Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank Donation

I have been exclusively breastfeeding Miles for 8 months.  My supply has regulated over time, and I only produce about 30 extra ounces a week beyond what Miles drinks, but it wasn’t always this way.

At one point, I had so much extra milk, I could barely keep up with pumping.  I got extremely painful Mastitis a few times and thought about giving up.  My husband and I bought a deep freezer to store food, but quickly found out that my milk was taking over.

milkfreezer

I was talking about my extra supply at daycare and a fellow mom named Sarah told me about Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank. It took a little while to go through an approval process, but it was so worth it!  The great thing is once you’re approved, you can continue to donate as many times as you want to.  I can still keep enough milk on-hand in case of emergency, but none of my milk is going to waste.

I took my first load of milk over a few weeks ago and was overwhelmed with a feeling of extreme happiness. The nurse in the facility said that my milk would feed babies in the NICU at Magee for a month!

milksuitcase

I’m still waiting to hear how many ounces it was, exactly.  The reason why they use the breast milk in the NICU is because it’s proven to help pre-mature babies with their digestive system; reducing their need for gastrointestinal surgery.  Read more about the science behind it, here, under “What Difference Does Breastmilk Make”.

Overall, it was an incredible feeling and I hope to donate a few more times this year!

My Weekend Wish List

I have been trying to stay in-tune with what I find creates stress for me, lately.  Sometimes, I wake up on a Saturday and get excited about the potential the weekend holds for our family to have fun, and spend quality time together.  After thinking for a few minutes, I realize there’s a lot of things which “have to get done,” and then I quickly get disappointed or stressed about managing our time.

So, this Saturday when I woke up, I decided I wanted to make a list of “to-do” and a “wish list” underneath it.  Often times, I think things have to happen, but they actually don’t really need to.  This is how I overload my weekend and turn fun time into stress.  Lance and I sat down and said everything we had to do this weekend, vs. what we wanted to do.

This was our list:

to do

 

The truth was, when we actually thought about what we ABSOLUTELY HAD TO GET DONE, there really wasn’t much.  We knocked out the grocery shopping and trip to target on Saturday along with nap-time sleep training.  That left Sunday for our wish list.  On Sunday, we chillaxed, I got a much-needed pedicure and Lance played Playstation for a few hours and I had lunch with my best friend.

We even made delicious meals both nights!!  Lemon Orzo Chicken, and Spanish Chickpeas and Rice!

 

While we didn’t get everything I wanted to get done, I realized that my expectations were unrealistic if I wanted any down time.  We had a great time this weekend, and I think our to-do and wish list will be a new weekend tradition which will help us prioritize and be realistic about what we can accomplish.

smiles

The sickest winter, EVER!

I mean “sick” in the literal sense.  Between Lance, Miles and I, we have all been sick this winter at least 12 times.  Why?  DAY CARE!  There has not been a weekend where Miles, Lance and I have all been well since he started day care.  Please tell me it get’s better!

I have taken Miles to the pediatrician at least once every two weeks since September.  We have spent a small fortune on co-pays.  Not to mention the money I am wasting for time in daycare when he is home sick.   I just keep telling myself, something has got to give.

Saturday night, Miles was vomiting and had diarrhea, a fever of 103.4 and a nasty cough.  Lance and I switched off holding him for hours since that was the only way he would sleep and stop crying.  As I hoof it into the pediatrician again tomorrow (I was just there Friday because Miles had a rash), I need to remind myself of all the parents who have a terminally or chronically ill child and be incredibly thankful that my son will get better.

I do feel bad for Miles, though.  When there’s nothing I can do for him, it makes me feel bad for having to keep him in daycare. I did find this article which made me feel a little bit better.  According to this study, kids go through this whenever they enter a group setting. It may be at 3 months and it may be in kindergarten.  At least Miles won’t be missing important lesson plans, and he won’t remember feeling so horrible.  I guess that makes me feel better….maybe.

Angels on Earth !

Today I will write my post while fighting tears.  They are a mix of selfish tears and joyful tears.  Many know, but for those who do not- my baby sister Stevana Estime has dedicated her life as a missionary.    Today she leaves for her permanent move to Haiti where she, her husband and Haitian native, their son, and the rest of the New Life Mission- Haiti team will build and maintain a children’s home.

It stings a little to imagine her closeness growing with her in-laws, as they watch her son grow, and celebrate special moments with out me by her side.  Of course I know her mission is bigger than birthday cakes and family outings.

I never stop feeling astonished at what a strong women she is.  Its really hard for me to imagine denying the American lifestyle.  Giving up not only luxuries and entertainment, but basic amenities.  Mostly it would be hard for me to commit to a life where my family is not a car ride away.    The thought of becoming a minority in a land where the language for her is second at best would terrify the average person.  The list of sacrifices for my sister and her small family is long- and for that I am beyond proud of her and her selfless journey.

I know at least in less than 5 short months my baby sister, angel on earth, and matron of honor will be home to stand beside me on my wedding day.

I think her story is best shared through their missionary website:

Zacharie & Stevie met when Stevie went to Haiti for a one week trip in 2011. They became friends, but never thought they’d meet again. However, after college graduation, Stevie returned to Haiti for a 4 month trip to teach english to the children in Charrier. Zacharie was her translator over that time. Soon into the trip, Stevie & Zacharie were drawn together by their passion for children’s ministry. Both had lost their fathers at young ages. So in their different countries yet similar family situations, they both witnessed firsthand, the struggles of a single parent home and the challenges it can cause.  Their hearts go out to the many children in Haiti who grow up in like scenarios whether with one parent or without any.  A lot of these kids are sent to live with another family because their own cannot provide for them. Many are forced into slave labor like conditions and never have the opportunity to even go to school or feel the true love of a parent. They feel called  to return to Haiti to help these kids. They want to raise them in a loving home where they can grow up with hopes of a future. They want them to learn to be confident in themselves and help them realize their potential. They hear God telling them to rise up leaders in Haiti who are proud of their country. They hear God telling them to teach these children about his never ending love for them.

The couple has now wed and while on their honeymoon in Haiti purchased about 2.5 acres about a mile down the road from Zacharie’s Momma’s house and New Life mission’s mission house. A wall has been built around the property and construction projects have begun! They are living stateside now as they are expecting their first child this August, 2015. They are making the move to Haiti in January 2016. Their hope is to open up New Life Mission’s children’s home by September 2016. Please pray for them as they prepare for these upcoming changing.

The family though close- is still collecting funds to make this lofty goal a reality.    The team is always looking for others to travel to Haiti and donate time or resources to those in need.  Although financing and travel may be outside of your abilities- the team is also collecting clothing and other softly used home goods as well!

 

estimes estimes1estimes3

I ask for thoughts and prayers for my sister and her family on this fabulous journey  !

What up, Body Issues?

12219382_1016840825029061_2391512507143453844_n

Photo from The BULLY Project Facebook page. Follow them! Photo credit : Meg Gaiger/Harpyimages

I know I am a beautiful person from the inside out, but I sometimes struggle to feel confident even as a 30-year-old woman.  You know why?  I have been conditioned to think physical fitness and beauty equals success.  A successful life, career and even a successful marriage.

It took a lot of commercials with supermodels, movies with perfectly-toned legs, and even a few pokes and prods on the playground to instill a permanent, tiny voice that whispers in the mirror, “You’re fat.”  But most of all, I think it was the lack of confidence my own mother had when she looked in the mirror at herself.  She was then, and is now, a beautiful, average-sized woman, but she hung on to those high school jeans that were a size 3 and only looked back.

I still remember putting my feet together and feeling between my thighs to hope that their was a space when I was in the 8th grade.  I never did have skinny legs.  I have always had an athletic build, and then some.  But way back, before there was a tiny gap between my thighs for a few short years,  I had body issues.

I remember refusing to get on the scale at the doctors office when I was 11 and about to enter fifth grade.  The doctor finally convinced me to do it, and then showed me on a chart that I was not “obese”.  I, in fact, was just one box to the left.  She reassured me that I had nothing to be self conscious about.  I was just the shortest, and most round in my class.  I wish I could go to my 11-year-old self and say, “You’re perfect the way you are.”

Of course, like most kids, I was bullied and awkward through elementary and middle school.  After four years of doing my best to fit in in high school, I went to college I realized that everyone was remarkable in their own way, and that physical beauty had nothing to do with success.  I wish someone would have told me sooner.

1923541_522646640012_7093_n

Ethnicity, height, weight, physical and mental ability does not make you better than someone else.  The way in which you carry yourself; with confidence, and purpose, let’s others know that you love yourself, and that’s what’s attractive. Love yourself.

 

 

Riding Solo on the Meal Train!

Believe it or not, two of my friends had babies last week only one day apart.  Both had precious little boys and seeing pictures of them with their new bundles sent me back to the time when Miles was born four short months ago.  There were so many things to adjust to, and so many things to learn.  Everyone wanted to meet him and I was busy recovering from my c-section.  It was all A LOT to handle.

So, I thought about what meant most to me at the time.  My best friend set up a meal train and we had dinner for an entire week.  I felt so relieved to not even have to worry about ordering food.  It was just there, and it came on different days so we weren’t overstocked.

I told my new Mommies to hold onto their pants!  I was headed over this weekend with dinner for their family.  Here’s what I made:

Lasagna:  This lasagna was packed with ricotta cheese, beef, sausage, hand-crushed plum tomatoes, garlic, peppers and onions.  This was my favorite meal from our meal train because it kept giving and giving.  I got the nutrients I needed and it was quick and easy every time I reheated it.

lasagna

Spring Mix Salad:  I LOOOOVE my salads.  I’m not a huge fan of making them, though.  A few of our meals came with salads and I was overjoyed.

Good Seasons Dressing Cruet and mix:  This dressing is THE BOMB!  I thought….why not!

Crusty Bread:  Ummmm….who doesn’t want crusty bread 24/7?

Autumn Fruit Salad:  Those of you who have had babies know that it’s very important to keep things regular!  This salad had apples, pears, grapes, candied pecans and an amazing cinnamon-maple greek yogurt dressing for an extra kick of protein.  I found the recipe on www.kitchentreaty.com

fruitsalad

All in all it was a success!  Both families were overjoyed and I was happy I could bring something to them that made things easier in this new chapter of their lives.  Plus, it was a great excuse to meet their new baby boys.

5 Minute Mommy Makeup

I hate waking up early, especially now that the temperatures are dropping and it’s still dark when I wake up.  So, I’ve adjusted my morning routine so that I can gain a extra half hour of zzz’s!  I’ve started showering and picking out my outfit the night before and I’ve tweeked my make up routine to save a little extra time.  Check out my 5 minute mommy makeup routine:

Step 1-Apply a moisturizer, I’ve always been a Ponds girl but since the girls were born I’ve started using Johnson and Johnson’s Baby Lotion. I find that my makeup lasts a bit longer when I use a moisturizer before applying anything else.

Step 2-Apply a fountain; my favorite cosmetic line is ELF Cosmetics.  Their products are made well and are extremely affordable.  I use their e.l.f. Studio Flawless Finish Foundation.  It covers all my imperfections, I still have some pregnancy mask on my forehead and this is the only foundation that I have found that covers it.

12487_83111_900px_new47458.27.jpg.47458.27Step 3-Apply a bronzer.  I live and breath bronzer.  It is an absolute must for my pale skin.  I’ve found that e.l.f Studio Contouring Blush and Bronzing Powder works best on my skin.  It’s not too dark and blends very easily.

11125_83601_900px_new56683.94.jpg.56683.94Step 4-Apply blush. I love bareMinerals blush.  It’s light and blends great!

baremineralsblushStep 5-Fill in and powder eyebrows.  Like most girls, I over-plucked my eyebrows when I was younger.  That mixed with fair hair makes for a nonexistent brow line.  I have to be really attentive when I fill them in because its easy to make them too dark and I end up looking a little crazy!  I love e.l.f. Studio Eyebrow Kit.  It’s very easy to use and super easy to blend.

 81301_eyebrow-kit_light

Step 6-Apply eye makeup. This is where I find I save the most time.  Most days I only apply eyeliner and mascara, but if I have a little extra I’ll put on a little eyeshadow.  I usually only line the inside of my lashline, it brightens my eyes and saves me the headache of messing up my eyeliner on my lid.  Mascara is the one piece of makeup that I use every single day, so when I find a good one I use it forever!  I love e.l.f. Studio Kohl Eyeliner and e.l.f. Studio Lengthening & Volumizing Mascara.

81118_B_900px_100011 11107_81401_900px_new56137.81.jpg.56137.81

There you have it; my 5 minute mommy makeup routine.  Quick, easy and beautiful!f

Easy, cheap, healthy, AND versatile meal prep!? Finally!

Meal prep is a time consuming and necessary bother.  It takes a few hours that could otherwise finally be that rest you swore you were going to get on a Sunday afternoon.  The benefits make it a non-negotiable for me… I save money and calories by not indulging on convenient breakfast and lunch sammis, and I save time through out the week when my meals are all ready to simply be portioned and dropped into my adorable polka dot lunch pail.

I generally carve out 3 or so hours in a week.  Often Sunday afternoon or Monday evening.  Things that are ‘healthy’ are a challenge because either they require extreme amounts of prep (read: peeling, chopping, sautéing, etc) OR you have the concern of it turning rather quickly (i.e.-produce for a salad).  The best compromise we have found is : egg bakes full of proteins and veggies for breakfast and soups for lunch.

Well, I’m nearing our second year of those exact same meals every. Single. week.  Every week it’s the same breakfast or the same soup for five days straight.  Although we do our best to change the soup from week to week- it never fails – by Friday I just can’t force myself to bring the spoon to my mouth one more time.  Sometimes I just skip lunch to avoid the soup for the fifth time!

I realize this is ridiculous and thought hard on a meal prep that I could tweek from day to day.  It dawned on me- pulled chicken!

Easier than any soup : I threw a few herbs and aromatics in a pot with 3 full chicken breasts and poached for ten minutes! Done.

image

One tablespoon of butter

3 smashed garlic cloves

one quarters onion

two branches of basil leaves

a few celery hearts with leaves

one lemon

whole peppercorns

two bay leaves

four or five pieces of corriander!

After I pulled this chicken out I continued to cook down the liquid to make a vegetable flavored stock, awaiting within a mason

jar for my next crazy concoction!

 image

Let the chicken cool- and then the fun part! Pull it with fingers or forks.  That’s it!

This week I plan to have BBQ chicken, a salad topped with chicken, some brown rice and chicken tossed in teriyaki sauce, the options are endless… And all so DIFFERENT !!

image

It took ten minutes, it cost around $6.00 bucks, and it offers a variety of options for the week!

The moral of the story : Sometimes if you don’t make things so complicated you’ll find things then won’t be so complicated ! 😏😉

Home Made Dog Food

I love my pup A LOT.  She’s just the cutest … when she’s sleeping.

imageimageimage

 

She is also a handful for so many reasons.  Beyond the behavioral battles, she  has a very sensitive belly.  We learned by trial and error with many types of foods.   No matter what the combination- grain free, single protein only, high end, low end, even prescription- we would come home from work to a VERY sick puppy.  She was crated at that age – so she would be stuck for hours surrounded by what she couldn’t keep down.  There really was no choice in our decision to switch to homemade food.  It was out of desperation that we started doing our research.

I read as many blogs as I could until I found what I felt sounded like the right mix.   We confirmed with our vet and our trainer at the time jotted down the mix and took it to the animal nutritionist at our local animal Nonprofit.  Thankfully they both agreed this seems to cover all of the right basis.

It’s not the cheapest, nor the easiest – but for us right now, we haven’t been able to find anything else.  For you it might be a choice- because one things for sure- this is INCREDIBLY healthy.  If you or I were to eat this- heck, we’d live past 100!

We shop at markets that allow us to buy in bulk, or produces that’s a few days past its prime- and this really helps us save.  I also might decide to alter the recipe just slightly from month to month depending on what I find and its price point at the time.  For the most part it goes like this:

 Ella’s Home Cooked Everyday Meal:

I dump all the ingredients into a gallon size freezer bag, uncooked.  We freeze the uncooked food until two days before we need it.  One day to thaw, and about 8 hours in the crock pot on low (while we work) and that’s all it takes.  This recipe is per bag, although we generally  make 4-8 depending on the freezer space.  Thanking my baby everyday for buying us a deep freeze!  This means less meal prep in a month!

4 gallon bags will last us about 15-18 days (that’s two meals a day)- I would say.  We don’t actually measure anything but the rice- sometimes it last us longer, sometimes not as long depending on the size of the batch.

  • 2-3 cups of White Rice  (Costco @ around .43/pound)
  • 1.5 #s Ground Beef (We buy a 10# portion at 27% fat because shes not getting a lot of fat elsewhere in her diet- 3.80/pound)
  • 1/4 pound chicken livers (about 1.89/pound)
  • 1/4 pound chicken gizzards (about 1.89/pound)
  • 1/4 pound beef liver (about 1.89/pound)
  • 1/4 chicken thighs (only if we get a good price under 4/pound)
  • 1 extra large sweet potato/cubed (.89/pound)
  • 4 large carrots (.50/pound)
  • 1/4 of the largest bunch of kale you can find/chopped (.89/pound)
  • 4+ large eggs (we buy a carton of 18 for about $3 and split it between each bag)
  • Salmon Oil (this will depend on your dogs weight)
    • Helps for bones, joints, and coat- dogs LOVE the taste!
  • Bone Meal
    • for strong bones and teeth!
  • Daily Multi Vitamin ( we just add one to every bowl of food)
    • for anything else we may have missed

bone mealsalmon oilvitamin

We used to spend hours chopping/grating/and blending all of this together in the blender, and then stirring it to make an equal and properly mixed batch.  Over time we decided it wasn’t necessary-just like us, sometimes we get a well rounded meal, some days- not so much.  But by the end of the week we (and she) will get all that we need). Now we leave it all as whole as we can so that it will fit/cook in the crock pot.    Just add a few cups of water to the crock pot to aid the process and avoiding burning where you can.

 

 

I hope this helps the other puppy mommies out there!

 

Full-Time Butterflies

I have always been someone who put their career first. My life wasn’t all about my job, and I felt I had a good work/life balance, but at the end of the day, my career was what mattered.

Even when I was 10 months pregnant I was wondering how I would fill my time on Maternity Leave, and if I would be itching to get back to work….cue sarcastic laughter…..Yep! Little did I know I would spend every waking second taking care of the love of my life, my first born son, and dreading the inevitable day my Maternity Leave would end.  I miss this little bird when he’s in his swing, and can’t imagine being 11.2 miles away for nine hours a day.

milesandme

My thoughts seem to follow the same mourning process over and over. When I think about going back to work and putting Miles in daycare full-time, I’m angry, then sad, then accepting. The process keeps reeling in my brain like a rerun of Full House, seen for the seventh time.

First, I’m angry.  Why can’t we be a family who can afford to have one income?  Why are U.S. Companies so stingy with their maternity leave? Why can’t I just drop my career, move into a small apartment with my husband, son, and two dogs, and eat Campbell’s Soup?

Then, I’m sad.  I’m sad the little guy will be growing up so quickly infront of someone else’s eyes.  I picture him crying and needing me, and my never knowing he was in distress.  I picture someone else watching all of his “firsts”, and not mentioning it.  It all brings tears to my eyes.

After a few tears I come back to reality, and accept that this is our life.  I cannot give up what I have worked so hard for, for the last 8 years, and I will be a great mom when I am with Miles.

One day last week, I decided to tell my boss how I was feeling.  We had a quick phone conversation and she gave me the reassurance I needed to know that my schedule will be flexible and I can make this work.  I even got approval to work Friday’s from home with Miles.  Plus, the little bit of work talk brought me back into my professional self.

I also went into the daycare with Miles to check it out again.  I hadn’t been there since I was six months pregnant.  We sat on the floor with his teachers and the other kids in his class.  I was delighted to see Miles was smiling and cooing with the other babies.  I had no idea he would get so much out of the experience.

Now I am feeling much better about the circumstances, and am not excited, but not dreading the first day as much as I was last week.  September 8 marks the first day of my stay at home mom status changing for a while, and I know we can make it work!

miles sitting in boppymilesdaddyact