Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Advice to Future Mommas

Liam is going to be nine months old tomorrow. That means that he's been out almost as long as he was in, and honestly there are definitely days that I feel lost, wondering what the hell I am doing. I once told my friends that the first week I was a mom, I just felt like a really good babysitter--I did dishes, wiped down the counters, did the laundry, I even got up with him during the night. The fact is, it didn't really seem real. It didn't really occur to me that I was really a mom.


I think reality hit when Liam was around two weeks old. Liam's billirubin was kind of high when we left the hospital, but not high enough that he needed any type of phototherapy. It did mean that we had to go in and have it checked the day after he got home and again at one week. By the time his two week check up came around, we discovered that he hadn't gained any weight from the appointment at one week. I had been sick (and was too stubborn to realize that it was because I had tried to do it all), and my milk production was down. I walked out of the appointment into a wet, sloppy snowstorm. By the time I climbed into my car, my pants were soaked. I got home and called Craig, only to find out that the roads to the lodge where he worked were closed, and he didn't know if he would be able to come home that night. I promptly changed into sweatpants and laid down with Liam to take a long nap.

Fortunately, Craig was able to make it home that night and my milk production did recover. I was able to nurse exclusively until Liam was about five and a half months old. That experience did teach me a really important lesson, though, ask for help when you need it. So many people had offered to help in those few days postpartum. I'm not sure why I didn't call them and ask for help. A few days later when a girl who I used to babysit showed up and offered to help, I said, "Can you just watch him while I take a shower?" When I came upstairs, she had him swaddled and napping in his swing. He had done just fine in somebody else's care.

Another thing that I quickly learned was to trust my instincts. While I was pregnant there were a couple of times that I rushed to the walk-in clinic because I had read something on WebMD or I allowed a coworker's concerned, "Are you sure it's not labor?" to convince me that I needed to go. Then, when I really was in labor, I allowed a nurse's lack of concern to convince me that I wasn't really in labor. I need to remind myself on a regular basis to trust my instincts. Deep down, I know that Liam is happy and healthy, but sometimes I allow myself to worry about little things. I need to remember to trust my instincts and know that everything is alright.

Finally, find a parenting style that works for you -- whether it's being a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, attachment parenting or using the Ferber Method, or a combination of them. Do what works for you, and don't listen to the critics. I'm pretty lucky to have a pretty supportive group of friends and family. When I do get criticism, it's usually from somebody who's last child was born in 1980 or somebody who's never had kids. I sometimes have to step back and remind myself of that and move on. There's no need to debate my choices. I've done what works best for me and my child.

The truth is, you don't need any of my advice. You, too, need to do what's best for you and your child, and deep down you know what's right, what's going to work. No book, or elderly lady in the grocery store, or website is going to have all the answers. Sometimes that's really disconcerting, but you just have to trust yourself. Everything will be okay.

Monday, January 30, 2012

January Reads, February Reading List, and Why eBooks Aren't So Bad After All

I've been on a bit of a reading binge lately, if you can count two books in one month a "binge." {Sadly, for me it is.}

I recently read Bossypants and Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet for the KGLDBC. Since my aunt got me an eReader for Christmas, I decided to read both books using it. Honestly, I was a little reluctant to move into reading digital books. I have been trying to cut the clutter in my house, though, so I decided to give eBooks a shot. So far, I'm pretty impressed. You can get books instantly, and I like the ease of reading one-handed.



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Bossypants was a good lighthearted read. There were definitely a few moments where I literally laughed out loud. With that being said, if you're looking for a book with tons of great parenting advice or advice about being a working mom, this definitely isn't the book. Although, I don't think that was ever Tina Fey's intent.

I'm not usually a huge fan of fiction, but for some reason I got sucked into Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I'm not sure if it's because I've been trying to commit to actually reading our book club picks, but there were definitely times when it was difficult for me to put this book down. I haven't felt like that since I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time the summer before Liam was born. I read two different reviews of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet on Amazon. One of the reviewers was moved to tears. The other felt totally offended by the fact that the protagonist's son was using the Internet in 1986. Honestly, I fell somewhere in the middle of these two reviews. I definitely wasn't moved to tears, but I wasn't totally offended by that small fact. I enjoyed the story and its characters, and it definitely kept me reading.

The same person who recommended Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet also recommended What is the What, and upon reading the reviews, I decided it was a book I definitely wanted to check out. I kind of feel the same way about eReaders as I do about digital photography--it's really convenient, but there's something to be said for the real thing, there's something about being able to dog ear the pages of a book and annotate in the margins. So, when I signed up for the Blogger Book Exchange with The Nerdy Katie and The Undercover Blonde, I decided to go for real books.


I was paired with Tabitha at My Cliff Notes. In one of the first e-mails she sent me, she mentioned that she liked used books. I was already impressed. I, too, really like used books and am a frequent shopper at Better World Books. She picked out What is the What and Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. I'm definitely looking forward to checking them out.



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What about you? Have you read anything good lately? Any suggestions for future book club picks?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Little Bits and Pieces

First of all, here are Liam's two latest jams, just in time for Valentine's Day. Thanks Craig for introducing our child to some really classy music.






January 27 by Amber on Grooveshark



Speaking of Valentine's Day, I'm getting Craig and Liam robot-themed presents.




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I have to give my sister credit for the Rock 'em Sock 'em Robot Idea. I was really jealous last year when she bought them for her fiance. The pajamas say "Nuts and Bolts Over Mom," and the book has working gears. I couldn't resist.

You might have noticed the missing post yesterday. Yeah, I spent my Wednesday night lounging on the couch with Liam, watching Top Chef, and we both fell asleep watching Andy Cohen. Top Chef is probably one of the classier reality TV shows that I watch. I started watching Season One during my senior year in college. I was a big fan of Harold Dieterle. This season, Paul's my favorite. What about you? Do you watch? Who's your favorite chef this season.

My recent culinary masterpiece is this sandwich.

Turkey, Tomato, Spicy Sprouts, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins on classy new dinnerware.

I don't know if this says much for my culinary talents.

I just ordered basil seeds for my AeroGarden. I'm thinking about learning how to transplant them so I can grow a little herb garden in my back yard this summer. I'm thinking about doing something like this:
{source}

or this

Anybody who's read this blog for awhile knows about my love of TED talks. Have you seen this one? So many things to think about.

You might also remember this post, where I talked about kicking my Diet Coke habit. Yeah, I totally fell off the wagon. But, I did find an amazing recipe for these brownies:


Is anybody else sad about Kodak? Right before the wedding, I thought it would be fun to buy black and white film and take some film pictures. When I asked the photo technician where the black and white film was, he said, "We haven't sold that for years." That made me sad. Now this. Let's be honest, I love the ease of digital photography, but I also loved that element of surprise with film. Usually, half the pictures were crap {at least in my case}-- poor lighting, out of focus, bad composition-- but it was always fun to find that old roll of film and take it in to see what you could find.

Craig spent this week tearing down the old walls in the room that's going to become Liam's. There will definitely be more on this in the near future, but here's a sneak peek.



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Finally, here are my latest thrift store finds. I couldn't resist that little brown corduroy jacket and argyle sweater vest for a total of $2.25, and those frames will soon be refinished and added to Liam's new room.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our Love Story {Part One}

Last week, I talked a little about the journals my mom kept with stories from two of my great grandmothers. One of my favorite parts of those journals was the part where they shared the story of how they had met my great grandfathers and about their weddings. With our wedding behind us and Valentine's Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to forgo my usual "wordless" Wednesday posts and share our love story.



During college, I spent three summers working at a lodge a few hours from my hometown. Just one week after high school graduation, I packed my bags and moved up north. It was the best of both worlds, really—I had the freedom to explore and do whatever I wanted, but I could still go home on the weekends to have my mom do my laundry.

I always kind of thought the lodge was kind of like Kellerman’s from Dirty Dancing. Except it wasn’t like Kellerman’s at all. There were no Samba lessons or games on the front lawn. The only thing that made it like Kellerman’s was the fact that the “help” stayed in housing up behind the lodge.  Every two weeks, our General Manager’s daughter came to visit, and I would watch her for two weeks until she returned to her mom's house. 

During my second summer at the Lodge, I met Craig. He came on board as the Executive Chef, and I was a part-time server, part-time nanny.

Craig often jokes that I didn’t ever talk to him that year, but that’s not true. I distinctly remember a conversation about college football in the dining room one slow afternoon. I don’t claim to know much of anything about college football, but I did go to high school in Cornhusker country. For some reason, I thought it was necessary to defend them over his Seminoles.

The following spring when it came time to sign our contracts for that summer, my friend Kristi called me and wondered if I was coming back. To be honest, I didn’t really have anything better to do. I was just about ready to finish my sophomore year in college.  I was still too young for an internship with the journalism department, and my little part-time job writing a newsletter for the engineering department certainly wasn’t going to pay the rent all summer.

“I know for sure that Craig’s coming back,” she said as she tried to  convince me to sign my contract.

Shortly after I signed my contract, though, Kristi called and told me that it turned out Craig ended up buying into a little restaurant in town.

That May, I loaded up my little Chevy Cavalier and headed out to the lodge to work. Since Craig wasn’t working for the resort company any more, he couldn’t live in the housing behind the lodge. So, he would come out there to hang out, and we would occasionally go into town and hang out at his house. One night he and I stayed up until the sun rose, talking and snapping pictures, even though we both had to work the next day.

Eventually, I just started driving into town to see him. It was the best thing that could have happened. It kept me out of trouble at the dorms, and I grew to really like Craig. We were both pretty certain that it wasn’t going to last, though. I was going back to college, and I didn’t intend to return to work at the little lodge where we had met.

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Song


So, my dad recently joined a community choir. He's actually pretty talented. My mom used to tell stories about how my dad was in the cast of two school musicals, Fiddler on the Roof and South Pacific, while she played in the pit band.

Over Christmas my dad asked if we were planning to have any music at our wedding. Craig and I both looked at each other. We really hadn't thought about having music. "Do you want to sing?" I asked. He agreed.

So, over the course of the next two weeks he and my grandma practiced their song. My grandma was a little nervous because we weren't able to get a tuned piano into the cabin where we had our wedding. They had to use a keyboard instead, and they obviously didn't have much time to practice.

When I asked her what song they were playing she said it was a song called "Love's Grown Deep." "It's not a religious song," she said, "but it's a nice song."

Honestly, it wouldn't have mattered what they sang or how good it sounded, what mattered was that it was my dad and my grandma. It meant so much to me that they were so willing to put that song together for us.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Real Boy


Last week was Liam's first week back at daycare in over a week, so by Thursday, he was completely exhausted and crashed around 5:30. He occasionally takes a little catnap after daycare, then wakes up eats dinner, and plays for awhile before going to bed. On Thursday, he just kept sleeping. When Craig called from work to check in. I told him I was a little worried and wondered if I should wake him up.

"No," Craig said. "He's just tired from going back to daycare. You should see him when I drop him off. He doesn't get sad at all. He gets all excited when he sees the other kids like, 'Hey, I know you.'"

"I know," I said. "Today when I got there he was pushing a truck back and forth with one of the other kids. It's like he's turning into a real boy."

We both laughed at how ridiculous it sounded, but it's so true. It seems like only yesterday that he was a newborn who I could trust to lay still under his play gym while I did dishes. Now, I find him with his leg caught under the TV stand because he moves around so much.

Last Monday I took him shopping with me and we stopped at a new toy store where I picked up a kickball with robots on it. I tried to roll it back and forth with him that night, and he didn't really seem to get it. On Saturday night I pulled out the ball and tried the same thing. In less than a week he had learned how to roll the ball back and forth.

I can't say it enough. I really love this stage. I love that he likes to play. I love how much he likes to interact with other people. I love how quickly he's learning new skills.  While I'm slightly worried about how quickly he's growing up, I can't wait to see more.

Friday, January 20, 2012

January Wedding

I'm finally getting around to sharing little bits of my wedding day. We planned a very small wedding with our closest friends and family, and I hate to sound all mushy, but I couldn't have asked for a better day. I should start by saying that we didn't plan our wedding around this song, but once we chose a January wedding date, I couldn't resist making this song a part of our day.





Fortunately, the cold and blowing snow decided to wait until Monday. I am thankful that Mother Nature was looking out for us.  I would guess that it was at least 35 or 40 degrees at the ceremony site when we arrived around 4:00 to take pictures. Yet, it was still cold enough that we were able to capture a frozen creek and some bits of snow in our pictures--absolutely perfect. I can't wait to see the pictures once the photographer's done editing them.

One of the great things about having a husband who hosts two to three weddings a weekend at the height of the summer at the lodge he manages is that he develops a lot of close friendships with people who work in the wedding industry. As a result, our photography, officiant, and wedding location were all gifts. I'll be forever grateful for those gifts. There's no way we would have been able to afford our wedding if it weren't for their generosity. (I'll need to remember this when I'm upset that he's working 80 hours a week in the summer.)




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Another great thing about having a husband who works in the wedding industry is that he has a gift for calming brides' nerves. He knew just how to calm me down when I was freaking out about the decor and other random things that were driving me crazy. It made me realize how lucky I am to have him in my life and affirmed my decision to marry him. (Yet another thing I'll need to remember when I'm pissed about random things in the future.)

The morning of the wedding, I got a text message from my dad letting me know that my mom had been rushed to the hospital the night before. She had wanted to be there so badly, and I was really worried that she wouldn't be able to make it. Fortunately, they were able to let her attend, and while she had to return to the hospital shortly after the ceremony was over, I was grateful she was able to come.




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I had a super ecclectic reception, which was so representative of me--everything from wine and prime rib to hot cocoa with homemade marshmallows to Crush soda. We went with a pretty simple, vintage decor. I ordered the cake topper from Sweet Stella's, and I was so excited when I found the yellow cake stand for $3.00 at our local consignment store just days before the wedding. It's funny how things come together at the last minute.




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In an effort to keep the wedding kind of small I didn't tell too many people at work. I didn't want them to feel like I was purposefully leaving them out. When I got back on Tuesday, our welding teacher leaned in and said, "Congratulations, Miss Amber. You were pretty sneaky about what you were up to on your days off, weren't you?" It brought a smile to my face, knowing that they were all genuinely happy for me.

My favorite lines from that Avett Brothers song are:

"True love is not the kind of thing you should turn down  
Don't ever turn it down"

I know it sounds cheesy, but I've thought about that a lot. While we debated about whether or not we really needed to get married, we couldn't turn down expressing our love for each other in front of our closest family and friends.


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pajama Time!

 "The moon is up.
It's getting late.
Let's get ready
to celebrate."




Tuesday, January 17, 2012

One Year Ago: A Letter to Liam

Dear Liam,

One year ago we found out we were having a little boy. Your dad was so proud when the doctor confirmed what he and I both kind of knew all along.

 "Wow. That's a great femur," she said as she captured this shot.


As we left the appointment, we started talking about what we would name you, and that night your dad and I went out for dinner and to see The Fighter at the movie theater. When we got out of the movie your dad said, "What about Mickey?"

"Umm, no." I replied.

You're lucky to have me, kid.

We also stopped and picked up this awesome sleeper.



You looked pretty adorable wearing it at one day old. Liam, I know that by the time you're old enough to read this, you're going to be convinced that I'm the lamest mom ever, but you should know that I used to play a pretty mean Guitar Hero. (You're probably not going to know what Guitar Hero is by the time you're old enough to read this, but it's pretty awesome.)

You've grown up so quickly over the past eight and a half months. You love to be outside, even in the cold. You are so curious. You love your puppies and all things "grown-up"-- from your dad's cell phone to our remote.You love to play with your dad and me. I still can't get over your giggle. Your dad and I have been so blessed to have such a happy, healthy baby boy, and we can't wait to continue to watch you grow up. 

Love, 

Mom

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Little Journalist

When I was in college, my advisor and Newswriting professor delighted in telling us stories about the old days of journalism -- having to call for backup when riding around on the police beat, accidentally leaning on a dead body when helping the county coroner, etc. His stories were always really animated, and he wore one of those step counters to work each day. This led my roommate, who was an advertising major, and me to compare stories about the number of steps we guessed he had put in during each of our respective classes with him.

Perhaps, one of my favorite things about Jack was his love of vintage typewriters. He collected typewriters, typed up our internship grades,  and I remember at least one semester when I went to meet with him that he had used an old typewriter to type up a list of classes he thought I should take the following semester.

As a result, when I found this vintage typewriter at a rummage sale a few years ago, I couldn't pass it up. And, I was almost as excited when I found this tutorial for a vintage typewriter onesie for Liam on See Kate Sew.






I just used a basic white Gerber onesie, and I found all of the other supplies on Amazon:

-ink
-stamps

The ink seemed to work well on the onesie, but it didn't really dry well on the stamps, so some sort of stamp cleaner might be helpful. (I'm also pretty sure both the ink and the stamps were much cheaper when I ordered them, so it might be a good idea to keep an eye on prices.)

I figured that having alphabet stamps around might be helpful as Liam gets older, and I also used them on Christmas gifts that looked like this.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows

One of the things I love about winter is hot cocoa, so when I saw this pin on Pinterest, I knew I had to have one for my wedding. Am I having programs at my wedding? No. A unity candle or sand ceremony? No. Are we writing our own vows? Nope. But, a hot chocolate bar with homemade marshmallows? Absolutely.

It took a couple of tries to get my marshmallow-making skills down, but I think I finally got it on Saturday night.

Here's what you need:

  • Vegetable oil, for brushing
  • 4 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • hand mixer
  • candy thermometer
  • 9x13 pyrex baking dish
  • a mixing bowl
  • small (about 1-inch) cookie cutters or a knife



Directions:



  1. Brush the Pyrex baking dish with vegetable oil. Line it with parchment paper. Brush the parchment paper with oil.
  2. Put granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Boil it until the candy thermometer reads 238 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, put 3/4 cup cold water into a mixing bowl, add gelatin, and let soften for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the sugar mixture to the gelatin, and beat it with a hand mixer until it is stiff, about 12 minutes. Beat in vanilla.
  5. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the Pyrex dish you prepared earlier. Let it sit for at least  3 hours. (I made it right before going to bed and let the dish sit overnight. That worked really well.)
  6. Sift 1 cup powdered sugar onto the counter. Unmold marshmallow onto the  sugar and remove the parchment paper.
  7. Dip your 1-inch cookie cutter in vegetable oil and cut marshmallows.
  8. Dip the marshmallows in the remaining ½ cup of powdered sugar to coat. 



A few notes about this recipe: 
*The first time I made this recipe, I didn't beat the marshmallows for the full 12 minutes, and they turned out really hard. Make sure you beat them the whole time.
*I forgot to add the vanilla both times, but the marshmallows still tasted okay. 
* This is a modified version of Martha Stewart's recipe. She stole my idea of putting herbs in popcorn and published it in the October issue of Martha Stewart Magazine, so I think we're even now. Take that Martha.




Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Here's Wishing You a Wonderful 2012

Craig had to work on New Year's Eve (the joys of working in the hospitality industry), so Liam and I had a pretty low key night. We listened to This American Life, did laundry, made marshmallows, and played with these party blowers, which Liam loved.