Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Pumping at Work: A Real Pain in the B00B$

I started working on this post several months ago, while I was still pumping at work, but decided to wait until I was completely done to post it.  That way I could review the entire process and see the full picture, from the awkward beginnings of fumbling with all the bags and the electric pump, to the end, with the decision of when to stop and make the transition over to formula full time.

So here are my tips for making the process as not sucktastic as possible, from one new mom to the next, written both in the trenches and in the thralls of PTSD.

1. Start out with an end game:  Most nursing-working moms know that their milk will peter out eventually once they go back to work. You have to know that your time is valuable (if you don't know this, just ask your boss.)  If you're going to be pumping at work, set yourself a target for when pumping is no longer a more valuable use of your time than work is.  For me, I know my little man eats about 4-5 oz per meal.  So I initially decided that once I was no longer averaging that amount per pumping session (10 minutes), this is no longer a good use of my time.

And then...I hit a wall.  I'd been pumping 1x a day while on maternity leave and 2x a day at work, and at 6 months, I decided that when I finished the box of milk storage bags I was working on, I would be done.  My supply was still okay, getting 8-10 oz/day, but I just wasn't feeling it anymore. I was tired of eating lunch alone in a bathroom hooked up to a milk machine. I was tired of people just deciding to use the conference room that my pumping room was attached to, even though I'd gone through the effort of reserving that room twice a day, every day.  I was tired of choosing my outfit for the day around whether or not I could comfortably pump while wearing it (i.e. I couldn't wear a dress to work for 4 months, because I didn't want to hike it up over my head just to pump).  I was tired of dropping whatever I was working on because it was "Time To Pump" and then having to get my head back into the game post-pumping. I was tired of having to work longer hours to make up for lost work time.
The face of "I'm done with this." 

And so, when I got down to about 10 bags left, I tapered off. I dropped my lunchtime session and only pumped in the afternoon.  When I ran out...that was that. I cleaned my pump parts, took my pumping bag home, and stowed it away in the nursery closet.  Haven't seen it since. (Note: I have had to use my manual pump a couple times just to relieve some pressure, but that's it.)

2. Multitask:  I would generally pump during my lunch break.  Part of this sucks, because...well...I'm eating my lunch alone, in a bathroom, while being milked like a cow.  However, it also makes the time go by faster.  I take my tablet or smart phone with me, turn on a podcast, have my lunch/snack, play some Bejeweled, answer some work emails, work on some blog posts, maybe send some goofy Snapchats to fellow moms who understand the nursing/pumping struggle.  That 10 minutes passed in no time.  If you have to pump a little longer (20+ minutes), bringing a tablet or laptop with you is probably a good plan.

3. Be Efficient:  The longer something takes, the more it's going to feel like a burden.  And you don't need that stress.  Have a bag with all the stuff you need, well organized so you can blow through each session like a champ.  Everything is awkward in the beginning, but soon it'll be routine and you'll zoom through it.
My bag: a magazine, my pump, a pumping bra (converted old sports bra), quick clean wipes, sterilization bags, milk storage bags, Sharpie pen.  [pump parts were drying at time of photo.]  If your insurance will pay for one of the tote-style pumps, TOTALLY go for that one. Mine wouldn't.

If you pump multiple times a day, don't wash your pump parts between pumpings--just rinse them, dry them off, stick them in a Ziploc bag and throw them in the cooler with your milk.  Then wash everything after the last pumping session.  I pump in a cozy private bathroom--which is super-convenient for rinsing/washing off parts.  Don't have access to a sink in your pumping station?  Use these Medela Quick Clean wipes.  If you don't have a high risk baby and you're good about rinsing/washing your pump parts, you also don't need to sterilize constantly.  I rinse the parts after each session (since I have access to a sink), then use the Quick Clean wipes after my last session of the day, let everything air dry at my desk (covertly hidden behind some files), and then sterilize once a week using the microwave steam bags.
My secret pump parts drying stash.

I would take my lunch bag into the nursing room with me, nom on my food while I pump, then store the milk and the pump parts in the lunch bag and put it back in the work fridge.  Then I'd grab the cooler again at snack/2nd pumping time, finish off my snacks, store the rest of the milk in there, and pump parts get washed and go back to my desk to dry. From start to finish, pumping took me about 15-20 minutes to get 4-7 ounces.

4. Post-It Notes:  Your brain doesn't work so well.  Use These.  Lest you forget & leave all your milk at work...or accidentally leave your steam bag full of pump parts in the work microwave all weekend.

5. Ice/Ice Packs:  If you're not heading straight home after work, make sure you load up the empty space in your milk cooler with ice or ice packs to keep everything at a nice cool temp while you run your errands and whatnot.  Aaand it may save the day when you accidentally forget to bring said cooler into the house when you do finally get home. :) If you don't have reusable ice packs, save a couple quart size freezer bags and just refill them with ice each day before you leave work.

6. Treat Yourself:  Everyone tells you to bring snacks when you pump.  I'll go beyond that.  Yes, I have a bag of carrots and a cheese stick during my afternoon pumping session--but I also have chocolate.  In some form, whether it be a mini peanut butter cup, a couple Hershey's Kisses, a delicious sea salt caramel truffle from Trader Joes, I have a little piece of chocolate at the end of every pumping session. It really helped me look forward to pumping (a little bit).  Not a fan of candy/chocolate?  Find some other kind of treat that helps you to look forward to pumping--anything that makes it feel more like a break than a chore.  I used pumping time to get caught up on backlogs of podcasts I like, such as Thrilling Adventure Hour or One Bad Mother. Or maybe you've got a novel you've been wanting to finish reading--pumping is the perfect time!

7. Dress for the occasion:  When I went back to work, I quickly realized that most of the work clothes I owned were not going to be conducive to pumping.  Tying in with #3 above, having the right clothes will help you be more efficient with pumping, and make you much more comfortable if you're not having to strip down to pump.  Button-down shirts or blouses with a deep V neck paired with a stretchy tank underneath were my go-to--I could put the pumping bra on over my shirt & unbutton as much as needed so I didn't get cold or have to bare excess skin.  I also had a few maternity tops that were made for easy nursing--also very handy for pumping.  I found this button-down tunic on ThredUp.com and used a $10 registration credit to get it for just the price of shipping! (PS--$10 credit waiting for you if you use the link right there.)
Hanging out in my "nursing station".

8.  Go with the flow.  Sometimes, things will not work out.  You will get busy with work and miss a session, or have to be out of the office for meetings all day, or someone will be using your pumping area when you were all geared up & ready to go. Or maybe you have to be in the field all day.  Don't. Freak. Out.  Just do the best you can.  If you can manage it, get an inverter and pump on the road (or during your lunch break in a work truck).  
Here's a good time to be thankful for coworkers who are dads and understand the plight of the pumping mom...and are willing to sit outside on the tailgate while you pump in the cab.

Inverter breaks or can't get to an outlet?  Don't stress, but maybe have a back-up manual pump.  I speak from experience, as I have TOTALLY manually expressed while driving--thank God for straight highways and cruise control.  It was not ideal, and I wouldn't recommend it every day  (once was really enough, honestly).  But it's one of those "rites of passage" moments that you can laugh about later with other moms.

One day I had to go out on a drilling job. I was super-prepared. I had both my electric and manual pumps packed.  I pumped before I left the office (7am) to give myself a bigger window before the next session.  Aaaand then there was never a good time to take a break. We were slammed ALL DAY.  So next thing I know it's 6pm and we're back in the truck with an hour drive before we get back to the office, let alone before I can get home.  The coworker I was riding with was a Non-Dad Dude, so I didn't feel comfortable pumping in the truck while he drove.  The pain was HORRIBLE. I was speeding on my way home while calling my husband to say "don't you DARE feed him a bottle, I'll be there in 5 minutes!"  I remember thinking, "what if my supply just...vanishes... because I didn't pump all day?"  Of course, it didn't. I fed my son and then still pumped like 4 more ounces after he'd had his fill.  And the next day, I still produced the normal amount. My point?  We survived.  My son didn't starve and now, 4 months later, I'm still nursing him twice a day.

Or sometimes (probably/hopefully only once), you will accidentally leave about 20 ounces of milk in your car. All.  Weekend. Long.  And you will cry when you throw it away.  It's okay. I mean...it's not okay.  But it will be.  Don't freak out.

9. Take A Real Lunch.  Eating alone in a bathroom while hooked up to a milk machine 5 days a week will take a mental toll on you--even if you're a natural introvert like me, so I can only imagine how horrible it would be for an extrovert.  So once a week I would go ahead and pump, and then LEAVE THE OFFICE and go have lunch with my husband or a coworker, or maybe even get some gluttonous fast food and run a few "errands" (there's a thrift store around the corner from my office where I love to shop for bargains--and a killer Chinese place with a drive-thru next door to it.  That's fate, folks.)  If you don't have an office job--still try to take a real lunch break in the break room, with other people, even if it means cutting one pumping session a week short because you have a limited allotted time for breaks.  Maybe order your favorite food to be delivered to the office, rather than your usual lunch from home.  You are making food for another human, and making big sacrifices to do it, and deserve a little splurge for yourself.
"Why yes, this is all for me.  But thanks for the extra fork and napkins."

10. Remember That It's Okay to Stop.  When you make the choice to stop pumping, for WHATEVER reason, that is OKAY.  You are not failing your child.  Whether you pumped well beyond what your initial goal was, or didn't make it to that goal, you are still an awesome mom.  If your child is loved and fed, whether breastmilk or formula, you are doing a good job.  It's a really hard decision, even when you try to make it easy.  When I decided "okay, I'm done when I run out of milk storage bags", that felt like a good, solid, easy endpoint...when I had 60 bags left to use.  When I realized I was down to 10, instead of being excited, I frantically searched my house for extra bags or  free samples I'd been given.  I seriously contemplated going out and buying more storage bags. I was physically ready to stop, but I wasn't quite emotionally there.  

It took a lot of willpower to convince myself that it was OKAY to stop.  I did a LOT of math--adding up how much milk I had in my freezer, figuring out how much I was pumping per day so I'd have an idea of when we'd run out, how long we'd end up doing formula before he could start cow's milk, how long the free formula samples we had at home would last us, how much formula would cost once we ran out of samples...I felt like I needed those numbers in order to feel okay with my decision.  Ultimately, I didn't buy any more milk bags (though I did find 5 extras at home and used those up as well). When I ran out, I quit.  And it was okay.  
Fed is best.

11. DON'T QUIT COLD TURKEY.  This is the best piece of advice anyone ever gave me about pumping, so I'm sharing it here.  If you've been pumping twice a day (or more) for several months, don't JUST STOP, unless being swollen & uncomfortable for a week sounds like fun. Taper off gradually, and your body has a chance to adjust with you.  I dropped the lunchtime pumping session first, which was basically the best of both worlds--I could eat lunch with friends, but still had an afternoon break to slip off to the pumping room and listen to a podcast/eat chocolate...and I was still getting about 6-8 ounces during that afternoon session. Once I finished pumping totally, I was pretty full by the end of the workday, but that worked out fine since I nursed Baby J after picking him up from daycare anyway.  Now he usually takes a bottle at day care about half an hour before we pick him up, so he's good as far as milk goes until bedtime--we just give him dinner in the evenings.
He's a fan of dinner.

12. Celebrate When You're Done.  I didn't do this, and it felt so...anticlimactic.  I used my last milk bag, and realized, "this is the last time I have to do this."  But I didn't have any coworkers around that day who could appreciate how BIG that moment was supposed to feel.  One coworker commented that I should just keep pumping forever since I was getting good quantity and it was helping me stay thin.  Not really helpful.  I ended up eating an extra piece of chocolate as my "celebration".  In retrospect, I wish I would have planned a special lunch or dinner for that day, or had a glass of champagne, or SOMETHING.  Because it IS a big deal.  I remember the first time I realized that I no longer had to choose my outfit for work based on ease of pumping.  And that I didn't have to wear a nursing bra to work anymore--I could wear a REAL bra!  I could have an extra cup of coffee in the morning if I wanted to because I wouldn't be feeding the kid for about 12 hours.  I could actually leave work on time!  

Ultimately, just remember:  this is temporary.  Yes, it's inconvenient and stressful and really isolating at times.  There will be times when you just want to give up and switch the kid over to formula--and when that time comes, it's totally okay to make that decision.  But in the meantime, you are a Pumping Mom.  It's an exclusive club, and while it sucks (literally), remember that there are moms out there who can't BF their babies, and there are ladies who wish they were moms so they too could be in the club.  You are awesome for even trying, so every day that you succeed is a day worth celebrating. (Preferably with chocolate and wine.)

Monday, May 23, 2016

World's Best Grilled Cheese

Well...at least that's my humble opinion.

I was packing myself a lunch for work when this sandwich occurred to me.  We had some cinnamon swirl bread that needed to be used up--apparently I wasn't going through it fast enough just with breakfast nomming.  And then I saw the pepper jelly, and had an A-HA moment.

Sweet sauce?  Sweet bread!  Makes sense!

2 slices cinnamon swirl bread
2 slices Swiss cheese (provolone or pepper jack would also go really nicely)
2 oz deli-sliced chicken (I like the Rotisserie Seasoned from Oscar Meyer)
1 Tbsp Tabasco pepper jelly
1/2 Tbsp light mayo (NOT Miracle Whip)

Slather the mayo on to one side of each of the slices of bread.  You're using this instead of butter for frying.  Just...trust me.  Seriously.

Place one slice of bread in the skillet, mayo-side down, then add cheese, pepper jelly, chicken, the other slice of cheese, and the other piece of bread (mayo-side up).  Flip once golden (about 3-4 minutes), and cook until the other side matches. (Note: my second side always seems to cook faster than the first--anyone else notice this?)

Let rest briefly so that the cheese can bond with it's fellow sandwich-mates, and then cut in half (if you desire. I won't force you.  I like triangles myself).  Serve with a side of...well, whatever! Maybe chips and a pickle, maybe just a variety of veggies.  It's totally up to you.
The end result is a sweet, salty, slightly spicy, crispy sandwich that will having you wishing you'd made two.

Calories: 399
Fat: 14.3 g
Fiber: 0.8 g
Carbs: 45.8 g
Sodium: 1253 mg
Protein: 16.1g

Monday, May 16, 2016

Bacon Gouda Grit Fritters & Pepper Jelly Dipping Sauce

So last week I shared a recipe for grits & grillades.  Well, when I made that...I made a lot of extra grits.  Why? Because it was Potluck Time at work!  We try to do these quarterly (which, really, it's probably a good thing they're not more frequent otherwise we'd all have some serious health issues), and they're usually somewhat themed.  This one was "Spring Cleaning"--as in, what can you throw together from what's in your fridge/pantry that needs to be used up?

I'll admit...I chose this theme explicitly so I could make this recipe, because it requires cold grits as the base.  I've had this recipe in my Pinterest for-ev-er, so it's really a two-fer...I would need to make some OTHER recipe that involved grits, and then use the leftover grits to make these fritters, and then BAM--two blog posts.
Delicious, delicious gluttony. 

Also--the original recipe calls for pan-frying these.  But I did the first four as a test batch fried and burnt the crap out of my arms...plus they were trying to fall apart a little bit, so I figured the less I had to move them around, the better. I opted to oven-fry them instead (also easier since I prepped them the night before, but actually cooked them AT work right before the potluck so they'd be hot). And, you know, a little healthier too.

  • 1 cup quick-cooking grits
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • 1½ cups (6 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda
  • 1 diced green onion
  • 6 slices low sodium bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 large eggs + 1/4 cup water
  • 1.5 cup Panko crumbs
  • 1.5 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Misto olive oil spray
  • ½ cup Red Pepper Jelly
  • 1 tablespoon Creole mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Cook grits & broth according to package instructions.  Then add the cajun seasoning, gouda, green onion, and bacon and mix well.  Lightly grease a 8x8 pan and then pour the grit mixture in and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

When ready to prep your fritters, create a work station--in one bowl, combine the egg (beaten) and water, and the panko+breadcrumbs in a second bowl.  Then grab your grits and roll into small balls (I opted to create all my fritter-balls first, THEN batter them to streamline things).  

Roll each ball in the egg mixture and then toss in the breadcrumbs and place on a greased cookie sheet.  If you're not cooking right away, you can freeze these to help keep the breading crisp.

To oven-fry, preheat your oven to 425F, then spray the tops of the fritters with olive oil (this helps them to crisp up and brown).  Bake for 15 minutes, then flip, and bake for 15 more minutes.

While they're baking, you can make the dipping sauce.  In a small bowl, combine the pepper jelly, mustard, and vinegar, and microwave for about 20-30 seconds until smooth.
Serve the fritters while warm (seriously--they're no where near as good when cold or even room temp) with the pepper jelly sauce.  

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Thirsty Thursday: Pink Carnation Punch (A Mother's Day Cocktail)

So, this year I celebrated my first Mother's Day.  My husband asked me for a list of ideas, and so I sent him this:

I know you keep asking and I keep saying I don’t know, so here’s some ideas:
-        I would like to sleep in.
-        I would like a mimosa or other cocktail at some point in the day.  Maybe two.
-        I would like to go for a walk or to the park since the weather should be nice.
-        Maybe dinner or lunch somewhere? I would like to not cook that day.
-        A foot and/or back massage.
-        A decent looking picture of the baby & I together and/or all three of us.
-        A reminder to call my mom & talk to her for a little while.

And I would have been utterly happy with just a couple of them.  Particularly that first one. (I mean...there's a reason it's first.)  But my amazing husband made ALL of them happen...even though we were all under the weather that weekend and not feeling 100%.  
  • The baby woke up at 7am, so he got up with him while I slept in 'til 8:30am.
  • He made me biscuits & gravy (from scratch) for breakfast, and then grilled pork steaks & sweet potatoes for lunch (leftovers of the same for dinner).  
  • The weather was iffy, so we did a 20 minute walk through our neighborhood instead of going to the park.
  • I got a foot massage while I played on the floor with the baby.
  • We [eventually] got out of our pajamas so that Baby J & I could take a pic together on the porch (this request was inspired by an article I read earlier in the week about how there are so few pictures of mother and child together because the mother is usually the one behind the camera).
  • And I called and chatted with my mom for about 45 minutes after lunch.
Oh...and he made me this cocktail as an afternoon aperitif.  

Since carnations are the most traditional Mother's Day flowers, I thought that would make an appropriate name, given the color.  It was quite tasty and just thrown together from things we had in the fridge.  The basil, pineapple, & cherry garnish really made it special (plus, I mean...fruit!  Now it's healthy, right?)
Bouquet in the background is from Baby J's daycare.
1.5 oz vodka
3-4 oz strawberry lemonade (cold)
1 Tbsp grenadine (okay...maraschino cherry juice.  Whatever you have.)
1 tsp agave syrup 
3-4 oz ginger ale (or 7Up Ten if you're looking to save a few calories), chilled

Combine the vodka, lemonade, grenadine, and agave syrup in a tall fluted glass, then pour your fizzy soda of choice over the top.  Garnish with a couple fresh basil leaves, fresh pineapple, and a maraschino cherry.
NOTE: If your lemonade and soda aren't chilled before hand, you can shake the first four ingredients over ice, and then add the soda... or just serve over ice in a pint glass or mason jar.  

Enjoy on your back porch while gazing adoringly at your husband and infant son... while also perhaps smirking about the clash-tastic outfit said amazing husband managed to put together for said infant.
Chillaxin' while watching church online since we were all under the weather.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Adventures in Parenting: Month 7

Writing these updates is always interesting.  It's a constantly evolving document.  In case I haven't mentioned it before, I start working on these like, the DAY after I post the one from the previous month, and just go back and periodically update it when I have something new to add.  but even just within the scope of a month, I'm having to change things that I wrote.  For example--this post initially mentioned only 2 new teeth--but then 2 more showed up.  Or maybe he was sleeping great when I start a post--and then by the end of the month, we're going through some stupid-awful growth spurt/regression/teething mess.  Or at the beginning of the month, he was just tripod-sitting, but by the end he's got total control of his torso and can sit up by himself just fine.  It's AMAZING how much they change and grow just in 30 days.
Current Baby Stats:
Weight: 19 lbs
Height: too wriggly for adequate measurements, but probably longer than last month.
Total Teeth: 6

Teething:  We've now got FOUR top teeth, which has made for some restless nights (Note to Future Self--next time, don't wait until 2am to try the Baby Tylenol if he's waking up every. single. hour.).  Oddly, his lateral incisors started breaking through first, making him look like he had fangs--I remember thinking that they were awfully far apart to be his two front teeth, but thought MAYBEEE just the outside corners were breaking through first (and what--he was going to have two GIANT front teeth? I'm not so smart sometimes.)  Then like a week later, one of the ACTUAL central incisors peeked through.  Which made a lot more sense. :)

Nursing has also gotten a lot more painful. For me.  Soooo weaning might be happening soon.

Food Time:  Lil' Man is LOVING eating real food.  So far there isn't anything he hasn't liked (hope I didn't just jinx myself)--pears, peas, apples, bananas, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, avocado--it's all yummy.  He makes a "sour" face if it's fresh out of the fridge or we use cold milk/formula in his cereal, but he'll still chow down anyway.  I've also been mixing some spices in with some of the foods (cinnamon goes well with a lot of them, and cumin + carrots was a BIG hit) so he can start to have a more developed palate.  He's started on Stage 2 foods (slightly thicker and a combination of different foods, for the non-parents who are reading this for some reason).  I still don't understand how something that looks like nacho cheese sauce is actually "macaroni & cheese with vegetables", but my son loves it, so whatever. And add a smidge of garlic powder?  He will literally claw my hand to get at the spoon.  Definitely our child.

BTW: Pureed meat is gross.  Just putting that out there.

He also REALLY wants to hold every cup that he sees.  We make sure they're empty first. :)

Developments: He ALWAYS wants to be sitting up.  No laying down for this kid! (Unless the ceiling fan is on. Ceiling fans are fascinating.)  His swing and high chair were still in a recline, but we had to shift them up because he was just constantly trying to grab his pants and pull himself into an upright position anyway.  He can sit up really well on his own, but still topples over if he gets too excited & flails around, or if he reaches just a little too far for a toy nearby.

We went ahead and put his swing in storage--he can now reach the mobile so any hopes of him taking a nap in it have disappeared, and he prefers his exersaucer or the floor for playtime.

Oh--and he's figured out how to shriek.  Mom and Dad's ability to determine whether it's a happy shriek or a tee'd off shriek is still a work in progress. Growling is also apparently really fun.  And trying to lick the dog.

Cause & Effect:  Our smart baby sorted out that if he dropped a toy from his high chair, Mom or Dad would pick it up.  
"To drop, or not to drop?  That is the question." 

We tried to combat this by covering a leftover plastic Easter egg with double-sided tape so it would stick to his hands better...which it does, but still not well enough.  So we finally just bought a toy that suction cups to his high chair tray.  We'll see how long it takes for him to pull that up. (Update: 1 week, apparently.)
With his sticky egg (and dino onesie that I would totally wear if it came in my size).

Sleeping:  We now like to sleep with a paci.  I'm pretty sure this is a sleep association he's picked up from day care.  It's fine, I don't have any moral objections to pacifiers, especially when he only wants it for sleeping.  But it would be REALLY awesome if he didn't pull it out of his own mouth, drop it, and then freak out because he can't find it or can't get it back in his mouth.  There are many nights when we have to get up, put the paci in, wait a few moments for him to doze off enough to stop reaching for it, and then we can go back to bed.  I call it Paci Patrol.

...I call it that because after one particularly sleep deprived night, during the 5th or 6th time of getting up, I suddenly started hearing Prince inside my head singing "Awwwwwwwwww....Paci Patrol!  Ohhhh!"  (ETA 4/22/16: R.I.P. Prince.) 

As soon as he figures out how to re-plug himself, we'll probably just start leaving like, I dunno...20 pacifiers in his crib so if he drops one he can just flail a hand around and grab a new one. My cousin told me that a friend of hers had numerous pacis velcro'd to the bars of his crib so he could just reach out & grab one if he lost the one in his mouth.  Brilliant.

He also likes to sleep on his side now.  I'm not sure if he's trying to roll onto his belly and because of the Sleep Sack he can't quite make it all the way over, or if he's just a side-sleeper, but whatever.  So long as he's safe and sleeping, I'm good with it.

Pumping:  Work pumping is no more.  About a month ago, I decided that when I ran out of milk storage bags, I was going to stop pumping.  And that happened about a week ago.  We've got enough stored up that he's got about a month's supply in the freezer, and then we'll transition to formula until he can have regular milk.  I probably could have kept pumping much longer--my employer's been really cool about it, and it was kind of nice having a couple little breaks in the middle of the day to just sit and listen to podcasts or read, but ultimately, I was just kinda done with it.  

Done with eating lunch alone every day.  Done with stopping in the middle of working on something because I had a scheduled time to use the pumping room.  Done with getting all my stuff together to go use the pumping room (which is attached to our conference room) at my scheduled time, only to find out that I couldn't because someone was having a meeting in there (because apparently not everyone actually checks the schedule to see if the room is reserved or not), so I'd have to text or email them "Please let me know when you're done with the conference room" and then just...wait.  Done with picking my work outfit for the day based on whether or not I can easily pump with it on. I've got a whole post in progress about pumping, so we can chat more about that later. Over a cocktail or something.

I'm still nursing at home, but we'll see how long that lasts--partly because of the biting mentioned above, and partly because I'm not sure how long my supply will stay up.  Fed is best, so whatever it takes to accomplish that, we'll do it. 

Find Your Tribe:  Whether it's a few moms you know in person or a gaggle of awesome ladies online, you need to find a few like-minded moms to share your journey with.  I've talked before about the Podcast "One Bad Mother" that I started listening to when Baby J was about 5 months old.  Well, I also recently joined their online forum, and it's been really great.  It's a judgement-free zone with well-defined rules of conduct, where no one will ever give grief over what my kid eats, how he sleeps, whether I have him buckled in his carseat perfectly or if I have him laying/playing somewhere near a TV.  If I have a rough day, I know I can vent there and not receive unsolicited advice--rather I will just be told "you're doing a good job".  It's funny how those 5 simple words, put together in that order, can make all the difference.  I know that particular tribe isn't for everyone.  But it's part of my tribe and I'm grateful for it.

Knowing some awesome in-person moms to hang out with is also important, but it can sometimes be hard to find someone who's in the same part of the journey as you and can commiserate.  Moms with older kids will always be a great resource, as well as a light at the end of the tunnel--they survived, you can too!  Look how put-together and well rested they appear--someday that can be you!  
"I know kid. I just want to sleep, too."

But sometimes you don't want to hear what their miracle cure was, or the phrase "just wait until they're *insert some other challenging phase here*"--because we KNOW there will always be something.  If it's not a growth spurt, it's teething, or sickness, or separation anxiety, or weaning, or sleep training, or night terrors, or sass-mouth, or tantrums, or teenage hormones...basically, yes, my child will always be an a-hole in some respect.  Thanks for the reminder.  

Sometimes you just want to share a cup of coffee (extra shot) with someone who knows exactly what you're going through right at this moment, and who won't care that your hair is in complete disarray because your son grabs it by the fistful every time he hugs you...because theirs is the exact same way. 

Time Away:  We are officially up to TWO nights (in a row) away from the baby.  We went down to Hot Springs to watch the Arkansas Derby with friends, so The Hubs' parents took Baby J for the weekend (Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon).  It was a little rough at times, but still so wonderful.  I tried to only check in a couple times, knowing that they are fully capable human beings who have taken care of two kids of their own, plus 4 grandkids before this one, so he was in good hands.  And I knew that if anything happened they would let us know.  
So we had a lovely date night alone Friday night, then went to the races Saturday (and only ended up $3 down from where we started!), spent the night down there, then drove back Sunday.  He had a great weekend with his grandparents and cousins, he ate well, was in a good mood, and slept "relatively" well (only 2 wake ups the first night, but 6-7 the second night because he kept spitting out his paci).  And I got lots of photos of fancy hats.  (Full Derby post to come later.)

Family Events:  Baby J got to attend his first wedding--the daughter of one of my cousins (my second cousin?  First cousin once removed?  I have no idea.)  I come from a BIIIIIIIIG family so Lil' Man got to be passed around the room to meet all his great-aunts/uncles/cousins/etc.  And he loved it.  He's quite the charmer, and gets a little peeved when I cramp his style.
"I'm busy, lady.  See you in a couple hours when I'm hungry."

Monday, May 9, 2016

Grits & Grillades (Chef John Folse Recipe)

I used to really enjoy working at Martin's on Sundays...and not just because my friend & I used to occasionally sneak mimosas (shhh....).  Sundays meant Sunday brunch, and we often got to taste test the daily specials.  One of my favorites was grits and grillades.  Now..that's saying something, because I generally do NOT like grits.  I'm a total texture person--I don't do tapioca, or cream of wheat, and grits are well...GRITTY!  But then the great people of southern Louisiana introduced me to CHEESY GRITS.  And BACON-Y GRITS.  Y'all.  You add cheese and bacon to things and I'm there.  

So...grits and grillades.  What exactly are grillades, you ask? It's essentially a meat stew, using thin medallions of beef, pork or veal, braised to be fork tender and falling apart.  The meat is stewed with the Holy Trinity (bell pepper, onions, celery) along with garlic, tomatoes and spices, which thickens up to a delicious "red gravy" as it's called south of I-10.  Nowadays, it's a common Sunday Brunch staple.
This recipe is adapted from Chef John Folse's version.  Originally, I wanted to do a slow cooker version (and probably will eventually), but due to lack of foresight, my round steaks were still frozen when I was prepping everything...so I did the Dutch oven version instead so that the steaks could thaw while I was at work. :)

INGREDIENTS: (Makes 4-6 servings)
  • 2 medium-size round steaks (about 2 lbs)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun Seasoning
  • 1/4 cup bacon drippings
  • 1 cup onions, finely diced
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, finely diced
  • (1) 14 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes, drained
  • 1 cup green onions, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup garlic, minced
  • 3 cups low sodium beef broth
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 Tbsp dried parsley
  • More Cajun seasoning, to taste
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch slurry (optional)
  • 2-3 cups cooked grits (traditional or quick, your choice)
  • 1 cup smoked gouda, grated
Cut the round steaks into 3 inch medallions.  In a quart sized bag, combine the flour and Cajun seasoning, then add the steak and shake to coat.

In a dutch oven, heat the bacon grease over medium heat and saute the medallions until browned on both sides.  Add the onions, bell pepper, celery, tomatoes, green onions and garlic.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, then add the beef broth.  Bring to a low boil, then drop the temp to low, cover, and cook for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Next, uncover the pot, add the mushrooms and parsley and cook for 10 additional minutes.  If you like yours a little thicker, add the cornstarch slurry during this time.

Meanwhile, you should be cooking your grits.  Once at the thickness you like (NOTE: I like my grits a bit thicker...and yet, I can NEVER seem to get them to thicken up the way I want.  I am forever cursed to make runny grits.  Thankfully, adding cheese can be very forgiving), add the gouda and mix until melted.  

Serve the grillades over the grits and devour.  For the record, this dish is generally better the first night.  We had a lot of leftovers, and while they TASTE great, the textures get a little weird once refrigerated.  Just FYI. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Boudin Crusted Jumbo Shrimp

So, this idea was inspired by St. Patrick's Day and a delicious sounding recipe from Raised on a Roux.  The St. Paddy's idea was a boudin Scotch egg, while Genet made an andouille crusted shrimp.  Both sounded delicious, but think I started wondering--has anyone ever made a boudin-crusted shrimp?  After a quick Google search, it appears the answer is "no"...


Heads up--this is a messy recipe, and the boudin can get a bit crumbly, so prepare to get a little frustrated.  Also--PREP NOTE: You need to chill the crusted shrimp in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour to help the boudin crust set up, otherwise it will start to crumble when you're pan-frying.  But the end result is SO tasty.

INGREDIENTS: (makes 8 jumbo shrimp)
2 links boudin, removed from the casing (we use Zummo's with is the most common one found outside of Louisiana)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup panko
8 jumbo shrimp, peeled, tails on
olive or coconut oil for frying (add as needed)

Combine the boudin and egg in a small dish and mix well. In a separate dish, combine the breadcrumbs and panko. 
Then grab a handful of the boudin mixture, place a shrimp in the middle, and then squeeze your palm lightly to wrap the boudin around it.  Add more if needed to fully cover the shrimp.  If too loose, squeeze some of the egg out.  Then gently set into the breading mixture, shake the bowl to coat the sides, and then use a spoon to make sure the shrimp is fully coated.  Then gently place onto a sheet pan.  Repeat until you run out of shrimp or boudin.  Then place the coated shrimp in the fridge for about 30 minutes to an hour to help them set up.

Meanwhile, heat up a small skillet and add your cooking oil of choice. (I like to use a small skillet because it takes less oil to get about a 1/4 inch of oil in the pan.  You can cook up to 4 shrimp at a time with the small skillet.

Once the oil is hot, place up to 4 shrimp in the pan (again, gently--the boudin always seems to want to crumble because the rice is only par-cooked) and fry until golden, then flip.  Once golden on both sides, you can brown on the "back" side of the shrimp.  Then remove from the pan and place on paper towels to remove the excess oil.
These would make a great appetizer, or you can have them for dinner like we did.  Serve with "shrimp boil style veggies"--we did fresh Missouri sweet corn and red potatoes, but you could do mushrooms, onions, etc.