Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review: Here I Go Again

Wow. Here I Go Again was not what I expected. It's clear Jen Lancaster has enough wit and hilarity to keep her audience laughing... and laughing I did. I expected the book to be more mature considering the age of the main character in her late 30's, but I was mildly surprised by her character flaws that reminded me of an adult version of Mean Girls.

I nearly got sweaty palms reading about her high school experiences and those whose lives were ruined by her snarky comments. I felt a little like some of those characters and it brought me back to middle school when I left school crying because girls. are. mean. In some ways, Jen Lancaster knew this and I was vindicated by the transformation in the lead character as the story progressed. She brings amusement with her incredible pop-culture wit that even had me brushing up on my latest (and past) pop stars and shorthand for phrases tweens use everyday. KWIM?

Definitely a light read and funny at that. While not my typical chosen genre, it did give me something to laugh about after my not-so-fun Shred workout for the last couple weeks each night before bed. I'm not sure it challenged the brain cells much, but it definitely left me chuckling and desperately wanting to know how it all pans out for the snarky teenager, I mean, full grown woman. Good poolside read for sure.

I received a free book and was compensated for this BlogHer Club book review, but all opinions expressed are my own. If you'd like to check out discussions on BlogHer about the book, go here. I'll be discussing there. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Foodie Resolution Week #5 of 52: Vegetable Tamale Pie

I like polenta. I just don't love it. But I still continue to try and try to make the perfect polenta recipe that just knocks my socks off. This one wasn't it.

It was good, but not amazing. I'd eat it again, but... you know.

But in true not-gonna-waste-food-because-there-are-starving-kids-in-Africa Brandy style, I will finish the rest of that bag of polenta. Now send me your recipes. I need inspiration. And here was dinner tonight:
I used some of the sprouted pintos I'd frozen from a couple weeks ago in the recipe. Benjamin's was made without cheese because we only had pepper jack and he doesn't appear to love cheese just yet. That'll change. We all know.

Some additions/changes I made:
  • Added diced poblanos & green bell pepper
  • Didn't have canned tomatoes, so I used 3 small roma tomatoes instead
  • Pepper Jack cheese only
  • Added crushed tortilla chips because I thought it needed a crunch {and I liked it}
  • Instead of sour cream, I used about 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt + a touch of taco seasoning & finely diced cilantro. I think it would've been better with pureed cilantro, but it was definitely good and considerably healthier than sour cream. 
I had leftover filling that I'll use in enchiladas at some point. I froze the filling to use later. This recipe was done entirely while either holding a little boy or watching him whine at my feet. 

There was a cute point where I was holding him while the polenta was low boiling and making bubbles on the stove that sounded a little like a clucking sound. He noticed the sound, smiled, chuckled a bit and then started to cluck to emulate the noise he was hearing and seeing in the pot! Boy is it fun watching him grow and develop. 

Next week's recipe will be for Super Bowl Sunday and I'm pretty excited about making it. Until next week.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Weekend Recap

It's over.

Man, why does it have to be over?

I guess the only thing good about it being over is that we are one day further in the dreaded Shred and one day closer to the end. Today actually delivered temperatures well above freezing and a nice, long walk with the jogger. And Mondays? Means swim days and Chipotle for dinner. It's sort of our Monday tradition. At least for the next three until they end.

This weekend, we were social and fun and those people who actually have adult conversation while dressed nicely and sipping libations. More weekend thoughts and facts:
  • Ray tried haggis for the first time ever. And liked it enough to eat a decent portion.
  • We brought B to our friends' house and put him down to sleep in their bedroom. When we left four hours later, he transferred just fine into his crib (until he woke 3 hours later for milk). 
  • I forgot to breastfeed many times this weekend. B is just such a mover now and when he does feed, he's so distracted and ready to get up and move about his toys. I don't think I'll be feeding much past a year.
  • We sipped both Johnny Walker Blue Label & Glenmorangie Signet and had fun doing it.
  • Ate traditional Scottish food at our first Burns Supper, served by our new neighborhood friends. 
  • Was reminded of my Scottish roommates I lived with for about 4 years before marrying.
  • Went to both Whole Foods & Costco and left with tofu from both places {B loves his tofu}.
  • Consumed far too many Costco samples.
  • B was finally allowed in the fridge for a full inspection. He has been bolting across the floor every time I open it for anything ever since he learned to crawl. Every day, I shut him out with fury. This weekend, we turned it off for a few and let him have at it. He took out avocado because he loves his avocado.
  • Bought a new basket for our living room from World Market. Those sneaky punks sent us a 49% off coupon and wouldn't allow us to use on the basket, but bought it anyway. They won at their own game. We placed it on the right side of the TV. The basket on left side of the console is from Target.
  • Put B in his first pair of solid shoes and he tried desperately to shake them off. Keens, naturally. We're kind of hippies. He still doesn't quite fill out a size 4. Shrimp baby.
  • Watched my husband be blindfolded and hit a man wearing a kilt with a newspaper (also see notes about Johnny Walker, Glenmorangie & Scottish dinner). Fun fact: my former roommate wore a kilt to our wedding.
  • Made a reservation to take B to hibachi this week.
  • Sat on Molly's couch at Costco.
So much more, of course. Photos from some of the above vignettes:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Foodie Resolution Week #4 of 52: BBQ Salad

This recipe was adapted from two different recipes I found. Things are pretty pathetic around here, you guys. My body wasn't made to handle the heart of winter where wind chills are below zero. I'm a wuss. I'm not trying to be strong. As a result, the thought of putting Benjamin in his snowsuit and driving 1.5 miles to the grocery store is literally a daunting task. Hence the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in our house... which makes this whole goal of trying a new recipe each week challenging.

Enough complaining. I made it happen. I went out today in the snow and bought vegetables. Let's just not talk about my carbon footprint on those veggies because I just know they were not being grown in the Arctic where I live here in the Midwest.
Lowdown: The recipe I wanted to make was a "healthy" chicken taco salad. I don't know how healthy the salad was with mayonnaise as a dressing component, but anyway. Greek yogurt has changed my world. I won't buy sour cream anymore and love the extra protein Greek yogurt has. It's such a secret superfood. I selected a dressing from another salad I'd been meaning to try from Iowa Girl Eats instead. She uses the dressing to top her BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad.

My modifications:

  • Spinach and finely shredded cabbage instead of iceberg lettuce. Spinach and cabbage are super high in nutrients and iceberg isn't nearly as much bang for your buck. I love the crunch of cabbage that sort of emulates what you love about iceberg. Speaking of bucks... why on earth is iceberg so expensive in Chicago? Absurd. Cabbage and spinach are pennies compared. And better.
  • Added roasted poblano in with my roasted corn. I grilled both on my stovetop reversible griddle pan. I also used my new olive oil sprayer and it worked great!
  • Different dressing: 1/3 cup Greek yogurt + 1/3 cup BBQ sauce coated a large glass bowl of salad perfectly without being too soggy.
Inspirations here and here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Meeting New Friends

Two years ago, I imagined meeting new friends would forever go something like this:

"Hi, my name is Brandy and I have a dead baby. Would you like to be my friend?"

...Except, things aren't quite going like that.

I used to want every single person I encountered to be very, very aware that I was in mourning and have a baby which therefore makes me a parent and you better not think otherwise because I will hit you with the grief train. Luckily, Benjamin really does prove I'm a mother now. In the flesh as I wipe his snot and change his stinky diapers. Will I stand firm and tell people that Andrew made me a mother first? Forever. In many ways, Benjamin makes it easier to speak up about his big brother.

There isn't really a doubt that Benjamin saved my life. When I say I need him, I'm not really just kidding around.

I'd be in a very dark place without him here and I'd definitely, definitely not have put meet new friends on my year's resolutions list {which, by the way, are going great. We're on Day 11 of the Shred and I want to kill Jillian Michaels and yes... my husband doing the Shred with me is the only reason I am still committed}.

You know what? We met new friends. And, we've already had two playdates and are going to a dinner they're hosting at their house this weekend where we might meet even more friends. We've talked about Andrew and told them we lost him at full term and they were apologetic and sweet. Yet, that is not the cornerstone of our friendship and I'm somewhat okay with that.

How do you meet new friends {who haven't lost a baby} after you've lost a baby?

I mean, we can't have expectations for them to remember our baby, because to them, they have no history of  Andrew. And really, we're friends because we happen to have children the same age and a bit more in common. But babyloss? That's not one of them.

Benjamin deserves his own friends and for me to step out of my comfort zone to meet others that will engage and enrich his life. This is the balance of not wanting him to live in Andrew's shadow, but to encourage his individual growth and social awareness. It's challenging though, because no matter how hard I try, the person I was before Andrew has a really hard time being present in relationships now. Yet, I do enjoy escaping the beast of my babyloss mom status for just a bit. It's a skin I can't take off, but maybe cover for bits of time.

This territory is all new for us. We're happy-ish again. Always mourning and frankly bitter at those who aren't still at 2 years because how can you not be? But, we're also living that whole picket-fence life of the house and the kid and definitely not the minivan, except, grief is still very much alive. We're still sad we'll never see out the path we thought would be ours just over two years ago.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Jane's Event: Chicago

It's no surprise that blogging has been such an outlet for us. Despite myself being the only blogger in the family, my husband reads and is able to release some of his grief through the words I write. The comments I receive from you wonderful followers have helped us both through some very rough times. It's important to know others are grieving with us, listening, mourning, and loving us. This blog has also connected me to others who have lost their children and I have been able to support them with words and love. I receive emails frequently from some loss parents who just need to hash things out with someone who understands their grief journey.

Enter, Berkley. She lives in Chicago and contacted me through this blog for support nearly a year ago after losing her daughter on January 25, 2012. She wanted to share her daughter's life with me as she knew I'd understand her heartbreak and also celebrate her life. I wouldn't feel sorry for her, but empathize and encourage. I hope that I can do that for every babyloss friend who comes my way.

Berkley sent me an email about an event being held in Chicago on January 26, 2013 in memory of her daughter. On the website she created for her daughter, she states the mission of their fundraising event:

Established in loving memory of our baby daughter Jane, the Jane B. Wellstein Memorial Fund provides philanthropic support to hospitals and organizations that offer comfort, supportive care services, and other essential resources to parents and families who have experienced an infant loss. 

Berkley wrote me an email describing their efforts to build Jane's Room to help other families who may find themselves enduring child loss.

From the day we came home from the hospital without our little girl, we knew that we wanted to give back, give to others that would have to unfortunately travel this same horrible road, and give to the hospital that provided us with so much care and strength at a seemingly impossible time.

Working with the hospital where I delivered Jane (Northwestern's Prentice), we had realized that it was necessary to have a waiting room designated for grieving families, as my husband and our families had to wait at certain times during my labor and delivery in the “normal” waiting room surrounded by celebrating and happy families. This grieving waiting room is called Jane's Room and will be dedicated on her first birthday, January 25. We are raising money to start more of these in the Chicago area hospitals as well as hopefully other hospitals throughout the country. 

If you're a Chicagoan who might be interested in purchasing tickets to an event to benefit other loss families in the name of Jane, please find more information here. All are encouraged to attend-- you do not need to be a loss parent to participate and celebrate Jane's life and the wonderful efforts her parents are doing in her honor.

*The family did not ask me to blog... I'm doing it because I love to support loss families. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Foodie Resolution Week #3 of 52: Sprouted Pinto Beans

This might go down on the record as longest recipe creation ever. For me anyway. I started this on Saturday afternoon around 1 p.m. and finally sat down to eat on Tuesday evening. I highly doubt I'll be recreating these again. I see crockpot refried beans in my future. My full intention was to make refried beans out of the sprouted pintos using coconut oil, onion, fresh garlic, cumin, chili powder, paprika, salt & pepper. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to really devote to doing it properly and just ended up eating them slightly smashed with spices unmeasured. I think I was just over it by then, honestly. If you think baking your own bread is too demanding, sprouting pintos is definitely not for you.

Why sprout beans? They're said to have better digestive qualities, increase protein, essential fatty acids and vitamins and minerals. It turns something good for you into something better. I admit to being a smidge granola, so this seemed like a fun little science experiment, while also boosting the good stuff in a food I eat so frequently.

Lowdown: The process included soaking overnight for 10-12 hours, then draining and placing in a warm place (oven with the light on) for a few days. They can sprout in 1 day or take up to 3 days. Each day, you rinse and drain them 3 times and put them back. Once they are sprouted, you cook them on the stove covered with about 1 inch of water over the top for about an hour, until they're soft. At this point, you freeze, eat, or smash them yourself and add the additional ingredients. I froze the equivalent of 4 cans of cooked pintos to eat at a later date/turn into refried beans.

The process was just too long. The pintos smell like they are fermenting and I found that totally unappealing. Two days of waiting for beans to be ready is really too long for me. And to make matters worse? I put the lid on my dutch oven during cooking and didn't leave an air vent... went upstairs to read books with B and my entire stove was covered in yucky bean water. I was definitely over it at this point.

Anyone else ever sprouted beans? What was your experience? Where did I go wrong? 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Benjamin's Latest Moves

This boy will be one next month. Icannotbelieveit.

We're currently in the planning stage of a first birthday party (and baptism!) and my heart skips a beat just typing that. I'm so elated to be planning a celebratory party for one of my sons. My goodness gracious, hooray. I'll post all the little details of the B-man's party when I get around to it. I also owe you all a basement remodel post, but I can't take photos right now because we just started The Shred yesterday (um, ouch) and our basement has yoga mats strewn and a television and DVD played propped on the ping pong table and I don't feel like moving it all for fancy pictures. To come... sometime in 2013. Hah.

Videos of B? Okay, sure. 

1. This one is of B crawling over and then pulling up on a very wobbly piece of play equipment. We still have it out because B likes to crawl over and suck on play with the hanging toys. He sits down quickly after standing, but he's been known to stand for awhile. And sometimes... sometimes he just falls when he tries. This one was a success. I measure those by no tears. 

2. B is not a good transfer kid. I was talking with my friend Kristi about this the other day, describing that if B falls asleep on the way home before a nap, he'll be wide awake when we get home and impossible to get back to sleep. In order to avoid this, I often sit in the back seat and distract, feed him puffs, sing, giggle... whatever. The goal is to get him home awake. This translates to this video because B fell asleep on a walk recently and I tried so hard to keep him awake by handing him a stick full grown tree to hold to keep him distracted and entertained. Didn't work. He fell asleep holding a stick.

3. Requested video from my Instagram friends, but B wasn't clapping when I captured it. He did clap, though. He did eat about 30 noodles in a matter of 5 minutes. It was insane. We're reaching a new level of feeding issues. He will almost only allow for feeding himself and I have to use major trickery to get food into his mouth via spoon that he'll allow to stay in his mouth after the spoon is removed. He's had pasta many times before, but this was spinach fusilli and he just loved it. 

4. Stairs. As soon as he started crawling proficiently past the army stage, he was on the move straight up the stairs. He now crawls while Skyping with both sets of grandparents and anytime he breaks through the double doors to our family room. He's sneaky and knows it. He'll climb really fast away from you. This one is a slower crawl behind him, but still fun to see his mad skills.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Road Trips with Le Bebe: Travel Series Part III

{Domestic} Flying with Le Bebe: Travel Series Part I 
{International} Flying with Le Bebe: Travel Series Part II 

Here it is. The final post to the series I meant to complete within a couple weeks. It's only dragged out a few months, but who's counting? I feel like this one should be a ton shorter because most of us with small kids have already taken some kind of driving trip and know what works for them. I'll just post some tips of things we've done on our multiple 8+ hours road trips with the B-man.

Things to pack the car with:
  • You're inevitably going to pack way too much. You'll give yourself concessions like, we'll have enough space, or but what if we need it? Listen. You're driving. There will be stores. You don't have to pack as light as you would on a plane trip, but remember that you will be schlepping all the extra shirts you packed just in case up to that hotel room. And, you'll be unpacking it. The worst part.
  • Water. I know that my own advice of saying there will be stores along the way sounds like it contradicts this, but water is necessary because, who wants to stop when the baby is finally asleep after crying just because you're thirsty? And to risk a wakeup? 
  • Snacks. For you and the nugget. We pack granola bars, chocolate (obviously) and trail mix for ourselves. Benjamin takes the same snacks as he does for plane rides: Goldfish, puffs, squeeze packs, Cheerios... typical kid snack fare.
  • Toys. We have a random toy hanging from the roof handle thing for B to pull on whenever he wants and toys strewn everywhere. I have a friend who plans before trips to take away some toys her son already owns a couple weeks before the trip so he can be reunited with them on the road trip. Kind of clever. For somewhat older kids, I saw a fun idea on Pinterest to create paper bags for kids to open each hour with random activities they are required to do. Sort of like a car obstacle course or scavenger hunt. Growing up, my parents bought us tackle boxes (like for fishing) and filled them with fun snacks, coloring books, word games, etc. This was before the hand-held video games and Walkman came out. Yes, I said Walkman. Don't act like you didn't have one.
  • Not so much packing, but wearing. Wear comfy clothes. I usually put B in a one-piece outfit or feet pajamas so he's nice and cozy and nothing is pushing on his belly like elastic from pants.
During your car ride:

  • Logically, you should leave around a normal naptime, if possible. It always helps that B is good and tired before we leave.
  • Make sure there was play time before the car ride begins. Transferring a kid from their bed to a carseat with no wiggle room is a recipe for disaster!
  • If older, talk with your kids. Make traveling a game and make it fun. Teach them how to read maps and about the places you're driving through. Play math games aloud. One of my favorites from teaching that I would often use if we were standing in line waiting for something (cafeteria, assembly, etc.) was to start with a number and continue from there. Ex: Start with the number of eggs in a dozen. Subtract the number of feet you have. Add the number of people in the car... etc.)
  • But since most of us aren't dealing with older kids, let's just hope they sleep. Hah. We play music and sing with B and I often sit back with him and play with him-- counting, singing, clapping, etc.
  • Minimize the stops for gas, snacks, etc. Plan ahead with a full tank of gas and all you could need in the snack department. 
  • With that said, take a long lunch break, depending on your distance. We usually spend at least 1.5 hours at lunch allowing B to roam a bit, stretch out, eat, bathroom breaks for us, etc. 
  • If your child is still in an infant carseat/carrier and you want them to sleep, I've found that covering their carseat with a breathable blanket (and leaving breathing room, too) can get them to fall asleep because there is little/no stimulation.
Okay, that's all I've got. I'm sure there's more, but for the most part, I think we are all in a groove with traveling with our kids and knowing their personal needs. B is much happier being able to see out in his convertible carseat than he was in the infant carrier, so we've been smooth sailing for awhile now. You may not believe it, but he was an absolute GEM driving eight hours straight from both Pittsburgh and Toronto in October and November. 

I liked writing these because it's a log of how we traveled with Benjamin and I think it will be fun to read back on as the years progress out of babyhood. 

Anyone else have any fun tips? We're always off somewhere, so we could use your ideas, too!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Foodie Resolution Week #2 of 52: A Smörgåsbord of Deliciousness

This week was nuts. I mayyyyyybe went a little crazy in the kitchen getting all excited about my new foodie challenge. I possibly neglected my husband and kid on Sunday because I was in the kitchen for three hours straight. It could've happened. From the pictures below, I'm sure it will be proof enough that I should've cut out something and spent more time with the boys...

Skin-on, Stovetop Applesauce
Lowdown: Used organic apples, so decided to wash well and leave the skin on. Turned out perfect. Except the part where I put them in my Blendtec to make sure those skins were pureed enough and pressed the pulse button one too many times, ending in quite the scene on my cabinets. 3lbs of organic apples + 1 spoonful of cinnamon + 1/2 cup water  + 30ish minutes on low heat = about 2 quarts of applesauce
 Repeat Recipe: Pretzel Rolls (so good that it's worth sharing)
Lowdown: These are phenomenal. I made them a couple weeks back and those who follow me on Instagram know all about them, but if you don't, these might be new to share. I've made pretzel bites before and we almost ate every single one while they were still warm. So, I thought I'd try my hand at pretzel buns because we love them just the same. And of course I decided to skip the egg wash on top (ick) and instead add butter (yum) so they'd taste like Auntie Anne's. I mean... why not?
 Sweet Potato Cakes
Lowdown: Pinterest says I pinned these 44 weeks ago. It's about time I get around to them. They were more labor intensive than I like for something that seems so simple, so I probably will just stick to my sweet potatoes as fries from now on. Also, this calls for pan frying them in lots of oil/butter. I wasn't down with that, so mine came out still soft with more fat. Meh. Taste was great. I didn't add sour cream to the top or the black bean salsa, but instead added the black bean salsa to the inside by adding cilantro, black beans, red onion, and 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce to the mix. Aren't sweet potatoes ugly? Finished product wasn't photographed, but they are pretty tasty.
 Grilled Romaine Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Lowdown: We had friends over for a raclette dinner and started the dinner off with a grilled romaine salad with homemade balsamic vinegar & shaved parmesan. The picture is terrible, but I loved it! It also looks super fancy on a plate and so simple to throw together. I'll definitely be making this again.
More randomness in the photo below: 
  • I finally bit the bullet and bought a big bag of pinto beans. I do believe next week's recipe (hopefully just one!) will be homemade refried beans. And no, Alison, I cannot and will not use bacon fat {Nic told me... gross me out!}. 
  • My mom recommended this English cheddar with caramelized onion and we used it with our raclette in addition to the traditional raclette cheese (also from TJ's, seasonal). I liked it, but I'm not a huge English cheddar fan. The onion is delicious though! 
  • My first ever can of chipotle peppers in adobo below... and what I did with the extra! Excited to have that in the freezer to use in recipes to come. Anyone use these in their cooking? What do you put them in?
 Basic, No-Knead Artisan Bread
Lowdown: Favorite. Love. OMG. 
I grabbed my big ol' bag of Costco Active Dry Yeast (um, cheapest place ever to buy yeast, people!) out of my freezer and mixed the 4 required ingredients together, covered with plastic wrap for 18 hours, and came back to a nice, easy dough in the morning. Flipped it out of the bowl onto a well-floured cotton towel, covered again, let rise for 2 hours, then flopped it into my Le Creuset dutch oven, put the top on, and baked that baby for an hour. Results below. You can probably smell it through the computer. It was that amazing. Also, I subbed 1/4 cup regular flour for rye & 1/4 cup for wheat as well. I love the bite rye gives bread and the wheat for added nutritional value.
 I mean... honestly.
Phew. I'm tired. Until next week...

Monday, January 7, 2013

This Boy is Trouble with a Capital T.

This kid.
But man is he cute.
{That's him shoving 4 pieces of clementine in his mouth this afternoon.}
I swear that at 10 months, he already has my sass, determination, and disobedience down.

I'm certain he knows specifically what we don't want him doing, yet does it anyway. I'm not willing to spark a developmental debate about this right now, but have no fear... no time out chair exists in our house. Yet. Just a stern no, explanation, and redirection has taken place. While I'd prefer his first word not be no, I'm not too worried about it, as it surely won't be his last word. {If it was up to my husband, he'd already clock Mama as being B's first word, but until I'm absolutely certain, I won't claim it.}

Just a few fun examples of what this boy's been up to as of late. I'm telling you...
  • As soon as he notices the baby gate is open, he bolts through, full speed ahead. Usually it's heading straight for the stairs through our foyer. When he sees us following chasing him, he turns around, smiles, and crawls faster
  • When we were putting away Christmas, we had our mini Christmas tree down that has mini decorations on it. He pulled a shiny bulb off, stuck it in his mouth and kept moving. Did I mention it was glass, probably made in China, and probably painted with toxic everything? That thing could've shattered in his mouth, but he was none too happy when it was taken out of his mouth.
  • He knows how to push any door open, and even doors that are closed but not perfectly latched shut. He makes a jailbreak whenever he can and is off to be a nuisance in places that aren't as babyproofed.
  • We have lots of wood furniture and he takes a liking to biting it. We now have Benjamin bite marks (the kid only has 4 teeth!) on our end tables in the living room. Perfect height for a little biter.
  • He bites us. A lot. He's even broken skin.
  • On the biting theme still, he crawls over to the fireplace ledge (we have one you can sit on that hangs over) and proceeds to chew on the STONE. Yeah, if you're thinking painful and nail-on-a-chalkboard bad, you're right on. It's terrible. We're afraid he's going to chip a tooth! And if you pull him away? He goes back at it. 
  • When he wakes in the morning, we bring him into our room. He immediately crawls over me (usually my head) and wants to have at everything on my nightstand. I then put him down and he beelines for our on-suite bathroom where he heads to the window shade to pull on it, then to bang on the window of the glass shower door, then to the toilet, trash, or slippers that he attempts to then chew on. And every time, we tell him the toilet, trash and slippers are off limits and move him. He goes back every time.
  • That picture above? I was holding him on my hip and peeling a clementine this afternoon. As soon as I took one hand to throw the peel away, he snaps 4 pieces out of my hand and shoves them in his mouth and refuses to budge. I had to use force to pry them from his mouth so he wouldn't choke!
I have lots of gray hairs now. Someone tell me their kids are little terrors too, mmmkay?

Friday, January 4, 2013

{International} Flying with Le Bebe: Travel Series Part II

{Domestic} Flying with Le Bebe: Travel Series Part I

Clearly, I'm not good at these series posts. But, I have had this on the whiteboard for an obscene amount of time, and the post is definitely overdue.

We last flew international with le munchkin around 8 months old in September. We'll be traveling again in March when we escape the end of winter in Chicago for four nights in an ocean view room on St. Kitts! I sure hope they have a big bathroom for the pack 'n' play.

Let's get started.

Airplane must haves:
  • Snacks - puffs, crackers, Cheerios, graham crackers, goldfish, B's new favorite crunchy green bean snack, {insert here whatever your kid like for a snack} or squeeze packs are what we use (Happy Baby, Ella's Kitchen, Gerber Organics, Plum Organics) + bib. 
  • Food: If on solids, food is a must, unless you're paying for your kid's seat. Under 1 year is tax-only. It was roughly $100 for B to travel to Germany and will be another $100 for St. Kitts. Over plan on this one. Oatmeal is a good meal with a mix-in because it's filling and hot water can be found on all airplanes... thank you flight attendants! Any food that doesn't need to be refrigerated is your best bet. Don't forget the utensils, either!
  • Nursing cover & Aden & Anais blanket (used also as padding for a sleeping baby and cover to darken things up a bit on bright airplanes.
  • Boppy pillow. If you aren't lucky enough to have an extra seat or bulkhead seating, you'll really want a pillow for the baby to sleep on. It will also take the strain off little limbs kicking and jabbing you.
  • Change of clothes. Maybe even multiple. For an overnight flight to Europe, we dressed B in feet pajamas, but honestly, planes are dry and the temperature isn't predictable. Feet pajamas are always a good idea!
  • Passports & baby boarding pass. This is required. Babies are required their own pass, even if they are a lap child. See the ticket desk once you get to the airport for printing this.
  • About 5 toys. Though honestly, B really likes wrappers from snacks (texture!) that come free on many flights. We bring Sassy A-Z letter links, iPhone/iPad with kid apps, {insert whatever your kid likes to play with that is small & able to be sanitized-- in case it falls... ick!}
  • 3 Clorox wipes to wipe down all things babies like to touch. {read: everything} I put these in a Ziploc.
  • Ergo carrier: Hit or miss on this one. I'd say it's good for kids around 6 months and younger, but it could be very valuable if you have no free seat and they'll sleep on your chest.
  • Diapers, wipes, Ziploc bag (I stuff all of this in here and LOVE this thing. I don't even use a diaper bag anymore because this is amazing. It slips into my purse and goes everywhere with me.)
Airport must haves:
  • Lightweight stroller with carseat adaptor to snap in so you don't have to carry it! {gate check item} 
  • Stroller bag - we have one because the workers aren't exactly careful with our expensive strollers. {gate check item}
  • Carseat {gate check item} B is onto a convertible seat now, but he can use his infant carseat until 32lbs. It's easiest to travel with that as it does snap into the stroller, but if not, gate checking the carseat is a really great idea if you did not purchase a seat for the baby. However, they will gate check it for you if you would prefer to not check it.
  • Ergo carrier because sometimes the baby doesn't dig the stroller
  • Carry-on backpack: All those airplane must-haves from above are stuffed in our carry-on backpack that always houses our laptop, iPad, chargers, JJ Cole diaper pod, toys, nursing cover, blanket, snacks, clorox wipes, wallet, etc.
The great thing about those gate check items is that they can all be consolidated for airport walking. We throw everything in the stroller and are usually only left with baby in the Ergo and wearing a backpack. It's actually easier walking around airports with all that stuff than it is without it because the wheels make it super convenient!
Always bright. Impossible. to. sleep!
Recommendations for before and in-flight:
  • Babies require their own boarding passes. This is very important and needs to be printed out at the airport ticket desk. No more iPhone scanning of your boarding pass or printing at home. At least for the freebie first two years. You can still print yours, but they'll be re-printing them at the airport anyway... so why bother? You can check-in online early still, however. For international travel with a lap child (airline terminology), babies aren't entirely free as you must pay taxes. They usually run you around $100.
  • Babies also require identification. A passport is required. Allow TONS of time to get this in the mail when ordering one. We had B's snapshot done at Walgreen's, but anywhere will do. And bonus: you have the most adorable passport ever.
  • Make sure the international customs people stamp that passport. Sometimes they don't and it makes me sad. Are you listening, border patrol in Canada? Hmph.
  • Before boarding, consult the flight desk for potential seat change if the flight isn't full. You might get lucky and be moved to a row without someone next to you! That extra seat can be invaluable. While you're there, ask about tags for your gate check items {stroller, stroller adaptor, stroller bag, carseat} that are required before boarding. This is SO important for international travel. You might get lucky and receive bulkhead, but if that's already taken, you could ask for movement to allow for a seat for the baby. Now, you aren't paying, so don't be rude. You're not entitled to such luxuries, but note that they usually are very nice and already upgrade people to bulkhead who have small children. We've had both bulkhead and a free seat during an international flight. Honestly, while bulkhead is super cool because you have access to the bassinet, the extra seat was WAY cooler to us. B slept between us and it was just perfect. When we had bulkhead, B didn't sleep in the bassinet more than an hour because the bright lights overhead were way different than his blackout shades at home. ;) No amount of blankets can black out an airplane, sadly. 
  • Allow for lots of movement before the flight, especially if you have a crawler/walker on your hands.
  • Change diaper before flight. Airplanes are small and accommodations are minimal. Getting at least one diaper out of the way is smart thinking.
  • Boarding: they'll allow you to board early for international because you are a family, but considering you probably checked the majority of your luggage, having more roaming time in the airport for little people is so much more valuable... at least to us. We board later because we already have plenty of time on the plane.
  • Have all your items accessible from your chair. That's why we bring a backpack as our all-in-one for B items and our in-flight snacks, etc.
  • Wipe down your area immediately with anti-bacterial wipes. Babies aren't patient.
  • Once doors to cabin are closed, scan the area for empty seats. If you have a seat partner, they probably don't want to sit with you because babies = invasion of space and noisy. Either try to relocate their seat for them or try to move yourself. It helps if you're extremely nice to the flight attendants. We did this on our flight back from Germany. There were plenty of empty seats and we kindly asked the window seat partner if he wouldn't mind moving up one row. There was no one sitting in the middle seat in that row either and we'd all have more room. He kindly obliged. But like a true German, he didn't want to break any rules... we insisted he was fine and he moved. Best. flight. decision. ever.
  • Try to hold out feeding until the flight takes off. I try to breastfeed during takeoff and landing, but honestly, it almost never happens. B has never reacted poorly during this time, thankfully. I mostly recommend holding off because it's a perfect activity to occupy the little one during flight time.
  • Drink cocktails? Okay, so really, long flights are enough to make a parent want to hyperventilate. The thought of your kid who might not always be so angelic being within just inches of complete strangers for MANY, MANY hours? Enough to drive you to drink. And lucky you. There are drinks available. Get a European airline like Lufthansa, and the wine is free! Cheers to that. And your neighbors will appreciate the free drinks, too. 
  • You could also do this: 

If you're lucky enough to get bulkhead:
  • Thank your lucky stars. That's some prime treatment. Not only does your kid get a bassinet that hangs from the wall, but you get extra leg room! And a place for the kid to move around!
  • Flight attendants will secure the bassinet once the plane is at cruising altitude. 
  • Have cover blankets ready. It's never dark enough. Ever. Especially if they take 2 hours to turn off cabin lights for an overnight flight. Not that this has ever happened to us. Le sigh.
  • Store all luggage above. That's the downside to bulkhead. No where under the seat to store your crap.
  • Strap the kiddo in for take-off and landing. Not all airlines require it, but most European airlines do. You might as well practice safe travel and do it anyway. Wrangling a kid during takeoff and landing sounds like loads of fun otherwise.
  • Make nice with your seat partners. They most likely also have a small kiddo. The downside? If your kid does miraculously fall asleep in the bassinet, the other kid probably won't. Because that's how luck would have it. They might be loud enough to wake your kid, too. Most likely. 
If you have an empty seat for the kiddo:
  • Thank your lucky stars. Also, if booze aren't free, offer to buy your former neighbor (who moved so you could have this luxury) a drink. If no one moved, buy yourself a drink. It will be a long flight.
  • Still use the seatbelt. Especially if you fall asleep, it's important that they don't fall out of their seat. You don't need any reason to upset them or the seat partners around you. Falling = massive baby tears.
  • Invest in some kid-sized noise-cancelling headphones. We don't have them, but if we ever take another flight that far, we just may need them. 

On dealing with jetlag:
  • Once you arrive at your intended destination, wait until the local nighttime to sleep. This is very important. Do what you can to stay awake... and keep your baby awake, until at least 8 p.m., local time. 
  • Follow regular bedtime procedures with your child. Try to make things as familiar as possible.
And remember, traveling is a luxury. An expensive one with quite the price tag, but one that is to be enjoyed! You will lose sleep. You'll probably have to deal with a screaming baby from time to time. Naptime will probably go out the window as soon as you leave your house. Relax a little and know that once you're home, things will get back on track. Try to enjoy your limited time away. Happy & Safe Travels!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Foodie Resolution Week #1 of 52 : Parmesan Crusted Pesto Grilled Cheese

It's no surprise that this will probably be the easiest of the resolutions I have to tackle. Jillian is on her way via Amazon and I'm honestly scared. I almost want it to be lost in the mail. My husband thinks I sounded crazy referring to Jillian and The Shred as something so nonchalant and obvious... like everyone knows what I'm talking about. From the comments on my last post, you people do know Jillian and her Shred. Eat your words, husband!

I'm going to attempt to post the one recipe I try each week on here. I really want to succeed at this, people!

Here's the first installment of my foodie revolution resolution. No guarantees on this being diet food, either. 
Found here

Verdict: Amazing on all accounts. I used light rye, sharp natural Tillamook cheddar, jarred pesto, butter on the outside and sprinkled on some shaved & shredded fresh parmesan. I don't think I'll ever make a traditional grilled cheese ever again.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Two-Thousand Thirteen

So here we are. A new year with new possibilities. Let's hope 2013 rocks as much as 2012 did. Or at the very least, doesn't suck as much as 2010 did. There's my eternal optimism kicking in again. Perhaps I should resolve to work on that first? Ha.

We kicked off the new year by playing a little Super Mario Bros. on the couch while B napped, followed by a full on gutting of our upstairs catch-all closet that housed memories of days past. In numbers... a little fun to begin the new year:

100 - approximate feet of TV cable found in our closet
4 - keyboards and computer mice found
8 - random, empty notebooks filled with empty lined paper
7 - beach towels
7 - sets of earphones
25 - approximate number of USB cords found
2 - Ethernet cords
1 - printer we planned to recycle until we found 3 unused printer ink cartridges for said printer
15 - rough number of electronics boxes of various cameras, GPS devices and the like
5 - approximate pounds of papers shredded after cleaning out our files
5 - approximate pounds of papers from the NICU and both boys' births
6 - books recycled
4 - more books placed in the pile for consignment donating
5 - flash drives probably full of random data
4 - number of hours spent de-cluttering yesterday
25 - approximate weight of the bag of electronics we're recycling this month

Our goal is to go through our basement storage in the coming month as well. I imagine my teaching supplies need to be sifted through and purged a bit. I do plan to teach again eventually, but I don't imagine I'll need the 10-15 boxes of random stuff I schlepped all the way from my classroom in So. Cal.

I'm not a regular resolution setter, but because it's all about a new year and I'm hoping for new results, I guess I have to make some changes. Without futher adieu:

  • Complete Jillian's 30-Day Shred at least once. I just bought it this morning on Amazon. No joke. I'm obviously behind the times. Anyone successfully completed it?
  • Run a 5k as a family. It's not a huge feat to run that distance for us, but we don't usually run them because they cost a ton! However, I really want Benjamin to be brought up in an active family and see others enjoying an active lifestyle. We want to do the Arboretum run this fall, but whether we do that or not, it will have to be non-traditional.
  • Cook one new recipe from my Pinterest account a week. That's not really all that big of a deal... as you all know I love to cook. But man! Somehow I've ended up with about 100 recipes I have yet to try and only 50 on my list of complete (and liked. Some were deleted after unimpressive results).
  • Cut out sugar for another 2-3 months. I really feel good when I do this. I can't cut it out forever and I'm obviously horrible at pacing myself throughout the day, so it's all or nothing. Maybe this should be in conjunction with the Shred?
  • Once the weather is 50 degrees and higher, I want to get out and run/walk at least 3x/week with Benjamin in the jogger. My husband needs to hold me accountable for this.
  • Meet friends. We've lived here 3 years in March and met all of the friends we have now within the first 3 months of moving here. It's time we add to that number. I'm hoping this can be accomplished through Benjamin's swim lessons (start next week!) & our weekly trips to the pool/water park this summer. Hopefully they won't have a 2-3 year old. Might be an automatic deal breaker if it's a boy. If blond? #forgetaboutit
  • Plan a ski trip for winter 2013-2014. Aside from our honeymoon in New Zealand and a really lame attempt at a ski hill just down the road, we haven't been skiing in 5 years. Our wedding was 4.5 years ago, so that's really the last official time of skiing at a place with an actual chair lift and not a tow rope. Did I mention my amazing husband loves to ski? 
That's it. That's all I'm committing to accomplishing. Anyone have any of my above items on their list? Maybe we can be accountability partners. Any recommendations on how to deal with the Shred and not die in the process?