About Charlie

Hiya, I’m Charlie, the awkward diet coke addict who secretly loves the rain. Some women might be naturals at motherhood. Congratulations to you; I’m so jelly. While confident that I’m doing a good job with my beautiful pumpkin pie, this motherhood thing is just not easy for me.

Deciding to stay home and become a mom full-time was one of the hardest choice this career-minded professional ever made and while I do not regret it the least bit, I do still ruminate putting my career on hold all the time. I look forward to the day I rejoin the daily grind but until then, I value and love spending all my time with my daughter and exploring books together is definitely one of our most cherished activities.

A Cake for Mommy

What happens when my toddler wants to bake me a cake?  I baked myself a bake.

My kiddo helped more than I expected so that was a sweet surprise.

measuring ingredients

Bonus:  Refrigerator Art for Mommy

(AKA How I know she really really loves me)

Except when she excitedly showed me the hand prints she proudly made for me.  I suppose I should be thankful the sentiments are there, and glad that she didn’t protest too much when I had to removed her lovely creation.  I showed her the picture I took of it and said I would treasure it forever so I could clean the refrigerator.  She said “forever is a long time Mommy”.  That cheeky little monkey.  I will treasure her sass too.

flour hand prints

Sweet, but not too Sweet, Please

I wanted to find a recipe that didn’t have too much sugar.  I suppose too and much are subjective, but I went in search of a sponge cake recipe for cakes like those often sold in Chinese bakeries because they’re usually not too sweet (IMO).  I found one on the Nancy Baked blog  which had only one cup of sugar.  That’s not too much right?  And most importantly, I loved how she had detailed process pictures, very important (did I say that already?) for a baking-noob like myself.  Sigh, the things I get myself into for my toddler.

Chinese Bakery Cake Recipe

for 2 9″ round cakes, adapted from Nancy Baked

Ingredients:

6 eggs (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar, separated into 1/3 and 2/3 cup
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Tips:  This sponge cake is light and fluffy because meringue is gently folded into the batter.  This is easier if you have two separate mixing bowls, one for the batter and one for the meringue.  Or if you only have one mixing bowl, divide and pour batter into the two cake pans and then wash the mixing bowl before making the meringue and fold it into the batter directly in the cake pan.

Nancy Bakes’ directions were to line the bottoms only, and not the sides of the baking pans, but I didn’t have parchment paper on hand so I didn’t line at all.  Instead I had rubbed a little bit of butter onto the bottom of the pans and felt the cakes came out okay.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (~176 degrees C)

1.  Separate Eggs

(with a Funny Egg Egg Yolk Separator)

I saw this egg separator at Walmart years and years ago and I *had* to get it even though I didn’t really bake because it was so fun looking.  I had it for over 10 years and this was the first time I used it for real.   Everyone who sees it in my kitchen comments on it but I was never able to say honestly if it worked or not.

And (this feels like a big reveal, ta-da), it actually worked well!  I We separated 8 eggs without any mishap so this funny egg egg yolk separator was a good $5 investment.  The recipe only called for 6 eggs, but it was so fun we did all 8 we had.  I just looked for it on Amazon and it’s still $5.  Not much inflation for egg yolk separators huh? (Affiliate link to buy your own funny egg egg yolk separator here)

seperating eggs

2.  Beat egg yolks and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric beater on high for approximately one minute or until it turns pale yellow.

3.  Sift cake flour and baking powder over the pale yellow egg yolk mixture and mix at low speed until just incorporated.

4.  Add water, oil, and vanilla extract and beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy.

mixing batter

My daughter performed the above steps but I took over for the following steps:

5.  Make meringue by whipping room temperature egg whites with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until slightly foamy.  Then add cream of tartar and beat on high for approximately 3 minutes or until stiff peaks have just formed.  Then decrease speed to low and while the mixer is still on, add in the 1/3 cup of sugar.  Then beat at high for another 30 seconds or so until all the sugar is incorporated.  You should be able to turn the meringue upside down and it won’t move, but how risky you live your life is entirely up to you.

6. Gentle fold meringue into batter until just incorporated.  The less mixing, the fluffier the cake.  Then transfer quickly to baking pans (if not mixing directly in pans) for baking.  The longer the batter rests, the less fluffy the cake.

7.  Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F (~176 degrees C) for approximately 20 minutes until tops are golden brown.  Every oven seems a little different – it took 25 minutes in my current oven (probably because, looking around sheepishly, ummm, the vents in the back of my oven are covered with cat hair).

ready to come out of oven

8.  Let cool until warm, approximately 8 minutes, before moving from pans to cooling racks to cool further.  The cake will shrink and your house will smell wonderful.  I had to guard the cooling cakes from my daughter because she kept pulling up the chair to try to sample them.  I don’t mind her sampling but didn’t want her to burn her cute little fingers.

9.  Decorate as desired when completely cooled.  I also used whipped cream and strawberries like Nancy Bakes did.  I try to always have heavy cream on hand for our family’s favorite creamy chicken recipe and since I often buy my strawberries from Costco, we usually have a little too many so this was a great way to use them up.  Whipped cream frosting is also nice when you want something lighter.

 

Whipped Cream Recipe

For a 2 layer cake, adapted from Nancy Baked

Ingredients:

4 cup heavy cream
2 cup powder sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract (or extract of your choice)

Optional:  Food coloring

This whipped cream frosting is very light and the sweetness can be adjusted easily with more or less powder sugar.  You can also adjust the flavor with different extracts or additions.

Directions:

Tip:  It works best to use very cold equipment – leave heavy cream in refrigerator until ready to use and store whisk and metal bowl in freezer for at least 30 minutes prior to mixing.

1.  Whip the heavy cream with an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, starting at a low speed and gradually working up to high to minimize splattering.

2.  When the cream starts to thicken, gradually add powder sugar and vanilla extract.  We stopped intermittently to taste and determine if we needed more sugar.  Try not to eat all the whipped cream and save enough to decorate the cake.  That is very hard to do.

3.  Scoop whipped cream into a coriander to drain excess liquid.  Maybe we didn’t couldn’t wait long enough but nothing seeped out.

Nancy Bakes provides additional directions on adding optional gelatin to add structure and stiffness to the whipping cream.

Decorating cake

My daughter alternated a spoon of whipped cream for the cake and one for her mouth until we ran out of clean spoons.  For the astute, yes, my daughter is now in blue instead of yellow. Baking a cake can be a messy job for a 3 year old and may require a change of clothing, or two, to get the job done.

sponge cake

Mother’s Day is coming up.  While I had said I no longer expect any gifts as experiencing motherhood was the ultimate gift itself, I am not above using it as an excuse to order a big Baskin Robbin’s fudge crunch ice cream cake.  I mean cake is the answer to everything right?  And everyone gets to enjoy the treat so it’s not just for me right? Cake is love right?

I haven’t told the kiddo about Mother’s Day yet but if she wants to bake me another cake, maybe I would do it (sniff ice cream cake, I’ll miss you) since this time didn’t turn out a complete disaster thanks to Nancy Bake’s detailed pictures and to my kiddo for all the help.  How about you?  Would you bake yourself a cake?

 

 

Why Having a Baby is like Eating Humble Pie

Melissa recently asked “What is one thing you learned from your pregnancy/birth experience(s)?”

I learned so much from the experience but the two that resonate the most is humility and empathy.

Over my lifetime, I’ve heard different people’s anecdotes about pregnancy and being a parent.  I thought I had a good understanding of their situations and their feelings, but it was only after finally experiencing pregnancy and motherhood myself, that I got a mom’s perspective that I never had before.

Gaining this new perspective was earth shattering for me because I’ve always considered myself fairly open minded and emphatic but it turned out I had unintentionally made a lot of assumptions about pregnancy, being a mom and parenting.

 

Scarfing Down Big Fat Humble Pies

For example, I was so proud of myself when I took a shower and washed my hair at the hospital (almost immediately after giving birth when the nurse had my baby for tests). I even put on makeup and thought, “see, you can easily find time to shower after having a baby.”  Ha! HA! HAAAA!!! Biggest joke on myself ever.

After a blissful two weeks of thinking that, my baby started to cry all the time when I wasn’t holding her. And she was much louder than running water.  A two minute shower meant I was cringing for a full two minutes, and my mouth was constantly filled with shampoo because I kept opening it to try to say reassuring words to calm her.  The floor got sopping wet as I reached out frequently to bounce her.  All pointless. I even considered ordering a baby sling to take her into the shower with me. It took a few weeks but I finally understood why people say it can be hard to shower after a baby is born.

That was just the beginning too.

After another two more weeks, my baby started to cry for hours, even when I held her.

I did everything I can think of under the sun but nothing seemed to work. Then I started doing something I had thought I would never do, buy every pillow, chair or swing with good reviews with the hope that one might soothe her.  I only succeeded in amassing a room full of stuff. I had assumed if I tried hard enough, I can stop my baby’s crying. Nope.

A Little Bit More Empathy (from Me to You)

Now, when I hear someone else’s baby cry, my heart goes out to both baby and parents and I no longer think, “please do something to get the baby to stop crying”.

My daughter is now 3 and no longer cries with her little tears when I’m taking a shower, but she is still sticking her little fingers under the door and “cries” with her little voice.  That is if the Mister was able to distract her long enough for me to slip inside and shut the door, otherwise, she would be right next to the tub playing with the shower curtain, asking if I’m done yet, if I’m done yet, if I’m done yet…

Life is slowly shifting back to “normal”, but I am no longer the me from before.  Can’t go back.  Don’t want to go back.  I miss being her with her freedoms and her self indulgent life, and extended 30 minute showers, but I love being this exhausted and sometimes greasy mommy too.

My water bill is lower for one.  A two minute shower really is sufficient/ all that I can deal with.

A Lesson in Humility

The lesson of humility from experiencing some basic things I didn’t even know I didn’t know was profound.  The realization that there is so much that I don’t know, won’t understand, and may never experience makes me a happier and more receptive person.  I apologize for my old self.  There is still plenty I need to apologize for my current self, but it’s a start.  I’m plenty full on humble pie right now, but I’ll make room for more.

While I choose to be and prepared to be a parent, it isn’t always easy and without hardships, so I now have more empathy and respect for other people because I don’t know what they are dealing with.  They might not be sharing their challenges but that doesn’t mean they aren’t just trying to keep it together too.

And finally, the purpose and contentment I feel when my daughter repeatedly calls “mamee”, not to annoy me as I had exasperatedly concluded before, but because my presence makes her feel secure, comforted and happy, is absolutely priceless.  I love you to the moon and back my baby.

 

The Best Baby Advice I Got

Melissa recently asked me “What was the best piece of advice someone gave to you before you had your baby?”

The Best Baby Advice I Got

“It’s not a sprint.”  I got that piece of advice early in my pregnancy, and it wasn’t until my daughter was almost 2 before I realized it was the best parenting advice I was given.  At the time, I thought it was a backhanded comment and I was being chided for being so high strung.

I knew I was a perfectionist, and I liked to plan for contingencies, so while this understandably got on some people’s nerves, it served me well as a project manager. And it was why I was often put in charge of process improvement initiatives.  “It’s not a sprint” is now one of my key parenting mantras.  It’s not a sprint.  Heck, parenting is not even a marathon.  It’s…just life.

The first two weeks when my newborn daughter was still sleeping like a champ, I stayed up day and night, despite the choruses of “sleep when you can, sleep”, because I was so busy cleaning, and preparing and planning.

Now I know I really should have been sleeping because none of my cleaning mattered, none of the preparation prepared me for when my daughter refused to sleep again for the next 22 months, and none of my well intended plans came to fruition because baby came first and baby doesn’t care I had plans.

Now?  Some days I go to sleep even though my house is in a state of emergency because it was hit by a rainbow tornado.  It’s okay to wait to clean another day because it’s not a sprint.  I can sleep first knowing we had fun making a giant paper Mache Easter Egg.

I now also know that some things just aren’t up to me.  All my so called contingency plans had underestimated how much influence/ sway my little baby, now preschooler, has over me.  Irrationally, my fear of her shiny little tears and the desire to see her giggle just get so much more weight in daily decisions than I imagined.  Some days she is extra fussy and just wants to cuddle and read books together so I “couldn’t” get groceries and make dinner as planned.  I just boil some frozen dumplings instead and it’s okay.  It’s not a sprint; not every meal has to be three courses and balanced, as long as it is mostly and generally healthy in the long run.

The long hours I had poured into my work soon paled in comparison to the hours I am a parent (because it’s all the time- it’s not a sprint) and the pace I had taken was just not sustainable.  For almost two years, I stayed fully engaged and this allowed me to limit screen time to practically zero.  Right now, my daughter is watching Bubble Guppies and eating a popsicle while I type this.  I just needed a break, both mentally and physically, and it’s a hot day, so it’s okay since a little screen time (and sugar today) can’t be more damaging for her than if I burnt out as a parent.  I’m glad I got to sprint a few years, but now I’m at a better pace to enjoy what I hope is many many more years together…life.

“What was the best piece of advice someone gave to you before you had your baby?”

 

My Birth Story

As my due date drew nearer, I found myself visiting a lot of mom blogs to see birth stories for an idea of what to expect.  It was my first time and I was clueless. I had taken a birthing class but it seemed too textbook: there are three stages, labor, birth and afterbirth.  Don’t go to the hospital too soon, or you’ll be sent home. Don’t go too late or else…

I did pay attention, I really did, but it was months ago and I just couldn’t get a good idea of the general timeline or how I would know how everything is proceeding, well or not.

Holding hands with Newborn hands

My Birth Story

So here is my birth story.  The shortish version is that my water broke, sorta, and so I was admitted into the hospital before my contractions started.  Turned out I had a double amniotic sac and only the outer layer had broken.  I ended up getting an amniotomy (AROM) because my unborn daughter and I both developed a temperature.  I also ended up getting an epidural with mixed feelings as it wasn’t originally a part of my birth plan, but having it resulted in such an easy, enjoyable, painless (except for the burning sensation from the Pitocin) and most importantly quick delivery that with 20/20 hindsight I wish I had gotten it as soon as it was offered.  Another benefit was I didn’t feel the episiotomy or the stitches afterwards, although a part of me still feels like I missed the full experience of giving birth to my daughter.  And in the future, when she is being an insufferable teenager, I can’t say I had a rough time bringing her into this world.

Just kidding.  But not really.  Anyways, now the loooooooong version.

3 AM – Water Breaks

According to Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, a pregnancy and childbirth expert, only 13% of water breaks before labor.  Well, two days after my due date, I think my water broke. At 3 AM in the morning, a warm wet feeling in my nether region, like a heavy period or a (female) wet dream, woke me from my sleep.  I had started wearing a pad and was sleeping on a few towels just in case (yeah, I am prepared like that!) so I wasn’t worried about cleaning up, instead I was staring at a damp pad. So did my water break? I didn’t have any contradictions yet so from what I can google, I shouldn’t be going to the hospital either case.

I wasn’t sure if my water broke but I was too excited to fall back asleep so I just wandered around the house organizing this and that until around 6 AM when the mister woke up for work.

He called the 24 hr answering service for the obgyn office and left a message.  The obgyn who was on call returned his call around 7 AM and after asking about my COAT (color, odor, amount and time) told me to go to the hospital for a check up, given the fact I had no check ups the 3 recent weeks, and that I was already past my due date.

8 AM – Arrive at Hospital

Since we only lived 10 minutes from the hospital, I took a shower first and ate breakfast and still arrived before 8 AM.  However, the receptionists, reasonably, admitted the moms arriving in active labor first so I wait until almost 10 AM before seeing the room where the magic will happen.

Hospital delivery room

My newborn awaiting testing in the hospital delivery room

I still had no contractions and not sure if the water broke so a nurse examined me and confirmed with litmus paper, and reconfirmed under the microscope that the water had broken.  But by noon (8 to 9 hours since my water broke) I was still only a few centimeters dilated and didn’t have contractions yet.

3 PM – Started Temperature (Fever)

Over the next few hours, I started getting contractions.  They were fairly regular, intense and lasted 45 to 60 seconds and were 3 to 5 minutes apart.  According to the American Pregnancy Association, this is the active labor phase and when I should have headed to the hospital.  With my contractions, I also felt chills and started to shake uncontrollably. I had a fever/ temperature and was given antibiotics through IV.

4 PM – Amniotomy

The obstetrician examined me and said my amniotic sac was still intact and after conferring with the nurses and reviewing the test results, determined that I had a double sac and only the outer layer had ruptured.  I don’t recall making a decision but the obstetrician performed an amniotomy, otherwise known as an artificial rupture of membranes (AROM). I didn’t remember reading or learning anything about this before but apparently it’s common although not always necessary.

5 PM – Epidural

The obstetrician and nurses who came to check on me, and there were many had all highly recommended I get an epidural.  I was originally noting down people’s names so I can send thank you cards, but there were approximately 5 new faces every 4 hours. By now I had been introduced to at least 20 different people.  I declined the epidural repeatedly, partly because I am scared of needles, and even more scared of urinary catheters, and partly because I had wanted to feel the whole birthing experience.

I persisted until my daughter’s heart rate stayed high even when I wasn’t having contractions and I started having a temperature.  The obstetrician said if things don’t progress really really quickly, it’s highly likely I would need a cesarean section and then I would have to get an epidural or anesthesia anyway.  I didn’t want to risk my daughter’s health so I readily agreed to an epidural at this point.

She also wondered if I might be suppressing the contractions to limit the pain (only normal right?) and so it might progress faster if I wasn’t feeling the contractions.

An hour later, I met with the anesthesiologist.  The anesthesiologist was very nice and addressed my concerns and tried to calm my fears.  The local anesthesia felt like a small cold pinch – like a typical flu shot or blood draw.  It worked quickly because I didn’t feel any pain when the epidural needle or the tube that replaced it were inserted. I had sat and leaned forward for the procedure.

In less than half an hour, I suddenly felt no more pain.  Wow!  I can feel the tightening and the pressure of the contractions but there was no discomfort.  Did I say wow?  The epidural tube was connected to an automatic pump so the dosage could be dialed up or down easily.  I had requested the lowest dose possible to start, knowing that I can always increase the dosage if required.

With the epidural at the lowest dosage, I could still move my legs if I tried to, but I didn’t feel any discomfort from the contractions.  I also didn’t feel the episiotomy, a surgical cut in the perineum to facilitate delivery and reduce the likelihood of tearing.  I also didn’t feel the urinary catheter insertion which was one of my biggest fears for getting an epidural.  My grandmother, before she passed away, had told me several times she mostly dreaded her hospital stays because of how uncomfortable it was to have a urinary catheter inserted so I had not wanted to ever experience it for myself.

In fact, the Pitocin, a hormone to cause uterus contractions, which made my hand and most of my arm feel like it was burning, was the most painful part of the whole delivery.

9 PM – Delivery

Just 3 hours later, maybe because of the epidural, or the amniotomy, or the Pitocin, or some combination of those three, I was ready.  The nurse called the obstetrician because I was crowning.  I of course couldn’t feel it.  So I pushed when they said push and 4 pushes later, 3.5 pushes if I want to be exact, my baby was out.  It could have been only 3 pushes, but I ran out of breath on that third push it was totally weak sauce.

My newborn came into the room and said “eh” once.  And that was the end of my birth story and the start of a completely new one where we are both still writing together everyday.

Newborn foot print

The nurse made a foot print of our newborn for us upon request after her bath. But they no longer did hand prints.

Looking for more birth stories?  Check out Melissa’s amazing home birth story!  They are more rare than my birthing class led me to believe.

 

Creamy Chicken & Green Beans on Rice

This easy creamy chicken and green bean on rice is a new family favorite.  The creamy sauce on rice is super comforting, and the stirfried green beans are a tasty way to eat more vegetables.

DSC00683

While this creamy chicken and green bean on rice wasn’t a one pan meal, I did only use one pan if you don’t count the rice cooker.  Who is counting?  First I stirfried the green beans with some minced garlic.  Then using the same pan, I added more garlic and browned the chicken.  Then using the same pan, with the garlicky chicken juices and all, I added butter and made roux and then cream sauce.  The browned chicken was then returned to the pan of sauce and simmered until done.

Creamy sauces on rice is one of my favorite comfort foods and I usually end up over eating.  So to cut back on calories, I used skinless chicken thighs even though it would be more flavorful and juicy with skin on and bone-in.  All three toddlers finished their plates and two kiddos even got seconds so I say this dish gets to go on the regular dinner rotation 🙂

Recipe:

serves 4 to 6

  • 3 cups rice

Garlic Green Beans

  • 1 lb trimmed green beans
  • 1 tbls minced garlic
  • 1 tbls oil
  • 1 tsp chicken bouillon dissolved in 1 tbls chicken broth

Creamy Chicken (Sauce adapted from food.com)

  • 2 lbs chicken (cut of your choice)
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 3 tbls butter
  • 4 tbls flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Wash and cook rice and place in bottom of serving dish.  I cooked two cups of rice with one cup of quinoa instead to add a whole grain to the meal.
  2. Stir fry green beans:  heat pan, add oil and minced garlic.  When oil is hot and garlic is fragrant, add green beans and stir to coat beans in oil.  Let pan fry over medium high heat for 2 minutes then add season chicken broth and cover with lid and steam until pan is almost dry, approximately 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic green beans on top of rice.
    Garlic Green Beans
  4. Add crushed garlic to pan and brown chicken, approximately 8 minutes per side.Browning chicken in pan
  5. Set aside browned chicken. Lower heat and add butter to pan. After it melts, blend in flour, onion powder, salt and pepper until mixture is smooth and even. Pour in chicken stock, turn up heat and stir until smooth and boiling.
  6. Return chicken to pan, add heavy cream, cover pan and lower heat.  Simmer until chicken is no longer pink inside, approximately 20 minutes for boneless, and longer for bone-in.
    Simmer Chicken in Creamy Sauce
  7. Enjoy!

So what do you think?  Would you give this recipe a try?

My 3 Unexpected Pregnancy Challenges

Mother’s Day is less than a month away and so we wanted to share some of the milestones and challenges on our journey to motherhood.  Overall my pregnancy was easy and everything had gone smoothly but, I faced 3 challenges that I want to share:  leg cramps, anemia, and limited access to care during the Christmas holiday season.

LEG CRAMPS/ CHARLEY HORSE

Overall I had an easy pregnancy- no morning sickness, no excessive mood changes (I think), no real back pain, and only slight swelling despite 60+ lbs weight gain at the highest (I actually lost some weight in the third trimester). But. Oh. My. Goodness. Gracious.  Were the leg cramps horrible! I didn’t know leg cramps were common in pregnancies (they are, particularly in the 2nd trimester) so I hadn’t expected them which made the first episode worse than it was because it scared me as much as it hurt.  I was worried the cramping was a sign that something terrible was happening and I was going to lose my baby (again).  

They were so frequent too.  Almost every morning when I woke, I was greeted by an excruciating one. Anytime I tried to stretch, hello leg cramp.  In a meeting at work? Cramp.  Whenever I got to a good part of a movie? Yikes. Trying to eat lunch or dinner? Cramp and cramp.  Sleep? Nah, it’s cramp time.  I cramped so often that my legs were constantly tired and hurt like I had a really good workout.

They were so frequent that I couldn’t risk driving to work (or anywhere).  When it was a severe cramp, which it often was in the 2nd trimester, the muscles in my leg (never both at the exact same time) would knot/ lump up and be rock hard and I would almost be immobile until the cramping stopped so I was worried that I would get into an accident if my leg cramped while I was driving.

5 THINGS I TRIED TO HELP PREVENT LEG CRAMPS

  • Staying well hydrated
  • Eating a calcium, potassium and magnesium rich diet (e.g. spinach, banana, yogurt, lentils, nuts & seeds, avocados etc.)
  • Wearing compression stocking or socks (support hose)
  • Stretching (shin and calf muscles in particular) and exercising
  • Resting and taking breaks often (even from sitting or walking or standing)

I had originally dreaded wearing compression socks, also good for reducing swelling, because I had ignorantly thought they would look ugly, but there are compression socks that look just like regular socks.  There were a large selection of compression socks with fun prints too!

5 THINGS I TRIED TO STOP/ RELIEVE LEG CRAMPS

  • Running water down leg in the sink or shower
  • Standing/ walking barefoot on a cold surface
  • Straightening leg and flex toes  
  • Applying heat (heat pad)
  • Massaging


Running water down my leg helped me the most while straightening my leg and stretching during a cramp sometimes helped but sometimes made it cramp worse for me.

 

ANEMIA/ B12 DEFICIENCY

Just went my legs stopped cramping as frequently, either due to my efforts above, or just because I was now in my 3rd trimester, my memory and concentration started to get notably terrible.  I had thought maybe pregnancy brain isn’t just a myth.  Turned out I was anemic, despite watching my nutrition closely on a daily basis.  Ensuring I got enough of everything was partly why I had such a big +60 weight gain.

My obgyn sent me to a hematologist who recommended iron supplements and B12 injections.  Luckily my legs were no longer cramping frequently because I had to drive to the hematologist often during my last trimester.  After the initial 3x a week B12 loading doses, I still had to return weekly for the B12 injections.

I still got blood work every six months after giving birth because I had decided to nurse my daughter.  When I stopped nursing, I also stopped monitoring my blood and last month, when I got a routine check up, I found out I was anemic again and made me worry about my daughter (since we have a similar diet) and I saw that it may affect IQ in children so I switched her multivitamin to one that includes iron too.

HELLO?  IS EVERYONE SERIOUSLY ON VACATION?

I was supposed to get weekly B12 injections but the month before my due date, I was unable to find anyone to administer it.  The hematologist I was seeing had gone on vacation and I couldn’t get any appointments with the doctors covering her.  Getting care only got worse from that point.

My baby’s due date was right around Christmas, and at the beginning of December, at the 37 week visit, the obgyn said she was concerned that my baby will have a low birth weight (~6lbs) and referred me to a mfm specialist.  But after arriving at the mfm’s office, the receptionist insisted I had no referral.  I persisted so an assistant briefly talked to me- to advise me that the mfm can’t see me, but she had describe my situation to the mfm, and both she and the mfm felt that due to my size (only 5’3”) a ~6lb baby would be normal, not low or concerning, especially since fetal weight estimation by ultrasound had a 15% margin of error in 85-90% of cases.  They do not believe I require mfm care and won’t set up any appointments for me.

I didn’t tell her that I had overheard her conversation with the mfm.  I also didn’t tell her that she neglected to relay the part where the mfm’s opinion was that my obgyn was just trying to dump my care on her since it was the holidays.

When I went back to my obgyn, I suspect the mfm’s opinion was correct as my 3 remaining weekly obgyn appointments, made a few months in advance, were all cancelled without my knowledge.  It was impossible to reschedule as no more appointments were available.  As a result, I had no prenatal care or checkups for the last three weeks until I delivered.

These 3 challenges aside though, I was very lucky and had a relatively smooth and easy pregnancy.  What challenges, if any, did you face in your pregnancy?

 

 

NOTE:  Please note that there are some affiliate links in this post; these were just products I had success using and wanted to review and share.  This post and blog are for information purpose only.  I am not giving any kind of education or medical advice (I don’t know what’s what).  Please consult your health care provider (pediatrician, physician, obgyn, mfm, hematologist, etc.) for diagnosis, treatment and medical advice.

 

Links/ resources for Pregnancy Leg Cramps/ Charley Horses:

 

 

Affiliate links:

 

Ribs with Apricot Sauce

These tasty apricot ribs are super easy to make and smell mouth wateringly good.  The meat used were purchased with the intention of making soup and weren’t the best quality but the family still gobbled these up.

ribs

 

Recipe (adapted from Luau Ribs on Food.com):

Apricot Ribs

Serves 1-2

  • 2 lbs pork ribs
  • 8 tbls apricot preserves
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1 tbls soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • pepper to taste

IngredientsThe apricot preserve is the secret ingredient in this recipe:

Apricot

 

Directions:

  1. Rinse ribs and dry, remove membrane if necessary.
  2. Mix all ingredients.  Optional: marinade ribs a few hours up to 48 hours in the refrigerator.
    marinate Ribs in large bag
  3. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 90 to 120 minutes or until done.  Baste with marinade while cooking.
  4. If sauce didn’t caramelize nicely, broil for a few minutes at the end and ta-da:
    ribs
  5. Enjoy!

Since the oven is already on, I like to throw in some vegetables under the ribs for a quick side.

convection oven

Root vegetables like carrots or potatoes are great.  Cauliflower works well too.  Season the vegetables simply with salt and pepper to taste and toss in a little garlic or olive oil and just let the vegetables soak up some of the drippings for extra flavor.

Don’t you just love the dark purple color of these potatoes?  Just picture them with some carrots and corn and it would be a colorful feast for the eyes.

Purple Potatoes

Add a salad for more vegetables and the sauce is also really good on rice or pasta for a complete meal.  My daughter asked to eat these ribs with a piece of cheesy toast.

When I try a recipe for the first time, I resist from adjusting it (too much); I might learn or find something new.  But if it only turned out good and didn’t wow, then I would try to make it my own the next time.  This rib smelled and tasted great but was no where near perfection so I might try this recipe again with a few changes.  Normally, I like making ribs with a rub, so the next time I will start with better meat, use a base rub and cook at a lower temperature for longer so that the meat falls off the bone before basting with the sauce.  What is your personal preference? Sauce? Rub? or Both?

What do you think?  Will you be having ribs any time soon?

 

 

 

Affiliate link:

Pregnancy: Dropping the P-bomb (or Not)

With Mother’s Day coming next month, we wanted to share some of the key moments in our journey to motherhood.  My previous pregnancy had ended in a miscarriage and while the pregnancy was unplanned, and it would have been a difficult time for me to raise a baby, I was devastated beyond my imagination.
I was going through an especially stressful time in my life and not menstruating for 3 to 4 months at a time was “regular” so I hadn’t considered the possibility that I was pregnant when I had a bad flu and was crippled by fatigue.  I was randomly griping about my never-ending flu symptoms and fatigue when someone suggested I take a pregnancy test.  To my surprise I was more than two months pregnant!

MISCARRYING

Boy did I freak out and started worrying- my diet was atrocious (pretty much just gallons of diet coke to battle the fatigue) and I had taken so much cold and flu medicine!! I stopped drinking all caffeine and medicine and started taking prenatal vitamins immediately but a month later, I felt a strange dropping sensation and I started to worry.  That night, I tried hard to sleep but I couldn’t nudge the feeling something was wrong.  Around 3 AM, I felt the urge to use the bathroom and that’s when I started to bleed.
It was difficult news to share, especially with my dad who really wanted more grandkids and was extremely disappointed.  He is superstitious and had strongly voioced that I should not have revealed the pregnancy before the second trimester so this was his I told you so.
It’s been a decade since that horrific night but I still miss and think often of my unborn child.  A few months ago I was going through old photos and came across the belly pictures I had started taking and couldn’t decide if I should keep or delete them.

FINALLY PREGNANT AGAIN

Unlike Melissa and Stephanie, it was years after planning to start a family before I was pregnant again.  Despite the elation of finally getting pregnant, and wanting to shout on rooftops, I was also hesitant to announce my pregnancy given what had happened.  In fact, I felt like I was holding my breath from the moment I found out I was pregnant till months after my daughter was born.
35928119_s

Photo by: Yuliya29

TELLING IMMEDIATE FAMILY & CLOSE FRIENDS

I went with the need-to-know principle and less than a handful of people knew right away.  Needless to say, I did not tell my dad until the beginning of the second trimester.  At this time, the Mister and I told our immediate family members as well as we felt if we waited any longer, some may feel slighted.
The disappointment one family member expressed when she found out that I was pregnant and not just gaining weight was hilarious.

BEING DISCOVERED AT WORK (AT ALMOST 6 MONTHS)

At work, I had called HR and they said as long as they have the due date, I just work with my manager on coverage.  There were no timelines it seemed (I called three times and never got an actual answer) both the paper work for maternity leave and the actual leave doesn’t start until after I give birth and not something I can do ahead of time so I had planned to talk to my manager after the 20 week gender revealing visit but my manager and I played meeting tag a few times and left it at that.  Besides, it had become almost a game hiding my growing bump successfully.
But people started murmuring when I was almost 6 months pregnant.  It ended up being people coming to my office to “ask” and probe instead of me making an announcement.  One coworker said she had a suspicion much earlier because I had switched from my usual high heels for flats as soon as I found out I was pregnant.

BABY POOL

Since it was obvious now that I was pregnant, I set up a baby pool on expectnet and sent it to all my friends and family because I thought it was a fun way to make the announcement but several friends thought I was annoying for setting up the baby pool.  So my attempt at a fun announcement backfired, but it was a relief when everyone finally knew because it was hard keeping secrets.
So my attempt at a fun reveal was a big flop, but I think Melissa executed it perfectly.  Did you check out her announcement post?

Lead up to Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day, a celebration of motherhood that falls on the 2nd Sunday in May in North America, is only a month away. What does Mother’s Day mean to you?

THE FIRST MOTHER’S DAY

According to the History channel it became an official US holiday in 1914 due to the efforts of Anna Jarvis.  Jarvis, who was childless her entire life, created Mother’s Day in 1908 to celebrate and honor the sacrifices mothers made for their children following her mother’s death in 1905.  A church service was held in observation of Mother’s Day and Jarvis selected the carnation, her mother’s favorite flower, as a symbol of Mother’s Day.

Pink Carnations

photo by Rawlik

The most likely precedent of Mother’s Day was the Christian festival of Mothering Sunday, held on the fourth Sunday of Lent, where the faithful would return to their “mother church” for a special service.

MOTHER’S DAY GIFTS

The holiday was originally church service and visiting one’s mother, but it quickly became commercialized. Now, when I hear Mother’s Day, I almost automatically expect a third word to follow: brunch, or gift, or card, or flowers.  Billions are spent on Mother’s Day flowers each year, with Mother’s Day in second place for the most holiday floral sales, after Christmas/ Chanukah and ahead of Valentine’s Day according to aboutflowers.com.

Flower Boquet for Mom

Photo by pixbox

And here are a Few Quick Mother’s Day Card Stats:
Mother's Day Card Stats

Growing up, we didn’t really celebrate Mother’s Day. My parents were self employed in retail so they always worked on Mother’s Day. There was no brunch and our family never really did cards or presents. I vaguely remember getting mom a cake some years, but I can’t be certain.

After I moved away from home, I started calling. Then when I started working, I began sending flowers.

And before having my daughter, this was what I expected that my future kids would at least do. They better call and get flowers for me. I thought I would be sad if they didn’t, but now that I have a daughter, my view on this holiday changed a little.

I love my mom even more, and want to do more to show her my love, gratitude and appreciation, but I also no longer expect anything on Mother’s Day. My daughter is the greatest gift I could have and having her love brings me happiness. If she didn’t love me, then I rather her not just gesturally send me a card or gift. It will only make me cry. Emotional yeah?

I had thought that the powerful emotional effects from pregnancy hormones ended after giving birth but something must have carried over for me. I feel I’m more emotional now that I’m a mom; after Melissa shared her amazing home-birth story with me, I started reminiscing about my own daughter’s delivery.

Since Mother’s Day is only a month away, all of us here at Sinks Full of Dishes wanted to take the next few weeks sharing some parts of our journey to motherhood and the events that ultimately changed our roles on Mother’s Day.  Please come back and join us!

In the mean time, check out this pretty infographic from ftd.com:
Mother's Day Flowers Infographicsource: FTD.com

Paper Mache Easter Egg Piñata

PaperMacheEggPinata_5A few weeks ago, my daughter told me, out of the blue, that she really, like reeeeeeaaaaaallllllllyyyyyyyy wanted a rainbow Easter Egg Piñata. My automatic response to her dragged out pluuuuuuueaseeeeeee Mommy, please, was “we will see”.  But then as soon as the words left my mouth, I thought, wait, why not? I’m always looking for crafts to do with her and it can be easy to make simple paper mache piñatas, especially an egg shaped one.  We had almost everything necessary for the project on hand.

PAPER MACHE EASTER EGG PINATA SUPPLIES

  • hand torn newspaper (we used cut white printer paper at my daughter’s insistence; I pick and choose my battles and this was not one of them)
  • paper mache paste
  • balloon
  • paper clip
  • ribbon or string
  • paint or tissue paper

Ultimate Paper Mache has three different recipes for the paste and we used the raw flour and water one – no glue, no boiling, easy-peasy and ready in less than a minute.

NO COOK PAPER MACHE PASTE RECIPE

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • optional: 2 tsp. salt (to help prevent mold)
  • optional: dash of cinnamon to enhance smell
PaperMacheEggPinata_2

My daughter loved playing with the squishy paste so much that I thought we would never actually get to making the egg, but we did, and she was more methodical than I imagined she would be at three.  So much so that I didn’t have to help her.

PaperMacheEggPinata_0

Paper Mache Easter Egg Pinata

I only intervened when she started grabbing fists full of toilet paper and dunking them into the paste and then flinging the globs off her fingers.  I suppose she had wanted to remind me she is only three after all.

We ran out of paper (hence the grab for toilet paper) at around the same time she started to lose interest and while there were still a few holes, it was time to stop and clean up.

The paper mache paste was fairly easy to clean up.  The real added bonus of this activity was that she gladly jumped into the bath without me having to beg or bribe her.

That was a few weeks ago and I had almost forgotten about the egg that we had hung up to dry.  Then today, she refused to nap, and by 4 PM she was starting to get clingy and fussy and I figured it was time for some messy crafting.

By the way, at what age should I stop dismissing negative behavior as just fussy?

As I looked around the room for something we can do together, I saw the unfinished egg.  We should probably add a few more layers of paper but with Easter being only a week away, I asked if she wanted to paint her egg piñata.

The ecstatic cheers and leaps into the air suggested the answer is yes.

PaperMacheEggPinata_3

She popped the balloon with a paintbrush and immediately asked for chocolates to fill it with.  Luckily she was receptive to the idea of painting and letting the egg dry first before adding the treats.

As she painted (she choose neon green, blue, and black, and then as an afterthought added glittery purple, orange and yellow for the glitter), she went on and on about how she and her friends are going to have so much fun trying to break the egg open.

PaperMacheEggPinata_4

Then she went on and on about the chocolates and candies she wants to eat and I made a mental note to get some bottles of bubbles, tiny cans of PlayDoh, erasers, stickers and (more) temporary tattoos for her piñata.

The cutest little chick erasers ever!

The cutest little chick erasers ever!

What are good/ safe candy substitutes in a piñata?

Paper Mache Egg Pinata

I have a few non-candy ideas for the Easter Basket, but what other non-candy treats would you suggest for an Easter Egg Hunt?

Happy Easter

Hope you and your loved ones have a happy Easter!