I’m excited to introduce you to our next guest — Monica! She’s a wife, mom, food blogger and photographer who writes at Nourish and Fete, a website with quick, easy dinner recipes. She lives with her husband and kids in northern Virginia.
Alright, without further ado…
Hello! I’m Monica. Like many of you, I’m a long-time reader of Christina’s blog, so I’m very excited by the opportunity to guest post for her today! I always love “day in the life” posts, and I hope mine is not too boring for you. I live in Virginia and am a wife and Mom of two (Henry, 8, and Vivien, 2.5). I also have two fantastic bonus kids, both in their 20s!
A bit like Christina, I left my traditional 9-to-5 job a while back to focus on running my own blog, a recipe site, and to have more flexibility in our family life. So here goes—a glimpse into our days this summer!
A Day In The Life
6:00 am: I (try to) get up.
Like so many people, I’ve realized the tremendous positive impact of waking up at least a little bit before my kids. Just being able to brush my teeth, make the bed, and put on workout clothes makes me feel like I’m in control of the day, rather than the day bossing me around. If I manage to start ingesting coffee, that’s an even bigger win.
Today is excellent—I’m ready to go and have had a significant amount of caffeine before I hear Vivi chirp around 6:30. Even her happy singing can get pretty loud, and I don’t want it to wake Henry, so I get her up and head downstairs. We read some books, she has a cup of milk, and I start unloading the dishwasher. My husband, Paul, might be out for a run, answering emails, or reading news to prepare for his work day. Unlike me, he’s a naturally early riser. Thank goodness, he brews the daily coffee, and often makes us espresso besides.
7:30 am: Breakfast and AM routine.
This is the first week all summer that Henry hasn’t needed to be at swim practice at 8 am. I have a love/hate relationship with summer swim, but it’s more love than hate; although I already miss watching him swim, it is really nice to have more relaxed mornings. Henry comes downstairs around 7:30. I get both kids breakfast—usually protein waffles, frozen hash browns, or cereal; occasionally French toast, pancakes, or oatmeal—and reset the kitchen for the day.
M/W/F: Vivi goes to preschool 3 days per week. On those mornings we usually drop her off between 9:00-9:30. I feel grateful that even on these mornings we can be relaxed and read an extra book or hang out a bit in the playroom because the timeline’s not strict.
T/Th: Today’s Thursday, so Vivi will be home with me all day. On these days we just get ready and roll out for whatever is on the agenda.
9:30 am: Workout, hopefully.
Last year, on Henry’s first day of second grade, I tried Burn Bootcamp, and now I’m a devotee. The child watch changed the game for me. At the time, Vivi was not yet in preschool, and I had pretty much given up on working out. Now I exercise most days of the week. I was really consistent during the school year. It’s been harder during the summer but I still make it pretty often. I’m even at the very early stages of becoming certified as a trainer, that’s how much I love it.
10:30 am – 12 pm: Errands/outings.
It feels like no two days are ever the same through the core of the day, which of course is both good and bad.
This week Henry is in an art/pottery camp that runs from 11 am – 3 pm, so we dash home after the gym, pack his lunch, and go drop him off. He loves art and building things, and sure enough, this camp has been a big hit so far. I think he also likes that it gives him plenty of downtime before and after. I once again feel grateful that a flexible schedule makes camps like this possible.
Vivi’s with me today, and after dropping off Henry we head to the grocery store. The second half of the morning is our best time to knock out any shopping, Target pick-ups, or errands. If we’re lucky and have nothing like that, I try to arrange a playdate or hit up a playground, the community pool, or the library. Our area is very densely populated so there’s no shortage of story hours, museums, and kid-friendly places and events, and I like to stay busy most days (not all!).
2 – 3 pm: Lunch and finally some work.
Back at home, I put away groceries and make a simple lunch for Vivi and myself.
A few months ago I started having a “default” lunch for myself—a gigantic salad with tons of veggies, really good salad dressing, really good chicken for protein, and the most delicious croutons from Trader Joe’s—and it’s been so nice. It’s healthy, I always have the necessary groceries, and I don’t have to think about what to have for lunch unless I specifically want something else. (In which case I get it or make it, zero guilt!)
I always feed the kids breakfast at our kitchen island while I’m still tidying or packing lunches, and rarely eat breakfast myself, so it’s fun to sit down with her at the table for lunch.
Vivi usually naps between 1-2:30, though that’s getting shorter and less predictable. Once I get her down, I do my best to block out everything else and focus on computer work. Running a food blog requires a surprising amount of desk time: editing photos, writing and rewriting recipes, drafting post content, answering emails and questions, posting to social media, reviewing analytics, bookkeeping, etc. I find it nearly impossible to focus on these things when either child is home and awake, so I seize the moment. Today I’m drafting a new post with a recipe I absolutely love for shrimp marinara, and also writing the guest post you’re reading right now!
I also check my analytics each and every day. This year for the first time I broke down a big goal into specific, month-by-month targets, and it’s been very motivating (most days) to track progress that way.
This time really flies by. I know that tomorrow I’ll have more time to work, so I just do what I can for today.
3:00 pm: Pick up kids.
Henry’s art camp ends pretty early, so after getting Vivi up from her nap we head straight to pick up. Tomorrow when Vivi’s at school I’ll pick her up right after getting Henry from camp, to avoid having to go out twice.
3:30 – 6 pm: Afternoon down time/dinner prep.
My kids don’t thrive running errands in the afternoon, plus traffic gets worse, so we head home after activities/preschool in the summer. Of course, we won’t have this luxury once the school year begins. Henry will play travel soccer for the first time this fall, plus we’ll try to keep up with swimming (see: love/hate relationship) and restart piano lessons, too. Everyone likes the sound of each of these things individually but the combination might be too much. I like to have everything planned out, so the fact of not knowing the full schedule and how we will balance it is already causing me stress, even though it’s only July.
We are dog-sitting right now, so when we arrive home, we take the sweet pup out for a long walk. He copes pretty well despite the heat and humidity, and the kids are happy to walk by two “Little Free Libraries” and trade some books.
Home again and we can truly relax. The kids play and putter, and I start dinner.
Since I don’t have much dedicated work time during the summer as compared to the school year, I try to make the most of each dinner. This means that most nights I either test a new recipe or make and photograph a recipe that’s already ready for prime time.
Tonight I want to photograph a recipe for chicken breasts in a light white wine sauce. I’ll serve it with a take and bake bread and roasted garlic green beans, since they’re both pretty hands-off. It’s not ideal to photograph right before dinnertime, but I’ve streamlined my process a lot over the years so it’s possible. Vivi being a bit older helps, and Henry is very helpful. He sets the table and plays with or reads to Vivi if he sees that I really need a couple minutes and her tolerance for independent play is exhausted.
6:15 pm: Dinner/clean-up.
Paul, who works in the office most days, gets home. We all eat dinner together most nights. I’m my own worst dinner critic, but tonight’s a win: everything’s done more or less on time, everyone likes it a lot — even Henry who is my choosy one — and I think the pictures are good. I’ll upload them tonight or tomorrow to review in detail on my computer. I already photographed this recipe once and didn’t love the images, so my inner perfectionist is nervous but optimistic. I’ve made the recipe at least four times and we think it’s perfect now, so I’m really eager to share it on the blog but want the photos to do it justice.
We clean up the kitchen together, catch up on the day, and hang out. Henry excitedly shows Paul his new soccer uniform for the fall, while Vivi serves us endless spoonfuls of play ice cream.
7:30 pm: Bedtime routine.
Not going to lie, this takes forever in our house, seemingly no matter what.
Paul gives Vivi a bath while I hang out with Henry, finish cleaning up, or just zen out for a few minutes. Then I take over with Vivi for books, brushing, lullaby, and theoretically, lights out. This all takes an insane amount of time, but she does get to sleep.
Henry, fortunately, can take his shower, get ready for bed, and read on his own, with just some gentle reminders as to the time. I still like to read with him a little bit, though, and sing the same lullaby I have since he was a baby. (I don’t know how much longer he will welcome this!) By the time it’s all said and done, it’s 9:30 or so.
I really struggle with using this time well. After the kids are asleep, I’m also really, really tired! If I haven’t managed to squeeze in a shower earlier in the day, I take one at night. I try to tidy up, fold laundry, etc., but it doesn’t always happen.
This is also when I fall prey to the siren song of infinite social media scrolling. One of my goals is to cut myself off of Facebook and Instagram during these hours, so I can read more and also fit a couple additional hours of computer work into my week. Or I could just go to sleep!
I do find that being attentive to the tasks I choose makes a difference: for instance, I really enjoy editing photos, so that’s something I can often motivate myself to tackle even late at night. (I always double check them the next morning, though, to make sure I didn’t make any crazy mistakes!) I finish the shrimp marinara photos and shut the laptop and my eyelids at about the same moment.
Then my eyes open again—I grab my phone one last time to check for an email about the final swim meet, just in case Henry is added to the meet sheet and needs to return to practice. He’s not swimming, which, once again, is both happy and sad. It’s honestly a good thing, I’m beat—I don’t have any leftover energy to spend overthinking the status of my 8-year-old’s swimming career. This is definitely for the best.
I’m hopeless and grab my laptop to look at the marinara photos one actual last time. I’m satisfied: the sauce looks as good as it tastes. I promise myself I’ll publish the full post tomorrow. It’s almost midnight, and I drift off immediately.
And that’s the day!