What my kids are (and aren’t) eating: Part 2

Before Lily was even born I knew what her first food would be (sweet potatoes). I read everything I could find about introducing vegetables first and bypassing baby cereals. As she inched toward that 6-month mark I filled my Pinterest board with baby-led weaning (BLW) recipes and guides. I read all about how babies are physiologically prepared to eat real food once they can hold themselves up properly, and asserted to my husband and our moms that gagging was okay–it’s not really choking!

When Lily hit 5 months, I grabbed a spoon and gave her some sweet potatoes. I could have waited until 6 months, but you know moms: we love milestones. She loved the sweet potatoes, so I continued on with more purées until she was about 6 months old, at which time I decided to give baby-led weaning a go. It’s pretty mainstream now, but for those of you who don’t know, with baby-led weaning you allow your little one to eat real food (versus purées). This article for some reason had me convinced only an uninformed parent wouldn’t do BLW, and that purees were a relic of the past.

If you’re already a parent then you know how ridiculous your pre-child self was. I don’t know why, but for some reason most soon-to-be moms (myself included) seem to have a lot of convictions about how we’ll do various things and what baby products are best, and it feels like a personal affront when someone suggests something otherwise while you’re still pregnant or haven’t reached a certain stage (even if they’re a fellow mom). And when our moms hinted BLW might not be going so great for Lily, it felt just like that (and I thought Lily was marred for life when my MIL gave her rice cereal. If you’re reading this, my apologies again.). It wasn’t until months later when I finally recognized that okay, maybe I should have paid more attention to the physical readiness signs for BLW (like being able to sit up unassisted, loss of the tongue-thrust reflex, etc) rather than using her age as an indication. Because she totally wasn’t ready and it was stressful and scary when she would gag and choke. After a week or so I broke out the blender and did purées until she was about 8 months old.

Maggie on the other hand was a peanut in comparison to Lily, despite being more physically advanced. She was sitting unassisted by 5-6 months, enough so that we could leave her there and not be scared she would fall over. We were still putting pillows around Lily when she was 7 months old. Maggie was also a bigger sleeper, and didn’t drink as much. I tried sweet potatoes when she was just over 5 months and she wasn’t interested. We tried different homemade purées and store-bought pouches (wait, what? store-bought?! I’m sorry, but there’s just no way I can compare with the combinations they come up with these days. Quinoa-amaranth-kale? Buckwheat-apple-beet?) with varying success, but she just didn’t have a voracious appetite. Then suddenly at 7 months she ate some small pieces of something cut up (I can’t remember what), and we realized she just wanted to feed herself. I hadn’t considered letting her do this for another month, what with the whole Lily experience. But once we started letting her feed herself, she didn’t stop.

While Maggie eats most things, it of course still has to be soft enough and cut into bite-sized pieces. Her intro to solids coincided really nicely with winter, when we were (are) eating lots of soups, most of which Lily also likes. I love soups for new eaters because they’re usually chock full of veggies and different proteins that I otherwise find difficult to cook into that perfectly smushy, baby-friendly texture. So below I have my basic list of go-to items for breakfast and lunch, and some of my favorite soup recipes that Ryan, Lily, Maggie, and I all really like. Also, muffins! I love making mini-muffins for babies and little kids because they are tasty, nutritious, and easy when you’re packing a lunch.

baby girl eating
I love her little feet crossed at the ankle.

Breakfast

Our least creative meal. Usually toast or a waffle, and a fruit. If we have time she also gets yogurt (Siggs 4%, or half plain/half flavored Greek yogurt) or a smoothie. If we have muffins she gets a little.

Lunch

Fruit

All the soft fruits. There isn’t one she doesn’t like, and like most kids, berries are her favorite. Something we do give Maggie that I didn’t give Lily is fruit cups (in their own juice or other 100% fruit juice), because Lily was learning to eat during the summer when things like peaches were readily available. We also didn’t really give Lily citrus fruits until she was a year old, but Maggie’s had her fair share of clementines.

Veggies

The only veggie Maggie doesn’t really like is asparagus. Sometimes she’ll eat it if it’s cooked up with something else, like eggs. Here are some of her typical veggies:

  • Peas – from frozen. We definitely give her these the most frequently as they’re so easy.
  • Broccoli – from fresh. I can never get frozen broccoli to cook nicely.
  • Peppers – if the rest of us are eating raw peppers, I’ll cut some up into little pieces for her, cover in a little water, and cook into the microwave until they’re soft enough. If I’m roasting peppers (slice, toss in olive oil, roast for 20-25 minutes at 425), she’ll hoover them down.
  • Mixed frozen veggies – steamed on the stove, otherwise the carrots never get soft enough
  • Green beans – steamed or roasted
  • Carrots – steamed or roasted. Lily just started eating carrots again a few days ago, and I pumped to roast carrots again. They take kind of a long time so I like to roast a big bag of baby carrots on a weekend (this hasn’t actually happened in a while…)
  • Squash – roasted. I only get those pre-chopped containers of squash that Wegman’s sells because, no joke, peeling, seeding, and chopping a butternut squash is way too overwhelming for me right now (and yes, I know the microwave trick).
  • Edamame – from frozen. I just microwave, peel the skin off, and pop them in half.
Starch/Grains
  • Toast – with peanut or almond butter. Disclaimer: the old peanut butter avoidance guidance made no sense to me so I introduced it around 6-7 months with both kids (it’s since been changed to recommend early introduction).
  • Sweet potato –  mashed or baked.
  • Little pieces of wrap – this isn’t the most nutritious thing, and I only do it occasionally (whole wheat)
  • Pasta – again, a whole grain

Muffins – These muffins are lunch items. If I pack them for daycare, I break them into bite-sized pieces pieces.

  • Flourless Sweet Potato Blender Muffins – by far my favorite muffin recipe. I’ve made them with both almond butter and peanut butter, and they were great both times. Unlike other muffin recipes, you can’t double this batch because it’s too much for a blender to handle, but if Maggie’s the only one eating these they last a while.
  • Spinach Quinoa Egg Muffins – I don’t actually follow an exact recipe for these, but this recipe is pretty close to what I do (minus the ham). We always seem to have a lot of leftover quinoa so other than just freezing it for later, this is a great way to use it. I’ve made these with a few varieties of quinoa, and you can swap spinach for grated broccoli, kale, etc. I’ve been making these for Maggie since she started solids and she never had a problem with the egg or cheese and we weren’t very concerned as we don’t have food allergies in our family, but they do recommend holding off on egg whites as a potential allergen.
  • Peanut Butter Banana Cookies – So these aren’t technically a muffin and I haven’t made them yet for Maggie, but Lily loved these. I usually packed them as a snack, but they’d be fine as part of a meal in my book (I don’t use the chocolate chis). Plus they are tasty! I occasionally used raisins, and then I’d have to hide them so Ryan wouldn’t eat them because they’re basically dessert.
Sweet potato muffin, cheese, peas, blueberries, and raspberries
Ditto the above. Let’s not talk about how awful the lighting in my kitchen is in the dark of the morning.
Peas, peaches and pears from a fruit cup, cheese, hard-boiled egg.

Dinner

Maggie eats whatever we do. I love this stage.

Soups

  • Roasted Eggplant Soup – This soup is perfect as is, but I like to mix it up every time. My favorite way to do it is to follow the roasting directions but swap out the eggplant for a container of that Wegman’s squash I love so much, 4 tomatoes, one onion, garlic, and some baby carrots, and to cook some sweet potatoes in the microwave (they take way too long to roast). The rest of the directions are the same (including the encouragement to play with the spices). You could say a downside with this soup is that it has to be fed to little ones since it’s pureed, but right now Lily’s at this stage where she likes to feed bits of food to Maggie so she’ll sop up some soup with her roll and feed it to her which is just as cute as it sounds.
  • Garlicky Kale and White Bean Stew – Other than always using an entire bag of Wegmans pre-washed/cut kale, I keep everything the same. I like my soup to be more on the stewy side than brothy side, so this works nicely. Sometimes I use another recipe similar to this if I want to include potatoes or carrots. Maggie ate every single thing in this soup, from the kale to the onions, and her favorite was the white beans.
  • Detox Immune Boosting Chicken Soup – I used this as a guide to make chicken soup for the first time (versus following the recipe exactly), and it was the best soup I’ve ever made.  I also liked being able to have Maggie eat such a variety of ingredients at one meal. I had tried this crock pot chicken, potato, carrot, and green bean meal that was awful so I threw most of that into the soup and it was so. good. I’ve made chicken soup using chicken that I way over-seasoned and over-cooked and it also worked really well.
  • Veggie Tortellini Soup – I meant to make this once and accidentally made something else that ended up being more just like tortellini with sauce, with spinach added. The good thing about that accident is that I found out Maggie can eat spinach when it’s cooked. This would definitely be good though because, well, The Pioneer Woman.
  • Creamy Tomato-Basil Soup – I’ve never been a tomato soup fan but this recipe paired with  this Spinach and Ricotta Grilled Cheese was worthy of being served up at Elm Street Bakery. I’d eat this for days. It is again another recipe that needs to be fed to a baby.
So excited to be eating her first outdoor dinner!

 

Currently.

I’ve been pretty absent from here lately because I haven’t had any free time recently. We’re in the wedding-baby-preschool circuits right now, which means our refrigerator is plastered with save-the-dates and invitations and the paper calendar we have hanging on the wall has something written on almost every Saturday and Sunday, and sometimes more than one thing. I keep trying to finish Part II of What my kids are eating, but it’s taking forever so instead I’m going to do an interlude with what’s currently going on in my life.

Can’t miss an excuse to share a pic of this cutie patootie.

1.I’m struggling with keeping paper, Facebook, email, and word-of-mouth invitations/appointments straight right now. It’s easy at work where everything automatically goes into your Outlook calendar, and is synched with your phone. I can’t stand when people email a meeting/event date/time and don’t follow up with a meeting invite, and I think at this point most people I work with know that if I don’t have it in my calendar, I won’t be there. But there’s this weird disconnect outside the work world where no one ever sends me a calendar invite, so I also feel weird sending one to them. Because most of our non-work events happen on weekends, it works pretty well to put them on our paper calendar. Email and Facebook invites do occasionally get lost, and if I’m in a semi-social setting and trying to wrangle my children it’s safe to just assume I’ll forget whatever you just asked me to do/go to. On top of that, Ryan and I can’t really share a calendar because his work calendar is encrypted or something as it’s private information. Does anyone have a suggestion for how to do keep track of social events coming in through various media?

2. March has always been my least favorite month, and this past March just reinforced that. Lily and Maggie were both sick and ended up with ear infections, both of which had to be progressively treated with amoxicillin and then Augmentin, and, as you can imagine, both subsequently ended up with yeast infections despite our efforts to have them eat yogurt and also give them probiotics daily. So add trying to keep track of the little cards they write appointments on at the doctors into the mix. Wah. The one Saturday we had free in March (which only happened because we celebrated Ryan’s birthday on a Friday), I ended up having to take them both into the doctors (PS, I feel like taking one kid to the doctor’s used to seem semi-overwhelming which just makes me laugh now because taking 2 seems like nothing).

My mom, Maggie, and I took our first road trip which was ridiculous to pack for because I had a conference the first two days that I also had to set up a vendor table for, and then we had my sister’s baby shower the second half of the trip, which meant we had my stuff, Maggie’s stuff, my mom’s stuff, my stuff for the conference, and everything for the baby shower packed into the car. This meant that my evenings leading up to the trip were pretty consumed with trying to pack but also trying to cram in as much time with Lily as possible since it was the longest period of time I had ever spent away from her.

The upside of the trip (aside from my sister’s shower and getting to see her and a lot of our long-distance family) was that Maggie traveled fabulously and didn’t experience any sleep regressions (which used to happen when we traveled with Lily), and I got to take her swimming for the first time. The downside is that Lily touched something in the forest and suddenly had these white spots/dots in her eye, and then she later vomited so profusely and was so out of it that Ryan thought she was potentially having a serious allergic reaction (definitely in the realm of possibility with her history) and called an ambulance (lie: he had his friend’s girlfriend call the ambulance while he dealt with a vomit-covered, delirious Lily). I don’t know why, but these things never happen when I’m around and Ryan is always the one who gets vomited on. Thanks, husband. Despite his best efforts to clean all the things and air out the upstairs, our bedroom wreaked of puke when I got home. Lily was back to normal though.

Maggie was a champ while we ate all our meals out for days.

We didn’t have anything scheduled this past weekend for the first time since I can remember, but Ryan does work a few hours every weekend if you count that. This upcoming weekend is Easter and the various celebrations for that, followed by Maggie’s bday weekend (plus a preschool birthday party the next day). Then the last weekend in April I have a playdate I scheduled months ago, after which I work, and then we have a dinner…all in the same day. Maybe we can cancel Maggie’s 12 month checkup because the dinner is with her doctor? Jk. Sort of. Oh wait–just remembered I worked last Saturday, and spent last week coordinating showings and then actually showing our apartment that we are renting out for the first time because our current tenants (also known as my husband’s cousin and his girlfriend) are moving to Texas (briefly!). Can we talk Craigslist etiquette? Please use full sentences people. And “can I see it” doesn’t count. Nor does, “how much.”

3. May is the official launch of wedding season. So. Many. Weddings. Some are local, some not so much. I’m going to the 2 local ones (both of which are the big party-type wedding so I’m looking forward to that), and then my best friend is getting married in July in Florida. I’m going to take a few extra days off for that wedding, and Lily and I are flying down together. I am so beyond excited to go on an adventure with Lily and to see my bff and her family for the first time in a very long time. Can we also just mention that she’s getting married to her high school boyfriend? They spent college apart and then ran into each other in grad school and have been together ever since. And her mom has never even met Lily. I’m tearing up just thinking about this. Ryan will probably go to the out of town ones, and I may go to the regionally local ones.

Me, my bff, and her fiance at our prom.

4. BABIES! Everyone is having babies right now. But even more exciting, my sister and my SIL are both having babies this summer. I haven’t been an aunt to a new baby as an adult (I was 9 when my first nephew was born), and I’ve never lived near a niece/nephew. My SIL lives nearby so this will be really exciting.

5. Travel plans for the rest of the year: Ryan is traveling for work twice before the end of the summer, and I’m going to Saratoga in July and Albany in September for work. My trips will only be 2 nights tops, but going away with the kids at home is so difficult. It’s also not like you get half a day to recover after traveling for work, which I feel like you should between needing to pack and then come back and unpack and do laundry and get your life back in order before launching into the next week. I’m then going to LA in September to see my new nephew. I’ve never been to CA before so this will be another adventure. Ryan and I usually have another trip in September but we’re not sure if we’ll be going this year. I think we may have some breathing room in August? I’m going to try to take off every other Friday so we can enjoy the summer a bit.

6. For the first time in over 4 years, I am neither breastfeeding, pumping, nor pregnant. I basically don’t know what to do with myself. I stopped pumping because I had several days this past month where I was only able to pump once, so my supply plummeted. After that, I was doing so much work to get such a little bit of milk that I threw in the towel. I already feel so much more relaxed not having to worry about pumping and cleaning my parts and packing my pump stuff. The only problem is I’ve never weaned a baby off a bottle, and Lily probably didn’t have regular milk until she was almost 2 (but honestly I can’t remember). Downside of this being the first time in 4 years I have my body all to myself: I have to learn how to eat like a normal person again. I’m one of those people you hate while I’m breastfeeding, because I hover a few pounds below my normal weight. I’m already jealous of my breastfeeding self. I’ve indulged my sweet tooth the past 3.5 years (I didn’t enjoy sweets while pregnant with Lily), and it’s not going to miraculously go away so this is going to be a challenge. What I’m most looking forward to about not pumping: all the shelf space in my kitchen I’m going to have back. We have a shelf dedicated to pump parts and Mason jars, and we really need this for other stuff. And maybe my back getting back to normal.

Maggie seems to be doing just fine with her bottle.

7. Last night I was reading Lily a library book that compares feelings to animals, one of which is “Do you ever feel stubborn as a mule?” She responded to this with, “I was being stubborn as a mule when I wouldn’t put the frog away.” How is she so smart? I love hearing what she comes up with. I used to be really good about putting things in this app in my phone, but I haven’t been doing that recently.

8. Surprise tonight: Lily fell asleep at 6:45 on the 6 minute drive home. Maggie was in bed by 7:15. I got to spend an hour weeding and planting outside. They’ll probably each wake up 15 times to make up for it but ohhh that was nice.

Out before 7pm.

So that’s why I haven’t been around. But I promise, baby muffins coming soon

What my kids are (and aren’t) eating – Part 1

I feel like as parents we spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about three things:

  1. Poop
  2. Sleep
  3. Eating

You can’t avoid poop* (once you stop obsessing over if they’re pooping and what it looks like, they start talking about it constantly), and sleep is always evading you. Kids can be really picky eaters, and we spend so much time trying to figure out what they can and should be eating when they’re just starting out, and then what they’ll actually accept as palatable when they get a little bigger. But the thing about eating is that we at least have some modicum of control over it.

I know some parents get really frustrated or concerned about what their kids are eating, but just try to keep in mind that as long as you’re offering them healthy options, you’re doing everything you can. Kids will be picky, and they might go a week without touching a vegetable. But don’t freak out. They’re not going to get scurvy. We definitely do some bribing sometimes (“If you eat two bites of chicken, you can have dessert.”), and the main reason behind buying the little table was that Lily would not sit through a meal at the big one. (She ate all her meals at the little table for months. She eats with us at dinner now, but still prefers breakfast and lunch at the pint size one.)

My kids like to eat a ton and are pretty healthy eaters, but Lily can be suuuuper particular. I end up giving her really simple foods much of the time, and try to get the biggest bang for my buck out of something like a PB and J by making some easy tweaks. Working moms just don’t have the time to experiment with new recipes, so having go-to options like these is really important.

Lily couldn’t wait for me to finish making her lunch so she took things into her own hands.

*This post is just about what Lily eats. I’m doing a separate one about Maggie because we started table foods very early. We didn’t intend to do baby-led weaning but that’s what it ended up being, so stay tuned for more on that!

While we eat generally healthy we aren’t super crunchy granola. I think we’re pretty middle of the road. I’d love to cut sugars out of my diet and serve Buddha bowls for dinner and smoothies topped with chia for breakfast every day but I just don’t have time to do that right now. As a family we’re in this really busy stage in our lives where I need to have a handful of meals on rotation because I don’t have the mental energy to handle thinking of new ideas every week. And while the meals/items below are generally healthy, Lily does eat some snacks of questionable nutrition (mainly fueled by my own animal cracker obsession) and I have a mean sweet tooth.

A few other little things that guide the way our kids eat:

  1. We don’t do “kid foods.” If I wouldn’t make it for myself, I don’t buy it. The only things we’ve gotten that fall into the kid food category are mac and cheese (but we get Annie’s Whole Wheat Shells and Cheddar or their other grainy blend, mix it with peas, and I take the leftovers for lunch), and yogurt pouches between the ages of about 18 months-2.5 years to reduce mess during the morning rush. I might actually be able to avoid yogurt pouches with Maggie because she seems to like Kefir in a cup.
  2. I make sure to include a fruit at breakfast, and a fruit and vegetable at lunch and dinner.
  3. We don’t restrict them from eating what’s offered at other people’s houses and we occasionally order pizza or go out to eat, so obviously they’re getting less than favorable foods then, which I’m fine with.

My plug for whole grains: If you aren’t eating very well and want to make an easy change that has a big impact, switch to whole grains. Unlike trying to get more vegetables in your diet, by switching to whole grains you’re just tweaking something you’re already eating versus trying to add something new. A lot of people have a misconception that kids won’t eat whole grains, but if you don’t start them off with white bread, white rice, refined pasta, plain waffles etc. they won’t know the difference. So any time I mention bread, toast, pasta, etc. below it’s 100% whole wheat/grain. Also, grown-ups don’t eat white bread.

Lily’s Typical Meals
Breakfast

For a good week Lily asked for Teddy Grahams before breakfast every single day. She also had a screaming tantrum everytime when I said no. She also tried to get around it by asking for lunch, so then they would be a snack, or claiming she just at dinner.  Nice try, kid.

Peanut butter and jelly banana – this is her concoction. Banana slices, half of them topped with peanut butter and the other with jelly. Sometimes I used almond butter if we have it. Sometimes she has something else with it, like “frozen toast” (below), or peas (I’m not going complain about that odd request).

Smoothie – I say something like “Do you want a frozen yogurt smoothie?” but it’s really made with banana, frozen fruit, greens, plain Greek yogurt, milk, juice, and ground flax seeds. She doesn’t know the difference.

Oatmeal – Oatmeal with milk. She always eats a lot of fruit on the side.

Frozen toast – quite literally frozen bread. Recently I’ve been getting whole grain variations that also include spelt or other grains just to get more of a hearty variety. We of course pair this with something else (Kefir, yogurt, fruit, milk, etc.)

Bagels – cold or toasted, plain or with cream cheese, peanut butter, or almond butter. Wegmans sells these super spelty, grain-filled bagels in the frozen aisle of the health food section. Something I’ve been trying to do with grains since Lily eats so many of them is to only buy things I would eat for breakfast. I wouldn’t eat a regular bagel, but I feel pretty good about these ones. Again, served with fruit.

Muffins, pancakes (homemade): I’m not a huge fan of sneaking veggies, but I am a proponent of boosting whatever other foods you’re eating by adding veggies to them. I like to include a veg in baked goods whenever possible. By making them at home I can both add a veggie, and reduce the sugar.

I find it hard to offer veggies at breakfast, but because Lily likes her veggies plain I’ll give her some tomatoes or peppers if I’m making lunches.

Beverages: milk (whole milk), juice (100% without no sugar added, watered down, maybe once or twice a week), or water. Lily always wakes up looking super thirsty (read: her lips are cracked) but doesn’t often want to drink water in the morning so I try to get her to drink whatever I can. I always offer water first but man, this girl loves milk. I’m not a big supporter of drinking milk from the nutrition end, so this is hard for me to swallow (ha). She does a pretty good job of drinking water throughout the rest of the day so I’m not super concerned.

Lunch

I offer fruit, veggies, a starch or grain, and a dairy or protein at lunch. Here are some of our go-to options from each group.

Fruit: basically any fruit. She’s not a big fan of mango, kiwi, or blackberries but eats everything else.

Veggies: Lily recently started refusing broccoli. It used to be one of her favorites so this is tough. She has a very limited vegetable palette which doesn’t include any leafy greens (except in the summer when she challenges us to kale eating contests).

  • Cherry tomatoes – every kid’s favorite veg. So easy to pop in their mouth. Lily has been known to consume an entire pint of tomatoes in a sitting. Okay, she’ll leave two so I’ll see them and get more (no joke, she said this to my mom).
  • Bell peppers – uncooked slices
  • Carrots – baby carrots, uncooked (she just told me a few days ago she doesn’t like them anymore so this may be nixed from our list soon)
  • Peas – from frozen

That’s it. *sigh*

Starch/Grains

  • Whole grain bread, pasta, rolls, etc. As often as possible the pasta is a quinoa amaranth blend (my mom introduced us to this–she’s gluten-intolerant) or Banza (chickpea). These both have more protein than whole wheat pasta.
  • Sweet potatoes (baked, plain or with butter)
  • Corn on the cob (summer only)

Dairy/Protein: I don’t get very creative with lunch when I pack it during the week because I want to be sure it’s something she will actually eat since I won’t be with her when she gets it. I actually don’t usually make her lunch during the week…my mom makes it on Thursday, sometimes my MIL does on Tuesday, and unless school lunch is weird (Salisbury steak) I let her eat it. She won’t eat many proteins for me, but she always eats what they offer at school. I’m not thrilled she’s eating non-organic meat and poultry but you win some, you lose some.

  • Cheese – only sharp cheddar
  • Peanut or almond butter – on a whole grain
  • Turkey – lunch meat
  • Meatballs – usually turkey or chicken
  • Black beans – only at home since she sometimes refuses it
  • Yogurt – only at home, ditto the above
  • Tuna salad

Combo foods: usually leftovers of a dinner

  • Some form of a whole grain pasta with sauce (sometimes with ground turkey or chopped carrots mixed in)
  • Macaroni and cheese with peas
  • Wrap with peanut/almond butter or cream cheese
Dinner

By far the hardest meal, and we don’t get creative. If we make something like stir fry, we keep elements of it separate and without sauce or else she won’t eat it. Lily is also required to taste everything on her plate, even if she just touches it with her tongue. Here are some common dinners at our house:

  • Tuna, bread/roll, vegetable, fruit
  • Salmon, rice/grain/sweet potatoes, vegetable, fruit
  • Homemade pizza: whole-grain flatbread, pita, Naan, or pizza crust; sauce; cheese. Lily no longer likes veggies on top so gets hers on the side.
  • Soup with a roll (pureed soup is best)
  • Wegman’s turkey or salmon burgers (summer only), corn on the cob or sweet potato fries, vegetable, fruit
  • Chicken (but only if my mom or MIL makes it), rice/grain/sweet potatoes, vegetable, fruit
  • Eggs (scrambled, or an omelet but only if she’s stealing it off someone else’s plate), toast, vegetable, fruit
  • Chili, bread/roll, fruit (vegetable if needed)
  • Tortellini soup, fruit
  • Burritos: wrap, cheese, ground meat or chicken (she usually doesn’t eat it), tomatoes, peppers. This is one of those meals she eats only parts of.

I really like to cook, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that for the next few years at least I won’t really have the time or the audience to prep creative meals.

Sometimes kids would rather eat chapstick than whatever you put on the table.

 

*I feel like ever since Lily became obsessed, I talk about poop with other moms all the time. At work last week one of my coworkers who has an 8 year old was recounting for another coworker who has a 3 month old how I had been laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face while she told me about a time she had to remove her daughter’s arm-length poop from a public space by rolling it with a stick. The new mom was totally horrified.

Getting to know you.

The other day I was talking with my mom about the different relationships and connections I have with Lily and Maggie. I’m not sure how it came up, but it’s something I think about a lot. I’ve heard and read countless stories from women who had expected to feel an instant connection with their babies when they were born, and were disappointed/frustrated/distraught when they didn’t. Sure, most of them loved their babies, but it wasn’t this immediate overwhelming, all-consuming love like they had never felt before and had been conditioned to expect. But what almost all of these women shared is that, eventually, they did feel this. It happened gradually, over the course of weeks and months. And what most of them also found was that with their second and subsequent babies, the connection was more immediate.

For me, the opposite happened. I’m not sure what’s harder: being a first-time mom and trying to find some way to bond with a baby you thought you were meant to love immensely right away and just don’t, or being a second-time mom who felt this connection with her first, who was scared her entire second pregnancy how this new baby would impact her relationship with her older child and if she would have the same time and devotion available for her second…and then having those concerns come to fruition.

I love Maggie just as much as I love Lily. In the past six months my favorite day was the day I took off from work, but sent Lily to school. I got to spend the entire day with just Maggie. We played in the basement and went to Target, and it was the best day ever. I had never spent so much time alone with Maggie, and it was just so awe-inspiring to see what a little person she was becoming independently of me. The love I have for the two of them is just so different. When I started explaining to my mom how I just felt this really deep connection with Lily I expected her to kind of observe the relationship from the outside but instead she shocked me with her response. “Oh, no,” she said, “it’s like she shares a part of your psyche.” Wow. I had never been able to put that into words, but that is exactly what it is.

Many first time moms spend a lot of time floundering. They’re new moms, and they have to meet the needs of this baby who won’t sleep or can’t be soothed. There is a lot of “what does this baby want?” And to make it worse, many moms suffer from postpartum depression, anxiety, or the baby blues. This is the reality. This is most moms.

When I had Lily, the moment she was handed to me it was like I was suddenly complete. I looked at her and I knew her and I understood her. As the days and weeks went on, this only became more apparent and it’s still so to this day. I’ve always known exactly what she wants or needs. I can interpret her emotions and address them, unless it’s a disciplinary thing, but I still usually know why she’s hitting me or running away–we’re just still trying to figure out how to get her to do a better behavior. Like, obviously she wants to run through the clothing racks at Target or run outside fully dressed into a torrential downpour or eat half a cake with her hands when no one is watching because of the same reasons I’d want to. But when she’s feeling emotional, I can deal with it. I know the instant she wakes up in the morning or from a nap how she needs to be handled/dealt with. I can sense when she just needs to play or read alone, and when it’s been long enough and any moment she’s going to act out because she wants some attention.

But it goes even deeper than that. Maybe I’m the only adult who still feels this way, but do you ever feel like wearing a certain pair of socks or underwear, like from the moment you wake up? Well I do, and that’s happened ever since I can remember. But now, I’ll wake up with a feeling of what Lily wants that day, before she’s even woken up. Other times, and I’ve posted this before, I’ll wake up wanting muffins or pancakes and then she’ll ask for the exact thing I want. I posted once about this conversation she and I had in the car one night that started out with her asking, “Mama, do you feel like the moon?” And I was like, hell yeah I feel like the moon. We want the same foods, want to listen to music or have quiet at the same times, have the same sort of sensory preferences. She does this thing where she just spaces out, and at preschool they’ve mentioned this and the fact that she kind of plays alone a lot. But I get it, and I like this about her. I’ve always loved being around her and enjoy her companionship.

That’s why it might come as a surprise that having this connection makes things really difficult. Because I can anticipate and interpret her needs, and because she has such volatile emotional reactions, it’s easier for me to tell people what to do with her, or to just do it myself. I’ve had countless discussions with other people watching her about how it’s okay for them to do things differently but most of the time I just feel like, if I know what she wants, why should you both struggle to figure it out?

When Maggie came out, I really wasn’t ready. I thought I had another two weeks to both spend home with Lily, and to take the time to acknowledge being pregnant. There just isn’t the same air of excitement and anticipation around second and subsequent pregnancies as there is around your first. Your second and third and fourth won’t be your first baby or the first grandchild or great-grandchild. Because you already know, you won’t be waiting to see what the first kicks feel like, and people won’t constantly be asking to feel your belly. I carried so much guilt while pregnant with Maggie because of this. Then she came before I had those two weeks to be away from work and think about being pregnant and what she was going to be like. When they placed her on my chest I kind of felt like “Oh, okay, hello.” There wasn’t the overwhelming rush of emotions I had experienced with her sister. It didn’t come right then, and it didn’t come a few days from then.

9 months old and already at the little table.

Maggie was so different from Lily from the start. She slept so much, and didn’t have a voracious appetite. Then she went through her witching hour phase and I had no idea what to do with her. On top of understanding Lily, she had also been a really easy baby. I couldn’t soothe Maggie, and neither could anyone else. But the difference was that because I didn’t know how, I could let other people try. Lily was an open book, but Maggie I had to figure out. Since she was born, I’ve constantly been trying to read her and she’s always surprising me. Eventually one day, like all the moms I read about, I realized I felt that overwhelming love–just in a completely different way than with Lily. Maggie is so feisty and determined, and she rests her head on my shoulder in this way when I get home from work. She is the sweetest little peanut, and we’re all always remarking how stinking cute she is. She’s much fussier than Lily, but it’s less stressful for me because I know that someone else may be able to help her more than me. And I love figuring her out. One of the most striking things is that when I look at her, I’m looking at a different person. With Lily, it was like looking in a mirror at myself. Strangers used to stop me in public and sarcastically remark, “Well she doesn’t look anything like you, does she.” Now I know what it’s like to have a baby who doesn’t look like you, and who doesn’t share a part of your psyche. While I was fortunate not to suffer from the baby blues or anxiety either time, now I can understand what it’s like for the first time moms who are tired and floundering. I at least had a happy, healthy 2.5 year old to remind me that I did okay the first time around.

One of my favorite things is watching Maggie climb up the stairs. She books across the dining room or living room so fast her body kind of goes up and down on either side and she’ll sometimes shriek and look over her shoulder to make sure you know she’s doing something naughty. Then she gets to the stairs and the look of determination on her face is like nothing I’ve ever seen. When she gets to the top she usually races into Lily’s room and climbs onto her bed which is hilarious to watch. She has such a tiny little body and she grunts and breaths and heaves herself up and is then so proud of herself.

Determined to help clean up, even though she can’t walk yet.

So don’t worry if you don’t feel an attachment to your baby or if you’re having trouble bonding. You’ll get there. You’ll love them, and then you’ll love them differently than the next.

Spring-themed umbrella baskets: an Easter basket alternative

Easter is a strange holiday when you’re not Catholic. Plus, unlike Santa, I find the Easter Bunny to be straight up bizarre and I’m still confused about why we put jellybeans and chocolate in eggs so that side of the holiday is also lost on me. While last year Easter at our house kind of fell by the wayside what with me being hugely pregnant and having just moved in a few days earlier, the prior year I decided I would make the day a spring celebration. Lily got new rain boots, some garden tools (thanks Grandma and Grandpa!), seeds, and a seed starter tray. We planted the seeds in the tray and spent the day digging in the garden. I had high hopes of those seeds growing into beautiful vegetable plants but that didn’t happen because I didn’t read the instructions and way overestimated the amount of time I’d have on my hands (I ended up buying small plants instead of starting from seed). But it was a really fun way for me to still recognize it as a special day, and Lily ended up in the garden all summer long. I’ve also mentioned before that we try to emphasize experiences over things, and garden-related gifts are a nice way to still have a little something for kids to “open” while really giving them an experience that will last well into the fall.

Now that I’m a few years into this parenthood thing and have been learning more about gardening through my job, I have a better idea of what I can actually handle growing-wise. I saw an umbrella Easter basket on Pinterest which is a perfect alternative to the traditional Easter basket and fits in well with my spring theme. Plus I’m all about practicality, and a wicker basket filled with shredded paper is possibly the least practical thing you can give a baby or toddler. In case you’re interested in making your Easter a spring celebration and spending the day getting dirt under your nails, here is my umbrella Easter basket inspiration!

1)  Frog Rain Boots: There’s nothing that says “spring” like rain gear. Lily already has a raincoat, but her rain boots are pretty small and starting to fall apart. Western Chief is definitely the best brand of rain boots we’ve purchased, and these frog ones are adorable. They’re built to last, and come in all kinds of cute patterns. Oakiwear is another brand we’ve purchased that’s also pretty popular, but they just don’t hold up like Western Chief boots (Lily’s current pair of Oakiwear boots is cracking, a handle fell off, and they fade super fast). Plus these boots have a matching (2) froggy umbrella. I can’t wait to see how pumped Lily is going to be when she sees she got an umbrella. I might get Maggie some (3) sandals too, but Easter is a week before her birthday soooo we’ll see because let’s be honest, Maggie will just be excited to see everyone when she wakes up in the morning.

4) Wildflower seeds: We have this weird patch in our yard where the grass is different than everywhere else and grows really fast. As long as the weather is nice on Easter, we’ll turn the soil here and sprinkle some wildflower seeds or pollinators. Wildflowers are a great option for planting with kids because they are super easy to get in the ground and are fairly hardy seeds. Crossing my fingers that these work out for us this year!

5) Lettuces and (6) kale: When it comes from the garden or  farmers market, Lily loves kale.

She doesn’t have a huge vegetable pallet, so I’d like to capitalize on this. We also go through a ton of greens. We’re way too busy to have a full veggie garden, plus both our parents have huge gardens. We do have window boxes out front, and I want to try planting a variety of greens in them. This way they’ll be semi-attractive and also practical. I also know I cannot manage anything that can’t be sown directly, which makes greens an excellent option. I also just recently learned you can plant them a few times throughout the season, or rotate with something else like radishes so if I’m feeling ambitious and I get my act together we’ll try that. I’m going to order the seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Co. They have these art packs which are really pretty and Lily got a kick out of the ones my mom gave us last year (that didn’t get planted…oops.). Plus, shout out to the Hudson Valley.

7) Garden-related books: I don’t have a particular book in mind but these both look really cute. Lily is just getting to the age where she could grasp the concept of things happening underground, and babies love flaps. Plus I still have plenty of time to ask Dog Ears to  order them!

*Let’s be clear that I’m the family heathen: both my girls were baptized and Ryan takes Lily to church on weekends. I do join on holidays and may more often when Maggie gets older.

The reality of pumping at work: The Routine

If you ever wondered what it’s like to pump at work 3 times a day, 5 days a week, you’ve come to the right place. Now that I’ve shared my minimalist pumping supplies, I’m going to talk about how I use them. This post discloses the nitty-gritty of pumping and might be TMI for some of you. Consider yourself warned.

To start, let me remind you that I’ve experienced two considerably different pumping journeys. At first I was only going to share how it’s gone with Maggie, but I started writing it up and it was so depressing. So I’ve chosen to include my routine when I was pumping for Lily because while pumping is never easy, it’s also not always ridiculously difficult.

A comical image of what pumping at home looks like, just to start on a light note. Lily is obsessed with photos in case you couldn’t tell.
Pumping for Baby #1: The “This is so easy!” Routine

When Lily was still nursing I was like a cow. I produced enough milk for at least 2-3 babies. At work, I pumped 2-3 times per day. If I pumped 2 times I still walked away with excess milk, but I also risked leaking through my shirt (there were plenty of times when I didn’t bring enough extra breast pads and had to stuff my shirt with paper towels). I typically pumped every 3 hours, and did it in my office while not working. My boobs would literally start leaking at 2 hours 45 minutes, so I had to be pretty strategic about making sure I could do this because I was also running lab participants for up to 3 hours at a time. These were paid breaks–this wasn’t actually discussed with my employer, but just assumed.

I shared an office with another girl during my brief stint working full-time, and I would just go and sit facing the window so our backs were to each other. I kept headphones in my bag, and would listen to music while either closing my eyes, gazing out the window (at half a tree and a brick wall–we were in the basement), or scrolling through my phone. I tried to avoid looking at my phone unless I had something coming up I needed to plan, or to look at photos of Lily. Looking at photos of your baby is a good way to help you relax and, hence, let down. I actually occasionally listened to meditative music to help with this, which is something I forgot about until just now and will have to start up again.

I started each pumping session by double pumping. My right boob has always been a better producer (I could pump 6-9oz during my morning session), and I completely stopped pumping my left boob when Lily was about 9 months old. The last few minutes of each session I would switch to single-sided pumping so I could massage the last drops out. Because pump bottles are made for normal women (they hold between 5-6oz milk), I usually switched to single-sided once the bottle hooked up to my right boob was full. In the morning I’d pump anywhere between 7-10oz total, and then about 5-6oz at each of my other sessions. I seem to remember averaging around 16-24oz a day but I could be wrong. I also know that if I had a pumping session where I only pumped 3oz I probably would have had a heart attack. I was so obsessive about my supply, even though I had like 80oz just sitting in the freezer, and really anxious about missing sessions and my supply just disappearing. I also drank Mothers Milk tea like water for literally no reason.

After pumping, I would try to stealthily transfer milk from the pump bottles into Lasinoh bags. Sometimes I just left the milk in the bottles, but this was like playing Russian Roulette because when I did this I would typically overproduce that day and run out of bottles to use for my 3rd pump. I’d then bring my little freezer bag of milk to the kitchen and stick it in the fridge. I typically washed my parts once a day, because I’d bring two full sets.

Once I got home I would stick the milk in the freezer. It’s recommended to date and time your milk bags so you can give milk you pumped in the morning to your baby in the morning, etc. We never did this. I figured that she was getting breastmilk which was good enough. I typically put the bags it would make most sense for Maggie to drink in an obvious place. I’d sometimes have to cobble together a few bags of different sizes to get to around 6-7oz. The next day, my MIL would thaw the milk in a measuring cup filled with hot water before pouring it into a bottle.

Pumping for Baby #2: The “FML” Routine

Pumping for Maggie has been so hard. I’m working full-time, I have a real job, and I also have a low supply. Having a low supply is really unusual if you’ve had an oversupply in the past, and breastfeeding second and subsequent children is typically much easier, so I just have terrible luck. I don’t take paid lactation breaks, so usually try to shift my hours (really minutes) around so that I get to relax until my milk fully lets down, and so I can wash my pump parts (about 5 minutes out of the 20 minutes total it takes to set up, pump, store, and wash). Sometimes I take the full time to blog, look at my phone, right angry letters to Governor Cuomo about needing paid lactation breaks, etc. and then just knock time off my lunch or come in early/leave late. I pump for 15-ish minutes, 3 times a day.

I try to start by washing my hands, which I usually only remember if I just went to the bathroom. I’ve also been trying to sanitize my desk once a day (for like the past week. and Maggie’s 10 months old. whatever.). Anyway, I then sit down at my desk in front of my computer and hook my pump up to my right boob. Let-down usually happens about 2-3 minutes in. After that, I have to do a lot of “massaging” to get enough milk out. This means that I’m holding the pump with one hand, and squeezing with the other. If I wasn’t also trying to work at the same time, this would take less time because I could massage continuously. About 10 minutes in, I switch to my sad left boob, which I get 1/4 to 1/2oz from. While with Lily this wasn’t enough to justify pumping on my left side, now I need all the liquid gold I can get and I do a little “woot woot!” on the inside when I get a little stream vs. a few drops. I’ll often switch back to the right for a minute at the end to try to get to my goal. This is 3-4oz in the morning (depending on the last time I nursed Maggie), and 2-3oz for subsequent pumps. My daily goal is 10oz, as Maggie takes 2 5oz bottles during the day (thankfully she isn’t as demanding of milk as Lily was or we’d be buying a lot more formula). If I only get 9oz, I’m also happy as half the time she doesn’t finish her bottles.

After I’m done pumping I pour the milk into Mason jars. Like I mentioned before, I’m trying to aim for 5oz per jar. I’m so glad I read about storing and handling breast milk on KellyMom, because I now know it’s okay to add to previously cooled milk throughout the day. When I bought my Spectra, I also learned that you only need to sanitize pump parts and baby bottles for breastfed babies before the first use! This could have saved me (okay, Ryan) soooo much time when we didn’t have a dishwasher and were sanitizing in a thing on the counter. If you don’t have time to wash your pump parts, you can just store them in the fridge because this prevents the milk droplets left on them from going bad. You can also store milk in the fridge up to 8 days, so I never freeze milk anymore. side note, breastmilk also lines your babies got with magic fairy dust that prevents them from getting sick (just swirl, don’t shake, the milk). Basically, breastmilk = magical rainbow unicorn.

Milk stash, which is now completely depleted, and a sneak peek at our cheese/meat drawer! (that’s a joke)

I store my milk in my lunch bag in the fridge. I’m careful to rinse the Mason jars under water before reopening, because, let’s face it, there are tons of germs in lunch bags. Then I go on my happy way. I usually wash my parts right before I need them because I’m lazy. I have a sink in my office because it used to be a doctor’s office, which is random but I LOVE it.

One of the worst parts about this whole situation is that my back is wrecked from trying to pump and work, which requires a lot of hunching over. I have a pretty bad diastasis recti, and this is making it much, much worse because I spend so much time with terrible posture. I’ve let this go for such a long time, but I decided on my morning run today that I’m going to see if I can get physical therapy or rehabilitation for this covered by health insurance. I might day-wean Maggie at 12 months because I am so uncomfortable.

The only thing better about pumping for Maggie vs. Lily is that I have zero anxiety. Because I have no expectation of being able to pump enough for her, it’s not stressful.

Yay, isn’t pumping fun! Now everyone go write angry letters asking for better support for new moms. And free yoga for me, because seriously, my back.

The reality of pumping at work: Supplies

Hey guys! A few of you commented that you were tucking information about cloth diapering etc. away for when you needed it, so I went ahead and added a “Pin It” button to my photos. Just hover over a photo to save the image on Pinterest. I use Pinterest for everything, and just started a Pinterest page for Oh, Sweet Thing where I’m saving things like my favorite baby gear, baby-led weaning foods, and activities for kids.

It wasn’t until I went back to work full-time after Maggie was born that I realized how difficult pumping truly is. With Lily I had an oversupply and a cushy full-time job for about a month before going down to part-time. I’m going to go into (graphic) detail about my pumping routine because I think it’s important to prepare yourself for what this is going to look like and, if possible, talk with your employer about how pumping will fit into your schedule. Since you don’t get paid for pumping breaks unless you work during them and all. But first, I want to start with the supplies.

While I didn’t begin my pumping journey this way, I have become a minimalist pumper. I’m not sure I fully qualify because I have a huge bag of leftover parts from two defunct pumps (more on this later), but at this point in my life as a working mom, I have my supplies down to an incredibly bare minimum. Like, I don’t think you can get more basic than this (except for the Clorox wipes). It seems parents are becoming more and more aware about reducing the sheer number of things they accumulate (or are trying to do their little part to reduce their impact on the environment because they’re terrified what the current administration will try to do to it), and pumping is a really great place to try to cut back because you can either create a huge amount of waste, or get by with a few key items. I’m also partially able to do this because I don’t freeze my milk, but if you read on you’ll see how to freeze milk while still cutting back on plastic.

1)Spectra S2 Plus Electric Breast Pump: I am on my fourth pump. The first pump I got was an Ameda. At first I thought it was okay, but it seemed to just get worse and worse. Ryan bought me a Medela Symphony for our first Valentines Day as a married couple. I was swooning. It was such an improvement over the Ameda. Something happened with the motor at one point, and Medela replaced the entire pump for free because I had been using it under a year. The pump I received is the same one I started off using after Maggie was born. I couldn’t justify getting a new pump (even though they’re mostly free)  from a moral standpoint: you should see all of the pump bottles, flanges, caps, tubing, valves, and general plastic I had accumulated. I had enough parts that I could double pump (both sides at the same time) three times in a day and not have to wash a single thing. Ryan recently said something about how we’re going to kill dolphins with all the toys we have. This is exactly how I felt about getting a new pump. But of course my Medela petered out and I was forced to replace it.

I did some research and with the validation of a lactation consultant chose the Spectra S2 PLUS Electric Breast Pump. It’s  much more efficient, quiet, and compact than the Medela. I have one set of parts which means I have to wash them during the day. I could purchase another set which I did with my Medela but by conscience won’t let me (dolphins and all). This is actually less cumbersome and problematic than trying to keep track of countless parts at home.

2) Nenesupply Duckbill Valves: Breastpump valves are pretty fragile and susceptible to tearing. After I had a valve tear I came across these Nenesupply valves and decided to try them after reading reviews stating they made pumping more efficient. The verdict: they totally do! While they don’t technically increase the amount I pump, I end up with more milk volume because I’m able to express more milk in the 15 minutes I give myself to pump. This is huge when you have low supply like me. They’re apparently compatible with Medela pumps as well.

3) Mason jars: I didn’t realize how expensive breastmilk storage bags were until I was working and pumping full time. I was spending close to $20 a month on bags that, because my supply was so low, were being discarded within 24 hours of being filled. That would end up being upwards of $180 if I pumped until Maggie was one. Now, if you have a strong supply and want to build up a freezer stash you’ll may want to go with bags. But there are alternatives if you want to save money and cut down on plastic either because dolphins, or because estrogen proprioceptors.

After some research I discovered Mason jars can be used to store milk. I had a lot of 16oz jars but ended up getting the smaller 8oz ones because it’s easier to put 5oz in them which is what Maggie drinks. Plus they were onle like $4 and we still use the big ones we have. (PS We were lazy and put the lids in the dishwasher and they rusted. I decided to try out plastic lids and they leaked. I got a full refund from Amazon but no compensation for having the supplement with formula while Maggie had a double ear infection. Just use metal, wash by hand, and boil occasionally). Kelly Mom says you can store milk in the fridge for 3-8 days which is perfect for me right now. However, when I needed to freeze milk I would simply freeze it in the same ice cube trays I used to freeze baby food. After they were frozen, I put them in freezer bags for storage. Then I’d pull out however many I needed for a bottle.

Mason jars are great for storing milk because you can heat the milk right in them much more quickly thank milk will heat in a plastic bottle. Simply fill a pot with a few inches of water, add the Mason jar, and warm up on the stove. It takes less than 5 minutes. If you freeze your milk in ice cube trays you will need to add cubes to a bottle to thaw in the fridge overnight, or you can put them in a Mason jar on the stovetop for quick thawing.

I was always uneasy about thawing and warming milk frozen in bags in hot water because you wouldn’t heat something in Tupperware right? Same thing with heating milk in plastic bottles: we still do it when I’m not able to add just the right amount of milk to my jars during the day, or when timing and communication with the many people graciously feeding Maggie just don’t line up. But using glass whenever possible makes me feel so much better. If more glass bottles had been affordable and available when Lily was a baby we would have used them. However, we were having combined wedding and baby showers so wanted only to register for the essentials. Lily didn’t get fed a huge number of bottles so the plastic wasn’t as much of a concern, and we ended up having a hard time finding a bottle nipple Maggie liked so could have wasted a lot more money had we replaced everything with glass bottles. There are so many affordable glass bottle options out there now that I definitely recommend it for new moms!

4) Ziplock bags: I store all my clean pump parts and my Mason jars in Ziplock bags to avoid contact with other things I may occasionally stow in my pump bag (Tupperware from lunch, running clothes, tablecloths I need to wash for work…)

5) Bottle brush and dish soap: Because we don’t have a kitchen at one of our offices, and because my regular office has a sink right inside it, I bring my own.

6) Disinfecting wipes: These are a new addition to my routine. I only use Clorox wipes during norovirus/rotovirus/flu season, and I try to wear gloves because like hand sanitizer, these things also kill beneficial bacteria.

7) Tote bag: Another bonus about the Spectra is that, unlike many other pumps, you can carry it (and your supplies) in any bag. Like i mentioned I often carry other things in the same bag as my pump so I typically use a pretty spacious tote.

What’s in your pump bag?

 

Living Local: Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe

Happy Friday! Today I’m here to share Dog Ears Bookstore and Cafe as the second local business in my Living Local series. I first discovered Dog Ears while I was running. I kept passing by this eclectic little spot nestled between Potters Rd and Abbott Rd in South Buffalo, right on the other side of Cazenovia Park. I finally stopped by for a coffee and have gone back at least once a week ever since. I’m highlighting Dog Ears today because it’s Free Coffee Friday! You can get a free small coffee before 2pm every Friday. Need a bigger caffeine boost? A medium is just $0.25. Did I mention they also have a coffee card you get punched each time you order coffee? Between this and Free Coffee Fridays I’m in there all the time!

I reached out to the director of the non-profit bookstore and cafe, Thomas McDonnell, and then had a chance to meet him in person a few weeks ago. He shared a ton of information about various community literacy projects they’re running and showed me the upstairs space where they hold programming. They also do a great job of supporting the local community which is receiving a boost from South District Council Member Chris Scanlon. I always check out the flyers covering their entryway for upcoming events. While I could go on and on about this, I know you want to hear more about why it’s my favorite kid-friendly bookstore and cafe in all of WNY. The menu is fresh and healthy (don’t worry–you can follow it up with one of their baked goods), and the entire place is open and welcoming. Their kids menu options all come with a side of fresh fruit. They have this cozy space for kids in the back where I have spent many a hot afternoon enjoying an iced coffee while Lily perused their books. If you’re looking for a publication they don’t have in stock, they can order it–I’ve chosen to do this instead of Amazon-priming myself. They also meet my criteria for baby-friendly space: you can maneuver a double-wide stroller through the bookstore and cafe (plus they have a ramp in the back where their outdoor seating is), and they have a huge, spacious, clean bathroom that also has extra diaper-changing essentials if you forgot anything! It’s the perfect spot to relax on your own, or to meet some moms and babes for a mommy date.

I asked Tom a few questions and he shared some more info about current and upcoming programming for families and youth. So here we go!

Dog Ears Bookstore and Café is a really unique place. When you walk in, you’re met by the perpetually friendly and down-to-earth staff, and the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Coupled with the homey assortment of seating options and walls lined with books for all ages, you can’t help but feel welcome. Tell us more about the café and bookstore, and what they have to offer.

 What we really want the community and our customers to know is that we are a non-profit, and choosing to spend your money here helps us with our mission which is “Our programs are designed to develop life skills through reading with encouragement, facilitation and education while offering a bookstore to cultivate and support the reading and writing process.” My cry to all my fellow teammates is customer service and being part of something special. I never mind hearing good or bad stories about the place–it makes me feel good and gives me cause to improve. Here’s more about our establishment, from our mission statement:

It is the classic “around the corner” bookstore that is quaint, inviting, and a place where all readers want to go. Knowing that major bookstores can crush small neighborhood stores, it is necessary to apply for grants and operate on a not-for- profit basis. The sales from the bookstore help to pay employees and more importantly, the furtherance and continuance of the programs. With the bookstore generating 50% of our revenue, we show the community that we practice our preaching and offer more to the people than just programs. We offer a place of knowledge, gathering, shopping and friendly service out of dedication to books. Employees are not people that just point customers in the right direction, but readers who care about what customers are reading. How you are treated in a store and what you read are key factors in the return stages of any successful reading environment. The programs are very successful because of the bookstore as young and adult readers need encouragement and direction.

What does it mean to be a Literary Enlightenment Center?

It means that we are community-minded and want to give people the best opportunity to succeed in life, the workforce, school and being a contributing member of mankind and helping others. The Enlightenment Literary Arts Center is vastly different than the for-profit institutions to send children for help when they are faltering at school, which are usually in suburban communities and cost money.  Our goal is to staff the programs in a similar manner as learning centers but  offer facilitation paid for through the grants and bookstore sales, and not of the pockets of our community members with a desire to learn. We won’t just provide books. We go beyond that – as a center to encounter reading and writing.

What kind of programming do you offer families and kids in the community?

Our Puppy Tales program for 2-4 year olds is a 6-week program that includes stories, crafts, and snacks. Each child gets a book at the end to build their “Libraries for Life.” South District Council Member Chris Scanlon sponsors our Family Literacy Nights (the third Monday of each month) where family members get together to read, do crafts, and have a healthy snack. We also do movie nights the third Friday of each month, and have a free summer reading and writing camp. There’s always more information on our website and Facebook page about our program and upcoming events.

Where do you get the inspiration for your cafe menu? My personal favorite is the Turkey Garden Club, but you have a huge variety of options that I really enjoy and feel good about offering to my kids. Plus your hot drink menu and seasonal specials are a sleep-deprived mom’s dream come true.

We originally named all of our stuff after authors and still strive to listen to our customers and please them (while still being cost effective) . We had a teaching chef some time ago who managed the café and helped design the menu, but now Lainie is diligent in staying on top of trends and tweaking new and original ideas. Krista Van Wagner, formerly of Curly’s, is now helping and we look to stay fresh, relevant and here for the community. And we only use fresh and the best products for our menu.

What else would you like to share with families who might want to visit Dog Ears?

Just that we are here and have a mission and can help anybody through books, stories and words. We give people a chance and just like a Christmas song we work with 2-92 year olds. You can come in as a toddler and walk up our stairs of programming and we will be here when you are 92 ready to make your life fulfilling.

Maybe I’ll see you at Dog Ears today when I grab my free coffee!

Resolving an eat/sleep association, and what it means for breastfeeding (or, our un-maternity leave policies)

After I posted about our struggles with Maggie’s sleep, someone suggested I join the Respectful Sleep Training/Learning Facebook group. I was hesitant to do this and put off posting after I was accepted into the group. I only received a response from one person, and after asking a few questions she definitively stated “She has an eat/sleep association.”

This wasn’t the answer I was looking for. I didn’t think this was her issue as she hadn’t really wanted to nurse at night the previous few nights. I also didn’t want to hear this because Lily had very clearly had this problem, and we weren’t able to push through it. If I hadn’t been going out to dinner a few days later and missing bedtime, we probably wouldn’t have considered trying to push her last feed until 30 minutes before bedtime like the poster suggested. But I was, and I asked Ryan to give her her bottle in the living room with the light on before bringing her up to her room for stories and then bed.

“How did it go?” I asked when I got home. “She drank 6oz,” he said. 6oz. There is no way I could ever produce 6oz. She then proceeded to sleep through the night. Of course I didn’t because I was sick after not sleeping for a week, but we’ll get there.

DMFeeling strong after a good night’s sleep.That was Friday. We’ve followed the same routine since then (so 3 more nights). She wakes once between 1am-3am for her pacifier, and then once around 5am to nurse. She’s had a 5+ oz bottle each night, which again is more than I can produce.

I’ve considered trying to nurse her downstairs but this is problematic because she gets so distracted. And I think getting more milk from a bottle is really helping her sleep through. This means I only get to nurse her once a day except on weekends, which makes me so sad. This also means I have to pump more often and we have to supplement with formula. What I think I’ll try is nursing her in her room with the light on, and then going back downstairs to finish up with a formula bottle while we hang out with Lily. After both girls are in bed, I can pump again. But my supply is already dwindling after just a few days. For someone who breastfed for 26 months the first go around and wants to soak in every snuggle with a baby I only see a few hours a day, this is heartbreaking.

Like I’ve said before, I don’t have anything against formula. I use it! But I use it because pumping isn’t working out. Pumping isn’t working out because at 13 weeks postpartum I went back to work. And I went back to work because the United States has maternity leave policies similar to those of developing nations. Everyone knows this, and everyone knows the benefits of paid maternity leave (and subsidized childcare to help ensure women re-enter the work force), so why isn’t anything being done? Oh, I know, 12 weeks paid leave by 2021 blah blah blah. It’s embarrassing that anyone is “proud” that policy makers are taking this step. So yes, I’m angry and frustrated that I have to give my baby formula, but not because I think formula is bad or unhealthy. I’m angry because I have no choice in this matter.

I recently read this article, which articulated my frustration about things like being forced to go back to work so soon and how we aren’t paid for pump breaks, and opened my eyes to some concerns I had never considered before, like the deliberate decision not to mention breastfeeding in NYC’s Latch-on campaign. I feel like there’s nothing we can do except complain, because the dial is only moving in 2-week increments and that’s in NY which op have the most progressive family leave policies in the country when they’re enacted. So here I am complaining and feeling frustrated, and I’ll continue complaining and feeling frustrated. But at least I’ll be getting some sleep.

The lazy mom’s guide to cloth diapering

Where do you fall on Crappy Mommy’s Crappy Mohs Scale of Crunchy Mamas*? Okay, so hopefully that made you laugh and you realize it’s meant to point out a fatal flaw of many mamas: wanting to be crunchy, and wanting other moms to know just how crunchy you are. I remember being a few months into motherhood and somehow finding myself at a 5, which is completely laughable for two reasons: I was trying to do exactly what Crappy Mommy was poking fun at, and PS there’s no way I was ever higher than a 3.5.

Anyway, I’m not crunchy. I wish I were, but it can be so expensive which is kind of ironic (pretty sure you either have to make twice as much as we bring home a year to be able to send your kid to the Waldorf or Montessori schools, or not work at all so you can manage half-day preschool schedules). I’d love to have a giant vegetable garden, not let my kids watch TV, make real dinners from scratch every night, and home school. I know some moms are able to do this while working full time with more kids than I have, so if you’re one of them tell me your secret now. Something we do that a lot of people equate with crunchiness though is cloth diapering. In reality it’s more like rectangles and squares: you don’t have to be crunchy to cloth diaper, but you have to cloth diaper to be crunchy. And if you’re really crunchy you use prefolds and unbleached cotton and maybe even sew your own diapers from wool you wove on your loom. By candlelight. Beeswax, of course.

But I’m lazy, and I wanted to cloth diaper for environmental and financial reasons. When I was researching which diapers there were all these comments about how “____ is my favorite because they have so many cute patterns!” Okay, cute patterns are a perk, but let’s be serious: baby butts are adorable no matter what you dress them in. My approach to cloth diapering is wholly practical, from cost to the process surrounding the use of the diapers we chose. Cloth diapering can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many types and brands, and the variety of inserts is mind-boggling. Thankfully if you’re taking the practical approach, it’s a little more straightforward. So here is the breakdown of our stash and process:

baby with balloons
My favorite cloth diaper photo.
Diaper Type

There’s really only one type of cloth diaper to consider if you’re lazy and practical: the All-In-Two. AI2 diapers have a reusable outer shell that you wipe clean between changes. You either snap an insert in, or lay an insert in flat. They’re less expensive than pocket** and fitted diapers because of the fact that you can reuse the shell. While you purchase the inserts separately, they are relatively inexpensive so don’t add to the cost very much. Also, I don’t know this for a fact but I think refurbishing Ai2s is probably easier than pocket or fitteds. We used Bum Genius pocket diapers for a while and I found replacing the elastic to be nearly impossible.

Diaper Brand

We are currently using Best Bottom Diapers, Blueberry One Size Coveralls, and a few Rumparooz One Size Diaper Covers. All of our Best Bottoms are left over from Lily, and about half have been refurbished (read: we replaced the elastic in the leg gussets, and the Velcro in the diapers that had them). Some are newer than others because we did a really bad job of maintaining the Velcro on our diapers. While Velcro is easier to close up when you have a squirmy baby, it’s also much harder to maintain and much easier for a baby to rip off. Lily always had to have snaps if I wasn’t going to put clothes or a cover on her (hot summer days, dresses). For this reason, I recommend only getting snap covers. We have about 12-15 diaper covers. This is plenty.

The Best Bottom diapers are fantastic and the leg gussets are so secure, but I absolutely love the Blueberries. While they’re more expensive, if I could go back and re-purchase everything, I’d only get Blueberry One Size Coveralls. The Rumparooz are pretty bad. They are just so bunched up and fit really poorly. You get what you pay for.

girls
Blueberry Coverall
Lily with a diaper cover over her cloth diaper with Velcro closure. The velcro on this one was so worn out and she kept ripping her diaper off.
Inserts

Unlike the other two covers, Best Bottoms use a snap-in insert. We use their microfiber inserts which are very soft and absorbent. These also fit very well in the other two covers, with which you can use any “lay flat” insert. Rather than purchasing new inserts when we replaced our Bum Genius diapers with the Blueberry and Rumparooz, we just reused the Bum Genius inserts.  I recently learned that they are not intended to be in contact with your baby’s skin, so I purchased some very inexpensive Oso Cozy doublers. We ended up purchasing extra Best Bottom inserts to make up for the fact that we didn’t have 3 inserts for every cover.

3 inserts per shell is the magic number.

Overnights

With Lily, we used Best Bottom Overnight Inserts. These were not enough for Maggie, who is a heavy wetter. We used disposables for a few months overnight before the cost got to me. I purchased some hemp doublers (I don’t think the brand matters), and these have worked so well. Hemp is more expensive than microfiber or cotton, but it is much trimmer and more absorbent. I use one of our Bum Genious inserts, and two hemp inserts: one on top. and one on the bottom. OR one Best Bottom insert on top, with two hemp inserts below (the microfiber-cotton combo absorbs more quickly than the hemp, which is much more absorbent but takes longer to absorb which is why it should go on the bottom).

Diaper Cream

You can’t use just any diaper cream with cloth diapers. Many people recommend using a liner every time you use diaper cream. We tried a Burt’s Bees cream we were gifted once that was supposedly cloth safe but it absolutely wasn’t. We use Weleda Diaper Cream without a liner. We don’t have staining or repelling. Our wash process helps with this, too.

Dirty Diaper Storage (wet bags)

We have two Thirsties Diaper Pail Liners. You don’t need to use any special diaper pail. We have two large Planet Wise wet bags. When I needed to get a few more because two wasn’t enough for full-time childcare, I got Alva Baby Wet Bags. I’m not sure why, but these are much less expensive and way better at preventing leaks. The Planet Wise bags leaked all the time and were so stinky. We have four wet bags.

Washing

Let’s start with poop. If you breastfeed only, you can throw poopy diapers in the wash without scraping the poop off. Once your baby starts solids (or if you combo or formula feed), you have to flush the poop. Because we are lazy and practical, we use toilet paper or a spatula to scrape the poop off if it doesn’t easily come off. Maggie was on amoxicillin twice in two months, and I admittedly had to dunk and swish multiple diapers. Like as many as I did the entire time Lily was a baby. Some people have diaper sprayers that attach to their toilet, but because I dunked like 5 diapers with Lily, I can’t justify the investment. This does mean that, while our diapers are clean, some are stained. It’s not like anyone is looking, so it doesn’t matter.

You should wash your diapers every 2-3 days. Thank god for my mom because this can be really difficult. I think it’s kind of a routine thing like exercising though: once you get into it, it’s not hard to keep up. My parents have been out of town for two wash cycles, and I just got them done nbd. Here’s how washing works:

  1. Detergent: it must be cloth diaper-friendly. The “pure” versions of mainstream detergent brands (Tide, Arm and Hammer) are. We used Arm and Hammer until after Lily was one with no problem. Then everything started stinking. I did a lot of research and came upon Charlie’s Soap. It solved all of our smell problems, and we use it on all of our clothes. I am a firm believer in detergents that can be used with every item you launder.
  2. Wash process: Cold rinse, then hot wash with as much water as possible, and finally an extra rinse. At our old house we had an awful washer machine (that was also two flights down and on the opposite side of the house as the nursery), but adding a towel to our washes made everything work out okay (diaper washes are smaller than regular washes which can mess things up). This washer did the job fine, but we did have to go up and down the stairs a few times. We had to get a new washer a few months after moving into our new house. It was really reasonably priced (read: under $900), but has awesome wash functions including one of those sensors that tells it how large the load is. I can put in the detergent, select the type of wash (“Towels”), and prewash, and “Water Plus” (you should get as much water involved in the cycle as possible–sorry, Californians) all at the same time. I do have to go back down to do the last rinse, but this only takes 17 minutes with my washer.
  3. Special treatments: Sometimes things get stinky. I’ve started to throw some baking soda in every wash and this has helped so much.
  4. Drying: Hang dry shells, and tumble dry inserts on high.
Travel

The only 2+ night trips we would bring cloth diapers on were trips to my parents. They live in town now, so any trips of this length will involve disposables in the future. We use Seventh Generation. I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect other people to be comfortable with you washing your baby’s dirty diapers in their washer, or to expect that there will be a reliable washer and dryer available. If I was renting a house or condo with a washer and dryer I would probably bring our cloth diapers, especially if it was something like a week long. You should always have at least a handful of diapers on hand in case you run our or the power goes out on wash night (both have happened to use more than once).

Swim

We use reusable swim diapers. I think the disposable ones are super gross.

Swim diaper! Also, an overnight trip (several nightsl ) during which we used disposables.

One final note: I often put my kids in one pant-size up with cloth diapers.

*Can we talk about family cloth? WTF. I’m all about reducing waste, but toilet paper has hygienic purposes and let’s not forget there are still plenty of people in the world who reserve one hand for wiping.

**We have one FuzziBunz One-Size Pocket Diaper. I got this because I wanted to see what pockets were all about. So expensive ($16.95 for a diaper that must be washed after every use), but so soft and cute. Not for someone who has other caregivers, because there is no way a non-parent will want to fish a liner out of a pocket.