Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ava Turned 9-months

Ava turned 9-months last Sunday and we went for her well-baby visit yesterday. We took these pictures last Saturday when we were dancing in the kitchen to Christmas music, making fun memories. When we sing, Ava likes to mimic and sing along. It's fun to see her join in and be so social.

We had a rough week because Ava was teething, getting her top two teeth at the same time. Plus, she had a cold and an elevated temperature combined. I stayed home from work with her on Monday when we discovered her temp and she slept most of the day and nursed about 6-hours that day! Thankfully she never got even slightly dehydrated. I had to go back to the office for a team offsite on Tuesday so Aaron stayed home with her that day. It was hard for them because she wanted me to be with her since she was sick and Aaron said she wanted to be held a lot, but wasn't very happy. I was very proud and grateful that he did that because being home with a sick baby when you're not the mom who can nurse the little one.

I took her the doctor on Monday to get checked out because of her temp and her cold seemed to escalate. They confirmed that her eyes and chest were clear. Our job was to keep her comfortable and treat her elevated temperature. She went back to daycare on Wednesday, which helped because she got to play with her friends to help cheer her up. She woke up a lot overnight from coughing. We were all exhausted all week. But I'm thankful for nursing because it was easy to soothe her at night. Last night, things were back to normal and she slept 10 1/2 hours again! I feel much more rested, especially after napping with her today.

Now that Ava is 9-months, we're seeing her grow bigger, stronger, and become a little more independent.

Growth at 9-months:
  • Weight: 20 lbs 4 oz (76th percentile) - thank goodness for the sling!
  • Length: 29 inches (92nd percentile) - her 9-month sleepers are tight on her toes and she fits well in 12-months now
  • Head size: 39 1/4 cm (84th percentile) - great brain growth!
Favorite activities: Ava loves to sit on the floor and play with toys, especially with her friends at daycare. One afternoon when I picked her up, she tried to kiss a little boy that was crawling by her. It was so cute! Ava rolls on the ground all over and pushes side to side with her arms when she's on her tummy. We love to play hide-and-seek with her because she laughs really hard. I carry her around in the sling, which she loves because she can sleep even running errands or look around at things we're doing. She's still enamored with Bena, who might get a lick in once in a while.She discovered Bena's tail recently and wanted to touch it because she liked the way it moved. This picture on the right was from the night we decorated the house for Christmas. We put up a tree and a poinsettia.

Our Friday night tradition is growing strong. We make a homemade pizza and watch a movie together. Ava loves the time sitting next to Mommy and Daddy or playing on the floor. Since our TV is in the basement, I rarely watch it more than Friday's.

Last Friday, Aaron's parents came down to take care of Ava so we could go to my company's holiday party at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Here's our picture of the big night by our tree. I had a company meeting in the afternoon so they picked Ava up at daycare and took care of her before I got home. I came home for a couple hours to get ready and spend time with Ava. She was starting to get sick that day so she slept for most of the afternoon. I haven't left Ava at night since she was 3-weeks old so I was worried about her settling to sleep for the night. But Grandma and Grandpa are pros and they had fun that night. Towards bedtime, she was looking for me. They took turns walking her around the house and then she fell asleep! What a sweet girl.

Growing stronger: Just this week, she started to pull herself up to a sitting position from nursing by using her elbow. And the past couple days, she likes us to support her when she stands. Ava is also getting squirmy and wanting to explore. I'm surprised and happy about how strong she's getting.

What she's eating: Ava is thriving off of mama's milk and eating solids on the days that she wants to and doesn't reject it. And reject, I mean gagging and puking! She has no desire to put foods in her mouth on her own and in general, she doesn't put many things in her mouth like most babies. This week I gave her a pea from my plate. She picked it up with her thumb in her palm and had no desire to put in her mouth. I offered to it to her and it was like a steel trap! I take mashed banana, cooked pear, applesauce, and butternut squash to daycare for her "lunch." They line up the babies in high chairs for their solid foods. I've also tried pureed quinoa mixed with banana or pear. I don't think she likes the texture or tastes because she prefers the fruit on its own. She seems to reject sweet potatoes or butternut squash every time. Aaron has a bet with me that he thinks she'll hate the squash like him!

A word about iron: At her 9-month visit, they did a heel-stick to test Ava's blood for iron count. The doctor told me that they look for a reading of 10, but Ava had a 14! I was so happy! Breastmilk is low in iron, but it's highly available for the baby's absorption. Formula and baby cereal is loaded with iron because babies will only absorb a fraction. I'm really happy to know that she's getting exactly what she needs.

We're looking forward to Christmas! I'm making gift bags for Ava's daycare teachers tomorrow to take in on Monday. They are all so patient and sweet with the babies. I spend a lot of time at daycare because we sit in the rocking chair in the nursery while she nurses. I'm thankful to have found a good place for her to be while I'm at work. I can tell she enjoys it there.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Vegetarian "Meat" Loaf

I posted last weekend that Aaron and I are going vegetarian and right now we're still trying new foods and experimenting. I've been dreaming up all kinds of vegetarian meals for us. We picked up some barley from the bulk bin at Whole Foods a couple weeks ago so I wanted to make a dish with it that wasn't soup since Aaron a little tired of it. I got inspired from a recipe that I found in my Mennonite More with Less cookbook for a Savory Rice Loaf and decided I'd give it a try with a mix of whole grains (no breadcrumbs).

This Veggie "Meat" Loaf was made with barley and quinoa, veggies, milk, cheese and egg to hold it together. It's a lighter than traditional meatloaf, but the grains make it hearty and nutritious. I served with tomato sauce, roasted sweet and golden potatoes, and a green side salad.

The verdict? Aaron and I really liked it! And more than that, I felt very satisfied from that meal. I'll add it to our list of dinner items. And quinoa especially is high in protein so it's a vegetarian staple.

Cook extra barley and quinoa for salads, easy side dishes, or to mix in stews and soups. Or, use them in your morning cereal. I mixed quinoa with mashed banana or pureed pear for Ava.

Vegetarian "Meat" Loaf - Serves 6

Ingredients:
  • 3 cups cooked grain (I used 1/2 barley + 1/2 quinoa)
  • 3 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup grated cheese (or less) good varieties are deeper flavor cheeses. I used Amish Butter Cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped shallots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 tbs chopped green olives
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 tbs olive oil
Preparation:
  • Prepare grains. Barley and quinoa are cooked with a 1 cup grain to 2 cups water/broth ratios. Barley will take longer than quinoa to cook.
  • Coat a 9x5x3 loaf pan with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a small saucepan, melt butter over l0w-medium heat. Add olive oil. Saute garlic, shallot, celery, and carrots.
  • While veggies are cooking, in a large mixing bowl, add cooked grain, parsley, and olives.
  • After veggies are soft, add to grain mixture. To mixing bowl, add milk, eggs, cheese, and cooked vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the loaf pan.
  • Cook loaf uncovered for 1 hour in 350 degree oven.
  • Loosen loaf around the edges and turn onto a platter and serve with warmed tomato or mushroom sauce.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Berkey's are Going Vegetarian

Aaron read an article in the October issue of Mens Journal about the advantages of going vegan and it inspired him. Read the excerpt from the article here (featuring Twitter Biz Stone). He suggested that we go vegetarian for a health experiment to see how our bodies react. I was surprised at first because Aaron doesn't like too many vegetables! I told him that if we're going vegetarian, we're going to do it right and eat high quality grains, proteins like tofu, tempeh, and eat frequently to keep our energy stable. He told me that he was willing to try things and experiment. We agreed to do it together, which will be great since we're supporting each other.

We're committing to vegetarianism for a long period (at least 6-months) to see the effects on our bodies. Our plan is to eliminate meat (beef, pork, poultry), but still eat dairy to help with protein and possibly fish on occasion. I can't imagine giving up cheese, milk, or eggs so I was onboard with that. I suspect that in the end after our experiment is over, we may balance out to add meat back in to our diets, but not the focus or even every day.

I'm not going to lie. I'm going to miss bacon and pork because I love the salty, smoky flavor that it adds to a soup, sandwich, or heck, just eating it alone. But I do without. I went without wine for my entire pregnancy so I think I can go without meat for 6-12 months.

We broke the news to Aaron's parents at Thanksgiving. They gave us the "Are you an alien?" look afterwards. We told them our reasons and they told us not to worry because there's always peanut butter in the pantry! Almost every meal features some form of beef or pork so it's going to be tough. I think we'll stock some veggie burgers at their house and plan to cook alternatives for us to eat.

As we're planning to go vegetarian, we're doing two things.
  • Experimenting/Researching: I really like vegetarian meals and have recipes already in mind. I've been eyeing the bulk bins at Whole Foods for the dried beans, quinoa, barley, and oat groats. We get a produce box of seasonal, organic produce already so we'll experiment and find our favorite vegetarian meals. We already have several that we love: Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese and Veggie Pasta Ragu (made with veggie burger in the sauce). I liked a coconut peanut curry with tofu, cabbage, green beans and rice noodles meal that I made recently. At restaurants, we're ordering vegetarian options. For the past month, we've been eating less meat overall to make the transition smoothly.
  • Eating our meat from the freezer: We had a drawer in our freezer filled with varieties of hormone-free meats and grass-fed beef. We cooked ground elk for chili and made beef hamburgers in November, even though we'd prefer to eat burgers in the summer! We cooked a pork tenderloin this week and we ate it in smaller servings to ease back our meat intake.
Our official start will be Jan 1. Practically speaking, it's best to wait until after the Christmas holiday. Aaron's mom would have been slightly heart broken if we skipped her ground beef lasagna and the traditional egg, sausage and cheese casserole for Christmas morning. But for the upcoming year, when we visit, I'll make food for us.

Just in the last couple weeks, I've lost 3 lbs! I'm wondering if it has to do with the vegetarian tendencies we're having in the last month. To be fair, I'm breastfeeding, which uses tons of calories and my weight loss has been slow and steady. One ounce of breastmilk is about 20 calories, which is taken from my body to produce. I pump about 28-30oz when I go to the office all day and feed Ava before work, in the evening, and overnight. No wondering I'm always hungry! It seems my weight is dropping off all the sudden. This week, I reached my pre-pregnancy weight and fit really easily in my old jeans that I hadn't worn comfortably since I was 12-weeks pregnant. My goal is to keep trimming down while my metabolism has the added boost from breastfeeding.

I'm having fun pulling out my cookbooks like Nourishing Traditions and Feeding the Whole Family is especially useful with the great alternative, wholesome foods. As I write this post, I'm soaking dried mung beans for a stew tomorrow. I'm chopped butternut squash and it's ready to go for the stew tomorrow.

Follow our experiment on the blog. I'll post our progress and share our recipes. Please share your favorite veggie entrees and dishes, too!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Solid Food at 8-Months

Ava just turned 8-months old and just last week, she turned the corner and now enjoying solid food. I've mentioned before that I'm making all of Ava's baby food because I already have the fresh produce on-hand and want Ava to ease into the family table. Many of my friends that have done this told me that their children were not picky eaters and they think homemade food helped. Buying store-bought seems easy on the surface, but I don't see the point of buying her something different when I can just as easily make her fresh, homemade food while I'm making our family meals.

Ava's favorites so far:
  • Pear (cooked with a tiny dash of cinnamon), I ran it through the food mill and thinned it with a bit of the cooking water. Daycare said she squealed and opened her mouth really wide. She ate much more than we expected!
  • Banana (mashed and thinned out with breastmilk). Daycare told me that they warmed it up slightly and she ate the entire bowl yesterday! What a big eater. She loved the bananas. It's so convenient and nutritious.
  • Grapes - Aaron bites off half of the grape when we're eating dinner and squeezes the juice in Ava's mouth and she LOVES it! Aaron holds the grape for her and she sometimes bites a bit of pulp, but mostly takes the juice. She moves her arms around and squeals. It's very cute!
I made yellow squash with a tiny bit of garlic and she refused it after two attempts. But today, I put a bit of the pureed yellow squash with a chuck of ripe, mashed avocado and thinned it out with a bit of breastmilk. She ate a couple bites before I left her at daycare today. I don't think it was her favorite, but the combo seemed to work.

Great Resources for Natural Baby Food:
  • Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair - this book gives recipes for the whole family cooking with whole foods and how to cook for small babies. Cynthia Lair is a contributor to Mother Magazine. I've made several recipes from this book already, but the concepts in the book really have given me great information. A mom who read my blog post recommended to me and I'm glad I bought it.
  • First Meals by Annabell Karmel - takes you from food introduction to cooking for small children. It has age-appropriate chapters and the pictures are awesome. She shows you how to prepare food for picky eaters by making it look interesting. I like her hints and info for mixing foods for baby.
I haven't been worried at all that Ava didn't eat solid foods until last week because she's exclusively breastfed and getting all she need. She had been very satisfied by nursing and not interested. A wise mom/grandma/former 15-yr LLL leader told me that when Ava is interested in solids, she will make it very obvious! So true! In fact, she told her her son didn't eat solids until 8-months, too.

Right now, I'm bringing a small bowl to daycare with food for Ava to have a lunch with the other babies. She's eating with everyone at the same time, which probably gets her into the motions. And it's nice because right now, all she needs through the introduction phase is experimentation and my daycare loves trying new foods with her. It's less hassle for me at home and it helps us focus on just nursing. I've heard to do that from a breastfeeding mom's website, but I can't remember where.

I decided against starting Ava on rice cereal. I gave it to her once and it gave her horrible gas for 2-days. I find it interesting with all these other foods we've given her, there are no side effects like that bloody rice cereal! I did notice that after eating the banana and pears, her poop has been a bit heavier, but not bad or foul smelling. We've discussed rice cereal in my La Leche League meetings and I totally agree that it is meant to complement formula fed babies and not necessary like many people say it is. Check out this page on Kellymom about food introduction for more info...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

14 hours

My goal is to get Ava to sleep 14 hours per day. In fact, this is what she's doing right now as I write this blog post, getting her afternoon nap. I was concerned about her sleep when we Ava moved out of the newborn nursery into the older baby nursery at 6-months. Her naps at daycare were often disrupted by a loud cry or a group of babies playing. My daycare has been great about working with her to give her a little rocking or stroking her head to coax her back to sleep if needed. They follow a schedule and turn out the lights and to help the babies sleepy. It's taken some weeks, but Ava has been doing great. I read a really good book early on called the No Cry Sleep Solution (check out this link for resources at tools for sleep), which points out that day sleep affects night sleep. So the if the baby isn't resting throughout the day, then it will make them over-tired and it will be difficult to sleep at night. The author talks about creating a predictable nightly routine that the baby or toddler can experience very night. This really works for us. I loved the author's approach because the cry-it-out method is so counter-intuitive for me as a mother.

Sleep is ultra important for a baby's brain development and to help keep up with their rapid growth. At 8-months old, my goal is to get her to sleep a total of 14 hours per day. Ava's night sleep is around 10 1/2 hours per night and day sleep is about 3 1/2. With that said, it's very unrealistic to expect a small baby to sleep 10 1/2 hours or more at a stretch without waking up to nurse or feed. This is especially the case for breastfed babies since breastmilk is easily digestible and they need to nurse often.

In Ava's case, she goes to sleep for the night between 8:30 and 9:00pm and wakes up around 6:30am or 7am (maybe 8am, too!). But she wakes up to nurse around 3 - 5am. Sometimes we're nursing twice in a stretch, but it's fine with us because she sleeps in her cosleeper bed next to me. I pull her into bed and she starts nursing and we both fall back asleep easily. Cosleeping has amazing advantages because it helps us BOTH get more sleep. Since she's nursing, it extends her sleep longer and it's restful for all of us for her to nurse in bed. As a full-time working mom, getting better sleep for all of us is my top concern. The bonus part is that night nursing also helps keep a healthy milk supply because moms produce more volume of milk overnight due to the hormone levels. Moms and babies cosleeping together does amazing things, including keeping the baby secure and comforted to sleep longer. Mother nature is fascinating!

As a cosleeping baby you might think she won't sleep by herself. On the contrary, Ava is flexible to sleep in a crib at daycare. Now that she's gotten used to the nap schedule and the noises in the room with the other 11 babies, Ava sleeps about 2 to 2 1/2 hours there and another nap at home before bed. To help keep her comfortable, I bring a thin receiving blanket from home with my scent on it so she can lay on that and smell that instead of the daycare crib sheet, which they change daily in her crib.

Our nighttime routine...Ava is a cluster feeding baby. When I arrive at daycare, we nurse there. And in the evening, she nurses a lot to catch up from the separation. At home before bed, she nurses a lot at night. We start winding down about 8pm. I take a shower and she's with me in the bathroom chilling out. Then I put her last diaper for the night and we read a book together. She says goodnight to Daddy and they have laughs and kisses. Then she nurses for the last time and falls asleep. Yep, she falls asleep nursing. I know in the mainstream parenting information, that's "bad," but at least for my baby, she sleeps so well at night usually 6-7 hours before waking to nurse, then going right back to sleep. My pediatrician is flexible and supportive, which I love. Lots of pediatricians tell parents, to have their baby fall asleep on their own by putting them to bed drowsy. Maybe I'm lucky, but it's working for us.

When she's at daycare for 5 hours, she typically takes one 3-oz bottle or a full 10-hour day she'll take three 3-oz bottles for a total of 9-oz. She prefers to nurse when we're together. At my nursing mothers group, La Leche League, we've talked about the general rule of thumb is that a baby needs about 1oz per hour that the mom and baby are separated of expressed milk. Also, according to the LLL Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, most breastfed babies take 2-4oz of human milk in a bottle when separated from their mom. At daycare, Ava's caregivers were a little concerned because compared to the other babies she took so little in each bottle. But Ava is the only breastfed baby in the room so I shared this info and they felt better.

I loved this post by my friend, Jill, about cosleeping being seen by the mainstream as a "Bad Habit." Well said!

Well, gotta run, Ava is stirring and is starting to wake up from her 2 hour nap! I hope you all sleep well, too!

Friday, November 19, 2010

My New Favorite Bread: Soft 10 Grain

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a new bread to try during my weekly trip to Trader Joe's and picked up the Soft 10 Grain Bread. They key word is "soft." Most of the healthy bread that we've tried is just too hard and dry. Aaron is a big fan of a regional bread maker called Aunt Millie's that's made here in Indiana, but I wasn't sure how healthy it actually is for you.

So the verdict is that I LOVE it! It's a natural and preservative free product. That means you'll need to eat it quickly since it will tend to mold fairly quickly without the preservatives. The bread is hearty with seeds that you can bite into like sesame and sunflower.

Each slice is 90 calories and 2 grams of fiber. Ingredients include: wheat flour, brown sugar, brown rice, corn grits (weird), barley rye, white wheat, rolled oats, wheat bran. It has an earthy flavor.

I like to eat with cottage cheese on top for breakfast or almond butter with a bit of unsweetened homemade apple butter.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bena Goes to the Office

I had to share this adorable picture of Bena who went to the office with Aaron today. She was curled up under his desk for most of the day laying on her favorite towel from home. Aaron works in a fun work environment and people are so relaxed that they sometimes bring their dogs to work. He took her for the morning to see how she would do and then took her back home for the afternoon.

Bena has been staying home for 2 days a week alone in the yard and the garage while we're at work. I work from home 2 days a week and then she goes to doggie daycare on Monday's. She has an electric fence and collar and she's great about staying in the yard all day. In fact, most days when she's home alone, we find her sleeping on her bed in the garage when we get home in the evening.

Bena is such a sweet girl! Aaron is taking her quail hunting on Saturday morning. That's what she's bred for so she's going to have a blast!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My 8-month Baby Girl

It's hard to believe that our baby girl is 8-months old today. Ava is developing new fun skills all the time. This week when I picked her up at daycare, I looked at her like she changed in only the 10-hours that we were apart. It was a strange feeling!

What is Ava up to these days?...Clapping her hands! One of her new skills is learning to clap her hands together by herself or to mimic us. She loves to play patty-cake so we're not surprised she started clapping on her own. Sometimes she gets excited and does a hand-shake clap where she looks like she's giving herself a handshake. She explores new toys, textures, and movements with her fine hand movements now. Often times, she likes to grab our face when she's nursing or when Aaron is holding her close. It's very sweet.


Experimenting with different tastes, but still not into solid food. At meals we offer her a taste of an orange slice or the juice of a red grape. Sometimes we put tastes of food on her lips. She likes pineapple. Other tim
es, she gags when we feed her tastes she doesn't like. But, I feel good that she's getting all she needs from breastmilk. I recently donated again to the milk bank (349oz) from the last month's extra milk. So far, I've donated over 1,200oz of milk, almost all to the milk bank and a bit to two moms. This wonderful supply keeps me confident that I will have more than enough to feed Ava longterm as long as she needs. I plan to nurse her until she self-weans. Last weekend, I tried giving Ava rice cereal for the first time ever because Aaron suggested maybe we should give her something mild so she doesn't gag. She ate about 6 spoonfuls of the runny cereal. I mixed it according to the box recommendations so it was mostly breastmilk. It went down pretty easily. EXCEPT....she developed horrible gas from it that lasted 2 days. Poor baby! I felt her little tummy grumbling. My intuition told me to wait on the cereal and I wished that I had listened. One good outcome is that I realized I was making her baby food too thick. I just cooked up some pear for her tonight and I ran it through the food mill and mixed it with the cooking liquid water that I used. I'll try it tomorrow and see what she thinks.

Like I said, I'm very confident she's getting her best nutrition and "medicine" from her milk and I realize that her food experiences are truly experiments at this stage. Nonetheless, at daycare, I feel a bit of pressure since she's the only baby her age that isn't eating solid food. But, it's different with a breastfed baby and my baby who is loving nur
sing and not very interested in what we're eating. We call Ava a "big nurser" because at night that's what we spend our time doing. When Ava nurses, she likes to knead her legs and feet and take off her her socks. It's really cute. I love the snuggle time.

Still enjoying the sling...Here's a picture of my little sweetie from last weekend when we went to a baby shower. I tried to nurse her before we left, but she didn't want to at the time. We got to the restaurant and I pulled her out of her carseat and she was ready to nurse. She crashed out in a nap immediately. So there I was in the backseat of the car while we nursed. At the shower, I put her in the sling and she slept in that for most of the baby shower. She woke up a bit to play and watch the ladies. We made a quick drive to the nearby Whole Foods and she fell asleep AGAIN! I put her back in the sling where she slept the ENTIRE visit in Whole Foods. It was so funny because lots of people made comments about how comfortable and cozy she looked. Even men stopped to smile. It made me feel so good that she could feel that comfortable and flexible to walk through the store while I shopped. I'm a big fan of attachment parenting!

Halloween was fun this year. We spent the day at home relaxing. Ava go
t a little fussy in the afternoon so Aaron sat her on the front porch while he planted bulbs in the front yard. It was very sunny outside, but cool so we bundled her up and he made an "nest" for her with blankets and toys. It worked! She talked, watched Aaron, and enjoyed looking around at the trees. Aaron gave her a little twig from the pine tree that she liked holding. She loves different textures. Late afternoon, we headed to the Pierce's house where they had a house-full of very excited small children in fun costumes. The parents all pitched in with a soup dinner. We joined with for a bit of Trick or Treating! We walked with the group, but didn't go up to the houses.

Vocal baby...Ava loves to express herself by trying different tones of voices and singing! She has a "monster" voice and joins you when you're singing to her. When the coffee grinder or blender are going in the morning, she sometimes hums to the same tone. Her go-to word is Dada, but she tries it in so many variations and lots of other sounds even blowing raspberries! At night with Ava's bedtime story, she likes to talk when we're reading the book. I think she knows that I talk when we're looking at the book so she wants to also. She likes to turn the pages and when we close the last page she bangs her hand on it.

So much hair! I can't believe how much hair is growing in now. Ava has lots of new hair growing all the time. Bow clips stay in her hair and I love the cute headbands with the flowers and bows. Aaron wants his little girl in pink all the time. Even when I put brown pants on her, he always teases me that I'm dressing her like a boy.

A very warm baby...even now that the weather is cooling off, Ava is staying warm, naturally. She sweats like crazy when she nurses. The daycare is heated a bit warmer than our house so I dress Ava in short sleeves and layers. One of her caregivers told me that this week when she fed her a bottle, Ava sweat so much they were both drenched and the caregiver had to change her clothes! That's my warm baby girl! I see other parents bundling their babies when it's 55 degrees and I think Ava would die of heat in that outfit. Just tonight, Aaron checked her diaper after a nap and then just left her in her short sleeve onesie and no socks. We put a thin receiving blanket on her legs and she was fine for awhile.

Ava gets the "giggles"...We're having such a great time playing with little Ava. She loves to play peek-a-boo and laughs really hard. Usually one of us holds her and the other hides and surprises her. She squeals with delight! At daycare, they tell me that she gets in a giggly mood and can't stop. They catch sight of her and she laughs so hard. We do that with her at home and it's so fun!

We're all sleeping well most nights. Ava goes to sleep at 9:30am and wakes up about 7 or 8am on the weekends or when she goes to daycare on the halfdays. I love our cosleeping situation. We have Ava in the cosleeper and usually she wants to nurse around 3-5am and maybe again at 6am, which helps stretch her sleep to 8am. The best thing is on days that I work in the office I wake up at 5:30am and if I can nurse her in bed and get ready really smoothly while she's sleeping. She wakes up at 7am and we're out the door soon after. The best thing is that with Ava in the cosleeper, she doesn't fully wake up and nurses efficiently in her sleep, while I sleep too. It's great for both of us. Sometimes I put her back in her bed, but other times I just keep her in our bed. She likes waking up next to her Daddy! She smiles at him even if he's still asleep. This week Ava has had a mild cold that congested her at night. I had to clean her nose out at 4am, which really woke her up. But luckily, I put her back in her bed and I put my hand on her chest, which helped her calm and relax. She held my fingers and we fell asleep together. These moments are really special because I know she's growing so fast!

Homemade Hummus is Super Easy and Economical

When we were at our nephew's first birthday party last month, my sister-in-law made homemade hummus for an appetizer. It was really good! It was her first time making it from scratch. She served it with sun-dried tomato pesto on top. I've tried different recipes for hummus before, but I think this is the best. It's the perfect blend of olive oil, salt, lemon and garlic to complement the chickpeas. You really have to give it a try! Thank you for sharing the recipe, Megan!

I made this hummus last weekend. We love hummus and I thought it would be more economical to make it ourselves since a large container of our favorite hummas at Trader Joe's is $2.99. It's not bad, but I knew I could make it for half the cost by making it at home.

The star ingredient in hummus is Tahini, which is a sesame paste. It has a similar texture to peanut butter. You can buy it at any grocery store. My local store stocks it in the healthy/organic section of the store next to the other nut butters. I use fresh lemon. It took only 10 minutes to whip up in the food processor. I highly recommend that you make a double-batch so you can keep some on-hand in the fridge for snacks and sandwiches.

Serving suggestions: I served the hummus with slices of cucumbers and kalamata olives. I spread the hummus on a slice of bread and Aaron chose pita chips. You can dip any veggie like celery, carrots, cauliflower, or red peppers.


Easy Garlic Hummus

Ingredients:
  • 1 (16 oz) can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
  • 1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
  • 3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Optional: sprinkle paprika and cumin in the hummus or just for serving

Preparation:

  • Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.
  • Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus.
  • Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well. Garnish with parsley (optional).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Breakfast Frittata with Kale, Tomato, Bacon and Smoked Mozzarella

Last Sunday, I made an egg frittata so I could use the rest of my kale. I had a bunch of organic kale from my produce box and used half of it for a chicken, veggie, and rice soup the weekend that I was sick and then I wanted to use the rest of it before it went bad. Aaron isn't a fan of kale so this breakfast was about convincing him that it's pretty tasty after all.

Kale is highly nutritious with vitamin K, beta carotene, and vitamin C. I cooked the kale before it went in the oven since the leaves are so fibrous. It took me about 30 minutes to prep this before it went into the oven, but that's perfect for a relaxing weekend morning.

It tasted great! I packed leftovers for work, which made breakfast easy for a day at the office. That morning, I served a wedge of the frittata with a leftover potato casserole dish that I made for dinner earlier in the week and a piece of toast. We sat at the dining table in the Sunroom and enjoy our late breakfast with Ava playing on the floor next to us. You can see in the picture with the windows that Bena is out in the yard sniffing the deer's trail.

Frittata with Kale, Tomato, Bacon and Smoked Mozzarella - Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • About 4 leaves kale, washed, stemmed and chopped in small pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium tomato, chopped
  • 2 slices cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup bread cubes (crusty bread)
  • 1 + 1/2 cups milk, divided
  • 4 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  • In a medium skillet, saute kale with garlic in olive oil on medium heat. Cook covered for about 15 minutes on medium-low heat until the kale is tender.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • While kale is cooking. Cut bread loaf and soak pieces in 1/2 cup of milk in a small bowl.
  • Chop tomatoes and shred cheese.
  • Cook bacon slices between two pieces of wax paper in the microwave on HIGH for 2-minutes. When cooked, drain from fat liquid and let cool on paper towel. Once bacon has cooled, slice in small pieces.
  • In a medium bowl, mix eggs with 1 cup of milk and season with salt and pepper.
  • In a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray, spread soaked bread. Layer cooked kale. Then add tomato, bacon, and shredded cheese. Pour egg mixture evenly.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the egg is set and the cheese is golden brown.
  • Serve immediately.
If you don't have the smoked mozzarella cheese on-hand, you can try for another smoked cheese variety like gouda. Smoked cheese compliments the bacon so well, that I recommend you give it a try. Another option is to use another type of cheese all together such as regular mozzarella, feta or Parmesan cheeses.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Our First Five 11-05-05

Today is our 5-year wedding anniversary! It's the first 5-years into our life as a family. We started celebrating last weekend with our day trip to Brown County. We work through our ups and down. We feel more depth of love and passion for each other than the day we took those wedding vows in front of 100 of our close friends in family in Chicago. We met on New Year's Eve 2004 and that was a day that changed the course of lives in a way we couldn't imagine at that time. We found each other and made a life that I always wanted growing up with divorced parents. Our wedding vows were clear, we promised to never leave. Those values to marry your partner and spend your life together is the way we both always wanted it. This picture is from when we walked down the aisle together as new husband and wife. I changed my name and identity from Amanda Volarvich to Amanda Berkey, walking with my love and husband knowing that the future would be what we make of it. Now after the first 5 years, I'm looking back amazed by how much we have experienced together.

Places we've traveled: The first 4-years of our marriage, we lived in the city of Chicago in our condo. Our goal was to travel and have fun with friends as much as possible before we had children.

The first year of our marriage was so fun because we did extra special things that year like a 6-pack of the Chicago Symphony season performances and we saw Wicked on Broadway in Chicago. We took our honeymoon in April 2006 so we could have better weather than November. It was 2-weeks in Italy. We went to Rome, Amalfi Coast, Naples, Florence, and Milan. This picture on the left is from our hike in Pasitano, our favorite place on Earth, which happens to be on the Amalfi Coast. Our room overlooked the Mediterranean! We washed our fresh pasta down with red wine and lemoncello. We walked through museums, explored the cities, and lounged on the coast for 5-days.

Since then, we traveled to St. Thomas and St. Croix for Heather and Ryan's wedding (our picture from their wedding) in January 2008. In July that year, we got a dog! Bena Berkey, our baby Vizsla was 7-weeks old when we brought her home and she won our hearts very quickly. And in September 2008, we traveled to Barcelona for Aaron's work trip. I've been lucky to have our trips back to my hometown in California to see my friends and family.

Our adventure together really kicked off when we moved to Indianapolis in July 2009 to start a new life together to prep for a family. We got job offers on the same day and had to move down very quickly. The day I moved, I found out that I was pregnant with Ava. The universe has an amazing way of figuring this out when you're paying attention for the guidance. Then in Dec 2009, we closed on our new house that we love, a home that we can be happy in with our children for decades to come. Ava arrived in March 2010 and now life, though it can be challenging in the day-to-day balancing work-family life, is truly fulfilling.

I've changed since I've married Aaron. He's given me the "safe" place to heal my childhood wounds and made me calmer and more at peace with myself because of the faith he has in me to grow and challenge myself. Aaron is truly a loving husband and father that I've always dreamed my future would hold. I love you, Aaron!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fall Day Trip to Brown County

Yesterday, we took a family day trip to Brown County State Park to celebrate our 5 year anniversary next week. Aaron surprised me on a trip to Brown County our first Fall that we were together in '04 to check out the trees and the hills. It was a relaxing getaway for us since we were living the city life in Chicago! We took a picture there together against the beautiful foliage and used it as our save-the-date cards for our wedding. And now that we live so close in Indy it's less than a 90 minute drive.

We took a hike on a 1-mile trail and it was beautiful! It was a crisp day of about 50 degrees so we bundled Ava up in the stroller and took the dog and realized that the trail was not paved. We went back to the car and used the sling pouch to carry Ava. She was getting tired and started rooting on me to nurse so we decided to have Aaron carry her since there wasn't a place to stop and nurse. Then she fell asleep really happily in the sling. Good thing the sling is reversible and the gender-neutral brown side isn't so bad for Aaron to use...Haha! My job was to take Bena and she was loving every minute. Vizsla's are bird pointing dogs and she loved to stop and point at the birds. We had a nice hike and it was a good workout too! Carrying your baby and walking a strong dog helps maximize the workout!

After the hike at the State Park, we went into the small town of Nashville, which is a couple miles outside of the park, for a late lunch. I carried Ava in the sling around the town and we had a relaxing lunch on the main strip. Nashville is a touristy, artist colony and in the Fall season so it was really busy. Since we were eating later, we didn't have to wait too long. Ava was in a great mood and very playful. I had been nursing her frequently throughout the day so she was really content. We had a booth and she sat between us playing. She reached toward a water glass for a drink. She likes to drink it from a glass like mom! The women in the table next to me were commenting on how much they liked my sling. Ava and I love it too! She feels close, secure, and can even sleep. I'm planning to get a ring sling next so I can have enough give in the fabric for nursing on the go.

After the lunch, we headed to the Outlet mall since it was on the drive home. We haven't been shopping in ages since we've been busy with Ava. We stocked up on essentials for all of us. I needed some 12-month size sleepers for Ava and Aaron picked up a few new clothes, too. I got to spend my birthday money for some new clothes to freshen my Fall/Winter wardrobe.

Packed Snacks for the Day Trip: The trip was easy because we had snacks with us for the drive so we couldn't be starved or settling for junk food.
  • Before we left for the trip, I made a quick Breakfast Burrito to eat in the car since we were running late.
  • I packed two squash pecan muffins for a snack because they're nutritious and filling.
  • I threw together homemade trail mix from what I had in the pantry: peanuts, raisins, a few chocolate chips, dried cranberries and whole wheat honey pretzels. We left the shops at 6pm and since we were going to cook a quick dinner, I need something to hold us over. I picked up a pint of milk from the gas station where we filled up before the drive home and we snacked on the homemade trail mix. Not only is it economical, but it's way healthier to pack healthy snacks for the family.
You might like this post about individual serving packets of nut butter for a healthy snack. Yum!

I saw a family arrive at the State Park and eat their lunch at the car. They pulled out white bread sandwiches! I couldn't believe it. I haven't seen a bag of Wonder Bread in my house since I was a kid. We're a whole wheat bread family in our house. It amazes me that people would eat that for lunch.

When we first got to the Park, I was nursing Ava in the car in the backseat. She coughed on the milk, chocked and then grew up over both of us! In the moment we were wondering if we should have come with the baby, but a quick clean up in the bathroom helped us feel ready to enjoy the day. I know lots of parents that take their children out and about everywhere. We're still learning the best things to do and bring with us so we won't have too much to pack. We're learning the balance act along the way! All of these experiences help us with our confidence as parents and help enrich Ava's early development. A little baby puke never hurt anyone right? :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Product Review: Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bustier

This post is for my working, breastfeeding mom friends. You know I'm all about time saving tips. I have to share this really cool new product that I've been using the past couple weeks. I pump at work 3 times a day and have been holding the breastshields in place and balancing my iPhone to check email or make calls at the same time. Now, I'm using this Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bra. I tried a Le Leche League branded pumping bra and it just didn't work for me so I was a little hesitant to spend more money on something that might work, but this product really blew me away.

I thought at first that you had to wear this every day, but then I realized that you can zip it on really quickly over your existing nursing bra that you're already wearing. I don't use the shoulder straps. I keep this bra in my pumping bag at work and then just take home once a week to wash it.

My favorite part is that the holes for the breastshields are very secure because they open in two different directions. You slip the shields in the first direction and then the other, then make sure that your nipples are in the center of the tunnel. The bra is highly customizable for fit so the shield seal really well, I find that pumping is faster and there's less mess! I used to get drips on my clothes because I was flipping pages or moving around. These milk spots leave marks from the milk fat.

I find that since the breastshields are so secure, they are strong enough to use a variety of bottle sizes 5oz or 8oz and even the Medela Pump and Save Bags. I'm a high volume mom so I like that no matter if I use the bottle or bag, everything is stable. All that milk can get heavy and it still does a great job and keeping everything in place. I get the Pump and Save Bags from the Milk Bank that I donate Ava's extra milk to and it's great because I put them right to the freezer when I get home from work.


The best part is that I can type with both hands, which makes me super productive. I can work and pump at the same time! It's SO awesome! Before I took my laptop in with me to pump sometimes, but I used it to read industry articles and review documents. Now, I'm able to sit back and relax or work depending on what's going on and it goes so quickly. At work, we book the Mother's Room in 30 minutes increments in Outlook and if you're running behind because of meetings, it's nice to have a bra like this to help you get in and out efficiently. Timing is tight because there are other moms sharing the room so we have to be diligent with making our designated times during a crazy work day.

Helpful hints...
  • Before you pump for the first time, adjust the fit at home before you go to work. This helps because you can making all the adjustments at home and take your time to get the right fit. At work, you only have a very limited time to pump.
  • I have to sit upright and make sure that I'm not slouching so there's room for the bottles or Pump and Save bags to fill.
  • Once you turn on your pump, you might need to make minor adjustments to the tunnel placement.
  • When you pull the breastshield off make sure to tilt it away from you so that you can save the milk in the shield.
  • I use the bustier without the shoulder straps because it's easier to slip it on just before pumping.
I'm very impressed with this time saver. It's well worth the $35 purchase price to make your pumping session easier, faster, and much more efficient.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

One Whole Chicken, Three Dinners

Last Thursday, I stayed home from work sick with a fever and a terrible cold. I dropped the baby off at daycare for a few hours so I could sleep and went to Costco to pick up a few essentials. I picked up a whole Rotisserie chicken for $5 which is a great price because not only is it already cooked, but it's also growth hormone free chicken.

Meal 1: Veggie, Chicken and Brown Rice Soup - 6 servings
That night because I wasn't feeling good, I used the chicken thigh and drumstick meat to put in soup.

I started with chopping and sauteing veggies that I had on-hand in produce box: onions, celery, carrots, garlic, zucchini, and kale (here's my easy tip on cleaning leafy greens and lettuce). I added a quart of chicken broth, fresh water, seasoning, and a cup of brown rice. I brought it up to a simmer. After it was simmering for about 45 minutes, I added the chicken pieces at the end since it was already cooked. I kept the pieces of chicken fairly large, but still bite sized. I just pulled the chicken off the bone and added it to the pot.

This soup was very nourishing all weekend for me and it was so easy that it wasn't hard even being sick and by myself with the baby since Aaron was out of town.

Meal 2: Chicken Broccoli Casserole - 6 servings
On Sundays, I make a big batch of food so this casserole was great. I ate it for dinner by myself and then Monday night it was easy to reheat for us after a day at the office. I used fresh broccoli and a few other veggies since I felt I didn't have enough broccoli (only 1 pound). I used the chicken breasts and chopped them in large bit-sized pieces and combined the chicken and veggies. The recipe called for a white sauce (flour, butter, and milk with cheese and seasonings added). Then it said to soak bread pieces in a 1/2 cup of milk. It baked in the oven for about a half hour.

Make your favorite chicken casserole and serve with rice. I served mine with slices of fresh Roma tomato.

Time-saving tip: reserve the small leftover pieces from the chicken in a container and store in the refrigerator for green salads or my meal #3....

Meal 3: Chicken, Veggie, and Cheese Potato - 3 servings
Last night's dinner was really easy. We made an easy favorite meal that takes just minutes - Chicken, Broccoli, and Cheese Potato (here's the recipe). Except last night, I didn't have any more broccoli, so I used fresh steamed cauliflower. Green beans work, too. It's a baked potato with cooked chicken, broccoli/cauliflower, cheese and a dab of sour cream. I like to add sliced green onion on the top of mine.

So there you go. I used a $5 Rotisserie whole chicken and made 3 meals all week and they were all tasty and healthy. Add your favorite easy meals with using Rotisserie Chicken in the comments if you want to share!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My First Solo Mom Weekend

This past weekend, Aaron was off for a 4-day annual canoe camping trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with his two best friends. They take a canoe down the river with their gear and camp along the way. It the first time Aaron had got out of town since Ava was born. It's a little scary since Aaron doesn't have mobile service when he's up there. I was home sick from work on Thursday, which wasn't a good way to start things off. I was lucky that Ava was content to play while I cooked myself some chicken, veggie, and brown rice soup that night for dinner. I ate the entire pot of soup throughout the weekend and it really hit the spot since I wasn't feeling great.

Since I was sick on Thursday, I decided that I should go into the office on Friday instead of do my usual work-from-home day. I got the baby ready for daycare on Friday morning by myself without being too late for work. It was a miracle! Aaron helps me so much in the morning by getting Ava dressed and one last clean diaper. He plays with her while I'm pumping and getting Ava's first bottles ready for daycare and getting dressed. I have to pump after she nurses and before I leave for the office because of my high volume supply and I like her to have that first bottle from my morning milk. The morning milk is less fatty and more thirst-quenching. I try to give Ava what she would get from me if we were together. It all worked out! I got her to daycare, even though I was still really sick with a fever! I know lots of moms survive their partners traveling, but this was my first time so I was happy.

Friday night, our family friends came to stay with us because their daughters raced in the marathon. I was glad to have the Bollingers staying with me and Ava because the house is a little too quiet without Aaron here. On Saturday morning, Ava and I were getting ready to Skype with one of best friends and I noticed a crazy sight in our backyard. The neighbors horses were loose in our yard! I took this picture, but there were 8 horses in all. I freaked out and so did Bena. She barked in the sun room like crazy. I was planning on going to there house to tell them that the horses were out and by the time I went back downstairs, they were called back home. I was surprised how easily they went back when called.

Saturday afternoon we had a playdate with one of the babies at daycare, which was fun. Ava and Corey are really cute together! They like to socialize. The rest of the weekend flowed really well. Ava was in such a good mood and we took naps together so I could rest and get over my cold.

Sunday morning, I set Ava down on the counter next to the coffee maker while I was pouring my coffee. She was reaching for the tomatoes so I gave her one to look at. I thought it was so funny that I took a picture, then when I looked back it was in her mouth! Ironically, she hates solid food, but seems to like to put that tomato in her mouth to ease her sensitive teeth and gums!


Another first this weekend...Ava rode in the shopping cart sitting up in the front. We just switched her from the infant car seat so now we have to carry her or use the stroller when we go places. I bought this really cushy shopping cart pad that folds in on itself so it's easy to use. I REALLY liked it! It's great because you don't have to clean the cart and it's cushy on the sides to help hold her up. Even though she's stable, she does get tired and falls over sometimes.

I did a lot of cooking! Ava likes to be in the kitchen with Mommy. I cooked a butternut squash, pumpkin, and beets on Saturday night. Then on Sunday made a pumpkin pie, butternut squash and pecan muffins, and a broccoli chicken casserole. I put on music in the kitchen and depending on what I was doing had Ava in the Bumbo chair, lying on a blanket with toys where she played or in the sling while I was using the stand mixer. Ava loves to watch the Kitchen Aid mixer!

Overall, it was a very relaxing weekend with PERFECT Fall weather. Most of all it helped raise my confidence that I can do the solo-Mommy thing once and awhile. But it sure was so sweet to have Aaron home for all of us!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Family Photos and End-of-Summer Remembered



I can't believe I haven't shared these pictures yet! I was on the computer the other day and looked through them again and it reminded me of that beautiful, balmy summer day at Butler University's campus that we took these pictures. We did this shoot at the end of August when Ava was about 5 1/2 months old. She was in a fantastic mood that day. We went all over the campus to different spots and she was a trooper through all of it!



I'm working on a photo memory book that starts with my pregnancy/maternity photos, then goes to Ava's birth, then shows the first 6 months of her life with us. No doubt these pictures will be a great addition to the book! Here's a look back at our family photos: maternity, 10 days old, and 2 1/2 weeks old.



Our friend also shot my nursing photos with Ava that afternoon, which I was so excited to document because we spend a lot of time together nursing and I wanted Ava to have pictures. I've heard about moms that use nursing photos for their toddlers when they're "gently" weaning. The moms share the photos with their toddler explaining that nursing was very special for both of them since they were born and now it's time for them to grow up a little more. Also, my photos will be part of a project called Nursing is Normal, an initiative to show public nursing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

7-months

Our baby girl had a big month now that she's 7-months old, we're having even more fun as she's expressing herself very strongly sometimes! She has a loud, confident voice. Sometimes Ava yells at the top of her lungs just to hear her own voice.

Ava Marie just had her first Apple Butter experience last weekend. We went up to Northern Indiana and joined in on my sister-in-law, Megan's in-law's family event. They make apple butter on a farm every year for the past 4 decades! Last year, Megan and I were both pregnant and this year, the two cousins were there to witness all the fun. We went with Aaron's parents, while he was golfing with his best friends. We came home with 3 pints of fresh, naturally sweetened and smoky apple butter in jars for the upcoming year. I gave her a taste on my finger and she gave me a funny face and then blew a raspberry. But then, Ava took a couple more tastes at dinner with encouragement by Grandma and Grandpa. Here she is lounging with her Great Grandma Berkey on her lap while Grandpa is stirring the apple butter. We just learned that the Aaron's Great Grandmother's full name was Ada Marie, but everyone called her Marie, which is why we used Marie as Ava's middle name. It's so close to Ava Marie. I thought it was meant to be. Great Grandma Berkey tells lots of great stories about her mother being a very strong woman. I know she'll be proud to hear these stories as she grows.

What Ava is up to at 7-months:
  • Two bottom-front teeth are out and visible.
  • Sitting up for extended periods on her own, but she loves to do a "trust fall" on pillows, in your lap, or on the bed. She thinks it's very fun to fall back.
  • Ava is very happy and smiles when I pull out my iPhone! She's conditioned to smile for the camera now. Too funny! At daycare yesterday, Ava had the "giggles." Her caregiver said that she couldn't stop laughing every time she looked at her. Even this morning, I entertained her by jumping up and pushing my arms out while she was in her swing. She laughed so hard!
  • Ava is obsessed with movement. Even as a newborn, Ava was obsessed with ceiling fans. She loves movement so much that her hands are always moving. She smiles when the wind hits her face and watches the leaves on the trees move or the flag in our front yard.
  • Trouble with daytime naps. I'm amazed by how much she fights daytime naps. Sometimes the one way I can get her to sleep is in the sling or when I lay next to her in bed. I will nurse her in bed and then sneak out. That started with teething and adjusting to her new nursery room at daycare. It's much louder in there with the 12 babies moving around. She's still sleeping very well overnight at home.
  • Waving goodbye. We wave to her a lot when we're saying hello and goodbye. The first time I noticed was when I was dropping her off at daycare last Monday. As I walked toward the door in the arms of her caregiver, she waved goodbye. And this past Sunday, I left Ava with her Daddy as they laid tummy to tummy and she watched me head downstairs and she waved goodbye. What a precious girl!
  • This coming month, I'm going to re-start her on solid food. I have applesauce and sweet potatoes cooked and frozen in ice cubes ready for her. And this week, I'm planning on cooking up a butternut squash from my produce box. She liked bananas last time so I'll use that to start with again. She hasn't been especially hungry and breastfeeding satisfies her so I haven't been in a hurry to get her onto solid food.
  • Ava is very vocal "Dada" "Daw" for Dog. I tell Ava to say "mama" and she replies "Dada!" I know she'll get it eventually. A couple times, Ava has said "daw" for dog when she sees Bena. She loves Bena so much. When Bena comes near Ava, she laughs and shakes her entire body. Ava has been babbling for months, but now she talks all the time, especially when she's playing with her toys when we put her on the floor. She rolls to her side and plays with her favorite toys like the bear head that tops her set of rings. She also likes the cardboard mailers. She won't put it in her mouth, but she likes to bend the paper with her hands and bang it on the ground. Sometimes it sounds like she's singing when she's talking. She likes music and they play it a lot at daycare.
That's the fun things that we're up to these days. Ava and I are having a girls weekend. I have arranged a couple of playdates on Saturday and Sunday with babies the same age. That will be fun for both of us. Aaron is headed up the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for his annual canoe camping trip Thursday to Sunday night. Tomorrow night I'm baking cinnamon bread for Aaron to take on the trip. Every year, Aaron goes with his best friends and the wives pitch in by making them food to share. They eat like kings for sure!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My Breastfeeding Story

I'm so excited to share my breastfeeding story with the moms in La Leche League and all of you. My guest post was published today on the blog for my local LLL chapter that I attend. The moms in this group are very supportive and if you're pregnant or nursing at any stage - nursing or toddler, the comfort that these moms can provide you as you navigate the breastfeeding parenting style is amazing!

My story is about my journey of growth and learning of becoming a mother. Our family friend, Shawn Pierce, took these nursing photos as part of a Nursing is Normal project that he's spearheading with his wife, Jill, who is a new LLL leader. We took them at Butler University and in the first picture on the top left, that's Aaron sitting on the bench near us. The project seeks to raise awareness for breastfeeding in general, especially nursing in public so moms won't feel intimidated with nursing their babies.

Every breastfeeding mom has their own story of their nursing relationship with their children. My relationship with Ava is centered on our bond that we share and I believe it largely stems from our breastfeeding relationship that we worked hard to master. What I've learned is fathers have a part in this relationship as the support for mom and baby. They are in the triad! Some nights all we do is nurse and then that's when Aaron makes me a sandwich or washes dishes for me. My husband is truly a dream come true.

What is your story?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Fall Season Brings New Changes for our Family

The new Autumn season is here and you can feel the cool air and it even smells different from just a couple of weeks ago. We're wearing longer sleeves, sleeping under blankets, and the heat is warming the house at night. October is my favorite month! My birthday is next Wednesday, too. I love birthdays. I embrace my age every year because it marks a new year to enjoy. Ever since I moved to the Midwest, I've enjoyed the Fall season even more. Especially here in Indy because our house is surrounded by trees so you experience all the seasons.

Ava is 6 and 1/2 months now and changes are happening every day.
  • Her two teeth have surfaced and we're passed the ugly teething pain from last weekend that kept her awake. She has bit me already once while breastfeeding, but luckily it didn't hurt too badly. I squealed and she jumped and pulled off. She feel asleep so it's not like she did it for entertainment. I can't for the life of me get these tiny teeth photographed. I'm sure other parents can attest that it's hard to get babies to open their mouths long enough!
  • She's sitting on her own now. Although when she's tired she throws herself back and we call it the "trust fall" because she falls back knowing she'll hit something cushy or we'll catch her. We put a pillow behind her and she does a little crunch to pull herself up, but she can't do it on her own. She entertains herself that way, which is scary because there won't always be a pillow behind her.
  • The biggest change is Ava graduated to the older baby nursery at daycare. She'll be in this nursery from now until about 15 months. There's a lot of activity in this nursery with the babies that are crawling, playing and walking. The fun part is that she has lots of friends there that she started daycare with in the newborn nursery. She has transitioned better than they expected, although she was pretty attached to her first set of caregivers. With the change, Ava is having a harder time with naps. Since she wasn't napping with the loud noise, I replaced her daycare blanket with a blanket with fresh home smells including a receiving blanket that I slept on the night before so it could have "mom smell." We put the thin receiving blanket on top of the crib sheet and she had 2 one-hour naps at daycare that day. I was very pleased! I think it's working. They don't have many breastfed babies in that nursery so they were unsure when to feed her. I told the new caregivers about Ava's feeding cues so they're learning to read her. I leave them instructions on feeding-on-demand, but they were still unsure when she was hungry because she doesn't cry much. So now, they are looking for her little signs, like burying her face in their chest and turning her head and opening her mouth. Check out my post about daycare tips for breastfed babies and about the working mom balancing act.
  • Another change is that we're leaving Bena outside during the day while we're at work and taking her to doggy daycare once a week to save on costs. She's doing great with it! She's been trained on an electric fence at the house and slowly we've been leaving her outside on her own while we're out on the weekends running errands. Since she enjoys the outdoors so much, Bena often spends most, if not all the day out in the yard stalking birds, deer, and relaxing in the grass. Aaron installed a dog door in the garage and we have a bed for her to lay on. The only downside is the post office and UPS like to drive up to our front door to deliver packages since we our house is set back from the road. Bena barks like crazy at them, which really freak them out! She's very protective. I've told them about the electric fence so if she's out and we're not there, they can leave the package on the other side of the wire. But just to be sure, Aaron found a fun sign that he posted on the driveway about halfway up. Here's the picture from today after our walk.
  • New role at work, still working at home 2-days a week. I started reporting to a new team in the Marketing group at work focusing on our Partners. The ironic thing is that the director of the group was the person that originally hired me at ExactTarget. My first week on the job last summer, moved from Product Marketing to Partner Marketing along with my current manager. I'm so excited to work with them again and I'm looking forward to making a big impact with our Reseller and Embedded Partners. I'm even trying something new, by owning lead generation campaigns. They both work out of their home offices in Portland and our team is very virtual, so we use Skype for video conferencing. I do my weekly catch-up meetings with my manager on Skype on Friday's when we're both working at home. I love it! The balance of work at home two days a week is amazing because I can have more time with my sweet Ava without the commute. With Ava having a harder time napping at daycare, I can keep her home longer in the morning so she can go there rested. Then I pick her up around 4pm. It makes a big difference in our day.
Loving the Fall colors: We took a family walk this afternoon on our street. It's a hilly walk and beautiful today with the Fall colors. Ava was snug in her sling. We both like the closeness of the sling and it's often times more convenient than a stroller. Since she's now over 19 lbs, it's a good workout for me to carry her around without it straining my back. I'm still slowly losing the baby weight. My body is different after carrying Ava, but I know I'll get there.

Don't forget to check out my post on making Steel Cut Oats in the crockpot. We had them for breakfast today. It was perfect for a lazy Sunday morning.

Our family was in a video for our User Conference, Connections, acting as my coworkers family. Check it out, the video is called "Joel Book - Family."