chopped salad

This past long weekend was refreshing. Something about having that extra day turns a regular weekend into a vacation! David and I enjoyed a mostly quiet time at home. We both took off Friday to take Henry to his pediatrician in order to discuss strategies around sleep and sleep routines. Our little man is consistently inconsistent which makes sleep a question mark in our house. Our meeting on Friday was not earth shattering in the information she presented but it did confirm some “best practices” we were beginning to implement. So we will have to give you an update on Henry’s sleep in the days and weeks to come. Fingers crossed this little man breaks through his sleep wall.

We spent a lot of time just being together as a family though and we even rekindled some of our favorite crafts and hobbies. I am currently working on a mustard yellow scarf for the winter and David in elbow deep in books about chess. When we weren’t playing with Henry, we were either crafting or cooking. It was a perfect way to spend these Fall days.  One of the recipes we tried for the first time was this chopped salad. It was  quick and easy and the prep time was practically non-existent. The flavors are super subtle but it was a light meal option for us on a day when we whipped up a significant brunch and crock pot beef stew for dinner!

 

Ingredients:

Roast chicken (we bought a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store)

5 strips of cooked bacon

1 head of romaine lettuce

1 tablespoon ground mustard

2 tablespoons creme fraiche

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 cup of crumbled blue cheese

Toss everything together and enjoy! (especially if your husband dons a sexy apron  while mixing this up =)

work & pump

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The first week of nursing Henry was hard. I was so stressed out about it that I would break out into a sweat.  There I was holding Henry, trying to establish a latch, sweating, and crying! It was an ugly and frustrating sight. Within 72 hours, I was convinced it was not going to work and that my little baby was belligerently opposed to the whole nursing experience as he thrashed about and beat his little tight fists against me. I had never felt so completely powerless and clueless. And, talk about feeling like a failure. While no one was judging me and no one was expecting me to nurse, the pressure to do it and do it perfectly felt real. In the end, the only thing that really mattered was getting food into the little guy. He needed his most basic need met either with a bottle or breast. It was hard to be patient with myself. I kept thinking this is supposed to be natural.  If so, why was I completely mystified by the whole process and feeling like a “bad” mom for not being able to do it. It took a LONG time until I felt “comfortable” breastfeeding and weeks before I would venture out around meal time with Henry. In some ways, it felt harder than labor because at least with the labor my body had no choice, I was just there for the ride. When it came to the breastfeeding, it somehow felt like I should be able to control this process more….

Despite these early challenges, we stuck with it!  Henry and I now have a beautiful and easy nursing relationship and I am so incredibly thankful for being in this spot right now. Of course, there are so many fears that nag at me though. My biggest being: will I be able to keep up with his growing appetite. I am starting to worry that Henry will out pace what I can pump for him at school. Obviously this stress is counter-productive to the whole “making milk” process but it is a real and present concern. At the hospital, the lactation consultants always seemed to encourage a relaxed approach to breast feeding: relax and the baby will latch, relax and you won’t overheat, relax and you will make milk. So I just need to heed their advice.

Now that I am back to work Henry takes about 18oz of milk from 7AM-4:30PM. This means I have a second job of pumping: Melissa Pumper Extraordinaire. After waking up and tackling the morning “routine” which isn’t quite routine at all, I drive frantically to school in order to get into work with enough time to pump before classes. Ideally this is by 7:30AM. Then it is back to the pumping room around 10AM, 11:40AM, and 3PM. It is a busy day of dressing and undressing as quickly as possible!  When I first started this whole pumping-at-work dance, I felt very clumsy. I always wore the wrong thing: dresses without  zippers up the back, pencil skirts, and  necklaces.  All of these items while fashionable slowed me down and assured me of more complicated dressing and undressing within my 10 minutes constraint. Then there was the issue of just knowing how to set up and take down the system. I realized shortly that since I am not currently sharing the pumping room with another teacher, I might as well just set-up shop and leave it until the end of the day. Then there was the issue of storage: Do I pump into multiple small bottles that fit into my carry tote or two big bottles that don’t fit into my carry tote but would keep me from screwing the pump tops on and off all day long? Lastly, there was the issue of learning my schedule. At home all day, Henry dictated the schedule and it was mindless.  Now, I have to juggle classes, student meetings, teacher meetings, special schedules, and fitting in the fastest lunches just to accommodate the pumping that needs to get done in order to ensure Henry’s food source for tomorrow.  This adds an intense amount of stress to the day. But sometimes, some days, I feel like I have it under control.

The hardest part about pumping at work isn’t the mechanics of it all. That is a learned skill that over time is becoming easier to manage. The challenge that I face each day is the isolation. Of course, I am lucky to have a clean and comfortable designated space for pumping, but it is isolating to go and use that space. And, so far as the temperatures have been cold most mornings but then the day heats up, the space has not had regular heat which also means it is a bit cold right now (although this will undoubtedly change once the heat is turned on more regularly to address the falling temperatures outside). But back to the isolation. Part of my job that I love is having the opportunity to spend time with my colleagues during the “down time” in the school schedule. They are a pretty dynamic group of men and women but my pumping schedule cuts into part and sometimes all of these “down times.” As a result, I feel at times outside of the community. Yes, this is temporary and yes I am doing the whole pump at work piece out of choice but it still is tough. While I am getting more and more accustomed to my daily schedule to accommodate the pumping that needs to be done, a part of me remains saddened by it. The consolation: (a) knowing Henry is having the best chance of being EBF  (exclusively breast feed) and (b) knowing that I am the fastest dresser this side of the Mississippi!

henry adam: three months

and an “out take” because it is so darn cute and funny!

According to the app “wonder weeks,” Henry has just completed his stormy week. As he turns 3 months old, his body is focused on learning smooth transitions: coordinating his limbs, focusing his eyes, developing speech, and processing his surroundings.  Since this is so much work for a little one, the app marks it as “stormy” because babies can be often quite fussy.  Thankfully, Henry has been his usual jovial self. Yes, this time period may have affected his sleep which up until last week was merely Henry not sleeping at all.  But, aside from the lack of sleep (which has gotten MUCH better) Henry has been a super curious, playful, and happy little guy.  We joke that his laugh is like thunder and lightening. Right now he opens his mouth wide to give a hearty chuckle but there is not a sound. Perhaps like thunder, his laugh will soon follow his toothless smile. At lunch on Saturday, David had to change a blow out diaper and said that he heard the first true hearty laugh out of the little man! I am waiting patiently for a repeat performance.

This month marked my full return to work and Henry’s daytime care turning over to Mema’s capable hands. Mema and Henry are doing great together. Each morning my phone buzzes with picture updates, as Mema reads stories, plays on the mat, feeds and swaddles him for naps, and helps Henry practice rolling over.  I love coming home and asking Mema, “How was your day?” and she replies, “Oh it was wonderful. We did all of our activities together.” At the same time, it is hard being away each day. Leaving in the morning continues to rip out my heart and I still cry most mornings on the drive in. The consolation is knowing that Henry is having a wonderful time at home with Mema who loves him so very much.  Under her supervision, he has started to really respond to conversation and is determined to roll over.  A few “accidental” rolls have occurred. Then finally last night, while I was working my epic long night on campus, Henry did it. He rolled, and rolled, and rolled for Mema and Pepa.  This left us all in a little panic. We were planning to wean Henry from his swaddle this weekend but had to do it cold turkey now that he could flip himself over. He must have been ready for the release of his arms during sleep because he slept great despite the new sensations and freedom.

The best part of this month may just be the sounds that Henry makes. He loves to lay down and stare up at you and just coo and shriek and babble. I know he has to grow up but I wish I could just savor these moments longer!!  This may just be my most favorite month yet, really. His little personality continues to develop and he is such a flirt! He practices his grin, coy smile, and even his frown. And while he obviously cannot speak yet, these expressions really do fill the home. It is not a far stretch to imagine him chatting at the dinner table.

Henry is starting to grab and reach for things and this includes holding onto your clothes as you cuddle and sway him. He loves playing with his rattles, although sometimes he gets carried away and whacks himself in the face.  And, he loves watching the dogs play.  Right now we have four dogs in the house: Buster, Bella, Daisy, and Blaise. Each of these little beasts wants to be near Henry at all times. While this can be a little frustrating since they don’t quite understand their own strength, it does come from a place of curiosity and Henry is equally curious about these fuzzy creatures who like to stick their wet noses on his cheeks.  With a little assistance, Henry pets each  of his furry friends.

His morning and evening routines seem to be developing as well. My alarm goes off at 5AM and I head into the shower to get ready for work. By 5:30AM, Henry is awake and David plays and cuddles him in bed until I finish. Then I take over from 5:45-6:00AM and play in bed with Henry while David showers and gets ready. Then around 6:05AM we all head downstairs. My mom joins us and makes coffee for the adults while David plays with Henry in the living room.  I pack up my bags for school, eat some breakfast, and then snuggle the little guy so David can do the same. We usually have 15-20 minutes all together in the living room before it is time to said our goodbyes for work. At night, recently, Henry has started his bedtime routine at 7PM with a bath.  Then it is pj time, reading, snuggles, a fresh diaper, a last meal, a little swaying and down for bed.  While he doesn’t sleep completely through the night the new pattern is to sleep until 12:30AM and then get up again around 3:30AM and then 5:30AM.  And, our little man is about 15lbs and 25.5 inches and barely fitting in size 3 months!

This month Henry is:

  • All smiles
  • Cooing, babbling, and shrieking
  • Using his tranquil turtle to help him go to sleep (and David and I love it too, it is SO peaceful!)
  • Has changed swaddles , these seem to be a little stronger than the summer swaddles we originally used
  • Plays with his rattle and rocket ship from Bannor Toys
  • Sits in his Bumbo Seat
  • Loves reading. We have started to read the Biscuit books
  • Loves seeing his friends
  • Takes strolls in the park
  • Enjoys brunch on Sundays
  • Can be in the Ergobaby without the infant insert and doesn’t only sleep in it now
  • Showing signs of laughter and rolling over
  • Takes a bottle like a champion (Dr. Brown all the way!)
  • Has discovered his hands and feets
  • Loves to chew on your hand or his hands
  • Is starting to drool and blow bubbles
  • Grabbing and grasping for things around him

 

sausage, cauliflower, and kale “pot pie”

I left home this morning at 6:30AM and will sadly not return until 9:30PM. This extra long day of work loomed before me and has created an intense amount of stress for me: How would Henry do without me for all of this time? Will he have enough to eat at home? Will he have an effective sleep routine? Will my parents, who are home today, be all right? Will they have enough to eat? Will they need a break from caring for the baby? Will they be able to take care of the dogs? Will the dogs be all right?  Will the dogs go bananas without us for all those hours?

These are just a tiny fraction of the questions, hesitations, and concerns I have about today’s incredibly long day away from home. Every year we prepare and stay at school for Back to School Night. Every other year, this has been one of my favorite evenings. I stay after school and have dinner with friends and then get to meet the parents of my students in a casual setting as they mill about the building.  Tonight though is different. Now with Henry home I am a bundle of nerves and feeling very fragile about this long stay away. When I take a moment to really think about him home without me all day I feel like crying and  when I come home the little man will be asleep.  It hurts my heart to know I will have missed his whole day. But, alas it is the nature of the beast that is today.

Since I couldn’t physically be there with the little man and my parents today, I decided I could at least cook them a nutritious, belly-warming meal. Through dinner, I would be able to “be there for them.” And, in this case what is more comforting than a warm plate of pot pie? I hope that in lieu of my presence this meal will keep them “sustained” and will give me a small bit of peace of mind heading into my long night on campus. And really, it is just one night, right?

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage links, casings removed and meat broken into 3/4-inch pieces
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 cup garbanzo flour (a nice protein)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bunch kale, torn into bite-size pieces (about 10 cups)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 sheets puff pastry
Heat the oven to 400. In a large pot, cook the sausage with the tablespoon of olive oil. Remove sausage and place in glass casserole dish. Add the onions, cauliflower, rosemary to the pot and saute for 5-7 minutes. Add the flour and mix in, add the broth  and vinegar and cook simmering/boiling for 5-7 minutes until it thickens. Toss in the kale and let it wilt. Add this mixture to the casserole dish and mix everything together. Top the mixture with the puff pastry. I just rolled it out into one sheet and layered it on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is light and fluffy looking and the mixture is bubbling. Enjoy!