Is it time for sleep training?

3 months oldThe baby turned THREE MONTHS OLD today. He is enormous (15 lbs., judging by the weigh-yourself, weigh-yourself-with-the-baby method, as he doesn’t have another doctor’s appointment for another month) and is laughing out loud and doing all sorts of crazy big-kid things.

Now that we’ve hit this milestone, I’m starting to consider whether it’s time I took a more considered approach to his sleep habits.

As I mentioned before (don’t kill me, Internet or pediatricians), he’s been sleeping in our bed since he was about a week old, as it was the only way I could get any sleep, and I tend to drop him and nearly burn the house down with less frequency when I’ve had some rest. (Seriously, don’t kill me, Internet. I don’t drop my baby and I haven’t nearly caused a house fire in many years.)

Because we knew this whole moving house thing was approaching and we honestly just couldn’t think about trying to handle more than one major transition at a time, we decided to hold off on moving him to his own crib until after we’re settled in the new house. In the meantime, Kickpuncher (current most applicable nickname) will snooze at my side at night.

In the meantime, contractors have been coming and going, I’ve had to leave the house at unpredictable hours for house showings and inspections, we’ve had out-of-town visitors and I just don’t have any sort of routine in place for my day… and that includes naps.

I can tell when he gets tired, and that’s when he goes down for a nap (after a few minutes of  nursing, rocking with a pacifier, and lately very off-key lullabies). No tracking, no consistency. I have tried to start putting him down in his crib for more naps (otherwise he’s sleeping in his bouncer), but unless he is strapped into the baby carrier on my chest, his naps are usually no longer than about a half hour, 40 minutes. Every chart I’ve come across says babies should be sleeping far longer than that at a stretch at his age. And as much as I love carrying him around, it does make folding laundry tricky, and did I mention he is ENORMOUS?

So today marks the first day I am revisiting my obsessively thorough baby tracker (used the first month to track nursing and diapers) to at least start to see if there’s a pattern to his naps and try to establish a routine while I research sleep training.

Well, that’s it for today… as it has been 42 minutes (woo?) and the baby is stirring from his second nap.

Anyone have any advice for helping babies get their nap on? Any advice for the (eventual) transition from co-sleeping? I don’t think I can handle cry-it-out unless nothing else works, so let me know what else I should consider.

Is it time for sleep training?

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Tomato bean soup & grilled sandwiches

weeknight meal for new moms: tomato soup and sandwichesHere’s another dinner idea for new moms (and dads) to get you through those times when you’re too tired to remember that  dirty dishes belong in the dishwasher and milk goes in the fridge, let alone how to cook your once-favorite meals.

Today’s meal is a classic combo infused with some extra protein and fiber thanks to a secret ingredient: beans.

White bean and tomato soup with grilled sandwiches

This soup makes a great quick weeknight dinner with leftovers for lunches.

Ingredients

For the soup

  • Tomatoes: I used a gallon freezer bag full of tomatoes I had blanched and frozen over the summer. You can also use a couple cans of whole tomatoes. Seed them if you feel like it.
  • One medium onion, chopped
  • A carrot or two if you have them around
  • A few cloves of garlic, smashed
  • A can of navy beans
  • A bay leaf or two
  • Dried oregano or marjoram, or basil (fresh or dried) to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • A stick blender or regular blender or bullet blender (you do need one of these or you’re going to have weird, stringy soup from the tomatoes.)

For the sandwiches

  • Bread of your choice (we always have whole wheat in the house, so I used that, but something like Italian or English muffin bread is also killer for a grilled cheese. Heck, use hotdog buns if that’s all you have.)
  • Cheese and, if desired, meat of your choice. (Here are some good combos: cheddar and ham, Monterey jack and bacon, the last of the string cheese in the fridge drawer and nothing)
  • Butter and a cast iron skillet

Directions

To make the soup:

  1. Thaw the tomatoes if you happen to have frozen tomatoes. If not, skip to step two.
  2. Heat some oil in your soup pot and sweat (in this order) the carrots (will take the longest), the onions and the garlic (add last after everything else is pretty translucent so you don’t burn it.) You can also add dried spices at this point if you like.
  3. Add the tomatoes. I used all the juice that drained from the frozen ones and that basically was my broth. If you’re using canned tomatoes and are worried about how much salt is in their juice, you could probably drain them and add chicken or vegetable broth. I did not use broth for mine, but I know not everyone has frozen tomatoes.
  4. Let the tomatoes cook down for awhile (15-20 minutes? Time is weird when you’re home with a baby), using a wooden spoon to stir smash them up a bit.
  5. Once the tomatoes are good and soft and it’s starting to smell like tomato soup in your house, add the (drained) can of navy beans. Simmer another 10 minutes or so.
  6. Fish out the bay leaves if you put any in, turn off the heat (*danger: use caution, allow the soup to cool or have someone else do this if you’re baby wearing) and blend the soup up with your blender of choice. Return to the pot and salt and pepper to taste.

To make the sandwiches:

  1. Slice or shred your cheese (shredding=quicker melt, more even coverage, but do what you want) and lay out your ingredients for your sandwich
  2. Turn your cast iron skillet on medium-low heat.
  3. When the pan is warm (but not too hot, we’re cooking with butter) add a pat of butter to the pan (can cut it with vegetable oil if you want) and add two pieces of bread. When they have browned, flip them over and quickly add cheese to both pieces of toasted bread so it melts.
  4. Add meat to one piece of bread, and once the cheese on the other piece of bread has melted enough that it won’t fall off, top the meat with it.
  5. Finish browning the outside of your sandwich. Remove from heat and turn off the stove, you sleep deprived fools!
  6. I like to cut my sandwich into quarters so I can dunk into my soup.

Here are some glamour shots I took from my  next-day leftovers. Delicious!

cast iron grilled ham and cheese

tomato and white bean soup

soup and sandwich

P.S. I have made this same soup with, instead of a can of white beans, some leftover hummus I was trying to use up. It was great – try it!

Weeknight Meal Wednesday: Tomato bean soup & grilled sandwiches

Hello, baby. Goodbye [lots of stuff]

hello baby, goodbye...Isn’t it crazy how much can change from one day to the next?

It’s hard to compete with having a baby as far as life-changing events go, but it’s interesting how that giant life-changing event seems to generate more.

Today’s post is about some major goodbyes I’m saying in my life. They’re a little bittersweet, but so worth it. They also explain why I’ve been a little overwhelmed lately.

Goodbye, Cleveland.

Yesterday, we got and accepted an offer on our house in Ohio City, a popular neighborhood among young professionals in Cleveland. Much of my maternity leave has been spent finding, hiring and sitting around awkwardly awaiting the finished work of various contractors; obsessively cleaning and clearing out junk; touching up paint and learning how to grout; and trying to subdue full-out panic about selling a house we just bought two years ago.

Selling our house seals the deal that we’ll be moving out to the exurbs (Medina, for my local readers) to live in my grandparents’ house (unfortunately, they’ve had to be moved to a nursing home). Having grown up on this family compound of sorts, across the street from this very house (where my parents still live), I swore I’d never move back.

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about raising kids out in what is nearly the country. Judging by my own experience, there will be no sidewalk strolls to get ice cream (or a beer, in their parents’ case), there will be little to no diversity in school, and it can feel lonely to live several country miles from friends. But my kid (and any future kids) also can grow up catching frogs in the pond and playing flashlight tag at night.

While it’s devastating to see my grandparents fading, and I’m completely overwhelmed by the work it will take to make their house into our home, I don’t for a second take for granted that it is allowing us to make another big change in our lives…

Goodbye, full-time work.

Yesterday was also my last day of maternity leave. Which, I decided about a month ago, I would not be returning from. So today I woke up a stay-at-home-mom.

Well, work-at-home-mom, is the plan. I’ve always been achievement-oriented and truly enjoyed my work, and honestly couldn’t fathom staying at home to raise kids before I had one. I didn’t really understand it when other women made this choice.

But now that I do have a kid, I realize how lucky I am to have this choice at all. Without the opportunity to move out to the family house, financially we wouldn’t have been able to make this work. While either of us would be happy to stay home, The Husband is the higher earner so I have embraced my new role. We’ll still be cutting it close, but it’s worth it for us to make some sacrifices to keep The Baby out of day care until he’s a little older.

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up work altogether. I’m planning to do some freelance writing/graphic design/development work to keep my mind sharp, stay engaged with other professionals and bring in some extra income. The long nights and time alone over the past twelve weeks have left me feeling a little less articulate than usual, so I’m looking forward to the creativity and mental stretching that this type of work affords.

I know plenty of moms go back to work (if they’re lucky, it’s after 12 weeks — for so many moms it’s less than that) and feel good about their decision, and I know babies do just fine in a safe, loving daycare environment. I am in no way passing judgment on working moms or staying at home moms or the moms (or, let’s cover all our bases, dads!) who fall somewhere along the spectrum. We’re all working really hard one way or another. The go back, stay home conundrum is fraught with guilt on either side and we should all just be gentle with each other because parenting is as difficult as it is rewarding.

Goodbye, “never.”

Older and wiser people have told me before, “Never say never.” Even just three months into it, I can attest to this being good advice for parents.

Hello, baby laughs!

Apropos of nothing, The Baby also finally full-out giggled while The Dad tickled him yesterday. It’s just about the best sound I’ve ever heard.

So it was a monumental day all around.

Hello, baby. Goodbye [lots of stuff]

Weeknight Meal Wednesday

weeknight meal for new moms: sweet potato, chickpea & avocado quesadillasI’m no gourmet, but I’ve always enjoyed cooking. Of course, this was nearly impossible to do in the first few weeks postpartum. I had done some freezer-stocking in my third trimester, and we were lucky to have friends and family bring meals by (never turn this offer down), and a really good carry-out sandwich shop open around the corner from our house.

It felt good to finally get back to cooking after about six weeks or so. Because I do most of my cooking while baby-wearing or in between feedings, laundry, etc., I’ve had to adapt. For example, most of my cooking has to be done on the stove so I don’t have to reach into a hot oven with the baby on me. Also, after a few years living microwave-free, we conceded we might starve to death without it.

I thought I’d start sharing some of my easy dinner ideas for new moms. (I promise, future ones will have better photos. Actually, I make no promises, but I’ll try.)

My goals are as follows: Easy, relatively healthy (to make up for the fact I eat mostly string cheese and granola bars for breakfast and lunch), and tasty (to make up for the fact I eat mostly string cheese and granola bars for breakfast and lunch.)

sweet potato, chickpea and avocado quesadilla

Sweet potato, chickpea and avocado quesadillas

Quesadillas have been my go-to easy dinner since college. Last week, I made sweet potato, chickpea and avocado quesadillas that took almost no time, were pretty healthy and were really tasty. This barely counts as a recipe, it was so easy, but if you’re not much of an improviser, here you go:

Ingredients (serves 2 very hungry adults with limited portion control)

  • One large sweet potato
  • One can of chickpeas
  • One ripe avocado
  • Lemon or lime juice (you could use fresh if you have your sh*t together; as I do not, I use refrigerated lemon juice out of a squeeze bottle.)
  • Salt to taste
  • Cumin to taste
  • Red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper or hot sauce (unless you don’t like spicy)
  • About 1/4 block of Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • Four soft whole grain tortillas
  • Salsa

Instructions

  1. Microwave the sweet potato until it is fully cooked. Allow it to cool enough that you can peel it.
  2. Drop the peeled sweet potato into a large mixing bowl. Add the can of chick peas (rinsed), 3/4 of the avocado, a few splashes of citrus juice of your choice, cumin, salt, and pepper flakes.
  3. Mash with a potato masher until the chickpeas start to smash up and everything is fairly uniformly spread out, but not complete mush. Leave some texture.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add a little oil. Sprinkle some cheese on a tortilla and then add a few heaping tablespoons of the sweet potato mixture. Fold in half and cook in the skillet until the tortilla is browned and a little crispy on both sides. Repeat with other three tortillas.
  5. Cut with a pizza cutter and serve with salsa and the reserved 1/4 avocado.

 

 

 

 

Weeknight Meal Wednesday

Around the world in 80 days

the first 80 days of motherhoodMy baby is 80 days old today.

It’s been an incredible journey already.

There are so many things I want to remember about this time that are difficult to preserve, even to describe about his mannerisms and personality. I feel such delicious joy when he runs his bare foot up and down my forearm while he nurses, or when he squeals with delight when I make faces at him, or when he mutters a little “hoooo!” in his sleep, the way he did just now, as though he just accomplished some very tiny but physically demanding achievement.

Each day is a little bittersweet because I know it’s the only day I’ll ever have with him exactly as he is. As exciting as it is to see him hold his head up, or cautiously reach out to pet the cat for the first time, or start to sprout a tooth, each of these is one more sign that he’s growing before my very eyes at a rate my heart can’t keep up with. Add this ache to the many, many things I didn’t understand about parenthood before I became a mom.

When I was pregnant, I expected motherhood to feel like being dropped into a new life. But even white-knuckling my way through the first few weeks, I never felt the identity crisis. I am still myself, and motherhood has given me newfound confidence to accept my whole self, from my mediocre housekeeping skills and my postpartum pudge to my ability to be both extremely laid back and really driven toward particular goals. Instead of feeling as though I’m occupying a stranger’s skin, I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin.

Motherhood has given me a clarity of purpose even as I work harder, sleep less and improvise more than I ever have.

While it is both delightful and devastating to watch my baby utterly transform every day, I must acknowledge that he isn’t the only one.

 

Around the world in 80 days

Not Pictured: My #antisocial baby

 

not-pictured

My baby is so freaking beautiful it is almost painful to resist the urge to post the dozens of photos I take of him every week to social media. And I don’t blame parents who give into this urge to share the smiles and milestones of their progeny with the world — parental pride is one of the strongest feelings I’ve encountered, and I enjoy seeing my friends’ kids growing up online. It’s just not for me.

Here’s the reasoning, for what it’s worth, behind my decision to keep The Baby’s identity offline:

  1. I want him to enjoy the privacy I had growing up before the advent of the Internet. I know some of the stories my mom thinks are cute from my childhood would have absolutely mortified me in my emotionally fragile adolescent years. And there really isn’t an age where I’d be OK with photos or stories about my potty training days being accessible by strangers or friends. It’s easier for me to put a blanket ban on all identifiable details about my baby rather than make a decision each and every time I think to post something about whether it might embarrass him someday. I think he should have the final say (when he is mature enough and capable of making the decision) in how he presents himself to the world.
  2. The Internet can be a dangerous place. My line of work (and habit of occasionally watching the news, it’s not like this is a big secret) has exposed me to the horrors of online predators. While I know it’s going to be tough eventually teaching my kids how to stay safe online, in the meantime I feel safer knowing nobody can snatch up photos of my baby for whatever purposes.
  3. I’m creeped out by facial recognition technology such as Facebook’s. I’m not even on Facebook presently (more out of boredom than anything else), but I am aware of the fact that I am a commodity to marketers when I am on Facebook, and am not interested in having my kid become one, too.

Yes, as this is a mom blog, it follows logically that I’ll talk about my baby. But I won’t name names, and you won’t see more than the bottoms of his feet or the back of his head (his beautiful, if balding, head).

Fortunately, there are resources for people like me who want to share photos with a select few, like Tiny Beans and 23Snaps. I’ve been using Tiny Beans and I really like it, and a friend of mine uses 23Snaps, and it’s fun to get updates.

Are there any other websites/apps you like to use to privately share family photos? Let me know!

Not Pictured: My #antisocial baby

10 reasons to walk during pregnancy

A quick Wednesday post to keep up momentum because things are getting CRAZY in TLMB house. (Here’s one thing they don’t tell you to do during maternity leave: Try to sell your house and move.)

Here’s the best piece of pregnancy advice I can give you if you want to possibly promote an easier labor. (I say this knowing that I am in now way a health or pregnancy expert, but my OB said this habit contributed to my 12-hour start-to-finish first time labor.)

Walk. A lot.

Having grown up in a sidewalk-free exurb, basically on a country road, I have always had a yearning to be able to walk to wherever I want to go. In ninth grade I walked home from my high school (several miles down that high-speed country road, much to my parents’ fury), in college during a particularly bad breakup I would walk until I got lost and then find my way back, and in 2013 when I started working in downtown Cleveland and simultaneously moved to the Ohio City neighborhood, I opted to hoof it the two miles to work and the two miles back most days.

The walk was like a daily meditation for me. I didn’t have to deal with traffic, I got to feel the sun on my face and before I *ran my Fitbit through the washer & dryer it confirmed I was clocking 13,000 steps a day.

[*Not recommended]

10 reasons to walk during pregnancySo when I got pregnant, I didn’t abandon this habit. Sure, I slowed down a little and  took my coworkers up on their increasingly insistent offers to take me home at the end of the day more often as I got  closer to my due date. But for the most part I waddled my ever-expanding body over the Detroit-Superior bridge each morning, listening to the gulls and watching the skyscrapers come into view. It was peaceful and invigorating and it was good for heart and soul.

I walked to work and back two days before I went into labor, and I even took the dog for a really long walk in a fit of nervous energy the day before I went into labor.

I have a runner friend who is planning to run a 5k when she’s 35 weeks pregnant. I used to go to spinning classes where seemingly all the instructors were pregnant and not only kicking ass on their bikes but able to yell instructions to us at the same time. I tried running once or twice early on in pregnancy, but the jiggling was too much for my bladder. But I can tell you with some degree of confidence that you don’t have to do Crossfit or train for a marathon while you’re expecting. Just put your shoes on and take a good long walk every day.

While I really believe this daily exercise contributed to my quick and fairly easy labor, I cannot guarantee the same for you. But even if I can’t, here are 10 good reasons to lace up your walking shoes (even as you strain to reach your toes toward the end):

  1. Walking time is great mulling time, and there’s plenty to mull over during pregnancy. Baby names, whether or not to find out the baby’s sex, how you’re going to announce the news, etc. If you’re stressing over a decision, think about it on a walk.
  2. It can keep your relationship with your dog strong. As you know, I have a dear dog (her name is Louise) and walking with her each day was sweet confirmation that even though everything in my life was about to turn upside down, I still had a furry sidekick who will see me through it. It was sweet to see her become more gentle with me as I got bigger and less agile.
  3. Walking is a great time to binge-listen to podcasts. (Someday in the near future, I’ll post my pregnancy podcast recommendations — stay tuned.) Safety alert, though: Always keep one ear free to listen to your surroundings. I don’t want to be responsible for you getting hit by a car or kidnapped.
  4. Fresh air can do wonders for nausea. I was fortunate to have mild morning sickness (more food aversions than anything) so I’m not going to say that getting outside will cure your barfs, but in my experience getting out of the house and getting the wind in my face (except on garbage day) certainly made me feel better.
  5. You’re going to be exhausted either way. At least you can feel like you earned it. Listen, I hear you. Especially during the first trimester, pregnancy is exhausting. My average bedtime was 7:30 p.m. until I hit about 17 weeks. I couldn’t have imagined trying to maintain a workout routine involving heavy breathing for long periods of time. But walking is doable. And I promise, you’ll feel better falling into bed on the days you took a walk.
  6. Thinking about murdering your partner? Are you crying for no reason? Walk those feelings out. Pregnancy hormones can make you crazy. Walk out your feelings, and when you’re done, you can eat your feelings with less guilt.
  7. Feel confident about your changing body. The steady weight gain during pregnancy, while perfectly healthy and important to supporting your growing baby, can be weird and unnerving. Staying active can reassure you that you’re occupying a strong, capable body that not only can handle the increasing load but also will be there for you when it’s go-time.
  8. All that activity can be soothing for the baby. I found that sitting still later on meant all sorts of rib-tingling gymnastics from my baby-to-be, but a good long walk lulled him to sleep. Fair warning, though: That need for constant motion to go to sleep can follow him out of the womb. He spends at least one nap a day strapped into a baby carrier refusing to let me sit down.
  9. Walking is an easy date. The Husband and I have maintained a once-a-week date night since we moved in together. Usually this just means dinner and a few drinks and catching up on our lives. Let me tell you, dinner gets a lot shorter when you’re not drinking and are fantasizing about going to sleep. A nice long weekend walk (especially if your destination is ice cream) is a good way to catch up on each other’s lives and stay bonded during this time.
  10. You can buy new shoes guilt-free. The threat of swelling and/or growing feet keeps many pregnant women from investing in new shoes of any sort (unless their feet have already expanded and nothing fits.) But you need a good pair of walking shoes, so go ahead and buy them.

There you have it. Get your shoes on. Now I’ve got to get back to packing up the kitchen and trying to deal with the fact my 11-week-old is probably teething. (?!?)

 

10 reasons to walk during pregnancy