Saturday, March 31, 2012

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Elina's Birth Announcement

Things have been quiet here on the blog lately. I apologize for that. Having two kids isn't necessarily overwhelming, but it is time consuming. Elina is great during the day and she allows me to spend quality time with Cati, but once Cati's asleep for the day, Elina is up and ready to play. It's as if she knows she's going to get undivided attention. So in some ways it feels like I'm working two jobs: during the day I'm entertaining Cati and at night I'm entertaining Elina. To be honest, I don't really know what to do with Elina so she spends the evening hours laying on my chest or sitting on my legs while I give her baby massages and make goofy faces. It can be a little exhausting but I cherish this time with her because I get to really soak in all of her baby-ness. And speaking of this sweet baby, here is her birth announcement. I only got one printed for us because we decided not to send any out but I still wanted to share because I am kind of obsessed with this Shutterfly design; I even got thank you cards using this design for Cati's birthday.

Stationery card
View the entire collection of cards.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

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This Week in Mommyhood

I feel great this week. Pumping is going well and I am enjoying motherhood. I hate comparing this time to Cati's time, but that's all I've got to work with. At this point with Cati I was hating motherhood and would spend my days crying with her so it's so refreshing to actually enjoy Elina and feel good about myself. Except for one horrible breakdown two weeks ago, things have been smooth sailing. I hope it continues like this because I am enjoying both girls so much.

Here are the fun developments from this week:

Grow Baby Grow. Elina had her one-month check up this week and she is growing beautifully. She's 21 inches long (up two inches from birth) and 9 pounds, 10.5 ounces (up from birth weight of 7 pounds, 8 ounces). She's a full pound heavier than Cati was at one month and I can't wait to start seeing those rolls. The doctor even joked that we should go into business selling my breastmilk because it makes for big, healthy, and strong babies.

Roll Baby Roll. Elina started rolling from belly to back this week. My itty bitty baby is getting strong. It took forever for me to get a video of it but when I finally did she broke down; she wasn't happy about rolling over and losing sight of the yummy hand she was sucking on.

Language Explosion. Cati is so impressive when it comes to language. She's at the stage where she repeats everything and I mean everything. My favorite things that she says are Lucky Charms, cereal, and go away (to the dogs).  She's also getting really good at stringing lots of words together and making sentences. I love hearing her Spanish Minnie Mouse voice.

Nap time. Alex is always saying he wishes Cati would nap with us. Well, this week she did and it was the best feeling ever. I don't know if it's because she napped with us or because she's going through a phase, but she hasn't napped in her crib since. The upside is that she's tired at the end of the day so bedtime moves along faster.

All Clear. I had my follow-up OB appointment this week and I'm all healed and ready to resume normal activity level. With an active toddler, I haven't exactly been taking things easy but it's nice to know that everything's ok with me. This recovery has been so much better than my c-section recovery.

My baby Elina is five weeks old and my big girl Cati is a wonderfully, active two year old. Here's hoping for another great week in mommyhood.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

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This Week in Mommyhood

I feel like I am hitting my stride with having two kids. There are still a lot of things I'm afraid to do, like going out for extended periods of time with both girls, but things are coming together. Granted, things with both girls got a lot better once I stopped trying to nurse Elina, but that's just a small technicality. Last Sunday I hit a wall and spent the day crying and feeling incredibly anxious. Nursing was getting overwhelming and I felt utterly alone. Then I went to a postpartum support group and started feeling better. Then we hit another wall with nursing and I decided change was in order. This is what motherhood is like: a day of ups followed by a day of downs followed by another day of ups.

Here are the other fun developments over the past two weeks: 

Naptime Success. My sister came over to watch Cati while I went out to the lactation consultant with Elina. It was around naptime but I didn't tell my sister what to do because I figured I would be home in time to put Cati down and I also figured Cati wouldn't go to sleep without me being home. Well, I never give her enough credit and she showed my sister exactly what to do from turning on the sound machine to making sure she had her water bottle, bunny, and book in the crib with her. I was so impressed.
Elina's Routine. Because I started pumping I've started keeping track of when and how much Elina eats. She seems to be getting herself on a schedule and eats six times a day. Luckily, the schedule she's on is perfect for putting Cati to sleep.

Cati's Playtime Fun. Cati loves to try to play with Elina. She doesn't quite understand that Elina can't play but it's fun to see Cati engage Elina in her games. My favorite game involved Cati's glasses.
First Family Outing. We had our first family outing and it was to a Dali art showing and then dinner at our new favorite Mexican place. It was nice getting out and having fun together.

Newborn Pictures. Elina had her newborn pictures last week and I cannot wait to see them all touched up and edited. The photographer came up with the cutest positions.
Elina is a month old and Cati is 25 months old. I have two daughters and I couldn't be happier. Here's hoping for many more days of ups.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

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Elina: One Month

Dear Elina,

Happy one month sweet girl. On February 17, 2012 you came into the world in the best way possible and the past month has been spent with us working on continuing that great start to your life. What amazed me the most about this past month is how much I had forgotten about being a mother to a newborn: I forgot about the sleep deprivation, the waking every three hours to feed, and the poopy diapers. I've found my way and we have all managed to survive.

Our biggest challenge and triumph this month has been breastfeeding. We tried for three and a half weeks to make it work. From bottle to finger to nipple shields, we tried it all. In the end, I decided it wasn't for us. Trying to nurse you was straining our relationship. I felt so detached from you and like I was simply going through the motions. I didn't want that, especially since you are our last baby. This past month has flown and I regret not enjoying you as a newborn because of how stressed and anxious I was about trying to nurse you. The relief I felt when I decided to pump was immediate and if you ask those closest to me they will tell you that I turned into a different, happier person once I decided to stop trying to nurse you. We will never have the breastfeeding relationship I envisioned but the greater accomplishment for me and the one I hold the most dear was the fact that I had a successful VBAC with you. How I felt about myself as a woman was more affected by my having a c-section than by pumping, so right now, I am triumphant.

Over the last month, you have been a dream. Aside from feeding sessions (which got so much more enjoyable with bottles), you are a great baby. You only cry when something is truly bothering you. This is a nice change from Cati who cried all the time. I fully expected another baby like Cati so you are a welcome change from what was my norm.

Speaking of Cati, she's been home with us and the adjustment has been great. I thought it would be harder getting used to the two of you, but Cati has been so great with you and so patient. Her patience is amazing, especially when you consider how hard you and I have struggled with breastfeeding (a session would take hours to complete). She also loves you very much and loves to give you hugs and kisses. I love to see how she interacts with you and hear her call you "hermanita." I am dying for you to get older so I can see how you interact with each other. I can already tell you are going to do whatever Cati tells you because you are going to look up to her.

The past month has had its up and downs but it ended on an up. It began with me wondering how I would survive and ended with me knowing I could survive. Today I want to shout it to the world "I am happy! I have two beautiful daughters and I couldn't be luckier." That right there is priceless and worth giving up on nursing.

I love you little girl. Thank you for being a great baby and for making our transition from a family of three to four fairly smooth. If you were a "difficult" baby I don't think I would have tried as hard to make nursing work. You have filled our lives with so much happiness and I look forward to truly enjoying you from now on.

Love you always,

Thursday, March 15, 2012

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Break Up to Make Up: A Medela Story

My first experience with breastfeeding is nothing new on this blog. In fact, you can read my goodbye letter to Medela here. As with everything related to Cati and her infant/baby days, my pumping experience is colored in the tormented shades of gray and black. I hated pumping because it felt like such a ball and chain but I loved it because it gave me the ability to give Cati breast milk when nursing just wasn't possible.

When I was pregnant with Elina I was determined to change things: I wanted to get that baby latched on and even joked that I would tape her face to my boob if I had to. And as with all grand plans, they are just that, plans that are subject to the terms and conditions of reality. I am pumping again and will try to do it for as long as I did it with Cati. I thought the choice to do so would be filled with guilt and regret but right now the overriding feeling is relief.

Ultimately, the convenience of a future relationship kept me trying to get nursing to work, but at the expense of my current relationship with Elina. Trying to breastfeed her was hard. Granted I got farther with her than I did with Cati but the past few weeks have been miserable for me. I haven't enjoyed Elina at all and I would secretly hope she'd keep sleeping so that I wouldn't have to feed her. At one horrible low point, after trying to get her on the breast for over an hour, I handed her over to Alex and told him I didn't want her. I instantly regretted uttering those words because the truth is that I didn't want the experience of struggling to feed her, not her herself. But this was how straining trying to get her to nurse was. I found myself head diving right into all those emotions I felt when Cati was an infant (looking back I'm convinced I had some kind of untreated postpartum issue ) and I did not want to feel that way, especially with two little girls depending on me to be the best mother possible. And there is no way I could be that mother when I lived my days in a dread that literally made me sick to my stomach and I spent my time snapping at Cati because I was upset with what was and wasn't happening with Elina.

If I would have been able to to at least get the baby to latch without a nipple shield (which was incredibly painful to use), even if her latch was wrong, then it would have been worth it to keep trying. Elina, however, flat out refused. My nipple would be in her mouth, dripping that liquid gold, and she would just cry and cry and cry. She would eventually fall asleep, but because she cried herself out. The only reason I survived a morning of this, where I tried to get her to latch on from 8am to 12pm is because I drove us over to a friend's house and camped out there for the day. My friend grabbed Elina when I couldn't take the crying anymore. She had no trouble sucking on my finger so the bottomline is that she just didn't want my nipple.

I tried. Lord knows I tried so very hard, but it just wasn't meant to be for me and for us. From the beginning we had problems. She wouldn't latch and all the staff at the hospital would say is "ohh she's going to be a good breastfed baby." Then, she was borderline with her biliruben levels and wanting so bad for her to be discharged with us, she got formula (anything to get her peeing and pooping). Then it was discovered that she was a poor sucker and I had to finger feed her milk to help her strengthen her suck. Then it was my nipples and we started using the shield. Then, with the help a lactation consultant, I got her to latch on without the shield. She must have hated this because afterward she simply refused the breast. I had a choice: continue in this way or pump and find a way back to my sanity.

I thought I would feel guilty, especially since I told myself I wanted to make it to six weeks. But honestly the pain, frustration, and detachment I felt from Elina were too much for me to handle. I was going through the motions and not enjoying a second of this sweet child. I was dreading being with the child who, aside from the breastfeeding struggles, was an "easy" (compared to Cati) baby. Once I made my decision I felt a weight lifted. I felt relief, calm, and at peace. I will never have the breastfeeding relationship I envisioned and aspired to have but I will at least cherish this stage in Elina's life. I was able to finally be a present mother to Cati and it felt so good to snuggle up to her before she went to bed. I slept better than I had in weeks because my nerves weren't eating away at me and I woke up feeling ready to tackle the world. I actually felt like I could make it through the day and like I actually wanted to try to make today be a good day.

So here begins another Medela story. I'm sure there will be complaints along the way. I'll deal with it then because today I feel good. Today I feel like I can tackle the world and that's exactly how I have to feel. Motherhood in the early days is all about surviving and today I feel like I can actually survive and conquer instead of just get by. And at the end of the day, I'm doing what I feel is important, which is giving my daughter breastmilk. I tried getting her to nurse and I did not bond with her. I felt more connected to Elina in one bottle feeding than I had in the entire time I tried to nurse her. That alone is worth pumping for.

Monday, March 5, 2012

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Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake

This is the first thing I have baked from scratch since Elina was born. I haven't cooked anything yet but that's ok, baking something sweet is more fun and delicious. I couldn't have made a better selection because this cake was so divinely delicious. It seriously didn't last more than two days in our house and that's that I made the entire recipe instead of half like I normally do. This is another recipe that once again proves pumpkin in desserts is one of the best things ever.

Pumpkin Streusel Coffee Cake
Source: Tracey's Culinary Adventures

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch kosher salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour. (A 9-inch cake pan works too as long as it has about 3-inch sides.)

To make the streusel: Stir the flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the butter, and use a pastry cutter to work it into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside while you make the batter.

To make the batter: Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt together in a medium bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the pumpkin puree and sour cream and beat until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients, beating just until combined - the batter will be very thick.

Spread half of the batter in an even layer in the bottom of the prepared pan. Sprinkle half of the streusel mixture over the batter. Dollop the remaining batter over the streusel and use an offset spatula to spread it as best you can (it doesn't have to be perfect). Top with the remaining streusel.

Bake the cake for about 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes then remove the sides of the pan and let the cake cool completely.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

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This Week in Mommyhood

I survived another week! This is huge because I survived another week with both girls at home with me. The plan was to keep Cati in school but when I tried to do the drop off/pick up thing on Monday, it was too hectic. I had to wake Elina up and she decided to hate the car seat so mornings were starting to feel stressful at the prospect of taking Cati to school. As a result, for the next month Cati will stay home with me and hopefully Elina will get on some kind of schedule that makes taking Cati to school easier on me. With all that said, however, having Cati at home has been surprisingly easy. I was expecting to be overwhelmed but Cati is so good and patient with me and Elina that having her at home isn't much of a stressor. Cati is my little helper and she has learned to become really flexible as I try to figure out how to care for Elina.

Here are the other memorable and meaningful moments/happenings this week:

Breastfeeding Update. I went to another lactation consultation this week and Elina is officially on the boob. I have to wear a nipple shield to get her to latch on but at least she's getting on. It feels so good to be able to nurse her and now I am looking forward to decreasing the amount I'm pumping (I'm still pumping for a few minutes after feedings to keep my supply up) and just letting Elina dictate how much milk I should be producing. I've also been working on trying to breastfeed with the cover so that when I make my first public breastfeeding display I don't look like a complete fool.

Pediatrician Appointment. There is nothing more satisfying than going to the doctor and being told your baby is growing and no longer has jaundice. Last week when we went to the pediatrician Elina weighed 7lb 4oz. This week, Elina weighed 7lb 11.5oz so she is actually getting something from me!

Twins. I can't get over how much Elina and Cati look alike. They are literally twins born two years apart. I'm hoping Elina changes a lot because I'd like one of my kids to look like me :)

Little Talker & Singer. I am constantly amazed by what Cati says, knows, and understands. She understands there is "leche" (milk) in my boobs and when I'm feeding Elina, she says "Elina come leche booby." When I'm pumping she says, "mami saque leche de booby." She was also extra musical this week and has made up a song for almost everyone in the family. My favorite tune of the week was her "Abuelo Luis" song.

Greatest Invention. Before Elina was born I bought the wheeled board attachment for our stroller. I had hoped Cati would like it and she does. She absolutely loves it and loves standing on it. The best part is that she will stand on it for long walks so I feel pretty confident going for walks with both girls.

First Outing. Nothing too exciting but I went to the supermarket with both girls. I was nervous about making this trip with the girls but we survived. Have I mentioned lately how weird it is to have two kids?!

Things Grandmothers Say. Have you seen those videos about things people say? I'd like to add to the grandmother one with this nugget from my grandmother. She came over to our house to meet Elina and the first thing she says to me is that I need to do something to "tighten" my belly. I'm two weeks post partum and I think I look pretty good (I won't go into how much I weigh now because I'm sure I'll get lots of eye rolls) and here comes my grandmother with words that are made to make me feel self-conscious about my post-pregnancy body. Didn't work though and I still feel pretty good about myself. The question is why can't we women be kinder to one another?

Family Time. My dad came down to visit and it's been so cute to see him and Cati together. She made up the Abuelo Luis song for him and literally spent her days asking for him.

Here's to another week of living and surviving!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

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Orange Chicken

Orange Chicken
I don't know why, but have so much trouble when it comes to making Asian-inspired dishes at home. Maybe we are scarred by places like PF Changs and Sarku Japan, but the things we make at home never taste as good. This recipe, however, proved why we keep trying to make these kinds of dishes at home. This is the perfect copycat recipe and worth all the work that goes into making this dish.

Panda Express Orange Chicken Copycat

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken, chopped into bite sized pieces
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
white pepper
oil ( for frying)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon ginger root, minced or 1 tsp. of powdered ginger
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed hot red chili peppers
1/4 cup green onions, chopped (I omitted)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
Orange sauce, recipe below

Place chicken pieces on plate or in large bowl.

In a small bowl: Stir together the egg, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon oil and mix well.

Stir cornstarch and flour together in another bowl.

Coat each piece of chicken in the egg mixture, then roll generously in the cornstarch/flour mixture. Set each prepared piece of chicken on a plate, and heat oil to fry.

Heat oil for deep-frying in wok or deep-fryer to 375 degrees. Add chicken, small batches at a time, and fry 3 to 4 minutes or until golden crisp. Do not overcook chicken. Remove chicken from oil with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels; set aside.

Clean wok and heat 15 seconds over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil. Add ginger and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant; about 10 seconds. Add and stir-fry crushed chiles and green onions. Add Orange Sauce and bring to boil.

Stir cold water into remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch until smooth and add to sauce in the wok. Stir well. Heat until sauce is thickned.

Stir in sesame oil and orange zest if desired. Add crispy chicken to the sauce and stir quickly to coat. Don’t let it sit too long, or it will lose it’s crispiness.

Serve over white or brown rice.

Orange Sauce for Stir Fry (I doubled this sauce recipe)
1 1/2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 Tablespoons water
5 Tablespoons sugar (I used half white sugar and half Brown sugar)
1/4 cup Orange juice
1 Tablespoon Vinegar
1 heaping Tablespoon of Cornstarch
1/4 cup Cold water

Combine all ingredients except for the Cornstarch and the water. Mix well. Set aside, and follow directions below for adding the cornstarch/water to thicken the sauce.

Friday, March 2, 2012

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Easy Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

mint chocolate chip ice cream
I made this Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream a few weeks back and, let me tell you, this is the best ice cream I have ever made. The other times I've made ice cream at home, the ice cream has either been too sweet or had an artificial taste. This ice cream, on the other hand, tasted just like the store-bought ice cream. This recipe is definitely a winner! 

Easy Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Source: Darryn M. Briggs on

2 cups 2% milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 drops green food coloring (optional)
1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, stir together the milk, cream, sugar, salt, vanilla extract and peppermint extract until the sugar has dissolved. Color to your liking with the green food coloring.

Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer's instructions.

After about 10 minutes into the freezing, add the chocolate chips. After the ice cream has thickened, about 30 minutes later, spoon into a container, and freeze for 2 hours.