Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween from Cole

If he asks you, "trick or treat?" I'd stick with the treat option. His tricks are pretty smelly... :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Frugal Feast Friday: seafood quesadillas

Families pinch their pennies tighter than the ears of an 8-year-old these days, so I thought I’d start a series on inexpensive, easy-to-make recipes. I chose easy-to-make ones because if you called me a "beginner" in the kitchen, I'd call you "too kind."

For example, I made biscotti once. The dessert was fine. The hand mixer was not. I fried its motor combining ingredients. And that’s a good day for me. 
In every recipe for this series, I plan to use products I find on sale. Shredded cheese was a bargain at 2/$3 at a local grocery store. Therein lies my inspiration. 
Note: I didn't include that store's name. BUT if any grocer, food supplier, kitchen-product sales person care to sponsor a post, I’d share the name, many times, them as long as readers are aware. E-mail me up, let’s make a deal.   
Anyways, this post’s recipe I modified from Redbook Magazine. PS: I modify every recipe. I never have all the right ingredients. I can’t help it. 
The Par-VENT-ing rendition of Redbook’s Shrimp and Crab Quesadilla
6 oz crabmeat (I sprung for the real stuff even though imitation is cheaper. The recipe called for 8 oz, but crab comes in 6 oz packages)
10 oz shrimp (Again, I don’t follow directions. The recipe called for 8 oz, but since I didn’t have enough crab, I supplemented with shrimp.)
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup chunky salsa
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese (The recipe called for pepper jack, but I didn't have any... whoops)
8 tortillas
extra sour cream, salsa and shredded lettuce for topping
1). Peel and slice shrimp.

2). Combine all ingredients in large bowl.

3). Cook quesadillas on medium heat in a non-stick skillet.

4). Top it with a second tortilla and flip when cheese has melted. If the bottom tortilla puckers, flip ASAP. Leave it longer and it may burn. Experienced chefs probably already know this... :)

4). Use a pizza cutter to slice tortillas into four or six pieces. Top with lettuce, salsa and sour cream.

The recipe serves about six.
So I know this is “frugal” feast, and I spent $10 on meat for one meal, but I wanted to mix it up my entree. Worth it? Not if you consume all of it in one night. 
The leftovers had a more shrimpy/crab taste which = mmm. The first night I made it, the cheese and salsa overwhelmed the seafood flavor. Chicken or beef would have tasted just as nummy. In the future, I’d maybe combine all ingredients the night-, or at least a few hours before, allowing more time to blend so the shrimp- and crab flavor could take center stage.  
If I make this again: I’d add more vegetables like sliced olives and diced onions. I’d also garnish with fresh tomatoes too.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stuff I never thought about: the breast-milk bind

For two days, 130 miles separated me and my baby and given North Dakota's weather, snow, sleet and heavy winds covered nearly all of them.

While we were in Fargo for my husband's surgery, I gave my mother-in-law every ounce (and in some containers, less than that) of milk I'd stored when a feeding tube nourished baby in the NICU. I was fortunate to have the extra supply, another of the few *PLUSES* for babies born with health complications. Without the stockpile, we'd have fed him formula, which is fine. But what if baby gets used to and then prefers the powder on his palate? How do I beckon him back to the breast?

I like to breastfeed. I like the supposed health benefits and I love how inexpensive it is... the only cost to me is the increase in MY calorie consumption. A week or two worth of formula costs $20-$25 or more than $1,000 per year. The added benefit is the bonding time with mother and baby. My kid must hang out with me... I'd better get my fill now before he hits his teenage years and pretends to not know me :)

Because of my NICU supply, I knew I had enough milk reserve for two days, but did I have enough for three days if Mother Nature delayed us?

That's why I now have about four days worth of reserve and I plan to make more. According to La Leche League, if a mother needs to produce milk for two babies, she usually can. So to pump and save at least once each day wouldn't take away from my child's nourishment needs. Store some yourself so this situation doesn't happen to you.

Breast milk is produced on a supply and demand basis, so once the milk is used, the breast makes more, according to LLL. It doesn't run out after a specific number of ounces per day.

That's why some women donate and others store. To store an extra feeding, considering you have a decent pump, only takes about 15 minutes. Those reserves may come in handy if mom is ever sick, gone for longer than expected or enjoys one too many cocktails the night before.  

I hadn't considered this dilemma until the weather got wacky and plans threatened to change. Just thought I'd share. Hope it helps.

Any of you ever been in a breastfeeding bind?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Baby's first er, uh second slumber party

Today, my husband has surgery.

The nearest hospital performing such a procedure is 100 miles away, so the little tyke is crashing at grandma's. It's his first slumber party since the NICU.

While I'm sure he won't notice our departure, i.e., he'll probably have more fun without us, I'm already teary about leaving him.

Please tell me this is normal and will go away.

If one night is tough, how will I handle summer camps and college?

Bath time photo-try

photo-try: n. a combination of pictures and poems. name and idea stolen from Rebecca Woolf at

The boy wails with lungs now healthy
as bathtubs spout a scare

Soap suds and bubbles cause his lament, 
a muppet cloth won't console him

Even his great comforter,
the plastic binkie,
before Johnson & Johnson it trembles

And while the towel dries his body 

In daddy's hands he is warm.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

teaching my son the human races

One of my biggest fears, living and raising a family in North Dakota, is failing to expose my children to different cultures. Not only do I live in a state who's population is more than 90 percent white, but it's also mostly Christian and predominantly German- and Norwegian white. 

Don't get me wrong, living in a state so small and area so rural has SUPER advantages for child-rearing, namely, my child will never have to walk through metal detectors on his way to school. Check mark in the pro column. 

I grew up in a bigger city and at age four, still touched the head of a little black girl at Sesame Street Live. I wanted to know what her hair felt like. Even with my upbringing, I didn't and don't know nearly enough. 

I don't want my son to walk the graduation stage without ever meeting someone who's skin tanned faster than his does. 

So what to do? 

* Cable TV, movies, media is a start. Watch a show with black people in it. And if I'm feeling really civil rights-y, I can throw in "The Color Purple" or "How to Kill a Mockingbird." I guess that has potential. The problem is, reality TV is seldom (if ever) realistic. I don't want him getting the impression that these over-the-top personalities represent any one culture as a whole. And he won't have much by way of real people and local examples to teach him any different. 

* Art: I can't think of any other offering here that would expose him to more cultures and perspectives. Even if the project is a little cheesy, like: here, make a fan. That's what Asian people do... A project like that at least it opens the door for opportunities to explore that fan and the reasons and culture behind it. He and I can read books on the topic or research "Asia" on the internet. In fact, I like that idea. I'm pretty sure hand-held fans don't represent modern Asia, but perhaps making one represents an opportunity to explore another heritage. 

* Travel: Duh! It's the bottom line frightens me. On our budget, traveling to relatives and friends in Colorado and small-town Iowa will have to suffice. As much as I'd love summer vacations in India, Egypt and Ireland, something tells me they'll have to discover oil in LaMoure County first. 

So what would you do? How did you grow up? 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

I'm with baby 24 hours a day, but sometimes I feel I neglect him

Do you feel you spend enough time with your children?
I sort of wrote about this before when I asked how often you hold your babies. A facebook friend asked the same question yesterday: even if you spend all day with your children, is it enough? She said she stays at home with her child, but is often preoccupied with schoolwork and studying. She said she feels guilty when her daughter plays alone while my friend betters herself in the books. 
Then today, I read this post  and one of my favorite bloggers wrote about living in the moment. Most days, she attempts punctuality and efficiency, but for the last week, she took life as it came. The blogger said she learned to enjoy the everyday moments, because she’ll never have them again. Her daughter will never be 6 years old again and may not always want to give her extra hugs and kisses. 
Those two posts combined are like a sign, or rather, a punch in the groin. 
I spend everyday with my baby, usually 24 hours a day. I mostly don’t mind nursing him, although at 4 a.m., I sometimes wish he’d eat a little faster. But I won’t always have the luxury of maternity leave and napping (almost) whenever I please. I won’t always have the free time to watch his little face or the **occasional** “Say Yes to the Dress” while he eats. Soon, I’ll have to make phone calls or stir spaghetti in a race to do the laundry and get some sleep before the next work day instead. 
Today, I opened his baby carrier and tried to hold him hands-free as I hung clothes in his closet. After a few minutes, I put him in his crib. Even at 7 lbs, my back ached. 
I love my son so much, I want to spend every minute with him, looking at the face which after four weeks, already looks like a new person compared to pictures of Day 1.
And while I don’t love scrubbing my kitchen as much, I do like living in a clutter- and dirt free home.
And blogging, I love it. It gives me a chance to research parenting and write about it. Plus, I can chronicle my life with my newborn and share stories with family and friends far away. But with every minute in front of my Mac, I feel guilty I’m not spending those minutes with my boy.  
So what do you do and do you have any advice?
How much time do you spend interacting with your children and can you accomplish your other daily tasks as well?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Correspondence with Cole: one month

Dear Cole,
Today you are one month old. Today marks 30 days since the morning the doctor vacuumed you from my womb, sat you on my chest and subsequently whisked you away. 
I waited two days to hold you, three days to nurse you and five days to buckle you in a car seat and drive you home. 
Looking at you in the NICU, with an oxygen helmet over your face, afterbirth still in your hair and wires in your belly button, it was hard to believe you were once in my tummy and that your father and I were responsible for such a man. 

Three days after you arrived, the nurses laid your bare body on my chest and the feelings of maternity flooded me. 
Our first attempt at nursing didn’t go well and nurses didn’t want you to associate breast feeding with frustration. So along with the wires and oxygen tube, they laid your bare body against mine. 
When skin touched skin, I learned what motherhood felt like.  
That evening, after your father and I returned to the NICU, washed our hands for three minutes and bid you good night, I stood by your plastic wheel cart and cried. Perhaps it was the postpartum hormones or just the pressure of parenting a child under such circumstances, but I wept for fear I wasn’t worthy. I just wanted to be a good mom to you, and at times, I already felt like a failure. How can someone who eats Frosted Mini Wheats for dinner possibly be a good parent?
You didn’t grasp my finger the first time I grazed your hand, but that night, you grabbed tight. For many years, I will hold you, but that night, you held me. 
Today, you entertain us with faces which turn from sweet infant to angry teenager faster than the days on the calendar turn until you become one. We like dressing you in outfits and laugh when they don’t quite fit. Your father jokes about your pants and how they make you look like grandfather, they’re so high. Don’t worry, when you grow up, we’ll make fun of daddy’s clothes too. In fact, I already do. 
Today, we rush through your diaper changes because you’ve taught us a baby’s bum is a loaded weapon. My first christening was at 6 a.m. the second day we had you home. I had no idea kiddie keisters carried so much force. If you ever have children, know their rear ends explode like sundown on the Fourth of July.
Already, our families joke about your entrance into this world and how it must mean you’re adventurous, a fighter or if nothing else, a little shit. 
But I know better. 
You’re a big softie. 
We used to think you cried because you hated diaper changes after feedings, but realized it wasn’t the changes you hated, it was their loneliness. Once we held you close, the tears ceased. Aside from the diaper drama, you cry when you’re hungry. And that’s it.  
I hope you know that while we lose our patience at 2 a.m. when you sound like nails on a chalkboard, when we wake in the morning, we know we’re fortunate to see you cry. I’m not sure we deserve a baby as easy as you. 
Help me remember that when you’re 15.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Happy birthday to zzzz...

Today I turn 26.

For most of my other 20-something birthdays, I wanted a cute outfit, a cocktail and maybe a boy to smooch.

This year, I only want one thing: someone to watch the baby so I can nap :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Would you feed your child donated breast milk?

Donated breast milk originally made me turn my nose in disgust. The mere thought of it just sounds... icky. If I couldn’t nurse my child but gave him breast milk from someone else, how could I ensure the milk wasn’t contaminated with HIV or Friday night’s bar crawl?
But after some research, I changed heart. 
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America sets standards for, and helps establish breast milk banks across the continent. Participating hospitals use the milk for premature infants as well as some babies with other medical conditions. In some cases, healthy babies who’ve been adopted also receive the donations. The breast milk protects immature tissue, promotes maturation and also heals tissue damaged by infection, the website says.   
According to this post on, some medical professionals recommend premie babies drink donated breast milk because it helps them mature and gain weight. The breast milk provides various nutrients baby formula doesn’t. Many mom’s of premature babies can’t nurse because the mothers’ own bodies aren’t ready yet.
Once donated, the milk is screened similarly to a blood donation. Professionals measure its fat and nutrient content before supplying it to hospitals who then supply it to babies. 
As a mother of a child born with medical problems, these banks are important. For some children, doctors say breast milk is vital to their recovery. My son healed without it, but when your child is sick, you’d go to any length and pay any price for his or her recovery.
One of the other reasons I like this donated breast milk idea is for more selfish reasons. Giving requires little- to no money. A woman can be dirt poor and still donate to this cause. 
I’m concerned about my personal finances, especially with the holidays approaching. Maternity leave and NICUs are awesome, but they aren’t so great for the wallet... I like opportunities to give back without the cha-ching. With the status of my bank account these days is more like cha-clunk. :)
Anyways, what an awesome way for new mothers to give back without dishing out the dough. In fact, she doesn’t even have to leave her home or baby save for delivering the donation. 
To give, donors must be in good health, off most medications save for a meds like pre-natal vitamin and progestin-only birth control and willing to donate at least 100 ounces of milk the HMBANA's website says. In most cases, a woman who can donate blood can donate milk, according to this article in USA Today.
North Dakota doesn’t have a breast milk bank, according to HMBANA’s website, but donors can mail the milk to other centers. The nearest are in Denver, Colo., and Coralville, Iowa.   
For more information on giving or receiving breast milk, visit

Sunday, October 17, 2010

If breast is best, why does it feel like the worst?

My mother bottle-fed me. For all the rest of you breast-fed kids, how did you survive?

Nursing is HARD.

Actually, nursing itself isn’t, but learning to is.

Just because mothers since Eve have performed this act does not make it natural. I was schooled for five days in a hospital where he was monitored 24 hours a day. If my son starved, nurses would know. Had I been home alone, I know I'd have switched to formula for fear my child wasn't eating enough.

The first day we tried nursing, my child screamed so loud South Dakota could hear. And that was with the help of my husband and two professionals. Baby never latched. Not once. After 15 minutes, the nurses took off his little clothes and had us cuddle skin to skin. We don’t want him to associate the breast with frustration, they said. So this happens a lot? I asked. This first attempt was actually a pretty good one, they said. Yikes.

Every time I failed, nurses brought me new tricks and products to try.

Some of them included:

* glucose water: the sweetness is baby’s first bribery
* soft shells for inverted nipples (TMI?),
* a syringe for inverted nipples (Yes, like a shot without the needle. The suction from the syringe pulls your nipple out ** hi dad **) In case you aren’t feeling unattractive enough, stick a plastic tube on your boob.
* lanolin for sore nipples

What finally worked was a nipple shield. It basically turns your bosom into a bottle. PLUS no soreness or cracking! Woot.

And even though the shield is supposed to be a last resort... natural boob-to-mouth is best... I use it each time. The nurses and lactation consultants warned me to ween my child, but I didn't. Maybe I should have tried harder. But the shield worked. Finally, something worked! And I’d rather have my child eating through a plastic nipple tube than starving. It's no better or worse than an actual bottle, me thinks.

Note: By his two-week check up, my little porker had gained 8 ounces. Doctors only expect two-week-olds to return to their original birth weight. He went from 7 lbs, 2 ounces to 7 lbs 10 ounces in 15 days. Also, a nurse weighed him before and after a feeding to see how much he ate. He'd eaten 3.3 ounces on one side alone. Most babies his age eat 2-3 ounces total. Added bonus: I’m 1 lbs lighter than my first trimester... and that’s not from Jenny Craig either. Nurturing a breast-feeding relationship is worth it, yeah yeah sure sure, for the nutritional benefits to the child. But even if it didn't, think how good I'll look by swimsuit season!

Not sure how many details people want to read about how I nurse my child, but I write about it because breast feeding is SO difficult. If it took me, my husband, several professionals and multiple breast-feeding products to succeed, it must be almost impossible for a new mom to figure it out on her own. I know very little about parenting, but if my little bit of experience helps someone else, I'll write about even my sutures down under too.

I hope this helps calm a new mother's frustration and convince her she can do it too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mommy mess up

In three weeks, I’ve already failed at mothering several times. My mom says that’s why babies are born without mature brains... so they don’t remember the mistakes.

Please tell me you’ve made parenting/child-care-giving mistakes, because I need to know I’m not alone.

My latest blunder:

Driving home from Jamestown (home is a 45-minute drive) I was pushing the 4-hour limit allowed between feedings.

Infants need to eat round-the-clock and from what I hear, mine is even more forgiving than other wee ones. Some babies eat every two- or three hours, so basically, their mothers never wear shirts. Dislike. As long as my son has his pacifier though, he doesn’t mind stretching the limit a little bit. Never, never, never though, do I let him wait more than five hours, even if he sleeps through it.

With 10 minutes left in our drive, baby starts fussing. Within five minutes, he’s hollering. I tried to hold his binkie in his mouth, you know, driving with one hand, fishing for his pacifier and trying to pop it in his mouth behind me with the other... maybe add that to the list of mistakes too.

We pull up the to house where I have to at least put frozen groceries in the freezer. After a 45-minute drive, some of them will melt if I wait any longer.

So Mommy mistake No. 1: (please don’t judge me)

Leaving my screaming child in the car while the groceries caught air as I hurled them into my Maytag. I really hope Cole doesn’t remember the day I slammed the door on his starving belly. That image remains in my mind: him crying in my Jeep as I close the door and walk away...

Mommy mistake No. 2:

Changing clothes while... distracted. Ok, I really had to use the ladies room. Nursing takes 45 minutes, and after giving birth, my bladder CANNOT hold it anymore.

Sorry, TMI, but mothers out there understand.

Anyways, I basically prepared myself in a hurry, adjusting my new nursing top without removing my zip-up hoodie.

That leads me to mommy mistake No. 3: Nursing in a zip-up hoodie.

His tummy was empty, so he latched on and didn’t let go. After he’d guzzled his dinner, baby opened his baby blues and had a HUGE zipper indent over his right eye. I may have taken a photo had I not feared the scar was permanent.

The mark was gone before my husband returned home, but the scar on my heart is forever.

A nurse in the NICU said babies are resilient, and maybe he was right. I’m just not sure us parents are the same.

Friday, October 15, 2010

How to swaddle a baby

Many hospitals likely teach this to new parents, but in case you never learned, here’s a trick to calm and soothe a crying baby. Or at least get one to sleep.

It's also nice because it keeps the little ones from scratching their faces. When I learn how to effectively file, trim or chew my sons nails, expect a post on that too. In the meantime, anyone have advice?

Anyways, swaddling a baby is like recreating the womb. My cousin calls it the “baby burrito.” My husband calls it the “baby straight jacket.” Either way, as the NICU occupational therapist explained, babies, especially premature ones, like the feeling of closeness. They want to know their boundaries, she said. It’s comforting.

Here’s how it works:

1). Using a receiving blanket or any small, thin throw, fold the top corner down to about the middle of the blanket.

2). Set baby on the blanket with his or her ears at the fold. Slide baby’s right hand into the folded corner.

3).  Pull that side of the blanket across baby’s body.

4). Tug tight and tuck the right side of the blanket under baby’s left side. 

 5). Pull the bottom of the blanket tight and towards baby’s left side. Tuck it beneath the first folded corner.

6). Slide baby’s left hand into the left folded corner. Pull the remainder of the blanket across baby’s body. Tuck the blanket under baby’s right side.


Now go find a rocking chair and cuddle your happy baby :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cole's video debut... and I'm sure the Oscar awards aren't too far behind

Jamestown Hospital asked if Levi and I would share our birth experience. With a resounding YES, we agreed. Anything to help the hospital that saved Cole, we said.

I'm no medical expert, but the nurses' wisdom surprised me. A couple times, baby's heartbeat dropped. The nurses rolled me over, gave me oxygen, stuck a heart monitor on my unborn baby's head, threw a catheter in me... the works. They paged my doctor, but until her arrival, we were solely in the nurses' care. Baby's health was seriously threatened, but the nurses' knowledge and expertise saved his life.

In fact, at his two-week check up, the physician said his tests, including his lungs, looked perfect.

Thank you very much to everyone at Jamestown Hospital.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

National Coming Out Day: a day late

My husband jokes that he wants three things for our child: happy, healthy and heterosexual.

Of course, he’ll love little baby no matter who little baby loves, but, life is typically easier if we stick with the status quo, right? Daddy just wants to protect him.

National Coming Out Day was Monday, Oct. 11. It’s a day to promote honesty, openness and support gay people coming out of the closet.

What would you do/do you do if your child is gay?

For me, I guess I figure... I’ll know. I don’t think my child would need a “coming out day” because it wouldn’t be some big secret. That, and I hope my child feels comfortable opening up to me... in regards to who he’s dating, complications at school, bullies on the bus and anything else.

A friend in college shared the story of how he came out to his brother. At 22, my friend still hadn’t come out to his parents. It's a shame he's had to wait so long, but HELLO! My friend likes to cook, decorate and can do the splits. Something’s up. Perhaps they already know?

My three wants for my child are happy, healthy and self-sufficient. Who he loves falls under the “happy” category to me. As long as that person makes my son happy and treats him with respect, that’s all I need. I don't care who he loves as long as my son is satisfied with his life and pays his bills on time.

My biggest worry is location. In rural areas, diversity is tough to find. If my child is gay, he'll likely be the only one in a 37 mile radius. I fear other students and residents will bully him, but all kids are bullied. Mostly I fear he won't know anyone like him, let alone find anyone to split a milkshake with on a Saturday night. I hope he isn't lonely... which can lead to an avalanche of other problems like depression, mental illness or other risky behaviors. Makes me sick to worry about that.

As long as my gives me grandbabies, he can date/marry who he wants.

So what do you think? Are you the parent of a gay child? What would you do if your child came out to you?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

How often should we hold our babies?

How often do you hold your child? Can you hold a baby too much or too little?

I hold my baby when I nurse and when I write. Sometimes we cuddle before and after feedings. I’m not going to tell you how long that is for fear of your judgement, but let’s just say I hold him more hours than I sleep at night, OK?

What’s the optimal time for holding? And how do you factor in the time other people hold him?

I ask because sometimes I stick baby in his rocking baby chair and am immediately flooded with guilt. I like when company visits and holds him. That way I can use the toilet and not feel bad about it.

Baby websites and experts agree: you can’t spoil a baby. But is the opposite true? Can a mother not hold her child enough and deprive him of social development? interaction? human connection? does he think I don’t love him?

According to, babies need some alone time to explore and play with toys.

My child hasn’t discovered his fingers yet. I think rattles and a jack-in-the-box are a little advanced for him.

I don’t know who James Prescott, Ph.D., is, but according to a couple websites, he said this: The single most important child rearing practice to be adopted for the development of emotional and social healthy infants and children is to carry the newborn/infant on the body of the mother/caretaker all day long…”

Like the advice of so many medical professionals, this too is conflicted.

So mothers and fathers, grandparents and caretakers of cyber world, what’s the answer? If baby hangs out in his rocking chair for a few hours, am I a bad mother? Will my child resent me? Will he never learn to bond with another human being? Or am I just  a new mom, paranoid and over thinking things. Please say “B.”

Friday, October 8, 2010

Make me a MILF costume this Halloween

I want to be a MILF for Halloween.

If I can’t be one everyday, I can strive once a year.

To me, the term “MILF” isn’t so much Mom-I’d-Like-to-”haveFunwith” as it is a woman who cares for herself and her children equally. A MILF is someone who exudes confidence in a nursing bra and smells sweet even when showered in leaked breast milk.

To me, “MILF” has so little to do with sex, especially of the casual, shallow, just-checked-you-out on the street variety. It’s a total compliment: a woman who works hard, plays hard and basically has it all. 

View this video from in which three women share their opinion on the subject.

I like what Daphne from (the one in the French maid bow) says about how flattering it is to get a double glance from someone.

Boys don’t check you out so much when your preg-o belly resembles that of the jolly old elf. Even though I’m happily married, a slight stare down is a compliment. Call me shallow, but I get the warm fuzzies when others think I’m a righteous-looking babe. And after nine months without a double glance, I don’t care who it’s from. Matthew McConaughey? Great. Homeless man? Boo-ya.

It’s not easy for moms to give up their bodies, their 8 hours of sleep and most of their free time and still feel attractive. I have one child... one beautiful, easy, sleeps-for-five-hours-at-a-time-sometimes child... and my gumption meter is still at sweatpants level. Someday I’ll get the balls to wear jeans and heels again....

Ok, it’s not the biggest deal in the world. I don’t need some random dude to think I’m pretty to make me feel good about myself. But there’s no harm in allowing another’s judgement (or at least my perception of his judgement) to put a little pep in my step. Right?

In the meantime, I’m preparing my costume for Halloween: a turtleneck with glitter should do the trick. Wait... What did you think I was going to wear? A halter top and daisy dukes? Psha! I’m a mom.

After-high school plans for my two-week old

If it’s true that a baby’s education level will match that of his or her mother’s at the time of birth, then that means my child will earn a bachelor’s degree.

The statistic is true for my brother and me. My mother had her bachelor’s when we were born and later obtained her masters. But my dad had his bachelor’s too. We were just old enough to answer when our parents began asking: so, where you going to college? The answer was almost always, Notre Dame, a take off my father’s favorite football team. We were bred for four-year universities the way some children are raised to farm or take over the family business. Trade school, beauty school and working after high school weren’t options we ever considered.

So what about my baby?

I have my bachelor’s but the twist is, his father has a two-year technical degree. Does that make a difference?

I don’t have the same affinity for the Fighting Irish as my father, so I’m not sure the four-year college destination is as apparent for baby’s future.

I’m not concerned.

If baby prefers working with his hands and has a mechanical mind like his father, then great, a two-year vocational degree is the way to go. My husband earns more money than I do AND his tuition is paid.

My student loan payments will continue until my own child goes to college.

I’d hate for baby to miss out on the college experience though. Mine was totally traditional: lived in the dorms, joined a sorority, worked on campus, studied abroad, loved it. Nine months of tuition, room and board cost me about what I earn a year as a journalist, but the experience I had and friends I made convince me it was worth it. Most days :)

So what about your kids? Do you push them towards a certain career field or even education level? Do children determine education level based on skill, interest and academic aptitude or is it based more on the education level obtained by their parents? What do you think?

Save cash when online shopping this season

If you’re a little short on the dinero as the holidays approach, don’t fret. You’re not alone.

After having a baby in the NICU for five days followed by another 11 weeks of unpaid maternity leave (save my vacation time), the budget is tight in my household this year too. So I’m finding ways to save a buck without altering my lifestyle and/or uh... starving.  :)

I live in a rural area where the nearest grocery store is 12 miles away. I plan to do some shopping locally (Strive for Five has a point :)  ) but for some gifts, I must shop elsewhere. I doubt a trip to Fargo or Bismarck are in store this year as my newborn is acquiring oral and fine motor skills but doesn’t have bargain-hunting ones mastered just yet.

I plan to shop online.

My first stop: which gives CASH BACK for purchases I’m already making.
ShopatHome is a little toolbar you install... it’s kind of like the Google search engine toolbar you likely already have.

Let’s say you’re like me and want to buy a Nebraska Cornhuskers t-shirt for your brother. Easy. Just type in something like “college football apparel” into the toolbar and shopathome gives you a variety of stores selling such items.

If I purchase from, for example, I get 9 percent cash back. The money goes into a little account and once you reach $20, shopathome sends a check at the end of the month. Each store offers a different cash-back percentage.

So, if I wanted to shop at Kohl's, for example. I can type “Kohl's” into the toolbar, click the link and *boom!* anything I buy qualifies for 4 percent cash back.

The site has coupons for in-store purchases as well.

And speaking of coupons, my second favorite online saver is I rarely go to the site itself, I just google words like “Kohl's coupons” and find codes for free shipping or 15 percent off my purchase. All you do is copy and paste the code when you do your online checkout. Some of the coupons work for in-store purchases too.

No one in Jamestown sold the baby travel system I wanted and the store I tried in Fargo had sold out. So, I googled “Babies R Us” coupons and found a deal through PLUS Babies R Us offers 2 percent cash back through

So, are you tight on cash this year? What are your money-saving tips?

Question: If you're not pregnant anymore, why can't you drink coffee?

Reader bill berditzman writes:

* If you’re not pregnant anymore, why can’t you drink coffee??

Here is the answer from the expert, Brittany Johnson, licensed registered dietitian at Jamestown Hospital:
It is safe to have caffeine while breastfeeding, just don't overdo it. When caffeine enters the bloodstream, a small amount of it ends up in your breast milk. Caffeine isn't easily broken down or excreted by your baby's body, especially during the first few months, so it may accumulate in the baby's system over time.
Drinking a lot of coffee, for example more than two or three cups a day, might cause one or both of you to become irritable, jittery, agitated and it may also contribute to sleeping problems. Many experts state that a moderate intake of caffeine (usually around 300 mg per day) is fine for breastfeeding moms.
Every baby is different.  If your baby seems to be bothered and fussy when you have caffeine, even in small amounts, you may want to cut it out of your diet to see if that makes a difference.

What to pack for the labor and delivery room

Any mommy book or website will offer a list. Listen to them. They are experts. I’ve given birth once. But here’s what worked - and didn’t - for me.

Note: I talk about bleeding and nipples in this post. If that offends you, perhaps skip this one. :) Also, I've linked to some commercial sites on this post. None of them are sponsoring it. They are just businesses I patronized in this process.

* Always Extra Heavy Overnight Maxi with Flexi Wings: (the ones in the blue package with purple wrapping.) True: the hospital will likely send you home with ample supply, but they’re thick, uncomfortable and don’t cover as well. In short, they feel like a king size Twix bar between your legs. The Always maxis are longer than the Great Wall of China, but they stay in place and offer coverage when doctors tell you to prop your feet above your heart to reduce swelling... And all that leaning backwards can get really... messy.

* Nursing bras: I brought one, but ended up in the NICU for five days so I needed more. Many more. I had no idea nursing was so messy. A tip? Try the nursing camisoles. They come in small-, medium- and large-type sizes, which is nice because you never know what size you’ll be once your engorged and in pain. (I think I gained and shrunk two cup sizes in a week) Also invest in a box of nursing pads (about $8 for 60). The hospital will provide some but you’ll likely need more. Another tip? The nursing pads may come in a half-moon shape, but unfold them. You'll thank me when your at the shopping mall with two wet spots on your chest, wondering why your boobs resemble Niagara Falls. JCPenny and had the best selection of nursing bras I could find and Old has some cute and not-too-expensive nursing tops. Tip No. 3? My cousin told me to avoid any nursing bra with wire.

* Cell phone, camera and all their appropriate chargers: Whoa, did my phone ring a lot throughout the labor and delivery process. And then all I wanted to do was take pictures of the precious babe and send them to everyone I knew. Plus, I got shipped to a NICU in another town. Chargers were vital. Also, if you have a laptop bring that too.

* Supportive coaches, friends, family members: as many as you can find. OK- maybe you don't want them in the delivery room per se, but let them help you before and after. I had people buying my lunch, washing my laundry, communicating with friends and relatives and packing my suitcase for the trip to the NICU. Even though my husband was with me, without that support group, we'd have wailed more than our newborn.

* Pretty lotion: or anything else that makes you feel like a woman. Except pretty underwear. Leave those at home. Note the Always EXTRA HEAVY overnight maxi...

* An outfit for photos: As much as I love shopping, I feel bad spending money on clothes when I should save the cash and spend it on diapers. But these photos are once-in-a-lifetime, so spend a few bucks and buy yourself a comfortable, yoga/sweat-pantsy type outfit to wear while the flashbulbs blind you. Also, pack some makeup, flat iron and hair dryer too. Add a photo-worthy outfit for dad to your tote too.

Advice from an adoptive mom:
Jamestown, N.D., resident Erin Romans took pictures at my wedding and also takes photos of families and children. When Erin adopted her son, she brought pajamas, warm socks, slippers, magazines and snacks for his birth mother. Erin and her husband also gave the birth mother a gift of the more heartfelt and long-lasting kind:
"We bought her a diamond necklace. It was a cross pendent and with 2 hearts in the middle symbolizing her heart and his. We wanted to give her something sentimental that she could wear and think of him," Erin said.

Other advice via Facebook and Twitter:
* Mountain Dew
* best maternity pants or dress, depending on weather
* yoga pants
* slippers
* your own robe: "The hospital provided robe kinda weirded me out so I was glad to have my own :)"- Amanda Haseleu, Underwood, N.D.
* ice packs that break and are instantly cold (for foreheads or other achy areas)
* back massage machine
* snacks and/or CASH for the vending machine: this is a good idea and I can't even take credit for it. Make sure to have cash on hand as some hospital cafeterias don't take credit cards. You don't want your loved ones leaving you for dinner or any other reason if they don't have too.

So what did you/do you intend to pack? Anything you wish you'd remembered but didn't?

Guest post: Eating for two?

Un-pregnant for 10 days now, I appreciate having some of my old eating freedoms back (i.e., sushi and brie cheese) but still miss drinking coffee... with the occasional Kahlua.:)
The dietary restriction that surprised me the most about pregnancy was the deli meat one... pregnant women aren't supposed to eat deli meat unless it's heated in the microwave first. The bacteria can harm an unborn babe. I never knew ham and cheese was so dangerous.

Brittany Johnson from Jamestown Hospital writes about other foods to try and avoid whilst preggers:
Having a healthy diet is essential to having a healthy pregnancy. Good nutrition is critical to ensuring that a mother’s body can give the unborn baby the nourishment she or he requires to develop and grow.
Calorie requirements among individuals will vary. Sadly, pregnancy is not the ice-cream-free-for-all as we would like it to be. A gradual increase of calories as the baby grows is the best bet. Many women start off pregnancy overweight or obese and many gain more weight than is healthy for them during pregnancy. Recent studies have show that when weight gain is kept within a healthy range, the risk of problems during pregnancy and delivery is lowest.  Obesity during pregnancy is risky for both the unborn child and mother. Some of these risks include gestational diabetes, Cesarean delivery, gestational hypertension (high blood pressure), birth defects and possibly fetal death. If a woman is obese during pregnancy, it also increases the chance that her child will be obese later in life.
An overview of how calorie needs change during each trimester:
1st Trimester: Does not require any extra calories
2nd Trimester: Requires approximately 345 additional calories a day
3rd Trimester: Requires approximately 450 calories more a day
Avoid extra calories by reducing sugary and fatty goods while choosing healthy options such as low-fat milk, whole fruits, lean protein, vegetables and whole grains.
Pregnant women need a healthy and well-balanced diet that includes:
Whole grains: Breads, pastas, cereals and brown rice
Whole fruits: Apples, pears, melon, peaches, and nectarines
Vegetables: Leafy greens, bell peppers, winter squash, mushrooms and eggplant
Lean protein: Chicken, turkey, fish, pork, tofu, nuts, beans, seeds and lentils
Low-fat dairy: Milk, cheese and yogurt
Healthy fats: Olive oil, walnuts, almonds and avocados
Folic acid, or folate, is needed to support the increasing maternal blood volume and to decrease the risk of baby Neural Tube Defects. Pregnant women need 600 micrograms of folic acid a day. All women of childbearing age should consume at least 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. Since diet alone typically does not provide the recommended amount, a folate supplement is encouraged before conceiving and during pregnancy.
The best food sources of folate include: leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits and 100% fruit juices, dried beans and peas, poultry and enriched grain products.
Iron is essential to maintain sufficient levels of blood supply to the growing baby and placenta. Many women’s iron stores are not enough for meeting the increased requirements during pregnancy. A daily low dose iron supplement of 30 mg is often recommended during the first and third trimester to ensure that
adequate iron is available. Eating more iron-rich foods may help prevent iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy. Vitamin C increases iron absorption so including a good food source of this vitamin is beneficial.
Iron Rich Foods: spinach, kale enriched breakfast cereals, beef, shrimp, canned beans, baked potato with skin, enriched pasta and turkey.
Unborn babies get the calcium necessary for healthy development of bones, teeth, heart, nerves and muscles from the mother’s supply. Depending on the mother’s age, it is recommended to include 1,000 mg - 1,300 mg of calcium in the diet. This means having 4-6 servings of dairy products or calcium-fortified foods a day. Calcium supplements may be needed if intake is insufficient during pregnancy.
Dietary Cautions:
Caffeine: Some authorities recommend limiting coffee or other caffeinated beverages to 3-4 small cups a day; however the US Department of Health suggests avoiding caffeine all together. If women choose to have caffeine it should be consumed in moderation.
Artificial Sweeteners: Use in moderation since not all artificial sweeteners have been proven safe. The intake of a large amount of some artificial sweeteners is associated with side effects that include: headaches, bloating, gas, nausea or diarrhea in large quantity and headaches.
Foods to avoid while pregnant:
* Raw Meats and Seafood: All uncooked and rare meats and seafood should be avoided due to high risk of listeria and salmonella poisoning. This includes sushi!
* Deli Meats: It’s possible that they may be contaminated with listeria bacteria which can lead to major pregnancy complications.
* Raw Eggs: Salmonella may be present in raw eggs. If someone is ever in doubt about a product which might contain raw eggs, it is best to avoid it. Some Caesar salad dressings, Hollandaise sauces and mayonnaise may be made with raw eggs so checking with the server prior to ordering meals with these items is a good idea. Unpasteurized eggnog should be avoided as well.
* Fish high in mercury: Fish and shellfish that contain higher levels of mercury may harm an unborn baby or a young child’s developing nervous system. Avoid Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel or Tilefish.
* Liver: While liver is a rich source of iron, it also contains a high level of Vitamin A. Large amounts of this vitamin can be harmful to the baby.
* Unpasteurized milk and juices
* Alcohol: There have been many documented birth defects and fetal abnormalities connected with alcohol consumption during pregnancy

The birth story

Bad sign: Laying spread-eagle on the hospital bed not two minutes post-partum, I was bleeding and alone. My husband, the doctor and the medical staff had rushed from delivery to attend to my un-breathing baby.

7:30 a.m.: Avalanche of Amniotic Fluid

1 centimeter
I felt like a celebrity when we walked into the hospital. Nurses already knew who we were and my phone rang like the homecoming queen on a Friday night. Pain was moderate, excitement was high, but of parenting in general, fear was severe.

8:45 a.m.: Bring on the Pain

1.5 centimeters
Contractions didn’t hurt but my tummy did. Time for a light breakfast.

Noon: Hustle your Bustle

1.5 centimeters
If baby doesn’t deliver within 24 hours of a mother’s water breaking, the baby risks infection and possibly death. Nurses gave me pitocin to amp up the labor process.
I remember laying on my gurney thinking: something isn’t right. I’ve never witnessed a real birth, but from what I learned in parenting class, baby usually lingers on mama’s chest until all photos are snapped. Why is my baby not here?
6:37 p.m.: Took the referral: got an epidural
4 centimeters
My philosophy on medicine is not to meddle with Mother Nature. If you need a procedure, treatment, etc., do it, but if a a child can gain immunity from Chicken Pox through the vaccine or the disease itself, I guess I choose the scratchy, red bumps. Despite our scientific efforts, I don’t believe we’ll ever duplicate our creator.
That philosophy stayed with me in the delivery room... pretty much. My birth plan was to abstain from drugs, if I could. I’m no hero, in fact, I’m pretty much a sissy. In baby class, we learned 90 percent of mothers get epidurals and that the medicine has relatively no effect on baby.
I’m no medical expert, but if my legs act like drunken sailors, something tells me my baby is somehow, at least a little, drugged too.
At 3 centimeters, my doctor told me to consider pain meds. Ok, you don’t hurt so bad now, she said, but you’ll be like this for AT LEAST eight more hours. And then, THEN, you have to push.
Good point, Doc.
An hour later, my legs felt like jello and so did my mind. I rested while the nurses looked at my charts, WHOA that’s a big contraction, she said. Great, I thought to myself. Wake me up when its time to push :)

The student nurse walked in: he’ll be OK, she said. The nurse walked in: He’ll be OK, she said. My husband walked in, his face as pale as Pampers, he’ll be OK, he said.

11:45 p.m.: The Big Show

Nurses made me push before my doctor arrived. Many women take two hours to get baby out. All that Hollywood delivery drama about one big push and it’s over... TOTALLY untrue.
Nerves were high about the first push. But it wasn’t the pushing that worried me as much as just becoming a parent in general gave me the shakes.
So, the nurse said. Are you ready?
I don’t know if it was the nerves or the pushing itself, but I puked.
That’s pretty gross and well, TMI, but it turns out, many women “puke their babies out” the nurse said. I only tell you that because had I known, I may not have been so embarrassed. As if puking should embarrass a gal wearing no pants in a room with almost every nursing student at Jamestown College.

Midnight: The Beat of Two Hearts

Still not out, baby’s heartbeat dropped as mine raced. The nurses flipped my drunken legs from one side to the other and I grasped the gurney bed bars like I was drowning. Nurses move the mothers whose babies' heartbeat drops because maybe she or the baby is putting pressure on the umbilical cord. Typically, that relives the pressure and baby’s heartbeat can return.
It wasn’t working.
For 20 minutes they rolled me back and forth, draping cold wash clothes on my head, turning on the fan, removing my socks and popping Tylenol as I’d sprung a fever. Sucking air through an oxygen mask, I breathed as hard as I could, hoping the purified air would purify whatever ailed my baby.
Get the paperwork ready for a c-section, one of the nurses said.
My husband turned white and sat down. Do whatever they tell you to, I told myself.
When baby’s heartbeat recovered, so did the pushing. I pushed for two hours, but it felt like with every inch I gained, I lost a foot waiting for the next contraction.

At 5 a.m., a woman with a stork carrying a teddy bear embroidered on her vest entered my hospital room. She didn’t turn on the lights, but she asked me to sign a lot of papers. I’m from the NICU in Bismarck, she said.

1:30: Baby’s blue

Doctor invoked the vacuum as I couldn’t push baby out fast enough. I didn’t want it, but I didn’t protest either. Vacuums bruise babies heads and risk more than that. But in my drugged state, I trusted her judgment.
With the vacuum on, doctor pulled baby at 1:41 a.m. Open your eyes, Katie, doctor said as I watched baby’s head, shoulders and back leave the womb and enter real life. She laid him on my chest, blue and gasping for air. I didn’t know that wasn’t normal.
Nurses gave him my oxygen mask and when that didn't work, wrapped him in a towel and left the room.
That’s not how it’s supposed to happen.
Moms are supposed to hold baby while grandmas take pictures and dads cut the umbilical cord. In a healthy birth, baby doesn’t hit the road.
The nurses and my husband took baby to the nursery where my in-laws were waiting. Watching through the windows, nurses drew the curtains and asked my husband to leave.
The doctor delivered my placenta, but baby wasn’t back. She told me I needed sutures, but wouldn’t finish until baby was OK.
Bleeding and half-dressed with legs unworking, I lay alone in the hospital room.
My husband returned with the doctor and a face that pleaded: don't panic. “He’ll be OK,” they collectively said between words like “collapsed lung” and “pneumothorax.”
My doctor called the aid of what sounded like every physician in Jamestown, at 2 a.m., and recommended we send baby to the neonatal intensive care unit. He’s stable, she said, but may need a tube in his chest. If he does, no one here is qualified to do it. In fact, I don’t even know if Jamestown has one that tiny, she said.
Since baby was stable, a team from Bismarck flew in a few hours later. The doctor told us to sleep, which of course, barely happened. Before the Bismarck team left, the medics stopped by my room so baby and I could say goodbye.
Don’t cry, I said to myself. And I didn’t. Not until three days later.
You behave for these nurses, I said to my son, whose face I couldn’t see but whose little hand I could touch. Most babies grasp any finger grazing theirs. Exhausted and stressed, mine didn’t.
Mommy will see you soon, I said.
My husband, his father and stepfather drove to Bismarck while I recovered. Unable to sleep, I took a bath, some pain medication and waited while the clocked ticked.
By 4 p.m., the doctor said I could leave. That was the second scariest delivery of my career, she said.
For five days, my husband and I along with family and friends, stayed in Bismarck, while baby received treatment at the hospital’s NICU. We counted the mornings and evenings and rejoiced as baby met various milestones like no more spaceman-like oxygen hood, latching on to breast feed despite cords and and an IV tower and the biggest relief of all, taking him home without doctors expecting anymore complications.
I can’t say I ever want an experience like this again, but despite its downfalls, breathtaking births have their benefits. The greatest of which is the gift of recognizing the small things... the first time he opened his eyes and how he almost never did; getting to hold him **finally** after two days of not; and most importantly, not taking for granted this new life in our lives.
Given the circumstances, we are very fortunate.
Adversity builds strength and forges bonds the way no other life experience can. I’m thankful for the opportunity to recognize the preciousness of someone who wakes me up at night just to poop on my pajamas. Too easily, the struggles of parenthood get in the way of its joys. I can’t say I’ve mastered the art of enjoying everything about motherhood, but for me and my family, we are grateful.

Special thanks to the medical professionals from Jamestown Hospital, MedCenter One in Jamestown and Bismarck and all the others of whom I may never know.