Fontaine à Chambéry

Fontaine à Chambéry

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Easy Recipe: Pumpkin Soup

I'll give a brief update before discussing this amazing new recipe! Adjusting to my new work schedule has gone well; however, now when I get home, there's the dinner-bathtime-bedtime rush, leaving little "quality" time to hang out with my precious Z. I feel guilty, but that never goes away, because it's a mom thing. When I cook, I either rely on my crockpot to do the work for me, or I need a recipe that's fast and healthy. I found a winner! This pumpkin soup is perfect for the gorgeous fall weather we've been having. It isn't too pumpkiny for those who don't enjoy the taste of pumpkin, and it certainly isn't sweet like pumpkin pie, but savory instead. My wonderful husband made a fresh baguette (one of the many perks of a French husband!) and it went very well with the soup.


(Note: I doubled the recipe to take some for lunch. Below is the original recipe.)

1-15 ounce can pumpkin
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
1 apple, cut into small cubes
3 pieces turkey bacon
1 bag shredded cheddar cheese

In a stock pot, combine the pumpkin, chicken broth, and cream. Cook on medium heat, stirring well for 5 minutes, then simmer. Sauté the apple in a little bit (1/2 tablespoon) of butter until soft. Cook the turkey bacon according to the package directions. 

Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle cheese on top of the soup, then place the sautéed apples and crumbled bacon. Serve with bread. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

First Day Fiasco

Last Sunday I was on edge all day because I was starting a new job Monday. All day I had butterflies in my stomach. Having spent two years--which may not seem like a lot but is to me--at my previous job, where, for the most part I really liked it, I was wondering whether I had made the right choice for myself and my family by switching career paths. What if I didn't like the work? What if nobody was nice? Would I be able to have my cell phone out in case daycare called? Was there a coffee maker? (I have my priorities.) 

In addition to the usual worries, I was incredibly anxious by Sunday evening because Z started exhibiting signs of pink eye. Those gooey, sticky eye crusties plus my poor baby's swollen eyes was freaking me out. I wouldn't be able to take her to the doctor if she needed to go, which made me feel like a bad mom. Additionally, the cough/cold combo I'd been battling for a week was starting to feel more like bronchitis by the minute, and I was puffing on my rescue inhaler way more than I liked.   I went to bed Sunday night hoping that when we woke up in the morning, everything would be perfect. Um, no.

An hour after going to bed, I was in a deep sleep, when R started yelling "SHE PEED ON ME!" Lily, our cat who's been spayed twice and battles bladder infections off-and-on, had indeed urinated on her father for no apparent reason. Lucky for me, my side was nice and dry, and Lily came and curled up with me. Girl power! R went to the couch, because our guest room is still a mess from when we painted our kitchen this summer (yes, we've procrastinated on cleaning that). After hearing him yell and fuss at the dog for 15 minutes, he came storming back in our room and turned on the light, deciding to change the sheets. He started doing it while I was still in bed, and I freaked out. Once the sheets were changed, the cats in the basement for the night, and the dog had a treat to calm down, we all drifted off into a peaceful sleep.

I awoke feeling like I had a fever. Z awoke with her eyes swollen shut. Pinkeye indeed. R stayed home with her and took her to the doctor for eyedrops. I went to work, where my first day was incredibly stressful. Things were very hectic because some large projects are nearing completion. As a result, people are stressed and have been working overtime. The high-energy atmosphere isn't anything I'm used to, so that was overwhelming. All day I battled chills and breathing issues and coughing. Getting off work at 5 was a totally new experience for me; at my old job, I left at 3, picked Z up from school at 3:30, and we were home most days at 3:45, giving us ample time to play and relax before the dinner-bathtime-bedtime routine. Not the case here. Right when I left the parking lot, I had a meltdown, wondering if I had made the right choice by starting a new job. I felt so guilty for cutting my time with Z by two hours each day. That's 10 hours a week. She goes to bed at 7:30, so when I get home at 5:30, we have little time to relax because of all of the necessities. 

When I got home, my meltdown was in full form. I know I freaked Z out, because she was looking at me strangely. After I calmed down and ate, I went to Urgent Care to get some antibiotics. 

As the antibiotics began working, and I slowly adjusted to a new office, new hours, new coworkers, new job, and new schedule for my family, I started to feel better. I really love the work. Z is in good hands. She loves her daycare and R picks her up early and they hang out every afternoon. I still wish I could somehow finagle my old hours, but that's not likely. After such an epic first day, I'm looking forward to a peaceful week.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Traveling with Tot

We’ve flown to Colorado twice and Houston once since Z was born. The first time we went to Colorado, Z was only 10 weeks old. She slept on the plane and didn’t make a peep the entire time. The people around us were surprised when we deplaned with an infant because she was so quiet. The second time we went to Colorado, Z was 9 ½ months old and mobile. She still did really well on the plane and stayed occupied by playing, reading, and eating snacks. I was afraid she’d want to get down and crawl around, but she didn’t. Our Houston trip was the weekend after that Colorado trip, and it was pretty much the same scenario on that plane ride.

Two weekends ago, we decided to take an impromptu trip to Chicago to get away for the weekend. Even though Z’s a laid back kid, I was a little nervous for the 4 ½ hour car ride. She did really well though! I made sure to bring a lot of toys, books, and snacks. We stopped a couple of times on the way up for pit stops. As a last resort against boredom, we turned on Ratatouille and Z zoned out.

This was our first family vacation with just the three of us. It was such a blast! We went to the Field Museum to see the Lascaux cave painting exhibit. I’ve written about this exhibit and the cave’s importance to art history before. It was an amazing exhibit, very well done, and R really liked the fact that the signage was written in both French and English; he felt it was respectful to the Lascaux cave heritage. We walked around Chicago a lot, visited Navy Pier, ate Chicago-style pizza, walked up and down Michigan Avenue, and walked along Lake Michigan.

My bottom line for writing this post: it is possible to travel with kids. From my experience, traveling with kiddos requires flexibility. Each age has its perks and its downsides: nursing on a plane sucks, as does worrying about nursing schedules while you’re in the middle of traveling. Having a toddler in a museum isn’t as easy as having a non-mobile infant. BUT, the important thing is to roll with it. If you’re calm, your kid will be calm, and everyone will have a lot more fun. So here are some tips I’ve compiled:

Travel Tips with Tot:

         Think your kid’s favorite toy or book will be enough? WRONG. Bring 4 times the stuff you think you’ll need, especially if you’re traveling by car and can’t get up and walk around. Kids get bored really fast.

·         Bring a variety of snacks or treats. Having something that you normally don’t buy will be fun and special; however, don’t introduce anything that could cause an allergic reaction (IE: nuts, shellfish—don’t know why you’d do this anyway—exotic fruits, etc.). You don’t want to ruin your trip by spending time in the ER.

·         Always keep a roll of toilet paper or a pack of baby wipes in the car (regardless of whether you have kids or not). You can thank me in advance.

·         Bring extra clothes. For everyone.

·         Buy a stroller with a collapsible seat in case your little one wants to take a snooze.

·         Remember to have fun and go with the flow! 

Pretty skyline

Love this shot!

LOVED this exhibit

Gorgeous view

Waiting for Chicago-style pizza at Giordano's

Z likes to hold hands.

Happy family!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Noteworthy Reads from A to Z

Here are some of my favorites and some that are on my to-read list (an asterisk is next to these), categorized in alphabetical order:

The Awakening by Kate Chopin (Yes, I realize it's a short story.)
Arranged by Catherine McKenzie

The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Cleopatra: Last Queen of Egypt by Joyce A. Tyldesley

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Forger's Spell: A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century by Edward Dolnick

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Good Thief's Guide To... (series) by Chris Ewan
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Harry Potter (series) by J.K. Rowling
The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Iliad by Homer

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan 

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Nefertiti by Michelle Moran 

The Odyssey by Homer

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen 
Pompeii by Robert Harris

Quentins by Maeve Binchy

A Rather... (series) by C.A. Belmond
Rooftops of Tehran by Mahbod Seraji

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart
Time Was Soft There: A Paris Sojourn at Shakespeare & Co.  by Jeremy Mercer

Under the Dome by Stephen King*

Venice by Jan Morris*
The Vesuvius Isotope by Kristin Elise

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

The Xibalba Murders (series) by Lyn Hamilton*

Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks*

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story by Diane Ackerman* 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Under the Dome

Murder? Check. Drugs? Check. Love stories? Check. Psychos? Check. Mystery? Check.

Imagine you're going through your everyday life just being a normal person when suddenly a dome drops out of the sky, effectively trapping you, your neighbors, and your enemies in your small town. All of a sudden you're very aware of resources such as food and water and your fellow townspeople and their weird/creepy habits. You try very hard to keep your secrets and family safe. This scenario is what happens in Stephen King's novel Under the Dome, which has now been turned into a summer miniseries. It's my newest obsession. 

You know when you're reading a really good book or watching a great series and you want to put life on hold so you can find out what happens next in the story? Well, this is what's currently going on with us. R started watching Under the Dome when it first premiered this summer. He kept telling me about how good it was and how we needed to watch it together. I finally watched the first episode and was hooked. We quickly caught up on all of the DVR'd episodes and have stayed up way too late watching the show. 

I don't know how the series fares compared to the book. With other King novels that have been turned into film adaptations, I've been disappointed. So much of King's stories are psychological and scare the heck out of you while you're reading; some of that material just isn't easy to translate into a film. I'm on the waiting list at the library for Under the Dome so hopefully I'll be able to compare the two soon. Until then, if you need something to watch, I highly recommend this series! 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Ear Tubes

While Z may have hit the jackpot with her good looks, bilingual background, and her abilities to travel the globe (haha), she did not get great ears from us. Sorry, kiddo. Z has had chronic ear infections since January. In fact, I believe there has only been a period of about two weeks since then that she hasn't been on an antibiotic to treat an infection. That's not good because constant antibiotics can reduce her body's immune system, cause an upset stomach, and, as we found out with the most recent dose, can cause allergies. Yuck. 

Because of her history, we were referred to the Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor at Children's Hospital. Z actually had her consultation on her first birthday, poor girl. At the appointment, they did a hearing test to see if the infections had caused any damage. Luckily, her hearing was perfect and she didn't fuss at all. The audiologists were impressed with Z's laid back nature and said she had made their job easier and had subsequently made their morning. Way to go, Z! Next we saw the ENT. Z's ears were perfect and there was no fluid from her last infection. The doctor said at that point, the surgery was optional, but if Z got another infection, she'd definitely need the tubes. We left feeling excited and hopeful that she'd never come down with another infection.

Fast forward 10 days: Z was fussy all night and woke up with a low-grade fever. I took her to the pediatrician, and surprise, surprise, she had another infection. It took 3 days for me to get through to Children's because nobody was returning my voicemails, but I finally was able to schedule Z's tube surgery for this morning. 

The entire ear tube procedure is an easy one: the doctor merely inserts a tiny--and I mean tiny, since it's no bigger than the size of this 'i'--tube into the patient's ear drum, which allows fluid to drain out. When fluid is retained, it harbors bacteria and becomes infected frequently. Until the child's ear is fully formed, the fluid can't drain out. After 6-12 months, the tubes fall out on their own, the hole seals itself, and voila, you've got a happy kid with fully-developed ears. The tubes don't eliminate the odds of getting an infection, but they do make it easier to treat and often cut down on the number of infections a kid will have. 

We had to arrive at Children's at 6:15 this morning. Naturally, I didn't sleep much last night because I was afraid we'd oversleep and miss the appointment. Z was also really clingy last night, probably because she could pick up on our stress. When we walked into the Same Day Surgery waiting room, it was packed! From the looks of it, there were a lot of kids there for procedures that were far more invasive and serious than ear tubes, so once again I realized how lucky we are for our healthy little Z. Our nurse came and got us and took us to the pre-op room. She went over Z's health history, listened to her breathing, checked temperature and weight, and printed off Z's hospital bracelets. There was a cool playroom down the hall so we went to play there; we also waited in the room and were able to watch Clifford, which made Z a very happy camper. The ENT's assistants came and talked to us, then the anesthesia general practitioner came in and talked about Z's overall health. The nurse brought Z a mixture of Tylenol and oxycodone, which Z sucked down. The nurse and general practitioner were impressed and said they usually have to fight kids to take the medicine; we call medicine "yum yums" and make a big deal out of it tasting good, so we've never had problems with Z taking her medicine. Before we knew it, the anesthesiologists came to talk things over and take Z. They asked what flavor of laughing gas Z would like--cherry--then they took her off. She didn't even cry or look back. We waited in the room for only 7 minutes, then the ENT doctor came back and said everything was great and went well. There was no lingering fluid from her recent infections, and no signs of permanent damage from the infections. We have to go back in 4-8 weeks for a checkup.

We went to recovery to see Z. She was really mad at the nurses but calmed down when we held her. She took a bit to come out of it, and was sleepy. She woke up for some graham crackers and water though. On the way home, she projectile vomited, which is very common after this procedure. We came home and she ate a bit, then went down for a nap. It's been almost 3 hours and she's still dozing. The girl never naps! 

I'm just so glad this is over. Yes, it's best for Z to not be in constant pain or taking antibiotics constantly, but it's terrifying when your kid has to go under. There are risks anytime surgery is performed or anesthesia is involved. Yes, the procedure only took 7 minutes. Yes, everyone says it's harder on the parents than the children. It's still scary though. There's nothing like being down at Children's Hospital to make you realize how good you've got it, and how lucky you are for your biggest problem being ear infections. 

Friday, August 16, 2013


The past couple of weeks have been stressful for us. We've each had big job interviews that we're either still waiting to hear about or the job didn't pan out. There's some negative stuff going on at work for me. Z has been sick with yet again another ear infection; she's had them nearly constantly since January. She developed an allergic reaction to this last round of antibiotics and broke out in a rash, which was pretty severe on some parts of her body. It appears that the rash is now coming back again. We've been at the doctor four times in the past two weeks. Monday we have an appointment at Children's Hospital to get Z's ear tubes. Although it's a minor procedure, we're freaking out. Everyone says it's not a big deal, but that's easy to say when it's not your kid. The thought of the doctors putting her under anesthesia is absolutely terrifying.

When all is said and done...I need to be more thankful. I need to be grateful that we are each employed, have a wonderful healthy, happy daughter, live in a nice house with our pets, have supportive and loving families, etc. Sometimes it's hard to remember to be grateful for things when you've been under stress. So, this weekend, I'm going to take a time out from my to-do's and enjoy quality time with my husband and daughter. It's important to keep in mind that everything will work out perfectly and the way it should, even if it's been a little stressful lately. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

St. Louis is Lucky

We went to the Zoo on Saturday because the weather was so gorgeous. We got there at 8:30 (when you’ve got little ones, they don’t sleep in on weekends so you don’t either) and had a blast! The Children’s Zoo is free before 9, which is very cool. Z had a great time looking at everything and petting the goats. She even brushed one!

In the morning, all of the animals are alert and moving around because they’ve just been fed. Even the large tortoises were slowly walking around their habitat. We saw the newest elephant, Priya, eating a tree branch. Although she’s a couple months old, she’s still tiny compared to her sister and mother. Z had fun in the snake house and liked knocking on the anaconda’s window and whispering to it.

Our little excursion made me realize how lucky STL citizens are to have such a wonderful zoo.  I don’t think it’s really something we give much thought to because it’s always available to us, but having a free zoo that’s well maintained, operated, and exceptional at caring for animals is rare. The St. Louis Zoo also offers numerous programs, classes and volunteer opportunities.

For my sister’s birthday last year, we signed her up for the Zoo Parents Program. In this program, you can “adopt” an animal, and your membership goes toward providing the animal with food and care. All of the parents are prominently featured on flat screen televisions in the Living World, as well as on the zoo’s website. H is the proud mother of a red kangaroo; last time H visited the zoo, she saw her kangaroo with a baby in her pouch!

Bottom line of this disjointed post: it’s important to support our local nonprofits and their missions. We’re lucky to have such an outstanding organization so close to home.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Easy Taco Salad

If you’re like me, you look for healthy recipes that you can make with little cleanup in 15 minutes or less and that everyone will love. Such recipes are pretty hard to come by, until now. My mom has been making this meal for years. In fact, the only time we ever got Doritos when I was growing up was when she made this, so I think that’s partially why I enjoy this meal so much. It’s fast, healthy, easy, and everyone’s happy. How can you get any better than that?

1/2 bag of lettuce
1/2 bag of spinach
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 white onion, diced
1 tomato, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
1 can of red kidney beans
¼ to ½ cup of lite Italian dressing (to taste)


Cook the turkey in a skillet until browned. Add the can of beans to the skillet without draining and allow to simmer on low heat. Meanwhile, mix lettuce, spinach, onion, tomato, and avocado. Pour Italian dressing over the mixture and toss. Add the meat and beans without draining the liquid and toss again. Crumble a handful of Doritos over the salad. Serve with Doritos. Enjoy! 

Sunday, August 11, 2013


I just completed the third semester of graduate school for my master's degree! Having worked on this degree while balancing my role as a wife and mother and an employee has definitely been eye-opening. I really don't know how single mothers or military parents are able to balance everything. 

I'm currently halfway through my master's in Nonprofit Management. I'm really enjoying the classes and projects, but sometimes I wish I could fast forward and have the degree already. After a long day of work, coming home and getting ready for tomorrow, cooking, doing bath time and bed time and story time, the last thing I want to do is write a paper or do research about some aspect of nonprofits. I keep plugging along though, and reminding myself that the short-term annoyance will have huge payoffs. I really do like what I'm studying and I'm passionate about nonprofits. So that helps. I also have a wonderfully supportive husband who wants to start his MBA, so the sooner I finish my master's, the sooner he can start his!

My program is designed for working adults, so there are two courses taught per semester, and the entire degree takes two years because the classes are taught on a rotating basis. For some weird reason though, the classes that are offered this fall are the ones that were taught in the spring. So, I'm being forced to take a semester off. Not that I'll be nice to have a break. At the same time, I'm a little behind because I took two semesters off when Z was born, so having a break is probably not ideal. Oh well. I suppose I'll have more time to blog now that I don't have papers to write. Maybe I'll start some sort of artsy project. Or look into master's programs in art history or Egyptology  (Who am I kidding? I've already looked into those and have made a tentative game plan.) What can I say? I really like learning.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

First Aid Kit

I've been thinking for months about making a first aid kit. I know what you're thinking "You have a baby and pets and you don't have a first aid kit?" Stupid, I know. Until recently, we didn't even have band-aids in the house! The horror!

I was at Sam's club recently and stocked up on a jumbo box of assorted band-aids. We're set for a while, or at least until Z starts demanding cartoon character ones. Today at Target, first aid stuff was on sale for the back to school craze, so I got the remaining necessities for the kit. It's not perfect and I'm sure I'm missing something (crap, just realized I'm missing alcohol wipes!), but you know what? I feel SO GOOD about crossing this off my list. It's not a huge deal and certainly wasn't weighing heavily on my mind, but every once in a while, I suddenly think "Ooo, you've gotta make a first aid kit." I guess this is just one of those things you can do to feel prepared, especially with a mobile little one running around. Getting this checked off of my list feels great, and I'm now ready to tackle anything that comes our way. Well, maybe not everything, but you get the idea.

Oh yeah, we're set.

The red case was free with the purchase of three first aid items.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Finding Our Way Across the Roundabout

This gem comes from the first time I visited Paris with my sister H in 2009.

Upon arriving in Paris at the Gare de Lyon, we hopped in a taxi and went to the hotel to check in and deposit our bags. It was around 7 o’clock once we were settled in, so we headed out to explore and find something to eat for dinner. Our hotel was located only a few blocks away from the Arc de Triomphe, which was naturally the first Paris landmark we stumbled upon. 

This is the street we walked down to get to the Arc de Triomphe.

The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 and was a neoclassical interpretation of the triumphal Arch of Constantine in the Roman forum. We have all learned about Napoleon’s lofty aims to take over Europe, and by creating his arch, he solidified his role as emperor, or so he thought (the fact that he hadn’t won the battle was a moot point). The arch was built at the end of the Champs-Elysees, the iconic Parisian street that today is known for its high-end stores and world-class restaurants. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (from World War I) rests underneath the center of the arch.

After taking the obligatory tourist pictures of the arch, we started wandering around the roundabout trying to figure out how to get over to the Arc. We saw tourists milling about under the monument…and yet we didn’t see anyone going to or from. People certainly were not crossing the roundabout (it would probably result in sudden death), so we had no idea how to get across. How perplexing.

After walking around for close to 30 minutes, we decided to give up and find something to eat. A young guy in his mid-twenties came up and asked “Excuse me, but do you know how to get across to the arch?” Our problems started all over again.

Now, you learn from the time you’re little that you shouldn’t talk to strangers, especially if you’re a girl in a foreign country. But, Michael was a nice, good-looking Canadian who merely wanted to get over to the Arc on his last night in Paris. We had no choice but to help him. We were also in a well-lit, crowded area, so if he turned out to be a psychopath, we could just scream. So, we joined Michael on his quest by once more walking around the roundabout, only this time, Michael pointed out a staircase we had walked by numerous times and had failed to notice. It led to the arc! Hooray!

We walked down the stairs and in the tunnel that was under the roundabout. At the end, the staircase deposited you right at the base of the Arc. We started taking photos almost immediately. The detail on the interior of the Arc was gorgeous! 

Nice details
We wandered around taking photos and then decided to sit down and people watch. We sat with Michael and started taking photos of the weird tourists and the great view of the Champs Elysees. The Eiffel Tower was visible and at 10 o'clock, it lit up in its usual nighttime fashion. At this point it was still sunny and we didn't realize how late it had gotten. Michael had to take the Metro to the airport for his early morning flight, and we needed to find dinner. Before we left though, we had another tourist snap a photo of us, so we could remember our conquest and how we made our way across the roundabout.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Baby Toothbrushing

Z now has 6 little teeth, so about a month ago, we bought a toothbrush for her. We’ve merely been using it as a distraction when we are getting her ready for school in the mornings. She likes to watch us brush our teeth and she copies, but we didn’t really get serious about brushing those baby teeth until last night. I bought fluoride-free infants’ toothpaste yesterday at Target (it’s fruit flavored!) and we brushed Z’s teeth as best we could. She flipped out. She likes doing things herself and was very angry that I was pinning her arms down and brushing her teeth rather than letting her do it herself. Years ago, I remember watching an episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8. Kate was talking about what a hassle it was to brush all of her children’s teeth, and after last night, I cannot imagine being responsible for brushing eight little mouthfuls of pearly whites. I suppose once they get used to it, it’s not that big of a deal anymore. But eight?Good lord. So, I suppose this will just be one thing we need to be strict about until it becomes part of our routine. But man, am I grateful we don’t have eight mouths to brush every night.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thoughts on Parenthood

Your heart will melt the first time your baby smiles at you.

Diaper explosions and leaks are inevitable, so carry plastic bags at all times.

Z started sleeping through the night at 4 weeks. Yep, we’re very, very lucky.

Teething sucks for everybody, but those pearly whites are so cute!

We had our first ER visit when Z was 5 months old because of an RSV scare at daycare. Thankfully she didn’t have RSV, just an ear infection. She was chumming it up with the nurses while we waited to see the doctor.

Tragedies like Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon bombings make you realize how precious life is and how you’ll do anything to protect your child. Z will always be my baby…even when she’s 60.

Milestones are exciting! Sitting up, crawling, starting solids, talking, using a spoon and fork, waving, clapping, walking…there are so many things your baby learns to do during her first year of life.

Take family photos on a regular basis. We’ve taken a total of 4 since Z was born (and none professionally). I’ve vowed to get better about this.

Take at least one photo a day of your kid. They grow too fast.

Traveling is easy if you’re calm, come prepared, and go with the flow.

The other day I was lying on our bed with Z and I kissed her forehead. She looked at me, then reached over and gave me a really slobbery kiss on my cheek. I started laughing so she kept doing it. Be sure to record little moments like this so you can look back and reminisce.

It would be nice to be able to go to the bathroom alone.

An empty plastic bottle filled with macaroni noodles or beads makes as good of a toy as a $5 rattle.

Google will put your mind at ease and give you more to worry about all at once.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Z's Birth Story

Happy first birthday to our wonderful daughter! 

Surprisingly, I slept really well the night before we went to the hospital. I guess I knew it would be the last night of really good sleep I’d get for a while. I called the hospital to make sure they had a room available, and we got the last room! We got to the hospital at 7:30 in the morning. The nurses were all really friendly and had just come on duty and made it their mission for me to be comfortable and have everything go according to plan (or as close as it could). I got settled into my gown and got in the bed. They did an internal (worst thing in the world) and turned out I was already in labor and was having contractions, which I couldn’t feel. They said we would have been at the hospital regardless of whether I had gotten induced or not, so that was comforting.

Most of the day we just hung out and waited for things to happen. I tried to rest as much as I could and we watched tv and I read. Robin dozed. I got an epidural, which was no big deal. Even though I had been having huge contractions before that, I wasn’t feeling anything. We continued to wait. At 5:00, we heard screaming. The nurses in the hall were yelling for an epidural. We heard a lot of running and Robin peeked his head out—they were heading next door! We then heard screaming for about 5 straight minutes. We were joking that the woman should have gotten an epidural sooner so she wouldn’t disturb everyone. A while later a nurse came in to check on me and we asked what happened. Apparently the woman had gone to another hospital for an induction but was sent home because it FAILED. What? She was then on her way home when she realized that no, it actually hadn’t failed, and she was in full labor, so she stopped by the hospital. That’s how Peaches K. (Yes, that was her name, according to the white erase board outside her door.) had her baby within 5 minutes of arriving at the hospital. I still feel bad for her.

Around 5:45, I got really nauseated and actually threw up all over my gown and bed because it came on so suddenly. The nurses were thrilled and said that meant I was close to having Z! My doctor came in and did another internal and said “Well I’ll be damned; you’re dilated to 10 centimeters!” The whole crew came in and at 6:20 I started pushing. It progressed slowly and is really hard…even though you’ve never done it before;instinctively you know how to do it. At 6:55 my doctor came back in and could see I was getting really tired. He asked if I wanted to use the vacuum and I agreed. At 7:03, Z was born! She was gorgeous and was looking around and got mad when they cleaned her up. R cut the cord and took photos while they weighed and measured her: 18.5 inches, 7.4 pounds, and she scored 9/9 on both Apgar tests. After I got cleaned up, we snuggled for a bit and took our first family photo. My mom came and held Z before they took her to the nursery for her hearing test and the other things they do with babies after they’re born. The nurse ordered my dinner: hot dog, chips, andjello. I took a shower. The nurse brought Z back and we all settled in…then we couldn’t figure out the swaddle. We called the nurse and she showed us. Even though I was exhausted, I couldn’t fall asleep. Z was whistling and making a lot of loud newborn noises and I was paranoid about watching her. R suggested Z spend the night in the nursery with the other babies so we could get some rest. Z was born one day before her due date. She’s a very punctual girl and likes to keep to her schedule.

The day after Z was born, my grandparents, mom and aunt came to visit. Z smiled for the first time. And no, it wasn’t a fake smile—she’s been smiling ever since. We got to go home the next morning. Getting Z dressed in her going home outfit was so scary. She was so tiny and I thought we’d break her. She didn’t even fit in her car seat. When we got home, we quickly fell into a routine, most of which included resting and watching the Olympics. My birth experience was very positive. I’m thankful I was not Peaches K. that hot day in July.

 Smiling the day she was born

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pregnancy Story

In honor of our dear, sweet Z's first birthday, I decided to write about my pregnancy, her birth story, and our first year as parents.


I started feeling really weird a couple of weeks into November 2012. I knew something wasn’t right because all of a sudden I was exhausted all the time, to the point where I’d fall asleep almost anywhere. It was a huge feat to move from the couch to our bed in our tiny apartment. That’s just not normal for me. I was getting my hair cut a week before Thanksgiving when my hairdresser took one look at my hair and said “Are you pregnant?” Your hair looks different.” I had chalked my exhaustion and crankiness up to stress from work, applying to grad school, immigration stuff and our impending French wedding reception, but when she said that, everything immediately clicked. I fervently denied being pregnant and promised I’d start deep conditioning my hair on a regular basis. I looked at my calendar that night and decided that I’d take a pregnancy test the next week.

I woke up the morning of November 23, 2011, the day before Thanksgiving, and took the test. It was positive. We were surprised, scared and excited. I went to work and could hardly concentrate on anything. Just to make sure, I tested again every day, multiple times a day, for the next 3 days. All tests were positive. I looked over my planner, which I’m meticulous about keeping, and calculated my due date to be Wednesday, July 25.

At our first doctor’s appointment a week later, the doctor confirmed a very strong, healthy heartbeat. He set up my next appointment for after the New Year and said we’d do an ultrasound at 12 weeks because the risk of miscarriage was significantly decreased at that point. We decided to not tell anyone until after the first trimester in case anything happened. Man, that was tough. I had started having all-day sickness and throwing up in the morning and at nighttime. I was sure my family knew something was going on since I was no longer drinking and was throwing up anytime we ate chicken. R ended up caving and telling his parents before we went to France, because, as he pointed out, they would know as soon as I wasn’t drinking wine. I somehow managed the trip to France and back, being surrounded by my family and best friends, throwing up a lot, being worried about a miscarriage, without anyone catching on. Whew.

We went to the doctor for the 12 week appointment and saw Z for the first time. The doctor confirmed only a single baby (thank you!) who had a great heartbeat and a large head…it was measuring 3 weeks ahead of schedule because of her big bilingual genius brain (that's what we decided). We got photos of the ultrasound, which we immediately fawned over and printed duplicates at Walgreens. For my parents’ anniversary on January 11, we gave them an ultrasound photo. My mom thought it was a picture of the glacier we had visited in France. My dad immediately knew what it was. They were thrilled! Next came my sister H, who was really excited to become an aunt. We then told our grandparents, friends, and extended family members.

We were researching daycares and put our names on the waiting list on February 10. The waiting list is usually a year long, so it was smart we put our names on when we did. The following week, February 17, we had our 17 week ultrasound and learned we were having a Z! This date was monumental for two reasons: we found out we were having a daughter, and it was the last time I threw up (until delivery day that is. Stay tuned). Hooray. We went to Babies R Us and bought a bunch of baby girl things after our appointment.

The pregnancy progressed great. Z was growing well. I felt her earlier than is normal, about 18 weeks. She was a mover and shaker from Day 1 and was/is always on the go. I had a bout of bronchitis that required some medicine but besides that everything progressed smoothly. I started keeping a list of my cravings: pumpkin seeds, turkey bacon, Bread Co. everything bagels and cream cheese, lattes, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (I could eat a bag every day), Rich and Charlie’s salad, and fruit; and my aversions: anything involving chicken, especially creamy chicken. 

At the end of April we bought our first home, and we moved in on May 5. The following Saturday, May 12, I was feeling weird. Really tired and crampy. I was exhausted from the move and unpacking everything, and we had had a lot of really hot days. I went to the bathroom and noticed a little blood. I tried not to freak out—I still had 2 ½ months until my due date—and called Robin. He and my dad were setting up for a family barbeque because my uncle was in town, so my mom took me to the ER. I figured I had a UTI and would get some antibiotics and go home. Uh, nope. I ended up spending the night in the hospital. Luckily the placenta was intact and there weren’t any tears. The doctors didn’t know what had caused the bleeding, but Z was her usual moving self and seemed great. I had been having contractions but wasn’t feeling them, which was good. After spending the night in the hospital and being released on my very first Mother’s Day, I stayed home for a week to sleep and take it easy.

Our birth class started in late June. We were the farthest along because the other couples weren’t due until late August, September, and even October. I was glad we registered late so that everything we learned was fresh in our minds. The class was pretty uneventful. We learned about the process of childbirth, watched some terrible videos from the ‘80s, and learned relaxation techniques. Our classmates were really interesting…there was one couple in particular we felt sorry for, because we were certain the baby was going to have a tough life: the mom, who was in her early twenties, was addicted to meth. They only came to one class and then we never saw them again. There was another couple that made class really interesting too. The woman, again in her late teens/early twenties, seemed like she didn’t really even want a kid, and her husband said as much. He was gung ho about everything. During the birth video, his wife sobbed because she was so scared. Everyone just sat and looked at her. Her husband didn’t even try to comfort her. I wonder how their kid is doing?

The rest of the pregnancy went great. I started to really show in mid-May, but I was still tiny. At my 39-week checkup on July 16, my blood pressure was sky high. My doctor ordered me to go to the ER to make sure it wasn’t pregnancy-induced hypertension. We hung out at the hospital for a couple of hours and everything went back to normal, so we were able to go home. At this point, it was mid-July, over 110 degrees every day (the hottest summer on record in St. Louis, AWESOME when you’re pregnant.) and I was so tired of being pregnant. We had everything ready: the nursery, clothes were washed, diaper bag packed, car seat installed…all we needed was our Z to arrive. I had my 40-week checkup on Monday, July 23, and once again my blood pressure was high—it was 150/100, which is very high for a pregnant woman. I didn’t have any of the telltale signs of preeclampsia, which include protein in the urine and swollen hands, feet, and face, but my doctor was still worried. He decided to put me on blood pressure medicine and I’d have to come in twice a day for the rest of the pregnancy to get my blood pressure checked out. He then looked at my chart and said “Unless you’d rather get induced? Tomorrow works for me if you’re free.” I immediately agreed and went home to tell Robin that we’d be going to the hospital tomorrow to have our baby.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

DIY Kitchen Makeover

We've been talking about giving our kitchen a facelift for ages. I think it's a direct result of watching too much HGTV and seeing fixer-uppers and DIY home renovations. We researched the price of new cabinets and were astounded at how expensive they were--over $5,000! We decided a paint job was a better idea. After talking about statting the project for a while, we finally set a date where we'd be able to paint the cabinets and put in some new cabinet pulls. We got all of our supplies, which totaled $180 dollars. The process was incredibly lengthy but it turned out great!

Buy Your Materials

1. Choose your paint. We chose Behr White Truffle because it went well with our granite counter tops.

2. Find cabinet pulls that you like.

3. Buy your primer. We used 1-2-3 Primer because you don't have to sand the surface before you paint. It eliminated a lot of work and went on very smoothly.

4. Get a box of trisodium phosphate to thoroughly clean your cabinets before you prime. It gets rid of grease and dirt and makes the cabinets pristine. 

5. Buy your other supplies: bucket, brushes, plastic drop cloth, cloths to use the TSP with, plastic gloves, face masks, sawhorses, and anything else you'll need. R owns a paint spray gun thing so he used that, which worked AMAZINGLY. It really made the paint adhere to the surface of the wood a lot better than had we painted with a brush. Also, the coverage was smoother and the paint dried a lot faster. 


1. Clean your cabinets out. While this was a pain to do, it was also nice to see what we had crammed in our cabinets. I found coffee that expired in 2011. 

2. Take off the cabinet doors, and mark their location so you put them back correctly later. Remove drawers.

3. Clean all wood with a mixture of 1/2 cup TSP and 2 gallons of warm water. Be sure to use gloves, because TSP can really irritate your skin. Rinse the TSP residue from the cabinets by using a damp, warm cloth.

4. Apply primer and allow to dry. 1-2-3 Primer has a dry time of 1 hour between coats.

5. Apply paint. Allow to dry 2 hours between coats, if necessary. We only used one coat. 

6. Put cabinet pulls on.

7. Attach cabinet doors and return the drawers to their sockets.

Notes: Read the paint label, but with Behr, you can't wipe down the paint for 4 weeks because it takes that long to cure. After all of your hard work, make sure you avoid ruining the finish. 

Behr paint is about $33 at the Home Depot

Choose cabinet pulls, if you don't already have them






We still need to add the new toe kick and find a plug cover for that outlet near the ceiling.

Our next project is to add backsplash and new lighting. We would also like to get a new stainless steel stove and clear up our limited counter space by putting the microwave above the stove. All of this will take months, but it's fun to think about, plan, and take time to find the materials we want.