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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Working Moms: Balancing Home, Family and Community

Hi friends! Today I'm guest posting over at E, Myself and I on the topic of working motherhood and community--check it out right here!  I've included the post below, but be sure to check out Elizabeth's fantastic working mom series--and blog in general!


When I was younger, I did not want to be a working mom.  To me, working motherhood seemed like stepping on a nonstop carousel, with no time to breathe, read a book, or even do something really self-indulgent, like baking chocolate chip cookies from scratch. No, thank you.

Years passed, and when I welcomed my first baby after a few years of infertility I found that (a) I really liked my job, and was loathe to leave it, and (b) I needed social time to be happy. Oh, and the salary was somewhat necessary too!  So I found myself becoming exactly what I had wanted to avoid--a working mom.

Since becoming a working mom, I've learned a few things. First, every mom feels like they're on a carousel that never stops spinning, at least some of the time. But more importantly, instead of trying to find a balance between work and family, I find myself struggling to find a balance between work, family, and all that other stuff that makes up our lives, especially community.

In my Orthodox Jewish community in New Jersey, we invite guests for the Sabbath (aka "Shabbos") a lot, sometimes nearly every week. If you've never been to a Shabbos meal, it's basically the equivalent of making a Thanksgiving meal every single week.  In addition to that, when someone in the neighborhood has a baby (which seems to happen a lot!), a sign-up sheet goes around to prepare meals for them.  There are community events, last-minute prayer meetings, and the everyday things I want to do for my friend who just broke her leg and is bedridden, or the one who has been having a hard few months.

But the question is, how? How do I do all of these things without sacrificing sleep, mental health, or biting my husband's head off? When do I push myself to give to my community, and when do I accept that there is a season for everything, and this may not be the season for X, Y, or Z?

I wish I had an easy answer to this question (maybe someone else can write this part of the post?) but I don't. I've been trying and honing and debating for twenty months since I became a mother, and the little baby I'm expecting in December will only shake things up, I'm sure. But although I have no golden wand to share with you, here are a few of the tips I've found that have helped me strike this balance:

  • Just because you need to do something LESS doesn't mean you can't do it at all. I may not host Shabbos guests every week anymore, but I still host every 2 to 3 weeks, which adds up to a lot of guests over the years. 
  • Do things your way. If a Shabbos guest offers to bring a dish, I always say yes--less work for me!  I serve a good amount of food, but I don't knock myself into the ground making two  kind of meat and fourteen side dishes.  (In keeping with this theme, if you have a baby and I bring you a meal, it will probably be pasta-oriented. Maybe with meatballs. But no appetizer--salad--main--side--dessert business.)
  • It isn't all or nothing. The other week, I really wanted to attend a prayer meeting for a young girl that was sick, but just did not have it in me to get dressed and go out at 9:00. So instead I texted a friend who was going, and she told me which Psalms they were dividing up, so I was able to participate from home. 
  • It's okay to say no. My husband came up with the "resentment test," where before I agree to something I try to figure out if I will feel resentful of the commitment when it comes times to follow through. In the past, If I did feel resentful, I assumed that was a flaw in my character. Now, I'm trying to think that maybe it's just a sign that this commitment doesn't fit in with the obligations I have on my plate at the moment. And that's okay. 
Community is such a huge part of life. For me, my faith, my closest friendships, and my core identity are all tied into it. I wouldn't be a complete person if I didn't spend time on those things.  But at the same time, there are only so many hours in the day.  So I try to balance, and sometimes I do a great job, and sometimes I fail.

But the nice thing about community is that it's always waiting for you the next day, when you're ready to try again.  And so is parenting!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Our Insta-Life

A whole week since I last posted! Jeepers!  Life has been nutty (as usual), and I've been trying to relax more in the evenings (which is NOT usual, but should be), so hence, not enough blogging.

But today, I have some peeks at our life lately via Instagram!  You can follow me at @keshetstarr!

Little lady continues to be quite the reader. She also likes reading the same book 78 times in a row:) But I love cuddling with her and a book!

Ellie sampling a just-baked challah roll. Who can blame her?

New shoes from Payless. Love them, but LORD HAVE MERCY their online ordering system is designed to torture people. Or at least me.

Some mama and baby time:)

Kid likes her bananas!

A little bit of anger at the dinner table:)

And, just because I'm hormonal and nostalgic, can you BELIEVE my baby was once this tiny???

And the fact that this new baby will be EVEN TINIER? Cannot handle it:)

Are YOU on instagram? If so, link up with your username!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Likes & Dislikes

Last week was one of those "I can't get comfortable and have leg cramps all night so I'm more exhausted each progressive day" weeks. Hence, no blogging. I was lucky to get dressed every day:)

But I slept well last night, and I'm hoping for a comeback!  I have a little layout to share with you today!

I am loving the gold everywhere this season. As you can tell!

On this layout, I documented some of Ellie's likes and dislikes at her current age (which was 16 months--I'm a little late on the uptake here).

It's funny to look back on, because even in a few short months, things have changed.  Bottles (aka bakis) are no longer part of our routine, and Ellie is now able to reasonably tolerate me holding other babies. Which is good, seeing as how her sibling will need some love and attention! 

Hair dryers and carseats are still on the "dislike" list, and she seems to dislike sharing more than ever....Luckily, strawberries and cheese are still solid favorites.  

Toddlers--hard to keep up with them, I tell you!

Here's the full layout:

I used a Studio Calico kit for this one, although I can't for the life of me remember which one. 

I really enjoy likes/dislikes pages because they're great at showing personality and who we are at a certain age in a fun and engaging way. I need to do one for myself soon!

What are YOUR tops likes and dislikes right now?

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Patch!

Yesterday, we had a great time at a local pumpkin patch!  Last year, I missed pumpkin patch season and was pretty upset about it--I mean, here I had a little baby girl to stick in with a bunch of pumpkins for a photo, and I MISSED IT!  So this year, once I realized our Sundays were filling up for the next month, I corralled my family and we headed out!

Now the light was not ideal (middle of the day, man) and E refused to sit still, so that did affect the photos, sadly.

At least she kept her bow on, right?

The place we went to was a lot of fun!

There were lots of pumpkins, and mums. And some cinnamon sugar donuts that looked pretty amazing!

E became obsessed with pushing around pumpkin carts

And being pulled around in them!

Ellie also fell in love with a cute little hay playground, and could have gone down that slide about 7,000 more times if we had let her!

It was a gorgeous day!

We wrapped up with a corn maze and a hayride.

I couldn't resist taking this photo.

Remember this one from two years ago, exactly?


Love our little family.  And the siblings that came along with us!

Do YOU go to a pumpkin patch in the fall? What is fall like where you live?

P.S.--There are some great working mom link-ups/series going on right now--check 'em out at E, Myself and I and Kelly's Korner!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pinteresting Recipes

I don't talk about it much here on the blog, but I cook a lot. Weekday cooking, Shabbos cooking, challah, desserts, you name it. Pinterest has been my favorite thing ever for finding, organizing and actually trying new recipes!

So, I figured I'd give y'all a peek into some of the recipes I've been trying from good 'ol Pinterest-land

First, up, this baby, which I just made again tonight:

Mexican Lasagna from Annie's Eats.  It's rare that you find a recipe that's easy, full of vegetables, and INSANELY DELICIOUS. The modification I make is that instead of several layers of noodles, I just do two--one on the bottom and one on the top sandwiching the filling. I prefer more stuff and less noodles!  But seriously? Go make this and report back:)  (And I'll add that Annie's blog is spectacular in general!)

Find the pin here.

Next up, a Pioneer Woman recipe!

Butternut squash quesadillas. These were a great way to add some veggies and unusual flavor to a basic easy meal. Loved them and will definitely make them again!  Find the pin here.

I also discovered these  Cheesy Stuffed Peppers, which are a great way to de-carbify (is that a word?) stuffed shells--just use peppers instead of the shells!  My modification to these is that I make them in big peppers because I don't have the mental stamina to stuff 20 tiny peppers. Just the way it is:)

See the pin here. These are from Busy in Brooklyn, a wonderful kosher cooking blog!

I was SUPER excited to try this One Pot Pasta, which went around all over the web, but it just didn't come out right for me--too oily. But it looks so good I'm kind of tempted to try it again?

Find the pin here.

I was also very excited about these Oreo Stuffed Cookies, but somehow they were just too much for me. My guests loved them though, so I'm probably just a chocolate-chip-cookie-purist weirdo:)  These are from the fabulous Bakerella--her blog is pure baking indulgence!  Find the pin here.

And speaking of upcoming recipes, I'm trying this Peanut Butter Smoothie over the weekend and can't wait!  Also from the fabulous Annie's Eats. Find the pin here.

Have YOU ever tried a Pinterest recipe? How did it go??

You can follow my Recipes board here and other Pinterest boards here!

Monday, October 7, 2013

First Day--October 2013

One my favorite blogs, Journey to Josie, has a link-up each month of "First Day" posts, showing glimpses of the first day of the month. Since I LOVE recording "Day in the life" type posts, I figured I'd play along!

So here is a day in our lives--Tuesday, October 1st.

After I pray, the first thing I do each morning is check my email, in case I get a "don't come into work today" email. Which has happened exactly once in my life. But still--don't want to drive all the way in to the city accidentally, right?

My partner in crime is usually digging through my office drawers while I do this.

(She was probably asking for a cookie here.)

Once Steve gets home for morning services, I eat breakfast and try to read a blog or two with a cup of coffee.

Afterwards, I use my phone to say the Grace After Meals.

Gotta love technology these days!

Once I get to the office, I first start off with my beloved to do list.

I had a good, busy day of meetings and phone calls. It passed by quickly!

A selfie on my way home:

And then, I drive back over the George Washington Bridge and head to daycare to pick up my Ellie.

She usually entertains me (and often asks for cookies) on the ride home.

I love heading home to a (hopefully) clean kitchen at the end of the day.

Doing some pre-dinner tidying....

After almost an hour of playing and hanging out, it's time for THE BEST, aka dinner.

Ellie is in that toddler phase where dinner is NOT EASY. Everything must be just so--the banana partially peeled, the strawberries unsliced, the cheese stick only PARTIALLY unwrapped from the plastic. She will ask for things and then wave them away with an imperious gesture, and then demand other things in toddler language which I don't understand. So it's a loooooong 20 minutes.

Case in point:

While this excitement is going on, I prepare a spinach lasagna for dinner.

Then, we relax on the couch for some much-needed reading time,

Which continues with Daddy when he gets home.

After bedtime and dinner, I put in an hour or so of menu planning for Shabbos and the upcoming week

And then, finally, time to relax and get ready for bed!

Have YOU ever recorded the first day of  your month? How much does it change over time?