Thursday, January 31, 2013

Do the French have it right???

Ah France...home of my very own happiest place on earth, Paris, and one of my personal hero's Simone de Beauvoir. And while we are on the subject two facts you may not know about me: my college degree is in Philosophy, where my specialty was in French feminist philosophy and my thesis was focused on Beauvoir's work. Also I used to be able to read French almost fluently. Sadly this is a skill I have mostly lost.

Anyway...the French are brilliant about some things like gorgeous architecture, Chanel and Dior, all of their food, and the Paris Metro. They are not so brilliant about other things, virtually no religion, a questionable understanding of monogamy and, despite being the birth place of Beauvoir, a fairly chauvinistic society that largely sees women as sexual objects.

Interestingly they are quite smart about many aspects of parenting. I am almost done reading Bringing up Bebe and I am amazed at how much I am enjoying it. Sure it has lots of obvious common sense advice and yes she makes some pretty large generalizations but overall it's thought provoking, encouraging, smart and positive. That last adjective isn't one I can say about a lot of parenting books which seem to mostly induce stress, fear, self doubt and that horrible sensation that you are a horrible Mother. Furthermore the fact that there are supposedly no "Mommy wars" in France is reason enough to read the book.

I'm certainly not saying that everything she advices is really my cup of tea. Le Pause...not so much with my newborn... But a lot of the concepts and philosophies really resonate with me. I particularly appreciate the idea that babies are people who understand more than we think and that we should talk to them as people. In fact this speaks to an overarching theme of her book. We see it in the idea that children must say hello and goodbye to adults and in this way we are teaching them that they are individuals expected to interact with others in a mature manor.

Another theme I found helpful was the idea of teaching children to wait. Margot plays on the floor in the kitchen a lot when I cook. I used to stop whatever I was doing and pick her up the second she fussed, often to the great peril of our dinner. Now I simply explain to her that I am cooking and I will be done with my current task in two minutes and she needs to wait. She fusses for approximately 10 seconds before finding something else to do. I like this approach because she isn't being ignored, I am responding to her, yet she is learning she is part of a larger family where every one's needs have to be weighed. The world does not revolve around her.

The book also places a lot of emphasis on the health of the mother and the marriage, pointing out that mothers should take time for themselves. They should invest time in things like pedicures and hair appointments because it's important that they are people who take care of themselves. They should work if they like and have a life outside of being a Mom. The message is something like, being a Mom complements who you already are, it doesn't change who you are.

Sure being a working Mom in France is 100 times easier with free childcare and preschool, 6 weeks of paid vacation a year and national health care. But I think there are positive ideas in this book that American Mom's can consider and implement.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


1. Look at how cute Margot is riding her rocking Moose in her conductor overalls!

2. Chris and I have both been super busy at work. This means our life feels kind of chaotic right now and there may be a pile of folded laundry (or 6) that needs put away and has been there for an entire week!

3. Margot is officially a toddler. Although she took her first steps on New Years Eve she didn't really start to walk around until this past week. Now she pretty much walks everywhere. She is so proud of herself and giggles incessantly as she walks. 

4. In honor of having an official walker I took Margot to Fletcher's (the fancy pants baby store in town) to buy her a real pair of walking shoes. It was so much fun! When Margot got to the wall of shoes she went "ooh" and started to clap. She had so much fun pulling down various shoes and trying them on and walking while laughing. We finally picked a pair of soft soled shoes made specifically for early walkers. They are black Mary Jane's with red and orange flowers on them. She LOVES them.

5. Now that Margot has mastered the art of walking she seems to be focusing her mental energy back onto talking. She as picked up two new "words" this week, bye bye and ba ba (as in the sound a sheep makes).

6. I have really been slacking on cooking and sharing recipes. I have been cooking but usually it's just the same old quick easy rotation. I did make wonderfully delicious and simple stroganoff last night, which Margot inhaled along with garlicky sauteed kale. I was so excited to see Margot eat Kale! I hope her adventurous eating continues.

Quickly Easy Stroganoff*

1 lb ground beef
1 small onion diced
3 cloves garlic diced
1 cup of cream of chicken soup**
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 Tb butter
drizzle of olive oil
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
Fresh parsley
cooked rice or noodles

Cook ground beef in skillet with onion. Season with salt, pepper and add garlic. Add cream of chicken soup and water. Stir to combine, simmer on med low stirring occasionally 15-20 minutes. While beef is simmering melt butter in second skillet. Add drizzle of olive oil and saute mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. After beef has simmered for 15-20 minutes add the mushrooms and sour cream. Cook a few minutes on low (you don't want sour cream to boil) then season to taste. Garnish with fresh parsley if you'd like. Serve over rice or noodles.

I like to serve this over brown rice with a side of sauteed kale with garlic. I think the flavor of the kale balances out the creamy beef and mushrooms really well.

*adapted from the 1980 edition of the Betty Crocker cook book, hence the cream of chicken soup**I know not the most gourmet of ingredients but it adds a lot of flavor and depth. Plus you can buy the organic natural brand which doesn't have all the crud in it. Or, as my Mom once did, you can make your own. If you are really opposed you could probably ad 1 cup of chicken broth, two table spoons of flour and a chicken bouillon cube and it would work okay. You would have to add the flour to the beef and cook for a minute or two before adding broth and bouillon. In this case you'd omit the 1/3 cup of water.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

wrapping up babyhood

While sometimes Margot still is a baby more and more she's becoming a toddler. I have very mixed feelings about this transition. As I think is true with all parents you always love the age/stage they are entering. It's fun, new and amazing to see your child learn and grow. But it's also really hard for me to say good bye to having a baby. And since Chris and I may not have another child this might be the only baby stage we go through. But there are good things about this transition too...hello 12 hours stretches of sleep!!! Another nice perk is less baby gear. I wish I could say all of the baby gear is gone for good but alas it's mostly just in our garage. Hopefully this summer we will do another massive overhaul of the garage and we can pass on, get rid of and sell some of it. But I wanted to do a post on what we found we really needed Margot's first year. This will be an obnoxiously long post partly for my own record keeping and partly for those of you reading who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. Unless that's you feel free to skip over this one.

Tiny Baby Margot: Remembering tiny baby Margot a few things stand out, exhaustion, holding her all the time, swaddling and excruciating nipple pain. I did an exhaustive product review at three months which you can find here. Month's later here are the things that still stand out:
  • ergo with infant insert: I wore Margot for hours each day this thing was a must
  • swaddle me infant swaddlers: when we finally did get Margot into her own bed these were a must
  • activity gym: this was one of the few ways we could set Margot down and she used it pretty consistently from 2 months-5.5/6 months
  • bouncy seat: Margot only tolerated this for short periods of time but it was the only way showers happened
  • medela pump in style breast pump: I HATED pumping but it was necessary and since I nursed Margot until she was just over a year I did a lot of pumping
  • medela bottles, snow flow nipples
  • boppy pillow: with removable slip cover and a spare cover, for those really early months when you spend 1/2 your time nursing these are great
  • lots of soft cotton footed pj's or sleep n' plays: while I loved dressing Margot up when we were at hope she mostly wore these
  • lots and lots of short sleeve white onsies: especially since Margot was a winter baby she wore these under everything and while she slept in the bed with us she slept in them too
  • lots of soft hats and warm blankets: again winter baby
  • Graco snug and ride travel system (car seat/stroller): we are actually still using this car seat although we are about ready to move her to her big one. I like this car seat stroller a lot for us. I think a car seat that snaps out of the base is a must and this one is easy and affordable with very high safety ratings. However, we almost never use the stroller we usually just use the ergo. If I used a stroller a lot I would definitely upgrade the stroller.
  • For me as a new mom: soft comfy nursing tanks, I like the motherhood maternity ones which I got at Macy's, APNO medicated nipple cream, medela disposable nursing pads, a really nice soft comfy cotton robe that you feel somewhat pretty in
Big Baby Margot: This was when things started to get fun. There were toys, first foods, it was summer, we played outside although I seem to remember there was still a lot of not sleeping and pumping. At this point we were still using the ergo, car seat/stroller and breast pump. We had retired bouncy seat, activity gym, boppy, infant inserts on both ergo and car seat.
  • Antilop high chair with tray: we love love love this high chair. Not only that but all the grandparents also have this high chair for when Margot is over and they all love it too. And what's not to love. It's cute, modern, colorful (ours is red), 25 dollars and easy to clean. We still use it and we still LOVE IT!
  • board books: oh Margot can't get enough of board books. This started pretty much as soon as she could sit on her own and look at them and it's still probably her favorite toy. At this age though the smaller shorter ones were key as her attention span was shorter and smaller books were easier for her to maneuver
  • stacking toys: about the time she could sit up that was all she wanted to do and so her toys of choice really changed too. Stacking toys, blocks, magnetic toys and rattles were big hits.
  • teething toys: Margot was big on Sophie, also bright teething rings, toy key ring and this funny rubber rattle I called Gerald
  • basket to sort toys: once Margot could sit up she loved to simply move her toys around and sort them so a basket or two of toys kept her entertained for a long time
  • cute bibs: this was the stage where she had to wear a bib constantly. Simply cotton bibs in lots of colors were my favorite. We got a pack of 10 at babies r us and there was always one to match her outfit
  • mini chopper: as Margot started to eat solids I made most of her baby food and my mini chopper (an attachment to my immersion blender) was great for mashing up her food
  • Ella's kitchen organic baby food: this has been our favorite brand of store bought baby food
  • exersaucer and Johnny jump up: both of these were handy. My Mom kept the exersaucer at her house to use during the day and I kept the jump up in my room for when I was getting ready for work. However I think we could have gotten by without them and Margot never was in them for very long periods of time.
And now...Our 14 month Old Margot: Most of the items from above are packed away now. Exception still being car seat/stroller, Ergo and high chair. At 14 months here are the things we use everyday.
  • sippy cups, baby utensils and dishes: Margot wants to mimic us in every way, especially eating. She has her own set of pretty plastic dishes (from ikea), baby utensils and a plethora of sippy cups and she likes to use them. When she's done eating she very politely hands me her plate so I can take it away. She drinks milk, water and homemade chicken broth from her sippy cup and is completely done with bottles.
  • Toys: I feel like this stage is all about the toys. She loves wooden puzzles, blocks, large Lego's and stacking toys. We love Melissa and Doug toys and she has a Noah's ark they make which is one of her favorites right now. She really likes her rocking moose. She has a toy grocery cart at my Mom's which she pushes around the house with her toys inside and she has plastic food that goes with it that she likes to play with. She is starting to color with crayons and so far doing very well not eating them:) She also likes to play with dolls and this might be the cutest thing ever. She gets a doll and she rocks it, hugs it and in once case where the doll has a bottle she pretends to feed the doll a bottle.
  • books: She still loves board books and is showing a lot more interest in regular picture books as well. She can sit through much longer stories now which is nice.
  • outerwear: now that she's really too big to keep under a blanket a warm coat is a must. During Thanksgiving weekend we were able to go to the Columbia employee store where my inlaws generously bought her a Columbia brand baby fleece coat that we love and a warmer Columbia omni heat coat. We have lots of cute winter hats and a firm rule about keeping them on when we are outside. We also have a couple of pairs of mittens, which to my delight she is very good about wearing. We are still trying to figure out the best shoes for this age. She has a pair of Minnetonka moccasins which she wears most days. I need to go get her another pair of shoes that she can walk outside in.
  • convertable car seat: we are about to move Margot into this car seat. I've been holding off because I love being able to easily transfer her to her crib when she's fallen asleep in the car. Also the weather has been so nasty and I like being able to keep her snuggled up in her seat when I bring her to and from. Technically she still fits in her Graco but we are getting close to the limit and will probably move her up in the next month or so. This Britax is a little spendy :( but has such high safety ratings and product reviews that it was a pretty clear choice.
Stuff that didn't work for us:
  • Bjorn: initially we had both the Bjorn and the ergo but after about three months the Bjorn just didn't work. I like the front facing feature but it just killed my back and it never felt as secure
  • swing: I know for some families the swing is a life saver but Margot never took to the swing and it was just big and bulky
  • baby bath tub: I only used this for about 6 weeks and even then I think a towel at the bottom of the sink is just as easy
  • bumbo: I just never got one and I really didn't miss it
  • nursing covers: I had one, it never really worked for us and I just used a large blanket
  • pacifier: Again I know this is a must for some families but we never used one and the few times we tried Margot would have none of it!
If I were to do it again:
  • We started out using Johnson's baby products but have since switched to the brand baby carrots. I didn't discover this brand until Margot was 4-5 months old but now I much prefer it. And their diaper ointment is amazing!
  • Nicer camera: before Margot was born upgrading our camera just wasn't an option. However for Christmas this year we did get a DSLR and the difference in quality is astonishing. Looking back I wish we'd been able to get one of these cameras before she was born
  • video monitor: we never got a monitor because we live in a tiny house and we could always hear Margot fine, plus she slept in our room until she was 5 months old. However I think I would reconsider if we had another kid. Once we started sleep training it would have been really nice to be able to see if she was sitting/standing in her crib or lying down. So many times I went in because I thought she was standing and couldnt' figure out how to lay back down when really she was laying down and my going in only derailed her going back to sleep on her own
  • co-sleeper: we opted for a very pretty cradle. I love it, it's beautify but Margot didn't sleep in it until she was 3 months old and then we only used it for two months. I think she would have done much better with a co-sleeper attached to the bed. I think that would have allowed us to move her into her own bed much quicker and easier.
Disclaimer: obviously these are just the things that worked for us and our baby. Each family/baby is different. But I find it so helpful to read what worked for people and I know it helped me create our registry. Plus in the event we do have another baby it will be nice for me to know I have an exhaustive list out there somewhere since it's so easy to forget.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

baby approved

It's an iconic right of passage in babyhood. Baby + spaghetti = a hilarious mess
This was a great weeknight recipe. Quick easy and most of it could easily prepped ahead of time. Since Margot is going through "may or may not eat dinner" phase the fact that she devoured an entire plate full made it all that much better. The recipe can be found here.

A classic baby moment that we thoroughly enjoyed until she put spaghetti on her head and was transferred straight into the bath tub.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Sarah's Key

Last night I finished reading this book for my book club. This was an excellent book.

It is a about the, Vel' d'Hiv, July 16, 1942 over 13,000 Jewish families in France, including French citizens were rounded up in Paris. They were held for days in a warehouse with no food or water before being sent to concentration camps. This book is the story of a 10 year little girl who survives.

I finished this book late last night and after hardly sleeping I woke up completely depressed. I feel this horrible heavy weight and I just keep thinking "how", "why?", etc. This is not that different from how I felt for weeks after the school shooting in Connecticut. It's a horror that is simply too much to comprehend, too much to process.

It amazes me how different tragedy seems to effect me now that I'm a mother. Obviously these are events that upset everyone regardless if they have children and I'm not trying to suggest otherwise. But I know for me personally it's different. These things have always upset me but now I can't help but imagine if it were my child and then that image just seems to haunt me.

I think as parents we think our child's safety and well being is in our control. If we love them, cuddle them, dress them warmly, feed them healthy foods, play with them teach them we can control the situation. But I see these things, read these things and it's a horrifying reminder of how much isn't in our control. I read a book like this and think it's by the grace of God that we don't live in one of the all too frequent points of history where a mother had much less control over the well being of her child. And in the end I have to believe that for the children, the mothers and all the people who suffered in these unspeakable ways God was there to great them. That God and beautiful angels held those little children in their arms, made everything okay and brought them to their parents and somehow they where whole again.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thursday Randomness

It is 7am Thursday morning and I am sitting on my couch, eating eggs, drinking tea and blogging. Life is good. You might ask how such luxury is afforded to me on a weekday morning? My child is sleeping! Not only is Margot consistently sleeping all night, going down quickly and easily at 7pm but she is also sleeping in until 7-8 when I let her. It's a dream.

I just finished reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I LOVED it.  Sure some parts were a little slow but she is an amazing writer. I don't know that I've read another author who captures moments of human experience as well as she does. Plus it truly is a book about the American Dream and I love books about the American Dream. If you haven't read it you must.

Chris and I bought ourselves a Nikon DSLR camera for Christmas and we are loving it. We are still learning how to use it so it hasn't come off auto very much but even on auto settings the pictures are so much better than our point and shoot. We also bought a Kelly Moore Camera bag for it and are so pleased with it. It doubles as a camera bag/diaper bag/work bag/day bag and is perfect for all day excursions with a baby/toddler. I've also been dabbling with photo editing which is fun but a little overwhelming.

This is going to be a good day. I ate breakfast, I blogged, I love my outfit, and we have birth to three tonight. Plus tomorrow is Friday and we are spending the weekend at my grandparents ranch which means goose hunting for Chris and a long hot bath in the Jacuzzi for me.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

All the books I didn't read

In years past, I've done a year in review of books I read or a look ahead at books I plan to read. I used to read as many as 25 books in a year. Then I had a baby...end of story. I keep a little log of the books I read because I am type A and then some it's interesting to see what I have read, where the book took place, if I liked it and how long it took me to read it. See I wasn't kidding about the type A part. This past year I actually did read some books but...I also started and never finished some books. This used to be a huge pet peeve of mine. I could not move onto a new book until I finished the last and I could never just not finish a book. This is why I finished Passage to India, my least favorite book of all time. Part of me wants to buckle down and make myself finish these books but the other part of me knows better than to worry about a few unread books.

So what books did I actually finish and what ones just didn't make the cut???

I read this early in 2012 when I was still nursing all the freaking time. I love this book. It's short stories that are intertwined. It takes place around 1900 in a small Midwestern town and is full of fascinating characters.

I ended up loving this book by the end but actually didn't like it most of the way through. Yet I couldn't put it down because I just found the characters so good.
 This was light fluffy fairly entertaining. Another book I read during my maternity leave while nursing A LOT!
This was my "oh shit we have a lot of medical bills to pay off" book. I had a minor panic attack, read this book, and felt much better. In all seriousness this is a good book and very easy to read. I think he has a practical model for getting out of debt. We used it with a lot of success to pay our copious amount of hospital bills and are still using it to pay off student loans. I also loved his section on kids and money his allowance ideas are great!
I read this book along with everyone else on the interwebs. It happened to be a book club book. I couldn't put it down however after the fact I really didn't like it and I will not be seeing the movie. It's just too negative to be enjoyable.
After Gone Girl I needed something light and fluffy and this was perfect. And very timely since I think Margot was about 8 months old when I read it. I remember laughing a lot.
I liked Little Earthquakes so much I picked this one up for my trip to Vegas. It was okay. I mostly enjoyed it until someone tells an entirely unnecessary upsetting story that ruined it for me. if you are the mother of a small child (say under the age of 5) don't read this book.
This was the only other book club book from this past year that I finished. I didn't have high expectations but I actually really enjoyed this book. Sure the story is bizarre and there are a few upsetting parts but it's just such a fascinating way of telling a story. It also helped that I loaded this book on my ipad and was able to read small bits while I was waiting for meetings to start etc.

I started but didn't finish:
 I love Louisa May Alcott and I wanted to love this book's really freaking boring.
 This was a book club book that I just couldn't get into.
 Another book club book. I wanted to read this book. But I have very complicated feelings. So Ken Kesey is a Eugene/Springfield native and somewhat of a local icon. Also this book is very well written and I did enjoy the first few chapters. However, this book is about a mental hospital based on one my grandmother was actually in during the time this book was written and for that reason I just found it too upsetting.
This book is fabulous so far and I will finish it. However it was really scary and I just needed a break.

Another book club book. My sense is that this is a really good book. However, I just have a bad feeling that something really bad is going to happen and I just couldn't take the stress. Neurotic sure, do I care?  no.

I have no lofty aspirations to read a lot of books next year. I am currently reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for my book club and I am enjoying it albeit it's a little boring and very long. However I really like it when she describes the food they eat.

There you have it, a super long blog post about books. The end.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Goals of the New Year

Well it's a new year. And after lots of holiday fun it's back to the grindstone. I tend to be all over the place with new years resolutions and I decided that I really don't like the word resolution. So instead I'll talk about some new years goals. Sure we all make and most of us fail to maintain a lofty list of aspirations for the coming year. Perhaps it's silly, perhaps we are doomed to failure but who cares. It's good to set goals, to try to better oneself and to work toward something just for us. And sometimes these aspirations do manage to work themselves into our permanent routines. I read somewhere that it takes 60 days to make something a habit. And it is in that spirit that I make the following new year goals:

1. Frugality: 2012 brought a substantial increase in income for Chris and I. This has been such a blessing.  However just because we have more money doesn't mean we have to spend more money. While today we both have good jobs we also have over a ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND dollars of student loans that helped us get where we are. We'd really like to pay those loans off and we have a pretty ambitious goal to do so in 3 years. So this year I aim to be frugal, to stick to our budget and to work on paying down debt! To help achieve this goal I'm going to use a new budget system, use a cash based system and spend 5 minutes EVERYDAY balancing my check book and reviewing my budget.

2. Not gain weight: while so many Americans start this year with a goal to loose weight I have an even simpler goal to just not gain any. I've lost all my post baby weight and then some and am currently at my ideal weight. But I also just weaned and I'm dreadfully worried that the lack of breast feeding combined with my chronic lack of exercise and love of butter is going to do a number on me. I think this goal can be pretty easily achieved as long as I don't eat too much or snack. To help me I'm going to simply jot down everything I eat. I heard on NPR that this can be incredibly effective at maintaining your calories since it provides some accountability. I will also try to walk to all my meetings no matter how hard it's raining. But I will not give up my butter intake. There is only so much I am willing to compromise:)

3. Keep my office more organized: This is pretty self explanatory. I'm not sure how I am going to achieve this one but damn it I 'm going to try. I also blocked off every Friday afternoon to clean out my email, clear my desk and sort my piles.

So how about you? Did you make any new years goals or resolutions?

January one: an almost perfect day

Yesterday was wonderful. We had the best day together as a family. First we slept in and then we had lots of snuggles. We made dutch babies for breakfast thanks to our new Smitten Kitchen cook book. Margot loves dutch babies. Then we went on a winter walk at Dorris Ranch, which is a historic filbert farm along the river that has been preserved as a public park. It was beautiful out, cold crisp and just a little grey. We were surrounded by trees every which way and Margot just kept looking up at the trees in awe.

After we were thoroughly chilled to the bone (it was 33 degrees outside) we went out for hot cocoa and warm milk. Margot took her first steps on new years eve so we had lots of walking practice which consists of her taking 2-4 steps between us. There was a lovely long afternoon nap and then our traditional black eyed peas and greens for dinner. This is where the day was almost perfect. Margot refused to even touch a black eyed pea. We tried everything. We mashed them, we left them whole, we mixed them with rice we tried to feed her off her plate, our plate but no that child refused to eat a black eyed pea. Apparently Chris and I are far too superstitious because we were both a little upset that she wouldn't eat one. Oh well. I suppose you can't expect a one year old to understand the cultural importance of eating a black eyed pea on new years day.

Anyway, it was a great day.