{imperfect is the new black}

{imperfect is the new black}

Insecurities are a funny thing. Over the years, I feel like I’ve been pretty open on this blog about mine. In general, I don’t consider myself an insecure person, but that hasn’t always been the case.

For the most part, I’m a person of very cyclical moods. About once a year, I experience what I consider to be some kind of depression or low point. (I say “consider” because I’ve never been officially diagnosed with anything.) It typically lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. It’s usually marked by an increase in mood swings, sensitivity, and a marked uptick in my insecurities. (And, you may have noticed, a lack of blog posts. The blog starts to feel incredibly insignificant during these lows, and I can’t imagine anyone caring what I have to say about anything.)

It’s not fun, but I at least feel more in control of these times than I used to because I’m now able to recognize them for what they are. Anyone familiar with depression can tell you what a liar it is — it tells you you’re not good enough, you’re unlovable, you’re just not enough. So, for me, there is power in being able to feel those things but still step back in my mind and remind myself I won’t always feel that way and that they probably aren’t true.

The insecurities I deal with have evolved over the years, but they’re usually a mix of doubts about something superficial (in high school, the size of my thighs; now, my teeth and nose) and something social (in high school, that my friends and family didn’t really like me; now, that my friends and family don’t really like me).

It’s at this point that I feel obligated to remind you that, in my rational mind, I know my friends and family love me. I do. You don’t need to tell me you do; I know it. Depression just makes me not believe it for a while, or wonder when the day will come that they will stop loving me.

I think everyone handles these feelings differently, for better or worse. For me, I workout (the best therapy for me) and I think about it — a lot. I reason on my feelings, what brings them on and what I can do about it. Often the answer to the latter is simply to ride out the storm and keep reminding myself that depression is a liar. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever really discussed these feelings publicly — I’d venture a guess that most of the people in my life don’t even know I deal with them.

I’m kind of a hermit when it comes to my own struggles. But I’m trying to be better about that because bottling it up (surprise!) doesn’t really seem to help anything.

I’m happy to tell you that, while this post was inspired by my latest bout of low-ness, I can already tell I’m coming out of it. Good talks with some close friends and a weekend with my family were huge helps to reaching the other side of this valley. But even though it’s (hopefully) almost over, the most lingering part of my lows are always the insecurities. Kind of like a bad cough.

I think about my insecurities a lot now as a mother of a daughter. Girls seem to be especially plagued by insecurity, almost to the point where it is weird if you’re confident. I don’t know if I can keep Vivian from having her own self doubts, but I never want her to feel crippled by them.

I want her to laugh loudly even if she thinks her laugh is obnoxious. I want her to wear the sleeveless dress she loves even if she doesn’t like her upper arms. I want her to get down on the dance floor even if she worries someone will think she looks ridiculous.

I want her to live her life bravely, even when she doesn’t feel brave.

And the fact is, I’m going to be her best example of how to do that. So I had better start being a good example.

Which brings me to my new project: Eradicating my superficial insecurities. I’ve decided I’m going to stop only taking photos from what I consider to be my “good side” — just because my nose and teeth are straighter from the left. I’m going to grin broadly — even though in the back of my mind I think my teeth are big and slightly bucky. And I’m going to do whatever I can to stop letting myself slip into the old habit of being who I think people want me to be — and just trust that anyone who does stop liking me was never all that great to have to begin with.

Because I want Vivi to do all those things too. Because, to me, she is perfect. And who else could she possibly be to be better?

{Losing my hat; losing my mind}

{Losing my hat; losing my mind}

One of the hardest parts of getting pregnant and becoming a mother for me has been feeling like my brain has literally been poked full of holes. I first noticed the effects of “pregnancy brain” late in my first trimester when I started losing words.

I would go to say something or write something, and I would know the definition of the word I meant — I would even be able to recall another time I had used the word in conversation — but I could not for the life of me tell you what the word was. I started googling the definitions or looking up synonyms (that I could remember) on Thesaurus.com, following my own linguistic treasure map back to my own vocabulary.

For a writer, losing words is a very big deal.

My mom loves to tell me a story from my own babyhood about our babysitter, Irene. Apparently, Irene had a habit of looking me in my little baby eyes and telling me, “Words are power.” I don’t know if this infant inception was the direct cause of my becoming a writer, but it’s hard to deny the plausibility.

The point is, I’ve always believed the sentiment of the phrase. Even now, I make excuses to tell Vivi the same thing. She doesn’t have to be a writer (unless she wants to be), but I want her to be able to communicate and express herself the best way possible. It’s part of why I spend a few minutes each day reading to her, even though it’s hard to believe she’s really paying attention as she carries on with her regular baby antics.

Anyway, all of that is a long way of getting around to the fact that pregnancy brain was a little scary for this logophile. It’s gotten marginally better since actually pushing out the baby, but now I just find myself suffering the effects of “mom brain.” (Which, spoiler alert, is the same thing. Babies make you dumb, folks.)

I also feel like it has been affecting the quality of my posts on here. Granted, I’m usually just trying to fling a few words together in a somewhat coherent sentence in between naps, freelancing, and keeping a semblance of order in our apartment, but I can’t shake the feeling that the quality is slipping more than I feel comfortable with.

Of course, this little blog is hardly a priority in the grand scheme of things (sorry, blog; the baby wins this round), but I would be sad if I felt like I let my most consistent creative outlet completely lose its shine. Besides, I feel like I have so many stories in my head from this one-of-a-kind experience I’m going through, and I’d hate to lose those just because I can’t make the time to write.

So while I might not be blogging as often, I’m going to try to brush up the quality of my posts. I’m not going to worry about consistency because, frankly, I can’t promise there will be any, but when I do post, I promise to really have something to say or share.

And hopefully I’ll be able to find the words to do that.

two month old baby

While I do feel like the first two months of Vivi’s life have gone by quickly, I also feel like they haven’t. Sure, a lot of the (at times restless) nights blend together into one long blur of feedings, but there are also a lot of crystal clear moments. Moments of joy (the first time she smiled at me!) and moments of “oh Lord, this is never going to end…” (see previously mentioned restless nights).

Fortunately, the good still far outweighs the bad. Yes, I’m still occasionally doused in puke or frustrated when I can’t find a cause (and therefore a solution) for a screaming fit, but by and large, Vivi is a happy, social baby, and I love being able to watch her change and develop every day.

So what is my 2-month-old doing these days? Well, I already mentioned the smiling, but it bears repeating because it is so. freaking. cute. It’s completely Joey’s smile (despite her having my mouth), which I think just makes me love it even more.

She’s also babbling a lot more, discovering new sounds (and, unfortunately for me, new cries) and becoming more and more interactive each week.

And she’s growing like a weed. Her size three-month leggings are starting to look like flood pants on her gangly little legs, and she’s filled out quite a bit in her belly and cheeks. (Yes, it’s just as cute as it sounds.)

But along with Vivi’s advancements, the last two months have led to a lot of realizations about myself and parenting as well.

The biggest being that parenting is probably the greatest exercise in humility you will ever encounter.

There’s simply no room to be cocky as a new parent because your baby is essentially a brand new person every day. Sure, your baby rolled over early and is a champion breastfeeder. But you know what else? She also screams during the entirety of tummy time and projectile vomits when she accidentally eats too much too quickly.

Yup, bet you’re feeling real advanced when your ears are ringing and you’re wiping spit-up out of your hair with a baby wipe. (Because, sorry, you’re not getting a real shower until afternoon nap time.)

At least once a day, I get an awesome feeling of, “I’ve GOT this. I am not a terrible mom — in fact, I think I’m doing pretty well,” but it’s usually swiftly followed by a crushing feeling of, “I am DEFINITELY screwing all of this up. What was I thinking having a baby?!”

It’s those moments when those little moments of eye contact and baby grins really come in handy.

The point is, it’s better to just stay humble. When they go well, maybe take a breath before you start sending out those early admission applications to Harvard. And when they don’t go so well? Try not to take it so personally.

After all, she’ll be a new baby tomorrow.

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

What’s that? Two cooking posts in a row? Aren’t I a little icon of domesticity these days? (Of course, “in a row” might be considered a stretch since my last post was a couple weeks ago. Oh, life with a baby!)

Anyway. As I said last time (because nothing has changed in my life, guys), I’m cooking more. Blah blah blah blah anecdotes.

The point is, I cooked this thing the other day, and it turned out pretty tasty, and now I’m sharing it with you.

Truth be told, it was one of those days when I had a few key ingredients in my fridge (in this case, gnocchi and chicken) and I decided to scan the interwebs for recipes I could make using said key ingredients. I found something that was generally what I was looking for, but I had to fill in a lot of gaps and improvise since I didn’t have everything that the original recipe called for. In this case, I substituted my favorite spices and a container of takeout Chinese broccoli left over from lunch the day before. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Or, in this case, leftovers I don’t want to throw out are the mother of dinner. Or something.

As I said, though, the resulting dish was met with positive reviews, so I figured it was worth a post. Especially considering the only other posts I have rolling around my head are Vivi updates (keep your eye out for her two-month post…it’s coming next week) and thoughts on my new life as a housewife. I’ll get around to those. Probably. At some point.

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Ingredients:

3 T olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 cups broccoli (or Chinese broccoli, which is what I used because multicultural fanciness!), roughly chopped
1 tsp rosemary
Salt and pepper
2 T butter
2 T whole wheat flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups almond milk
1 tsp cinnamon
2 chicken breasts, baked and shredded
1 package whole wheat gnocchi
Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large, oven-safe skillet.

Add the onion and garlic and cook until fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes.

Add the broccoli, rosemary, salt, and pepper; cook until softened, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove veggie mixture from skillet and put into a bowl. Set aside. Wipe out the skillet.

Add butter to the skillet and melt. Stir in flour until mixed thoroughly.

Add the chicken broth, almond milk, and cinnamon. Cook until slightly thickened, about five minutes.

Stir in chicken and gnocchi until coated. Sprinkle with Parmesan and bake until slightly golden, about 20 minutes.

Allow to stand five minutes before serving. Enjoy!

 

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Gnocchi, Chicken, and Broccoli Bake

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

I used to cook a lot when I was single and then when Joey and I first got married. I even had a whole section of this blog dedicated to what I dubbed my Kitchen Adventures.

But then around the time I was living on Long Island, I got a job back in the city and suddenly had a much longer commute to contend with. So Joey started taking over cooking duties. It started with a few nights a week, but it eventually became one of his primary responsibilities around the house.

What can I say? He’s good at it, and I’m a sucker for a man who can cook.

Over the last year or so, it has evened out a bit more as to who is wielding the spatula in our kitchen. But now that I’m home every day with the baby, I’ve tried to pick up more of the cooking slack. I mean, it’s not like I have tons of free time when I’m home, but I like to think that by taking one thing off Joey’s plate (by, you know, putting something on his plate) I’m giving him more time to spend with the Vivster when he gets home.

All of that is a long way of saying that I actually have a new recipe to post! My transition into total housewife is almost complete, you guys.

It all started with my book club. I’m in a club that meets about every two months. We try to read a variety of books in different genres and styles, and we do what we can to theme the food we eat to the book.

This month, we read Jane Austen’s Persuasion. After the necessary choices like tea and pastries had been covered by other book club members, someone suggested a meat pie of sorts to add some heartiness to the meal. I still hadn’t offered to bring anything yet, so I offered to make some kind of mini chicken pot pie. (Mostly because I had no idea what other kinds of meat pies exist, and I was scared to google it.)

After I made my offer, I decided it could be fun to create my own recipe using some of my favorite fall veggies. I’ve been cooking with a lot of fall produce lately, and I’ve never met a root vegetable I didn’t like. So the idea for my Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies was born.

The great thing about this recipe is that you could sub in basically any kind of vegetables you like, so get creative! Here’s what I used:

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

INGREDIENTS
1 chicken breast, baked and diced
1 cups kale, roughly chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 large parsnip, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans of Pillsbury Grands Biscuits

The most time consuming part of the recipe is chopping all of the veggies, but I promise it’s worth it.

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  • Once everything is chopped, combine the vegetables, chicken, cream of chicken soup, and spices in a large mixing bowl.
  • To assemble the pies, lightly spray a muffin tin with coconut oil or the cooking spray of your choice. Flatten one biscuit dough in each muffin cup, making sure it extends up the sides. This creates the crust for each pie.
  • Fill each crust with a heaping pile of the veggie mixture. Bake for 15 minutes. (Check it around 12 minutes. You might need to bake for longer depending on your definition of “heaping.”)
  • Let stand for a few minutes after cooking and enjoy!

When I made this, I accidentally made way too much of the veggie mixture, so I used the leftovers to make a bigger chicken pot pie for Joey and me the next day. Dontcha love a twofer? The result was pretty delicious, and also pretty, well, pretty. Autumn is totally the best season, folks.

I also recently made a stuffed acorn recipe and salmon with roasted root veggies, but I forgot to take photos. If I make it again soon (which I probably will), I’ll write posts for those too.

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

Mini Chicken Pot Pies with Fall Veggies

What are your favorite fall recipes? Do you love root veggies as much as I do?

Being covered in puke and not flinching.

Thinking you cleaned off the puke and noticing half an hour later there’s still some on your forearm.

Taking every toddler toy commercial personally. (Will my baby never walk if I don’t buy that?!)(Answer: Your baby will still walk, psycho.)

Spending most of the day with your nursing bra unhooked before finally hooking it again. Most likely in public. Because you don’t even care anymore.

Planning your DAY around a stubborn burp bubble.

Being either half an hour early or an hour late to everything.

Truly believing all is lost if we lose this dang binky.

A tiny bit of guilt at what a relief it is when someone else wants to hold the baby. (Yay! Five minutes where no one is touching/clawing at me!)

The rush of love (and secret relief) when she really just wants to come back to you.

Reveling in every nap that lasts longer than twenty minutes. (He-llo, brushed hair and a cup of coffee!)

Wondering at least twenty times a day if you’re doing it right.

Praying for the next stage of development.

Wishing she could stay this way forever.

Writing blog posts in the back of Uber cars because it’s one of the few places your baby sleeps soundly.


Guess where I am right now?