Random Tuesday Thoughts: Big PLL ‘A’ Reveal, Green Smoothie, and Special Soup

Tonight, the season finale of Pretty Little Liars airs. I have no shame left in my guilty pleasure game. The show is addicting, and part of the addiction is the fact that for five seasons we have not known who the heck is torturing these girls. We’ve come close here and there, but THEY NEVER ACTUALLY TELL US. So even if you wanted to quit the show, you can’t until you know who ‘A’ is.

Well, why wait for 8:00 p.m.? I can tell you who ‘A’ is right now…

*Spoiler alert*

A

IT’S BEEN MAGGIE THIS WHOLE TIME. SHE WAS PLAYING TRICKS ON THE LIARS BEFORE SHE WAS EVEN BORN. Bow down, bitches.

OK, OK, Maggie is not ‘A’. But, tonight…we find out who Big ‘A’ is. Or, I think we do. More like we BETTER find out who ‘A’ is or everyone will freak the F out. I just read an article from The Hollywood Reporter, and the creator of PLL I. Marlene King said, “We are definitely seeing a big ‘A’ reveal in the episode, and it is a reveal that will definitely tell you in a certain way who ‘A’ is.” Excuse me? “It is a reveal that will definitely tell you IN A CERTAIN way who ‘A’ is”??? Why are you saying such confusing things, I. Marlene King?! Lady, if you don’t seriously tell us who ‘A’ is tonight we will all be sorely disappointed.

…In other news

Let’s move on to something less ridiculous [i.e. my obsession with a teen show on ABC family] and something a little more mature and possibly helpful.

Lately, I have been making my green smoothie again for breakfast. I used to make it all the time when I was trying to get in shape for my wedding, and I drank too many of them. I needed to take a break. Well, it’s been over a two-year break and I’ve missed them.

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I’m not a huge fan of measuring things, so I kind of just eyeball everything that goes into this. Then I mix it up and devour it. Maggie usually shares with me which is great. I’m happy she likes it!

Here’s what you need:

smoothie ingredients

[Side note, if you don’t have frozen bananas, just be sure to add in some ice cubes before you mix it all up in the blender. It tastes much better when served cold.]

Now onto the soup portion of my random post.

I have a bit of a cold, and yesterday I was craving soup for lunch. We had a ton of random vegetables hanging around, so I decided to throw a bunch of stuff in a pot and call it soup. Usually when I do this, it does NOT turn out very well and I force myself to eat it anyway. However, this turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. So I was happy to eat it. Maggie even approved! [And she has been on a soup strike lately, so I was glad she was interested.]

Here’s what I used:

soup

We had it again for lunch today, and it was quite enjoyable.

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Have you ever decided to throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot [or pan, or blender, etc.] to experiment? Were you happy with how it came out? Was it a total disaster? I think playing around in the kitchen can be a lot of fun! [And funny too, when the disasters happen.]

Five Ways We’re Saving Money

saving money

Since cutting out my salary so that I could stay home with Maggie, we’ve been trying to get creative when it comes to different ways we can save. We’re [currently] not made of money [but one day will be]. So, for now…here are a few things that we’ve done recently that are helping us big time.

1. Refinancing — My husband Colin saw that mortgage rates were at an all time low, so we decided to go for it. We used the same mortgage broker from when we bought our house. If you’re interested in doing this you could use the same broker from when you bought your house, or you could ask around for recommendations from people you trust.

This was pretty much a no brainer when we realized it would be easy to do, and that it would keep an extra $150 in our pockets each month.

150 a month

2. Cutting cable + house phone — This one was a tough one for me. I LOVE TV AND I’M NOT ASHAMED OF IT! The thing is, even if you get an awesome rate from whomever you use (we had Verizon Fios) there are still so many shitty little charges attached to your base rate. If you’re ‘triple play’ rate (or whatever you have) is $114.99 for the bundle (a land line, internet, and cable) then you still have to take into consideration the extra charges — $19.99 for the cable box/DVR, and $15.99 to have Showtime (what can I say, I love Shameless and House of Lies!).

So, we decided to get rid of Verizon altogether. First we decided to get rid of our land line and cable, then we decided to get rid of Verizon. We never really had a problem with them, but when comparing internet prices — Comcast was significantly cheaper than Verizon’s (for internet only), so we decided to switch to them and only get internet. Now we pay $29.99 a month for internet. We invested in an HD antenna in order to get basic cable (PBS, CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, and a few others) and an Amazon Firestick (we have Amazon Prime as well — $99 a year — so we can access a ton of movies and TV shows through that). We also have Netflix (thanks, Mom and Dad!).

With these options we have plenty to watch, I never miss out on my shows, and we’re saving $120.98 a month.

120 a month

3. Insulating our attic — We decided to have a home energy assessment by Mass Save (we live in Massachusetts) which was a super easy process. They usually only take about 1.5-2.5 hours to do, and the specialist doing the assessment will give you a custom list of energy saving recommendations for your home in order to make it more energy efficient. (If you’d like to start the process, here is the Online Home Energy Assessment — a good place to start). The specialist recommended we insulate our attic — they set up the appointment for us with one of their contractors, and it was done in about half a day for $500. We’ve already felt the improvements in our house, and BONUS! we also got about $300 worth of free energy efficient light bulbs for our house during our assessment.

This will save us around $350-$400 a year. And since Mass Save pays 75% of any weatherization improvements to your house (with up to a $2,000 cost), we will most likely insulate our walls next year for a similar price. MORE SAVINGS, PEOPLE!

350 a year

4. Low gas rates + Cumberland Farms app — If you live anywhere near a Cumberland Farms (are they only in Massachusetts? The north east? I don’t know…) you NEED to have the Cumberland Farms Smart Pay app on your phone. We synched it up to our checking account so when I pull up to the pump I just open the app, sign in, type in what number pump I am at, and then I am ready to pump. No need to take out your credit card, or go into the store to pay in cash. Super easy. Also, ding!ding!ding! you save .10 cents a gallon when you use your app! Any little bit helps. (You can also get a Smart Pay gas card if you don’t have a smart phone).

I use my smart phone for everything else…it’s about time I start using it to save money. Especially to save $150-$200 a month on gas.

150 to 200

5. Shopping at the cheaper grocery store + meal planning — When you start seeing results from money saving changes, finding ways to save even more money basically becomes a game. It’s a challenge that lasts forever. It’s fun! (Yes, I’m a weirdo).

Anyway, we have two close grocery store options by us — Market Basket or Stop and Shop. To be honest, I like the atmosphere at Stop and Shop better than Market Basket. It’s rarely crazy in there, it’s smaller, and everyone is very friendly. However, it’s definitely more expensive than Market Basket. Market Basket is much bigger, and quite a bit busier, but the staff is always just as friendly as Stop and Shop. When we shop at Market Basket vs. Stop and Shop, we see a significant difference in our bill. So we have made a commitment to consistently shop at Market Basket which may sound like a really simple change to make, but it actually is kind of tough. I had been used to going to Stop and Shop for a while, and once I’m in a routine it is hard for me to change that routine. But ever since making a conscious decision to shop at Market Basket, I have been sticking with it for about a month now and I think it’s safe to say that it is now part of my new routine.

And part of my new routine has been to do my weekly grocery shopping on Monday mornings instead of Sunday evenings, because Market Basket is a zoo on Sunday evenings. Panic attack central.

Second part of #5 is meal planning. I’ve been trying my best to stick to meal planning on Sunday afternoons or evenings. That way I have meals planned out for each night of the week, and a very specific list to adhere to at the store. This helps me stay focused, makes my trips quicker, and it makes it harder for me to stray from the list (therefore, not wasting money on unnecessary items). The app Pepperplate has been helpful for me. It’s free, and pretty straightforward. It helps you to organize your recipes whether they are originals or recipes you found online, create menus, plan meals, and make your shopping list.

Two things I REALLY love about this app are the fact that it’s super easy to share recipes with others via email or social media, and when you’re in ‘cook’ mode — the screen doesn’t dim and lock on you. I HATE WHEN THAT HAPPENS.

Shopping at Market Basket and meal planning has helped save us around $100 a month.

100 a monthHere’s what the Pepperplate app looks like:

Pepperplate

Pepperplate

Pepperplate

When we first started to think about new ways we could save money, we decided to look at the big picture. Where are we spending unnecessary money? How can we cut back and simplify a bit? Switching to Market Basket instead of Stop and Shop was one of our first money saving decisions, and I whined about that because I thought something so small wouldn’t be a big deal.

However, like I said, every little bit helps — and when you cut out five little bits one by one, you’re saving a big chunk of money every month. That’s more money in your pocket for things you want to do with it (whether it be going on a vacation, redoing the kitchen, paying off student loans, etc.) I’m all about cutting out unnecessary spending, and I am on a mission to continue to do so. (Except cutting out my Heavenly Donuts coffees a few times a week…DON’T TAKE MY COFFEES AWAY!!!!!)

The Hunting Ground: Interview with Molly Mescall + Ticket Giveaway (at end of post)

TheHuntingGround_Quotes

There are conversations that are easy to have. There are conversations that are hard to have. The tough conversations are usually not fun, but guess what? They are almost always necessary. Take sexual assault for example. It’s a hard subject to talk about for people who have not been sexually assaulted. Now, think about the brave survivors — think about how hard it is for the them to talk about it. (Now pause in reading this to give them major kudos). These survivors know it’s necessary. It’s important. So they rise above, and they speak out. They’re speaking out for themselves, for their college communities, and I believe they are also speaking out for those sexual assault victims who are not yet able to talk about what happened to them. By sharing their stories in this documentary, they are letting other women and men know that they are not alone.

I have made a commitment to keep talking about the new documentary The Hunting Ground, and I will continue to do so. The more people talk about this, the more attention this topic will get, which I then hope turns into positive change and safer college environments. The Hunting Ground comes from Academy-Award nominated filmmakers of The Invisible War, Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick. It is a powerful documentary that focuses on the topic of sexual assault on college campuses, the coverups by college administrations, and what activists are doing to change the way colleges and universities are handling sexual assaults.

Hunting Ground

This film is close to my heart, as my sister Molly appears in it sharing part of her story. Our family has experienced such anger and heartbreak because of this issue. It’s terrible, and it’s happening everywhere. What these colleges and universities are doing is not fair, and it truly is time for people to step up and do the right thing.

Chances are, you know someone who has experienced sexual assault. Probably even more than one person. I know a few, and that’s only people who have shared their story. Think of those who maybe have never even talked about what happened to them. Sexual assault on college campuses is an epidemic and the madness needs to stop. Change can happen if people want it to. So lets show these institutions that this isn’t okay! Buy a ticket to the movie. Buy one for a friend. Post about the film on your social media accounts. Email your contacts. Spread the word to everyone and anyone.

I sat down with my sister Molly to ask her a few questions about her journey. We wanted to share more about her story to continue the conversation (below). Molly will be joining producer Amy Ziering tonight for a Q+A at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge following the 7:05 p.m. showing. Amy will also be doing a Q+A following the 7:05 p.m. showing tomorrow night as well.

Tickets are now available to purchase for The Hunting Ground at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge (you can purchase them here). Show times for this Friday, March 13 are: 11:10 a.m., 1:35 p.m., 4:00 p.m., 7:05 p.m., and 9:45 p.m. Tickets are also available to purchase for Saturday 3/14, Sunday 3/15, Monday 3/16, Tuesday 3/17, Wednesday 3/18, and Thursday 3/19. Show times are the same Friday-Thursday except there is no 1:35 p.m. on Saturday I believe.

The Hunting Ground has been showing in New York, Los Angeles, and also opens today in Berkeley, Pasadena, and San Francisco CA, as well as Washington D.C. and Canada. Please check The Hunting Ground’s website to see when it will be playing in your area. Or host a screening yourself!

Now…our interview:

Molly QuoteCT: How did Notre Dame make you feel after your assault?

MM: After reporting I felt unsupported and as though my claims were being questioned. As though I was the perpetrator in the crime as opposed to the victim. I felt like my claims weren’t taken seriously. And I really had to take the initiative to get my investigation going, because they weren’t proactive.

CT: What was it like telling us – Mom and Dad, and your siblings?

MM: It took me a while to kind of get up the courage to tell my family. I had to sit down with a counselor to write out a script. And I decided to tell our sister Megan first, and then have her help me in calling Mom and Dad and telling them and everyone else. It was really scary to make that first phone call because you don’t know what those emotions are going to be like on the other line. But I think after I spoke to Megan she made it a lot easier for me to call Mom and everyone else. And as soon as I called Mom and told her I felt ten times better because the next day she and Dad were on a plane to come see me. And then I almost felt bad for waiting to tell everyone. Because once I told everybody I got so much support. I didn’t feel as alone.

CT: You transferred to Merrimack College your second semester sophomore year. You loved your time at Merrimack. It must have been a tough decision to make – transferring. Looking back, would you do it again?

MM: It definitely was a hard decision to leave St. Mary’s because I loved it there and have amazing friends from there. Looking back I don’t know what my college experience would have been like without Merrimack. I got such incredible support there and I am very glad I transferred and experienced both schools.

CT: What made you participate in The Hunting Ground once you were asked?

MM: When I heard about The Hunting Ground, I first researched who Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick were and found that they had done work on The Invisible War movie. I had heard how great this movie was but hadn’t seen it yet. So I emailed Amy to say that I was interested, but wasn’t sure yet. Then I watched The Invisible War and thought, “I have to be a part of this”. I knew what Amy and Kirby were capable of and knew what conversation The Hunting Ground would start.

CT: I remember the day you went to LA to be interviewed for the film. Were you nervous? How were you feeling?

MM: When I went to do the interview I was living in San Diego at the time, so I drove up to LA the night before and woke up the next morning to drive up to Beverly Hills for the interview. I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew to show up to this house and bring a couple of different shirt options and filming would start. It was a bit terrifying. But once I got there and was introduced to Kirby, Amy, and the crew I was much more comfortable and knew this was going to be a good experience for me. When I met them I felt at home and comforted.

CT: What was it like – seeing this film for the first time?

MM: I saw this film for the first time out at Sundance and it was terrifying. I didn’t know where in the film I would appear and I found myself waiting to see my own face the entire time. But other than that, it was a moving experience to learn about all the other men and women survivors in the film and to hear their stories. It makes me feel like a part of a little family in a way. And the film really inspired me to take action and to become a part of the activism that these other survivors are a part of.

CT: Who do you think needs to see this film?

MM: I think this is a film that really everyone should see. Parents that have teenagers thinking about what college they are going to choose. Parents with kids already in college. I think it’s important for young men and women to see before heading to college. I think it’s important for college administrators to see also. I think the more people who see it, the longer the conversation will go and the louder the conversation will be and that’s the most important thing.

CT: Has this experience with The Hunting Ground helped you on your journey?

MM: I have found that telling my story has really helped in my personal healing process. I think it’s important for survivors to find an outlet, to get the opportunity to share their story. And for me to be able to share it amongst other survivors on a platform such as The Hunting Ground has been a very empowering experience. It has helped me own this experience; to own my assault as part of my story. To come to terms with the fact that this is a part of me, but it does not have to define me.

I love you, Molly! We are so proud of you, and we hope you know that.

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We will be at 7:05 p.m. showing tonight. I hope to see you there! If you can’t make it tonight, I hope you get to see The Hunting Ground at another showing. Please share your thoughts on Facebook after you see it to help spread the word.

Also, please note that Lyft is offering free rides to see The Hunting Ground in Boston with promo code HUNTINGPREMIERE. And I’m offering two free tickets to the 7:05 p.m. showing tonight to the first person who tweets at @mamasdailycraic or emails me at dailycraic@gmail.com. Thanks!

Lyft

I’m so grateful for Amy Ziering, Kirby Dick, the rest of their team, and of course the survivors in this film (and those interviewed who did not appear in the film) for making The Hunting Ground. It is very powerful; it will make you angry, sad, frustrated. Your heart will ache listening to these stories. But you will also feel inspired and motivated to turn that anger and sadness into something positive. Please check out The Hunting Ground on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Hashtags used: #HuntingGround #EndCampusRape #ItsOnUs #NoMore #NotAlone

Dear Maggie

Dear Maggie,

A year has gone by, and I am not sure how. This time of year makes me feel like I should be pregnant and nesting, because that’s exactly how life was one year ago. One year ago, I was nervous, happy, scared, and excited. I don’t know if I was ever technically ‘ready’, but on February 1, 2014, you were! I knew life would change drastically; but I didn’t know my heart would. I knew I would love you A LOT, of course. But the love I have for you is different from any love I’ve ever experienced, and it’ll never go away.

You have grown and changed so much over this first year. It’s truly amazing to watch. You are bright, curious, and inquisitive. You have shown us how brave, strong, and loving you are. You’re happy, and very funny (must get that from me). You’re developing into quite an impressive little human, and it is so gratifying and fulfilling to Dad and I. You are the daughter we’ve always wanted.

I hope you continue to take the world by storm.

You welcome everyone with a warm smile and a wave. Try to always see the best in people and have an open heart, just as you do now. If only we could all remember how loving our hearts were when we were one year old, this world would be better for it!

You laugh the best belly laugh I’ve ever heard. I hope you continue to see the joy in the world, and remember to make the best of a situation even when it is tough.

You may cry now when you get frustrated, but soon, those cries will turn into words. Words that you will be able to use to communicate your wants and needs to the world. Speak up, speak loudly. You deserve to be heard.

Stand up for what you believe in. Speak strongly about things you’re passionate about. Find people, and hobbies, and a job that you are passionate about. Hold on to them.

The world can be scary and intimidating. I hope you always remember how brave you are. You just fractured your leg, and had a cast on for three weeks like it was no big deal! And you’re only one! You can handle a lot. When there are times you don’t feel so brave, know that there are so many people who love you and want to help. Dad and I will always be there for you — any time of day or night.

You will need to make important decisions in your life. I hope you have all the confidence in the world to believe in the decisions you make. Go after what you want. I’ve let a lack of confidence hold me back at times, and I don’t want you to do that (so listen to your Mom!). You have a good heart. I believe in you, and I believe you can do anything you dream of. Always remember that, and believe it yourself. Word hard, and it will pay off.

Some decisions will be hard, and you’ll make mistakes along the way. That’s life! Everyone makes mistakes, and it is okay. Remember that it is okay, and don’t let guilt fester. Acknowledge your mistake, learn from it, move on. If you did something wrong, or hurt someone, apologize. Don’t make excuses, offer sincere words of apology. Life is too short to hold grudges.

Life is also filled of ups and downs, lefts and rights, bumps and bruises…but if you embrace every day — you will truly be living. Make the most of your days. Don’t pout for no reason, try not to complain too much (everyone has the right to complain, but why fill your days with complaint after complaint?), don’t harbor anger. Fill your heart with love. It is just better that way, I promise. Remember, your Mom is always right. ;)

If there is only one thing you get out of this letter, I truly want it to be this: make your bed, and clean up after yourself.

Kidding… (kind of…)

The most important thing is, to choose kindness. Offer a helping hand, defend someone, give them the benefit of the doubt, smile at people you pass, be polite, give up your seat to someone who needs it, do something nice for someone you love, visit someone who needs to talk, volunteer. It’s not always easy, but when you are someone who believes in kindness, you are able to see the good in people and you allow happiness in to your world.

I can’t believe you aren’t a ‘baby’ anymore. You’re charging right into toddlerhood. Although, you will always be my baby, you know that right?

I love you with my whole heart, and am grateful every day that I get to be your mom. I can’t wait for all of the adventures ahead of us! Thanks for an amazing year.

I love you,

Mom

Mom and Maggie

Mom and Maggie

The Solid Food Journey: Make Your Own Baby Food (and other thoughts…)

maggie_avocado_first food

Feeding Maggie the first six months of her life was easy. Not easy as in “Breastfeeding is the easiest thing in the world! No problems at all!” I mean I-am-lazy-and-my-boobs-are-attached-to-my-body easy. When Maggie was hungry, all I had to do was pop my breast out of my bra or tank top, and there ya have it. I didn’t have to prepare anything, because — lucky for you Maggie! — my boobs are attached to my body for your convenience.

Then, things changed. I had to start thinking about solid foods. I’m telling you — once you think you’re in a good groove, literally the second you let your brain think “This sh*t is easy! I’m the best parent ever!”, something else comes into play and takes it all away. Solid food, teeth, sleep regression, separation anxiety, rolling over, crawling, walking, etc. etc. etc. YOU’RE NEVER IN THE CLEAR.

When to start solid foods? We decided to wait until six months. There are a lot of theories and philosophies around this, and my best recommendation for you would be to do your research and ask for opinions from people you trust. I read a bunch of things, and asked my parent friends. Then ultimately, we did what we felt best for Maggie. That’s basically been my approach to most of this “parenting stuff”.

In my research, I found that the World Health Organization recommends waiting until baby is six months before solids [read more from their website here]. Dr. Sears recommends to take things slow, and to also wait until six months [read more from this website here]. I wasn’t personally in a rush to get Maggie on solids. I was nervous to be honest. I was able to see the excitement of tasting new flavors and textures, but I also saw allergies and choking. So thankfully around six months not only did Maggie seem ready to go, but Colin and I were also ready.

From Dr. Sears website:

Gone are the days when pressured mothers stuffed globs of cereal into the tight mouths of reluctant six-week-olds. Nowadays parents feed their baby on the timetable that is developmentally and nutritionally correct — as determined by their baby. Don’t be in a rush when introducing solid foods.

Here are some reasons you might wait to offer baby solids [from Dr. Sears]:

1. Baby’s intestines need to mature

2. Young babies have a tongue-thrust reflex

3. Baby’s swallowing mechanism is immature

4. Baby needs to be able to sit up

5. Young infants are not equipped to chew [Maggie only just got her first two teeth at eight months]

6. Older babies like to imitate caregivers [around six months babies like to imitate; if they see you chewing/using a spoon/etc. they may want to try too].

A lot of doctors and people in general recommend starting baby with rice cereal. After a bit of reading and asking around, we decided to skip this with Maggie. Instead, Maggie’s first food was avocado. She liked that at first, didn’t for a while, now she’s back to liking it. Wacky!

A note on cereal from The Food Renegade:

What’s wrong with infant cereal? Babies can’t digest it. In order to digest grains, your body needs to make use of an enzyme called amylase. Amylase is the enzyme responsible for splitting starches. And, guess what? Babies don’t make amylase in large enough quantities to digest grains until after they are a year old at the earliest. Sometimes it can take up to two years. You see, newborns don’t produce amylase at all. Salivary amylase makes a small appearance at about 6 months old, but pancreatic amylase (what you need to actually digest grains) is not produced until molar teeth are fully developed! First molars usually don’t show up until 13-19 months old, on average. Undigested grains wreak havoc on your baby’s intestinal lining. It can throw off the balance of bacteria in their gut and lead to lots of complications as they age including: food allergies, behavioral problems, mood issues, and more.

Make Your Own Baby Food

Another thing I wanted to do to prepare for our solid food journey was to take the Make Your Own Baby Food class offered at Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness in North Andover. The class is taught by Maria Nardella who was awesome — she is a personal chef, a health coach, and a mother. I wanted to take this class, because solid food intimidated me. It was overwhelming [as is each new step in the parenting journey I’m finding]. What should I feed Maggie? How do I properly and safely prepare it? How much should I feed her? When do I move on to new foods? What if she doesn’t like using a spoon? What if she doesn’t like the foods I’m giving her? etc. etc. etc.

MYOBF class from Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness’ website:

Are you excited about making delicious and nutrition foods for your new baby?  Or does the prospect scare you but you really want to learn?  No matter how you answer the question, if you would like to learn how to make wholesome and nutritious baby food for your bundle of joy, without having to buy an expensive machine, come to the workshop! We will explore how and when to introduce solid foods, what foods to introduce first and when to add grains and proteins, how to prepare/store/serve the foods you make, fun ways to have your baby explore all these wonderful foods, demonstration on making your baby’s food using the equipment you have at home, and explore products that make creating and storing your foods easy.

Steps to preparing food for baby [for example, cauliflower]:

1.Wash cauliflower

2. Steam cauliflower for five to ten minutes [can test with a fork to see if it’s still not soft enough]

3. Add the steamed cauliflower into your blender, Vitamix, etc. as well as some of the steaming water you just used. That water has nutrients in it from the process of steaming and helps make the cauliflower the proper consistency for baby.

4. Blend that together, and let cool down a bit before serving to baby.

5. You can also add a bit of breast milk to the prepared food in order to thin it out more if needed.

6. Storing excess food — fill up an ice-cube tray with the rest of the food you made, put a piece of parchment paper on top and throw it in the freezer. That helps prepare you for a while! Just be sure to use the food up in time — this food should last up to three months.

*A note about storing foods — Be sure to label frozen foods with what it is, and the date. And don’t add breast milk into the food before freezing! Wait until you thaw it, and then add it in. Microwaving frozen food is not recommended. Instead, fill a bowl with hot water and add a smaller bowl [or my favorite — a Wean Green container — which they sell at Maternal Health and Wellness!] and let it defrost that way.

Some other takeaways from the class were:

  • Cauliflower is a great staple — it’s high in vitamin C and folic acid, it can also easily be mixed into other foods.
  • A child may need to be exposed to a food up to fifteen times before they like it [adults too!]
  • Be gentle and slow when introducing foods to baby — start with one food per week, or at least 4-5 days [so as to not overwhelm them, but also to watch out for allergies].
  • Sometimes it takes a while for an allergic reaction to show up. Don’t stress yourself out about this, but just be aware — diarrhea, constipation, mucus in poop, a rash — all can be signs of allergic reaction.
  • Steam the food you are giving to baby and save the steaming water to add into the blender with the steamed food for extra nutrients.
  • Can also add chicken stock for additional nutrients.
  • Can add organic coconut oil, butter, sea salt, etc. to foods in order to add a little extra flavor for baby.
  • You want baby’s first foods to be super smooth, no chunks. The reason for this is you want their food to already be broken down for them since this is a whole new ballgame.
  • Avocados, bananas, sweet potatoes = all great first foods.
  • Keep track of how much baby is eating; for example if you put two tablespoons of food in each ice-cube slot, you know how much you’re giving your baby for those first few weeks or months.
  • Remember, at this point your baby probably hasn’t had a spoon in his or her mouth regularly. Serving baby his or her food off of a spoon may create anxiety for either baby or mom and dad at first. Keep in mind that it is fine to start with your finger to get baby comfortable with this new process.
  • Egg yolk is the safe part of an egg to give baby — the egg white is the allergenic, not the yolk — so the yolk mixed with some butter and sea salt is a great first food for baby. Plus, we tried it in class — it is delicious prepared this way!
  • Don’t stop breastfeeding or formula feeding just because baby is now getting solids. Continue breastfeeding as long as mom and baby want.
  • The dirty dozen — what to buy organicThe Dirty Dozen

Maggie is just about nine months old and our solid food journey has been a lot of fun! Maggie LOVES sweet potatoes, butternut squash, blueberries, apples/applesauce, egg yolk. She is usually pretty open-minded about trying new things, especially things like her cousin Brian’s doughnut [oops!]. She doesn’t really like green beans or peas, although I do keep trying them out on her. Maybe one day…

I try to make food for her for dinner every night [as best I can — usually the vegetable Colin and I are also having for dinner], but we definitely have been using Happy Family food pouches quite a bit too, and they are great. Maggie also loves their puffs and yogurt bites which are actually quite delicious, and they are a perfect way for her to practice her motor skills.

Something that really stuck with me from the Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is a phrase Maria used, “food for fun, until age one”. Remember, this is a fun and exploratory phase for both baby and parents. Enjoy it, and don’t put too much pressure on yourselves!

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The Make Your Own Baby Food workshop is $40 per family.

The next available openings are Monday, November 17th from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. or Saturday, January 10th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Click here to sign up!

Sarah Wells Breast Pump Bag

Something I was really obsessed with when I was pregnant was finding the perfect diaper bag. Not too “diaper-baggy”, stylish, but not crazy expensive, and probably last on my list — practical. I bought myself a beautiful black bag, and was so excited to get it and use it. And then when I started to use it, it bugged the crap out of me.

Why?

  1. It was beyond large. It was humongous. You don’t need that much stuff for baby on a daily basis.
  2. It had way too many pockets and contraptions; I could never find anything when I actually needed it. And when you need something, I have found that you usually need it quickly…so digging around for things doesn’t really work out well.
  3. The straps were too short to fit over my shoulder.
  4. It was hard to stuff the bag on the bottom of my stroller because it was so large and in charge.
  5. It honestly looked ridiculous; no matter whether it was packed to the brim or not, it looked like it was. So I looked like a wacko with basically a carry on piece of luggage as my diaper bag every day. Yea, who cares what people think? But it annoyed me personally, so I decided to give up on it.

And then lo and behold, I won a Sarah Wells ‘Maddy’ Breast Pump Bag on Facebook right around the time I decided to give up on my old bag. The universe can work in your favor sometimes!

Here is my bag on the Cross Sound Ferry on a trip to Long Island

Here is my bag on the Cross Sound Ferry on a trip to Long Island

Now clearly, this bag is designed to be a breast pump bag. But, since I don’t commute and work in an office, I don’t really need it for that. So, I decided to make this bag my new diaper bag. It is truly the perfect size for the things I need on an every day basis.

That being said, if you do need the Maddy bag because you are a working/pumping mom, this is the bag to have. Forget about that sad [sorry, but it’s true] bag that comes with your pump. You are an awesome mama, and deserve a stylin’ bag to stash your pump in. And one where you don’t even have to take the pump out because there are magical pockets?! Yes, yes, yes. The pockets allow you to operate your pump equipment from inside of the — super efficient, and discreet too.

The bag measures 13″ long, 8″ wide, and 11″ tall. The handles rise 11.5″ from the top of the bag. The main part of the bag is where I stash diapers, wipes, Nuroo scarf, changing pad, extra pacifiers, a rattle, socks, bows, sunscreen, and other random things for Mags. It’s also where I put my wallet, sunglasses, chapstick, etc. There is a pocket inside where I store my Kindle, and a zipper pocket where I put loose items [i.e. chapstick]. Then there are two side pockets; one I store extra clothes for Maggie, and the other I store a few more toys/things to chew on [for Maggie, not me.]

Sometimes my bag looks like this [with random stuff bustin’ out]

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And, on good days, it’s more like this:

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[Shoutout to another Sara, my friend who makes amazing baby items — burp cloths, blankets, crib sheets, bibs, etc. at Chunky Love Boutique. That cute elephant burp cloth is one of her designs!]

More from Sarah Wells:

“Specialized side compartments on BOTH sides of the bag to discreetly carry your breast pump (fits most brands and styles of pumps), and also bottles, breast shields, tubing, power cords, battery pack, wipes, you name it – all while carrying your day-to-day items in the main compartment. Plus, the inside lining is easy-to-clean and the outside is water-resistant.”

In revamping my blog, and rejigging things to make it a better fit for my lifestyle these days, I wanted to pick and choose what products I write about. I will be writing about products I love and truly believe in. Sarah Wells is a wonderful person, a real pumping mother, and her bag design is fabulous! I got to meet Sarah at MommyCon Boston and it was a real pleasure. She is a genuine, really nice, super smart businesswoman. I am happy to recommend this bag to everyone and anyone!

As a little side note for things to come from Sarah Wells — I have been following what’s going on at the ABC Kids Expo in Vegas, and Sarah has been posting photos of her new designs coming soon. You HAVE to check them out. They are gorgeous, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one!

See more photos from the expo, and follow all things Sarah Wells on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@sarahwellsbags).

The Sarah Wells ‘Maddy’ bag is $145, and you can purchase it on Amazon.com.

Mommy & Me Yoga

I can’t believe the summer is [basically] over! We got to do a lot of fun and interesting things, and I must say — our first summer with Maggie was a success. From hanging out at the beach on Plum Island, to vacationing with family in Myrtle Beach and on the Cape, to play group meetings and trips to Long Island and Vermont — we tried to give Maggie a taste of fun summer “musts”, and we fit in as much as possible. So that’s why we’ve been kind of MIA lately. Too much summer fun to be had. ;)

I hope you all also had a fabulous, safe summer!

Now as fall is knocking on our door, I’m finding myself slip slowly back into a more scheduled daily routine — and I must say, I don’t hate it. Yes I will soon miss the warm weather and my flip flops, but even without going back to school myself (or having a child go back to school) there is just something about September that makes you want to go on a shopping spree at Staples, and be productive (or just write a bunch of things on post-its). So here’s hoping September allows me to write more on here while balancing the other pieces of my life puzzle.

One fall activity I hope to keep on our schedule is Mommy and Me Yoga at Maternal Health and Wellness in North Andover.

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We went on Monday for the first time and loved it! We ended up seeing two of my friends from our play group and their babies, and then there was one other mama and her baby in the class. It was a small, intimate group which was great — the instructor (who was friendly, easy to listen to/take direction from, and knew her stuff) was able to keep an eye on our little ones as we got into our poses or at times when we had our eyes shut.

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Maggie seemed to really enjoy it! She was chatting and growling (her new favorite thing) the whole time.  Mags isn’t crawling yet, but she definitely doesn’t want to sit still, so she wasn’t necessarily doing all the yoga moves — and neither were all of the other babies — which is totally acceptable in this class. I’d sit Maggie down and give her a toy to play with, or face her towards the mirror so she can admire herself (another one of her favorite things to do — “you’re so vain…you probably think this post is about you…”), or she would just be looking from one person to the next watching our movements. It was a forty-five minute class and I felt it was the perfect amount of time for both babies and mamas.

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Here is a bit more from Maternal Health and Wellness’ website:

“This class is designed for moms with babies 6 weeks through 9 months.  Inspired by yoga flow, this class incorporates movement and breath designed to increase flexibility, regain strength and encourage overall physical and mental balance during the postnatal period. Postures target both mom and baby, individually and together.  We provide a flexible class structure for the feeding and comfort of both you and your baby.”

This class is every Monday from 11:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at 16 High Street, Suite 201 North Andover. Hope to see you soon!

*FIRST CLASS IS FREE*

Reconnecting with yourself after baby

this is the part whereWhen you’re pregnant, you know things are going to be different after your little one arrives. This is a weird feeling. You vaguely understand the concept, but will never completely grasp it until you are in the thick of things. The realization of it comes in different stages; I was first in the bubble of the hospital with my midwife, nurses, husband, and Maggie 24/7. Next, we moved to the bubble of our home [where we mostly stayed for a month or so because it was February and really cold]. Colin and I stayed with Maggie in our home bubble together for one week before he had to go back to work, and then my mother came for a week or two [I forget…it is lost in the fog of newborn life] to be with Maggie and I when Colin was working.

People came by, visited on the weekends, brought us food, cooked us dinners, did laundry, doted on me, told me to “sit with the baby” — life was great! I truly felt celebrated as a new mother, and Maggie was not short on attention or affection. I have been lucky enough to stay home with Maggie for these six months; both something I personally wanted and actually made most sense for us [when you compare what I was making to the cost of childcare]. I thank Colin for giving me this opportunity; it’s not always easy financially, but we are making it work for now.

When all the doting and celebrating stopped, I slowly felt things change a bit. The world, and life in general was on pause for a few months…now the world is spinning again. Yes people definitely do still check in, come visit here and there, and gush over Maggie — but life has gone on for everyone. Maggie was born, there was a celebration period, and now it’s back to business.

We’re six months out, and I am here thinking…who am I? What do I want to do professionally? Do I want more? Crave more? Is that okay?

It’s a tough subject to think about when you are pregnant — or was for me — but you will need to rediscover, re-prioritize, and reconnect with yourself after baby. Not to mention, finding your new groove as a couple after baby is also work that will need to be done. Things change, priorities change, plans change. You thought “sure, it’d be easy to go to the wedding — we will put Maggie down, and then dance the night away!” until the phase of your baby not wanting to go to sleep kicks in. Or, “yes we can meet you at 12, that’s fine!” but your baby needs to eat, then falls asleep and you don’t want to wake her up by putting her in her car seat so you let her sleep which means you are late. “I’d love to go to yoga and grab a drink after!” – you made it through yoga, but need to run home after because your little one is hysterical and needs her mama. You make to-do lists miles long, and some days don’t even get one thing crossed off.

You will understand how much you can love someone. Again, this is something you know before the baby comes, but you don’t fully get until he or she is here in your arms — a real little person. This love is powerful; it feels like your heart is weighed down because there is so much love in there — that your heart could burst. Sometimes this love makes you feel like the happiest person in the world, and sometimes it feels like the world is on your shoulders. It’s confusing, terrifying, and awesome in every sense of the word.

Your mind will come around and will be able to process and think about things other than dirty diapers, bath time, and swaddling. Until it does, it is worth it to say — don’t feel guilty about the bubble you create when you have a newborn. I personally think it is necessary for mom and dad to bond with baby this way; and for me, [and I think I can speak for my husband Colin on this] it was blissful. Sure I felt some pressure to attempt to keep the house clean or get some laundry done, [although like I said I did have help from Colin, my mother, and others — it takes a village, don’t be afraid to use it] but I prioritized the importance of getting to know my baby and slowing things down.

I think Colin and I found a pretty good balance of time for ourselves with Maggie, and time with others to introduce them to Maggie. It was important for both, as we were thrilled for our loved ones to meet her! Most importantly, you have to do what is right and works best for your family no matter what. You will know what that is when baby arrives. Trust yourself and don’t feel guilty [easier said that done]. It should be a law not to make new parents feel guilty in any way, shape, or form.

When your mind does come around, be prepared for a lot of confusion. Maybe you have been here before. This is where I find myself these days. I’ve had a lot of labels in life; “Michelle and Kevin’s daughter”, “A Mescall”, “Meg’s/Big Pat’s little sister”, “Kelly/Molly’s older sister”, “Colin’s girlfriend/wife”, “Student”, “Teacher”, and most recently “Maggie’s Mom”, “New Mom”. What about “Colleen Temple, twenty-eight year old woman”? Who the heck am I these days aside from a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend? What do I enjoy doing when I am alone? If I had a few hours by myself, what would I want to do?

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently.

I love being a stay at home mother.

But, I also love writing and dedicating time to writing.

Guilt.

I love spending so much time with Maggie.

But, I also love time to myself.

Guilt.

When Maggie goes to sleep, I love getting one-on-one time with Colin.

But, I also love putting time into my passions and hobbies.

Guilt.

Why all the guilt? Well I think in our society sometimes it seems like you have to choose — are you going to be a dedicated stay at home mother, or are you going to work? For me it has taken me time to decide, and I am still deciding. What’s nice about today’s day and age is that there are lots of part-time work options, and work from home options. I am currently taking advantage of both as of late, and I think this is where my path will continue. Working from home, and/or part-time work options seem to speak to me most.

I am currently not ready to find someone I don’t know to hire and pay to watch Maggie. I’m not sure when I will be ready for that, or when Colin will be ready but we aren’t pressuring ourselves. Unfortunately, neither of our parents live nearby [mine are in New York, and Colin’s are in Vermont], but fortunately I have two sisters locally and Colin has one sister locally. We have taken advantage of these lovely ladies here and there to go out to dinner, to go see a movie, or just to run an errand. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities. For me, I usually feel guilty leaving Maggie, but then am okay once I get to my destination.

This is all part of the process. It’s another phase I am in as a mother, which is currently the biggest part of my identity. I don’t know a lot of things, but what I do know is I love Maggie, I love spending time with her, I love writing, I want to write, I need to work out for my health, I need time to myself, and I need time with my husband. I want Maggie to grow up with an understanding that dedicating time to strengthen your marriage is necessary and important, that family time is crucial, that challenging yourself — your mind, body, and spirit — will make you a stronger, happier person.

Recent steps I have taken in rediscovering and reconnecting with myself:

  • Revamping my blog, and writing more [I am currently at a coffee shop writing this post while Maggie is at my sister Megan’s hanging with her and the boys. Thanks, Meg!] thank you meg
  • Dabbling in a bit of freelance work
  • Reading a book for pleasure
  • I went to a yoga class last night, and it felt great — I want to challenge myself to keep going
  • Spending time thinking about my goals; setting new ones, and tweaking old ones. I have big dreams — small goals and steps are necessary to accomplish the big things.

Having a baby is life changing in the best way, of course. But it can be scary, lonely, and heavy at times. I love being a mother, and I know Colin loves being a father. We are so happy in many different ways. But it is also okay to take off the “mom” or “dad” hat sometimes and enjoy things you want to do as a couple.

Similarly, I’m realizing that it is okay to take off both the “mom” and “wife” hats and just go au naturel as Colleen, as me. Being a wife and mother is and always will be priority number one for me, but I know I need to give myself time to grow as a person in order to be a good wife and mother — a happy wife and mother. When the mama is happy, the family is happy, amiright?

Breastfeeding portraits

First off — Happy World Breastfeeding Week, and National Breastfeeding Month from Maggie and I!

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Maggie is six months old, and I am currently breastfeeding her. She has started on some solids, and I will also continue to breastfeed her.

Over the weekend, Maggie and I went to MommyCon in Boston and attended a VIP session with the fabulous Jessica of The Leaky Boob where she asked us to describe our breastfeeding journey in one word or phrase. My phrase was “a blessing”. I said this because I feel extremely fortunate that Maggie and I have had a very successful breastfeeding journey thus far. She took to breastfeeding easier and more naturally than even I did. It feels natural to me now, but at first it did feel a bit foreign. Surprisingly enough, I never fed anyone milk from my breast before. [Please sense the sarcasm there.] Not to mention, I truly had no idea if I was doing it correctly once I started.

“Is her latch okay?”

“Is she getting any milk?”

“I have no idea if she is swallowing.”

“They said I could hear if she is swallowing. I don’t hear anything. Do I?”

“She will look satisfied when she is done.”

“Trust your instincts.”

These are things a newly breastfeeding mom may think to herself, or hear from others. I think it is safe to assume that no first time mom has ANY IDEA what she is doing when she first breastfeeds her baby (and from what I hear it is different with each child you have, so no mom ever really knows what it is going to be like, does she?). It’s beautiful. It’s complicated. It’s fulfilling. It’s frustrating. It’s love. It’s draining. It’s so worth it.

You’ll wonder if your baby is getting enough milk. You’ll freak if the pediatrician says your baby isn’t gaining enough weight. You’ll be confused if they suggest supplementing. You’ll worry even if you feel like things are going great between you and your baby.

Two extremely important things I have learned on my breastfeeding journey:

1. You have to trust yourself, your body and your baby in that you are making enough milk, and your baby is doing exactly what he or she should be doing. Be sure to take advantage of the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or the CLC (Certified Lactation Consultant) in the hospital after you deliver. They can assess your baby’s latch, and answer any and all questions you may have. And even if you don’t have too many questions at first, they should be available to you even when you get home from the hospital to help you out. Look up other IBCLC’s or CLC’s in your area so that you have multiple options. I am so beyond lucky that my sister Megan is a CLC and utilized her a TON. I asked her loads of random questions at all hours of the day and night. Thank you, Megan.  And to be fair, Maggie and I were Megan’s first ‘official’ test subjects after she became certified. So I guess it’s more like you’re welcome, Megan.

2. Create a support system. Find other friends or acquaintances who have breastfed in the past or are currently breastfeeding. Connect with them. Find a local organization that can connect you with a play group; talk to those mothers. We live in the Facebook-Instagram-Twitter world; tap into those resources and find breastfeeding communities online. Seek out family members who have been through it. Ask questions. Educate your partner, your family members, and your friends. Let them know that you could use their support and encouragement; you’d be surprised to see how people can really come through for you in big ways. Breastfeeding can be challenging and confusing; it can make you feel like a failure and like your body is not your own. But believe me when I say that it can be beautiful, empowering, amazing, fulfilling, and worth it. It nourishes both mama and baby.

Sometimes the word for someone’s breastfeeding journey is ‘heartbreaking‘. Some people have real struggles when it comes to feeding their baby, and have to stop. Some women can’t breastfeed as long as they want to and they don’t achieve their goal.

A message for you:

You are not a failure. You are not a bad mother. You are doing your best, and this shit is hard. Motherhood. All of it. So throw that guilt away, because we are mothers, we will have something else to feel bad about in five minutes!

I recently had the opportunity to take breastfeeding portraits for Acelleron Maternal Health and Wellness’ new space. I never really thought about doing this until I was asked to participate. I’m glad I did! Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different, and everyone’s breastfeeding journey is special. I wanted to capture this moment in time to remember how little Maggie is now, how amazing it is to feed her with my body, and how different it will be with each of my children. I have decided to share my photos on here, but many women will not post them on a blog. These types of photos are important to have for whatever reason you want to have them; to share them with the world, to share them with your family, to have them for just yourself, or to save them to show your child one day. Whatever the reason may be, think about documenting this time in your life and your baby’s life so you can remember it always.

I had the pleasure of being photographed by Sarah Jordan Photography for this project. Sarah was so nice, professional, and she got a lot of wonderful photos. She is extremely talented! Thank you Sarah for being a part of our breastfeeding journey. There are a few of Maggie and I breastfeeding, one of my sister Megan breastfeeding her son Brian, and then a few others.

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A question for all women, breastfeeding or not — What does breastfeeding mean to you and how can every one of us play a role in supporting breastfeeding?” — answer in the comments below. :)

Other breastfeeding related items for today:

  • Breastmilk: The Movie came out yesterday. I am really excited to see it! I have admired both Dana Ben-Ari and Ricki Lake since seeing their Business of Being Born documentary (a must-see for pregnant women). They are doing important and inspiring work. Read the directors statement for more information, and stay tuned for a review here after I watch it. breastmilk poster
  • Hats off to Olivia Wilde, her son Otis, and Glamour Magazine for including a photo of Olivia and Otis breastfeeding in Glamour’s September issue. I think the more our society sees breastfeeding, the more normalized it will become which will lead to a world where a mother doesn’t have to worry or think twice about feeding her baby when her baby needs to be fed.

    Copyright Glamour Magazine

    Copyright Glamour Magazine

  • Last, but CERTAINLY not least…a VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY to one of our breastfeeding supporters, my sister Molly! We love you and hope you’re having a wonderful day!photo(4)

An ode to twenty minute naps

“She’s sleeping!” I say
Lots to get done today.

I take out my list and run through what to do,
Vacuuming, cleaning, and freelance work too.

The mountain of laundry, the emails and blog,
No wonder I’m in such a fog.

I feel overwhelmed but squash it,
As I make a cup of coffee and drink every last bit.

I rush around like I’m crazy, “what should I do next?”
No time to feel hazy.

I need a clear mind (is there such a thing?),
I sit on the couch, open my laptop, then ding!

Eyes open, you’re up!
I think I need to make another cup.

Twenty minutes, that’s it?
You’re still tired, and I can’t quit.

I try to help you fall back to sleep,
I feed you, I sing, I bounce…I don’t make a peep.

It’s not working, my to do list is lurking.

Still in my pajamas, no shower in sight,
I find my stale breakfast and take one more bite.

You cry, and so do I.

So I make a funny noise and grab one of your toys.

You smile your enchanting smile,
It’s okay, let’s just hang for a while.

Sometimes I think I need to throw out my lists and expectations,
Or maybe I just need another vacation?

Chores are on hold — dishes, organizing, and laundry to fold.

I call my mom to talk, she says, “f*ck it, go for a walk!”

“Oh and God bless!” her signature saying,
I guess instead of complaining I should be praying.

Mama said they’ll be days like this, I think, as I lean in to snuggle and give you a kiss.

This life is a blessing, and so are you
Let’s get some fresh air, cause girl, you’re still crying…

I think you need some too.

 

[Maggie did eventually fall asleep for another nap. Hopefully it’s longer than twenty minutes this time!]

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