Starting Again

Today I did something that I have not done in nearly a year…I went to the gym. The whirring of the treadmills, the smell of the chlorine from the pool, it all pulled me in and made me afraid.

When we found out we would be moving last year, we cancelled our gym membership. Although I tried to keep up with exercising as much as possible, I was not doing as well as I could have. I used our jogging stroller to go on runs around the neighborhood (until Cupcake got too heavy and it hurt my back). I tried to do workout videos here and there. I found it hard to stay consistent without the gym. It was too easy to look around my house and see the chore list staring back at me. There was always something that needed tending to. So, my workouts suffered.

And being a work-at-home-mom, working out became less enjoyable for me. Home was where my family was, but it was also my workplace. And now it was supposed to be my gym. I made a million excuses but the honest truth was I just hated working out at home. I was really unsure about whether we wanted to shell out the money for a gym membership, so I tried to make it work. My fitness suffered. I was cranky. I was getting out of shape. It was not good. Added to that was any decent gym around us was nearly double what we were paying before.

It took some convincing, but I told my sweetie that all I wanted for Valentine’s Day was a gym membership. I wanted a place to go to work out. For this mama, it also had the benefit of childcare! This meant that not only could I get my workout in, I could also shower and get ready after sans Cupcake. I was so excited when he agreed.

But this morning, I was terrified. I did not want to go. I was going to be so out of shape compared to where I was. It was a new place so I had no idea where anything was located. It was also snowing when we woke up and we live in a place not accustomed to much snow. I teach my students online, but the physical campus (located just 10 minutes away) was cancelled for the whole day due to the weather! We only have a car seat in one car, which is the better car for the snow, so my husband would have to take it to work. YAY! I would be able to excuse myself from attending the gym.

Thankfully, my husband gently reminded me how much I wanted this. So at an ungodly hour, the three of us packed into the car so I could bring him to work in the “good” car, then I drove through rush hour traffic (why do they call it that? It should be slow hour traffic). We arrived at the gym just in time for the childcare to be opening. I slowly got changed into my workout clothes, dropped Cupcake off with the providers, and was faced with actually having to workout.

The stats of the workout were not impressive, but they were better than anything I would have gotten sitting back on my couch. I pressed start and that seems like a huge accomplishment in itself. And while I had to work far harder than I used to in the past, I did it.

Have you ever been scared to start something up again that you haven’t done in awhile? Tell me about your “press start” moment in the comments below!

Love,

Lindsay

The Magic of a Blink

It’s amazing how quickly time passes once you become a parent. You find out you are pregnant, blink, and then there is that little miracle looking back at you.

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Before you know it, you foolishly decide to blink again and your newborn is becoming an interactive little one. Our Cupcake was so fascinated in the world around her and loved exploring. Every day was an adventure. You are happily going along when the urge to blink hits once more. Suddenly your infant has transformed once again.

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Now you have a baby. She can play. She can coo. She certainly can tell you in her own little way what she likes and doesn’t like. A personality emerges. Time passes as it always does and you let those eyelids touch for but a moment and instantly a toddler is born.

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These days are punctuated by a flurry of energy. Movement is the name of the game. What is this and how does it work motivates their world. Life is so fun as you crawl, walk, climb. But just as you settle into your new life of action, that blink is waiting.

IMG_7008Now you have a kid. Not a big kid, in global terms, but a bigger kid than you’ve ever known. She not only walks and talks, but she has opinions. Strong ones. And she knows how to express them! Not every adventure is a new one, but it is always an adventure. Don’t blink just yet, mama.

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Adventures in Nightweaning 

My dear sweet Cupcake has always been an avid nurser. She suffered from reflux and I think this just served to increase her frequency. All throughout the first year of her life, I would rise several times throughout the night to breastfeed my little girl. It was our special quiet time together. 

Sure, I was tired. There were days that I’d get frustrated, but overall it was a great experience. In the dark she’d need me, her mama, and nothing else could soothe her. As she got older she developed the habit of gently rubbing my arm or twirling my hair as she drifted back to sleep. 

Before Cupcake was born, I had no expectations for breastfeeding. I thought I’d try it and take it day by day. Weeks passed into months and then a year quickly arrived. Cupcake was still nursing 3-4x a night. I was exhausted. 

I was too tired to enjoy the nighttime feeds, but also too tired to cope well during the day. I was suffering. This was when we decided it was time to nightwean Cupcake. I researched various methods and decided that Ferber seemed like the best fit for us. 

I channeled my former elementary teacher self and drew a big poster. I included the “rules” and room for us to record what happened. The first few nights were horrible. Cupcake didn’t sleep. We didn’t sleep. She was a mess during the day and was extremely clingy. Her naps got all screwed up. I pushed on. This had worked for so many people and I knew that if I just pushed through, we’d get through this sleep-deprived tunnel. 

After a week, Cupcake still showed no improvement. Things just were getting worse. I had followed the plan perfectly and it had not worked. She was not ready. I returned to nursing her on-demand at night and my happy little girl returned. 

A few months later I was done. We had just moved several states away from all of our family and friends. My husband had started a very demanding job and I felt alone. I was tired and stressed out and again found myself pouring over parenting websites looking for help. 

I learned that it was normal for babies to still wake through the night at this age. I searched some attachment parenting sites, found support, and resumed nursing her through the night with lifted spirits. I was tired, but not alone. 

As Cupcake grew, we had a few nights where she’s sleep for four hours straight, but those were rare. I was starting to really not enjoy nursing Cupcake all night long. So, I again turned to the Internet and found reference to Dr. Jay Gordon and his method for sleep training.

This is the general idea: The parents select a seven-hour window where they will not nurse. He suggests 11p-6a. On nights 1-4, mom will nurse the child anytime before 11p. If the child wakes up between 11-6, mom will nurse, but will put the baby down awake in his/her crib. Mom will hug/cuddle/sing and comfort baby. The baby cannot get more milk unless they fall asleep. If they fall asleep and rise again, mom repeats the process. After 6am, mom resumes breastfeeding as normal. On nights 5-8, mom will NOT nurse baby between 11p and 6a. She should still comfort baby, but not offer milk until 6am. After night 8, mom will continue to NOT breastfed between 11 and 6. Additionally, she will not pick up baby if (s)he wakes up during those times. Mom can still rub baby’s back and continue to talk or soothe baby. Overtime, baby should stop requesting milk and will hopefully stop waking up during that time. 

Here’s what happened in our house:

Night 1- Cupcake woke up at 10pm. I nursed her as normal and she went back to sleep. She woke up at 1:30a. I briefly nursed her and put her down awake. She called out for more milk, but I told her that “milkies” were sleeping. She cried and asked me to hold her hand. It took her about an hour to fall back asleep. She woke at 6:08 and I nursed her as normal. We survived night 1! 

Night 2: Her first night waking wasn’t until 1am. I was scared of this scenario, since now she was going to be going from 7p-6a without milk. But it was only day 2, so I decided to push on. Again, some (a lot of) hand holding did a lot of good and she slept until 6:30am! Wahoo! 

Night 3: She was really hard to put down for bed tonight. She kept screaming for more milk and wouldn’t settle. I prepared myself for a long night. It was also my husband’s first night back home after a week of night shift. Cupcake woke at 10 and I nursed her. She woke at 2:30 and would not go back to sleep. After trying to console her for over 45 minutes, I walked out of her room. I put on my headphones and listed to a nighttime meditation to block her out. She must have fallen back asleep because I didn’t hear anything from her again until 5:15. In my half-wake state, I picked her up and started nursing her. Whoops! She was then up for the day! Yuck! 

Night 4: huh?! She nursed at 10:30 and then slept until 7! This was great! I was a bit bewildered  by the extra sleep! I was happy, but also a little sad because this was the last night we’d be night nursing and she slept  through it! 

Night 5: I was so scared of this night. No night nursing. How were we going to manage that? I decided I’d offer her a sippy cup of water so I didn’t have to worry she was thirsty. She woke up 10:59 and I dashed to her room to fit in one more session. I kissed her little baby face a million times and may have gotten a bit emotional. I knew this was the right choice. I was happier and more well-rested. I needed this, but it was also sad to see that part of her babyhood end since I knew it was me that was pushing for it. She woke at 12:30. I went in with her water and she cried for milk, but after a few minutes settled for cuddles and water. She woke at 5:47 and I rationalized that she couldn’t tell time so I went to go nurse her. I was greeted by a happy little girl saying, “Hi mama!” Success! 

Nights 6-8: I adjusted her times from 11-5a, since she wakes almost every day in the 5 o’clock hour. With a quick nursing, she goes back to sleep for another hour or two! 

Tonight I supposed to be night 9, where I stop picking her up. I don’t think I’m quite ready for that yet, so I’m going to continue what we’re doing because it works for us! 

She has been so much happier these days. I think she is benefitting from the extra sleep. I think having a well-rested mommy is also helping! While this method certainly won’t work for everyone- it worked for us! 

  

Homemade Granola Bars 

I think I’m a little bit obsessed. Ever since I made the commitment to start making more homemade food items, I find that I can’t stop! Everything just tastes so good. As a bonus, it is also way more affordable to be preparing food this way. I cannot afford to give Cupcake everything I would like, so this is my way.

In our family, we love granola bars. When my husband started residency just three weeks ago, we had a grand total of six different types of granola bars JUST FOR HIM. That does not count what we had for Cupcake and I. Kind of crazy. Also, kind of expensive! Even with buying most of our granola bars as Aldi’s, it was a significant part of our “snack budget.” Since I am really working to be more thrifty, I realized I could help by learning how to make my own granola bars. I had seen many recipes online that seemed quite involved. I was looking for something simple, because Mama wants to enjoy nap time by relaxing,not by running around like a crazy person!

An easy granola bar recipe is what originally led me to Andrea . Her recipe for granola bars seemed super easy, and I was excited to try. The recipe that follows is hers, with a few notes from me! Dear Andrea, if you are reading this, I might have a bit of a momming crush on you!

Ingredients

1/2 c honey

1/3 c packed brown sugar

1/4 c peanut butter or nut-butter of your choosing (I used crunchy peanut butter as recommended by Ms. Andrea)

1/4 c unsalted butter

4 c quick oats

2 c crispy rice cereal

3 t vanilla

Directions

In a large bowl, stir crispy rice cereal, quick oats together.

In a medium saucepan, combine honey, butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then bring the temperature down to low, and simmer till sugar dissolves.

*thejoyofmomming note- let it boil for a minute or so, and then simmer. Your granola bars WILL fall apart if this mixture does not heat enough because my first few tries definitely did this  I’ve heard.

Remove from heat. Pour in vanilla and stir.

Pour the hot mixture over dry ingredients. Stir until all ingredients are moistened. Press into a parchment-lined 13×9 pan.

Pack the granola bar mixture as closely and as tightly together as you possibly can into one end of the pan at about 1/2-3/4 inch thickness. Any thinner, and the bars will not hold together. *See pictures below for trick I used!*

Let cool on the counter till they reach room temperature.

Cut into bars. Wrap in plastic or store in a ziplock bag.

*You may add chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts, coconut, etc. if desired. If adding chocolate chip, press them into the top of the bars after you’ve packed the very warm granola mixture into the pan. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a melted chocolate-swirled mess.

Here are some photos from my adventure. I did not have any parchment paper, so I used tinfoil and it worked just fine.
  Look how pretty!   Okay, here’s where I went a little crazy. As I mentioned before, I may have some people had trouble with the granola not sticking together. So, I folded my tinfoil around the granola.
  And I found the cutest 21 pound weight to pack it down (I put a clean baking pan over the tin foil first!) I’m glad this kid isn’t in school yet, because I could just imagine her sitting around the snack table. “My mommy has me stand on my granola bars before I eat them.” Thank goodness she is only 16 months old!
I prefer a harder granola bar, so we store these in the fridge, but you can store them on the counter-top as well.

Homemade Hummus without Tahini 

After my husband and I really sat down to evaluate our budget, we realized that we could be doing better in terms of our spending on food.

Although I have benefitted in the past from couponing, that can become a full-time job in itself. I mostly want to find ways to cut back in terms of the types of food we purchase and prepare.

Cupcake is a tad bit obsessed with hummus.

 We go through A LOT of this stuff. I realized that making my own could be one way to try and save.

This recipe is super simple. You basically just dump all the ingredients in the food processor and press start. Voila!

I have found that the most important part is to peel the skins off the chickpeas. Some people skip this step, and the hummus will be fine- I promise. However, by peeling the skins, you get a much smoother texture. I prefer the flavor, too!

Ingredients

1 15 oz can chickpeas, reserve liquid

1 T minced garlic

2 T cumin

1/4 – 1/2t salt, depending on preference

1 T olive oil

Directions

1. Drain chickpeas. Reserve liquid.

2. Remove shells from chickpeas

3. Add chickpeas, 3 T of reserved liquid, garlic, cumin, salt and oil to food processor (or in my case, the Baby Bullet since I don’t have a grown up one haha)

4. Add more liquid as needed to reach desired consistency.

I can’t wait to try adding other spice combinations! So good and SO simple!
Disclaimer: this may or may not actually save you money because it’s so yummy you will want to eat it all. 🙂

Homemade Rolls 

I do not know what has gotten into me! I have been obsessed with homemade bread lately. You’d think that the weather outside would have been damp and chilly, but no. I just really LOVE homemade bread!

After trying out this awesome recipe for Homemade French Bread, I was really excited. It tasted amazing and was much easier than I thought. It was much more cost affordable and definitely much healthier!

The only downside was that the recipe took a bit longer than I preferred to spend when I have this cutie pie hanging around.


So I was super excited when I found out that the lovely Ms. Andrea at Pennies and Pancakes had a recipe for hamburger buns that took less than an hour from start to finish! I wish I could take credit for the delicious recipe, but she so deserves it!

Ingredients
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (or just over 4 cups whole wheat flour)
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 beaten egg

Directions 
Warm the milk, water, and butter in the microwave. Stir until butter is melted and let cool until warm, but not hot.

Mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add in milk mixture and then add the egg. Your dough should be only slightly sticky. Knead for 8-10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.

Divide the dough into 12 balls, and place them on a large, greased baking sheet. Lightly press down on the top of each ball of dough, so that the top is more flat than rounded. They will puff up more during rising and baking. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

Cover with a dishtowel, and let rise 30-40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown on top. Serve as desired, and store for 3-5 days on the counter, or 4-6 months in the freezer.

Before

After!

I am telling you, this was the easiest thing to make! My father-in-law had one and proclaimed that he was officially handing over the reigns and that I was now in charge of making buns for the holidays. This is the same man who drove six hours to our house with coolers filled with food so he could prep it himself for us. He loves to cook, so to pass any of it on to me, I’d say we have a winner!

When these came out of the oven, Cupcake was napping. I split one open and may have let out a little squeal. I grabbed a bit of olive oil and sea salt and I was in HEAVEN. Anyone who is nervous about making homemade bread should definitely start here. My only regret is that I did not find this recipe sooner!

Easy Kale Chips

I am absolutely in love with this summer! This is now my second summer as a SAHM, and to be perfectly honest, I did not love last summer at all. We were in a location where all of our friends worked during the day, and I felt very alone! Cupcake could not do a whole lot, either, so it was all very quiet.  As a former elementary school teacher, quiet is not a word I tend to love too much. It feels foreign. Strange. Lonely.

And so, I am just loving my summer of 2015 with all of my heart! Every day, Cupcake and I go out and about. We have met so many new people in our new hometown. Things were going along swimmingly, until a park play date was canceled due to rain.

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I usually wouldn’t let this stop me from finding an alternative, but I took one look at Cupcake and I thought: hmm, we could be due for some quiet. 

You see, my little Pooh Bear loves the hustle and bustle as much as I do! She is very social and pretty much in a constant stage of blur. I love it! However, I also want my daughter to be able to appreciate the slower moments in life. So, we decided to hang in together. We colored and read books nearly all day. When it came time for snack, I knew just what we had to make: kale chips!

Despite my Cupcake’s sweet moniker, she actually has not developed much of a sweet tooth yet. Both her father and I love sweets, so it is surprising! I should have expected this because one of my weirdest “cravings” when pregnant was that I didn’t crave sweets at all. I remember at one dinner with my in-laws at Chili’s, it came time for everyone to order dessert. I asked for an order of chips and salsa. So, it really should not surprise me that Cupcake has no desire for sweets.

This recipe is for my easiest kale chips EVER. So easy and they come out perfectly!

Ingredients 

Kale Chips

Olive Oil

Garlic Powder

Salt, if desired

Directions 

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees

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2. Put small amount of olive oil on paper towel and spread over cookie sheet.  IMG_4970 IMG_4971

3. Cover cookie sheet with kale. We used baby kale here because it’s what I had on hand, but use any kale that you have. Make sure to remove the stems as those are pretty bitter.

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4. Sprinkle garlic powder (and salt) evenly over kale

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5. TURN OVEN OFF

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Seriously, turn it off.

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6. Cook kale chips in (now turned-off) oven until crispy, but not burned (ours took about 10 minutes).
IMG_5003 IMG_50057. Eat the deliciousness!

IMG_5007 IMG_5010 IMG_5013 IMG_5017 IMG_5025We hope you love it as much as Cupcake does!