Gourmet Veggie Mama

Category Archives: Motherhood

Remember that time…

… I had a blog?


What happened? I went back to work, and part-time quickly turned into full-time, and full-time turned into all-consuming. I am experienced enough to know that with a start-up, it often does, and as the parent — and until very recently, the stay-at-home parent — of two very young children, I confess that I’m pretty conflicted about it. But, I love the work, and I love the company. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Except. In the midst of getting into my groove as a working mom, I seem to have lost my way as to pretty much everything else other than working and being a mom.

It’s nearly impossible to fit in exercise (although, YES, I certainly could make it work by sleeping less, but that is an unappealing proposition at the moment.

A back injury has made running complicated since last summer, and with work (and wanting to spend every free moment with my family), it has fallen by the wayside. I’ve gone for 2- or 3-mile jaunts here and there on the weekends with the family,* but nothing more serious. When I attempted to go on the 10-mile Moontower Run a couple of Fridays ago, I paid dearly for it — I could hardly walk for a few days after due to aggravating my back injury. I’m now in intensive physical therapy trying to get the injury repaired once and for all — this is for the birds!

*Now that Nora rides her bike, there no real need for the double stroller!

To complicate matters, eating healthily is a struggle, too. Due to my working hours and commute, I’m able to spend the mornings with the kiddos, but I’m rarely able to make it home by dinnertime, especially since Amelia vocally prefers to eat around 5:30. As a consequence, dinner has largely become a Daddy Project.** I basically haven’t cooked anything much more complicated than pancakes for months.*** Sometimes I skip dinner. Sometimes dinner is something from the microwave. It’s rarely up to the standards I had just a few months ago. Hell, I hardly ever have the inspiration to make a cocktail after a long day.

**Or one for the nanny, since he has been out of town a lot recently. Cue Extreme Mom Guilt.

***Actually, that’s not quite true; I did manage to produce a lovely vegetarian cassoulet a couple weeks ago, but it was over two days or so, and it was a pretty light time at work.

I need to do better. I have to get over the end-of-week exhaustion and start planning and prepping meals for the week. I need to drag out the crock pot again and dust off old recipes. I need to rely on others, but not entirely. I need to be involved in my family’s nutrition. I need to because it’s a part of who I am — and who I became in creating this blog.

So, this is my vow — I will get healthy again. I have obstacles to overcome, and things won’t always be ideal, but need to make a change. I’ll write about it here when I can, if you’re interested. Perhaps some new, make-ahead, crock pot or super-quick recipes will be in the works? Or chronicles on how we make it all work through (hopefull diligent) planning and prep work? Both, I hope. And I hope you’ll join me for the ride.

tl;dr: Being a working mom is hard. But, I need to stop just making it through the day and start carving out time for ME. Not just to relax, but to exercise and eat well. I have to do this for myself, and for my family. I’ll be writing about it here when I can.

Mimosas with a Twist, for Mom

Ah, Mother’s Day. For children, it is a time to present the most important lady in your life with a hand-painted mug, handprint ornament, or some other handmade thing that Good Ol’ Dad helped you make (probably at the last minute), and tell her that, despite your attitude most days, you really do appreciate her. For grown-ups like me, with a couple of small children of their own, it’s a time to reflect on how much I really DID appreciate my mom back then, and still do now.

So. Being a mom. It’s not an easy gig. You get spit up on, you have to deal with someone else’s poop on a daily basis (at least for the first couple of years), you get woken up randomly during the night for different reasons throughout your beloved offsprings’ development, you spend a lot of time arguing over matters that completely defy logic with a small but determined opponent,* and you tend to collapse at the end of the day utterly exhausted, but also completely unable to account for anything you really got done.

* Being a corporate lawyer prepared me very well for this part of parenting.

Now that I’m a mom myself, and I have experienced all of those enumerated joys, plus plenty of others that just aren’t springing to mind right now, I really, really appreciate my mom. Really really. And the least I can do is make her a Mother’s Day cocktail.

So, Mom, I’m sorry for every time I threw a fit in public, especially when you had your hands full of groceries and possibly a baby sibling. I’m sorry for every time I told you something on my plate (which you’d probably slaved over and eagerly anticipated my delighted reaction to) was yucky or that I wasn’t hungry or that I just wanted yogurt instead. I’m sorry I took so long to sleep through the night, and once I did, I’m sorry for every time I woke you up in the middle of the night for reasons like “the fan is scaring me” or “I couldn’t find my water.”** I’m sorry for sometimes being a brat who took for granted the loving and comfortable home you provided for me. I wish I had realized at the time how good I had it! I’m sorry for wrecking my car when I was a teenager — even though it wasn’t my fault, I’m sure I could have avoided it if I had been a more experienced driver, and I’m damn lucky I didn’t give you a heart attack. I can only imagine how worried you were when you heard about it. Anyway, I sure do owe you a drink.

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 8.36.06 PM

**I don’t know for sure that I did these things, but it seems likely, based on my own beloved daughters and their sleep habits.

When Red Envelope asked me to develop a cocktail recipe inspired by my mom for their Mother’s Day Brunch series, I thought it was a fabulous idea, and I had to put on my thinking cap. My mom is just not your everyday lady. She’s a Texan through and through, a little bit of a hippy, and not too much of a drinker, but she does enjoy a good mimosa. Since Mother’s Day brunch is a thing, I figured mimosas were a perfect starting point. When I saw a few of the last beautiful grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley gracing my grocery store’s produce aisle, I knew it was fate. One of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received was from my mom — a crate of Rio Red grapefruit at the height of the season (delivered after the New Year) when we lived in California, where those sweet, juicy red beauties were not all that easy to get your hands on. Add a cherry, and we’re in business.

rio red mimosa

So, here’s to you, Mom. Thanks for dealing with me for the past thirty-some-odd years. I really appreciate you now, even if I didn’t fully back then. Really.

Rio Red Mimosa
Recipe type: cocktail
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
  • 5 oz champagne or other sparkling wine***
  • Rio Red grapefruit juice, freshly squeezed if possible
  • maraschino cherry, for garnish****
  1. Fill a champagne flute almost to the top with the champagne. Top off with a splash of grapefruit juice.
  2. Drop in a maraschino cherry (because Mom deserves a cherry on top, damnit!) and serve with breakfast in bed.
*** I used prosecco, which is my favorite for mixing. Use a moderately priced sparkling -- don't go too cheap (you don't want to give Mom a wicked hangover now do you??) but don't go ruining a bottle of Dom Perignon with grapefruit juice, either.

**** I prefer Tillen Farms maraschino cherries, which are made with pure cane sugar and no red dye. Get 'em on Amazon -- it's not too late for Prime shipping!



I have a messy house

I have something to admit: My house is messy. I just thought you should know.

My darling neighbors were over playing with Nora yesterday, and, in that frantic space in the five minutes before dinner where everything is coming together and everyone wants your attention, I dropped something out of one of my cabinets. The four-year-old, being a four-year-old, pointed out that I had dropped it, and I, being a little short of patience right at that moment, might have responded a bit curtly.

“It’s okay,” she said. “It’s a messy house.”


The thing is, I spend a lot of time cooking, and running after a two-year-old (who doubles as a wrecking ball). But really, those are just excuses. I’d like to have a clean house — really, I would — but I like more to sit down for a few precious minutes at night before I crash in bed.

This has been making the rounds, and it is truth:

Pick Two

(I wish I knew where it originally came from, so I could give proper credit, but I pulled this from Momcom Life’s Facebook page.)

But, the thing is, it bothers me. Because I try to keep a clean house, but life gets in the way. I even have a cleaning schedule, for goodness’ sake! So, for a neighbor kid to catch me at the very messiest moment of the week and make a cutting observation… well, I won’t lie. It hurt. Even if she didn’t mean anything by it, it did.

I am going to take a moment to pat myself on the back, though. I am a good mom. I have a brilliant, sweet, beautiful daughter who gives me hugs and kisses (sometimes), has her alphabet down pat, is fully potty-trained and happy as a clam (usually). I make nutritious and delicious meals for my family nearly every night. I am starting a new career in a tough field and making a go of it (my first honest-to-goodness article in a print magazine is coming out soon!), and I have a wonderful, supportive husband with whom I am madly in love. But yeah, I am stretched a little thin at times.

I’m not perfect. I hope I never put forth the pretension that I am. I’d hate for anyone to think this is one of those glossy “lifestyle” blogs designed to make you feel bad about yourself. I really just like to write, I like to cook and I get a kick out of sharing recipes and stories with you lovely people. That’s it. And I have a messy house. Just thought you ought to know.

As your reward for reading my little sob story (that is, if you haven’t just skipped straight to the goods), please accept this delightful recipe for a fresh-from-the-garden early spring pasta.


I had spinach fettuccine in my pantry, plenty of chard and delicate broccoli crowns in my garden, and even a few baby leeks to add to the mix. I whipped up a quick creamy sauce to tie it all together, and voila! Just ignore the mess in my kitchen, please.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spring Garden Fettuccine
Recipe type: pasta
Serves: 4
  • 8 oz spinach fettuccine
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup broccoli crowns
  • 2-3 baby leeks (or 1 regular leek), sliced thinly (white and light green parts only)
  • 1 bunch chard, stems removed and reserved for another use*, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 cup cream or whole milk
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated, plus additional for serving
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the leek and broccoli and stir for a couple of minutes, until beginning to soften. Add the chard to the pan and saute until wilted. Add a splash of the pasta water if the pan seems dry. Set aside.
  3. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan, and then add the flour, stirring until bubbly. Gradually add in the milk, stirring well to remove any lumps.
  4. Allow the mixture to simmer until it thickens slightly, and then turn off the heat and stir in the cheese. Add the garlic powder and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Toss the pasta with the cream sauce and the chard-broccoli mixture, adding splashes of pasta water if needed. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped with additional parmesan, if desired.
* I usually freeze mine and use them in a batch of vegetable stock. Hate to let all those good nutrients go to waste!


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The Peaceful Mom

Where the f%#& is my hat… and other stories from race week

I couldn’t find my running hat this morning, so I tore around the house in a rage looking for it. Nora had been playing with it outside a couple of days ago, and I was sure it was lost, presumably dropped on the sidewalk somewhere. And that, of course, would be the end of the world.

You see, I’m running a marathon tomorrow, which makes everything a BIG HUGE deal. Even if it isn’t.

I started coming down with a cold on Wednesday. Taper colds are pretty common (something about your immune system being weakened by the sudden reduction in mileage), but to me it was an abject disaster. I had to be over this thing by Sunday. I downed Emergen-C and immune-boosting herbs* (which I had already been doing as part of my pre-race ritual), sucked on zinc lozenges, downed buckets of water and took naps whenever it was possible. I freaked out that the cold was turning into a sinus infection and went to the doctor yesterday, only to be told that I had probably just picked up a viral bug and that it would get worse before it got better. Ugh.

* Wishgarden Herbs makes a blend called Kick-Ass Immune. For reals.

But! It didn’t! I am feeling much, much better today, and (fingers mega-crossed) I will make it to the start line healthy(-ish). And even if I don’t, I will drag my weary, sniffling butt over the finish line if it is humanly possible. I have trained too hard to let this get me.

They call it “taper madness” for a reason. This is my second marathon, so I know the drill, but it still caught me by surprise how downright antsy I’m feeling this week. Having a toddler doesn’t make things any easier, since she doesn’t understand why I don’t want to play “ring around the rosie” with her a million times in a row and/or swing her around in the air. Mama’s back can’t go out right now!

Add to that the fact that she puked (which she never does) on the very same morning that I was freaking out about getting a cold. She’s totally fine — I think it was just a weird tickle in her throat or something — but I am ashamed of my reaction. My first instinct was not one of concern for my child. Oh no — I went into overdrive thinking about how I could manage to tend to a child with the pukies and not get sick myself with an already depressed immune system and a need to rest a lot to kick this cold. I am a baaaad mama. Or at least I am during taper week.

The final straw, though? Our internet went down yesterday. In my house, that means no TV (we get everything streaming and don’t have cable) as well as no access to my beloved internets except using my phone.* That also means very little distraction in the two days leading up to the marathon. Something in the universe is testing me, here!

* I’m currently sitting on a neighbor’s porch, stealing their wifi. I am a junkie.

I found my hat in the laundry bin with the other sports clothes. I had put it there after wearing it on Thursday, since I wanted it nice and clean for race day, and I knew I’d make a point to run a load of exercise clothes on Saturday so I could have everything all laid out the night before. Sorry, Nora — I shouldn’t have blamed you. The world isn’t ending after all.

In fact, I think it’ll all be okay. I’m feeling good today, and I’m more than ready to show up at the start line tomorrow. It certainly won’t be an easy race (marathons just aren’t), but I’m in the game and ready to roll.

Mac and cheese and birthday cake

My little girl turned 2 yesterday. I can barely believe it. She is such a crazy, fun, smart kid, and I feel so lucky to have her in my life. Most days I can’t believe my good fortune in being her mommy.

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are also the days she doesn’t nap, like yesterday. I ended up baking her birthday cake with her strapped firmly to my leg, muttering under my breath about the debatability of whether cranky 2-year-olds who don’t nap deserve homemade birthday cakes. Ah, good times.

Nap or no nap, I was determined to make her birthday fun and special, so I whipped up her favorite meal (mac and cheese, of course), and a from-scratch birthday cake it was.

birthday cake

Happy birthday to you!

I went with the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for yellow layer cake, which was amazing, and frosted it with their vanilla buttercream recipe. The frosting… not so much. Everyone else liked it, but to me, it tasted like I had frosted the cake with pure butter. Anyone have any tips on buttercream for me, or should I just try a different frosting? I liked the simple sugar icing I made for her birthday party cupcakes, but perhaps that is a testament to my sugar addiction, rather than just a taste preference. Nora obviously didn’t mind the buttercream… but of course, this is the same child who was begging me for chunks of butter while I was making the cake.

nora frosting

Don’t mind if I do…

Now, as for the mac and cheese, it has come to my attention that, although I have shared no less than six different recipes for my favorite dish, I have not yet shared my old standby recipe. There’s nothing quite like good ol’ fashioned baked mac and cheese, the kind I’ve been making (and tweaking ever so slightly) since… well, I can’t even remember when. I know it was one of the first things I ever learned to cook on my own. It’s good, and it’s so easy I could practically do it in my sleep. Or with a toddler strapped to my leg. Enjoy!


Say cheese!

Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe type: Pasta
Cuisine: Comfort food
  • 1 lb dried macaroni (preferably whole wheat)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • 2½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Cook the macaroni in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour and whisk until bubbling and golden, a couple of minutes. Gradually pour in the milk, stirring to incorporate well and keep smooth. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring often, and simmer until slightly thickened. Add the garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 cups of the cheddar. Add the cooked and drained macaroni and stir well with a rubber spatula.
  3. Transfer the macaroni into a 9 x9 baking dish or casserole of similar size and top with the remaining cheddar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bubbly, and then heat until the broiler until the top is golden brown, a couple of minutes. Cool slightly before serving.


Thankful… and a use for all those leftover mashed potatoes!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, laughter and delicious food! I was going to write a big Thanksgiving post this year, but, when it came down to it, I was just too busy cooking and enjoying time with my family to do it. No apologies here — that’s what this holiday is all about isn’t it? I was just too busy being thankful and enjoying the things I have to be thankful for to sit down and write about it.

thanksgiving meal


But I certainly am thankful. There is so much I am thankful for, it’s hard to know where to begin, but the thing I keep coming back to is that I am thankful for where I am. I wouldn’t have chosen the road that led me here, particularly, but here I am! Don’t get me wrong… I am still traveling that road, and I am not sure where it’s leading, but now I know it’s the journey, not the destination. I am comfortable with a little uncertainty, which is something I have ever really been able to embrace before now. I went from high school to college to law school to law firm without ever not knowing what the next step was… and then I had to take a huge step into the unknown. It was terrifying at the time, but it turned out to be so right. I just had to close my eyes and jump, without knowing where or when I would land. I am still falling, but my parachute is open, and I’m enjoying the ride.

I went to prenatal yoga weekly when I was pregnant with Nora. During savasana the instructor would always tell us to think about something for which we were truly grateful. What would always come to mind, immediately, was “this time.” I was (and am) grateful to be a position to step back and explore, to find my passion, to take care of my child full-time. I appreciate that’s a choice that many people don’t have, just from the pressures of day-to-day living, and I’m so glad that my crooked path led me to this place.

You know the question career counselors ask: What would you do if you were independently wealthy? It’s supposed to lead you to your perfect career. It seems like it should be easy an easy question, but I never had a great answer for it. I spent a couple of years putzing around (okay, there was some parenting involved, too) before I finally got relaxed and clear and wound-down enough to see it: I like to write. I like to cook. I like my family. So, I write about cooking and my family. This blog, which I started as just a fun thing to do, to keep my mind entertained while spending the lion’s share of my time as a mommy and homemaker.* As it turns out, this is it — the thing I would do if I didn’t have to work. So I’ve started picking up freelance writing assignments here and there, and doing some editing. Nora gets to go to preschool a couple of days a week (which she loves), and I get a little time away to flex my brain muscles. It doesn’t feel like work. I’m certainly not getting paid much, but maybe someday!

* It’s interesting trying to come up with a neutral term for that occupation.

So, basically, I am thankful I’m now at a place where I have figured out what I want to be when I grow up. Not that I’m there yet — it’s the journey — but I feel like that was really the hard part.

Anyway, that’s enough introspection for one day. Let’s get down to business. Thanksgiving is over, and that means leftovers! I don’t know about you, but I ended up with lots of delicious mashed potatoes left over (I always make more than necessary because I love them so much). I recently discovered a brilliant (in a “why have I never thought of that?” kind of way) use for leftover mashed potatoes: Mashed potato cakes! They made a great dinner last night.

mashed potato cakes


Even Nora loved them, although she was a bit disappointed that we weren’t really having “cakes” for dinner.

Leftover Mashed Potato Cakes
  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • 1-2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese**
  • 2 Tbs canola oil
  • chopped fresh parsley or chives for serving (optional)
  • sour cream for serving (optional)
  1. Roll a nice spoonful of the mashed potatoes into a ball using your hands. Roll in a shallow dish with the eggs, and then in another shallow dish to coat with the panko.
  2. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Place the coated potato balls in the skillet and gently flatten them with a spatula. Cook until golden brown on one side, about 3-5 minutes. Flip over and cook until golden brown and crispy on the other side.
  3. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Serve sprinkled with the parsley or chives and a dollop of sour cream on the side.
** Optional. Otherwise, just use more panko... but the parmesan is tasty.


Happy blogiversary to me!

It has been a year since my first post. How time flies! But, at the same time, it seems like I’ve been writing this blog forever. Funny, that’s just about how I felt on Nora’s first birthday. I simultaneously couldn’t believe she was already a year old, and felt like I had been her mommy forever and couldn’t imagine life without her.

Not that I’m likening my child to my blog… Well, maybe just a little bit. Taking care of both of them has become a labor of love. Nora, and writing about food and life with Nora and other miscellany, have both brought richer meaning to my life.

In honor of my first blogiversary, I am making a list, in no particular order, of my 10 favorite posts from the past year. Enjoy, and please let me know if you’ve tried any of the recipes out — I’m always looking for creative feedback.

1. Black bean burgers — finally!

I have to include this one, solely because it took so long to puzzle out what I think is the perfect recipe. Who needs frozen Gardenburgers when you’ve got these babies… and even quinoa burgers for a change of pace now and then.

2. 10 Easy Salad Ideas. This has been a really popular post, and I’m happy that people seem to have found inspiration for lunches here. Kudos to my friend Melissa for making a special request for this post, and for test-driving several of the recipes.

3. Pasta with Sun Gold tomatoes.

I don’t know what it is about this pasta, but it is just about my favorite tomato dish ever. The Sun Gold tomatoes (which grow like crazy in our back yard) have the sweetest, mildest flavor, and the sauce is so silky and delicious.

4. Grilled pizzas.

I’m psyched that my whole wheat dough came out well, and I love being creative with toppings. Grilled pizzas just may be my favorite meal!

5. Vanilla jasmine martini.Of all the drinks I’ve tried over the past year (and with Cocktail Thursday, there have been a lot!) this is my favorite. It’s such a lovely, elegant flavor.

6. Vegetarian cassoulet.

I just like that this is a classic dish, vegetarianized… and not in a way that leaves you missing the meat. I also love that it’s winter comfort food, and that it takes a long time (but most of it non-active time) to make.

7. On Choosing. I have to include this one for sentimental reasons. I spoke from the heart, and I’m glad that my daughter will someday be able to look back and know how I came to live this particular part of my life the way I have.

8. Pumpkin pancakes.

So good. Such excellent, excellent breakfast-y goodness. I can’t wait until it’s fall again.

9. Grown-up mac and cheese.

I am a noted mac-and-cheese enthusiast, and this is my favorite. It’s all grown up… and delicious. I have to mention, as an aside, that Nora has started asking for “mac” by name, at least a couple of times a day. She truly is my daughter.

10. Broccoli cheddar bites.

I haven’t made a batch of these in a while, but I really should. Nora loves them, and I love to sneak a couple off her plate, too! They’re super-simple, freezeable, and one of my most popular recipes.

It has been quite a year, and going back through these posts has really brought it all back. Thanks for coming on this journey with me, and here’s to more years to come!

The last time

Although the “firsts” in raising a child are the most fun — first smiles, first steps, first words — the “lasts” can be important, too. After almost 17 months, Nora and I had what may well have been our first last recently: last nursing session.

She has been showing signs of being ready to wean for a while now. We’ve been down to only one nursing session for a couple of months, and she has been losing interest even in that. I initially intended to wean around her first birthday, but decided when we got there that neither one of us was quite ready yet. Now we are — both of us.

This is a bittersweet moment for me, especially considering the rough start we had with breastfeeding. I was so committed to nursing that it was my singular focus for the first couple of months of Nora’s life. She had issues learning how to latch, and she was so tiny that I worried constantly about her getting enough and gaining well (she did fine).

Once we got the latch issues and my oversupply sorted out, I briefly thought I might be dealing with undersupply (I’m pretty sure now that I wasn’t). Soon it was time to start throwing solid food into the mix, and then teeth started appearing — oh my! It was a constantly changing landscape, but finally, eventually, I felt like I was on top of it. And then, it was time to start thinking about weaning.

Don’t misunderstand me: I have not always loved breastfeeding. In fact, sometimes I downright hated it. There were times I ached to be finished with nursing and finally have my body back. Although it created a special bond between me and Nora, I sometimes resented that bond, because it meant she needed me (and only me) so much. All of that said, I’m so glad I stuck with it, because eventually it became the easiest, most natural thing. I’ll always remember the sweet, contented grin she’d give me when she was finished nursing — there’s nothing else quite like it!

“Bittersweet” is definitely the word for this feeling. It’s the beginning of her not needing me so much anymore. She’s a little less of a baby and a little more of a kid now. I know she is ready for this, but sometimes it takes Mama a little longer — kiddo is always one step ahead of me.

So, goodbye to my little baby, and hello to my little girl. I’ll miss our nursing relationship, but I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds for us!

Bringing home baby

One of the most terrifying days of my life was the day we brought Nora home from the hospital. After a day and a half of round-the-clock help with everything from diaper changes to nursing to swaddling, they were kicking us out the door and letting us be responsible for a tiny, fragile newborn. What were they thinking? Is that even legal?!

For reals.

Looking back, it wasn’t so hard, and we did fine, but I think those feelings are extremely common, no matter how much you’ve studied up on infant care before your little one arrives. Now that my sister-in-law is having a baby, due later this month, she asked me to put together a list of things we needed, besides the obvious, in those first few days.

I consider myself something of an expert on this topic, since Nora was a little early, and I did have to send the hubby out on an emergency trip or two to Target in the first couple of days. Here’s my cheat sheet.

  • Burp cloths, LOTS of them. More than you think you need. Prefolds work great for this, and they’re way cheaper than “real” burp cloths.
  • Something to swaddle the baby in. Aden + Anais blankets are great, but for the early, sleep-deprived days, a SwaddleMe is awesome because it’s pretty foolproof. You’ll want to have 3 or 4 of them around.
  • Receiving blankets. They are good for lots of stuff, even if you don’t swaddle with them. They double as burp cloths, mats for tummy time, etc. You’ll use them a lot.
  • Diapers. Get more than you think you’ll need. You know I love cloth, but I’d suggest disposables at first, at least until the meconium stage is over (ick). After that, if you’re going to cloth right away, you’ll probably want some newborn sizes to start with.
  • Yoga pants, nursing tanks, and hoodies. Trust me. These will be your uniform for the first couple of weeks, at least. You’ll feel like you are nursing constantly, and you’ll need something that’s comfy to sleep in when you can catch a little bit. These are my favorite nursing tanks ever.
  • Speaking of sleep, get something comfy and easy to nurse in for nighttime. Since Nora was a winter baby, I loved these pajamas (top with matching modal pants) from Gap Maternity. For warmer months, I love these camis, also from Gap Maternity. Either way, get a couple of good nursing sleep bras, since you’ll need them for the extra support (and to hold nursing pads in place) for the first little bit.
  • Pacifiers. You won’t want to use them right at first, until breastfeeding is established, but they can be really helpful if you have a baby with a strong need to suck and you don’t feel like serving as a human pacifier around the clock. These are the only really anatomically correct ones that won’t cause latch issues — my lactation consultant recommended them and was adamant about ONLY using this kind. Even if you don’t end up using them, if you need them, it’s nice to have a couple around just in case.
  • A breast pump. Even if you don’t plan on pumping, it can be a lifesaver for engorgement issues, or to give you a little break once you decide to introduce a bottle. If you don’t plan to pump a lot, start out with a manual one. If you are going back to work or otherwise plan to pump at least part-time, you may as well start out with a good double electric pump. I highly recommend the Medela Pump in Style Advanced, or the Lansinoh Affinity, which is a great pump at a lower price point (drawback: it is very noisy and not very portable).
  • A few different types of bottles. Again, you won’t want to start the bottle for the first couple of weeks, but, in my humble opinion, you need to start with it after about two weeks, or risk having a baby who won’t take a bottle (my worst nightmare). It can take a little while, and several different approaches, so have at least two or three types of bottles with slow flow nipples to try out. We went through three or four brands, but, for what it’s worth, Born Free is what we ended up using.
  • A couple of tubes of lanolin. Even if you don’t have latch issues, you will have at least somewhat sore nipples in the beginning, pretty much guaranteed. This is kinda like chapstick for your nipples — it promotes “moist healing” and helps them feel more comfortable.
  • Triple antibiotic. If you end up with a cracked nipple or any kind of open skin (let’s hope not!), you will need something a little stronger to heal quickly and prevent an inbound infection. This stuff was recommended to me by a lactation consultant and it is magic. You can go to a compound pharmacist, or save yourself some money and pick the ingredients up at any drug store and mix them yourself. Use roughly equal parts each of 1% hydrocortisone cream, bacitarin zinc (Polysporin), and antibiotic ointment (Neosporin or equivalent).
  • Nursing bras. I’d have at least 2 or 3 around. These are my favorites for the early days, since they are expandable, supportive, and comfortable.
  • Boba Wrap. Lots of people like the Moby Wrap, but baby needs to be 8 lbs to fit into it, and she didn’t hit that mark for a while! The Boba Wrap can be used right from birth. It was a lifesaver for us. Nora would sleep in it in the hammock hold when nothing else would work. Pat was also able to get her to sleep in it at night sometimes and then transfer her to the crib. I’d recommend learning how to tie it before the baby comes, since It’s hard at first, but super-easy once you get the hang of it. There are tons of YouTube videos to show you how.
  • White noise machine. We used an iPod and speakers (still do — is that weird?). It helps block out excess noise from the house while baby is sleeping and helps him sleep more soundly. In the early days, it helps to remind her of being in mama’s belly, where there was a lot more noise!
  • Plenty of nursing pads. You will leak, at least at first. It’s just a fact. Lansinoh are the best disposable ones, and EpiBi are awesome washable ones.
  • Maxi pads and pantiliners. Yeah, you’ll bleed, too. A lot at first (take the paper panties and maxi pads they give you at the hospital!), and a little for a while, probably. Have them around and you’ll save your significant other an embarrassing trip at some point.
  • Night light. It’s nice to be able to check in on your little one without switching on a lamp. Shockingly, we never thought about this!
  • Side snap or kimono-style Ts in newborn size. Until the umbilical cord falls off, you’ll want something that doesn’t rub on it. Get lots. You’ll do laundry often in the early days.
  • Onesies and sleep and plays in newborn size. I promise you your baby will not be wearing those cutesy outfits until you’re a little more settled in! You want something comfortable for sleeping and easy for changing diapers.
  • Laundry hamper. You’ll have plenty of baby laundry to do a load a day, I promise. Make it easy on yourself by having a hamper in his room.
  • Waterproof pads. This will save you from changing sheets in the middle of the night in case of a spit-up or diaper leak. Have a few washable ones on hand, and take some of the disposable ones from the hospital to stick in your diaper bag, too.
  • Frozen meals. Get easy stuff for lunches and stock your freezer with casseroles, soups, and other homemade goodies so you can eat well even when you don’t feel like cooking.

I hope this list is helpful to someone out there preparing for the arrival of a baby. Readers, please add anything I may have missed, since I’m sure there’s something!

10 things I learned in the first year of parenting

I’m feeling a little nostalgic lately. Going through baby clothes tends to have that effect on me. So, as Nora turns from a baby into a toddler,* I’m reflecting on the big lessons I learned during her first year.

*As much as I’d like to deny it, I can’t — she’s not really a baby anymore!

The learning curve as a new parent is huge. I thought I learned a ton during my first year as a lawyer, but this has been even more dramatic. I’ve boiled it down to a Top 10 list, and I’m betting most of these items will look familiar to those of you who are parents!

1. Everything changes. Babies grow and change so fast, it’s unbelievable. In the beginning, when you figure out some magic thing that always works to comfort your baby, it’s golden… and it lasts for a week, tops. Then you have to figure something else out. It gets a little better as time goes on, but the constant change is hard to wrap your mind around. You just have to go with the flow and keep changing, too.

2. It’s not that gross when it’s your kid. This could apply to any number of things: spit-up, poop, chewed food… I could go on. It’s still gross when someone else’s kid does it, but not yours. Okay, maybe it’s just not as gross, because sometimes it is a little icky. I cannot rationally explain why this is, but it’s a fact. It must be a biological thing.

3. They really are born with their own little personalities. It is amazing how early you can start to see the person your baby will grow into. I’ve said it before, but right from the first few weeks, the hubby and I both knew Nora was going to be stubborn and independent. The toddler years are bearing that out so far!

4. There are 3 things you can’t make a child do: eat, sleep, or be quiet. This one is courtesy of my friend Emma, who is wise in the ways of motherhood. It’s true. No matter how much you beg, plead, cajole, trick, ignore, or bribe, you cannot make your child eat. They have to want to, at least a little bit. Same thing with sleeping or being quiet — it just doesn’t happen. You just have to do what you can and then let it go.

5. You couldn’t have imagined how much you’d love them. It took me a few months to really feel the full force of my love for Nora. I loved her from the moment she was born, but it did take me a little while to fall head-over-heels in love with her. But, I did, and it’s a love people often try to describe, but I think it’s impossible to really understand until you are a parent.

6. You also couldn’t have imagined how much they’d annoy the crap out of you sometimes. It’s not all puppies and rainbows. Sometimes kids are a pain — it’s just a fact. Sometimes they’re whiny or stubborn and nothing you do helps, and you get frustrated with them. It happens to everyone. I ran across this post the other day, which I think describes it perfectly. Some days, it’s just about making it through until bedtime. That doesn’t make you a bad parent, and it doesn’t mean you love them any less. It’s just part of the deal. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about that.

7. You couldn’t have imagined how much your life would change. No matter how much (or how little) planning you did, you simply cannot imagine the magnitude of the change this tiny person will bring to your life. Everything is different. Your world revolves around a constantly changing, moody, adorable little person with entirely unreasonable expectations. But you’d never want it any other way.

8. Bumps and bruises go with the gig. Especially once you have a mobile child, a few injuries are unavoidable. That’s just how the learning process works. Of course, you try to prevent bad things from happening, but I think it’s important to give your child some room to explore on his own. That means his noggin might get bonked sometimes. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad parent. Not that that will stop you from feeling guilty.

9. Just because you have a good kid doesn’t mean you’re a good parent. I have an easy baby. She sleeps well, eats like a champ, (usually) travels well, and is almost always pleasant and good-natured. However, that’s just luck of the draw, with a little bit of genetics thrown in. I think you can make marginal improvements based on your parenting style, but, when all is said and done, they pretty much are who they are. I try not to take credit for Nora’s good behavior for fear that I’ll end up with a hellion if we have another child.

10. Kids are smarter than you think. Nora has had my number for a good while now… it just took me a long time to figure it out. She knows just how to manipulate me, and it’s hard not to play right into her hands, the tricky little one. Sometimes you have to view your child as… not the enemy, exactly, but rather a skilled adversary in a long game of chess. You always have to be on the lookout for a trap. Presumably it only gets worse as they get older.

The thing about parenting is, anyone can do it. It’s all based on instincts. No matter how much ink has been spilled on a particular subject, sometimes you have to lay down the parenting books and just go with your gut. Of course, that made the learning curve all the more frustrating for a Very Type A personality like me… but I survived it. Well, at least the first year of it! I’m sure there are plenty more adventures to come.

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