Maternity Leave

I’ve got 9 days of maternity leave left, but I feel like I’m going back to work tomorrow. I’ve had three phases of maternity leave:

(1) OMG THERE IS A NEW SMALL PERSON IN OUR HOUSE PANIC PANIC PANIC DISASTER (weeks 1-2)

(2) I’ve got the hang of this baby (most days, sort of) and I have plenty of time left (weeks 3-6)

(3) I feel like I’m going back to work tomorrow (weeks 7-8)

So here’s my maternity leave roundup.

Awesome things about this maternity leave:
(1) I got to take 8 weeks paid instead of 6 weeks paid or, because this is America, 0 weeks paid. I’m grateful that I’m at a job where I was able to take a leave at all, and also that I got a little bit more than the average. (I could have taken more but it would have been unpaid, and due to bad planning skills I can’t take unpaid leave at this point.)
(2) Zoe is a good eater overall. This has made such a difference. I bought this book early on and while I haven’t been able to follow the schedule completely, it was super useful with tips on how to recognize what the baby really wants and how it’s important to spend time focusing on both on your baby AND on yourself.
(3) The weather has been more or less phenomenal. There was one rainy and cold day early on where I was pretty convinced that I would spiral into depression staying home with the baby by myself, but fortunately the weather changed.
(4) All the people who came to visit, or who let me come to visit them and drink all their coffee and eat all their treats.

Things that were perhaps a bit misguided:
(1) Being so hard on myself about getting back into shape, running again, etc. etc. I realize it takes time. It’s just that it took SO MUCH time last time and I want it to take LESS time this time. It’s already taken less time to get to where I am now (likely because I exercised more during pregnancy, not because I started up again so soon). But it’s not going to take NO time. I don’t feel like I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time actually working out, and I haven’t been dieting (although I could stand to eat fewer brownies). I certainly haven’t done anything to the detriment of the baby or spending time with her. It’s the mental thing that I’m annoyed with and trying to work on.
(2) I probably should have disconnected my work email from my iPhone. I haven’t been stressing about any of the emails I’ve gotten, but it might have been better to log on one day next week and just go through 8 weeks of email. (On the other hand that probably would have taken 4 hours so maybe this way was better.)
(3) Going out of my house on day 3 of Zoe’s life. I should have stayed in bed for a week. (But see #1 above. That was never going to happen.)

Finally, to all of you who have told me that I’m doing an awesome job, they are impressed by everything I’ve done, or anything along those lines – thank you. I ran a 5K on Sunday (6 1/2 weeks postpartum) and I left a happy, healthy baby at home to do it, and I should be more impressed with myself about this.

fancy portrait of self with baby

fancy portrait of self with baby

Soon will be the time to return to work and leave my baby with Well Meaning Strangers Who Can’t Possibly Take Care of Her Like I Can. Commence weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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Sunday afternoon picture dump

Because why come up with new content.

What’s Zoe been up to?

Trying to roll?

Trying to roll?

Mommy and Zoe

Mommy and Zoe

Tummy time

Tummy time

Zoe after eating

Zoe after eating

Zoeface

Zoeface

Sleepy Zoe

Sleepy Zoe

What’s Elena been up to?

Zoo Boo!

Zoo Boo!

Elephants and princesses

Elephants and princesses

Glider

Glider

Children's Theatre

Children’s Theatre

What have I been up to?

Adeline's Angels 5K

Adeline’s Angels 5K

Cooking

I’ve been lucky enough to have had a little time to do some cooking during my maternity leave*. I wanted to try and re-try a few new make-ahead recipes in particular since once I go back to work it will be beneficial to have a few things to make ahead of time. Here are a few of the things I’ve tried.

Elizabeth made sweet potato, apple and carrot kugel for us last year when we were on a gluten-free diet (you have to scroll down to the gluten free one). It was really good. This was the second time I made it. There are very specific instructions about how to get it to be crispy that I have not been able to replicate yet. I’ll keep trying. It’s still good. The first time I made it I didn’t cook it long enough. This time I cooked it long enough at least.

French onion soup is actually fairly ridiculously easy to make. You just need a chunk of time to let it cook, but basically the only thing you have to do preparation wise is slicing the onions.

This sweet potato hash with sausage and eggs was probably my favorite of everything I tried, fairly easy to accomplish and super-conducive to being made ahead. I made it for brinner with homemade pancakes. Ben found it to be very filling. We tried it both with and without the eggs. Like the French onion soup, it involves carmelizing onions, which I seem to be acquiring a taste for.

The crustless mini-quiches were less of a success in my opinion (although Ben said he liked them a lot – but Ben likes most things a lot). We didn’t have a mini cupcake tin, maybe that made a difference. Or alternately I prefer my quiche (which admittedly I don’t eat very often and have never made) with, rather than without, crust. The flavors were good here, but the end product ended up being a bit on the soggy side. Also the prep time was on the high side.

I made chocolate pie** for Erin’s pie party. This is a recipe I got from my friend Laura, who lives an awesome and fantastic life that included a few years in Pittsburgh, where I met her and learned about her pie. Which, since Laura is from North Carolina, is pronounced PIAH. It’s super easy (even though I was sleep deprived when I made it and forgot the eggs the first time around). I wish we could eat chocolate PIAH for dinner once I go back to work.

I tried this pumpkin steel cut oatmeal in the crock pot and it got burned. So now our crock pot has a pumpkin steel cut oatmeal crust at the bottom.

We’ve done this parmesan dijon chicken before, and I made it in nugget form last night to trick Elena into eating it. It didn’t really work that well but I’ll try again. I don’t really understand how she can tell the difference between freezer nuggets and homemade nuggets what with all the ketchup. In any event, WE liked it and it’s also very easy.

So overall my experimentations were successful, in that they were generally edible and tasty, but I’m not sure that I’ve added many new recipes to our standard list. I’ve also done easier and more basic make-ahead recipes like mac and cheese with broccoli, and vegetable soup, during my leave, and I suspect I’ll be working with those recipes a little more than some of these new ones.

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*It should be noted that today is not one of those days since it’s taken me approximately two hours to write this post. I’ve already asked Elena to ask Ben to get Chipotle for dinner.

**Recipe: melt one stick butter and 1 square unsweetened baker’s chocolate together; mix 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, dash of sale and 1 tsp vanilla in a bowl; add melted mixture to bowl and mix together; pour into unbaked pie crust; bake at 350 for about 30 minutes

Anniversary +1 Month Dinner

Since we were at the hospital on our anniversary having Zoe, we decided to delay our fifth anniversary dinner by one month. On Saturday we got four sitters for our two children (just to be safe) and headed to Willow. We celebrated our first anniversary at Willow as well, and it’s very close to the place where we got married, the Avonworth Community Park. So we like Willow. Here’s what we ate.

I started the evening with a lovely champagne-based drink called a French 75. It was so fancy I didn’t know what to do with the garnish!

French 75

French 75

We got the antipasti but we were too excited to eat it to remember to take a picture first.

Antipasti

Antipasti

I also got salad. Healthy!

Chopped salad

Chopped salad

And Ben got French onion soup.

French onion soup

French onion soup

If something has “pumpkin” in the name, Ben pretty much just orders it. I was pretty sure “agnolotti” was a pasta but we Googled to be sure.

Pumpkin agnolotti

Pumpkin agnolotti

Why not get a side of mashed potatoes to go with your pasta? It’s your anniversary, gotta party like it’s your anniversary.

Mashed potatoes

Mashed potatoes

At our last meal out I had some success, both stomach-filling wise and tastebud wise, ordering two small dishes. That worked here as well. I got a crab cake and the shrimp and grits.

Crab cake, shrimp & grits

Crab cake, shrimp & grits

We were both stuffed after all this food! We actually had fairly significant take-home boxes. We decided to split a dessert.

bourbon and butterscotch pot de creme

bourbon and butterscotch pot de creme

While we were there, a party of about 20 twentysomethings came in for some sort of celebratory dinner. Mostly women, but a few husbands/boyfriends were there too. We enjoyed eavesdropping on their conversations and talking about how when WE were in OUR 20s we NEVER would have gotten such a large group together at such a fancy restaurant. Kids these days!

Everything was very good and we had a lovely time. Happy anniversary to us!

IMG_0475

Weeks 3 & 4

If weeks 1-2 are all about nursing, weeks 3-4 are all about reflux. This is something I conveniently forgot from Elena’s first few weeks. Apparently babies’ stomachs start to mature specifically at about 3 weeks, and in the case of my babies, they get kind of gassy and spitty.

Zoe had had milk come through her nose several times. She looks like it feels pretty unpleasant. She seems to not want to burp, so we have to hold her for long periods. She fusses and screams when she has gas or a burp, so we comfort her for a long time.

Yesterday we started giving her ginger ale and that really seems to do the trick!*

She’s four weeks old today and despite this digestion related sadness we are starting to get the hang of each other. For example we have learned that looking at a ceiling fan is a calming and enjoyable experience for her. She doesn’t mind getting a bath. She is not a huge fan of the binky. She will wear whatever I tell her to wear without complaint.

In some ways I will be happy to go back to work, but I am overall enjoying my time at home with Zoeface.

Obligatory picture.

20131010-123819.jpg

*I’m kidding of course. We gave her plain seltzer water.

Perfect Pittsburgh Sunday

Sunday afternoons in Pittsburgh come autumn time are dominated by watching and cheering on dem Stillers. This usually equates to a day full of fun, but special circumstances such as bye weeks and truly horrendous seasons call for other enjoyable activities to keep us all entertained. Check out this link to read what a bunch of Pittsburgh bloggers suggest you do to make your fall Sunday perfect!

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that I have just generic “children” on this Perfect Pittsburgh Sunday (let’s call them Generic Children), and not “a newborn who needs to eat a lot and another child who is older and is a little sad about all the time being spent on her younger sister.”

My perfect Pittsburgh Sunday would start with a game of dek hockey in the morning. Sunday dek hockey involves the Dekhounds organization. The game would be either co-ed or possibly a Queen of the Dek (ladies only!) game. Regardless, whatever team I was on would win. There would be enough subs that I didn’t feel like I was going to die during the game, but not so many that it was pointless for me to show up. It would not be necessary for me to score, but I would want a favorable plus/minus and possibly an assist. There would be time for chatting with hockey friends after the game. Ben and I would be playing on the same team.

After hockey, through magic, Ben and I would quickly be showered and would meet our Generic Children for brunch. Someone else will have dressed them and given them a small snack to tide them over. We would either be eating brunch at Pamela’s Diner (my preferred locations are the Strip District and Millvale) or Point Brugge. The Generic Children would happily eat the food they’ve selected. Nothing would get spilled. There would be no screaming.

After brunch, we would all come home and everyone would have rest time. There would be no screaming. Since I don’t normally nap, I would take this opportunity to start cooking something for dinner. All my ingredients would have already been purchased. Nothing has gone bad since I’ve purchased it. There would be no need for another trip to the store for non-slimy carrots or an extra one half cup of flour. The recipe would be interesting and would come out perfectly. There would also be time to make dessert.

Next there would be outdoor play with the Generic Children and some Friends of Generic Children (preferably some of the friends whose parents are people I like – which I guess is all their friends, so, win). Everyone would play together happily. There would be no screaming. I would be able to chat with Parents of Friends of Generic Children.

Following this, we’d all head home to eat the delicious food I’d made. Everyone would be happy with the food and eat a decent amount of it without complaining. There would be no screaming. We would all enjoy the dessert. Since this is a perfect day, the Generic Children would then put themselves to bed while I prepared my lunches for the week. I would then finish the day up with a new episode of a show such as Mad Men, Downton Abbey, or Call the Midwife. I would be in bed at a reasonable time.

So, to summarize my Perfect Pittsburgh Sunday, it involves:

  • Exercise
  • Eating
  • Friends and family
  • No screaming