FOOD · LIFESTYLE

How to Make a Weekly Meal Plan (Plus! Free Printable)

Pre-PS: Enrollment for Life is Messy Bootcamp® is now officially OPEN. Click here to lean more!

Earlier this year, I took (what feels like) a 2 month vacation – Bogota + Basque Country + Paris + San Francisco + Sydney. It was epic.

And I did it right. I set auto-responders for the first time in my life. Fully disconnected from all my to-dos. Drank lots of wine. Had the most delicious feasts. Totally indulged. No regrets.

Coming back has been a little hard thou.

The week I returned I ended at the ER. Diagnosis: Vertigo. And that’s not all. Doctors had to run some blood tests. Results: My colesterol is 291 what the hell? And to top things off the scale is 10 pounds off (wink, wink).

Needless to say, I’ve had my wake up calls.

I had a totally different post planned for you this week, but in light of recent events + brought upon myself circumstances, I’m decided to share with you the ONE ritual that never fails me. This habit alone always helps boost my productivity + confidence + happiness + kickstart my road to feeling better about myself. 

The routine I’m talking about is: Sitting down to write a weekly meal plan.

By plan, I mean planned meals. Planned meals are weekly breakfasts + weekly lunches + weekly dinners that don’t feel rushed + that are put together with love + leave you feeling satisfied and happy. I’m talking about dinner parties with special friends + Mexican nights with the in-laws + Iron Chef Saturdays + romantic dates with my man serving homemade Black Bean Burgers with Roasted Sweet Potato Fries. I’m talking about meals worth sharing on Instagram.

When I don’t meal plan, things get tricky. One day spontaneity rewards you with your new favorite chili recipe. “Oh look! Adding mushrooms instead of ground beef tasted so good. WOW! But most times, you’re left with cupcakes that never rise in the oven + a grumpy stomach + having to play menu roulette once more + feeling like crap seconds later.

Planned meals mean never again wondering what’s for lunch. Never again wondering with the fridge door wide open. Never again rushing to the supermarket for last minute groceries without a grocery list. Been there? Done that? Me too.

Planned meals mean less rotten food in your fridge + less garbage inside your temple. Less excuses, more love in your belly.

When you have a system in place, you’re happy + you save money + you fit inside the clothes you wanna wear. Minus the tantrums. You feel centered + grounded + in harmony + empowered, most of the time.

I want to challenge myself, and I want to challenge YOU to steal my step-by-step Meal Planning ritual. Try it. Tweak it. Paint over the parts that don’t work for you.

STEP 1: PICK THE RECIPES

I start most Sunday mornings (emphasis on “most”) with (a) a Greek Yogurt Parfait with fresh strawberries + homemade granola + honey; (b) a stack of cookbooks; (c) a pad of Post-It Page Markers. I’ve pretty much ritualized flipping through cookbooks + flagging the recipes I want to sample next. Hubby thumbs up or thumbs down my picks while playing FIFA. Team work. Aha!

The goal is to pick recipes that match your diet + taste buds + lifestyle. What’s the point of adding “Cherry Rhubarb Country-Style Pie” to the mix if:

  1. You hate making pie crusts;
  2. You have a crazy launch week ahead;
  3. It’s not cherry season;
  4. Out-of-season cherries are freaking expensive
  5. You’re saving for a new DSL camera, remember?

Get real.

Don’t have any inspiring cookbooks in your collection? Crap excuse. There’s Amazon. Meet Google. Buy my cookbook. Visit YouTube. Cruise Pinterest. Hop on foodie blogs. They are your friends. Use these resources to find what you need. Type: “Healthy Salads” + “Clean Cupcakes” + “Green Smoothies.” My go-to Meatless Ragu recipe was born out of searching “Meatless Ragu.” Mind blowing.

In recap, pick one day of the week you’ll sit down + handpick the recipes you want to eat in the week ahead.

STEP 2: PICK THE MENU

After selecting my recipes, I grab my Weekly Meal Planner. I print many ahead of time. First, I put an “X” on the meals that I know will be eaten out of the house for family birthdays, showers, or extraordinary occasions. Then, I match up recipes I’ve picked with openings on the planner.

I’ll even lock down my snacks, so instead of reaching for Dulce de Leche, I go for the carrot sticks with turmeric hummus. Know what I mean?
Sounds easy? Cuz it is!

STEP 3: SCAN THE RECIPES

When filling my Weekly Meal Planner with my dishes, I scan the recipes + ingredient list + special appliances + directions. Then, I check my pantry/fridge stock. Do I have what I need? What do I need to get? I write it down on a grocery list.

This easy step helps me plan out what I need from the store or my local farmer’s market, so I can skip what’s already in my fridge or cupboard.

Sometimes, I’ll even make two grocery lists: One big one for the month + another one for mini-runs to get fresh produce.

Marrying my Weekly Meal Planner with my grocery list is not only ridiculously helpful for stocking up the kitchen, but also to group + organize meals smartly on the schedule, knowing that some things need to be eaten before others + some make sense to make ’em in batches. Think ahead. Visualize the flow.

STEP 4: GO SHOPPING

My dad goes to the supermarket every other day. His juice factory is right behind a local supermarket chain, so he’s found a rhythm that works for him.

Hubby + I do one big ass supermarket shopping spree a month to get napkins + toilet paper + dried beans, things like that. And we do mini weekly runs to buy fresh produce + fresh flowers, typically late Sunday afternoon or Monday morning.

Look at your calendar. When’s convenient for you to habitualize grocery shopping?

STEP 5: MEAL PREP

Around 4pm-ish, when my attention span crashes, instead of scrolling my social media feeds, you’ll find me in the kitchen whipping out treats or prepping sauces with my ninja chopping skills. Yeah, I bring my OCD wherever I go.

Maybe you need to soak nuts ahead of time. Maybe your crust needs to chill out in the freezer before pouring in the filler. Breads need yeast + time to rise. Pasta needs boiling water. Marina sauce tastes twice as good when it cooks on low heat for 3 hours. Can you Tupperware that + freeze it for next week?

When you’re a step ahead, you’re unstoppable.

STEP 6: BON APPETIT

When it’s time to eat, sit down for a mindful meal. Light candles. Turn off the TV. Cellphones go in the basket. Play a little Bossa Nova in the background. Use the fun cloth napkins. Fresh flowers make everything taste twice as good. I’m serious. I want you to fully experience the joy of eating. Look at your plate + smell it’s aromas. Party with it’s textures + let your palate run loose. Give thanks for all the good things that entered your life that day.

That is it my friend!

TIPS + TRICKS

Allllllright alright. I know meal planning takes a little time, especially the finding your groove part, but ultimately it saves you time + stress during the week. You also may find that a meal plan helps you to eat better + cut down junk food from your diet. Pow!

Here are a few suggestions to take your system to a whole new level of awesome:

  • Double check. Make sure you examine your fridge + pantry before heading to the store with your grocery list. You can easily blow way your budget buying a third jar of cinnamon. I bet you’ve got a lot of goodies in there. So check.
  • Stock up on the essentials during sales. Only two phrases can change a woman’s mood: (1) I love you; (2) 50% OFF. If you arrive at the supermarket + there’s a big sale on organic berries, snag those babies! They may not have been on your initial meal plan, but, hey, you can freeze them + throw them into your smoothies or make soft serve ice cream. The same goes for dry staples, like grains + beans that aren’t going to go bad in your pantry. When on sale… improvise + think on your feet.
  • But in bulk. While cruising the supermarket, head straight to the bulk bins + stock up, especially items that don’t perish too quickly! As your bulk food staples grow, you’ll have shorter shopping lists + an arsenal of inspiration for your home-cooked meals. Added bonus: Display your beautiful beans + grains + spices in mason jars throughout your kitchen.
  • Cut back on restaurants. Holy guacamole, do those restaurant bills pile up! Make your dinner table the new hot spot. Mouth watering backyard BBQs + romantic pizza nights + potlucks with girlfriends + family get-togethers over finger food can revolutionize your culinary senses. No need for Zagat stars. I’m not saying that you should never step foot in a restaurant again; just try to limit your visits. They suddenly become more special + more of a fun affair when they do happen.
  • Eat with the seasons + shop local. Farmers markets are a great place to buy organic foods on the cheap. In-season produce is almost always going to cost less, so try to be flexible + cook with the harvest.
  • Grow your own garden. This year David + I started a mini herb garden (I’m so excited!). It’s exponentially more economical to grow your own food. Whether you live in a studio or a mansion, there’s always room for a few pots of greens. A two-dollar packet of basil seeds will support your salad + pesto-making habits for months.
  • Get creative with the leftovers. Place your fresh herbs in water pots. Wash + store your produce in Debbie Meyer Green Bags to extend their life expectancy. When your produce looks like it’s about to go south, resuscitate it in a delicious stew or casserole. Have you ever tried leftover lasagna? Is even better than on the day you made the lasagna. I’m serious. With a little TV Food Network action, leftovers can be transformed into Pinterest worthy meals.
  • Batch. Batch cooking is another way to save time + money. Double or triple your favorite recipe + freeze the leftovers for a quick + healthy meal when you’re in a pinch. We do this all the time with my signature marinara sauce. We make it in advance + transfer it to airtight container + freeze + thaw for pizza parties or whatnot.
  • Play detective. If you’re like me, you definitely have budget leaks (aka knee-jerk spending at Amazon + Pottery Barn + Etsy + Anthropologie). Look at your bank statements. Identify where you need a little bit more self control. I noticed I was going a little overboard with nut butters, so I started making my own at home. Problem solved!
  • Pay attention. When my food expenses start creeping up, it’s usually because I’m being a bit of a slacker, not a culinary diva. Check for symptoms. Is your apron accumulating dust? Are the takeout menus getting more action than your ukulele? Do you have Dominos on speed dial? The signs are right in front of you, if you’re brave enough to open your eyes.
  • Start your personal/family recipe vault. After a while, you will start to notice patterns – recipes you naturally gravitate towards + others that you don’t fancy that much. Take note. Archive your favorites in cute recipe cards. This trick alone will make your menu picking ceremony significantly more efficient + guarantee you always have safety, comfort dishes on da menu.

DO THIS NOW: Download + take your Weekly Meal Planner for a spin, every week.

My request is simple: Just follow the steps + share your insights in the comments below – What are you putting on your Weekly Meal Planner? 

You know what would be even cooler? To see pictures of your meal planning in action. Snap + share ’em on social media. I want to see how it’s going. How you’re feeling. How you’re making it happen. Imagine how much fun it would be to see everybody’s interpretation + system? So inspiring!

And as for me, I hope to (at the very least) get my colesterol down. Bonus if I can fit into my clothes again.I can’t wear these sweat pants forevz.

 

 

 

PS: Would you like to be a part of a planning club for girl bosses who are all getting together to get our sh*t together? Click here to learn more!

LIFESTYLE

The Cutest World Cup Bracket Printable

I only get psyched for ONE sporting event and ONE sporting event only every four years. I can’t handle the emotional roller coaster of being a super fan any more often than that. But during the World Cup… WATCH OUT! I’ve been known to throw plastic cups at TV screens + eat tacos with my bare hands Viking-style + yell at people during games. It ain’t pretty. 

There are also the infamous all-girl WhatApp groups where we discuss extremely technical + statistically accurate matters ONLY, like uniform colors + hairstyles + anatomy. 

Wait, there’s more!

And this is the first time Panama classifies (#SomosLaSele #SoyMareaRoja) so it’s gonna get IN-TENSE.com around here.

Gotta love this time of every-four-years!!!

If you’re a super fan, and can’t seem to find a cute bracket (seriously they ones I’ve spotted are hideous), I’ve made one for me really, but you are totally welcome to use it too!

We can be like sooooo dysfunctionally hyped about soccer together, but in style please. Click here to download your World Cup Bracket!

Tag me in social media @mayicarles so I can see your World Cup Bracket in action. Please!

Psst.. I designed it so you can take your crayons for a spin + customize your printable with your teams colors. I’ll handpick my favorite pics to regram, and spread this beautiful madness.

Enjoy!

LIFESTYLE · PERSONAL

A Messy Guide to Traveling with Kids

Tuileries Garden, Paris, France – 2018

It’s no secret that I’m a hermit at heart, but when I do leave the house/office, I LOVE to explore the world + go on adventures with my family.

Recently I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how I survive bringing Olivia on board. It’s funny you ask because I’m still pleasantly surprise I’ve pulled it off without casualties.

Still, let me be the first to confess that I definitely don’t have all the answers when it comes to traveling smoothly with a 2 year old toddler. What I can provide is a little insight as to how we do it wing it, in case you’re curious + feel inspired to go on your own family outings.

Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy – 2016

I’ve rounded up a lot of answers to some of your most frequently asked questions below. Let’s call it A Messy Guide to Traveling with Kids, and living to tell the tale.

The Comb of The Wind, San Sebastian, Spain – 2018

Is traveling with kids really worth it?

I know some people feel strongly that taking kids around the world when they won’t be able to remember it all perfectly is a total waste. I see your point. You might actually be right.

But! David + I truly believe exposing Olivia at a very young age to different cultures + smells + tastes + languages + people, really helps her grow – turn her into a less high maintenance little dictador and more into a mini warrior capable of adapting to any given situation or environment (except when not feed).

I always joke that our goal is to raise a wash n’ wear kid. Not a dry clean one. Can you imagine? It would make parenting so much harder than it already is. 

Rome, Italy – 2016

I’ve also found that not many things top the memories our family has created while traveling, Of course, once you get over that first panic attack of “are we crazy, can we really do this?” It’s ALL worth it – the good (discovering an amazing gelato parlor) + the not so good (getting lost in an airport). 

If anything, traveling together has helped build a special bond between us I am thankful for.

At home + the office everything is such a GO GO GO – emails + launches + live calls (and making sure the nanny distracts Olivia so she doesn’t interrupt the webinar) + to-do lists + groceries + client projects + passion projects + house chores, that we rarely have sacred time as a family of three, know what I mean?

Time stops the moment you’re on vacation. You forget the time. You don’t know if it’s Sunday or Monday. It’s pretty neat. 

Louvre Palace, Paris, France – 2018
Biarritz, France – 2018
La Rioja, Spain – 2018
Boboli Gardens, Florence, Italy – 2016

Additionally, as you can probably tell, I’m obsessed with documenting the journey with photos + videos + Insta Stories. Oli often asks me to watch our travel clips over and over again or look at pictures from past vacations. 

Maybe she won’t remember any of it. But we sure will.

Bilbao, Spain – 2018

How do you manage sleeping during your trips?

We like to book a hotel with a king size bed so Olivia can sleep in the middle, just like we do at home. Yes, we co-sleep.

Some hotels, especially in Europe don’t offer this option (even if they say so in their website), so we have to settle for joined-twin beds. I let it slide, but not before whining to hubby + having a lil’ diva moment. Then I remember I’m on vacation, and I calm myself before I wreck myself. Whenever we get a joined bed arrangement, I grab the extra comforter in the room closet, lay it in the middle of the bed, and voila!

Rome, Italy – 2016

Olivia has never been the crib-lover type so she’s grown accustomed to sleeping anywhere as long as mom + dad are on the bed. I guess this has it’s pro’s + cons, doesn’t it? But during travels it’s definitively an advantage.

Oh! And I travel with my pillow, cause not all pillows are created equal. Makes anywhere feel like home.

Tip: Exhaust all your resources to tire out your child before arriving to your room, so when they land on that bed they pass out immediately. Those precious moments of utter silence to scroll your phone + edit photos + post Insta Stories are priceless.

It’s also worth noting that we go for hotels over airbnbs. We like the convenience of having our beds made + fresh towels everyday.

Another biggie is choosing a centric home base in case you have to catch your breath in the middle of the day. We don’t mind splurging a bit more on a hotel to make sure we’re close to everything, and we can easily go back, if needed.  

Montmartre, Paris – 2018

How do you handle meals while traveling?

The biggest thing is to hit a grocery store as soon as we arrive to stock up on healthy snacks (fresh fruit + yogurt + granola + muesli + water), cause no one wants to pay for overcharged water at the hotel mini bar or deal with anyone that’s hangry, including mama when traveling. Game changer.

Mercato Centrale, Florence, Italy – 2016

We do a couple of these market runs during the trip. Personally, I really enjoy seeing all the foreign/local food offered. You can tell so much about a place from what they eat, can’t you? And I love to bring home some staples, like a really nice truffle oil or decadent chocolates.

When it comes to dinning out we typically don’t make restaurant reservations. We either ask the concierge at the hotel + friends who’ve been there recently or clients who live there for recommendations. As much as we love an amazing foodie experience (have your seen Chef’s Table? Our fave show EVER!), we rarely go for the trendy Michelin-star rated spots. We opt for the local laid back favorites. 

Florence, Italy – 2016

If I was traveling alone with David, we wouldn’t mind the pretentiousness + the dressing up for the occasion + the long lines + the doll-size food + the bill. We would actually dig the theatricality, and talk about it for ages. But with a kid, heck to the no. Simple, is better.

Also, let me say, we’ve been surprised to find out that eating out with Olivia (and my nice + nephew on our most recently trip) is far more enjoyable than expected. Watching the kids eat an authentic paella or ask to dip their fries in a special aioli sure warms our hearts.

Zarautz, Spain – 2018

A few more tips when it comes to eating out:

  • Ask for a booth or corner table.
  • Order right when you sit down.
  • Ask for the check when your food comes.
  • Wine always makes you a more tolerant parent.
  • Let your kid sprinkle gummy bears on top of her croissant if she so desperately wants to. 
  • Bring a bag of small toys + sticker books for entertainment (I’m an absolute tyrant when it comes to allowing iPads/phones at the table. Don’t like it. Won’t  tolerate it in my regime. Any other time yes, but not here!)
  • Order something safe from the menu.
  • Order something audacious to try something new.
  • Share food.
  • Always order dessert. No one wants to be related to that person who’s counting calories on vacay.
  • Do a restroom run first thing, and last before leaving the restaurant.
Subway, Paris, France – 2018

Do you travel with a stroller?

I bring our stroller along all the time. We rarely use it at home, but we swear by it when traveling abroad.

We enjoy wandering by foot. We like to get to know a place by walking, several miles if we need to. Having the stroller to rely on is wonderful.

Also, it truly helps in the airport! We don’t even check ours with our luggage. We use it throughout the airport + check it at the plane doors or fit it into the overhead compartment (one of the nice perks of the model we purchased).

In case you’re interested we have the BabyZen YOYO+. What we love about this particular stroller is that it folds and unfolds + can be carried like a bag + can be driven with one hand (the suspension is SICK) + fits just about anywhere + it’s easily stored + can be taken as cabin luggage. Sure makes life easier when you want to grab a bite + catch an Uber + hop on the subway or fly to the other end of the world. After doing my research, it seems like the best fit for our family.

What I love about bringing a stroller along is that it serves as a home base during our days of exploring, where Oli can sit + relax or nap when needed. Oh! And if mama ever feels like shopping, guess what carries all the bags? Wink wink.

I think we’re blessed thou with a child that has no problem taking stroller naps, since her earliest days. And we don’t take that for granted. 

Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen, Panamá – 2018

How to you survive airports + lengthy flights with kids?

Here are my top tricks to surviving airports + long flights:

  • Wear comfy matching outfits. Bonus if you look like an Olympic ping pong team. 
  • If you’re traveling with a stroller, don’t check it with your bags. Once you get to the gate, be sure to go up + check in straight away. They will give you a tag for your stroller + also help you board the plane first, which is nice so you can get situated before all hell breaks loose (just kidding). But seriously, probably the best perk to flying with kids is getting to board early!
  • If you’re traveling with a baby, nurse or give them a pacifier during take-off + landing. That constant sucking + swallowing motion can help with the plane changing pressure considerably. For toddlers, you can give them something to eat during this time so they are also chewing.
  • The iPad is my best friend during long flights. Something I never thought I’d say a few years ago. We didn’t expose Olivia to a screen until she turned 1, and we allow minimal screen time at home, so Oli is always elated to get a free pass to watch all the movies she wants on the plane, and we happily oblige. Her all-time-favorite is The Sound of Music + her current obsession is a tie between Ferdinand + Coco.
  • Get on-ear headphones. Airplane ones suck. We got some pretty cheap ones for $17 that were comfortably padded, but you can go nuts if you can and get fancy noise-blocking ones.  
  • Pack a carry on full of surprises! A new coloring book + little animals + reusable stickers + play dough + a toy doctor kit + gel markers. 
  • Also, pack snacks in your carry on that are easy to eat + keep their blood sugar up.  We take grapes + blueberries (careful, they stain) + pretzels with chocolate hazelnut butter + empanadas + raisins + granola bars. I also bring her favorite treats – chocolate covered goji berries + gummies, for manipulation purposes only.
  • When the seatbelt sign is turned off and it’s okay to move around, take a walk up + down the aisles. It’s hard enough for me as an adult to sit still for an hour or two, so I can’t imagine forcing a child to. Plus! It helps to break up the trip, especially if it’s hours upon hours to let them get a bit of exercise.
  • Be nice to the people around you. I remember I made homemade granola favors for Olivia’s first trip (she was 6-months old and we we’re flying to a wedding in Vieques, Puerto Rico) to apologize in advance to my fellow passengers for what they were about to experience. I was always that person who hated seating close to a crying baby, and now I was about to become that mom. Oh God! Oli was still breastfeeding at the time + she ended up sleeping the entire plane ride, but the point is: be a nice and considerate human being. Doesn’t hurt to say hello when you sit down + apologize up front for any crying + spilling or chaos that may break loose at some point during the flight. And let them know you will do your best to keep it to a minimum. 

Not gonna lie. So far, we’ve been really really lucky in our flights. Great people around us, as well as great flight attendants. And when we travel with other family members, everyone help us + we take sleeping shifts. It makes such a big difference.

Very occasionally you may see an eye roll, but for the most part, people are awesome, which makes me regain my faith in humanity. Several folks have actually offered help when they see you could use a hand. They understand you’re just trying to get somewhere too.

Louvre Museum, Paris, France – 2018

How do you decide what activities to do + where to go to keep both the adults + kid(s) happy?

Everyone does as I say. Period.

Kidding.

What happens is Oli is still small. It’s kind of a breeze, because she just cruises in her little stroller vehicle as we wander around museums or shops. 

I know my days are counted thou. Soon enough, Olivia will have a say in the activity planning. And my life will be over.

Kidding.

Florence, Italy – 2016

Obviously we enjoy wine tours + majestic cathedral strolls + shopping sprees, but nothing beats a stop at a carrusel + bookshop + outdoor playground + pasticceria or children’s section at any department store, and seeing Olivia’s eye light up. And so do ours.

Athletic Club Bilbao, Spain – 2018
Galerie Lafayette, Paris, France – 2018

We love seeing her so happy, and I think that’s what ends up happening to all us parents. We soften up in our knees. It’s pretty pathetic. And beautiful.

You know what else? Something we have found to work really well is to show Olivia pictures + maps + YouTube videos + books of the places we are headed, and talk about our trip far in advance. The anticipation of a trip can be as exciting as the trip itself. 

 

Nassau, Bahamas – 2016
Monte Igueldo, Spain – 2018

If I missed anything you are curious about, feel free to ask in the comments and I will do my best to respond!

Florence, Italy – 2016

And if you have any tips of your own that you don’t mind sharing, I would really appreciate it. We have a big trip coming up – the farthest destination yet, and we’re a bit nervous, and could use a hand.

Biarritz, France – 2018
Rome, Italy – 2016

If you only remember one thing from this article please let it be this: Don’t stress yourself out too much about traveling with little ones. You got this! You are a super mom! You were showered with invisible mom superpower confetti capable of achieving the impossible in extraordinary circumstances.

I promise it’s much easier than it looks. Let me even dare say it’s much more straightforward + intuitive + simple than parenting from home. I swear! Or else I wouldn’t keep doing it, do you think I’m a masochist? 

LIFESTYLE

Life is Messy Bootcamp is BACK

Eight years ago I lost my hand wrestling battle to perfectionism and embarked on a quest to trust the mess. I’m still learning to love the part of myself that no one claps for, but this is what I know to be true:

Mess is in our DNA.

Embracing our imperfections is scary, but not nearly as terrifying as giving up on who we are for fear of “what will they think?”.

Whether you’ve hit a plateau, you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the incompletes in your checklist, you’re looking for a smarter way to get where you want to go or you’re simply in need of a friend who gets it, I VOLUNTEER, I volunteer as tribute to be your personal pocket-size cheerleader + help you transform your hiccups into a story of triumph. 

I created Life is Messy Bootcamp® for recovering perfectionist like me. And today I’m reopening the doors for members-only. Stay tuned for the grand relaunch to the public. It’s gonna be AWESOME!!!

Here’s a lil’ sneak peek of our latest photo shoot:

To learn more, go to www.lifeismessybootcamp.com and sign up to the wait list. You don’t want to miss what’s coming up next.

 

 

LIFESTYLE · PERSONAL

It’s Been a Heck of a Year (A Letter To My Daughter On Her First Birthday)

CBE_4994

I can’t believe its been a year already. I mean, we just brought her home, like so little ago! Now she is one. ONE you guys!!! How could one feel so huge?

I have been racking my brain trying to figure out what to get Baby O (or should I call her Little O now?) on her first birthday. She is beautifully uncomplicated. Would rather play with Tupperwares + keys + boxes + TV remotes, than most toys. Simple things. They make her totally happy.

New cute clothes + hair accessories + shoes, those things would only be for me, she’d rather be naked!

So, I stayed up late writing her a heartfelt, teary-eyed mommy to daughter letter (the first of a lifetime of birthday letters I supposed).

Here I go.

CBE_5000

CBE_5004

To my beautiful daughter on your first birthday,

You turned ONE! Un añito mi pequeña malvabiscos.

I always thought that at your first birthday party I’d be sitting in a dark corner sticking nails in my eyes in protest of you turning one. Of course, it’s bitter sweet to see how quickly time is passing + how fast you are growing up, but it’s also so incredibly exciting to witness you bloom. So, for the time being, I will hold off the protesting in exchange of watching you become you.

It’s been a heck of a year.

CBE_5109

CBE_5111

I‘ll never forget the first day we brought you home from the hospital. You were so teeny tiny, remember? I was afraid to get you out of the car seat… I was panicking about walking you up the stairs to your room… I was terrified to be left unsupervised + expected to keep you alive.

Your dad + I were like, “Alright, we’re a family of three now. We’ve got this.” Of course, we really had no idea what we were doing. I sure had no idea what I was doing or what being a mother truly meant. My! How quickly things have changed.

With each new day + passing milestone, I would say, “OH! This THIS is my favorite stage!” Then I would find myself saying the exact same thing the next day. And the next. And the week after that. I quickly learned that each day is better than the day before when you’re around.

In a way, we all grew together over the past year. You learned many things, we learned many things.

You learned to laugh, and I learned that your giggle is my new favorite sound in life.

You learned to point point point your finger at things, and I learned that you are a girl who knows exactly what she wants.

You learned to say “papapapapa” + “mamamamamamamama”. Then you learned to say “agua” + “Peppa Pig”, and I learned you are one smart cookie.

You learned to nurse, and I learned that breastfeeding you on demand for 12 months wasn’t a sacrifice at all. It was the greatest gift. Despite the social pressures + awkward interrogations, I cherish the memories of having you so close to me, wrapped in my arms. Our happy place.

You learned to push doors + open drawers, and I learned that nothing could ever get in your way. You’re surely on a mission. And I’m psyched to be Hand of The Queen.

You learned to eat solids, and I learned you don’t care much for spoon planes or purees, you would rather grab your meal with your own chubby little fingers, don’t you? So I channeled my energy at researching every nutritional fact about every food + cooked for you every day so you could grow strong. Did you know, petit pois, your favorites, are very high in fiber, which is essential to ensure regular bowel movements? But let’s leave poo for another time, shall we?

You learned to push your little cart everywhere, go places by yourself, and I learned to stop chasing you, learned to let you go. Mi vasquita, you are so painfully independent, yet always find a way back into my arms.

You learned to roll over, to crawl, to sit up, to take your first steps, and I suddenly learned that you wouldn’t stay a baby forever. That’s alright! No matter how many candles you blow, as long as I’m your momma, in my heart my baby you will always be.

It’s been a heck of a year.

CBE_5056

CBE_5088

CBE_5081

CBE_5040

CBE_5077

CBE_5061

Funny thing is, in many ways, you taught us more than we taught you.

Each day I watch you learn + explore the world around you + I find myself getting excited about the simple joys in life again.

The love you have for the wind…

The way you gaze at the trees…

How you light up when you see a bird…

Your need to ring every door bell + flicking every light switch…

Your pull towards grandma’s coo coo clock…

The fascination you have with swimming pools…

Your obsession with my office supplies…

Your intrigue at whatever dad’s eating. (By the way, that’s how we get you to try most things, we just put it on daddy’s plate. Works every time!)

Enjoying the little things with you was been the bestest!

CBE_5096

I’ve learned to see the world through your eyes + suddenly, everything is even more amazing.

I love being your personal jungle gym.

I love being your favorite pillow.

I love being your safety blanket.

I love loving life with you!

I have been determined to soak up every day with you, especially since you waste no time growing up.

It’s been a heck of a year.

CBE_4981

CBE_4974

CBE_5036

I took you to the ocean, and you crawled straight into it, fearless, with purpose. You are a total beach babe. That’s why daddy calls you Sirenita (translation: Little Mermaid). You love the water so much, since day one.

I took you to the movies to see The Force Awakens dressed up as R2D2. The force is strong in you child. Feel it. It’s calling to you!

I took you on playdates with your besties Isa Mar + Martina. You shared with them your Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs set, which is your fave. I saw you. And I was so proud of you baby.

I took you to Puerto Rico + flew you on an 8-passenger charger to Vieques to attended your first wedding par-TAY!!!

I took you to Disney World + dressed you up as Snow White, the cutest princess in the magical kingdom. We then sailed away on the Disney Cruise through the Caribbean + dressed you up as the cutest pirate in the seven seas.

But mostly, we spent our days in “goofball island”, which happens to be my favorite also.

You love playing “pick a boo”. You will look me in the eye, grab the closest pillow or blanky you can find, cover your face with it, hold still for a second, then remove it really quick, and surprise me with the biggest giggle. Donde esta Olivia??? Allí esta Olivia!!!

You love books, specially the ones with animals. The lion is your absolute favorite. How do I know? Cuz you “rooooar” when we land on the African safari page.

You love banana bread. Makes you incredibly hyper, so we only feed you that on rare occasions.

You love circling coffee tables like an Olympic athlete doing laps. And while you’re at it, you make sure to knock every piece of decor in your reach + rearrange it to your liking. It’s a skill.

You love Barney. I swore an oath I would never endorse that purple dinosaur in my house, but you LOVE IT. I mean LOVE IT. Okaaaaay. You win.

You love cruising around with movable furniture + making me chase you.

You love tickle fights. And sword fights (ahem ahem, I mean paper straw fights) too.

You love when your grandparents come to visit, so much. And your God Mother too. Heck, you love when the entire clan of comes over.

You love to kidnap our phones + pretend to talk on it. Alooooo!!! 

You love Iker, your big cousin, the greatest baby sitter of all time. It’s the only time you ignore us. No complaining. We gladly use this moment to sit by the sidelines + catch our breath + have a cocktail with an umbrella.

Oh! And you LOVE music. You dance + hum anytime you hear it. You love when Abuelo Cutito plays the guitar + sings to you. And you love drumming to the beat on papa bears belly so much.

It’s been a heck of a year.

CBE_5249

CBE_5252

CBE_5426

CBE_5429

For the record, you’ve never been a great sleeper. You have too much to look at + do for any of that nonsense.

We joke, “Winter is coming” every time the sun is setting.

Yeah. Bedtime has been difficult. I just try to remember how hard it must be to be for you, being so new in this world, thought most of the time I wish you would just fall asleep already for 8 hours straight, preferably in your own mattress, ideally in your own room.

Then it dawns on me that one day you won’t want me singing 12 lullabies or reading 5 books. And that day, I’ll long for the nights I used to rub your little back to help you fall asleep. But mostly, I will miss watching a tu papa check your breathing every 3 minutes to double check you’re still alive. It’s hilarious.

So for now, we’re okay with Plan B: Letting you sleep in our room tonight.

It will soon be over.

It’s been a heck of a year.

CBE_4951

CBE_4941

CBE_4953

CBE_4948

Oh! And do you know why we call you Terremotin (alias Mounstrito)? Because changing your clothes, or diapers for that matter, is like wrestling with a greased Tazmanian devil. You are so not a fan of being still, let me tell ya’.

And you absolutely love being naked! I let you once, be all clothes-less + diaper-less, but it didn’t end pretty. About 30 seconds in I found myself wiping up pee off the floor. So until you’re all potty training will hold off on being naked, alright?

It’s been a heck of a year.

CBE_5297

And have I told you how stunningly beautiful you are? Your Minnie Mouse lashes + gorgeous dark blue eyes have, literally, stopped strangers in their tracks. (What a beautiful baby!)

But even more mesmerizing than your looks, is the beauty of your personality. It amazes everyone that meets you. Wherever we are, you wave + throw kisses + give high fives + clap your hands, as if you were part of the welcoming committee. Everyone wants to be around you. It’s a pull. You’ve got it.

It’s been a heck of a year.

CBE_5311

CBE_5388

CBE_5309

We did it, Miss Olivia. We survived the first round!

As you can probably tell, forty weeks inside my belly wasn’t enough time to prepare my heart for the magnitude of “motherly love”. I’m convinced that’s why moms cry so much, ya’ know? Cuz we have so much love in us, it can’t possibly fit all inside our bodies, so we overflow. That’s what tears are, joy exploding out of our eyes like liquid confetti.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: I am so grateful that you chose me to be your mommy Olivia. You know I asked for you too, right? Dad + I both did. We wished for you… dreamed about you… waited our whole lives for you. You are our bucket list. I want you to know that.

Thank you for the lessons + the laughter + the wake up calls of what’s truly important in life. Thanks for changing me forever + bringing out the best in me. You make me want to be better + do better, not only as a mother but as a wife + sister + daughter + friend. You’re like a lil’ performance enhancing happy hippo pill.

I hope when you’re able to read this letter, years down the road, you will smile, and know that the day you were born was the happiest day of my life. And my first year as a mother my greatest adventure!

CBE_5479

Happy 1st b-day sweetheart!

Your dad + I love you very VERY much.

Te amo infinito.

(aka your Mommy)

Photography Credit

Susana Aramburú

Pin It on Pinterest