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Monday, November 11, 2019

Currently, November Edition

Here's what happening around here, currently


It's a total cliche, but man if it isn't true: I blinked, and it's the holidays already. Thanksgiving is perhaps my absolute favorite: memories were made over Halloween but there's still Christmas to look forward to. Stuffing/dressing (do you know the difference? It's in how it's cooked - stuffing is actually placed inside the turkey to bake while dressing is in it's own pan. The more you know, right?!) with gravy is probably one of my favorite foods, and I love getting up Thanksgiving morning to start cooking and to watch the parade (from the warmth of my home) with my kids. They're at the age where the balloons are fascinating and "super cool" to them, and I'll soak up these precious years while I can. Outside of the holidays, here's what's going on around here currently:

Otto is OBSESSED with Frozen, and I AM HERE FOR IT.
Y'all this kid. He loooooooves Elsa. I don't understand where the current obsession came from, because we've had and watched the movie for years. We did bring it in the car for our trip to Galveston last August... But even more recently than that, this kid is all about that Frozen life. I already got us tickets to see Frozen II with a friend and her two boys. And yes, Otto will probably be dressed up as Elsa. I told my friend to bring bail money, because if I hear anyone say something about how a little boy is dressed up as a princess, I'm losing it on them. All that mess aside, it's so fun to see his eyes light up when the music comes on and how much he loves it. I'm not that big a fan myself, but this movie theater has great food (popcorn with REAL butter), wine and overstuffed reclining seats so hey - even the most annoying of children's movies is a fun time.

My princess loving little boy Otto

Henry is a full fledged little boy.
We got his school pics and it was the first time I really noticed that he's no longer a toddler - he's a kid! He's in boy size 7 or 8 now. He has opinions. He just went on his first field trip with school where he rode an actual school bus. I know that doesn't seem like a big deal to most parents, but our bus system in Dallas is... Unsafe. Nearly every week there's a crash, it's not unusual for it to be fatal, and the drivers, of SCHOOL BUSES, are so bad at running red lights, they installed cameras on the buses to track driving performance. Needless to say, I was excited for his field trip but terrified that he'd be on a bus. All went well and I, not he, climbed that first mountain. He's lost all his baby chub and is for sure a big (little) boy now.

Photo of a photo so the quality is awful but look at this man child I have! And that forced smile, haha! Oh, school photos

Convinced I'll get my act together for Christmas early this year.
I'm that woman who's a last minute shopper. In fact, I normally don't even do any shopping for the kids - I leave that to my husband. Now we all know that I'm not a big shopper in general, but you'd think since I love the holiday so much, I'd be all about it, right? NO. I can't stand holiday shopping. Ughhhh, finding a parking spot during December is the worst. But! I'm going to try to get all my shopping done this month so I don't even need to worry about parking spots. Here's to hoping I can get it done... What are y'all getting your spouses? He's the hardest one to shop for!

Looking forward to 2020.
Here's a weird trend I've noticed about my life: odd years are always harder or more stressful than even years. Almost without fail, this holds true! I spent the first part of 2015 deep in postpartum depression with Henry. Then in 2016 I had Otto (well, he came Christmas of 2015) and adjusting to two babies was so much easier than I thought. I didn't have PPD with him. We hired a nanny, who still works for us, and this blog started to make good money. 2017 was one of the most challenging years I've had as an adult. Perhaps I'll open up about it in a blog post soon... But man, that was a hard one. Then I got pregnant with twins in early 2018 and it was an easy, complication free pregnancy. 2019 was all about survival mode with two infants and two toddlers and a husband who travels extensively for work. As we head into 2020, all my kids sleep from 7pm to 7am (a MIRACLE), Henry is now an actual kid and no longer a toddler, the twins will start walking and I only need to cook one dinner as everyone can eat table food. So right off the bat, it's set up better than 2019! I'm looking forward to having more energy, more sleep, and older kids who are more independent which translates to more time to pursue personal interests - which, of course, will result in fun blog posts. Bring on an even year!


Switched up my veggie garden for fall.
There's still herbs (sage and rosemary, great for the Thanksgiving meal I'll be preparing soon) growing, and I recently planted carrots that are sprouting, but on a whim, I decided to try my hand at sunflowers in my raised garden bed. It was a success! They're taller than I am now and we constantly have fresh sunflowers on our dining room table. The kids are fascinated with them. I planted a color mix, so some are yellow, some are red and a few are white. It's been a nice change, and it's great to have flowers deep into the fall. 

That's what's going on around here currently! In addition to all that above, I'm looking forward to taking a two week break from blogging around Christmas and New Years. I may even take a social media break too, it's hard to say! There's nothing better than a little reset with time away from the internet to help generate new ideas and get motivated to jump into 2020 with strong content. Holiday season 2019, here. we. come!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

A Healthier Take On Kid-Approved Favorite Meals

Sure, mac n'cheese, hot dogs and chicken tenders always go over well with toddlers and kids; here's a healthier take on a classic kid-approved meal to better serve your family


This post is sponsored by CAULIPOWER but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

While I love to cook healthy things like homemade minestrone soup and tons of variations on quinoa salads, here's the truth: I'm just like you. I'm a mom of four kids. And while the twins are still in the stage where they'll eat whatever is placed in front of them, my older two boys won't. Despite breastfeeding each of them and attempting to incorporate tons of veggies and legumes early on, I still have toddlers/young kids. And that means they love classic, comforting "kid" approved food, like mac n'cheese, hot dogs and chicken tenders. Chicken tenders is one of their all time favorites - everyone, twins included, LOVE them! I've discovered a few ways to make their meal a tad healthier for them. Here's what I've found to have a healthier take on kid-approved, favorite meals.

Let's talk about Otto's face for a min here... He couldn't be bothered with a photo, he was too busy eating!
For ages, I couldn't get Henry to eat any meat. When he was about 4, he'd at least try a chicken nugget, and by four and a half, he was requesting them for supper. Which is great! Except I felt guilty feeding him highly processed, "junk" filled protein. There were so many fat grams and so much sodium in conventional chicken tenders I wondered if there was any real protein in them!


Enter CAULIPOWER chicken tenders. They've got 86% less fat when baked than any other chicken tender on the market. They also have a reasonable calorie content - only 460 calories for the entire bag of chicken tenders. The secret is in their gluten free crust, made with cauliflower and other gluten free ingredients. And the chicken? It's all natural from cage free chickens that have never seen an antibiotic. Wanna give them a try yourself? Click here for a $2 off coupon! CAULIPOWER chicken tenders are available at most major retailers.


But do kids actually like a healthier chicken tender? I'll let these photos speak for themselves. I'd say there were a great crowd pleaser, from my one year old twins all the way to my five and a half year old kindergartner.

Knox ate the most of anyone! Kid ate four chicken tenders. Hes 12 months old. WHAT?
Even fruit loving Teddy loved them!
If you've got kids with discerning palettes, aka a good old fashioned picky eater aka every child on the face of the planet, you've got to pick your battles. Sure, sometimes it's worth the struggle to get them to try new foods. Sometimes, you've got to pick those battles and help your children experience new foods and textures. But sometimes, you've got to please your children. Sometimes, it's worth it to give them what they want. The great thing is, with CAUIPOWER chicken tenders, you don't have to sacrifice quality for great taste that your kids will love. I call that a win-win.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Weaning A Breastfed Baby

Finally, I made my breastfeeding goal of nursing my twins exclusively for a full year! Here's how I'm weaning them slowly and at a pace that works for them and ME


I can't believe it. I made it! I made my goal. Four kids later, I actually made it a full year exclusively breastfeeding... and twins, no less! Many women have asked me how I did it, what tips I have, and the most recent topic of conversation in all my mom groups, how the heck to we wean babies - perhaps not even entirely, but night weaning or having them nurse so that it's secondary nutrition and the bulk of their calories come from table food. I've done this four times now, all to various levels of success and at different times in the child's life. Here's how I'm gently weaning my breastfed babies, along with how I made it breastfeeding twins and a few tips on transitioning to solids.

I'm going to write this post backwards, since the title is about weaning. Weaning and transitioning to solids are intertwined to me. When you do one, the other naturally follows. Sometimes your child is a picky eater so introducing solids can be additionally more challenging, but usually they're one closely tied together.
 
Right at the start of our breastfeeding journey - I can't believe we're going on 13 months!

Weaning a breastfed baby
The biggest thing in weaning a baby is to do it slowly so that you don't get mastitis. As we introduced solids to the twins, they naturally became more interested in eating and less interested in nursing constantly. From birth to about five months, we nursed every 2-3 hours, usually around the clock. Then starting at 6 months, we introduced purees to let them "taste" food. Now some people are Baby Led Weaning nuts who will never do a puree. I'm not a fan of immediately giving them the food that we're eating because they literally don't know what to do with a solid in their mouth! I like to do a few months of purees so that they can taste new foods and learn how to swallow food that is a different consistency than breast milk without the choking hazard. As soon as they show signs of having that under control, we give them small amounts of the cooked (and therefore soft) food that we're eating in addition to some purees, and slowly wean off the purees until they just have what we're eating. It's almost like a hybrid baby led weaning model that's not as risky (to me) as a full BLW.

As you start to introduce solids, nursing session number and duration both start to decrease. When you're just starting out, you'll want to make sure to breast feed your child first, then offer solids. If your kids are like mine, they'll slowly transition to wanting to eat first, then feed. And then after a few months of that, they'll not even want to nurse after eating. For us, we introduced solids at 6 months and kept the normal nursing schedule. Then by 9 months they were eating solids first, then nursing. And by 11 months, they only nursed 4-5 times a day, and had regular table meals with their older brothers. So weaning down to just a handful of nursing sessions a day was nearly a 6 month process. Also, at the 11 month mark, we started to mix the one bottle they'd get a day with the milk we planned on using with them (we like whole milk - nobody has any dairy allergies and the fat and calories are best for brain development and how naturally thin my kids are). This way they got used to the taste of the bottles they'd get after the 12 month mark. 

Don't worry, just because they love table food and like whole milk doesn't mean we're done nursing! The World Health Organization recommends nursing until 2. I'm not sure if we'll make it that far, but I'd like to. Regardless, it's such a relief to have the twins on table food - almost like the pressure is off me, finally. Now that the twins are a full 12 months old, they get three meals and two snacks a day, one bottle (4oz) of whole milk and nurse first thing in the morning, once in the afternoon, and nurse to sleep. I no longer need or have to pump, and it's great!

Tips for introducing solids
Most peds are now fully on board with waiting until the 6 month mark to introduce any solids to babies. Some peds still give the ok at 4 months, but most studies show that's premature, and the tummy can't take it yet. That said, every baby is different! My first child barely showed any interest in food until 9-10 months, Otto was self feeding at 6 months, and the twins started right away at 6 months too. They only took a month or purees and then outright refused to eat anything their brothers weren't eating, whereas Henry (my first child) would have been happily fed by me until he was 18 months old! I really think it helped my younger children to have an older sibling to watch, and to want what he had. 

Once you get the ok from your ped, like I said, I'm a fan of purees for a little bit, until your child can figure out swallowing something thicker than breast milk or formula. I know a few die-hard breastfeeding friends who didn't introduce solids until 9 months to even a full year, and they had the HARDEST time getting their child to eat! I feel like there's a window of opportunity. You've got to start introducing food early enough before they'll refuse new flavors and textures, but not so soon their tummies can't take it.

Teddy loves breakfast! Eggs, toast and water

Even if your child won't eat whatever that solid is (puree, veggie, meat, whatever) KEEP TRYING. You'd be surprised how often kids change their minds. What was their favorite food one day is the worst thing that ever happened to them the next. Just because your baby won't eat carrots one day doesn't mean that he won't eat them two days later. Just because the spaghetti went down well one day doesn't mean she won't refuse it tomorrow. Just keep offering a wide range of foods. Once your child is on table food (no more purees), offer him or her whatever you're making for supper. No special meals. That means if you're making fish and veggies for dinner, that's what's offered to baby, too. In my experience, kids are a lot more likely to eat the food that they see other people eating. So if you fix a special meal for baby, they're not as likely to eat it because YOU aren't. But if you have family meals and everyone is eating it, they get their cues from you and other family members, and they're much more likely to follow suit.

A final note on encouraging kids to eat "real" food: we have the three bite rule in our home. If I've made something new and my kids don't like it, they have to have three bites. If they have three bites, they can have their bedtime snack and milk (there is NO ALTERNATIVE MEAL option). If they don't eat three bites, they're out of luck and don't even get a bedtime snack. They have to wait until the following day to eat. This rule nearly always results in my kids trying new foods, and most times, by the third bite, they decide they like it and eat it. I cannot tell you enough to never offer your child meal options if you want to break them of a picky eating habit.

Tandem feeding in the hospital after the twins were born

Night weaning
This isn't going to go over well with a lot of people but here it is: if you want to night wean your child, it really helps to stop sleeping in the same room. They can smell your milk. Everyone's sleep cycles are massively disrupted. We put the twins in their own room with their own cribs at 2 months because nobody was getting any sleep with them in our room. By 6 months, they were down to one night feed a night, which I found manageable. By 9-10 months, they slept consistently through the night - for me, that's a straight 12 hours, or longer. I think the technical definition of "sleeping through the night" is an 8-10 hour stretch, but to me that's garbage. If they go to bed at 7pm and wake up at 3am, I didn't sleep through the night, so - that's not how I define it. I need a solid 12 hour stretch for me to consider the baby sleeping through the night.

The other trick to night weaning is slowly cutting down the nursing session length each time. Then start cutting down the actual number of nursing sessions. You'll want to get your pedi's ok on this, but most babies are totally fine to not take in any nourishment for 12 hours at night starting at 6 months. Again, ask your doctor what's best for your baby. But when you get that ok, and you want to actually sleep, start timing nursing sessions. Cut a minute off each one, until you can start totally cutting some out (if they wake up crying, pat them on the back, offer a pacifier, etc)