Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Little Help From Lawry's...

I have an awesome giveaway going on right over here. Go. Now. Check it out! :)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Three Ways A Preemie Parent Is Just Like You

There are lots of ways in which preemie parents differ from "full-term" parents. Our journey is just so vastly different... the fact that we know we have months before we might possibly bring our babies home is only part of it. Nonetheless, there are lots of things we have in common too! Here are three of them:

  1. We are proud of our newborn babies. You'd be surprised how shocking this seems to be to some people. Sadly enough, we parents of very early babies sometimes receive sympathy cards instead of congratulations cards. People focus on the obvious disappointment in the earliness of the birth and forget about the joy of having a baby. But know this- we are proud. And joyful.
  2. We are exhausted. Full-term parents lose a ton of sleep as they get up multiple times throughout the night caring for their newborns. We preemie parents lose sleep as we get up to pump, call the NICU, or sit by our struggling babies' bedsides. We, too, are super tired, even though there is not yet a baby in our bedroom or home nursery...
  3. We think our babies are beautiful... even if they aren't. I'm sorry, but it's the simple truth. Some babies are cuter (or prettier or more even-featured or whatever) than others. Some preemie babies can be compared to wrinkly little old men. Still. When you look into the face of your precious newborn child, the love clouds anything else and that baby is gorgeous.

There are innumerable other things we all have in common... there is more that connects us than divides us, to be sure.

If you're a preemie parent, what do you wish full-term parents knew you shared with them?

And for all of you... what three things can you teach me this week? I'm so eager to read what you share! It can be on any topic at all. If you have three related tid-bits to share, I want to hear about it!

Making the Most of Your Parent-Teacher Conference

You can find me over at Life As MOM again today! I have the great pleasure of being a regular contributor over there. I share some ideas and advice for those of us choosing public school for our children. Today I'm talking about Parent-Teacher Conferences... please hop over and share your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

3 Quick Substitutes for a Lost Earring Back

Has this ever happened to you? You're out and about and feel your earring slip and realize... uh, oh- the back is lost. Then, if you're like me, you spend a few fruitless moments searching around before realizing that that teeny, tiny piece of metal could be anywhere.

At this point, you have two choices-

  1. Remove the earrings and sport your naked lobes with pride. OR
  2. Find a subsitute for the lost earring back.
Because I love my earrings, I usually go for option #2. Because this has, unfortunately, happened to me on numerous occasions, I have a few tricks up my sleeve. Should your find yourself missing a pierced earring back, here are three things you just might have in your purse or diaper bag that can fill in in a pinch:

  1. A pencil eraser- This is my favorite option and I've been using it since junior high. Simply break off the eraser and stab the post into it. Works beautifully!
  2. A bit of un-chewed gum- Break off about 1/4 of a stick of gum, fold it into a small square, and push together with your fingers. This will work in much the same way as the eraser and, since it is (and this is important) un-chewed, it will NOT stick in your hair.
  3. A fruit snack. This is my last choice... but, well, it works. And many of us have them rolling around somewhere at the bottom of the diaper bag...

So there you go! That's how I've avoided having to sport nake-y earlobes when a back turns up missing.

What do you do when you realize a back has fallen off?

This post is linked to Works For Me Wednesday.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ten Ridiculously Easy Ways to Delight Your Children This Week

We all want to delight our children... right? But, well, sometimes I see ideas for crafts that, while darling and impressive, just seem overwhelming for where I'm at on that particular day. And sometimes I read about amazing adventures people design for their children and I think, "Wow! What an awesome mom!" but... do I do it? Not usually. Does that mean I can't be a rockstar in my kids' eyes? No way! I don't have to spend a dime... or even a lot of time. Here are ten EASY ways to delight your children. Want to join me in keeping it simple and special?
  1. Cut their sandwiches in triangles. Yes, you could earn bonus points for using cookie cutters but- really- these are super simple ideas I'm offering up for today!
  2. Wake them up with a song. I love the first verse of "Good Morning, Beautiful"- true, it's a love song. But that verse works perfectly! Seems cheesy, I know... but it's such a happy way to be greeted.
  3. Let them wear their favorite colors. I'm actually just not laid-back enough to give my children carte blanche when it comes to choosing their own garments... I'm not willing to permit things that are inappropriate for the weather! But can I make sure C. gets a pink shirt? Yes. I sure can. And that makes her day.
  4. Draw a smiley on their food. You can use about anything for this- ketchup, raisins, chocolate chips, jelly... whatever fits with what you're serving!
  5. Leave a random note laying around that says "____ is a super star!" I do this occasionally and it always makes that child's day... so simple!
  6. Serve dessert after lunch.
  7. Ask them for help. Sincerely. As in, "I really could use some help making this grilled cheese sandwich... would you mind helping me?"
  8. Thank them- sincerely- after they've helped you. Yes, I know. It would have been easier- and cleaner- to have done it by yourself. Nonetheless. Show real gratitude.
  9. Give them each a new responsibility- not necessarily a "chore", mind you. At least, not in so many words. Make your daughter the "Queen of the Cushions" who is responsible for making sure the couch pillows are where they belong each evening. Make your son "Sir Recycler" and have him put the cans and what-not in the bin for you. Be sure to use their proper names.
  10. Go for a walk. I don't care if you walk ONE BLOCK. Go outside and walk with them. It is so good for all of you.
I'm committing to doing two of these things each day for the rest of the week... it's going to be easy-peasy. Care to join me?

This post is linked to Top Ten {Tuesday}.

Menu Plan: 9/26- Quick & Easy Home-Cooked Fare

What a fun weekend we had, catching up with old friends and snuggling their baby girl (who is just 4 months younger than our own!) After frolicking on the beach, we headed back to the house and I cooked up Poor Man's Chicken Parmesan while my friend's hubby mixed up a fruity sangria. Lots of laughter and full tummies followed!

For this week, I'm serving up some quick and easy meals, none of which come from the freezer.... I'm just not a "once a month" kind of cook. I truly enjoy spending time cooking each day! So, here we go...


B-Egg Bake w/ Sausage, Onions, Tomatoes, Mushrooms, and Cheese, OJ (my best friend's hubby cooked- he's like my honorary brother-in-law...)
L-Taco Bell on the road
D-Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwiches, Grapes, Peas


B-Oatmeal w/ Apples & Cinnamon, Milk
L-P,B,&J, Carrot Sticks, Water
D-Pasta (shells this time) w/ Sausage, Mushrooms, & Cheese


B-PB Toast, Raisins, Milk
L-Laura's Mac 'n Cheese (made with shells and white cheddar), Broccoli, Water
D-Tomato Soup, Italian Wedding Soup, Italian Cheese Bread


B-Cereal, Yogurt, Water
L-Leftover Cheese Bread, Pepperoni, Applesauce, Water


B-Jelly Toast, Cheese, Juice
L-Leftover Peanut Noodles, Apple Slices, Milk
D-Chili Dogs, Carrot Sticks


B-Smoothies, Fruit
L-Cheesy Beans & Rice, Water
D-Mushroom & Bacon Pizza (a fave of hubby and the kids)


L-Hot Dogs, Applesauce
D-Ground Chicken Burgers (I'll season these up like crazy- the beauty of ground chicken is that it really picks up the flavor of herbs and spices!), Corn

Last week, I tried Tuna Casserole for the first time. I might make it again- because my kids liked it- but I just can't get used to "hot" tuna. I'll stick to eating mine in a sandwich...

I also experimented with a Stuffed Meatball Sandwich. These were a hit! My son suggested that I hang a "Subway" sign over our door. ;) I used Kate's recipe for stuffed breadsticks and just made them MUCH larger, stuffed with meatballs, sauce, and mozzarella cheese. Yum!

Have you ever taken "artistic license" with a recipe and created something great?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Argh, Me Penguin!"

He's loved Mr. Penguin since he was 2.

But... what can I say?

He's a boy. And he's 5 1/2 now.

Having a Pirate Penguin to guard our home? Well, that's a finer thing around here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

3 Ways to NICU-Proof Your Marriage

You know those people who think that having a baby will somehow strengthen or mend a struggling or broken marriage? Anyone who has actually HAD a baby knows that isn't true. Babies are a wonderful, to be sure, but they can also add stress to even a happy, strong, stable marriage.

Considering the fact that, in the best of circumstances, having a baby can lead to exhaustion and frustration, it should come as no surprise that having a baby in the NICU can stress a marriage immensely, sometimes seemingly irreparably.

I don't want to minimize how devastating having an ill, struggling child can be. There is no way to fully prevent it from having an impact on your relationship. Often, it feels like your marriage seems stronger for awhile- as you bond together and fight as hard as you can- only to feel like it's falling apart as the long days of struggle take their toll...

We went into our NICU experience with a strong marriage. We had been through lots of tough things before- illness, moving, loss of a parent, the birth of a full-term child... all within that past year. Still, it challenged us.

Nonetheless, we are NOT among the nearly NINETY-PERCENT of long-term NICU parents (those with a baby in the NICU for more than 60 days) who end up separated or divorced. I'd like to share with you three ways we helped avoid that pitfall:

  1. We ate dinner together. Every day. As a family. Our days were wild and crazy. My husband was working long hours, I was caring for an 11-month old and calling the NICU every hour or so. We sometimes didn't know if we were coming or going. But we knew we'd be eating supper together. That constancy was critical for our marriage and, I believe, in providing consistency for our other child.
  2. We prayed together. Have I mentioned before that my husband and I are not of the same faith? Or that he is not "as religious" as me, in his own terms? Yep, it's true. Still, we came together for our baby girl. Even when my only prayer was "Please, God!" or when the only words I could pull together were those to say the rosary... we prayed together.
  3. I kept him in the loop. I was the one who made most of the calls or visits to the NICU during the day. I got all the updates. I called him- each and every time, even if nothing had really changed. That was important. He was ALWAYS the first person I told any news... even if my mom or mother-in-law happened to catch me on the phone before I could reach him. I waited for him. That was critical to maintaining marital unity and making him a priority.
Even with all this, I will be honest and tell you that there are times our marriage took a beating. We never entertained thoughts of divorce or separation, but there were evenings when we barely spoke... difficult when you're all living in one small room. But that's how it was. That's the truth.

But the next day, when I got my NICU update, do you know who I'd call?

My husband. My partner. The one person who was suffering just like me.

We successfully NICU-proofed our marriage.

How about you? Did you and your spouse ever feel the strain a NICU experience can cause? What tips do you have to help keep the union strong?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Desk For Baby

I mentioned that my husband is a big fan of Doritos. I like them sometimes too. I also have a recipe or two that call for the chips.

We do one big, monthly Aldi shopping trip. It takes an hour and a half, total, to make the drive there, so we try to get everything done at one time.

Sometimes, we buy a case of their tortilla chips. It's easier to just haul the box with twelve bags out of the store than it is to bag up eight individual bags.

The box is a pretty good size, but definitely not suitable for "play house" type play like those awesome appliance boxes can be.

I would have trashed it.

My four- and five-year olds had other ideas.

Armed with stickers and crayons, they flipped it over and decorated for over an hour. When finished? My son declared...

"It's a desk for the baby!"

Not bad, kiddos, not bad.

This post is linked to:
Works For Me Wednesday
Frugal Friday

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Granola

1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4-5 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Heat oil, honey, and applesauce to a low boil over med-high heat. Maintain low boil for 3 minutes, then remove from heat. Add salt and cinnamon. Meanwhile, pour oats and nuts into a large baking dish. Pour applesauce mixture evenly over oats/nuts. Allow 3-5 minutes to cool, then, using your hands, mix everything together until the oats are evenly coated. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn off oven and let granola sit for several hours or overnight.* Remove to storage bag or container. Enjoy a taste of fall!

*I sometimes skip that "leave in the oven" step for my Chocolate Almond Granola. Do NOT skip it with this recipe. That time is important for drying. The applesauce makes for a "damp" granola if you do not allow adequate drying time

(Note: This granola is NOT overly sweet. It is certainly sweet enough for me, but it is not as sweet as some granolas I've made. If you prefer a sweeter granola, you can add 1/4 cup of brown sugar or try using sweetened applesauce.)

This post is linked to:
Tasty Tuesday
Tempt My Tummy Tuesday

Menu Plan: 9/19- Comfort Food and Summer Fare

I love this time of year! Fall is by far my favorite season. One nice perk of September is the mix of crisp and warm days... not only does it feel nice to have that juxtaposition (gosh, that's a fun word!), but it also means that almost anything works for a menu plan. Comfort food? (See Wednesday or Saturday.) Bring it on! Lighter summer fare? (See Thursday or Friday.) Still works! How fun is THAT?


B-Cereal, Yogurt, Juice
L-Ham, Egg, & Cheese Sandwiches, Grapes
D-Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa's... a belated 88th birthday party for my grandma- she just moved here to CT (from Arizona) and we are so blessed to have her!


B-Oatmeal, Raisins, Milk
L-Muffins, Hard Boiled Eggs, Juice
D-Tuna Casserole, Peas (I've never eaten tuna casserole in my life. I like tuna sandwiches, but I'm not sure about this... think I'll like it?)


B-PB Toast, Grapes, Milk
L-Rice & Pink Beans w/ Cheese, Juice
D-Stuffed Breadstick Sandwiches w/ Meatballs and Cheese (These will be an experiment- I'm planning to make a jumbo version of stuffed breadsticks with meatballs, sauce, and cheese INSIDE... I'll let you know how it goes!)


B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L-P, B, & J, Apples, Milk
D-Chicken Smothered w/ Onions, Egg Noodles, Green Beans


B-Cinnamon/Sugar Tortillas, Raisins, Milk
L-Buttered Noodles w/ Fresh Parsley, Juice
D-Burgers (mine will be topped with blue cheese- my kids will probably want it too :)), Oven Fries, Corn, Pickles


B-Smoothies, Toast
L-Ham Sandwiches, Apples, Milk
D-Chicken, Tomato, and Onion Pizza (one of my very fave combos!!!)


B-Cereal, Apples, Milk
L-on the road
D-Poor Man's Chicken Parm...

I'll be cooking Saturday night with my best friend!!! Hooray! We're heading up to the coast of Massachusetts for the weekend. Saturday is also my husband's birthday, so I'll be making and packing some Cake Balls for us to all enjoy together. That little road-trip is also the reason behind that lame "cereal" breakfast on a Saturday... not very typical around here. The kids DO usually have cereal on Sunday mornings before 8:30am mass, though, and we'll probably be indulging in a big feast with our friends this time. It will even out. :)

What are you up to this week? What meals do you love to serve up in fall?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"I Have Eyes!!!"

Those were my four-year old daughter's first words when she saw herself in the mirror wearing contact lenses.

You see, C. had always grouped us into two categories: she and Daddy had glasses while her brother, baby sister, and I had "eyes". It did not matter how many times I tried to explain that they had eyes too- under their glasses- she insisted that those were the correct terms.

C. has had glasses since she was 10 months old. She is so outrageously near-sighted, it is hard to explain to anyone... well, except for the parents of other very near-sighted preemies. They get it. But, really, suffice it to say this... I am VERY near-sighted. I would not attempt to go check my mailbox without some kind of vision correction going on. Her prescription is more than double mine. After three eye surgeries- one of which involved a transfer to a whole different state- we consider ourselves blessed that her vision is correctable. In the world of 24-weekers, our little girl is remarkably fortunate to suffer very few consequences of such an early birth. But she has always worn- and very much needed- glasses.

Yesterday, she got eyes.

The pediatric ophthalmologist tested her vision and grew increasingly more excited. She checked the fit of the custom lenses and it was perfect. She walked us into the hallway and C. looked up, way across, to a shelf far, far on the other side of the room...

"There's a rooster!" she exclaimed.

The doctor's eyes filled with tears.

A whole new world has opened up for my little girl. It's a little scary... I mean, she's awfully young to be wearing contacts. But, as she pointed out a little blue jay in a tree high above us as we waited for the bus... as she actually noticed the rosemary sprinkled throughout her pasta... as she admired the princess decals on her window just before drifting off to sleep... I knew.

My sweet daughter is seeing things she's never seen before.

And that is a finer thing, to be sure.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Three Things You Should Know About Young Children and Contacts

My four-year old got contact lenses today. Yes, you read that correctly. I hope to tell you more about that tomorrow (and share pictures!) In the meantime, here are three things you may or may not know about contact lenses, particularly with respect to children:

  1. Babies can wear contacts. Our pediatric ophthalmologist's youngest contact lens-wearing patient is 2 weeks old... or, at least, WAS 2 weeks old when he first got lenses. Some doctors, in fact, prefer contacts over glasses for their very youngest patients. In our case, the doctor recommended that our daughter try contacts somewhere between 4 and 6 years of age. She'll be 5 in December.
  2. Contact lenses provide superior peripheral vision. This becomes more and more important as children take on increasingly difficult gross motor challenges. In our little girl's case, we realized that she was struggling to make more progress in physical therapy... and her vision was the main culprit. This was a huge motivating factor for me in saying, "Okay, let's give lenses a shot."
  3. Contact lenses don't "minimize" things in the visual field the way glasses do. You may have to be very near-sighted to know this but, if you are, you know what I'm saying-- with glasses on, small print becomes even smaller. Part of how glasses correct vision is to "sharpen" the image. This results in the shrinking of whatever you're looking at. For an extremely near-sighted child, this can make reading, coloring, and doing puzzles exceedingly difficult. Contacts do not have the same effect. The result? Our daughter doesn't try to look over or under her glasses with her face pressed on the page...

So there it is... just a few things I've learned about young children and contact lenses. Anything else you would like to know? Would you ever consider contacts for your child?

(Because of how late this post is going up- so sorry!- I've elected not to bother with a linky this week. Really, no one links up most weeks anyhow. :) Nevertheless, it will be back next week!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Foods for Teethers

My baby is 15 months old now and she eats anything and everything. We delayed "solids" until 6 months, choosing to let her happily grow exclusively on breast milk. When we did introduce them? We skipped jarred baby food entirely and opted for mashing and pureeing things at home. Not only that, by eight months she was eating "regular" food-- no pureeing required.

Here are ten of my favorite early table foods for "teethers"... by teethers, I'm referring to those babies who are just getting swollen gums (often a month or more before a pearly white appears!) to those who have several chompers already in place:

  1. Frozen Peas- straight out of the bag, as is. Peas are sweet and mild and too small to pose a choking risk. (This is a good time to mention that "choking" and "gagging" are two different things- just sayin'.)
  2. Frozen Blueberries- These make for messy faces, but blueberries are SO good for all of us, babies included! Some of the larger ones might make you nervous at first- feel free to halve or quarter them.
  3. Banana "Sticks"- Rather than slippery little slices, I cut bananas lengthwise into several "sticks". Babies can easily hold them and take bites.
  4. Cheerios- A list would not be complete without them! Cheerios are an easy, safe choice.
  5. Diced Low-Sodium Ham or Turkey Breast- I ask for one 1/4" thick slice from the deli and cut it into small cubes. These meats are easy to chew. Ham has a naturally sweet flavor to it that appeals to many babies!
  6. Diced Avocado- Another nutritional power-house! Jam-packed with healthy fats, avocado is mild and creamy. The mashed version is a perfect "first solid"- the diced version can be introduced soon there-after!
  7. String-Cheese "Quarters"- At this point, I just slice the string cheese into disks and call it good but, when starting out, halve or quarter the tube before chopping. Mozzarella is a mild, easy-to-digest cheese!
  8. Sweet Potato "Fries"- Cut sweet potatoes into strips, toss with a little butter or oil, and bake. You want the baby variety to be on the soft side and not have those yummy crispy edges we tend to like as adults. These are easy for baby to hold and bite and, again, are a nice transition from pureed sweet taters. They are also a much healthier "fry" to introduce than, say, the McDonald's variety...
  9. Ditallini pasta- This is the small, short, tube-shaped pasta... perfect for little fingers to grasp and it saves you "chopping" time.
  10. "Puffs"- This is my one concession to the "baby food companies". Especially for first-time parents, puffs can be a convenient, safe choice. Because they dissolve so quickly, the fear of choking (or even gagging) is greatly alleviated. You do NOT need them. Your baby will do just fine without them, but they are a convenient early finger food. For me? This baby is my third. I bought one container of puffs. She ate them. I refilled the empty container with Cheerios. ;) And so it goes...
Babies do NOT need teeth to enjoy table foods! There is such a wide range of when that first tooth pops through... some babies get it at 3 months, some at 13. Both are healthy, normal children. Don't let the baby food companies convince you that you need to buy endless jars and packages of baby and toddler food. Your pantry, freezer, and fridge can provide healthy, appropriate, fun foods for your emerging table food nosher.

What are some of your favorite first foods for teethers?

This post is linked to:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Menu Plan: 9/12- Still Trying to "Like" Healthy

September is in full swing and, for some reason, the means a lot of doctor's appointments around here! Fortunately, they don't interfere with meals much, with a little careful planning. This week, my former micropreemie C (who is now 4) is being fitted for contact lenses... Pray for me. ;)


B-Cereal, Applesauce, Milk
L-Cinnamon Rolls, Sausage Links, Juice
D-Sunday Supper at Bama & Papa's


B-Oatmeal, Yogurt, Juice
L-P,B,&J, Grapes, Milk
D-Lynn's Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chicken Bake


B-PB Toast, Apple Slices, Milk
L-Cheese Quesadillas w/ Homemade Ranch-Style Beans, Jello, Water
D-Herb-Grilled Salmon, Diced Roasted Taters, California Veggies


B-Cereal, Raisins, Juice
L-Potato, Egg, & Cheese Hash, Milk
D-Poor Man's Chicken Parm, Pasta, Broccoli


B-Hard-boiled Eggs, Cinnamon Toast, Milk
L-Pasta Salad, Broccoli, Milk


B-Smoothies, Fruit
L-Baked Beans & Hot Dogs, Corn, Water
D-Pepperoni Stuffed-Crust Pizza


In the ongoing saga of salmon and my family, as you can see, we will be eating it again this week. We actually had Salmon Burgers last week for supper (well, 4 of us did, *ahem*...) and my boy declared them "the most delicious burgers ever!!!" Herbed salmon fillet was the one meal my son requested for the month and, well, I'm not going to say no to that! I'm still working hard on "liking" it and odds are good I'll be eating LOTS of veggies on Tuesday night... but that's ok. They're good for me too! Are there any healthy foods you have to work really hard to "like"?

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday.

Friday, September 10, 2010

School's Out- What's There to Eat, Mom?

It's back to school season! And that means after school snacks for a lot of homes. Want a chance to win some school supplies, coupons for free snacks, AND some money for your school? Hop over to my other blog for a fun giveaway!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Three Things You Should Know About "Fortified Breast Milk"

Even if a woman decides to provide expressed breast milk for her micropreemie (because- seriously- nursing at the breast is off the table at less than 26 weeks gestation...), the doctors may decide that the milk needs to be "fortified". Micropreemies are so tiny and just growing is one of the main things they need to do to get stronger. Sometimes, additional calories are needed to make this happen...

  1. An "average" ounce of breast milk has 20 calories in it- the same amount of calories you'll find in one ounce of regular formula. Keep in mind that this is just an average. The nurses- just by looking at my milk- swore mine contained more fat and was likely higher in calories. But who knows? Doctors use "20 calories" as a starting point...
  2. While it is true that things are being "added" to the breast milk (sometimes a bit of formula powder, sometimes "human milk fortifier", sometimes a substance that- no joke- looks like vegetable oil), all the benefits of the milk remain. There is nothing wrong with the preemie's mother's milk. The milk is not processed in any way that changes its composition- these substances are added for the sole purpose of fattening up that babe.
  3. While the benefits of the milk are unchanged, the ease of digestion is compromised by the addition of these "fortifiers". Frequently, babies who receive fortified breast milk will start having "diaper problems" ranging from diarrhea to constipation to horrible rashes. Our daughter fell in that last camp and had such a horrible rash they put a barrier cream on her and left her un-diapered in the hope that would help her heal. She did- eventually- but it was horrible to see.
So there you go! Our C was on "24 cal" breastmilk even when we brought her home. This meant we bought Similac Neosure Advance to add to it, even though I diligently pumped for her. Still, we were lucky. When she hit one year (adjusted-- 16 months, calendar-wise), C went on just a typical diet. We have never needed to supplement her diet or add Pediasure or any of that. She's still small-boned and slim- she barely tips the scale at 30 lb at 4 1/2 years old. But she is healthy and- very importantly as all preemie parents know- ON THE CHARTS. :)

What three things would you like us to know?

What Blogging Has Taught Me About "How to Eat"

The Good:

  • I've discovered tons of excellent new recipes to enjoy with my family.
  • I've been exposed to new ideas, like freezing milk or making my own "cream of..." soups.
  • I've been given new information to consider, like whether HFCS is responsible for any number of ailments.
  • I've had the opportunity to challenge and reconsider my own ideas, like "which is REALLY better for me- skim milk or raw milk?" (FYI- I have yet to try raw milk. I'm not exactly opposed to the idea, but I also have a hard time believing I'll like it. I actually LIKE the fact that skim milk tastes kind of like water... I guess I'm not a huge "milk fan".)
  • Most of all, I've been able to learn so very much.

The Bad:

  • It is a confusing minefield out there... for every person who advises you to eat plenty of whole wheat, there is another telling you that gluten is ruining your life.
  • There is a fine line between opinion and fact. It is the job of the READER to always remember that while perusing blogs.
  • You can feel you're doing something great (like baking with butter), then read an article that berates you for not using coconut oil.
  • Food has become like politics in many ways... people are passionate about their stance and, while that can be a good thing, it can also lead to argumentative, critical writing and comments.

The Ugly:

It is so easy to feel like a total failure. On the screen, others can seem to "have it all together". I can't tell you how many times I've felt that I couldn't reveal my love of a diet soda here and there for fear of attack. And that is SAD. Deep down, I really believe I do a good job of eating a healthy, balanced diet. Deep down, I'm not worried about the diet soda I drink, the fruit snacks my daughter occasionally munches on, or the Doritos my husband loves. But here I am... tiptoeing around the blogosphere because, heaven forbid, someone learns I like Diet Coke. Because, you know, the only thing more poisonous to my system than HFCS is aspartame and I am surely headed down a path of all sorts of terrible conditions because of this choice. REALLY???? Who needs this kind of pressure?

I am tired. Tired of reading post after post about "real food" followed by a recipe containing Cool Whip or Velveeta. Tired of hearing about how people who give their children skim or 1% milk are doing them such a disservice, followed by a Tweet about going out for root beer floats. I am tired of hearing that corn syrup is the devil from someone who uses flavored creamer every single morning. I am tired of juggling the concept of "milk is only for baby cows" vs. "God gave us cows to provide us with whole, raw milk" vs. "we, as a nation, are FAT and should cut out excess fat where we can".

I think most of us are doing the best we can. Most of us DO care, deeply, about the health of our families and feeling endlessly criticized (even in our minds) isn't helpful.

Maybe I'm too impressionable. Maybe I just think about all this too much. Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way...

But I'm going to grab a diet soda and back away for a little while. I'm going to keep trusting my gut and my doctors and pat myself on the back for having a family with five healthy individuals-- healthy weights, healthy blood pressures, good cholesterol levels.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say, while many blogs seem to tell me otherwise...

I must be doing something right.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Praying For a Girl I Don't Know

I prayed for a girl I don't even know today.

I prayed for a girl whose family turned their backs on her. Whose friends gave up on her. Whose peers thought she was trash.

I prayed for a girl who chose to give her baby life when so, so many told her that meant she was throwing hers away.

I prayed for a girl who knew that an unborn child is still a child... that a heart in utero still beats... that a baby is no less a baby just because it is tiny.

I prayed for a girl who took a leap of faith... who is braver than I have had to be... who listened to TRUTH when the lies can be oh-so-much easier...

Today, and every day, I pray for the girls and women who stand strong and carry these precious babies to term... not because they "have to", but because they choose to. Because they know that their "choice" should be His choice...


Won't you join me in praying for her today too?

Delicious Corn From a Bag (or Can)

This time of year really drives the point home- there is no corn as delicious as fresh from the cob! The months are getting cooler, however, and very soon fresh corn will not be available in most necks of the woods. Yummy root vegetables and citrus fruits will show up in abundance, but... what about when you feel like eating corn?

I have learned how to avoid chewy, tasteless frozen corn. It is so simple.

Do not boil your corn.

When you want fresh, crunchy, flavorful corn and you're relying on the frozen variety, here's how I recommend preparing it.

Melt 1-2 T of butter in large skillet over medium heat. Add corn (still frozen) to pan. Stir frequently until heated through. Season to taste with salt. (Psst- I sometimes add just a pinch of sugar too... it really brings out that corn flavor!)

That's it. Delicious corn year-round.

(If you're using a can instead of a bag, just drain your corn and add that to the melted butter!)

How do you cook your corn?

This post is linked to:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day!!!

I've been busy relishing three whole days with my precious family and I wouldn't trade that for the world. My apologies that that means I've also provided nothing in the way of new posts.

In the meantime, why don't you pop over to The Finer Things In Life where Amy is hosting a Birth Story link-up? From the planned to the oh-so-not-planned... from the blissful to the terrifying... from one baby to many... it's all over there! What fun reading for, well, Labor Day!

Incidentally, if you haven't yet read my micropreemie's birth story, won't you do so now? It's actually not a long read, and I've love to read your thoughts or questions!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Three Things You Should Know About Neonatologists

If you have a micropreemie (a baby born before 26 weeks gestation- yes, that is correct, the medical definition of micropreemie has to do with gestational age, NOT being "less than 2 lb"), there is no doubt that your newborn will be heading to the NICU. Not only will he be needing the care of a NICU, he will likely need the care that can only be provided by a level III NICU. Level III NICUs are typically found in large teaching hospitals often affiliated with major universities. These NICUs are the ones that handle the babies who need the most critical, specialized care.

During your stay in the NICU, you will likely deal with three different levels of doctors:

  1. Neonatologists are pediatricians who have completed higher training in the very specialized field of caring for, literally, "newborns". Rather than practicing in the broader field of "pediatrics", these doctors have chosen to focus their careers on a more narrow population. They care for preemies and other newborns born with conditions beyond the usual scope of generalized pediatrics.
  2. Fellows are doctors who have completed all requirements for being a full-fledged doctor of _______ (insert specialty here), but who are pursuing further training to narrow down their focus even more. In the NICU, these doctors are pediatricians who are working on becoming neonatologists.
  3. Residents are doctors who have done the "school" part of being a doctor and are now working on the "hospital" part of finishing it all up. Usually, these are men and women who think they may be interested in working in that field (in this case, neonatology) down the pike. At this stage, they are at the point of finishing up their program in pediatrics; should they choose to become neonatologists, there would be further training to do later on.
This is a simplified version, to be sure. (Please don't judge me, medical professionals- I realize this is a "cliff's notes" version of how it works!) I met wonderful doctors from all three categories during our 100+ day stay in the NICU but, I must confess, I have a soft spot for fellows. I think that's because it was the fellow in the room who helped me keep a clear head when all things went crazy in the OB/ICU...

What three things can you tell us about this week?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Catch-22 of Breastfeeding Micropreemies

I've wanted to write this post for a very long time. It's hard though. That's my only excuse for not having done so already...

I'm really not a "breastfeeding nazi". At most, I am an advocate for being fully educated and surrounding yourself with supportive people. Because I have now had such a successful breastfeeding relationship, it is something I hope for other moms and babies. But I do not feel it is my place to be judgmental or critical if it just doesn't work out for some reason.

That is my attitude with full-term babies and late-term preemies.

But here's my dirty little secret...

I DO judge moms of very premature babies who do not try (hard) to breastfeed or pump for their babies. It makes me angry and it makes my heart hurt for those tiny little miracles fighting so very hard and not being given their very best weapon against all the trials they will face.

Why the dichotomy?

Well, here's the thing. Full-term babies (and later-term preemies) receive a lot of wonderful antibodies from mama throughout that third trimester. Do they completely make up for not being breastfed? Nope. No question- they do not. But they are SOMETHING. They provide those babies with very real and important protection and defenses as they come out into this big ol' world. Micropreemies are born before the third trimester even begins. Scary, isn't it? You can't bank on a micropreemie having received antibodies in utero. The only way to pass them on? Breast milk.

But there's more. One of the more common issues to plague these extremely premature infants (and one that many nurses told me is a great fear) is necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC. NEC is an acute inflammatory disease in the intestines of infants. Necrosis or death of intestinal tissue may follow. The treatment? Most often, surgery. Portions of the bowel and/or intestines are removed and the babies are fitted with colostomy bags. The end of the world? No. But it doesn't end there... doctors and nurses must continue to monitor these babies closely. There is always the fear that they "didn't get it all" and it can continue to spread...

NEC kills babies. It's that simple. It is a dangerous, scary condition where the intestinal tract begins to die. In order to grow, these babies need to eat. In order to eat, they need to be able to digest. It's that simple.

I am not a medical professional and I wasn't able to pin down exact numbers. What I do know from my own conversations with the NICU team and from the research I've done is this:

NEC is over ten times more common in formula-fed infants as it is in breastfed infants.

Ten times.

We all know that breast milk is easier for babies to digest. This is especially true for the tiniest of babies. Their systems are simply taxed a little too much by formula. Formula companies have yet to produce a formula that is truly gentle enough for a micropreemie tummy. They add calories, yes, but that doesn't make it easier to digest. I would bet they're working on it. And I truly hope they are someday successful in making a better formulation for those oh-so-fragile bellies. But the breast milk from the preemie's mom? Consider this- moms of preemies produce breast milk that is different from that of full-term moms. I find that so amazing... not only was my milk easier for my baby girl to digest than formula, it was also easier for her than that of a full-term mommy would have been.

There you go- that's my hard-nosed stance and, if I'm going to be real and authentic, I cannot apologize for it.

But here's the Catch-22...

These very premature infants often arrive so very early because something went awry with mom's health. Oftentimes, the mother is very, very sick and breastfeeding can be an incredible challenge. Women who have healthy, full-term babies and minimal complications with childbirth will often talk about how incredibly draining, frustrating, and downright hard it was to breastfeed. Now imagine adding in seizures, dangerously high blood pressure, organ failure, multiple transfusions, high doses of medication, and- let's not forget- the terror, stress, and devastation of having given birth three or more months early. Is it any wonder providing breast milk doesn't happen often enough for these very premature little ones?

I waver on this issue. Constantly. Every couple of months, someone asks me to pray for a micropreemie or very premature baby who is undergoing surgery for NEC. I do, of course. But I find myself wondering (did his mommy try to breastfeed?) and judging (why not???). I'm not proud of this. But it's the truth.

I'm trying to learn to balance those two sides of me- the side that fiercely advocates for the tiniest of babies and, thus, believes that their mommies owe it to them to try to breastfeed... and the side that realizes many of these mommies are still fighting to live themselves. They're not negligent mamas... they just have more on their plate than is humanly possible.

Where do you weigh in on the issue?