Monday, November 28, 2011

Meal Plan Monday (cold weather casserole edition!)

I'm trying my own version of Meal Plan Monday over here, to remind myself of what I need to cook for the week. :-)  All of these should make enough leftovers so Aaron and I can both have lunch the next day - yum! Sure beats Lean Cuisines!

Monday - leftover pulled pork with homemade mac & cheese and roasted broccoli
Tuesday - tater tot hotdish and corn
Wednesday - Marlboro Man sandwiches (from PW - I'm too lazy to link) and homemade sweet potato fries
Thursday - chicken enchiladas
Friday - French toast casserole with bacPublish Poston and fruit
Saturday - Daddy leaves and Grandma arrives! We might go out to eat, but if not, we can have

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Zoey Update

Our little Zoey Beast is 8 months old! I know I say this every time, but WHERE has the time gone?!? An update:

- She crawls like a pro, pulls up on everything, and is cruising around furniture like it's her job. Everyone assures us that walking is right around the corner for her, and I'm so excited to see her take her first steps!

- Zoey eats just about everything. In fact, I can't think of any food other than my homemade egg noodles (what?!) that she has refused. She looooved Thanksgiving dinner--she feasted on turkey, peas, corn, mashed potatoes, Chinese pork, bread, sweet potatoes, and honeydew melon. Other favorites include eggs (boiled or scrambled), toast, guacamole, oranges, apple pancakes, and cajun-spiced chicken. She still eats baby food and yogurt at daycare and on occasion at home, but she much prefers non-pureed real food! Our favorite restaurant to go to these days is Ruby Tuesday, since they have an awesome salad bar with lots of yummy stuff that Z can eat.

- Speaking of Thanksgiving, we celebrated Zoey's first Thanksgiving this past Thursday. For the first time in several years, we didn't host. We joined Aaron's former advisors at their house, along with some fellow grad students. We were in charge of the turkey and the dinner rolls, and I even made a semi-healthy sweet potato pie to keep at home (ssshhh, don't tell!), so Zoey and I wouldn't have to share...haha. We enjoyed a lovely meal, and then after dinner, instead of everyone scattering down to the basement to play pool and video games, we all sat on the carpet and let Zoey entertain us for awhile!

- The only "bad" news we have to report is that Zoey has really regressed in her sleep habits. She's gone from sleeping straight through the night, 11-12 hours, to waking anywhere from 2-4 times a night. I don't know if she's going through a growth/development spurt, or has just gotten into a bad pattern, but ugh! It's so hard to go back to frequent night wakings when you're used to getting an uninterrupted night's sleep!

- Zoey has really increased her babbling lately, and she will "communicate" with you by talking back and trying to imitate sounds if you engage her directly. We're still waiting for the first "mama" or "dada", though.

- Finally, we are really looking forward to the month of December. Unfortunately, Aaron will be gone to San Francisco all of the first week, but Grandma (my mom) is coming to visit instead! I'm sure Zoey and Grandma will enjoy the one-on-one time while I'm at work. Also, later in the month, Zoey will get to spend another evening with Tiff, a good friend of ours who likes to babysit her, while Aaron and I attend the Aerospace holiday banquet. And, for Christmas, Aaron's parents, plus his sister and her fiance, will join us in Grand Forks, and we're really looking forward to celebrating with them and hopefully finding Hannah's wedding dress while they're here!

Monday, October 31, 2011

More holiday fun

(Two posts in one day--unheard of, right?)

Anyway, now that Halloween is basically over (it feels like it's been Halloween for weeks around here, with all the candy and goodies and pumpkin patches and costumes and such)...I figured it was time to start thinking about the other fall/winter holidays quickly approaching!

We're not sure what we're doing for Thanksgiving this year, but there is a good chance I'll be roasting a turkey, at the very least. However, we just solidified Christmas plans, and it looks like Aaron's family will be coming to our house, and we'll have Zoey's first Christmas at home! Like any good southerner, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of hosting a holiday is FOOD! I came up with some preliminary menus, and I thought I'd share them here for anyone who needs a little holiday meal-planning inspiration...

Christmas Eve Night (appetizers/snacks)
Ro-Tel Queso Dip, Chips, and Salsa
Shrimp cocktail
Sausage balls
Buffalo chicken rolls
Veggie tree (super cute!)

Christmas Day Dinner
Beef pot roast in the crock pot (I don't use a recipe, but I buy a pre-seasoned roast from one of our local grocery stores, cover it in beef broth, green bell peppers, and onions, and cook on low all day long.)
My mother-in-law's famous mashed potatoes (similar to this recipe)
Confetti corn casserole
Italian-style green beans cooked in beef broth
Buttery garlic knots
Flourless chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream

Also, it's tradition in Aaron's family to have a huge tray of Christmas cookies for everyone to munch on the entire visit. Even though this seems like a lot, it's nothing compared to what my MIL normally does! She has over a dozen recipes that she makes in triple and quadruple-sized batches! I'll just be making one small batch of each, which will still give me plenty to give away as gifts or take to work for a treat. I'll probably start making these a week in advance and freezing them until our guests arrive. Here's the planned cookies, as of now:

Strawberry Angel Cookies
Sweet-n-Salty Ritz Cracker Treats
Sugar & Spice Truffles
Chocolate Sundae Cookies
Lemon Snow Bites
Nut Goodie Bars
Citrus Butter Cookies
Soft Ginger Cookies
Homemade Samoas
Decorated Sugar Cookies

Happy Halloween!

I can't believe it's October already, and time for Zoey's first Halloween! We're not actually doing anything special this evening, other than passing out candy to trick-or-treaters, but here are a few pics to share of Zoey in her spider costume, and from our visit to the pumpkin patch.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Adventures in Eating

As a side note, I know blogs are reallllly boring with no pictures, but you can blame the husband for that one! I think it's called "photographer's child syndrome"...sort of like the cobbler's child has no shoes, if you catch my drift. ;-)

Anyway, Zoey has been busy growing and learning and exploring! We have a semi-crawler...she will crawl 2 or 3 little "scoots" before falling over and giving up, but I just know she will be a mobile girl on the move before much longer! I found out that at daycare, she's eating bits and pieces of "people food" with her lunch, so I figured it was high time to start sitting down together as a family and eating our dinner together each night. You see, Aaron and I had gotten in the terrible habit of eating in front of the TV after Zoey goes to bed every night.

Last night, I proclaimed things were changing, and we moved our dinnertime a little earlier, and I parked Zoey's high chair next to the table, and we all sat down to dinner. Zoey started with a stick of string cheese--she loved gumming on it, but once she turned into a wolverine and started ripping off big hunks of it, I had to take it away and tear it into bite-size bits she couldn't choke on. She's a fan of cheese. Aaron and I had hamburger patties and green beans last night (boring, I know), so Zoey had the same. I chopped them into teeny pieces for her, and she really enjoyed being able to "explore" and taste her new food. She ended up gagging on it a few times, but all my mommy friends reassure me that's a completely normal reaction, and one that may continue for some time--but eventually she will get used to all the tastes and textures. It was fun, if not a bit messy! She didn't actually eat all that much, so I also gave her a jar of pureed carrots, but all in all, our first family meal was successful.

Tonight we are having meatballs made from beef and Italian sausage (from our local meat market--yum!), with marinara sauce and whole wheat pasta. Zoey will get to try all of those, and I'm really curious to see how she does. Her doctor was fairly adamant that we shouldn't make special meals for her, as she starts eating more and more table food. I'm totally on board with that--I'd really like to avoid having a picky child who only eats chicken nuggets and cheese! The thought is, that by offering her what we have each night (within reason--I won't be giving her shellfish, nuts, or honey for awhile!), she'll learn that this is dinner, take it or leave it kind of thing. Of course, she'll still also get baby food purees for awhile, especially until she gets teeth, but I'm just really having fun watching her grow and turn into a little person of her own!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ten on Tuesday

I am clearly having trouble making time for blogging, so I'm going to do another Ten on Tuesday...

1. What is your dream vacation?
Easy. As much as I'd love a 10-day or longer cruise, I'd be hard-pressed to go on one over this: a couple of weeks in this villa on Turks & Caicos.
2. What has been your favorite trip so far in your life?
That's a tough one. Probably all-time favorite was my trip to Ireland, Scotland, and England when I was 16. It was led by our history teacher, but not we got to do a lot of fun things we might not have gotten to otherwise, like (close your eyes, mom): drink Guinness at the brewery in Dublin, have an Irish coffee at a quaint cafe, and get rowdy in a Killarney pub.
3. If you and one of your best friends could go anywhere in the world for one week, where would it be and why?
I'd go with Aaron, of course, but for only one week? Disney World in the off-season so it's not too busy. If we had more than one week, we'd go to Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji!
4. Have you ever booked a trip using an online deal? How did it go?
Oh yeah--I've booked every single one of our cruises (sans our honeymoon since Aaron's parents booked it) with online travel agents, and it's always gone perfectly.
5. What’s your favorite thing to do while you’re on vacation?
Laying in the sun with a cold drink in my hand. Nothing better.
6. Have you ever missed an opportunity to take a trip that you regret?
I don't think so? I mean, Aaron travels a lot for school/work, and I could always tag along, but the most exciting place I think he's ever been is San Francisco...and as much fun as that would be, I don't really regret it or consider it a missed opportunity.
7. You travel far away from home and get stranded with no way to buy anything, what’s the one thing you can’t live without?
8. What’s one of your favorite traveling memories?
Being the star of the piano bar on the Carnival Inspiration (ha, not sure if that's a good thing!); seeing whales in Alaska with Aaron; relaxing at a beach-side spa on Eagle Beach in Aruba with Liz; seeing the sunrise over the Atlantic as our plane landed in Shannon, Ireland; whitewater rafting in Costa Rica with my mom; seeing my grandma's sheer delight at being on her first cruise; snorkeling for the first time in Cabo. I can't pick just one!
9. All included resort or backpacking? Why?
Oh, what a funny question! Why? Because this is a perpetual issue with Aaron and I! Not that we go on vacations that often, but we're always kind of dreaming and halfway planning something...and I, of course, go for the 5-star beach resort with a jacuzzi tub en suite, that kind of thing. Aaron, naturally, would love to backpack someplace remote and sleep on the ground for a week and be one with nature, all that. (Have you seen the movie 127 Hours? Yeah, that would so be Aaron, although he assures me he'd never be in that situation, because he'd at least tell someone where he was going!) Anyway, I'm willing to compromise and go someplace like Costa Rica, where there's outdoorsy stuff AND luxury resorts, but we'll see...we had planned to do an 11-day Southern Caribbean cruise last fall (with lots of hiking and exploring for Aaron in all the port stops), but then we found out we were expecting our little bundle of joy, so that got canceled. I think we're long overdue for a vacation together!
10. Are you more of a lie on the beach kind of person on vacation, or do you prefer to see the sights?

Monday, September 19, 2011

6 months!

Our little (not-so-little!) Zoey Mae turns 6 months old today! I know I sound like a broken record, but WHERE has the time gone??? It seems like just yesterday I was having my baby shower at work, and anticipating her arrival. I had no idea what an adventure parenting would turn out to be, but I wouldn't trade a second of it for any other life.

I know I'm really behind in posting pictures (we're also behind in taking some), but Aaron has promised me a 6-month photo shoot for Miss Z very soon, so I hope to have lots of pics to share when we finish that.

In other updates...we are finally cloth diapering 99% of the time, and LOVING it! It took a couple of months for me to get comfortable and find a system I liked using, but now that I have, I'm so glad we're doing it. The vast majority of our stash is made up of GroVia AI2s. We also have five TotsBots Easy Fit AIOs that are actually my favorites, but they're spendy and you can't replace the liner. Finally, we have three FuzziBunz (two size smalls and one OS) that were gifts or freebies, and that rounds out our stash. I have no leaking problems, and cloth contains the poop-splosions so much better than any 'sposie! The laundry hasn't been half bad, either...unless your well-meaning husband happens to dry your load of diapers with not one, but two chemical-laden dryer sheets. Eeeeeek! (For those who don't know, dryer sheets contain wax, which coats the diapers and causes them to repel liquids, instead of absorb. Not good!) So, I've started the stripping process. Hopefully they'll come clean without too much hassle, and no harm, no foul!

Zoey is reportedly the "best eater" at daycare (that's my girl! haha), and she loooooves her purees. Let's see if I can list everything she's had so far: oatmeal, bananas, sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, peaches, mangoes, green beans, pineapple, pears, apples, squash, blueberries, corn, and broccoli. I *think* that's it, plus she's gnawed on some watermelon, cantaloupe, celery, spinach leaves, and tried a couple of spinach-apple baby puffs. Whew! Oh, and she can drink water from a sippy cup like a big girl, when she's in the mood!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Riddle me this...

Why is it that Zoey is pretty solidly in 6-9 month clothing all around, but when I put her in a pair of 3-6 month jeans this morning (yay cool weather!), they nearly fell off her of her, they're so big?? Darn vanity sizing for babies. :-)

Oh, and I forgot the biggest update of all on our last post: we have officially retired the infant seat, and Zoey is now full-time in her Britax Boulevard! She loves it, and I love not lugging around the bulky carrier anymore. This also means that she now sits in the shopping cart like a big girl, and has even sat in a few high chairs at restaurants. *sigh* What happened to my little newborn??

And a random note to any expecting parents out there: Do as  I say, and not as I do. We bought an infant carrier that goes all the way to 32 pounds, thinking "wow, we can use this for at least a year!" Sure, Zoey isn't anywhere NEAR outgrowing the seat, but trust me when I say you will not want to haul that thing around anymore once your little one gets to be about 16-17 pounds. Holy macaroni. Plus, the Britax is sooooo much more padded and comfy for her, and she seems to enjoy riding in the car so much more now!

Friday, September 9, 2011

A few camping pictures...

Our little monster in her bear hat. (Incidentally, that hat was the first thing I purchased after the ultrasound when we found out we were expecting a GIRL!)

Mommy and Zoey bright and early in the morning...

Breakfast time! No, she is not eating Coldstone hot cocoa (which isn't that great, for the record). She's enjoying her feast of Gerber Apple-Cinnamon oatmeal.

All tuckered out after a stroll!

Chillin' in the camp chair. :-)

The boonies of western North Dakota. I could live here.

RuRu dominated.
Near our campsite at sunset.
Another sunset pic near camp.
The Little Missouri River that flows right through our campground.
The gopher snake I found. Once we determined he/she was harmless, it was picture time!

The other zoo animal. :-)
Bonus picture: Not from camping, but our little chunks sleeping about a month ago. Aaron just got this one off the camera.

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Life has just been SO busy and hectic lately, that my poor little blog has been neglected!

Let's see, what's new with us these days...

Zoey has started daycare and it's really working out well. She made the transition with practically no issues, and we just love Miss Theresa. She now sits more than anything, and if you raise her up so she can stand, she doesn't want to stand still anymore! The girl wants to walk! I can't believe it - she knows to put one foot in front of the other. Once her strength and balance catch up with her little mind and willpower, I know she'll be off to a running start!

We took Zoey on her first camping trip (pics to come if Aaron will ever upload them off his memory card!) to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. I always forget just how beautiful it is out there, and I'm amazed each time we go. I truly think I could live in the boonies in that area, if I didn't have to commute to work or anything like that. We even had a little side adventure, where we hunted for ice caves without a good map to point us where they were. We weren't successful, but we still got to see a lot of cool stuff, including taking the Subaru off-road, and did eventually procure a map for the next time we go.

I made my debut as the Diet Writer at Once a Month Mom! My first recipe and my introduction post went up yesterday; there will be plenty more to come. If you haven't subscribed to the RSS feed, then you better go ahead and get on that! :-)

I joined Weight Watchers @ Work. My first official meeting was yesterday, and I'm excited to have a program and support group for my own weight loss journey. I feel like I have a pretty good handle on the eating part, especially doing once-a-month cooking, but now I just need to find a way to fit working out into my routine. I'm also doing a "Biggest Loser"-type of contest with some girls from a message board I'm on. We're having a real-life get-together in April (in Gatlinburg, Tennessee--yay!), and not only am I excited to meet these awesome women in person, but I'm also excited to hopefully be considerably lighter and have a chance at winning the competition, which will conclude in Tennessee!

I started back to grad school! I can't remember if I mentioned this on here or not, and I'm too lazy to go back and read, but nonetheless...I am taking a class this semester that meets on Monday nights, and I will hopefully complete my internship requirements this semester and advance to candidacy. That means that next semester, all I have to do is take an Educational Psych class and work on my scholarly project (in lieu of a thesis). Assuming all goes well and falls into place, I'll graduate next May, alongside Aaron's sister, who will be getting her bachelor's degree.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Zoey update

Zoey has finished her first full week of daycare, and other than one "bad report" day, she has adjusted quite well. She goes to a home daycare with 3 other little girls - Ava, Savannah, and Sydney. Not all of them come every day, so it's been great for Zoey (and the other girls) to get a lot of attention from Miss Theresa.

Zoey now takes two solid "meals" a day - cereal in the mornings at daycare, and a fruit and/or veggie in the evenings at home. Her list of foods she's tried is now up to: sweet potatoes, peas, apples, carrots, pears, peaches, green beans, broccoli, and mangoes. She loves them all! The only one she's really made a face about were the carrots, but she ended up eating them anyway. Peaches seem to be her favorite (mine, too!). There is no better smell in the world than a little baby after she's had a meal of peaches. What a sweetie! She also tried a spinach- and apple-flavored puff, but she wasn't quite sure what to do with it, so I guess we'll have to save those for later.

I've also discovered secondary uses for her baby food. A few months ago, I stocked up on Earth's Best organic purees when I found some on clearance, so I have a cupboard full of just about every variety imaginable. I had plans to try out a healthy lemon-berry muffin recipe, but discovered this morning that I was out of applesauce, which the recipe called for. I didn't really want to go get Zoey out to go to the store AGAIN, so I got the bright idea to search through her baby food, and see if I could find something that would work instead. Sure enough, I found a jar of pureed apples and apricots, so we'll give it a shot and see how it turns out.

Zoey is also babbling up a storm, eating her toes, and spending more and more time on her tummy, on her own initiative. I think it's just a short matter of time before she starts to crawl or scoot! She's also sitting up really well unsupported, but she hasn't figured out how to get herself to the sitting position without help yet. She also surprised Mama today when we were playing on the floor of her nursery - I was helping her stand, as she likes to do, when she leaned forward and used her hands to support herself on the second shelf of her changing table. She can't pull up to it by herself, but she sure can stand for a long time if she can steady herself on the table! Eeeeek! She's also extra-drooly these days, so I don't know if she'll be popping a tooth soon, or if she'll be one of those months-long teethers. Only time will tell!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ten on Tuesday (actually, 12)

1. Do you listen to the radio in your car?  If so, what type of station do you like?
Oh yes. In fact, the car is pretty much the only place I listen to the radio (because my iPod is never charged). I mostly listen to country, but also go between 60s/70s rock and the top 40 stations.

2. What is the best concert you have ever attended?
Big & Rich at WeFest 2009. Other than "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy" and their song that was on ESPN's College Football Gameday ("Coming to Your City"), I knew absolutely nothing about Big & Rich, or the Muzik Mafia, or Cowboy Troy, or any of their entourage. They totally blew me out of the water and put on an AWESOME show! I'm now a devoted fan.

3. What is the most embarrassing concert you have ever attended?
I don't go to that many concerts, and the ones I do go to are artists I really love (seriously--it takes a LOT to get me to go to a concert like a normal person*), so I'm not really embarrassed about ones I've attended! However...if you go waaaaaay back to around 1992ish(?), my mom took me to Tulsa to see Billy Ray Cyrus, live and in concert. That's probably cringe-worthy, right?

4. If you could have the singing voice of anyone in the world, who would it be?
Miranda Lambert or Patsy Cline, or the chick from The Band Perry.

5. You’re auditioning for American Idol.  What song do you sing?
Uh, wouldn't catch me auditioning for Idol, but if someone held a gun to my head and made me....then maybe "American Girl" by Tom Petty.

6. If your previous weekend had its own soundtrack, what would be a few of the songs?
That's a hard question! Not to be too lame, but probably "Happy Birthday" because we celebrated my mom's birthday. I can't really think of any others, except OH!, that "Sound of Sunshine" song ESPN is playing during the Little League World Series coverage. It's catchy!

7. Most annoying television show theme song ever:
Hands-down, Married with Children. "Love and marriage, love and marriage...."  (Shoot me now.)

8. Are you and your significant other music-compatible?
No way. When I first met Aaron, he only listened to god-awful techno and trance music. Most of that is like nails on a chalkboard to me. He's since broadened his musical horizons and now listens to a lot of indie rock, with a little bit of rap/hip-hop thrown in there. Me? I'm a country girl through and through. I like really old-school country, like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, 80s country like I grew up with, a very few new country songs, and of course, anything my man TK sings. I also love classic rock, blues, 80s power ballads, and the occasional booty-dancing club hit.

9. A song that brings me back to middle school:
Tag Team's "Whoomp, There it Is!"

10. A song that brings me back to high school:
"Hoochie Mama" by 2 Live Crew

11. A song that brings me back to college:
"It Wasn't Me" by Shaggy, or anything by Outkast and Ludacris. (I wasn't always so proud of my country roots!)

12. A guilty pleasure song:
Boys From Oklahoma – Cross Canadian Ragweed (oh yes, thanks for the reminder, Roots and Rings!)

*  I had the amazing experience of attending WeFest 2009 as a VIP/guest of a certain someone's record label. It ruined me forever from going to concerts like a regular person. If I can't go in style, and hang out backstage/amongst the tour buses with all the beer I can drink, I don't wanna go!

Monday, August 22, 2011


Zoey started daycare this morning! I thought it would be harder than it was, but honestly, it wasn't that bad! Her provider now has four kids she watches, and two of them don't come on Mondays, and the third one was sick today, so Zoey is there all by herself for the day! I think it will be great for to get used to the surroundings without the other kids there, so I'm feeling good about that. I haven't texted Miss Theresa yet to find out how she's doing, but I plan to do that at lunchtime. Hopefully all is going well, and she isn't throwing any fits! :-)

Friday, August 19, 2011

5 months!

Zoey turns 5 months old today, and her grandma turns 708 months. (Happy birthday, Mom!) Our happy girl continues to amaze us with all the new things she's learning and doing! Here's a short list of what she's been up to lately:

- Learning to sit unassisted! She's gotten so much better at balancing in the last week or so, and she can now sit by herself for about a minute or so...or until she reaches for something and topples over in a fit of giggles. :)

- Eating. As I mentioned a few posts back, Zoey is now eating baby food purees once a day. So far, we're still on sweet potatoes, peas, and apples, but next up are mangoes and green beans! We've also got bananas, squash, peaches, carrots, pears, and prunes (eww) stocked in the cupboard for her.

- Becoming mobile. This child has the ability to somehow get from one side of the room to the other in no time flat, without actually crawling yet! Seriously, I'll put her down on her blanket, and I'll turn my back for a second or go to another room quickly, and when I come back, she's on the opposite side of the room, totally pleased with herself. :-)  I have a feeling crawling is not too far away, followed closely by teething. We haven't spotted any up-and-coming toofers yet, but gnawing is her new favorite pasttime, so we shall see..

- Waking up happy! When Zoey was a little younger, every time she woke up, no matter how long it had been since her last feeding, she was crying. It was just a part of our lives back then. In the last 4-6 weeks or so, she's really done a complete 180 in that department! She now wakes up happy and smiling, cooing and babbling. She doesn't hesitate to squawk at us, though, if she deems we've taken too long to come and rescue Her Highness from her crib!

Zoey has become such a pro at anything we throw at her - weddings, church services, restaurants, long car trips, outdoor festivals, much that we have decided to really tempt fate, and we've planned our first camping trip with Zoey for Labor Day weekend. We'll make our annual trek out to the badlands at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota, and brave tent camping with our baby beast. I told Aaron that it will either be really awesome or really awful. We're hoping for awesome, of course, and I really have no doubt Zoey will have a blast. I'm sure we'll have lots of pictures and stories when we return!

Happy 5 months, baby girl! We love you!

Thursday, August 18, 2011


That last post was pretty long...sorry! But, really, it was good for me to write everything out and I'm starting to feel more at peace with the fact that I was unable to breastfeed as long as I would have liked.

Anyway, moving on...

I thought it was time that I posted an update on our cloth diaper situation. Basically, I broke the cardinal rule of cloth diapering: I bought a whole "stash" without trying 1 or 2 first to make sure I liked them. So, I had a whole closet organizer-full of *beautiful* custom-made diapers for Zoey, but we really only liked the fit and function of a few of them. My wonderful friend Kristen came to my rescue and a.) suggested I sell off the ones I don't like on Diaper Swappers, and b.) loaned me some GroVias, FuzziBunz, and newborn prefolds (for absorbency), to see how I liked those. Once I tried the GroVia on Zoey, it was like the cloth diaper heavens opened up and the angels were singing. What a GREAT diaper!

Soooo...I now had the conundrum of what to do with our old diapers. I didn't want to spend all that money AGAIN on new diapers, nor did I want to go back to disposables, because the whole point of buying cloth diapers in the first place was not to have to buy any more sposies! Well, thanks to Kristen's awesome suggestion about Diaper Swappers, I've sold off the vast majority of our custom-made stash at or above the price I paid for them originally! Wahoo! I was also able to score a few gently-used GroVias off there to go with the new ones I bought. Let's just say the money I made off our old diapers didn't stay in my PayPal account for long!

I have a couple of other new announcements...

One, Zoey starts daycare on Monday. *insert sad panda face* Even though I know we've found a great provider, it's still hard (and costly! blarrrrgh!) to leave your little one with a stranger. Monday also brings the end of my parents' summer-long stay with us, and we're going to be really sad to see them go. They will never know how much Aaron and I appreciate them spending their summer in North Dakota so that Zoey didn't have to go to daycare when I returned to work in June after my maternity leave. I would have been a total basket-case!

Also, I received the great news today that I am now a paid writer at OnceAMonthMom! I applied for the position about a month ago, and after a pretty rigorous "assignment" (doing a mock menu), plus a Skype interview, I passed the test and am now onboard the OAMM writing staff! I'm so excited, not only to be able to write about my favorite topic (haha), but also because OAMM is growing by leaps and bounds, and being a part of that is just so cool!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Our breastfeeding story...this is kinda long

A year ago, I thought I was invincible. As my pregnancy hormones ramped up in the first trimester, my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms went away, and I totally pushed out of my mind that diagnosis I got just a few short months before finding out I was expecting. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed my baby for a year like I hoped to do, or that pumping wouldn't go as it should, or a myriad of other "what-ifs". I just figured things would go well, and I'd be able to feed my baby as nature intended. I knew a lot of women struggled with breastfeeding, but I naively assumed that I wouldn't be one of them.

Pregnancy drew to an end, and I started to remember the reality that was my RA. Realistically, my symptoms would come back, possibly even worse than before, and I'd have to take meds that weren't safe for breastfeeding. But, once I held my precious Zoey in my arms, all thoughts of anything but warm-snuggly-squishy-newborn thoughts left my head. Nursing went fine in the hospital. She wasn't hungry yet, per se, but she was able to latch well, and she made enough wet/dirty diapers to keep the nurses off our backs.

When we got home, things were a whole different story. My milk hadn't yet come in, and my baby was STARVING. Ranting, raving, mad, give-me-some-damn-food-woman, hongry. The few drops of colostrum she was getting were supposed to hold her over until the mama milk factory kicked into production, but she was having none of it. In a moment of desperation, I gave her about an ounce of formula (damn you, formula companies, for sending out all those free samples to expecting moms!). She eagerly drank it, but then the guilt set in, and Aaron griped at me for giving her any, and well...we were just a hot mess. I spent a good part of our first couple of days at home frustrated and bawling, because my baby couldn't get enough to eat, and therefore screamed her fool head off, but everyone was basically telling me that formula was poison, and it would ruin our breastfeeding relationship, blah blah blah. (Side note: I'm crying right now as I type this, however many months after the fact. It was a tough time, for sure!)

On Tuesday morning (Zoey was born on Saturday morning), our wonderful doula and lactation counselor, Rhonda, came by for a visit. My milk still hadn't come in, and Miss Fussypants was in the middle of one of her colossal fits of rage. Rhonda could clearly see I was about to lose it. She suggested that Zoey and I go take a nap together, skin-to-skin, and she sent Aaron out to the store for a nipple shield to see if that would help Zoey latch on longer so she could get more colostrum. Well, wouldn't you know, when Zoey and I woke up from our nap, I was leaking milk all over the place. Praise the Lord! We basically never looked back from that point forward--Zoey was a great nurser, and we never had latch or supply issues, and everything was peachy-keen, for the most part. I was still in denial that my RA symptoms would ever prevent me from breastfeeding.

Our only "problem" was that Zoey was such a frequent nurser. It was a rare occasion for her to even go 45 minutes to an hour without eating during the day. Even though it was a little bit of an inconvenience, I loved the time with her, and never thought much about it until Aaron's family came to visit over Easter weekend. Their comments and suggestions made me start to doubt my ability to adequately feed my child, and made me wonder if we were doing something wrong, or if my baby was abnormally hungry, or what. (And if they're reading this, please know that I don't hold anything against you - I know everything that was asked or said was coming from a completely innocent place and you meant nothing by it - it was just another internal struggle I encountered as we tried to find our way with breastfeeding.)

Also around this time, I started pumping to work on my freezer stash. I had bought a gently-used Medela pump from Zoey's doctor's wife, who had only used it when her youngest was in the NICU for a few weeks, then she passed it on to me. I struggled to even get an ounce, even pumping when my breasts were full. I kept telling myself that it would take some time to get used to the pump, or that once I was away from my baby, I'd produce better for pumping, etc., etc., but I always had it in the back of my mind that some women just do not produce for the pump, at all. Their supply is fine for their baby, but not so much for the pump. I seriously worried not about my RA symptoms at that point, but about what I would do when I returned to work. My baby would have to eat, and I would have to pump, and the whole thing was stressing me out.

The very day Zoey turned 8 weeks old, she and I attended a bridal shower at a local park. My friend Tiffany asked me how my RA was doing now that I'd had Zoey, and I commented that things couldn't be better. We were just trying to get her used to a bottle with what little milk I could pump in preparation for me going back to work. I kid you not, by the time the shower was over, my wrist hurt so bad that I could barely lift Zoey and get her car seat back in my vehicle. Driving home was pure torture, and I pretty much spent the rest of the night and all day Sunday in and out of the fetal position because my pain was so bad. I know it's hard to believe - it's just a wrist, right? - but unless you've been there, it's impossible to describe or relate. I couldn't even pick up my baby, and that hurt worst of all.

First thing Monday morning, I called my rheumatologist's office, hoping they would give me a shot of Prednisone or something that would be a quick fix for the pain, because long-term treatment would require a whole slew of laboratory tests and office visits and patient education before committing to anything specific. Unfortunately, my doctor was on vacation, and when his (awesome) nurse talked to him for me, the only thing he could suggest was maxing out my dosage of naproxen (Aleve). Even a small dose of naproxen is considered "iffy" for breastfeeding, unlike ibuprofen or acetominophen...and a huge, horse-sized dose like I was instructed to take was definitely unsafe for Zoey. I had to make a decision right then and there--I did not want to stop nursing my baby, but I also had to be able to physically take care of her.

Oh, and did I mention that Zoey and I were supposed to be leaving for our trip to Oklahoma in 2 days? And that I'd be flying alone with her? And that she was supposed to get her 2-month shots the day before we left? Oh, and that we'd be staying with my parents, who were insisting we go to church with them, but who clearly did not understand the fact that my child cannot go a whole church service's length of time without nursing? And the conservative Baptist church they attend surely would not condone breastfeeding during the service? Annnnd...we were also traveling to Tulsa to visit my extended family (a 3-hour trip by car)...and I was dreading having to insist that we stop to feed Zoey every so often if she wasn't asleep...have you traveled with my father? Oh my heavens. I was absolutely overwhelmed.

I felt like the cards were stacked against Zoey and I continuing breastfeeding, but the bottom line was, I had to do something to help my pain so that I'd be able to take care of her. I started taking the naproxen, and we stopped breastfeeding on May 16, 2011, when Zoey was 8 weeks and 2 days old.

She handled her first vaccination like a pro, and we made our trip to Oklahoma just fine. We went through a lot of bottles and a couple of different types of formula during our trip, just trying to figure things out, but overall, Zoey handled the transition like a champ. I was able to get quite a bit of time with just me and Zoey during that trip, and I have to admit that I spent the majority of that time crying. I was so sad about having to stop nursing, and I felt like a total failure. I still kind of do. I keep wondering if I had just "stuck it out" a few more days with my RA pain, if the flare-up would have subsided, and I would have been able to keep nursing all this time. Then again, Zoey may have had to go on formula anyway when I went back to work, since I wasn't producing squat when pumping. A bunch of what-ifs that I'll never know the answer to.

I hate the judging looks I get from breastfeeding advocates when I tell them we aren't nursing anymore. I don't usually feel like giving the whole story, so I know they're thinking we just gave up, we didn't have enough support, I'm a selfish mom, so on, and so forth. My heart just about broke in two when Zoey's doctor was praising me for breastfeeding, and I had to tell him we were now on formula. I got that look from him. (By the way, quitting cold turkey was the worst thing I could have possibly done for myself - not only was it physically painful, it was emotionally painful, as well. That sharp drop in hormones when I quit producing milk just about sent me to the looney bin. At the very least, I should have bought stock in Kleenex - I was a crying mess for a long time!)

Anyway, I just wanted to give my breastfeeding struggle a voice. Writing it all out has been somewhat therapeutic for me, and my number one goal for our next child is to nurse for longer than 8 weeks, but to also know that if I can't, because of my RA, then not to beat myself up about it and feel like a miserable failure, because that's pretty much what happened this time. I'm still bitter about it and hard on myself. I need to be confident in my ability to feed my baby, and not worry so much about what others think - I need to be my baby's best advocate, and regardless of the situation or people involved, I need to have the courage to speak up for her needs, and put my insecurities aside.

If you made it through all this, thanks for reading. :) A lot of tears were shed while writing it, so if anyone has any similar experiences or words of encouragement, I'd sure love to hear them.

Me time

If there's one thing I struggle with as a new mom, it's taking time for just myself. I breastfed Zoey for her first 8 weeks of life, and she was a very frequent eater, so it was literally impossible for me to be separated from her for more than 30 minutes or so. (Seriously. A quick run to the convenience store was about the only "alone time" I got during those days.) The one time I tried to get my hair done on a Saturday morning turned into a disaster. She wouldn't take the bottles of pumped milk I left with Aaron, so basically she just screamed for 2 hours while I was gone and I had to cut short my day out. That said, I really miss nursing and wish we could have continued that much longer. But anyway, that's for another post. Even when we stopped breastfeeding, I still felt guilty about leaving Zoey for very long...partially because I just didn't want to be apart from my baby girl, but also partially because Aaron was finishing up his Ph.D., and he was really busy. I always felt bad leaving Zoey with him when I knew he had work to do. So, all this to basically say that until very recently, I haven't had much time to myself.

I'm not necessarily complaining, because I didn't even realize I wasn't taking the time for me until Aaron said something a couple of weeks ago. A friend of mine had asked me to go out for drinks and shopping with her one evening after work, and I mentioned it to Aaron to make sure that he would be home to take care of Zoey while I was gone. He encouraged me to go, and said, "I feel like for every one thing that you do where you leave Zoey with me, I get to do 10 things. Take some time for you and go out and do stuff!"

Once he said that, I realized he was right. I could probably count on one hand the number of hours I'd been separated from Zoey (not counting work) since she was born. And 90% of that time was all because of Liz's wedding day when I was with the other bridesmaids getting hair and makeup done most of the day while Aaron and Zoey had daddy-daughter time. So, yes, I went with my friend that evening, and we had a great time. We shared a pitcher of beer and an order of wings at the Cay, and then made a quick run through TJ Maxx and the mall before they closed. Since then, I've had a hair appointment and an evening bridal shower sans Zoey, and I have to admit, it's been good for my soul to spend some "fun" time with other adults, not having to worry about bottles and diapers and feedings. (I still miss her every second I'm without her, though! I don't think that will ever change!)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Zoey's eating adventures

Somewhat on a whim, we decided to graduate Zoey from just cereal to baby food purees. She's now getting one single-ingredient fruit or vegetable puree each night, and she LOVES them! So far, she's had sweet potatoes, peas, and apples, and she hasn't shown a preference for any of them--she just eats them all! Mama prefers apples, because they don't stain her outfits. :-p  I suppose we'll just have to start feeding her naked, because even a bib doesn't catch the mess she seen here when she got a fistful of peas and decided to rub it all over her face!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Is there a doctor in the house?

Oh yes, there sure is--just not the kind you're thinking of! :-)

As I mentioned before, Aaron passed his dissertation defense back in July, and he is now officially Dr. Kennedy! UND's summer graduation was held last weekend, so we had a bunch of friends and family in town to celebrate!

Aaron's family arrived on Thursday, so that evening, we had them over for a cookout (my dad grilled his famous chicken), and Zoey got to meet her great-grandparents for the first time! Here she is with her Great Nana:

Friday was the actual graduation ceremony. Here is Aaron with his advisor, Dr. Xiquan Dong:

Unfortunately, we had to get to the graduation venue over an hour early in order to get a good seat, so by the time the ceremony actually started, Zoey was "done" with having to sit still and be

We stayed long enough to watch Daddy walk across the stage and get hooded (thank goodness Ph.D. grads were first!), then she and I joined about 8 other mommies and restless babies out in the lobby to wait for the ceremony to conclude. Oh well! We got to see what we came for! I'm hoping to have some more (and better) family pictures that our friends Feng and Rona took. (Also: this picture is as prime example of why I'm suddenly motivated to get back on the weight-loss bandwagon. Yikes. I still look very pregnant!) :-(

Our good friends from college, Michael and Kristen, drove in from Minneapolis that afternoon, with their 11-month-old daughter, Sarah, in tow. (Zoey's BFF!) We're so glad they were able to come celebrate with us! After graduation, the whole gang went to L'Bistro for dinner. It was good, and probably one of our better L'Bistro experiences, quite honestly, but Grand Forks is REALLY missing a family-friendly upscale restaurant. We have Toasted Frog, but it's 21+ only. Sanders is definitely not somewhere to take a baby or toddler. L'Bistro has the ambience, but the food is lacking. Bummer. We are getting a Ruby Tuesday soon, so even though it's a typical chain, it's at least a little nicer than Applebee's or Texas Roadhouse.

The gang at L'Bistro:

Zoey did great, even if we did keep her out past her bedtime...

Saturday was the long-awaited shindig I've been planning for Aaron. We went all out for this party - I rented a pavilion (they call them "shelters" up here) at one of the city parks; we got two kegs of beer; the lunch was catered; and a local bakery made a great cake, plus fruit and cookie trays. The only problem? It was supposed to rain allllll day. Yeah. I left Zoey with Aaron for the morning, while I first headed to Happy Harry's to pick up the Boulevard and Honeyweiss kegs we had ordered. I got to the park, got out of the car, and realized they had only given me one tap for two kegs. Back in the car, back to the liquor store, pick up new tap, back to the park. Slight panic when I realize that the pavilion is wet, even underneath the roof. Fortunately, the rain stayed pretty light, so we were able to use a broom to get rid of most of the standing water. I kind of got organized and got some decorations going, when my parents showed up to help. They were a huge help! Mom and I arranged the tables and got the decorations set up, while my dad got the beer kegs ready (of course!). The only major snafu (other than the weather, which turned out to be fine--we'd rather be confined to the pavilion because of light rain than roasting in the heat!) was with the caterer. 100%, without a doubt, the ONLY reason why I went with them over other options was because they grill their food on-site, rather than preparing it beforehand and serving it in warmers. Well, when I called the guy to confirm everything the day before, I warned him of the rain, and apparently that equals no grilling. Honestly, it wasn't a big deal, and the food was still great, but it could have been better, and I would have liked to have had that communicated to me so I wasn't totally surprised the day of, when the food showed up in chafing dishes. Oh well. Here are some pictures, of course...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Homemade laundry soap!

I feel like little miss Suzy Homemaker or something now (or Michelle Duggar, lol!), but I just made my first batch of homemade laundry soap! You wouldn't believe how cheap and EASY it is!

I found all the ingredients at Wal-Mart, and spent $7.24 total, which included 2 bars of Fels-Naptha soap (don't worry, I'd never heard of it, either), a box of Borax, and a box of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda. All of those things were found in pretty close proximity on the detergent aisle. I made a double-batch, and still have tons of the Borax and washing soda left for future batches.

Laundry Soap

1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated
1 cup Borax
1 cup Arm & Hammer washing soda

Stir ingredients together in large storage container (that can be sealed). Use 2 tbsp per load for non-HE machines, or 1 tbsp for HE.

The friend I got this recipe from said once in awhile, she feels the need to use vinegar in the rinse cycle (she just puts it in the fabric softener dispenser on her washer), but otherwise, she LOVES this detergent! I'm excited to try it out, and super-excited because it's sooooo much cheaper than the regular stuff!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Still here

I'm here, I promise! Lack of posting can be partially attributed to being so dang busy getting ready for Aaron's big graduation weekend extravaganza, and also partially because I've been kind of down in the dumps. Good friends of ours, Adam and Tiffany, lost their precious baby at 20 weeks into her pregnancy, after being diagnosed with a cystic hygroma at their routine ultrasound. Their ordeal has really made me realize just how blessed and fortunate Aaron and I are to have a healthy baby girl that we get to love and hold every day. It's so hard to post about trivial stuff when you see your friends going through such a tough time. Tiff, if you read this, know that you have been in my prayers constantly, and I know that you and Adam will meet your little one again someday in heaven.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our wedding, part 1

I'm totally stealing another one of Mrs. EyeCanSee's clever blog post ideas. This time, it's wedding-related! Just like her, I became a blogger long after my wedding, so I didn't get to share all the planning details and such with the internet. So, I will now proceed to subject to you a series of longish posts interspersed with wedding pictures. Unfortunately, I got married back in the stone ages, and our photographer shot with film, rather than digital, so these are all poorly-scanned images. Mrs. EyeCanSee's pictures totally rock, and they're way better than mine! :-p

I think we had 191 confirmed guests, and all but one or two showed up. What a party! We were the biggest wedding our venue had ever hosted, but it turned out great.

I had Audra, my maid of honor, along with Tonya, Chandler, and Susan as my bridesmaids (all high school or college friends). My cousin Tarabeth, and Aaron's sister Hannah were our junior bridesmaids.

Here's the thing about our cake - I have no idea who made it! For being as detail-oriented as I am, I can't believe I just went with it, but I did. The cake and groom's cake were both included in our wedding package at our venue. All I had to do was just submit pictures/descriptions and flavors, and we were good to go! I will say that our cake lady was amazing. I had requested that our cake have roses cascading down the side, but she didn't feel like she was talented enough to do it with icing, so she just told us she wouldn't be able to do it. (All of this was relayed through our wedding coordinator.) Unfortunately, fresh flowers weren't included in the package price, and I wasn't about to spend extra, so I just left it in her hands, and decided I'd be happy with whatever she came up with. When I saw this on our wedding day, I was so happy, I was nearly in tears! The groom's cake didn't turn out too shabby, either...

After several months of frustrating searching, I finally found the dress about a year before we were to get married. The problem was, I'm a plus-sized girl, and most bridal stores don't carry very many plus-size samples to try. My mom (who intended to buy my dress) refused to purchase a dress without me being able to try it on in my size (argh!), so that left me without much to choose from. On a whim while we were out shopping one day, my mom and I stopped in a tiny bridal salon in south Oklahoma City. It just so happened they had a dress that I liked, in my size. It was a discontinued sample, and couldn't be ordered, so we had to purchase it that day. My mom thought I should wait until closer to the wedding, and I didn't want to let the dress get away from me, so I ended up buying it with my own money. Thank goodness it wasn't terribly expensive!

Aaron proposed to me on October 31, 2002. I was working part-time at Dillard's department store while I was in college, and I had dressed up as Anna Nicole Smith for Halloween that night at work. (This was before she died, obviously!) I had a big, blonde wig, a denim bustier with a furry jacket, and black leather pants. Yep, I pretty much looked like a hooker. When I got back to my apartment that night, Aaron came over to hang out, and as per usual, the topic of us getting engaged came up again. We had several friends who were either just-engaged or just-about-to-be engaged, so it was clearly on my mind! Well, unbeknownst to me, Aaron had his own plans to propose at Thanksgiving in front of my family, but he decided to take an "out" and avoid the Thanksgiving scene by just getting on his knees and proposing to me right then and there, without a ring, in the middle of a little "tiff" about that very topic! (Oops.) I had a fake engagement-type ring that he slipped on my finger that night, and the very next day, he took me to the jewelry store and let me pick out the ring of my dreams. :-)

We had mostly pink and white roses. Our flowers weren't exactly what I ordered (or at least, what I pictured) from the florist, but they were fine, and it was one of those details that when it comes down to it, all that matters is that I ended the day married to my wonderful husband.
Ok, that's all for today--more tomorrow!