Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Letter to my Body

Dear Body,

Remember when you used to be thin? You may have trouble remembering, because a lot has happened to you lately. I'm sorry that when you WERE thin, I had trouble acknowledging and appreciating it. I always thought I needed to lose more and more weight. Sure, you coulda been thinner, leaner, more toned. But looking back, I realize you were just fine. Remember the good old days when you used to diet when you wanted to look like this?
Remember the summer when you donned a gold bikini and (GASP) showed your tummy a little? Can you believe that was only two years ago?!
You were drunk, happy, and looking pretty fine. Not a care in the world. But then this happened...
I traded in my curvy yet still somewhat thin body for a big ol' belly, widening hips, and swollen boobs. I traded in my tattoos for stretch marks. I could be mad. I could be regretful. But I'm not. Because then this happened...
You, my amazing body, grew, stretched, and morphed so this little tiny human could grow in you. You built a cozy little womb and nourished this precious bundle and kept her safe and healthy. And then you pushed her out into the big, wide world. You did this amazing feat without painkillers, screaming, or cursing. Yeah, you may not look the way you used to and you may be covered in stretch marks on your tummy, hips, and thighs. But I wear those stretchmarks with pride. When I see my protruding gut, I don't feel embarrassed or sad; I see it as a fading testament to the most amazing thing I have ever accomplished.
November is the most wonderful baby ever and I am so grateful for her existence in my life. She wouldn't have been possible without your sacrifice, body. All the gold bikinis in the world can't compare to the love and life of this child.

My gut is shrinking. My stretch marks are fading. My hips are slowly narrowing. But I'll never forget what you did, body. I'll always remember to look back at this awkward, chunky stage and smile. Thank You!

{Ask a Mommy:} Best Pregnancy Books

Q: What books do you recommend for pregnancy and childbirth? Anyone who knows me knows that I not only love to read, but that I also love to learn, prepare, and research the crap out of what I'm interested in. So, when I found out I was pregnant, I wanted a few books to read whenever millions of questions would start filling my mind. I ended up reading some really great books that I would heartily recommend!

My experience: Some of the books (the natural birth ones specifically) I never would have read if a friend didn't loan them to me, and they were the most eye-opening and indispensable. I don't know what my birth experience would have been like if it weren't for those books. I also enjoyed some more traditional pregnancy/childbirth books too.

One of the first books I read was The Complete Organic Pregnancy by Deirdre Dolan and Alexandra Zissu. It's a book about exactly what it says in the title; how to have an entirely organic pregnancy. This was great to read, even though not all of the suggestions were realistic for me, or in my budget. But I learned about a lot of little things that I COULD do, like avoiding the 'dirty dozen' (12 fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides that are best eaten organic), avoiding BPA, and how to choose the best plastic and even paint for the nursery. I did NOT have a complete organic pregnancy but I really learned A LOT from this book, and still use the information that I found helpful to this day! I also really enjoyed the stories from other mothers throughout this book.

Another first book that I read was Belly Laughs by Jenny McCarthy. In the beginning, I felt like I could really use some laughs and a light read. This book was it! It was written in Jenny's classic straightforward, somewhat raunchy style. She's not afraid to talk about times when she was ridiculous, over-emotional, worried, scared, as well as her bodily functions. It was hilarious, and even a little informative about what was ahead for me.

In speaking of light reads, the other book I read of that nature was Knocked Up by Rebecca Eckler. It was another memoir, although the author wasn't quite as likable as Jenny McCarthy. She had a hilarious writing style, as well as a relate-able story at first, but once her story progressed, she became more of a love-to-hate heroine. She whined about gaining 15 lbs on her tiny 100 lb, size 6 frame (WHAT? REALLY?), having to quit smoking and drinking (while not actually avoiding either completely), worrying about finances (while she and her fiance make a hell of a lot more money than most first time parents!), hiring a night nurse so she can sleep through the night (again...WHAT?), scheduling a C-section so her baby is born 'pretty' (WHAT, WHAT WHAT??), and there's so much more, but why give it all away here? Toward the end, it made me feel much better about myself and the choices I was making as a new mom (although, I doubt that was the exact intent of the book), and made me realize that wealthier couples even have worries about becoming parents too...even though they get all their stuff at Pottery Barn!

From a program with my insurance, I received a free copy of Your Pregnancy Week by Week. This was a good read if you want a medical-textbook style, straightforward guide you can read each week. I liked being able to read a short chapter each week. It was a little repetitive, and I skipped over sections that I didn't feel like applied or appealed to me at the moment, but it was an informative read.

But for a fun version, I really enjoyed The Baby Bump! The colors were bright, the layout great, with lots of pictures and fun, easy-to-read sections. Read about what to wear when, what you'll need on your registry, what foods to eat, what to pack in your hospital bag. I loved this one and read through the sections often and repeatedly. A must have!

To prepare for November's arrival as a real live baby (OMG!!!) I read What to Expect The First Year. Well, I can't exactly say that I READ it, because I'm still working on it, and not really keeping up with the current months. But this was especially useful in my third trimester when I wanted to mentally prepare for what was ahead, and during November's first few months. I can't tell you how many times I read and re-read the sections about breastfeeding when I was struggling in the early weeks. There is some really great info here. Now that I feel like I'm getting the hang of this mommy thing and starting to trust my mommy-intuition, I use it mostly as a reference when I want to learn something specific. I also like to read the 'what your maybe may be doing by the end of the month' sections, to see if November is learning everything typical of her age (and she always exceeds, every month!)

After she was born, we got the Dr. Sears Baby Book. I wish I had gotten it while I was still pregnant! There is a ton of info and tips about Attachment Parenting; baby wearing, co-sleeping, breastfeeding. I haven't read this book in entirety, but I love what I have read. It's huge! Perfect for any parent interested in Attachment Parenting and co-sleeping. This would have saved me so much stress and tears when Nova was born and wouldn't sleep anywhere but my bed! I hadn't realized co-sleeping was so common, and even recommended in attachment parenting!

Another book I wish I would have had earlier is Bountiful, Beautiful, Blissful by Gurmukh Kaur Khalsa. This book is great for yoga and meditation during pregnancy and really saved my sanity toward the end when I started worrying about everything; meditation helped me calm down and feel peaceful. The yoga poses helped my body feel better, stronger, and more alive. I hadn't done yoga or meditation in about a year; this book helped me start a (small) practice when I needed it the most.

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth just may be responsible for my switch to midwifery care and my choice for a water birth. I had always wanted to have a natural birth, but I honestly don't know if I would have done it that way when it really came down to it, if it weren't for my midwives and the birth center I gave birth at. Reading about all the personal stories of women birthing naturally with midwives instead of a frenzied hospital staff really inspired me to make a switch. I realized I was missing something that I desired; a personal care and connection to my feelings about what I needed for my body; respect in mother's intuition. I found that with my midwives, and couldn't be happier with my birth experience. This book is AMAZING for anyone considering a natural birth.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Six Months!

I had thought we were going to be in for a BIG month, but boy was I surprised at just how big it really was! Shortly after her five month birthday, she started sitting unsupported for short periods of time. A week later, she rolled over on her right side (the opposite side of which she's already done). She looked so proud and surprised, and I am so happy to have caught the exact moment and look on her face...
That same day, I put her in her bouncy chair so I could use the bathroom. She's never been a huge fan of this chair for long stretches of time, and is usually reserved for being put in the doorway to the bathroom while I do my thing (now I know why all the mothers say your will never pee again without an audience.) And now that she prefers to be upright, rather than lying down, I thought this chair would be at the end of its usefulness. But November found a way to make it work for her...
She used to look so tiny in this seat! I looked away for one moment, and then the next moment I found her sitting all the way forward! What a goofball. From then on, every time I lay her down in that chair, she sits right up and leans forward. And, as if the day weren't already eventful enough, I noticed November began playing with both of her toes at once (she usually only played with one foot or the other.)
At the beginning of April, November's two front bottom teeth came through at once! My mom told me Nova had bit her while she was watching her, and I assumed she was exaggerating. But upon taking her home, I felt her gums and was so surprised to feel two hard little teeth poking through! The gummy smile is no more! See if you can see those two cute teeth in this picture...
November has become very ticklish on her belly! She loves it when mommy and daddy pretend to gobble her up or sniff her like a dog, especially over her tummy. She giggles so loud; it really is the greatest sound ever. She is also getting easier to make laugh with silly faces. One day I was waving and wiggling my arms while making a high pitched silly noise, and she was busting up with giggles for like ten minutes!
One time, she rolled from her tummy to her back (she usually rolls from back to tummy.) She is even scooting pretty far now! At first she would just scoot in a circle, but now she can scoot backward when on her tummy! This usually happens as she reaches out for something out of reach in front of her; she'll lift her booty and scoot almost a foot back. Even though she is then farther from the object of her desire, she always looks so proud, as if saying, 'Look, I can move! Isn't that cool?' She will continue to scoot farther and farther back until she is blocked by something. Time to start baby-proofing; this baby is almost mobile!
She has been really interested in exploring people's faces with her hands. In fact, she has been straight-up grabby! She especially loves her daddy's phone, and pretty much anything not-hers. Also, by the end of the month, November became a pro at sitting unsupported. She still topples now and then, so I am sure to sit near her all the time.
The most exciting event: solids! A few weeks before her six month birthday, she was getting VERY grabby with our food to the point of picking up popcorn and attempting to put it in her mouth. We decided to start the introduction to solids.
We started with a baby feeding method called Baby Led Weaning which focuses on letting your child explore the food with her hands, and learn to eat on her own terms, rather than spoon feed. We cut up a banana in long, non-choke-able-yet-baby-handle-able pieces, set a few pieces on the tray of her chair, and let her play with it. On day one, she held it, put it in her mouth, and made a funny face. She explored in this way for a few minutes, until she got fussy. On day two, she put it in her mouth immediately, but spit out chunks whenever she bit some. On day three, she ate a little of it, mostly when it was smooshed on her fingers. She seemed to enjoy it! On day four, I decided to try feeding her smooshed banana, seeing how much she seemed to relish the mush from her fingers. She loved it! She leaned forward eagerly, mouth open! It was such a cute little sight. Since then, we have tried avocado and sweet potato, following the 'four-day rule' of continuing only one food at a time for four days, in case of allergic reaction. We have also decided to let her experience each new food BLW style for the first day or two, until she seems comfortable with it, and eager to actually eat it puree style (true BLW enthusiasts never introduce purees, but we think Nova likes this mix of styles.) So far, I think she loves sweet potato the best!
November is such an amazing baby, I can't wait to see what she accomplishes this month! Will she be crawling? I'm also excited to continue with solids, and discover what foods she likes best. We are going to try to introduce a good mix of fruits AND veggies, so she isn't just eating sweet things. What a wonderful month!

Gluten Free Dairy Free- one month update

It will be a week tomorrow since I've been on the Gluten Free Dairy Free elimination diet. While I didn't see too many improvements in November's skin condition early on, I have to say that her skin looks much improved over the past couple weeks! We don't get a professional (pediatrician's) opinion until next Tuesday, but I have a feeling she's going to tell me to keep on with what I'm doing. This will probably be my last weekly update; I think I will post monthly from now on, since I'm really getting the hang of this diet and don't have a ton of new meal ideas to post the farther along I go. But here's what I can share from this past week...

I've been eating much of the same as I've already mentioned in week one, week two, and weeks three/four. Here are some new meals we've enjoyed! You'll see a lot of repeat ingredients throughout; I've been trying to take advantage of leftovers!

-I've been getting pretty bored of my daily bowl of gf cereal and soy milk. Today I switched it up with Udi's gf whole grain bread (which I have decided is the WINNER and by far my FAVORITE gf bread, along with their hamburger buns) topped with Earth Balance vegan butter and strawberry preserves along with a bowl of fresh strawberries.

-My favorite work lunch has been Trader Joe's handmade corn tortillas filled with hummus and Emerald City salad from the PCC deli.
-Sandwich with Udi's bread, cilantro mayo, salami, Mama Lil's spicy peppers, and pickles
-Udi's burger bun with cilantro mayo, sliced pepperoni, avocado, and Mama Lil's peppers

-Wheatless in Seattle pizza crust with fresh homemade pesto (basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, pine nuts), sliced pepperoni, and Mama Lil's peppers
-Portobello Mushroom 'Pizza' (Portobello mushrooms gill-side up, covered in your favorite pizza toppings, and broiled. We topped ours with vegan cheese, pepperoni, tomatoes, and caramelized onions.)
-Shrimp tacos
-Big green salad with sliced salami, garbanzo beans, hard boiled egg, canned artichoke hearts, basil, and balsamic vinaigrette
-Udi's burger buns with homemade beef burger patty's, cilantro mayo, caramelized onions, and avocado
-Spencer made gf fried chicken (with Namaste gf flour) with grits!

-Glutino gf chocolate cookie creme sandwiches! So good...better than oreos!

What a yummy week! Hopefully I'll do some baking in the coming weeks!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Gluten and Dairy Free weeks 3 & 4 {plus chocolate toffee cookie recipe}

These past two weeks have flown by! This gluten and dairy free elimination diet seems to be getting easier and easier. I don't even desperately crave the things I can't have! I see cheese, and for one second I wish I could eat it, but then the feeling is gone and I'm satisfied. All the meals we've been eating that used to include cheese, taste great without any! I never knew I could enjoy enchiladas and risotto without tons of cheese included, but I do! Even in the days when I was vegan a few years ago, I would put vegan cheese on everything. I've put vegan cheese on a few things recently, but I usually find that I prefer my meals without! I think if a recipe is well-seasoned and full of fresh flavor, you don't need extra cheese. That's where Spencer really rocks my world...he makes such wonderful, flavorful food!

What I've been eating: Since I've been so busy, I didn't keep a food journal like I did the previous weeks, but I've mostly been eating the same things as discussed in week one and week two, so I'll share the new things I've enjoyed:

-I've really been eating much of the same as the first two weeks in this category; gluten free cereal with soymilk, green smoothies, gluten free toast with vegan butter
-I've enjoyed more of the Mochi that I mentioned in my last post and have found my favorite combo: chocolate mochi filled with chocolate hazelnut butter and sliced banana or strawberries! So good!
-Spencer made us a couple breakfasts, usually consisting of hash browns (sometimes with chopped tomatoes and asparagus tips) with eggs and gluten free toast. He also made us grits with bacon and eggs!

-I've enjoyed more deli salads or hot bar entrees from PCC when I'm at work. A couple days I made a wrap with brown rice tortilla (warmed in the microwave a few seconds to soften) filled with PCC deli tofu caper spread, lemon tahini sauce, sliced deli ham, and their emerald city salad. The tofu spread and tahini sauce contained enough to make quite a few wraps, and I just got two slices of ham and a small scoop of the salad from the deli each day that I made the wrap. It was so good!
-If I'm at home, I'll usually put something together with leftovers. I made a meatball sandwich with gluten free bread and leftover marinara and meatballs. I also made a wrap with brown rice bread and leftover bbp pulled pork.
-Robin and I got Pho one day. I avoided soy sauce and the hoisin sauce, but siracha seemed to be free of gluten!
-Spencer and I had sandwiches at Chaco Canyon! They have a lot of gf options, as well as a lot of tasty raw items! I got the artichoke melt on gf bread.

-I haven't made much for myself for dinner these past couple weeks; Spencer has been the real star lately! He made a homemade bbq sauce to make the most delicious pulled pork sandwiches ever! We ate it on Udi's gf hamburger buns! The buns were on the small side, and I thought they wouldn't be filling, but I was wrong; they were perfect! He made a broccoli slaw with this meal that was to die for!
-Risotto with english peas or asparagus tips and bacon (and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for that parmesan quality!
-When we wanted something light we had a big salad with hard boiled eggs, tomato, and asparagus tips with a tasty vinaigrette and an avocado and sprout sandwich on Manni's gf sandwhich bread (from PCC.) I didn't find a link to the exact bread we used, but upon finding their website, I realize they make gf fresh pastas too! Now I've gotta find and try those!
-Spencer made gf chicken strips with namaste gf flour blend and cornmeal
-Enchiladas and chips with salsa and fresh guacamole from Cactus (they have gf options, I told the waiter to leave off dairy too)
-Brown rice spaghetti with homemade meatballs and marinara
-I went to a Game of Thrones premier watching party where my friends were making lamb gyros. I brought brown rice tortillas and lemon tahini sauce and my friend Alicia provided dairy free tza ziki sauce. I avoided the feta but was able to eat all the other topings, like tomatoes and kalamata olives!

-And now it's time for the most exciting part! I made these amazing Chocolate Toffee Cookies from this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, but I de-gluten-ized and un-dairy-fied them! They were soft and chewy fresh out of the oven, but even better after cooling; crispy (like a meringue almost)on the outside, and soft on the inside with chewy bits of toffee and crunchy walnuts. I'm not usually a fan of walnuts in cookies, but they were very welcome in these, probably because we toasted them fresh before using. And a sprinkling of high-quality flake salt on top make these absolute perfection!
Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Toffee Cookies (contains eggs)
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup gluten free flour (like Namaste)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used Callebaut from the Whole Foods baking chocolate section)
1/2 stick (or 1/4 cup) vegan butter (like Earth Balance)
1 3/4 cups packed organic brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6oz non-dairy english toffee, coarsely chopped (I got this one at Sidecar in the U-dist)
1 cup walnuts, toasted, chopped
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling (I used Himalayan pink salt)

Whisk together gf flour, baking powder and salt.

Melt the chocolate and butter by placing them together in a metal mixing bowl set over a pot of simmering water over med-low heat (double boiler style). Stir until melted and smooth. Remove bowl from heat and let cool to lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until thick and smooth. The original recipe calls for an electric mixer for 5 minutes; since I don't have one, I sat down in front of the tv and beat that butter and sugar for about ten minutes and I could tell the brown sugar was fully incorporated with the eggs. Beat in vanilla and chocolate mixture. Stir in flour mixture, and then the toffee and walnuts. Chill batter until firm, at least one hour in the refrigerator.
If you would like to bake them now, preheat oven to 350°F. Here's where you can choose what works best for you: you can bake them all at once by lining a couple baking sheets with parchment paper and dropping dollops of about 1/4 cup of batter onto the sheets, leaving a couple inches in between the dollops of dough, top with a sprinkle of flaky salt, and then bake for 12-15 min. Or you can bake what you want now, and freeze the rest in a cut-and-bake log, OR you can just put the whole batch into a freezer log and bake the cookies later. I chose to bake 8 cookies immediately after the dough was chilled, and then freeze the rest. To make a freezer log, roll out the chilled batter onto parchment paper and form a log. Roll up the log in the parchment, and wrap with plastic wrap to keep it nice and tight. Now that you have your freezer log, you can just unwrap it whenever you are ready to bake, slice off about 1/2 inch discs of dough, sprinkle with salt, and bake according to the directions above! So far, I've made 8 fresh, 8 from frozen, and have about 8 left in my freezer log.
I KNOW you will want to eat these fresh out of the oven, which tastes amazing, especially with some vanilla rice or soy ice cream, or even blackberry sorbet, but make sure you cool some all the way so you can taste the cooled version too! It's amazing how different they are upon cooling. It is not to be missed! Enjoy!

Busy mom, busy baby!

I think it has been two weeks since I last posted! I've been so busy, but have so much to write about! I've got a super decadent gluten free dairy free cookie recipe to share, as well as my meal plans from the past two weeks on the elimination diet! Hopefully I'll get a chance to catch up today and tomorrow.

So why haven't I been writing?! Well, last week, my sweetheart Spencer took a few vacation days off at home, so I was happy to share them with him. We didn't do anything too special, but we did run some errands together, clean, enjoy the sunny days, go shopping, and took November to a library read-and-play, in addition to some good old-fashioned and much-needed quality time together. No offence, bloggy blog, but my sweetheart is just too important to trade in for blogging time!

The weather has been beautiful and very spring-like, which inspires me to get out of the house more often, even if it isn't exactly to spend time outdoors. November and I met up with my friend Robin, and her daughter Mila for another library read-and-play this week. Even though November is by far the youngest in the group, I think it's good to expose her to other children and give her a chance to watch and learn from them. She seems to like it and I'm sure she will love it even more when she is crawling, and able to interact more! I also started taking Zumba! I've gone twice, and bought a 3-time discounted pass that I have to use up within a month, so I think I will be going once a week. It felt so good to move my body! It really was the funnest workout, not to mention the most INTENSE workout I've done since being pregnant! It feels good to leave the studio, covered in sweat, and walk out into the crisp spring air.

And, finally, my last excuse: November seems to be napping less often and usually only for 30 minutes at a time. This doesn't give me much time to work with, but she is becoming much more predictable, at least. I just need to get used to this new schedule! She used to nap anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours with about an hour or two of awake-time in between, but now it seems more like 30 minute nap every three hours, give or take. I can work with that! She is napping at this moment so hopefully I can work on my AWESOME RECIPE post for awhile before she wakes!