Category Archives: Food

Dairy Free for the Baby

I have “Midwestern”in my bones. Casseroles = hot dishes. Snowy nights. “You betcha”. And drinking cow’s milk like it’s my job.

Throughout my first pregnancy, I drank several whey protein shakes a day. Whey protein comes from cow’s milk, specifically, fyi. It’s one of the proteins found in cow’s milk, along with casein. While nursing my newborn, I continued the protein drink regimen because it was filling, healthy, and gave me plenty of protein to keep up my supply. He was a miserable newborn, and the culprit: whey protein.

This is a common problem. There have been several medical studies done to support what I’m about to say: whey protein causes colic in many, MANY newborns. Why? Tiny human digestive systems aren’t meant to break down these kinds of proteins. If you think about it, cows have FOUR stomachs. Their milk is meant for their calves, who have digestive enzymes to break down whey and casein proteins found in cow’s milk. A significant portion of the population, as adults, has digestive issues associated with the consumption of cow’s milk. Humans are the only animals who willingly drink another mammal’s milk (except when necessitated, like when a little kitten is orphaned…). Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying infants are lactose intolerant. Lactose is a kind of sugar found in cow’s milk, not a protein. Furthermore, an inability to digest whey protein isn’t an allergy, it’s an inability to digest whey protein. I’m not talking about a rash, I’m talking about gut wrenching pain from rotten, undigested proteins creating gas in the intestines in a little baby.

Got it? Good.

Both my mother and mother in law have reported that Captain Laser Pants and I were VERY colic-y babies. Upon inspection, I found out that both our mothers consumed dairy while nursing (my dad later told me I was also on a formula supplement, and most infant formulas, especially from 29 years ago, were cow- milk based). Whey protein intolerance is genetic. So, when our pediatrician and pediatric gastrointestinoligist (that’s a mouthful) finally discovered the culprit of my always- in- pain- never stops crying- newborn, I stopped nursing immediately (milk proteins can stay in your system for a long time, and I wasn’t able to cut it out of my diet) and switched to a pretty pricey formula (called Nutramigen). After burning through $2,000 in formula in the first year of our baby boy’s life, CLP and I knew that if we were to have a second child, the second baby would a) have a 95% chance of having the same intolerance to whey and b)I would have to quit dairy entirely before the kiddo was born.

That being said, ya’ll, I love to cook. And bake. And drink milk, and eat cheese, and donuts, and ice cream. And although I know how unhealthy cow’s milk is (cows are getting dosed with growth hormones to produce way more milk these days, and this hormone is linked to early puberty in girls as well as a higher likelihood of contracting prostate cancer in men), it just tastes so creamy and yummy. But I’m combating this deep seeded desire to consume a gallon of milk a day with other options.I’m swapping the dairy habit for things like dairy free creamer in my coffee, almond milk for cereal and baking, and coconut oil or olive oil for cooking. I can make ice cream with frozen bananas and make fudge without a smidgen of dairy (I even made raw vegan chocolate pudding and -gasp- liked it!). Some days are hard, cause I really REALLY want to bite into a Hershey’s Symphony chocolate bar, but mostly, I’m able to curb the cravings. Tonight I made chicken tortilla soup for dinner, with which we usually have sour cream and shredded cheese to accompany the bed of crumbled tortilla chips and delicious soup. I opted for chopped avocado instead, and while it wasn’t the same, it was still pretty dang good. It’s not easy, but with the exception of a candy bar, I’ve pretty much found a solution to each dairy problem. To keep up my protein intake, I’m doing an all natural egg white protein shake to replace my whey protein- great for after workouts or when I need to consume some calories and feel full. Homemade cakes don’t need cow’s milk or butter. There are dairy free creamers out there for coffee.

And, really, knowing that $2,000+ won’t be going toward formula next year, and knowing that this will be something we will avoid with our second little guy, I already feel great about going dairy free.

 

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Thoughts for Food

Junk Food I Love:
Krispy Kreme donuts
Ice cream, preferably cake batter or cookie dough
Cookie dough (or cookies, whatev)
Cake
Chocolate
King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls

And that’s pretty much it. Unless it’s chocolate or sweet, I probably don’t want it when it comes to junk food. In general. I mean, once in a while I want an enchilada or some cheetos, but the above list, at almost any moment, can make me do a 180 from whatever I’m currently doing and shove my face into said food. Usually, in an effort to avoid these junk food items, I just stay happily satisfied with home cooking (and that typically works). But, lately, I haven’t wanted to cook. Why? As of late, Team Gwinn has been in a food rut. We buy the same staples at the store, I make the same ten or so meals, lather rinse repeat. Even mini Gwinn has been stuck in a “meatballs, chicken, and Lima beans” phase. So when Captain Laser Pants made some food requests, I obliged. I want to keep husband happy, and having new things to cook actually makes me want to cook, which keeps me away from donuts. That is, until he said his requests were “spaghetti with meat sauce” and “Mamwich”.

Let me clarify. If a terrorist organization wanted to torture me, they would give me a plate of spaghetti with meat sauce and make me eat it. I would rather have lemon juice squirted into paper cuts between my toes than eat spaghetti, especially with meat sauce. Are you getting the picture? I hate spaghetti. With meat sauce. Typing that so many times makes me queasy. Even when it’s all churched up on King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls, the same pretty much goes for Mamwich. It’s the meat sauce on a roll without the noodles.

To complicate things, I’m over having bread in the house. Mini Gwinn and I don’t eat it, wheat is bad for you (yes, even whole wheat), and when I do eat it, I feel bloated and sluggish afterward. The complicated part: CLP really likes bread. He eats a lot, so to boost his calorie intake, he says he needs it (blech).  I’m also slowly cutting out dairy (cheese is the hardest part), including my whey protein, so in the event of a pregnancy, the dairy can be out of my system before a 2.0 is born and we don’t run into the same issues mini Gwinn had with milk products. So, in an effort to avoid food I don’t want to eat, i.e. don’t want to cook, I’ve been on the hunt for some new food for the whole team, and not just the captain.

Here are some of my newest favorites:

Two Ingredient Pancakes/ Paelo Pancakes/ Banana Pancakes: One of the ingredients is a mashed up banana. The other ingredient is eggs. Make pancakes with them. Pretty simple. Also, the perfect pre-workout food. No sugar needed, bananas are excellent sources of carbs and calories, and eggs are delicious, protein-y goodness. Add some cinnamon if you want to make it a three ingredient pancake. (Original Source: not sure. But this one is from Recipe Girl)

Delicious Stuffed Cabbage Rolls: I substituted the rice for cooked quinoa. Quinoa has more healthy stuff to offer than rice. And I have a three pound bag of it that needs some attention. You can nix the meat if you want it to be vegetarian. (Original Source: Pioneering Today)

Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Peppers: Layer Provolone cheese on the bottom of the cut green bell pepper, fill with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and cooked strips of beef. Layer another slice of Provolone on the top, bake for 15-20 minutes. It’s easy, delicious, and no useless bread. (Original Source: Peace + Love + Low Carb)

Homemade Fruit Roll Ups: Mash up fruit. Lay it on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Bake it at a low heat for 8-10 hours. It’s that simple, and these turn out so deliciously. I have made a few kinds, and my favorites are pineapple/ orange/ mango and strawberry/ blueberry/ blackberry/ raspberry. (Original Source: Love u Madly)

Parmesan Baked Tomatoes: The name says it all. Sprinkle some dried oregano if you like, cover tomato slices with Parmesan cheese, and bake til cheese is melty. (Original Source: My Kitchen Affair)

The Bichen Berg: This is my creation. Sort of. I mix ground turkey with diced onion, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and garlic into burger patties, grill, and top with a fried egg, turkey bacon strips, sliced avocado, and (optional) cheese. This is my favorite burger ever. If you’re going to do bread with this, it has to be King’s Hawaiian, otherwise, it’s not a Bichen Berg. You heard it here first.

 

Do you have any bread/ dairy free stuff you’re a fan of and would like to share? We could get stuck in this rut pretty easily, too. Hope your Tuesday is super spesh!


Little Things

Mini Gwinn has been 16 months old for a few days now. I marvel at how quickly he has grown and changed and how much he understands now. I’m going to update you on some new things, whether you like it or not, so sit tight. For instance, he:

-knows where his tongue and his nose are. This is quite cute when you ask him.
-knows what “water” is in his bathtub. He will happily demonstrate this knowledge by splashing ecstatically.
-runs. Falls. Looks at me. Smiles. Repeat.
-knows the dogs’ names. Says “beans” in reference to Jovee, who is known as “Jovee Beans”.
-leans in for kisses, especially for dogs, CLP and myself. Talk about heart melting, people.
-said “no way!” and shook his head vigorously as I offered him bread. That’s right, my kid is Paeleo, people. He won’t eat noodles or bread. I’ve tried quinoa noodles with no success, bread with some honey and butter, sandwiches- nada.
-goes down the slide solo. Like climbs to the top of the jungle gym at the park, and sends himself backwards down the slide.
-goes up AND down our terrifying staircase. He’s been going up for months, but he has now mastered the art of the descent.
-says “need help” when he wants assistance. This isn’t consistent yet, but he does say it.
-throws the ball for Jovee. Plays tug of war with her. Thank God she’s so gentle with him.
-really, really enjoys repeating “l” sounds, especially “bl” together, which from what I’ve observed, are usually pretty difficult for many children until the age 3-4 (that’s not the case for all, of course, but more of a blanket statement after spending time with many children)

He does this a lot.

He does this a lot.

Can he identify colors? Does he know where his tummy, eyes, toes and fingers are? Nope. But he does say some funny stuff and he amazes me every day with all the little things he’s learning. He doesn’t let me cuddle with him, but he is so much fun. He’s getting more into cars now, which is awesome for his parents (we really like cars). He has a sense of humor. He is quiet for long stretches of time, steeped into his own world of thought and discovery, then he pops his head up, says something of deep, profound meaning, “GAH BAH DWEEEB BLEETHEL! Bleethel bleethel bleethel.” and then he falls back into silence (I still don’t know what “bleethel” means but he loves to say it). In my whole life I never thought I would find such joy in watching someone so small discover life.

All smiles on the swings!

All smiles on the swings!

These past few months have been particularly difficult with crests and falls that would make lesser couples crumble. There have been times, even today, when I feel like I am at my weakest, and those exquisite, striking blue eyes look up at me and I feel like I can keep going for a little longer. Coffee helps too. But my son, in all the struggle of life (even with him, sometimes), reminds me that there are better days ahead.

He had to stop driving to tell me something important.

He had to stop driving to tell me something important.


BEST WEEK EVARRRRRR

GUYS. This week is freaking awesome, and it’s Tuesday. I would let you guess, but I’m fresh from a work out and amped up on a protein shake (and a mini kit kat), so I’m just going to tell you.

1. Today my brother and his beautiful wife are welcoming their second baby girl into the world. If you don’t like kids, please stop reading my blog. Kids are awesome, and I’m pretty excited that we’re adding grandchild #12 to the ranks.
2. Valentine’s Day is this week. I could care less about the commercialized holiday itself, but I am fond of pretty flowers and fancy chocolates and telling the world how much I love my husband. It’s also a fun day to give little homemade Valentines and gifts to friends and loved ones.
3.Mini Gwinn is full on walking, talking, and growing more adorable every day. Proof:

Driving daddy's Jeep

Driving daddy’s Jeep

No joke, he LIKES wearing his sunglasses. And driving Captain Laser Pants’ Wrangler. And he doesn’t have any problem shifting the gears (well, he can’t reach the clutch, but don’t tell HIM that). Even when he’s making this face (because I make him climb on the couch without my assistance and he yells at me):

"Help me up, vile woman!"

“Help me up, vile woman!”

He’s still adorable. And sometimes he’s placid and content, like when we’re driving around in my awesome car:

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Ignoring the fact that “American Tail” is on for his viewing pleasure.

Wait, what?!
4. Captain Laser Pants FIXED MY FREAKING JEEP! That’s right, interwebs, MY HUSBAND THE IT SOFTWARE DEVELOPER REPLACED A REDONK COMPLICATED ENGINE IN MY CAR. He, with muscle and brawn and steel and brains, replaced my engine and a hundred other parts (like the water pump, the intake manifold, the sensors) and brought my beautiful Grand Cherokee back to liiiiiiiiiiiife. Who has six thumbs and is super stoked about this? Team freaking Gwinn, that’s who.

We are planning a baby Valentine’s Party. Because there isn’t anything cuter than that. What are you doing for Hallmark Day, interwebs?


Get Skinny Workouts Ad Nauseum

Hey! Happy late Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, etc! I have been super out of the loop lately. There have been so many ideas on my mind, but finding the time to write seems increasingly impossible with mini Gwinn wandering everywhere and getting into everything. Seriously. This morning he was slamming a cabinet door into the oven just because he could. It kind of happened overnight, but now I have a wild child toddler, and I’m a busy B (yes, “B”, not “bee”.).

I digress. This topic has been weighing on my mind for weeks, literally. It has bugged me so much that I finally locked mini Gwinn in our computer room with my coffee so I could sit down and knock this one out before I adventure out to the gym. Get ready, it’s not gonna be pretty, but let’s hope I get the message across.

If you’ve ever walked by a magazine rack at the grocery store or looked at Pinterest for more than thirty seconds, you’ve seen those absurd “do this lame workout for seven days and watch the pounds drop!” claims, all accompanied by an image of a ridiculously toned/ skinny chick in a bikini or less. To anyone who will be duped by this, please read these words carefully: that chick did not do this lame seven day workout to look like that. No one did this lame seven day workout and immediately looked amazing. Please, put down the Prevention magazine, stop pinning those “inspiring workouts and words” to your fitness board, and take a few steps back from this entire concept of “get fit quick”. Just like getting fat doesn’t happen over the course of a week, getting fit doesn’t happen in 168 hours.As harsh as it may sound, dough doesn’t transform to granite over the course of a week, or sometimes even eight weeks. It takes a lot of time and a lot (I mean A LOT) of sweat to melt fat and gain visible muscle tone. While a week’s worth of working out will make you feel better, give you more energy, increase your appetite (that is a good thing!) and help you sleep better, it won’t magically give you a bikini body for next week’s vaycay. Your best you comes from dedication to improving your health, not attempting to mimic a rail thin model’s body or society’s idea of “beautiful” (unless you happen to fall into that naturally, and if you do, yay for you!) .

In that same line of thought, I have to admit that I was under the impression that “diets” had fallen out of favor with the gen pub. I could not have been more wrong. Seriously, my reaction to seeing “follow such and such celebrity’s three day smoothie diet to fit into your skinny jeans”pins/ magazines was, “HOLY CRAP DO PEOPLE BELIEVE THIS STUFF?!” If all someone consumes is fruit smoothies for a weekend, s/he may fit into skinny jeans, but s/he will put those on to run to the nearest McDonald’s to indulge in a Big Mac.  Healthy consumption of lean proteins, veggies and lots of water as a way of life, not a temporary starvation diet, will be a better fuel for working out/ health improvement. It makes me sad when I see women who are desperate to feel better grasping at hollow ideas for health.

I’ve heard of many women starving themselves and then running on the treadmill for forty five minutes. If anything, this teaches your body to store up any calories consumed because it thinks it will never be fed AND has to endure major cardio. That’s pretty much the opposite of what any (good) personal trainer would tell someone.

My advice: 1. Learn your body fat percentage, not your body mass index (BMI). Your BMI doesn’t tell much at all about your health. By that same token, your weight doesn’t tell you much about your health. How much fat you’re carrying around? That’s WAY more telling. Gyms will measure your body fat percentage for free. Check out what the numbers mean at Health Check Systems.
2. Eat. A lot. a 130 lb. woman looking to lose fat and maintain/ gain muscle tone should consume at least 50 grams of protein a day. I say “at least” because dietary professionals will suggest as low as 45 grams a day and as high as a 1 to 1 ratio of pounds of weight to grams of protein. That seems impossible to most women, especially given the fact that the average woman consumes around 20 grams a day. Protein will keep you fuller for longer than simple carbohydrates and give you the energy you need to build muscle/ lose fat. Vegetables and chicken, vegetables and fish, whatever your poison for meat- this combo keeps you full. Avoid simple carbohydrates like the devil (this includes: bread, cereal, rice, cupcakes, cake, cookies [my weaknesses], etc). If you just can’t live without grains, try quinoa and oatmeal, both complex carbohydrates that take longer for your body to break down and keep you full longer. Kelly the Kitchen Kop gives insight with an interview from Dr. Davis on the dangers of modern wheat and other genetically modified grains. I’m not pushing “anti-carbohydrates”, veggies have carbs too (say what?), I’m pushing “anti-genetically modified grains” here.
3. Don’t limit yourself to cardio. Weight lifting and body weight/ resistance exercises are going to help you burn fat more quickly and efficiently than just cardio (unless you are morbidly obese). Another myth to these crappy “get skinny quickly” workouts is that you can target weight loss to fat in certain areas of your body, like “7 Days to Lean Arms!”.  If that were the case, all my body fat would be in my boobs and my thighs would look like pillars of marble wrapped in skin. While you CAN target muscles during workouts, you can’t target fat, which is why mixing up a workout is paramount to actual fat loss/ muscle gain. The best fat burning technique I’ve tried- interval training. I’ve pushed this on other blog posts in the past, and I’m pushing it again. My current fave? Turbulence Training, as seen on the Greatist.

I suppose what I’m preaching here is the opposite of what many women do, which is “starve and go easy at the gym”. I say, spoil yourself by eating a ton of yummy, healthy food, and abuse your body like crazy at the gym. Go at it until your clothes are soaked and you can barely walk out the doors. These three day diets and seven day fitness routines aren’t going to cut it; quick fixes NEVER do. Dedication to fitness and a true lifestyle change in how one approaches food will result in a total health and body transformation. It’s pretty obvious I’m no personal trainer or health expert, but I am passionate about my personal health. This makes me seem like a self indulgent psycho to some, but my health matters for the sake of my family (and my sanity). If you’re anything like me, when you feel better, everything seems better, more accomplish-able, less insurmountable. Plus, I’m a lot less likely to Hulk out on someone when I’ve burned all my excess energy (read: rage) at the gym. It boils down to the fact that I just want people I care about to be healthy and happy.

So, in the coming weeks, or whenever I find time to sit down and write a bit, I’m going to start working on the reverse side of “Being Kind is Hard”. Every post for the next several weeks will include a glowing review of someone I love in my life. It will serve as a very public way (with his/ her consent) to display my appreciation, and hopefully spur kindness in myself and others.

❤ to you!


Mini Gwinn Turns One!

So, yes, as of late, I’ve been missing in action. Well, mostly just “missing,” not much “action” lately. Some of my absence is to blame on planning a majorly huge first birthday party for mini Gwinn. It has occurred to me that many parents disapprove of throwing a big “first birthday” for the dumb reason of “the birthday baby doesn’t know what is going on”. It is to those people I would like to send a flock of pigeons to poop on their mini-vans. The first birthday party, as all good parents know, is largely a celebration for the new parents’ “survival of the first year”. We, as dutiful parents, make it a child- friendly party, give it an appropriate theme, graciously accept gifts for the birthday child, but everyone there knows it is just as much of a milestone for the baby as it is the parents.

In the spirit of selfishly planning this party, I picked out a theme like six months ago. My favorite very little person book is “The Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle. I loved it when I was little, and thanks to Pinterest, I found excellent ideas on ways to make this party kick as-… butt. The good news is that mini Gwinn actually loves this book, so it didn’t seem hugely self centered to make this his party’s theme.

So when I say I started planning months ago, I’m absolutely serious. I picked the theme in March, found the ideas for invitations in July, made the invitations in August, delivered them in September… you get the idea. But, good readers, by spreading the work over months instead of days, the party itself came together (mostly) seamlessly. Rather than desperately grocery shopping for food the day before, almost everything was already finished. I’m going to share with you my super- genius party planning. Prepare to be O-MAZED.

Firstly, let me clarify. I actually came up with next to none of the ideas for mini Gwinn’s party. Secondly, it was completely serendipitous that Target’s dollar section had Hungry Caterpillar items the week I went shopping for goodie bags and accessories for the party. Lastly, if anyone copies anything from my party, I would be honored.

Pottery Barn Kids Invitations – I changed mine slightly, which are mostly visible in my own pictures. Word to the wise: Michael’s craft store sells green pom pom rope! That saved me a lot of time gluing individual pom poms together to make caterpillars. Instead of hand cutting each eye and mouth, I used a hole punch. The hole punch saw a lot of action during the making of the invitations. I went to Michael’s and bought a ream of multi- colored cardstock, used eight or nine colors for confetti dots, four basic colors for the invitation lids, and green for the leaves in the invitation jar. The mason jars were on clearance at Target, so of course I scooped them up. I used the leftover invitations to decorate the tables.

Fun Cheap or Free Party Planning – I used this website as a base for how to plan the party menu. She has a million great ideas. I bought my plates and cups at Costco, napkins at Ikea, utensils and tablecloths at the dollar store, serving trays at the dollar store and clearance from Target, and followed most of this lady’s advice. She even has a table for the type/ amount of food to serve based upon the time of day of your party. Now that I know where to buy party supplies, I will never, ever buy expensive supplies ever again. The amount of money we saved on decorations and serving was redonk.

THE MENU

Planning the menu was a lot of fun. We had 44 adults and 6 kids RSVP for the party, some with dietary restrictions, some with bottomless appetites, and some with discerning palettes (ahem, Luke). The party started at 2, and although that’s the more common lunch time for weekend days, I felt like it was safe to not provide a full meal. With that in mind, I grew up with a mother who cooked for an army of 100 every Sunday lunch, and as a good Southern woman with a Midwestern practicality, I know you can never run out of food at a party, lest you risk public humiliation.

I feel like the crowd you are feeding dictates what you serve. If we had more children at the party, more “kid- friendly” foods would have filled up the spread. Since we had so many adults, I served food according to our guest list.

Hawaiian Sweet Roll Ham & Swiss Sandwiches – I doubled the recipe. How did I keep them warm, you may ask? Redneck heater: giant foil turkey pan from the dollar store, large heating pad on “high” underneath. These sandwiches were a big hit, and trust me, you’ll love them, unless of course you hate food and yourself.

Costco Pinwheel Sandwiches – the tray serves ~30. They are sold at such a reasonable price, and they’re filling, so they’re hard to beat at a party. Kids can handle them, adults like them, and they’re pretty much wonderful.

Mac & Cheese Cups – my own pseudo creation. Velveeta (or Market Pantry) shells and cheese, bacon bits, two or three globs of sour cream, 1 tbsp. minced garlic, lots of shredded cheese. Mix it all in a big pot, then drop two spoonfuls into foil cupcake liners. These can be made the day before the party, shoved in the fridge, and reheated the day of the event. I’m enjoying a re-reheated cup right now. Again, another kid and adult friendly food. Super tasty, and very easy to handle.

Sensible Portions Veggie Straws – these are the baked equivalent of French fries. I filled up a green planter I bought from Target ( 84 cents!), dropped a cup in, and had out paper bags to fill with the straws.

Vegetable Tray with Spinach & Artichoke Dip – self explanatory.

Strawberry and Green Grape Caterpillar Kabobs – I originally had a grandiose idea to stick these in a styrofoam block, add some chocolate covered marshmallows, and make it look like a cute edible arrangement. When that failed, I just laid them on a crystal- esque tray from the dollar store. Pretty simple. Bamboo skewers from Publix, cut off the sharp edges, three or four green grapes and then a big strawberry at the end. They look reminiscent of the main (well, only) character of the book on which the party was based.

Martinelli’s Sparkling Apple Juice – Crazy easy recipe. I sliced apples and froze them in a little bit of lemon water to keep them from browning. The drink dispenser looked quite pretty!

Cucumber Water – Plain old water with frozen cucumber slices. Turns out like spa water. My brother said it was too fancy.

Skinny Girl Funfetti Cupcakes – These were gone in MINUTES, people. MINUTES. I don’t know how they tasted, but I heard good things. I did a rough frosting (from the recipe on the website), then dunked the entire head of the cupcake in large nonpareil sprinkles. Very cute look. The cupcake liners were cute dots from Wilton which appropriately matched the large “1” candle.

Most importantly, THE CAKE – my mom made a GORGEOUS birthday cake for mini Gwinn. She has a groovy printer that prints sugar paper, so I asked for this pattern on a white, three layer, 10 inch cake with this filling. This cake was the best birthday cake I’ve ever had. She made cute fondant letters spelling the kiddo’s name, and it turned out to be a beautiful, clean looking cake. Amazingly, this cake actually served everyone at the party. I wanted the cake to resemble the inside cover of the book, which seemed a lot less busy than the rest of the cakes I’ve seen. This was by far my favorite Hungry Caterpillar cake. Thank you, mom!! I think I was her toughest customer yet, because I swear by homemade cake. After her hard work, we all agreed- homemade cakes taste the best, especially when made by mom!

The Smash Cake – I used a little bitty pan and this recipe to make mini Gwinn’s smash cake. No frosting, and he still went at it!

THE PARTY

I ordered balloons from Publix (tip- tell them you don’t want high float. It adds to the cost and the balloons last ~12 hours without them) and strategically placed them in focal points of the main room, specifically, on the back of mini- Gwinn’s high chair, behind the main table, and in our fire pit/ present pit. Between the balloons, the table covers, the food and the kiddos, there was enough color that major decorations weren’t needed.

The Goodie Bag Contents:

For Kiddos Under 2: 1 pair of Hungry Caterpillar socks, one Hungry Caterpillar paper bucket, 4 Hungry Caterpillar crayons, one spiral top, one kazoo or one set of castanets.
For Boys Between 2-4: The above, but instead of kazoo/ castanets, one wooden train whistle
For “Big Kids” Between 4-11: One Hungry Caterpillar reusable bag (dark green, light green or yellow), and age appropriate awesomeness from the dollar bin, like hair ties, army men, stick on mustaches, sunglasses, slinkys and crayons

We also had a “predictions and wisdom” box for guests to fill out predictions for the kiddo’s future, words of wisdom, etc. He’ll get to read them when he turns 18, but Captain Laser Pants and I got a great laugh reading them last night. I put together a small box for the bigger kids with cloud dough, bubbles and coloring pages with crayons outside, just in case it was too crowded in the house (this was used!). My mom made a cute sign that said “come on in!” so people weren’t ringing the doorbell every minute. These were all last minute additions to the party that definitely made a difference.

Needless to say, the party was incredible. THANK YOU to all who were present, all who were there in spirit, for the incredible generosity, the love, support, laughter and friendship. We are beyond blessed, mini Gwinn had an outstanding first birthday party, and we are honored to have shared our son’s first year with all of you.

If you have ideas, thoughts, questions, etc- send them on down the line in the comments!


Halloween Party!

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Why I ABHOR, LOATHE and DESPISE the TSA

Sorry, mom. There’s some colorful language in this one.

Originally I wanted to call this post “The TSA Raped Me,” but I didn’t want to lessen the emotional and physiological effects of actual rape. But I certainly feel like the TSA violated us in a MAJOR way.

Last week Team Gwinn took our mecca to Minnesota. Well, for me it’s a mecca. Captain Laser Pants is from Texas, so it was more of a death- defying journey for him (also, he went up for work). For myself, it was a returning to my heritage (think Vikings and the Swiss, not hot dishes and ludefisk) and visiting my family and friends. Mini- Gwinn went with us, of course, and our three dogs were in the incredibly caring hands of the best dog sitter on the planet. Seriously, this woman is amazing. She sent text messages with pictures every day and even vacuumed our house because of the dirt the dogs tracked in. If we ever travel again (which, at least by flight is highly unlikely due to this experience), she will be our go- to dog lover. I digress. So, like all good type A mothers, I started packing a month ago. I froze enough homemade baby food to last a little over a week. I watched the weather for several weeks to plan mini- Gwinn’s outfits and my own accordingly. When I was single, I could pack a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries in a carry on bag. This trip was much trickier. Packing a full size checked bag, a diaper bag, a carry on bag for mini- Gwinn took skill and consideration. I’m like a packing Tetris goddess now. Of course, CLP packed his one carry on and he was done. The Monday before our flight I called our hotel to verify our reservation. There were issues with the room we had booked, so we cancelled our reservation through Priceline, re-booked through the hotel, reserved a pack and play for the baby, and I had peace of mind for our room for the week. The Wednesday before our flight I verified with Delta that we were allowed to bring on liquids for our baby, check our stroller and car seat for free, and that there were special accommodations for families with babies. I talked to my sister, mother of four young boys, who had just flown recently with her family. She gave me peace of mind. I felt good about our trip and was excited to see my family.

So the morning of our flight, which was around 9:30 AM, we packed up our car, made sure the house was clean, did a load of dishes, took extra coffee with us, and headed to the airport. While we were assembling everything to carry from the daily parking area to the check in (which was: two carry on suitcases, one full size suitcase, one jogging stroller, one diaper bag, one baby, two adults), we forgot our car seat, which we had to turn around to retrieve. Are you keeping count of all that CLP and myself were carrying through the airport? Good. After going to the full service curbside check in, we were free of our full size checked bag and our car seat. We stood in line to get molested by the TSA. Now, for all you fliers who are only responsible for yourselves, admit it. Security is a hassle. You have to remove your shoes (if you’re wearing sandals, gals, you get to be barefoot in an airport. EWWWW.), your belt, take your laptop out of your carry on, remove the convenient quart- sized bag full of your tiny bottles of toiletries, and stand in line to have a naked body scan of yourself, get a detection wand waved over your body or an invasive pat down from a TSA employee, or some combination of all of the above. For the record, to be eligible for employment as a TSA “officer” (they are in no way officers- mall cops have more authority and importance), one must:
-be a US citizen
-have a high school diploma or GED equivalent
-pass a background check
-speak English
This is good news! In case you currently work at TACO BELL and want to be a TSA “officer”, you already have the requirements. You can just transfer on over!

I digress. Let’s continue with my experience.

So we are holding our tired baby, two carry on suitcases (because it’s $25 for the first bag and $60 if you check two), a diaper bag, and a stroller. They have a special line for families with strollers, which was significantly shorter, so yay? for that. We had to break down the stroller while holding our baby, remove our shoes, belts, get everything on the table, and stand in line. Once they realize our stroller won’t fit through their security belt screener, we had to reassemble the stroller, push it through the x-ray security scanner, and have someone “hand test” it for ballistics. Or whatever they look for. So, while we’re standing they’re like cattle in the slaughterhouse, they tell me they have to do a hand search of my diaper bag, which is craftily packed to actually hold everything. We oblige, because if we don’t, we get arrested and thrown into Azkaban or whatever prison houses beautiful, all American families who pack water for their baby. The good news in all of this is that the TSA “officers” in Hartsfield- Jackson are quite polite. I had a new bottle of hand sanitizer that had to be confiscated, but he was nice about it. All in all, even though it was a monumental pain in the ass, we made it through mostly unscathed. We barely made it to our flight for pre-boarding, in which the Delta staff assisted greatly.  Mini- Gwinn was wiggly on the plane, but he never sits still, so this was mostly expected. The flight was otherwise great- I really like flying Delta.

In case we weren’t screened enough by the initial TSA screening, my checked bag was also searched. I felt so safe knowing they literally had their paws on everything of mine to make sure I’m not a terrorist (I wish there was a font for sarcasm). What terrorist packs her and her baby’s belongings in a navy blue and white houndstooth Liz Claiborne matching suitcase set? It has hot pink lining, for crying out loud. As an aside, did you know that those awful blue gloves they wear (two by two, hands of blue) are for their protection? Those gloves are filthy. And they had those filthy gloves ALL OVER my baby’s belongings, including his bottles. Just to give you germaphobes a shiver of disgust.

The visit itself was tiring but wonderful. After the first night adjustments of sleeping in a new place, mini- Gwinn did wonderfully well. My grandparents are absolute saints- I adore them- and they loved my little man. I got to see one of my very best friends a few times, feel the glorious weather, see the beautiful Fall foliage, and took my husband to the Mall of America (say it aloud in an announcer voice, it’s fun). Advice for traveling with a baby: if staying in a hotel, always always get a suite so there are two separate rooms. Bring your own sheets for the baby and whatever other comforts s/he needs for sleep. Call ahead. Expect to get raped by the TSA if you’re flying.

We arrived an hour and a half before our flight at the Minneapolis- St. Paul International airport. Atlanta’s airport is the busiest in the world, so they say. I am inclined to believe it- it is always crowded. By comparison, the Minneapolis airport is a ghost town. We thought ninety minutes would be plenty. When we asked a TSA agent for guidance on a line to go through with our stroller, they told us there wasn’t one (our stroller wouldn’t fit through the lines they had sectioned off). So we found the line ourselves, which was blocked off only for airport employees assisting families (thanks for nothing, in that case), and walked through. The TSA agent to whom CLP had spoken literally ninety seconds before about an assistance line acted as if we were brand new faces and waved us through.

This, good readers, is where the real fun begins. By “real fun” I mean ludicrous, proverbial rape.

We pulled mini- Gwinn out of the stroller, left it standing upright because it wouldn’t fit on the belt scanner, removed our shoes, belts, bags, and placed all of it on the belt scanner (all while holding a 25 lb. baby!!). Immediately, the TSA officer asked us to break down the stroller. CLP and I both explained that it was too big to fit through the scanner. The TSA agent pointed to some screws on the base where the wheels are held and told us that “most strollers can come apart here”. I told him, “No, ours was shipped that way. It does not break apart.” Asshat. As if I don’t know the fine, inner workings of my own stroller. ALSO, we already have our hands full. It gets better! Then he tells me I have to remove all liquid and food contents, including diaper creams, applesauce packs, bottles, from my diaper bag. MY HANDS ARE FULL. So, I continue to hold up the line and proceed to remove every item from my diaper bag. As if by ironic courtesy, the “officer” tells me I can “keep the formula in the diaper bag”. Gee, thanks, I can put that one freaking item back in the bag I so carefully packed. It gets even better! CLP and mini- Gwinn go through the x- ray machine together, his ticket and ID are checked, etc. Then they tell me they have to test the contents of the diaper bag. They “hand tested” the stroller and left it to the side, not even telling us (who were very busy with a baby and all of our personal belongings strewn out for God and everyone to see) it was ready to be retrieved. Then one of the “officers” gets out a test kit and tells my husband to open the baby’s bottles so he can test them. He told me this later- if I had seen this, I would have stabbed a ho. My husband told the TSA agent, “Those are for the baby to drink.” Thank God a TSA “officer” who had worked there a week or two longer stepped in and told the moron- agent that the bottles were protected under some rule in their retard- handbook and didn’t have to be tested. He put his gross, blue- gloved grubby hands on my child’s distilled water, boiled- to- kill- the- germs bottle. Then he told me (I had reassembled my outfit at this point) to open the diaper cream for testing. I laughed at him and said, “It’s A&D diaper cream.” Then he tested it and told me, that yes, in fact, it is JUST A&D diaper cream. Look, moron, my hands are already full of taking care of a baby and all the freaking stuff I have to bring along with us for him. I don’t have time to shove microscopic bombs into his diaper cream. Also, that diaper cream goes on his sweet baby butt cheeks. I’m not putting bombs on the butt I worked off my own butt for to make and raise for the past 20 months. Sarcasm font for this paragraph would be great. I just know that now I’m going to get pulled for a rape security screening at the airport the next time we fly. Joke’s on you, TSA, I don’t think I’m going to fly again until you’re dissolved. Want some irony? They FORGOT TO CHECK my ID AND my ticket. HAR HAR.

After the reassembling of our clothes, bags and baby, we made it to our gate with about two and a half minutes before pre-boarding took place. Captain Laser Pants and I were shaking with anger. Literally, absolutely shaking. Fuming. I’m sure there were airport security cameras trained on us the entire walk to our gate. I was ready to get in a fight. I even took off my sweater to show off my biceps, just in case someone wanted to get in my way and I could confront them by She- Hulking out.

When we got home, we were too exhausted to open my checked bag. I waited until this morning. Good news- they searched my bag on the return flight too. Not only was Captain Laser Pants’s $1100 work laptop stashed in there, but they opened both bags of liquids I had in my suitcase and opened the lotion I had locked closed. The lotion (and my toothpaste) were all over my clothes and gorgeous riding boots. If I hadn’t been such a good mom and packed two mattress protectors and two sets of sheets for mini- Gwinn, and if I hadn’t had the forethought to wrap my husband’s laptop in these things, his laptop would have been ruined.

Am I crazy political ranter? Am I a supercharged anti-TSA, angry hater? Yep. More importantly, I care about personal rights. Not just my own, but everyone’s. I want my readers to know that there have been TSA “officers” charged with theft of many travelers’ high dollar items, including iPads, laptops, cell phones, money, and more. Ironically, I saw a major news report on a national news station while in Minnesota about it. Here’s an article covering this as well. If you’re of the belief that, for the safety of all, some must be singled out, you may also be in support of random sobriety tests on the road, which would also include the requirement by law for everyone to have a breathalyzer in their  vehicles, as well as a requirement that before you reach any city or county road, you must pass a sobriety test. Whether or not you drink, you would be subjected to this law, because like flying, we all share the road and are at the mercy of other drivers. What’s good for all must be good for one, right? Wrong.

Our forefathers put our constitution and our laws into place NOT for protecting its’ citizens, but for protecting its’ citizens’ rights. Look it up, folks. Your government is not in place to take care of you, it’s in place to ensure that we have equal rights. The way the TSA treats us is  downright shameful. We are all assumed to be guilty of crimes we aren’t committing, and even when proven innocent, we are still subject to the molestation of “security” in the name of safety.

I abhor, loathe and despise the TSA for the way my family and I were treated. We are great parents who take excellent care of our child, not criminals who pack ballistics into our diaper bag.

Screw you, TSA.


If Apple Made Free Weights

Is there an app for making iPhones really heavy at the gym to emulate lifting free weights? I’m not really tech savvy, especially when it comes to Apple products (ew), so I could be completely missing this nifty application. Are they called iWeights?

What’s that you say? This idea is preposterous?

That’s precisely my point. If you (the existential “you”, not YOU) are at the gym, walking on the treadmill at it’s slowest pace, yammering on your cell phone, what is being accomplished? Aside from taking up space on the cardio machine, just going to the gym isn’t really enough to jump start weight loss or healthy living. Example- I went to the gym on Thursday with every intention of staying for an hour to do a full body weight training circuit. As I dropped off mini Gwinn, I saw a large woman in small spandex situate herself on a leg lift machine while talking on her phone. “Whatever,” I thought, as I started up my warm up. About fifteen minutes later, after I had finished my warm up and tricep weights, I made my way back to the leg machines. The woman on her phone was still sitting on the leg lift machine. I worked around her, doing the calf raises and the other leg machines, until, finally, I could avoid it no longer. I glared at her. She was laughing, licking her leg against the resistance bar, literally doing nothing. Why take the effort to shove one’s self into spandex (which I suppose I could assume was a workout in itself), drive to the gym, only to talk on the phone? She was eating into my workout time and was accomplishing nothing simultaneously. Once she finally noticed me staring ninja death stars at her, she looked irritated that I wanted to use her chair. She finally got up and I was able to continue.

Run with this, tubby!

Let me clarify. I don’t “hate” “fat” people. Her complete lack of consideration and her all encompassing laziness are why I’m still mad about this today. “How do you know she wasn’t injured?” Please, if you’re politically correct, your feelings are hurt easily, or you make excuses all the time, please stop reading my blog for forever. I know she wasn’t injured because she was having an animated conversation on her phone. If someone is trying to work through something or work on something at the gym, they are not there to have a thirty minute phone conversation. If you have to walk on the slowest pace possible on the treadmill because that’s where you are physically, I am cheering for you in my heart and head for trying. I think it is freaking awesome that you are taking those steps to improve your health! If you’re walking on the slowest possible pace on the treadmill because you’re not coordinated enough to talk and walk, then I hope you fall off so someone who wants to use the treadmill productively can get on it. Is this harsh? Maybe. Am I right? Yes.

Look deeper into this “laziness at the gym” issue. Our society and technological age highly encourage us all to engage in multiple conversations at once, take in several types of media simultaneously, and divide our attention completely. When was the last time you looked at your phone? Facebook? Email account? It is now considered the social norm if people have their cell phones out at group gatherings or dinner. People text and drive while their children are screaming in the back seat. Parents look at pictures of their children while their children are sitting in front of them. Text message conversations to seven different people carry on through the day.

When was the last time your attention was completely focused on one thing?

My sister told me a story of a time (this was years ago) that she and her husband met a monk (I don’t remember where) and what he had to say was brief and wise- Whatever you’re doing, do it fully. If you’re driving, drive (dear God, drive with your full attention. Please). If you’re with your children, be with your children. If you’re eating, eat the meal fully and enjoy how it tastes, how it fills you. Be there. I don’t want my baby to remember me with a phone in my hand, and I don’t want to miss all the amazing things he does because Facebook has some crappy update I just “have to see”. Seeing the woman at the gym was a great reminder for me to “be there”, wherever “there” is.


Accut-ain’t What I Thought It Would Be

Chances are, if you know what Accutane is, you either a) are a medical professional or b) you know someone who has painfully cystic, problematic skin. For the record, Accutane is no longer on the market. It has replacements, like isotretinoin, or Claravis, if you want to be able to pronounce it. Hi, I’m in AA- Accutane Anonymous (is there such a thing?) and I started taking Claravis two weeks ago. Let me just say, Accutane ain’t what I thought it would be. After a lifetime of combating skin I didn’t love, everything got much, much worse after the birth of mini Gwinn. I’ve done everything in the book in an attempt to heal it, with no results (yes, even Proactiv. I’m so tired of being asked that.). The last resort- the big dance- was isotretinoin. Five months of misery lead to a lifetime of healthy looking, smooth as a baby’s behind skin. I can handle five months, right? I mean, I was pregnant for like six years, and I lived through that. So I started talking to other people that have taken the big plunge in skincare. All the guys I talked with said they didn’t think the six months of misery (the treatment is five to six months) was necessarily worth it. All the ladies- you guessed it- absolutely felt that enduring the hardships of the medication were worth the end result. The guys urged me to reconsider, the gals told me it would be an entirely freeing decision to give myself a life with pain- free, pretty skin. What everyone agreed on, as well as all the forums/ interwebs stuff I read, was that I’d need a supply of the following:

-copious amounts of chapstick
-eye drops
-saline spray for my shnoz
-lotion
-vaseline
-water. lots of water.

So, no big deal. Right? I have five or six tubes of chapstick laying around the house to begin with, and I was already a crazy moisturizing lady. Piece of cake.

A few days into the treatment, I noticed that my lips felt dry if I hadn’t used chapstick within an hour. A few days later, I noticed that my eyes felt dry. Now? If my lips aren’t coated, they hurt. I actually have to stop in the store at least twice to apply gobs of goop to my mouth and pour eye drops in my eyes. Last night I experienced my first medication- induced nose bleed (as I was washing my face, which was convenient for clean up).

For those that aren’t in the know, cystic acne is incredibly painful, especially with an eight month old smacking your face. Topical treatments don’t work (they just make the top layer of skin dry, eww), oral medications don’t always work, and sometimes only time can treat the issue. While you’re waiting, you’re stuck with a topographical map for a face. When you’re 15 years old, it’s acceptable to have a few pimples. When you’re in your late 20s, however, people wonder what you’ve done to yourself to have such heinous skin. Statements like “It must be something in your diet” and “Do you wash your face regularly?” are usually said by morons with flawless skin. Of course I wash my face, and I eat better than you, lardbutt (not you, gentle reader).

This major shift in my life is also coupled with the news that I’m returning to the work force (cue the river of tears). The stress of looking for child care, the feeling that I’m abandoning my bright (yes, he’s bright, I said it. He says several words! He’s Einstein! Ok, he may be average. But he’s pretty.) little boy (who’s never been without me for more than two or three hours!!), and the fear that he won’t get the attention he deserves have me stressing out completely. Will my house ever be clean again? When will I have time to make all his baby food? Will they use sign language when they sing to him? Will they sing to him? How often is he going to be sick? Even as I’m writing this out, anxiety is taking over my mental faculties.

Oh my goodness, ya’ll. This is a lot of new going on right now.

I’m going to go squeeze my little punchkin.