October 20, 2014
There's really no need for explanation here. I mean, does one need a reason to make something called Pumpkin Beer BREAD? Dear Lord Almighty, no. It's an autumn recipe necessity. It's the reason why I fall for FALL. When you have all the ingredients, you should just make this recipe over and over and over again. It's the happiest taste. And it will make you super popular with your people. I mean, my crew over here (AKA my parents and Stevie, who will eat practically anything) have nominated me queen of the pack, all due to my production of this breaded treat. And seriously, created by a mere 6 ingredients, this recipe is one of the easiest EVER. Make, enjoy, and let me know when you win popularity points, people.
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 12-oz. bottle beer (I gleefully used Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin Ale)
- 3 tbsp. melted butter
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x5 loaf pan.
2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
3. Dump the bottle of beer into the dry ingredients. Combine until mixed into dough. Scoop dough into the loaf pan.
4. Melt butter in a small bowl (I did this in the microwave). Drizzle butter over top of the dough.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Once you remove from the oven, let cool for about 5 minutes before you slice.
It's as easy as that! This is a great treat to pair with an autumn soup, like my Turkey Kale Chili, my Spicy Sausage Chili, or my extra-special seasonal favorite, Grandma Soup. I hope you enjoy!
October 15, 2014
I started to notice it when I was pregnant. The questions, "Where are you delivering?", "What kind of birth are you having?", and my extra-special favorite, "Where are you going to live? You're moving??! Why?" or even better, "You're moving in with your PARENTS? Seriously... why???" There just seemed to be so much speculation about my (and my husband's) personal choices. Everyone had an opinion. Friends, family, nice people, not-so-nice-people, old men on the street, other moms. Everyone had a very specific opinion and reasons backing up why they were right. Often accompanied by their harrowing personal stories that I didn't really care to hear. Long, drawn-out tales about why their idea/opinion/input really should be heavily considered. And followed blindly. Over whatever rubbish I was choosing to do.
It was a little jarring.
Little did I know, that was just the prep course for entering motherhood.
Motherhood is tricky business. No one really told me. Haaaa, that's not true. Pretty much everyone told me. I just didn't really understand how NOT JOKING serious this business would be. It is, by FAR, the hardest thing I have ever done. And no, I don't just mean the pushing-the-baby-out part (although that was no breakfast at Tiffany's.) Being a mom. I mean, wow. It's hard. I shall leave it at that. At least for today.
One really interesting fringe non-benefit of motherhood is the continuation of what I experienced during my pregnancy: the speculation of my choices. I am certainly not the only mother to experience this uncomfortable, obvious, verbal or non-verbal, passing-of-judgement by others. And I'll be honest, I have totally done it, too. Judged other people's choices. Other moms' choices. Yeah, I suck. But the thing is, we all have opinions and reasons for why we do what we do. But now I'm experiencing first hand how awkward and insecure it has made me feel, all while fumbling around, attempting to be the best mom I can be. I am obviously making mistakes left and right. But you know what? I love my son. And most every mom I know... they love their adorable little mini-me's, too. So why are we so hard on each other when the end goal is pretty much the same? To raise lovely, fiercely-loved little rock star babies. Or something like that.
I look around me, and there are debates about which is best when it comes to... pretty much every parenting subject.
Breastfeeding or formula-feeding?
Stay at home mom or working-outside-the-home mom?
Vaccinating or not vaccinating? Delaying? Running away scared from the pediatricians office?
Letting your baby cry it out or coming to their rescue at every whimper?
Co-sleeping or baby in the crib at two weeks?
Cloth diapers or disposables?
Daycare, nursery, nanny, grandmother, babysitter, random neighbor you've met twice... who will watch your child when you aren't with them?
When are you leaving said child with another person? Wait, you haven't done that yet?? Tsk tsk.
I could go on and on. But the dilemma is constant. These choices are really, really difficult to make. Have you ever heard of mompetition? I hadn't. But the sudden thrust into this experience has my head spinning - how can I gracefully transition into motherhood without feeling the slime of this maternal warfare? I'm sure the mommy wars don't end. I anticipate the lame debates to come: Public school or private school? Or home school? TV and video games or books and playing outside? Ugh I'll stop listing here. Because you get the picture.
The judgements, comparisons and unnecessary opinions must end. And I know that it starts with me. I have to stop believing that everyone is judging me and I have to STOP comparing myself and judging others. Reading this article made me laugh, and also really helped. Because after experiencing a mere 11 weeks of motherhood, I am dumbfounded at how spectacularly impressive mothers are. And you know what? New moms are trying to parent their child while juggling a conga line of colorful hormones, the shame of carrying stubborn "baby weight" that just won't seem to get lost, a smattering of emotions and anxiety and for some, even depression. These women don't need to hear opinions or feel silent judgement. They need affirmation and love, because they are spending endless days giving all of that love away to someone else.
You know what every mom needs to hear? You're a good mom. You're doing an awesome job. Way to go, sustaining that little human's life. I speak from the position of being a brand-spankin'-new mom, but I imagine that the future me would still need and want to hear those things. Because what we're doing is hard work. And the judgements, the comparisons... well, they are fruitless. They make zero difference. I am going to keep on parenting the way that feels natural for me and my family. And when I want advice and help, I already have my go-to people who I trust will set me straight. And that random mama that I don't know all that well isn't relying on my opinion of her, either. She's got enough on her mind, she doesn't need to deal with the social anxiety of my judgement passing before her. She needs me to love her and tell her she's doing an awesome job. That her instincts are amazing. And that her child is mega-blessed to have her looking out for them.
So I ask that you join me. Let's end this cycle of mom angst and celebrate the sisterhood we've entered into. Whether you're a new mom, a wondrously wizened mom, a single lady, or someone who detests the thought of ever producing spawn, your camaraderie makes a spectacular impact. When you have a judgmental thought about someone else, stop yourself. Take that judgement and slam dunk it into the little trash can inside your mind. And when you feel shamed by someone else for a choice you've made, remind yourself that she's probably just feeling motivated by that lousy mompetition. Instead of getting offended, immediately forgive her. Release her from your offense. Because you don't have the time or capacity to deal with the that odious frustration. Let's trade the practice of passing judgement on others' choices and start celebrating the sisterhood of motherhood. Because we need each other's affirmation.
To all you glorious, hardworking, endlessly loving mamas, I just want to tell you that YOU ROCK and you're doing a tremendous, sublime, stunning job. I salute you. Now hand that baby over to your man and go get a manicure. You've more than earned it.
October 6, 2014
Lately I've been feeling a little bit claustrophobic and cooped up. I have a newborn and we spend our days indoors, while I beg him to nap and he begs to differ. So when the weekends roll around, all I want to do is have FUN. And my definition of fun is getting redesigned, since there are only a handful of places that we can comfortably take our newborn child. Without getting glared at. I wish we were in a phase where would could easily tote our little babe along anywhere, but that's just not the case. Enter the perfect solution/afternoon plan: the picnic.
Ah, the picnic. A great American pastime. The darling weaved basket, the iconic food, the oh-so-slurpable wine. Picnicking is what adorable people do, like couples in endless love or families with golden retrievers and approximately 2.5 children (probably donning Land's End polos. Yes, the retriever, too.) Then it dawned on me. WE THREE SHOULD PICNIC. I mean, we live in Georgia again. There are lawns around here. We might not have a precious pup or an assortment of prepster gear, but we like to eat! We should be having some picnics.
|// Lake McIntosh //|
|// What a babe. Both. //|
|// We thought we would read. The folly. //|
|// How bout them Braves, son. //|
|// Perfect view for feeding my little man. //|
|// Happy feet! //|
We munched, Everett lunched, and we got to be OUT TOGETHER. As a family. Because we're a family now :)
Best of all? Everett could yelp until the cows came home and no one cared. Stupendous.
September 30, 2014
Having a baby. Oh my. There are some THINGS we women should be talking about.
For all you new mamas (and mothers-to-be!), I compiled a list of the essential items that really helped me through the first month of recovering from labor. The weeks after giving birth were really challenging, but I thought it would be difficult only because of the lack of sleep and learning how to take care of the baby. I had gone through an un-medicated 36 hour-long labor, so you can imagine that I thought the hard part was over once the baby was actually out. I had no idea that the recovery process for my own body would be just as demanding as caring for my new babe. There are so many things people don't tell you! So I wanted to pass along the few items that really helped me overcome the physical recovery process (even though at 8 weeks postpartum, I can tell you I am definitely still recovering!) For you single gals, I don't want to scare you... but maybe you don't need to read this until you're actually pregnant and prepping for your postpartum recovery experience. This post might seem a little too-TMI for you. However, once you become a mom, there is nothing off-limits when it comes to discussing bodily functions. You sort of lose that squeamish edge once you've had a dozen people watch your naked body contort in all the most unflattering of positions to actually birth a baby.
This info is geared towards those breastfeeding mamas recovering from a vaginal delivery, though I imagine some of this would be applicable no matter what type of birth experience you have. So without further adieu...
Wear Essentials: Note: I covered some of theses items in My Hospital Bag post.
- Nursing Tanks - I have been living in these Gillian O'Malley for Target Tanks and these Motherhood Maternity Seamless Nursing Camis (also, Jessica Simpson makes this awesome version with a built-in tummy tightener.) These tanks seriously make nursing so much easier and are super comfy. Also you don't need to wear a bra with them, SCORE.
- Nursing Bras - When you do have to go out and wear normal clothes, a nursing bra is a necessity. These can get pricey, which is why I did a happy dance when I found this extremely comfy, supportive (and affordable!) Gillian O'Malley nursing bra at Target. It doesn't have any underwire, so it's comfortable enough to sleep in and the easy snaps make it suuuuuper for nursing.
- Comfy Undies - These are to wear during the few weeks after you deliver the babe while your body is healing. I got a six pack similar to this at Target. You want to get a size that would fit you during your pregnancy (so a little larger than your normal, pre-preggo self) in dark colors. Don't invest too much here, you want something you don't mind tossing if they get ruined.
- Cozy PJs - You are going to be living in your pajamas for a while after giving birth, so make sure you're comfortable! I've been rocking a steady uniform of nursing tanks, yoga pants and a gorgeously soft robe that Stevie gifted me with for Easter this year. These items have been my comfort during the first few weeks/months of nursing with Everett. When your hormones are raging during postpartum, your temperature fluctuates a lot! Be ready to shed layers and then put them right back on. Having something cozy to wear around the house has been a delight.
- Danskin Waist Trimmer Belt - This was loaned to me by my darling sister-in-law Katie, who swears this helped her get her midsection back after her first baby. I wore it interchangeably with my Bellaband during the first two weeks postpartum. I know it takes a lot of time to get your body back after a baby, and mine isn't anywhere close to what it used to be. But I like to think that making this little effort will help?
Healing & Recovery Essentials:
- Silhouette Depends - Don't cry. You won't have to wear these forever. But during the first several weeks after the baby is born, yeah. These are things I wish someone would have told me. So when you send your husband out to the store to pick up your baby's diapers, make sure he grabs a pack of your diapers too. Seriously, you've got to stop crying.
- Poise Ultimate Absorbency Pads - These pads are pretty much the most giant, super absorbent, overnight kind of pad on the market. The nurses at the hospital taught me to layer these inside the Depends. And I've never felt so sexy.
- Tucks Witch Hazel Pads - These are really cooling and comforting for the nether regions, whether you are healing up with stitches or dealing with post-labor hemorrhoids (yep, that's also a thing). Layer them in your pads, within your Depends, and you're good to go. (I'm pretty sure this method is how Stella got her groove back.) I know, you're tears are probably raging at this point. Just power through.
- Perineal Bottle - Hopefully the hospital will give you one of these. It helps clean your "down there" area when its too tender to wipe.
- Sitz Bath - Again, I'm sure your hospital will send you home with this little device, and you should do the sitz bath at least once a day for the first several weeks postpartum. It will help everything heal up just right. Little tip: I HATED taking a sitz bath. So to encourage the full 10 minutes that I just had to sit there... I painted my nails. I had some GOOD nails going in the first few weeks postpartum. Silver lining?
- Smooth Move Tea - Bless my dear doula. She brought this tea to me a day after I got home from the hospital and it works. Helped move my digestion along, since everything slows way down after birthing a baby.
- Probiotic Supplement - I started taking this Jarro-Dophilus supplement when I was pregnant, and my midwife recommended I stay on it while I'm breastfeeding (especially since my little one has a super sensitive tummy.)
- A SHOWER - I swear by this one. Taking a shower everyday is not only good for keeping your body clean so it heals up well... but I truly think it will help you keep sane. I loved taking a shower everyday (and I still do!) even if I wasn't going anywhere and if the only person I saw all day was my little baby. A shower just makes me feel like myself again.
- Honest Co. Nipple Balm - THIS STUFF IS GOLD. Seriously, if I can recommend any product, this is it! This balm is like magic for the nips. It's made of completely natural, food-grade ingredients so it's safe for baby.
- Lasinoh Disposable Nursing Pads - These are dumb, but you have to use them. You don't want to milk all over the place. Which totally happens. Yeah, the good times keep on rolling.
- Lasinoh Soothies Breast Pads - I was ready to raise the white flag at one point, because initially breastfeeding is just so painful. These little guys helped me power through. I couldn't believe how fast they worked! Within a day I was feeling an enormous sense of relief.
- Milkmaid Nursing Pillow - I have been SO pleased with this nursing pillow, especially after trying a few others. The design, the materials used, the shape - it's all SO perfect for nursing the baby, whether bottle feeding or breastfeeding. It has kept my back from wearing out completely, because breastfeeding can be super exhausting.
- Mothers Milk Tea - This tea promotes lactation, which is helpful when trying to build up your milk supply. I thought it would taste awful, but it doesn't! It's got a smooth, peppermint-y flavor, and I've been trying to drink it once a day just to keep my milk flowin'. Yes.
- Hylands Baby Colic Tablets - My baby has a sensitive tummy, and these tablets have really helped calm him down when he wails. I feel so so bad for him because I can feel his stomach tense up (he gets really gassy), so while I am trimming my diet down to really bland foods, I have also been giving him these homeopathic tablets to calm his tummy. They really work!
- Water - This one may seem simple, but its seriously so essential. You body is going to be flushing out fluids over the coming weeks, and its super important to re-hydrate so that you can make milk, etc. It won't be hard though - you will be waking up in the middle of the night sweating and thirsty! Keep a bottle of water with you at all times and keep filling it up throughout the day.
- HELP! - I have been overwhelmingly blessed to be surrounded by so much family during my postpartum process. Being surrounding by loved ones during this incredible experience created a safe environment for me to make mistakes, cry and slowly figure "it" out. And also, it's wondrous to have someone cook you a bit of breakfast, do a few (or in my case, ALL) loads of laundry, clean up your bathroom, and just help out in the areas where you need it! I am so indebted to my sister and mom, it's not even funny. They were lifesavers.
- Talking - I am still mentally and emotionally processing the birth of my son. It was the hardest thing I've ever done. Talking to people really, really helps. I have spent hours discussing the different aspects of the birth with my amazing husband, my mom (who is also a certified life coach, SCORE!), and my precious friend and doula, Liz. I truly believe that having a birth experience that differs from your expectations, coupled with the raging hormones, can contribute to postpartum depression. While I am still overcoming different "road blocks" in my mind, having continued support has really helped me avoid plummeting into those darker places. I am so, so grateful that they have been willing to re-hash the birth with me so that I can talk it through and gain some inner-healing.
- Meals - My darling friend Tricia organized a Meal Train using Take Them A Meal, and let me tell you what, IT WAS AMAZING. Having a schedule of folks who were willing to bless us with a meal was so incredibly helpful during those first few weeks. I still don't have the capacity or desire to cook anything, so having that meal support was another thing that I didn't have to worry about. Thank you to everyone who blessed us with such yummy food!
- Sleep - I have been especially bad about napping. But it is honestly the thing that heals you up the MOST. It's been personally hard for me to nap because my son doesn't like napping during the day (yeah, I KNOW), but anytime the baby goes down, I should be napping too. You don't get brownie points for staying awake and doing laundry. Just freakin' TAKE A NAP. Your body is craving it so badly. And you will need those power naps to get you through the day and those endless nights. Believe me.
A Few Resources: Reading through these other blog posts really encouraged me during the healing process.
Postpartum Must-Haves for Mommies
Body After Baby: What to Expect After You Deliver
Making it Through the Last Month of Pregnancy
I hope all of this helps with your recovery. It feels like an eternity when you're in the midst of it, but those little babies grow and change SO much from week to week. Believe me, your body, mind and heart will be changing and healing, too! Give yourself lots of time to recover, give yourself grace when you feel like you aren't measuring up, and let go of comparisons and expectations. Everyone heals at a different pace because everyone's birth story is unique to them. But these sweet newborn moments are fleeting - you never get the beginning back again! So soak it up!
For those who have already gone through labor and delivery, are there any tips or products that helped during postpartum? I'd love to hear about what worked for you. Feel free to comment below!
September 23, 2014
A lot has been happening. All big changes. New experiences. While my son is hard-wiring for his lifetime here on Earth, I feel like I've transported to life on another planet. I'm wildly exhausted and scurried, yet I feel like I'm getting nothing done all day. I know that raising a baby is the MOST IMPORTANT thing I can do with my time right now. But it can be challenging to constantly remain positive about it when the days are endlessly long and pretty freakin' hard. And when I feel like my brain cells are being depleted and I am morphing into a mere milking, diapering, baby-holding buffoon. I used to have real world skills! I think. My emotions vacillate from over-the-moon-infatuated with my darling baby to... purely depleted and sometimes weepy. Just depends on the hour. And how much sleep I've gotten.
My life lately?
Midnight milk parties, consumed by my little babe's sleepy noises and milk-laced grins. And of course, these are the moments I so desperately want to capture, and CAN'T, because the room is so darn dark. I wish the iPhone made an infrared camera.
I keep finding colic tablets in my sheets. Am I producing them?
Re-swaddling the maverick child who un-swaddled himself, then knocked himself in the face with his puppy-hands, then cried about it. Then woke me up. Then mommy cried too.
Eating the same foods everyday because they are the most surefire way to NOT upset his tummy. 24 hours of a baby wailing because I ate garlic, yogurt or salsa just isn't fun. And it also isn't worth it.
Trying every possible comforting sound, movement, song and dance (yes, I am baby whipped and dancing like a monkey) just to give my under-stimulated, overly-bored and often-times tummy-aching child some distraction and relief. I've run out of all the good ideas. But I'll attempt all the lame ones too.
My daily mantra: "Please God, give me grace and give Everett peace. Let him know I love him so much. And get me to my 8pm glass of wine."
Don't even get me started on how often I get peed upon. I've started to think about it as the anointing of the mother/son relationship.
Now don't get me wrong. There are a ton of gorgeous moments, too.
Like when I pick him up as he's screaming and he immediately softens. Reaches up. And wraps his darling Popeye arms around my neck. And then smiles RIGHT INTO MY EYES. Cue heart melt. Oh wait. I'm crying again.
Like when I put him on his play mat and show him how to reach up and touch the rattling mobile with his hand. AND THEN HE DOES IT BY HIMSELF. I taught him something and HE LEARNED IT. Crying over here.
Like trading in my R&B Pandora stations for Baby Einstein. We jog and sing to the hokey pokey, twinkle twinkle, and thankfully, those songs that Jack Johnson did for some children's movie. Yeah, the other outdoor exercisers in the neighborhood can hear us coming. Straight from old McDonald's farm.
Like when he's just finished nursing, and he looks up at me with those sleepy-happy eyes, milk dribbling down his cheek, and just yawns (and often farts), wriggles around a bit and finally sighs himself into a deep sleep. Knowing that I met all his needs is the BEST feeling.
I think I'm becoming a mom.
September 19, 2014
This is a story about a couple who tried desperately to have a normal, fun day OUTSIDE THE HOUSE.
Stevie & I decided to do something extra special this past weekend and take the trek out to Serenbe Farms, one of our favorite getaways on the southside of Atlanta. Serenbe is a posh country community, made up of mostly second and third homes to tired urban dwellers. This is the place where they escape for a bit of fresh air amidst the slow southern charm. Serenbe consists of a zillion acres of woods, lakes and ponds, along with an organic farm and all the appropriate barn yard animals to match. There are hiking trails, dotted here and there with luxurious (but tasteful "country-style") homes, and a dainty little downtown. It's a very darling, and sort of daunting, kind of place. Only because it's so spookily Stepford-perfect. Every so often my entire family visits Serenbe, mostly to dine at the incredible Farmhouse restaurant (which we tend to do over the holidays), and also to watch my dad horse whisper. So it's delicious and entertaining.
We decided it was the perfect weekend to take Everett to this favored place. The weather was ripening into the perfect almost-autumn day, and we had nothing to do and nowhere to be. Ah perfection. We drove 30 minutes out to the farm, windows down, the cool breeze wafting gently through the car, and Everett sleeping, quite literally, like a baby. We got to the restaurant, hoping to be seated on the old patio, so we could enjoy the weather and have the outdoors as a baby-crying buffer, if need be. Unfortunately there were a few events going on outdoors So the hostess walked us to our table, inside. Gulp. As we followed her, people stared at our portable baby car seat, which we were doing our best to tote gracefully (ha, yeah right), along with the diaper bag, baby carrier and other infant paraphernalia. I mean, we were prepared for a day at the farm with a baby, you know? We packed all the tricks we had. I hoped we wouldn't be a nuisance to the other diners.
Thankfully, my dear boy Everett kept snoozing, so we excitedly ordered drinks and appetizers. I decided something: going to lunch is the perfect new date idea for me and Stevie, since going out to dinner is sort of not doable these days. But this! A perfectly beautiful, organically grown lunch on this divinely romantic farm? This is totally doable. We're doing it! We're having a lunch date and I even have makeup on. I mean, talk about starting to feel like a lady again.
You know where this story is going, right?
Suddenly, my baby whipped his head up and screeched with the might of an overly-crowded Sunday school nursery gang. He was UP. Again, the onlookers LOOKED. Oh geez. I could feel my face filling with hot redness. In one fell swoop, my hero of a husband scooped up my darling boy and exited the restaurant, attempting to soothe him along the way. Hm. What shall we do? What should I do? Well. I started eating Stevie's appetizer, obviously. Those fried green tomatoes are seriously prize winners. But then I decided to be the mom that apparently I am, so I grabbed my diaper bag and left the restaurant the same way I came, making sure to tell the hostess that my husband would be back to gather the rest of our items and pay the bill.
Why did I think we could do this yet? Our son is barely 8 weeks old.
Well, the experience was only slightly embarrassing. I got to the car, where Stevie was pacing with my howling progeny, and we realized that he had pooped on his adorable Polo onesie (serves me right for dressing him so pretentiously adorable). So we changed him and I climbed into the front seat to nurse him. Funny. I had never just sat in the parking lot of the Farmhouse. But it was still lovely. It really was. Birds flying overhead and butterflies prancing. My precious child finally calmed down and my precious husband brought me a boxed meal to-go. We laughed and decided to try round 2 at Serenbe.
Everett slept blissfully for the rest of the afternoon while we ate our boxed lunch outside on a bench. You know what? That fried chicken tasted just as delicious as it would have indoors. We walked around, enjoying the gorgeous greenery, marveling at the craftsmanship of the homes, and shopping just a bit. It was a perfect re-do. I keep using the word perfect, but that's because it truly felt that way. Just a simply sweet day with my two favorite boys.
|// The loveliest homes in downtown Serenbe. //|
|// I bought a fox onesie here! To die for. //|
|// The Blue Eyed Daisy has the BEST chocolate chip cookies. They taste like cake. //|
|// I'm not gonna lie. It was a bit of an uphill battle. //|
|// A BUTTERFLY LANDED ON MY BABY. //|
|// He makes me so happy :) //|
|// My heart could possibly burst. //|
|// It's an Atlanta thing. If you haven't had King of Pops, you haven't quite lived. //|
|// Well, since you said it... //|