Sunday, December 20, 2015

Pecan Sweet Potato Casserole

I made this dish for Christmas last year, and now I think it's my "signature" dish that I'm required to bring to all holiday functions.  Even the kiddos loved it (who previously wouldn't eat sweet potatoes)-- "it tastes like pie!" they told me.  Honestly, I didn't eat sweet potatoes at the holidays until I was in college--even that weird coating of marshmallows couldn't entice this kid to try them.  However, if the sweet potato casserole at my family functions would have looked like this, I probably would have tried them a lot sooner!
Looks more like my mom's apple crisp, and less like somebody baked a box of Lucky Charms.

This is also great if you have to travel for the holidays--you can make the two parts separately ahead of time, refrigerate, and then put the topping on the casserole when you get where you're going and just bake for 30 minutes.

What I also love?  This is SUPER easy to make.  Even with a fussy 2 month old in the next room.  AND you can take super-cute Christmas photos of him after you put the casserole in the oven.


INGREDIENTS:
filling:
3 cups cooked & mashed sweet potatoes
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup half & half
topping:
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:
Start with the topping, as you'll want to chill it after all the ingredients have been combined--this results in a beautifully crisp crumble topping.
Combine the topping ingredients in a medium sized bowl, using a pastry cutter or a fork until crumbly.  Stick in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350F, and lightly spray a 9"x 13" pan with oil or cooking spray.
For the filling, combine all the ingredients in a large bowl or stand mixer and blend until thoroughly mixed.  Then place in the baking dish, and add the crumble topping.  Bake for 30 minutes, and then allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving.



Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday Food & Crafts!

I know--a non-baby post!  Shocking, amirite?  Maybe I'm starting to get the hang of this "mom" thing.  (*snorts* Yeah...don't worry, there are plenty more "adventures in parenting" posts to come. I know enough to know that I don't know ANYTHING.)  

Christmas is my favorite time of year, and since our little man is still immobile, this is probably the last year we'll be able to have a nice, fully decorated tree for a few years, so I'm enjoying it.

Since Baby J takes his best nap in the mornings, that's when I'm able to get the most stuff done, including Christmas crafts (and gift wrapping, of course)!  Granted, I don't have a TON of free time, so I tried to keep things fairly simple, but all in all, pretty happy with the results!

1) Keepsake Baby's 1st Christmas Ornament:  You've probably seen variations of this one floating around Pinterest and Facebook.  I took a clear plastic ball ornament, then managed to cram one of Baby J's now-too-small hats into it, along with one of his hospital bracelets, and a little sheet with his birth date stats on it.

2) Mistle-toes Ornament:  This one has also been pretty popular on the interwebz this Christmas.  I made a small batch of salt dough (1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup water) and tinted it with food coloring till I got a nice deep green.  Then we rolled it out, floured the top lightly (so his foot wouldn't stick) and stuck his lil' feet down on it...after which he promptly curled his toes and got a bunch of dough stuck between his toes, which he was NOT at all happy about. (SUCH a prima donna.)

SOoo...then after we cleaned his feet and calmed him down, we trimmed around the footprints, poked a hole in the heel, and baked them in a 300F oven for about 30 minutes.  Once cooled, I coated them with clear coat.  Then I took some bells that I got half price after Christmas last year, painted them red (and clear coated them as well).  I used hot glue to affix the two foot prints together, with their holes overlapping, then strung two bells through the hole.  Ta-Da!

3) Button Ornament:  This is a reprise of the one I did last year, only I used purple & various neutral colored buttons.  Went to a friend as a gift.

4) Spiced Pecans:  I usually make my spiced pecans in the microwave, but with a baby napping in the next room I didn't need the beeping every few minutes.  So I made them in the oven instead, using this recipe (though I added a bit of cumin, ginger, nutmeg, clove, and a pinch of cayenne in addition to the cinnamon).

5) Simmering Potpourri:  My in-laws family Christmas this year involves a $10 homemade gift exchange, so I made a quad of gifts--a jar of the spiced pecans, steak rub (next section), some gingerbread sugar scrub (see below), and a jar with all the ingredients for this simmering potpourri. (Hint:  use mandarin oranges or satsumas so they fit into the jar easier)...the link includes a free printable!)

6) Mocha Steak Rub:  I saw this on an episode of Brunch with Bobby Flay (because there's a lot of Food Network on while I've been on maternity leave) and it sounded really tasty and pretty easy to make!  We tested it out on some t-bones before gifting it (because when you have a food blog, it would really suck to give someone a foodie gift and then find out it tastes horrible).  To add a "cajun" flair, I used Community Coffee's New Orleans blend with chicory instead of the ground espresso.  The chocolate flavor is pretty subtle, but I LOVE the coffee flavor--I want to make some of the chocolate BBQ sauce that's also in that link and see if that helps to enhance the flavor.

7) Gingerbread Sugar Scrub:  I don't know about you, but my skin gets super dry & cracked this time of year, especially my feet.  So I really love sugar scrubs.  Now, I learned my lesson from that coffee scrub I tried last year, which was more hassle to clean out of my shower than it was worth.  So this year I decided to go with a scrub that was less likely to make a huge mess in the bathtub, but that would still be full of Christmas spirit. I saw the recipe for this gingerbread sugar scrub on Pinterest and since we had everything already on hand, I gave it a go.  YUM. (smell wise--I haven't actually tried eating it...though you probably could!)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Adventures in Parenting: Things that Suck.

Some days are good.  Some days are bad.  Sometimes, just moments are bad, but they can taint an otherwise good day.  This is just one of those venty posts--that hopefully some day I can come back to & laugh about once he's older.

1.  Nursing:  I won't lie--nursing is rough.  Not the actual process, but the reliance it creates.  Mama has bedtime duty because she can nurse him to sleep.  Mama has the magic boobs that can comfort a fussy baby.  Mama gets to wake up in the middle of the night for feedings.  Mama is the food source, so baby is instinctively anxious when that food source is not around, making Daddy's life hell if Mama leaves the house for a couple hours.

I know we need to start pushing the bottle, which will fix this problem--right now he's taken a bottle maybe 5-6 times, either from grandparents while babysitting, or a couple times from Dad while I was out.  We go to day care soon, so we've got to get him eating from a bottle regularly.

I also know nursing is just temporary--homeskillet is not going to be chompin' on the boob at age 13, or even age 1.  If we're lucky, between feedings at home & pumped milk we'll make it to 6 months.  I also know what I'm doing is an amazing miracle of the human body:  I'm producing food for a human being (that I also made with my own body).  The only other time you can do that is if a) you have a dinner date with the Donner party, or b) you're Bear Grylls drinking your own urine from a snakeskin.
But right now...it kinda sucks.

2.  Mama's Boy:  As I mentioned above, I'm pretty sure that there's an instinctive draw between baby & mom because mom is the food source.  It's like homo sapiens desire to be near water, because we need it to survive (which is why we tend to feel relaxed at the beach or near a river--it's coded in our DNA).  Also--Mama got 12 weeks of maternity leave, whereas Daddy took 2.  Granted, I'm incredibly fortunate that my husband works out of our home/his car, so he is home with us a lot more than most dads get, but it's still me that's here all day.  He's used to hanging out with me all day.  Which means he's used to being soothed by me too.
This accompanied a text stating "Your turn." 

While this is frustrating for me, I think it's more frustrating for The Hubs, who would really like to have some good bonding time with our little man.  It's tough to have a crying baby in your arms that you've been trying to soothe for 15 minutes, and then Mom picks him up and he's totes cool.  Or, like I said, if I leave the house for a couple hours, and little man is supposed to take a nap during that time, he fights it with Dad, so that by the time I get home he's even more riled up--then Mom walks in the door and life is A-OK again.  (It's temporary--even I can't soothe an overtired baby forever.)

Again--I know from talking with other moms that this will change--my little man will grow closer to his dad as he gets older and eventually not want to have anything to do with his dear old mom.  But everything that sucks in the moment still sucks.

3.  Napping:  For the love of Pete, we cannot master the late afternoon/evening nap.  I know I shouldn't stress about this since he'll be going to day care in a few weeks and she'll get him on a good routine from 8a-5:30p, but he is just SO fussy in the evenings.  His naptime routine goes like this:  Wake up, feed, laugh and giggle and "talk" for about an hour and a half, then he conks out in his swing for about 2 hours til it's time for lunch.  Then we feed again, play for another hour, and then we try a nap again--usually in the swing again, which lasts MAYBE an hour if we're lucky.  Sometimes he doesn't want to go down, so if the weather is nice we go for a walk, which will get him to conk out for 30-45 minutes.  Then wake, feed, play again...and then it's about 4-5pm, and Lil' Man is obviously tired, but has no desire to nap.  If he's crankypants & I'm the only one home, I usually resort to putting him in the baby carrier & taking a walk around the back yard or around the house, just to get him to sleep for at least 30 minutes.  
Time for a 4 o'clock nap on Mom...really, it's for your own good--get some exercise, lady.

If he's less fussy & Dad is home, I let him work his magic (a variation of the 5 S's) and Dad can usually get him to take a 10-20 minute nap or so.  We've already bumped up his bedtime to help prevent him from getting too overtired in the evenings.

I know all of this will shift in a few weeks when I go back to work--he'll be waking up at 7:30 instead of 8:30, his day care will get him in a good nap routine, and he'll probably get something of an evening nap in the carseat on the way home, and we'll probably start putting him to bed a little earlier to account for the earlier wake time...so maybe it will all just work itself out.  But since we're talking about rightnowthissecond...again...it kinda sucks.

4. Stay at Home Moms:  I have the utmost & utter respect from you.  Not that I didn't before, but now after being home with our little guy for 10 weeks, I have a more personal, first hand respect.  There is so much that goes into raising a functional tiny human, and to choose to dedicate your life to raising that human (or multiple humans) exclusively is a monumental task...one that I'm honestly not sure I could do.  While I'm grateful for this time with my son, I'm honestly looking forward to going back to work.  Spending my days alone with our little man raises so much anxiety in me, and I spend so much of that time stressing over getting him to nap, or timing out trips from the house so that we're home in time to feed, or trying to find time to pump, or fretting if he'll behave if we make plans to meet up with people, or even just whether he's getting good quality developmental time at home.  I know part of that anxiety comes from being new at this "job", but I can't help that think some women are just MADE to be full time moms, and love doing it, and I admire and honor those women for having that be their Calling in life. 

And then of course, I get to feel guilty for feeling that way, even though multiple discussions with other moms tell me that 99% of new moms feel that way.  The desire to run away is strong.  The sense of "was this a good decision?" looms in the background of my mind--especially every time I see a commercial for a Caribbean all inclusive resort or cruise liner.  There's a level of selflessness required that you've just never had to experience before.  There's an urge to pass him off to someone more experienced because "they know what to do" and I don't.  There's a reason they say it takes a village...but where is my village?  Our families are 2 hours away, and we've all become such an internet society that there's very little face-to-face social interaction.  We're past the "we're coming over to see the baby and bring a casserole" phase, so unless we get out of the house & make things happen, Momma doesn't get to see other adults.  And unfortunately our local La Leche League meets during his morning nap time.

I could go back to work early.  I could opt to NOT do "part time from office, part time from home" when I go back in January (planning to do that for a month before I go back to the office full time).  But I want to "tough it out", partially because Christmas is coming up and this gives me the time to get everything ready for that, and partially because everyone says it's worth it, and that you'll miss the constant baby time once you're back at work.  And since veteran mom's know best, we're making the best of this time.

5.  Being Trapped with a Crying Baby:  Usually we're talking about 15-20 minutes of fussing in the back seat because he woke up & is hungry, overtired, or just tired of being in a carseat.  However, yesterday we went to Silver Dollar City with our church group.  The day started pretty okay--temps were perfect, it was overcast so it wasn't too bright out & we didn't have to put the sunshade over Lil' Man's stroller so he could actually see everything around him, he took a nap on the way there.  He was in a pretty neutral mood about the whole thing.  I fed him at one of the nursing stations they have on park (BTW--thank you, SDC, for that consideration)...and then our group decided to ride the train.  I haven't ridden the train around the park in ages, and so had completely forgotten what to expect. No strollers allowed, so I put Baby J in the Boba wrap so we wouldn't have to hold him the whole time.I knew it would blow its horn at all crossings, so we sat near the back. Lil' Man started to fall asleep as we boarded, and I briefly thought "allright!  He'll take his nap as we leisurely ride around the park." 

NEGATIVE. We forgot that at Christmastime, the SDC train becomes the Holiday Singalong Train, with Christmas music blaring through the speakers in every car, in addition to periodic commentary from the conductor.  As the train pulled away from the station, our conductor's voice came soaring through the speaker...directly above our heads.  Baby J jerked his head away from my chest, eyes wide in horror, hands balled into fists, and then came the wails and tears.  I looked at my husband, terrified:  I now have a screaming baby strapped to my chest for at least the next 20 minutes, with no escape.  I did my best to press his head to my chest and cover the exposed ear with my hand.  Eventually, he would stop sobbing during the Christmas music, and his eyelids would get heavy...and then the cheery conductor would blare through the speaker again and he would flail and the tears would start all over again.  Other passengers looked at us--the ladies with sympathy, the young kids with total disgust. The beautiful Christmas lights we passed along the train route barely registered for me as I tried to protect my little one's eardrums (and our sanity).

Upon our escape from the Train Ride From Hell, Lil' Man fell asleep within a couple minutes, and we decided it was probably a good time to head home, skipping the nightly parade and loud music around the giant Christmas tree.  We walked the mile back to our car, rather than taking the tram (which also comes with an announcer over a loudspeaker) so that he could continue to sleep.  We hoped he'd continue to sleep once we got back to the car, but no such luck--he did happily coo to himself for about 15 minutes, and then decided he was hungry...so we pulled over at a gas station to cater to his whims (See #1--since he's still nursing, can't just give him a bottle & continue driving).  Then, again, with a full belly, we hoped he'd fall asleep for the remaining 15 minutes in the car...to no avail.  He was content for about 10 of it, and then the last 5 minutes let us know he was DONE with the day. We put him to bed a little early and he thankfully zonked out.  Mom & Dad split a beer over dinner (and Mom had an extra piece of fudge). 

All in all...this time still kinda sucks.  Sometimes it's awesome, like when he's laying in my lap & smiling and cooing at me, or when weather is beautiful and we get to take a stroll outside.  And other times suck, like when he won't nap late in the day & becomes a huge crankypants who hates us & screams at us (seriously--work on the social skills, kid).    
Trying to decide what mood to be in.

Sometimes I look at other moms with their older kids--kids who can sit up or walk or talk or take a bottle, and I get envious.  But then I remind myself--every single one of those moms went through this. They survived, and I will too. Here's a statistic: approximately 4 million babies are born annually in the U.S., while only about 450 parents actually kill their kids each year--that's less than 0.01%!!!  

This period is a rite of passage.  And for some reason, those moms look at my little man and say "cherish this time, it goes so fast" or "he makes me want another baby!"  Which leads me to believe that either a) there's some inherent amnesia that overcomes mothers after some point, or b) all of the crap that comes with kids after this point is actually WORSE than newborn crap.

...Praying it's the first option.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Adventures in Parenting: Traveling for the Holidays

Thanksgiving was our first road trip with the little man (2 hours from home).  He sleeps well in the car, so getting there and back were pretty easy (with a few hiccups, that I'll discuss later).  
Our son: Famous for derpy faces.

I was nervous, and probably overpacked for the occasion--our baby had a bigger bag than The Hubs & I put together.  I was nervous about him not getting naps with our folks not having a swing (since that's his favorite place to nap), so we brought the bouncer with us, the Moby wrap, and even packed the bassinet portion of our Pack 'n Play (both sets of grandparents have Pack 'n Plays at their house, but not the upper portion).  Since he hates to sleep in OUR Pack 'n Play, I was worried he wouldn't sleep well while we were up there.  I was worried about him catching some germs from our nieces & nephews, I fretted about them keeping him awake when he was trying to nap, I sweated over whether he would behave or fuss the entire time we went to the baby shower my family was throwing for me.

Turns out, I worried a lot for nothing.  Firstly, a newborn baby doesn't need a place to nap when there are 4 extra adults and 3 kids who want to hold the baby ALL THE TIME.  To the point that eventually, you get really excited about nursing time because you actually get to have a little alone time cuddling with your own baby.  Our first day at The Hubs' parents' house, we didn't even have to change his diapers:  my sister- and mother- in law held him and changed him nearly all day.  He didn't fuss because he was sleeping in everyone's arms.  

(What you WILL have to deal with is a lot of commentary on how many clothes your little man is wearing.  His super-soft carseat blanket keeps him really warm [occasionally too warm--he's been known to flip out, especially since he's a little heater], so if we're going to be in the carseat a long time, we haven't been worrying about having pants on him.  First thing when we walked in the door: "Why isn't his face covered?  Why isn't he wearing a hat?  WHERE ARE HIS PANTS???")
Our little man sleeping peacefully on the road, sans pants & hat.  Had we not had him in a long sleeved onesie I think they might have called Family Services on us.

Then I worried that he wouldn't sleep at night because he'd napped so much during the day--but he fell asleep in my MIL's arms around 8:30p and was so zonked out I couldn't even wake him for a bedtime feeding at 9:30p, he slept until 3:30am for his mid-night feeding, and then woke up again at 7:30am.

Cousin Z was very excited about helping "babysit" (and she did actually rock him to sleep in the bouncer.  Probably should have paid her.)

It took a little more effort to get him to bed at my folks' home the next evening, but he was still asleep by 9:30p.  Mid-night feeding was a little rougher because he peed through his diaper, outfit and SleepSack (and we didn't have a great changing station setup so I was changing him on the floor while The Hubs held up his phone flashlight so I could see...stupid Earth's Best diapers), but then he slept until 7:30a again.  We weren't quite ready to get up so we let him snooze for another hour between us on the bed while we chatted.
The thing I love about the mittened sleepwear? It looks like we put his pajamas on upside down.

Oh...also, when you spend all your travel prep time proactively packing for your wee one...you may forget to pack socks for yourself.  Just FYI.  (Thankfully my mom loaned me some.)

Traveling home was an adventure...we got a late start so it was dark when we left my parents' house.  This was the first time we'd traveled with him after dark when I wasn't sitting in the back seat...funny thing...the mirror we use to see him in his rear-facing carseat?  Yeah...doesn't really work when it's dark outside.  That made me a little anxious, but he slept most of the trip...except when the car wasn't moving.

  Oh...and we had to stop on the way home to pick up an 8-foot section of shelving for a friend...so I had to try to keep Lil' Man calm while Dad was inside the store getting the shelf...about 20 minutes of horrible crying.  I should have just hopped into the driver's seat and circled the parking lot the entire time.  THEN we had to strap the shelf to the roof of the car...in the rain.  As we got back in the car, Lil' Man had a poo-splosion (but he immediately stopped crying afterward, so I guess the poor guy was dealing with some pretty traumatic gas), so we had to stop at a Taco Bell for dinner/diaper change.  Aaand of course there was no changing station, and it was a pedestal sink...so I ended up changing him on the floor (thank goodness for disposable changing pads)...and, because it had been almost 2 hours since he last ate and we still had 1.5 hours to go until we got home, I went ahead & fed him.  Yes...on the floor of the bathroom. (I was already down there...might as well.  It was a single stall bathroom so I had the place to myself.  And it felt less weird than sitting on the toilet to do it.)  

After that debacle, he slept the rest of the trip home (with the exception of some minor fussing during a pit stop for gas)...soooo then of course I was anxiety-riddled over whether or not he'd be sleepy once we got home at 10pm.  

Again--worried for nothing.  I swaddled him, fed him, rocked him a bit, and he was out like a light for a 6 hour stretch.  It was really a blessing after such a rough trip home.

All in all, a pretty good first road trip...but we're making everyone come to us for Christmas. :)
Cossack Santa.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Adventures in Parenting #3: Two Month Edition

We made it to the 2 month mark!
"Mommy & Daddy haven't killed me yet!  Yay!"

People love to tell you how hard the first 3 months will be..."but then it gets easier".  At the 2 month mark, we're really looking forward to getting out of this trench.  I feel bad about wanting to go back to work--I know I'll miss these days once I'm back there.  I can look at his newborn photos and see how much he's changed just in the last 2 months, and I'm in awe when I think about how many more developmental changes he'll undergo over the next year--I mean, a year from now, he'll be walking, talking (sort of), only taking one nap during the day, sleeping through the night, eating real food---LIKE A REAL HUMAN.  But right now, in this moment...it feels like we'll never get out of this rut.
I'd like to say he's sleeping...but no, this was just a brief moment the photographer captured in between wails.

1. Sleep patterns:  Be careful about telling people how your baby is a great night sleeper, as he will invariably decide to screw with you.  Oh, sure, he's still a great night sleeper--once you can GET him to fall asleep.  He had been going down at 10pm pretty easy.  Then one night, he randomly fought sleep like he thought he'd never wake up if he passed out.  It kept us up until midnight taking turns trying to get him to go down.  So the next night, I thought "hey, let's put him down at 9pm, so that even if he fights sleep for an hour or so, it's not keeping US up so late."  WRONG.  So instead of fighting with him for 2 hours, he fought us for 3, and still didn't pass out until midnight.  Now I have horrible anxiety every time I walk out of that room, not knowing if he'll start wailing in a few minutes.  It happens at least a couple times a week--like bedtime baby roulette.

Now, we're trying to be really good at just watching for his sleep cues, rather than paying attention to any specific time.  Sometimes, it's 8:30p, sometimes it's 10p.  I've also taken up the habit of saying my nightly prayers while I rock him--including a "please let him sleep well and go down the first time we lay him down" request to the Big Guy Upstairs.

2. Ghost cries:  When your child fights sleep for 2-3 hours, once he DOES finally fall asleep, your brain has gotten so used to hearing crying it will take every noise in the house and trick you into thinking that noise is coming from the baby.  Including your husband's breathing.  Preventing you from falling asleep for at least half an hour, just waiting for the giant "I'M AWAKE & TICKED OFF" wail to burst forth from your baby's tiny yet powerful lungs. And then you'll finally drift off, praying to God that he's REALLY ASLEEP this time.  And you'll wake up at 1:11am, look at the clock, realize you're safe, then drift off again, wondering what time he'll wake you for his middle of the night feeding (answer: 3:48am).

3.  Parent Time:  Since I'm still on maternity leave, but the Hubs isn't, I could technically sleep in until the baby wakes up (usually around 8-8:30am).  But the Hubs has to get up at 7am to get ready for work.  So there's this debate in my head--do I stay in bed, to "sleep when the baby sleeps", or do I get up to spend some quality time with the man I married? Inevitably, having this debate in my head wakes me up enough that I get up after he finishes getting ready in the bathroom.  Because I love my husband, and while the baby is cute & well loved, I also miss having "just us" time with the love of my life.  It's truly scarce these days, until we can find a local babysitter. 

It's tough, going from being a childless couple for 4.5 years to suddenly having your world and schedule and ability to do ANYTHING revolve around this tiny crying, pooping being that still only smiles at you like 4 times a day--and you probably only get that many because it has realized that if it doesn't give you SOMETHING it's going to end up on a church doorstep.   Want to plan a getaway?  Gotta decide whether to take the baby--and then you realize that at this age it's unfortunately easier to TAKE the baby than leave it (because you're nursing, and pumping that much would be a giant hassle).  Need to go to the grocery store?  Gotta take the baby's feeding schedule into account--or hopefully your spouse can watch him while you run to the store (alone time, yay!).  Want to watch a TV show together?  It's almost a guarantee he'll start giving his sleep cues in the middle of it, meaning you have to stop, start his bedtime routine/feeding, and then, when you emerge from the nursery 45 minutes later, you're both in super ninja stealth "don't wake the baby" mode....so you'll probably end up finishing that show some time tomorrow.

4. The "Someday's":  I try to spend a lot of time talking to our little man--since I generally have no one else to talk to if the Hubs is at work.  I noticed that I use the word "someday" a lot.  "This is the kitchen--this is where Mommy cooks for her & Daddy, and someday for you too."  "That is the BBQ grill--that's where Daddy grills for him & Mommy, and someday you'll be able to eat grilled food too."  "That's the outside, it's big and someday you'll be able to explore all of it."  "That's a cruise ship--someday we might be able to go on one again."

- Someday he'll be able to support his own head & I can carry him on my hip or set him in the Bumbo seat.
- Someday he'll be able to sit at the dinner table with us in his high chair (so we don't have to hold him if he's being fussy while we're trying to eat).
- Someday he'll be able to tell us what he wants instead of just crying.
- Someday he'll sleep through the night.
- Someday he'll be a good napper (or at least need fewer naps).
- Someday he'll be eating formula & real food & Dad will be able to help with feedings more (I pump right now, but 99% of it gets stockpiled in the freezer for when I go back to work.  I only leave some in the fridge if I'm going to be away from him for more than 2-3 hours.)

But, I also know:
- Someday I will be back at work, and I will miss snuggling with him (and not having to think about work).
- Someday he will be mobile, and we'll finally have to babyproof.
- Someday he will be grown, and I will miss him being tiny.
- Someday I will look up & he'll be 9 years old, and I will wonder what happened to the last 9 years--wasn't he just 12 pounds yesterday?
- Someday I will be able to go to the gym again (whether I WILL or not is an entirely different situation).

5.  Caffeine:  So. Essential.  Though sometimes I wonder if I'll ever again get to finish a cup of coffee before it gets cold.

6.  Fringe:  This is what I'm currently watching on Amazon Prime.  Yes, I already watched the entire series while it was in prime time, but hey--Joshua Jackson was my childhood crush.  I'm glad he continued to have an adult career (unlike my other childhood crush, the kid from Free Willy).

7. Hanging out with a baby:  Sometimes I wonder when I'll stop feeling anxious about being alone with the baby.  It's not like I don't know what to DO...I mean, he's pretty easy.  He eats, he sleeps (sometimes not enough), he messes his diapers.  It's trying to fill the rest of the time--the 1 to 3 hours that he's awake between naps throughout the day.  You just get stir-crazy after a while.  There's tummy time, there's reading,  there's staring at each other while he sits in my lap, there's wandering around the house...but he's not interested in toys and even overhead gyms/hanging toys only hold his interest for about 15-20 minutes before he's bored & wants to do something else.  I have a friend who's home with her kiddos on Tuesdays & Thursdays, so we can go over there to kill a couple hours...but with the cold weather coming on, we can't really go for walks or play outside (and the lack of sunshine sometimes really gets to Mommy).  This leads to some pretty interesting outings, just so Mommy can get out of the house:  a few weeks ago, I needed some SpaceBags to store my warm weather clothes, and Harbor Freight had them on sale...so we drove the 18 miles into town, Mommy got a coffee, then stopped by the International Wine Cellar, and THEN we got SpaceBags (and Lil' Man slept pretty much the entire trip).
He's worthless when it comes to helping me choose beers.

8.  Post-preggo body:  I have no idea what to say when people tell me "you look great!"  I'm within 4 lbs of my pre-preggo weight right now, and back in all my regular clothes (aside from needing to be able to nurse, which influences the tops that I wear).  I'm happy about that, but seriously, what do you say other than "thanks!"  I don't want to necessarily be feaux-humble, since I am really happy to have lost most of the baby weight just through nursing--I'm not even tracking my calories at this point.  I don't want to launch into an explanation--I only put on 35 lbs during my pregnancy, basically I just logged all my food during my 1st and 2nd trimesters and tried to eat well, and then did pretty much whatever I wanted during the 3rd trimester (because when you're miserable and making a miracle, you deserve the occasional Sonic Slush or Krispy Kreme donut).  More than likely, I was just really lucky.  But I feel like anything I say beyond "thank you" comes across braggish.  What else do you say?  "Thanks--you too!"

9. Diapers:  We received a wide variety of diapers as gifts, so we've been able to figure out what works best for our little man.  We seem to like Target's Up & Up brand the best--they have great absorbency and they're really soft.  CVS diapers?  Total crap (literally)--he had 4 blowouts in 48 hours (2 that leaked on me, and two that leaked on Daddy).  Also underperforming:  Earth's Best.  While I'm sure they're great for the environment, they fit really small and hold less, so you'd better be changing them every couple hours--he managed to go through about 8 outfits over Thanksgiving weekend because these things were leaking so much.
Earth's Best Compared to Up & Up - both Size 1.

10.  The Holidays: Got invited to a holiday party?  With no local sitter, you can only go if you bring the baby. Need to travel to visit family?  Now you have a whole extra person to plan & pack for.  All that "eat/wake/sleep" routine you've been working so hard on?  Yeah...that's probably gonna go out the window for a few days.

Thanksgiving was our first road trip with the kiddo...we'll talk about that adventure in a separate post.

11.  2 Month Checkup:  Shots suck, for parents and baby.  Our little man hates being naked, so appointments are already traumatic.  Add in three needles and both mom & baby cry.  He only cried a bit at the doc's, and then napped for a few hours (probably thanks to the Tylenol they gave him)...but once he woke up...MAN.  It's really hard to find a good way to hold a baby who has two sore legs. The doc suggested "a nice warm bath in the evening" to help soothe him.  Hah...sure...maybe for babies that don't think real baths are akin to medieval torture.
Post-vaccination tears... many more to follow.


He started to perk up a bit that evening, and then miraculously slept through the night (well, a 7 hour chunk anyway)...the next day he was still a little tired but in much better spirits.  Not looking forward to going through that again in 2 months.
Previous Adventures:
Birth Story
3 Weeks
Month 1
6 Weeks
Mom Guilt Edition
Working Mom Edition
Things That Suck
Traveling For The Holidays
Living In The Moment

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Adventures in Parenting: Living in the Moment

Everyone tells you the first three months are the hardest: "The Fourth Trimester", when your baby doesn't really know how to function in the outside world and would rather still be hanging out inside your belly (and after dealing with their crying, you'd sort of prefer that too at times).

Sometimes you think the rough patches are getting better...and then your baby decides not to go to sleep until midnight, even though you first started trying to put him down around 9pm.  Two nights in a row.

It's really easy to spend those rough days wishing for this period to speed by, to rush this time and just "hurry up and hold up your head/eat real food/tell me what you want!!!"  But the other day, while I was on the phone with my mom (with Baby J crying in the background), my mother told me "just take it one day at a time."  Because really, that's all you can do.  You can't rush the rough patches.  And when you think about it, would you want to?  Look at that amazing miracle in your lap.  Even when he's crying, just in the last 8 weeks, his crying has evolved.  He has learned to babble, so that his fussing and sobs mimic the rhythm of words--a skill he learned from YOU.  Every day, he's more and more alert, taking in everything around him.  Every day, you get more smiles--again, something he learned from you.  He gets slightly bigger every day--one day he no longer fits in that newborn outfit, or he stretches all the way across your lap in the glider, barely fits on the Boppy, can't lay facing you on your lap without his legs curled up on your chest.  His tiny legs and feet now barely fit inside that newborn SleepSack that could almost wrap around him twice 8 weeks ago.
If you fast forwarded through these times, you'd miss seeing this transformation.  So, when he refuses to go to sleep even after the 4th time you've tried to put him down and you're about ready to pull your hair out, look down at that face as he drifts in and out of consciousness and remember that someday, he will be 13 years old, and won't fit on your lap, let alone want you to rock him.  As the top of his head gets closer and closer to the top of his swing, his bouncer, his car seat--every day he's growing about an ounce bigger...one ounce closer to going off to daycare, school, college, getting his driver's license...

And even though the days feel long and the night's feel like they won't end--they will.  This will pass.  You will not be changing diapers or getting up for midnight feedings & fussings in just a few years.  You will only be nursing for a short period of his life. The days feel long--but think back on your life, to the last major event.  Where did those 9 months of pregnancy go?  It doesn't feel like I've been married to my husband for 4.5 years, but I have.  It feels like I only moved away from Louisiana last year, but it was 6 years ago.  This too shall pass as quickly, and time will compress, and tomorrow you'll be sitting in line at the school drop-off, wondering how your tiny human grew up so fast.
At least...that's what I'm hoping. :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Lessons Learned: Up to Week 6!

I could probably just post one of these a day.  But for the sake of providing a decent amount of content per post, we'll just save them up here & post periodically.  Because it's a little too much for a Tweet, not enough for it's own article.

**For the record, I love my kid.  I love his squishy cheeks and kissing his face and snuggling with him, and staring intently at him while he tests out all his different expressions.  I love his smell, love how he throws up his arms when he's napping like he's dreaming about riding a rollercoaster, and laugh every time he farts.  But I don't always have to LIKE him.
"Whaddya mean you don't 'like' me???"

1.  Maternity leave:  Some people take 6 weeks. Some take 8.  Some take 12.  I took 12, because friends told me "I'd be so glad I took 12" afterward.  I've decided the first 6 are absolutely necessary for the process of healing and getting a grasp on the most important role of a mom:  not accidentally killing your child.  But after those 6 weeks are up, you feel like you should be doing more than watching a baby sleep most of the day and watching TV.  So you do a LOT of Googling of "what to do with a newborn".  And there are whole REGIMENS of what to do with a newborn.  You learn that there's not only "tummy time" but "side time" and "back time" and "teaching your child to play at his midline".

And suddenly you feel less good about the fact that you've already started reading to your newborn and that you invented an awesome song for diaper changes (see Item 9).  You feel like less of a mom.  What, your 6 week old isn't trained to sleep in a crib for naps yet?  Shame on you.  Better get to work.  Maternity leave is for TEACHING THAT TINY IMPRESSIONABLE MIND--not so you can yell at the TV during The Price is Right and Deal or No Deal (see Item 2).  So you start implementing all these activities.  At Once.  And then you overstimulate your child.  SHAME ON YOU AGAIN.  *sigh*  Oh, you don't yet feel that glowy overwhelming motherly adoration of this tiny human who screams at you, who has you on a ration of one maybe-possibly-a-real-smile a day, and who seems to prefer to stare at the painting behind your head instead of gazing wondrously up into your eyes? (I get it, it's a beautiful painting, kid, but come on...)  Must be something wrong with you.  And you start to doubt whether this whole "mom" thing was a good idea.  You look forward to the day you get to take him to day care & go back to work?  SHAMEY MCSHAMERSON!

Seriously--there is a lot of guilt and confusion and indecision that goes into motherhood.  And I'm sure it doesn't stop after maternity leave ends.  I know it will get better.  I know that the first 3 months TOTALLY SUCK for 99.9% of parents.  I know that soon enough, my little man will be giving me real, true, honest to god smiles all the time, all day long, and I'll never truly regret giving up childlessness (even if I miss it from time to time). And maybe when it's actually time for me to go back to work, I'll be completely sad and heartbroken & not want to drop him off at day care.   But these are the trenches, my friends.

2.  We have eleventy-billion channels, and yet, I watch* the same things EVERY DAY:
7:30am-8:30 - TV belongs to The Hubs so he can watch CNBC (blarg).
8:30 - We see where Anthony Bourdain is visiting today! (hint: it's probably somewhere I won't be traveling to any time soon)
10am - The Price Is Right
11am - 2 reruns of How I Met Your Mother --then change the channel, because Gray's Anatomy is coming on (double blarg)
Noon - 3pm - Bones reruns
3pm-5pm - some combination of Game Show Network (Family Feud & Deal or No Deal) and the Food Network
5pm-7pm - usually American Pickers, though sometimes The Hubs is home by then & wants to watch CNBC again (really?)
OR...somedays it just stays on The Food Network.  Like All Day.  Even though I don't like Pioneer Woman and can't stand Barefoot Contessa (Seriously Ina Garten--NOBODY HAS TRUFFLE BUTTER IN THEIR FRIDGE) and Giada's mouth is SO FREAKING BIG.

* "watch" is a relative term.  I'm mostly feeding the baby, changing the baby, playing with the baby, and Googling things like "when does his soft spot go away" and "is it okay that my 6 week old still poops 5 times a day".  But it's on in the background.  I probably lose Mom Points for that too.

3.  Breastfeeding:  It goes well for some, not so well for others.  We are blessed that I have a good supply and he has a good latch and doesn't seem to have any aversions [yet] to any of the foods I eat (aside from that lactation cookie debacle a few weeks ago...oh, and the baby bean farts of course).  And it's FREE.  If we can make it to the magical 6 month mark, we'll have saved around $500 in formula.  BUT--"free" is never truly free, because with nursing comes this invisible "time-leash".  Either you a) have to have them with you, b) can only leave them for about 2 hours (at first--your leash does get a little longer once they can go 3 or 4 hours between feedings), or c) you have to pump & keep a stash in the fridge so someone else can feed them.  I never seem to go more than 45 minutes without looking at my Feed Baby app, because my world now revolves around Feeding The Baby.  Because of this, "alone time" is truly precious and limited.  I never thought going grocery shopping alone would be such a big reward.  Gone are the days of leisurely roaming the aisles of a store with no express time limit.  Now, it's "get in, get out, check to see how much time you have left, and maybe run another errand IF you have time."  I got to leave the house for 1.5 hours the other day to get a haircut and a coffee.  It was wonderful--even though I spent the entire time at the salon talking with my stylist about our kids.

It also makes it a challenge to meet up with other people.  For example, I got invited to lunch with my coworkers the other day, but since Baby J naps from 10-11:30am and then feeds from about 11:30-noon, that means I can't meet up with people during normal lunch time unless I'm feeding him at the same time (which I'm not quite comfortable with yet).  Or if I want to go on a walk with another mom, we have to determine when their awake times overlap to schedule it.

3a. If you are preggo & plan on nursing or are nursing now, I just have to say: I love these Wally-World tank tops.  I bought a ton of them in a size up from what I would normally wear while I was pregnant--they're soft, good quality, super stretchy, and come in tons of colors & patterns, at like $3 each.  Now, because they're so stretchy, they're great for nursing, and it's easy to throw a cardigan on over them when I leave the house.  And WAY cheaper than all the nursing tops out there.

4.  Napping:  In the first month, Baby J did nothing but eat, sleep, and mess his diapers.  He was awake MAYBE a few other hours of the day.  Now our little man is wanting to be awake more, so he can take in more of the world around him.  While I appreciate his zeal for learning...lil' dude needs to nap, both so he isn't a huge fussy-pants and so that Mommy & Daddy can get some schtuff done.  So we appear to be in a weird loop--one day he'll resist napping all day, scream all evening, and then crash at night.  Then the next day he sleeps ALL day, but doesn't sleep as soundly that night (making it harder to get him to go back down after feedings).  We've *sorta* started nap training, but it's tough at this age.  We'll swaddle him & put him down for a nap in his crib after his morning feed, and he conks out after a bit.  But trying the same thing in the afternoon?  Big fat nope--he hates the swaddle after noon, meaning naps are on our lap, in a swing, bouncer--whatever works.  Makes it tough to get things done.  Mornings have to be our productive time if only one of us is home.
"No...seriously...I'm not tired."

I know this "fussy in the evenings" thing is supposed to pass in a few weeks, but that doesn't make it any less rough in the moment.  Knowing something is "just a phase" doesn't make the pitiful wails any less heartbreaking.  And I love the websites that say "just make his bedtime 7pm so you miss out on the fussy period"...without offering any advice on how to make a baby that doesn't want to sleep go to sleep 3 hours earlier than they usually do.  Not helpful, internet!

5.  Seriously...the lack of freedom will sorta smack you in the face. I was warned about this, but you really have to experience it first hand to understand the magnitude.  A month ago, if we wanted to go out for dinner, we just...did it.  We walked out of the house, went to a restaurant, had a nice leisurely meal, then maybe went out for dessert, or caught a movie, or went bowling...whatever sounded fun.  Now, that same evening requires coordinating with a Grandma (or other sitter) to drive the 2 hours to our house (meaning we need to plan it out at least a week in advance).  We have to make sure there's pumped milk in the fridge, guesstimate if it's going to be enough (and typically try to feed right before we leave to maximize the time out of the house).  And then, once you're out, it takes a concerted effort to NOT talk about the baby the whole time--especially when one of you is doing nothing BUT taking care of the baby right now.

That being said: we have been getting out of the house & having adventures.  We started small, and took the baby to Taco Bell--so that if he had a meltdown we could pack up our food and dash.  He wailed for about 5 seconds, and then we were able to get him settled down.  Then we stepped it up & went to an actual sit-down restaurant for lunch (he slept in his carseat the whole time).  Then  I decided to participate in a "Coffee Crawl" fundraising event--visit 8 coffee bars within 8 days to get various free and half-price coffee deals-- in order to ensure that I would get out of the house (with or without the baby) every day that week.  I tied in other small other errands with my trips to the coffee shops--run to the mall & get my wedding rings inspected, stop by work & visit coworkers, run to the bank, stop by Harbor Freight & get batteries for his bouncer (CANNOT LET THE BOUNCER NOT BOUNCE), etc.  I'm sure those with kiddos are laughing at me right now, but it really does feel like an accomplishment to get out of the house with the baby--even though he pretty much just sleeps all the time right now.

6.  Baby cries send you into a weird Time Warp:  He may only have been crying for about 5 seconds, but it feels like 5 minutes...and 5 minutes feel like 5 hours.  If you're in public, you feel like everyone is staring & judging you as you frantically search the diaper bag for his pacifier (and of course it's the WRONG pacifier--any other picky paci babies out there?)  Actually, babies sort of live in a weird time warp.  Some moments seem to be going so fast--he's growing like a weed, is more & more expressive every day, and yet, in the moment, it feels like it will be FOREVER before he gets to his next milestone.  I know the time will zoom by & a year from now we'll look back at baby photos and say "I can't believe he was ever so small!"  But right now, all I can think is "how long until the Purple Crying in the evenings is over?  How long until he can support his own head?  How long until he can roll over on his own so we don't have to fight him into the swaddle every night/nap? How long until I can teach him baby sign language so he can tell me what he wants?  How long until he can drive & go to college?"  Most of our friends already have kids, which sort of exacerbates things...I see a friend's baby tottering around and saying "Book! Sit!  Read!) and get jealous because it will be a year or more before my kiddo is at that point.  Or I see a friend's 10 month old who is just learning to pull himself up and I think "jeez...my kid is gonna be helpless FOR-EV-ER!"

7. Keep a journal.  Even if your entries are brief because you're crazy busy taking care of a newborn, at the end of the day, just jot down a few things about the day.  Most of my entries look like "Baby slept until 8am, pumped 4 oz, got out to get coffee, very fussy in the evening, down for bed at 9pm."  These are still important little notes.  Because now I can flip back to 10/11 and look at that entry where I mention that I baked lactation cookies and chuckle about how horrible those 4 days of gassiness in the evenings were while I was eating those & trying to figure out why he was in such a horrible mood (which was not at ALL funny at the time).  Or I can look back to see the first day he smiled at us.

I love this little notebook one of my coworkers gave me as a baby gift--it's a perfect journal!  And it's made from recycled elephant dung, which seems appropriate for journaling the activities of a being that ONLY eats, sleeps, & poops.

8.  A lot of friends recommended the E.A.S.Y. method for starting a routine for the baby (Eat, Awake, Sleep, You sleep when the baby sleeps).  Ours is a little more like "E.A.S." since I'm horrible at napping during the daytime, but it is coming along and working well for us:  He wakes up, eats, stays awake for about an hour, then naps either in his crib, the bouncer or the swing.  I know a lot of moms freak out about positional asphyxiation with the bouncers & swings, but since he's got pretty good neck control and since I'm not napping and usually watching him every few minutes, I'm okay with him napping there--plus our swing and bouncer both recline to where he's almost fully flat on his back.  However this week I did decide to start crib-training him, since he'll have to nap in a crib or pack & play at day care. Wish me luck--I (like all other mothers, I realize) am NO good at listening to my little one cry.  Yes, I know it's important in the long run & they'll never remember how much their momma let them cry when putting them down for a nap...but seriously, it's so heartbreaking.  Really, REALLY hard to not just run in there & snatch him up.  But I know that I need to establish a good napping routine for him, since for the last few days I've had to put him in the Moby wrap & carry him around to get him to take a late afternoon nap...which is a challenge when you're also trying to prep dinner. (In fact, I'm actually wearing him as I edit this entry.)
Achievement Unlocked: Babywearing Chef
FYI--I know I haven't posted a cooking entry here in forever, so here's this:  the dish that's cooking behind my son's head in the photo?  It's Cajun Black Bean Soup, from the lovely Genet's Raised on a Roux blog.

8a. If you're bad about napping like I am, that probably means you feel like you should be productive while he's sleeping.  I am here to say:  sure, go ahead, but be easy on yourself.  Make yourself a really short list of things that you want to get done, so that when you accomplish those things, you feel good about your day, and then anything beyond that is lagniappe.   For example, here's my typical list:
- Brush teeth & hair
- Express milk, wash pump parts & freeze milk
- Tummy time
+ 1 other baby activity (read a book, take a walk, etc)
+ 1 household chore (vacuum, laundry, dishes, etc.  Just pick one.)
+ 1 "me" activity (sit out on the deck, read a book, do some yoga stretches)

I'll typically get a few extra things done above & beyond this, but having such a short list makes the things I "HAVE" to get done easier so that I don't feel like a worthless lump at the end of the day.

9.  We MAYBE-POSSIBLY are getting real smiles out of our little man.   I was changing his diaper and singing our super awesome diaper changing song (We are a Boudreaux's Butt Paste household, so it's literally just the Batman theme song with the words "butt paste" instead of Batman), and he smiled.  And so I smiled back, and he smiled even bigger!  So I cooed at him and he smiled and flailed his arms and legs and cooed at me!  Aaaaand then his peepee teepee shifted and he peed all over me, himself, the changing pad, the mirror...

It's all about balance, right?
Real smiles or gas?  The world will never know.

Previous Adventures:
Birth Story
3 Weeks
Month 1
Mom Guilt Edition
Working Mom Edition
Things That Suck
Traveling For The Holidays
Living In The Moment