off? how many hours a day would he be there?  When we got home, we were focused on feeding Roland dinner, playing with him and putting him to bed.  Once he was in bed, it was time to eat dinner, empty the dishwasher, prepare his food for the next day, tidy up a bit...and by that time, you're exhausted...ready for bed.

We did what most couples do, and that is to shift your focus and priority from your partner to the new addition...the little bambino.

We navigated through the down times and in a place and time where a lot of relationships can go wrong, we managed to come out stronger than ever.  What did we learn?  Well, you have to work at the relationship...it doesn't just sustain itself (no, not even after 15 years).

  1. Talk! Make sure you have the crucial conversations - no matter how difficult it may be.  And have those conversations BEFORE things start to pile up.  If something is bothering you, sit down and clearly explain what it is, why it is bothering you and how you would like to fix it.  Then...listen to him and make a commitment to resolve the issue together.  
  2. Date Nights! Acknowledge that there will be some changes with a new addition.  Find a few key babysitters and make the time to schedule some 'date nights.'  We went to a Steven Starr restaurant, attended an Eagles game (although we are die-hard Steeler fans)  and our first-ever hockey game!
  3. Cuddle! Realize that not everything has to get done...it's okay to spend an evening cuddling on the couch! 
  4. Be a TEAM! But most importantly, realize that you are a TEAM! It's not one versus the other...not "I did the laundry tonight" or "I prepared the day care food".  It's not you versus him, you are a team.  

As I indicated in an earlier post, we are pretty adventurous when it comes vacationing and are usually on the go from sun-rise to the wee hours of the morning.  We often laughed at needing a vacation when we returned home from vacation.  This trip was COMPLETELY different...and quite nice, I might add!  We didn't do much...in fact, we took a 2-3 hour nap every day and were in bed by 10:30 every night (except for that one karaoke night!)  It was nice to do nothing for once...no daycare meals to prepare, no work, just relaxation!

Leaving the Port of St. Lucia

I am so thankful to my Mama for watching little Roland and so glad that we decided to make time for ourselves!   Now...on to planning the family vacation!

I'm interested to hear how others navigated through the first year! Please share! 


From Perfectly Organized to Perfectly Chaotic

It seems as though every time I gain momentum or some type of rhythm for my "blog time", something disrupts it...this time, it wasn't so bad. 

In early April, work was fairly quiet.  I was working right around 40 hours a week, work wasn't too demanding.  Some of my projects were coming to an end and I found myself finally catching up on those items that fell to the bottom of my long "to-do" list.  I knew that I had to go to Dallas in mid-May but other than that, life wasn't too hectic. 

My original plan was to take Roland and my mom on the business trip with me; we were going to spend the entire week down in Dallas visting my Aunt Angie.  Mom would get to spend quality time with Roland and Aunt Angie while I attended to the conference.  Coincidentally, she informed me that she would be losing her personal days by the end of June if she didn't use them due to the PA state budget cuts.  For some reason, that triggered something in my brain...  What if Aunt Angie came to NJ and the Hubby and I ended up going on a 5 day mini-vacation / long weekend.  Everyone would be happy - Mom would get to spend quality time with Roland and Aunt Angie and the Hubby and I could finally have some adult time. 

We discussed the plan over Easter.  We figured that if we were going to take 5 days, we might as well make it a full 7 and take our favorite vacation - a cruise!  The planning was on, gears were in motion with a condensed time period.  What cruise do we take?  We've been on Norwegian and Celebrity (our preference is in that order), but the only cruises that were available were cruises that we've already been on and we wanted to experience different islands.  We finally decided on a Carnival Cruise leaving out of San Juan and traveling to St. Thomas, Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and St. Maarten.  I was SO excited I could hardly stand it!

I do think Mom was a tad bit disappointed in not being able to visit with Aunt Angie (turns out she would be traveling to Alaska to vist her nephew on the week we decided to go), but I could hear the excitement in her voice of being able to spend 10 days with Roland, playing but most importantly doing what grandmother's do best...spoiling him!

Right after we decided on the cruise (and I started writing my 'Lists'), things became chaotic at work.  Not only would I be going to Dallas the week before we left, I would now have to go to San Diego when I returned, and then DC the week after that.  My travel schedule was as follows:
     - May 17-19                  Dallas
     - May 20                       Home to pack and get ready for the trip
     - May 21 - 29               Vacation
     - May 31 - Jun 2           San Diego
     - June 6-9                     DC

How, in a matter of weeks, could my life go from perfectly-organized-easy-going-time-to-plan-a-vacation-and-relax to PERFECTLY CHAOTIC! This was crazy! This was the life of a working mother! 

So now, as I sit in the San Diego airport, waiting for the hours to pass until I board the red-eye, and reminiscing over the blur of travel (and some relaxation) over the past three weeks, I've decided on a new approach to the blogging.  An agenda for what's to come in the upcoming month:
- An article on the vacation, relaxation, and reconnecting with the one you love
- A article on Identify Theft - yes, it strikes when you least expect it...in my case, May 20th, my final preparation day for the cruise
- And finally, an article/webpage going back to the original intent of this entire site - a month by month guide to help new moms (and dads) adjust to the demands of the first year of life with your little love!

4 posts...including this one.  Perhaps I'll add a few more, but for now, that's my goal for June!  Hope you enjoy!