Saturday, August 28, 2010

I am "Ava's Mom"

Ava is over 5 months old and I'm still loving my new title "Ava's mom." My friend Jill's 2-yr old daughter, Violet, calls me "Ava-mom," which makes my heart melt. At Ava's daycare, when I call or walk into the nursery at the end of the day, they say "Ava's mom" as if they're announcing me. When I've called them on the phone during the day and said "hi, this is Amanda," I can almost hear their blank stare and I quickly add "Ava's mom." I'm really honored to have this title. Ava is a happy, cuddly, talkative, baby who loves to watch the world around her. She's their super star there walking down the red carpet as we make our way to the nursery. The staff adores all the kids, but the babies are something special. I remember when Ava was the Indy 500 Queen and led the children's parade when she first started at daycare.

Being Ava's Mom, I'm now discovering the type of mother that I am. There are different types of moms. The mom that is a friend, the protective mom, the natural mom, the stern mom. And I believe they take shape after you give birth. When I was pregnant, I knew that I'd love my baby, but I had no idea on the type of mother I would become. I've always dreamed of being a mother at the "right time" in my life. Growing up never knowing my own parents as a couple, gave me deep wounds that I had to heal as an adult. At 6-months old, around Ava's age now, my parents separated and that was the start of pain for all three of us. I swore to myself that I would never do that to my children. I know they had their reasons at the time and now I understand that I empowered myself to not recreate the same unfortunate events.

When Aaron and I were discussing marriage, I told him that I don't believe in divorce and that I want to be a mother, wife, and lifelong partner and since we're married now, you can imagine he's just the same. Our wedding vows we shared almost 5 years ago included a line that our pastor said many couples take out "....and I will never leave." So here we are new parents going through the typical ups-and-downs of this great life change. Thankfully, we were married over 4 years before Ava rocked our world and we traveled around, stayed out until 4am with friends, had a super fun urban lifestyle in Chicago, and enjoyed quiet, lazy weekends at his parent's lake house. We've been through hard times like layoffs, family passing, my personal childhood healing, and the give-and-take of learning to honor each other's differences. And seeing the years unfold to today, has shaped us for who we are together husband and wife, and now mother and father to an amazingly, vibrant, and beautiful baby girl.

My "identity" has changed, but it's not that "I" have changed - only evolved to become a mother. I've rolled up all my experienced into who I am as a mother. Now, at 5 months into being "Ava's Mom" I know that I'm a "crunchy, breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing working mom." This label makes me chuckle. I guess it's no surprise that I've evolved to this after all, I'm a Liberal from California. I went to college in San Francisco, after all. I'm a La Leche League nursing mother who plans on nursing my baby until she weans naturally, even if she's 2-years old.

As a mother, I'm following my instincts, which is what most moms do. I'm not following the cultural norms of formula feeding and keeping the young baby in their own room. I'm not judging these parents for doing those things. But for us, in our family, and for me, as a mother, co-sleeping and breastfeeding is the only way that I know how to be a mother. I'm not going to start my baby on rice cereal for her first food, like the cultural norm. In fact, I'm making all of her food because I want Ava to eat like the family to learn our tastes. Luckily she gets a taste of that already in mom's milk.

I know every mom is different and being a mother makes me MORE respectful of other moms and their struggles and joys. I'm following my intuition of how I want to mother and so are other moms. I believe supporting each other for our decisions and lifestyle only helps us become more better moms to our kids.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lake Weekend

We spent last weekend up at Aaron's parent's house, who live on a lake in Northern Indiana. The area they live in is Amish-Mennonite country and very relaxing. Ava has been up a few times before, but was a little fussy at night. After that behind her belt, she's become comfortable in her new surroundings. After living at the Lake for 27+ years, the Berkey's are a fixture in the community. The summer is the best season, but all seasons are fun to enjoy the lake house.

First Campfire: On Saturday, I took the baby to Shipshewana with Aaron's mom to my favorite stops - an Amish bulk store called E&S Sales and Yoder's Meat Shop for hormone-free meat, cheese, and local honey. We hosted our family friends for lunch while Aaron golfed in the afternoon with his two best friends. We ended the night with a relaxing campfire under a near-full moon. I walked Ava a few houses down the Lake in the sling with Aaron holding onto Bena to enjoy the campfire. Ava loved watching the moon's reflection on the water. I nursed her by the campfire and she fell into deep sleep. Aaron grew up having campfires at the Lake so it was fun to introduce that to her.

Family Swim: On Sunday morning, we had the house to ourselves since Aaron's parents were at church. I could tell Ava wanted to go outside because she was playing on the rug in the living room staring outside talking and even yelling (check out her picture above). So we decided to go for a swim since the water was warm and the day was warming quickly. We got into our bathing suits and got the baby into her Little Swimmer diaper and we were off. Bena is a major water dog at the Lake so she had fun swimming and jumping in to get her ball that we threw for her. Aaron and I took turns holding Ava in the water, letting her feet dangle and move. She shocked herself by splashing water on her own face! That was funny!

After the swim, I wrapped up the baby in a towel and she was ready to nurse. I sat in a comfortable chair under the shade of a tree and nursed her and looked out at the lake thinking about how life would be so different next summer. Ava will be running around at the lake next year, but this year, I'm cherishing these moments while she's still a baby. She fell asleep in my arms so I carried her in, wrapped her up in the towel and she slept for a little bit. IWhat a fun memory we made that morning.

Aaron and I were trying to take our own picture. Our first take cut me out all together, the second we instantly deleted, and the third (here) wasn't bad, but Aaron was concentrating so hard that he forgot to smile!

Upside-down Apple Pie: We had lunch together with Aaron's parents before we drove home. I made an upside-down apple pie with the Ginger Gold apples that I got in my produce box. They're the same apples I used for Ava's homemade apple sauce, so I knew they would be great cooked in a dessert. I was going to make a free-form apple tart, but the crust wasn't working. My father-in-law suggested a brilliant idea to use the failed-crust as a topping. I seasoned the apples with cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg and a bit of sugar. Then I made an egg wash for the top of the crust and sprinkled cinnamon-sugar on top. I baked it for 45 minutes on 425. It was SO good! We served it with a little bit of vanilla ice cream. My only regret is that I wished I had more apples.

It was a fantastic weekend! We'll be back at the Lake on Labor Day weekend with more friends and family to mark the end-of-summer.

Friday, August 20, 2010

What To Do With the Bottom of the Bag of Corn Chips

Earlier this week, I made spicy guacamole and we got to the bottom of the corn chip bag. I couldn't throw it away. It's not so much about being frugal, but I hate wasting things. I really like to find other uses for things to avoid waste.

Ever wonder what to do with the tiny broken pieces of corn chips at the bottom of the bag? They're definitely not good for dipping, that's for sure. So at the risk of sounding like a complete nerd (I have Aaron's voice in my head!), I'll share my tip. I sprinkle the small corn chip pieces on the top of a green salad. It gives the salad a little crunch and salty flavor. Here's a picture of our salads from last night. It especially tasted good with the veggies - tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and avocado chunks.

Another salad topper that I'm famous for is green pumpkin seeds (pepitas) and sunflower seeds. I love seeds in my salad.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Easy Weeknight Dinner: Leftover Enchilada Casserole, Homemade Coleslaw, and Spicy Guacamole

Tonight, I made a really easy dinner for a very busy weeknight. I work in the office on Monday's so by the time I picked up the baby from daycare and got home and nursed her, I had a very short window for meal prep. Thank goodness I planned ahead for the busy week. I made Enchilada Casserole last night for dinner, which makes 6 servings and tastes great for leftovers. I love the concept of "planned-overs," a trick that I often use to make the weeknight even easier. You can pack up servings of this casserole in individual containers so it's easy to grab-and-go or reheat for a meal at home.

To fresh it up from last night's meal, I made Coleslaw with Homemade Poppy Seed Salad Dressing. Last night, I took the extra few minutes to quickly make the salad dressing and set it aside to use tonight. The coleslaw is super simple and has just a couple ingredients. To make the coleslaw, I shredded a small head of (cored) green cabbage, 2 shredded carrots, and about 1/2 cup of Homemade Poppy Seed Salad Dressing, with a dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper.

Don't be this girl...Yesterday, I was at the grocery story and I saw a women with a bag of avocados and a Guacamole seasoning packet. I thought "WHAT A WASTE OF MONEY!" My goodness! I never waste money on those things. Instead, I use fresh ingredients and spices on hand to achieve an even-better result. I buy a lot of avocados and eat them with turkey sandwiches, eggs, tacos, burritos, etc. I whipped this up and it was so good, that I couldn't even take a picture! There's only a few dollops left for my eggs in the morning. Next time I'll take a picture for the blog. Here's the recipe so you can make authentic Mexican Guacamole adapted from my mom. She doesn't like heat, but otherwise, she'd really like it.

Spicy Guacamole - Makes enough for1 family dinner
1 large (or 2 small) avocado
2 tbs minced seeded tomato
1/2 large minced, seeded jalapeno (to taste)
1 squeeze of lemon or lime (no fake bottle juices, please)
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tsp red onion, grated
Dash fresh ground pepper
1/4 - 1/2 tsp sea salt (to taste) - you need to salt liberally to accent the avocado
Chopped cilantro (handful)

Mash avocado and mix ingredients gently in a shallow-wide bowl (which you can also use for serving - fewer dishes to clean). Do not over-mix. Taste as you go to ensure you don't have too little or too much salt.

A little planning ahead really gives you the edge to be healthier. I don't have much time at night for meals because I have a 5-month old that likes to nurse a lot with her mama since we've been apart all day. I literally throw good stuff together from the seasonal, fresh produce in the fridge and stocked pantry and call it dinner!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

State Fair Family Visit Part 2: Seeing the Animals

Last week, we took Ava to the Indiana State Fair to see the animals. We went on $2 Tuesday night, which is a great time to go because that's the cost of entry and the food vendors have "taste" portions of food to sample for $2. Indiana does a HUGE State Fair. I must disclose that this is the ONLY Fair that I've been to, including County Fairs, but by all accounts, it's giant. They run the fair for 3 weekends. Last year was our first summer in Indy and my first time EVER going to a Fair. In California, we have lots of agriculture, but I grew up in the San Jose, known for being the heart of the Silicon Valley and world class software and technology and not world class cattle! Aaron laughed at me because I was in awe by being so close to the animals.

I got a free ticket to the fair because that was the day that I volunteered with Ava at the Lactation Station, a cool place for nursing moms to feed their babies out of the heat, sponsored by the milk bank where I'm a donor mom. Even though we went in the evening, it was still in the mid-90's and very humid out! We've had a record heat here this summer. We kept Ava cool by keeping her in the stroller without the car seat. She relaxed and really enjoyed the animals! We took her to see the cattle, the ponies, sheep, and goats.

Aaron took Ava out of her stroller so she could get up close to the animals and see. Then I got a little ambitious and then I got "dangerously" close to a huge male goat to take it's picture and it baa-ed at me very loud! I jumped back and yelped. The man beside us was laughing at me. I think it could have been on America's Funniest Videos if they had a hidden camera. I liked this goat that was wearing a homemade Kimono (that's a person with WAY too much time on their hands!). Wow! I have no clue farming so I'm sure there's a very good reason this goat is wearing clothing. You can see Ava's little legs in the stroller. She was bold enough to get close to animals!

Every year, at the fair, they fry something new. Last year, they fried BACON (gross) and this year was Fried Butter. Aaron tried it when he went to a sponsor lunch and he said it made him queasy so we skipped it. It's a frozen pat of butter rolled in funnel cake batter and then fried. They also were selling burgers with Krispy Kreme donuts as buns. Seriously, who eats this stuff. Aaron and I shared an elephant ear, which is a cinnamon sugar doughy treat. It's more traditional fare at fairs. :) It's only once a year, right?

Our last stop was to the Future Farmers of America (FFA) pavilion. They had this cute cutout of a kid farmer. Holy moly, if my kid becomes a farmer, I don't know what I would do. You can't take the city out of me yet!

Incidentally, I just learned about FFA last summer when the kids came to Indy for their national convention. They wear these navy jackets and lots of feathered hair! Just kidding on the hair. But seriously, at my high school we had TONS of sports, activities, and clubs, (I was the VP of the Fashion club) and NEVER FFA at my school. I guess that goes with the territory with living in a new place. I highly recommend the $2 Tuesdays to try the Fair and we'll be going back next year for sure!

Friday, August 13, 2010

5 Things I Want to Remember about Ava Turning 5 Months

Ava enters her 5th month on her Grandpa Volarvich's birthday, which was Aug 12. I miss him so much! I was a Daddy's girl and we had a strong bond. He was a good father to me and my three brothers, showing us lots of love and affection every chance it could. Ava definitely inherited the Volarvich cheeks!

Growing and so much! Ava is now about 17 lbs according to a recent weighing on the bathroom scale. She's been in 6-month clothes for awhile now mostly because she's so long!

  1. Our Little Book Worm: Ava enjoys books so much. She's very interested in holding the book, touching each page, and even turning the pages. She seems to know when we're done with the page, but many times doesn't wait. Her favorite book is Good Morning and Good Night touch and feel book. She pets the bunny's tail and likes to grab the "blanket" at the end for the little girl's bed. Here's a picture of Grandma Berkey reading to Ava.
  2. Great Mood - Laughing and Smiling: Ava is a very happy baby. Even when she's been sick and fussy, she's still a happy baby. When I open the car door when we're out and about, she gives me a HUGE smile. And when we play with Bena, Ava laughs so hard that her arms and legs shake! I have a voice recording and she's laughing for 30 seconds straight! It's really fun to see her humor and personality develop. She "talks" and vocalizes sounds all the time.
  3. Reaches her arms up to be picked up: About a week ago, Ava started to raise her little arms when she's ready for mommy or daddy to pick her up, especially in the Bumbo chair. She's now able to express herself a little better.
  4. At 5-months it's easier to take her out and about - during the day: We volunteered at the Lactation Station giving nursing moms a cool place to nurse their babies at the State Fair. We took a family walk last weekend in the park near our house. BUT, we're careful not to take her out in the evening because she's not happy about that. At night she likes her quiet routine at home and isn't cool with loud noises like at wedding receptions or an outdoor movie. By 8pm, she's ready to be home.
  5. Growing very strong and great hand control: Ava can hold herself in a sitting position with little assistance. I sit her in the middle of my crossed legs on the floor and she can hold herself well. I have to be careful with what is in my hands because she's quick about picking it up and holding it. Yesterday, I was cooking with her in the sling and I let her hold the slices of zucchini which she enjoyed. She doesn't know it's food so she didn't put it in her mouth. We still haven't hit the milestone of Ava rolling from her tummy to her back, but she is getting closer. She's able to move her hips and legs, but can't wait make it over. On her back she's really mobile and can roll to her side and back and go all over the floor that way. On her tummy, she can move using her arms.
Aaron has been teasing me with trying to give Ava tastes of food. He knows we're waiting until after 6-months (check out my post of making applesauce). But last Sunday, he let her lick a slice of ripe peach and she went through the roof with excitement! She licked it and gave a little squeal. He let her do it a few times and she squealed every time. Last night, I held a peach from the counter so she could smell it. I don't know what she was thinking, but she likes the new experiences. She still isn't ready for solids because she's content with mom's milk, still tongue thrusting, and not showing interest or sitting up. That will be something we offer her naturally when she's showing signs that she's ready.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Volunteer Day at the Indiana State Fair for Nursing Mothers

Today, Ava and I started what I hope is a new tradition to volunteer at the Indiana State Fair at the Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank "Lactation Stations." I'm a donor mom and I've already up to 215 oz (enough for 71 - 3oz bottles) and more next week. I'm a high volume producer and I'm honored to share Ava's milk since she's thriving and getting what she needs. I work for an awesome company that provides employees 1 day of personal time off reimbursement for volunteering in their community. It was well worth it!

The Lactation Station is a cool spot at the Fair for moms to nurse their babies. There are 3 stations at the Fair and two are an air conditioned trailer and the main tent is by the Riley Pavilion, has rocking chairs provided by Cracker Barrell. They provide cold water, a changing station, and free samples and supplies. The March of Dimes was a co-sponsor and had their literature for pregnant moms. I'm dying to get Ava this super cute onesie (picture above) with a $10 donation for the Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank. Next year, they're thinking about expanding to some of the County Fairs in the state.

Ava and I arrived (see above) this morning sweaty, but ready to work. It was 93 degrees and very humid today! I put her in the Baby Bjorn with her hat and she loved it! She smiled at the moms and babies. We took advantage of the air conditioned trailer when she wanted to nurse. She fell asleep and then I put her in the stroller to snooze. I love taking the baby with me because it gives us both new experiences to enjoy! I can tell her when she's older what we did together. I sat with the very appreciative nursing moms and it reminded me of a Le Leche League meeting, which is a mom-to-mom breastfeeding advocacy and support group. I had fun at the station telling moms that this spot was available for them.

Human milk banks are a safer way to share milk between moms and babies because the donor moms go through extensive health reviews, including a blood sample screening, and follow guidelines for safe storage. These high volume producing moms donate their milk for moms that need an alternative source due to medical reasons (breast surgery, etc), adoption, or they had a premature infant in the NICU and their mature milk hasn't arrived. The milk banks combine donated defrosted milk, pasteurize it (killing bacteria, but retaining the valuable antibodies), and then redistribute it in bottles for hospitals and moms.

I'm so inspired by the couple that became advocates of human milk bank after they lost their premature infant to a tragic, untimely death. They started a documentry project called Prescription Milk (watch the trailer and become a Fan on their Facebook page) and the Indiana Milk Bank is featured. I was shocked to learn that only 35% of US NICUs allow Mother's Milk. Premature babies have a 40% mortality rate in the first year and providing them this invaluable resource such as super-power antibodies can make a massive difference in giving them strength to thrive.

Follow @milkbankguy on Twitter to learn more about donating, volunteering, or sourcing milk for your baby.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Family Summer Walk

Today, we took a family walk in the Fort Harrison State Park about 15 minutes from our house. It was our first time there. We all piled in the car, including Bena. It was a great walk especially because the trees kept the path very cool. Ava is such a warm baby that I'm always looking out for her overheating.

For the first time we had Ava in the stroller without the carseat. She leaned back and relaxed. I used my nursing cover to protect Ava from the sun when we were walking toward it. That worked really well. She was awake the entire time and looked at the trees as we went by. We did a 3-mile, 1-hour walk and part of it was pretty hilly which was great for me pushing the stroller. I want to keep the momentum of losing the pregnancy soft belly. Yesterday, I took Ava on a walk on our street, which is very hilly. It's a great workout and she loves it! I think she'll like living in forest area where we live. I don't have time to do spin class or go to the gym with taking care of the baby so walks are a great workout for me because I'm either pushing Ava or carrying her in the Baby Bjorn. I do use my arms and abs for all that including just carrying her in general.

During the walk, we took a break by the water for Bena to swim. She overheats easily, too! While Aaron took Bena for a swim, Ava had a little snack. She wasn't too hungry so we kept going. It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

We've been either hosting friends or family or on the road for events for the past 7 weeks so this weekend we relaxed and enjoyed the downtime. It was exactly what we needed!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Homemade Apple Sauce for Baby

You might have guessed that since I'm very focused on nutrition and good health, that I'm going to make Ava's first foods at home. It's a tradition in my family. My mom made all of my food when I was a baby so I'm excited to keep the tradition going. I actually hated Gerber food that I had on occasion because I preferred real food that she made me. She used to freeze the purees (including meats) in ice trays and then pop them out and freeze them in a separate container for easier storage. I put the baby food trays on my baby registry and I was looking forward to trying them out. Thank you, James, Kelly and Ethan!

I got some small Ginger Gold apples in my produce box from Farm Fresh Delivery, and decided to cook them into applesauce. Our approach for Ava's first foods is to give her fresh real food, from the family table and let her experiment instead of rice cereal and packaged baby foods. I've been doing lots of research at my Le Leche League meetings (with other breastfeeding moms), from my favorite Lactation Consultant resource site, reading Nina Planck's Real Food for Mother and Baby, and also talked to Ava's pediatrician to confirm my action plan. I learned that babies lack the enzyme to digest starches until age 1 or 2. They get some of that enzyme from breastmilk and even found naturally in banana. Babies are great at digesting fat and proteins so naturally, I'll use butter and olive oil in her first foods.

I'm planning on starting her sweet potatoes, avocado with olive oil and sea salt, and egg yolk with sea salt mixed with a little of mom's milk to ease the transition. Breastmilk is sweet, so there's no need to skip starting on fruits versus veggies like the conventional wisdom (probably more for formula babies). Applesauce is the perfect sweet and fiber-filled first food. Ava will be 5-months old next week so I thought it would be good to have it on-hand when I'm ready to start her after 6-months old. Until then, it's all momma's milk, of which she's thriving and literally more than doubled her birth weight! As of tonight she was 17 lbs on the bathroom scale.

This afternoon, I put Ava in her Bumbo chair with her toys around her (see my picture) and she played happily while I peeled, cored, and cut 3 green apples for the applesauce. The apples simmered on low heat after coming to a boil with filtered water. I added a dash of ground cinnamon and a bit of butter toward the end. They cooked on the stovetop for about an hour, stirring every so often and then I let it cool. It turned to applesauce, the apples breaking out without effort. I loaded up the ice cube trays and stored them in the freezer while Ava was hanging out in the Baby Bjorn after our walk. I told her that she'll get a taste when she's a little older and can sit on her own.

You don't have to be a baby to enjoy this applesauce! You could sweeten it with honey or maple syrup, but I thought the Ginger Golds were sweet and tart, delicious on their own. I wonder if Ava will like apples as much as her mom! I'll let you know.

Resources: Here's a great link on about First Foods where she discusses delaying solid introduction until about 6-months and the best foods to start.

Do you have any experiences to share about making your baby's first foods?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I'm "Ava-Mom"

Last night, we went to the Pierce's house for dinner. It was a bring-a-dish kind of get-together with good friends. We had burgers, pulled pork, grilled corn, fruit salad, blueberry dessert, and I made a Greek salad to share. It's so nice to pull together something last minute just so everyone can see each other without having the pressure of making a giant meal.

The Pierce's daughter, Violet, is just over 2 yrs old and she and Ava are already friends. When Ava was a week old, her dad, Shawn, took Ava's newborn pictures at our house and Violet wanted to hold her on her lap. Violet's mom, Jill, helped her little tot hold Ava. We see each other often with other friends or even Le Leche League Meetings, where Jill is becoming a Leader.

On the 4th of July weekend, the Pierce's came to our house for a get together we hosted with friends and Violet asked if she could play with Ava in her swing. Jill strapped Ava in and Violet wanted to push her just like her own outdoor swing in the yard. Ava laughed and squealed even though it was a little high and Jill told Violet to be gentle.

What I love about all this is these two is that Ava (4 1/2 months) and Violet (26 months) are already becoming friends! When we're getting together Violet gets excited when her parents tell her that Baby Ava is coming over. Last night, Violet called me "Ava-Mom," which is so sweet. At one point when Ava was distracted from nursing and fussing Violet says "Ava-Mom, what she doing?" It melted my heart. By the way, Violet calls nursing "noosing." So cute. Ava and Violet sat on the rocking chair holding hands and later Jill read books to both of them. Violet picked out the stories and Ava turned the pages and listened. I've been reading to Ava since she was about a month old so she really likes books.

It started to get late and Ava was fussy and getting hot inside the house. She was really tired and over-stimulated so Jill suggested going out on the porch in front of the house where it's cool and relaxing. Ava seemed calmer and Jill helped me relax, too. I sincerely value my girlfriends that are mothers who have been there before me and share their experiences. Sometimes, I wonder what other moms have done in my situation. It's great to have two generations of friends, mom and daughter. I'm Ava-Mom.