An Ode to Cooking

Monday, June 5, 2017

Growing up, I thought cooking dinner had to be the worst job in the world. I couldn't believe that when I was a grown-up I would have to make a meal every night. It seemed never-ending and boring.

When I went off to college, I essentially had no cooking skills. After moving out of the dorms my sophomore year, my meals more or less consisted of yogurt/banana for breakfast, peanut butter sandwich and carrots for lunch, and pasta with marinara sauce for dinner. Sometimes I switched things up and had scrambled eggs for any of those meals, but that was the extent of my cooking.

After Brock and I got married, we kind of kept eating the same way we always had. We occasionally would make meals together but often would eat something like toast for dinner without a second thought. I had always been annoyed at the assumption that the wife would automatically take on the job of cook, so I made a point of not caring about cooking.

But then I had a special, amazing experience that radically changed my life.

What happened was this: I was at a point in my life where I wanted to be a better person. I wanted to improve myself and I didn't know how. One afternoon I was praying about how I could change, and I had the distinct and overwhelming thought that I needed to prepare my body for a baby. Brock and I didn't have plans to have kids within the next year (and it did end up being more than a year before I got pregnant with James) but I understood that this was something that wasn't too far away. And I needed to be ready.

I've heard people talk about lightning bolt moments, where one moment radically changed an aspect of their lives. When I reflect on my own life, this experience always comes to mind first. It was this experience during prayer that single-handedly made me decide to start cooking.

That night, I tentatively searched around Pinterest and made a grocery list of ingredients for a few dinners that didn't look too hard.

The next evening, I began to make this pesto and cheese stuffed shells recipe. I was stressed the entire time; checking the directions four times before I did anything, second-guessing how to stuff the shells, and just generally feeling unsure of myself. Everything came out fine, and Brock and I had a dinner that was at least ten times better than what we had eaten in the past few months. Together, we began to try out new recipes and I slowly built up my confidence in cooking.

I messed a bunch of things up along the way (including putting a plastic casserole lid in the oven, where it promptly melted; and mistaking a cube of butter for a tablespoon of butter, thus ruining the recipe) but learned to love the process and steps of cooking, and the feeling at the end of having made something productive.

Cooking has been so good for my personal growth. It's taught me how to stay calm in stressful situations and that a lot of mistakes can be more or less corrected. I've become better at prioritizing and keeping my eye on multiple things at once. I've learned that if something does go wrong, it's not the end of the world and everything is still fine.

I love being able to control what we eat and explore new recipes. It helps fill a creative hole in my life that I didn't know was there. Overall, learning to love cooking has made me a happier and more well-rounded person.

P.S. Here is a post with some of my favorite healthy recipes

My Newborn Essentials

Monday, May 22, 2017

Since I'm now 36 weeks pregnant, I've been thinking about what I consider to be essentials for having a newborn. This list consists of the things I used everyday for the first months of James's life. Of course, there are tons of other things that I haven't included (for instance, I would love these little kimonos!) but they are what I remember from my last go-around as being absolute lifesavers.

A quick note before I launch into the list: I have had great success using Craigslist and borrowing from friends for a lot of baby things. There are so many things that are useful for the first few months but then once the baby is 5 or 6 months old you won't really use them anymore.

1. Swaddlers
Swaddling helped James sleep so much, and I've double-checked our swaddle situation to make sure we're ready for this baby. We used SwaddleMes for James every night until he could roll over, at about 4 months. We also used Aden and Anais bamboo swaddling blankets and loved them as well. Lastly, because I like to have all my bases covered, I bought an brand-new Halo sleep sack off Craigslist for $5.

2. Burp cloths
I don't think you can ever have too many burp cloths on hand because a baby can go through 20 in 5 hours. Most of my burp cloths were resuable diapers that had fun fabrics sewed onto them, and they were thick and great for mopping up spit-ups and catching extra milk when nursing.

3. Baby wrap
My Ergo baby wrap was one of my favorite gifts last time around. I loved being able to snuggle with my baby but have my hands free. I still love the Ergo, but I also borrowed a Solly wrap from a friend because I worry the Ergo might be too thick for summer.

When James got a bit older, around 5 months or so, I bought the Ergo baby carrier (again, Craigslist! $40) and we used that all the time too.

4. Pacifiers
Pacifiers are so amazing. I liked the Soothie option best, because I found being able to put your finger in the middle of it really helped the baby get the sucking concept.

5. Baby swing
Really, any time of baby swing will do the trick. We had a Fisher-Price one for James that was passed around among all our friends, and this time I'm borrowing one from a friend here (the same one that's lending me her Solly wrap, bless her).

6. Stroller
I've loved the Britax travel system, which I've used daily for the past two years. It has an attachment for the carseat to clip into the stroller, it folds up super easily and can be used as a jogger.

Since I go on walks all the time, I knew that we need a double stroller and trolled Craigslist every day for months to find something. I ended up getting the Maclaren twin techno for $140, which I like because it also folds up easily, is side by side but not too wide, and the seats can lay completely flat.

Some breastfeeding lifesavers: I like reusable breast pads better than disposable ones, a breast pump is a lifesaver (I've been considering buying a hand pump but haven't yet pulled the trigger), and a nursing pillow helped my back and neck from being in excruciating pain.

Some Ramblings

Monday, May 8, 2017

Here are some of my recent random thoughts:

1. One thing I've been thinking about lately (especially after writing my recovery post) is how well I remember the details of birth, labor and recovery. This is not true for everyone, as I keep talking with women who tell me they honestly don't remember the pain. I had always thought the saying about how women can't recall the pain of birth was just a weird myth, but no, it's true! I am so shocked at that, because I remember everything so keenly. I'm not sure it will ever fade from my memory.

2. I'm looking for tips on using sunscreen with kids. I'm very very into sun protection (Brock thinks I have a sun phobia) but I'm struggling when it comes to James and sunscreen. He flails around and I'm never sure how much I actually get on him. Plus, he has a little sock tan and a neck tan, which makes me panicky. I'm thinking about finding a gel-type sunscreen that might be easier to apply, but maybe a spray is the way to go?

3. About a month ago, we got James a twin bed since we want the baby to be sleeping in the pack n play that James had been using. At first he slept through the night no problem. But the past two weeks or so have been pretty hard. He gets up constantly right after we put him in and we have to go in 3 or 4 times each night to tell him to get back in bed. Plus, he's been getting out of bed in the middle of the night. He'll quietly come and stand right next to my face and wait for me to notice him, which always scares the daylights out of me.

There have been a few nights (like last night) where he will get up and be in our room 3-4 times before 5:30. And if he hasn't been up before 5:30, then 5:30 is his new wake-up call. And before this he had been sleeping until 7! This is all a very rude reminder of what having a newborn will be like. Anyway, I don't know any strategies for keeping him in his bed but I'm desperate for some. Should we put a baby lock on his door so he can't open it?

4. Back in November, the state of California passed a law prohibiting the use of plastic bags in grocery stores. I freaked out about it when I heard because we used the plastic bags to put dirty diapers in before we take them out to the trash. But I've been thinking lately how creative we've become with things we would usually throw away. I'll look at the bag that bread comes in or the empty bag of granola, or all the green produce bags we have and think, "Perfect diaper size". In a way, I'm grateful for the law because it's been fun to see what we used to throw away that we now stash to use for diapers.

5. We drink so much milk that it's a hassle. I have to go at least twice a week to get us more and between the three of us we drink 5-6 gallons a week. Doesn't that seem insane? Almost every time I load my cart up with 4 or 5 gallons someone will comment, "Wow, you sure like milk!" and I never know what to say. I hope that my love for milk will calm down after I have the baby, like it did after I had James, because this amount seems unsustainable.

Five Eye-Opening Books Set Outside the U.S.

Friday, May 5, 2017

I've been saying lately that having a child has killed my travel bug. The thought of dealing with a toddler on a long flight, fighting jet lag, and needing to take into account naps and early bedtimes makes me too exhausted to even want to take James to a different country.

But I don't want to stop learning about new countries and cultures, so I've compiled a list of some wonderful books that take place outside the U.S. In these books I've been exposed to ideas that have helped me savor the breadth of experience in human lives.

1. Marching Powder by Rusty Young
Thomas McFadden, a British citizen, is the center of this book. He is in the Bolivian prison San Pedro for drug smuggling, and experiences a bizarre form of freedom where inmates buy their cells, are able to have their families live with them, and can go on supervised visits to the outside world. It is a fascinating look at an inner world I knew nothing about.

2. My Life in France  by Julia Child
Julia Child's life was unfamiliar to me before reading this book, and I was amazed to learn that she didn't begin cooking until her late 30s, when she moved to France with her husband. Her book is full of great descriptions of food and France in the 1950s, and it is inspiring to read about her strong relationships with friends and family.

3. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick
When I was 14, my family visited South Korea, including the DMZ, where I was able peer out at North Korea. Ever since then I have been fascinated by North Korea and the little bit we know about life there. This book helped quench my thirst for North Korea stories, as the author interviews six people who defected to South Korea and learns what their lives were like before they came. The reality of their experiences is a little hard to take sometimes, but I came away a more well-rounded person after reading it.

4. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
This is an incredible novel describing pre-and post-colonial life in Nigeria. It is rare that a book adequately describes what different areas in Africa looked like before European colonists came, and this one gives a vivid picture into the lives and traditions of the people. This book is on my 'best novels' list because it is thought-provoking and unique.

5. Japan at War by Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore Failor Cook
In general, I'm not really a fan of WWII books, but I was convinced to try this one after Brock read it for a college class and assured me I would love it. He was so right; I lived and breathed this book and could barely tear myself away to do anything else. It's a collection of firsthand accounts of Japanese people during WWII. You'll read about soldiers who almost completed suicide missions, officers training others about beheadings, children exposed to the atomic bomb, and so much more.


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Giving birth can be an extremely harrowing experience, and recovering is rarely quick or easy. I've been thinking a lot about the realities of recovery as I'm trying to make sure I'm prepared for this baby's arrival. I want to be open about how hard my recovery was with James in the hopes that maybe others can be more ready than I was.

Due to swelling and the pain of being in labor for almost 30 hours, I was unable to walk unattended for nearly two days. Every time I went to the bathroom Brock or a nurse (or both, at the beginning) had to help me get there. I couldn't even stand alone, which meant I couldn't get James out of his bassinet during the hospital stay, and wasn't able to take a shower until he was nearly two days old.

During labor, the epidural wore off on my back, and I begged constantly for heating pads to ease the pain. No one (including me) was paying much attention to how I used them and instead of wrapping them in a paper towel I would slap them directly on my skin. I ended up with a giant second degree burn on that spot that ballooned into a huge blister and was raw and painful for about a month. I still have a scar from it over two years later.

In the hospital, I had to sit on ice packs constantly because of how swollen my whole pelvic area was. The nurses would split open a baby diaper and stuff it full of huge ice cubes, then tape it back up. Sitting on a fresh ice pack was heavenly because it helped take the pain away for a bit. There was a numbing spray that went along with it and I would count down the hours until I could use it.

Then there's the bleeding. As the uterus shrinks back down after birth there is period-like bleeding for about six weeks. It tapers off near the end, but can be really heavy at the beginning. I had to wear huge pads for weeks, and about three weeks after birth I overexerted myself (by vacuuming, lol) and ended up passing two huge blood clots that made me feel weak and dizzy.

Night sweats were another unexpected side effect. For a week or two after James was born, I would wake up completely covered in sweat. That's not an exaggeration- I would be sweating from places I usually didn't sweat from, like my arms, my neck, my stomach, my scalp. The doctor said it was a way for my body to shed the water weight and that it was normal (although I have yet to meet anyone else who has experienced it).

The hormone surges I experienced were brutal. I had never felt such swings of emotion before and never cried over such trivial things. Brock once came into our room to find me quietly weeping on the bed. When he asked what was wrong, I sobbed out that James was growing up too fast. Brock replied, "He's only 3 days old." And then I said, "But I remember when he was 3 hours old!" and it only made me cry more. Obviously, I was hormonal and sleep-deprived and I understood that it was a little crazy to cry about my 3 day old baby growing up too fast. But the hormones made little things like that seem completely cry-worthy.

I remember crying because I just wanted to be free from the pain. So many aspects of my body hurt and on top of all this, I was only sleeping 2-3 hours at a time. Coming into motherhood this way was a total shock to every aspect of my life. My body felt like it had completely fallen apart and I struggled to adjust to it along with taking care of a baby's every need. I'm not ashamed to admit that during the first month there were many times that I closed my eyes and wished for my old life back.

Yet, like everything else in life, it was a stage. A hard stage that challenged me and forced me to grow and mature in ways I didn't want to, but it ended. My body healed, my milk supply evened out, my baby started sleeping through the night, etc. And that time gave me such a deep perspective on what women go through to bring babies in the world. It made me feel grateful for my mother and mothers everywhere, and helped me feel connected to women throughout time.

I'm praying that this recovery goes easier than the last, but regardless of what happens I'm grateful for the perspective I've gained after already going through it.

My Dream Reading Space

Monday, April 24, 2017

I love imagining my dream reading nook, which would have lots of sunlight and a comfy place to sit surrounded by pillows. Daydreaming about such a spot inspired me to start thinking about how I could create one in our home right now.

Currently, I read all over the place. During breakfast and lunch I'll park myself at the table with a book open next to my plate. At night, I'll prop myself up on the bed and read while Brock is working, and during the day I'll sprawl on the couch for the rare 10 minute increments James manages to play on his own.

While I know it doesn't really matter where I read, I would love to have a spot dedicated to my reading life.

There is a corner in our home that has definite potential to become that little reading nook. In our living room, we have the most wonderful Craigslist find of my life, a brand-new West Elm Graham Glider.  We also have a tripod floor lamp from Target that complements it so well, and looking at that spot gives me a daily happiness boost.

It's almost the ideal reading space, but the problem is that I'm too short. If I slouch down in the chair, I am just able to get my toes to graze the carpet, but that is definitely not comfortable long term. Most of the time I just curl up in the chair, but when I'm reading for long periods of time (or nursing a baby) I want to be able to stretch my legs out and push the rocker.

So, I have put together what I feel are the essentials to achieve a more perfect reading space- a place to put my feet and pillows for my back. For my feet, I've been looking into poufs and ottomans. I love the look of poufs because of their cozy vibe, but I'm open to the idea of a good ottoman as well. I love this pouf from Arhaus which I think would work well with what we already have in the room.

I also want one or two beautiful and supportive pillows. The pillow that came with the glider (you can see it in the picture below) has no support and blends in with the chair. I went to Arhaus's site and found about twenty couch pillows that I love and managed to narrow it down to two that I would choose in a dream world.

So here are all the pieces of my dream reading nook: the Graham glider, the brass tripod lamp from Target (both of which we already own), and a great pouf and pillows (1 and 2) all from Arhaus's living room collection.

Writing this post makes me realize how possible it is to make that glider a better fit for my reading life, and I'm now motivated to make this happen before the baby comes.

April 19th

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, plant, tree, outdoor and nature
On April 19, 2012, Brock and I began dating. Every April 19th since then has been special to me, since it was the first step I took in aligning my life with Brock's.

On this day, five years ago, Brock and I meet up in Provo. We haven't seen each other since the previous December, as I had been interning in Washington D.C. I was only visiting BYU for two days,and before coming I texted Brock to see if he would be available to hang out. He responded, "!!!!! Yes!" and my heart fluttered a little bit.

We've been friends for a long time (a year and a half, which felt like forever at college), but I have never been ready to commit to anything.

That fateful night, he picks me up at my cousin's house. As he sits down on the couch next to me, the evening sunlight comes through the door behind him and I suddenly realize how blue his eyes are. Have his eyes always been so blue? He smiles happily at me and I feel warm everywhere. Has his smile always made me feel like that? His elbow brushes mine and I feel a shiver go through me.

We leave and drive to downtown Provo. When we get out of the car, Brock takes my hand and I pretend like it's completely normal while in reality I'm unable to breathe right or form coherent thoughts.

We walk around for awhile and I can't stop laughing and smiling at everything he says. Eventually, we end up sitting on a bench on Center Street. In the middle of a normal conversation, Brock leans over and kisses me. It is magical.

Later, we sit in his car before he drops me off. The night had been so different and my feelings were so surreal that I blurt out, "So what's going on here?' And he answers, "I like you. I've liked you for a long time and I would date you if you wanted to date me." Those are his exact words that I write in my journal the next night. He doesn't skirt around the issue, just tells me exactly what is on his mind, in a manner that I have loved ever since.

I say "Yes!" almost immediately, although I'm also somewhat anxious. This, I can tell, is a big deal. A very big deal. These feelings I'm having are completely different than any I have experienced before. What I'm saying yes to is something momentous.