Jambalaya

We all have our own comfort food.  Whether its mash potatoes, pasta, or fast food, sometimes you just need a meal to make our day a little better.  Jambalaya is ours.

The past week was challenging for our family.  Max has hydronephrosis.  He was diagnosed in the womb.  At our 20 week ultrasound, the technician uttered a phrase you don’t want to hear–“abnormal scan.” Ar this time, the hydronephrosis was present in both of his kidneys,  Of course, we had never heard of hydronephrosis.  Basically, it meant that Max’s kidneys weren’t developing properly.  We were told that 50% of the time, this type of hydronephrosis resolves itself.  So a second ultrasound was scheduled for my 28 weeks of pregnancy.

At our second ultrasound, there was good and bad news.  Max’s right kidney had resolved itself. It was developing just fine.  But his left kidney hadn’t.  It was twice the size of the right. It didn’t appear to be working at all.  So we went to a specialist. We were told that once Max was a month old, Max would go back for testing to determine the severity of the issue and how to resolve it.  If the left kidney was partially working, then it would be worth saving.  Otherwise, we would assess whether it would make sense to remove the kidney altogether.  For the rest of my pregnancy, there was nothing more to do.  Just wait for Max show to up.

Then right on time, our Maxwell was born, happy and wide eyed. We made the one month appointment for Max’s kidney.

Just a couple hours old.

And then last week, the one month appointment arrived. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the news we were hoping for. Max’s left kidney hasn’t improved.  It is twice the size of what it should be and does not appear to work.  Because of this, the doctor recommends surgery to remove the kidney when Max is 5 or 6 months old.   The idea of my baby being put under anesthesia makes my heart ache.  I can’t imagine handing my baby to a doctor for surgery.  It just hurts.  So when we came home from the appointment, our family needed some comfort food.  We needed to eat this jambalaya.

This recipe for jambalaya is quick and easy.  There is low prep work.  Just dice a couple of veggies, toss them in a pan, and let it simmer.  You can alter the recipe so it can be as spicy or mild as you’d like.  So when your heart is aching, you can eat a home cooked meal without too much complication.  Plus, the assortment of vegetables makes the meal relatively healthy.

So after Max’s kidney appointment we ate this jambalaya as a family.  And while it didn’t make the fact that Max has hydrondphrosis go away, it made us all feel a little bit better, even if it was just for the night.

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How we made it through the first months with a newborn.

The post could be summed up by saying, “Everyone has their own preferences. All babies are different.  This whole child rearing thing is just a whole trial and error game. And this is what worked for us.”

Aden + Anais Blankets: It is no secret that I am am a blanket addict.  We own no less than 20 blankets (mostly the silky soft muslin variety), which sounds ridiculous given these blankets can be quite pricey.  But I was able to find them at TJ Maxx/HomeGoods/Marshalls for around half the price and we got several sets as gifts, so I didn’t end up spending a small fortune on blankets (but God knows I would).

But regardless of the price, these blankets are worth it–they are easily our most used item. We use them for everything–cuddles, burp rag, cleaning up spit up, swaddling (well, we didn’t swaddle but we “mermaid-ed” him with them).  And JR is definitely a blanket baby.  He walks around with a blanket constantly and he uses it to comfort himself whenever he is upset (new use: bunching it up and biting it as a way to relieve teething pain).  Cannot imagine having a baby without these blankets.

blankets

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buying more blankets cuz I have no willpower.

Boppy Lounger: The essential ingredient for a table baby. Matt and I would place the boppy on the table and drop JR in it while we ate dinner. Gosh, dinner time was so much simpler back then (now JR tries to escape from his high chair and tosses his food on the floor to Pancake).  That boppy followed us to room to room.  It was the perfect place to stash a baby when you have to pee and you don’t want to put him on the bathroom floor. Or when you are cooking a meal.  And it is far easier to move a boppy than an entire swing.

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fashion by daddy.
fashion by daddy.

Gummy Bear Red NightLight: JR was not the best sleeper for the first 10 months of his life, and he was a total piglet when it came to breastfeeding.  I cannot remember one night over my maternity leave where we didn’t spend the majority of the night nursing. In the beginning, we relied on the hall light so I could see in the middle of the night.  But it was too bright, and it was hard to fall back asleep (and when you only have 20-30 minutes to get some sleep before the baby wants to nurse again, you wanna fall asleep as fast as possible). This light was the perfect solution.  It stays on for an hour, is red light (which apparently is the light you want in the middle of the night) and doubles as a toy for the baby. Plus, no need to buy the charger (which comes separately) because your charger from your breast pump works with it.

mamaRoo Swing: This swing is certainly in vogue.  It seems like everyone has one.  And apparently we also drank the Kool-Aid because we loved ours.  The swing has 5 different swing settings, which is great because if JR wasn’t going for one type of swing, we could switch it up and try another.  It also has four different white noise sounds which helped encourage JR to nap somewhere that wasn’t on me.

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Bassinet: Ok, I did design our bassinet myself (as in, I found a picture on Pinterest that I loved and told Matt, make this) but I cannot imagine how we would have survived the first couple of months without a bassinet. Having JR sleeping next to me was a huge comfort.  I would weave my hand through the bars, rest it on JR’s chest, know that he was breathing, and be able to get some decent sleep.

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So yeah, these items made navigating the first couple months of parenthood so much easier. Sure, our changing table, diapers, and wipes were pretty important but hey, those aren’t as glamorous and fun 😉

Hopefully, this baby registry must have is helpful.  Of course, this is just what worked for us.  We aren’t baby experts (yet) so this list certainly isn’t gospel.  And feel free to let me know what baby must haves I missed 🙂

xo.

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We made a baby boy.

And I am completely obsessed with him.

Christmas 2016
Christmas 2016

In late 2014, we got a huge surprise–I was pregnant.  We weren’t exactly trying to get pregnant, but we also weren’t trying not to, just playing our own version of Russian roulette which turned out to be successful a bit faster than we anticipated.  Of course, Matt was over the moon.  He had wanted to be a baby daddy since forever and the news that it finally was a reality was the perfect news.  I was a little scared of the unknown but excited to have a baby to kiss and cuddle with.

Lucky for me, I had a generally easy pregnancy.  I slowly got fatter and fatter around my belly, but no morning sickness, no food aversion, no cravings.  Instead, my feet swelled.  By 7 months, my shoes no longer could fit and when I wore high-heels for work, I looked like Miss Piggie.  Nothing like fat feet to make your whole body look unbelievably more large and prego.  Even though my swollen feet looked painful, typically they weren’t too uncomfortable, beyond feeling tight. Plus, Matt massaged them every night 😉

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8 months pregnant.
You can’t tell, but my shoe strings are straining from my fat fat feet!

We decided not to find out the sex of the baby until Toastie (our womb name for JR) was born.  For us, it was a no brainer.  The sex of your baby is one of the most genuine surprises in your life, and we didn’t want to ruin the surprise until Toastie was ready to fall out.  The anticipation of finding out what Toastie was wasn’t too difficult….until Toastie decided to be late.  12 days late (with labor starting at 11 days late). Those days were easily the hardest part of my pregnancy.

The due date was July 12th.  Sure, it is common knowledge that calculating due dates is not an exact science.  And I am certain I said that catch phrase over and over again once the calendar said July 1st (mostly to my boss, who was starting to come to terms with the reality that I would be out of the office for two months).  Still, when July 12th came and went, we were disappointed.  Every day after July 12th, I would wake up a bit disheartened that I was getting ready for work instead of getting ready for labor.  (for some reason, I was convinced that I would go into labor in the middle of the night–I didn’t).

8 days late stress test
8 days late stress test

We tried everything to induce labor. Sex, walking, running, spicy food, acupuncture (three times).  Nothing worked (we didn’t try the castor oil–I just couldn’t bring myself to risk it).  Every day I would run 2 miles.  But this baby was stubborn. He had his own agenda.  But then it was Thursday, July 23rd.

I woke up on Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 6:00 a.m. and it felt like I had peed myself.  I was quite certain it was my water breaking, but the entire area wasn’t saturated, so I started to doubt myself and wondered if maybe I just sweated an ungodly amount over the night (pregnancy can be gross).

Sure, this baby was already 11 days past the due date.  But after 11 days, and thinking everything was “a sign that labor was around the corner” and then feeling disappointed when I was still pregnant, I was starting to feel like I was going to die pregnant. Plus, weren’t contractions suppose to come with my water breaking? I felt just like I had every other day of pregnancy—completely fine. I needed a second opinion.

I woke Matt up and told him what happened.  He smiled, “we are going to have a baby today!” And he was right (ok, well he was born on the 24th but close enough).  After only 5 and half hours of labor,  I caught my baby as he floated up from the water towards me like a torpedo.  We are so blessed.  I had the birthing experience I wanted–a non-medicated, water birth–and a beautiful, healthy baby boy.

first family photo taken 5 hours after JR was born.

Since we gave birth at a birth center, we were discharged 5 hours after JR was born.  I know, this sounds shocking to most people (and even I was hesitant about it) but it was natural and organic.

Dressed and ready to go home
Dressed and ready to go home

Matthew Anthony Jr. (who we lovingly call JR) was born July 24, 2015 at 2:43 a.m. at 7 lbs 6 oz and 20 inches.  And our life has become better for it.

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And then two and a half years later…

Wow, its been over two years since I last posted.  To be honest, my sabbatical from blogging was unintentional.  It started with my laptop breaking.  Not sure what happened, but it no longer turned on.  Matt said it would cost too much to fix it so it sat in the tv stand for the past couple of years, collecting dust while I was essentially computer-less. And then I forgot the password to sign into my blog account.  So my attempts to sign into my blog on Matt’s desktop was unsuccessful.  But then on December, 2015 (two years from my last post!), my work gave me a glorious, gold MacBook.  It took way too many guesses, but I finally cracked my password (but to be honest, I have once again forgotten it-thank God it is saved to my new computer). Remembering how to navigate wordpress…still not up to par yet.  Ugh, technology is hard.

Gosh, my life has completely transformed.  Most notably, I became a mom.

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JR // 6 weeks old

And I would post more, but for some reason, pictures won’t upload into wordpress.  Seriously, wordpress is anything but user-friendly. After fighting with it for over an hour, I’m throwing my hands up. You win, wordpress.  I’ll be back to struggle with you tomorrow.

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Get on your running shoes–It’s May Day!

May Day.  My favorite holiday of the year.  To me, it’s been a holiday of making homemade May baskets that you fill with candy, flowers, and little trinkets.  The basket is placed on the doorknob of your friend’s house.  You ring the doorbell, and then run as fast as you can back to your house.  If your friend catches you before you make it home, he/she gets to kiss you.  If a holiday celebrates artsy-craftsy gift giving and kisses, I’m in.  When ding-dong ditch is incorporated, even better.

Most kids outgrow these little holidays.  People stop making boxes to stuff Valentine’s in; stop leaving their shoes out for St. Nick, and stop making May baskets.  [Although St. Patrick’s Day never gets left behind–it only gets more fun.]  But I never stopped.  With Peter Pan on my side, I will give out little Valentine’s cards, leave my shoes out for St. Nick, and make May baskets til I die (maybe even longer.  Heaven seems pro-holiday).  And at 26, this year is no different.

My two best friends have always been my targets on May Day.  And Nicky has always taken her role in May Day seriously.  She is determined to catch me.  Lucky for me, our houses are only a couple backyards away from each other so I don’t have too far to run.   But, running through other people’s backyards has not always gone well for me.  In 5th grade, as I ran for my life from Nicky, I ran straight into a dumpster and fell flat on my back.  Things did not fair too well for Nicky either.  As I knocked myself unconscious, a neighbor boy threw a rock at Nicky’s head.  Not sure who “won” May Day that year.  Things were always less dangerous with Hollie.  She lived a half mile away so I would always bike to her house.  Pretty hard to catch someone on her bike.  Still, Hollie isn’t one to give up easily, and she’d try to catch up.  Mind you, that wasn’t too much of a challenge when we lived together in college, sharing a dorm room.  It’s not easy trying to run up a dresser to hide in a lofted bed.

Nicky and me at Hollie’s wedding. [note the creepier in the background. yep. married that one]

Hollie and me on my wedding.

This year I’m hoping for a dumpster and loft free May Day.  Since I don’t live in the same town as Nicky or Hollie anymore, I’ve had to result to mailing their May Day baskets.  Much less satisfying than ding-dong ditch, but who doesn’t love mail?!

So, how do you make this May basket?

First, you need a basket.  You can really use anything.  This year I went with plant pots (from Target), but you could use a cleaned out milk carton (my Mom’s favorite); a cute purse; a vase, mug, a red solo cup. You get the idea.  Then you decorate it.  Let your creativity flow.  I’ve always been a fan of paint so this year I used glitter fabric pant to write “Happy May Day” around the pot and placed scrapbook flower stickers around the middle.

Second, what goes in the basket?  Anything! This year I stuck with the classics.  I made pipe cleaner flowers and curled ribbon that I placed along side the baskets.  Tossing in some fruit snacks, a bouncy ball, and Burt’s Bees, the May Day baskets were complete!

And you got yourself a May Day Basket.  Ready to be delivered! I just have to get on my running shoes first.

 

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The Mother of All Bloody Marys–A Del’s Bloody

This is the Helen of Troy of Bloody Marys.

The holy grail of bloodies.  The Bloody Mary that I compare all other bloodies to.  This Bloody Mary is from the La Crosse bar Del’s.  I have searched in vain for a comparable bloody in the Twin Cities.  And there is no substitute.  Made with classic tomato juice, a heavy pour of vodka, and spiked with couple shakes from a pepper shaker mixture of 23 spices, it’s smooth and gritty at the same time.  And Del’s does not skimp on the toppings.  Dressed with a large dill pickle, an olive, a pickled brussel sprout, and huge chunk of pepper jack cheese along with any beer on tap (go for the Pearl Street Downtown Brown-another La Crosse classic), this Bloody Mary really is a meal in a glass.

Del’s easily wins as my favorite bar in La Crosse, and whenever I am in town, the visit isn’t complete without a trip for a Del’s bloody.  Still, I miss my Tuesday afternoons spent sipping bloodies and pbrs with Leslie. Gah. Growing up is tough!

And if it is not obvious enough already–Del’s wins 5 out of 5 stars.  Maybe 6.

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Chatterbox Bloody Mary

Today I continued my search for the best Bloody Mary in the Twin cities.  We went to Chatterbox for brunch–it’s a fun restaurant in St. Paul that has board games for you to play while you wait for your food.  The special thing about Chatterbox’s Bloody is that they don’t use vodka.  Instead, it has saki.  This change in alcohol makes the drink much smoother than your average bloody.  Still, the toppings are weak.  No cheese, only a baby pickle, and a cherry tomato?!? Really don’t feel like the cherry tomato is necessary since the entire drink has that overall tomato flavor.  Rather have a brussel sprout that compliments the tomato flavor instead of just piling on more tomato.  Still, the chasers at Chatterbox are excellent.  Any type of beer for no additional charge.  Plus large Bloody Marys are half off during brunch.  Cannot say no to that!

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