Wintery Zupa!

I’ve had a lot of cookies over the holidays and beyond, which was fun, but not great for my body. Because I’m breastfeeding, Sebastian needs lots of healthy vitamins from me, so I needed to get back to eating less sugary goodness and more veggie yummies. So, I listened up when I got a recipe from my Aunt Fran for butternut squash soup. Just a few weeks ago, I had fun shooting photos of her gorgeous daughter, Morgan. Morgan has so many neat things in her room, it was fun to play with the props. I loved that everything was pink, right down to her pink Barbie Christmas tree.

Now, back to the healthy eating! Costco is currently selling cubed butternut squash. It’s easy to make it if you don’t have access to the cubed stuff. Just get a butternut squash and cut it in half and you can either bake it or microwave it to make it soft and grab the good inside stuff.

I used about a tablespoon of butter (though, you can use oil too) at the bottom of my big pot. While the butter was melting, I diced up an entire medium sized onion with my handy dandy chopper.

This onion was particularly potent and I couldn’t keep my eyes open for a few minutes.

Fran is Italian, so she said I should definitely add garlic and oh, how good it was to do that! While the onion and garlic cooked at the bottom of the pot, I cut up carrots and tossed those in there too.

I was told to use chicken stock, but I didn’t have any, so I improvised. I had four pounds of butternut squash, so I added 8 cups of water and 2 bouillon cubes. This inspires me to try to make my own bone marrow broth next time…! Baby Sebastian came in to supervise me. He gave me a big yawn, so I knew he was trying to tell me my soup was still way too boring for him.

I realized what he was trying to tell me. I had forgotten to add the pepper that Fran said to make sure to add! I added lots of pepper because pepper gives soup that extra zest I love. I brought the pot to a boil, then simmered it for another 20-25 minutes.

A stick blender allowed me to dirty up only one pot and resulted in a pureed lovely zesty winter soup!

Lessons from Three Months of Mommyhood

I can’t believe it’s been three months, since I had Sebastian. So much has happened over the three months and I couldn’t be happier and more exhausted. As a three month marker, I’ve decided to make a list of a 13 of the things I’ve learned so far as a new mama:

  1. When Sebastian smiles at me, it’s the most amazing feeling in the world. I’m not sure that anything can be sweeter. My heart thumps with joy and I believe anything is possible!
  2. Babies make a lot of noise when they sleep. They grunt, bark, sigh. You’d think this would be bothersome, but it’s not. Not only is it adorable, but it also gives me a sense of relief. When you share a room with your baby, you hear it all and it makes you feel calm every time because you know he is breathing.
  3. Your own baby is cute, even when he cries. Other people may not think so, but to you, it’s awesome. It’s his own language, so that’s how he speaks to me to let me know something is up, like he’s hungry, tired, wants a cuddle, etc.
  4. Cuddles in the morning are the best! Cuddles all the time are the best! Cuddles make you slow down and realize that everything else can wait.
  5. Having a baby is very humbling, but it also makes you feel very powerful. It’s humbling because I don’t always know the answer to everything and how much a 20 pound little man can control every aspect of your life. It’s powerful because I was able to have him, and was given a blessing to take care of him and teach him what I know.
  6. After the first week, breastfeeding is easy. It was so tough at first and I thought I would never be able to do it, but now it’s so wonderful. When we are together like that, it is such a special bonding time. I love the eye contact he has with me or the way his eyes roll back with pleasure and how he knows to open his mouth and know exactly where to go when I lay him next to me. I love the grunts, swallows and moans as he nurses. It’s just incredible. I am so thankful that he can grow so wonderfully just on my milk. What a miracle.
  7. Poop is exciting. Nowadays, I have a lot of discussions with my husband about poop, the color, the texture, the size. Believe it or not, I get happy when the baby has a poop.
  8. Bath time is so sweet. Sebastian is so excited about the water and it’s so cute to see his reaction to water being splashed when he moves his arms and legs.
  9. Sebastian inspires me to be creative. Even in the womb, he was making me come up with ideas like the How to Make a Baby in a Minute or Less Project or other photography projects.
  10. As a mom, you become an expert multitasker. I am now the expert on holding/breastfeeding/walking with the baby while answering emails, taking care of stuff on my phone or blogging. But, I also love to put down the phone to have our alone time and bonding time.
  11. “Thanks for your concern,” is part of my phraseology now. A mother has a good instinct and knows what her baby needs. There is a lot of advice out there. And sometimes, it’s annoying. However, sometimes I like to hear it because I learn something I didn’t know. If I don’t think the advice works for me, I don’t have to heed it.
  12. The grips on your hands/sweaters/shoulders are awesome. I love it when Sebastian grapples me. He always has to hold something and his hands flail in the air searching until they find something to hold.
  13. The love between my husband and me has grown exponentially. I will never forget what we experienced in the labor room together and how much he took care of me in the following weeks. On top of that, it melts my heart to see his love for the baby. It is so amazing to see him excited to spend every moment he can with Sebastian, no matter how little sleep he has had.

Food Surprise!

Whoa, so I opened the door at 8am to a man delivering boxes and freezer bags of food! What a wonderful gift to receive when you’re a new mom. It’s been so difficult to eat well, since my parents left because I was adjusting to a new schedule where there aren’t two other hands to help out.

My dear friends, Sara and Jason, live in Texas currently. Sara said if she lived near me, she would cook some meals and help me out. She understands, since she had a little girl herself three years ago. Because Sara and Jason don’t live near us, she and Jas sent food from Fresh Direct. I would have never thought of such a unique way to help a busy new mother. What a fantastic gift and what amazing friends!

There was an immense amount of food. The photo below is just a tiny portion of everything that we received. Everything was organic. Milk, tangerines, prepared meals that just needed to be warmed up or quickly cooked up, bagels, pizza, tomatoes, cold cuts, bread, bananas, lettuce, spinach and on and on.

That evening, I decided to cook up the stir-fry Chipotle Pineapple Shrimp with Veggies. First, I got Sebastian into the kitchen to be with me on his swing[/amazon_link. (I can assure you that he is not currently taking up a career as an MC, although it may look like it)

After he was settled and happy watching me, I put a tablespoon of oil in the pan. I let it heat up and threw in the shrimp.

Then, I poured the shrimp into a bowl that had a paper towel in it to drain the oil. There were still enough oil remnants for the veggies to be stir fried.

Time to mix it all together!

And finis, dinner for two is ready! I’m sure Sebastian enjoyed the meal third hand. :O)

And for dessert… a juicy mandarin orange.

 

Travel with Baby

We were traveling during the Christmas and New Year’s week. I’ve always said that I would travel with a child and I am sticking to that promise. Just because you have a kid, doesn’t mean that life is over, as many people will have you believe. A child can open a lot of opportunities and have you travel in more and interesting ways. For instance, I’ve never done the drive from New York to Chicago, so we decided to do it to avoid mass transit until Sebastian is at least three months old. You can technically travel with a week old child; however, our pediatrician suggested that we wait until his immune system gets a lot stronger before taking him around large crowds of flu ridden people in airports and subways.

Gone are the days of carry-on bags, but on a car trip, that wasn’t something we would have to worry about anyway. If it weren’t for the fact that we were taking stuff for my parents, such as a comforter we are no longer using, an extra aerobed that we no longer need, dresses from my sister-in-law’s closet, we would only have our travel essentials.

So, here are some tips for road trip travel with a baby.

First, the most important tool is a good car seat. We have a Britax. This isn’t the type of car seat that converts from a stroller to the car because we don’t own a car. In New York, most people don’t have cars, let alone driver’s licenses. So, we got one that we can easily put into a rental and is very safe.

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A very important tool is the pacifier (I call it a “smoczek,” pronounced smoh-check because that’s how we say it in Polish). Ok, yes, we have all heard all sorts of theories on pacifiers, like how they make your teeth crooked or make you depend on an item to soothe a baby. Well, I really don’t believe that they will hurt a baby. In fact, there are studies that disprove the crooked teeth theory. And, most kids stick their own dirty thumbs in their mouths. A little baby doesn’t have coordination to use his thumb to self sooth, so the pacifier is ideal. The only advice I listened to in this area is to not use a pacifier for the first 30 days of a baby’s life because that could cause nipple confusion with breastfeeding. There have been problems with babies not latching on or chewing on a pacifier and getting frustrated with not getting milk, then not wanting breast milk. This may lead to lowering milk production because you are not feeding often enough or causing you to believe your child is not eating enough. Otherwise, on a road trip, with an 11 week old child, I highly recommend the pacifier. It was a calming device that helped Sebastian fall asleep or just calm him when he was stuck in a car seat and couldn’t be held.

Smoczek

I grew up listening to books on tape, lectures, praying rosaries, chatting with the family and playing games in the car. It made road trips go by very quickly. The modern version of this is the podcast. The road trip went by extremely fast because we listened to some really great podcast over the 27 hours of driving. We had a lot of laughs listening to Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin, who run a tech podcast  (if you haven’t heard them, they are HILARIOUS) and enjoyed paleo podcasts by Angelo Coppola. I also love listening to This American Life, Radio Lab, among a bunch of others.

As we all know, these days, you cannot just grab your baby and breastfeed while driving. Car seats and laws restrict that. I may complain about that, but it is better to be safe than have regrets for the rest of your life. So, how do you drive as much as possible over 13 hours? Enter, breast pump. Milk is safe for the baby to consume even if it sits out for 6-8 hours. So, I pump, fill up a bottle and have it ready for when the baby wakes up. Trust me, in many ways, it is worth the pretty penny to have this pump. I borrowed a lowered power model from my sister in law and it was definitely a huge improvement to use this model.

Pump

Thanks to this system of pumping, we only had to stop 3 times during our drive for changes and extra feedings.

Bottle Eating

Because I’m breastfeeding, I have to bring my vitamins and Sebastian’s supplemental vitamins.

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Another essential is a carrier. Husband loves to carry the baby on a Baby Bjorn and after using it, I see the benefits. Sebastian calms down because he’s moving and it’s easier to carry him, since he weighs so much. Babies love to keep moving, maybe because they were constantly moving in the belly! He also falls asleep in there, which any of us parents love.

Then, there’s the travel crib. It’s small and it’s super easy to set up, it literally takes 30 seconds. I was pretty against it for a while because I didn’t want to travel with another thing, but then I thought about using cribs in hotels and it skeeved me out. I’d rather have my own thing. So, we got a Baby Bjorn travel crib. Now, that I think about it, a lot of our stuff is either Swedish or Norwegian. Those Scandinavians really know how to make stuff for babies, so why the heck don’t they have children?

Without a doubt, you need your diaper bag with diapers, wipes, an extra outfit, socks, spit up rags and sterilized pacifiers. Because I was traveling by car, I brought my flex tub (in another post, I’ll write about when I use a flex tub vs. a bath pillow) and boppy. These are certainly not essential, but on a road trip, it’s not a problem to throw those things in the trunk.

Boppy and Tub

Along with the tub, I had to pack a little bag with his nail clippers, file, hair brush, shampoo and towel. I give Sebastian a daily bath because he is the king of the blowout and I want him clean and smelling fresh!

Bath Kit

Even though my baby doesn’t play with toys himself yet, I keep trying to keep him interested in colors, rattles and books, so I brought a couple of things for him.

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The last non essential I brought, but knew it would be good to have and was small enough to throw into the trunk was our baby bouncer. Again, it was a Baby Bjorn bouncer, which is portable, light and creates some fun bouncing in a relatively compact package. Additionally, I brought a few outfits, (we were going to see family, so it was easy to wash clothes), hats and sweaters. We brought a box of diapers, though we considered sending it in advance. I think if we would have flown, we would have just shipped it, since shipping is free.

It may seems like we have a lot of travel gadgets, but they all came in handy and the trip was nice and easy because of them!

Like Time has Never Passed


It is incredible to have friends that make you feel like no time has passed between seeing them last. This week that has happened several times. I’m going to post a few more photos from friends I saw.

I was able to take a family photo of Janet, Brian and little Meara. Janet is a talented artist. One of the things I love about her is that she doesn’t feel the need to dress in some sort of hipster outfit, wear outlandish glasses or go out of her way to prove she’s artistic.

Meara is a sweet little girl, so I had to take a few more photos of her!

She was giggling a lot when Brian was playing with her.

Jen, I met in France in a cute little hostel near Normandy. I think she has the best smile of all time and a traveler’s spirit that just draws you in. I was so happy that she let me torture her by taking a few photos.

Later, in the evening, Tony came by my parents’ home. Tony lives in California and I live in New York and this is the first time in years that we were an hour apart, so we had to finally see each other. Normally we scheme on the phone or on Skype and come up with social media projects, but we were finally able to talk about stuff in person. We drank tea, ate herring and played a new strategy board game.

The board game is called Power Grid Factory Manager. Hubby and I like to play the original Power Grid game, but this one was a blast as well. It involved bidding in the market for production and cargo space. True to form, Tony, who is keen on solar power and has done a lot of work in that area, won the game because he had the most energy efficient factory. That helped him beat the rest of us who were using a lot of energy to run our factories.

I wish I had been able to see all of my friends from Chicago on this trip. Since the road trip worked out this week, maybe we will do more of those!

Happy New Year!

Sebastian’s New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Gain more weight.

  2. Burp loudly during the quietest part of Church and blame it on mommy.

  3. Have a blowout on two continents.

  4. Try a European diaper.

  5. Improve my aim.

  6. Start walking.

  7. Increase my vocabulary.

  8. Add five decibels to my scream.

  9. Lay around a little less.

  10. Work harder on getting my way.

 

Diaper Duty

I have now done it both ways: in a car and in a bathroom. Stop your dirty mind and change it to dirty diaper.

At rest stops, I finally realized there are family bathrooms. I never paid any attention before having my own baby, but these are great. Yes, there are changing tables in the regular bathrooms, but a family bathroom is private, so you don’t have to take two trips to be able to use the bathroom yourself. And, no sane mother leaves her baby on a changing table in a regular bathroom to step into a stall for many, many reasons.

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On the way out, when it was slightly snowing, I just changed Sebastian in the car. But, this time, I popped into a family room. It was easy.

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My diaper bag  stayed on my shoulder and I worked out of it. I put down a blanket underneath my tiny stokke changing pad so Sebastian’s head wouldn’t touch a changing table that was probably used by way too many germy children. Plus, I just found out that 92 out of a 100 changing tables tested in the UK had trace amounts of cocaine. Pretty gross on all accounts. Between baby poop and coke, I need to keep him protected.

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When I was done changing him, I was able to strap him in with a handy belt and use the bathroom, while in the same room. He giggled while he watched his potty trained mama.

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Result: Happy, dry baby. We know that a happy baby makes a happy mama, which makes a happy papa.

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Breakfast at my Parents’ House

I’ve written about eating in my parents’ home in the past, but I’ve never talked about breakfast. My parents always have an amazing spread. The food is always magnificent and the table is filled with vibrant colors.

This is how their table looks for breakfast, every day. There is always some bread that has been toasted, pitas, whole grain breads and a steamy drink, like coffee or tea. Then, the other food will vary. Sometimes, there are eggs, beets, various vegetable salads. Sometimes, there is ham, different meats and cheeses, bacon, avocado. It just depends on the day.

There is always fruit. I got my mom a couple of little fruit market containers for Christmas, so she’s been placing her fruit in them now. Raspberries in a bright yellow ceramic container are so much tastier than out of a clear plastic case!

If you don’t believe me, here is a photo of another day’s breakfast spread.

Because my mom doesn’t use recipes, but just pulls stuff out of her fridge and makes food from what she has and my dad is a chemist, there is always some sort of new experiment on the table that is touted. This time, my mom made something between an omelet and a pancake with fruit layering the top. One time, I came home to find spicy jello made from jalapeños. It makes the most important meal of the day fun and exciting.

Into the Windy City

Let’s be honest. Chicago is one of the best cities in the world, so when we had a chance to spend a week here on our road trip, I was thrilled.

On top of feeling at home in Chicago, we get to finally see many of our friends. Yesterday was one of those days where we had a chance to spend time introducing our newest family member. These trips are always too short. Even with a week, we can’t see everyone, so we tried our best to see friends who were geographically close to each other. Five of them happen to all live in the center of Chicago.

Our first stop, Jeanine & Scott’s home to meet Sebastian’s “brother,” Nicholas. Jeanine and I have been friends since law school and she’s like a big sister to me, even though she’s tinier than me. Since I got married 7 years ago, Jeanine has consistently asked me how soon I was going to get pregnant. My answer was always the same. I told her I would wait until she got pregnant. This past year, my wish came true! She got pregnant three weeks ahead of me. It was great to have each other to compare the awesomeness of being pregnant. Then, on October 3rd, my water broke. She called me and said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had our babies on the same day?” That evening, I received a text message from her saying her water broke! She ended up having her son 12 hours after that and he was born earlier than my son, who took 36 hours to birth!

Here’s a photo of us together this summer, 7 months pregnant, with our big bellies.

This is the first time the boys met each other. They seemed somewhat curious about each other.

Now, here is a shot of our adorable sons together cushioned against a big stuffed horse.

As I’m sure you can tell, I love photography. Before we left their house to our next adventure, I was able to snap up some fun shots of her family. There were a lot to choose from, but these were my favorites.

I used tonal contrast to give the photo below some pop. I think it also made it look like a bit like an advertisement for cute baby clothing.
I used a narrow depth of focus on this shot and overexposed slightly for a very bright look.
Before we headed to our next stop in the South Loop, we decided to take a walk down Michigan Avenue. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed walking together as a family down the Magnificent Mile. For me, this was wonderful because I haven’t had a chance to do much of that in New York, since I am not taking subways for a bit with the little man and am restricted to walking around my neighborhood. I haven’t walked very far because I just recently healed after the birth and have been getting accustomed to a new schedule, now that my parents left the city. It was so refreshing to walk around. This makes me very excited to walk further and further every day in New York.
I had to get a shot of Ray in front of the Water Tower, with all the pretty Christmas lights in the background.
We headed over to see our friends, Brian and Xiaomeng, who just recently got engaged. I told them that at their wedding I would be taking credit for their marriage because I played yenta and introduced them. Brian and I went to law school together and Xiaomeng and I went to get our Master’s together. We decided to do what we love and play some boardgames one night and she was invited to play. They hit it off and soon, there will be a magical wedding!
Luckily, our friend, Irena, was also able to join us, since she is practically neighbors with them. She’s a friend I’ve known for almost 15 years. When I think about that, I can’t believe it…it’s half of our lives that we’ve known each other.
We came home to more visitors. Below, you can see shots of people who have known me almost my whole life, basically since we moved to the United States. The photos below are of Bogus and Nina and then Joachim and Lunia. When you emigrate to a new country, you sort of “sew” on a new family and they are like aunties and uncles who have taught me an immense amount throughout my life.

Second Day of Christmas

Polish Christmas continues onto the 26th of December. Most parts of the world celebrate three days of Christmas. I’m not sure why in the US we don’t, but there are some companies that do give the 26th of December off from work.

Because I’m going to take a break from writing on the second day of Christmas, I’ll tell you a little bit about my Christmas Day.

The baby gave me five consecutive hours of sleep last night, so I was completely refreshed. I’ve been hoping for four in a row, but five was more than I could have imagined! I felt like it was a wonderful Christmas present. Sebastian and my husband were the greatest gifts I’ve ever received, so I was in a wonderful mood.

I came down to have breakfast with my parents, while Husband slept in a bit, and I wished my parents a happy anniversary. Christmas Day marked their 44th year of marriage. My brother called from the Dominican Republic and wished us a Merry Christmas and told us that Santa flew in on a helicopter to deliver remote controlled cars and Barbies to the kids at their resort.

We had planned on having a few people over at 3pm and received a wonderful surprise–a priest friend of ours was going to come over and have a Mass for us. What a wonderful thing to have a private Mass on Christmas Day and on my parents’ anniversary. We were thrilled, especially because if he hadn’t come, my father would not have been able to go to Mass at all, since he had just recovered from an operation. He was moved to tears in thanksgiving for this gift.

After the Mass, we ate, looked at art, discussed forgiveness, shared stories, broke opłatek (like I mentioned in my post entitled Polish Christmas Eve) and ended the evening by singing Christmas carols.

It was a perfect Christmas Day.

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