A Holiday Miracle

You guys! For the first time in over 8 months, my husband and I actually went on a date last night!! Without the baby! Where other adults were! A lot of exclamation points, I know, but I was pretty excited. We were in such a hurry to get out of the house, that we didn’t even take a picture to mark the occasion. As such, I feel that since you couldn’t see it for yourselves, I would tell you all about it, sparing no details:

My husband’s office does an end-of-the-year/holiday dinner every year. Initially we weren’t going to be able to make it because we couldn’t get a babysitter for the night that they were going to have it, but they changed it, and so we were able to go!

I started getting ready in the late afternoon because I knew that the only time I would be able to blow-dry and straighten my hair without an infant trying to kill herself via electrocution would be during nap time. As soon as I put Esmé down I ran and hopped in the shower. Now, I have not straightened my hair with a straightening iron in forever. I felt like I was in college again, meticulously ironing out each section of hair. I also realized what an absurd amount of time it takes to straighten my hair. I can not believe I used to do that on the regular. But then again, I had a lot more free time back then. *sigh*

Now that I had perfect hairs, and the child was awake, things got tricky. As anyone who has curly hair can tell you, freshly straightened curly hair can easily turn curly again if you a) expose it to moisture and/or humidity, or b) put it up, or pull it back too tightly with a hair clip or tie (then you get these lovely kink marks).

Baby girl loves to eat, pull, and mash leftover dinner in mama’s hair, so I spent the two hours before bedtime with my hair loosely clipped back, dodging sticky baby mouth and fingers. It made for one really crabby mama and baby at (Esmé’s) dinnertime. Daddy had to intervene before we both lost it and whisked her away for bath time.

After cleaning baby goo off the highchair and bib, washing and putting away dishes, I finished getting ready, and Daddy gave Esmé her nighttime bottle. We totally could have made this easier on ourselves and asked our babysitter to come early and do her bedtime routine, but I feel like our child would have a major freak out. I didn’t want to put my babysitter through that.

When I came downstairs my husband said ‘Wow! You’re completely transformed!’ and then explained to the baby that the lady in the nice dress and high heels was indeed her mother, because she had no clue.

The babysitter came, I put Esmé to bed, Emile explained his entertainment system to her (he just got that xbox thing where you talk to it…very, very creepy in my opinion, but fun to talk at the same time as my husband and confuse the heck out the xbox :D), and we were off!

The dinner was at Fleming’s. So snazzy right? And it was magnificent! It’s a small office, so there were only seven of us, but we had the best time. We ate, we drank, and we laughed until my face hurt. We actually closed the place down.

As we left I realized my choice of not wearing tights under my dress was not the best decision, as it was 30 degrees outside when we left, and we did have to sit in the car for a good 5 minutes to let it defrost before going home, but it was worth it! It was a magical evening that ended with a heavy dose of reality this morning, when I pried my eyes open to feed my screaming baby, who then projectile vomited on me. But then she smiled and shrieked her happy shriek at me. So I forgave her.

 

 

Merry and Bright

This holiday season has been one to remember. My Mom came out to visit just before Thanksgiving and we had so much fun. She took photos for our Christmas card and they came out perfect! This was the one we used for our card:

1 lights 4I had seen photos on Pinterest of babies and lights, and wanted to do one that was similar. One of the benefits of having your Mom as a photographer is you get to see (and keep) all the outtakes. This ended up being one of the funniest things EVER. Esmé loved the lights! She wanted to hold them:

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She wanted to eat them (notice the proper pinky in the air):

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And, my favorite, she even wanted to stick them up her nose!

1 lights 14We laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. Literally. Bladder control is a tricky thing after having a baby. I have to be very careful when sneezing, laughing, and running.

This season was special because it was the first with our baby. It was also a lot of work. I should confess that I depleted our wine fridge. Keeping up with Esmé is stressful and draining. I very much look forward to my glass of wine after she goes to bed. I should also confess that for every cute picture we got of my daughter during the holidays, there was one very tired mama in her pajamas behind the camera (unless my Mom’s taking the pictures, then I’m lurking off to the side).

That being said, I know that we are lucky. We are lucky to have a happy, healthy, beautiful baby girl that tests us every day. We are lucky to have such wonderful family and friends that shower our daughter with love. We are lucky to have each other.

We wrapped up Christmas week at the beach in Wilmington, which, aside from the baby screaming bloody murder on the way there AND back, was a very nice end to the holiday. Esmé and Daddy had lots of fun watching people fly their drones, surfers riding the waves, and families playing in the sand.

IMG_1851 IMG_1886I really love Christmas, and hate seeing it packed away, but I am ready for a new year. It’s a fresh start for all of us! I always feel stronger, like I have more energy and willpower (which I haven’t had a lot of lately). Esmé is also learning so many new things so quickly now that I can’t wait to see what next year has in store for her.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season, or at the very least a comfy one spent in pajamas (like me!). Thank you for reading, it really does mean a lot to me to have your support. I wish you health, happiness, and adventure in the new year!

All photos of Esmé with the lights courtesy of Alma Alvarado

Peppermint Bark Cookies

My sister came to visit us earlier this month from Ohio. While she was here we went and got a tree! We managed to pick one out that didn’t scrape the top of our ceiling this year, thanks to Emile bringing his measuring tape, and Esmé had so much fun ‘helping’ out.

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‘Daddy, what is Mommy doing, and why is this big green thing taking over my play area??’

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 ‘Well if you’re taking my space, I’m going to take the cats space’

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‘Don’t worry Mom, they’re outdoor lights. They’ll be ok if they’re saturated with saliva…I think.’

We were going to bake peppermint bark cookies while she was here, but I was baked-out after making rusks that weekend, so we didn’t get to it. I ended up making them the following week for a neighborhood Christmas party, and just sent her half (which was still a lot). They are such a pretty, festive, and delicious treat I thought I would share, in case you are looking for a fun family activity for the holidays.

It starts with Ina Garten’s Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies. The only thing that I change is I use dark or bittersweet chocolate chips, instead of white chocolate chunks. You want to have a nice dark chocolate cookie as your base, or else the cookie ends up being too sweet. If you don’t want as much work, you could just buy dark chocolate cookies, but I really like these. Mine came out a little crunchier than usual this year, as I was juggling baby at the same time, but if you do them properly it’s got that chewy in the middle that is a perfect contrast to the crunchy layer of white chocolate and candy cane that goes on top.

Once you have your cookies, you will need crushed pieces of peppermints. Now, my sister tells me that they sell them like this, but I personally enjoy pulverizing candy canes with my rolling pin. It’s good for stress relief. It’s also fun to scare the bejeezus out of my sous chef:

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‘I say, you’re making rather a lot of noise up there. Do keep it down. I’m very busy and important.’ (I like to pretend she is ladylike and has a proper accent like her Daddy, even though she can out-toot and out-grunt a full-grown man).

So I just buy a couple of boxes of candy canes, unwrap them, and throw them into a big ziploc bag and smash with my rolling pin until they look like this:

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I may have even smashed them a bit more. You really don’t want lots of huge chunks of candy cane, because then it’s very hard to eat the cookie with giant bits of candy on top.

After I smash them up. I separate the bigger bits from the small ones with my mesh strainer over a bowl. The tiny little particle pieces fall through, the medium size bits go to the bottom of the strainer, and the biggest ones push up to the top, so you can pick them right off.

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Now that you have your peppermint bits, you need some melted white chocolate. I just use white chocolate chips and melt them in my fancy double boiler:

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Also known as a glass bowl placed over a simmering pot of water :). You can do this in a microwave, for 30 second intervals, but I always mess it up and do it for 30 seconds too long. Then it ends up all hard and lumpy. No bueno. I have never had that problem when I melt them on the stove. You just want to watch it because when they start getting sticky like this:

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you need to start stirring continually until they’re completely melted and smooth, like this:

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After your chocolate is melted, very carefully (as the bowl will be hot), remove the bowl of chocolate from the pot of water. Because I do this in batches, I leave the heat on the stove at the lowest that it will go. That way, when I need to melt more chocolate, the water is still warm, and I can just put the bowl back over top of it again.

Next you take the lovely peppermint dust, that you previously collected in a bowl, and put half (if you’re doing it in batches like me) into the melted chocolate.

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Why don’t we just put the melted chocolate onto the cookies and just throw the crushed candy canes on top? Well the best peppermint bark that I have tasted has tiny bits of peppermint inside the white chocolate, as well as some larger pieces on top. Trust me, it is so much better this way!

Once you have mixed the dust into your melted chocolate, you can either dip the top of your cookie into the melted chocolate or, take a spoon and spread it onto the cookies, (I like to spread it with a spoon). You have to work kind of quickly with this part as the chocolate starts to solidify, particularly after you add the peppermint. That’s why I like to do it in smaller batches.

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After you’ve either dipped your cookie, or spread the chocolate on top, sprinkle the medium size and larger size pieces on top. I press them down a bit so I know they won’t fall off after the chocolate hardens. Then all you have to do is wait for the chocolate to set and then you can gobble them up!

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If you have a baby inch-worming around your house like me, and end up with crunchier cookies, they will be particularly yummy if you dip them into your tea! Either way make these for a fun, festive holiday treat that everyone will love.

Peppermint Bark Cookies:

Ingredients:

Dark chocolate cookies, such as Ina Garten’s (substitute dark chocolate for white chocolate chunks)

2 bags white chocolate chips,( if you halve Ina’s recipe for the cookies, you will only need one)

2 boxes of 12 candy canes

Directions:

Bake (or buy!) cookies according to directions.

Unwrap candy canes,  place in large ziploc bag, then smash repeatedly until they are in very small pieces. Place metal strainer over a bowl and sift the candy cane pieces, so the tiny ones fall through into the bowl. Pick off the largest pieces from the top of the pile in the strainer. Set aside.

Melt white chocolate in a glass bowl set over simmering water. Make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Once chocolate is smooth and shiny, remove from heat. Pour in half of the candy cane dust and mix well.

Spread peppermint white chocolate mix over the cookies. Sprinkle the larger pieces on top and press gently into the chocolate.

Allow chocolate to set, before serving or storing. Enjoy!

Carrier no more

Esmé’s favorite store is Whole Foods. I load her in her baby bjorn and we’re off. She loves to people watch, look at everything on the shelves, and she LOVES the checkout counter. The cashier always complements her, and then she sees the giant windows that face the checkout lanes and shrieks with delight. Literally. Like everyone staring shrieking. My husband affectionately refers to her as our ‘pterodactyl.’

A couple of weeks ago, to my surprise, she started to fuss in her carrier. I made sure she had her pacifier clipped on her string thing, so she could chew on that, and then sniffed to make sure there wasn’t a poo-diaper. She was good, but she just got more and more upset as we did our shopping. Finally at the checkout lane she lost it. I started to cry because I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, and she had never done this before. The girl who was bagging could tell catastrophe was imminent. She hopped out and unloaded all my groceries onto the checkout area, so I could do the baby shuffle to try and soothe her. The checkout guy was super speedy, and then they helped me out to my car to make it easier.

Side note: Whole Foods is the best. They are always so helpful for new moms who have their hands full. I know they are crazy expensive, but when you have a child you begin to be a neurotic person. You read all these books that tell you to eat organic while breast feeding. So I did. Then you have to start feeding actual food to the baby. Thought you were neurotic before? Think again! You will examine each piece of fruit before selecting to make sure there are no areas where the skin has been broken, no weird spots, no strange residues before placing said item into your cart. You will then take it home, scrub vigorously, then peel every piece of skin off it, before steaming in your baby food cooker. Neuroses, I have them. But really, the staff at Whole Foods makes my life so much easier.

When I got home I told my husband what had happened and we had a discussion we had been having a lot lately:

Me: I think she doesn’t like her carrier anymore. I think she’s too squished. We need to get the ERGObaby. She can be in it until she’s 45 lbs!

Emile: That thing is $130. How much longer is she going to be in a carrier anyway? Can’t she just sit in the cart?

Me: She’s too little to sit in the cart. Plus you need a cart cover if you’re going to do that. Let’s just get the other carrier

We had this discussion every time we had to use the carrier. Finally, last week, Emile says:

‘Is she really too small for the cart? I mean she sits just fine by herself now. I think she would probably like it.’

I scoffed and said no way Jose. Then he called me out:

‘Wait a minute, you want her in a carrier! I see what’s going on! We’re doing the cart cover for now. If she doesn’t like it, then we’ll try the other carrier.’

*sigh*

Because we breastfeed Esmé, we have only been supplementing with formula. Anytime that we saw the pediatrician, they generously gave us several sample cans of formula to tide us over to our next visit. Her last visit was at her 6 month, and they don’t see her again until her 9 month checkup in January, so we had actually run out of formula! So, for the first time, I had to go to the store and buy some this morning.

I knew Esmé wouldn’t want to be squished in her carrier, so I thought I would try putting her in the cart. After using several sanitizing wipes to scour the cart (our cover hasn’t arrived yet and, again, neuroses), I strapped her into the cart.

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She shrieked with delight the whole way through. Seriously. Loved every second of it.

I felt like someone was squeezing my heart. Why? Because I do not have a snuggle baby. She moves all day every day. You can hear when she wakes up in the living room because you hear the thump, thump, thump overhead, that is actually her kicking the slats of her crib. Our babybjorn was my forced snuggle time with her, and I shall miss it.

Esmé, I will not squish you into your carrier so close to me anymore. I will let you sit in the cart, by yourself, because it makes you happy. I will pretend to be excited about this milestone, but only if you don’t eat the cart.

This entry was posted in Life.

New Mom

As a stay-at-home mom I do not often get the opportunity to make myself pretty. Hair is up, otherwise it is eaten, pulled, usually both. I don’t wear makeup because my child likes to suck on my face, and pull the skin off of my face. Also, I kiss my daughter so many times in the day I have chapped lips. Is this normal?? I am forever applying chapstick because of this. I wear what I like to call ‘house clothes,’ ( basically they are snazzy pajamas…yoga pants, sweats, t-shirts, etc.), because they need to be able to hide various body fluids on them until I remember to wash them.

You must be thinking, well that’s not bad, I’m sure you can pull it together when you leave the house, right? Ha! Hahahahaha! Sorry, but I had to laugh. Doing errands with an infant child is like someone activating a bomb that has no countdown device, then asking you to hold onto it. You know it’s going to explode, but have no clue when or where. Our child generally lasts for T-2 hours give or take, between naps. So as soon as she is up, we change her and then feed her, which usually takes 30-40 minutes, and then it’s go time. I throw on whatever is in the top of the drawers and I’m out the door. Successful outings are ones where we accomplish said errand and make it back home before the baby-bomb (crying/wailing/gnashing of (2)teeth) goes off. People who can do this while dressed presentably are labeled as supermoms in my book.

Today, I got the opportunity to leave the house, by myself, for four whole hours! I went to get my hair cut and colored!

I go to a salon in downtown Raleigh called Alter EGO. I had been before long ago for a haircut, and then again this summer for color, but never both at the same time. So this was a special treat. I wasn’t even thinking of writing about this, but I had such a wonderful time I had to share. I have to start by saying that this salon is one of the prettiest I have been to. The unfinished wood floors, open-ceiling, and large loft windows make for a beautiful space.

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I don’t think my phone picture does it justice. If you ever just want to walk through and see what it looks like, they always participate in First Friday. You should go. There’s free wine. Just sayin’.

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I sipped white wine and read Nora Roberts (don’t judge) while Alli got my color ready. It came out perfectly! Just as she did this summer. Then I was whisked away to the washing station where I was treated to the best scalp massage EVER, thanks to Madison. Then I had the fabulous Dana cut my hair, before Madison dried and styled my hair.

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Ta da!! Seriously I asked if I could take Madison home with me and Dana just laughed. I don’t think she understood that I was being serious. I need my hair to look like this every day.

This isn’t a sponsored post, and I wasn’t compensated to write about this salon, but I think we should support local small businesses. Particularly when they give you supermodel hair. So if you need a good colorist, Alli Carter is your girl. Cut? Dana Hunter all the way. Want to look like you have Victoria’s Secret hair go see Madison Hancock.

For my Arizona friends: I have only loved my hair this much after seeing my good friend Nicole King in Phoenix, AZ. She first cut my hair in the backyard of her parents house, because she was just starting cosmetology school. If you are lucky enough to live near her I suggest you see her at Palabra hair salon in Phoenix, AZ as soon as humanly possible. Equally talented, and at the same salon is Zach Glielmi. I had Zach cut my hair while he was still in cosmetology school.

I’m going to enjoy feeling like a new mom for another hour or so, because tomorrow I will be back in my house clothes, with my hair up in a messy bun.

 

 

Rusks

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is all the yummy food and treats that you get to enjoy. When we were young my Dad’s parents always sent us petit fours from Figi’s. I also tried to steal the little strawberry candies from gift baskets at my grandparents before anyone could get them. So every year instead of buying gifts, I try to send out homemade treats to family and friends. Generally I will do a few different types of treats, but we are facing an increasingly mobile infant (see here), so things are a little trickier this year. Because of that I am sticking to one treat: rusks!

You may be asking yourself what the heck are rusks? I myself had no clue what these things were until I was visiting my husband (then boyfriend) 7 years ago in South Africa. They are a bread that gets baked twice, similar to biscotti, but not as sweet. The way to eat them is dunking them in coffee or tea for breakfast or a snack. My husband loves them. Many of his South African coworkers love them. But alas, they were not to be found on the shelves of American supermarkets.

I had tried to search for recipes online, but never really came up with something good. One day I happened to be looking through a copy of House Beautiful and there was a recipe for muesli rusks! I gave it a shot and they came out AMAZING. My husband probably would have married me then and there, if we weren’t already. They are a huge hit at his office, if I can get him to share, and my side of the family loves them so much they get upset if they aren’t sent enough of them.

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It starts with making muesli, or granola. I use a different recipe for this than the author. I never liked that I was adding sugar and honey to the muesli, and then adding additional sugar to the basic rusk dough. Last year I bought the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and I found the best granola recipe EVER. If you have her book, it’s called the ‘big cluster maple granola.’ I tweaked it a little bit, because I like sunflower seeds in mine, and I use raisins (instead of dried cherries) which I add before they go in the oven. When you bake the granola with the raisins already mixed in you get this amazing smoky flavor that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Which is the point of granola, is it not? So here is the recipe I use which has been adapted from Smitten Kitchen:

Maple Muesli/ Granola:

Ingredients:

3 cups oats

1 cup unsweetened coconut

1 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup bran

1/2 cup seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cup raisins

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 egg white (whipped until frothy)

Instructions:

Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add wet ingredients and mix well. Bake at 300 degrees for 45-55 minutes until evenly browned and dry to the touch.

See? So easy. Now something to note, because I have a little more stuff in my recipe than in the Smitten Kitchen one, it doesn’t stay in big chunks after cooking it. It ends up being smaller crunchy bits of granola. I actually prefer this, but if you are making this just for the granola and like big, chewy clusters, this is not the granola recipe for you.

After you’ve made your muesli, it’s time for the rusk dough. Butter and sugar are melted together before stirring in the buttermilk and egg mixture. After you’ve sifted your dry ingredients you add the muesli, then pour in the wet ingredients and mix well. I will say, this step takes a lot of elbow grease. This is a very dry dough, so the wet ingredients get absorbed quickly and you really have to mix it together and scrape allllll the way to the bottom. I always find bits of unmixed flour hiding there.

Once mixed, it’s into greased loaf tins and into the oven at 375 for 30 minutes, then you lower it to 325 for 40 more minutes. When these are cool, they will not be soft like most bread loaves we know. They are much harder and prone to lots of big crumbles. Fear not! You have done nothing wrong, and in fact those big broken off chunks happen to be my husbands favorite parts. They make for easier dunking and eating in your coffee cup later!

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To make these loaves into rusks you slice them into 1 1/2 inch slices, then cut each slice into finger sized widths, (I usually get 3 rusks from each slice). This is the point when they will sort of break apart on you, particularly the top of the loaf. Pile all your rusks, and larger broken bits, onto a big sheet pan, put them back in the oven at the lowest setting it will go, and leave them over night.

Another word to the wise about the original recipe: it instructs you to leave your oven door slightly ajar to dry out over night. If you have a gas oven, like we do, your carbon monoxide alarm shall awaken you in the middle of the night because it doesn’t want you to kill yourself over some baked goods. So, I would advise leaving your oven door closed. It’s safer too if you have small pets and/or children running around.

In the morning your house will smell like heaven. If you’ve ever wondered what heaven smells like, make these. You’ll know. They are labor intensive, but so worth the effort. These also make a ton if you do the full recipe. I always halve it because I do not have 4 loaf tins, nor a mixing bowl large enough to accommodate the full size recipe.

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Once you’re done, just put them in pretty baggies and send them off to your family and friends! They will love you forever. Then ask you for more. Then ask you for the recipe. So here it is in its entirety:

Mama Anna’s Muesli Rusks (found in House Beautiful magazine several years ago, author unknown)

Homemade muesli:

3 cups dry grain flakes (oats, rye, barley)

2 cups coarsely chopped nuts

1/2 cup light brown sugar (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it to be)

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 cup bran

1 cup seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, or a mix)

1 cup dried berries (raisins, blueberries, or other), optional

1/2 cup honey

1/2 cup olive oil or canola oil

Mix all dry muesli ingredients together. Add the oil and honey and mix very well. Spread on a baking tray and bake for 15 to 20 minutes in a 325 degree oven. Stir occasionally until golden brown.

Basic Rusk Dough:

3 cups butter, oil, or margarine

1-2 cups sweetener (sugar, honey, or maple syrup)

3 cups buttermilk or yogurt

4 eggs

3 1/3 pounds whole-wheat flour

3 tablespoons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Heat butter and sweetener ingredient until melted. Remove from heat. Stir in beaten buttermilk and egg mixture. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and add the muesli and mix well. Now combine all wet and dry ingredients and mix well.

2. Spoon dough into greased loaf tins. Bake loaves for about 30 minutes in 375 degree oven. Lower heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 40 minutes till golden brown and done. Leave loaves to cool in tins for a few minutes and then turn out to cool completely.

3. Cut each loaf into rusk-size portions. Start by slicing each loaf into 1 1/2 inch-thick slices and then cut each slice into two or three portions. Each rusk should be about three to four inches long.

4. Pile rusks on a baking tray or rack and put them into an oven set on warm, with door slightly ajar, to dry out overnight. When completely dry, store in container. Dip rusks into your morning coffee or tea. Serve as a healthy quick breakfast or snack. Enjoy!

Esmé’s birth story

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photo cred: Alma Alvarado

I was terrified of giving birth. I prepared myself as best as I knew how: I read lots of books and blogs. You would think that the more you read during pregnancy, the more knowledgeable you become. False. You only become more acutely aware of all the things you are doing wrong and how behind you are in preparation for you child’s arrival.

My husband found me in tears, or close to tears at least once a month. ‘I can’t do this!’ I wailed. I would then bring to his attention whatever my latest discovery was: ‘We’re supposed to have a midwife! We need to sign up for Lamaze classes! The books say having an epidural or getting drugs is bad for the baby! I want to try hypnobirthing!’

Something of note, for anyone choosing the whole hypnobirthing thing: do NOT start during your third trimester. I was future-mommy guilted into buying the book by a blog that I read. This person had been seeing a chiropractor, a masseuse, going to hypnobirthing classes, had a midwife, and was doing pre-natal yoga all throughout her pregnancy and I felt like I was doing my baby a disservice by not being as natural/organic/ awesome preggo as she was. I convinced my husband that we needed to buy the book and look into it. I bought the book, finished it, and tried to get my husband to read the relaxation scripts to me so we could practice it. He just about fell off the bed laughing every single time. Our baby arrived one week later. So really, any method of birthing you want to try, start reading up/ taking classes in your first or second trimester.

In an effort to ease my mind about labor and delivery, we did go to a ‘Preparing for Childbirth’ class offered by the hospital we delivered at. My husband actually learned a lot, because he hadn’t been reading all the books I had, so he found them quite helpful. Plus he got to learn fun phrases like ‘relax your perineum,’ that he would recite to me at random because they made him laugh. The class also did a lot to ease my mind about the whole birthing process.

You would think going into labor is an obvious thing, right? Well not in my case, at least not in the beginning. Very early in the morning April 28th, (when I was 36 weeks pregnant), I struggled to get comfortable in bed. This was really not anything new, so I didn’t think anything of it. I did seem to be having some sort of fluid down there, but all the books I had read said this was your bodies way of preparing for childbirth. They said it’s normal and just put on a pad. So that’s what I did. My back was killing me, so I got up, told the husband I was going to sit downstairs with a hot water bottle. I fell asleep in the chair for an hour and then tried to lie down on the couch, but my back felt worse when I did that. That was when I thought to myself perhaps something is going on. I got out my ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ book and looked at the signs of labor page. Much to my utter shock and disbelief they were telling me that the period-like symptoms I was experiencing were indeed signs of early labor and my water quite possibly was broken!

I decided to wait an hour until my husband’s alarm went off at 7am to tell him, because I still couldn’t believe I was in labor. I wasn’t experiencing “contractions” like I thought I would. I just felt  like it was during the first two days of my period where my lower back kills me, and had low abdominal cramps.  When I told Emile, he was equally shocked, but didn’t believe that my water had broken. I was scheduled to have my weekly visit with my OB later that afternoon, but we called and asked if they wanted to see us earlier. Come on in, they said, but were also skeptical because I sounded too calm.

Anytime you go to the OB when you’re pregnant, you have to pee in the cup, a task that is trickier and trickier the bigger you get. It was in the bathroom that I noticed I had leaked onto my skirt. I was embarrassed because once I got to the waiting room I saw it was a little bit on the chair. ‘See??’ I told my husband. ‘I think my water is broken!’ He still wasn’t buying it.

The jig was up the second they examined me on the table. Water gushed out all over the table. Sorry, but this is a birth story. The doctor helped me to sit up and asked if we were ready to have a baby. I said ‘I guess so,’ he gave me a funny look, said some other things that I wasn’t paying attention to until my husband and I heard, ‘We have to get you to the hospital!’

‘What?!’ My husband and I said at the same time. We were expecting to go back home, do our laboring there with all our coping methods, finish packing our hospital bag, and then go to the hospital. The doctor made it very clear that I was to proceed to the hospital posthaste, only stopping at home to pick up our bag if it was on the way. They freak out on you if your water has broken and you don’t immediately go to the hospital.

We drove home, I got the hospital bag together while eating PB&J (I knew they weren’t going to feed me once I got to the hospital), and we were off to the hospital. I started texting family and friends that baby was on the way and they all thought I was joking, because it was so early. Ok and maybe I like to mess with them from time to time, so it took some convincing. All the while I was still experiencing my period like cramping and pain, so I was thinking I got this! I can totally be a rockstar mom and not have an epidural! Ha.

We checked into the hospital around 11am and I was around 3cm dilated. Everything was still peachy keen, but as the afternoon wore on the pain got worse and worse. I believe I was chanting something like ‘ow! ow! ow! ow! owwwww!owwwwwwww!!!!! ow! ow! owww!’ every 3-4 minutes because lucky for me, my contractions came at closer intervals than your average lady. They also lasted longer than usual. Double score. This became a problem when I was 5-6cm dilated around 4 or 5pm. The contractions were so painful I had searing pain that started in my low back, wrapped around to my stomach, and shot down the back of my legs. They were so close together that my body wasn’t getting sufficient time to rest and relax in between, so I wasn’t dilating further. Everything they taught us in the classes had already gone out the window. The only thing that helped was sitting in their rocking chair, under blankets, with my hot water bottle on my back. That and squeezing Emile’s hands until they turned purple. Sorry husband.

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So they suggested giving me a drug that would help me to rest and hopefully relax so that I could dilate further. I acquiesced. I was still determined to do what the books told me and not have the epidural. If there were people out there breathing out their babies, then by golly I could do it too.

I hated whatever they gave me. I feel like it was Demerol? But I’m not 100% on that. I just felt like an elephant was sitting on me, and like my body was very, VERY heavy. I couldn’t sleep because my heart was racing, but couldn’t really move much to do anything about it. I was so happy once it started to wear off an hour later. I was back to being in excruciating pain, and was crying and I finally told Emile, ‘I can’t do it! I can’t do this anymore! PLEASE go get the anesthesiologist!’

So at 11pm, after 12 hours of active labor we got the epidural! I slept. It was magical. I don’t know why I didn’t do it sooner. I was fully dilated by about 3am on the 29th of April. Unfortunately they dial back the epidural when it’s time to push. Booooo. On the plus side, because I had waited so long to get my epidural, the pushing part was very short, only 45 minutes.

At 4:16am on April 29th, 2014, Esmé Valentine van Rensburg was born.

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Would I do it all over again? Yes. Was it the hardest thing I have ever done? No. That would be the first 3 months with a newborn. But that is another post for another time :). If I could go back and give myself some pointers before hand they would have been:

-Don’t be afraid!

-You won’t even be close to feeling alone. Your husband will rock your world with how supportive he is, and he won’t leave your side. Unless you demand more popsicles. Then he will be gone for 0.2 seconds, but he will return with the best popsicle you’ve ever had in your life. So it’s ok.

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-The nursing staff is not going to scoff, judge, or try to convince you to do anything you don’t want to do.They are behind you 100%. If you want an epidural, they will get you one. If you want to do it without an epidural, they are there for you. You have only to ask.

-Listen to your husband/mother/friend when they tell you that you are going to be just fine. They are not being insensitive to the task ahead of you. It’s not because they don’t understand where you’re coming from. They are just expressing their faith in you. Because they know that you are going to rock it!

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