The (menu) plan, Stan.

Weekly Menu Plan

I used to be an amazing planner.

Pre-baby, I would pick 4-5 meals to make for the week and then write a corresponding grocery list so that I’d have everything I needed to make each meal.

And then I had a baby, and any free brain space (or hands) were relegated to keeping said baby alive.

Even though I stopped planning out our meals, I still dutifully went to the grocery store every week and spent a good amount of money on food. I’m not even sure what I bought most weeks, just that there were *things* in the house to eat.

When it came time for dinner, The Hubster would ask (as sweetly as possible) what’s for dinner. And each night, I felt exasperated and exhausted, and came up with a big fat blank around what to make.

So, we ended up having the same three things every week: pasta, burgers, and a frozen meal of some sort from Trader Joe’s. Not exactly the stuff dreams are made of.

I know that menu planning is necessary. I know that it helps in every way; from to keep me sane to saving money, to having the right things in the house.

And yet, I fought it. Tooth and nail.

The very last thing I wanted to do when the baby went down for bed was pull out my cookbooks, research on Pinterest, and put together a grocery list.

A few weeks ago, after finally admitting that I had no clue what to make for dinner yet again, I hunkered down and made a plan.

It’s amazing how a little plan like that can make a HUGE impact.

Dinner has been a breeze.

We’ve been enjoying new things. Hooray for variety!

And it’s been so much less stressful.

That 10-15 minutes that it took to pull together the menu for the week was SO WORTH every second. In fact, I’m pretty sure it saved me hours of stress, trying to think about what to make each night.

And because I have never been any good at stopping while I’m ahead, I decided to create a new menu planner template (or two) to help keep me organized and sane. Now, the biggest question of the week has become… which template will I be using to plan out our menu?!

(So far, it’s been Plan B.)

Menu Planning Templates (Free Download)

Plan A:

Weekly Menu Planner Template(Click the image to download a PDF)

 Plan B:

Weekly Menu Planner Template(Click the image to download a PDF)

That’s it. Go to time out.

(Image via)

Motherhood has been an amazing adventure. I feel energized and am constantly learning new things about myself on a daily basis. I am in awe of how the babe is growing and learning. And there are moments where I feel like my heart is so full that it’s going to burst.

And then there are days when I wish I could be sent to timeout.

To take a break and get away from the constant pressures of taking care of another (albeit cute) human being. To have personal space again. To stop feeling like my brain is constantly being in fifteen places at once. And to get a mental breather from it all.

And then I feel guilty for wanting to get away… until I remind myself that it’s okay to take care of myself and get my needs met too.

There is nothing healthy or productive about being overwhelmed, irritable, and anxious all the time.

This past week has been a special one in the Levenson household. We have a teething baby who is a raging crankball that doesn’t want to sleep at night. Pair that with transitioning into working again and a husband that has been super busy at work (and therefore not around as much to help out).

Showering has been quick at best.

Eating has been a juggling act of holding a baby and grabbing the quickest thing possible (i.e.—total crap).

And sleeping has been… sporadic.

No rest. No breaks. And no down time.

After a pretty epic breakdown, I handed the baby to The Hubster and went to go get a pedicure. I came back feeling refreshed and renewed. And had pretty toes to boot.

I’m not sure that it mattered what I did during that hour, just that I took it.

That night, The Hubster and I talked about how to make that a regular thing. We have agreed to carve out an hour each week (at least) for me to do the things that I want to do—whether it’s getting my toes done or writing a newsletter.

And you know what? Just knowing that I have that time carved out each week has made everything better.

The things you learn…

holding hands

I’m a total planner.

I like to have things organized. I like to have goals to work towards. And I like it when things go according to (my) plan.

So when this baby decided she was going to come via C-Section, my whole world become one big unknown in the span of 24 hours.

I had no idea what to expect from the procedure itself. And I had little to no idea of what the recovery process would be like. I tried to read a few articles here and there, but most of them just talked about taking pain medication, walking as soon as you could, and waiting for the doctor to clear you for “activity” of all kinds. Until then, it was a whole lot of gray.

Now that I’m 3+ weeks into the recovery process, there are (more than) a few things that surprised me.

Recovering from a c-section

The swelling. Oh, the swelling.
The last 4-6 weeks of my pregnancy were filled with swelling. I totally had Shrek feet. Clothing became super tight in the legs (goodbye skinny jeans, hello leggings and yoga pants). I stopped being able to wear my wedding bands. And three fingers on my right hand went numb.

To say that I was excited to have this baby so the swelling would go away is an understatement.

Sadly, the exact opposite happen. The swelling got WAY worse before it started to get better. Meaning, my entire body (and face) ballooned up and I was super uncomfortable. It’s finally gone down to the point where my feet aren’t swollen and I can actually get my weddings bands back on.

Glory. Hallelujah.

The bump…stays.
I’m not sure what I thought happened immediately after giving birth, but it didn’t really include having a pregnant looking belly still.

I know, I know. Rationally, it makes sense that the belly doesn’t just immediately disappear. But, seriously. It really doesn’t go away that quickly. Thankfully, I packed my favorite yoga pants and maternity leggings so I was comfortable in the hospital and on the way home.

At 3 weeks postpartum, I look about 3-4 months pregnant and am still in my maternity clothing.

I am seriously happy at how the bump has started to go down and am actually beginning to recognize my body again.

Abdominal bands.
The one things I did read about with regard to a C-Section was how helpful abdominal bands like the Belly Bandit* are when it comes to recovery.

I can confidently say that this was a godsend. Not only did it help with the whole compression of the incision thing, it also helped to keep all my parts together when laughing, coughing, or sneezing. I’m not sure I could have been quick enough on the draw to grab a pillow like they recommend.

Thankfully the hospital provided a band for me when I asked, so didn’t have to go out and buy one. But I totally would have gone out and bought one otherwise.

The joys of breastfeeding.
It seems like all of my deepest fears about pregnancy and parenthood revolved around breastfeeding. I have no idea why this was the target of it all, but it was. Add surgery into the mix, and holy crap did this get even more intensified for me.

It took a lot of trial and error to figure out what was most comfortable.

Suffice it to say the football hold made a huge difference. As did lots of pillows—instead of the Boppy*—in the very beginning because of the incision and the way my belly was still big, and using the My Brest Friend* nursing pillow when we got home.

It also took a lot of work to let go of the huge amount of guilt I felt around taking pain medication while breastfeeding.

Oh, and whoever tells you that breastfeeding doesn’t hurt in the beginning is LYING. That first 10-20 seconds are torture. It does get better over time, but the first few days to week(s) are intense. Like eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of-your-head intense. I took to singing ridiculous songs like Row, Row, Row Your Boat just to distract myself.

Holy hormones, batman.
It’s one thing to know about the Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression. It is another thing entirely to experience it.

I had a major hormone crash while in the hospital (that kind of sent me into a tailspin), and a few others once I got home. So weird to be crying hysterically, knowing that there is nothing wrong but not being able to stop it.

Naps and breastfeeding seemed to really help balance me out. As did the pain medication.

The ravenous hunger (and thirst).
I thought I knew what hunger was. Then I became pregnant. And really thought I knew what hunger was.

Yeah…nothing compares the hunger I am feeling while breastfeeding. I wake up ravenous. I go to bed ravenous. I feel ravenous immediately after eating a big meal.

And thirsty. So thirsty, in fact, that I’ve taken to keeping not one but two water bottles on my night stand (along with a handful of snacks), because inevitably, one isn’t enough.

Living life in 2-3 hour chunks.
This has probably been the biggest adjustment for me. I am so not used to having to plan my life in 2-3 hour chunks. And am finding that my brain is having a really hard time with this one.

Pre-baby, I would just wake up (after 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep), shower, have breakfast, and then go sit in my office and work for 6-8 hours with a small break for lunch, before stopping to make dinner.

Now?

I have to decide whether I want to shower or eat or nap before feeding the baby again. And then IF I’m lucky, get a 20 minute stretch at the computer (if she’ll nap in her crip and not on me). The rest of my time is spent feeding the baby, huffing her head, and cuddling with her.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m loving every second I have with the baby. I’m just adjusting to our new normal.

Granny panties.
I’ll admit that I thought it was a weird suggestion in all of the “What to Pack for the Hospital” lists to have cotton underwear that was a bit…higher waisted.

Now that I’m on the other side, I totally get it.

Having a bikini line incision, and then trying to wear bikini cut panties is like a special kind of hell. I had to dig deep in the underwear drawer to find some suitable options that weren’t going to irritate my incision.

My recommendation, don’t be vain. Get the damn granny panties and be comfortable. You’re not exactly going to feel like having sexy time (nor will you be cleared for it) for a while.

Emily and Anna

And there you have it. The first three weeks of life with a new baby.

I’m learning a little something new—about motherhood, myself, The Hubster—everyday.

Also feeling like my heart is going to explode with sheer happiness every time I look down at the beautiful baby in my arms.

Life. is. good.

PS—Didn’t have a chance to read about how Anna came into this world? You can find it here.

PPS—The * indicates where there is an affiliate link on Amazon.

PPPS—Many thanks to My Mama, Janet Towbin, for the gorgeous photos.

 

Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event 2014: An Unexpected Mother

This post comes from Shannon of A Librarian’s Lists and Letters , and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. You can see my post over on Don’t Forget to Eat, where I am sharing some delicious ideas for putting together your very own refrigerator oats collection.

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unexpectedmother

When I was assigned to write for Emily’s blog in this exchange, I was a little intimidated. So much of what Emily writes is to inspire others, to shine light on the world, and to give voices to wonderful women that not everyone knows.

But that moment of intimidation was fleeting and I soon knew what I would share with her and her readers.  See, I’ve had a big change in my life in the last year and I wanted to be able to share my story. Because stories come in all colors. And motherhood can be found in all shapes and sizes.

This time last year I was the most single of single women.

I was the 30-something silently, and not-so-silently, judging the slew of Facebook moms over sharing their child’s world and feeling like society only placed value on women who grew up, got married, and popped out a few children as quickly as possible.

Quite honestly, I sometimes felt like there was no place for a woman like me:  professional, witty, intelligent, and single but not by choice.

But life has this really funny habit of turning our world’s upside downs.

And just when I finished celebrating my 10-year college reunion and accepted that I might be the perpetually single friend, I fell in love. And the man I fell in love with is a dad. And now I live with two funny men: one in his 30s and the other just shy of one.

So now I wake up to little giggles coming from the next room over, let someone hold my hairbrush while getting ready for work in the morning, pack lunches for daycare, give the best tickles in the house, cheer excitedly for small milestones, pretend to eat bites of food for encouragement, sing endless rounds of baby tunes, dance the freeze dance, coax steps across the living room, and hush a tired little boy to sleep as he curls up in my lap every night.

And when he leaves us to spend the other fifty percent of the week at his other house, I miss him. I long to hear his laughter.  I think about what he’s up to. I wonder if he misses us. I love him when he’s near and I love when he’s far.

But I didn’t give birth to him.

I didn’t adopt him.

And because his dad and I aren’t married yet, I don’t even have the flimsy and unsentimental title of step-mom.

I’m an unexpected mother.

An unexpected mother doesn’t go to doctor’s appointments or talk to daycare teachers. And an unexpected mother can’t call and talk to her little baby when he’s gone and she misses him. And an unexpected mother can get hurt by the reactions of friends and acquaintances.

People, even the ones closest to me, don’t always know how to react to my situation.

A year ago I might have felt the same. But now, as unexpected mother, I wish these things for my friends and myself:

  • For the friends closest to me to think of me as a mom and to ask me about my family.
  • For them to celebrate the new loves of my life and look forward to that day when our baby will start talking.
  • And when he does hit those milestone, for those same friends to help me discover what perfect name or title he should call me.
  • For people not to judge without knowing the full story. Not every single dad was a philanderer.
  • For me to stop worrying so much about what I cannot control.
  • For me to share this experience with others.

The more loving families in the world, no matter their composition, the better we all are.

But this is one journey that’s just beginning and we all need as much as help as we can get.

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