Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Monday, December 28, 2015

December, 6 Month Update

Autumn turned 7 months the day after Christmas so, for the majority of the month she was six months old.
Photography by Juls Megill

December first started with an early morning doctor's appointment for me. For those of you who don't know, we are TTC number two. I had an IUI which is surprisingly covered by our new insurance. I know, there are as many acronyms in the infertility world as there are in education. TTC stands for trying to conceive, and IUI is intrauterine insemination, or artificial insemination. We're doing these unmedicated, without any fertility drugs, so my doctor says "it won't work." Good to know! That way, we don't get our hopes up, and can start looking into our backup plan: IVF in Prague this summer.
Those of you who have followed my journey know that I announced my pregnancy with Autumn super early, right after I POAS (you can google that one). I hadn't even had a blood test. That won't be happening this time. We will keep it under wraps until we know everything is alright, like most people do. I don't have the data to back it up, but with IVF, you know you have a "good" egg, which is one of the reasons I was so optimistic. Plus, I needed to be since we were loosing Mom at the time and I desperately needed something positive. But my current doctor said that only 1 in 7 of my eggs is normal. Not me personally, but just because of my age.

After the appointment, Autumn and I went to Target and did a small food shop. I bought another turkey and a few ingredients to do another Thanksgiving dinner. Autumn tried avocado (fresh, not from a jar) for the first time and really seemed to like it. No more new foods for a few days, that day alone she had quinoa, apples and avocado. Her full tummy made her sleepy, and we continued our nap-time adventures.

We finished the house lights and started reading a copy of A Christmas Carol that my parents gave me, with a touching inscription on the title page.

We had to have Nathan's beautiful husky, Skippy, put down. He was Nathan's constant companion since he was 22 and together, they went on at least 3,000 walks over the twelve years. He had been declining for awhile and spending a lot of time outside, even when it dipped down to 50 degrees. But that morning, he had trouble walking and was dripping blood from his mouth. He yelped in pain when touched. I went with and took Autumn, and we both were there for the procedure and cried. I thought of Autumn being 10 or 12 and having to do this with Trevi or another dog. My first inclination was to not get another dog - ever. But, going through life not getting attached to and loving just to avoid hurt and loss is no way to live. We both believe that if she does have to go through this, it is good training in developing coping mechanisms for other losses that are sure to come. Plus, a childhood without pets is just no childhood at all, in my biased opinion.

On the 3rd, Autumn and I attended an event called Good Grief at Christ Cathedral about surviving the holidays after the loss of a loved one. I was hopeful that it would help, but it just made me sad. I sat through most of the two hour session alternating between tears streaming down my face and making faces at or rocking Autumn. It really didn't learn anything new or helpful, other than the idea to light a candle for Mom at Christmas dinner this year and every year after. Maybe the reason I was there was not for me. I was the youngest in the room, and about half of the other attendees, some of whom had lost adult children, came up to me at different times and commented on either how cute Autumn was, or how well-behaved she was. She gave her huge gummy smile and flashed her dimple each time, and everyone smiled back, some through the tears in their eyes. I made a mental note to myself to visit nursing homes with her next Christmas. I also was reminded to never persuade friends, family, or students to go into grief counseling if they're not ready.
Friday the 4th was Autumn's very first trip to see Santa Clause! My friend Andrea, her husband Bill and her son Casey drove out here and we went to Irvine Park Railroad. Seeing Santa is free, but you have to take a train to get to him which costs $12. A fair price, since they allow you to take your own photos.

I finished her red infinity scarf just in the (St.) Nick of time!
Autumn  missed a nap and wasn't her smiling, energetic self, but she still had a good time. Originally, I was planning on also visiting Santa at South Coast Plaza, but the one at Irvine Park will be our tradition. Because you can only get to him by train and they limit sales based on space, it was not crowded or rushed at all.

I had Autumn's Christmas photos done and was thrilled with the results! As I mentioned before, Juls Megill Photography is beyond reasonable. Her Christmas photos cost $20! I plan to use her for Autumn's entire childhood!


Can you spot the three ornaments?

I brought three very special ornaments to the shoot: Big Ben (Mom gave me), a pram that we purchased at Buckingham Palace, and her hand-print ornament. I also chose her dress to match the pink leather shoes that Dad bought for her last Christmas. The shoes and the pattern of pink roses on her dress are my way of paying tribute to Mom because they're both something she would choose and love. Plus, I was privy to the set beforehand, and knew that an outfit with traditional red and green colors would not really fit in. I ordered our cards, something I always look forward to, with even more enthusiasm than any other year. Her Grandma said she looks like a little princess, and is much cuter than Princess Charlotte. I'm sure her Nana would concur.

I had a nail in my tire and had to get it repaired, surprisingly for free, on Tuesday morning before a doctor's appointment at my fertility clinic for blood work. Usually, this could be seen as a hassle or a chore, especially so early, but not with Autumn. She was smiling so much, and making eye contact with anyone she could. Eye contact was always followed by a huge, dimple-baring smile, the same at my doctor's office. On the way home, I thought of how she is so much like my Mom in this respect. Mom could have a good time anywhere, under any circumstances. She was never stressed and she never complained. It is so wonderful having Autumn as a reminder to be like that and not sweat the small stuff.

When we got home, we had another nap-time adventure before cleaning up, while she continued to sleep.
Our little bookworm.
Nathan and I went on our daily walk and stopped off at the park to push Autumn in the swing for the very first time. I never bring my phone on our walks, and it was nice for her to do something, a "first" that was not documented. As much as I obviously love pictures and video, it's hard to be in the moment when you're behind the screen. We pushed her gently as some toddlers came over and were pushed on the other swings to Autumn's right. She watched them the entire time, and I am beginning to think and maybe believe that daycare will be good for her.

I introduced spinach with peas and she didn't love it, but she did eat it. We also started having fun at feedings when she's due for a bath. I made a big pot of spaghetti and let her play with it. I was right there, to make sure she didn't put any in her mouth and surprisingly, she didn't.



I met my friend Stella and her daughters at a park in Irvine and Autumn played in the sand for the first time, sitting quietly and touching it. She seemed to like it and didn't even try to eat it. I texted Nathan that we needed to buy some sand for her. The next day, as we were finishing up our morning walk, I noticed a Little Tykes plastic sand box that had a cover and a FREE sign on it. I went home and got my Jeep and couldn't shake the feeling that maybe Mom had something to do with it. It seems like every time she needs something, it's provided. Plus, Mom loved thrift stores and used items.

I had my annual Christmas party with my running/triathlete friends, and really wanted to bring Autumn. But, she had fallen asleep the night before at 6:30pm which is when the dinner started, so I decided to leave her with Nathan. He's great with her, and it's important for her to spend time with him, but I missed her the whole time I was there. I couldn't wait to get home to her, even though she was asleep. I quietly crept into her nursery, and watched her sleep for awhile.

We noticed on Saturday the 12th that her second bottom tooth was coming in. It had already broken through the skin and again, she did not act any different. We took her to church and she didn't even make one sound, just quietly watched the choir and then fell asleep at lunch.

We attended her last consecutive swim lesson for awhile, but will return for a day or two in both January and February so that she doesn't get out of practice.




On December 15th, I took her to what will be her daycare so that she could start to get familiar with it. Our visit was disheartening and I ended up driving home in tears. The plan was to leave her for a bit - under an hour, and I just couldn't do it. They were particularly busy that day, with seven babies and two workers. The workers were busy tending to two other babies, and I imagined her just laying on the ground, crying, and no one to console her. Plus, all of the kids were really sick, with running noses and bad coughs, and Autumn has never been sick. I came home and told Nathan I didn't want to leave her there, and we begun exploring Nanny options, setting up an interview with a nanny of an acquaintance. That night and into the next morning, I felt incredibly guilty about having to leave her every day.

I made myself go back to her daycare the next day as planned, and I'm glad I did because it was a bit reassuring. When I passed through the first locked gate and then the second, all of the toddlers were out in the play-yard with supervision, running around and having a great time. I could  picture her, a little older, out there having fun. There were only four children in the infant room this time, and I learned that some days and parts of the day are busier than others. Christmas music was playing. While I still did not leave Autumn, I enjoyed watching her curiosity with the other babies. She even called out to one girl, with her baby babble. When they cried, she watched them. She smiled at the staff.

I went back a third day, and left her for one hour while I went to my work which is close by, to meet with the counselor who has been subbing for me. She has subbed as a counselor at other schools in our district and told me that there needs to be two at our site because it has been so hectic. There always used to be two, one for 7th grade and one for 8th grade. But now, I am the only one and have a caseload of 650. It made me feel good that someone else recognizes how busy can be. And I hope my first day, week and month are chaotic and busy because I will worry about Autumn less and the time will go by faster. When I returned to pick her up, she was happily sitting and playing, until the worker moved from her side, and she started bawling. I rushed to pick her up, and it as clear to me that she had been crying previously, because her little eyelashes were clumped together with tears. January 4th is going to be tough, to say the least.

I have to remind myself that it's okay for her to have some time when no one is interacting with her. It's actually important for her development. According to the developmental book I'm reading, solitude is good for baby: Continue to allow baby quiet time by herself. It's okay to leave her safely on the floor or in her playpen while you attend to tasks. Don't feel guilty when you leave baby alone; it's an important part of her development. When she's alone, baby can process and internalize various pieces of information. She can observe her surroundings at her own pace. She can also rest physically, which she needs for her well-being.

It's going to be such an adjustment for me to be apart from her, whether it be daycare or in-home, and I know I will cry on the first day. Part of what is tough is that before she was born, I imagined that I would "need a break" by now and be ready for some adult interaction. But I don't feel that way at all. All I want to do is be around her, and I even miss her when she sleeps. I don't even like to leave her with Daddy! 

But, thank God I do love my counseling job, and having it allows me to provide her with things that I didn't have, like travel abroad and private school. While I would stay home until she started school if I could, I would still want to work once she was in school, because I love being a counselor. It's part of my identity and I do miss it. And, I have a career that affords me a lot of time off, much more than the standard two weeks because I only work 196 days per year. Also, I can pick her up some days as early as 3:30. If you can't tell, I'm trying to assuage my guilt here, as these are the things Nathan reminds me of on our walks, and I repeat to myself before l fall asleep at night.
Grandpa & Uncle Glen
We celebrated Christmas with my Dad and brother on the 19th. Dad and Glen were very generous, as usual. Dad gave us a working replica of the Tevi fountain and Glen gave us Stream TV which allows us to watch virtually anything, including TV shows and movies currently in the theaters. It sounds illegal, but the servers are in China so somehow, it's not. Dad also gave us all watches, including a replacement Movado watch that was the same as one Mom picked out for me years ago, which I had lost years ago.

Cousins
Then we had Nathan's sister, husband and Autumn's cousins over the night before we flew to Oregon. Always last minute, I still had not finished packing for our 10 day trip. Autumn hadn't seen her cousins since Halloween, and it was very cute to see MK sweetly sharing toys with her. I'm excited about the wooden growth chart they gave us, which can be taken with us when we move, and passed on to Autumn.  
We flew to Oregon on the 21st to spend time up there through the first of the year. Autumn and Trevi were both amazing on the flights. We used miles for free tickets, and as a result, had a short layover in Seattle before boarding one of those super tiny planes where you feel everything. No one seemed to mind Trevi on my lap, and several people approached me to ask how much she cost (free) or how I was able to have her there. 

Temperatures fell into the mid to low 30's during the nights and I was very excited to see snow falling on one of my morning walks with Trevi. It didn't stick until Christmas Eve, but still only provided a very light dusting on Christmas morning. It "felt" like Christmas, Mom and I always used to lament the days when it would be 80 degrees and sunny on Christmas, and always hoped for some cloud coverage or cooler temperatures. 
Christmas Eve excitement!

Unfortunately, Nathan and I were both sick on Christmas, and not able to keep anything down for 8 hours. I haven't been sick in years. When you are devoid of energy and the world seems to have twice the amount of gravity, it makes even re-positioning yourself on the ground difficult. Thank God Autumn did not get sick, and with us taking turns caring for her, she still seemed to have a wonderful day. Well, every day is wonderful for her. She loved all of her toys, and right around Christmas, started being able to sit all on her own. She also started playing independently on her own, not noticing or caring that I was out of sight, in the kitchen for over thirty minutes at a time. Both of these things made me feel better about upcoming daycare dilemma.

By the next day, we both felt well enough to put on our amazing pajamagram Santa suits, courtesy of TJ and Rebecca, much to Nathan's dismay. Even Trevi was included!  

We were also able to go out to Red Lobster with Ben to celebrate his birthday, complete with a cake with a picture of him with his newly adopted cat, Terry.

I absolutely love being in Oregon and Nathan's family, and seeing his parents, and Ben, interact with Autumn. This trip was so relaxing. Grandma worked every day to teach Autumn to wave, and she seemed to try and wave back a few times. Most days, the only thing on my agenda was helping prep something for dinner, a walk around some of the property or down the road, feeding the swans, feeding carrots to the horses and pony, playing with Autumn and crocheting or reading. Nathan, on the other hand, remained busy helping plan a remodel or addition for his Mom who cannot make it up stairs anymore. He called contractors and obtained estimates, helped move her downstairs, explored finding someone to dig a well, scheduled doctor's appointments and dealt with the insurance, packed up the Christmas decorations and planted the Christmas tree. 



All of that is not really work to Nathan, who loves helping out family. We still made time for our walks every day, and as always, used them as a time to reconnect and talk about the future. Future trips to Oregon, where we plan to return at least twice a year for the rest of our lives, and passing it on to Autumn. The Autumn Empire. And future Christmases, wondering with excitement when she will be old enough to be too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve, and how we can make them as special as she is, or at least try.

Milestones:
  • Can get up on her hands and knees and rock back and forth
  • Can sit without assistance! This just happened while we were in Oregon for Christmas. Before that, she could sit for quite awhile, but would slowly fall over after 5-10 minutes if not watched.
  • More babbling, especially when she wakes up
  • Second tooth! Bottom left
  • Helping hold her bottle
Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • How she tries to make eye contact with others when we go out and gives them a great, big smile
  • Blowing raspberries
  • How she takes her hand and rotates it in a circle, while watching it, seemingly curious about what it will do next
  • How she moves her arms and legs up and down while bouncing when she gets excited, like when Dad gets home
  • Her loud yawning noises; I'm still enamored with these and have yet to capture them on video
  • Her squeal of excitement when she sees Trevi, the swans, pony
  • How she stretches when I change her
Routines we're continuing:
  • Listening to Pray as You Go most mornings
  • Listening to: Happy together 
  • Singing to her: You Are My Sunshine, Que Serra, Amazing Grace (bedtime)
  • Story-time at the library
  • Reading, usually the book from my book club
  • Morning and evening walks
  • Crocheting
  • Nightly prayers
  • Waiting for Daddy on the bench by the front door
  • Swim lessons
  • Walking with her in the ergo 360
  • Nicknames: Bean, Baby A, Sweet One, Little Buns
  • Fires several times each week
Routines we're establishing:
  • Playing with food. Not every time, but some days when she's due for a bath I will dump out some of her carrots or butternut squash on her tray so she can feel the texture and paint with it. 
  • Peak-a-boo
  • Asking "Where's Daddy?" Or "Where's Trevi?" and cheering when she looks
  • After her morning feeding she's starting to sleep beside me instead of on top of me. This is a sign she's getting bigger, and makes me sad, but she's still cuddling.
Food she has tried:
  • carrots
  • avocado
  • sweet potato
  • peas
  • green beans
  • apple
  • oatmeal
  • quinoa
  • bananas
  • pears
  • blueberries
  • spinach

Monday, December 7, 2015

New: My Etsy Shop


Crocheting is something that I learned from Mom, and when I do it, I feel connected to her. I'm excited to announce that I've opened an Etsy shop! You can view my one lone listing HERE. It's a crocheted crown that I made for my girl. I loved it so much that I wanted to be able to share it with others. I ship worldwide and take custom orders, with sizes from newborn to one year. I also have several different colors to choose from, like baby blue for a little prince, with more to come. I'm not sure if I will be listing other crocheted items in my shop, as that may be a bit ambitious once she's mobile and I'm back to work, but do plan to keep up with making the crowns as they're ordered.

Please visit my listing on Etsy and shares are always much appreciated!




Monday, November 30, 2015

November, 5 Month Update

Autumn turned 6 months old on November 26th, so for the majority of the month she was 5 months old.

The beginning of the month brought some cooler temperatures and a little bit of rain, which us Californians go crazy for. We had a fire even though the evening temperature was still above 60 degrees. We moved the love seat in front of the fire and Autumn was transfixed. I won't let her watch TV yet, but she sure does like watching the fire! And of course, cooler weather = cuter clothes, which I was excited about! The only thing cuter than a baby is a bundled up baby.



We visited what will be her daycare when she starts in January. I say I want her to know the workers and feel comfortable there, but I think its really more for my comfort level. She will probably be just fine, but dropping her off on that first day is going to kill me. They reiterated that they have an open door policy and that I can come by anytime. Because they're across the street from my work, I think I will take them up on this offer. I also hope to leave early enough to be able to spend 15 minutes there with her in the mornings before I leave for work.

One of my favorite times is when she falls asleep on me after her first feeding. Prior to the time change, this was 5:30-6 am but, babies don't know about the time change, so she now wakes up well before 5am. I am making a commitment that when I go back to work after New Year's, I will wake up early enough to get ready before she's up, so that I can feed her and still let her fall back asleep on me. Not really a morning person and notorious for needing a lot of sleep, this will definitely be a challenge for me. I will need to be asleep by 9pm, not after, if I'm going to do this and maintain my sanity. That means I will need to go to bed almost right after she does at 8pm. But here it is in writing, so let's see if I can stick to it.


On Saturday the 7th, Autumn and I participated in the American Lung Association Lung Force Walk with my friend Sara who also lost her Mom to lung cancer. We shared stories of our Moms while we were on the course, and it will hopefully be an annual event for us. Afterward, I stopped by Babies R Us to exchange some size 2 diapers (she now wears size 3) and bought her a small Baby Einstein three key piano. When a button is pressed, it plays about 5 seconds of a song. She has been getting better with her hands, but I thought she was still too young to operate it. I was so excited to hear music coming from it the whole way home, and turned down the radio so I could hear.


I started booking Christmas events and was surprised to learn that the train to see Santa at Irvine Park was already sold out on some dates! We're planning to go to that with my best friend, Andrea, and her son on the first Friday in December. We also booked the zoo lights with my Dad, brother and cousin Linda.


On Monday the 9th we went to Pretend City for the first time. They have a program once a month geared specifically toward infants called Baby Steps. I'm not sure that she got a lot out of it, but it was fun to meet and interact with other Moms. I also continued her nap-time adventures.





Nathan said he was going to nominate me for parent of the year because after we returned home from a small grocery shop, I went to get her out of her car seat and realized she was just laying in there, not buckled in at all! Someone who was sick had touched her pants, and I was so focused on getting them off and sanitizing her hands when we returned to my Jeep. But then, I didn't want her putting her hands with the sanitizer in her mouth, so I searched for some water to rinse them and dried them with some tissues. Well in all of this, I forgot to buckle her in!


On the 17th, we drove out to Yucaipa to visit with my Dad. That was the day I discovered she had her first tooth, already poking through the bottom, right gum! I was shocked, mainly because she had not been acting any different. She hasn't been fussy, and she was still sleeping 10-12 hours solid every night! My Dad gave her some early Christmas presents: clothes he ordered from Boden, a British company. She's wearing some 6 month sizes now, as well as some 9 month sizes which are still roomy, but he wanted her to be able to start wearing the adorable outfits he picked out, which are size 6-12 months, and to be able to wear them up in Oregon before Christmas. He also got her a very warm Boden coat, and the cutest hat and matching mittens.




At our weekly mommy and me swim, I wore my glasses for the first time since she never splashes. And this was the week she rediscovered splashing. It was so cute, she would splash about 4 times with both hands and then try and "catch" the bubbles the splashing made. Then, she would do it again. My glasses and face were soaked when we got out, but it was worth it. This was also the first week that the instructor let her go under water, and she "swam" a few inches to me before I caught her.


We celebrated our second wedding anniversary (forth as a couple) a few days early on the 21st at Gulliver's in Irvine. One of John Wayne's favorite restaurants and across from the airport, they are known for their prime rib. This is where Nathan took me on our first Valentine's day, when he surprised me with private dance lessons followed by dinner there.



2/14/2013
I made reservations for 6pm. Autumn was as quiet as a mouse until she fell asleep at 7pm! Its so nice to be able to go our to a nice dinner and bring her. When we opened our gifts to each other, we let her help and discovered she loves tissue paper! It was so fun to watch her wildly wave her arms with it.

The day before Thanksgiving, she had her 6 month appointment, weighing in at 16.9 pounds, and measuring 27.5 inches long. She had her shots, which I can't watch so Dad helps with, and we were given the go-ahead for feeding.


Thanksgiving day was exciting because she had her first food, rice cereal. We had my Dad and brother Glen over, as well as Nathan's cousin Cassandra and her friend. We put the high chair at the head of the table, and I fed her as we all sat down to eat.





After a few days, I added in quinoa mixed with formula, because I thought rice cereal wouldn't be as nutritious. But to my surprise, I discovered that the Earth's Best Organic whole grain rice cereal has arsenic in it, so I threw the box away. Apparently, it is common in infant rice cereals and yes, something with the term organic in it can still contain carcinogens. 

Feeding your infant rice cereal once a day doesn't put them at risk, but according to federal data, some infants eat up to two to three servings of rice cereal a day. Eating rice cereal at that rate, with the highest level of inorganic arsenic we found in our tests, could result in a risk of cancer twice our acceptable level. 


Thank God I did my research! You can read the Consumer Reports article about it HERE, scroll down to Cereals Cause Concern.  We have also started on apples. My Mom made my baby food, which I was considering doing at least while I'm off, but Beachnut has an organic line that just has one ingredient, no preservatives. I've been using the engraved baby spoon that Mom used with me, and need to get Autumn's name added to it. I'm looking forward to making finger paints using yogurt in a few weeks.


As soon as Thanksgiving was over, it was time for our Christmas tree! Because we're flying to Oregon on the 21st of December, Nathan was under the impression we would not need a tree. On her first Christmas, can you imagine!? That is probably considered child abuse in some states. The day we decorated, I had an impromptu photo shoot and wound up with some of my favorite pictures of her thus far! After a book on baby photography that my friend Delia gave me, I now keep the flash permanently off!







I love that our tree is filled with a lot of random ornaments that hold so much sentimental value. There are ones we each made as children, some that my Mom bought me like the Big Ben with a Santa hat, and now Autumn's ornaments. There's even a pair of reindeer that belonged to Autumn's great, great grandmother on my Dad's side, as well as ornaments from Nathan's grandparent's tree, on his Dad's side. Most of my Christmas decorations belonged to my Mom, and when I would come over and she had the house filled with more every year, I jokingly told her it was a "festive nightmare" and she would giggle, knowing it was really a compliment.   





After decorating the tree, we went to see the lights at the LA Zoo. If you're ever planning to go, make sure to do the first time slot. We thought it was busy when we arrived, but it was nothing compared to when we left just after 7:15pm. Autumn seemed to enjoy looking at the lights and people, and it was a nice official start of the Christmas season.








Milestones:
  • Sitting up, with less assistance, sometimes none for a few seconds. Has to be propped up, can't sit up on her own
  • Transferring an item from one hand to another
  • Standing and bearing weight, with assistance
  • Rolling over, both directions, multiple times
  • Lifting her neck and shoulders off the ground while doing tummy time
  • More babbling, especially when she wakes up
  • First tooth! Bottom right
Things I don't want to forget about this month:
  • How she wraps her whole hand around my thumb
  • The soft sighs she makes in her sleep
  • The "creaking door" noise she makes
  • Her loud yawning noises
  • The time when I was in the recliner and she was almost asleep, but saw her daddy over on the couch and lit up, "talking" to him with the biggest smile.
  • She started sleeping in her crib on her tummy with her little bum up in the air
  • Her being completely still while laying on my chest and watching the fire
Routines we're continuing:
  • Listening to Pray as You Go most mornings
  • Listening to: Happy together 
  • Singing to her: You Are My Sunshine, Que Serra, Amazing Grace (bedtime)
  • Story-time at the library
  • Reading, usually the book from my book club
  • Morning and evening walks
  • Crocheting
  • Nightly prayers
  • Waiting for Daddy on the bench by the front door
  • Swim lessons
  • Walking with her in the ergo 360
  • Nicknames: Little Bean, Baby A, Sweet One, Little Buns
Routines we're establishing:
  • I sometimes started putting her in her crib when she is almost asleep instead of waiting until she is completely out. She babbles a bit, and plays with Peter Rabbit, which is attached to the side of her crib, but doesn't seem to mind.
  • She's wearing my baby bracelet
  • Fires several times per week
  • Song: "I looked high, I looked low, I looked around the corner, I looked around the other corner for a baby that likes to eat bananas. I saw your Mommy and I said 'Excuse me Miss, have you seen a baby that likes to eat bananas??' And she said, 'I've got a baby that LOVES to eat bananas!'"

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Apple Pie, From Scratch

I'm sharing with you a recipe I just used to make apple pie completely from scratch, on the eve of Thanksgiving. I've never made a pie before, and it was really easy. Well, I've made things like banana cream using a pre-made crust, but never an entire pie from scratch. So, if I can do it, it will be even easier for you! I pieced together three different recipes that I found on Pinterest. Photos are my own. I've never cooked with shortening before, and learned that it will now keep, unrefrigerated, for up to a year in our cupboard - eew!


Finished product. Next time, I'm going to try a lattice-work pattern.

Apple pie was my Mom's absolute favorite, and I'm sorry that I never made one for her. But hopefully, she's smiling down, and likes knowing that making this pie every year for, and eventually with, Autumn is a new tradition.




GRANDMA’S PIE CRUST

Learn how to make a pie crust the way Grandma did. Grandma’s Pie Crust is buttery, flaky, and takes just a few minutes to make. It’s our long-time family favorite! 
Visit this site for pictures and more details.
Ingredients
  • 3 cups pastry flour
  • 1 teapsoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • ½ cup ice cold water
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut in the shortening and the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. That's what that tool is for - I've never used it! I did also use our mixer. 
  2. Mix the water and vinegar together in a cup. Add the mixture to the crumbs. Mix together just until the dough is combined and handles well.
  3. Sprinkle flour on the counter before rolling out the dough. Split the dough into two chunks. Another site I looked at suggested putting the dough in the freezer for a few minutes, and this helped.
  4. Roll out one piece on a floured surface. Roll the dough about ½ an inch larger than your pie pan.
  5. Lay the crust in the pie pan and press down lightly on the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
  6. If you are making just a bottom crust, turn the edge under and use thumbs "flute" the edges of the dough.
  7. If you are making a double crusted pie, fill the pie, roll out the other half of the dough and lay it over top the filling. Fold the top dough under the bottom dough and use your fingers to seal it together.
  8. Bake according to your pie recipe (see below).
  9. This recipes makes enough for a double crusted pie. I doubled the recipe because I also needed two crusts for my pumpkin pies.

Homemade Apple Pie Filling
Approx. 10 sliced apples - I used a mix of Gala and Granny Smith.
Toss the apples with 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and set aside. Pour 3 cups of water into a large pot. Add 2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir well and bring to a boil. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. The sauce will thicken up, which is good.

Add apples and stir gently to combine. Return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6-8 minues or until apples are tender. Let the apple filling cool, then ladle into freezer bags or jars. This recipe will make enough filling for 2 pies. I froze a bag and made a pie right then. 


Bake
Bake 40-50 minutes at 425 degrees with foil covering to prevent excessive browning. Remove foil for last 15 minutes of baking. Pie is ready when crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in the crust. Keep and eye on it, I had to bake ours for close to an hour, but our oven runs on the cool side.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I fell off the cabbage soup wagon

It seemed so easy and promising. A friend, who is smaller than me, posted on facebook that she lost 11 pounds on the 7 day cabbage soup diet. That's exactly what I need, I have 9 pounds of baby weight left! This is going to be easy I naively thought as I excitedly wrote out my shopping list and bought enough supplies to last me through a long winter.


I cooked up a huge batch that boiled over, wondering if it would get me through half the week. After all, you can have limitless amounts of this concoction. But what I didn't realize at the time was that I wouldn't want to. It's cabbage soup. Soup, with cabbage in it. When you're hungry, just about anything tastes good, yet by the fifth day, I preferred not having anything to having a bowl of the soup.

Day 1 - On this day you're supposed to have only fruit. Somehow, I missed that, mixing it up with day two when you can only have vegetables. So I ate a raw bell pepper and a huge bowl of sauteed mushrooms in addition to the soup. I had my coffee black, which was an improvement since I usually add a lot of creamer, and not the low fat or low sugar kind. I probably did not drink enough water, and couldn't resist my 10 calorie root beer.

Day 2 - You get to start the day with a baked potato, which I eagerly placed in foil and put in the crockpot on low for 9.5 hours the night before. Boy, was I excited for that potato, with butter! We went on our usual 3 mile morning walk and I was famished by the time we got back. I started talking myself out of the diet, knowing having simple carbs at any time of the day was pointless, and that's all that was in the potato. We went to story-time at the library and I gave her a bath, while heating up the soup. I poured myself quite a large bowl, and didn't even eat half of it. I weighed myself, which I won't do again until the end and was relieved to see I had lost 2 pounds. But, knowing each pound must be lost by creating a deficit of 3,600 calories, I didn't consider it "real" weight loss or attribute it to the magic soup. Most likely, it was because since I knew I was going to be doing this, I splurged and had four (!!!) pieces of pizza the night before I started the diet, and they were now likely out of my system. This is the day I first caved. Knowing that day four allowed for protein, and having a surplus of 90% lean in the fridge from our first trip to Sam's Club, I decided to make myself a burger. A big, fat burger. In fact, Nathan watched me pressing it and adding the seasoning and said it was more accurately described as three burgers. But I didn't have a bun! Hours went by, and I should have had more veggies or soup, but it just didn't seem appealing. We went on another 3 mile walk with Autumn all bundled up. When we returned home, Nathan made himself burritos and the whole house smelled amazing. I resisted as long as I could, then swooped in for leftovers, which fortunately was only about four tablespoons full of meat. I did not have a tortilla. I went to bed still mildly hungry, and with a resolve to do better the next day.

Day 3 - On this day, you're only supposed to have fruits and vegetables in addition to the limitless soup. I started the day with a baked apple with cinnamon. Realizing the only time I have ever had a baked apple was in pie, something definitely seemed to be lacking. It did make the house smell good though. I grabbed a handful of blackberries and packed the cold soup in Tupperware to take to visit my friend. She was nice enough to have a veggie tray for me and slices of pineapple, which I nibbled on while I heated up the soup. When I came home that evening, I was starving but not hungry enough for a second bowl of soup. Instead, I cheated and had a big glass of my 10 calorie root beer.

Day 4 - On this day, you're only supposed to have unsweetened yogurt, milk and bananas. But, I added two scoops of chocolate muscle-milk protein powder to the milk, yogurt, ice, coffee, banana and cinnamon in the blender. You're not supposed to have any fruits or vegetables, but I figured an avocado and two cucumbers were innocuous enough, and blended them with plain Greek yogurt to make a cold soup, with a pinch of dill and sea salt on top. Maybe I wouldn't need to do this if I was actually having the soup, but have completely gone off it today. I would rather have nothing than the soup, if that tells you anything. It doesn't taste bad...it's just not good. Around 2 pm, I made myself a burger, no bun, and thought this is starting to seem more like the atkin's diet than the cabbage soup one.

Day 5 - I couldn't bring myself to have any of the soup today, in spite of the fact that there was a gigantic tub of it in the refrigerator. I started my day with a protein bar, and then went on our usual 3 mile walk. When we returned from the walk, I did a Denise Austin post-pregnancy ab workout on the floor by Autumn. She likes me being on the floor with her and interacting. The video was too easy and too short, so I followed it with a regular ab video that was more challenging. I didn't complete everything on the second one, but tried. When she napped, I went into the garage and did 2 sets of lunges with the 35 pound bar, squats and chest press. For a late lunch I had another hamburger and the leftover chilled cucumber, avocado, yogurt soup. Today was the day on the diet where you just eat protein like steak or chicken in addition to the soup, so I feel I followed it pretty well, considering. Are you still reading this? It's getting awfully boring, isn't it? There's probably a lot of other thing you would rather be doing, aren't there? You should probably stop reading and go check on the laundry and just assume that I followed the rest of the diet. Okay, if you're still with me and holding out for when I really mess up, here it is. I had my book club in LA and on the drive there, actually believed that I wasn't going to eat any of the food, even though I was famished! Walking through the door, the delicious smell of home-made onion soup wafted over me. Onions are pretty much like cabbages, I thought, as I was handed a big jadeite bowl filled with steaming soup. Maybe so, but cabbage soup doesn't have a delicious hunk of bread smothered in baked Gruyere cheese in it. This wouldn't have been so bad if I stopped there, but I must confess that I had one of my friend Helen's peanut-butter bars. Then, another, and then two more. Yes, I had four of them, but in my defense they were only about one square inch each, so it was really only like having 1 1/2. Or so I told myself.

Day 6 - Almost there! Started the day with a protein shake and 3 mile walk/jog. I ran about half of it, pushing the stroller. I did wake up feeling guilty for not following the diet, but still not bad enough to eat any of the soup. I was determined to not let yesterday's transgressions affect today. I did zero snacking, and had 1/3 of a burrito from Baja Fresh (split with my husband) and some of his nachos. One thing I did notice is that usually, this is all I eat but I feel like I could eat more. But instead, I was stuffed. I feel like my stomach is shrinking.

Day 7 - Today! Finally, the last day! It was easy to be good today because I knew I didn't have to make it through an entire day. We had 6pm reservations at Gulliver's for our 2nd wedding anniversary (forth as a couple) and I was planning on having a nice, 11 ounce filet mignon. First thing I did after making Autumn a bottle was weigh myself and discover that

my total weight loss was 3 pounds.

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed by this, until I put it in perspective. On a given week, I would be thrilled with that amount. I just had high-hopes with this diet that all my baby weight would be conveniently gone before Thanksgiving. But, I know that the slower the weight comes off, the more likely it is to stay, and that it's actually small changes over time that make the biggest difference. I still have 6 more pounds to go, and am already planning a before and after posting, with photos taken one month after I had Autumn. This won't be the end of my diet and fitness posts, as that what my blog started out with, but it may be the end of the crazy fad, quick-fix posts.

What I learned: it is small changes over time that make the real difference, not some crazy cabbage crash diet. I knew that going into it, but wanted something to put the unhealthy eating habits that had crept up in check. Being on this did prevent me from mindless eating. There were many times during this week when I would have grabbed a handful of this or that and resisted. Case in point: I went into the garage to do laundry and noticed an old, unopened box of swedish fish that Nathan had taken out of his Mustang. they had been in his car since February. Ooh! Sweedish fish! I thought, knowing but not caring how old they were. Maybe it was the hunger speaking, but I was fully intending to open the package right there and scarf down a whole handful. Doing this also helped hit the reset button and possibly shrink my stomach a bit. The portion and plate size has more than doubled since the 1950's and I know that in many ways, its not what we eat, but how much we consume. By the end of the week, I was noticing I was filled by much smaller portions.

Now, time to get ready for that steak!