Tuesday, March 29, 2011

1 year!

My baby is a whole year old!  Well... I'm a little late on posting this, so he's actually 13 months as of yesterday! 

We are now entering into the world of seconds.  It was his 2nd first day of Spring, it will be his 2nd Easter, my 2nd Mother's Day!  All of the calendar firsts have officially been experienced and my baby isn't so much of a baby anymore. 

Here are a few shots from his birthday party:

Of course he enjoyed playing with his cake, but none made it to his mouth.

But don't worry, we made sure he got a few bites of birthday cake!

What is 1 year old Jack up to? 

His favorite things to do are to cruise around the room holding on to furniture and push his walking toys all over the place.  He has not taken any steps on his own yet, but he's so close!  He's now walking back and forth across the family room with his toys, but standing off to the side and only holding on one handed to push it.  Ahhhh! 

He loves anything with wheels and seems to prefer playing with these toys on something.  Usually either the coffee table or bay window, but sometimes he even tries to get his trucks up on the TV stand or the end table.  You can tell when he starts to get tired because he starts getting uncoordinated and if he can't get a toy up on to whatever he's aiming or it's like the end of the world and can prompt a quick meltdown until someone comes to help him achieve his goal! 

He also really likes to play with balls.  He's been rolling them back and forth with us for a while, but he can now pick it up and throw it and has even figured out that he needs to angle his body towards us and aim in order for it to reach his intended destination. 

He is starting to really repeat sounds that we make.  I say, "bye-bye, bye-bye" and occasionally he'll say "buh-buh" back.  Last night I was saying, "let's go see what DaDa is doing.  Let's go find DaDa" and he said, "Da Da Da".  You can tell that he's trying to repeat what you're saying to him!  And of course he still says, "MaMaMaMaMa", especially when he's upset. 

He likes to go through all the "fun things" he knows how to do, especially during meal time.  He claps when we say "yaaay!" and likes us to clap back.  He waves bye-bye when prompted and he still does it with his hand facing him, which is adorable!  He still loves to play peek-a-boo, and recently he has started doing "so big!".  He throws his hands up over his head when we say that.  And he'll give high-fives. 

He's definitely interested in reading books with us now and his long-time favorite is still Touch-and-Feel Baby Animals.

We read it so much that he seems to think that all books are touch-and-feel so he tries to feel the pages of regular books too.  He insists on reading it several times a day by bringing it to us and putting it in our laps.  He gets a huge grin when he realizes we're going to read it again. 

He's still not self-feeding and he's still usually waking up one time overnight.  He's been down to 2-3 bottles (the 3rd being overnight if he wakes) for several weeks now and he now takes half formula, half cow's milk in each bottle usually totaling 8-12oz of each in a day. 

He's been up and down with eating.  A few months back he started refusing purees in favor of real food.  Now he's back to wanting purees and in the last few days he's refusing pretty much anything that's not from a jar.  I that this has everything to do with the fact that he's teething awfully bad right now!  The last week or so have been very trying and he's obviously in pain.  He must be working on his 1 year molars as he's never struggled with teething before, but oh boy, this is a whole different ballgame!  I just hope they pop through soon so that he feels better and we can all relax!

Here are some random pics:

He's always a happy boy after naptime!  I always have a big grin waiting to greet me!

And his little airplane is still one of his favorite toys.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of March 27th

ZOMG!  I can't believe it's the last week of March!  Spring is here and I'm sooo ready for warmer weather.  I'm really a warm weather kinda gal! 

Sunday:  Dinner at parent's house

Monday:  Leftover Pot Roast Casserole - trying a new recipe to use up the leftover shredded beef from last week.
Tuesday:  Buffalo Chicken Nachos - carry over from last week that we didn't get to.

Wednesday:  Burritos

Thursday:  Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter and Garlic Bread

Friday:  Mongolian Beef with Broccoli, Mushrooms, and Brown Rice 

Saturday:  Homemade Pizza

I'm linked at OrgJunkie.com

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tried and True Recipe: Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Broccoli Cheddar Soup is pictured in an Artisan Bread Bowl

I don't know about you, but I love me some Panera!  They have yummy soups, salads, and sandwiches and it's a pretty good choice if you're eating out.  I especially like their Pick 2 option where you can choose 1/2 sandwich and a bowl of soup, or 1/2 a salad and a bowl of soup, or 1/2 a sandwich and 1/2 a salad.  Not to mention their yummy coffee drinks... or their chai lattes... or the iced green tea that is probably mostly sugar... YUM!

What I don't love is their price.  You definitely pay a premium price for their product even though it's a chain and for two people to get a meal and a drink each, it's definitely not a cheap eating option!  But it's goooooood... mmMmmm! 

Anyway, a while back I realized that I'm quite capable of recreating some of our Panera favorites at home where it's a lot less expensive, we have leftovers, and I control everything that goes into the meal. 

One of my favorite Panera copycat recipes is this Broccoli Cheddar Soup.  I made it for the 3rd or 4th time this weekend and I think I've finally perfected the recipe.  Not only is it good, but it's a snap to pull together!

Panera-like Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Adapted from Food Network via Amber's Delectable Delights


4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 bay leaves
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
1 large carrot, grated
2 1/2 cups (about 8 ounces) sharp cheddar cheese*, shredded


Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Whisk in the flour and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes, then gradually whisk in the half-and-half until smooth. Add the chicken broth, bay leaves and nutmeg, then season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the broccoli florets to a steamer basket and lay the grated carrot on top of that.  Cover with a lid and steam until tender, about 5 minutes.  Set to the side until soup has finished thickening.

Add the broccoli and carrot to the broth mixture and continue to simmer, about 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender.  I like to do this very carefully so that it does not get completely smooth.  I just pulse the blender a few times so that some of the veggies get pureed into the soup and others remain in chunks.  (If you do not have an immersion blender you can puree batches in a regular blender until you reach desired consistency; Return to the pot.)

Add the cheese to the soup and whisk over medium heat until melted. Add up to 3/4 cup water if the soup is too thick.
This soup also reheats well.  I find that although I don't usually need to add additional water when I first make it, I do need to add a bit when reheating to thin it out.
*Note: When you are making a recipe where you want the cheese to melt into something, like this soup, you really need to use a block of cheese that you shred yourself rather than the pre-shredded, bagged kind.  Pre-shredded cheese is coated with anti-caking agents to help it remain clump-free in the bag, which also keep it from melting smoothly!  I grate our cheese right in the food processor with the grating blade and it hardly takes any time at all!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of March 20th

Sunday:  Broccoli Cheddar Soup - We didn't get to this last week because we ended up having leftovers one night, so it's getting bumped to this week! 

Monday:  Tortilla, Bean, and Cheese Casserole with Corn

Tuesday:  Open-faced Pot Roast (CrockPot) Sandwiches with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy and Carrots

Wednesday:  Four Cheese Baked Penne with Green Beans and Garlic Bread

Thursday:  Burritos

Friday:  Homemade Pizza

Saturday:  Buffalo Chicken Nachos

I'm linked at OrgJunkie.com

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Mother's Love

Yesterday, I read this blog post and I've been pondering it's meaning ever since.  Obviously, the post struck a chord, with mothers especially, and readers have had quite a wide range of response. 

I don't necessarily identify with the author's point of view, but then again I only have one child.  I do, however, think it's unrealistic to expect that a mother will love all of her children exactly the same way 100% of the time.  I don't think I love any one person exactly the same way 100% of the time, so how would that be possible from person to person?

Like many mothers of singletons who hope to have more children in the future, I think, how will I feel toward any future child?  Will I love them as much as I love my first?  Will our bond be similar, or different?  I won't really know until we cross that bridge into multiple children, but I do know this:  a mother's love is something special. 

Everyone says that, but what does it mean really?  To me, it means it is bottomless.  My love for my son is something that is infinitely renewable and never ending and quite unlike anything I've ever experienced before.  I know it's cliché, but things are cliché for a reason; because they're true. 

Let's talk about yesterday.  It seems that a lot of moms like to pretend that they live in a Perfect world with a Perfect house and Perfect children and a Perfect spouse, living a Perfect Life.  I'm not really sure where this perfect place is located, but I'd love to buy a ticket some day because I certainly do not live anywhere near the Land of Perfect. 

Yesterday was one of THOSE days.  If you're a mom, especially a stay-at-home-mom, you know what I'm referring to. 

It was the kind of day where I got out of bed and everything seemed wrong.  A ton of little things added up to one bad day. Jack's schedule was off.  He didn't want to eat.  He didn't want to sleep.  And for the first time in his life he fervently refused to nap despite all of my best efforts. 

By the end of his two hour "naptime" I was frazzled, overwhelmed, and frustrated.  By 4 o'clock I was wondering, shouldn't Daddy be home by now? because I very badly needed a break from it all. 

Once he did make it home, I had a few errands to quickly run before making dinner and as I walked out the door I joked to my husband, "I'll be right back, or maybe not... ".  I was completely joking about never returning, but it was certainly the kind of day where I could have benefited not from taking 30 minutes to run to the library, the bank, and to fill my gas tank, but taking a couple of hours to curl up someplace alone (alone being the operative word here...) with a good book and a steaming cup of tea. 

By the time I returned from my short absence, I was more relaxed, but all evening I still had that nasty undercurrent of stress which left me feeling short-tempered.  It was just the kind of thing that wasn't going to cure itself until I was able to dive under the covers, get some sleep, and start fresh the next day. 

After we went to bed that night, I stayed up much too late reading, as usual.  Just when my eyelids were starting to droop and I felt the urge to shut off my book light and go to sleep, I heard Jack stirring in his crib.  I thought, Oh no.  Maybe if I just lay here holding my breath, he'll go back to sleep because I am ready for this day to be over!  Of course this didn't happen. 

My husband usually tends to Jack when he gets up overnight, but because I was still up I felt it was only fair to go ahead and take care of him.  So I forced myself out from under the warm blankets and made my way to my son's room.  What originally felt like a chore turned out to be a blessing in disguise. 

Waiting for me in his little footy PJs was my precious little boy.  As soon as I walked into his room his face lit up and he gave me a huge grin and a little squeal.  My heart melted.  And once we got settled into the rocking chair and I snuggled him and rocked him in the soft glow of his nightlight I could feel every ounce of the tension I had been holding onto throughout the day just melt from my body.  Replacing it, was a feeling of love so deep I know it will never abate.

At that moment, as I held my boy and smelled his sweet smell and felt the weight of his tiny body, which fit just so up against my chest, I could physically feel that I loved him with every ounce of my being.

And suddenly I understood that THIS is a mother's love.  A mother's love is unbreakable.  It comes from a connection so deep that it can never be severed.  Yes, some days are harder that others, but it's something that will never completely dissipate.  Even under frustration and stress it's there, just waiting for you to take the time to relax and reconnect.

Maybe there's a difference between like and love, or maybe love is something that changes and adapts based on a situation. Similar to the way the relationship with your spouse starts off with love that presents as lust and then moves on to something deeper and more comfortable.  I think feelings by nature are very hard to quantify and measure and compare, but I do know that a mother's love is something special and life changing and I'm privileged to have the chance to experience it. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of March 13th

It's supposed to be somewhat nice this week so we'll be having a few grilled meals!  Yay!  I can't wait for consistently nice weather.  We love stuff cooked on the grill.  First, there's something so summery about it.  Second, it usually means less clean up because we don't use as many pots and pans, and Third, I'm not the Grill Master!  That would be the Hub's specialty, which means less work for me because Mark is taking care of the main course.

Sunday:  Chipotle Cream & Chicken Pasta

Monday:  Crescent Wrapped Lasagna (with Meat Sauce from the freezer) with Green Beans

Tuesday:  Grilled Chicken Fajitas with Mexican Rice

Wednesday:  Coconut Chicken with Apricot Sauce with Sweet Potatoes

Thursday:  Burgers with Cheesy Potatoes

Friday:  Pizza

Saturday:   Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I'm linked at OrgJunkie.com

Friday, March 11, 2011

Recommended Reading

Wal-mart Bypasses Federal Regulators To Ban Controversial Flame Retardant - Wal-mart has plans to ban PBDEs, flame retardants found in many consumer goods that have been linked to problems with liver, thyroid, reproductive systems, and brain development in laboratory studies.  I think this is a wonderful step and I hope that other retailers follow suit.  On the other hand, I think it's really sad that a retailer is forced to listen to their consumers before the government takes action.

Zapping Sugar Cravings - An article by The Weston A. Price Foundation on sugar.  I think most people don't realize how much sugar they're consuming and why it's bad for your body.  It's in EVERYTHING these days either in the form of refined white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or even worse: artificial sweeteners.  It's not just about avoiding the obvious things like cookies or candy or even soda.  100% juices, store bought bread, condiments, dry cereal, flavored yogurts all contain sugar/HFCS and it adds up quickly to something that becomes detrimental to your health.

The Thoughtful Parent's Guide to Thinking Through Vaccinations: Pro-Vaccine and Cautionary Resources - A great list of recommended reading material from both sides of the vaccine debate.

Are You a Professional Mother? - Point of view about embracing motherhood as a profession with desirable and real skills.

Why Mothers Kiss Their Babies - Obviously we kiss our babies because we love them.  Because they're cute.  And squishy.  And just... wonderfully kissable!  But this is an interesting article that delves into the biological reasons why we're hardwired to smooch on our beautiful babies.

Antibacterials and Disinfectants: Are They Necessary? - An enlightening article about germs.  A must read for everyone!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

DVR Killed the TV Star

Hubs and I were watching American Idol last night and one of the contestants sang Joe Cocher's version of "With A Little Help From My Friends", which in my mind is forever known as The Wonder Years theme song. 

This sparked an intense conversation about why The Wonder Years is no longer on TV because it's pretty much one of the greatest shows ever.  And not only is The Wonder Years not on, but it's not even available on DVD due to licensing issues regarding all of the music showcased in the series.  Huge bummer.

Aside from The Wonder Years, tons of awesome classic shows can't be found in syndication any longer.  What has replaced the greats?  After a little investigation I found that there's roughly a eleventy million hours a week of television taken up by The George Lopez show and Two and a Half Men. 

I know I'm clearly in the minority here, but Two and a Half Men blows.  It's not funny.  The whole story line rests on crappy sexual innuendos, which don't humor me.  As far as George Lopez goes, he's not my favorite actor/comedian so I've never really watched the show.  I'm sure it's worlds better than the travesty that is called Two and a Half Men, but it's not good enough to even land on my radar of watchable shows.  Yet it's on for 45 hours a week just counting Monday-Friday evening/overnight on Nickelodeon, which means it must be cheaper to show that PAID programming. 

I was particularly concerned with what's being shown on Nickelodeon in the evenings because I grew up with Nick at Night, which showcased tons of awesome classic television shows.  Nowadays it's probably advertised as G.Lo at Night.

Our conversation then evolved to what television series we would play on our television network.  Our television network, which would be called The Most Awesome Television Network Evah (TMATNE), which people could tune to day and night without the need for DVR and be guaranteed access to great shows. 

Our lineup would most certainly include: 

There are so many GREAT shows out there that are no longer in production.  I don't understand why not one single network out there can get it together and show some classic television shows for our enjoyment.  Even TV Land, which originally started out as a classic series network only shows a select few good shows.

What series would you bring back if you could?  What about cartoons?!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sick Baby

Put another notch in my Motherhood Belt.  We seem to have successfully survived Jack's first real illness.  At least he made it to a year without anything more severe than a few days worth of sniffles.  This is definitely the first time he has experienced anything like this, which seems to have been a short stomach flu. 

All day Monday he was acting "off".  Kind of fussy and more tired than usual.  By the time late afternoon/early evening hit, he was a fuss-bucket.  Very upset and whiny and cry-y.  Very unlike him. 

We knew something was going on, but we thought maybe it was some teething, perhaps his one year molars.  He was eating okay and wasn't exhibiting any obvious signs of sickness. 

We soon discovered what the problem was as he vomited 3 times overnight Monday night into Tuesday.  The first time was really bad because we didn't realize he had thrown up so he ended up laying in it for a while. 

Shortly after we put him to bed, we heard him kind of fussing over the monitor, but it only lasted a few minutes and he wasn't really crying so we figured he was just resettling and maybe his mouth was hurting him. 

He ended up waking up about an hour or so later, fussing and crying so I went in to check on him and he was throwing up and I then realized what had happened earlier  :-/.  Bring on the Mommy Guilt.  I felt TERRIBLE about not checking on him sooner!

Mark got his bed cleaned up while I tended to him.  I rocked him for a while and put him back to bed and threw in some vomit-covered laundry. 

Jack slept for a short time and was back up. 

He seemed to be hungry so I fed him a little bit of formula and rocked him for a while, then put him back to bed.  He slept for a little while again and then was up crying so Mark went to see what was wrong. 

A minute later Mark's calling me from the other room because Jack was throwing up again, this time all over himself and Daddy!  I guess it was actually better since we didn't have to strip his bed again.  Oy! 

Everyone got cleaned up again and I rocked him for a while.  He didn't want to be put down to sleep, but would lay on me and sleep.  Poor little guy!  I wish I could have spent all night rocking him, but I knew I would be caring for a sick little boy the next day and it was after 3am at this point and I had yet to catch a wink of sleep!  So, back into his crib he went where he slept for a little bit. 

He was back up after 4am and Mark rocked him back to sleep, he was refusing a bottle at this point, which was probably better because at least he wasn't going to be throwing up. 

Awake again at 7am.  I went to change his diaper and it was completely dry.  At this point he was definitely lacking fluids and had a low-grade fever.  He took a small amount of formula and we rocked for a while.  He went back to bed and was up again at 8.30am.  Same deal as before. 

We got up for the day around 10am and he took several ounces of formula and promptly fell asleep on me while sitting on the couch, which is very unlike him! 

We spent all day like this.  I offered him a bottle frequently and sometimes he'd take a little and sometimes he wouldn't.  I just let him lead!  I am kind of grateful that he's still on a bottle because at least he was getting some fluids and nourishment throughout the day.  We cuddled and he napped on and off or just laid on me. 

The cuddling was nice as I don't get much of a chance for cuddles anymore with a near-toddler that's going-going-going all the time!  But it was so hard watching him be uncomfortable.  He was whiny and fussy and constantly shifted around trying to get more comfortable and was frustrated when he couldn't.  I'm sure he wasn't feeling well because of the fever.  It was so sad.

By the time evening hit, he had improved and although he still wasn't very happy, he actually spent some time playing.  He ended up having a few bites of bread for dinner, which was more food than he had been willing to take all day. 

We gave him a bath before bed and he took 6oz of formula, which is slightly less than what he would usually have before bed. 

We put him to bed expecting another rough night, but we were pleasantly surprised to wake up this morning and realize he had slept through the night!  It's rare that he does that on a good day and I'm so glad his body got the sleep that it needed. 

He's been doing better today with eating and playing and his fever seems to be gone.  He's still not quite himself and is fussy, which isn't usual for him, but he seems to definitely be on the mend!  No more vomiting since overnight Monday into Tuesday, and he's back to having his normal amount of wet and dirty diapers. 

Hopefully he's getting his strength back and by tomorrow he'll be more like himself.  It's very hard to watch your little one be sick.  I wanted to make him feel better, but there wasn't much I could do and I knew that so I provided Mommy Cuddles, which I hope helped at least a little bit! 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Menu Plan Monday - Week of March 6th

We got a little off track last week because we were busy with birthday stuff for Jack!  But we're back this week. 

Sunday:  We were at a family birthday party this afternoon where we had a big lunch so I didn't end up cooking dinner.  We actually ended up having some oatmeal for dinner :)

Monday:  Meatball Subs with Roasted Cauliflower (By the way, this is my new favorite way to eat cauliflower.  It's SO GOOD roasted!)

Tuesday:  Split Pea Soup (CrockPot)

Wednesday:  Spicy Garlic Shrimp Chicken and Green Beans with Brown Rice - The original recipe was written for shrimp, but I actually have a lot of chicken in the freezer so I'm going to substitute chicken for the shrimp.

Thursday:  Dinner out with friends!

Friday:  Creamy Mushroom Chicken (CrockPot) over Whole-wheat Egg Noodles with Peas

Saturday:  Homemade Pizza or Burritos

I'm linked at OrgJunkie.com