Hello Dinner

Luffy and I are trying out one of those meal delivery services this week. As they all do, it promises convenient, delicious meals. I’ve been curious about them (Blue Apron, Terra Fresh, Hello Fresh, etc) ever since they started getting popular. It sounds amazing, right?! All the ingredients to create your own chef-quality dinners delivered right to your door! So when we received a coupon for half off our first delivery (and since Luffy was up for it), I signed us up for a trial run!

So far, I’ve made two of the three meals (what can I say? it’s a bit hard for me to go from picking up food to primarily cooking dinner). And they’ve been tasty! Here’s what I’ve discovered so far (albeit with a limited sample of two dinners):

The Good:

  • Prep time – Probably the first time I’ve ever encountered a recipe that says 30 minutes and means it. None of this oh, but you’ll get faster the more times you prepare it or how on point are your knife skills?? These recipes say 30 minutes and mean 30 minutes, start to finish. They do require you to multi-task, which a more experienced cook will feel more comfortable with, but they do at least lay it out for you (and tell you when you can/should reuse pans).
  • Taste – I will admit that we chose (via powers of the lucky coupon draw) one of the more simple services. The recipes are fairly basic and there are a decided lack of “exotic” recipes. However, they do taste good. So far, we’ve had a version of sweet-and-sour chicken, over rice and green beans, and ‘bangers and mash,’ with homemade mashed potatoes and oven-roasted tomatoes. Each recipe has been tasty.
  • Sense of accomplishment – It probably sounds weird, but it feels good to get back into the kitchen. We’re to the point that we’re tired of eating out (except for sushi currently – I’m obsessed with sushi – sorry honey $$$$$) and I hate that. Eating out should be a treat! It should be fun and something to look forward to. At least that’s how I was raised. So this service gave me the umph to get back into the kitchen again, with new recipes in hand. I’d never actually made mashed potatoes from scratch. Tomorrow I’m making burgers, which is also new for me. It’s fun to experiment with new things and to see what techniques I can add to my set of skills.

The not-so-good (aka, why we won’t use a service like this on a long-term basis):

  • Cost – Look, I know that you’re primarily paying for the convenience of (a) not meal planning and (b) not grocery shopping, but still. Together, Luffy and I actually (usually) enjoy our weekly grocery shopping excursion. We like making the occasional trip to the Asian grocer. Luffy seems unperturbed by going to multiple grocery stores in a single outing (though I usually draw the line at two, he’d happily go to three or four for the right products) and willingly makes multiple trips during the week. All that to say that we’re probably not the best of candidates for this “convenience charge.” Our current plan roughly breaks down to $10/person/meal and I can say, without a doubt, that I can procure all of the ingredients for far cheaper than that. Oh, but Belle, they say, you don’t have to buy all of those ingredients that you’ll never use again and will waste away in your pantry/fridge! Perhaps. Maybe with one of the ritzier services. However, I have all of the pantry staples on-hand for all three of our meals. So that doesn’t quite justify the cost either.
  • Portions – Look, Luffy is a big man. He’s 6’5″ and he could put away two Chipotle burritos in a sitting in college. So when they send me less than half a pound of chicken breast for a two-person meal kit, well that’s just not going to cut it.

I realize that we’ve only had two meals (of hundreds), so I’m probably not qualified to opine, but clearly that didn’t stop me. I think we’ll enjoy the service every once in a while (if I can stay on top of the skip-a-week options!), but we’ll stick with buying our own groceries.

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Toddler

I’m not sure what happened over the past week or so, but my dumpling suddenly looks more like a little boy than a baby. I can’t even pinpoint the change really because his little chubby cheeks are still there. As are his miles-long lashes. And his arm roll (yes singular, for my child is a string bean) and belly. His ham-bones are still nommable. And yet, when I look at him, I see a little toddler. He’s growing so much. Luffy took a picture of me holding a sleeping dumpling at the airport (on our flight there). I was shocked to see it and to see how big he looked laying on me.

He’s standing now, unassisted. He hasn’t quite figured out the walking (unassisted) thing yet, but he’ll merrily zoom around using a push toy. He cruises along the furniture, begging for food with his irresistible outreached hand. He points and gestures and emphasizes that he wants to go there and there and over there! He gives the best hugs now – have I told you? I’ve been saying for ages that he’s not a cuddler and all of a sudden he wants hugs. A few of nights ago, I sat down with him to listen to Luffy read to us and rather than bounce around, like he normally does, he turned into me and climbed up to rest his head on my shoulder. My heart swelled and I held him tightly, figuring it was a one time occurrence but he’s done it every night since.

He chuckles now, too. We’ve only ever known his laughs when we tickle him (which are hilarious because they’re silent until he can’t hold it in any longer and he just squeals), but now he’ll chuckle at things he finds amusing. A toy, Jas, his dada, whatever tickles his fancy.

We’re getting a glimpse (or should I say foreshadowing?) of the quintessential toddler tantrum – belly down, feet and fists pounding the floor. Except we’re also seeing his personality shine through. He’s far too cautious and careful to traditionally tantrum by throwing himself to the floor and beating it with his fists and feet. Rather, he delicately lowers himself down, and sort of flutters his feet and hands above the floor. While I assume that at some point he’ll hurtle himself down with all the potent fury a three-year-old can muster and I’ll groan because gah, right now it’s pretty darn cute.

He eats like a champ, when he’s hungry, chowing down on everything from cut-up grapes to whole crackers. His favorites are meat (chicken and pork in particular, though he loved Thanksgiving turkey) and clementines. He doesn’t seem to be a big fan of bread or bread-like things (muffins, pancakes, etc) or vegetables (to be fair here, he only has four teeth, it’s a little hard to enjoy most veggies with just four teeth), but he’ll happily put away some pizza. We make sure he gets his veggies via pouch and I was inordinately proud when he disliked a fruit-only pouch I tried to distract him with on the plane. I tried it myself, found it far too sweet and figured he did too. (Side tangent, it drives me crazy how difficult it is to find pouches (or baby food, for that matter) made of predominantly vegetables. Like, I don’t need help getting him to eat strawberries or bananas, I need help with green beans and broccoli! Whyyyyyy is this so challenging?) He’s a pro with pouches now and will come crawling for his Apple-Raspberry-Spinach-GreekYogurt-Oat or Banana-Kiwi-Kale-Barley-GreekYogurt. He likes to mix it up.

I didn’t really sit down to memorialize everything he’s doing now, but it’s so challenging when he’s so active and adorable. I realized the other day, scrolling through my photos, that we actually don’t have many photos of him now. Not stills anyways. We have videos. Mini clips of him doing something – eating with a spoon, standing, giving a hug, begging for food*, cruising with a push toy. In fact, most of the still shots I’ve captured of him recently are blurry as he was busy heading off to the next thing. It really put into perspective (a) how boring babies are initially and (b) how much he’s grown in just a year. I really can’t wait to see what he’ll learn next.

*We are firmly in the stage of what-are-you-eating-there-mom???? As soon as either Luffy or I sit down with a snack or meal, he must know and sample what we’re having. He’s also very good about asking for food. Apparently, he knows exactly where his puffs are kept at daycare and will routinely gesture up to the cabinet throughout the day, just to see if one of his teachers will succumb to the adorableness and give him some puffs.

Turkey Day 2017

We’re back! I hope your Thanksgiving was gluttonous. Ours was…. good? Bad? Clingy? Scream-y? No-sleep-y?

Sigh

Our mistake was staying too long. We were visiting my parents out in West Texas and flew in Tuesday morning with a return flight on Saturday at noon. Honestly, if we had left Friday morning instead, we probably would have avoided 80% of the crying and woe that we endured. (Yeah, Friday night was that bad.)

It all started pretty well. The dumpling was clingier and more tired than usual, but I expected that for the most part. His waketimes drastically shorten until he’s more familiar with his location, but that’s perfectly understandable. We worked around it for the most part, holding him for most of the early days or talking to relatives from the floor as we encouraged the dumpling to play. Extra patience at bedtime and holding him to lengthen a nap (which wuh?? did we bring along a newborn??). Luffy’s patience ran out about 2:30 on Thanksgiving day when we were both struggling to get a clearly tired dumpling to go the F to sleep and he tried to change our return flight. No dice, though I did manage to get the dumpling down just in time to go snuggle my cousin’s newborn!

The true trouble started on Friday night though. The dumpling was extra cranky and resistant at bedtime and fear shot into my heart when we heard him wake up just two short hours later. I managed to get him back down fairly quickly but he only stayed down for forty minutes or so. And here is where we made the biggest mistake, I think. I envisioned a very long night for us and, in an effort to make soothing easier for myself, tried to bring the dumpling into our bed for the night. Now, the dumpling hates co-sleeping, and I know this, but I thought that since he already had been asleep that his sleep drive would be enough for him to just conk out again. In reality though, we actually just ensured that he’d be wide awake by the time we re-arranged things. Then he treated the first couple hours of the night as a nap and wanted to party while we tried to get him back to sleep. By the time he was truly ready for sleep again (somewhere around midnight), he was far too touched out, I suppose, at all the patting and shushing and rubbing and holding.

Around 12:30 in the morning I decided to give him some space, which is when he decided to howl like a banshee. My poor mom woke up (though she assured me that she woke up to check on us) and convinced me to let her take him for a bit. The dumpling started crying even harder when I passed him over to her. I gave them ten minutes and poked my head out to hear my son still screaming. That’s when I threw in the towel and resigned myself for a very long night. I gave him a dose of Tylenol, just in case, and then held him as I talked with my mom. I then moved to the living room and sat down on the floor, where the dumpling finally passed out in my arms sometime around 1:30am. My sweet mom gathered blankets and a pillow for me and I scooched my way down into a reclined position and tried to ignore my protesting back and hips. Around 3:30 in the morning the dumpling rolled off me and face-planted into the floor where he slept soundly for another hour or so. After that he wanted back on my chest and slept there until 6am, when he was AWAKE! and ALERT! BRIGHT EYED AND BUSHY TAILED! Gah mom, what is your PROBLEM?? I walked him around the dark house until I reasoned that he might as well eat some breakfast if he wasn’t going back to sleep.

So, I got about an hour’s worth of sleep that night? I’m not really sure. Thankfully, Luffy took over mid-morning while I laid back down and got a nap in. The dumpling also got a good nap in before our flight (also thankfully – praise baby Jesus!). And then….. the flight.

The. Flight.

We managed to distract the dumpling with food for most of the flight. But, when we started our descent, all hell broke loose. He quite literally melted down. My best guess is that his ears needed to pop and that sort of just set off his whole DONENESS with the travelling situation. He was over it. He wanted to be out and off and was done. With me and his dad and everyone. I have never felt more embarrassed and ashamed on a flight and this is coming from a girl who once threw up on a flight because she was hungover (which, I would not recommend to anyone, was not a fun experience). He screamed and screamed and screamed, barely pausing for breath. He worked himself up so much I seriously thought he might vomit or pass out from lack of oxygen. He screamed right up until we walked off the plane. By this point, Luffy was boiling mad and I can’t really blame him. The whole experience was just miserable and didn’t really lessen up any on our Uber ride home, though we did at least get to joke with the person we inflicted our hollering child upon (and tip generously, I might add).

Then, ladies and gentlemen, I witnessed a damn near miracle. As I walked through our front door with the dumpling, he lit up. I kid you not. He was SO happy to be home. I had not put that child down since practically Tuesday and in an instant he wanted down and was off to say hi to Jas and find his Sharpies* and visit his toys. It was incredible to feel the tension and stress just melt away from him.

Sunday was wonderful as we spent quality time together again, laughing and playing and not holding him for 90% of his day. I had almost forgotten what our little boy was like normally while we had been away.

So whew. I am glad things are back to normal around here. We did have some fun. We ate lots of good food. Drank lots of champagne. My mom and I baked and made candy. We saw the house my brother and his wife are moving to (that’s right! they’ll no longer be in DFW which I am very sad about). The dumpling played with my parent’s cats, including their four-month-old kitten, and my parents were delighted by just how well he treated them (gentle hands! I say for the millionth time). We watched movies and saw extended family. We took walks and enjoyed tickling the dumpling. If I separate out Friday night and the flight back, we had a fantastic time! So I think I’ll do just that for my own sanity.

*I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but the dumpling loves Sharpies. I have a colorful set of the fine-tipped ones in my office that he discovered one day. Now, he’ll just go play with them and cart them around the house. I keep finding Sharpies everywhere though my set seems to have dwindled. Oh well, it’s awfully cute.

First Birthday Party

We had the dumpling’s first birthday party this weekend!

It was such a whirlwind weekend that it’s honestly hard to re-cap. I spent a lot of time cleaning our house (nothing like a house full of guests as motivation to get the house spic and span!). I baked the cake layers on Saturday. These turned out beautifully (I followed Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for confetti cake!) and went into the freezer to be frosted the next day.

Sunday morning passed in a haze of oh we have plenty of time to prep to OMG THE PARTY STARTS IN FIFTEEN MINUTES AND WE STILL DON’T HAVE A FULLY FROSTED CAKE!!! So that was fun and stressful. But the party itself was fantastic! We had friends and family there, including two kids just a few months older than the dumpling. It was very entertaining to watch them play.

My absolute favorite part was the cake cutting. We set the cake on our kitchen island and gathered everyone around. We sang happy birthday to a confused dumpling and then I blew his candle out (while he dipped his hand into the frosting). [For a visual picture, I had him on my hip and we were now facing his cake, away from our guests.] He got excited by something, the cake or the singing perhaps, and started clapping. Our guests, delighted by his enthusiasm, gave him an awe and a cheer. He immediately whipped around to look at them with a bewildered look on his face.  Who knew he had a cheering section! So they stop cheering and the dumpling turns back to his cake and begins clapping again. Another cheer goes up from our guests and the dumpling repeats his whip around stare. I swear to you that this happened at least three or four times and was no less hilarious the last time.

He did partake in a couple of bites of cake. I squished it for him (I had frozen the cake layers for easier frosting application but I misjudged how much time it would need to thaw…. it was still a bit firm) but he gamely tried a bite or two.

Another delightful part was when we had all the babies help us open his presents. Especially since the other two were older and were already hip to the present thing, they were more than happy to oblige. (My cousin’s daughter actually started opening a present while everyone was eating!) There was just a pile of wrapping tissue and paper and toys and babies in my living room!

Then, quite suddenly, our house was quiet again. Our friends left to make naptime and my parents left to return home and Luffy’s parents left and my brother left. I’ll admit that I got hit with a bit of melancholy. We’d had such a good time. I was sad to see it end, but that’s probably what marks a good celebration!

Happy birthday dumpling! It’s official now since there was cake!

One

Happy birthday, my little dumpling!

To be quite honest, I haven’t put much thought into how I want to commemorate my dumpling’s first birthday (and therefore setting the precedent for how I will always commemorate his birthdays). I’ve thought about waxing poetic about what it means to be a mother, to be his mother. I’ve thought about regaling you with what, exactly, the dumpling is doing now and how far he’s come. The thing is though, I’m sure those words have been spoken (re: motherhood) and it’s obvious how far he’s come (because, if I may be blunt, a year ago he was a squishy potato – not exactly setting the bar high here).

So I’ve decided the dredge through the memory banks and try to capture some untold* memories:


So in the hospital, our teeny, tiny newborn was primarily in his diaper and a swaddling blanket (day) or actual swaddle (night). This was just easier for the parade of nurses and doctors who needed to examine him and easier for me and Luffy as we held him skin-to-skin. I don’t want to alarm anyone with BRAND NEW INFORMATION, but the dumpling was our first child. Therefore, when we came home, we just kind of continued what we were doing/picked up at the hospital. I can only imagine my mother’s bemused smile when I told her, about a week and a half after his birth and so proud of myself, that I’d put pajamas on the baby! To help him sleep! Because I thought he might be cold at night! Aren’t I awesome at this?


I’m not a good picture taker. As in, I never remember to take them. Take this past weekend, for example, my brother got married and I got precisely three pictures: one of the dumpling and Luffy, one of the couple’s first dance, and one extremely blurry pic of my mom and brother dancing. That’s it. I don’t even have one of myself! And I got all dressed up! So as I scroll through my phone’s gallery, I am ever so pleased with myself about one particular image I did manage to capture:

It’s early morning. The picture’s embedded information is able to tell me more precisely: November 7, 2016, 7:13AM. I am reclining on our guest bed with my knees up; Luffy is at my side, asleep. The dumpling is in my lamp, bottom against my pelvis, head by my knees. He too is asleep. I don’t remember much in the way of specifics except that it had been a rougher night. If I remember correctly, Luffy had come in to check on me and had fallen asleep again as we chatted in the dim morning light. As I settled down into the bed, feeling complete with my husband and child, both right there and asleep, I snapped the picture. It’s a quiet, sweet memory through the newborn haze.


As a newborn, the dumpling used to always stick his tongue out. Quite literally. My OB commented on it after he finished stitching me up, that’s how early it started. It was adorable and I just now realized that he hasn’t done this for a very long time.


In looking back through photos, it’s so interesting to see his transformation from generic, newborn to himself. In the early photos, I see none of his features. I can (now) see a few of his features around the 2mo mark, but he doesn’t really look like himself until four months.


The dumpling has never been a snuggler. I think I’ve mentioned that fact several times (SO MANY TIMES, said everyone). This made it a little challenging when he was fussy or upset (read, overtired and refusing to settle) because you couldn’t just snuggle him into happy oblivion. I could get him to sleep on me by nursing, if we needed, but it wasn’t exactly something I wanted to encourage. And it didn’t always work.

So! There are exactly three times in his life that the dumpling has fallen asleep on me, sans nursing:

  • The first time is a cheat because he actually did nurse to fall asleep. But! I was able to shift him up and pull my shirt up and actually appear presentable when some friends of ours dropped by, even with a newborn in my shoulder.
  • The second time was during his first full-time week at daycare. Luffy and I stopped by at lunch to check on him. He snuggled into my chest and immediately fell asleep. And I do mean immediately. I felt terrible that I needed to return to work and had to hand him over, thereby waking him up, but it did warm my heart that I could just feel his little body relax and finally, finally, surrender to slumber in my arms.
  • The last time also occurred at daycare! (I’m sensing a theme here.) This time though, it was less about being over-stimulated by a new setting and more about having a blast. He had been playing like a champ when I walked in the door, but by the time we walked out, he was asleep on my shoulder. Poor little tuckered out baby!

I really enjoyed browsing through my gallery in search of inspiration for this. I loved seeing a sort of highlight reel (of course, that’s if you scroll past the twenty snaps of the exact same pose that were taken in an effort to catch that smile! or that look! or that hand thing he’s been doing!). I can see the shift towards mobility and the milestones like sitting up or solid foods. I can see his hair fall out and then fill in, little by little. I can see his scrawny chicken thighs bulk up into the little ham bones they are now. I can see his face fill in and his tummy round out. And nothing makes me happier, than to see my little boy get bigger and stronger and figure out this world. Happy birthday my sweet baby.

*And my apologies if you’ve heard one of these before! I wasn’t about to go through the archives for a year to make sure. Just take it as a sign that I really, really like this particular memory!

Then and Now

October 20, 2017

I think because it’s October, I’ve been running those mental comparisons lately of where I was last year. For instance, last week, on Tuesday, I knew that I had gone in for my ECV. I’ve thought about how I agonized over the decision and wondered whether we were doing the right thing. I thought about my disappointment in the unsuccessful procedure, but also how I let go, so to speak, to just enjoy the last few days of my pregnancy. I’ve thought about how excited – and terrified – we were.

This time, last year, I was walking out of work for the last time. I had worked feverishly all week to wrap things up, get things ready, and it felt liberating to exit the lobby of my building – heading towards the unknown. I’ve thought about how my mom came in early (she would be here this Sunday, if this were last year). I’ve thought about how the reality of having a baby really didn’t hit Luffy and I until this weekend. Since I had binge watched Bob’s Burgers while upside down on my ironing board, our weekend’s motto had been Tina Belcher’s patented panic attack noise.

I’ve thought about my c-section and how even having this tiny baby outside of my body didn’t really bring about a mom-epiphany. There’s a video we have, that my dad recorded. It has to be just hours after my surgery. My mom is holding the dumpling (who is so tiny and red!) and I’m laying in the hospital bed. The dumpling is crying, this weak little newborn bleating, and I’m just making small talk with the nurse. Every fiber of my being (now) screams at the girl in the bed to SOOTHE THAT BABY!!! but, of course, the video shows me that I didn’t. To be fair to myself, it would be a long time before my presence alone could soothe the dumpling.


There are a lot of things, in looking back through the archives, that I didn’t mention, things I’d like to remember. Rocking the dumpling after his middle of the night nursing sessions is one. I had read that infants took twenty minutes to fall into a deep sleep, so I took that as the gospel truth and almost superstitiously refused to do anything else. I remember standing in my dark living room at 11pm and 1am and 3am and 5am and furiously rocking the dumpling (he liked some speed behind his rocking) as the clock in my kitchen counted down the minutes. Afterwards I would ever so carefully transfer him to his rock ‘n’ play, still in our bedroom at that time, and practically hold my breathe as I climbed back into bed myself.

Another moment: just days after the dumpling’s arrival, Luffy had to take a quick business trip. My mom was still helping us at that point and I had just taken over for her after she had looked after the dumpling all night. It would have been about 4 or 5 in the morning. I had just changed the dumpling’s diaper in our bedroom and re-swaddled him. Importantly, he wasn’t wearing anything beneath the swaddle and I think the swaddle had snagged the velcro on his diaper somehow. Anyway, a few minutes after I had changed him, I was holding him against me and felt something warm seep down me. Horrified, I realized that he was basically peeing all over himself and me. Of course, he started crying as I laid him on the floor to clean him up and change him, again. Meanwhile, I’m trying to clean myself and the floor, all one-handed and in the dark. A hilarious, though quiet, introduction to motherhood.


As I’ve been looking back so much this month, I also can’t help but stay in the present, to compare/contrast the then and now. The dumpling seems so solid now, as he hurtles towards toddlerhood. He’s confident standing now and pulls up even when he doesn’t really have anything to pull up on (the shower door and my leg are good examples). He’s standing on his own for brief moments and I know he’s so close to walking. He loves to eat, except when he doesn’t. He loves ice-cold water out of his straw-sippy cup. I have cow’s milk in my fridge for the first time ever and he’s taken a few sips here and there. He plays well by himself, except when he decides you haven’t paid enough attention to him lately. He crawls and scoots and rolls and does this adorable 360 turn on his butt. He’s figuring out how to manipulate his world and all the times he can’t (floor versus baby head, for example).

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year, just like I couldn’t believe it was almost time and I couldn’t believe those two little lines. Happy almost-birthday, my sweet dumpling.

First words?!

First words are an odd business. I think I had this idea, in my head, that a baby would go about his babbling thing and then be like mama or dada or doggie and you’d be like MY BABY SAID HIS FIRST WORD!!!!!!! OMSQUEE!!

But that’s not really how it happens. Instead, Luffy and I debate whether the dumpling is connecting phrases like mamamamama with mama and me, for instance. Luffy gives a lot more credit to the dumpling than I do. He thinks the dumpling is starting to connect that mama means me and dada means him. I’m not quite so sure yet*. I mean, the dumpling generally says mama-mama-mamamamama when he is upset (because of course he does) and dada-dada-dadadada when he is happy and excited, so I suppose that’s a start. It’s just not how I imagined it would be, that’s all.

And then there’s uh oh. I have no such questions about uh oh. The dumpling debuted this new word onomatopoeia over the weekend and pretty much exactly in context too (dumping his toys over the side of the bathtub). The funny thing is, I have no idea where he got it (though my guess is daycare). I have actually been painstakingly avoiding uh oh and other related whoopsies-type words because I haven’t wanted to make a game out of him tossing his food and/or sippy cup over the high chair. Regardless of where he picked it up, I do have to admit that it is adorable. Painfully adorable. We captured it on video the following evening (uttered while he was draining all of the water out of his tub) and I have been watching it all day today.

Uh! oh. Uh! oh. Uh! oh.

Uh oh, my heart!

*Obviously our discussion over mama and dada has been going on for while. However, last week, Luffy went out to get breakfast for us. The dumpling and I were watching him walk up to the house again and – clear as a bell – the dumpling goes “dada!” So I’m pretty sure he knows that one too. So sweet.