Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gluten Free Chocolate White Chocolate Cheesecake

Happy Tuesday friends AND Happy last day of March!

I can’t believe how quickly March flew by – hopefully the start of April means we’ll have warmer days. I mean, can Spring officially start already?! I know those of you in Boston are nodding your head in agreement. Yes please.

I wanted to check in with you guys yesterday and tell you about the yummy supper I had on Sunday afternoon, but the day got away from me.

I wonder why…..

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This kid smiles with his WHOLE face! Eyes, tongue, cheek – squeal! I love him.

So better late than never you guys because my meal on Sunday was AWESOME!

Local friends run, don’t walk, to Patrick Jane’s Gourmet Pizza Bar in Cary.

Gluten Free options? OH YEAH – they have them. They have TONS of them! And the pizza….

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is so good!

I honestly haven’t been able to get this meal out of my mind. I even thought about driving over yesterday and getting a few pies to go – I’m obsessed!

With over 33 different pies available, I had a tough time choosing. In fact, everyone at our table had to ask for more time to consider; they all sound so good!

I ended up choosing the Artichoke GF Mini:

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and I was so excited to see this little sticker on my pizza board when it arrived:

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Even when you trust the restaurant, there is something extra comforting about additional indicators from the kitchen that your food is gluten free. I love the different plates at PF Changs and Bella Monica in Raleigh; so I was happy to see that Patrick Jane’s is using a sticker to put their diners at ease.

My only regret – that I didn’t order a bigger pie! Or a second pie….or a third pie. I wish I had had leftovers!

Luckily Patrick-Jane’s has plenty of gluten free desserts, so when my pie was gone I had a tasty treat to hold me over.

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Chocolate White Chocolate Cheesecake

When the dessert arrived, I was a tiny bit skeptical. It just looked too good. My waitress was kind enough to call the owner and ask about the specific ingredients in the crust. Yep, it was gluten free. And yep, it was amazing.

Also amazing, the customer service! The entire staff, from our waitress to the floor manager, were super knowledgeable about gluten free and I completely trusted that my meal would be safe for me to eat.

Patrick Jane’s Gourmet Pizza Bar

1353 Kildaire Farm Rd, Cary, NC 27511

I can’t wait to eat there again!

I hope you have a great Tuesday! I’ll be hanging with this little ham all day:

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and enjoying the sunshine!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Dear Mason – A Reflection on Two Months

Dear Mason,

Happy Two Month Birthday buddy! Man, time flies when you’re having fun!

Mason Smiles

And that’s what hanging out with you is – FUN!

Shortly after your first month birthday, you started smiling and let me tell you – it was life changing!

At first you really made us work for them. Daddy and I would say and do anything to try to get you to smile.

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But then you just couldn’t stop smiling! Once you were 6 weeks old, if you weren’t eating or sleeping then you were most likely smiling.

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or talking!

Smiles are amazing but your baby babbles melt our heart!

When you finish drinking milk, me and Daddy take you to your room to play. We change your diaper and lay you flat so that you can kick your legs. You love to kick your legs! Sometimes we leave your diaper off for a while and let you play naked. That is definitely your favorite way to play because you happily jibber jabber the entire time!

Daddy and I talk back to you – we don’t know what we’re saying but you seem to love it. You also love when we sing songs to you.

Daddy is very good at making up different silly songs. Your current favorites are ‘What’s That Hiding In Your Cheeks’ and ‘Brontosaurus’.

Much like the first month of your life, milk is still your tip-top priority. Hanging with Mom and Dad is a close second, but milk is still the best ever.

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I treasure the little cat naps you take when your belly is full and you’re snuggled up with me. You are growing way too fast for Mommy, so I’ve learned to take it slow and just focus on our time together.

Your love for milk is continuing to help you grow big and strong. You have grown out of your 3 month outfits and now fit snugly in 6 month outfits. We just had to retire your Dino PJs (Mommy’s favorite!).

You’re still not a huge fan of tummy time but you tolerate it a bit longer than before. You still love bath time, although you’re only averaging about one per week.

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You’re becoming more aware of the world around you, and it’s so much fun to discover the different things that catch your eye. You are currently obsessed with: lamps, ceiling fans, the top corner of your bedroom ceiling, your wall of books, and the pictures on the refrigerator.

You’ve also discovered sucking on your hands this past week. It’s a little confusing because you suck and suck and suck but no milk comes out! I see some potential thumb sucking in your future. You still aren’t crazy about a pacifier, but on a rare occasion you tolerate one for a few minutes, only to spit it out once you’ve fallen asleep.

Speaking of sleep – you are an amazing Magical Unicorn Baby Mason because you have been gifting Mommy and Daddy some long stretches of sleep at night!

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Starting around Week 6, you started sleeping for 5 hour stretches and now you average somewhere around 7 hours per night. Mommy doesn’t talk about it much for fear of jinxing it!

The extra sleep for Mom and Dad means more fun for you during the day! When we don’t feel like zombies, we love to take adventures with you outside of the house.

We took you to the first of many Food Truck Rodeos:

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You had a great time! I mean, what’s more fun than waking up to the smell of cheeseburgers?!

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You’ve also met some special friends in the past couple weeks:

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and while you didn’t stay awake for all of the introductions, you still let all your new friends snuggle you. You’re such a thoughtful baby!

Even with all the new experiences and friends, me and Dad are still your favorite.

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Which is fine with us because you’re our favorite too!

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Our Newborn Must-Haves aka Survival Items for the First Two Months

I honestly can’t believe that Baby Mason Modesto is going to be 2 months old on tomorrow!

It’s weird – part of me feels like Mason was just born and another part of me feels like he has been here forever!

I’ve received a few emails from readers asking about our baby carrier or which stroller we use, so I thought it would be fun to share our Newborn must-haves. Below are the items that we’ve absolutely loved and a few realizations of things we just didn’t need.

Boppy Newborn Lounger, Geo

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Basically a giant pillow for a baby!

It seemed silly at first, but as first-time parents it has been nice to have a spot that I know I can safely sit Mason while I get ready for nursing on the couch. We also love to sit him in the lounger and sing him songs or tell him stories. Newborns are so wiggly; this lounger is perfect for giving Mason a snug and safe spot to hang out.

Solly Baby Wrap

While I was pregnant, I became obsessed with baby wearing. Who wouldn’t want a snuggly baby hanging out with them hands-free?! After doing tons of research, I decided that I definitely wanted a light-weight, stretchy, breathable wrap for Mason’s newborn stage. I went with the Solly wrap and I have to say that I have absolutely loved it!

Learning how to wrap was simple, and I definitely get better every time I do it. The fabric is light and breathable so I don’t get super sweaty when he’s on my chest. He can keep his head tucked out when he’s awake:

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or I can tuck his little noggin in when he’s sleeping:

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*Note: In a hold like the one above, Mason’s head should be facing the side so that his nose isn’t squished and his airways are clear. I always turn his head – the boy loves to smoosh – and it’s hard to tell in this photo but his head is turned.

I especially loved the Solly wrap in those first few weeks when I really just needed to get out of the house but I didn’t want strangers to try and touch him. Cold and flu season + People with poor social boundaries = no bueno.

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Even Parrish has gotten in on the baby wearing fun!

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BumGenius 4.0 Pocket Diapers and All-in-One Diapers

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I’m going to write a separate post about Cloth Diapering because we are loving it! In my opinion, the BumGenius diapers make it SUPER easy. We used pre-folds for a short time, and then switched over to pocket diapers and AIO diapers once Mason hit 8 pounds (which didn’t take long!).

Video - Getting to Know Your Baby: Sleep

The amazing lactation consultant I worked with locally sent me the video above and it was a lifesaver! As first time parents, Parrish and I had no idea what Mason’s baby cues were. We knew to check his diaper if he was crying and then feed him, but that was about it. Once we started looking for his cues, particularly those that let us know he was getting tired and those that meant he was over stimulated, we saw a drastic change in his sleep and overall disposition.

Basically, we were letting him get over tired because we kept “playing” with him when he wasn’t interested. All he wanted to do was decompress and go to sleep!

Sleep Machine App

Babies love white noise. As it turns out, Mason loves the sound of the vacuum cleaner! This idea actually came from our pediatrician. He told us that lots of newborns can be calmed down by the sound of a vacuum. Later that week Mason had a melt down in the car seat – he was hungry and didn’t understand that he had wait 10 minutes until he could eat (he is a baby afterall!) Then I remembered the vacuum setting on my Sleep Machine App on my iPhone.

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Now I can use my phone to help calm him down when he’s tired in public and fussy. I turn on the app and he’s out like a light – magic!

Baby Connect App

I basically live and die by this app. You can time breastfeeding by side, count sleep, track diapers, and even store medical information. At the least, this app helps me remember which side I last used for breastfeeding. But for me, at the most, it helps me feel more in control of uncontrollable situations.

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Newborns are too young to schedule, but I can follow his rhythm. This app helps me anticipate what could come next in our eat, play, sleep rhythm and makes me feel more prepared. Or as prepared as you can feel with a newborn! Plus, the geek in me loves the charts option – It’s fascinating!

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AND in those early weeks when I was SUPER sleep deprived, Baby Connect helped me remember what I had done in the middle of the night!

Teddy Bear Suit

I feel like this is self-explanatory. If you don’t understand why you should dress your newborn up like a teddy bear….then we can’t be friends.

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I picked this brown bear suit up at H&M for 20 bucks and it was worth every penny! I was so sad when he outgrew it, but I can’t wait to dress him up in a larger suit this coming winter.

Gripe Water

Magical, magical baby juice. Parrish and I are so thankful that our friends gifted us a bottle of Gripe Water. While Mason isn’t a super gassy baby (knock on wood), he does get some gas “stuck” that keeps him awake. The first time we ever used it, Mason had been having a fussy day. He hadn’t really napped but I didn’t notice because we had family visiting. That afternoon you could tell he was super tired but he just couldn’t fall asleep. I bicycled his legs, massaged his tummy, and burped him forever. Nada. Then we gave him the gripe water and LITERALLY 30 seconds later he passed out. (And slept for 3 hours poor guy)

Now we always have a bottle in the fridge and a bottle in the pantry for back up!

Items we didn’t need:

Baby Nail Clippers – Attempting to clip his nails was so stressful, you would have thought I was performing open heart surgery. I’m sticking to biting them myself for now – possibly TMI for some of you but it is way easier! And surprisingly doesn’t gross me out.

Tons and Tons of Clothes - As a super fresh newborn, Mason went through about 6-8 outfits a day. And by outfits, I mean zip-up PJs because Parrish and I quickly learned that neither of us had time for full on outfits. We were doing laundry nearly every day, and we would always end up putting Mason in the same PJs everyday. So no, we didn’t need a ton of NB clothes or 0-3 month clothing. At just 2 months old, Mason is already wearing mostly 6 month outfits. A few of his 3 month outfits still fit but just barely!

What about you Moms? What items got you through those first months?

What did you end up not needing?

AND what will we need in the coming months?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mason’s Birth Story aka How Pure Barre Birthed My Baby

Mason’s birth wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.

When I started having contractions at 1:45 in the morning on his due date, I couldn’t believe my luck! What a thoughtful baby! How could he be so polite and start his labor on time?

As it turned out, while he is a very special baby, he’s not a labor genius. He had no idea that it was his due date and he had no intentions of being rushed out of his cozy womb. I don’t begrudge him for my long labor – he’s just a baby after all. But it has taken some time for me to reflect on his labor and delivery to be able to talk about it here on the blog.

For weeks, I couldn’t even think about it. It didn’t happen the way I wanted it to. I wasn’t surrounded by those I love the most. There was no music. No laughing. No sunshine. There was no recording of the play by play. I didn’t get to make notes of my emotions as we anticipated his arrival.

Instead I found myself in a state of internal delirium for nearly 51 hours, clutching on to Parrish as a touchstone, and questioning my ability to deliver my son.

I spent most of the day on Thursday, his due date, at home. The contractions were loose and irregular. Parrish and I were bursting with excitement, but by the afternoon things became more serious. My contractions gained strength, and by 5pm I found myself in the bathtub talking to my mid-wife. My contractions were coming every 3 1/2 minutes and were lasting for an average of 75 seconds. The warm water did nothing to slow them down, so Parrish and I packed our hospital bag and headed to the hospital.

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My final bump shot before we left for the hospital. 40 weeks exactly.

Once we were admitted in to the hospital (not a short process) the contractions had slowed down but I was exhausted. We slept for a few hours and checked back in with our doctor the next morning. (*Note: The group of mid-wives at our practice also works with doctors. When we checked in at the hospital, the mid-wife on call was not someone I liked. I had had a terrible experience with her and did not want to be seen by her. Luckily I was able to switch over to the doctor on call)

The contractions were still slow, but during the check we discovered that Mason was super low. I mean, his little sweet noggin was right there. So we decided to walk the halls in hopes of speeding up contractions and helping him along.

By 11am on Friday, now 32 hours from the beginning, the contractions had gained some strength but still weren’t close enough together. The mid-wife on call was still the one from the night before and I didn’t want to work with her. So I continued on course with the doctor, and she suggested trying pitocin to increase the contractions. I agreed to try pitocin, and 30 minutes later the Pitocin Contractions began. (*Note: This is where I regret not having a mid-wife! There are a few other natural methods we could have tried first to try and speed contractions, but in the moment I didn’t even think about it)

30 minutes in to Pitocin Contractions I was begging for an epidural. I hadn’t planned on doing a natural birth. I had researched every method of childbirth and had decided to see what happened in the moment. I knew that every baby is different and that every birth is different, so I wanted Mason to come in to the world the way he wanted.

However, Pitocin Contractions are TERRIBLE. Honestly, unless you’ve experienced them, you just can’t understand. So take my word for it, they’re awful and relentless. So – back to the epidural.

The nurse drew my blood and 30 minutes later – now an hour in to Pitocin Contractions – my doctor came in with some bad news.

I could not have an epidural.

I was shocked. What the heck?! What do you mean I can’t have an epidural? 

As it turned out, the platelets in my blood were too low, and the anesthesiologist would not give me an epidural due to my high risk of bleeding out. Your platelets need to be at 100 or more, and mine were….93. 93!

So there I was. Right in the middle of terrible contractions that I couldn’t endure, and facing the realization that my entire birth was going to be natural. In the moment it wasn’t what I wanted, and there was nothing I could do to change it.

I didn’t cry. I wanted to. Believe me – I wanted to.  But I couldn’t. I knew that if I let myself cry then I wouldn’t stop. I would sob and exhaust myself….and possibly have a full-on melt down, so I sucked it up.

Well…..I thought about packing my bag and walking out of the hospital first – birth off, it’s not happening, sorry baby Mason you’re just going to stay in there – and then I sucked it up.

I prayed. I prayed hard. God granted me strength and hope through my husband. And then a miracle: my absolute FAVORITE mid-wife came on duty. I switched off of my doctor and on to the mid-wife at 3pm on Friday, and I am SO SO SO thankful for that change.

I don’t really want to go in to the play by play from there on. It was long. It was hard. In fact, it is the hardest thing I have ever been through in my entire life.

I was all over the place: the tub, the wall, the bed, the side of the bed, the floor. The contractions were terrible but my mid-wife was great at keeping me moving and trying tons of different positions to help. I learned that the positions don’t actually lessen the pain, but they do keep your mind busy and help you focus on it less.

And this is where Pure Barre, Bootcamp, and my strength training really helped me.

For most of the day and night Friday, I kept my eyes closed, my breath clean, and my mind focused.

In Pure Barre, you hold yourself in different positions and breathe through the pain. Your instructor helps you through the pain, and even if your muscle cramps, you hold it. There is something in Pure Barre called “The Final 10”, meaning that towards the end of the exercise, the last 10 seconds, you’re going to want to quit. But instead of quitting, you push yourself OVER THE EDGE. You strive for your best form no matter the pain, and you discover that you have a new breaking point that’s further than you originally thought. 

I had gained so much mental grit through my months at Pure Barre. In addition to gaining muscle strength in Bootcamp, I had also gained mental strength. I was strong.

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Stronger than I even thought. Honestly, I think I even surprised Parrish by how strong I was.

My mid-wife reflected after Mason’s birth that I was the most serene laborer. She couldn’t believe how I could just close my eyes and breathe calmly through the pain. I had to laugh because while I may have seemed calm on the outside, I was DYING on the inside. I was ripping apart; I was tearing to pieces. I was questioning and yelling and cursing. I was literally ALL THE EMOTIONS. 

But when each contraction ended, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that with every contraction I was one step closer to Mason…and to never contracting again! (Much like my thought process when I’m facing 100 Burpees!) Just keep going so that you can finish.

So after 48 hours of contractions and 3 hours of pushing, it was over.

Or I guess I should say, it began.

He was here.

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This tiny little person that set my heart on fire and made every single choice I had ever made make sense. Everything in my life had been working towards that moment, had been working towards him.

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The fog of labor and delivery lifted. I opened my eyes for the first time in hours, and looked at my son curled up on my chest. I looked at Parrish and laughed – I couldn’t believe he was finally here!

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So no, it didn’t happen the way I planned. It wasn’t what I thought I wanted. But now, two months later, I know the truth.

It doesn’t matter. The labor and delivery don’t matter. Epidural or no epidural, it doesn’t matter. Your perceived wants don’t matter.

Because what you actually want is your baby.

And your baby will come. It could take a few hours or a few days. You could push for 10 minutes or 3 hours. You could have a vaginal birth or a C-section. Heck, you could even adopt or use a surrogate. It doesn’t matter.

Because that baby is all that really matters. He is all that really matters.

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And no matter what it took to get him, he is here.  

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Killer Sandwich and Tasty Pasta aka All the Carbs

Yesterday was a great day!

It ended up being sunny instead of cloudy, Mason slept for 8 hours the night before, and I was able to get in some kitchen time – all ingredients for a great day!

All morning I was craving a cheeseburger. I guess that’s what happens when you look at Pinterest first thing, you end up craving cheeseburgers….and cupcakes! Unfortunately I didn’t have either on hand, but I was able to throw together a delicious sandwich instead:

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Canyon Bakehouse 7 Grain Bread topped with Wholly Guacamole, Bacon, Green Leaf Lettuce, Free Bird Chicken Patty, and Homemade Herbed Mayo.

Delicious! And definitely kicked up a notch with the mayo.

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Homemade mayo is SUPER EASY to make too! I actually don’t even like traditional jarred mayo, but there is something about freshly made – I love it.

I followed my recipe HERE for 1 minute Mayo: 1 cup light tasting olive oil, 1 egg, 1/2 lemon squeezed, and one squirt mustard. Salt and Pepper to taste. Once blended, I added in 1 tbsp. Spice Hunter Organic Ranch Seasoning – so good!

It was such a satisfying lunch, that I would have been okay with waiting until Parrish got home from work to eat a late supper. But as luck would have it, Mason napped in his wrap long enough for me to make pasta!

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Fast and easy thrown together pasta, but hey – it was tasty. 6pm has become a bit of a fussy time for him. I still feel like we have it pretty lucky because he doesn’t cry (knock on wood) but he doesn’t want to be put down and usually just wants to nurse. And honestly, I’ll take all the snuggles I can get, so I don’t mind.

If he’s just over-stimulated and over-tired (it’s hard being a baby!) then I can usually get him to cat nap in his Solly Baby Wrap. Since I was on a clock, I decided to caramelize mushrooms and shallot with bacon, and then add butter and garlic at the end.

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I tossed the mixture with Schar Gluten Free Spaghetti and added salt and pepper to taste.

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So simple and super yummy.

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Schar is by far my favorite GF pasta. I buy it at my local Harris Teeter whenever it’s on sale, and always keep a few boxes in the pantry. It’s the only noodle that I have tried that really stands firm after cooking, AND you can reheat it in the microwave the next day without it falling apart.

I ended up eating before Parrish came home, while nursing Mason. Most nights I try to wait for Parrish to eat, but I was starving! These days I go from hungry to starving pretty quickly.

After supper I enjoyed a dessert bowl of Chocolate Chex. I swear, I can’t keep a box in the house longer than a few days! Crunchy Chocolate Chex with ice cold Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk…mmmmmmmmmmmm…so good. And making me hungry as I type this.

Dessert was followed up with more snuggles because babies grow too fast! I can’t believe Mason turns 2 months old this Saturday. Ugh. I never knew that your baby growing could make you so happy and so sad at the same time!

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