Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Seared Scallops with Wilted Greens

Another Bev Cooks recipe, because hers are easy but GOOD. This one is not a casserole. It's actually kind of fancy, and really only serves 2 adults. But I definitely want to make it again!

Seared Scallops with Wilted Winter Greens from Bev Cooks


* 8 large dry-packed scallops (about a pound)
* 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
* 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
* 5 oz arugula
* 3 cups chopped kale
* 1/2 cup Chardonnay
* 3 Tbs. butter, divided
* 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
* salt and pepper


1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the arugula and kale; toss to wilt. Season with a small pinch of salt. Remove from the skillet.

2. Back in the pan, add another Tbs. oil and 2 Tbs. butter. Once the butter has melted, add the scallops. Sear for a minute and a half; flip and sear another minute. You should see a nice sear-y crust on one side. Remove the scallops and set aside.

3. Back in the pan, add the remaining Tbs. of butter, the wine and lemon juice. Whisk and simmer until reduced by half. Taste and add a tiny pinch of salt, if needed!

4. Serve the scallops over a mound of wilted greens, finished with a good drizzle of the wine sauce. Add lemon zest as a garnish if you want! You should want.

Greek Chicken Casserole

THIS. My new favorite way to cook chicken. So easy! So delicious! So different from what we normally eat (i.e. lots of Mexican and Italian flavors).

Greek Chicken Casserole straight from Bev Cooks


* 1 cup jasmine rice
* 2 cups chicken stock
* 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast (about four)
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tsp thyme
* 1 tsp dried oregano
* 1 tsp onion powder
* 1 tsp garlic powder
*1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)
* 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
* 1/2 cup diced cucumber
* 1/3 cup halved Kalamata olives
* fresh parsley leaves
* one lemon, for squeezing


1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Pour the rice in the bottom of an 8x12 casserole dish.

3. In a small bowl, combine the salt, thyme, oregano, onion powder and garlic powder. Rub all over the chicken breasts.

4. Place the chicken on top of the dried rice. Evenly pour the stock over the chicken and rice.

5. Cover and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the rice is cooked through, but not mushy.

6. Once out of the oven, evenly sprinkle over the casserole the feta, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, olives and parsley leaves. Give the entire thing a good squeeze of lemon, and serve with extra lemon slices. YUM.

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Casserole

I'm really trying to get out of a cooking rut. For a long time after having a baby, it was an achievement to get ANY sort of dinner on the table. It's still a monumental task some days, but other days, Noah helps out and we make dinner without meltdowns (from either one of us-- ha!). I'm a huge fan of casseroles because they are often easier, they warm up the house, and they're usually even better as leftovers! So forgive me while I share a few of them here, for easy access to make again later.

Spaghetti Squash Pizza Casserole modified from PaleOMG

  • 1 large spaghetti squash (about 600 grams)
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • ½ yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • (you can add anything else you like with pizza: veggies, cheese, etc)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and scoop the seeds out. Place spaghetti squash cut side down in agreased 8x8 dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the skin of the squash gives when you press on it. 
  3. Remove squash from over and reduce oven heat to 350 degrees.
  4. Scoop the threads out of the squash, squeeze over the sink to remove excess juices, and put the threads into the 8x8 greased baking dish. (Discard the squash skin.)
  5. Place a large pan over medium heat on the stovetop. Cook onions with some oil until they are soft. Add onions to squash.
  6.  Cook sausage in the large pan until pink no longer remains in the sausage and it is broken up into pieces.
  7. Add dried basil, salt, pepper, and eggs to the squash and onion, and mix well. Drizzle the pizza sauce over the top of the mixture, and top with sausage crumbles.
  8. Place in oven and bake for 1 hour or until the top of the mixture forms a slight crust that doesn't give when you press on it in the middle of the dish.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Brownie Muffins

So... these are not flaky, fudgy brownies. They're more like a brownie/cupcake hybrid, based off of Brownies Done Better by the Suja Juice Solution. But good nonetheless, and filling. Also delicious baked with some strawberry jam plopped in the middle of each muffin.

Brownie Muffins


1 cup almond butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup almond milk
2 Tbs butter
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbs instant coffee powder
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt


Preheat oven to 325.

In a large bowl, mix the almond butter, syrup, almond milk, butter, egg, coffee powder, and vanilla. Then stir in the cocoa powder, baking soda, coffee, and sea salt. Divide batter between 12 lined muffin tins.

Optional: Swirl 1 tsp strawberry jam into the top of each muffin before baking.

Bake 20 minutes, and allow to cool before removing from pan.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Postpartum Anxiety

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." 
They never call on God. 
But there they were overwhelmed with dread, 
where there was nothing to dread. 
Oh that salvation for Israel would come! 
Psalm 53 

"What does an unused prayer link look like? Anxiety. Instead of connecting with God, 
our spirits fly around like severed power lines, destroying everything they touch. 
A godlike stance without godlike character and ability is pure tension." Paul Miller

Allow me to start by saying that I'm hesitant to share this. The very last thing I want is for Noah to read this one day and feel like my postpartum anxiety/depression is somehow his fault, because it's not. Never for a second would I blame him! My inability to cope with the realities of motherhood, however, was a problem. No, scratch that. It was my reaction to my perceived inability. Mom-guilt and insecurity quickly turned into a fundamental shame in who I was as a person. That I was too much and not enough all at once. The shame was the straw that broke the camel's back. It was the tipping point in the perfect storm that had been brewing for, well, years according to my therapist. I went from extremely stressed, to anxious to the point of dread on a daily basis.

Walking around clinically depressed and anxious feels like staggering about, alone, on barren, deserted island. It can make you feel like you have no mooring; no place to throw an anchor; no shelter from the storm that tossed you ashore in the first place.

So in the end, I'm sharing. Because no new mom should feel ashamed when she's on the verge of tears and someone tells her to be grateful that she "only" has one kid and that it only gets harder from here on out. No new mom should be made to feel inadequate when someone tells her that they've never seen anyone else struggle so much with postpartum recovery. No new mom should feel the soul-crushing disappointment in herself when she's surprised by motherhood in all the wrong ways. When she's eating her pre-baby words and struggling to adapt to the role of motherhood, no new mom should feel ALONE.

This is the story of my pain, and maybe you will find in it an echo of your own story or that of someone you love. Consider taking the EPDS or reviewing this symptom checklist if anything henceforth sounds familiar to you.


It all started when Noah started sleeping through the night consistently a few weeks after his first birthday. It seemed like suddenly I found myself at the beginning of July, after a month of rain, and I could see the sun for the first time in a LONG time. I had a few weeks of sleep under my belt, seemingly out of nowhere I had a toddler who could walk and talk and play, and life was so different than it had been just one or two months prior. I missed my baby, to be sure, and I still feel a familiar sadness when I think about all the sweet early moments I missed out on due to pain and anxiety, but mobility (and sleep) changed everything this summer and I couldn't deny that Noah was an awfully fun little guy to hang out with. Every stage is bittersweet, but I'm finding that each one is also progressively more fun as I get to know Noah better and better.

With the sun out at last, we could take playdates to the pool! We could take long walks every morning in the beautiful summer light! I had energy again! I could workout if I wanted to! I lost the last bit of baby weight and had a whole closet of clothes accessible to me again that I hadn't worn in almost two years! I could, and did, go to the farmer's market and start eating more vegetables after far too long of a hiatus. It's no secret summer is my favorite season. I felt like a new dawn was rising as I re-entered the land of the living and emerged from babyville. But it didn't take me long to realize I was not okay.

I was functioning. I was having fun! I was no longer having insomnia or heart palpitations, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I wasn't quite living either. At first I thought, okay, this is life as a mom. I will never be the same. And I WILL never be the same (thank God)! But I like to think that's because more has been added to my life and I've changed and grown into this new shape as I adjust. Not because the substance of my old self has been taken away.

This summer, Noah and I took daily morning walks and I started listening to sermon podcasts again. It was refreshing to just let truth wash over me. It's so easy for forget that I'm not the center of my life and that I'm certainly not in charge of it.

This summer, I realized I needed to change jobs. Again. But this time, the decision was not terribly debilitating. Now that I'm getting more settled into it, I'm relieved to find that my instincts were right, and this job is a great fit. But still, because of, or perhaps in spite of this decision, I was anxious. I was fearful. I had a certain peace that I was doing the right thing, that this was the best choice for my family, but I still wasn't okay.

This summer, Ross and I went to an amazing marriage conference once a week for 5 weeks. We started to reconnect and we were shocked and saddened at how far apart we'd grown in such a short time.

But the hardest thing was the thing that wasn't changing: the pain that I'd been having since I was 16 weeks pregnant. Ebbing and flowing with my hormones, but always there, always worse at the end of the day, was the pain. Somewhere in the haze of the early days of motherhood, my pelvic pain went from being a source of frustration to a source of concern to a trigger for hopelessness and despair. I'd been a compliant patient in physical therapy for 9 months by the time summer rolled around, and initially it was a life-saver. But the pain plateaud around March no matter what I did. In fact, certain aspects of it were starting to get worse again. It was so depressing. It was so painful. It was so discouraging. I was starting to feel like it would never ever go away. Like I would never feel normal again. Like I would never feel well enough to have another baby. Like I would never be able to love this baby the way I wanted to, because it hurt to lift him, it hurt to hold him, it hurt to rock him.

That kind of pain... I wouldn't wish it on anyone. By the end of most days, it was debilitating physically. I couldn't find it in me to stand and make dinner or tidy up. But emotionally? The pain was devastating. I felt like I was missing out on those "pay off" moments of parenting. Sure, having a toddler is chaotic. But people say, oh, when they snuggle up on your lap or fall asleep in your arms, it's so worth it. I felt like I didn't have that. I'd never been able to hold my crying or sleeping baby without my body screaming in pain. So I went back to my Midwife and thus began two months of constant appointments in August and September.

Back to the pain management OB, back to get another ultrasound, back to acupuncture, ramp up the physical therapy visits. Meanwhile, onto all of Noah's one-year appointments: pediatrician, shots, ENT, audiology... And then, I'm not sure if this was a cause or effect of additional stress and anxiety, but abdominal pain started waking me up at night. So I had an endoscopy. I had more labs drawn. More ultrasounds. More appointments. And more medical bills. And more hopelessness. Feeling like I was getting nowhere, and just spinning pointlessly in a cycle of pain and debt.

After Noah was born, I spent a very long time focusing on Noah's needs and putting him at the center of my life. This summer, I started to feel stifled by those expectations, and started feeling like it wasn't fair that I never got a break. Like I was physically worn out. Like I needed a spa day or a vacation or... something. Every time something else spun out of control, I thought: I'm terrible at this. I'm terrible at being a mother. I cannot balance this. I cannot manage this. Those were the sermons I preached to myself: I can't. I just can't.

And maybe I wasn't sharing enough, or maybe I cry wolf too much, or maybe it's simply that no one in my life was able to speak into that for me, to point out Satan's lies, to look me in the eye and remind that me that God CAN. To say, "Remember every other time you've reached the end of yourself and God drew you out of the muck and mire? He's still there. He's always there, but how gracious would it be for you to invite Him to partake in this moment with you? Into this embarrassing season of feeling hopeless as a mother and desperate for physical relief."

But it took me months to get to that realization. Until then, I was just in endless dialogue with myself: It wasn't supposed to be like this! I wanted kids! We prayed and planned. I take care of babies for a living! I loved Noah more than life, and I COULD NOT HANDLE the feeling that I was failing him day in and day out. In the isolation borne out of a long, dark, cold, anxiety-ridden, sleep-deprived winter, I had no one to bounce these thoughts off of, nor the mental clarity or inner confidence to do so. I had no barometer of 'normal.' Just occasional and seemingly benign comments here and there from people who didn't-- couldn't-- understand. Those words hurt. And made me feel more inadequate. And more abnormal.

Then, blessedly shortly before Noah's birthday, something clicked and I thought: what if this doesn't have to be normal? What if it's pain AND ... ? What if I'm depressed? What if my hormones are so out of whack that even though I'm a year out, I have had postpartum depression this whole time?

I truly don't know where this thought came from, but some freedom came with it, immediately. What if it's not my fault!? What if it's not just because I'm not trying hard enough or balancing well enough or doing things just the right way? So I got a referral and filled out the counselor's paperwork, and I was shocked. Shocked. At how many boxes I checked. How many symptoms I had.

Like many new moms, I was given a postpartum depression quiz shortly after Noah was born, when I was tired and sore, but also still riding the endorphin train. It's supposed to be hard at that point! I totally expected that! I did not expect to feel almost exactly the same, physically and mentally, a year later. I have no idea why I didn't think to take the survey again in the middle of December, when I dreaded going to bed only to be woken up every hour. When family obligations felt like a physical weight in my sleep-deprived state. When the long days started at 4am and I truly didn't know how I'd get through them in our drafty, unfinished house. (I don't know how I did, actually. I don't even remember.)

So in August, when the counselor tallied up my postpartum depression score, looked right at me, and said, "how did you get to this side of winter? How were alarm bells not going off everywhere?" I felt the weight start to lift. She said, "of course, the Scale is just a tool, and not necessarily diagnostic, but these scores suggest that you were terribly, frighteningly depressed. How did you get to the other side?!"

At those words, I wanted to cry tears of relief. Those feelings hadn't been normal! I wasn't inadequate for feeling like I was trapped and unable to talk myself out of it! But also, I saw God's hand. How had my depression score dropped from 24/30 to 11/30 in 4 months? Time helps. Sleep helps. Perspective helps (some of those extra-hard weeks really were just a phase). Sunlight helps. Exercise helps. A balanced diet helps. But really when it comes down to it, it's not hard for me to see that God was gracious and he removed me just far enough from the forest that I could see the trees again. I had been lost in a very dark place, and I couldn't recognize that because all I could see was this sleepless night, or that cranky day, or this extra-painful week. But once I could see the big picture, I could ask for help. More importantly, I could RECEIVE help for what it was, instead of a threat to my sense of capability.

When I think back to that symptom checklist, I think I was most shocked at the reality of the line I checked and starred near the end of the list: This is the worst that I have ever felt. When I saw that truth for what it was, and when I let it sink it, it hurt. Last winter was worse than being 15 and anorexic. It was worse than being depressed senior year of high school when I couldn't get out of bed and couldn't do school and cried about everything. It was worse than freshman year of college when all that unresolved depression left me unmoored and unable to recognize this girl who couldn't just sit down and study like she needed to. Worse than the bad breakups that haunted me. Worse than the hardest days of marriage.

The worst I'd ever felt... not only was that a bold statement in a season that I thought would signify that hard times were behind us, it was a disappointing realization in itself to feel this way during what I'd always envisioned to be one of the happiest times of my life. To be sure, the happiness did come in bits and pieces, slowly, and then all at once. Big love is winning over big heartache. Today, the exhausting is from keeping up with an active toddler and not from sleepless nights. And the joy... it overwhelms me at times. Our child is a delight, and I'm so grateful that he's ours, but there are a lot of things I would be tempted to change about the first year, if I could. (Things about myself, not about Noah.)

But I can't. Instead, this fall I started saying no to some things, but yes to others. No to the old job. No to a semester of Gospel Community. Yes to the support group, yes to MOPS, yes to spending allthemoney on acupuncture in a last-ditch effort to ease my physical pain.  Each of these steps would normally have felt very vulnerable, but for some reason they just weren't. I had nothing left to lose. What I was doing-- surviving-- wasn't working.

It was a breath of fresh air to sit at a table with other moms at my first MOPS meeting, toddlers safely tucked away in the childcare rooms, and to hear that God promises to send his people out in joy and lead them forth in peace (Isaiah 55). I thought, what a perfect way to end this summer. There IS more. There's joy to look forward to. There's peace regardless of circumstances.

Because now I see. Joy is not something to be attained. It's something to be received. A gift freely given, but often turned down in the pursuit of happiness. Here's the thing about reaching the end of yourself: depravity can be fruitful. God can plant the seeds for a harvest of plenty in the most barren soil. In our time of need, he loves to show us that he loves us. As a parent, I've garnered a new appreciation for the way God calls us to seek him for rest, comfort, reassurance, guidance. I can learn to give well as a parent when I, in, turn, receive these gifts as a beloved child.

I'm starting to get excited about motherhood as an opportunity to be enjoyed (as I first envisioned it) and not just an obligation to be feared (as I came to feel it). It's an opportunity to see God work in a new way. An opportunity to make new friends and have new eyes and, most of all, a new heart. A heart of freedom and not of burden.

I'm thankful for those uncomplicated moments this summer when I started to see myself in there again. After being buried for so long, it feels like catching a glimpse of a friend in the mirror when I say yes to the spontaneous outdoor concert, when I reach out to a neighbor and let our kids run around while we talk about everything we have in common, or when I'm running errands alone in the evening, car-dancing to CDs of music from high school. In those moments, I find a certain lightness of being, a simplicity, a reassurance, a whisper of hope. All is not lost. God can rebuild the years the locusts have eaten.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

No-Nonsense Guide to Cloth Diapers

I've had enough friends ask me about cloth diapers that I thought it'd be fun to write a little post about it! Cloth diapering sounds simple at first, until you look into it. And then, if you're like me, you freak the heck out because there are so many acronyms, and so many options, and so many brands. So I've tried to break it down into categories that make sense in my mind. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask me in real life! I love talking about diapers.

Okay first, some disclaimers:

1. I'm one year into this adventure, and still learning. I'm sure my techniques and preferences will continue to change over time. I can say that cloth diapering a 14 month old feels manageable and, dare I say, fun right now! But if you see any egregious errors here, please let me know. I'm still learning, too!

2. Cloth diapering is in no way a moral imperative. People can get mighty opinionated about the million and one different ways their neighbor chooses to parent differently than them, but I'm learning to let it all roll off my back (and I'm trying to not let my excitement or personal preference come across sounding like "shoulds" or "have-tos"). For us, cloth diapering started as a way to save money. After finding out that our preferences leaned toward more expensive, quicker-to-change diapers, I'd say we broke even the first year when you compare the cost of disposables to the cost of cloth. But I'm looking forward to the savings this second year and beyond! Also? No. poop. blowouts when you use cloth. I'm not even kidding. The only out-the-legs, up-the-back blowouts we've had have been in disposables!


So everything cloth that you put on your baby's bum is going to consist of two parts: an absorbent part on the inside, and a water-resistant cover on the outside. Some diapers employ these two parts separately so you can mix and match and reuse and your leisure. Others come with everything sewn together and ready to go (see Types of Diapers below for more details).


The absorbent part of the diaper can consist of natural fibers (cotton, bamboo, hemp) or synthetic fibers (microfiber). People tend to develop pretty strong opinions here. Microfiber tends to be less expensive, but more bulky. My personal preference tends to lean toward natural fibers. They clean easier in my front-loading washer with hard water, and they're more trim yet more absorbent. Also, note that microfiber shouldn't be placed directly against baby's skin. It can cause irritation and dry their skin out quickly.

Most diaper covers consist of PUL (polyurethane laminate) or TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). Wool covers are gaining popularity as well, and people who use them love them. I haven't ventured into that world yet! 

Types of Diapers 

When I initially looked into cloth diapers, I think all of these options and acronyms scared me the most. What I wish I'd known then was that I had a LOCAL DIAPER STORE that provides TRIAL PACKAGES. Nothing compared to being able to see and handle different styles of diapers, and when I did finally splurge on it, the trial package was invaluable for an indecisive person like myself. Ross and I agreed pretty quickly which diapers in the trial package were our favorites, and I was more than happy to return the ones we were less than in love with. Just remember, there's no right or wrong answer here. You can absolutely mix and match, and you'll likely find that you prefer one type of diaper for play, one type for naps, one type for nighttime, etc. There's no wrong answer; just personal preference.

1. Prefolds- These are the white, rectangular, old-school cloth diapers, and definitely the cheapest option out there. They are worn with a cover over them. You can change as many prefolds as you need to throughout the day and just alternate between two covers, letting the covers take turns drying out between diaper changes. You can Google all sorts of traditional or fancy folds, fasten these diapers (or not) with a Snappi or old fashioned diaper pins, and put a cover over it all. I did prefolds for a month or two, and didn't mind them at first. They're a little bulkier than other options, especially on a tiny baby. But once Noah wasn't a tiny baby, he rolled around too much during diaper changes for me to want to mess with these. Plenty of people actually just fold prefolds into thirds, lay them in a liner, and snap the cover over it, but that always got messy for me in the event of a poppy diaper.

2. Pockets- Just what it sounds like. The waterproof liner is sewn together with fabric on the inside in such a way that creates a pocket in which you place the absorbent materials, or inserts. Different brands have different iterations of inserts, but they all basically work the same way: stuff the material in the pocket, put it on the kid, and you're good to go. Many people are obsessed with pocket diapers because they like the variability: you can put extra layers in for naps, at night, etc. The pocket material is often very soft and has a stay-dry element against baby's skin. However, we've personally had issues with leakage with pockets... Noah will somehow pee on the one corner of fabric that isn't stuffed with the pad, the liquid eventually soaks through the water-resistant lining, and we end up with wet clothes. Again, I know plenty of people who swear by pockets, so don't let me sway you away! I will admit that they're easier to clean poop off of, but not to the extent that it makes me want to stuff pockets all day long.

3. Fitteds- These are diapers made out of prefold material, but cut and sewn in a way that provides elastic around the legs and waist. They provide more "square footage" of absorbent material than any other style, and require a cover of some sort. They're often soft and deliciously fluffy on the bum. Fairly bulky, but that's because they're purely absorbent material and great for nighttime.

4. All-in-Twos (AI2)/Hybrids- A two-part system consisting of a water-resistant outer shell and a detachable insert. The inserts usually snap in (ex: GroVia shells and soakers), or can be tucked in (ex: BumGenius Flip system)

5. All-in-ones (AIOs)- These diapers are the most user-friendly since the absorbent material is sown to the cover. You don't have to fold or stuff anything-- just put it on and go!


1. Sizing

It seems like more and more diapers offer a "one-size fits most" option, with rise snaps allowing the diaper to grow with most kiddos between 12-35 lbs.

Sized diapers usually come in newborn, 1, 2, and 3 based on weight.

2. Snaps versus hook-and-loop

Hook-and-loop is just the generic name for Velcro-type tabs. Some diaper brands offer a choice between snap or hook-and-loop closures, and again, this comes down to personal preference. Velcro is more user-friendly, faster to change, and feels more familiar to disposable diaper users. But you do have to remember to fold the tabs down over themselves when you take the dirty diaper off, lest you snag something in the wash. And not all hook-and-loop diapers are created equal. Some brands are much more durable than others. Many people feel that snaps are just stronger, and last longer. But again, personal preference. Both can be replaced fairly easily by someone who knows what they're doing, if the closure malfunctions but the diaper still has a lot of life left.

3. Doublers/soakers/boosters/inserts/etc

Usually you need more than a few layers of cloth to really soak up urine after the newborn days, so many fitted or all-in-one diapers come with doublers or soakers. These are essentially just extra layers of fabric, and they can be sewn, stuffed, snapped, or laid into the diaper, depending on the brand. For a long time, all the variability in these weird flaps and snaps really threw me off. Just keep in mind, they all essentially do the same thing, and it comes down to personal preference in the end.

4. Liners

Totally optional for the poop that isn't "ploppable." We used disposable liners for a while, but then switched to stay-dry fleece liners. The poop tends to rinse off of the liners easier than it does from the natural fibers we've used, so it's nice to have some on hand. Some babies also really really hate wet diapers, and the fleece liner can help keep them feeling dry. I believe there are also silk stay-dry liners out there? We haven't really used them, though.


Diaper sprayer: I resisted this for a LONG time, but the Spraypal holder and the Aquaus sprayer became my friends when we started dealing with legitimate toddler poo after Noah turned 1.

Diaper pail: We use a Simple Human trash can with a footpedal and a lid that closes securely. I've never once been knocked over by the fumes like you get with a Diaper Genie, and Noah's bedroom NEVER smells like dirty diapers, unless he has an active one on his bottom after nap time.

Diaper pail liners: I have zero complaints about our Planet Wise pail liners. When it's laundry time, I pull the whole thing out of the pail, and turn the bag + its contents inside out into the washing machine. I doubt there's anything magical about this brand in particular, though.

Wet Bags: still haven't found one I'm totally in love with. I'd love to hear what you use! This is where you put wet/dirty cloth diapers when you change them while out and about, at daycare, etc. I've also heard they make great pool bags for wet swim clothes when kids get older. I have my eye on a fancy Logan & Lenora bag for the next kid. So far, it seems like you get what you pay for with wet bags and I've used and discarded 3 of them now.

Wool Balls: 2-3 of these in the dryer helps move everything around and promote air flow a little better. If the load of diapers was especially stinky, I will occasionally add a drop of essential oil to the wool balls to freshen things up, although the diapers shouldn't really smell anything but clean out of the washer.

Cloth Wipes: I never could go there, but plenty of people do!

Diaper Ointment: General rule of thumb is that if the rash persists beyond 1-2 diaper changes, it's worth consulting your pediatrician. If the rash clears up in disposables, but comes back in cloth, it's worth revisiting your wash routine, as well. There may be leftover detergent irritating baby's skin, or your diapers may not be getting clean enough. When it comes to general irritation from a wet diaper that stayed on too long, or from a food that was irritating to Noah's GI tract and bum, I love Grandma El's diaper ointment. It really works!

Wash routine

For those who are afraid of putting poop in your washing machine, rest assured that solid waste is disposed of in the toilet or trash, not the machine. I spray the poop into the toilet, wring out the water, and throw the diaper in the diaper pail. Like I mentioned above, blowouts happen in disposable diapers, so you're going to either be putting poop-stained diapers in the washer, or poop-stained clothes. Let's not pretend that poop doesn't come with the territory one way or another!

Fluff Love University's website has a ton of washing info for hard water, soft water, washer types, etc. Individual diaper brands will also often work with you to find the best wash routine for their materials.

I was diapers every second or third day. I have a front-loading HE washing machine and very hard water. I have, at different times, tried adding Calgon, Borax, or Lulu's Glamour Wash for Hard Water to my pre-wash or main wash (the most effective was 1.5 Tbs of Lulu's in the pre-wash,  and another 1 Tbs in the main wash with 1 line of Tide, but when I ran out of Lulu's I realized I didn't really notice THAT much of a difference). I've tried multiple detergents, liquid and powder, scented and unscented, and here's where I was when we potty-trained at 27 months:

I only use Tide Original powder now, and when I throw the diapers in the wash, I fill the Tide scoop to line 1 with detergent, and set it on top of the washer.

1.) Cold rinse

2.) Warm water Quick Wash with maybe 1/4 of the detergent I pre-measured. I just dump a bit of it into the detergent dispenser of our machine. If it's a really stinky load, I will use a little less than 1/4 cup of Bac Out in the main barrel of wash, as well.

3.) Hot water Heavy cycle with the rest of the Tide powder in the scooper

4.) Cool rinse cycle

5.) Dry for 40 minutes on Low heat with 2 wool dryer balls, and then hang on a drying rack to finish drying. Alternately, you can dry them in sun, as needed, if you have poop stains.

Once every month or two, I throw all the clean diapers into the washer and wash them with just GroVia Mighty Bubbles to get rid of inevitable detergent and hard-water residue.

UPDATE May 2016: As we approach Noah's second birthday, our stash is comprised of 4 nighttime diapers with 4 covers, 4 nap diapers, and 17 daytime diapers (we also have 2 sets of smaller nighttime diapers in storage). Here's what we're using:

Overnight... Sloomb Sustainablebabyish Overnight Bamboo Fitteds with Blueberry Capri or Coverall covers. Noah weighs 32+ pounds and we haven't had an overnight leak with this combo.

Daytime... Smartbottoms AIOs are our go-to daily diapers and they fit Noah perfectly, but we're starting to push the size limit on them. They're still in great condition and they age well. I'll definitely get more if/when we have another kiddo and need to replace things from our current stash.

Daytime... GroVia AI2 covers with stay-dry snap-in inserts. We've had a few of these for a while, and I was always ambivalent about them. But the more we use them, the more I LOVE them. If/when we have another baby, I will be buying a few more of these for sure. They just fit so well.

Daytime... BumGenius Elementals-- where do I begin?! These were the diapers I wanted to love the most. Their design is such that they just seem to wash cleaner than anything else. (Meaning I can't imagine poop particles hiding in places I can't see). But they just don't seem to be made out of high-quality material. The PUL wears out very easily, and the elastics are getting noticeably looser, much sooner than any of our other diapers. Of course, this happens when Noah finally fits into them well. They were so wide and bulky in the beginning, and now that they fit they seem to be wearing out. With the next baby, I'll probably tuck these away and only get them out again after the first 18 months or so.

Naps... I'm in love with the combo of a Blueberry Simplex stuffed with a Funky Fluff hemp boosters. The booster's shape makes it easy to stuff, and it's thin but ABSORBANT. We've actually used this combo as a nighttime diaper in a pinch, and so far it has held everything in!

Swim... Honestly, you can probably use any brand you like. You just need something that fits well, to hold any solid waste in. We used an iPlay diper from Target last year, I've used Grovia covers plenty of times, and I've heard Honest Company has some cute swim diapers, too. We ended up buying an AppleCheeks swim diaper this summer, though, because I love the way they fit even though I don't love that their only dry-land diaper is a pocket diaper.

UPDATE September 2016:

Oh Crap! Potty Training is the best parenting book ever. How are we at the potty training stage already?! It took 4 days for Noah to pee and poop in the toilet consistently at home with a bare bottoms, and about 3-4 weeks for him to truly get the hang of it while wearing clothes (commando) and running errands. He still wears diapers for naps, nighttime, and at Parent's Day Out once a week. Still figuring out how to use cloth in this stage, which means going back and forth between cloth and disposables.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Another New Job

I got a new job. Again? Right. I'm now a lactation nurse (training to be a Lactation Consultant) at the same hospital I've been working at since January. So let's call it a department transfer instead of a new job, because that sounds less jarring. Although in fact, it has been the least jarring of all the new job transitions I've had in the last two years: Birth Center, NICU at a Missouri hospital, new mom, NICU at a Kansas Hospital, and now this.

This new job requires a bunch of work upfront: 70 CEUs in addition to the Breastfeeding Educator Certificate I earned in 2012, another job orientation, an international board exam, and the costs that come with all of the above. But the payoff will be huge. Working toward being a Lactation Consultant (a nursing specialty at my hospital) is a really good fit for me right now. No more night shift, no more getting cancelled due to low census, no more going 24 hours without seeing Noah. A more predictable schedule with slightly shorter shifts is a God-send. I love the NICU and always will, but working there PRN was not the right fit for me. I missed the relationships with the parents that you can only form when you're the primary nurse there day in and day out. I hated being the random nurse they'd never seen before. I didn't like feeling uncomfortable around sicker babies, since I wasn't taking care of them as often.

Transferring to the lactation department was a no-brainer. I mean, I'm a nursing mom. This IS what I do for a living. Why not get paid to help other moms do the same?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Durango Chicken

I was blown away with the generosity of friends and family after Noah was born. I was so afraid that gluten-free, dairy-free (with the exception of butter) post-partum meals would be too intimidating for people. But wow, we ate like kings for a few weeks there!

One meal in particular struck me as super easy to make, as well as comforting and delicious, and I find myself making it over and over.

Just wanted to record it here, since it's one of our new favorites.

Durango Chicken
(originally from Lindsay Lady)

4 chicken boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded to even thinness
Juice of 2 lemons (I often just use 1-2 Tbs of lemon juice)
1/2 cup of melted butter
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 Tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Melt the butter and add the lemon juice, paprika, oregano, and garlic.
3. Dip the chicken into the butter mixture in an oven-safe dish, making sure both sides are covered.
4. Cover the dish and store in the fridge for up to 6 hours before baking.
5. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the chicken is done.

My friend brought this meal over with cooked wild rice* and a side of canned green beans with minced onion and garlic. Such a delicious combo! The rice makes a great vehicle for the leftover cooked butter sauce, too!

*Also something I learned from my post-partum meals: did you know you can cook rice like pasta?! Life. Changing.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Escape Artist

Here's something that happened yesterday: my kid escaped the HOUSE. Not just the room, or the crib, or the high chair. The actual house.

In the moment, it was so scary, and I was so guilt-ridden afterward. But thank GOD none of the 'what-ifs' happened, and in the end we're left with a funny little story that depicts Noah's personality well.

So we have a tiny house. The general living space is just two rooms: the kitchen and living room. Two bedrooms and a bathroom are blocked off by a baby gate, and one bedroom is blocked off as long as we keep that door closed.

Yesterday, Ross and I were prepping some food for the week. Oven on, blenders going, etc. Noah was crawling and walking around, making messes like he loves to do, and occasionally coming into the kitchen with us to bang some pots and pans around.

At one point, Noah crawled out of sight, back into the living room, and we didn't think anything of it. Then I noticed he'd been quiet for a minute, so I went to look for him, assuming we'd left a door or gate open and he was playing quietly in a room he shouldn't be in (funny how babies get quiet when they do something they know they shouldn't be doing...). I didn't see him in the living room, the baby gate was locked, and the bedroom door was closed. My heart skipped a beat. Something told me to look outside, AND THERE WAS MY BABY. WITH HIS WALKING TOY. TODDLING DOWN THE DRIVEWAY LIKE IT'S NO BIG DEAL.


I mean, we leave the front door open when we're home because we have a glass door in front of it that latches shut. Now, sometimes if we're not careful, the door doesn't latch completely, although we got pretty good about double-checking it once Noah became mobile. BUT even when it's unlatched, the door is really heavy for a one-year-old. In fact, as a matter of interest, I decided to see if he could replicate his escape, and he could not. On the first try, he got stuck when the door kept closing on him, and on the second try, the door knocked him down. (This was not a violent experiment, by the way. The door is not heavy enough to hurt him, and we were right there. Errr. This time.)

But. Assuming he gets past the door, he still has two concrete steps to navigate, without railings. We know he can crawl down stairs backwards, but walking? It's truly a miracle that he didn't fall and crack his head open. And a miracle that I got out there right as he was making a beeline for the street. The mind boggles at the potential for disaster here.

How he did this all, flawlessly, in literally less than two minutes, is beyond me. The only thing we can figure, is that Noah somehow noticed that the glass door wasn't closed all the way, saw a window of opportunity, grabbed his trusty walker, and made a beeline for the door, Platform 9 3/4-style. The wind must've somehow caught the door, held it open, and closed it softly, because even over the noise of the blender, you'd think we'd hear the door slamming shut. Then he must've used the walker to help him down the stairs (he can totally walk without it, and often lifts it up to change directions when he's pushing it around). Finally, even though he cries when I go outside without him to get something out of the car, he must not have cared that he was outside without me.

This kid.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Toddler-Approved Breakfast Cookies

Since Noah can't tolerate dairy, I'm a little bit obsessed with finding other ways to be sure he still gets enough healthy fats. Because, well, Mama can't breastfeed forever.

Anyway, these cookies totally fit the bill. And he loves them! In fact, if I take one away to warm it up in the microwave, he cries actual real tears.

Toddler-Approved Breakfast Cookies
 makes 2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (may also use equivalent amount of applesauce or mashed bananas)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup softened coconut oil (butter would work, too)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut (shredded, dried, unsweetened)
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the pumpkin, egg, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Add oats, almond meal, coconut, salt, and baking powder and mix well. The dough isn't as sticky as normal cookie dough, so a cookie scoop works wonders here. If you don't have one, form Tablespoon-sized balls of dough to put on a lined cookie sheet and flatten with a fork. These cookies don't really fluff up, but that's okay!

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life with a One Year Old

Here's a snapshot of one of our days, so I can remember what this fleeting time looks like. We were in a routine for about two months there, but in the last week, Noah has showed signs of being ready to change again, especially in regards to napping.

0515: Noah is up! I let him talk in his crib for 5 minutes, but then he starts to fuss and it's clear he isn't going back to sleep. I go get him and nurse him.

0545: Put baby back in the crib to see if he will fall asleep. He acts like he wants to, but never does.

0615: Ross finally gets Noah and feeds him breakfast and I get to go back to sleep!!! Noah's breakfast has been pretty consistent the past two months, and it's huge:
-1 banana (yup, the whole thing disappears so quickly)
-1 Paleo muffin (I try to change up flavors, but I always go with a Paleo recipe because they're higher in fat and lower in sugar)
-1/4 cup thawed smoothie of pureed mango, pineapple, coconut, and strawberry (organic tropical fruit mix from Target with 1/4 cup of shredded unsweetened coconut added in. I make two weeks' worth at a time, and I add spinach, too, if I remember) + 1/4 cup baby oatmeal

0730: I wake up to Noah crawling around like a madman. I love that pitter patter. He's always so happy to be awake in the morning! I get up and Ross leaves for work. That extra sleep was a luxury today!

0745: Noah very intentionally crawls over to his stroller, stands up, puts a hand on the seat, and looks at me. Kid is a creature of habit, just like his mom! Time for our morning walk. I transfer my mueslix to a coffee mug so I can eat while we walk.

0845: 2 miles down. I love the golden, quiet coolness of summer mornings! And we now have a very sleepy baby on our hands. I nurse him quickly, and put him in his crib super drowsy.

0900-1000: Noah falls asleep after about 10 minutes, but only sleeps for 10 minutes! I leave him in his crib for the allotted hour, but he never does fall back asleep, so I get him up and he nurses again.

1015: First lunch! Noah eats some puffs and a pouch of pureed salmon, quinoa, and veggies.

1030: Some friends invited us to the pool, and I guess the perk of no nap is that we get to go! Time for swim diapers and (torture) sunscreen.

1050-noon: Noah splashes around in the baby pool, perfectly content to play with a shovel and bucket with occasional crawling or walking breaks to find a new spot to sit. At one point, he found a water jet, but it was a little to strong to keep him interested. He also played in the nearby sand. Looks like he's not afraid of it like he was in Hawaii!

1215: Home again, home again. I nurse Noah and he falls asleep in my arms while I'm taking him to his room! Almost never happens, so I sit for a bit and snuggle until he's fast asleep. I cherish those sweet little snores, and I'm sad my back hurt too much to hold him for his whole nap.

1245: I finally lay him in his crib. He wakes up briefly, but falls back asleep while I'm warming up my lunch.

1415: Noah is up after 1.5-2 hours. Not exactly the epic nap I was hoping for, given his lack of a real morning nap.

1420: Nurse

1445: Second lunch. Noah has one toddler cookie with some peanut butter on it and a few green beans. After lunch, he plays for a bit.

1515: Leave for the chiropractor. Noah pulls all the books off the shelf while I get adjusted. We stay for a while afterwards because Noah LOVES to play with their play kitchen.

1700: Arrive home with a VERY cranky baby. He's moaning and groaning with one side of his mouth held shut. Poor teething baby.

1720: Noah gets dinner: a meatloaf muffin, some olives, some hemp milk, and a few strawberry slices.

1740: Dad's home! And Noah is still cranky. He has a temp of 101.8, so he gets some Advil and then it's bath time. So much splashing and talking!

1800: Out of the tub. Diapering and pajama-ing is a two person job these days.

1815: Nurse

1845: Ross reads Noah a story and puts him in bed.

1900: Baby is asleep!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Toddlerhood Begins

Every two to three months, Noah and I get into a sweet little rhythm. Our routine is established. He knows what's coming, I know what's coming. We're both happy and pleased to be hanging out with each other. Our days feel effortless. (Okay, maybe not effortless. But the predictability goes a long way with me.)

This pattern usually coincides with an increase in sleep on his end. It's safe to say that sleep has been a struggle for us. Nighttime sleep, yes. But almost more so, daytime sleep. I think it's not an exaggeration to say that Noah has only taken the prescribed number of naps for his age, oh, 50% of the time? We will really struggle for a month or two and then have a little breakthrough and enjoy two naps a day for a good stretch. He'll catch up on sleep, and then go through some astounding mental leap and we will have to learn a new rhythm for this new baby with new skills.

The first few rounds of this, I just remember thinking, "Oh my GOD. This is what it's like to have a baby who naps. I should do all the things!" And then I end up napping when he naps for several days in a row, because keeping up with him is hard work.

After going through this pattern around 8-9 months, though, I was able to put two and two together and realize something was about to change. Sure enough, my sweet baby became mobile and life was never the same. I will say that every stage is progressively more fun, but it's hard for me to not mourn the baby stages we're rapidly leaving behind.

Today, we're a few days into what I can tell is the next round of development. I glance at the monitor and see my baby napping with his fluffy butt up in the air, and I tear up a little. Because you know what? Today is sweet, and I can tell it's all about to change.

For some reason, this approaching change has really been getting to me. Noah is much more steady on his feet these days, and he's getting brave. I can tell it's only a matter of time before he goes from toddling between people and objects, to walking full-time. I can also tell we're starting the slow transition from two naps to one.

Is it ridiculous? This is really hard for me. I have a lot of guilt around Noah's naps because I feel like I don't use that time effectively. Part of me says, "you only have one kid once. Enjoy the break! You won't necessarily get it when you have more than one." The other part of me is so confused as to why I have so much on my to-do list and so much theoretical free time each day. I could've been working out and doing Bible study every single day for the past year! Wait. He hasn't napped like this for the past year. But still, it's a guilt trip when he does.

I was catching up on Touchpoints this morning, and the 12 month segment said this, "Not all babies become independent suddenly and dramatically. But when they do, I am always glad to see it. This is another touchpoint and parents will come to see the progress it represents. Though it means the simple intimacy of the first year is changing and becoming more complex, the burst of autonomy is normal and healthy. A baby's struggle to express himself and to find out his own limits will go on for many years, reaching different levels and different ages... This surge toward independence and the negativism that accompanies it starts with walking.  This marks a particularly intense touchpoint, an extraoirdinary growth spurt for the child, and a trying challenge for all parents... (At this time) the close interaction between motor achievements and emotional development becomes apparent... The drive to master standing and walking upsets all the daily rhythms. Two naps, which have been predictable before, become less so."

Noah's 8:30am and 1pm routine is certainly shaken up this week. But for once it's because he's sleeping more! This week, hee's not really ready for a nap at 1 if he actually slept until 11! So, deep breath. Here we go.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies

Sorry, not sorry about the title there. I'm still nursing and while the insatiable hunger and thirst of those early days is long gone, there are still some days where I can tell I really need to ramp up my intake. Enter: cookies, of course.

These are dense and hearty, and based off of another recipe I use and love.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Lactation Cookies
makes 2 dozen cookies

1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 flax egg (1 Tbs flax + 3 Tbs water) or 1 egg
1 tsp vanilla 
1/4 cup softened coconut oil (butter would work, too)
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup almond meal
1/3 cup coconut (shredded, dried, unsweetened)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the pumpkin, syrup, egg, vanilla extract, and coconut oil. Add oats, almond meal, coconut, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder and mix well. Stir the chocolate chips in. The dough isn't as sticky as normal cookie dough, so a cookie scoop works wonders here. If you don't have one, form Tablespoon-sized balls of dough to put on a lined cookie sheet and flatten with a fork. These cookies don't really fluff up, but that's okay!

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Noah's Birthday

A year ago today, I was in this hospital in labor! If I really think about it, I can practically feel the contractions again. Labor is an intense, beautiful, elusive movement-- and labor endorphins? They're no joke! I could use another hit right now.

I know that labor and delivery can be traumatic and terrifying and the best laid plans can go awry in the blink of an eye. I have nothing but gratitude and thanksgiving for Noah's Birth Day. I will never take that experience for granted.

But the best part is, even though my sleep-deprived self craves that labor high and I still (yes, still) miss being pregnant and can't believe it's been a year already, I know the adventure has only begin. Getting to know the little man I met a year ago today? That's the real honor. Carrying and laboring and delivering are wonderful, but they aren't mothering.

I've been writing monthly letters to Noah, but today's is the last one. We made it to a year. His growth and development are accelerating too quickly, his hilarious shenanigans too frequent, to write down every single memory. So I will depart from the early milestones and the baby calendar and the *sniff* baby jammies and follow in the footsteps of my brave little boy: falling forward with a smile and trusting that my feet will catch up!

Happy 1st Birthday, Noah! The week we brought you home, I kept thinking, "surely I have seen the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." I love you so much. Thank you for being patient with me as I learn how to be your Mama!

Noah on his Birth Day and on his Birthday!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

To Myself, 365 Days Ago (The Birth of a Mother)

This IS real labor, by the way.

mid-contraction before heading to the hospital June 4
You think Ross is taking the day off to set up the nursery tomorrow, but shit is about to get a lot more real than that. Spoiler alert: the nursery crib will not be assembled, nor will the kitchen countertops be installed before you become a mother. You might POSSIBLY know that somewhere deep down, because you sure did freak out about Ross needing to take a random Wednesday off of work.

But holy crap... denial is the best labor tool ever (although your doula is a close second).  But seriously. From the first painful contraction that came during shift report this morning, to 4:29pm tomorrow when you meet the little one who has been in there all this time, will stretch 33.5 hours of contractions. But you will really only feel like you're in labor for 4 hours, because that's the amount of time you officially had to wrap your head around the idea.

Four hours from the moment your Midwife said, "we're going to do a direct admit to L and D right now," to the moment it was suddenly all over. Just like that. And of course, "just like that" foreshadows the entire year to follow, as well.  

during our brief stay in L and D
Just like that, contractions give way to a chubby-cheeked cherub. Just like that, he goes from being a sleepy newborn to a colicky baby. Just like that, he goes from being a talkative wiggle-worm to a baby who can crawl and pull up and get into everything. Just like that, he grows from one size to the next, breaking your heart a little each time you have to change out the clothes. Just like that, 11 months in, occasionally starts to sleep through the night at last, and on those days you already start to forget the mind-numbing fatigue you felt from months 5-6 when he wouldn't sleep for more than 90 minutes at a time.

Let me just give you a hug right now. For 38.5 weeks, you thought labor was the end. But really, it's the very beginning. Not only was a baby born that sunny day in June that dawned after a stormy night, but two clueless parents were born as well. You and Ross didn't know it, but you were about to embark upon an anxious, overwhelming, wonderful, blessed, sleepless, tear-stained, hilarious, frustrating, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful year. It won't take you long to realize that your work experience is useless, and everything is new again when the baby under your care is your own, 24/7/365.

Welcome to the hardest and best year of your life. A year in which you will learn that all those annoying mom cliches are there for a reason. Time flies. They're not little for long. The days are long, but the years are short. You'll realize all of this fairly quickly, and you'll FEEL it all. The highs will be higher, the lows will be lower. Your heart IS walking around outside of your body, and it takes your breath away when you feel the weight of that. Sometimes the weight will be golden and awe-some, in a let's-have-5,000-more-babies sort of way. Other times it will feel impossibly heavy, like you are doomed to failure and no mere mortal should ever be given so much responsibility as to be the caretaker of a little soul.

You will start panicking that "he's already a year old" around 9 months and you will keep reminding yourself, we had only just bought our house this time last year... I was still hanging drywall this time last year... he flipped breech this time last year and I started swimming laps to encourage him to flip back...

Post-partum will kick your butt. You will go to physical therapy for muscles you neeever knew existed. Due to that pain, the first 6 weeks of newborn-ness will crawl by like one long, anxious, tightly-wound day. And when the haze ends suddenly, and time starts traveling at warp speed? You'll want those sweet, snuggly, blurry first 6 weeks back.

Just when you start to feel comfortable with one aspect of Noah's babyhood, everything changes. For better and for worse. Arching, crying, and screaming finally give way to a more comfortable baby when he starts Prilosec. Painful thrush and a poor latch give way to an awesome breastfeeding relationship. Post-partum pain gives way to extreme gratitude for body parts you used to take for granted. But also... exclusive breastfeeding, gives way to introducing solids. Happy wiggles give way to mobility. Two naps (which you fought for tooth and nail) will soon give way to one nap.

And the first year gives way to the second. You made it! Cue the waterworks.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Chocolate Chip Clouds

I had these at a friend's house recently, and begged her for the recipe when I couldn't stop thinking about them the next day. They're so different from the cookies I usually make, and a nice summery change from dense wintery baked goods.

Chocolate Chip Clouds from Skinnytaste.com 


  • 1/2 cup egg whites (room temperature)
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Heat oven to 300°F. Cover cookie sheet with silpat or nonstick silicone pad.

Using a mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar together in large bowl at high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar a little at a time, then vanilla, beating well after each addition until you get stiff peaks, the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is glossy.

Sift cocoa onto egg white mixture; gently fold until combined.

Fold in chocolate chips. Drop mixture by heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheet. Makes 30 to 32 cookies.

Bake 34 to 40 minutes or just until dry. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet. Cool completely on wire rack. Store covered, at room temperature. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Currently: 30 Years Old

Favorite part of the day: drinking coffee while Noah crawls around like a crazy man after his breakfast every morning.

Eating: Ever since I got pregnant, I've been averse to a lot of green food. Therefore, I'm eating lots of carbs and meat, but not much in the way of produce. Hoping that changes this summer!

Drinking: For the first time in my life, I am having to force myself to drink enough water. After the insatiable thirst of pregnancy and early breastfeeding days, I forget what normal water intake looks like.

Reading: Still working on the The Boys in the Boat for fun, reading A Praying Life with our Gospel Community, and potentially about to start reading 1,000 Gifts with some other friends.

Listening To: "I Need Jesus" by Nathan Partain is the last song I downloaded, but I haven't been listening to anything on repeat for the last few weeks.

Guilty Pleasure: Watching a show on my laptop before bed. I finally quit my nighttime pumping session last week (!!!) but I'd gotten in a terrible habit of watching TV in the evening thanks to that. Need to get back to reading instead of watching.

Wanting: More sleep. More money.

Needing: Exercise and vegetables!

Loving: The longer and warmer days. It feels like it just rained for a month straight, so I love the intermittent sunny days!

Thinking: I intended to fill out the rest, but Noah woke up from his nap. Ha!




Bane of my Existence: 




Looking forward to:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Before I Was a Mom, I Was the Best Mom

I read a blog post by this same title a few months ago, and it continues to resonate with me.

It's sure easy to judge when we're not in it... I thought about this the other day when I saw an old photo of myself, holding my friend's little one. It's so funny how the years fly by-- I can still remember being so young and wondering what it would be like to be a parent, and now I'm a mom... I'm in it. I'm doing it. And of course, all of the things I said I'd never do, well here we are, doing most of them. Parenting is crazy like that, it kind of forces you to take a long look at yourself and the way you do things, and constantly question it all-- is this for the best? Is this working? It's been four years now, and the longer I do it, the more I realize that a big dose of kindness and understanding goes a long way, for both myself and for the parents around me, doing their thing too.

I knew motherhood was hard, but I didn't KNOW it was hard. It's beautiful, and life-giving in every way, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. But just like everyone said it would be, it's humbling, it's exhausting, it's exhilarating, it's terrifying. I've been an emotional wreck as I climb this steep learning curve of new-motherhood.

Because see, I thought that the first 6-12 months of motherhood were going to be so easy. Exhausting, yes, but not unmanageable. I thought I'd rock it. I take care of babies for a living! Toddlers are where the mystery begins, right? Um no.

I should've know better when, for the first 24 hours of labor, I was pretty sure it wasn't real labor. My due date wasn't for 10 more days, but more than that, I wasn't READY! Initially, I blamed the chaos on that early surprise. The house wasn't finished. My non-maternity clothes weren't unpacked. Heck, the baby's crib wasn't even assembled! But now, 11 months later, I can see that it would've been difficult no matter what. (And I'm just now unpacking the last of my non-maternity clothes. Ha!)

Yes, I take care of babies for a living, but I didn't factor in the hormones (ohhh the hormones), the postpartum anxiety, the 5 months of relentless pain. I didn't know that breastfeeding would be a full-time job for the first 6 weeks (seriously, 8 hours a day). I didn't realize that just because you know your baby isn't desperately NICU-level sick, doesn't mean you don't question every little cry, quirk, and squeak. I didn't anticipate how much harder it would be when the baby is YOURS. When your heart and mind and body and soul are invested in this unpredictable little being.

I mean, for the first 6 weeks, it took everything in me to let anyone beside Ross hold Noah without me wanting to snatch him back into my arms. For the first 3 months, it made me overly anxious if Noah was out of my line of vision. For 6 months, I couldn't hear Noah cry without wanting to cry myself (and there was a lot of crying on both ends!)

Today I sit here totally identifying with Ann Voskamp's words:

Yeah — if you’re being gut honest here — you don’t really want the cards or the flowers.
Or what gets wrapped up in shiny paper, or stuffed in a bag with wrinkled tissue paper, or anything that gets tied up and presented with these dangling tendrils of curling ribbon.
What you really wanted is to be extraordinarily, obviously, good at this. At this mothering thing.

You wanted to be the best at this.

You wanted to take the podium and gold medal in mothering — not take a million timeouts behind some locked bathroom door, turn on the water so no one hears you sobbing at what a mess this whole shebang is, and how you’d like to run away. Ask me how I know?

Honest? You wanted to be more... Never once did you ask to come stumbling into this with all this baggage — all these unhealthy-coping mechanisms, all these triggers, all this unspoken broken.
What you really want, desperately, wildly, in spite of everything — is for them to remember the good…. to remember enough of the times you whispered, “I Love You” … to know how many times you broke your heart and how how hard you really tried.
All you want? Is for them to feel a deep sense of safety, that they are safe to trust people, safe to dream large, safe to believe, safe to try, safe to love large and go fly — and you need to know that you haven’t wrecked that. That they feel the certain, tender embrace of your love —- in spite of all the storming times you acted unlovely.

I didn't know motherhood would make me doubt everything. I didn't know it would challenge my endurance and patience from the start. I didn't know that I could feel like such a spectacular failure on a daily basis.

But I also didn't know how much more I would love this baby who is my own. I don't take the honor of being his mother lightly. In fact, that's probably why I'm so hard on myself. This is real life. A real person. So impressionable. So dependent. The stakes are high. The calling is higher. I can only do this by, in turn, being dependent on One who is above me. By learning to rest in my own Provider when I can't do something alone. By remembering that He cares for me and has my best interest at heart, even when I don't understand. A mom's love for her baby has given me a beautiful glimpse into this kind of love God has for us. Thankfully, His love is steady and unfailing when mine is not.

On this, my first real Mother's Day, with Noah's first birthday on the imminent horizon, I have a lot to be thankful for.

Thank God for my mom, who put up with me being a 4am riser for my first year. History repeats itself, eh? She's been such a good listener through my anxiety, and as a mother of 4 with a husband who was a medical resident and then young doctor, she did motherhood with everything she had. Harder and better. I have the best role model. And I grew up with some pretty awesome grandmothers as well.

Thank God for friends who take my panicked texts into stride and continue to pour out love and advice without laughing at me (or... at least not in front of me)!

Thank God for a doula who has taken my worried phone calls for months, and never fails to strike the perfect balance between super natural crunchy mama and, well, common sense, that resonates with me.

Thank God for physical therapy and the emotional clarity that started to resume once I wasn't in a steady state of pain.

It does take a village to raise a child, and I'm so thankful for mine.

Happy Mother's Day to the one who made me...

...and to the one who made me a mother!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Our Bigger Baby Favorites

Try as we might to avoid the trappings of material clutter in our tiny house, it's a little inevitable with a little one. Here are the things we've found ourselves reaching for the most lately:

-Bumkins bibs. We actually got these in a Citrus Lane box that we ordered randomly, and they're our favorite bibs by far. Easy to wipe clean, easy to wash in the washer, and they have a pocket to catch slippery things that inevitably succumb to gravity during mealtime.

-Beaba silicone mold for homemade baby food. I do want to make note of our favorite baby food "recipes" eventually, but these molds have made homemade baby food a pretty simple process.

-That being said, man, pouches of food are the easiest thing ever, and Noah loves them! I feel like they don't keep him full as long as more solid food does, but they're super convenient on-the-go. I'll go ahead and say I'm a snob and I want him to be eating mostly organic food this first year. Gluten and dairy free, too, since we tried introducing both recently and it didn't go well. There are multiple good brands out there, but Earth's Best seems to have a better price point than some of the others.

-HappyBaby snacks. Noah loves their gluten free puffs!

-Snow and Arrow recycled wool slippers. They stay ON and they have traction on the bottom, which was nice for cold winter toes and a mobile baby.

-Love to Dream sleepsack it fits a little more snugly than some other brands, which I like.

-Hannah Anderson Pilot Cap to keep Noah from pulling his hearing aids out.

-Boon Frog Pod to store bath toys. I like that it drains well. We love these Boon bath toys as well. Noah loves to chew on them, and I love that they don't absorb water so they're less likely to grow funky stuff from bathwater.

-Joovy Dood sippy cups. They have a slower flow than the other sippys we've tried.

-Our stroller! It was an amazing baby shower gift, and I'm so excited to use it more as the weather warms up.

-KangarooCare nursing necklace. There are a lot of these out there, but this was by far the classiest looking one I found. Around 8 months, Noah started getting suuuper distracted while nursing, and this helps hold his attention!

-The Leapfrog Learn and Groove table. A friend generously gave this to us, and I thought I'd hate it. But man, Noah loves it. It was the perfect height when he was learning to pull up, and for a while it was the first toy he visited every morning!

-And we can't forget Captain Calamari, Noah's car toy!

(Speaking of the car, Noah's just about too tall for his Chicco Keyfit 30 Infant Carseat. We've been happy with it, and we are sad to be graduating to the next step :-/)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Best is Yet to Come

Thirty doesn't look quite as scary as it used to. Twenty-nine was a good year. So good and so fast, thanks largely in part to a little guy named Noah. Crazy I'd never even seen his face this time last year, and now I don't want to imagine life without him!

In a lot of ways, I feel less like myself this ever as I coast into thirty. I suspect most of that is due to the fact that my "self" is still adjusting to the addition of the "Mom" title and the responsibilities and realities that it entails. But I love it, so onward and upward!

My 20s were beautiful, wonderful, crazy, cringe-worthy, and memorable. Filled with lots of love and lots of heartbreak. And I completely wigged out about turning 25. Can you believe that was 5 years ago?! At that time, I couldn't even fathom 30. I tend to be a past-thinker, and at 25 I was dwelling on how far away college seemed, how heavy the day-to-day felt, and how life seemed to be running ahead without me.

On the one hand, thank God I wasn't thinking about some perfect, rosy future materializing by the magical age of 30, because it's been a hell of a ride from there to here. But on the other hand, faith and hope would've carried me a long way on that dark road: knowing that come what may, God's will prevails. And His will is always for my good and for His glory.

The irony, of course, is that faith and hope are rarely learned except through trial. I'd like to think, as a friend recently said to Ross and me, that your 20s are for making mistakes and your 30s are for learning from them.

Not that I won't make mistakes in my 30s. Ha! But maybe instead of careening from one bad mistake to the next impulsive decision while simultaneously accumulating more and more regret and anxiety, the next decade will see me mellow out a little instead.

I do know that God WILL instruct me and teach me in the ways I should go. He WILL counsel me with his loving eye on me (Psalm 32). Instead of being stubborn and learning by trial and error, I want to learn more by trust. I want to learn more in silence and in waiting. I want to find peace in knowing that God's plan will unfold exactly as it should, and that as long as I'm willing to listen, He will let me know when it's my turn to participate, instead of me panicking and grasping at straws and trying to force circumstances to bend to my will.

I feel at peace with the big picture of my life right now. In fact, I kind of love it. I'm thankful to be starting a new decade, and I'm thankful for the decade that got me here.


P.S. For my birthday, Noah gave us an unprecedented stretch of sleep. He slept from 6:45pm-5:20am. Yeah baby! [Insert all the praise hands emojis here]

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Which Camp are You In?

There has been a lot written on Mommy Wars. I haven't spent a lot of time or energy delving into the subject because honestly, being a mom has flat-out humbled me. I was a really good mom before I became a mom, right?

My doula was on the local NPR station recently discussing vaccines. (A doula who is PRO-vaccine? Right up my alley!) She has a background in microbiology but her current career is spent helping women navigate a healthy pregnancy and delivery, often in the most low-intervention way possible.

When discussing vaccines, she mentioned in passing that some "anti-vaxxers" haven't actually investigated the subject, but feel pressure (internally or externally) to conform to a mode of parenting, and declining vaccination is a way to fit into the "natural childbirth/attachment parenting" camp.

And then I realized why I struggle to discuss parenting choices with people. They always seem to say something that doesn't sit right with me (and vice versa, I'm sure). Note: these things are not usually something I passionately disagree with, but something that I know in my gut isn't a good choice for my family.

Yes to natural childbirth, and yes to childhood vaccinations.

Yes to the chiropractor, and yes to Prilosec for baby's reflux.

No to bed-sharing, and no to cry-it-out methods.

Yes to breastfeeding, and yes to introducing solids at 6 months.

Yes to cloth diapers, and yes to disposable wipes.

Yes I work 12+ hours a week, and yes I stay home with my baby Monday through Friday.

I'm absolutely not having a pity party. I know there are other moms like me out there. If anything, having a foot in both "worlds" helps me empathize with both sides. But it also confuses me. So much information. So many opinions. So much more to motherhood than I thought.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Day in the Life of a 9 Month Old

I picked another low-key day to record, because time is simply flying by and I want to remember these days.

0200: Noah wakes up, but Ross rocks him back to sleep.

0500: Noah wakes up and I nurse him, praying all the while that he will fall back asleep because we are all so tired of the early wakeups!

0530: Ross tries to put Noah back in his crib, and he fusses, so Ross rocks him to sleep and continues to hold him until he wakes up again.

0645: Noah is up for the day and crawling around, making sure all the rooms look the way he left them! (We turned the house upside down this weekend for some projects, and Noah is very excited that things seem to be back where they belong.)

0700: Breakfast! Noah eats a peanut butter banana muffin and half of a banana.

0730: Noah plays in the living room while I drink my coffee. Necessary.

0810: Noah is getting clumsy and whiny and keeps asking for milk, so we start his nap routine a little early: nurse, book, song...

0840: I lay Noah down in his crib and tell him I love him and I will see him when he wakes up. He proceeds to stand up in his crib and fuss. Wild man.

0910: Noah is asleep! I catch up on some emails and do some Bible study and journaling. It's been way too long.

1020: He's up. Blah. What happened to the 1.5 hour naps he was taking a month ago? I shouldn't complain, though. For the past month, he has avoided one or both naps more days than not, so any morning nap is a win. I nurse him briefly and then we play.

1100: We go on a walk with our neighbor and her two little ones.

1200: Back home! We both eat lunch. Noah has some of a sweet potato chickpea veggie burger, and some pureed veggies.

1215: Play! Noah is getting really good at moving seamlessly from crawling to sitting to standing, and everything in between. It's crazy.

1300: Nap routine. Nurse, story, song.

1320: He's in his crib wiggling.

1350: Finally asleep. Two naps in one day! A rare sighting.

1500: He's up! Hi buddy :-) He promptly falls over in his crib and bumps his head, starts crying, and signs for milk. Of course he gets some.

1530: Dinner: ground beef and green beans, followed by some puffs and half a banana. Hungry monkey!

1600: Play outside in the gorgeous sunlight.

1700: Play indoors.

1730: Bath time!

1800: Nurse. When he's done he rolls to his stomach, pushes up with his hands, and stares at the door, waiting for Ross to come get him. The last few days, we've been practicing saying "Dada" at that time, and Noah totally imitates me. It's pretty cute!

1830: Ross reads a book to Noah and then rocks him before putting him in his crib. Going to bed a little earlier tonight, because in the past that has actually helped with the early morning wakeups.

2030: I pump and get ready to go to bed. But then...

2100: Noah is crying. Thankfully, this time when I pick him up and snuggle, he burps and falls back asleep. He has usually been getting up around 1-2am, and then again around 4-5am (usually up for the day at that time). But tonight, he was up at 9pm, 10pm, and then flat out awake from 12:30am-2am. Baby sleep is an enigma to me!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Hearing and Loss: Part 2

(You can read the first part of the story HERE)

When Noah got his hearing aids around three months of age, the audiologist sent us home with instructions to wear them all of the time when he was awake. So the first day, we did.

He was MISERABLE. I was miserable. He was so, so fussy that day and refused to nap. I was afraid that he was overstimulated all of the sudden, and that hearing all the sounds all at once was really overwhelming. After a horrible day, we took a break for a few days. (When his fussiness didn't subside, we finally figured out it was reflux, but that's a different story for a different day.)

So after that terrible introduction, I was hesitant to have his wear the aids all the time. I mean, he couldn't even hold his head up for long periods of time yet, and hearing aid microphones feedback just like normal microphones when they get too close to something. So of course I didn't want him laying on one ear, or sitting in a carseat with the aids in, or anything like that.

There was finally a golden period where he could sit up and wear his hearing aids for a longer period of time, but that ended once he learned how to pull them out of his ears. So to make a long story short, I probably haven't had him wear them as much as he should. There is always an excuse.

Ironically, I felt like I was being nicer to him by not making him wear them 24/7. I was also lulled into a false sense of complacency by the fact that Noah's hearing appeared to be better than that of my youngest brother, who has hearing aids but doesn't always need to wear them. I mean, it's usually just Noah and me hanging out in a quiet house, and he always seems to respond to noises and voices...

But last week, I got to go into the sound booth for Noah's first Visual Reinforcement Audiometry (VRA) Test and hold him on my lap while the audiologist projected sounds at different volumes and frequencies from different speakers around the room. When Noah heard a sound and turned toward the corresponding speaker, a little puppet would light up next to that speaker. Then the audiologist would flash a light to get Noah to turn back toward the front of the room before she projected a different sound. I had my hearing aids in, and Noah didn't. I was shocked at the number of sounds I could hear at a seemingly "normal" volume, but Noah kept looking at the light in the front of the room, oblivious to the sound.

That test made me really, really sad. My heart sank with every missed sound. He may "just" have a mild/moderate hearing loss, but he is missing a LOT without his hearing aids.

Sitting in that booth with my baby brought back some feelings of inadequacy from my own childhood. I have a moderate/severe hearing loss, that dips into the profound range at high frequencies. By and large, I really wouldn't say it was a big part of my childhood. My mom fought hard for us to grow up with a sense of normalcy, and I really only felt different when I had to take my hearing aids out in the pool and couldn't hear my friends. (But Noah's hearing aids are waterproof! Yay for technological advances!) Anyway, for as long as I can remember, I have always erred on the side of being a very performance-driven person, and sitting in those sound booths as a kid was stressful for me.

I always had wonderful audiologists, and the best parents. But the fact of the matter is, you walk into that booth knowing you're about to fail a test, and everyone outside the booth knows it, too. The audiologist says words to you and expects you to repeat them, but you don't have hearing aids in and you can't lipread and suddenly, it's all a foreign language. So you repeat words, almost certain they're not the RIGHT words. Then they play sounds at different frequencies and volumes and ask you to push a button when you hear a sound. I so desperately want to hear the sound (even to this day) and I'm straining so hard to hear ANYthing, that I'm pretty sure sometimes I just hear sounds in my head and push the button when there's nothing to actually hear! That booth can make a person crazy.

Sitting there with my baby, who has a lifetime of sound booths ahead of him, was harder than I expected. I'm so ashamed I haven't been taking his hearing loss seriously. I'm so sad about what he's already missed. I feel so negligent for not getting him new ear molds before the other ones were ridiculously small. I'm ashamed that sometimes I forget to check the battery before putting my kid's hearing aid in. I'm sad that sometimes his hearing aids are ringing in his ears and it's too high pitched for me to hear and then my husband comes home and tells me, and all I hear is, "you're a terrible mom." (Of course he is NOT saying that, but that's what it feels like sometimes.) It's a lot of pressure, this motherhood gig.

I never let myself think of hearing impairment as a possibility while I was pregnant. Of course, the odds are NOT in my kid's favor. Hearing loss is a dominant gene in my family, with roughly a 60-75% rate of occurrence. Yet... I'm not sure if it was denial or common sense, but for once in my life I told myself there was no use worrying about something that may or may not happen. But it happened. And it's taken me 9 months to start coming to terms with that.