Babywise; not so much.

When I learned that I was pregnant it was not long before I got my hands on some books I had heard all about to prepare me for life with a baby. One of those books was Babywise by Gary Ezzo.

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The biggest POSITIVE take away from Babywise…the “eat, wake, sleep” schedule. As a new mom who is completely clueless as to what you are supposed to do with a baby, or how to care for them, this could be a pretty helpful tip. Your baby should take a nap, eat when they wake up, have a play time, then go back down for a nap. Ok. That makes sense to me (We’ve broken this “rule” which I explain later on). Another positive take away is an idea of how long your baby could go without eating at a given age. I believe that its good to know so you can monitor your babies growth and progress, or if you’re nursing and have to leave the baby with someone.

Other than that, I found it completely useless. It just did not work for us AT ALL. (If it worked for you, power to you…this is just MY post on why it did not work for me.)

When I read this book I was DEAD SET on following its principals and having a baby that could fall asleep anywhere, take awesome naps & sleep through the night ASAP. Boy oh FREAKIN boy, was I wrong.

Why did Babywise not work for us? Let me tell you:

Ok so lets see…for one, (once he was no longer nocturnal and actually was awake during the day) Jackson would only ever take 20 min naps. TWENTY MINUTE NAPS. I would have finally gotten in the shower after eating a meal and be lathered with soap, and hear him fussing or babbling in the crib. When he was 3 months old we went in for his check up and my pediatrician suggested extending his awake time to 2.5 hours instead of 1.5-2 hours to see if that helped. That was what finally got us to 40-45 min naps. BUT Babywise said that he should be up for 1.5-2 hours and then he’d sleep for 1-1.5 hours until his next scheduled feeding… … … um, wrong. I would call my sister and say, “Why is he not napping as long as he is supposed to?! I fed him like I was supposed to, he was satisfied, he was tired, he wasn’t overtired. I. don’t. get. it.” Her response? “Melissa, he isn’t SUPPOSED to do anything; He’s a baby. Get that out of your head.” Ooohhhh. Right. Duh. For FAR too long I was wondering why oh why is my baby only taking 45 minute naps; “What’s wrong with him??” NOTHING. Nothing is wrong with him!!!!!! He is a short(er) napper. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is not even close to abnormal. Some babies take 45 minute naps. As long as a baby is not overtired it should not effect night time sleep. He was on three 45 minute naps until about 8-8.5 months and then he transitioned to two naps. One is 1.5-2 hours and the other is about an hour; it switches from day to day which one is longer or shorter. He averages 3 hours of nap time a day (usually), which could not be more normal. (So, rest assured if you are a mom out there going through the same ?!?!?! I was.)

Oh yea, and you have to love the “Wake them up at the same time everyday” thing. “Ok, so I say your wake up time is 6:30am, Jackson. Wait, why are you awake at 5am? Your wake up time is 6:30am; should I force your eye lids back shut? Because you know, your schedule is going to be totally off now. I mean your nap was supposed to be 9am, but now its going to have to be 7:30-8am because there’s nooooo way you’re going to make it til 9…unless I want to torture you by making you completely miserable until 8:30-9am…you wouldn’t mind that would you? But then it wouldn’t matter because you’d be so overtired that your nap would probably only be 30 minutes anyway, and that really isn’t helping anyone is it?” GIVE ME A BREEEAAAK. If my baby wakes up early I can see waiting 15 or 20 minutes to see if he will go back to sleep, but I am not pretending he doesn’t exist until his scheduled “wake up time.” When I told my pediatrician that, she thought it was ridiculous. AND the days when he wakes up early or late, he usually somehow gets himself back on track before the day is over. AND my kid is the happiest kid ever so you know what, I’ll take it.

Then there were the days when naps would be boycotted. I put him down at 1pm and it is now 1:45pm and he is still not asleep. 1:50pm, 1:55pm…ah 2pm, finally asleep, that only took an hour. Babywise says to wake your baby up from a nap so they stay on schedule. That’s fine if that works for you, but my baby JUST fell asleep 30 minutes ago…no friggin way am I waking him up from that peaceful snoring slumber. If he is an hour off it has no effect. He didn’t/doesn’t sleep through the night on schedule or off, so I’M LETTING MY CHILD SLEEP.  Not to mention, like I said before, he usually somehow gets himself back on track…so AGAIN, I would rather not have a miserable baby for the sake of a schedule.

Feedings. Sigh. Babywise’s theory: Make sure your baby gets a full feeding at the scheduled feeding time (Remember the “Eat, Wake, Sleep” concept I mentioned before?). Has Gary Ezzo ever nursed a 6 month old or a teething baby? No. So he wouldn’t know how nearly impossible it is to make them NOT get distracted.  Or how you’re a nipple would feel after being chomped on 5 times in a row. My son is an INCREDIBLY alert, active, curious baby. Who needs food when there’s a very intriguing TV remote across the room on the coffee table begging to be chomped on? Seriously, I could hide that thing under the couch and he would sense its presence. Yup, tried the nursing cover. Tried the dark room. I’m sorry (actually I am not sorry), but I found it impossible to force my baby’s mouth onto my boob. SO. I let him play until he was interested in eating again. If he wanted to nurse a little more before a nap, then I nursed him. Why? Because I would rather him eat more, sleep better, and nurse more during the day than during the night.  As far as the biting while teething – sometimes you have to put them down and let them see that biting means no nursing. My son got the hint, but it took nursing him NOT at his scheduled time. Another reason why you may not want to stick to a certain feeding schedule is because when breast feeding your supply is effected by demand. The more your baby eats, the more you will produce. When my supply dropped, nursing my son more (not following the clock) got my supply back up WAY more effectively than the pump.

This is all not to mention the books suggestion on crying it out. Gary Ezzo says repeatedly that it is not harmful to let your baby cry until he or she is sleeping, even as long as 45 minutes. I have done a variation of crying it out with my son, but I opted for Dr. Ferber’s method where you check on your baby in increasing increments until he or she falls asleep without you in the room. My issue with Gary Ezzo’s method, at least from what I gathered from Babywise, is that he does not specify when an acceptable age is to let your baby scream or cry him or herself to sleep. He does not suggest going in to check on your baby. He doesn’t address what is emotionally going on with your baby AT ALL (other than the fact that your baby will still love you when he or she wakes up and you will not scar your baby for life. So relieving… … …). It took me months before I was able to let my son cry for longer than 5 minutes, and we didn’t do the Ferber method of crying it out until he was 6 months old. I have seen mothers on a Babywise Facebook page ask if it was ok to let their 6 week old cry it out (:-| 6 weeks is still soooo little. Like, they were in the womb 6 weeks ago.). I have seen mothers who are desperate, who have just heard about Babywise, and that it promises to get your baby sleeping through the night in the early weeks, asking about how to let their baby cry it out without even reading the book or TRYING to understand the methods beyond just letting their baby cry. That is dangerous in my opinion. (In case you were wondering, after doing the Ferber Method of cry it out Jackson slept from 7p-4a for about 3 weeks, but then he got croop, followed by teething. So, that was the end of sleeping through the night. We all share a room because of our living situation while we wait until we close on our new house so we are holding off on any form of sleep training until we have separate rooms. But this just shows you how much change goes on with your baby and just because they start sleeping through the night, doesn’t mean they will STAY sleeping through the night. So, don’t freak out and think there is something wrong with your baby. He/She is just being a baby.)

Does any of this sound familiar to you??

The more I got into the whole parenting thing, the more I realized how UNNATURAL some of the ways of Babywise are. I am an A + B = C person. I like structure & predictability to a certain extent, which is why I think Babywise initially appealed to me. My greatest lesson: Babies aren’t predictable. Babies are not machines or robots. I have come to accept that, and that Babywise, for the most part (in my experience), goes against the nature of babies. They are individual little growing beings that are going through SO much change and growth it is literally impossible to comprehend. I started to get to know my baby; to pay attention to his needs and what he was going through and I let that guide me. Not what a book said to do. Gary Ezzo’s method is founded on being “parent directed” rather than being “baby lead”. I guess I say why pick one or the other? To survive this parenting thing you need to be out of the box. You need to be creative. You need to be flexible. You need to be strong. You need patience. You need divine wisdom. You need to be able to put yourself last. You need to trust your instincts, as well as your baby.

Some of this may sound kind of strong as far as my opinions and feeling go. It is that way because as a new mom I was so impressionable and desperate to do what was best for my baby, like I know EVERY new mom is. I was putting all my confidence in the words of a MAN who never in his life nursed a baby or was a stay at home mom with a baby literally almost 24/7. Thank God it clicked one day that I was my child’s one and only mother and I could do whatever I thought was best. I was made to be a mother. If you are a mom, you were made to be one too. I FINALLY decided to be confident in myself and make my own decisions, and you know what: I was never happier or more stress free. You know what else? My kid is perfect…in his own unique and special way. 🙂 We have areas we can grow in, but who doesn’t? Books about parenting have their pros, but just remember who the parent is. You. Be confident in who you are as a parent, and do what is best for your family.

I want to thank all my mommy (and even some daddy) friends out there for the wisdom, support, advice and guidance. You are all the best teachers I could have asked for on this mommy journey!

Jackson thanks you too! 🙂

"Yayyyy!" My happy clapping boy. <3

“Yayyyy!” My happy clapping boy. ❤

Creamy Parsnip & Sweet Potato Soup

Ah, mondays. Maybe one day I will learn to love you.

One thing I do love is a good fair on a beautiful fall day, and this past Saturday our little family had fun at one of the most popular fairs in CT (if not the most popular), the Durham Fair.

There was cuteness overload, as well as indulgence in fair food. Raised donut, yes. Bloomin’ onion, yes. Falafel gyro, you bet. Massive roast beef sandwich, definitely (all joe on that one lol).

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Needless to say, I was thankful on Sunday for the tasty & nutritious homemade soup I had leftover, inspired by one of Joe’s favorite vegetables: Parsnips. During the week we were in a local market and he spotted some and said, “You have to come up with a recipe for parsnips…” Well, that I did.

The flavors of parsnips and sweet potato make it buttery and sweet; its warm from the perfect amount of cinnamon and spices, and nice and creamy from a silky cashew cream that I could have eaten all by itself!

Here is the recipe:

{For the cashew cream}

Ingredients:

1 c raw cashews

2 cups of water

1/2 c non-dairy milk (I used plain unsweetened almond milk) (veggie broth could also work here)

Directions:

Combine cashews and water and soak for at least an hr or up to overnight. Drain the cashews and add to a blender with the milk or broth. Blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

{For the soup}

Ingredients:

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 celery sticks, diced

pinch of salt

1 & 1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp nutmeg

5 leaves of fresh sage, minced (or 1/2 tsp of dried sage)

2 tsp salt (I used kosher, but sea salt would be fine.)

fresh ground pepper to taste

1 Tbsp coconut sugar (You could also use brown sugar or agave; I like coconut sugar because it is unrefined.)

6 c veggie broth

6 small sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed (Trader Joes bag of organic sweet potatoes tend to have small potatoes, about the size of my fist or a little bigger. If you have larger or average size ones use 3-4.)

3 parsnips, peeled & cubed

Directions:

Drizzle the bottom of the pan with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the onion, carrots, celery and pinch of salt & stir. Allow the veggies to cook for 5-6 min. While they are cooking combine all the spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, salt, pepper) in a separate small bowl. Add all the spices and allow to cook for 2 more minutes. Stir in the veggie broth and coconut sugar, then add the sweet potatoes and parsnips. Bring it up to a boil then lower heat, cover & simmer for 15 minutes, until the potatoes and parsnips are soft. Remove the lid and remove the pot from the heat.

Now the fun part… 🙂

Blend all the contents in the pot with an immersion blender – start on low then move to high. If you don’t have one you can use a regular blender, but always be careful putting hot liquid into a blender. Do a little at a time and I allow the steam to escape! Add the delicious cashew cream and blend some more until it is all incorporated and smooth! If you used a blender add some of the cashew cream to each batch, or you could try whisking it in later.

And thats it! Super easy!

Ladle into bowls and garnish with a couple sage leaves….fancy!

parspotsoup

In response to this soup my husband sang the following little song:

“Soup you’re amazing just the way you are

And when you simmer, you make the whole family come for dinner

Soup you’re amazing just the way you are.”

Maybe if you make it, your spouse or significant other will start singing its praises to the tune of recent chart topper also…orrrr maybe that’s just mine?! 😉

Hope you all had a great weekend and good start to your week!

Jackson’s Birth Story.

The Story:

It all started Wednesday the 15th of May into Thursday, the 16th. I got a chiropractic adjustment Wednesday afternoon and by that night, after I watched American Idol and had a glass of wine, I went to bed with contractions 10 minutes apart. By 1 or 2 am they were 7 minutes apart, but then they stopped by 3 am. I was slightly frustrated considering I was now going on 10 days late. Some background: starting at 37 weeks I was literally doing everything I possibly could to help naturally encourage labor; i.e. primrose oil, walking, squats, sitting on an exercise ball, climbing the stairs multiple times in a row, eating pineapple, spicy food, adding basil & oregano into everything possible, etc. I learned that he was not coming out until he was ready!

I woke up Thursday with no contractions, but had a midwife appointment with Laura that morning to monitor the baby for 30 minutes, followed by an ultrasound to check fluid levels; standard post date stuff. While at the doctors Laura swept my membranes, which she had done the previous Monday as well; then while hooked up to the monitoring machine, I started having contractions recorded at 5 minutes apart. This was around 9 or 9:30am. They weren’t super strong, but definitely noticeable. Joe was with me, but had to go back to work. I didn’t want to go to my ultrasound alone in case things were to progress to the point where I couldn’t drive, so I drove to my sister’s house and she came with me. It was around 11am when we arrived at the Yale office where I’d get the ultrasound. At this point I was saying “ouch” to the contractions, still 5 minutes apart or so, but again it was more like a severe menstrual cramp than anything. After the ultrasound we drove back to my sister’s, picked up her family and headed to a local library to get some Sugar Bakery cupcakes since their truck was there for the afternoon. Once I had my cupcakes I headed home to eat some lunch.

I was dicing up veggies to make salsa and remember my mom texting me asking me how I was doing. I told her I was having contractions 5 minutes apart and making salsa. She thought it was funny that I was having contractions and making salsa. I was hungry! 🙂 At this point it was around 1:30pm. After I made the salsa I texted Joe and told him he should come home soon in case anything were to progress. I ate lunch and waited for him. He got home around 2:30pm, he ate lunch, and then we went for a walk around the neighborhood. It was a beautiful day outside!

Back home from the walk we decided to eat one of our cup cakes! It was around 4:30pm now. I sat on my exercise ball and thoroughly enjoyed my Snickers cup cake while conversing with my husband. I think I literally had just swallowed the last bite when I felt a contraction, and then all of a sudden kind of pop in my stomach, almost like a water balloon popping, and Jackson’s head drop really low. The contraction immediately became like 20x more painful. Oh boy. I thought to myself, “Oh God…I felt a pop, the baby’s head pretty much just dropped into my pelvis, and this contraction suddenly SUCKS. Holy crap, I think my water just broke.” Sure enough I stood up and started walking to bathroom and with each step: gush, gush, gush. I pretty much just stood in the shower and let it all come on out. Then…I had to poop. And let me tell you I pooped more than I have ever pooped in my ENTIRE LIFE (haha). {Listen, this is my birth story, and I like details, so you’re getting all the details. ;)} Joe called the midwives to tell them my water broke. Because the fluid was yellow and Jackson was 10 days late Laura advised us to go to the hospital right away to make sure there was no meconium in the fluid. So, I got changed, we grabbed our stuff and Joe told me to head to the car and he would tell my dad we were leaving. Joe got to the car with my dad trailing behind him. He came to my side, kissed me on the head and told me to remember what his mom always said, “Women are stronger than men, that’s why they are the ones who have babies.” Lol, thanks Daddy.

We were going to be delivering Jackson at Yale New Haven Hospital. On the drive there I remember being like “ooooooowwwww!” Once we arrived and checked in the attendant asked me if I wanted a wheel chair, but I declined thinking of what Louise, the nurse whose birth class I attended had said, “When they offer you a wheel chair say no. You can walk. You’re not sick; you’re just having a baby.” That was her mantra, “You’re just having a baby.” Well, I half regretted not getting the wheel chair lol. But knew it’d be best to walk.

By the time we got up to the L&D floor it was around 5pm and the contractions were making me nauseous and faint. We were greeted by a nurse who informed us that there were no rooms left in triage so I would have to be checked by my on-call midwife, Elise, in the C-Section recovery room, which is like it says – where women recover after having a C-Section. Now, at some point I am pretty sure I already started kind of grunting or groaning through the contractions; just what these poor women who are recovering from surgery want to hear. I remember then getting ready for Elise to check me and realizing that blood comes out when you have a contraction. And it was now on the floor near my feet. I also remember hating the fact that I had to climb up on a bed and be checked during a contraction. After checking me out, Elise said that, 1.) I was only 2.5 cm, 2.) there didn’t seem to be meconium , which meant I technically did not have to stay at the hospital, and 3.) it was too soon for her liking to admit me. She suggested I go back home or go walk around the hospital or outside, basically wherever I would be most comfortable.

My state at this point was dizzy and faint, a bit overwhelmed at being in the hospital in an unfamiliar/uncomfortable environment, as well as by what I was feeling and experiencing in my body and being in very little control of it, and distressed at the thought of experiencing this in the car, outside on the public streets, or at home where my parents were (no offense mommy & daddy). I looked at Elise with the saddest face ever and told her I can’t get back in the car, and not to make me go out there (downtown new haven). Elise, being the most glorious woman and best midwife ever responded by saying, “Okay listen, go up to the 7th floor. There is a healing garden on the roof up there that is quiet and peaceful, and there is usually no one up there. Go out there and walk around and come back in a couple hours and we’ll check to see how you’ve progressed.”

Joe and I got up to the garden that had a pretty landscape of plants, a stream, benches and a path intertwined through it all. I definitely enjoyed the scenery and fresh air right away; it made me feel like I wasn’t in a hospital anymore. As nice as it was I confessed to Joe at this point that I just wish I had a pillow to put my head down on because of feeling faint and tired. I was thinking to myself that I really didn’t know how I was going to get through this entire labor if I was already feeling like this. I decided to go kneel in front of a bench and put my head down. Joe took the inserts out of his shoes to pad my knees. Such a great hubby. I think he started playing some music also. Even though I was outside with the evening sky and breeze, with my husband, listening to worship music, I just did not feel comfortable, or as comfortable as I could be while having contractions. I needed my doula, my dear friend Chrisy Kendrick. Joe called her to come meet us, and after Joe and I had been up there for about an hour she arrived. The first thing she did was get down next to me to encourage me and pray for me for the rest of the delivery. I finally felt the faint and dizzy feeling lift and decided to get up and walk around. Now with each contraction what felt best was for me to put my arms around Joe’s neck with my face in his chest and squat a little in front of him. Chrisy would rub my back and hips through the contraction. This pretty much got me through my entire labor. We circled the garden like this for about an hour and decided to go back down to get checked out; back to the C-Section recovery room for my labor sounds to disrupt the recovering women.  I remember walking by the waiting room where families were waiting to meet new babies right outside the L&D doors, getting a contraction, and thinking “Why God?!”.  I really did not think I was going to be one to make loud noise while in labor, but that was not the case. I was definitely a deep guttural, pit of your stomach noise maker. It was just how I needed to deal with the contractions; unfortunate for innocent by-standers. So, turns out in those 2 hours or so I went from 2.5 cm to 3 cm. I was not too happy about that; I wanted to progress quickly, but who wouldn’t really? At this point I think that Joe or Chrisy had gotten in touch with my dear friend Alayna Wetherhead who I also wanted there. She met us back there at this point. Elise told us that they were going to get me the tub room (Yale L&D has one room with a big tub in it), which I was incredibly thankful for, but that it could take about 1.5 hrs, so I should go back to the garden. I found out afterwards that she told Joe, Chrisy & Alayna to keep me up there as long as possible. It was around 8-8:30pm at this time.

The worst part about going up to the garden was walking the hallways with contractions. There were multiple times when I would be having a contraction and a random doctor would ask, “Is she okay?” Um. Really? She’s having a baby. Have you never seen a laboring woman before? Other times I would be having a contraction in the elevator and it would stop at a random floor. When the doors opened and revealed my laboring self, the person waiting on the other side would usually give a half smile and say, “I’ll wait for the next one.” Good idea.

Back up in the garden we walked around for a while but it got to the point where I just wanted to kneel and lean forward over a bench. I remember shoving my fingers between the slats in the bench, gripping it, shoving my face into my arms and half yelling, half groaning through the contractions. I also remember feeling more and more pressure and thinking if it wasn’t intense before, it was pretty freaking intense now. Joe said afterward as we were reflecting on it all that this particular time – seeing me go through what I was going through and hearing me in pain was rough for him to. All I had in my mind was that I heard Elise say it would be around 1.5 hrs at most before the tub was ready. So, after I really couldn’t stand it anymore I asked my birthing crew if it was time to go down yet. Chrisy confirmed that it had been 1.5 hrs and that she could tell a difference in the intensity of the contractions and we could go down.

THANK THE LORD when Elise checked me this time I was 4 cm; she said I was in a new phase of labor – active labor, and I could finally be admitted. I was like yes a new phase; get me the heck out of the old phase. I want the TUB! Bad news: they needed 15-20 min to fill the tub. My thought: “There was already 1.5 hrs to fill the tub!!!” I hated having to sit and wait in that C-Section recovery room, but tried to remain patient. I took the time to change into the birthing attire I spent $37 at target on (that made my husband happy… 😉 he was like why did you spend almost $40 on clothes that are going to get ruined?!) (They didn’t get ruined by the way.). Once the room was ready, around 9:45pm, I made a bee line for the tub. The warm water felt amazing. I really was so happy that I could labor in the tub, it was a Godsend. I continued to labor through the contractions just the same as before, leaning over the side of the tub onto Joe while Chrisy or Alayna rubbed my back. Elise put a pillow on the edge of the tub so I could relax in between contractions. At one point I heard Will Reagan & United Pursuits “Endless Years” album playing in the background and I was thankful for whoever put that on (Alayna, I think.). I started to get hot after a while so one of the girls put a cool cloth on my neck and forehead which was comforting. They were constantly offering me water and juice in between contractions to make sure I was staying hydrated and energized. In the moment I couldn’t even think of eating or drinking and could barely take the little sips, but I was thankful for their care and knew it would be best to stay hydrated. For 2 hours I continued through the intensifying contractions with the increasing urge to bear down into that pressure. I was making the typical laboring sounds trying to keep the sound out of my throat and into my stomach. At the end of those 2 hrs, around 11:45pm, Elise checked my cervix during a contraction and found I was 5cm. I was thinking dear God help me. She said that because Jackson’s head is right up against my cervix, my bearing down and groaning into my stomach is causing too much pressure against my cervix. It isn’t ready for that yet so it’s not dilating, or even worse could swell or tear. She suggested we bust out the typical 70s labor method of the “hee hee hee hoo” with each contraction, keeping it very breathy & up in my head, if that makes sense, and asked Joe to do it with me to help me keep with it. This would keep pressure of my cervix and help me progress faster, hopefully. I prayed, “Please Lord, let Elise know what she is talking about.”

The next contraction came and it took all my strength to keep my body from going back to what I was doing before. I wanted to be all crazy intense, aggressively getting through the contraction, but this was very calm and soft; I think it made me focus on the pain more. Basically, the next 2 hrs were the hardest 2 hrs of my entire labor. I was thankful for those who were with me praying for me, and for the prayers from those praying at home. My contractions were getting more and more and more intense, the pressure was getting more and more and more intense, and along with dealing with that, I had to fight against what my body naturally wanted to do. If Joe was not there with me during every contraction, especially the “hee hee hee hoo” ones, I don’t know if I could have made it. He is such a servant, often putting himself last, that he did not even pee when he had too! Finally around 8 hrs in he decided he needed to relieve his bladder and stretch his legs that were asleep. Elise came to take his place, letting me lean on her. She was so sweet whispering encouraging words to me, and rubbing her finger on my forehead to relieve tension. I remember playing with her hair while I was hugging her trying to calm my breathing after a contraction was over; for some reason it was just comforting to me. I had an incredible team with me.

Drawing near to the end of those 2 hours the “hee hee hee hoos” started sounding sadder and sadder, with the “hoos” extending into half crying. Elise and the sweet nurse, Rachel, would say let that contraction go, it’s over, let your breath be normal, but I would say but it still hurts and I still feel pressure!! Probably around 1:30am I looked up at Chrisy and Rachel and said/cried, “I can’t do this for anymore hours! I can’t.” I remember Chrisy saying, “It’s not hours it’s just the next contraction. You just have to get through the next one,” and Rachel, “Every contraction is just bringing your baby closer.” Me: “No. No more. I can’t do it anymore.” Joe chimed in there, “The Lord has given you the strength and everything you need to get through this, you can do it.” Me: “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M FEELING RIGHT NOW.” Clearly I was done!! 😉 Later on Rachel said she knew in that moment I hit transition, and she was right. To the grace of God Elise did know what she was talking about; she checked my cervix and with a little help from her I was finally 10cm dilated. Can I just say that I thought that moment was never going to come and I was going to die in that tub? Not really, but kind of.

Just as much as I wanted the tub before, I wanted out of the tub now. I hopped out of it so fast; I was SO ready to push. I went from on the verge of delirious with my eyes rolling in back of my head to lets freaking do this.

I pushed for a total of 2 hrs. I started with squatting with the squat bar, went from that to laying back and pulling myself forward with a towel wrapped around the squat bar; from that I went to all fours, followed by sitting on the toilet. I mean, where is the most natural place to push like you’re pooping? I remember practically jumping out of the bed to get to the bathroom. I was in beast mode. I asked Elise if he was going to fall in the toilet…She said he wouldn’t, but if he happened to she’d get him out (haha). She also laughed at me because she would tell me not to keep pushing if my contraction was over, but I always gave one extra little push at the end. Listen, I wanted to meet my kid. She was all geared up for him to come out on the toilet, but decided that she thought I did the best with pulling myself forward with the towel, so we went back to the bed to try that method again. It soon became clear that this is how he was coming out. They put a mirror up for me so I could see what was going on down there, which I found very motivating. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember being so happy pushing and even joking around. I loved hearing Joe’s reaction every time Jackson’s head would show. I don’t really remember what he said, but I got the sense he was like oh my gosh this is crazy and that looks nothing like a baby’s head and is that really my kid?! He and Alayna were holding my legs and cheering me on while Chrisy was encouraging me on the side. I constantly heard everyone saying great job, and that was an awesome push, etc. I also heard Elise joking that she was wearing goggles because she thought a flood of fluid was going to come out behind Jackson and hit her because there hadn’t been that much fluid before. Ok, so finally after almost 2 hours of pushing his head half emerged. Can I just be frank? The boy’s head was half way out for a lot longer than I would have liked. I heard Elise or the nurse tell me to just relax and let him stretch me out. Yea well, they don’t call it the ring of fire for nothing. Finally, after a few more contractions and crazy with all my strength pushes I felt our little boy make his way out and he was plopped on my chest. The cord was wrapped around his neck so Elise cut it right away, which Joe didn’t mind as long as Jackson was safe.  Apparently he did some fancy move on the way out, and both shoulders came out at the same time with his arms crossed in front of him with his hands by his face. Typical Jackson. Oh, and the first thing he did was poop all over the place. Also typical Jackson. 🙂

Literally everything I had just been through faded away when our son was in my arms. I couldn’t believe he was finally here and laying on me! I just kept saying “oh my gosh,” and Joe and I both could not stop saying hi to him. We were in awe of him and his sweet little face. I think the first thing I really noticed were his hands and finger nails. His hands were big! He had long fingers and long finger nails!! I thought that was so funny. Piano hands, just like his dad and Grandpa Jacobs. And those gorgeous eyes as he was blinking in front of us for the first time – breathtaking. At first Joe just saw this purple creature that looked more like an alien than a baby. He was amazed that by the time he was plopped in front of us his coloring was normal and he actually resembled a baby…a very cute baby at that! We were so so so in love.

All in all I was 11 days late, and my labor from the time my water broke was 11 hours long. Jackson was born on May 17th, 2013 at 3:44am. He was 7lbs 15oz and 21.5in long. I did the whole thing completely natural, which was my plan.

I held him while Elise and the Rachel continued to work on me. Rachel kept trying to get a good cry out of him, so she eventually took him for a minute to do a deep clean of his throat because he wasn’t really giving her the screaming cry she was looking for. To this day he rarely cries like that! Such a good boy. She was thoughtful in doing that so the nurses on the recovery floor wouldn’t have to take him from us to clean his throat later on. Finally, I was in a wheel chair ready to head up to the recovery floor and Rachel handed me Jackson all bundled up. She told me some nurses won’t let women hold their babies up to recovery, but she was so cool and totally fine with it. Joe was alongside, and we were on our way to start our first night (or day really) of this new adventure together as a family.

Things we learned about Jackson in the hospital those first few days:

  • He busted out of swaddles and loves his hands near his face.
  • He loves to hold things: our fingers, shirts, blankets, etc.
  • He is very alert & curious.
  • He was great at pooping.
  • He learned to latch almost immediately, and was a great eater.
  • He liked to suck in his bottom lip.
  • He smiled when he ate & slept.
  • He was born incredibly cute & loved; the nurses there loved him…along with everyone else. We got many messages from friends saying he was the cutest newborn they had ever seen.

My reflections:

Labor was definitely more intense than I anticipated. I knew it was going to be hard work, but I imagined it more like a challenging yoga class or something that I would just have to power through. No person, book or piece of advice can really prepare you for what you experience. It is a pain like no other, but the reward is also like no other. I can’t say it was easy, but it was perfect. I would not have had it any other way.

I am so so so so so so so blessed by my husband. We really labored together for our little one. He was there for me every single second, emotionally and physically. He does not have good shoulders or a good back, and he sacrificially let me lean on him for pretty much 11 hours straight. We were both sore the next day. We have always been all about being a team and this labor and birth was no different. He is my MVP. 🙂

My birth team was all around amazing. It was such a wise move to have a doula, and close friends there who have been through it before. It was great support for me, but also for Joe. It was so special for me to share this amazing miraculous experience with them, and I am so incredibly full of gratitude for the sacrifice of time and sleep they made to be there with me.

If anyone lives in the New Haven area and is in need of a gyno/midwife practice, do yourself a favor and go to Women’s Health Associates. Joe and I loved all three midwives from the start (Deb, Laura & Elise), but after our birth experience we cannot be more fond of or speak more highly of this practice. When you are in labor it is so hard to think clearly at times. You need to have someone you trust to know what you want and what you need to guide you. I didn’t know it in the moment but looking back, it was as if Elise knew exactly what I wanted and what I needed when I couldn’t realize it or verbalize it myself. Childbirth is crazy. It is a rollercoaster ride, and she helped make it so I had the birth I wanted, as well as facilitated a pleasant experience in the midst of something that could easily go off track and be not so pleasant.

Overall, I see the hand and favor of the Lord over me and my growing family. I know that He is the one responsible for blessing me with a great birth experience with no complications, creating a perfect little boy for us, and keeping him safe throughout it all. Every single person involved was ordained to be there by Him. It was truly a gift. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of Lights in whom there is no shadow or variation. He is GOOD.

Pictures:

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Joe & I enduring a contraction in the tub.
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So grateful to have this man by my side!
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Elise stepping in for Joe, Joe encouraging from the side & Chrisy massaging my back/hips.
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Me wanting to be done, and Joe giving me some motivation.
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Husband & Doula helping me make it through the final stretches.
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He is here. Jackson Bruno Jacobs.
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Family

Escarole (Pronounced “Shkodole”, FYI) & Beans Inpsired Soup.

Let’s just start off with the very predictable comment on this weekends weather… oh. my. gosh. SNOW. More snow than I have ever cared to see at one time. But, I will say that seeing my busy city neighborhood completely quiet and shut down was pretty nice.

Thankfully we live on a main road that that lies perpendicular to two other main roads. Our friends Kiki & Cheech live on a one way on the street that is parallel and directly behind ours. That street does not get paved.  A bunch of our awesome friends cleared a path to their car, and through the street because Kiki is getting sort of close to the due date of their second kid; a boy. He and Jackson are gonna be buds.

Anyways, Saturday night  we were fortunate enough to be able to walk around the corner, and through that path they worked so hard to clear, and have quality time with some of our best friends! As Joe and I were making the familiar stroll down familiar streets, I couldn’t help but realize it was a completely different experience. No traffic. No noise. It was so still. Looking to the left down the long stretch of road that borders our street I could see two more people walking in the distance in the middle of the road. To the right there was a man walking along on his way. It made me wonder what life would be like if it was always like this. What if there weren’t so many cars that rushed by or crowded streets? What if we all had to walk every where we went? Was this what is was like back in the day? What would life be like? I liked the thought of it honestly. I guess it was just a really great change of pace in that moment.

Out of my head and back to reality we arrived safely and spent the evening communing, eating, and playing a game that is kind of like a cross between Catchphrase and Charades. It was amazing fun. We had so much fun that we went back Sunday morning to share breakfast, worship, and listen to a recorded sermon by our friend and lead pastor Justin Kendrick. It was City Church‘s first ever “Church on the Couch” since service was cancelled due to the weather. Nothing better than sharing a meal and having church in the living room with your closest friends. Pretty close to how the New Testament church did it! I must also add that one of my friends is gluten free, so for breakfast I made the best ever blueberry muffins  sans gluten by subbing oat flour for the wheat flour and they were a hit. Still completely amazing and the best ever vegan gluten free blueberry muffins.

Along with all of that was lots and lots and lots and LOTS of shoveling. I am happy to be pregnant, but am even more happy that I am pregnant because of the fact that I did not have to shovel. HA! Is that selfish? 😉 Man my friends and husband worked their butts off. The hubs didn’t go into work today, and yet more work had to be done un-burying  my car and our friends Teresa’s car that were parked at the top of our driveway. I thought it would be the perfect day to make a comforting pot of hot soup. I could not help but think of one my cute Italian grandma and mom prepared, and still prepare, often as I was growing up: escarole and beans. Only 1. I’ve never made it before. 2. I didn’t have escarole. 3. If I had escarole I wouldn’t want to clean it. One day I will actually make escarole and beans, but today I made a soup inspired by the idea of greens and beans. 🙂 (Is it just me or is it fun to say “shkodole”?! It just sounds better that way. If you don’t say it that way, you should.)

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 1/2 c soy chorizo (You could use any of your favorite soy sausage, crumbled, or even crumbled tempeh if you prefer.)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
6 c veggie broth (I used low sodium.)
2 15 oz cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 c packed kale, chiffonade (rolled up and sliced thin) (You could use any green of choice really: spinach, swiss chard, a combo, etc.)
1/2 c fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp sea salt (If using a higher sodium broth you may want to start with 1/2 tsp and add more if needed.)
fresh ground black pepper

Directions

Heat a large pot on medium heat. Drizzle oil, add onions and pinch of salt.
Once the onions begin to brown and turn translucent add the chorizo. Sautée until browned, about 5-6 minutes, then add the garlic. Sautée for another minute then add salt, pepper & veggie broth.
Cover, turn up heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling remove lid, reduce heat to a simmer and add in the beans.
Let the beans cook for 3 minutes then add in the kale or greens of choice. Once they have wilted stir in the basil.
Turn off the heat, cover and let the flavors meld for 10-15 minuted before serving. Unless you are ravenous, then eat it right away. 😉 Serve over quinoa, pastina, orzo, or some crusty bread.

Note: I used a spicy chorizo, but if you are not using a spicy protein you can add some crushed red pepper for a nice kick and added flavor.

Now I am going to enjoy the rest of this quiet rainy snow day with my hubby before it is somewhat back to the hustle and bustle tomorrow.

How are you all holding up after Nemo?? Any comfort food that’s been getting you through?

A New Kind of Time Management.

I am sure that it’s obvious that I am a sucker for family. It’s something that is near and dear to my heart. You also may or may not know that I am giving birth to our first baby, Jackson, in May. Now, I do not intend for this to become a mommy blog, but becoming a mommy is kind of at the forefront of my life right now, so it is inspiring some of my posts…including this one.

Over the past month the restaurant I have been working at since around August/September changed my set hours to “on-call”, only I never really get called. So, after working full time Monday through Friday for years now, I found myself at home all day, 3 days a week. I soon realized that (besides having more time to blog…yay!)  managing time at home was something that was COMPLETELY foreign to me. The minutes and hours ticked by, and at the end of the day I had watched one too many episodes of Downton Abbey or Parenthood and was left feeling completely unproductive. Can anyone relate?!?

The reality of being a stay at home mom in just a matter of months has started to settle in, and although, realistically, my main concern for a while is going to be caring for a newborn, I want to get a leg up! A little Melissa nuance is that I need to be well prepared. I function best when I know what to expect, have time to digest and make a plan, or am able to make some kind of analysis or resolution. Is this always realistic in life? Probably not. But I try to set myself up for success when and if I can.

So, I did some research. Minimal research actually…but, in the minimal research I did, I found some good info to glean from. I will post links at the end of this post.

What I discovered:

1.) Acknowledge time suckers. For me, for starters anyways, it’s wasting time scrolling mindlessly on my phone. I’ve determined that I do not need to check every notification or email as it appears. Assess what is necessary to read or respond to, do it, and then put it down and walk away. I’ve also started to take note of the clock while on my phone, and not let myself get caught up for more than 2-3 minutes. It is so easy to go from one link to the next, to the next, to the next. Also, watching shows when I am home during the day. There is always something that can be done or is more worth my time than a show. So, IF I am going to watch something, it is going to be as a reward for accomplishing something else more pertinent first. Can I also throw in here that I takes me kind of a long time to shower and get ready? I have always been a 20 minute shower taker. Always. Anyone have any tips on cutting that time down other than shaving my head? 😉 I honestly have a thick head of hair. Moving on…

2.) Make priorities. This is obviously different for everyone. Everyday make a list of priorities of what you would like to get done and what you absolutely need to get done. For one, it will help you put in perspective what is actually important and what you can realistically accomplish. Do the most essential things first, and with whatever time you have left tackle the less important items on the list. The fact of the matter is crossing anything off a list is gratifying and will make you feel productive and motivated. Go us! 

3.) Establish routines that make life easier. Ok. What’s important to you? A clean house? Getting the kids ready faster? Right now I’d say that if I am going to be home 3 days out of the week I want my house to appear clean when my husband gets home from work…especially the bathroom, kitchen and our bedroom. When I wake up before I even go downstairs for breakfast I make the bed. Makes the room look 10x better. You may be thinking, “Duuuh.” , but can I honestly tell you I never did that before! When I am done folding laundry I have started putting them away immediately instead of stacking the piles in my closet. Again….what the heck was wrong with me?! When it comes to the bathroom the sink & toilet looking clean on a daily basis is specifically important to me. My husband tends to shave in the morning and his little ginger beard hairs (side-note: he hates when I call anything about him “ginger”…) are left speckling the white porcelain sink. Pet. Peeve. He works really hard so I gladly clean them up after him. Instead of waiting once a week to wipe down the sink & toilet, as soon as I am done with my shower I have made it a routine to spray down the sink and toilet. It literally takes 3 minutes or less to do and makes the bathroom sparkle and smell nice. As far as the kitchen goes, after breakfast I will wipe down the counters and table. At the end of the day it is my goal to sweep the floor and not leave any dishes in the sink for the next day. Hubby is good about doing the dishes since I cook dinner every night. I am usually not a stickler about leaving dishes at the end of the day, but once we have a baby I don’t want to come downstairs to a chore I could have easily done the night before.

4.) Make time for you. We are not a bunch of robots who can live day to day checking tasks off a to-do list. We all are made with gifts and talents and things that make us thrive. As much as I want to be productive, I know that in order to maintain my health, well-being and sanity, I need to incorporate things I am truly passionate about into my day. It doesn’t mean I have to fit them all into one day either. Prayer and quiet time, reading, writing, blogging, learning a new song, knitting (a new hobby I am learning!), spending time with loved ones, running, yoga, creating a new recipe, learning about nutrition, being crafty; these are all things that I value and that help me thrive, so they should be a part of my life.

Ultimately I am not going to be a slave to a schedule; life is meant to be enjoyed and lived in each savored moment. With that in mind, it is incredibly healthy to have a standard to go by, as well as boundaries.

The next step for me is actually making daily, weekly and monthly schedules that makes sense for me, and to start setting some goals for myself. I have never really been good at setting goals in some areas of my life, so I am excited to delve into that. I also found some great resources from Money Saving Mom. She provides a whole bunch of free household management forms that I am going to check out and put to the test. Let me know if you check them out too!

Here are a list of links that helped me on my quest to stay at home time management:

http://stayathomemoms.about.com/od/tipstimesavers/tp/timemanagementplanformoms.htm

http://voices.yahoo.com/managing-time-as-stay-home-mom-2989576.html?cat=25

http://www.mommieswithcents.com/2010/07/time-management-as-a-stay-at-home-mom.html

http://moneysavingmom.com/2010/11/time-management-101-home-management-part-1.html

http://moneysavingmom.com/2010/12/time-management-101-home-management-part-2.html

Alright all you veteran stay at homers…what tips do you have for a newbie like me? I look forward to gleaning from you!

TGI…Saturday.

Happy Saturday everyone! I am gladly spending this day doing not much of anything…catching up on the blog (obvi), finishing Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin (thanks to my good friend, Alayna, for letting me borrow it!), adding items to my baby registry (SO. much. fun. I can spend hours doing this!), and later we are going out to dinner with some friends.

Yesterday afternoon turned into quite the adventure. I had lunch with my Grandma and headed from there to my monthly midwife appointment. The traffic on the highway was pretty bad; it was backed up for 3 exits before the one I needed to take, so I decided to get off the highway and go back roads. Well, although I have lived in the New Haven area for my entire life, I knew I was not going to be able to navigate the way from the exit to the doctors office without my GPS. It was about 3:40 as I was driving down the off ramp. There was a glare from the sun on my windshield and I looked down to enter the address into my GPS, and then BOOM. I rear ended the PICK UP TRUCK in front of me. How I did not see a pick up truck, even with the glare, I do not know. I felt so awful, but was mostly shaken up because all I could think was, “There’s a baby in my uterus!!” The guy got out of his truck, looked at his bumper, said everything was fine and  just drove away. I was so relieved at that anyways. The drive the rest of the way to the doctors office was miserable. The GPS on the iphone often has the opposite orientation, and let’s face it, I am not good with maps. I took multiple wrong turns having to back track, fighting back tears and sheer frustration at uncooperative drivers, the fact that I was so late for my appointment where my husband was waiting for me, and really just the entire situation itself. I couldn’t believe what was happening. My poor husband didn’t know whether to comfort me or just leave me and the steam coming out of my ears alone.

When I finally got into the doctor’s office the women at the window said, “You know your appointment was at 3:45 right?” Oh yea lady, just what I wanted to hear. I had no response other than “Yea.” My husband, knowing my complete frazzledness & frustration & inability to gather a fruitful sentence, chimed in, “There was traffic.” We were informed that the midwife took her next patient & it would most likely be a half hour wait.

Once we were in with the midwife she asked me how I was. I was able to calm down and regain some peace by then, and so I told her what happened and that I was just a bit frazzled at the moment. She immediately asked if I told that to the women who checked me in, and I told her no, I really couldn’t even talk about it then. She compassionately encouraged me to make sure I tell them if something like that were to happen again, because obviously it is relevant to my visit, and also why I was late. So, she did the exam and the baby sounded fine (Who is a boy by the way! Who we are naming Jackson!).  But, standard procedure, for even the most minor accident, would be for me to go to hospital and have the baby monitored for 4 hours. Not exactly how we anticipated spending our Friday night, but obviously, we would rather be safe than sorry. So, off we went. It was about 5pm at this point.

I got checked in and three different hospital employees offered to take us up to our room. Apparently everyone wanted to escort us. It made us feel special. We had the sweetest nurse, and thankfully everything went completely smoothly. Jackson was as fine as ever, so at around 8pm, after 2 hours of getting to hear him, and watching some Restaurant Impossible, we got to go home. It wasn’t even until leaving the hospital did we notice that I probably need my bumper and hood repaired. Clearly that was the last thing on our minds! I couldn’t eat or drink while I was there and was starving by the time we left, so we stopped at Mamouns for some Mediterranean goodness. Oh, and the valet guy didn’t charge us anything to park our car. There were so many little blessings along the way, not to mention that our little boy is doing perfect. I am full of gratitude for that. When you adjust your perspective it is so easy to see how God really does pour out His good on situations that are not so good.

Me...listening to Jackson's healthy heart & little movements!

Me…listening to Jackson’s healthy heart & little movements! I’ll be back there in a couple months and then we’ll get to meet him!

So yes, after an eventful Friday, I am very grateful for this relaxing Saturday!

For  your entertainment check this video out: two Dutch men who host the TV show Guinea Pigs experiencing simulated labor pains. 🙂 Thanks for the entertainment boys.

Hope you all enjoy your weekend!!

Forever & a Day.

That’s how long it seems to have been since I have posted!

So, today I am going to fill you in on some important news AND update you all on what’s been filling this past week with amazingness.

Well, to start… … …

I am 3 months pregnant!! 🙂 Baby Jacobs is expected to enter this world on May 6th & we could not be more thrilled! You may have seen a picture on instagram or twitter (follow me at @foodformyhouse), but here is the little cutie at 10 weeks.

Our sweet little guy or girl.

This week started off with some Fall fun at Bishops Orchard in Guilford, CT. We had our annual pumpkin picking and carving day with some very good friends of ours. Here are our creations all lit up:

Joe did the Giants logo & I did a baby sucking it’s thumb. So fitting.

My vegetarian friend Cory found this picture this week which I got a kick out of & thought I’d share it with you all. I’m thinking about framing it & putting it my kitchen or something.

Onto FOOD.

NEW. FAVORITE. RECIPE. I am not a huge chinese food fan, but lately I have had some cravings for it. Sooooo, I did what I do & found a vegan recipe for orange “chicken”. It is made with battered & friend seitan. Omg. Make this. Please. And never get take out again. I don’t know where you’re from, but CT does not have a good reputation in the Chinese restaurant department.

mmm mmm good.

What is Fall with out all things pumpkin & delicious warm beverages???

I love love love love LOVE Sarah Matheny’s blog, “Peas and Thank You” and her fantastic recipes. They are a staple in my kitchen. This week I tried her pumpkin pie ice cream sandwiches, and, as usual, was not disappointed. Give ’em a try!

Pumpkin Pie in frozen form. And vegan. And much healthier.

Hot Chocolate. I haven’t been drinking coffee since I’ve been pregnant and this so hits the spot. It’s my own recipe of 1.5 c of almond milk (or any non-dairy milk), 2 Tbsp of unsweetened cocoa powder & 2 Tbsp of agave. If you like cinnamon add a couple dashes. Wisk on medium heat until hot and serve. Perfection.

Another thing I will never buy packaged again.

Food for the soul. Just as important as food for the body. I have had my nose in Streams in the Desert by L.B. Cowman for this entire month…pretty much since it came in the mail from Amazon. Life. Giving.

So good.

So that’s that. What’s been going on in your life? New recipes, exciting news, awesome finds you don’t know how you lived without?!?

Stay tuned because soon to come is my vegan version of a chocolate chip oreo fudge brownie concoction that you will want to try for yourself!!!

A Few of My Favorite Things.

Happy 4th of July my friends!

July has always been my favorite month. I was reminiscing about this to my hubby as we were driving through some back roads near our home town a couple of days ago.

For one, I absolutely LOVE summer. Sunshine, waves crashing, sand beneath my feet, a cool breeze blowing through my hair…it all rejuvenates my soul.

It is the season for picnics, the char of grill flames, bonfires and fireworks. Utter delight.

And it also helps that my birthday is July 6th. 🙂

Every single year growing up my parents had a HUGE 4th of July party that doubled as a birthday party for my twin, Erica, & me. I am pretty sure that every human being that my parents ever had contact with came to this shin dig. Even family from out of state – Long Island, Staten Island, California, etc – would come. It was so exciting to see everyone, and it became such a highlight of the summer.

As you can imagine, Erica and I were in our glory. We had a massive in-ground pool and decent sized back yard, and we would run around and play with our friends and cousins like party animals. There was always a clown, or some form of entertainment, that undoubtedly picked us out of the crowd to be an assistant, or make us a balloon animal because we were the birthday girls. It may not seem that thrilling now, but back then it was a kid’s dream!

As the sun went down my daddy prepared an awesome fireworks show. One year he destroyed the grass in our front yard with “The Waterfall”. I just remember a long wire being tied from one tree to another one across the yard, and a colorful blast of glittery sparks cascading down to the ground for what seemed like FOREVER. It was a hit with everyone, except for maybe my mommy when she saw the big patch of dirt that was left where lush green grass once grew. Worth it.

These are such fond memories. Looking back now I understand why a love for summer, and this month especially, is engrained into my being! I look forward to making special memories like these with my husband and the children we will have.

Today, we are going to be celebrating this day at a picnic with some dear friends from our church community, City Church. The hosts, Joe & Nancy, dominate on the grill. They make a mean burger & grilled pizza! They were also kind enough to provide veggie burgers…yay!

As a vegan, especially just starting out, it can be intimidating to go out to typical functions that are meant to be enjoyed with loved ones. Maybe vegetarian or vegan options are not always provided, which leaves you worrying about what you can or can’t eat.  Or, you end up eating something you really don’t want to, then potentially start feeling guilty about it. Who needs a damper like that getting in the way of fun and making fond memories?!

I have learned to not set myself up for failure and stay prepared. It may seem simple, but you’d be surprised!

Amongst all of my other loves is my love for home made veggie burgers. There are a couple veggie burger recipes that I adore, one of which I am sharing with you today. When ever I make them I wrap 2 individually in plastic wrap and throw them in the freezer so they will be ready to take with me when needed. This has been a life saver multiple times already this summer!

Now, this recipe is super simple & super easy – whether you’ve been in a hospital for 7 hours and need a quick dinner, or want a tasty veggie burger to take to take to a picnic, it’s a winner.

Puttanesca Inspired Veggie Burgers

(recipe adapted from Isa Chandra’s Quinoa Puttanesca)

Makes 6 Burgers

Ingredients

1 c cooked quinoa

2 cups oat flour (old fashioned oats + food processor = oat flour.)

1 15 oz can of cannellini beans, pureed in food processor (chick peas work fine too.)

1 flax egg (1 Tbsp flax meal + 3 Tbsp water, whisked together)

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c kalamata olives, sliced

1/4 c capers

1 c crushed tomatoes (+ some for topping, optional)

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp marjoram

1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (use 1/2 tsp if you don’t so much care for spice)

2 tsp fennel seeds

Directions

Add all ingredients – except the crushed tomatoes – into a large mixing bowl and use hands to combine until incorporated.

Once incorporated add 1/2 c of crushed tomatoes and combine with hands. You want it to be kind of like the consistency of chop meat, so slowly add as much of the remaining crushed tomato as necessary to get a mixture that is moist, but slightly sticky & able to hold the shape of a burger.

Heat a cast iron skillet to medium-high heat, drizzle with olive oil and mold 6 patties while the pan heats up.

Cook the patties for about 6 minutes or so on each side, or until they have a nice brown.

Serve on a delicious bun of your choice & enjoy!

For toppings I enjoy warm crushed tomato sauce, roasted red pepper, fresh basil leaves, lettuce & a pickle on the side!

dee-licious.

Great news – they taste even better on the grill – so get out there and fire it up! 😉

What fun traditions do you & your family have? Do you have any tricks or tips that help you stay prepared for picnics and BBQs?

Have fun at all your holiday festivities!!

I Witnessed a Baby Being Born

I witnessed a baby being born. Yup. Did.

When? Two weeks ago now, June 2, 2012 at 7:57 pm, to be exact.

I had the amazing privilege of supporting my twin sister, Erica, as she and her husband, Ebiel, welcomed their 3rd child, Lera Emery, into this world.

Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. Sure, I’ve seen tons of “A Baby Story” on TLC, and have had semi-detailed conversations with my friends about their labors and deliveries, but still. When it comes down to it, what is it like to be IN the room; to be inches away from a woman pushing out a child? It’s one of those things you can’t really be fully prepared for.

So, I gave myself the job of being the best. encourager. ever. Whatever was happening, I was going to be nothing but encouraging, and do everything in my power to make my sister happy and as comfortable as she could possibly be. I think it went incredibly well. But that’s just me. I wasn’t the one in labor. 😉

It wasn’t an incredibly long process. I arrived at the hospital around 3:30 pm, met my sister and Ebiel in their room around 4:30 pm, and by 7:57 pm there was a new, beautiful, little person in the room.

Lera Emery moments after birth!

Such a cutie.

Some highlights:

  • I, oh so sneakily, got my sister some crackers and peanut butter when she was technically not suppose to eat any solids. She was hungry!
  • In an effort to help a sister out, I was holding a leg while reaching back to prop up her upper body. The nurse told me I would be sorry the next day if I did that. “Pick one: leg or back.” In my head I was like “pssssh lady, I work out. I got this.”  But, in reality, I respected her professional opinion and opted for the leg. Haha.
  • At one point I had my knee on the bed, and it definitely was in some kind of bodily fluid. My reaction: Whatevs. She’s my identical twin. We lived in each others’ bodily fluids for 9 months. Roll with it.
  • Oh my gosh PLACENTA. Seriously it looked other worldly. The doctor was standing next me as one of the midwives had her hands in it, scoping it out. I turned to him and said, “What the heck is that, and what is she doing?” He explained that that’s where the baby lived (midwife then lifts it up and stretches it out to reveal my niece’s past living quarters. Thanks.), and the other side was where it was attached to my sister (midwife turns it around and points out said area). They just check it out make sure nothing  weird is going on inside of it. That was better than any biology class experience I’ve ever had.
  • Seeing this:

    New life; Mami & Papi holding their bundle for the first time. Precious.

Oh, and the hospital food was not too shabby either.

Curry tabbouleh, falafel & veggie soup. Good fuel.

I know, I totally built up your appetite right??

It was honestly the most beautiful and miraculous thing I have ever experienced.

I am so grateful to have shared that moment with my sister and brother-in-law, and that I will have that special memory to forever share with my sweet Lera girl.

Being a Ti Ti, as I am so endearingly called, is one of the greatest joys of my life. Our nieces and nephews are such little treasures.

One day, when I am a mom, I will be more prepared for such an honorable role because of them. I thank them so much for that. And for all the ways they fill this life of mine.

Leilani, Lyric & Lera. Little loves.

After being in a hospital for 7 hours, we needed a quick and easy go to meal. Stay tuned for that recipe! 🙂

Summer’s Calling Kale Salad

“Joy is the realest reality, the fullest life, and is always given, never grasped. God gives gifts and I give thanks and I unwrap the gift given: joy.” – Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

This weekend was full of life’s simple treasures that bring my heart joy:

1. My sweet niece. We’re like best buds. We had the privilege of having her over Friday night into Saturday for some great fun, including baking chocolate chocolate chip cookies, watching “Barbie in a Mermaid Tale 2”, pancakes in the morning & dance class. You know my hubby loved every second of the girly activities. He is a great uncle!

Isn't she adorable? Girl's night necessities: movie, popcorn & chocolate.

2. THIS WEATHER. I love sunshine combined with a soft breeze, and today was pretty glorious. It made for the perfect Sunday afternoon walk to our friends house just around the corner, and back yard picnic table conversations.

3. Kale. Yes, I said it; kale. If you remember from an earlier post, I have an affinity for healthy food, especially green stuff. The darker the better. Kale is so nutrient rich, its stinkin ridiculous. According to this article on onegreenplanet.org, one cup of kale alone contains 1000% of a daily serving of vitamin K, which prevents heart disease, regulates blood clotting, and according to a study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, can reduce the risk of developing cancer. In that same cup is 180% of a daily serving of vitamin A, 200% of calcium, and is a significant source of vitamin B6. Am I the only one who gets excited about nutritious food? I hope not!

After eating more than my fair share of chocolate chocolate chip cookies, I was feeling the need to fuel my body with something healthy, and with summer creeping in on us slowly but surely, I couldn’t help but think: summer salad…with kale. I wanted something simple, bright and fresh, and that was delicious, of course. I created something that was just that.

Summer’s Calling Kale Salad

Serves 2 as main course, 4 for side dish

Ingredients:

6 medium leaves of kale, cut from the stem

¾ cup of pineapple, diced

½ avocado, diced (I cut it into 6ths length wise, then diced.)

Juice of 1 lime

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 tbsp Agave nectar

Salt & pepper to taste (I did about ¼ tsp of freshly ground salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper.)

A handful of fresh cilantro for garnish

(you could also garnish with some diced red onion…the hubs doesn’t really go for raw onion, so I left them off!)

Directions:

Wash your kale if you have not already.

Cut the leaves away from the stem with a knife, or just use your hands to tear it.

Stack a few leaved on top of each other and roll into a long, tight wad. Then, cut thin strips with a sharp knife to end up with thin shreds of kale.

My personal favorite way of cutting most leafy greens.

Place shreds into a large bowl and finish cutting all of your kale leaves, adding them all to the bowl.

Throw in your pineapple & avocado, then add the lime juice, oil, agave, salt & pepper, and then toss.

Serve in cute salad bowls and garnish with cilantro.

mmmmm all that leafy green goodness.

The sweetness and citrus from the pineapple, paired with the creaminess of the avocado is the perfect complement to the heartiness of the kale. So tasty.

ENJOY!

Hope that you had a fabulous weekend as well, and take the time this week to appreciate the gifts you have been given in life that were designed to bring you fullness & joy!