What I want to remember vol. 4

What I want to remember | RISING*SHINING What I want to remember | RISING*SHINING What I want to remember | RISING*SHINING What I want to remember | RISING*SHINING
What I want to remember | RISING*SHINING What I want to remember | RISING*SHINING What I want to remember | RISING*SHINING What I want to remember | RISING*SHINING

My boys are 3 years 4 months and 19 months old and this is what I want to remember:

The near constant wrestling. They remind me of puppies.

Dash's sweet, nurturing nature and spontaneously coming to cuddle or hug us and saying, "I love you."

Cedric's big brown eyes and long dark lashes on his little face.

Dash's love of books. Recently we had put him to bed and then he came out to get our bag of library books and went right back to his room. When we check on him before we go to bed we often find him asleep with a book laying open on his chest or beside his pillow.

Bringing Cedric into our bed in the morning if Dash isn't awake yet and snuggling and reading books.

Cedric's exclamations of "Whoa!" when he sees pictures of big trucks or dinosaurs...or anything big.

The wonderful stories Dash tells. "The wild thing was coming closer...and closer...and closer! And so I run up into a tree! And then I get away in a airplane!"

Cedric announcing "Bih truh!"(big truck) to us whenever he sees a truck in the car. Usually he makes sure to get our attention, too: "Mama! Bih truh!"

Cedric checking to see who is in the car when we start to back out of the driveway, "Mama? Daddy?"

The deep pride that I feel when I can see that Dashiell is proud of something he did - like getting dressed all by himself.

The deep declarative voice that Dashiell sometimes uses when he talks. The other night we were at the dinner table and Chris made a banging sound in the kitchen. Dash got up from the table and called to the kitchen in his deep voice, "What is it Cwhis?" Chris and I are still laughing over it.

Cedric's love of I Spy books and the Find It pages in his Hello magazine.

All the audio books we listen to in the car. Cedric's favorite is Duck on a Bike (he asks, "Bike? Bike?") and can mimic some of the sections of the book. Dash's loves Where the Wild Things Are and Peter and the Wolf. When the wolf swallows the duck Dash narrates along with a British accent, "He swallowed her!" (Our favorite books lately)

Cedric alerting us of anything falling on the floor with a very loud "OH NOOOOO!" as if something truly terrible has happened.

Dash telling us he saw a shape in the clouds for the first time (a dinosaur).

Cedric getting my attention in the car one day, "Mama? Mama?" and then "humming" a little song for me.

Dash's excitement to start his first school year of preschool (he starts today!). Even though he's been doing a summer program he'll be moving to a new classroom today and this feels like our first "first day of school" experience and I'm so excited for him.

Hiding our collection of dinosaur figurines while the boys (attempt) to keep their eyes closed in the next room. (I remember playing this game so much with my dad and sister growing up.)

That solo daycare pick up and drop off has (thankfully) become so much more manageable. 

Watching Dash's sense of humor emerge and being able to joke with him.

Reading cooking magazines and cookbooks with Dash, a very favorite love of mine that I'm excited to share with my boys for years to come.

The focus and respect Dash shows when I give him cooking tasks.

That the boys are sleeping so much better! Cedric goes to bed so easily and sleeps through the night until 5/5:30. Dash usually goes to bed easily and is up 4:45/5 but will often wait in his room until his clock lights up around 5:30. There are still some too-early mornings with Dash but we are in such a better place than we used to be (hiring a sleep coach made all the difference and we are so thankful!).

The deeply contented "these are the days" feeling I have being with my family, especially on laid back weekend mornings, drinking coffee, playing blocks, reading books and not wanting to be anywhere else but right there.

P.S. Archive of all What I want to remember posts, family memory keeping blog post and podcast episode.

Embracing summer in the desert


We still have a stretch of summer weather left to go and so I hope it's not too early to say this but I have been LOVING the summer. I'll never be one of those people who proclaims, "I just LOVE the heat," but I have changed my attitude this year and now actively look for things to enjoy instead of despise during the loooong, hot and dry summers. Or maybe acclimating to the desert heat just takes eight years!

It's easy to let a negative aspect of something color your entire perception and then overlook all the good parts. Laura Vanderkam writes about this in reference to the cultural narrative of working mothers being overly busy and I think the same concept applies to Phoenix summers. I could (and I think have in the past) see only the 115+ degree temperatures, blazing sun and being indoors when thinking of the summer. These are true parts of the summer desert experience but they aren't its entirety.

There is also: playing outdoors in the morning and going for family bike rides, swimming, popsicles, grilling veggie kabobs and fish tacos, summer beer, billowy monsoon clouds that build in the east past our house, sipping super cold iced tea at work in the afternoon (in my Hydroflask, naturally), Chris's relaxed work schedule, Fourth of July (and pie!), exploring new museums and indoor activities to do with the boys and Sunday morning runs along the canal trails. I used to think of how limiting the summer could be but this years I saw how much we are really still able to do. 

Another big factor in my new! positive! summer attitude is surely the age of my boys. For the past three summers I've had either an infant or young toddler and/or been pregnant and could barely venture outdoors. Now we can swim, play in the hose and be outside for longer periods of time and I think it's making all the difference. Being outdoors replenishes me. Seeing all that we already did this summer has me thinking of how much more we can do each summer: more swimming as the boys can swim independently, longer bike rides, playing board games, afternoons at the library, more summer travel as it becomes easier and beating the heat at the movie theater.

 I also had what might be the most obvious revelation ever several months ago when I realized that no matter how hot it gets in the summer it will get cool again. I know, ground-breaking! But when it's been hot everyday in recent memory and will continue to be so so hot for the foreseeable future it's strangely easy to forget that you will ever not be hot. It feels like it would be completely logical to donate any long sleeve shirts and long pants because surely I will never again need them. But with my newly realized meteorological knowledge I can remind myself on the hottest summer days, when it's hard to see the good of summer, that at least fall and winter will always come back around again. 

I'm thinking that many people might have the same attitude towards winter, I'd love to know what you do to stay positive through whatever your toughest season is.

P.S. Erica and I talked about having a positive approach to summer in the Summer Cozy episode of The Girl Next Door Podcast!


Goals - August 2016

Monthly goals | RISING*SHINING

We are still sitting squarely in summer and in fact sitting just at the middle but in August inklings of fall start to trickle in. Kids will be going back to school, college students return to the campus where I work, football pre-season gets going (which we don't follow but the sport always puts my in a fall mindset) and pumpkin spice latte promotions begin.

This will also be the first August since we've lived here that Chris hasn't been returning to work - he's on sabbatical through December! Chris will still be working but it will be from home and completely self-directed and so without the demanding meeting and admin schedule that he usually has. This will mean we won't be carpooling and doing daycare pick-up/drop-off together but it will mean that the house stays tidy and that dinner is waiting for the boys and me when we get home. In other words, it will be glorious.

I'm looking forward to a change of pace at my full time job as well. It's been a busy, and at times stressful, summer and I'm looking forward to settling in to a more normal pace. My time tracking notebook has continued to be a great tool and has really helped me to manage a full workload this summer. I love still being somewhat on an academic calendar and the fresh start that comes from the beginning of a new school year. And this will be the first year we are feeling that a bit with our own kids - hooray! Dash has been in a preschool program but the first day of the official preschool year feels like a big milestone.

Big things happening in August:

+ Solo parenting one. last. time. Oh man, I am ready to be done solo parenting! Just a two night stretch this time, and on the positive side after Chris's four (!) trips in one month I've seen that solo parenting has become easier in many ways as the boys are a bit older plus bedtime and naps are much smoother. Still, definitely ready to be a two parent team for a long while.

+ Dash starts preschool! I'm just so excited for this and so is Dash. He loves school and I'm loving the preschool age.

+ Trip to Austin + Dallas!

 August goals:

+ Update Dashiell's room. I take forever to make decisions and to actually spend money but I planned most aspects of Dash's room update last month and I'm hoping we'll make this happen this month.

+ Plan Chris's birthday. Chris turns 39 in early September! 

+ Make progress on creative projects. I have one Girl Next Door Podcast-related project I'm working on with Erica and one new little project on I'm working on with a friend who lives nearby. All of us are already pretty busy doing all that we do but slowly - one weekend creative work session at a time -  we've making progress and I'm realizing how much I love planning and building new projects.

+ Paper and digital organization at work. Now that I have two big reports behind me (feels so good!) I'm planning to go through all my email files and paper files and keep only what is necessary. Plus, my team is moving into a new office space (in the same building) in about a month so it's prefect timing to get organized ahead of that.

Recurring monthly goals:

+ Exercise three times per week. On Monday and Friday mornings I go to Orange Theory and every week in July with one exception I also fit in an early morning weekend run and it feels GREAT.

+ Publish to RISING*SHINING on Mondays and Wednesdays. I'm finding I get into a blogging groove and then lose it, but then find it again. I'm accepting the ebb and flow and know that I always get back to it, that's just life right now!

+ Record and produce new episodes of The Girl Next Door Podcast and Matrimoney on schedule.

Happy August!

Freezer breakfast burritos

Freezer breakfast burritos | RISING*SHINING Freezer breakfast burritos | RISING*SHINING

When Cedric was tiny and new and up all night I would get up in the morning and be far from ready to be awake. But Chris would hand me hot coffee and I would remember that I had a stash of freezer breakfast burritos and I would feel like I could make it.

Recently I remembered the glory of freezer breakfast burritos when Chris was preparing to go out of town and Sarah gave me some sage advice to "be sure you eat!" And so I assembled the ingredients and spent a surprisingly short amount of time in the kitchen making and wrapping half a dozen burritos. While Chris was away I would shower the night before and then be up with our early bird.

The morning with young children is constant transitions. You don't realize how many transitions until you have a small person fighting and negotiating every single one. But in the midst of all the negotiations and looking wistfully at the garage door - the finish line - that seemed so far away I would throw a frozen burrito in my lunch bag and imagine eating it in the quiet of my office. 

I usually vary my breakfast burrito recipe whenever I make it depending on what I have in the fridge and freezer. It's a great way to use up veggies or leftover quinoa or rice. A batch of frozen burritos is my new go-to recipe to deliver to parents with a new baby. 

Freezer breakfast burritos
makes ~10 burritos 

12 eggs
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup cooked chopped spinach (from frozen), with excess water squeezed out
grated cheese
roasted potatoes with peppers and onions (from frozen, heated up*)
10 flour tortillas

If planning to freeze burritos prepare 10 squares of tin foil in a stack. Or you can plan to make these for a crowd and eat right away!

Crack eggs and mix well with cooked quinoa. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Pour eggs into hot skillet along with cooked spinach and scramble. When eggs are done remove from heat and set aside, sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Wrap stack of tortillas in a clean dish towel and sprinkle generously with water. Place wrapped tortillas in the microwave and microwave for two bouts of 30 seconds. 

Prepare your burrito assembly area with the tortillas, eggs and potatoes close by. Lay a tortilla on the top of your foil stack and scoop about 1/3 of a cup of the eggs onto the tortilla towards one side. This is an important tip for getting a great burrito fold: don't put the ingredients in the middle, put them to one side!

After the eggs, scoop some potatoes onto the eggs. Fold the tortilla edge over the eggs and roll the burrito over one time, keeping a tight roll. Next, fold in both sides of the tortilla and then keep on rolling until the end, trying to keep everything tucked in. You'll find that you can't load up the burrito too much or you'll compromise a good burrito roll. It takes practice but you'll get there! Also, even ugly burritos taste delicious.

If you are freezing the burritos, place the rolled burrito at one corner of the tin foil and roll long ways across the square of tin foil, mimicking the burrito rolling technique of one roll over, then tuck in the sides and complete the roll. Put burritos in the freezer, high five to your future self!

To prepare a frozen burrito: remove tin foil and wrap in a clean dish cloth. Sprinkle dish cloth with water and microwave ~2.5 minutes. Then, if you have time, put the burrito into the over or toasted oven directly on the rack. Bake at ~350 degrees for a couple minutes, just to give the outside of the burrito a little crispiness.


*Each time I've made these I first cook the potatoes in a skillet. But then I realized that I refreeze them in the burrito within 30 minutes so maybe you should just use these frozen if you are planning to freeze the burritos. Haven't tested this out yet myself, though!


Making my work days more productive


I work full time as a science writer and at any one time I have several projects or tasks on my plate with varying levels of priority. Some, like writing a new article from scratch, take hours and I need to be fully immersed in the task to do my best work. Some tasks come in suddenly and must be done right away, putting everything else on hold. Some tasks aren't difficult but they require coordinating between several people - writing emails, waiting for a response, figuring out a time everyone can meet and then finding an available conference room.

I've always sought efficiency and productivity at work but as a working mom I think about making the most of my work day even more. I don't want to bring home any (or at least very little) stress from work and definitely want to avoid doing actual work at home. I guard the hours when I'm home with my family fiercely and it's important to recharge. I also want to leave work early enough to pick up the boys and be home before six so I want to accomplish as much as I can quickly while maintaining a high level of quality.

Recently my work days have felt especially full and I found that I would be busy with tasks and projects all day but wasn't getting the bigger chunks of time for writing and developing projects. I was starting to think about work projects at home a little too much. My work ebbs and flows and so this is not out of the ordinary but I wondered if I could implement any tactics to help. 

Inspired by Laura Vanderkam's time tracking I decided that it might help me if I track what I work on throughout the day. For the past several months I've been trying to maintain a nearly paperless desk situation and had moved my written to-do lists into Office Outlook Tasks. This has been working fairly well, and I do love deleting an email after creating a task from the subject matter, but I thought that writing some things down during the day would help me.

I spent a lovely post-bedtime hour at Target browsing the office supplies and found a perfect little mint notebook (which I can't seem to find online but it's Cambridge brand) and the next day implemented my time tracking system. Three weeks later and I'm still really happy with it!

Here's what I'm doing:

Each day I start a new two-page spread. This notebook has all the months and days at the top of each page and you can circle the date - I love this. I keep the notebook open and on my desk throughout the day.

On the right-hand side I write the tasks I want to accomplish during the day and track my time. When I arrive at work I look over my main tasks for the day (I try to write them the day before), jot down the time and start on a task. I jot the task I'm working on next to the time. I update the time/task about every 30 minutes but sometimes it will be longer. My objective with time tracking is not to rigorously track each minute of my day but to check in throughout the day and make sure I'm making progress on the things I want to finish. 

I jot notes and non-work related ideas and tasks on left-hand side of the page. During the day I inevitably think of something not related to work that I want to look up, remember to buy, remember to do etc.,  Writing these things down, instead of trying to ignore them, lets me stay focused on my work task but also relax about whatever it is I need to remember.

Before I leave work at the end of the day I write my main tasks or objectives at the top of a new two-page spread. I really like this because I can come into the office and start working on something right away, which sets the tone for my work day. It's easy to open up email first thing and feel productive but not actually make progress on projects. I loved the perspective that someone shared recently at a staff meeting, "Email is always the easiest and worst choice of how to spend your time."

One thing I've noticed is that this system is helping me finish those pesky not-very-difficult tasks that just aren't fun to do like writing a longer email or calling someone to follow up. Seeing the task at the top of the page, just waiting to be highlighted (signifying "complete") motivates me to just do it. 

This system also helps me balance workload. When a request to take care of something, "really quick" comes in I can glance over my tasks and assess the priority level of the new task against what I'm working on. Sometimes it's more effective to finish what I'm working on a put off a new task for a few hours. At other times I do need to break off from my current task, but it's easier to pick up where I left off seeing it written on the page.

This is certainly not a very sophisticated system but often the best solutions are not. I'd love to know what tactics you use to stay productive at work!