A Visit to Civilization

My brother and his lovely girlfriend came to visit us this past weekend. It was a brave move to plan a January visit with the strange weather patterns we’ve been having, but thankfully, they brought the Florida sunshine with them. Parker was, of course, thrilled to have the company. He stayed home from school to hang out with Uncle Dean and Marissa and after I got back from classes, we gave Marissa a tour of our little town.

Parker begged, pleaded and finally cajoled me into buying him a new puzzle during our sojourn into town…and then he promptly put our guests to work on completing it. He’s such a good sharer.

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We had dinner and turned in early because we had a big day planned for Saturday – a day trip to Atlanta. We headed out the next morning around 9:30am and arrived at noon. Thankfully, the iPad kept Parker busy during the drive down and we arrived without incident. We met up with some friends and our party of 8 (5 adults, 3 kids) headed out for lunch.

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It was a ridiculously beautiful day so after lunch we headed over to Piedmont Park….along with the rest of Atlanta.

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Did I mention how helpful it is to have other adults around to assist with Parker?

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Let’s just say that being around other capable adults is enough to make me consider living close to family in Florida. Of course, having to drive in Atlanta squashed that idea mighty quickly. I have become thoroughly rural-ified and I don’t think I could ever live in a congested city again.

After the park, we headed back to our friend’s house and enjoyed some Persian tea and snacks.

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In the evening, Parker and I bid adieu to everyone and embarked on the lonely (but welcome) drive to our little corner of the mountains. All in all, it was a nice weekend and while I could never live in Atlanta, I’m already planning my next visit to take advantage of the things I can buy there that I don’t have access to here in our little hamlet.

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Make Your Own Taco Seasoning

Keeping with my Mexican craving theme, we made quesadillas last night. As I was browning the ground beef for the boys, I realized that we were out of the packaged taco mix. Uh oh. Not willing to give up my Mexican fix for the night, I scrambled to find out how to make your own taco seasoning. I scanned a couple of recipes and came up with my own combination of spices based on what I had in my cabinets. This was the very tasty combo that I ended up with:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

I mixed all of the ingredients together in a ramekin and added it to 1 lb. of beef. The Irishman said that the level of flavor was spot on. My next step is going to be making a large batch of this and storing it in a mason jar. With God as my witness, we will never buy packaged taco seasoning again! Now please, go forth and join us in our rebellion of the packaged stuff. Your tummy will thank you.

Nachos and Piña Coladas…Pregnancy Cravings at their Best

Before I was pregnant with my first born, I thought that pregnancy cravings were simply preferences. You know, like how sometimes you prefer Chinese over Italian? I thought that surely these pregnant women were just using cravings as an excuse to either cram in empty calories or to send their significant others out on food errands at random hours. Ha! Boy, was I wrong. Pregnancy cravings more appropriately fall into the “need” category. And when you brain decides that you need something, you want it immediately.  What’s really bizarre about these cravings is that sometimes, they make no sense. With Parker, my cravings were chocolate milk (which I never usually drank) and watermelon. I think I ate 3 entire watermelons a week in my third trimester with him. I also went through chocolate milk by the gallon.

As you can imagine, cravings vary from one pregnancy to the next. This time around, Mexican food has been a biggie – enchiladas, nachos, chips and salsas. There’s something about the massive salt content that has been calling to me.

As an aside, the way that I’ve been making nachos is super easy and wonderfully tasty. First, I preheat the broiler and then I grate some Monterrey Jack cheese. I cook up a meat substitute (usually Quorn brand grounds) and flavor it with taco seasoning – of course, you could just use regular ground beef here. Then, I arrange a layer of tortilla chips, add my taco “meat” on top, sprinkle it with cheese and stick it under the broiler for a handful of minutes or until all of the cheese is melted. Finally, I top it off with diced tomatoes, sliced black olives, diced onions, sliced jalapeños and sour cream. Seriously, this has been dinner at least 2 days a week for the last month.

Back to cravings – the other day, completely out of the blue, I had a desperate craving for a piña colada. Now, I haven’t actually had a piña colada in about 5 years, but at that moment, I could taste exactly what I had been missing all of these years. Unfortunately, I did not have access to a piña colada (virgin or otherwise), so I grumpily went about my business.

The following day, I was in the grocery store when I stumbled upon these Edy’s Coconut
Fruit Bars. I grabbed a box (or three) immediately and opened the first one in the car. Oh was it heavenly! Creamy, coconutty and best of all, only 130 calories. So naturally, I ate two. Happily, my craving was satisfied.

While I don’t know what’s next in the craving department during these last couple of months, I’ve learned to be prepared for anything. I’ve also learned that cravings can be easily fooled. Thank goodness for that!

Compromises: When the Goal is Simply Good Enough

Feeling nostalgic for my pre-pregnancy waistline and energy levels, I decided to browse some of my older posts on here.  I looked through posts about heavy mileage and involved recipes, about menus planned in detail and days spent cooking and prepping meals for the week…and I laughed. And I laughed some more. And then I cried.

These days, dinner often consists of shredded cheese on a tortilla, which is zapped in the microwave and accompanied by a bagged salad. Exercise consists of parking farther away from my office door and taking the 4 flights of stairs to my classroom. On the odd day when I do make it to the gym, my pace on the elliptical could easily be surpassed by any sprightly senior citizen. And planning? Planning consists of making cloth diapers, little dresses and a lot of pacing and (nonproductive) panicking.

Any bursts of energy I have are quickly spent “nesting,” i.e. reorganizing entire floors of my house and sorting through clothes and baby gear (and generally acting just all around manic). I know that this phase is only temporary, but I also know that it may be years (literally) before I am back up and running on all cylinders and not simply surviving on the bare amount of sleep necessary.

I know that most of this is simply the result of being human. I also know that the second I see that sweet little face, I’m going to laugh at all of my angst. I’m just trying to keep sight of the fact that the goal (for the moment) is getting baby girl here safely and soundly. So while I’m torn between wanting time to fly by and slow the heck down, I just keep reminding myself that there will be plenty of time to cook, plan, workout and return to being a freak of nature after this pregnancy is over.

The Great Diaper Debate: Cloth Vs. Disposable

So, I know that things have turned into “All Things Baby” here on the dailycynema, but that’s primarily because the impending birth of this baby girl feels more real with each kick and hiccup in my growing belly. I should probably also prepare you for the fact that it will quickly transition into “All Things Fitness” come late spring because while some women only gain 25-35 lbs. during their pregnancies….I am not one of them. Ha! I wish. I think my body hoards every single calorie that it gets during these 9.5 months because I’m such a careful eater during non-pregnancy. But let’s not talk about that just yet because I shudder to think how painful working out will be after taking so much time off of serious workouts.

Step One: Learning About Cloth Diapers

Anyway, back to diapers. When I was pregnant with Parker, we went the traditional route on most everything and that included using disposable diapers. I was sufficiently freaked out by becoming a parent that I didn’t really give a lot of thought to the various options out there. Plus, I didn’t know anyone who had cloth diapered, so my exposure to it was very limited. The one thing I do remember is the massive amounts of diapers (and money) that we went through over the course of having a kiddo in diapers for 3 years. This time around, I decided to at least explore the other options out there.

I have to admit, when I first started reading about cloth diapers, I felt overwhelmed by the information out there. There were terms like prefolds, fitteds, AIOs, soakers, etc… that meant absolutely nothing to me. I literally spent weeks just getting up to speed on the different types of diapers out there and reading up on the best ones (at sites like this one). You know what I realized? There are a lot of freakin’ options available in the cloth diaper world!

Step Two: Seriously Considering Cloth Diapering as an Option

After I started to get comfortable with the terminology and different ways that someone can cloth diaper, I started to seriously consider it as an option. I mean, wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to go through a box of diapers a week? It would mean saving money and creating less waste in the landfill (which the bleeding heart in me was happy about). Sure, it would mean a lot more laundry, but we have a washing machine and I’m comfortable with line drying the clothes outside to save energy on drying.

One hurdle that I was trying to get around is that the average cost of a cloth diaper can be pretty pricey. For the AIO (all-in-one diapers that are most like disposables in that they are a single piece that you use and launder), they could range anywhere from $12-24 for a single diaper. That seemed like a pretty steep start up cost considering that newborns go through 10-12 diapers a day for the first month or so and we’d want enough diapers for at least 2 days.

FuzziBunz AIO

So, I had a thought. What if I got just a handful of AIO diapers for when we go out or have a family member watching the baby, but used fitteds and covers for around the house? Fitted diapers look like disposable diapers, but you have to put a waterproof cover over them to protect against spills. Then I took this line of reasoning one step further. What if I made those fitted diapers myself with old material that we had laying around the house (Parker’s old receiving blankets and old washclothes and towels), then they would essentially be free. There was only one problem: I had never sewed a stitch in my life. Does this sound completely insane to you? It does? Oh good. That means it’s completely in line with my usual decision making.

Step Three: Taking the Plunge

Not to be deterred by my lack of sewing experience, I took the first step in asking my parents to buy me a sewing machine for Christmas. I’m sure my mom was amused by this request, but since she always humors me when I enter this type of ridiculousness, a brand new Brothers sewing machine arrived on my doorstep two weeks later.

I found a lot of helpful information on the Internet and I relied on this website to get me started. I made the first handful of diapers (using a trial and error process) using the old materials listed above and once I was comfortable with the general idea behind making my own fitteds, I ventured out to a fabric store and took advantage of their fleece sale to stock up on some inexpensive, cute fleece (about $2 a yard, which makes 2 fitted diapers). I also bought microfiber towels from the auto parts section of Walmart ($5 for 10 towels) because I read that they hold 8 times their weight in liquid and make great soakers for the inside of the diaper.

Thirsties Duo Diaper Cover

Since fitted diapers need a cover to keep in the wetness, I took advantage of a couple of online sales and bought a couple of covers to make sure that the fitteds I was making were the right size to fit inside.

Step Four: The Reality

While I have mentally committed to cloth diapering and have made 8 diapers thus far, naturally, I have no idea what I’m really in for. I’ve read up on the proper method to wash cloth diapers, I’m going to buy some drying racks that attach to our deck to assist with the drying and I’ve learned all about the dos and don’ts of which diaper rash creams to use.

With that said, I am woefully ignorant about how this is going to go. I’m definitely maintaining an open mind though. If I find that cloth diapering during long day trips is a pain, I’m comfortable using disposable diapers while we’re out and about and using cloth at home. The way that I see it, each time I use a cloth diaper instead of a disposable, I’m saving money and that’s one less diaper going in the trash.

So wish me luck and stay tuned for my (mis)adverntures as we try our hand at being “natural” parents!

My Favorite Things: Newborn Edition

As I was sitting in the OB’s office today waiting to take my glucose test, my brain jumped into hyper-drive about what “essential” items I needed to start gathering to be ready for this baby girl. That gave me the idea to compile a list of things that I simply couldn’t do without when Parker was a newborn. Please feel free to jump in and add your “must-haves” to this list because, let’s face it, it’s been almost 5 years since the last time around and some points about having a newborn are a bit fuzzy. In fact, the only thing I recall in incredible detail is the chronic sleep deprivation and the absolute joy I felt the first time I got 5 straight hours of sleep. Lord help me.

While I know that this is technically a list for things I love during the infant stage, I wanted to give a plug for the single item that I have relied on most during both of my pregnancies: the BellaBand.

The BellaBand is a lifesaver at every step of this crazy pregnancy process. I have three of these and I wear one almost daily. I used it during the first trimester for those days when I just needed to unbutton my jeans to ease that bloated feeling and these days, I use it to cover up the fact that my jeans are completely unzipped. For me, maternity jeans are super uncomfortable when I’m sitting down, so it’s easier for me to just wear my regular jeans as long as I can. If I do need to buy a new pair, I just buy regular jeans one size up (I’ll need them for those first few postpartum months anyways). Speaking of which, let me not forget to mention that the BellaBand is a lifesaver for the first month after giving birth when zipping your regular jeans is as much a reality as Martians landing on your roof.

My Favorite Nursing Things

While I can completely appreciate that formula feeding works best for some families, I am personally committed to nursing my babies for at least the first 12 months (Parker self-weaned at 14 months). Don’t get me wrong, it flat out hurt the first 4 weeks, but that was primarily due to the fact that I was still figuring out what the heck I was doing. These following items were lifesavers in the nursing department.

1. My Brestfriend Nursing Pillow: (Nice name, huh?) Weirdo name aside, suffice it to say that I used this pillow 10-12 times a a day for hours at a time. I also had a Boppy, but I abandoned it within the first week because it wasn’t nearly as supportive of the baby and I felt like I was having to lean down to nurse him. With this one, it actually straps around your waist so that you can regulate the height of the pillow, which made all of the difference in finding a comfortable nursing position. Parker was a marathon nurser, so I would sometimes be stuck on the recliner for an hour at a time and being uncomfortable was not an option. This pillow got so much use that it was pretty beat up and I tossed it when my nursing days were over, but this is in the top spot of things I need to buy before baby girl gets here.

2. Soothies: As I mentioned before, nursing was a painful process for me for the first handful of weeks. I would refrigerate these gel pads ahead of time and they would provide an incredible amount of relief between nursing sessions.

3. LilyPadz: When I didn’t need to use the Soothies anymore, these were my go-to nursing pads. They are made of silicone, are invisible underneath clothes and they stopped milk leakage every time. (By the way, I realized that all of my male readers have fled the building screaming by now, so let’s just carry on with the ladies, shall we?) I loved that you could wash them and reuse them over and over again. I never once had a leaking incident (thankfully) and I also didn’t need to worry about having a spare set of nursing pads with me.

4. Breast Pump: While I had the Medela Pump In Style, I’m sure there have been a bunch of new models that have come out in the last 5 years. While I had never intended to spend much time pumping, it was nice to be able to build up a small stash of milk so that I could leave the house for more than 2 hours at a time. Also, if a breast feeding issue cropped up and you needed some time “off” from nursing the baby, pumping would allow you to keep up your supply and you’d have time to heal. Don’t get me wrong, I was not a fan of pumping, but I did like the increased flexibility that it afforded me.

5. Nursing Tanks: With Parker, I had 3 nursing tank tops that I wore underneath my shirts or as stand alone items that made nursing much easier and much more discreet. This go around, I’ve already bought two tanks by Undercover Mama to use as a nursing tank alternative. These new shirts are super stretchy and actually attach to your nursing bra. Additionally, they are nice and long (which was my main gripe with my nursing tanks – they were too short). I’ll let you know how I feel about these at the end of spring, but I’ve taken them for a test drive and thus far, they work as advertised.

Other Infant Items

1. Baby Carrier: I had a Moby Wrap that I fully plan on taking advantage of again this time around. Parker was one of those babies that loved being held as much as possible. In fact, if you were holding him, he was happy as a clam and wouldn’t make a peep. A baby carrier allows you to have your hands free while getting stuff done around the house. Plus, it made grocery shopping much easier and I didn’t have to lug around his heavy car seat. This time around, I’m hoping to add a ring sling or two to my arsenal and I think that I’m going to attempt to make one myself (or maybe buy one and make a second).

2. Video Monitor: It is immensely helpful to be able to see what your baby is doing in the next room instead of just hearing them. Sometimes, babies make random squawking noises, but they don’t necessarily need anything from you at that moment. I’ve heard that the ones made by Summer are fantastic (I think ours was Graco), so I think that’s what we’re going with this time around. They are a bit pricey, but when it’s 4am and you’ve already been up 3 times, you would pay any amount of money to know that you didn’t absolutely need to drag your happy self out of bed yet again. While I co-slept with Parker from months 2-14, but I used the monitor big time for naps and when he moved to his own bed.

3. Swaddling Blankets: I know that each baby has different preferences, but the only way that Parker would sleep was if he was swaddled super tight. We had about 5 swaddling blankets on hand that we used until he was 6 months old (which was when he could unswaddle himself).

4. Mylicon Gas Drops. Parker had some tummy discomfort the first couple of weeks and our pediatrician recommended that we give him a couple drops of Mylicon before every feeding. Worked like a charm!

5. Zippered Sleepers: Parker lived in these for the first month or so. They kept him warm while allowing him to kick his legs and stretch out. I haven’t bought very many clothes for baby girl yet, but everything I have bought thus far has been mainly for 6-9 months. Parker came home from the hospital wearing 3 month clothes and based on the current size of my belly, it looks like baby girl will also be ahead of the curve with regard to clothing size. While I would love to buy some adorable infant clothes, I know that they’d probably be wasted on an infant who just wants to be swaddled and comfortable.

What’s interesting are the things that we had that Parker didn’t care for: baby swing, pacifiers, most toys… Of course, each baby is different and there’s a good chance that baby girl will generate a whole list of her own must haves for those first few months. In the coming weeks (as I jog my memory by unpacking and washing our infant stuff), I’ll make a list of things that we loved for the 6-12 month age.

For all the other mothers out there, please chime in and tell me what stuff you couldn’t live without. I’d love to hear about products that didn’t make it on my radar the last time around.

Parenting Style: My Myth Vs. Reality

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Every once in a while, I come across a mom who embodies what I like to call “The Earth Mother” spirit. Earth Mothers are calm, graceful and manage to control their households with a kind of quiet force. They hand out smiles and soothing gestures to their screaming toddlers and other children, seeing this grace under fire, flock to them to feed off of their calming energy (picture Snow White in the forest here). I watch these Earth Mothers wistfully knowing that their parenting style is something that I could never embody.

You see, my parenting energy is more akin to a militant Jack Russell terrier. I stand in the middle of my kitchen wielding a spatula and commanding the troops.

To Parker: “Are your shoes in the middle of the floor? Is that where they belong? Let’s put them in their place and get some order around here. Move soldier, move! Please.”

To my husband: “This weekend, I want to switch around the downstairs guest room and Parker’s playroom. I’ll need you downstairs at 0800 hours to assist with this task. Your compliance will be rewarded with biscuits and gravy. Are we clear? Oh and please and thank you.”

I even have a 2nd in command. Nona, my militant corgi, stands by my side as I issue orders and punctuates my commands with barks. If the person in question isn’t complying fast enough, she’ll get in their face and give him a piece of her mind.

“Woof. Woo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooof. Woof woof woof. WOOF!” (Translation: Momma said to MOVE IT you slug. Now get it in gear and comply with your orders NOW!”)

Now don’t get me wrong, I have tried the calm approach. I found books on how to parent quietly and calmly and I even had a mantra (“Think Softly”). Unfortunately, while I can maintain a calm and playful demeanor when it’s just me and Parker in a private setting, it goes right out the window whenever we’re out and about or when there are any other variables introduced.

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I think there are a couple of factors that prevent me from being an Earth Mother. First, I come by my militantness naturally. There was a reason why my brother and I called our mother “Little Napoleon.” Talk about commanding the troops! As an aside, that’s also probably part of the reason why I have such an affinity for Napoleon himself and spent my college years fascinated by the French ruler. I think the second reason why the Earth Mother thing isn’t going to fly in my house is the fact that the sheer volume produced by 2 barky dogs, 2 cats chasing each other and 2 loud boys would drown out any calmly and softly spoken words.

In other words, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will never maintain a zen level of tranquility. Instead, I shoot for making sure that the vein on my forehead does not explode on any given day. I think that’s a realistic goal to have. Hopefully, Parker will aspire to gain enough education to get a well paying job. He’ll need the income to pay for the therapy he’ll need down the line.