Never Say Never

>> 4.30.2012

This whole being-a-parent thing continually amazes me. I've been a relatively relaxed mom compared to how I thought I'd be. Still, there are things that just get to me. There are so many times I get completely fixated on something Ada is or isn't doing. I research whatever it is to death. Compare our situation to what others are doing/able to do. And I worry.

9 times out of 10, there's no need for this insane cycle to continue going round-and-round. Here are a few recent examples.

#1: Ada absolutely hated tummy time -- kicked, screamed, cried every single time we'd try it. She wouldn't roll over either. The night before her 5-month "birthday," Stephen was out late at a neighbor's house watching some basketball game . . . and I started Googling. I became utterly convinced something might be wrong with her.

And -- no fibbing -- the v.e.r.y next day she twisted and turned her way around from back to belly. It's been her favorite trick ever since. Her legs are even inching to a crawling motion more and more each day.

#2: It's been a rough couple of months because Ada stopped taking a bottle from ANYONE, meaning she was eating directly from the source every 2 to 3 hours. It was driving me insane because mom's gotta get some time to herself, you know? Well, we tried giving her a bottle once a day. I even tried to give one to her, completely defeating the purpose. Instead of realizing what the bottle contained was her beloved boob juice, she seemingly imagined it was some poison and would wail like you wouldn't believe.

I was brought to tears several times thinking she'd never do it again (and I write "again" because she had a good run of taking the bottle in the early months). Anyway, something magical happened in the last two weeks because on our of our last tries (we decided we were going to stop after so many fails), she started eating . . . and eating . . . and eating! She now takes a bottle like a champ. And not just a specific one with a specific look or feel, etc. All of them. Let's hope it continues!

#3: When Ada was little she used to love like tolerate a pacifier. Then one day, she spit it out. So, we tried another kind. And another kind. And yet another kind. I found myself getting crazy jealous when I'd see babies with pacifiers stuck in their mouths, sitting quietly in their car seats at the grocery store, etc. Or photos of babies calmly sitting beside their parents at restaurants -- just happily sucking away on their paci.

Thing is, I never really wanted to encourage the habit. I read such mixed things. But Ada has a lot, OK, a TON of trouble soothing herself, and she sure is a sucker -- but prefers to use me, which isn't exactly the most convenient thing when we're out and about. This success is as new as TODAY's news, but Ada loves her MAM pacifier. I had all but given up when I saw it at the store today. I thought giving one more kind a try might just work. And . . . it did. Fingers and toes crossed.

You all have been telling me that nothing is forever with babies. But it's really setting in as the months pass us by. Today's frustration could be a distance memory in a week's time. And new challenges will always present themselves. But that's part of being a parent. I'm here to help Ada in any way that I can . . . and should probably spend less time freaking out and more time enjoying her little quirks. Someday I'm sure I'll be sad when she no longer needs me 100%.

Actually, I'm sure that day is coming sooner than I'd like to think. And there I go getting worked up again!

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Another Baby A . . . Ashley!

>> 4.29.2012

Happy Sunday! I haven't done a weekend post in a while, so I thought it'd be a nice change of pace to do one today. And it's a sign of things to come since it's a video. I'll tell you why in just a minute.

The warmer weather has me thinking of all the fun things I want to do with Ada this summer. Then I remembered I have this cute video my dad took of ME from when I was a little girl. I think I'm around 2-years-old here, but I'm terrible with knowing that kind of stuff.

Anyway, video! This week I'll be posting a Question and Answer video -- we already have quite a few questions from emails/comments about Ada and all-things baby, but if you have anything you'd like to ask, just email us at writingchapterthree [at] gmail [dot] com.

I just got back from my longest in run a long, long time -- 13.1 miles. Getting ready for next weekend's big race . . . and it HURT. Well not sharp pain kind of hurt, just soreness and difficulty getting over that 12-mile hump. There won't be any PRs next weekend, but I'm excited to have a smiley baby to come home to this time around.

Have a great rest of your weekend!

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Tofu "Meatballs" with Saffron-Ginger Tomato Sauce

>> 4.26.2012

Not exactly a $5 dinner. We make enough of those to allow ourselves to venture out of budget from time to time. Not that this meal is particularly expensive either. Actually, you can make our Lemon-Garlic Pasta with Asparagus, minus the onions.

These tofu "meatballs" go on the side.


What you'll need . . .
  • 1 cake of extra firm tofu (14 ounces) 
  • 1/2 cup low fat ricotta cheese 
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese 
  • 1 large egg 
  • 1-1/2 cups rolled oats processed into flour (sort of like with our smoked tofu "meatloaf") 
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped 
  • Salt and pepper to taste 

Method . . . 
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Spritz olive oil into each portion in a mini muffin pan. Set aside.
  2. Drain tofu for half an hour (here's how) and break into smaller pieces. 
  3. Then toss everything in a food processor and pulse until combined, but not too paste-y (so, still some texture to it)
  4. Then drop in heaping spoonfuls into the mini muffin pan -- the mixture is enough to fill all the slots.
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes -- until firm and browned. 

What you'll need . . . 
  • 1 large (24 ounce) can whole tomatoes -- juice and all
  • 1 heaping tablespoon powdered saffron
  • 1 heaping teaspoon powdered ginger
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 to 1 cup almond milk
Method . . .
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the tomatoes, saffron, ginger, 1 tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice, and salt/pepper. Cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.
  2. In a small frying pan, toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil and cook the onions over medium-high heat for a couple minutes. Add the maple syrup and continue cooking until golden brown.
  3. Put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Then add in however much milk you'd like. The more you use, the less acidic the sauce will be.
  4. Then return to a saucepan to warm and add in the "meatballs" -- let cook until well warmed.
It took a while longer to prepare than my usual weekday fare, but I had a lot of fun cooking this meal. Too bad Ada has been really cranky at dinner times in general for the past several days. She cried the entire time we ate.

I know I've said she's been teething for months now, but SHE'S DEFINITELY TEETHING. Someone give this girl a tooth already!

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So Many Toys. So Little Time.

>> 4.24.2012

Before Ada was born, I somehow thought we'd be immune to the widely spread baby-taking-over-the-house syndrome. Parents, can you relate? Do you have a corner of a room that looks something like this?

(Oh, who am I kidding, our entire house looks like this right now!)

Toys e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e!

We try our best to be semi-minimalist when it comes to baby A. We don't buy every flashing, battery-operated gadget that catches our eye at the store. We have tried packing away a good portion of her loot and even sent a good-sized box to grandparents' houses. We have bins, but little closet and other storage space. And well-meaning friends and family have given us so much stuff, it's overflowing from every corner. We need to get a better system in place. We're already dreading her first birthday, which has brought upon many conversations at night. They start something like this: "Is it ever OK to ask people NOT to bring toys to a birthday party?!"

I don't know where I'm going with this. I guess I'd love to hear what you do to keep things organized and somewhat pared-down. It's silly to think there would be no mess. Still, I think we could do a better job containing the madness.

Which brings me to another toy-related discussion. When Ada got sick for the first time last month, I was presented with an issue I hadn't thought about: Cleaning her toys. I don't know why the thought hadn't crossed my mind in the 4 months prior to her sniffles. It just hadn't. Of course there were a few times when she spit up on Bumble, her beloved bee puppet, and I promptly gave him a good go through the washing machine. Otherwise, all those links, blocks, and other toys -- that were always, always, always in her mouth -- didn't see soap nearly as often as they should have at all.

How often do you clean your little one's toys? Once a day? Once a week? A month? Never? Of course, after Ada had coughed and sniffled on all her frequently gnawed-on goodies, I dunked them in a hot bath with a splash of all-purpose cleaner (Meyer's - Lavender) and vinegar.

I've decided -- at least for now -- that I'll be a once-a-month kind of mom. I don't want to go overboard. I don't think every time a toy/pacifier/bottle touches the ground that it's some god-awful thing. And I can't keep up with that kind of maintenance anyway. Hell, I can't even take a shower once a day! The plush, stuffed toys are another matter all together. I have little idea how to keep them clean. Some fit nicely into our washing machine. Others don't.

Like this guy. We've had him for two seconds, and he's already covered in slobber.

I got an email asking for exersaucer recommendations. We actually don't have one and didn't ever intend to buy one. Ada's doorway jumper has been enough fun. But Stephen's mom got us this awesome exersaucer-like thing for Easter called the Go-Pod (by Kidco -- thanks, Kathy!)

We love that it folds up in a snap . . . so portable and hide-able. Her toys attach to it, too. Best part? We don't have some gigantic plastic eyesore in the middle of our living room. It's win-win!

And Ada loves it.
There you have it. A super-long post about all-things toys. What are your storage methods? What are your cleaning methods? Basically, how do you deal with all the STUFF that comes along with having a baby? And have you been successful at doing more with less? That's our ultimate goal.

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Phase 2: Cloth Wipes

>> 4.23.2012

This post is long overdue. If you're just catching up, I have let you all join me on my adventures -- first, as I prepared to cloth diaper Ada. I posted all about the types of diapers we chose and how we were preparing them for use. And after we had been doing it for a while I posted a detailed update with how we wash 'em, dry 'em, and other good stuff. I realize the web -- especially the blog world -- is teeming with resources just like these.

Still, I find it helpful to read a variety of experiences and methods.

Which is how I came across cloth wipes. Up until today, we used various types of disposable wipes at diaper-time. Thing is, I find it super annoying to toss diapers in a wet bag and wipes in a separate trash bin. There's no time with a squirmy baby. So, I had been tossing them all in the wet bag and separating at wash time. I absolutely hate that part of it. And I'm sure you can imagine why.

As well, we've gone through a gazillion of these wipe tubs in Ada's 5 short months. Lots of waste. I read a post recently with the pros and cons of using cloth. Many commenters claimed that cloth is mostly a trend, a sort of keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, and I wholeheartedly disagree. Using reusable diapers has been one of the smartest financial and environmental moves we've made. They are really easy to use and wash. Ada has had ZERO diaper-rash. And the diapers are holding up very well -- we'll certainly be able to use them for at least another child, thereby increasing our savings by A LOT.

These days, those pennies surely add up.

OK. Phase two of our cloth diapering process: CLOTH WIPES. I had the best intentions to make my own cloth wipes using flannel fabric. You guys sent me tutorials and all sorts of information. Weekend after weekend, I thought I'd find the time. But my sewing skills are still quite elementary (OK. My machine isn't threaded and I can't figure out how to do it -- MOM I NEED YOUR HELP SOON!), so I think I was avoiding it.

Finally, we got to our last tub of wipes and I thought "enough is enough!" -- so when we went to Ithaca a couple weeks ago, we stopped by Jillian's Drawers. Otherwise known as the Cloth-Diapering Mecca.

I bought two packs of OsoCozy flannel Wipes -- so 30 in all, which I figure will be good for at least two to two-and-a-half days of cloth diapering. Finding a sweet spot with our regular wash schedule.

Here are some un-doctored photos so you can see them clearly.

The solution above is one I crafted after browsing through a multitude of fantastic homemade wipe washes on The DIY Mommy. There are so many different kinds, it was hard to choose just one type to try. But the limited supplies I had at home -- no fancy essential oils, for example -- made it somewhat easier.

My mix?

Just combine 1 cup water + 1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon baby wash (California Baby Tea Tree + Lavender, above, or even Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Soap) = Ada's "salad-butt wash"

Since I'm still new at this cloth wipe-thing, I've decided to store the wash in a plastic container and dip the wipes in as needed. Then I wring them out to save the excess. Wipe. And put the wipe inside the dirty diaper, toss in the bin, and toss everything in the wash when it's time.

As with everything, there are a variety of ways people do it, though. You can store the wipes in the solution. Store the solution in a spray bottle and spray when needed. Etc. And if you may notice in our photos, we have a wipe warmer . . . that's never been used. We may eventually choose to keep the wipes and solution in this contraption instead. Seasoned wipers have any tips for doing so?

I'm sure some of you are thinking: "Well, this seems fine for diapers that only have a number 1 inside. What about those nasty poops?" (Yeah. I just typed "poops" onto my blog. Definitely desensitized at this point.) I was wondering the same thing, though. Feared it, even. Wiping when it's relatively clean down there is easy. Thankfully, Ada gave me the opportunity to try the wipes out with a dirty, dirty diaper.

Verdict? It wasn't half bad. I used two wipes and my process was a bit clunky . . . but overall, not much worse than when I've used disposables. But what I'm most looking forward to is tossing everything in the wash instead of picking apart the trash from the reusable.

Overall, I'm really happy using 100% cloth for diaper-time. Ada will be starting solids in the next month or two, so I'm wondering from you more experienced mamas -- besides hooking up that diaper sprayed to our toilet, what can we expect as new challenges with cloth diapering when Ada's poo isn't so friendly anymore? I have a bit of anxiety about it, but we've been rolling with everything so far, I'm sure it will all be OK.

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Swing Those Blues Away . . .

>> 4.20.2012

Today is one of those selective memory days. (Remember our failed hike a few weeks ago?) I won't vent. Instead, I'll share with you all what I'm choosing to remember.

She may be a little small. But the swings at the park down the street do the trick when she's being a super-crank.

Thank goodness.

Happy weekend! According to Stephen, our gorgeous, warm weather is going to turn into cold dampness overnight. We're off to make the most of the sun we have left.

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Momsicle Was a HIT

>> 4.19.2012

In yesterday's post about our new dinnertime routine, I mentioned momsicles. Or breastmilk popsicles. I first read about momsicles on Kellymom while looking up alternative feeding methods since Ada won't wouldn't take a bottle. (More on that later this week!) But then I came across it on another thread about introducing solids and how it can be a good transition tool.

Why not? We're trying to wait until 6 months/Ada's cues to start solids. But what's the harm in trying her favorite food in a new way? Well, folks. She LOVED her momsicle. So much that if you haven't tried it with your babe, you might want to.

Just pour expressed breastmilk into a ice cube/breastmilk tray. Ours is from Oxo, I think, and freezes in 1 ounce servings.

Then wait a couple hours until firm. Pop out one and store the rest in a dated freezer bag. (Obviously they'll stay good this way as long as other frozen forms of breastmilk.)

Then we chose to put ours in one of those Sassy mesh feeders.

The girl went to town. (I'd recommend putting a bib on your little one -- we didn't and it got ALL OVER HER! Breastmilk thaws really quickly.)

She was definitely biting it and I think it soothed her gums (still in those beginning stages of teething). We're looking forward to momsicle number 2 tonight. Never in a million years did I think I'd be giving Ada something like this. Yet, I am continually surprised by the things I'll try and do to make her happy.

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>> 4.18.2012

In preparation for Ada starting solids sometime in the next couple months, we done something that was very long overdue. For years, we'd eat our dinner at the coffee table while we watched TV. Bad habit, I know. So, for the past couple weeks, we've started a dinner routine that we've incorporated into Ada's overall nightly routine.

It goes a little something like this . . .
  • Between 5:00 and 6:00 we start cooking. Ada plays on the floor in the kitchen. Occasionally we trade dinner duties so one of us can go running/etc.
  • By 6:30 we're at the table eating together. Ada's in her highchair, a candle is lit, and Pandora is playing in the background. (Stephen DJs.)
  • We finish up around 6:50 and then head upstairs.
  • Ada has nightly naked time from 6:50 to 7:00. (It helps her roll around without that bulky cloth diaper weighing her down.)
  • Then we give Ada a bath (washing her every other night, playing otherwise).
  • Then a quick book . . . a feeding session . . . and bedtime.
In her highchair, Ada plays with some toys. Joins our dinner conversations. And she's showing more and more interest in what we're shoveling down our throats. She'll smack her lips and make little chewing motions. It's cute to watch. And I think when she's ready for solids, we'll start giving them to her at dinnertime.

I read that while we prepare, we could consider giving her a sippy cup with a little breastmilk or even a breastmilk popsicle (a MOMSICLE!). At first the whole concept of a frozen stick of my milk was too weird for me. But when I thought about it more . . . I might just need to try it.

Last night's meal instantly became a new favorite. We made up some "burgers" using smoked paprika-chipotle tofu (the same kind we used in our Open-Faced Asparagus and Tofu Sandwich).

The buns were the BEST EVER. And we kept reminding ourselves that it's much easier to stick to a low grocery budget when we make things from scratch. We followed this recipe on Smitten Kitchen.

Here's how we made it ours . . .
  • Used almond milk in place of cow's milk
  • Used 2 tablespoons maple syrup in place of 2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • Used 1 egg and didn't brush buns with the other the recipe calls for
  • Used 2 cups bread flour and 1-1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • Used 2 tablespoons Greek yogurt in place of butter
  • Let rise for 1 hour and omitted the second rise

Then we topped with our favorite condiments (and I know ketchup has sugar in it -- yesterday I failed at eliminating all sugars). Avocado, too. Overall, the buns took about and hour and a half from start to finish -- the rest of the meal was prepared while we waited. A bit of a longer cooking time than we usually like on a week-night. But well worth it.

Now, if you'll excuse me . . . Ada refuses to eat her "meals" all at one time today. And yesterday. And a lot recently. I have been feeding her little snacks ALL DAY LONG and it's driving me crazy.

What does your dinnertime routine look like? Has it changed since you had kids? Do you have any suggestions for us as we approach having another mouth to feed with table foods?

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