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

  • 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
  • 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!