Life By Kristen

Go, and embrace your liberty. And see what wonderful things come of it. – Little Women

Is This Thing On?

This space has been quiet because honestly, I haven’t had anything to say that isn’t being said by more prolific folks, and because I’m in such a routine of life to SURVIVE, that I couldn’t quite seem to find the mental space and energy to write.

My word for 2020 was THRIVE. Which rhymes with what everyone’s word for 2020 ended up being- SURVIVE.

2020 will be a year that will take a bit more time away from to process what actually happened. It’s hard for me to say how it effected me– I was able to stay home, safe and healthy with my little family, and am grateful that all of my people can do the same. We never had to wonder where our next meal was coming from, we had toilet paper, and each other– and isn’t that enough? The unrest of politics and our cultural upheaval in the wake of the George Floyd murder and various protests left me feeling anxious and unsure of life- even with November’s victory for Biden, I’m still waiting for the sigh of relief that I hope January 20th brings.

So did I THRIVE in 2020? I guess in the definition of the word, no, but we did THRIVE as a family, growing and prospering over the hardships of the year.

Did I accomplish any of my goals? Sort of– I achieved 3 out of 7: I read 50 books (53 exactly). We did some stuff around the house to ready it for sale, though not as much as we hoped since we didn’t exactly want various contractors coming into our space.

Q and I had exactly 2 dates in 2020: one was dinner out for my birthday, a week or two before the world shut down, and a random Saturday in November where we did some basement cleaning, took a trip to the town dump, and took a daytime nap while my mother watched the little guy. We didn’t pay off the car loan, but will be doing that next month. I didn’t donate blood, we obviously didn’t travel anywhere, and my lack of writing here is about the same amount of writing I was doing in other places.

Yet despite the bummer of the year that 2020 was, it also was sort of a bit of a gift at the same time. For 3 months I spent every day with my family and I know that’s something we’ll never replicate again ( not sure we’d want to anyway haha). It made us realize what really matters in life and got us focused on our little family. I miss friends and family like crazy and want to go back to normal badly, but I know we are incredibly grateful for the life we have and the few disruptions we experienced over the last 10 months or so.

Going into 2021 I’m cautiously optimistic about what we might be able to do– hugging our friends and family and getting our son to meet his great aunt and great grandma is pretty high on the to-do list ( as is eating in a restaurant again). We’re mostly going to take things as they come with whatever circumstances come our way. I’m not going to set a word this year, but have in mind the changes and hopes we have for our family, rooted in the love and appreciation we learned in 2020.


Book Review: Nourish

Nourish: The Definitive Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for Families–With Tips & Recipes for Bringing Health, Joy, & Connection to Your Dinner Table, an evidence-based, practical resource that explores the many benefits of a plant-based diet and provides parents with the tools they need to provide excellent and balanced nutrition to their families.

I’ve lost track of how many meals I’ve made during the pandemic, but it’s been QUITE. A. LOT. In addition to needing new ideas for meals, we’re also trying hard as a family to consume more plants and less meat. Well I’m trying, and Q just complies as long as I make him some red meat a couple of times a week, and my son just eats whatever we give him (at the moment!). I was very happy to have early access to this great cookbook which has lots of great tips and recipes for eating more plant-based food.

The book has great strategies and ideas for how to incorporate a more plant-based diet into your life. The book is divided into 4 sections- consideration, care, confidence, and connection. It looks at the health and science behind plant-based diets, explains terms, and provides information and research to back up the various claims, all of which I appreciate very much. I especially appreciate as a new mom trying to navigate food options for my son that there was a lot of information on kids and plant-based diets since there is so much information available about what does or doesn’t constitute a healthy diet and food for growing kids.

This books is more about the science and nutrition of plant-based diets than cookbook. I appreciate that it breaks down the various nutritional bits about types of food and the different nutritional needs for children as they grow. as well as understanding which foods help kids stay fuller longer. There are some recipes and meal ideas, as well as some sample menus which I’m slowly working into our meal rotation. We’ve done “meatless Monday” for a long time so it’s great to have a few more ideas to add to the rotation.

 

Buy the book!

 

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

All opinions are my own.

We’re Actually Not All in This Together

Throughout this whole pandemic, the phrase “we’re all in this together” peeves me every time. Yes, the pandemic is a real thing around the globe that every one is dealing with, but for so many people, they either don’t believe it’s real because of our current leader in the US, don’t think it effects them because they don’t know anyone who has been effected by it, or frankly, don’t care and continue to live their lives like nothing is happening. On the other side too are people who very much know this pandemic is real because they’ve lost jobs or had to leave a job to care for children, are homeschooling kids or overseeing zoom school, or are struggling from cut wages, unemployment wages running out and so on.

This experience over the past 9 months hasn’t been catastrophic for me or my family– we are grateful and know we have privilege to be able to say that. We never once doubted about where food would come from or how we would pay bills. For a few months, we actually were doing better than before the pandemic because we weren’t spending money on much other than food and supplies, and the extra bump to Q’s unemployment check helped greatly ( as it did for so many other Americans). We both kept our jobs, even though Q was laid off and (knock on wood), are healthy, as is our family, near and far.

All that being said, this is hard. And I know I have it better than millions of other folks out there- not just for the aforementioned reasons, but also because my child is too small to know what’s going on. I think he recognized that his parents were home all the time, and then one day, I wasn’t there all day, but to the tiny human, this whole thing will be something we tell him about when he’s older. It’s been tough for the lack of opportunity to see our family, do things, and go places to expose our child to the world. I don’t think he’ll “meet” another kid until he’s well past 2 at this point, or get to go on a playground with other kids of various ages. It makes me sad the celebrations we missed this year because of covid and the trip we still haven’t been able to make so my aunt and grandmother can meet my son.

I follow the rules. I value my health and the health of all my family and friends so I’m not going to put those things at risk because of my selfish desires. It makes me incredibly angry and frustrated to think this thing could have been more controlled and buttoned up if we only had a leader who thought of others before himself. I don’t express my political or religious beliefs often, but I hope today, November 3rd, Election Day, is the start of something new. I’ve never been so anxious and worried about an election before and I know it’s a sentiment so many people share with me.

Book Review: You’re Pulling My Leg! Junior

I grew up in a game playing family. We’d play cards or Bingo at my grandparents’ house on Saturday nights, and as we got older, Scrabble and Cranium were family favorites. Q and I are known to play Phase 10 and Jenga from time to time, and I cannot wait to introduce our son to games as he gets older. I was excited to have the opportunity to review “the ultimate storytelling game” as it sounded like something we’re going to like a lot in our family.

I’m a fan of anything that gets storytelling going- that’s some of the best part of holiday and family gatherings are the memories and stories that come out. Allen Wolf wrote a fun game that is based on questions that provoke conversation, stories, jokes, and fun. He originally created it as a gift for two friends who were dating and wanted to get to know each other better.  It has an extra element of fun because many of these questions wouldn’t come up in normal conversation and part of the game is trying to figure out if someone is telling a true story or, as the title suggests, is pulling your leg. There is a game book for adults and the junior version, which I reviewed.

In the Junior version. there are fun and silly questions like “tell me about a time when you ate too much candy” or “tell me about your imaginary friend.” The game is in the easy book format so no special play devices or game sets are required, so no need to worry about losing pieces, instructions, or cards. It’s something you can play multiple times with different groups of people at different occasions because the stories are always going to be different. Even though our son is too small for this book now, I know it’s something we’ll use a lot in the future when he gets older. I’ve even asked Q some of the questions as I was reviewing it!

Check our the game website to see both versions of the book/game!

October, Pandemic version

Thank you to the many of you who sent well wishes for my little guy’s surgery last week. It went perfectly and he was such a champ. I only cried once- I wasn’t prepared to have to hand over my child to the doctor. He has a small, benign lesion on his arm that was removed, and as with most things with kids, he’s pretty unphased by the whole thing, though he’s pretty peeved every time we have to give him a sponge bath since real baths are off-limits for another week.

So here we are, October. I’m feeling incredibly riled up these days in different ways– anxious/nervous/fed up with the impending election; bored with various bits of work; inspired/determined to clean up the house/declutter/get organized; exhausted/thrilled over life with a toddler; happy with my partner for going to the grocery store every week/mad at my partner for going to Target and not asking what I needed, and about a million other things. I’m looking forward to so much, and so apprehensive about others. I’m feeling like I can go out in public, masked and armed with hand sanitizer, but also scared to go to other places or see more people than I currently have in my tiny bubble. 2020 is exhausting.

A silly little thing that is bringing me a tiny bit of calm is a funny document I made for my household called “Kristen’s Sanity Schedule.” It’s part meal template, part cleaning schedule, part adulting list and includes things that I do every week without fail ( like changing the sheets) and things I need to be reminded to do, despite them being weekly tasks (why is there so much dusting to be done!?!). Making it felt like I was finally understanding the pace of life in these weird times, but also reminded me that I’m actually doing pretty well in terms of taking care of myself and the other humans in my life. It also reminded me of how thankful I am for a great life partner who actually takes on a good portion of chores, especially the ones I don’t love to do like vacuum and laundry.

Public service announcement- If you’re struggling to get your partner to take on tasks, I highly recommend you convince them to look at vacuums with you (or another equipment related to a chore)– Q is a  science guy and is fascinated by the Dyson line of vacuums. When our old stick vacuum died, he spent a lot of time doing research; he loves the Dyson we have so now it’s his chore and he loves it. We also have a Roomba (another idea of his) and minus the Swiffering I do to control all my hair all over the place, he is solely in charge of floor cleaning in our house.

I’m trying to enjoy the fall, even though so many of the fall activities we enjoy either aren’t going on or are different this year. Even nature seems to get that 2020 sucks because the leaves in our neck of the woods are just dropping off the trees instead of changing colors. We’re in an extreme drought so they’ve just given up. I think our town is still doing trick or treating on Halloween, but we haven’t decided if we will give out candy or not. The one year we didn’t, our house got egged- lovely neighborhood, huh? We won’t be dressing the little guy up since he doesn’t eat candy and doesn’t know about this stuff yet anyway! Maybe I’ll get a pumpkin for the front of the house, but last year the squirrels decided it was their own personal buffet and made a mess of the porch and steps. We did go apple picking though!

Here’s wishing you a safe, healthy October as we brace ourselves for what the November election brings….

5 on Friday: September 2020

Will I ever not be amazed by the passage of time? Here we are, the last Friday in September. Here I am, with five random thoughts for today.

  • I have consumed so much media, of all different types, feverishly over the past 6 months of pandemic lockdown. I feel like we’ve watched so much, and yet haven’t even deep dived into the depths of Netflix. I wish I could tell you some of the favorite things we’ve watched, but there’s been so much and I was so bad at keeping track of it all, that I can’t quite remember. I can say we finally watched all of The Handmaid’s Tale, which back in May when we binged in over a 4-day period seemed a lot less scary than it does not in September. I’m trying to counteract all the TV/movie watching with reading and word puzzles to keep my brain equally balanced.

 

  • One of the great things that came out of this pandemic nonsense is our daily family walk. It’s become a bit harder on some days when I’m working out of the house and Q’s work from the basement runs into our dinner hour, but for the most part, we’ve kept up the routine and I hope that coats, hats, and gloves will let us keep it up when weather gets chillier too.

 

  • Our house is right near a Dunkin Donuts and after the building next door to house burned down a few years ago, we now have a clear view of their parking lot and drive through. It is absolutely insane how many people, even during the height of the pandemic in my neck of the woods, waited in lines out to the road for their coffee. I feel like I’m a bad New Englander to say I hate Dunkin coffee and cannot even remember the last time I ate something from there. I used to love it, but somewhere along the line, they lost me as a customer. Plus their coffee gives me major heartburn.

 

  • No one warned me about the part of being a parent where the songs from toys and Sesame Street get stuck in your head for days. I swear I hear “Letter of the Day” Elmo song in my dreams.

 

  • If you have any good wishes and room in your prayer list next week (there’s a lot to pray for these days for sure), please send some our way. Our little guy is having very minor surgery next week to remove a growth on his arm. In the scheme of things he and we have been through in his 16 months together, it’s very minimal, but does involve anesthesia and a COVID test that will likely be more traumatic for me than it is for him. He won’t even remember this thing happened of course, but we will! Though he’s going to be pretty pumped after this thing because we got him a pretty awesome Elmo stuffed animal as a treat for the whole ordeal.

Book Review: A Mother’s Grace

A Mother’s Grace: Healing the World, One Woman at at Time shares remarkable true (and inspiring) stories from female change-makers with advice about turning adversity into action. The women featured in this book were brought to their knees after profound loss of life, home, health or livelihood. Though they experienced unimaginable tragedies, each of them turned their suffering and grief into something positive to help others.

Written by Michelle Moore, who also founded the Mother’s Grace nonprofit, the book chronicles Moore’s journey through breast cancer and dealing with her son’s serious juvenile diabetes. By sharing not only her personal story of overcoming adversity, but also the story of ten other women who have also overcome many obstacles, she highlights the importance of “turning lemons into lemonade and thriving.” The book is also timely because the author recently overcame COVID-19 as well. The book highlights how to overcome fear, calling upon grace to move forward, and how to handle challenges head on.

Don’t we all need a little hope to lift our spirits in these weird and trying times? Read more about the book !

Book Review: Lola Koala’s Travel Adventures

When I thought about becoming a mom, I hoped my future child would love books as much as I do. I’m happy to report my little guy is a book lover- currently, he’s a fan of any book with animals and really loves books with things “to do” like touch different textures, slide to reveal things, or lift the flaps. I was excited to be able to share this book with him because it had lots of flaps for him to play with!

The book has some great illustrations and lots of flaps for little hands to explore. The rhyming is great and the story is interesting. The book is geared towards children a bit older than  my 16 month old son with lots of questions to promote conversation and talking, so I know this is a book we will continue to enjoy together in different ways as he gets older. I especially appreciate that the author is a speech pathologist so it’s written to help promote building language skills and learn.

For more information on the book and author, check out the website!

I was provided an advanced copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.

All opinions are my own.

Life These Days

I think quite frequently about writing, and then the time warp that is 2020 happens and almost 2 months goes by before I actually get to it. I’ve read a few articles about the weird passage of time this year- not that time is passing any differently than it has in previous years, but that the circumstances of this year have made the passage of it seem so different and either super fast or super slow, or strangely, both at the same time.

It’s also hard to be motivated to write when I’m feeling so much these days. Some days I’m so happy to be home with my little family in our little bubble, often forgetting the heavy things of life and the pandemic. Then there are days I’m filled with such dread and anxiety about what could happen after November 3rd that I doomscroll through social media or spend hours looking at random junk online or favoriting clothes I’ll never buy on ThredUp. And then others I’m motivated to get things done and purge through boxes and drawers in my house during my son’s afternoon nap, then collapse onto the couch and don’t do much for the next 6 hours. Last night I was exhausted and falling asleep on the couch at 8pm, but then couldn’t fall asleep when I’m actually in bed.

Some days I feel like I’m just going through the motions of the day, in a set routine that is much defined by the tiny person in my household, and just moving through the sludge to get to the next day, only to get up to do the same thing again. It’s just all so hard to wrap my head around. I need something to look forward to that involves going somewhere or seeing people, but both are also things that feel like ticking time bombs at the same time. Q and I are desperate for a vacation and to spend time for more than a few hours away from our house, but that doesn’t look feasible any time soon either. We both need new jobs- and have for a few years, but this is perhaps maybe the worst time in recent history to leave a stable job for something new. We need to move, but don’t want to move just for the sake of getting a bigger, new place in a different location. I know we just need to do something and then that decision will lead down other paths, but most days we feel like we’re in mud that isn’t taking us down, but isn’t letting us move either.

And then amid these moments of blah and merely existing are true gems of life. Our little guy took his first steps and is walking around! He is developing into this happy little human. When he shakes his little butt to music or claps his hands when he finishes a book, or cuddles into my arm in the mornings–my heart grows a million times bigger. I swear a baby’s laugh could solve half the world’s problems because it certainly makes me feel better.

So that’s what’s going on- nothing but also a lot?

 

Oh Hey, I Still Have a Blog

Howdy. I know it’s been awhile.

Crickets over here for the last 4 months mostly because I haven’t felt like I had anything to say about life- we’re all in our respective corners just trying to make it through it each day, right? Figuring out new life situations, work scenarios, and general staying alive stuff.

I’m well, my family is well, the people in my universe are well. In this day and age, that’s really all we can ask and hope for I think. Some day, motivation and inspiration will return for me I hope, but for now I’m soaking up baby laughs and spending most of my time in the AC ( humid New England summers!).

Not much excitement or change to report, but sending out good vibes and thoughts in this upside-down new world we’re in. I hope you and yours are safe and well.

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