With A Grain Of Salt blog has been redefining homesteading in an urban environment. On the blog, you will find discussion, recipes, and tips about a realistic approach to living a healthy, sustainable life and urban homesteading.
It's been almost two months since we brought Ben home. Seven weeks of sleepless nights, eight bottles sterilized twice a day, five types of pacifiers tested, two bottle cleaning brushes used until they broke, three times being peed on, roughly fifteen thousand diaper changes, and countless "We made him! Look at that face!" exclamations later, I finally carved out some time to write.
Before you get nervous - no, this is not turning into a site exclusively about motherhood and recipes for pureeing farm stand cruelty free baby food. I promise not to regurgitate what's been written about by countless others. Keeping this space platitude free is critical. Even as a new mother the last thing I want to read is yet another post about how beautiful motherhood is or how breastfeeding is the most difficult. No kidding. Also, the sky is blue.
Bringing Ben home, becoming a parent, it's every single emotion. Exhilarating, inspiring, frustrating, annoying, decadent, surreal... every possible feeling wrapped up into one big one that hits you like a brick flying through a glass window. At first I tried going about things as if nothing had changed - cleaning, cooking, checking email, trying to keep up with life in the same way. But, eventually, I slowed down. Or rather, forced myself to slow down. Trying to keep the same pace as before is unsustainable and not just because we're sleeping only four hours a night.
We're settling into this new life and trying to find balance and rhythm in our little family. Below, a few lessons learned and experiences gathered over the last two months, from deep within these sleepless trenches.
Two Months with Baby Ben
1. Sleeping when the baby sleeps is a big fat myth. Unless you have a housekeeper or nanny daytime naps are when it's time for laundry, dusting, cleaning, bottle sterilizing, laundry, dog walking, did I mention laundry?
Also, let's be real, when baby naps is the only time to indulge abandoned but well loved previous behaviors such as binge watching Billions while fixing a chipped manicure. Oh, and afternoon naps make me as groggy and grumpy as Ben. Unfortunately, the 5 S's don't work as well on a 33 year old woman.
2. You need coffee. So much coffee. BUT here's the thing - all coffee will remain unfinished. Don't even try to drink a whole cup in one sitting. There will be feeding, burping, swinging, shushing, and swaddling between sips. Thank goodness for the microwave. Learning to enjoy reheated coffee - huge part of the motherhood gauntlet.
3. It is incredible how much can be done while holding a baby in one arm. Two weeks ago I made a full dinner of pasta with meat sauce all while balancing Ben on my hip. There was even a chiffonade of basil involved! I've also watered plants, organized books, even lint rolled a pillow. Maybe when he goes to college I'll take up juggling.
Two days of diapers. two.
4. Baby has more outfit changes than Linda Evangelista in a '92 Versace show. Don't bother salvaging onesies. Just move onto the next one. Accept that you will probably never again outrun the laundry. (Yes, that reference dates me but, whatever. There are no models walking today that live up to the glory that were the 1990s Supers.)
5. Babies sleep better with noise. After two weeks of white noise playing endlessly in the apartment I felt like I was living in the world's most anticlimactic horror movie. With much experimentation we realized Ben falls asleep to Paul Simon. Not just falls asleep - he stays asleep. This was well and good until Paul Simon was playing so often that the mere beginning of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" made me want to cheerily sashay myself right out of the bedroom window. We had to break up with Paul.
We're now firmly planted in playing "thunderstorm" or "rain on a tin roof" sounds through Alexa. (It's really a brave new world when real rain outside your window isn't loud enough to satisfy the fourth trimester needs of a baby.) How long can two adults handle being fake rained on during clear, sunny, June days? Unclear.
6. Every baby movie ever wasn't lying. Boys pee straight up. No more explanation or description of the situation necessary.
7. Hold your breath when taking the diaper bag out of the Ubbi pail. Seriously, it's not worth it to breathe.
More to come soon but for now I'm going to go smell my baby's head.
bags under eyes brought to you by sleep deprivation and pure bliss.
Finally, after weeks of the same notification from Alexa, "41 degrees and cloudy with a chance of flurries", today felt like Spring. The last few weeks the days have been so grey it feels like we've been in an endless tug of war with winter. Opening the windows to let in a fresh breeze felt spectacular. Just what I needed to get into gear to finish off my last week of pregnancy on a super positive note.
Growing my very own watermelon!
More so than in previous posts, this year I feel like pressing RESET on everything. No surprise, really. At 38.5 weeks pregnant I am the size of a watermelon and nesting hard. My brain feels like scrambled eggs except when it comes to organizing closets, creating freezer meal plans, and reshuffling the pantry for baby bottle storage. Also, I channeled all of my neuroses and folded every single towel we own into a perfect square. I am told this is entirely normal behavior one week before your entire life changes.
In an effort to curtail irrational terrorizing of every linen closet and resorting of paper towels and pillowcases (for the third time in two weeks), I spent this week letting all my anxious energy out through transforming the apartment for warmer weather.
Over the last few days I arranged fresh flowers and put away everything that reminds me of winter: no more boots and no more puffy marshmallow pregnancy coat! Referencing seasonal posts from years past really helped me figure out what to tackle and stay motivated. In no particular order and with as much energy as my very round self could muster, I attacked each of the below. Hope this burst of warmth is as motivating to you as it was to me. Each post is linked so click away!
Then, once my home was relatively in order - I baked the best cookies of my entire life. For the record, cookies have never been my forte and they've never been my favorite. I'm mostly a chocolate chip girl and only on very rare occasions (somehow, cookies never satisfy a craving for me the way ice cream or brownies do.) That completely changed when I made these. I've made them twice since Passover (they're gluten/flour/leavening free) and vowed to never let my cookie jar be empty again.
Not too sweet, not too crunchy, not too soft. If I am the Goldilocks of cookies I finally found my perfect fit. Ok, I'm awful at analogies but these are SO good. Please forgive me, and make them this weekend!
Almond Meringue Cookies
3 cups almond flour
4 egg whites room temperature. reserve one for later in a separate cup.
1/3 cup buttermilk or whole milk
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt
rough chopped almonds, pecans, or walnuts
Meringue before I folded it into the dry ingredients. It will deflate as you incorporate it into the mixture.
Preheat over to 300F.
Beat 3 egg whites and the pinch of salt in a bowl with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. The trick to egg whites is that all of your equipment must be totally dry. Not a single drop of water anywhere! Like the desert but even less. (Thanks, mom for this tip! Only took me 2-3 years to ask why I couldn't manage "stiff peaks".)
Combine all dry ingredients.
Gently fold the meringue into dry ingredients.
Add buttermilk and vanilla.
Stir to combine into dough. It will be very, very sticky.
Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
While the dough is chilling chop up your toppings and remember the egg white you set aside in a separate bowl. I used pecans but honestly any nut or even chocolate chips would work.
Scoop up slightly smaller than golf ball chunks of dough, roll into a ball.
Coat cookie dough ball in egg white followed by topping of choice. Flatten into patty... or cookie. Cookies are a type of patty, right? Whoa.
Place on greased baking sheet or parchment paper.
Bake cookies for 15- 20 min, until edges are a bit brown. Cool and then eat. Duh!
I've been slow to jump into 2018. Usually, by the first day of the year, my resolutions are set and written out. Without fail, by this point I'm laughing, placing internal bets on how soon they'll be broken. Writing about the winter months - how excited I get about decorating, cooking large and cozy meals, hosting friends for latkes, our yearly trip to South Carolina, and the break that comes with disconnecting from the hectic day to day - gives me so much joy. But this year has been very different. I spent most days in bed or glued to the television. Didn't read a single book. Didn't cook a single meal. Couldn't even muster the energy or excitement to make latkes! Small and silly for some, but this is not my status quo. For the longest time I couldn't figure out what was going on with me. This was the case until a dear friend pointed out: "You're burned out. Stop. Disconnect." She sent me the this article and once I read through all the symptoms, it's like a light went off in my head.
Let me start from the beginning - In August, Ian and I found out that we're expecting. (So excited to finally share more with you!) In September, I took a whirlwind and emotional trip with my family to my birth country, Azerbaijan. Between October and December I was traveling almost non-stop, both for work and personal reasons. I recently counted that during my first trimester I was only home for a total of 15 days. Long story short, by the time I realized what was going on with my body and mind, it was too late.
For weeks I wrote off what was happening as a combination of stress + pregnancy hormones. No doubt, the latter contributed to my rising anxiety. Truth is, those were not the only factors. Blaming work projects or the insanity of living in NYC on the inability to disconnect and enjoy personal, small moments and interests is a recipe for hating everything. Sweeping things under the rug and simply saying "Oh, I'm pregnant!" or "I'll just push through" was an excuse. For me, it was even a symptom of the larger issue. At five months pregnant all I could talk and think about at every minute of every day was work work work work, and work. The things I usually pride myself on - organization and efficiency fell out the window. Meal planning and cooking turned into carry out every night, engaging with friends turned into watching endless reruns of The West Wing (my go-to comfort TV). My entire definition of who I am began to completely revolve around professional work and the fairly inconsequential worries of urban life. "What will we order for take out? Which train should I take? What should I buy online for the apartment?". Online shopping is not a coping mechanism for stress, huge shocker. I turned into someone I barely recognized - a woman who all but abandoned her personal interests and pursuits. Once I read through the symptoms of "Burn Out", it hit me - I need to slow down. It was time for a hard stop.
The big lesson here was to take a huge step back. Since we moved to NYC three years ago, I've fallen into the "live to work, not work to live" hole. The last two weeks gave me the opportunity to fully unplug and recognize that my personal and professional lives have existed without any boundaries separating them for a very, very long time. My work is very important to me, but at the end of the day, it's not all that I am. Turning off my email on the weekends and taking a step back from always being "on" is not a cause for anxiety, it's a management tool for it. I know that work-life balance is an endless conversation had on many platforms, but it's one thing to read about others struggle - quite another to address it in your own life. The only way to succeed professionally and be the kind of woman - not to mention, mother - I want to be is to start prioritizing the personal.
So, in 2018, I'm not setting long term resolutions. Truthfully, with a baby due in Spring I have no idea what I will want to prioritize 4-6 months from now. Putting that kind of pressure on my life feels unnecessary at the present. Instead, small, short term goals are the aim. There's a lot that I'm capable of and enjoy doing outside of heading to work each morning. I am resolved to remind and reconnect with what those things are. Bring it on 2018.