if pregnant women made valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day! May it be better than a night of third trimester sleep. 


a day in the life of gracie & michelle: february 12, 2020

It's been awhile since I've written one of these, and I LOVE going back years later and seeing how we lived life. There's so much I forget! I just read the one from nearly FOUR!!! years ago of the summer Gracie was 1. I got tears in my eyes. 2016 was one of the hardest years of all time, but some of those days were so sweet and I miss them desperately. Since I'm nearing the end of having only one kid out of the womb, I figured I needed to document our life one last time.

This was both a typical and non-typical day. Usually she's in school on Wednesdays, but I kept her home since she's getting over a cold and seemed a little feverish the day before. Of course she's been acting 100% all day but whatever. This is a fairly typical day when we stay home. I didn't set out to write this post today, so I don't have many pictures and the times are all a huge guess. 

Don't judge me on some of this and remember that I'm nearly 8 months pregnant. I used to wake up earlier. I used to be more productive. I used to exercise. And I'm HUNGRY all the time.

7:15ish: James wakes me up and and tells me he's leaving for work. Usually this is when I get up, but since I know Gracie isn't going to school, I roll over and immediately fall back to sleep. James gets her up in the morning, makes her breakfast, and puts a show on for her to watch while I'm rolling out of bed. This is the beauty of having a nearly 5 year old: I know she can hang in the living room and not burn the house down. I'm going to miss these days.

7:27: Gracie unfortunately has no respect for my DESPERATE need for sleep. Rude. She's tapping me on my face saying "Mommy, get up! Wake up mommy!" She opens the curtains and sunlight pours in. Gracie gets excited because she sees a rainbow on the wall. We've had a grand total of 7 minutes of sunshine all winter, and this was 30 seconds of it. I love my dreary days, but waking up to this was glorious. 

7:58: I finally drag myself out of bed after Gracie comes in for the 7th time. I'm unusually tired today and feel like I've been drugged. I walk to the kitchen and make breakfast, because if I don't eat immediately after getting up, I'll get extremely nauseous. I make a big bowl of vanilla greek yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, a banana, and blueberry honey granola. I top it off with a cup of english breakfast tea. I miss coffee so much, but I'm still kind of grossed out by a regular cup of coffee. So tea it is. The difference in caffeine content is especially obvious this morning.

8:30: Gracie is oFfEnDeD that I need to eat breakfast and wants me to play slime with her. I hate slime. I'm not one for weird sensory issues, but the feel of it makes me want to scream. I try to suck it up and help her make a pepperoni pizza (?) with it. Somewhere in there I make another cup of tea and will it to wake me up while she drags her train tracks and Thomas train station into the living room. I go do the dishes and she BEGS me to put milk in a baby bottle for her. For some reason, I kept a few extra bottles (that she refused to ever take) and she usually plays with them and uses them with her baby dolls and stuffed animals. Occasionally she wants to drink out of them. I'm not in the mood for WWIII over cup choices (because trust me, it's a thing), so I pour some milk in a bottle. Then she wants me to feed it to her. I think someone is regressing a little bit these days. Wonder why!

10:45: It's time for second breakfast. I make a bagel and devour it and only feel hungrier. Gracie wants to go play in her room. I strip the sheets off and throw them in the washer since she's been sort of sick and also I can't remember the last time I washed them, then we read some books. The dollhouses come out. She plays by herself (!!!!!!) for a bit while I request some library books for her online. She finds her Santa hat and makes me play Santa and deliver toys while she pretends to sleep. It's cute at first, but after an hour I'm on the verge of screaming. Then I realize it's 1:00 and if I don't eat lunch, I will gnaw my arm off. I realize I'm still in my pajamas and figure I should do something about that. I put on some maternity leggings and a tunic with a small hole in it. Not sure this is a step up.

1:30ish: My child who usually starts asking for lunch at 9:30 didn't want to eat until I forced the issue around 1. I made her mac n cheese, turkey, grapes, and blackberries. I finished off the leftover shepherd's pie. We both devour our lunches and then share some conversation hearts. I knew we were going to be quarantined for yet ANOTHER day this week and I was trying so hard to think of something to do that isn't screen time, so we did some easy Valentines crafts. I got her started and did the dishes. She is in a very very very clingy phase and needed me right next to her, so I sat with her while she did a bunch of projects. As usual, they looked exactly the way they were supposed to. 

Nailed it.

I decided we should switch to watercolors. She painted while I worked on my BSF lesson, drank another cup of tea, and ate a piece of chocolate. She got one too, because mom can't have anything if she's not willing to share. We both had a lot of snacks. A yogurt smoothie and fruit snacks for her and crackers and a granola bar for me. I did Kroger Clicklist on Sunday, and OF COURSE they forgot to include my snacks. Just straight up forgot! And I've been ravenous, so I've finished off a lot of partially empty cracker boxes and other such things I found in the back of the pantry.

3:30: Gracie asked to watch a show and I said YES! FINALLY! My hips were screaming from getting up and down constantly and sitting in our kitchen chairs. I was about to die. I put a movie on and tried to finish my BSF lesson while someone curled up with me/practically on top of me. I LOVE spending my days with her, but real life: I haven't had a shred of alone time lately and it's been a struggle. There's definitely some awareness of a baby coming, because the clinginess is off the charts, and it's been A LOT for someone who needs silence and personal space like oxygen. I somehow managed to finish my lesson, which took 5x longer than usual for obvious reasons and also because it turned into a writing lesson because she wanted to write too, despite an unforeseen meltdown over the drama of writing the letter K. I wrote a bunch of words and had her copy them, then we sounded them out. Homeschool and stuff! 

Usually I spend the late afternoon knitting, but BSF is tomorrow and I've been slacking. We also ate more snacks because apparently we are both growing. Grapes and peanuts for us both! I'm also trying to eat a lot so I don't have a repeat of yesterday. I didn't eat enough and was so nauseous I had to take Tums and a Zofran to keep from violently puking. 

4:45: James is on his way home, it started snowing, and Gracie insists on helping with dinner. We make stromboli. Thankfully it takes all of 5 minutes to put together. James walks in a little after 5, and I said "I am so happy you're home, now if you don't mind I'm going to lock myself in our room and paint my nails." He knows it's been a long week for me, so he sends me on my way. Gracie finds me 30 seconds later. James wrangles her and they play a matching game together. They play games every evening while I put laundry away or clean up or climb into bed and hide from the world. All depends on the day! Today I paint my nails in bed. Not the wisest choice, but I don't even care. James feeds her dinner. Sometimes we eat all together, but honestly we're the psychos that put our kid to bed super early so we can have a quiet evening. It is life-giving. And during pregnancy he's basically taken over life as soon as he gets home so I can puke/sleep/cry alone for a bit. She comes in and hangs out with me here and there. I'm not totally checked out! Usually this is when I shower, but I start writing this post while he reads to Gracie and puts her to bed. 

7ish: Gracie is having a coughing fit, so I take a little spoonful of honey into her room to coat her throat. I try to give her a hug and accidentally gently punch her in the face. Mom of the year, as usual. James and I eat dinner and then watch a few episodes I am a Murderer (or Killer?) or whatever it's called on Netflix. It's interesting but disturbing, so I can only watch in small doses unless I want nightmares. Gracie spends an hour sitting in bed, switching clothes on her stuffed animals and having conversations with them. It's an off night. I'm kind of in a mood and James isn't feeling well. Usually I knit for awhile, but I make it two rows and stop. I'm just not feeling it. We get our secret cookie stash out and it helps my mood a little.

8:45: James goes to bed and I lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling. I get a text from my BSF leader that BSF is cancelled tomorrow due to the snow. OF COURSE IT IS. After the struggle of getting my lesson done! That means another day of quarantine. I grab another cookie. My group this year has been a bit difficult for various reasons, but I still look forward to it every week, mainly because it's adult interaction and deep discussions. Earlier in the day, a friend and I were trying to schedule a playdate, but our kids are in school on opposite days, and her kids still nap in the afternoon (must be nice) and we just couldn't figure it out. That's been this whole winter so far when it comes to trying to socialize. I've mainly given up at this point.

9:30: I take a late shower and wonder if maybe it's a good thing BSF was cancelled, because my throat is feeling a bit swollen (confirmed: I wake up the next morning with the plague). I read a few chapters on my Kindle in bed and instantly fall asleep, which is good because I'm poked in the face the next morning at 6:30, much earlier than usual. 

Rinse and repeat, this time with more screen time because sanity is in short supply these days and I’m no hero. 


knitting is stupid, faucets are hard, and other musings on life latey

+ I don't know what it is about these winter months, but they tend to be hard. Which is dumb, because I am a huge fan of winter. It's currently snowing and I'm wearing a chunky green sweater and fair isle socks and sipping a cup of tea. I am hygge personified! My Danish ancestors would be so proud, even though from my research, my Danish family is not actually familiar with the concept of hygge even though we all tend to embody it. January and February are categorically difficult months for me every year and I can never pinpoint why. The bummer of the holidays ending? The rampant germs? The fact that everyone hibernates to the point that even my hermity self starts to crave social interaction? Who knows. All I know is that the wheels fall off every year around this time. And it's the beginning of the year, so the wheels should be firmly on. Every year I try to make a plan to combat this, because I refuse to let it be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But every year my attempts are futile. This year it's been 6 weeks of bronchitis and work stress for James, some not fun pregnancy symptoms for me and wrangling a 4 year old inside while trying not to lose my cool when the house implodes, and everything in our house breaking and church drama and friends moving away. But we've also gotten a lot of work on the house done and there's a baby coming and it's ok! Life is far from bad.

+  I started knitting a blanket for baby girl last week. Way later than planned thanks to some projects I needed to finish, but I am a much faster knitter after knitting a handful of blankets in the last year, and if I stay on top of things I should get it done. I decided to try a new pattern slightly above my skill level. I found youtube tutorials and quickly understood what I needed to do. My knitting mentor aka my mom was confident it was well within my abilities, so I felt good. A few rows in and it was looking like the pattern. I was so proud of myself! Then I noticed I had been dropping stitches. No problem! Just a practice run. I ripped it out and started over. Four rows in and it was coming together beautifully. Six rows in and I suddenly had 6 stitches fewer than I was supposed to have. Swear words. I ripped it out again, took two days off, and went back with a clear head. TWO ROWS IN AND EVERYTHING FELL APART. I don't want to sound dramatic, but I sobbed for about three hours. I was a failure at life. I can't do anything! Everyone is better at everything else than I am! I can't even knit my daughter a blanket that people who've been knitting for 5 minutes could handle! I try to save my existential meltdowns for when I'm alone, but this one would not be stifled and Gracie was wiping tears from my eyes with a Kleenex while I reassured her that mommy is just fine but just needed to cry for a minute. I would calm down, and then the tears would start all over again. James was at work, getting a flurry of texts about how I'm the worst at everything and I'm never knitting again because I'm an embarrassment to yarn itself. My mom got a similar slew of texts. She tried to help me troubleshoot, but there's only so much you can do via text. I didn't just go off the rails, I wound up in another country.

You might be thinking "Wow, dramatic. You need some emotional maturity," and maybe that's true. But this is pregnancy hormones and winter cooped up with a kid and dealing with weeks of a broken light in the fridge because the repair guy keeps NOT getting back to us about replacement parts and I'm tired of going spelunking every time I need to find some food and it doesn't even matter but I had visions of wrapping my baby in this gorgeous blanket and everyone going WOW! You made the baby AND the blanket? Such talent! And now they'll say "Cute baby, but such a shame about the blanket."

None of this is rational or actually important, but sometimes these little things FEEL so important and hormones like to lie and say life is ending when really it's just that the bunny figured out how to pee outside her cage while still inside her cage so that everything is always covered in bunny pee no matter how much we clean, and EVERYTHING IS TOO MUCH even though none of it actually matters!!!!!

At the end of the day, I've spent too much time on Instagram seeing how talented people are, genuinely loving to see what my friends create, but not realizing how much it was affecting me that my talents lie elsewhere (but on that particular day I screamed DO I EVEN HAVE ANY TALENT FOR ANYTHING?!). I will never be a star knitter. I will never knit intricate patterns because they give me the same kind of headache that my college chemistry class did. But I can knit simpler patterns and give my friends blankets for their babies with 15 mistakes in them. I have a stack of blankets my great-grandma crocheted. They are simple and beautiful and I cherish them, and I have never once wished they were fancier. They are perfect the way they are, and maybe that's the point. I can knit and channel my pregnancy anxiety into something useful and STILL watch TV because the pattern doesn't require a degree in aerospace engineering to decipher. And fancy or simple, the blanket will carry the same degree of warmth.

I'm basically making up my own pattern at this point and making it a simple striped blanket just like the one I knit for Gracie that she still plays with all the time. I should've done this from the get-go, because I've never been good with people telling me how to do things.

If you say you've never had a day like this, you're either lying or trying to sell me calming essential oils.

+ I mentioned it in another post, but our kitchen faucet bit the dust recently, and we had to pay out the nose to have the guts of it basically rebuilt since James was going out of town hours later and we didn't have the advanced notice to pick out a new one to have installed instead. Thankfully it's been working beautifully ever since, but it's 30 years old and ugly and I just hate it. That's not necessarily a reason to get rid of something that works, but even the plumber said we would be lucky to get a few more years out of it. So a-faucet hunting we went! And you guys....the options. It was like the knitting meltdown all over again. I knew the general style I wanted, and our plumber gave us a list of brands to stay the bleep away from because they are impossible to fix if something goes wrong. I found one I loved. Loved! But the price was prohibitive. I mean, you only use it every day but also a metal cylinder probably shouldn't cost half a mortgage payment. I want quality stuff, but I don't have Beyonce's bank account. Every evening we scrolled through pages of faucets on our respective phones. James gives me free reign on 98% of house things. He didn't bat an eye when I wanted a dark teal living room, he tiled the kitchen floor a retro black and white pattern for me, he rarely has an opinion. But on this, he had opinions! Which is funny because WHO does the dishes all day? Hmmm?? But it's his house too and I want him to love it too. So I conceded and we tried to compromise. Turns out, they need a section on picking out faucets in marriage counseling to see how compatible you are.

We finally agreed on one. I was pumped. He went to buy it and found a very similar one for much cheaper. He bought that instead. And it was....fine. Did I hate it? No. But something about it annoyed me and I couldn't pinpoint it. Could I stare at it in my kitchen for years? This is the most first world problem of all time but I could not get past the weird shape of the handle that looked like it was trying to be trendy but in reality was failing miserably. And did I mention we decided to upgrade our bathroom faucets too? Because they're 56 years old and will probably turn into geysers any minute. Plus they UGLY. So then we had bathroom faucets to pick out on top of a kitchen one, and it was HIGH DRAMA in this house. I dreamed about faucets for a week. It got to the point where I could not longer identify what I liked and what I didn't. What's my style again?? Why? I don't know? I can't make this decision! We bought and returned so many when we realized we came home with the wrong finish or they just didn't look right or or or or or.

Well we finally found some faucets. And they've been sitting in boxes for a week because neither of us is in the mood for another repair person/plumber to traipse through our house right now and plumbing is above our abilities. Unlike knitting, I know my place with plumbing. And also because I'm just waiting for the plumber to say "Sorry, but these aren't compatible with your plumbing," even though we got his advice first and did our research and we THINK we know what we're doing. And then we'll have to start the whole process over again.

I think I have decision fatigue. Homeschool groups, churches, paint colors, faucets, bed frames, baby things, KNITTING PATTERNS. I need to be locked in a padded room with a pizza until I stabilize. I promise I'm more sane and rational than I'm coming across right now.

+ I never flip through magazines unless I've been sitting in a waiting room for 10 years and there's a 7 year old People on the table next to me, or I see an interesting one at my parents' house. My mom always has some interesting subscriptions. I don't care about celebrities or what they wore, so I generally stay away from the typical offenders. Somehow when I bought some maternity stuff back in the fall, I got free subscriptions to a handful of magazines. Better Homes and Gardens has been sitting on a table for a week, and I grabbed it the other day. As I was flipping through it, I kept thinking "but when does the actual magazine start?" It was all ads! I know magazines have ads, but it was literally 80% of the magazine. There's no way any writers are on staff because there was NO WRITING. There was a section called Winter Games, and it was just a picture of brownies, kids sledding, and a girl holding a hot chocolate while wearing a neon pink scarf. No captions, no context. Is it a vision board? What editors in sunny warm LA think February looks like in the rest of the country? All I could think was that I wanted the knitting pattern (LOL) to that scarf because Gracie would love it.

Then there was the section on neons (now I'm suddenly understanding why a 30-something woman was wearing a neon scarf), and how 90s neons are tOtAlLy cOmInG bAcK gUyS but only in TINY amounts!!! Make sure you pair it with neutrals like soft woods and whites so as not to startle anyone with !!!COLOR!!! I was LOLing so hard. People are so scared of color. I genuinely don't mind if people want an all-white house even though it's not for me, but the point of the article was not to overwhelm people with color lest they FREAK OUT and need a safe space painted white with a corner shrine to Joanna Gaines. But maybe this wooden bowl with a stripe of neon pink on it as an accent!!! I immediately recognized the bowl, and the source confirmed it's from the same Etsy shop I've had favorited for at least 6 years. I guess I'm trendier than I realized! Better Homes & Gardens should hire me! I'm not sure what they would need an employee for, though, since it's all ads and pointless collages of winter pictures.

Then there was the section on bathrooms and WHAT FAUCET SHOULD YOU BUY? Not making this up. It felt like a personal attack. "Muted brass is still going strong in bathroom faucets right now."  I'm not sure how that's possible since in all my internet scouring, I saw nary a muted brass bathroom faucet. Plus, we bought chrome faucets because it matches our existing features, and also I DO WHAT I WANT. And then they recommended mint green paint, and I kid you not, James just finished painting the bathroom mint green. I'm ahead of the trend and didn't even know it. It was the most condescending thing I've ever read, telling people exactly how much color to put in their house and how to do it, and God forbid you buy a different finish of faucet. Do what you want everyone! It's ok! Don't let the magazines boss you around! It was an eye-opening experience and I'm genuinely shocked people are paid money to publish this stuff.

+ I have a new most embarrassing moment. Last night, James was putting our new bed frame together, when part of it fell on his foot. He broke at least one of his toes. I walked Gracie into her class and lingered for a minute while she talked to one of her teachers about building a snowman since it's snowing today. She was trying to explain that James hurt his toe while building me a bed, but it came out "Daddy can't help me build a snowman because he hurt his toe in bed with mommy last night." My heart legitimately stopped beating for a second. I started walking backwards toward the door and then nearly ran to my car. FOR THE RECORD, I was in the living room half-watching The Bachelor and eating my third helping of sweet potato fries when the injury occurred. Much less....interesting...than the way she described it.

If any of this sounds a bit manic to you, just know I wrote this while under the influence of a lot of donut holes. If you make me admit how many I ate, I'll lie. Mostly because I lost count.


currently, january ed.

watching:  Thanks to a lot of alone time (more on that later), I binged all of Cheer this weekend. My feelings about cheerleading are up there with my feelings on beauty pageants (you can take a stab at what those might be), but I'd heard good things. It was NOT what I expected. It was kind of sad. These poor kids need so much guidance, and I still can't get over how they throw themselves up in the air like it ain't no thang. The pinnacle of my gymnastic abilities was when I finally mastered the cartwheel in elementary school. Watching their routine come together and the way they mastered these truly insane stunts made me cry my eyes out, just like I found myself crying at the animal show at the zoo days before I found out I was pregnant. Thanks, hormones! I'm not usually a crier. I started The Circle on Netflix, and I'm completely repulsed by it even though I can't look away. It's exactly what's wrong with the world. 

James and I have been deep in a Poldark hole. I tried to watch it years ago, but I couldn't get into it. This time around, it sucked me right in and I'm so emotionally invested it's embarrassing. Something about winter makes me crave a period drama. It's probably from years of a new Downton Abbey season coming out every January.

listening to: I made a playlist called winter blues, and it's full of grungy, indie, bluesy rock. It feels perfect for January. It's the kind of music that makes you want to have a dance party while still feeling a bit angsty inside. 

drinking: ice water and chewing on the ice. Oh my gosh, ICE. I would raid the ice maker in the middle of the night during my last pregnancy because I craved the sensation of chewing ice. I'm right back there again, but so far my obsession with the smell of rubber has only partially returned, so I'm clinging to a little bit of sanity. Before you say it---yes. My iron numbers are slightly low. But they weren't last time!

relieved that: the last few weeks are over. They were High Stress. They included a migraine that lasted nearly a week, my glucose test which included the world's most horrible phlebotomist. She stabbed my arm over and over and over, dug and twisted the needle around, and had a royal attitude with me for bringing Gracie as if I had a choice. By the time I left, my entire inner elbow was black and blue and swollen. I couldn't even move it. It's been four days and my arm is still sore and a rainbow of colors. I got myself a recovery flat white, and it fell upside in purse. When I got home from that hot mess of a morning, I found our kitchen faucet gushing water out of the base. I spent the afternoon playing phone tag with plumbers. This was a bigger deal than it needed to be, because James had to go out of town the next morning because my MIL decided she needed him to make an urgent 600 mile drive at the last minute. He took Gracie with him, and while I was so excited to have my first night to myself in nearly 5 years, I was unnecessarily stressed about the whole thing. More on that later. Gracie got horribly carsick for the first time since The Great Vomit Fest of 2016, even though she was taking Dramamine. She apparently threw up all night. They had to drive home during a snowstorm, and even after they'd been home for a bit, she kept throwing up. IT WAS A LOT TO HANDLE.

smelling: lemon, lavender, and eucalyptus

enjoying: two full days by myself for the first time since becoming a parent. Well, I TRIED. I decided to make it a solo baby moon. After they left, I channelled my nervous energy and had the entire house completely clean by 9am. I watched some Netflix, went shopping for baby things, and met some friends for dinner. I got a late night hankering for donuts, so I went through the Krispy Kreme drive thru on the way home to celebrate passing my glucose test. Not to pull the pregnancy brain card again, but let's just say I completely forgot to order and pulled up to the window and realized my mistake. The cashier took after the phlebotomist and was SO rude about it. She went to get my donuts, pulled her coworkers aside, pointed at me, and they all laughed and gave me rude looks. I have never felt more ashamed in my life. I would've left, but my need for donuts was stronger than my need to preserve my dignity. All in all it was such a nice day, but Saturday I was a stress case once I learned that Gracie had thrown up all night and the weather forecast changed to include snow while they were driving home.

reading: The Pilot's Wife. It's about a plane crash, and I was reading about this plane crash when I saw the news about Kobe Bryant. It was like the time I watched a tornado documentary on a day with perfect weather, and then an EF4 tornado touched down that evening not very far away. If only I could channel my powers for good. 

loving: having James & Gracie home. I often feel overwhelmed and burned out from never having a break or much time alone, so two days to myself was an enormous gift. It also made me realize how much I LOVE having them around. I mean I always knew that, but it just reinforced that fact. Having G running through the house, talking to herself and playing with her dolls is giving me so much joy this morning. I kept her home from school today to make sure she's 100% herself again before going back, and honestly I was too happy to do it because two days without her was hard!

confused about: why it's so hard to find a decent homeschool group. I have one on the back burner, but there are a lot of factors I need to consider before joining that one. I asked about local ones in a FB group, and a mom said she'd message me info about one really close by. Her message? "So this co-op is by invitation only. You have to have a personal invite by someone in the group that you know." That's it. SO HELPFUL. 


renovating: our bathroom, after finally finishing ripping 4 layers of wallpaper down in the hallway and painting. We're re-finishing the tiles so they're bright white instead of off-white with flecks of black and blue and our shower since it's a gross tan, and James has gotten most of the wallpaper down so we can paint. Beyond that, we got a new shower head and my life is so much better now. I always thought we just had terrible water pressure. Turns out, our 50+ year old shower head was a piece of junk. Who would've thought! I can't wait to rip out our bathroom carpet out. It has to be full of diseases by this point. We're also replacing our kitchen faucet due to the aforementioned plumbing issues, even though our rockstar plumber rebuilt it for us (after hours! no extra charge!) so that it would at least stop leaking while James was out of town. I've been telling James he's nesting harder than I am. If he's home, he's painting or sanding or scraping wallpaper or ordering more supplies or sending me links to faucets and outdoor lighting. 

knitting: everything. I am knitting everything. I am so into knitting right now you wouldn't believe it, and I'm still butchering everything my knitting needles touch. I am so behind on my knitting projects. I just finished one that should've been done last summer. I couldn't knit without wanting to puke until Christmas time, so now I'm trying my hardest to catch up. It's going to be a miracle if I finish baby girl's blanket before she's born. An honest to God miracle.


laughing about:

This is ONE HUNDRED percent what it's like to parent an extroverted kid.


in which I pretend to know stuff about meal planning and dinner ideas

I am not one to ever write a how-to post unless it's how to embarrass yourself in public, because that's the only skill I am truly well-versed in. However, I had a really good conversation with a friend recently about meal-planning, and I've seen several people ask for tips online. I figured I would share my minuscule amount of knowledge in case it helps someone out. It's been a huge area of growth for me since quitting my job and tightening up our budget. Also, what works for one family won't necessarily work for another. I know people who shop every two weeks, and I could never make that work like they do. So consider that your disclaimer and whatnot.

First things first, the most important thing is to pick a budget that works and stick to it no matter what. We'll shift things around and up the budget when we're hosting people, or there's a holiday or something like that, but other than that, we stick with it and I'm very proud of us for how well we've done with that. We pretty much never eat out in a restaurant these days because it's just not super affordable in our current phase of life, and we'd rather spend that money on other things. We do order the occasional pizza or pick up Chipotle for ourselves when Gracie is in bed, but all of that comes out of a separate budget. I walk through the store with the calculator open on my phone so there are no surprises when I check out; I know exactly what everything is going to cost. I also go the same day every week. Correction, I try to. That has completely gone out the window since I got pregnant, and I'm just now getting back in the swing of meal planning and shopping in a regular routine, and honestly I'm going to have to start doing Clicklist again soon because pushing a full cart while this pregnant is getting harder by the week.

I do 99% of my shopping at Kroger. I know grocery stores are regional, so that's going to be different for everyone. I also know a lot of people who shop at Walmart. I've done that in the past, but I tend to avoid Walmart as much as possible, especially the one we live near. Because yikes. I know a lot of people swear by Aldi, but it has failed to impress me every single time. I don't know if it's just the one near us or what, but I never find the amazing deals other people do, nor do I find all the fun snacks and such. I can get most everything at Kroger for just about the same price. Every now and then I'll also go to Trader Joe's just to stock up on fun stuff and frozen things for days I don't want to cook. I used to visit multiple stores a week, but that's no longer convenient for us/I don't have the time or energy for it either. But you can do what you want! I also use the coupons on the Kroger app and scope out the sales while meal planning, both which save us a handful of cash every week.

So! Every week on the same day (lately this has been Saturday afternoon), I sit down with a piece of paper. I look at what's on sale, what we have in the pantry (not much because we don't have one....just a random kitchen cabinet), and I ask James and Gracie what sounds good to them. Lately my hormones tell me what I'm eating, which makes things a little easier in a sense, but a lot harder on the days everything is gross. We don't have any food allergies, but I live with picky eaters. We all hate anything from a pig except bacon. Gracie is just picky in general, but she's also required to eat what we eat for dinner. James won't eat much chicken because he's weird. Of course I could eat chicken every day. Balancing their appetites with what I want is often a challenge, but we make it work.

I assign a meal for every day of the week, though I often change what days we eat what depending on time and moods and all those important things. Then I list all the ingredients I need, and I organize my grocery list by area of the store (produce, meat, center aisles, frozen, etc) to make sure nothing gets lost in the shuffle. Then I add in breakfast foods. James will often eat cereal, Gracie likes oatmeal, and right now I'm hooked on yogurt, granola, and fruit. I'll add lunch in too. Gracie usually eats tuna, turkey, mac n cheese, quesadillas, fish sticks, or something like that with fruit and sometimes nuts or something. James packs his lunch for work, and it's usually something quick and easy. I STRUGGLE with lunches. Sometimes I eat leftovers from the previous dinners. I just went through a two week phase of egg and veggie sandwiches. Often I'll make a big pot of soup or something and eat it through the week. Then I think about what snacks sound good to Gracie and to me. I always have lots of fruit and nuts on hand, and sometimes popcorn and rice cakes and Lara Bars. And there's always the staples: milk, bread, eggs, cheese, chocolate, you know.

As I said previously, I walk through the store with my calculator to make sure I stay on budget. If I find myself under budget, I'll grab an extra snack or a treat or something like that. I usually have a few things on my list with a star by them, and those are what I grab if I have the extra money. This week, that was donuts. Because that is the only thing I want to eat right now. Moving on.

I have a pretty good amount of meals I rotate through depending on what tastes good and how much cooking time I anticipate having that week. If you're a foodie, look away. I have a kid to feed and the last thing I want to do with my limited energy is spend hours in the kitchen. I make big batches of soup and taco meat and things like that so we always have leftovers for a few nights. I try to keep our meals healthy, but sometimes we just want comfort food and that's ok too.

Here are some dinners we eat frequently, in case you need some ideas too. And please give me your ideas, because I'm always looking for new meal ideas.

This stromboli recipe is a recent favorite. It is not healthy, but it is GOOOOOD and took 5 minutes to whip together. I leave out the salami because I'm not a salami person. I served it with a salad. Maybe it came from a bag, don't judge.

Cheese enchiladas (I make my own enchilada sauce--there are a million recipes online) with this corn tomato avocado salad.

Sheet pan nachos. I often leave the meat out to save money, and it's still amazing and filling.

Quiche. Of all kinds. There are recipes for every quiche you can imagine. Sometimes I make broccoli cheese, but when I'm feeling gluttonous, this sausage ranch one is ridic. James & Gracie both beg for it.

If you want a twist on tacos, this mexican rice skillet is amazing and we always have a lot of leftovers.

These pineapple black bean tostadas are so good in the summer.

I love white chicken chili.  I make it in the crock pot and stir in sour cream in the end and top with monterey jack and avocado.

White bean parmesan soup. When I make soups like this, I usually make a loaf of homemade bread to go with it.

This is my favorite chili recipe. It's basic yet amazing. I usually add in corn. Sometimes we eat it with cornbread, and sometimes we mix in sour cream, cheese, and fritos. I've been craving it this winter.

This creamy tortellini soup is amazing when it's cold outside.

This rosemary garlic beef stew is amazing as well.

I love this crockpot lentil soup, too. It makes A LOT, so we'll eat it for dinner a night or two, and then I'll eat it for lunches. Also---please don't actually cut up a whole butternut squash. Buy a bag of frozen squash cubes. It's so much easier. Convenience is key.

Some other easy dinners I don't have recipes for:

BLTs. Self-explanatory. I hope.

Get a bag of frozen meatballs and jar of your favorite marinara. Throw in the crockpot on high for a few hours. Throw them in a bun and top with cheese. Meatball subs! Really good with salad and/or sweet potato fries.

Buy some chicken sausage links, like Aidells or the ones at Trader Joe's. Whatever flavor you want. Buy some veggies. I usually go with a sweet potato and red bell pepper. I love brussels sprouts, but G will literally hurl if a molecule of one gets in her mouth. Drizzle with a smidge of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast in the oven at 400 for however long your oven takes. 25-40 minutes probably. I like to buy Aidell's teryaki chicken meatballs and drizzle everything with a little soy sauce and sesame oil.

Get some fresh fish at the seafood counter. At Kroger, they'll season it however you want and throw it in an oven bag, so all you need to do is pop it in the oven at home. I usually get 2 tilapia filets (plenty for three of us) and have them season with garlic, lemon, and butter. We use the fish to make fish tacos or I'll make a salad with spinach, berries, corn, pistachios, feta, and balsamic vinegar.

Chicken tacos! You can throw chicken in the crockpot with a jar of salsa and taco seasoning. Or you can do what I did last night and use a bottle of thai sauce (I used a sweet chili peanut sauce). Throw in tortillas with shredded carrots, avocado, and drizzle with lime juice. Amazing.

Tortilla soup. I've kind of made my own recipe up over the years. Broth, frozen peppers, corn, black beans, zucchini, and carrots. Season it however you want: I use chili powder, garlic, cumin, coriander, and salt and pepper. I top with lime juice, cheddar cheese, avocado, and tortilla chips.

Tacos with ground beef. We make a lot of meat and make tacos, burritos, and sometimes throw all the meat and taco fixings on top of tater tots. I know, Ina Garten will be calling me for gourmet meal inspiration any day now.

Sometimes we just eat pancakes and bacon or something. Sometimes we eat grilled cheese and tomato soup. Sometimes it's a frozen pizza, sometimes it's Taco Bell. Do what you gotta do.

I've probably not contributed any new knowledge to the world, but hopefully this gives someone a helpful idea or two, and PLEASE share yours!