Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New Orleans Style BBQ Shrimp

I have to admit, being a Missouri girl, I have certain expectations when I see the word "BBQ".  Here in the Midwest, "Kansas City Style" is king--meaning slow smoked and then glazed in a thick, sticky, sweet and spicy tomato-and-molasses based sauce.  So imagine my surprise the first time I ordered BBQ shrimp in New Orleans, and got what looked like a giant bowl of shrimp scampi.

Didn't taste like shrimp scampi though.

In NOLA, "BBQ Shrimp" is typically served as an appetizer--which makes sense, given that it's jumbo shrimp swimming in a Lake Pontchartrain of orange butter (and who wants to hog a giant bowl of butter?).  This butter has been loaded down with garlic, Worcestershire, paprika, cayenne, green onions...but it's still a SEA OF BUTTER.  And what better to serve with a metric ton of butter?  FRENCH BREAD TO SOAK THAT STUFF UP.  Can't waste delicious butter, son!

I think the thing I like most about this recipe is that it is actually a SUPER fast meal to make. I mean, shrimp cook fast.  The most intensive part of this recipe is making the BBQ butter, and you can do that the night before if you like.  If you make the butter ahead of time, this dish can be ready to serve in under 15 minutes.  It feels soooooo fancy...but it's so easy!

1 lb Gulf jumbo shrimp (21-30 ct), peeled (tails on is okay, though if you remove them it's easier to eat with a fork--this dish can be messy if you eat with your hands)
1 cup BBQ butter: (mix the following ingredients together ahead of time and then let cool in the fridge)

  • 1 cup spreadable butter (if you use regular butter, you'll need to soften it to room temp so you can blend everything into it)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • 1/8 cup minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire
  • 1/2 tsp hot sauce 
  • 1 tsp Cajun Power garlic sauce
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup diced green onion
1/2 cup dry white wine
juice of 1/2 lemon
Sliced French Bread for dipping

Make BBQ Butter ahead of time and put in fridge until you're ready for it.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then add the shrimp, cooking on one side for about 1-2 minutes.
Then flip, add the white wine, lemon, and green onions, and reduce heat to medium.  Cook until the wine has reduced by half.  Then add the BBQ butter and reduce heat to low, stirring until the butter is fully melted, the sauce is warm, and the shrimp are cooked through.

Serve hot with the French bread for dipping, garnish with extra green onions.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Cajun-Style Salmon Cakes w/ Remoulade

The bayous of Louisiana aren't exactly known for salmon.  So why am I not doing a crab or shrimp cake instead?  Well...to be honest...salmon is what I had on hand.  Simple as that.  And the MAIN reason I wanted to make these was really just to serve as a vessel for my remoulade sauce, which I was craving hard core.

You could easily use this recipe as a base for making shrimp or crab cakes, or even tuna cakes--or hey, how about some big offshore fish like wahoo, snapper or grouper?  Just replace the salmon with your desired seafood (Note: you'd want your seafood of choice to be pre-cooked or smoked.)  All of the other proportions would stay the same.

INGREDIENTS (salmon cakes-makes about 8 patties):
10-14 oz flaked salmon
2 green onions, sliced
1 egg, beaten
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp creole or spicy brown mustard
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 tsp cayenne

Remoulade: (this is best when it's had some time to sit, so make this first, or even the night before)
1/2 cup light mayo
3 Tbsp cocktail sauce
1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard
1/2 Tbsp Creole or spicy brown mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp hot sauce
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 green onion, diced
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp Cajun seasoning
(Note: if, for time/convenience, you'd prefer to buy remoulade, I like Louisiana Fish Fry's version.)

Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.  If your patties don't want to stick together, add an extra beaten egg.

In a medium skillet, heat olive oil or coconut oil over medium-high heat--you should have about 1/4 inch of oil in the pan.  NOTE: This will get used up as you cook, so have some extra on-hand.

Form the salmon mixture into patties (we got about 8), and then place into the pan, frying on each side for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.  Place on a plate with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.

Serve with a salad or veggie side dish (we were a little pressed for time so we used a Bird's Eye steamable blend), topped with the remoulade and some extra green onions.

Similar Recipes:
Feaux Krab Cakes

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Why I'm Totally Okay with Being an "Old Mom"

The other evening I was shopping at a discount jewelry store...you know the type--plush emoji keychains next to the cash register and a 17 year old chatty clerk?  The gal checking out in front of me had her toddler son with her, and after they left, the cashier told me, "that's my favorite kind of kid--the kind you can play with and then send home!  My boyfriend--he's 19--he says he could see being a dad in the next 5-7 years, but I told him if that's his goal, it won't be with me! I can't take care of a kid--I'm still a kid myself! And I'll still be in school!  I mean--criminal forensics, am I right?"

I wanted to say, "yes...you are SO right."  But not because of the criminal forensics.  Instead, I just smiled and said, "you have plenty of time. I was 35 before I had my son."  

I can understand--17 Year Old Me didn't want to have a kid yet either.  17 Year Old Me was just excited to have a pile of college scholarships so she could move 2 hours away from home and try her hand at adulting.  She had dreams of finishing school and being a journalist.
17 Year Old Me, headed to prom. (I loved that dress. Totally felt like Jessica Rabbit.)

But 17 Year Old Me thought that 24 Year Old Me would probably have a baby.  When 24 Year Old Me didn't have a baby, she thought, "that's okay--29 Year Old Me will probably have a baby.  After all, that's about how old my mom was when she had me."  But 29 Year Old Me didn't have a baby either--in fact, 29 Year Old Me had just started dating her now-husband.

2009: The adventure begins.

Now, in retrospect, I know that everything happens in its due time, and when it's supposed to.  Yes, I may be the "old mom" at day care and school functions.  Yes, I'll be considering AARP benefits when my son graduates from high school.  I will likely NOT be a MILF.  And I'm totally okay with that.  And here's a few of the reasons why.

1.  No Debt:  Babies cost money. Doctor bills, diapers, food, wipes, bottles, bibs...it ain't cheap.  The average cost of raising a child in the U.S. is about $12,000/year.  If you're struggling with car payments, credit cards, a mortgage, student loan debt, etc, bringing home an extra piehole to feed can cause a lot of financial and marital strife.  My husband and I did our best upon getting married to throw a lot of extra cash at our debts, and have been living debt-free for a few years now.  So while our monthly budget will require some additional categories now that Baby J is here, we will never have to make a choice between feeding him or making a car payment, no matter how dire our circumstances get.  Neither 24 nor 29 Year Old Me would have been debt-free, and both would have really struggled to pay off those hospital bills. Heck--24 Year Old Me was working 3 jobs to try & pay off a lot of Stupid Tax she racked up in college. ("Free t-shirt if I sign up for a credit card?  SURE! I'll only use it for emergencies..."  Later: "Pizza is an emergency, right?")
Cheesemonger by day, pizza delivery wench by night...grad assistant somewhere in between.

2.  Good Career:  The Hubs & I have each been in our careers for about 10-12 years.  We like our jobs, we have good benefits, and we have good, [relatively] secure incomes. *knock on wood*  24 Year Old Me was still trying to figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up, since she had just graduated with a degree in Mass Media, but suddenly felt the urge to become an environmental scientist.  24 Year Old Me probably would not have been able to pursue her Master's degree if she'd had a baby.  29 Year Old Me was just realizing that she no longer liked working for the company that she was with---however, if she'd had a baby at home to worry about, she probably would have stayed there, even though she felt like she'd sold her soul to the oil industry. She might not have moved back to Missouri and started at the company she's at now, where she's much happier.

3.  Family Nearby: 24 and 29 Year Old Me's both lived in Louisiana.  Which is awesome, don't get me wrong, but they were also 12 hours away from their mom.  Having now been through those first few months, I would NOT have wanted to cope with a new baby without my mom being there to help.  And a 12 hour drive to visit for the holidays with a baby in the car?  No thank you.  It would have been really limiting.  While I miss my friends down in Louisiana, I never regret moving back to Missouri to be closer to my family.  And while our parents don't live super-close to us, having them just a couple hours away has been really nice, both for us and Baby J.  I wouldn't have wanted my parents to never get to see their grandkid, and I wouldn't have wanted Lil' Man to miss out on getting to know them either.

4.  Time to "Just Be Us":  The Hubs & I got hitched when we were 32 & 31, respectively.  But we didn't want to start trying to have a kiddo right away.  We took time to get used to living together, figuring out each other's habits, learning to communicate as a married couple.  We had weekly Date Nights, traveled to Europe, Mexico, Canada, and around the U.S.  We bought [and sold] a business together.  We shelled out a lot of cash to go see a World Series game.
Game 1 of the 2011 Series. Geaux Cards! (Rally Squirrel and all that.)
These are things that might not have happened (at least, not right away) if we'd gotten preggo right after getting hitched.  I feel like we work together better as a team because we had that time alone together.  Granted--there are days I see a commercial for the Bahamas and think, "man...can't do that again for a while". But the important word in that sentence is "again".  Been there, done that, drank a crap-ton of mojitos.  Our "Book of Us" has a lot of chapters before Baby J makes an appearance, and it makes our story that much richer.
2015: Chichen Itza.  Technically, Baby J was on this trip too, though we didn't know it yet.

5.  The Moms Who Went Before:  24 Year Old Me did NOT have a network of mom friends who could have helped her navigate the Class V rapids of new parenthood. Nor did she have mom friends who were more than willing to drop off tons of maternity clothes, baby clothes, baby gear, etc. because their kiddos had already outgrown them.  #freestuff!!!  
Baby J's godmother T and her daughter.  Without her, my wedding AND my nursery would never have come together so well.

35 Year Old Me is sometimes a *little* sad that most of her friends' kids are quite a bit older than Baby J, which gives them a lot more freedom, not to mention the ability to ask their child, "What is WRONG?" and actually get an intelligible answer. I have some friends from high school who's kids are now in high school--they can just...go out... and leave their kids at home!  Meanwhile 35 Year Old Me has to plan ahead, find a sitter, or cart a diaper bag with her everywhere.  So yeah, I'm a little jealous.   

But thankfully, a few of my fellow 30-Something Moms have recently either had a new baby or are working on it, so Baby J will have some built-in friends his own age, and I will have a gaggle of moms who understand the struggle of being "advanced maternal age".  Not to mention, now I can be the one to pass along maternity clothes and baby gear to them, because hey:  #sharethewealth
Baby J's twin from anotha' motha--my friend Brandy had just given birth to Baby G when we were headed to the hospital. I see some joint birthday parties in our future.

6.  Maturity:   24 Year Old Me was surrounded by other young singles who worked crappy jobs and then partied it up after work...aka, we were still just kids ourselves.  Hell--24 Year Old Me blacked out at an Eddie Money concert because she couldn't be trusted to remember to do something as simple as, oh yeah, EAT DINNER before you start drinking.
Not to mention 24 Year Old Me would have gotten choked the eff out when her kid started pulling on that necklace.

24 Year Old Me didn't have a 401k, and was still on her parent's health & auto insurance policies. [35 Year Old Me still shares a cell phone plan with her parents, but that's for cost-savings. Bygones.]  24 Year Old Me had never applied for a loan on her own, and couldn't be trusted to remember to mow her lawn or empty the litter box regularly. 24 Year Old Me didn't have Facebook to reach out to a network of friends and relatives across remote distances.  24 Year Old Me was willing to be in a romantic relationship with an emotionally abusive guy because hey, it was better than being alone.  

29 Year Old Me was a vast improvement, but she lived under the "work hard play hard" mentality, spending 50+ hours a week on the job and only saw her boyfriend [now The Hubs] on the weekends and Wednesday nights, so she could work long hours, and go out & party, and let dishes sit in the sink for 2 weeks.  29 Year Old Me didn't balance her checkbook and shelled out $30 overdraft fees at least once a month. 29 Year Old Me *probably* occasionally drove home from the bar when she really should have caught a ride.

None of those Me's were ready to be selfless enough or responsible enough to take care of a helpless human being.


Now, at 35, we have our perfect baby.  I'm not saying he's perfect, and I'm definitely not saying I'M perfect.  Sleepless nights are a challenge, and when he starts being more mobile I anticipate a lot of backaches and "wait for mommy!"  At some point the grays will start to outnumber the browns and I will feel the need to start dyeing my hair.  Even now, I wonder if we will "have time" to make him a sibling, given that it took us 2 years and several rounds of fertility drugs to make him.

But that's okay.  Because it's not about MY timing.  What I have in mind has very little bearing on the situation.  Maybe he will be an only.  Maybe he will have a biological sibling.  Maybe we will decide to foster or adopt.  Any of those things are OKAY.  And whatever happens, whenever it happens, it will be the perfect time.

To see the entire "Adventures in Parenting" Series, click here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thirsty Thursday: Jumping the Shark (Ginger, Lime & Spiced Rum Cocktail)

Have you heard of the show "Bar Rescue"?  It's on Spike, and it's one of those shows that tends to marathon at random times and makes a decent background noise--even though I'm relatively sure the host is part of the mob and has a voice that really grates the nerves after a while.
"I amuse you? I make you laugh? Funny how?"

You can probably figure out the premise--there's a bar, they're in debt and losing business, due to bad management/poor employees/bad service, whathaveyou.  Mob Boss swoops in, yells at them for a while, gives the owner/manager a pep talk, while his assistants revamp the menu, teach them some new signature drinks--and oh yeah, usually completely change the decor and the name of the bar.  Lingerie bar in Detroit?  Boom--now it's car themed.  Irish bar in the Midwest? BAM--now you're an ol' western saloon.  Tavern in Tampa?  Guess what?  Now you're a tiki bar.  

Sure, it's schticky, but if nothing else, we at least learn a few new cocktail recipes.  This is from the one that ended up as a tiki bar, but we've put a Cajun spin on it, using some Bayou Rum from Lacassine, LA.

2 oz Bayou Spiced Rum
1/2 oz Agave syrup
1 oz lime juice
4-6 oz ginger ale

Fill a pint glass with ice and add the rum, syrup, and lime juice, then cover and shake.  Pour into a glass with ice and top with the ginger ale.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes

The Hubs made these for us for breakfast the other day and they were soooooo good.  So I wanted to share the recipe!

INGREDIENTS: (makes about six 6-inch pancakes)
1 cup Pancake Mix (we use Alton Brown's recipe)
1 cup skim milk
1 egg
coconut oil for frying (add as needed for each batch)
3 Tbsp Butter
2 Tbsp Praline Liqueur
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup fresh pineapple pieces (you can use rings if you want it to look fancy, we didn't have any on-hand)
6 maraschino cherries

Combine the pancake mix, milk, and egg, and set aside.
In a medium sauce pan, combine the butter, liqueur, and brown sugar and heat over medium until dissolved, then add the pineapple.  Cook for about 5-6 minutes or until caramelized, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium and add about 1/4 cup of coconut oil.  Once hot, scoop pancake mix into the pan, using about 1/3 cup of batter per cake.  Top each cake with a pineapple ring or about 5-6 pieces and a cherry.  Continue to cook the brown sugar sauce so it thickens (this will be your syrup).  Once the bottom is browned, flip the cakes and cook until golden.
Serve with the brown sugar syrup and devour!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Adventures in Parenting: Month 6

SIX MONTHS!  HALF A YEAR!  26 WEEKS!  Lil' Man is up to 17.5 lbs, 27.5 inches, and still has a giant head.  He handled his 6 month shots like a champ, though. So proud.

Here's what we've been up to:

1. Baby's First Sickness - I picked him up after a nap, and noticed that he felt warm.  He usually runs a little warm anyway, but I checked his temp just in case.  Sure enough, 101.3F.  He's been pretty snotty lately, and there was a case of RSV at his day care...but The Hubs was also sick the previous week.  He was a little fussy, so we gave him a little bit of Tylenol, and his fever dropped and he was in a good mood. That deteriorated closer to bedtime (bathtime was a nightmare), so we gave him a little more Tylenol before bed.  He woke up mad at midnight, so I nursed him and he conked back out...until 1am, and then was awake until 2am with The Hubs.  Not fussy, just not wanting to sleep.  Finally he was able to lay him back down & he dozed off....until 4am.  I got up with him, nursed again, and checked his temp, which had popped back up into the 100s.  Tried to give him some Tylenol while he was laying down--BIG mistake, he gagged and spit up all over himself and the crib.  So I got him cleaned up, took care of the crib mess, and then I gave him the rest of the Tylenol while he was sitting in my lap.  He fell asleep in my arms, so I rocked him for a while, then tried to lay him down--no go.  Picked him back up, rocked him for 20 minutes, then attempted the crib again...no dice.  Picked him back up and rocked him again until about 6am, at which point we just brought him into our bed so I could try to sleep the last 30 minutes before my alarm went off.

The next day, my husband stayed home with him (since we couldn't take him to day care with a fever) while I went to work; they both napped most of the day but Lil' Man's fever would never go totally away.  He just looked so sad, my heart was breaking. 
Using a cold washcloth to cool him down.

That night, I nursed him to sleep, and then tried to lay him down, but he was NOT having it, and scream-cried until my husband came in and saved me, took my place and managed to get him to fall asleep.  But he woke again at 2:30am, so I instinctively tried to nurse him...and he wouldn't latch.  My poor son just laid there and cried and I kept trying.  I was completely lost--he's NEVER not latched before.  EVER.  So I held him up to my chest & rocked & shushed while I frantically searched the interwebz on my phone--and discovered that it usually means they have an ear infection, which makes it hurt to either lay in that position or suck on anything, and recommended that you just try different positions to see if there's one where he can eat without it hurting.  

Well, he fell asleep on me while I was searching for my answer, and I didn't have the heart to wake him up...so I propped pillows under my arms and let him sleep on my chest for 2 hours.  I never really fell asleep but I was able to rest my eyes at least.  Around 4:30am he woke up crying, so I laid him down on the changing pad to see if his diaper was dirty.  He was really calm, so I thought, "maybe I'll see if he'll nurse while laying like this".  And he did!  BUT then I quickly realized I could not stand there for 20 minutes, hovering over our changing table so my son could eat--my back was killing me.  So I moved him to the floor and was able to lay next to him while he ate.  He was really content after that, so I put him in the crib and turned on his mobile and tried to go to bed...but he started crying once the mobile turned off.  My blessed husband got up with him, took him into the living room and put him in the bouncer where he was able to sleep for a few more hours (while I was blissfully unconscious in my own bed).

He still had a 102F fever that morning (and still couldn't nurse OR take a bottle, in ANY position*), so we called the pediatrician, and she was able to get us in that morning.  Diagnosis:  Regular ol' cold virus with upper respiratory congestion, and a subsequent ear infection.  We got some antibiotics and went home. His fever broke and was back down to normal by 8pm.  That night, by some miracle, he nursed just fine at 6:30pm and right before bed, and then SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT.  It was glorious.

*In previous posts, I've mentioned how we caught some flack for starting our son on cereal before 6 months, or that we even taught him how to spoon feed at all and didn't just wait until he was ready for finger foods.  But here's the thing:  BECAUSE our son knew how to eat from a spoon, we were able to just mix some cereal in with milk and spoon-feed him while he couldn't nurse/take a bottle.  If we hadn't already worked on that skill with him, he wouldn't have been able to eat anything for almost 24 hours.  So I have ABSOLUTELY NO REGRETS about starting spoon training at 5 months.

We still couldn't take him to daycare the next day (because they have to be fever-free without meds for 24 hours), so I worked from home with him.  He was in a pretty good mood, but didn't get enough naps, so he was really tired around 7:30pm.  In retrospect, we should have just put him to bed early. Instead, we let him fall asleep for about 30 minutes in the bouncer, but then woke him up so he'd be awake for a little while before bedtime (8:30-9pm).  
He was in a horrible mood and just fussed nonstop, cried as we changed his diaper and got him into PJs, screamed bloody murder when we suctioned out his nose and put him in his sleep sack...and then he had built up so much new snot that he could barely breathe through his nose and then could only nurse for about 5 minutes before he wouldn't latch, and he just cried and cried and cried and my heart broke into a million pieces.  

I've come to realize that my ability to nurse my son, whether for food or comfort, is intrinsically tied to my psychological well-being.  When all other comforting techniques fail, I've always thought, "well, I can always just bust out the tatas".  But then, when THOSE don't work, it's like I have no purpose in life.  If I can't feed or comfort my son, what use am I?  I'm sure this could also be tied in with the fact that breastfeeding releases ocytocin, so when you aren't able to achieve that release, you don't get that sort of "mother's high"...instead, you get a big fat sense of "you suck as a mom".

That was another rough night--we eventually propped up one end of his mattress with a couple rolled up receiving blankets (see?  All those blankets actually do come in handy!) so he wasn't sleeping flat, and were able to get him to sleep in his crib aside from a couple wakes to feed.

2. Mommy Time - When I was on maternity leave, I made myself a list of nice things that I would like to get done to help keep me sane--things like "get a haircut", "go for a walk", "go visit a mom friend", "go see a movie" etc.  Well--"get a massage" and "get a pedicure" were also on that list, but they never happened.  I feel bad taking time over the weekend or the evenings to do either because it cuts into my already-limited time with my son and husband.  So, 5.5 months in, I decided to take a half-day off work and get both done on the same day.  A half-day of Mommy Pampering. I called and scheduled a massage and a spa pedicure, and made a list of things I wanted to shop for (booze for a Thirsty Thursday cocktail, and a new black tank top--seriously.  That was my list. I am a simple woman with simple needs.) I had plans to try and meet up with my husband for lunch, maybe even have a cocktail to use for a future Thirsty Thursday....it was going to be relaxing and restorative.

Ironically, this half-day of pampering fell right in the middle of the sickness mentioned in the previous section.  Thankfully, my husband is a champ and stayed home with the baby for that half of a day so I could keep my appointments.  My massage was amazing, as was the pedicure. I did some shopping, ate some junk food...it was glorious.  And when I got home, my baby was napping and his temp had dropped to 99.3F, and I got to have a beer on the patio with my husband.  It was a good day.  (This is also the same evening  that he actually slept through the night, which must've been his present to me.)

It was kind of hard to leave my baby when he was feeling so crummy, but I'm glad that I did.  Self care is such a huge part of being a good mom, and you can't really take care of someone else unless you're taking care of yourself too.  When I made those appointments, I had just been craving some pampering and alone time. But after two sleepless nights with a crying baby, I NEEDED it.
Much needed toe-decoration.

3. I bought a NoseFrida.  I almost hate to admit that.  As a non-mom, I remember laughing at these and making snarky comments on Facebook.  Seriously? You want me to suck the snot out of my son's nose?  Sure...why don't I just go ahead and start baby bird feeding him like Alicia Silverstone while I'm at it?  Knothxbye.  

And then he got his first cold.  Before that cold, he didn't mind the bulb syringe--after all, we were only using it maybe once a day if he was congested.  But once we started having to use it 4-5 times a day?  

So...I figured we'd try it.  It was on sale at Toys 'R Us, and we had a gift card.  Granted, he still doesn't love it, but it is a lot easier on his nose than the bulb.  And since I can't ACTUALLY accidentally suck his snot into my mouth, it's less gross than originally thought.  But then again...I'm now a mom. There's a lot of gross things in my world--what's one more?

4.  Movin' and Groovin':  Last month I mentioned that Baby J seemed to have regressed and didn't want to roll from belly to back any more?  Yeah, that ship has sailed. A few weeks ago I put Lil' Man down on his play blanket (on his back).  After a few minutes, he decided he wanted to watch the TV, so he rolled onto his side...stayed there for a bit...and then rolled onto his belly.  He laid there for a while, practicing his Cobra pose and watching the dog...and then flopped himself over again onto his back.  Then a few minutes later, he decided to roll again (still toward the TV) and ended up on his belly on the carpet (thank God I'd vacuumed the day before or he'd be covered in dog hair).
I'm pretty sure it was his first time just laying on the carpet.  He was infatuated with the way it felt, and just kept grabbing at the strands with his lil' fingers. (He may or may not have also licked the carpet...again...SO glad I vacuumed.)

Soooo I guess it's about time we get that box of baby proofing stuff down from the attic so he's not rolling into things and whacking his head.  
Tiny, blurry tripod, briefly captivated by the camera screen.

He's also getting pretty good at the "tripod sit", and LOVES to stand--usually assisted, though sometimes he'll stand up in his exersaucer [for a few seconds, until he loses his balance and flings himself forward].
Standing in the Exersaucer

5. First Solid Foods:  Okay...first things first...why is baby cereal not considered a "solid"? I always see these discussed separately online.  I could make that stuff pretty "solid" if I really wanted to.  

Anyway....once Lil' Man was over his ear infection, we decided to try starting some foods other than his oat cereal.  I decided to wait until after he was well, just in case he had some sort of reaction--that way we could say "oh, that's an allergy" rather than being all, "is he allergic? Or is his ear bothering him?  Is he getting diarrhea from the antibiotics or something he ate?  I DON'T KNOW!!!!!"

His first *real* food was some avocado, mashed & thinned with formula.  And aside from gagging on a chunk that I didn't quite get mashed up enough (whoops), he loved it.  Sweet potatoes, peas and carrots are up next.

6. Sleep Regression:  We're finally starting to get our first taste of this, since he never really went through a "4 month sleep regression".  OR--he did and we just never noticed because he was self-soothing by sucking his thumb.  HOWEVER, he has recently decided he no longer likes sucking his thumbs/fingers.  My guess is that he bit himself with those sharp lil' chompers.  So for about a week, he's been waking up a lot more overnight.  At first I thought it was a growth spurt (and it may have been), but last night he woke up just about every 2 hours: midnight, 2am, 4am, 5:30am... The first time The Hubs got up and tried turning on his mobile and giving him his paci, but he promptly pulled the paci out of his mouth and continued to fuss. So I got up and fed him.  But after that, I was like, "there is NO way he's still hungry".  So at 2am when I got up to check on him, he was craning his neck to the side trying to reach his paci. I picked it up, plunked it back in his mouth, and turned on the mobile...and he never even opened his eyes.  He whimpered a couple times but was fast asleep within minutes.  Same story at 4 and 5:30.  Sooo...I guess I'm really waiting for the day when he can start putting his own paci back in his mouth.

I listened to a podcast on One Bad Mother where they interviewed Dr. Jodi Mindell, an expert in pediatric sleep disorders, who stated for the most part, "a *insert month* sleep regression" is just a term that allows parents to feel like they have a handle on things, when in reality, sometimes things "just fall apart", and it has nothing to do with the kids' age.  She based this statement on an evaluation of sleep data from tens of thousands of babies across the globe: no matter what age they are, babies of all ages have sleep problems.  But when a baby that was normally in a good sleep routine suddenly changes, being able to say, "ah, must be that __-month sleep regression" makes us feel less like we have no idea what happened.  But according to Dr. Mindell, it's usually more related to them learning something new, or some small change that to the kid feels really major (like a parent being out of town for a few days, sleeping in a new place, time change, a slight change in bedtime routine, starting potty training).

We HAVE learned that having his nightly dinner of cereal/"real" food is absolutely essential to sleeping through the night.  Granted, there are still occasional nights that he eats real food before bed and still wakes up (we think due to teething), but the food definitely helps to keep him full through the night.  The nights that we didn't give him some solids for dinner?  That's usually when he wakes up around midnight or 2am hungry.

7. Day Dates: When I get home from work, it's really easy for that time to be mostly occupied by the baby: nursing, playing, feeding, bathing, bedtime...next thing I know it's 9pm and I'm getting maybe an hour with my husband where we're mostly catching up on our TV shows and not really interacting.  Some nights we make it all the way to our own bedtime before I realize I haven't really asked how his day went.  

So, we try to make an effort to meet up for lunch every other week or so.  It's a challenge, because he never really knows if he's going to be in town (he works from his car and has a 50+ mile service area) and I'm usually pumping in a bathroom during my lunch.  But when we make it happen it's really nice.  We can sit across from each other, not worry about the baby, and just talk to each other.  Sure, it may be a $6 meal at Fazoli's, but it's exactly what we need.  This man is more than just my partner in parenting--he's my partner in life.  I don't want us to lose sight of the big picture while we're buried under diapers and poop-stained laundry.

Because ultimately, our son will only be in our house for the next 17-20 years...but my husband will be with me for the next 50+ (God willing).  He will still be there long after our son moves out and starts his own journey in adulting.  
Based on this Easter photo, he's going to make a pretty adorable adult.

8. Imposter Syndrome:  Before a few weeks ago, I had never heard of this term.  Then I was talking with some other working moms and asked them how long it took for them to get back into a groove at work, since I've been back for 3 months but feel really distracted and unfocused a lot of the time, and was worrying about it affecting my work quality.  Two different moms used the term, so I had to look it up.

I guess I have dealt with some of this in my life...even before the baby. The most recent example is my RG (Registered Geologist) certification.  I decided to try for it because... well... because I could, even though I don't actually have a degree in Geology. I met the minimum criteria for taking the exams--30 geology credit hours, no specification for WHAT classes, so my mishmash of mostly "elective-type" courses added up to 30 hours. (Sidenote: after I was approved to take the exam, the state changed that criteria and now specify that the 30 credit hours have to include a certain set of core courses [some of which I don't have]... I can't help but think I had something to do with that.)  I had the right number of years of professional experience. I could afford to take the exam--and even afford to retake it if I failed.  So why wouldn't I at least try?  After two attempts, I passed the two required exams and got my certification.  And I felt validated--I was a *geologist*.  Even if I didn't have a degree in the sciences (both my bachelors and masters are from the Liberal Arts college), that stamp made me a *real* scientist.  ...Right?  But even with that stamp, I still have days where I feel like I'm just...not *real* enough. :/

Prior to getting married I was always focused on work--to the point of being called a workaholic at times.  In college I often had 2 or 3 jobs on top of classes. I dialed it back once I got hitched because there was someone else waiting at home to have dinner with me. Then the baby came, and now I'm not so motivated to spend extra time at the office when I could be with my son.  I still enjoy my job, but I don't feel compelled to throw myself into it 110%--because I'm not 110% career gal.  I'm also part mom, and part wife.  

But so are a lot of people in my office--so why does it feel so hard?  Why will my brain not focus on the task at hand and feel compelled to wonder about things like "can I find an extra wide baby gate on Craigslist?  I really need to delete all the Pinterest recipes I'm never going to make.  What do I need from the grocery store? I wonder if there's any new Ibotta coupons... What am I making for dinner? Where did I put all of Baby J's 6-9 month clothes? What's the best umbrella stroller? I should really write a blog post about __..."

Maybe it's just the extreme contrast.  Before I went on maternity leave, I was in SuperPowerWorker mode. I was hyper-focused on making sure all of my projects were moving along swiftly and as wrapped up as possible so that things would run smoothly while I was gone.  I was sending out reports every week, constantly updating my tracking spreadsheets, getting projects billed, just generally GSD (getting sh*t done).  Now, I'm back, and things are moving along at their normal pace...and I sometimes feel like an underachiever.  

We have monthly meetings at work where individual employees who went above and beyond that month get some recognition for their achievements. I think this is awesome, and a great policy.  But...it's been a while since I was one of those people.  And now that I'm a mom who leaves on time every day, sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be one of those people again.  And I'm still trying to figure out if I'm okay with that. 

I know that this phase is not forever.  It's just a season.  And my fellow coworkers with kids have been there before, and likely aren't going to judge me, because they know what it's like, and they know that it's temporary.  But as I've said before, temporary sucky things still suck in that moment.

To see the entire "Adventures in Parenting" series, click here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Slow Cooker Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

I'm starting to realize I never actually make gumbo the traditional way--starting with a roux, getting to that perfect golden color, then adding in all my ingredients and slow simmering to perfection... Maybe that's because I have a wee one who has recently become mobile...or just because I'm a little lazy sometimes.  Nope...let's blame the baby.

I whipped this up for my church group one afternoon--I did all the prep work the night before, and threw the ingredients into the crock and refrigerated overnight, then the next morning before church I put the crock into the crockpot & set to High.  By the time our group met up for lunch it was ready to go!  It was a big hit--by the time they were through with it, there was nothing left to take home.

This worked really well for a big group--we brought the gumbo, rice, and pickled okra (to garnish).  Another person brought potato salad (a German-Louisianian tradition), another brought salad, bread, dessert, etc.  It was a fabulous meal with good friends (particularly when you have friends that will hold your baby while you eat).

INGREDIENTS: (makes 8-10 servings)
1 lb andouille or smoked sausage (Johnsonville's New Orleans Style works well if you can't get andouille links)
2 cups sliced pickled okra (I usually use fresh or frozen, but we had a GIANT jar of pickled okra that needed to be used up.  It worked really well in this recipe.)
1 medium onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
(1) 14 oz can of diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained
1 cup dry roux
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 lb medium shrimp, raw, peeled and tails removed
2 green onions, sliced
4-5 cups cooked rice (about 1/2 cup per serving)
pickled okra to garnish

Place sliced sausage, okra, onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, Cajun seasoning, tomatoes, dry roux, and chicken broth in the Crockpot & stir.  Cook on High for 4 hours, or Low for 6-8 hours.  

Throw the Worcestershire, Tabasco, shrimp and green onions in for the last half hour of cooking. You can add additional hot sauce or Cajun seasoning at this time as well, to your taste preference.

Serve with rice, potato salad, and pickled okra for garnish, along with a slice of french bread to sop up all the broth.

My Other Gumbo Recipes:
Pressure Cooker Gumbo
Gumbo Risotto
Duck & Sausage File Gumbo

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Budgeting for Baby: Estimate vs. First Year Actual Costs

When expecting your first kiddo, it's REAAALLLLLLLY easy to get caught up in the whirl of wanting to shop for your future baby.  I mean--look at all that cutie-patootie stuff!  Have you SEEN those itsy bitsy baby socks...and the tee-tiny SHOES???? And did you know that when you register at places like Babies 'R Us and Target, they give you FREE STUFF????  Seriously--you get the magical gun to go shoot things and add them to your registry, AND a bag full of goodies for baby.  It's easy to get caught up in the feev-ahh...

Because I am a giant nerd who loves spreadsheets, back before we had the baby The Hubs & I decided to make a budget to estimate what we anticipated first year costs would be (i.e. pregnancy plus the first 3-4 months).  We used various internet resources and discussions with parent friends to come up with our costs.

And because I'm an even BIGGER nerd, I kept track of ACTUAL costs spent, the things that were gifted to us, etc. so that we could compare the two after the fact.

1) Medical Expenses:   Estimate: $1,000  Actual: $3,000
I managed to forget that when a baby is born, he then has his OWN deductible that has to be met, once you add him to your policy.  The Hubs & I have separate insurance (cheaper that way in our case), and we added the baby to my policy because it has a lower monthly cost, offset by a higher deductible (I have an HSA plan).  So while yes, that original $1000 covered all of my medical bills, I didn't account for the baby's portion of the hospital bills and initial office visits. 

FUN FACT YOUR DOC DOESN'T TELL YOU:  It's fairly typical to take your baby into the pediatrician about 48 hours after you're discharged from the hospital, and then a week later.  These are primarily weight checks to make sure they're gaining weight appropriately, since most babies lose a few pounds right after birth.  One would think that since these are "fairly standard" that they're included in your baby's Wellness Visits (which are 100% covered under insurance).  But they're not.  Our hospital/pediatrician coded them as "feeding issues" which makes them a normal office visit.  So if your plan has a co-pay, you may have to pay for these follow up visits.  For my HSA plan, co-pays don't kick in until you've met your deductible, so we were out of pocket about $400 for those two office visits, and Lil' Man's portion of our hospital stay was about $1600 (which includes his circumcision).  Seeing "room and board" listed on a bill for a newborn's hospital stay is pretty laughable.  Apparently those little clear rolling plastic bins they put the baby in are REALLY expensive.
"Welcome to my 'room'.  Please don't touch the mini-bar."

P.S. - I should note that the Medical Costs shown above doesn't include any of the costs from when we were still trying to get preggo--only what we incurred after I peed on a stick and it came up positive.  It took us a little under 2 years to get that positive pee test: before that, we spent somewhere in the $1500-2000 range on prenatal vitamins, ovulation test strips, pregnancy tests, a couple doctor visits once my regular doc referred us to a specialist, infertility testing for both me & the Hubs (both showed we were A-OK for baby-making), and 3 rounds of Clomid.  

2) Birthing Classes:  Estimate/Actual: $85
This one I knew ahead of time, so our estimate was on the nose.  The classes were pretty useful--though it would have been nice if they offered snacks more often.  My husband went to the Daddy Boot Camp class and the instructor provided them with pizza & wings!  Helloooo--how about the preggo wives? Sheesh.

3) Prenatal Vitamins/Supplements: Estimate: $100  Actual:  $50
CVS has prenatal gummies, and a 45 day supply is $9.99---however, they run BOGO sales every few weeks (so actual cost of $5 for a 45 day supply).  Also, Similac and Enfamil both sent me a few weeks' worth of free samples of their prenatal vitamins (not gummies--gross giant horse pills, but I didn't waste them.)  So I spent about $40 over the course of the year on vitamins.  I also bought some Fish Oil supplements after the baby arrived because they were recommended to help deal with the Baby Blues...and when he was about 3 months my hair started falling out, so I purchased some biotin to help with that.

4) Maternity/Nursing Clothes: Estimate: $250  Actual  $125
I got pretty lucky as far as maternity clothes go--the vast majority of my weight gain was all in my belly, so I was able to wear a lot of non-maternity clothes that I already owned (the ol' "hair tie to extend the jeans waistband" served me well up until about 6 months)--plus I was preggo during spring and summer, so I wore a ton of stretchy maxi skirts and tank tops.  I did have to purchase a couple new bras a size up from my normal, and I bought some gently used maternity wear (shorts, blouses, and a swimsuit) at a consignment sale.  A couple friends loaned me their maternity clothes as well, which was really sweet.  
27 weeks...I was able to get a lot of mileage out of this stretchy knit tank and maxi skirt combo, both of which I had in my closet pre-baby, and could wear all the way through my pregnancy.

Post-baby, I had to buy some nursing and sleep bras--Target has a pretty decent selection, and when I started my baby registry there, I received several 20% off coupons that I was able to use to reduce those costs.  There was also a pair of sandals I purchased last spring that ended up being what I wore 90% of the time, because once my feet started to swell the only things that fit were those sandals, flip-flops, and a pair of canvas loafers.  I also bought a few new tops for work that would make it easier for me to nurse/pump (shirts that buttoned in the front or were stretchy enough to pull down).

5) Skin Care: Estimate: $50  Actual: $14
My mom and sis-in-law gifted me a few bottles of cocoa butter lotion, so I never had to buy any regular lotion of my own.  However, I am NOTORIOUS for rushing through my grooming routine and not using lotion after I get out of the shower.  So I bought some of Nivea's in shower lotion (used a coupon), and LOVED it.  So easy to just include in my shower routine.  I like to think it helped too, since I didn't get any stretch marks until my last month. One bottle lasted me the whole pregnancy.  I also bought some Bio-Oil (again, with a coupon) for stretch marks, but haven't been super-diligent about using it.

6) Nursery Decor/Furniture: Estimate: $500 Actual $230
As mentioned before in my nursery prep posts, the end table, dresser, and shelving we put in our nursery were items we already had.  So the only big items we had to purchase for this room were the crib, a glider, and baby monitor.  My mother-in-law bought our crib as a baby gift, a friend gave us her crib mattress (since her daughter had transitioned to a big girl bed), and we used gift cards to purchase a video monitor on Amazon.  We found a gently used glider & footstool on Craigslist.  My mom bought all the bedding for the nursery (she found great deals at garage sales, including a set in our beach theme that contained curtains and two rugs).  So beyond that, we were left with small purchases like the diaper changing pad, drawer & closet organizers, photo frames and art decor for the walls, a toy net, bins for the shelving unit, and some cute table-top decor pieces.  We also had to buy a blackout curtain once Daylight Savings Time rolled around. :)

7) Baby Gear:  Estimate: $500  Actual: $425
When I was doing my estimates, I think this category was originally intended for the *big* baby gear, like carseats, strollers, high chair, pack 'n play, etc....but it eventually became a catch-all for everything that didn't fit somewhere else: safety latches and outlet covers, bath tub & bathing accouterments, car seat covers (sun/rain shade and a cold weather one), grooming set, thermometer, etc.  Ultimately, only about $115 of this was out of pocket cost to us--the rest was purchased with gift cards from the baby showers.  My mom's family all chipped in to buy our car seat and spare carseat base, which were the biggest ticket items in this category.  We went with the Graco 30LX Click Connect (the "LX" models are more lightweight than the regular, which is pretty important if you're already carrying 20-30 lbs of kid around), and I bought the Click Connect stroller base at a consignment sale for $35 (the infant carrier just snaps onto this and becomes your stroller--SO convenient).  
My parents bought us a Pack 'n Play, and we were also gifted a convertible carseat for once he outgrows the infant carrier (we'll still have to buy a second one since we have 2 vehicles).  
Things we purchased used at consignment sales: Bumbo, diaper bag, seat covers (to go under the carseat and protect our vehicles), baby bathtub (that converts into a step stool later--recommended by a friend), high chair, babyproofing kits, extra covers for changing pad and Boppy.  
Various "hand-me-down" items we were gifted from other parents/grandparents: reversible baby carrier, Moby wrap, Boppy, exersaucer, swing, bouncer, jumperoo.
"Psst...old man...you realize this belt strap isn't really necessary at this point, right?"

8) Toys: Estimate: $100 Actual: $50

About $12 of that was out of pocket, for an activity playmat, some books, and a few stuffed animals (all purchased from consignment sales or second-hand kid's stores).  The rest were purchased with gift cards.  We asked friends to use baby books instead of greeting cards at our showers, so little man almost has more books than I do at this point.  We saved most of the toys and wrapped some of them up as Christmas presents--not that he really cared at that point, but it seemed like we should get him SOMETHING for Christmas.  (He might get a few for Easter too--shh, it's a secret.) :)
"I don't know what it does...But it's my new favorite toy!"

9) Diapers & Wipes:  Estimate: $1,000  Actual: $235
As I write this, Lil' Man is about 5 months old, and we're just NOW getting into boxes of diapers that we bought, vs. what was gifted to us at showers.  We're still working our way through the wipes we received as gifts.  So that's $0 for the first year when you consider 9 months of pregnancy plus first 3-4 months of life.  
As far as costs for the first full year of babies' life:  We'll have to pay for 7 months' worth.  Right now, we have about a 5 month stockpile*, which we paid roughly $185 for.  I'd estimate we'll have to pay about $40-50 for the other 2 month's worth.

(*Presumes an average of 8 diapers/day.)

Our secret to diaper savings?  Stockpiling and Target, primarily.  Target runs sales on their Up & Up generic diapers (which we really like--very absorbent) periodically where they give you a free $20-30 gift card if you buy multiple boxes.  So the first time we did that, it cost us $58 for 344 diapers (17c/ea) & they gave us a $20 gift card.  Then the next time that deal came up, it was a $30 gift card if you bought 2 boxes...so we used the $20 gift card from the first purchase and ended up paying $47 for 444 diapers (11c/ea).  Then we'll use that $30 gift card the next time, once our stockpile starts to dwindle, and it should be around 9c each.

We also recently caught a couponing trifecta on Luvs-- Dollar General had the 92 ct boxes on sale for $14 (normally $15.97 at Wal-Mart).  We price matched, used a 75c coupon, AND Ibotta was offering a $5 rebate.  So we got 184 diapers for $16.50 (9c/ea).

If your baby has a sensitive bum or if the generic brands don't fit well, you may not luck out like we did, and have to buy the pricier brand name stuff. [Note: Target does that gift card offer on the brand-name diapers sometimes too--it's not quite as good a deal but still a very good price & easy way to save.]   These are just our tips for what worked for us.  We've had good luck with the Luvs as far as catching his #1, but I've heard from friends that had girls saying the Luvs leaked for them a lot.  He has had some blowouts with the Luvs, but not with the Up&Up's [yet].

10) Baby Clothes Estimate: $500  Actual: $60
The Bump website estimated $1000 for the first year of baby clothes. I made the assumption they were talking about buying new, so I estimated about half that, since I planned to mostly buy gently used--after all, we're talking about clothes that will likely only get worn a few times before he outgrows them.

I had 3-4 friends who handed down baby clothes to us.  Also, my mom is the garage-sale queen and would bring us a bag of clothes every time she came to help with the baby for the first 2 months. I had to buy a few Newborn onesies, and then a couple long-sleeved 0-3 month onesies (so we could go a full week before having to do laundry), but otherwise our kiddo had more than enough clothes from 0-9 months.  There are outfits he never even got a chance to wear--he was given over 30 pairs of 3-6 month pants alone.  

It's totally cool to go buy a few cute outfits (a vital part of the new mom rite of passage), but honestly, if you know a few moms, and have a mom and/or mom-in-law, you will likely be inundated with clothes.  People LOVE to buy baby clothes.  A lot of the clothes I've purchased are for 12+ months, since most of the things we were gifted were the smaller sizes.  If you can catch the $20 sign up bonus that ThredUp runs periodically, that's a great way to get 3-4 things for just the cost of shipping (most baby clothes are about $5-6 on there).

Paid $6 total for all you see here.  I still can't quite wrap my head around the fact that my son will fit in these someday.

11) Child Care - Estimate: $10,400  Actual: $7,545 (estimate for 2016)
Technically, if we're talking first "year" with pregnancy and then first 3 months of life, there was no child card cost, since I took 12 weeks of maternity leave.  I started back to work right after New Year's.
My first month back to work, I worked from home 2 days a week, so we only had part time day care.  Then we transitioned to full time.  My estimate was based off an average cost of $200/week (which is pretty typical in this area), but the day care he ended up at only charges $155/week.

Sidenote: Researching daycares was possibly the most stressful part of baby planning.  First off--waitlists are ridiculously long so you have to put your fetus on those lists when he/she/it is like, 8 weeks old.  Basically, it goes: "hey..I peed on this stick and got a positive result. Better tell my husband, our parents, confirm with a doctor...and then start getting on day care waitlists."  Some daycares provide formula/food.  Some don't.  Some provide diapers/wipes.  Some don't.  Some only take kids 2 years and older.  Some will take little ones, but only certain days of the week and only until a ridiculous time like 2:30pm.  Some have high security and require a retinal scan to get in the building [kidding] ...some just have an open door anyone can walk into.  Some have cameras so you can go to their website and check in on your kid.  Some have childcare providers that are allowed to text you pics of your kid.  Some have a policy that their childcare providers aren't allowed to have their phones in the room.  It all depends on what you're comfortable with and what you can afford....and where you can get in.

12) Food - Estimate: $750  Actual: ???
We'll have to circle back around on this one since we don't have a full first year's worth of data.  He's nursed since birth, and we only recently started introducing some formula as a stop-gap since he was depleting my stockpile.  His daycare provides formula (which we have them mix half & half with breast milk) and he still just nurses at home, plus we have about a few months' supply of free formula samples to go through once he stops nursing.  We introduced oatmeal cereal a few weeks ago ($1 with a coupon--haven't gone through the first full container yet), and I bought about 8 jars of different kinds of baby food to start trying in a few weeks ($6.50 with coupons & Ibotta rebates).  A friend gave us her Baby Bullet kit, so I'm looking forward to trying my hand at making a few baby foods as well.

Some parent friends with older kids handed down extra bottles, formula/snack containers, sippy cups, bibs, baby spoons, etc. so when he starts getting into that more, we'll have a cache of supplies on hand. There's also another consignment sale coming up soon so I have a list of things to keep an eye out for.

Things We Didn't Budget For:
Books For Dad ($8.50) - Several people handed down books to us (What to Expect, What to Eat When Expecting, BabyWise, etc.) but these are all really oriented to the mom.  I wanted The Hubs to have his own resources as well.  So we got a copy of "The Expectant Father", along with "Babyproofing Your Marriage" which we both read, since we know that introducing a kiddo can produce a lot of marital strife.  The latter was an OK read...it has some good points but I think it would have been better if written by male and female co-authors, rather than by 4 women.

Stuff for Nursing/Pumping ($165)When making the Feeding estimate, I didn't think about all the stuff that comes along with nursing, pumping and bottle feeding.  So that's the amount we spent on bottles, extra nipples, milk storage bags, Vitamin D drops (because human milk doesn't contain Vitamin D), nursing pads, lanolin, nursing covers, and pump part cleaning supplies.  Insurance covers pumps, so that's a big expense saver (unless your insurance only covers a manual or single electric pump, in which case you might want to spring for a nicer version if you plan on pumping much).

Postnatal Mom Care ($65) - Yeaahhhhh... pre-baby me definitely never thought about these things, but I had quite the medical arsenal in my bathroom in those gory first few weeks.  The amount shown includes a sitz bath, sitz bath concentrate, incontinence pads/underwear, Colace, hemorrhoid cream, Dermoplast spray, and witch hazel.  Most likely your hospital will send you home with a few things (spare pads/mesh underwear, an irrigation bottle) but you'll have to spring for the rest.

So what's the final damage?

So even with the extra $2k in medical expenses, we still came in under budget.  This is in LARGEHUGEGINORMOUS part thanks to amazing friends and family helping us out through gifts and showers.  We were truly blessed, and are looking forward to blessing others with everything we were gifted.  I've got a few friends with buns in the oven so I've already packed up my maternity gear and the clothes he's grown out of to pass along to them.  As he outgrows other things we will be happy to continue to share the wealth!  Babies be expensive, yo...so the more we can help someone save, the better.
"Allow me to play you the song of my people."

So that's it--our first year baby finances.  I'll try to remember to do a follow up post in October going through the baby's first full year of expenses!

To see the entire "Adventures in Parenting" series, click here.