Our Sunday 3-8-15

We had a wonderful family Sunday; I just had to share. It’s a shame that these types of days aren’t more frequent. We had made plans to go check out this indoor playground in Biddeford called The Yard. Our friends that have a 2 year old daughter recommended it and invited us but ended up cancelling that morning and we decided to still go just the three of us! It was a 45 minute drive for us and a little difficult to find but we made it. Here is a link to their page: http://www.theyardatthemill.com/

It was $10 for Eleanor to get in. I believe the age limit is 10 years old. Play shoes are required (no boots). It is in a large 7,200 sq ft open room and the first thing you notice is two large wooden swing-sets. The majority of the “yard” is covered with installed, soft turf. The whole vibe and decor is outdoor themed.

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Some of the many other things they had: a small stage and mirror, jump-ropes, collapsible tunnels and climbing caves, suspended rope for balancing, free-standing slide, a metal/plastic airplane see-saw type contraption, rocking horses, lawnmower push toys, a separate picnic table area if you bring snacks and drinks, 4+ baby/toddler swings, basketball hoop, bean bag toss, etc. I’m sure i’m missing some things but she was a little young for some of it.

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I would highly recommend this place, especially for a bit older kids that can really use the swing sets with climbing portions and larger slides. It was clean, rules were very clearly stated, spacious and fun! Eleanor was a little clingy considering she didn’t have any other kids she knew or really close to her age but we’d love to go back with a playmate. Of course now that spring is on its way we’d like to get her to play outdoors more but on a rainy or cooler day this place would be fantastic for a play-date!

Eleanor honed in on some soft little foam balls that were perfect size for her and did NOT want to let them go. After being there for an hour we decided it was time to go and planned our exit for the second following the moment we had to pry these balls from her strong little hands. She threw a pretty typical Eleanor fit and threw her head back in protest with the beginning of a tantrum. Luckily, there were so many distractions we were able to throw her coat on, grab her diaper bag and scoot without too much of a breakdown.

Sunday afternoon consisted of making some Crockpot freezer meals to have stashed away for future dinners. I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile and always felt a bit overwhelmed with the whole process of finding the recipes, making the list, shopping, prepping the food, bagging it and finding room in the freezer. That is until I stumbled onto a site called New Leaf Wellness run by a Mom, blogger, writer, cook, wellness coach that had multiple meal prep sessions all worked out for you! I didn’t spend too much time on the site but found “8 Crockpot Freezer Meals in 35 Minutes) and when I saw how simple it looked to give it a try. Ryan went to the grocery store at 9:30 the night before (his favorite time to go grocery shopping so there is hardly anyone there) and when we got home Sunday started to assemble. The whole process probably took 45 (a rambunctious toddler is to blame for the extra 10 minutes than it claimed it should take) and BAM, 8 meals in our freezer! I will say that we have not tried any of them yet. But knowing I have those meals in the freezer ready to just plop in the crockpot feels sooo good. She also had a healthy crockpot meal prep session as well as a Whole Foods ingredient prep session. Here’s a link to her page: http://newleafwellness.biz/2014/12/10/8-crockpot-freezer-meals-35-minutes/.

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Hopefully they taste as good as they were easy to prepare! 🙂

We ended the day with a quick get together with my in-laws and aunt and uncle for burgers. Eleanor found a suitable party hat for the occasion.

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Here’s to more Sundays just like this, how truly blessed we are! It is so energizing to have a day to soak up as a family. We’re thinking maybe the Children’s Museum would be a good bet for our next family outing!

Food Allergies…darn.

Never thought I’d have to carry one of these around….

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We just found out that our 14 month old daughter has food allergies (as we have suspected) but more than we originally thought.

As an infant, Eleanor would have “naked baby time” and lay on the ground on a blanket. We knew she had eczema but we quickly realized she was also getting little hives here and there that would randomly appear. We had our theories that maybe she was sensitive to the blanket or maybe there was dust on it and she was allergic to dust, etc. etc. Or MAYBE she was allergic to pet dander. We have two cats and a dog so I shut that thought down really quickly not wanting to think about having to remove our pets, especially our dog Ruby. Soon we also noticed when the dog would happen to lick Eleanor’s face that there would be hives where Ruby licked. Then we really started thinking hmm….she’s probably allergic. So we’ve kept her away from the cats and dog and she really doesn’t have any other symptoms besides hives with direct contact.

If you read my first post you know Eleanor was a very upset and colicky infant. Her pediatrician suspected it could be a milk allergy that is making her so upset based on some interesting dirty diapers and her demeanor so I avoided dairy and when I finished with breastfeeding we put her on a hypoallergenic formula (don’t do it if you don’t have to….so expensive!). She did ok on the formula. When she turned one we decided Eleanor could try some ice cream!! She looooved it. And then 2 minutes later we took a look at her and she had white and red raised bumps around her mouth.

Fast forward a couple months to December and we end up at the allergist for testing.

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After an hour and a half of waiting, some serious baby distracting, 20 skin pricks on Eleanor’s back, and tears, the nurse came in to read the results and quickly started listing: eggs, milk, cats, dogs, and tree nuts.

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After 😦

This is where my head started spinning. I know this is not the end of the world and so many people have to deal with allergies. It’s just one more thing to have to think about, keep track of, and yes, worry about. We already had to avoid dairy but now eggs?? Tree nuts?? I don’t know anything when it comes to food allergies. Will she be one of the kids that has to sit at a separate nut-free table at lunch? Will I trust others to avoid her allergens when I’m not around? Will she get a nutritionally balanced diet now? We felt a little rushed at her appointment (who doesn’t these days) plus Eleanor had hit her limit for tolerating ANYTHING so we barely got to ask questions. We bought some epi-pens at the Doctors suggestion ($600 thanks to high deductible insurance), have to start dissecting food labels and need to figure out how to feed our daughter a nutritionally balanced diet.

Knowing my past with Dr. Google and serious anxiety, I am trying to limit going online but it can be a good resource for learning about food allergies or food substitutes, if I’m careful. I refuse to let myself go down the “could I have done anything different to prevent this” path. It won’t change things and will only make me feel worse. There are many theories out there too about why so many kids today have food allergies such as the theory about a link between food dyes/coloring and allergies.

Maybe we will go see a nutritionist and get some guidance because we didn’t get much from the allergist. I’m not saying I believe it’s his job to help with her diet but they should at least guide us toward helpful resources. Milk, eggs, and nuts are a big part of our every day diet and have some serious nutritional benefits but when it comes to other foods I don’t have much of a clue what kind of nutritional value certain foods have. And for the cat and dog allergies? So far we have not seen enough upsetting symptoms to get rid of any of them but we have purchased 2 air purifiers and made her room completely off-limits to the pets. Time will tell.

Here’s hoping Eleanor is part of the 80% of kids that outgrow milk and egg allergies and that her nut allergies are not severe. Looking forward? We will retest in about a year to see if there are any changes or weakened reactions. If anyone reads this that has experience with kids and allergies we’ll take all the advice/resources/recipes we can get. ❤

Eleanor’s First Birthday Party: Woodland Theme

Now that the party dust has settled I wanted to share some of the things I made and bought for Eleanor’s First Birthday! I really wanted a theme, thinking it would be easier to plan. It was a bit more difficult then I originally thought because I had very specific things I wanted to find as opposed to finding a color scheme or a more vague theme. Anyway, I went with a woodland forest and animals theme. There are sooo many ideas all over Pinterest and Etsy it was actually a little overwhelming. But I thoroughly enjoy planning and putting together a party, almost more than the party itself.

Here is a peek at the invitation! I ordered these on Etsy where there are hundreds of options, even for this theme but I wouldn’t recommend this particular seller. There is also a photo of a felt animal garland I purchased on Etsy from a shop called FeltWitch. She was fabulous to work with and even custom made this one to have hedgehogs on it!

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Another item I custom ordered on Etsy was this paper banner from a shop called FoolishWorkerBee. They were also great to work with especially on customizing the colors, animals, etc!

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I worked hard all year long taking monthly AND biweekly photos of Eleanor. It proved much more daunting of a task than I thought, especially when she was bigger and able to protest photo time! But here is the month photo board I made. I put it with a photo of Ryan and I when we were one. I had another board hanging up that had the photos I took every 2 weeks. IF there is another baby in the future I most likely will NOT be taking photos on a biweekly basis! Also pictured here are the popcorn party favors we made. I found the idea on another blog: http://paperliciousgirls.blogspot.com/2011/09/fabulous-fall.html and instead of candies we put my father-in-law’s homemade popcorn in them! I used circle cutters for the eyes and free-hand cut the owls head and nose. I was really happy with how they came out!

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Here are the cupcakes and the cake I had Cakes by Debbie from Windham make. The cake had a fondant deer on top that I found on Etsy.

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I made a hedgehog cheese ball! It was super easy but a little heavy on the garlic. Here is a link to the recipe I used but I made mine look a little different: http://helenjane.com/2011/11/12/cheese-ball-hedgehog-recipe/. We made little chocolate acorns too out of Hershey Kisses and Mini Nilla Wafers. The idea came from this website:  http://www.wicproject.com/recipe/how-to-make-chocolate-peanut-butter-acorns/.

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Table display with fake moss, wooden animal and tree decorations, glitter coated acorns and the cake!

The party went smoothly (minus one minor hangry baby meltdown). We are truly blessed and extremely grateful for our family and friends. We could not have gotten through this last year without them. Year #2, bring it on.

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Eleanor had ZERO interest in her smash cake. Less cleanup for us I guess!

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Her new birthday hat! A little big for now but she can’t wait to grow into it!

         Based on my first blog post this birthday celebration was momentous for Ryan and I too….we made it through the first year in one piece! Yahoo!

Happy First Birthday to my sweet little pumpkin.

Ripping Off the Band-Aid

Wow. My first blog post. There have been countless hours of rocking my daughter Eleanor with my mind running a mile a minute full of so many thoughts, ideas, reflections on the past, etc.  A lot of it has to do with becoming a Mom and the challenging year that I’ve had. Well, I might as well start at the “beginning.” I’m ripping off the band-aid and talking about my deepest, darkest, and most worthwhile experience.

I have a daughter. A sweet, beautiful, funny, feisty, red-headed little goob named Eleanor. She just turned one and I am still in disbelief. Becoming a mother has not been anywhere near what I expected it to be like, and neither was her birth. Long-story short: what seemed like it would be a regular long first-time labor like I expected for 9 months turned into a scary emergency c-section. But we got through it and had a beautiful baby girl to show for it.

I just assumed (first mistake, my dad taught me never to “ASS-U-ME”) that I would just figure this whole baby thing out with few challenges and do everything perfectly. You see all these moms that look so well put together and their kids are so perfectly behaved and you think ok! I want to be one of those moms. Yes, I’m a little bit of a perfectionist, a control freak, a little type-A, whatever you want to call it. I quickly realized that it took everything I had to just survive the first 6 or 7 months of her life. I had a feeling that postpartum depression might be a hurdle because I’ve struggled with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) since high school. And when Eleanor developed reflux, eczema, colic, a potential milk allergy, did NOT sleep well at all, and just proved to have a very feisty/fussy demeanor, it was a recipe for disaster. Needless to say, I quickly developed pretty severe postpartum depression. I was in denial of how bad of a place I was in. I kept thinking about those moms I see that just make it look effortless and couldn’t help but to think I was doing something wrong. I had countless offers from wonderful friends and family for help and I turned most of it down. I should be able to handle this! This is MY child, MY responsibility, so thanks, but no thank you. No one talks about postpartum depression or really struggling for that matter. People would always offer their best advice while I was pregnant along with glowing accounts of how wonderful it all is. And maybe some people that have it easy truly mean that but why is everyone that has struggled so afraid to talk about it? I guess they were like me and didn’t want to admit it. I thought I was weak or just not cut out for this. Why was I so deeply sad and depressed? Why was my baby always crying? What was I doing wrong? There were many nights I remember saying out loud to my husband Ryan in despair “I SWEAR I will never forget how utterly helpless and hopeless I feel in this moment and I will never go through this ever again.” I buried or hid most of my feelings. It wasn’t until my husband pushed me to see my old therapist that I realized how bad things were. She saw me with my daughter and bravely told me that I was completely disconnected and in a dangerous place. I was a zombie doing everything I was supposed to do to care for her but there was no connection. I stopped taking care of myself and was consumed with trying to figure out why my baby was so upset and unhappy all the time. I lost weight. I was down to 98 pounds, 12-15 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight. Eating became an obsession where I limited what I put in my mouth for fear of it upsetting my already upset baby. Eleanor didn’t sleep more than 3 or 4 hours stretches until she was at least 6 months old with some weeklong+ periods of waking every 1-2 hours. Bottom line: it wasn’t good.

It was a long few months of finally asking for help, getting the utmost support from my husband, family and a few close friends, learning to accept things for what they were and trying to roll with the punches, getting Eleanor on a hypoallergenic formula, seeing a dermatologist for her eczema, and finally getting sleep, for me to start feeling like me again. I’d hate for this to come off as if I’m having my own little pity party. I look at this last year and I pat myself on the back for getting through it. I’m ok. My daughter is alive and thriving. And I can only hope that some new Mom might read this post and feel a little less alone if they are struggling like I did.

My sweet girl is proving to be as feisty a toddler as she was an infant but with much more sleep I can handle it better. Maybe there is some truth to the red head temper you hear about! But I am so grateful that I have learned to be present, in the moment, experiencing life with this amazing little human. Before I became a mom I had heard so many people try to describe what it’s like having a child and most say that it’s just indescribable love that you never knew you could feel….and I feel so blessed and relieved that I can say I totally am indescribably in love with my daughter.

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Eleanor, 6 Months. Photo by Portland Photo Company