Monday, May 18, 2015

One year old!

We made it! We survived! Brandon and I lived through our first year as parents and we have a healthy, happy toddler to prove it!

This first year has certainly been a roller coaster ride. We have experienced extreme joy, relentless fatigue, and utter terror at various times. But by the grace of God, we have learned, grown, and made priceless memories with our sweet blessing that we will look back on countless times throughout the rest of our lives.

We have watched Eli grow from that sweet, cuddly little ball of warmth to a toddling, talking, brilliant little boy.

This first year we learned many, many things (too many to write), but mostly that you will never pray as much as you do when you are a first time parent. There is so much unknown and everything is new, so each new experience brings more unknown. We have learned to lean more on God and trust that He is taking care of our precious little one every second of every day, and that we just need to trust Him.

At his first birthday, Eli is saying mama, dada, hey!, bye, uh-oh!, and WOW! He loves to eat, especially strawberries, bread (of any kind), pizza, pasta, beans, peas, and cheese. He loves to wave, clap, dance (all the time!), take a bath, blow kisses, and talk to himself in the mirror. He is such a happy baby and a true and complete blessing to his mommy and daddy every single day.

For his first birthday party, our theme was "You are my Sunshine" because mommy sings that song to Eli almost every night. Our colors were yellow and teal and the general food theme was rainbow colors. I made all of the decorations myself and I am hoping to write a post soon detailing how I made everything.

*As of his actual birthday he was not quite walking, but he got the hang of it shortly thereafter and by the time of his first birthday photo session, he was walking like a champ.

Monday, June 23, 2014

And Then There Were Three - Our Birth Story

Now that I finally have some time to sit down and write a blog entry (having a newborn doesn't exactly facilitate writing), I wanted to share Eli's birth story. I will spare too much detail and just stick to the high points.

As many of our friends and family know, Brandon I decided to use the Bradley Method for childbirth way before children were even on our radar.  I took a women's studies class while at Wesleyan that led to a discussion with Brandon at the time (and many subsequent discussions) and ultimately the decision to use Bradley.  The Bradley Method focuses on husband-coached relaxation techniques with the goal of a completely unmedicated childbirth experience.  Also, based on conversations with friends (mainly my friend Whitney) and our research, I knew that I wanted to have a water birth.  These were decisions we made long before we knew we were pregnant.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant, Brandon and I began praying for our unborn child.  We prayed for his (at the time, of course, we didn't know the gender) health, his happiness, his intelligence, his salvation, and anything else we could think of.

Pretty immediately I attempted to find a Bradley class in our area.  Unfortunately, the closest class was an hour away, and that just did not fit with our schedule. So, Brandon and I purchased the Bradley materials from Amazon and set out to teach ourselves.

I also attempted to start the Brewer Diet (recommended to go hand in hand with Bradley Method) right away, but morning sickness and a hyper-aversion to eggs hindered that somewhat.  However, when I was able, I tried to stick to the diet pretty closely.  The main thing with the Brewer Diet is getting enough protein (I shot for 80-100 grams per day).  It was difficult to do, but I am so glad I did.  (More on why that protein paid off later.)

Early on, we visited the Family Birth Center at the Medical Center of Central Georgia.  We were very excited to learn that the Medical Center was starting a program facilitating water births.  They were in the process of purchasing birthing pools with disposable liners that could be rented.  This meant that we would not have to be responsible for purchasing our own pool and setting it up, which was a huge relief. 

At 20 weeks we found out we were having a boy (yay!).

Skipping ahead a good bit, I made it all the way to 40 weeks with Eli on Tuesday, April 4, and I had a doctor's appointment the day after my due date, Wednesday, April 5.  At the appointment, I faced some disappointments.  First, I was supposed to meet with one of the two midwives with whom I had developed a very good relationship.  Both midwives were unavailable (they were delivering babies!) so I had to meet with one of the doctors I had not seen since my 12 week appointment.  She told me that there had not been much progress from the 39 week appointment, but Eli was stationed well (about -1) and I was 3 cm dilated, so he was ready to go at any time.  However, because I was past my due date, she wanted to schedule me for an induction the next week.  I'm not going to lie, I was pretty upset.  To most people, it will seem very silly that I was upset over the simple possibility of being induced, but my goal all along was to have an unmedicated birth experience.  Not only was I facing the very real possibility of needing Pitocin, I also knew from research that when Pitocin is introduced, contractions are much stronger and most women end up receiving some type of pain medication.

(Side note: Brandon was a champ of a Bradley coach. He went to every single appointment and served as my rock. But more on that later.)  Brandon knew I was really upset after the appointment and tried to encourage me.  We prayed that the baby would come when he was ready and we asked God to give us a safe delivery with a healthy baby in whatever way that needed to happen.  I was already eating a load of pineapple, drinking (at that point) 3 cups of red raspberry leaf tea per day, and walking, so I kept up the routine.  I even had a pedicure because I read somewhere that the foot massage often induces labor.  (The pedicure was a real sacrifice on my part, but I was trying to do what was best for the baby. haha)

Beginning at 36 weeks I drank one cup of raspberry leaf tea per day.  At 38 weeks I kicked it up to 2 a day and at 39 weeks 3 a day.

I had been experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions for several days, and on Friday morning, March 7, the contractions started back up again.  I walked on the treadmill hoping to get something going.  After I walked, I took care of a few housekeeping matters (I made homemade laundry detergent haha), and the contractions stopped.  I actually texted Brandon around lunch time that the contractions had stopped so I figured it was just false labor again.  Giving in to an old wives' tale, I decided to eat something spicy for lunch in hopes of triggering labor.  I ate lunch and decided to walk again afterwards.  As I was putting on my tennis shoes about 1:00, I had a pretty strong contraction.  I decided to wait and see if I had another one.  Six minutes later, I had a another strong contraction and six minutes after that another.  I texted Brandon that I was having pretty strong contractions six minutes apart and that I was going to get a shower but he should not leave work yet.  When I got out of the shower, the contractions were five minutes apart.  I called Brandon and asked him to come home.  Brandon pretty much flew home and by the time he arrived the contractions for about four minutes apart and ninety seconds long.

Our plan had been to labor at home for several hours and then leave for the hospital once my contractions were four minutes apart.  Needless to say, our plans were moot.  We threw everything in the car and drove the hospital as soon as Brandon arrived home.

When we got in the car, the radio was on, and the song playing? "Best Day of my Life" by the American Authors. Brandon and I shared a smile and agreed that, yes, it was going to be the best day of our lives.

When we got to the hospital at 1:50, my contractions were three minutes apart.  I was dilated 5 cm so they put me in a room pretty quickly.  I was informed that my midwife, Jessica was on the way.

When Jessica arrived, I was in a lot of pain.  Brandon had been coaching me through the contractions like a champ, but I was ready to get in the pool.  As a result of some miscommunications, the hospital staff was giving me a hard time about using a pool.  Thank the Lord Jessica is the person who wrote the plan for use of birthing pools at the Med Center so she was able to work her magic and get me moved to a room that could accommodate a pool.  By the time my pool was ready I was well into transition contractions and was 6-7 cm dilated.  I got in the pool about 5:00 and Brandon continued to coach me through the contractions.  When I tell y'all that that man was a champ, I mean it.  He coached my breathing, made sure I was drinking water, rubbed my head, rubbed my back, did whatever I needed him to do.  He was my rock through that delivery.

I started pushing around 8:00 and my water broke at 8:44. Insane, right? Protein! I am telling you.  So many people told me that eating a lot of protein was a huge factor in making it full term and keeping the bag of waters in tack and they were right. Just a few pushes after my water broke, my sweet Eli was born at 8:55.

Jessica put him in my arms and I fell immediately in love.  I will never, ever forget the look on my sweet baby's face or how I felt the first time I held him.  There was something so magical about that moment.  All of the pain, all of the tiredness, it all disappeared.  All that mattered at that moment was that I was holding my sweet little tiny.

We waited for his umbilical cord to finish pulsing and then Brandon cut the cord (scared to death).

I got out of the pool and I held Eli skin to skin while Jessica did all of my post-labor unpleasantness.  (The weak stomached can skip the next line.)  Thankfully, in line with my birth plan, I did not have an episiotomy, but I did have a tear that needed stitches.

We were given our "magic hour" of just mommy, baby, and daddy time.  Brandon held Eli and my heart melted into a little puddle on the ground.  I could tell instantly that he was going to be the world's greatest daddy.

When our hour was over, the nurse came in to weigh and measure Eli.  He was 7 lbs, 12.9 oz and 21.25  inches long.

Just a few minutes old
 Shortly afterwards the grandparents starting coming back to see him.  There is nothing quite like seeing your parents hold your baby for the first time.  It is a precious memory that I will treasure for a long time.

Our wonderful midwife, Jessica
I just want to note that I unabashedly feel that I had the dream delivery team.  My two labor and delivery nurses, Cynthia and Allison, were AMAZING.  Cynthia was on duty when I arrived and was so sweet.  She told me that she had done a water birth with her last child and she was such a help to me.  When Brandon had to handle administrative stuff after we arrived she sat with me and patted my head and coached me through the contractions like she had known me my whole life.  She kept our families updated every hour and just took super good care of us.  She was supposed to get off at 4:00 but she she stayed on until I delivered.  Allison came on shift at 4:00 and was equally wonderful.  She was so supportive and even took pictures for us.  I cannot say enough how nice it was to have nurses that truly cared about me and my delivery.  My midwife, Jessica, was phenomenal.  She made sure that my labor and delivery experience was exactly what I wanted while constantly making sure that Eli was safe and comfortable.  I could not have asked for a better experience and I know that it was all orchestrated by the hand of God.

Daddy and Eli
I would say to anyone considering a water labor/delivery that I am so glad that I chose that option.  I was in extreme pain due to my labor progressing so quickly and the pool made it bearable.  It did not eliminate the pain, but it was definitely manageable once I got in the water.  If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to talk to you about my experience in more detail.

I praise God that my labor and delivery experience was a good one.  I have very fond memories of the entire experience; as odd as it sounds, I can say with honesty that I enjoyed my labor experience (as much as one can "enjoy" labor).  When you're pregnant, everyone loves to tell you horror stories about labor and delivery, but it honestly does not have to be a scary, horrible experience.

Please stay tuned to our blog as we attempt to update it each month with little Eli's progress.

Until next time...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Home-cooked Mac 'n Cheese

For my sister's home-coming (I haven't seen in her over a year and a half because she is stationed in Alaska and just did a tour in Afghanistan), I wanted to make one of her favs--home-cooked macaroni and cheese.

My recipe has evolved over the years, mainly because I am obsessed with the stuff and want to make it as yummilicious as possible. (Yes that's a word because I say it is.)

I started with my grandfather's basic recipe--elbow noodles, extra sharp cheddar cheese (hoop cheese if you're a big spender), eggs, milk, salt 'n pepper. I played around with the ratio of ingredients and came up with a pretty tasty concoction (very similar to my Papa's) that my of my friends and family consumed without complaint for years. But it still needed a little sumin' sumin'.

For a while, Brandon (the hubs) has been making sauces using a bechamel base (alfredo sauce, etc.) and we had sauced many a pasta with bechamel just. (This is a Mitch Hedburg reference. If you do not know who Mitch Hedburg is, shame on you. Stop reading this, and go Google him. Now...go on).

Any who, I figured since the bechamel seemed to make everything else delicious, it would make the mac 'n cheese more delicious as well. At Brandon's prompting, I attempted my new and improved mac 'n cheese recipe for the first time at Thanksgiving dinner last year. It was the bomb snappety if I say so myself.

So, this is the recipe I used to make my sister's Homecoming Home-cooked Mac 'n Cheese:

Bechamel Ingredients:

5 Tbsp. butter (or 7 Tbsp. margarine)
4 Tbsp. flour
3 C milk

The rest of the ingredients:

1 12-ounce package of elbow macaroni or rotini
4 eggs
1 lb of extra sharp cheddar cheese (buy the block, not the pre-shredded dried out cornstarch-laced stuff)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grate the cheese. Get a large pot of water, heavily salted, boiling.  Begin cooking your pasta to al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare the bechamel.

Bechamel Instructions:
Melt the butter.  Stir in the flour.  Stir constantly under flour browns. (It will turn a caramel color and start to smell like movie popcorn. This take 2-3 minutes.)
Gradually add the milk, whisking as you pour.
Whisk frequently until sauce thickens and darkens.
This part takes about 5 minutes, but if you want a thicker sauce, just cook longer.
Once it is finished, turn to low.

Now comes the tricky part...
In a bowl, scramble the four eggs.
Temper in the bechamel sauce. (Slowly pour about a cup the bechamel into the eggs while continuously whisking. Then, slowly pour the eggs into the rest of the bechamel while continuously whisking.)

Add the grated cheese to the sauce.  If you wish, you can reserve a small amount to sprinkle on top.

After the pasta finishes cooking, drain and return to cooking pot.  Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta and stir until completely mixed.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Spray a 9x13 baking pan with non-stick spray and pour the mixture into the pan.  If you reserved any cheese, sprinkle on top.

You can also sprinkle crushed Ritz crackers on top before baking.  My husband really likes adding the crackers but the rest of my family does not really care for them. So, on ours, I added crackers to a small portion.

Bake for 30 minutes or until warmed through and cheese is completely melted.

The Mac 'n Cheese post bake. (The left side isn't burnt--that's crumbled Ritz crackers.)
 Let stand for about 10 minutes before serving.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

The next night, we got to watch the Braves win at Turner Field. Go Bravos!


Until next time...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Copy Cat Tokyo Alley Noodle Salad

Almost nine years ago, one of the first dates Brandon and I went on was to Tokyo Alley in downtown Macon.  I was immediately addicted to the cold noodle salad that is served with each of the dishes.  For the past seven years, Brandon and I have occasionally tried to re-create the recipe but have not had much success until recently.  Last week, Brandon finally perfected it and oh man was it delicious!  We made one tweak that I think made it even better: we used whole wheat pasta. Throw in our sweet and spicy chicken to go with it (which is pretty similar to Tokyo Alley's sweet and hot chicken) and our scrumptious meal was complete.

If you would like to copy cat Tokyo Alley's noodle salad and sweet and hot chicken, here is what you will need:

Noodle Salad

1 box whole wheat pasta
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp finely ground celery seed
2 Tbsp milk
6 Tbsp miracle whip
salt and pepper

Boil water. Salt heavily. Cook pasta to al dente texture.  When pasta is finished cooking, drain and rinse with cold water.  Set to the side.

Whisk together miracle whip, milk, onion powder, garlic powder, ground celery seed, and salt and pepper.

Refrigerate sauce for approximately 15 minutes before mixing with pasta.  Mix pasta and sauce and refrigerate an additional 30 minutes.

Serve with slices of tomato and salt and pepper to taste.

Hot and spicy chicken

1 to 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Slice each chicken thigh into four equal parts.  Season with salt and pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  Set to the side.

2 cups cold water
2 1/2 tsp arrow root or corn starch
2 Tbsp sriracha
1/2 cup splenda or sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp honey

Whisk together cold water and arrow root (or corn starch).  Put whisked together water and arrow root (or corn starch) on medium/high heat.  Whisk in the remaining ingredients.  Bring to boil.  Reduce to simmer for 5 minutes.  Set to side.

Saute chicken until almost done on medium/high heat.  Pour sauce over chicken and cook until sauce reaches desired consistency (at least 2 minutes).


Until next time...

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sneaky Tofu Baked Penne

For some reason, when meat-eaters hear the word "tofu" they start start to make faces and sounds that suggest they have just heard the most disgusting thing imaginable. I'm not sure why my omnivore brothers and sisters are so scared of this little item, but they are. So, I decided to be sneaky...

I saw a recipe a while back that used tofu in stuffed shells. The author of the recipe said that the tofu would take on the consistency of ricotta. This got the gears a turnin' and I wondered if tofu would work in just a simple baked pasta. So, I gathered my ingredients:

1 12 oz box of whole wheat pasta (I used penne)
1 block firm tofu
1 lb. ground turkey (I went with turkey sausage and it was perfect!)
1 8 oz package of shredded low-moisture part skim mozzarella cheese
2 jars of your favorite pasta sauce

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.  Once the water begins to boil, cook the pasta to "firm."
Brown the ground turkey.  When the turkey is fully cooked, add the two jars of pasta sauce.
Open the tofu and drain any excess moisture.  In a mixing bowl, mash up the tofu and stir in 1 cup (half the 8 oz. package) of mozzarella. Stir/mash until the tofu looks like ricotta cheese.
When the pasta is cooked, drain and return to pot.  Mix in the pasta sauce and turkey mixture.  Then mix in the tofu and mozzarella mixture.
Pour the mixture into a 9x11 baking sheet.  Top with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella.
Baked uncovered until the cheese is melted and the dish is warmed through.
Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

It was halfway gone before I thought to take a picture!
My husband is a big meat eater and has never been a real big fan of tofu. He ate two big helpings and then went back for thirds a few hours later.

We took the leftovers to some friends' house and several people helped themselves.  When I sprung it on them that the "ricotta" was actually tofu they said they never would have guessed.

Needless to say, this much healthier baked pasta was a hit around our house and we will be making it again soon.

Until next time!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Whitney's "Hoot" of a Baby Shower

(First, as a disclaimer, please excuse the bad quality phone pictures in this post...)

One of my best friends, Whitney, is preggers with her first baby.
So cute!
One of my other best friends, Danielle, and I wanted to throw Whitney a shower to express our love and excitement.  Whitney and her hubby have decided that they want baby's gender to be a surprise, which meant any showers needed to be boy and girl appropriate.  The nursery is nature themed and since owls are pretty hot right now we thought owls would be the way to go.

We keep the owl theme pretty constant throughout the shower...

We made a banner that said "Look Whooo's Having a Baby."

We sought "wise" advise for mommy and baby from shower attendees as well as their predictions for the little one.

We made little owl favors for everyone to take home.

And of course, no shower is complete with out delicious yums for everyone to stuff themselves.

I could have uncovered the food before I took a picture! Ugh!
I'd say the shower was very successful.  Mommy got lots of great gifts for baby and everyone had a good time socializing, seeing some faces we hadn't seen in a while, and meeting new friends.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My easy peasy no-sew DIY curtains

Okay, I am really excited about this post. I love, Love, LOVE when I have success with something I find on Pinterest.

For way too long now we have needed some curtains in our living room, but let's be honest...curtains are stinkin' expensive!  So, I hit Pinterest (of course!) for some ideas on how to make curtains.  And, oh yeah, I needed it to be something I didn't have to sew since my machine is on the fritz.  I found several different tutorials for no-sew curtains and  I meshed together a couple to come up with my own flavor of no-sew curtains.

When I say these curtains were easy, I mean they were easy.  Now, that doesn't mean quick; just easy.

Here's what you need:
  1. Fabric (Measure your windows to see what length and width you need.  My windows are about 84 inches long, but I like to hang my curtain rod high, so I decided to use pieces that were 2 1/2 yards long; I actually had the lady at the fabric counter pre-cut the fabric into 2 1/2 yard pieces for me instead of just buying one 5 yard piece.)
  2. Scissors
  3. Stitch Witchery (You can find this is the fabric section at Walmart for around $2.  It looks like a roll of mesh tape.)
  4. An iron
  5. Ironing board
  6. Measuring tape
Start out by making sure that your pieces of fabric are the same length.  I just laid them on top of each other and then trimmed them up.

Next, put your first panel on the ironing board.  Start on one side and fold about a half inch seam.  Cut a strip of the Stitch Witchery and place it under the seam.  I had to do this part in several section because my fabric was so long.  Then, iron the seam with the Stitch Witchery underneath.  This part will probably take a little longer than you expect.  It takes about 60-90 seconds for the Stitch Witchery to seal.

What your seem should look like after using the Stitch Witchery
 Just repeat this process on all four sides of your fabric.

To double check, lay your pieces of fabric on top of each other again to make sure they line up evenly.

Purchase a couple of sets of curtain clip rings (can also be found at Walmart), attach them to your curtain rod, and you're in business.

Your finished product should look a little something like this:

I lucked up and found some great upholstery fabric for $1.50/yard, so my fabulous new curtains cost me a whopping $9.50! ($7.50 for the fabric + $2.00 for the Stitch Witchery.  If you count the curtain clips, throw in another $7.00, for a grand total of $16.50, which is still significantly cheaper than even one panel of a nice set of curtains.)

Up next (in a few days hopefully), fun with super old windows!  I found this beauty that someone had just thrown out, and it now has a new happy home on my dining room wall.  I have some great ideas about how to dress her up and I'll be posting an update on her progress soon.

Until next time...