Friday, November 30, 2012

Favorite Things Friday - Birthdays!

This week is a little heavy on birthdays in our household. Chou and E's birthdays are one day apart and this year is 30 for Chou and 1 for E. Both pretty big birthdays!

I love that each of us gets one day a year to feel extra special! Chou didn't grow up celebrating birthdays and he's not even certain that his celebrated birthday is indeed the actual day he was born. Crazy! But he's completely embraced the tradition and would be happy for the entire world to stop and recognize him on his birthday.

We had fun celebrating Chou's birthday with friends. We did it a little early so that he would be completely surprised and to give him his own day apart from E's without feeling like he was stealing the spotlight. It's not going to be like this every year, but totally worth it for his 30th!

So for now, Happy Birthday, Chou and Happy Birthday, E! Hope you both feel special, loved, and appreciated today and everyday!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

E's turning 1!!

It really feels like we brought E home yesterday. I'm not quite sure where this year has gone!

After the initial newborn fussy stage for the first month, E has been an incredibly happy kid and is such a joy to have in our lives. Parenting her is such a blessing!

A few fun facts about our 1 year old:

She's right around 16 pounds right now and fits perfectly into 6 month clothes.
I'll add her official stats from her 12 month check up at the end of December. 

She absolutely loves to people watch and is always content when we are out of our house.

She loves dogs and puppies and can spot one half a block away.

She has 5 teeth, all of which have come through in the last two months.

She crawls everywhere and has very little interest in walking. This is surprising to us because she was much more interested in walking than crawling six months ago. At about eight months old she resigned to crawling and hasn't thought much about walking since then.

She's incredibly stubborn just like her mama and daddy.

She will eat absolutely anything! Her current favorites are chicken, beef, peaches, apples, carrots, broccoli, or whatever I'm eating. The only food she doesn't like is bananas; she stopped eating them a few weeks ago. I have no idea what they did to offend her, but she won't go near them any more :)

She says mama, baba (daddy or puppy), and kitty cat. She signs more, please, bye, milk, and water and she's working on apple.

Here are a few pictures of the past year. It's been the best year of my life!

Day before E was born
5 Days

2 Weeks

4 Weeks
2 Months
3 Months
5 Months
6 Months
7 Months
8 Months
8 Months
9 Months

10 Months
10 Months

11 Months
12 Months

Monday, November 26, 2012

E's First Thanksgiving in Pictures

E's favorite course - we roasted the colorful broccoli and cauliflower with garlic and topped with grated Romano cheese 
Blessed to have men in the kitchen!
My favorite course! Pear, walnut, and goat cheese salad with honey lime vinaigrette.  Recipe will come one of these days.
Favorite candid of the day. E with Grandma and Great Grandma

Okay, another favorite candid!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Purple Pizza Crust (Sorry, Dad!)

One of the many things I love about Chou is that he loves experimenting in the kitchen. Last week while we were meal planning, he asked if I wanted to try a cauliflower pizza crust. Absolutely! And then at market on Saturday he proceeded to buy a purple cauliflower. I love him!

We forgot to take a picture of the cauliflower, but if I we buy one again soon I'll come back and add a photo.

We made this recipe and it actually turned out really well. We used a mix of Monterey Jack, extra sharp cheddar, and Romano cheeses, because it was what we had on hand and we wanted a slightly more flavorful cheese to make up for the potentially bland crust. With all the cheese and spices in the crust, it was a hit.

We topped it with pizza sauce, cheese, chicken that we had roasted and shredded, and steamed broccoli. The crust definitely needs some serious toppings for it to feel like a meal rather than an appetizer.

The only thing I might do differently is steam the cauliflower a day ahead and let it drain in a colander overnight to try and avoid the need to squeeze the moisture out of it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wrong or different?

While living in India I'd often smile (or complain on a not-so-great day) at how polar opposite the culture was from everything I was used to in the US. In India, they drive on the left side of the road, form mobs instead of lines, write underneath the line instead of on top, have the same sentence structure as Yoda, and value relationships over productivity. Cleanliness is barely even a concept, and it's certainly not next to godliness.

It's not surprising that child rearing looks pretty different as well. In India, it's a common occurrence for a stranger to take your baby from you and disappear into the gathering. One American family I talked to was approached by an Indian while on a train, asking if their little girls could play together. The American family happily agreed, and before they knew it their toddler was several whole train cars away with an Indian family they had never met. No big deal, right?!

Me stealing a baby during my trip to India in 2010
Indians treat their children as royalty; for the first five years of life every want and need is met by parents, siblings, relatives, and members of the community. Babies aren't allowed to cry, nurse on demand, are not diapered, and sleep with parents until they're old enough to sleep with siblings. The entire household revolves around pleasing the babies and toddlers, and they are not disciplined until they go off to kindergarten. I'm pretty sure I don't ever want to be a kindergarten teacher in India :)

During orientation for my time in India, I remember hearing over and over that things are different, not wrong. It's such a simple concept but so contrary to human nature. Whether looking at marital disputes, parenting styles, or cultures as a whole, it's so easy to say my way is right and yours is wrong when in reality there may not be a right and wrong. My eleven month old daughter is not on a schedule, has never cried it out, and I can count on one hand the number of times she's slept for eight hours straight. I'm not the parent I thought I'd be (are any of us, really?) but my husband and I do what works for us and our daughter. We are laid back and a schedule stresses us out more than it helps us. My daughter likes to be held and I love to hold her, so she's constantly held. She doesn't need a nap to be content, and most days everyone in the house is happier if she skips the nap, and that's okay.

I naturally embrace black and white situations where there is a clear right or wrong. I firmly believe in absolute truths, but some things just really truly don't matter at the end of the day. As long as we're loving our daughter unconditionally and doing everything in our power to build her up and teach her Biblical principles, I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter that she didn't nap today.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Favorite Things Friday - Dobermans

We rescued Titus, a purebred doberman pinscher, at five months old. Initially we set out to rescue a senior who just needed a comfy home and some love. Instead, we came home with a completely untrained and crazy pup. It happens :) We had his basic training completed when I got pregnant with E two months later, just in time for me to be taken out of commission by hyperemesis gravidarum for the following four to five months. Needless to say, all his training regressed and he used his doberman intellect to get away with any and everything while I lay in bed, five feet away, unable to do anything about it. Chou and I spent the last trimester of my pregnancy trying desperately to get Titus trained enough to be ready for an infant in the home. Up until this point, I couldn't even walk him on a leash, and I was started to panic about adding a stroller to the mix.

The day we brought Titus home

Titus at six months, sitting on Cali
A few months of Chou's hard work paid off. Today he is still our least trained dog but he has all the basics down pat. He just doesn't roll over and scoot back and do all the fun extras, and I'm okay with that. 

We started looking at dobermans for a handful of reasons. They're incredibly loyal, large, and slightly leery of strangers. Living in the city, we wanted a dog that would look and sound scary :) Dobermans are often referred to as "velcro dogs" by their owners, because they like to be with their family. Titus will lean into us so much so that he'll knock me over, just trying to get close. I desperately wanted a dog that was loyal to me and Titus doesn't disappoint! Cali is loyal to Chou and could care less about me. Mo is the most disloyal dog I have ever met. He'd meet you once, go home with you, and never look back. Useless.

Fortunately, Titus took to E the minute we brought her home and hasn't left her side. Those two are thick as thieves, and I love it! He just had better not ditch me for her... then we're back to square one.

Disclaimer: I firmly believe that all dogs are capable of being loving pets. It's up to the owner to establish authority, proper training, and exercise. If you don't want to train and exercise your dog, please go get a cat or a hamster instead.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Diapering my baby and why we chose cloth

Disclaimer: if diapers don't interest you or talk of poo grosses you out, this isn't your post. You can try reading again tomorrow :)

I've had a vague awareness of cloth diapers my whole life. My mom used them, and I watched countless babysitters and relatives struggle to get my baby sister diapered, complete with pins and rubber pants, from a young age. More recently I heard several friends brag about their cute fluff, their incredible cost savings, and how diapers are nothing like they were 30 (or even 10) years ago. I was intrigued.

You see, I've always hated disposables! I have incredibly sensitive skin and the chemicals in disposables bother my hands. I can't imagine what they'd do to my baby's butt. And anyone who knows me knows that I'm about as cheap frugal as you can get. I love premium products and I love finding ways to get them at bargain prices! I think it runs in my blood (thanks, Mommom!) so I was interested to crunch the numbers when I was pregnant and considering cloth for E.

My only fear was poo. I mean, that's gross! In looking into options, I realized that I could do a diaper service for the same price I could buy disposable diapers. Not quite the cost savings I was counting on, but I didn't have to deal with the poo, so I was willing to shell out the extra cash (or break even if comparing to disposables).  Our service dropped off eighty cotton prefold diapers every Monday and picked up all the dirty diapers from the previous week. Every Monday was like Christmas where the magical bag of beautiful diapers would appear in exchange for my dirty laundry. It was glorious! I used the prefolds with Snappi diaper fasteners and Thirsties Duo Wrap covers, so there were no pins and these were not your standard rubber pants. They were cute, fit well, and never leaked.

But after a month of paying someone else to do a load or two of wash, I decided diaper service was no longer worth it. I bought twenty-four Indian cotton prefolds for $1.50 a piece and cancelled the service. E was EBF for nine months, so all dirty diapers went straight to the pail and then every other day went into the washer. No extra rinsing or dunking. Super easy! And eight months in, we're still using the same $8 bottle of detergent from Target. Now that's the savings I was looking for!

One of the absolute best things about cloth diapering was the lack of leaks and blow outs. Over the course of E's life in cloth (we started at one month, when she grew enough to fit into the Thirsties), she's only had one blowout. That's a total of one time that I had to maneuver a soiled onesie over her head. Once! And that one time it was my fault. I was in a hurry and couldn't find a snappi so I didn't use it. I tucked the prefold into the cover and just used the cover to hold it in place. Didn't work :)

I was so afraid of poo before I started, but I actually had to deal with it less than I would have in disposables. Personally I would much rather deal with poo in the diaper where it belongs than all up her back as is so common in disposables. Complete win win in my book!

E napping in her Thirsties diaper at six months old

Monday, November 5, 2012


Chou and our favorite 13 year old house guest baked two apple pies last night. I was super excited for the oven to warm our house as the temperature has dropped outside and I'm trying really hard not to touch our thermostat.

However, when I headed to bed later that evening, I realized the warm oven had had the opposite effect on the temperature of the house. The warm downstairs had prevented our heat from kicking on and had made the upper level of our home even colder than before. As I lay in bed under my warm blankets cuddling E, I was forced to think of an email I had received a couple hours earlier asking for donations of formula and blankets for families affected by Hurricane Sandy. Families who have lost everything. Families who are cold. Families who are haunted with the reality of not being able to feed their newborn babies. 

As I lay there shivering, I was thankful all over again for my home, my family, and having the option to walk downstairs and turn up the heat. Chou headed up to the attic to find a box of unused winter coats that will serve a much better purpose on the backs of the recently homeless. Today we gathered unused baby items and will be buying formula (a first for me). I'd love to round up families and have them share our warm, albeit teeny, home, but for now we will send supplies. We will share just an inkling of their burden and along with so many will help them get through one more day.

Some days it's easy for me to get caught up in getting ahead, in accumulating more things, driving a better car, decorating our home. Today I choose to be thankful for my well fed baby girl, my shredded couch, and my broken washer. Okay, I'm not thankful for the last one as my pile of dirty diapers grows and the pile of clean ones diminishes, but it sure puts things in perspective.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Favorite Things Fridays - Chopsticks

Chopsticks are used on a daily basis in our household. I'm proud to say I've mastered them, thanks to a very good teacher. I'm quite impatient, so if I can do it, you can too! The first time Chou taught me how to properly wield these crazy wooden sticks we were eating dumplings. Dumpling skins are incredibly slippery and quite challenging for the experienced user. I'm pretty sure I finished that meal way before I was actually full because my hand was tired and my patience long gone. I've come a long way since then and am proud to say I spent a full ten days in Taiwan my first time before anyone offered me a fork (after dropping my breakfast between the plate and my mouth like three times in a row with a set of chopsticks). However, I'll never match Chou's skills. Not long ago he was eating quinoa with chopsticks and he had not a drop left in his plate. Meanwhile I was using a spoon and still managed to have a bowl full of grinims* at the end.

I never realized how versatile chopsticks can be, and used to tease Chou for the crazy things he'd use them for. Now, however, I find myself reaching for our wooden sticks all the time! 

Here are some of our favorite uses for chopsticks:

E uses them as teethers. They're lightweight and a perfect shape for her to reach her back molars.

I often grab one to stir a drink or smoothie. They're a great shape to mix contents of a glass.

When the lint builds up in the dryer, I use chopsticks to reach into the lint screen slat to remove all the excess lint. (Just don't drop one! I have no clue how you'd recover it.)

They're great for snatching lasagna noodles out of the boiling water (it doesn't get much more multi-cultural than that!) :)

I often use them as a utensil with which to eat my food. I know, who would have thought?

When E plays in dog food and kibble ends up under the washer/fridge/stove, chopsticks are great for reaching into tight spaces sliding all the goodies back out.

Chou has been known to use them to flip pancakes. Still not sure about this one ;)

Although not quite as good as toothpicks, chopsticks can be inserted into baked goods to test for done-ness.

Chomping on those molars

It's always good to keep chopsticks close by. You never know when you'll need to use them!

Hint: if you're loving boyfriend ever coerces you into eating dumplings with chopsticks, just stab one straight into the center of the little bugger dumpling and use the other to gently guide it to your mouth. And in true Asian fashion, just stuff the whole thing in your mouth if you want a fighting chance of not going to bed hungry.

*grinims - (n) the remnants of food left in a plate after one has finished eating; the often crusty crumbs remaining in the baking dish after one has served the food. Use: 1.The best part of mac 'n cheese is devouring the crusty grinims after dinner. 2. She soaked the pan to loosen the burnt grinims. Origin: The Krasowski family.