Friday, December 28, 2012

Andrew's New Diggs

Yeah, that's totally morbid to write it like that. I'm aware.

For those not so savvy, here's Urban Dictionary's explanation of the word, in case you really hated my choice of a title:

home;place of residence;place of business
"my bro just moved into new diggs across town."
See? Totally fitting.

I wrote a post earlier this month about visiting the funeral home and how our emotions affected the B-man. Here's the full story, for what it's worth.

The day after I delivered Andrew, our nurse came in with a paper of funeral homes we needed to call. Burial or cremation? Funeral or memorial service or not? Such questions we didn't anticipate ever having to answer and yet we were bombarded with decisions. When in a state of shock, you don't make decisions or think clearly through the tough stuff very well. And how were we to know what to do? You never anticipate having to choose where your child's final resting place will be.

Thanks to the nurses, we have professional pictures of Andrew. We would've never known about NILMDTS and yet, they were there for us in time of need. Our nurse on December 6 told us she would handle calling around to make arrangements for us because it was not something we were in a state of mind to be doing. Bless her.

We were discharged on December 7th and went over to select an urn for Andrew. The funeral home is about 2.5 miles from our home and I remember being a complete sobbing mess still swollen from being nearly 39 weeks pregnant just two days prior. I sat in a chair in a room where the walls felt they were suffocating me. We were shown some booklets and steered to select a keepsake urn for our son. I remember vaguely being told that because he was a boy and because he was a baby, that people often choose blue and this small heart urn. At the time, I didn't care much or have any clue how we could even do such a thing as pick out an urn for our son that we thought just 48 hours before, would be coming home with us in a carseat. We went with the blue urn and they told us they'd be picking up our son from the hospital.

He was cremated at a facility somewhere in Chicagoland and I guess the urn was sent to the crematorium for it to be filled.

Days later, we received a phonecall to come pick up our son from the local funeral home where we placed the order for that small, blue heart-shaped urn. We were told on the phone to come anytime. I don't remember when we picked him up, but I know it wasn't right away. We were a mess of emotions and had no real urgency, after all, he was gone.

When we arrived, they told us we could go into a room where his ashes were placed-- the room where they hold funerals. On a table would be his urn. The heart urn was wrapped in a velour black bag with a little Brother P-Touch label on the back of the urn that read, "Baby Wilson" on it. Not even his name. The box next to the heart urn also had his name, date of cremation and location of cremation, all in typewriter font. We were told his remains did not fully fit. Until just weeks ago, I had no idea how much did not fit, because I was too afraid to open that box. It turns out only half of his remains fit into that little urn and the other half were in the box. Sealed with a twist-tie.

I remember sobbing as we drove home. I was holding a heavy urn with my son's ashes, and they couldn't even put all of him inside the container. Insult to injury-- perhaps an understatement of that long-used phrase. I was surprised at how heavy that urn was-- but I know much of it was the urn itself and not my son at all. At the time, it felt like I was holding his full weight, 7lbs. 6oz.

He lived on our bookshelf in the formal living room for two years. His additional ashes were inside a basket underneath and it bothered us that he wasn't ever whole. I was frustrated that we did not receive a phonecall telling us that we should select another urn. Or that they didn't just leave his ashes in one container for us to decide later. What good is an urn with only part of our son? Our intention was never to spread his ashes. I also felt incredibly sad to obviously be an anomaly. Clearly they didn't deal much with dead babies, or they would have this all figured out by now. Lucky us. The anomaly.

For his 2nd birthday, we knew things needed to be made right. I wrote it on the whiteboard in our laundry room and we finally made the trek back to the funeral home the Saturday before Andrew's 2nd birthday. I called ahead of time to schedule an appointment and gave them all of our information. We were told we could come in later that afternoon. I received a phonecall a bit after making the arrangement to tell me they had lost our file.

Lost our file.

You read those words correctly. I can't make this stuff up. {I know my husband is considerably more understanding in this regard, but I'm not and I write this blog, so I'll be carrying on now.}

We arrived at the funeral home and sat down in that very same room, this time with Benjamin in our arms. I sat in the opposite chair I did before, but within those same 4 walls. The funeral home director plops a book down in front of us with urns to choose from. I was instructed to bring all of Andrew's ashes with us, so I brought the two containers. Despite explaining the situation on the phone since he lost our file (dead infant, too small of an urn, cremated, 2010, name, date, etc.), he didn't seem to connect the dots.

Once he saw the containers, he said he understood and started flipping through to show us our options. He sighed here and there, telling us they don't really have a size that would work for Andrew's ashes, at least not in the catalog. There are full-sized options and keepsakes-- primarily used to hold a small portion (about 2-4 cubic inches-- Andrew is about 7.5-- it's nearly a 1:1 ratio. Try Googling that for a good time) and for the rest to be spread or buried.

The he tells us that he'll jump on Google to look at some more for us.

Jump on Google.

No, sir. We know just how to jump on Google to search for urns ourselves. We were hoping to avoid that whole process, hence the middleman.

We decide on an urn he checked online to see that they had the middle, rare size that would still be far too big for Andrew's ashes. I was sobbing at this point and ready to leave. Benjamin wanted to crawl around and I was not having any of that.

We hurriedly ordered and walked out and I sobbed while holding Benjamin in the parking lot. We left Andrew inside. He wouldn't be with us on December 5th.

Before we got in the car, Ray headed back in because he just couldn't leave Andrew's ashes there on his birthday. He went in to retrieve him and we sat in the car, sobbing some more. We were no more than 2 blocks away before he asked me if I wanted to cancel the order. I hated the urn we chose, again, and really didn't think this was a good solution. But Ray knew that without me saying a word.

He called and canceled everything, stating that we weren't pleased with our options and that we would be handling things on our own from now on. We arrived home and Benjamin wouldn't sleep. He was feeling our grief.

Once he was down to sleep, we researched urns online. Nothing like having a website called "urn" show up in your dropdown menu when typing websites in daily. Note to self: delete history. We found one that was perfect. As perfect as one can be anyway. LuciaUrns is an Etsy shop started by a potter in Massachusetts. People loved her pots so much, that they often asked her if she made urns for their loved ones-- as the current options on the market are not personal, warm and artist-made. Dealing with a rare size issue, it was fitting that she created urns that would meet the needs of any size, including babies.

We selected the smallest size, suitable for 10 cubic inches. Ordered, shipped and to our home the day after his birthday. I spent the rest of that day during naps figuring out what we would do about his ashes. I knew we'd pour them ourselves, but I was scared. I don't know of what, but I guess the idea of staring down the ashes of your deceased child doesn't exactly warm your heart. I opened his old urn, the heart, with a flathead screwdriver and there was residue. I didn't take the bag out of the urn because it was jam-packed in there and looked quite difficult to handle. But the ashes? They were more coarse than I imagined.

Once Ray came home, he took the additional container, the old urn, and the new urn into the laundry room and performed the switch. With some tears, our firstborn had a final place in our home where he would be whole again. The bag from the old urn with its very own twist-tie (like on your garbage) along with the urn itself, the screws, the "baby wilson" label, and the additional box were placed in the garbage along with dirty diapers and food scraps.

Just another example of the heartbreak of baby loss. The paradox of life and death.

While this post is terribly dark and sad, I do want to update that we are so pleased with the new urn, its beauty, and the daintiness of it. We're thrilled Andrew has a perfectly chosen piece of art as his very own. As sad as it is to have such a thing, we are pleased and feel more at peace with things ever since that package arrived on our doorstep. {I waited to post this on a day that there were no birthdays, to my knowledge. It needed to be in Andrew's birth month.}

We're finally done with that forsaken funeral home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Wilson Christmas

This was our first time officially celebrating Christmas in three years. I mean actually putting up a tree, decor, and engaging in normal behavior, mostly. I'd say it was different for sure. I still didn't find myself looking forward to the day like I did before Andrew was born. It seemed still a little suffocating, even having Benjamin here to celebrate with. Maybe it's because Benjamin is still too young to understand the whole hoopla over presents and Santa and all that jazz. It's not like he thought it was any different of a day than a normal Tuesday, so it didn't require us to be Disney Parents (happy! shiny! perfect!). We did find some joy in the day, mostly Skyping with both sets of grandparents and Benjamin's Aunt Samantha. I spent much of the day in the kitchen, as usual, creating and distracting myself from the holidays. We're pretty sure Benjamin is teething again, so the day was a loud one.
Dad's bibs from his first Christmas! 
Hanging out by the tree with Mom.
Our tree in the formal living room may be a staple every year. It's different than ever before, and close to Andrew.
Stocking surprise: bubbles! Of which he promptly bit through, making a hole in the plastic and spewing bubble liquid everywhere.
Benjamin was up at 6:30 along with boys and girls everywhere! Except, he didn't care much for presents.
We thought we'd have at least another year to sleep in on 12/25, but such was not our luck.
Dad was preparing B's first Lego Duplo set by spelling out his name in blocks: B-E-N-J-A-M-I-N
Andrew's stocking is in the background. I love having it there.
A rocking moose bought nearly 12 months ago in anticipation of a little boy we really hoped would be coming home with us. We feel so lucky.
A little Skype action with family.
Andrew love. Candles lit from remembrance service we attended Saturday for Andrew and other loved ones missing all around the world.
Cooking: Homemade tamales for the first time. Cheese, grilled onion, green chili, chicken (1/2). Should've added some oil, but otherwise delicious.
Finished product.
Margaritas are green and therefore festive, right?
Yes, that is more cabbage. This time, dressing is: 1 part oil, 3 parts lemon juice, salt, pepper-- marinade.
Also, a recent creation using my Blendtec blender: green poblano rice. Can use any food processor, though.
A homemade Christmas feast. Benjamin ate pea soup. Green peas = also festive.
  • Received some wonderful news this morning that another loss family welcomed a new baby into the world on Christmas day. Been on pins and needles for them for months now. Congrats, M. 
  • I love that it's halfway to the weekend, which means Ray will be home with us for more days soon.
  • We seriously contemplated taking down Christmas last night. Still not terribly comfortable with all this.
  • Is it sad I'm already itching for spring?
  • I Amazon ordered B a JJ Cole BundleMe bunting bag for his stroller so on those more bearable days (not today), we can go out for some walks. I never did use the carseat BundleMe because I was too afraid it was unsafe.
  • Pea soup in the crock pot right now. B loves it so much that I have been meaning to freeze a bunch of it to have on hand for a quick meal.
  • All those collages I've been using? Caroline got me hooked on PicMonkey. I don't have to edit photos anymore! Just stick them in collages and... done! Much smaller file sizes.
  • I have a present ready for our UPS guy and can't wait for him to deliver my Amazon order so I can give it to him. He visits our house way more than I'm willing to admit, always asks about Benjamin, and hauls all of our large/heavy packages into our foyer for me.
  • I don't even know who our postal carrier is. They change like the wind around here.
  • Already birthday planning for February! Just the thought that I have a child that was conceived, born, is growing, is learning... and will be turning a whole year makes me want to cry. For so long, this was all I dreamed. No other gift would do. 
Hoping you all had celebratory moments during the holiday season.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Good Tidings We Bring... you and your kin...
...we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

*Two variations of our Christmas card this year. One with Andrew's prayer flag, and one with his ornament this year. We couldn't decide which one we liked better, so two were made. Mostly sent to family this year, but know that we hope your holidays are wonderful as well.

If you're missing a loved one this year, please know that you are not alone. We honor those family members with you and will be lighting a candle in honor of all those we're missing this holiday season.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Among the Trees

Before the weather turned typical of Chicago winters (read: miserable), I wanted to get out to the Arboretum to walk around for a bit. We don't have an annual pass quite yet, but once Benjamin is walking, we'll probably invest in one. We're pretty excited about it. In our opinion, it's one of the coolest nature areas in all of Illinois. Thanks to our friend Alli for getting us in free!

Also, we are members. In the 2.5 years of living here, we haven't joined anything. But now we're members of the local pool/waterpark. This is something very Midwest. Water parks are extremely popular around these parts... and oh my word. Go to Wisconsin to something nobody in the West has ever heard of... "The Dells" and waterparks are a dime a dozen. It's literally the waterpark capital of the world. And did I mention the majority of them are indoors and you never have to leave the resort once for anything. Not dinner. Not entertainment. Not your hotel room. It's all inclusive, under one roof. The Dells is spoken from mouths of children all over the suburbs here. It's so interesting being a transplant here and learning all about the cultural norms of small children.

So yeah. We joined our local waterpark. Pictures to come this summer. And if you come visit, we'll take you. And maybe in another year, we'll join the Arboretum and we'll take you there, too. Until then, here's a quick virtual visit.
In the children's discovery area, many of the attractions were closed because they have quite a few water features that would freeze in the winter. Instead, they set up a fun gnome hunt. We found a bunch of them as we walked through.
We walked the maze garden and headed inside to browse the gift shop and warm up a bit before heading home.
B is 10 months tomorrow. Is it possible that it keeps getting better with age? I love the little boy he's becoming.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Recap: Coca-Cola Balanced Living Workshop

I was compensated for my participation in Coca-Cola's Balanced Living Workshop, but my thoughts and views are my own.

There's just so much to share. We had presentations by registered dietitians, ate amazing food, participated in cooking our own lunch at The Chopping Block Cooking School, met with our very own personal trainers and dietitians, engaged with fellow mom bloggers, visited a local grocery store chain, Jewel-Osco, with their lead dietitian and engaged in a fitness session with none other than celebrity trainer, Harley Pasternak. Did you catch all those verbs I used?
Out to dinner with fellow mom-bloggers and attendees. That's Heather next to me from Live. Love. Laugh.
How about I share some of those little nuggets of information I learned and found reciting to my husband repeatedly over the last week?

1. Parents are very focused on the nutrition and health needs of their children, but are less likely to select healthy foods and habits for themselves.

Hello, guilt. It's you again. But really, I hadn't even thought about this being an issue with us, yet it is. Benjamin gets top quality, organic, and the best of the best. And us? I'm digging through the junk shelf (are we the only ones with one of those?) for chocolate and bits to get me to dinner.

2. Eating anything for breakfast is better than eating nothing.

I'm okay at this, but I guess it never really registered just how important it is to energize our bodies. The analogy of putting on ones' life vest before helping your child was relevant here and something the dietitians brought up. Without energizing ourselves, how can we be there for our kids with all the gusto they need us to have... you know... to chase them all over the house and clean up after them? Naturally, taking just a few minutes to prepare breakfast is one of the best choices we can make all day.

3. Divide out a specific allowance of sweets for the day and allow yourself that indulgence, but no more.

When I met with the registered dietitian one-on-one, she and I worked out this system for me. I never thought of myself as needing the self-control assistance, but in discussing my trends of hitting up the junk shelf, I realized I'm consuming more because I'm not giving myself an allotment for the day.

4. Eating a lump sum of sweets/fats during the day is the same as spacing those indulgences out.

I often thought that if I spaced out my chocolate intake, it would burn off easier and affect my body less. However, the registered dietitian explained that we have a specific set of calories and fat calories each day and no matter when those calories are consumed-- all at once or spaced, the body still has its limit. There go my excuses!

5. When we met with Harley Pasternak, he shared a story about a typical American lifestyle and how our jobs as on-the-go parents might actually be more healthy than the people who sit in a cube all day and attend a 1-hour intense cardio class at night.
That's me! In the blue shirt at the bottom! Right in front near Kathy from Bereaved and Blessed and Harley in the blue.
We tend to make concessions about food and working out. I worked out for a whole hour today! Surely I deserve that ice cream sundae. However, our abilities to lose weight and maintain healthy bodies are directly correlated to what goes into our mouths as caloric intake. 

6. When reading food labels, the 5/20 rule is a good one to follow. Having 5% (of daily value) or less in saturated fats, fats, cholesterol and sodium is best. Having 20% (of daily value) or more in vitamins, minerals, and fiber is what to aim for.

I'm a label-reader, but I admit to paying little attention to the daily value % on the right side of the label and pay more attention to the numbers themselves on the left. I should be paying more attention to the daily value percentages. 

7. Dark vegetables are not always better for you than light vegetables. Don't judge a vegetable by it's... er... cover.
Jewel-Osco's RD, Kim Kirchherr discussing label reading in the produce section
During our Jewel-Osco tour, we read lots of labels. We discovered a bag of prepared spinach had less vitamin c and fiber than a bag of prepared cabbage. This is just more fuel for my cabbage-loving fire. A delicious fact that I assumed was not the case based on color alone!

8. Cutting half the fat contributed by butters and oils in any recipe, especially sweets, will still result in a decadent and delicious product. {I just used this trick on brownies this week and you couldn't tell a difference!}

Especially desserts, the more indulgent, the better-- or so it appears. We were given the tip to sub light-flavored olive oil for butter in brownies and baked goods to result in a healthier and still equally delicious dessert. As a general rule, Kim Kirchherr shared that fats stored at room temperature that are liquids are typically better for the body than those fats that are solid at room temperature. This means most oils are better than choosing butter. I love butter and I love cooking, so this lesson was wise and well-accepted. 

9. When label-reading for sugar, remember that sugar is a carbohydrate. First look at the total carbohydrates, then the sugars. Compare this to the ingredients list for the real truth. Ingredients on the list below the nutrition chart tell the order in which items appear in the product. If sugar is high on the list, that's probably not a good sign and an indicator that lots of added sugars are to blame for the increase in carbohydrates. Natural carbohydrates are good, added ones are not as good.

I don't pay a lot of attention to sugar, but I'm now putting this on my list to be more aware. I never thought to consider sugar as a carbohydrate, although I knew sugar was in the same family. Carbohydrates to me were always okay, but sugars were always bad. If the fats were low, and vitamins were high, I would pay little attention to sugars. I'm making it a goal to pay closer attention to all parts of the labels for foods we consume.

10. Coca-Cola brought a bunch of us mom-bloggers together for this workshop because they believe in a balanced lifestyle and being transparent in their efforts to help us manage those goals we set for our families.

Obesity is an issue. Coca-Cola acknowledges that and is participating in educating its consumers about making healthy choices. All their products are labeled properly. They financially support parks and recreation facilities in cities, Chicago being one of them. They strive to empower women and inform them, knowing mothers are often the decision-makers for families and select what their children and family consume. They offer a variety of products in many sizes for us to choose what works best for our consumption. As all things in life, moderation and quantity control are important to live a complete, balanced life. I wrote that, I promise. :)
Chopping Block Cooking School - The Coca-Cola mom-blogger crew
I had a blast. I still can't stop babbling about how exciting it was to attend this event and get re-energized to make healthier choices for my family. A huge thank-you goes out to Coca-Cola for hosting an event that helps motivate families to plan out better choices and prioritize balanced-living decisions. It's an honor to share the fun and facts I've learned. 

Benjamin waited patiently for his mama and was happy to explore the city with his dad while I had some much-needed rejuvenation and healthy lifestyle planning time. He even managed to take advantage of the hotel bathtub!
Hi, Mom. Hope you learned good stuff about balanced living!
Photo credit for all photos used in this post: The Coca-Cola Company & Bruce Powell Photography

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chi-Town Coca-Cola Blogger Event

I'm not paid to write this. I just want to because I have so many photos from our adventures. My what I learned post will be tomorrow, but currently, I'll just overshare a bunch of photos because I am convinced everyone wants to see them.

And if you don't want to see pictures of me, at least you'll be able to stare at photos of Harley Pasternak and swoon. You're welcome. I may not be Jessica Simpson or Megan Fox, but I did work out with him and it was awesome.

We had a jam packed schedule, as you can see below. I tried to put everything in the order in which we did things-- presentations by dietitians, socializing, one-on-one with dieticians & personal trainers, vision board creations, workout with Harley Pasternak, dinner, Jewel-Osco visit & cooking at The Chopping Block. More info to come tomorrow... but until then...

I'll throw in a few facts along the way... starting with:

Fact 1: This was my first blogger conference of any kind.
Fact 2: I probably drank 20 bottles of Smart Water during the 1.5 days.
Fact 3: I'm not a fan of microphones. Also, why does it look like I have a lazy eye in the below photo?
Fact 4: My mom was the one who initially got me drinking Diet Coke.
Fact 5: I didn't have fish (see sandwich below) until I was well into adulthood. Real fish, not fishsticks, people.
Fact 6: Garrett's Popcorn is legit. When in Chicago, you must eat Garrett's.
Fact 7: This was our first time staying in a hotel in downtown Chicago. The husband & B-man came along for the hotel room & downtown exploring. Also, breastfeeding is challenging if I'm not near B... so they had to come.
Fact 8: This hotel had the best bathroom ever. Large enough to fit 3 Pack 'n' Plays! 
Fact 9: Hotels with large bathrooms or separate rooms are crucial for B to have a separate area to sleep & nap. Otherwise you resort to ultra dark rooms with no ability to watch TV, use the phone, or speak. Sometimes naps can go 2+ hours! That's a long time to sit still in silence.
Fact 10: Harley Pasternak might be attractive. He's also the best-selling author of the 5-Factor Diet.
Fact 11: My husband is also very attractive. #husbandreadstheblog
Fact 12: Boka in Lincoln Park is delicious.
Fact 13: Mom-bloggers can be pretty fun to hang out with.
Fact 14: I had no idea all these bloggers would have business cards. I did not have business cards.
Fact 15: I love prosecco.
Fact 16: That peanut butter ice cream with flourless chocolate cake was crazy-good.
Fact 17: Peanut butter ice cream? Always delicious.
Fact 17: This was the nicest Jewel-Osco I'd ever been to. For those in California, that's Albertson's.
Fact 18: I love grocery shopping. Way more than shopping for clothes.
photo credit bottom left: Kari @ A Grace-Full Life
Fact 19: This was my first cooking school lesson.
Fact 20: While loads of fun, I already knew how to prepare all of what we made... stuffed chicken, haricot vert, fingerling potatoes, cheesecake bites, hummus. But, it was still loads of fun because I love to cook!
Fact 21: That cheese tray? Off the hook.
Fact 22: I hate side-profile shots. But who doesn't?
Fact 23: My friend Solange calls food that should taste amazing but doesn't, bad cheesecake. Like, dessert that isn't worth the calories because it just doesn't taste good enough? Bad cheesecake. We use her terminology now. :)
Fact 24: I was happily the first in line to get food. I learned long ago that as a vegetarian, you eat about half of what others do... so you have to get on the ball quick and load that plate up before it's gone.
Fact 25: We didn't run out of food. In fact, there was far too much of it all. Even with me going back for seconds.
Fact 26: I loved just about every minute of this amazing conference. I might go to the BlogHer blogging conference this year. Any other Chicagoans interested in meeting up there? I'll probably get the expo-only pass, as I would miss B and the husband way too much if I stayed nights as well.

Photo credit for almost all photos above: Coca-Cola & Bruce Powell Photography
Amazing, right? I still can't believe I was invited. It was an absolute blast. Thanks, Coca-Cola!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Thirty. It's Just a Number. Right? RIGHT?

How about a post that should've happened two months ago but is just coming around now?

Hey, better late than never.

I turned the big ol' dirty thirty on October 10th while in Canada. The husband asked what I wanted to do for my 30th, and I told him I wanted a road trip. And that's what I got! I celebrated that evening with one of my blogger BFFs in Toronto as we dined at a Thai joint while trying to wrangle our littles. Correction, I was wrangling my little as she and her daughter sat there daintily eating their meal and being overall showoffs. My kid was the one screaming and wanting nothing to do with being in my arms. Or a highchair. Or in that restaurant.

But anyway. Details.

When I returned home, some friends threw me a surprise shindig. They know just the gal I am and knew I wouldn't want a big! huge! surprise! party! but one that included wine and chocolate with a fewer number of people.

Obviously. Champagne and chocolate for president. Like really.

I was picked up and taken to an undisclosed location (my friend Liz's house) by a few girlfriends and we proceeded to indulge the night away with a very creative Suburban Cupcake Tour.

You see, a couple years ago, I saw a Group.on for this cupcake tour downtown and was determined to make that happen. But, I wanted to do it on the cheap and get some girlfriends to head downtown with me and walk some of those fabulous bakeries and share cupcakes while walking off the calories and enjoying the gorgeous scenery that is downtown Chicago.

But, weather sucks and it never happened.

Instead, they made my dream a reality in the form of a suburban tour, with cupcakes from bakeries in our area! Right down to the voting papers, we got down to business eating cupcakes and sharing our favorites all while sipping on delicious vino and getting short massages in the other room by a local masseuse who came just for us. Royalty. It was my kind of birthday.
le menu
Rating the delicious cakes
Made by Jenny... these were yummy!
Local bakery with fun Halloween sprinkles
I think that one in front was the winner. White/Black cupcake. So divine.
It's possible that I visit this bakery a lot. It's possible.
Made by Kim... also amazing. She knows how to bake vegan-- just add more chocolate chips!
Super decadent
Oh happy day.
Some of the people... some of the cupcakes
Kim & Jenny had to leave before photos... but here is some of the crew.
I make it my personal duty to ruin at least one photo in a bunch... that's what happens when I'm forced to take too many!
Danielle will appreciate these last two photos.
I have no idea what they're doing.
You're welcome, Danielle. ;)
I was just minding my own business while showing off my socks (see left bottom). Still don't know what they were doing.
One of my friends above also turned 30 recently, and we took her to a new, fancy bowling, bocce, and cocktails joint in a nearby suburb. Same friends, different party.
Firepit after bowling
Creepster eyes while eating dessert

Happy Birthday to us!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Little Foodie

One of my friends recently emailed asking about what I've been feeding B lately. It seems to change like the wind as he seems to be growing like a weed. He managed to start crawling (no army, folks), clapping, pulling up, and talking massive amounts all in the course of 10 days.

The answer to the food question is, whatever is healthy that I can get down his throat. He feeds himself lately and his pincer grasp is pretty stellar, so that's helpful. However, now that he feeds himself, he's less inclined to allow us to feed him which means less is making it down the hatch. I have definitely been found on any given weekday feeding B as he's crawling across the floor or pulling himself up somewhere. Calories in are most important for me sometimes. Yes, I know kids won't starve and they'll let you know when they're hungry, but sometimes I want him to have some kind of a schedule to eat at a specific time. I may also be a little sensitive about having a small fry still. He's up at the 25th percentile now according to those stupid CDC charts, but it doesn't mean my mom ego hasn't been bruised plenty.


If we want B to eat something off a spoon that we feed him, he needs some distractions. We often give him his own spoon while we attempt to use our spoon to feed the calories. He also loves chewing on straws and those allow us to shove more food in his mouth because they take up less real estate. I also alternate finger foods for him and a spoonful of what we're feeding him next. For example, we'd give him a sweet potato piece and then shovel in some pea soup between bites. We're faster than him, still, but it's all about trickery in our house. It's a messy process of feeding, but sometimes we just have to get the job done.

Here are some of the things we spoon fed him recently: split pea soup, peas, beans, rice, meat bites (small!), lentils, lentil soup, quinoa (usually mixed with a binding agent like pureed carrots), scrambled eggs, avocado, oatmeal, hummus...

He eats basically everything we eat, so these lists are in no way comprehensive, but more because I'm speaking on lately and what I have from memory to work with.

{Finger Food Meals + what to do with leftover purees?}

He's done with purees. But, funny thing. We have plenty I'm still working through from our freezer, but I've found some creative ways to use them in solid foods he can feed himself.

  • I make pancakes a lot for breakfast because they're easy for him to feed himself and I can also eat some! I can also hide a lot of pureed goodness in them that he wouldn't normally allow me to feed him with a spoon easily. Some recent concoctions:

Avocado pancakes: (about 1 cup pancake mix prepared + 1/2 avocado)
Sweet potato, spinach & cinnamon pancakes: (2 cup prepared pancake mix + 5 cubes sweet potato + 2 very small cubes spinach + cinnamon)

Batch of sweet potato/spinach cakes this morning - lighting is poor-- working off the flourescent hood lighting. Eek!
I often make a batch and have breakfast ready for a couple days. I even feed them for a quick lunch sometimes. He can feed himself and it's not super messy. I made a batch of 10 sweet potato/spinach pancakes this morning and froze them. Now I can pull one out each morning for his breakfast.

  • I also use the purees in his oatmeal. He loves oatmeal with mix-ins and also really loves oatmeal with banana and cinnamon. I mean, who doesn't?
  • I even took a spinach cube from the freezer last night and stuck it in our spaghetti sauce. We all benefited from that little trickery and I didn't even have to taste it! {Spinach is one of those things I eat because I know it's good for me-- yay leafy greens-- but not because I find it particularly delicious.} This sneaky mom move might continue on well into adolescence as I have a sneaking suspicion that spinach or vegetables in general won't be on the top 10 list of things teenagers like to eat.
  • I make quesadillas often with squash & spinach purees, but I'm having a hard time cutting them where the contents don't completely escape. I use a pizza cutter and that works well, but it's not perfect. Some quesadilla contents: a small amount of cheese as a binder, hummus, smashed peas, beans, shredded chicken, spinach... basically whatever I can get in there!
  • Smoothies - he likes these, but doesn't drink them super fast, so I usually only entertain the idea when I'm making one for myself. All the fruit purees work well. I suppose spinach would... but I detest the idea of ruining my perfectly delicious smoothie by adding that beast in there.

{Finger Food Snacks in between meals}

As a snack, B usually gets a number of things to feed himself: sweet potato baked fries, Cheerios, puffs, and these things that we've recently started buying from our produce aisle. He's had graham crackers and obviously loves those, too. To feed him hummus, I sometimes stick it on the end of a carrot and he shoves it in his mouth. He won't eat the carrot, but the hummus is eaten! Trickster, I know.


Finally, the hardware. We use some Ikea dishes, nothing exciting there. But the utensils and his sippy cup?

Utensil set: Boon Adaptable Utensils (will be able to feed himself with soon!)
Spoon: mOmma spoon (sits up on its own and fun to chew on)
Sippy cup favorite: Playtex First Gripper Trainer (still loving this one!)

{Help: Question for YOU}

Now I have a question for all of you. We're planning to transition B to milk around a year and we'd like to know what you're giving your kiddos. Our pediatrician recommended we give B whatever we drink (none). She said whole milk is out and skim, 1% or 2% is in. I'd want it to have some fat content, but I don't think whole milk is necessary for him. Also, I'd love to have the milk to use in recipes, and I cannot bring myself to use whole milk. What about the rest of you? What have you been using or plan to use?

I'm also genuinely nervous about how we're going to handle milk in the sippy cup. What happens when I'm done breastfeeding and he wants milk at 5 a.m.? How does that work? #nervous

Friday, December 14, 2012

Back to Decking the Halls

Well, it's back. The Christmas crap decor. It hasn't been seen since two years ago and if Benjamin weren't here, it'd probably still be collecting cobwebs. But, we are somewhat happy to oblige because we want him to have good memories. It's just hard because we decorated our home literally hours before I delivered Andrew. So needless to say, I re-live that day over and over in my head and it's not as pretty as our Christmas-music-blaring-and-decorating-party we were having thinking our son would be coming home just days later to see the decor himself. Hopefully I can make this a tad less depressing of a post. Meh.

Here's what Christmas looks like from the front of our abode.

This photo. With great deliberation, we decided Andrew's stocking (you know, the one we bought hours before he died, of course) would hang for him, but near his urn. I decided this year to place the cards people sent about him on his birthday inside the stocking. In future years, I don't anticipate many at all, so maybe that will be where the holiday cards go. I love the idea of Andrew's stocking carrying the love people send for our family. He's part. 
Tree Admiring
We have colored mini lights. Growing up, Ray had big, colored bulb lights. We also did, but the majority of my childhood was spent with mini white lights. Our compromise? Mini colored lights. I also think decorations on trees are for children and Benjamin deserves the colorful magic.
Watching Dad hang the wreaths on the doors.
 Making it his goal to suck on every. single. ornament. before it went on the tree.
Part of the mantle. The two stockings on the left are our newlywed stockings. The one on the right is actually one of three. I bought three stockings in 2010, two were green and one was red-- Andrew had the red. We were to be a family of three and he was to be born very soon. We had those three stockings hanging and the newlywed ones were being retired that year. I thought. Now Benjamin is here and we still think Andrew deserves his red stocking. And Benjamin needed one, so he received one of the green ones. If we have another kid, they'll get the other green one. If we're lucky. I sort of like Andrew having a special red one. It made us too sad to have his stocking on the mantle for it to remain empty each year, but it will hang still.
More fun decor. The tree is Pottery Barn and I bought it back in college. The snowman is a thrift purchase, and the 3 Santas are a gift from our tutor in Germany.
Our new Christmas addition of Andrew's name framed from Carly & African man dressed as Santa. I bought his hat and beard at Target a few years back. They're actually for dogs. He's holding a basket of Christmas cards we've received so far.
Maasai Elder African Santa
Our Christmas Pyramid. It's our big purchase from Germany.
Plate, ready for cookies for Santa. Dad is a cookie-monger. Cookies will be made.
The advent I researched and researched and bought and had sent to my in-laws house while we were living in Germany. I wanted it that bad. You know, because my kids would love it. Now, days 1-5 are reserved for Andrew and we'll probably start on December 8 as well. Random tidbit: I remember talking with my parents about how I wished Andrew wouldn't be born on December 7, because that's Pearl Harbor Day and that would be sad. Let's just say we'll be spending Days 1-7 of December in remembrance. We'll re-convene with the whole advent business beginning on the 8th-- when we can turn the house around.
We were discussing Christmas decor the other day. I remember vividly sobbing on the couch and staring at the lit Christmas tree in the corner. The stockings (three-- 2 green, 1 red) hanging and all the other decor perfectly out. We wanted to take pictures in front of the tree with Andrew when he arrived home. But instead, I sat there staring at the tree in shock. You know it's shock when you don't think to strip all of the ornaments off and ditch the tree out the door. As I look back, I had no idea what to do or how to react. We were in such disbelief that we were still in the sad and confused state, not angry. I don't remember when we put the decor away that year, but it's still surprising to me that we didn't rid the house of all the happy objects immediately. I guess we were too preoccupied with sobbing and trying to rid ourselves of the baby gear that was intermingled with the red and green.

To all those families who lost their children today, I'm beyond sad. I burst into tears a number of times listening to the media depict the day's events. This world is such a dark and evil place at times. It saddens me greatly to know so many families have joined such heartbreak.