Friday, August 29, 2014

//O N B I R T H I N G: and what I'd do differently //

DISCLAIMER: this post is in NO WAY insinuating that I am pregnant! 

A good friend of mine came over yesterday.  She's just three weeks away from the due date of her first baby. We talked about timing contractions and packing for the hospital, getting the car seat in the car, and other means of "preparing" for what is quite possibly the most life-changing event many of us will ever go through. Seeing her in all her glowing, blossoming, soon-to-be-mother beauty made me think back fondly to the end of my pregnancy with Johnny. Feeling the weight of the impending labor and delivery that would bring new life into the world and make me a mother. I knew I'd be meeting him soon. I was excited/nervous about giving birth. I had ideas of how I wanted my birth to go, things we wanted to do and things we wanted to avoid.

22 weeks pregnant

36 weeks pregnant

For those who have read Johnny's birth story, you may remember that I had an incredibly long and hard labor (ahem, 50+ hours), and stalled out pushing that left me this close to needing a cesarean delivery. I believe that when it comes to childbirth, you've got to do what you've got to do.  I'm so thankful for the medical advancements that gave me the relief I needed after 48 of labor. But after 9 months of preparing for and envisioning a natural, un-medicated water birth, having to use pitocin, an epidural, and vacuum removal to get my baby out felt like a major defeat.  Don't get me wrong, I'm so thankful we got him out safely! But along with that gratitude came disappointment that I didn't have the labor and delivery I had wanted, and frustration that my body didn't do what it was supposed to do.

Talking with my expecting friend last night got me thinking about things I wish I had done differently during labor: If you're expecting soon, feel free to learn from what I did- and didn't- do.

 I wish I had slept more when labor first started. That was something our Bradley Method of Childbirth classes drilled into us. BE WELL RESTED! But when my contractions started I was so excited/nervous that I couldn't sleep at all! Then when labor became really hard, I was really exhausted.

I wish I had labored at home longer. I was so anxious to get the show on the road, so anxious to meet my baby, that as soon as my contractions were 5 minutes apart we were in the car and on our way to the hospital. I can't help wonder what would have happened if I had stayed home longer.  Would I have been more relaxed? Would labor have progressed more naturally?

I didn't make myself at home in the hospital. I didn't unpack. I was self-conscious about trying different laboring tricks. I didn't leave my room to walk up and down the halls (another Bradley suggestion), I didn't take advantage of the bathtub in my room. I had prepared a laboring playlist in my iTunes library, but I never played it. I didn't want to inconvenience the nurses coming in and out of our room. I never really relaxed!

I wish I had used a doula. As we prepared for the arrival of our baby I felt very strongly that I only wanted family members helping me labor.  I had great confidence in Alex as a support to me, and my mom as a back up for him. I didn't want someone I didn't know and wasn't comfortable with in such an intimate setting. My mom and Alex were great! But it was a really long, really hard labor. Hind sight being 20/20 I wonder if a doula would have pushed me more to walk down the hallway, to climb some stairs, to sit on the toilet longer (all strange laboring tricks). Or maybe a doula would have given me the confidence and freedom I needed to say, "this isn't working, we need to change the plan. I need help, I need relief" a little sooner and spare myself a few (dozen) hours of sleeplessness and laboring.

I'm not trying to beat myself up here. It's hard enough being a woman/wife/mother without any of that. I'm just honestly wondering, was there was a reason my labor was so long and stalled out? Or was it just one of those uncontrollable things? I'm just trying to see what I could do differently next time.

I'm glad Alex and I made a birth plan, I'm glad we were ok with changing our birth plan.  I'm glad I didn't need a cesarean. I'm glad Johnny is ok.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: beet and fennel salad //

I hated beets up until a couple years ago.  Well, I guess it's more accurate to say that I had never had beets until a couple years ago and just assumed they were a strange vegetable that Dwight K. Schrute from The Office grows in copious amounts and that I didn't like them.  Then a couple years ago (at a restaurant that has sadly closed down) I had beets in delicious salad with arugula and feta. The beets were so earthy, mild, but so unique, tender but not squishy, firm but not crunchy. I was in love. About a year after that I encountered beets again at one of our favorite local spots, this time with arugula and citrus fruit, and the combo blew me away. That was while I was pregnant with Johnny. So that spring, 38 weeks pregnant with a belly the size of a beach ball, I got on my hands and knees in our garden a planted some beets of my own. Just this summer I had another beet salad at one of the vintage bowling places around here (yes, we have more than one of those) that paired beets with another unusual vegetable- fennel bulb-  it was amazing!

The salad that I'm about to share with you is inspired by all three of these salads.  If you've never had beet before I hope you will give them a try, as you don't know what you're missing. And  if you don't like them, please give them a second chance, since maybe the timing wasn't right before.

1 large beet, cooked, cooled and peeled.
1 fennel bulb
1 orange
1/2 grapefruit
a few large handfuls of arugula (or salad green of your choosing)
1 tablespoon salted butter
feta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh grapefruit juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

If you've never handled beets before here's a quick guide on how to prepare them. Cut off the stems and the long root and put them in a pot of water. Bring the water to a boil and then boil the beets rapidly for 10-15 minutes.  You should be able to easily insert a fork into the beets. When the beets are done remove from heat and rinse with cold water.  As soon as they are cool enough to handle peel with a paring knife.  Actually, if the beets are cooked right you can just sort of push the skin off of them with your fingers - it's a lot messier, but who doesn't like to have bright-pink-stained hands? I like to cook and peel several beets at once and then have them ready to go in the refrigerator whenever I may need them. They should last about a week after being cooked. Of course, if all of this seems like too much work for you, Trader Joe's sells pre-cooked, pre-peeled beets.

When you've cooked and peeled (or purchased) your beets, cut them into bite-sized pieces.

Trim the stems and the bottom off of the fennel bulb. Cut in half and then cut into thin, half-moon slices. These then go into a frying pan with the butter over medium heat.  Let the fennel fry for about 10 minutes until it's starting to darken and char.

While these are frying you can get started on peeling the orange and grapefruit. Peel with a paring knife, being careful to remove all the pith from the fruit, leaving some of the flesh on the peels. Reserve the peels. Cut both the orange and the grapefruit into thin slices and set aside.

Take a medium salad bowl and squeeze and juice from the orange and grapefruit peels into it. Add the olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste, and whisk to combine. Add your salad greens to the dressing and toss well. Add beets, fennel, orange and grapefruit, give it one gentle toss, then top with crumbled feta and enjoy! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

// 7 Q U I C K T A K E S V O L.1 0 //


Reentry after vacation is always difficult.  Thankfully ours was gradual.  We got home late last Wednesday. Alex had planned on being off work through the end of the week so we had Thursday and Friday to unpack, do copious amounts of laundry, walk to Dunn Bros. (my favorite local coffee joint), watch a little TV, and just overall rest up a bit.  We even went to a nearby Splash pad with Johnny's godparents Ian and Jacqui and his favorite buddy, Iggy. 

Monday Alex went back to work and Johnny and I went back to our usual at-home routine, which largely revolves around changing so many poopy diapers, and preparing, eating, and cleaning up breakfast and lunch.  It's amazing to me how much time those 2 things take up. It's also amazing to me how used to having Alex around I got while we were on vacation and what an adjustment it was to going back to being home alone with a baby. 


Fortunately for me, this week was my birthday week, so there were a few extra fun things to help ease the shock of going from vacation to everyday life. 

My little brother's birthday is the day before mine.  When my mom was pregnant with him I was so afraid he would be born on my birthday.  As an 8, almost 9 year-old, having a birthday all to one's self is very important. Well, Jake was gracious enough to let me have my day, but we still end up celebrating our birthdays together every year.  And now that I'm grown up, I really like it. 

I turned 28.  There's nothing significant about that number, except that the older I get the harder it is for me to remember my age. I've never felt more like a grown-up than I have in this first year of motherhood, but don't really feel like I'm getting older. I thought I was turning 26, that I still had a lot of my twenties left. I see pictures of celebrities that are 20 or 21 and I think "They must be the same age as me." All my life I wanted to be older, but now I have finally reached that phase where I look back on youth with fondness.

Anyway, it was a good birthday. Mani/pedis with my sister, take out from our favorite Thai place with Alex, girls nights at Marvel, and my whole family spoiled me rotten with a beautiful Lily Jade diaper bag, which is, to sum it up in a single word, heaven.


I love August, except for the fact that this is the time of year that my garden and all my flowers start to look really ugly.  Everything's getting overgrown, the grass is getting brown and crunchy, and I can only keep weeds at bay for so long. This is the point of summer where I just kind of give up. 

Thankfully the garden still produces despite my negligence. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, Swiss chard, beets. But mostly tomatoes. One of the reasons I love August so much is that we eat tomatoes, all the time. Caprese, bruschetta, BLTs, salsa, spaghetti. This golden tomato sauce is one of my all time favorites, we've had it twice since we've been home from vacation.  I can't recommend it enough. 


This gigantic bunch of gladiolas was $4 at Whole Foods. What a steal! Go get some!


Johnny had a kidney ultrasound this morning.  For those who are just tuning in, Johnny was born with a series of birth defects, one of which is what's known as a horseshoe kidney.  This is a condition where the two kidneys are joined together, making a horseshoe type of shape.  It's more of an oddity than a health threat. Many people live their entire lives with a horseshoe kidney and don't find out they had one until they're in the 70's. A horseshoe kidney can be more prone to blockage and re-flux however, and so the pediatric urologist has been monitoring Johnny's. This was his third kidney ultrasound and everything still looks great! So that's good news! Just annual ultrasounds from here on out.

Sometimes I think back on those first few days after Johnny's birth when defect after defect was being discovered; imperforate anus, horseshoe kidney, spinal irregularities, hearing loss. And for each one we were presented with a sea of information that made no sense, and dealing with it all seemed impossible. But here we are one year out, most of those problems have been dealt with, and except for the annual follow up, they're just a memory. 

Speaking of Johnny, he's doing so many new things.  No, he's not walking yet.  Well, he takes a few reluctant steps when we force him to, but other than that no walking. But he has started stacking blocks, and playing with his stacking rings, he's even stacking his cubes of watermelon while he's eating lunch. He's started mimicking us a lot more too, clapping, combing his hair, he's even been copying dance moves! It's so amazing to see this interaction, as well as fine motor skills, develop. And I'm quickly realizing that when we reach milestones like the first day of school and his first piano recital I'm going to be a mess. 

There's nothing like these summer nights, even if it is humid and disgusting right now in the great state of Minnesota.  The air smells so rich and earthy. The chirp and buzz of crickets and cicadas is the never ending sound track to our sleeping. Our neighbors are out on their porch and I can hear them singing and playing on guitars. Actually, whoever is singing sounds an awful lot like the lead singer from Pearl Jam. This is part of summer where I realize it won't be here much longer, and so I soak up every part of it. 

Happy weekend everyone!

For more Quick Takes visit Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

//N I G H T W E A N I N G//


I know it's what you all want to hear about.

So here goes:

Anyone who knows us knows that Johnny is not a great sleeper. He is 15 months old and has yet to sleep through the night, and he's always been a terrible napper. He sleeps great when he's nursing but aside from bueno. This past winter we started putting Johnny in his crib for the first time ever.  And this summer we finally fell into a good napping routine, but our progress in the sleep department has been slow.

We practice a more attached style of parenting, which for us can be summed up in these 3 rules:

    1.We try to observe Johnny's needs and give him what he needs when he needs it.
    2.We believe that babies cannot be spoiled. 
    3.We follow our parental instincts.

I believe in attachment parenting. I believe it's multifaceted, and looks different from family to family. I also believe it's not for everyone, and I respect your decision to use more main stream methods of child-rearing. 

We, however, practice an attached style of parenting that has lead to do crazy things like co-sleeping, and extended breastfeeding. Johnny has never "cried it out" and I often sit in my bed with him while he naps to get him to sleep longer. I believe that we are giving him what he needs, and I'm so thankful for all of the bonding we've been able to do. But after 15 months (more if you count the end of my pregnancy) of sleep deprivation, after having my face poked and bladder kicked all night long, after not having time to myself, not even while sleeping for over a year, after feeling so over-touched that I snap at my husband when he tries to kiss me (sorry honey!) I'm beginning to feel that my co-sleeping days are numbered.

We decided that when we got back from vacation, and before Alex starts classes again would be the perfect time to try to night-wean Johnny. Alex doesn't have to stay up late studying, so he can get up to get Johnny back to sleep when he wakes up, and eventually he'll realize he doesn't need milkies during the night and sleep like to proverbial baby that must exist somewhere (ahem....Nell). Right?

Well, it's been one week of Alex doing night times and the latest we've made it before Johnny is in bed nursing away is 4:00 am. Are we doing sometime wrong? Are we just weak? Do we just need to muscle through one truly miserable night  of "cry it out" and then he'll be sleeping like a champ?

I so want to Johnny to be able to sleep on his own, but when I stop and consult my mothering heart I just know that I can't let him "cry it out." He's not ready for it, and I'm not ready for it! Someday I might need to cut him off, but now is not the time. I have to stick to my mama instincts.

But I would love to hear from other parents out there. I have read that attachment parenting can be very hard in the early years but pays back manifold when children get older. Has anyone had this happen yet? I believe we're doing what Johnny needs, but it's really hard right now. Someone please say that it gets easier? And if you have and good tips on how to get a major mama's boy to night-wean, I am all ears!

Now, I will spam you with pictures from the last leg of our vacation.  We made an overnight stop in Chicago to see some of my cousins and ran into down town just long enough to see the bean and get our feet wet in the fountains of Millennium Park. Next time we do Chi-Town, we'll do it right.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

// T H E H E A R T'S O V E R F L O W //

Sometimes you go into a new situation with a specific vision in mind, and then after you've been at a while you realize what you're looking at is nothing like your original vision.

That's what happened here. 

When I started this blog I thought I would do a little bit of writing about Johnny and life as a stay-at-home-mom, and that I would also do a lot of knitting and post updates about my projects and share patterns and things of that nature. Well, almost a year has gone by. I can count on one hand the number of knitting projects I have completed since then. And this blog, well, it's turned into something different from my original vision. 

It's turned into a place where I process what's going on in my life, the fun things, and the frustrating things. It's a place where I can be honest about what it's like to! A stay-at-home-mom to a sweet little boy.  A wife to an amazing, hard working man. A Catholic. A woman. A sometimes-knitter. A try-to-be-gardener. It's also a place where I can catalog memories so they don't get forgotten.  Someday when Johnny is older we'll look back and remember how we had to change 12 poopy diapers a day, along with all the sweet things he does. It's a place where I can share those memories with people I love who don't live near by. Or with those who do and, well, life is crazy and we just don't see much of each other at this junction in life.  

This had become a place where I can share the things in my heart. The overflow of my heart. 

It's different from my original vision. It's better than my original vision. And as this newer vision has come into focus it was becoming clearer everyday that I needed a new title to go with it.  And so I give you-

Naming something is kind of scary, and even if it is just a blog. A lot of time, energy, and people went into this new name.  Alex put up with a lot of brainstorming in the car on our recent road trip.  I also had input from Nell, Jacqui (who basically came up with the name) and my cousin Bethany. So a big thanks to them for putting up with lots of emails, and for the helpful feedback .

And thank you for reading, and allowing me to share my heart with you.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

// S I M P L E S U M M E R, S I M P L E F O O D: black bean quinoa salad //

This recipe is based on a salad my friend Faith makes. Her husband calls it "taco salad" because the cumin makes it taste like tacos. We call in "beanoa salad" because it has beans and quinoa in it. I also call it "clean out the fridge salad" because it's the kind of salad that you can put almost anything in.  I think the official name would probably be "black bean quinoa salad" so that's what we're going with here.

I love this salad because it's quick and easy and delish. But most of all I love it because between the quinoa and the beans this salad is packed with protein and can easily stand on it's own two feet as a complete meal. It also works great as a side to whatever you might be grilling. And it makes a great leftover. Use it at breakfast the next morning on top of your scrambled eggs! 


1 can of black beans, rinsed
1 cup of quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 cup of frozen corn kernels 
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bell pepper chopped into small pieces
1/2 red onion diced
3 tablespoons of olive oil
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
1 table spoon of cumin
1 large handful of fresh cilantro chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese
1 avocado cut into small pieces

Put all ingredients except feta and avocado in a large bowl and toss well. Put in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour. When you're ready to serve, add the avocado and feta and gently toss. 

If you'd like to do a little extra work you can roast the frozen corn in a frying pan with some butter and salt and pepper, but this isn't really necessary.


Monday, August 11, 2014

// P I T T S B U R G H //

The second part of our vacation was spent in Pittsburgh with Alex's sister, brother-in-law, and their 3 boys, taking in the sights, eating the eats, and having lots of fun family time. We went to a Pirates game; I'm not much a sports person, but I think outdoor baseball is something that I could do. We spent time walking around the downtown area of Pittsburgh, taking in the sights and enjoying the excitement of being in a new and different city.  I got a pedicure in, Alex and I sneaked out for a date one night and Johnny had so much fun with his cousins he didn't even notice we were gone.  He's going to miss them.  So are we!

// P I R A T E S G A M E //

// P O I N T S T A T E P A R K //

// C A R N E G I E M U S E U M O F N A T U R A L H I S T O R Y //

// P H I P P S C O N S E R V A T O R Y //

Friday, August 8, 2014

// 7 Q U I C K T A K E S V O L 9 //

linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary for some more quick takes....

In case you haven't noticed, we're on vacation! This has been a really hard summer, in many ways, even harder than last summer when we were getting used to being parents of a child with a medical condition. All summer long we kept thinking about and talking about and yearning for August when Alex would be done with class and we would be on vacation.  Now it's here and it's great. So for my quick takes this week I will be sharing 7 things that I love about being on vacation.


Alex is here - All The Time! Maybe this seems a little obvious. But I'm just so thrilled to get to spend so much time with my husband firstly because I really like him and secondly because it's nice to have some extra hands to help with the baby wrangling.  It's also so nice to see him relaxing and having fun with son and all his siblings. 


Extra sleep! Alex has been so great about taking Johnny in the mornings so I can sleep in a little bit.  That extra hour (of sleeping by myself) makes a really big difference. I've also been napping more with Johnny than I usually do at home.  Sleep, it's beautiful thing.


Knitting! I love knitting. It's hands down my favorite past time. I've gotten used to working on my projects for just a few minutes at a time since Johnny has been born. But on vacation I've had way more time to knit and it has been delightful.  I even splurged and ordered some new yarn before we left in anticipation of knitting all kinds of things.  2 of my SILs are real whizzes at knitting, so it's fun to see what they're working on and nice to get input and help on my own projects. 


Nieces and Nephews! I married into many nieces and nephews - I have 10! It's been super fun to get to see them all, and it's been fun to see how much Johnny likes watching them and playing with them.  We got to meet our newest nephew EJ for the first time ever.  My SIL Shannon shared what it was like to deliver EJ 10 weeks early in my series, NICU Diaries a few months back. It's amazing and wonderful to see how huge EJ is now.  He and Johnny had fun poking each other in the face and stealing each other's toys. 


A break from diaper duty! I mentioned to Alex while he was in the thick of finals that when his term was over I'd like to have a day where I didn't have to change any poopy diapers and that would be all the vacation I needed.  I was mostly joking and didn't expect him to remember and follow through on that, but he did! He's been changing so many diapers! I think I only changed 1 all of yesterday, and it was so nice! I don't want to sound like we have forgotten the days of the colostomy bag when we just couldn't wait to start changing dirty diapers.  We are extremely grateful that Johnny's digestive system is working so well.  I mean really well.  I mean he poops all the time! It's a good thing, but it gets old too, so it's been nice to have this little bit of relief. Thanks honey!!


Blogging! Blogging is quickly becoming one of my new favorite past times, but I have a really hard time blogging with Johnny around.  I always wonder - how do other blogging mothers do it? Are you able to blog with your kids around? Do you wait til they are asleep? Do you have to leave the house? I'd love to know.  Here on vacation with Alex around all the time, as well as many cousins and aunts and uncles to play with Johnny, I have had many opportunities to blog. 


Not being in our house! I love where we live. I love St. Paul. I love our house with all it's quirks and it's long list of projects. It really feels like home.  But sometimes it's nice to get out of your home, to not see those quirks, and to not think about the list of projects. It's nice to get away from the daily routine and the daily chores. And when the daily chores can't be gotten rid of, they're always more pleasant to do in someone else's house.  It's always more pleasant to wash someone else's dishes, or fold clothes in someone else's laundry room. At least I think so.  

I know we'll be happy to be home once we get there. But for now, we're fully enjoying vacation! 

Johnny looks HUGE in this picture.  My baby is getting so big!

for more quick takes visit Conversion Diary

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

// C O N N E M A R A //

We spent the last few days at Connemara, that's the name of the farm Alex's grandparents retired to over 40 years ago. They have since both passed away but the farm remains in the family. I never met Alex's grandpa, his grandma I had the pleasure of knowing until she passed away just last year at the age of 97. They were always described by everyone as being so in love with each other.  I think that is how I would like to be remembered.

There on the stretch of land they chose to grow old and in love together on, their family has gathered every summer to play in sun soaked grass, and on rolling hills. Alex has told me many stories from his childhood vacations there, sliding down hay bales, off-roading in old cars, staying up late with his brothers and sisters. I first went to the farm the summer we were engaged.  And now we get to bring our own child there and carry on the tradition of going to grandpa's farm .

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