Eloise’s Birth Story

It was Monday morning, and I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with a contraction. It was strong. I twisted around in bed and tried not to wake Matt up.  One, two, three.  I imagined myself walking up a hill.  When the contraction felt at its height, I made it to the top of the hill.  As the contraction waned, I walked down the hill.  It took about 40 seconds.  Ok, not a minute but certainly not nothing.  I drifted off back to sleep.  Ugh, it’s back.  I grabbed my phone and pushed the side button.  3:36 a.m. glowed back at me.  Seriously? Only five minutes had passed.  Ok, walk up that hill.  Then again at 4:48. And 5:00. By the time it was 6:30, I was exhausted and confused.  My water hadn’t broken.  I had never had any contractions until my water broke so what was this? I was already two days past my due date so chalking these contractions up to Braxton Hicks seemed patently wrong.  But this couldn’t be it, could it?  I texted our doula to give her an update and made my way to the bathroom.  The side of pants were a little damp.  Not enough to consider my water broke.  Or was it?  I immediately started questioning myself.  I mean, three hours of contractions, which had now mostly dissipated, maybe this was my water breaking. No matter what, I decided that I should work from home today.  If those contractions worked themselves back up again, there was no way I could drive home. I got ready for the day of working in the basement so I just tossed on a fresh pair of yoga pants and made my way downstairs.  Arg, maybe I should call the birth center just to be safe.  I dialed the midwife on call line and asked to be seen in the mid-morning.  The contractions. The damp pants. Two days overdue.  Probably a good idea to go in.

Matt woke up and immediately said, “we are having a baby today!”

“I don’t know.  I feel ok now.” I said.  I didn’t want him to be disappointed. Still, I wanted him to be right.  I wanted to have the baby today.

We grabbed breakfast at Panera and then made our way to the birth center for our 9:45 appointment.  From my initial call to the appointment, I had no more than two contractions.  They were minor.  Yes, they were not comfortable.  But since they were spaced out, having 20-40 seconds of pain was more annoying than anything else. It’s just a cruel joke to have this pain when I am two days overdue and it’s false labor.

The appointment was brief.  The midwife confirmed that my water had not broke and instead broke some rather disappointing news: it is very common for third babies to be “tricky.”  Having labor start and stop is common. Don’t get discouraged.  You are near the finish line.  But your labor may start up and stop again so get prepared for this.  I left crabby and discouraged.

Beyond telling work that I had some contractions, which was why I was working from home, for most of the day, I didn’t tell anyone until late afternoon.  Mostly, I didn’t want to give our family false hope that the baby would be born soon.  Like me, they too were getting anxious for Toastie Three to arrive.  With the sting of three hours of wasted contractions hanging over me, I couldn’t stomach fielding questions and comments about the entire situation.  So I told everyone I was at work and fine.  Neither were true.

I noticed that if I stayed sitting, I had no contractions.  But when I stood up, my stomach would twist a bit.  “Maybe that’s the secret.  You have to start moving around to get the baby to get out,” Matt said to me.  Maybe he was right.  I put on my workout clothes and pulled out my pregnancy workout guide to week 40, day two and fit in a workout.  No contractions, but it was nice to a solid workout in.  At least I accomplished something with my body today.

My work day ended, and we ate dinner together like we always do.  The boys were well-behaved and earned TV time, which meant Matt and I could watch the new episode of Shark Tank with no interruptions. It is a 40 minute show, and I had three contractions while we watched it.  Ok, so these contractions are coming back.  But is this another start stop false labor marathon?  We started the bedtime routine and the contractions continued.  Just like in the early morning, each contraction was 20-40 seconds long, coming every 5-10 minutes.  They were strong enough to make me stop doing whatever I was doing and focus on walking up the hill.  “Relax, your body knows what it is doing. This pain isn’t because something is wrong. It is a good sensation” I would tell myself as I walked up the hill.

I couldn’t help Matt get the boys to brush their teeth and into pajamas.  Instead I paced from the living room to the dining room and back. Once they were ready for bed, I grabbed Max and took him to his crib.  As I nursed him, a contraction came. I held him tight and waited for it to subside.  My water still had not broken.  This had to be this false start stop labor that the midwife had talked about, and I am not a fan.  I laid Max down to bed, went to JR’s room to tell him “The Little Boy Story,” and then headed out to the TV room to relax.  The contractions had started to die down again.  I was frustrated and needed to unwind.  I tossed on a mindless TV show.

It was 9:27, and I had only watched about 15 minutes of the show when I felt a gush of water. Holy hell, my water broke.  For real.  I immediately texted Matt, who was still in JR’s room waiting for him to fall completely asleep, “Water broke.”  “Just like Max” he wrote back.

I texted our nanny and asked her to come right away.  Then our doula.  Just then, my mom sent a text saying, “Any stirrings?” Funny she should ask.  Normally, I wouldn’t have told her until we were on our way to the birth center or if the baby was born.  But her timing was impeccable.  “My water just broke. I need to get stuff figured out. Talk later” I wrote back.

Matt came into the TV room and started to get bags packed for the drive over to the birth center.  I paced back and forth, waiting for the midwife on call at the birth center to confirm that we could come in.  It took 7 minutes for her to confirm that we could come in right away.

At 10:00 p.m., our nanny Zee showed up.  Matt had already tossed all our bags into the car.  I had barely left the TV room where my water had broke.  I was too nervous.  As I made my way to the kitchen to leave the house, I got a contraction.  It was strong enough that I stopped moving and talking until it passed.  We said goodbye to our boys and headed to the birth center.

The drive was quiet. With my boys, the drive was stressful.  But now, I wasn’t freaking out that I was going to have a baby in the car (Max) or that the contractions were too strong and I was confined to a seat (JR).  I felt fine.  Almost foolish that we were leaving so early to get to the birth center. I had 4 contractions during the 20 minute drive but there weren’t that strong.  I just squeezed Matt’s hand as he drove down the highway.

We pulled into the parking lot and to a dark building.  We were the first ones to arrive.  I texted the midwife, who said she was 5 minutes away.  I started to get anxious.  The birth center is in a neighborhood, and the neighbors had their lights on.  I could see them staring at me from the window as I paced.  I felt like I was on display, and it irked me.  I had one contraction as we waited.  It was stronger.  More present.  I leaned against the car, upset that we had beat everyone and that these random guys got to witness me labor from their window.

Finally, the midwife arrived and by 10:20, we were walking into the building. I had never been fully present when I walked into the birth center in labor before.  With JR and Max, I was so focused on the labor itself that I truly have no memory of walking in.  But this time, everything was so clear.  Watching Matt hurry to bring in our bags.  The tub starting to fill.  The bed nicely made with clean, white sheets.  I leaned up against the counter and stared at the clock right in front of me.  It glowed 10:25. I pushed my shoes off and a contraction started to come.  MOTHER OF GOD THIS IS TOO MUCH.  Matt was on my left, petting my back while he unwound the scarf so he could rebozo my belly.  He wrapped the scarf around my lower belly and began to rock it back and forth.  Nope, it didn’t help.  OMG TWISTING AND TIGHTNESS.  The contraction wrapped around my lower belly.  Firmly grabbing hold of stomach and twisting and turning it.  The pain was unbearable.  I told Matt to stop trying to rebozo.  No use for him to waste his energy. It wasn’t doing anything.  He tossed the scarf aside and told me that he was proud of me.  That I was going a great job.  I tried to get off my socks.  To bend over was excruciating.  I barely managed to toss them both off.  I couldn’t imagine myself moving from this counter.  But I wanted to get into that tub.  I could hear the water running, and the midwife said it needed at least another 10 minutes.  A second contraction came as the midwife rushed to pull out heating pads and pads to soak up blood.  She placed a cuff around my arm so she could take my blood pressure.  I twisted and curled as the contraction continued.  Nope. There is no way I can survive another contraction like that.  This baby is coming out now.  I started to push as the contraction waned.  A wave of relief washed over me.  Pushing felt so good.  As if I could control the rising pressure I felt.

I told the midwife to help me take off my pants and take me to the bed.  Matt and the midwife complied, and I shuffled to the bed as fast as I could.  The contraction was over, but another one would be coming.  I did not want to be on the move when that happened.  Plus, the pressure in my butt kept rising.  I had to get on the bed so I could push this baby out.  There was no way I was going to wait another 10 minutes so I could deliver in the tub.

Once on the bed, I felt misplaced.  With Max’s birth, the midwife ran the show.  She gave me a birthing ball and calmly coached me how to give birth on the bed.  But now, the midwife was scrambling.  She was still placing pads on the bed, getting things ready.  We’d only been in the birth center for 5 minutes at this point, and she still had quite a bit to get out.

“I need a birthing ball,” I said.  The midwife handled me a large, silver ball.  It was too big.

“Does this work?” She asked.

“No, smaller.”  I managed to get out.  The pressure was building.  I was in between contractions but I knew one would be coming soon.  She ran out of the room and came back with a smaller ball.  I placed my forearms on the ball.  Not perfect but it would do.

“I need a hot towel.” I said.  I knew I was being demanding but I didn’t care.  For Max’s birth, I had the birthing ball and the hot towel that the midwife pressed against my crotch for perineal support.  Those two tools were the things I needed for a birth on a bed.

The midwife grabbed a warm towel and found a place behind me.  Matt was at my head with his hand on my shoulder.  He rubbed my shoulder, whispering that I was doing a good job and he was so proud of me.

A contraction came, and I pushed.  It felt so good to push.  As the contraction waned, I continued to push.  “If you push a little longer, it’ll be worth it” I told myself.  I let out a sigh as a pushed longer and felt a wave of pressure release from me.  My baby was out.

The next thing I knew, I was moving myself from my knees to my butt, craning my neck to see if I had a girl or a boy.  I swear I could see a vagina, but I didn’t want to be wrong.  The midwife eased me to a seated position and handed the baby to me.  I took a second look.

“Oh my God, it’s a girl!” I cried.

happy tears.

I kissed my baby girl, still in disbelief.  Matt came beside me to get a closer look at our baby girl.  She was perfect.  10 fingers. 10 toes.  A full head of hair.  Everything we had prayed for.  I pulled out a boob to feed her and she immediately latched.  As we nursed, the midwife tended to my lower parts.  She gave me a shot of Pitocin to help bring the uterus down.  Then a second dose.  I was still bleeding a lot.  More than usual.   I needed more medicine. Unfortunately, that meant that the midwife shoving four pills up my butt. That was not great.  It wasn’t even the application of the pills that was the worst. It the fact that those four pills do not dissolve immediately. Instead, it feels like you have a finger up your butt for about a half hour.  It’s not great.

Still, I was losing blood so there was no room to complain.  I felt so cold.  Colder than I ever felt.  As if I was completely naked in ice cube. My bones felt like ice.  An entire liter of blood left my body, and it felt as if the blood was replaced with ice water.

But I didn’t care.  I had my baby girl.

our traditional going home photo.

a little out of it thanks to the blood loss and the long night.
the birth center makes you homemade bread with butter and honey to eat after giving birth.

We go home within 5 hours after birth so the nurse comes to us the next morning. The boys got to hear Eloise’s heart.

Continue Reading

Must Have Post-Partum Items for Mom

So much preparing for a baby focuses on the baby.  Diapers, wipes, swings, baby clothes, bottles, baby blankets, strollers, car seats.  There are so many list dedicated to the “must haves” when you are having a baby (I am not immune from this: I wrote one back in 2016).  But preparing yourself for post-delivery seems to get forgotten. Sure, you literally grow a baby in your belly for 9 months, go through intense labor, and push that baby through your vagina or get a serious surgery to remove that baby (not to mention that after all of that, you then feed the baby you just made).  Your body does all of that.  Yet, we put all the focus on the baby.

So much so that when I got pregnant, I knew basically nothing about post-partum care for myself.  You guys, I didn’t even realize that you had to birth the placenta after you birth the baby! Sure, now it seems so obvious.  But when my natural birthing class brought it up, my eyes widened, I sat straight up, and was speechless.  Then I learned that I would become very familiar with a peri bottle and that tearing was very common.  I quickly realized how clueless I really was and got upset about how much of my future care was a completely mystery to me. Seriously, I knew next to nothing.  When I came home from the birth center with JR, the first thing I did was ask my mom to go to the store to buy me Depends.  Because I didn’t realize that I’d be bleeding for weeks after giving birth.  No one had really talked about the raw details with me. I took a birth class.  I saw a midwife my entire pregnancy.  But the post-partum care of me was just never really a focal point of the conversation.

After I gave birth to JR, I made a list of “must have” things for mom. I shared the list with pregnant friends.  Bought them items off the list.  Spilled the gory details of what happens to your body after you push a baby out of it. Because why tiptoe around this part of motherhood?  Your body just accomplished something unbelievably remarkable. It needs some extra attention.  And that’s ok.  There is no reason why we should hide this part of motherhood.

Now with baby number three on the way, I feel incredibly more prepared than I ever have been to take care of my healing self.  So here’s my list.  After having JR and Max, these are the items that made such a difference in my post-partum care.

1. Bath Pillow

After having a baby, you are going to be taking A LOT of baths.  A lot.  At least once a day to soothe your swollen self.  My husband was great about making sure I got at least one, if not two, baths a day and wanted to make sure I was as comfortable as possible so he got me a bath pillow. Having a bath pillow was wonderful. I have never been a bath person so I wasn’t really into the idea of sitting in a bath each day.  The pillow allowed me to relax and spend more time in soaking than I otherwise would have, which helped speed along my recovery. I have the Airia Luxury Quick Dry Bath Pillow. I took off the cover so its just mesh.  This way the pillow dries faster, as the soft cover is akin to a towel that holds moisture.

2. Extra Soft Bath Towels

There’s no way to sugar coat this: when you first start nursing, your nipples are raw.  I will never forget the first time I got out of the shower after having JR and wrapping my towel around my body. Holy hell, my nipples were pissed.  The towel was far too rough for my super sensitive nipples.  After that eye-opening experience, I got myself the softest towel I could get my nipples on 😉  It was a game changer.  I no longer cringed when I got out of the bath to towel off.  Do yourself a favor and pick up the softest, nicest towel you can find.

3. Tucks

After pushing a baby out of your vagina, it is swollen.  You may have teared and have stitches.  Witch hazel can provide some relief down there to smooth your sore muscles.  These Tucks pads are incredibly thin pads soaked in witch hazel that help alleviate your swollen self.  The fact that the pads are so thin made them less irritating since they really didn’t move once you placed them on.  Something to note, the witch hazel has a cooling sensation that either makes you feel better or bothers you, depending on where your stitches are.  On certain days, I couldn’t handle Tucks.  Other days, they were a life saver.  Which is a great metaphor for motherhood.  Sometimes what you do works, and sometimes it doesn’t.   And Lord knows I haven’t cracked the secret of why.  It just is the way it works.

4. Sitz Bath Spray

Another surprise for me was that you should not use toilet paper after peeing for a couple weeks after giving birth.  Of course, after I had JR, I got it.  No way would I let toilet paper near me.  The birth center gave me a pedi bottle to use after I peed, but I wanted just a little bit more to feel extra clean.  So after using the pedi bottle, I sprayed this Sitz Bath Spray from Motherlove.  It has witch hazel in it, which helps soothe and heal your sore perineal muscles.  Since the spray is just a light mist, the cooling sensation is considerably less than the Tucks pads.  For me, the spray made me feeling like I was “extra clean” verse providing me relief from soreness.  Plus, on days when the Tucks pads were too much, I was still providing relief to taper the swollenness.

5. Stool Softener

I am not sure about anyone else, but I swear to God, JR came out of my butt.  The pain and pressure associated with pushing him out was so intense that the only sensation I could relate it to was pushing a bowling ball out your butt.  So the last thing you want to do is push anything else out “down there.”  With this in mind, most birth centers and hospitals recommend that new moms take a stool softener to help with your first double potty (ok, poop. There, I said it. Ugh, I hate that word).  Because, you know, softer potty, less pushing.  And after pushing a bowling ball out of your butt, I think that buys you a free pass from pushing anything else out for a looong time.

6. Depends (or various sizes of pads)

You got to experience 9 months period free. It was lovely and glorious.  To make up for that, you now will bleed for several weeks. Maybe just a couple days. Everyone is different. When my babies and I came home from the birth center, we were both wearing a diaper.  And I decided to roll with it.  Instead of wearing my underwear and pairing it with a bulky pad, I wore Depends.  Honestly, I cannot recommend Depends over pads enough.  Pads are huge, awkward, and move around as you move.  Depends are disposable underwear that don’t have moveable parts so when you move, you don’t have a wad of cotton jabbing your already sore vagina.  Depends are so easy to change, and I didn’t have to worry about leaking and ruining a pair of underwear.  Plus, then you and the baby get to match since you’re both in diapers #mommyandme 😉

5 days post-partum. Max and I are both rocking diapers. Max is less into it.

7. Nipple Cream

If you plan to nurse, nipple cream is your friend.  No matter how much positive thinking and vibes you put out in the world, the first week or so of breastfeeding is generally uncomfortable.  Your nipples are not use to a baby sucking on them 12 plus hours a day.  Some babies aren’t pros at latching right off the bat.  If you are like me, your nipples will chap and bleed until your body gets accustomed to breastfeeding (which will happen! Within a week or so, you will not grit your teeth as your baby latches!).  You will play through the pain, but you’ll make it to the other side so much more gracefully if you use nipple cream after you nurse.  I lathered it on like chap stick between nursing, applying it no less than 10 plus times a day.  Within a week or so, my nipples had adjusted, and the cream no longer had a prominent role in our nursing routine.  But without it, nursing my babies the first week would have been so much harder.

8. Washable Nursing Pads

Particularly for first time moms, it can take awhile for your milk supply to match your baby’s demand.  While your body is learning to regulate how much milk it truly needs to make, you may make a bit too much milk and leak.  Or after your body has the supply/demand down, anytime you hear a baby cry, your boobs may leak milk on cue, even if it isn’t your baby.   Or if you are me, you leak milk when you get embarrassed or scared.  Placing washable nursing pads in your bra helps mitigate milk soaking through your shirt.  They do make disposable nursing pads, but I found them to be itchy.  Washable ones were far more comfortable, as long as you arrange them right, and since we are doing almost a load of laundry every other day anyway, tossing nursing pads into the wash wasn’t a big deal for me.  I got the Bamboobies Overnight ones, which are extra thick, for every day use.  They have thinner ones as well, but I found the thick ones were more comfortable, and I worried less about leaking throughout the day.

9. Mother’s Milk Tea

Yes, more boobie stuff.  I was very lucky when it came to breastfeeding.  My mother had instilled in me from early on that my body just made a baby–of course it could make enough milk.  Her constant reminders to me that making milk was the “easy” part became my mantra–I can do this.  Having that mindset made me more relaxed about nursing because I unabashedly decided that no matter what, my body would make enough milk so no need to worry about that.  Still, I didn’t go into nursing without setting myself up for success. I drank Mother’s Milk Tea religiously.  Every morning, my husband would make me a bowl of oatmeal and a cup of Mother’s Milk Tea.  By early afternoon, I’d usually be on my third cup of tea.  If I ever got worried that maybe my milk supply was down, I’d gulp down some tea.  I can’t honestly say if this tea truly affected my milk supply, but it surely affected my mental confidence that my body was properly fueled to make enough milk.  That is good enough for me.

Also, I totally get that making milk is not easy for everyone.  It can be a huge challenge and struggle for many.  I was lucky to not have that struggle.  Instead, my struggle is that my babies don’t sleep 😐

Every morning, oatmeal and Mother’s Milk tea.

10. Nursing Bras

I lived in nursing bras for the first year of JR’s and Maxie’s lives.  My entire wardrobe focused on whether I could “get a boob out,” which trickled down to my bra.  When you are nursing an infant, you’ll be pulling your boob out every couple of hours, if not more.  Wearing a traditional bra can be clumsy, and yanking the cup down time and time again could stretch out the bra.  A nursing bra just streamlines the process of getting your boob free without ruining the bra.  There are tons of beautiful and fancy nursing bras on the market.  If that is your jam, get them.  I grabbed a handful from Target that came in a pack of two, and they work just fine and are a good price point for me at $10.00 a bra. I’m on baby number three and still plan to use the same nursing bras since baby number one.  I’d say I got my money’s worth on these bras.

11. Nursing Cami

Depending on the size of your boobs and/or your comfort, nursing camis in lieu of nursing bras are great.  You could wear them together but I wear either the cami or the bra.  Nursing camis have a little clip on each side of the top of the cami that pops down so you can easily free your boob and feed your baby.  Similar to nursing bras, there are so many varieties and styles of nursing camis. I’ve only worn nursing camis from Target, and they have lasted me through two babies and are still in great shape for baby number three.

And that is how I survived my own post-partum care the first two times around.  We’ll see if my body falls in line with baby number three or if some new items will be game changers.  If you have any post-partum tips or tricks, please send them my way!

Continue Reading

Cooking with my Boys

I am a working mother.  It is something that I am deeply proud of.  But it is also something that is deeply painful. Every weekday morning, I wake up earlier than I’d like so I have enough time to put my makeup on, curl my hair, and get dressed–all while making the boys breakfast, convincing the boys to use the potty, and breaking up fights on who gets to sit on the side of the sink that’s closer to mom.  Most days, I am not as put together as I’d like.  But that doesn’t bother me.  What bothers me is that I leave behind two boys screaming for me to stay with them for just a couple more minutes.  To hold them forever. It breaks my heart.

The boys spend their weekdays with our nanny.  A wonderful woman who gets to shape and mold my boys.  She gets to take them to story times. To the zoo. Museums.  The three of them get to have inside jokes that I will never understand.  There are entire story lines that I am not a part of.  It creates a feeling of emptiness that is unquantifiable.

But I love working.  I love being a lawyer. When I was in elementary school, I made the decision that I would be a lawyer someday.  Actually, I wanted to be the first female United States President.  The fact that a woman has never been elected as president has bothered me since as early as I can remember.  So I figured, why not be the person to change it? And modern day presidents go to law school (present president excluded) so that’s what I did.

I get to spend my day working as a lawyer challenging myself–working through litigation strategy, finding pragmatic solutions, and providing advice to those who rely on my expertise. Sure, my days of dreaming for the presidency is behind me, but I still find myself in a male-dominated field where my gender has played a defining role in my career in ways my male colleagues will never understand.  So I still get to work on defying gender stereotypes in a small way. And as a mother of two boys, it makes it easier to leave them every day knowing that my work may make a small difference in the future of how women are seen in the workforce, at least in their eyes. Certainly, someday in the future, if a female says she works at a law firm to one of my sons, the first question out of my boy’s mouth won’t be, “oh, are you a paralegal/secretary?”

In a similar vein, I want my boys to have life skills that traditionally wouldn’t be pressed upon little boys.  My boys will know how to cook.

I’m not a great cook.  I’m not even a good cook.  But that really doesn’t matter. Teaching the boys to cook while I learn to cook means we get to spend quality time together.  It is our thing.  On Saturday or Sunday afternoons, I’ll look up a various recipe for us to experiment with. We’ll go to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients.  JR will want to buy everything in the store.  Max will want all the food to be touching him in the cart.  We’ll head home and unpack the groceries.  The boys will eat the entire carton of berries before they make it to the fridge.  Then, the boys will pull up a stool to the counter, and we’ll start to cook.

Since the boys are still young, I cut and measure.  They pour and stir.

Through our cooking adventures, the boys have s l o w l y learned to be better listeners.  That we cannot rush through steps.  That even though we want to toss in an extra cup of sugar, we probably shouldn’t.  That they can make a meal for their loved ones, not in spite of the fact that they are boys, but because they love to cook.

I may not be there during the weekday to take the boys to story time.  But I will be the person who will teach JR and Maxie how to make sugar cookies, pasta sauce, dice veggies, and delegate the duty of making rice to someone else (because I refuse to make rice).  And hopefully, I’ll play a small part in teaching the boys that there is no such thing as a boy job or a girl job.  There are just jobs.  A mom can be a lawyer, and a dad can be in charge of cooking.  And both are ok.

 

 

 

Continue Reading

Rome at a glance

To round out our Italian adventure, we spent an extended weekend in Rome.  When we began planning our trip to Italy, so many people said we HAD to go to Rome.  A city rich with history, ruins, culture, and just 2 hours away from Positano.  Since we can never guarantee that we will make our way back to Italy, we wanted to see as much as Italy without cheating our experience of each city.  Tacking an extended weekend in Rome was exactly what we were looking for.

because who doesn’t want to see this!
Continue Reading

Five things you should know before booking a trip to Italy

We booked our trip to Italy without knowing much more than cursory understanding of the culture.  Pasta, wine, ocean views.  What more did we need to know?  Well, once we got there, a couple things kept coming up that both Matt and I would say–“Someone should tell you this before you get to Italy.”  So here I am, doing just that 🙂

1. You can’t sit down for a meal at a restaurant at any time throughout the day.  Restaurants are only open from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for lunch and 7:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. for dinner.  Any decent restaurant will be closed in the mid-day and will not be open for dinner anytime before 7:00 p.m.

We didn’t know that.  So we booked tours to see the sites from 11:00 to 2:00.  This was a bad idea.  We couldn’t eat lunch before the tour, and by the time the tour was finished and we figured out a good place to eat, we’d have about 15 minutes before the restaurant would close.  We made it work, but it would have been nice to planned around this a bit better.

2. Be a little picky when selecting your restaurant.  Great Italian restaurants don’t have pictures of food on their menus or translate their menus into other languages.  Matt and I are anything but foodies.  I do not have a refined palate and really like most everything.  So any food in Italy sounded amazing.  But there are some tips to get the best of the best.

If the menu has pictures of the food, consider finding another restaurant.  Italians know what that dishes look like.  They have been eating these meals for generations.  If there are photos, this likely is not the restaurant the local Italians are going to time and time again.  It is likely a tourist-focused (less authentic and delicious) restaurant.  In that same vein, if the menu is translated in another language, it is probably not a local’s go-to restaurant.  You want to eat where the locals eat.  That’s where the best food is at.

Also, typically the restaurants near the big tourist attractions are not going to be where you find your best meals.  The great, local Italian restaurant is probably going to a couple blocks away from the action.

3. You can make a lunch out of meats, cheeses, olives, and bread from the grocery store.  The grocery stores in Italy are full of fruit and vegetables that are unbelievably fresh.  Lemons are the size of your fist.  You can pick up a baguette, some cold cuts, and fresh cheeses and make your own sandwich.  The grocery stores have half bottles of wine that are perfect to split.  And get the buffalo mozzarella cheese.  It’s amazing.

Plus you can pick up food to try you over until dinner time if you are use to eating your dinner before 7:30 p.m.  On our second day in Italy, we picked up a bottle of prosecco, olives, and some cheese at the local grocery store and had a midday snack.  We saved a bit of money and kept the hangry Matt at bay 😉

4. Bring a water bottle to Rome.  Rome has water fountains with drinkable water by all of the major site.  Just toss your water bottle underneath and grab some cold water.  So make sure to pack a cute water bottle with you or save a durable disposable bottle.  There are people all over trying to sell you water bottles for a Euro.  Don’t do it.  Grab your own bottle and refill for free!

5. You have to pay to use public bathrooms.  Yes, if you have to use the restroom, you better be at a restaurant or near your hotel because otherwise you’ll be paying about a Euro to use the bathroom.  As someone who is thirsty most of the time, and drinks lots of water, planning was involved so that I wouldn’t spend our money on bathroom trips.

Even without knowing this information before we got there, our trip to Italy was amazing.  It was beautiful, relaxing, and everything we hoped it would be. But if we had known these things before getting there, it would have made the trip a bit more seamless at times.  Hopefully this will help you as you plan your trip to Italy!

Other Italy posts: Positano Travel Guide // A day trip to Capri // Rome at a glance

 

Continue Reading

A day trip to Capri, Italy

When I booked our trip to Positano, Italy, I knew that no matter what, we needed to fit in a trip to Capri. Capri is an island that’s about an hour boat ride away from Positano on the Tyrrhenian Sea.  It is known for having these gorgeous sea caves that are flooded with crystal blue and emerald green water when daylight shines in. Yet despite deciding that we were going to make our way to Capri, I never actually figured out how we were going to get there.  After settling into our hotel room in Positano, I jumped on google to try to solidify a day trip to Capri.  No luck.  The companies on Expedia and Trip Advisor were booked solid.  I was worried we may be stuck taking a water taxi.  Thankfully, there were three companies that were set up with tents on the beach offering full and half day tours. Surprisingly, the rates were comparable.  So we secured a full day trip with this company to Capri for 140 Euro for the two of us.

Continue Reading

I am a travel blogger today! Positano, Italy Travel Guide – Hotel and Food Edition

The fact that I am writing this post means my dream vacation came true–I went to Italy! And you guys, it was everything I dreamed it would be.  Breathtaking views. Wine. Pasta. Uninterrupted cuddles with my husband.  Kisses without kids tugging on your leg.  Ocean waves. Boat rides. Walks on the cobblestone paths. More wine. More kisses. And swimming in the gosh-dang Tyrrhenian Sea. Because that is a thing I’ve done now.  The entire vacation was magical. Yes, you should go to Italy.

Continue Reading

Moroccan Chicken with Chickpeas

Ok, so yesterday I came to a realization.  I’m chubby.  I might even be fat.  Ugh, fat.  It hurts writing that.  As if putting it down in words somehow materializes something that otherwise would not exist.  Unfortunately, that isn’t how it works.  My body is squishy regardless if I acknowledge it on this blog.

Now for someone who has seen me since I’ve pushed out my babies, this shouldn’t be news.  If anything, confusing on how I have gone for over a year since the birth of my youngest son and I am only now just realizing that I am a chubby girl.  But honestly, for the last year I am lived completely oblivious to this reality.  My lack of awareness of my own body size is the result of many factors.  But really, it can be boiled down to one single truth.

I suffer from a high self-esteem.  Much like my mother, I live my life with complete confidence in myself.  For the majority of my life, I have been blindly self-assured of who I am as an individual, appearance and all.  And frankly, it has served me well.  As a whole, I am almost always happy with my life because I am largely confident in my life choices.  I’ve gotten job offers, made friends, found stylish clothes that fit.  When I was single, I never had an issue getting a date.  Overall, if I really wanted it, I would will it to happen.

So after having my baby boys, sure, many of my clothes still didn’t fit.  But that didn’t mean I was chubby.  My hips have shifted.  Or I am not that far off from where I was (oh I am).  Because in my head, I wasn’t overweight (oh I am).  I was in complete denial.

This isn’t the first time my body imagine has not matched reality.  When I went to college, as a quintessential overachiever, I gained 30 pounds.

Yet, I remained as confident as ever.  I went through three full years of undergrad before I actually realized that I was chubby and needed to rethink my habits. I won’t forget the day it hit me.  I was sitting in a class, talking to a girl who lived in my dorm who was friends with my roommate.  She was telling me a story about someone.  Or trying to see if I knew someone.  That part of the story has faded.  But the rest of our conversation, I can close my eyes and find myself sitting in that classroom.  There were no desks, and the plastic chairs made a giant circle outlining the room.  It was right before class as we made what I had amounted to nothing more than small talk.  She began describing this girl she was talking about to me.

“She is a little bit of a bigger girl. You know, like you.”

Those words stung.  In that moment, I wanted to cry and run out of the classroom.   I replayed her words over and over in my head on my walk back to my room after class.  I had to get them out of my head.  So I joined Weight Watchers. lost the weight, and got myself down to 128 pounds.  I was fit, healthy, and happy.

This time, she hasn’t been around to bring me back to reality.  So I am not sure what happened to snap me out of it.  But yesterday, I realized that maybe I was a bit farther away from my pre-baby weight than I’d like, and I need to kick it into gear if I want to feel confident in my skin by summer (and more importantly, my Italian vacation with my husband).

So I am embarking on the 8 week total body challenge on the Strive with Megan app.  It includes a daily 22-28 minute workout and a meal plan.  It’ll be tough.  Mostly because Matt loves snacking and I love to be part of the party 😉 But I’ve done it before.  So it’ll happen again.

We tried one of the meals from the 8 week meal plan, and it was delicious! I tweaked it a bit to make it our own, including adding rice because otherwise Matt would have claimed there was just not enough food.  It was simple to make, and the ingredients are mostly items that you would find in your kitchen on any day.  Matt put this on his: make again list.

[ps: I don’t plan to share other variations of the meals from the Strive app but I encourage you to get the app yourself!]

Continue Reading

Jambalaya

We all have our own comfort food.  Whether its mash potatoes, pasta, or fast food, sometimes you just need a meal to make our day a little better.  Jambalaya is ours.

The past week was challenging for our family.  Max has hydronephrosis.  He was diagnosed in the womb.  At our 20 week ultrasound, the technician uttered a phrase you don’t want to hear–“abnormal scan.” Ar this time, the hydronephrosis was present in both of his kidneys,  Of course, we had never heard of hydronephrosis.  Basically, it meant that Max’s kidneys weren’t developing properly.  We were told that 50% of the time, this type of hydronephrosis resolves itself.  So a second ultrasound was scheduled for my 28 weeks of pregnancy.

At our second ultrasound, there was good and bad news.  Max’s right kidney had resolved itself. It was developing just fine.  But his left kidney hadn’t.  It was twice the size of the right. It didn’t appear to be working at all.  So we went to a specialist. We were told that once Max was a month old, Max would go back for testing to determine the severity of the issue and how to resolve it.  If the left kidney was partially working, then it would be worth saving.  Otherwise, we would assess whether it would make sense to remove the kidney altogether.  For the rest of my pregnancy, there was nothing more to do.  Just wait for Max show to up.

Then right on time, our Maxwell was born, happy and wide eyed. We made the one month appointment for Max’s kidney.

Just a couple hours old.

And then last week, the one month appointment arrived. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the news we were hoping for. Max’s left kidney hasn’t improved.  It is twice the size of what it should be and does not appear to work.  Because of this, the doctor recommends surgery to remove the kidney when Max is 5 or 6 months old.   The idea of my baby being put under anesthesia makes my heart ache.  I can’t imagine handing my baby to a doctor for surgery.  It just hurts.  So when we came home from the appointment, our family needed some comfort food.  We needed to eat this jambalaya.

This recipe for jambalaya is quick and easy.  There is low prep work.  Just dice a couple of veggies, toss them in a pan, and let it simmer.  You can alter the recipe so it can be as spicy or mild as you’d like.  So when your heart is aching, you can eat a home cooked meal without too much complication.  Plus, the assortment of vegetables makes the meal relatively healthy.

So after Max’s kidney appointment we ate this jambalaya as a family.  And while it didn’t make the fact that Max has hydrondphrosis go away, it made us all feel a little bit better, even if it was just for the night.

Continue Reading