Engagement ring

Three years ago today James proposed to me in a dimly lit Italian restaurant in Springfield. We both knew it was heading in that direction, but James decided to make it official when he reached across the table for my hand and asked if I would take on the burden of being his wife.  And yes, in typical James being completely honest and not sugar coating anything fashion, those were his exact words. Would I “take on the burden of being his wife.” I didn’t think anything of it at the time (or at least not much) and immediately said YES! He slipped the paper ring that goes around the silverware on my finger and the rest as they say is history!

Ten days before getting engaged -Matthiessen State Park

So three years later, here we are… Our three year wedding anniversary is coming up in July, we’ve been living in our dream house for three years as of October, we’ve taken some amazing vacations and visited all 48 of the contiguous states, and our beautiful and amazing little girl just turned four months on Friday!

The Joneses - February 2012

As for being a burden… Is James the easiest person in the world to live with? Heck no! But am I the easiest person in the world to live with? While in my mind I like to think I am, I know the real answer is no as well!

It has been a crazy whirlwind adventure since we’ve been together and while we’ve had our share of ups and downs, being married to James definitely hasn’t been undue burden! This hit home more than ever when we had our first date night since Reagan was born. We were sitting in the movie theater waiting for the movie to start and James recreated our engagement by making me a ring out of his straw wrapper and putting it on my finger. Did my heart melt? Heck yeah it did!

Wedding and "engagement" rings

Take on the burden of being his wife… any day! 🙂

Replacing fruit trees

Late Saturday morning we met up with James’ Dad and Alice at Farm and Fleet.  We wanted to buy some fruit trees to replace the ones that died over the winter and James’ Dad agreed to meet us to get the trees and then follow us home to drop them off.  As an additional bonus, they planned on staying for lunch and visiting with us (cough… Reagan) for a while.

Loading up our trees and berry bushes!

Once we got home I got the Chicken Tetrazzini ready while Grandpa Gene and Grandma Alice played with Reagan!

"Meeting of the minds"

Grandma Alice playing and singing with Reagan!

Reagan got worn out from the busy morning and ended up wanting to nurse and take a nap before our dinner was ready.  While Reagan slept we enjoyed the meal and catching up. Shortly after we finished dessert Reagan woke back up and enjoyed some more time with her grandparents before they needed to go.

Having fun with Grandpa & Grandma before they left!

Hanging out with Grandma Alice

Cuddling with Grandpa

Overall it was a productive and enjoyable way to spend a Saturday!

Chicken Tetrazzini

Saturday James’ Dad and Alice were coming over for lunch so James suggested that I make Chicken Tetrazzini.  It’s a tasty recipe that I got from my cousins wife and is also pretty easy to make!

Ingredients

  • One package boneless chicken breasts (4 or 5)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 16 oz sour cream
  • ¾ box of angel hair pasta
  • 1 stick melted butter (1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups shredded (not the finely ground kind) parmesan cheese (topping)
  • Possible extras: 8 oz can of mushroom pieces (add into soup mixture) & Italian dressing (marinade for the chicken)

Ingredients!

Directions

  • Cook chicken breasts in crock pot all day on low. Remove and shred into pieces.  Most of the time I cook the breasts in Italian dressing. It adds a little something extra to the chicken and if I’m getting the chicken ready the night before then I’ll add some of the juices from the crock pot to the shredded chicken for it to marinate in.

Shredded chicken that was cooked in Italian dressing

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • In a large skillet combine soups, sour cream, and butter until everything is blended together (this is also where you can add the mushrooms if you want).  Add the shredded chicken and keep on simmer until pasta is ready.

Soups, sour cream, butter, & shredded chicken mixture

  • Cook pasta on stovetop until tender and combine with the chicken mixture from above.

Everything mixed together! Just needs the cheese on top!

  • Place in greased 9×13 dish. Top with the cheese. Bake at 350 for one hour or until top is golden brown.

Yummy! This is what it looks like when its finished and you cut into it!

This is a hearty and easy to make meal that always goes over well at family dinners and potlucks! Enjoy!

Reagan Four Months

It seems like every day Reagan is learning to do something new! It is amazing to see her grow and develop, and a little sad because my baby girl is growing up!  Here are some of her accomplishments for this month!

  • Reagan is still an accidental roller from tummy to back.  Strangely enough though after not doing this for a while she did it TWICE this morning!
  • Reagan is getting really really close to rolling over from her back to her tummy! She scared the heck out of Grandma Davis by almost doing this for the first time on a dressing room bench last Saturday while we were out shopping! 😉
  • Reagan is still chewing on her fingers, blankets, toys, Mommy & Daddy’s fingers, and anything else she can get into her mouth. I don’t “think” she’s teething, but honestly I’m not sure.
  • Reagan started scooting backward (head first) off her play mat (even as far as 5 feet!) this week while home with Daddy.
  • Reagan will occasionally reach her arms up to be picked up.  This is seriously too cute and completely irresistible!
  • Reagan still hasn’t quite figured out how to hold rattles or toys, but she is getting much better at focusing and going after a specific toy with her hand and getting it into her mouth! Her favorite things are her toy dog and her tag blankets.
  • Reagan is sitting up in Mommy & Daddy’s lap with almost no support!
  • Reagan is getting better and better about standing when we hold her up and is doing it for longer periods of time!
  • Reagan wants to hold her own bottle when you feed her.  Mommy had NO clue about this until Daddy added it to the list. Guess that’s what happens when Reagan only nurses when Mommy is around!
  • Reagan loves music and Daddy singing to her. We got Reagan a few new toys that play different types of music and she  seems to enjoy them a lot more than some of her other non-musical toys.
  • Reagan still loves to be outdoors and go on walks.  Mommy puts Reagan in her Baby Hawk carrier and they walk all over the yard (for fun) and up and down the drive way (to get Reagan to go to sleep; works about the same as driving her around but is cheaper and better exercise for Mommy!).
  • Reagan is over 18lb, wears size 3 diapers, and perfectly fits into her 3-6 month cloths!  We won’t have her exact measurements until her 4 month doctors check up next week, but just from measuring her at home we know she’s definitely growing!

Cheesy Corn Casserole

I’ve got a great Cheesy Corn Casserole recipe that I snagged from my Mom that is amazing. It’s a great addition to just about any meal and perfect for potlucks. We were having a food day at work today with a main course of jambalaya and I thought this casserole would be a perfect addition. It was quite well received and a number of coworkers asked for the recipe, so I guess it was a success! 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1 can cream corn
  • 1 can whole kernel corn (drained)
  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded mild cheddar (you can play around with the type of cheese)

Ingredients for the casserole

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350
  • Melt butter and then mix everything together; no special order necessary! I normally mix everything up in the same bowl or dish that I’m going to cook the casserole in.
  • Cook for 55-60 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Let cool a few minutes and eat!

Before and after baking! Look at that yummy cheese! 🙂

My breastfeeding experience

In my previous two posts about breastfeeding I discussed the cost of breastfeeding and the benefits of breastfeeding.  For this post I’m going to discuss my personal experience breastfeeding and how I’ve made it work.

I was breastfed and always knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I’m not completely sure where this conviction came from. I can’t honestly remember ever seeing anyone breastfeed when I was growing up or even talking about breastfeeding (which is strange since I was 8 when my breastfed brother was born). Yet, after talking with my Mom it appears that not only did she breastfeed, but so did my Aunts so it was probably such a normal thing that it never stuck out as something strange or different to be remembered.  As I got older I learned about the benefits of breastfeeding in some of my college courses and by reading a lot of articles and research on the topic.

All of this led to my mindset that not only is “breast is best,” but also that I wanted a drug free birth. I’d seen the video of the baby that couldn’t crawl up to nurse (Breast crawl; #5 – hindering factors) because the mother had been administered pain relief during the labor and delivery and there was no way I was going to do that to my baby! And then I actually experienced labor, specifically a very hard labor that had me begging for pain relief in any form, and ending up with an emergency cesarean section because Reagan’s cord was around her neck twice.  After being given all those drugs I was pretty worried about having problems nursing, but as soon as James brought Reagan to me in the recovery room she immediately latched on!

Reagan nursing for the first time ~ a little over one hour old

The rest of our time in the hospital I focused on keeping Reagan skin to skin and nursing as much as possible.  Overall we did a pretty good job, but were very lucky to have an evening nurse who knew a LOT about breastfeeding and one of the amazing lactation consultants who helped a lot.  Granted it’s rather disconcerting to have someone grab your breast to help get your baby to latch on, but when your baby is hungry it’s amazing how modesty goes out the window.

Before we headed home, the lactation consultant gave me some advice that ended up being pretty important to my success at nursing. She said if we needed to supplement with formula before my milk came in then we should put some in a syringe (minus the needle) and give it to Reagan along the corner of her mouth while she was nursing.  That way she would suck harder and longer while nursing because she wouldn’t realize the milk wasn’t coming from me.  This would help Reagan get the sustenance she needed to prevent jaundice and to help my milk to come in faster.

I was pretty set against supplementing, so even though I took the syringe and formula they offered from the hospital, I didn’t use it until our first night home.  Reagan wasn’t staying latched on because she wasn’t getting enough reinforcement (breast milk) when she nursed, wasn’t sleeping because she was hungry, and was overall just very fussy.  I was tired, in a lot of pain from my cesarean, and just wanted to help my baby, so I went ahead and tried supplementing.  It actually worked pretty well and I felt a lot better because Reagan was staying latched on much longer and seemed much more content afterwards.

The next day James and I took Reagan to her three day doctors check-up and her pediatrician was concerned about her weight loss (she was down 12 oz to 6lbs 12oz) and the possibility of her getting jaundice (she was starting to look a little orange/yellow). We told him about the supplementing  and he thought it was fine and even suggested upping the amount I was giving her a little bit to help with the jaundice.  I followed his advice and by the next evening my milk came in and I quit supplementing. Reagan was getting more than enough milk and both of us were quite happy with the nursing situation.

Content baby and Mommy doing some skin to skin time

At Reagan’s eight day follow up appointment the doctor was amazed that Reagan was completely in the clear for jaundice (her score had dropped from 10 to 3) and was back to her birth weight (7lbs 8oz)!  This made me feel pretty good since I had only supplemented for about 24 hours and the rest was all Momma’s milk! I think supplementing in the manner I did with the syringe (and not a bottle) helped in a number of ways including : (1) getting Reagan to latch and suck longer, (2) keeping Reagan content and not too fussy, and (3) making me feel better because I wasn’t worried and stressed that I was starving my baby. I’m sure we would have been fine if we hadn’t supplemented, but I think the supplementing went a long ways towards my mental health, which was priceless!

My little nursling

Reagan and I continued to successfully and exclusively breastfeed until she was a little over three weeks old. I had already gone back to work by this point, but had brought Reagan with me so I could continue to nurse on demand.

Daddy watching Reagan in Mommy's office so she could work & nurse when needed!

The plan was for Reagan to start at the babysitters at four weeks old, so I knew I needed to start pumping and getting her to take a bottle.  It was extremely hard, but as a practice run I pumped enough milk and left my baby girl home with my Mom while I went in to work. Mom said she took to the bottle ok, but after a couple of hours Mom went ahead and brought Reagan to me at work because she knew I was a wreck. I was worried that Reagan might not want to nurse after taking the bottle, but thankfully she latched right on and seemed quite happy to be back with Mommy. We did this for a few more days with my Mom and James feeding Reagan pumped milk from a bottle and luckily she easily went back and forth between the bottle and nursing.

Daddy giving Reagan a bottle for the first time

We have now been nursing for almost four months and things have worked out pretty well. I pump so our babysitter and James can bottle feed Reagan breast milk during the week while I’m at work (Babysitter on MWF and James on TR), but otherwise if I’m with Reagan we breastfeed. We’ve made it through a number of growth spurts when Reagan seemed to nurse almost 24/7.  And luckily I’ve never experienced any pain while nursing. I attribute this to Reagan having a great latch and, per the lactation consultant, me having perfectly shaped nipples for nursing (strangely enough I guess this isn’t the case for everyone).

Reagan is doing great and at two months was 13lbs 13.8 oz and 24 5/8 inches (this puts her in the 95th + percentile for height and weight!).  We haven’t had her four month check up yet, but our rough estimate on the home scale is that she’s about 18lbs.  Length is hard to get with a squirmy baby, but Reagan’s feet fully reach the bottom of her 6 month sleepers so we are guessing she’s grown in length as well.

Reagan completely passed out and satisfied

The only problems I’ve had are with blocked milk ducts, pumping, and when I was on an antibiotic for two weeks.  The antibiotic I was on passed through to my breast milk, so I had to pump and dump my milk after I took a pill. I was happy that I didn’t have to stop breastfeeding completely, but the stress of not being nurse Reagan when I normally could was not fun for either of us.  As for pumping, I don’t really have any problems it’s just that: (1) it’s time consuming, (2) requires a lot of “stuff,” (3) is very inconvenient if you’re away at a conference or traveling, and (4) just isn’t nearly as nice as nursing.  Luckily though I have been able to pump plenty of milk for while I’m away from Reagan and also have a pretty good sized stash of extra milk in the deep freeze! Yet probably the most common problem is the blocked milk ducts, which I seem to experience at least once a week or so.  Normally it happens if I haven’t been able to pump or nurse enough, but I’ve worked out a system of using a super hot compress and then nursing on that side as much as possible which seems to do unclog things pretty quickly.

Overall what I think helped make breastfeeding work for us was that:

  • I didn’t supplement with formula after the first few days and even then did it in a way that made Reagan think she was getting it from me and helped my milk supply come in faster.
  • I nurse on demand. I’ve never watched the clock or try to put Reagan on a schedule. She gets nursed when she is hungry and for as long as she wants.
  • I try to anticipate Reagan wanting to nurse, especially at night. As soon as Reagan starts making smacking noises in her sleep, we nurse.  This helps me get more sleep because Reagan never really wakes up. She nurses half awake and when she’s finished doesn’t even make a peep when I lay her back down.
  • We cosleep. Reagan is right there next to me at night and I am quickly able to take care of her needs and make sure she is ok. Some might judge this, but as for most things I do, I have researched it and as long as cosleeping is done safely there is no reason not to and so many reasons why you should. (Note: See the Dr. Sears or Dr. McKenna websites for a good overview of safe cosleeping practices and the benefits of cosleeping)
  • We never gave Reagan a pacifier. Granted there have been times that part of me wished she would take a pacifier (she absolutely refuses now), but I think we are all better off with her not using one.
  • I nurse Reagan regardless of the location. It doesn’t matter if we are in Walmart, Target, the mall, or a restaurant. If Reagan is hungry, she gets fed. Period, end of sentence. And a little extra note, I don’t hide it by doing in a restroom or covering her up. I don’t advertise it and try to be as modest as possible (I use the two shirt method, which works great!), but I do NOT hide that I am breastfeeding my daughter.
  • I believe that breastfeeding is the best thing for Reagan and for our family.

I’m not sure how much longer we’ll exclusively breastfeed. I know some recommend not introducing solid food until 6 months, so we’ll have to discuss it with Reagan’s pediatrician at her four month check up. I do know that I would like to continue breastfeeding Reagan until she’s at least 15 months so I can get her past one year old and through the cold & flu time of year (Dec, Jan, & Feb). Ultimately though we’ll just have to wait and see how everything goes.

Mommy and Reagan both relaxed and content

To me breastfeeding Reagan is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.  To see your child grow and develop and know that you are providing their nourishment is an amazingly powerful thing. In addition, there is something almost spiritual about the connection between Reagan and I during a nursing session. It’s hard to explain, but amazing none the less.

Seventeen weeks

Little Miss Reagan Kay is Seventeen Weeks old!!!

Benefits of breastfeeding

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog talking about the cost of breastfeeding.  This post was mostly about the dollar cost of breastfeeding and a little bit about the physical cost.  Yet, what this blog didn’t discuss were the benefits of breastfeeding.

Nursing Reagan

It would be hard to put a dollar amount on the benefits of breastfeeding, yet if you look online you can find a ton of articles detailing the many different benefits of breastfeeding for baby and Mother.   Some of the benefits that I’ve noticed include:

  • Breastfeeding promotes bonding between mother and baby. Nothing has been more powerful than the feeling I get when nursing Reagan. Sitting there looking down at Reagan as she nurses causes a crazy rush of hormones and definitely promotes the “I would do ANYTHING to protect my child” instinct!
  • Breastmilk is the perfect food for your child. Its composition changes from week to week, from day to day, from hour to hour, and during a feeding.  And the best part, I don’t have to do anything special to get these benefits! My body knows what to do and just does it! No worrying about which formula brand is the best or what artificial things might be in it. Just straight pure Momma milk!
  • Breastmilk is always ready and comes in a nicer package than formula does. Pretty hard to argue with this one and I have to admit it’s really nice to have what Reagan needs food wise always on hand and ready to go! No mess and no fuss!
  • Breast milk contains immunities to diseases and aids in the development of baby’s immune system. Knock on wood, but Reagan has been very healthy and hasn’t needed to visit the doctor for anything other than her regular check-ups.
  • Breastfeeding protects against Crohn’s disease. I know I’m a little old to develop Crohn’s, but with my maternal family history of it, I’ll take all the protection I can get!
  • Breastfeeding burns calories! On average a breastfeeding Mother will burn 500 calories a day breastfeeding. That’s the same amount of calories I’d burn if I jogged for one hour!
  • Breastfeeding is a self confidence booster for mom. Looking at my 98th + percentile in height and weight baby and knowing that she is being sustained on my breast milk alone is a huge “I am Woman” feeling!
  • Breast milk acts like a natural tranquilizer for baby.  Nursing might not always work at first if Reagan is upset, but eventually getting Reagan to nurse always calms her down! An additional benefit is that it always calms me down as well!
  • Breast milk tastes better than formula. Yes, I’ve tried both, and yes, breast milk tastes much better. Breastmilk is sweet tasting while formula is a little chalky and condensed milk tasting.
  • Breastfed babies get more sleep. I would definitely agree with this because as soon as I hear Reagan start smacking I can pick her up and start nursing. Most of the time she doesn’t even really wake up while she nurses and then literally just goes right back to sleeping once she’s finished. No crying and no trying to put her back to sleep!
  • Breastfed babies have great skin.  Reagan’s skin is absolutely beautiful and hasn’t had any of the normal baby acne or skin problems.

~ Adapted from 101 Reasons to Breastfeed by Leslie Burby

So there you have it, some of the many benefits I’ve experienced breastfeeding Reagan. It wasn’t always easy, but I can’t imagine not breastfeeding Reagan and I am extremely grateful that I’ve been able to share this experience with her.

Yet, I know there are many different reasons why some women don’t (didn’t) breastfeed and I am not passing judgment on formula fed babies (Side note: James was formula fed, so I’m definitely not saying formula fed babies won’t grow up to be awesome!!). I wanted an all natural birth with no medication and ended up demanding an epidural and getting a Cesarean section, so I definitely understand that sometimes you do what you have to do and that sometimes choices are taken out of your hands. I’m just happy that I’ve been able to make this choice and that is has worked for us! In my next breastfeeding blog I’ll discuss my personal experience breastfeeding (it’s NOT easy!) and how I’ve made it work.

Visit from Missouri

We got a surprise visit from my cousin Sarah and her three boys (Isaiah, Arthur, & Micah) this evening! They happen to be passing by on their way to Champaign and stopped for a short visit and to meet Miss Reagan for the first time!

Meeting Reagan for the first time!

Reagan paying way more attention to the boys than Sarah!

We talked and played for a little while inside before heading outside to let the boys run off some steam! Being cooped up in a car for a long trip isn’t easy on little ones (especially boys!), so they had a great time checking everything out.

Looking at the shedding snake along the creek bank

They especially enjoyed the pond (or at least what will become our pond eventually!).  There were lots of dirt hills for them to climb on and plenty of rocks to throw into the water.

Throwing rocks!

James and Reagan didn’t get quite as into the playing in the pond, but they hung out along the edge checking everything out!

Daddy and Reagan checking things out!

After playing for a while we eventually made our way back to the house, got something to drink (it’s hard work playing!), and said our goodbyes.

The cousins with their little ones! 🙂

It was great to see Sarah and her boys. It had been almost two years since I’d seen them last, which is crazy considering that we really don’t live that far away from each other! Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to plan some times to meet up so it doesn’t go that long ever again! 🙂