Archive | January, 2011

Dear Clara (4 Months Old)

28 Jan

Dear Clara,

Today marks your 4-month birthday.  I can hardly believe it’s been 4 months since you came into this world and changed our lives forever.  There is no way I can describe to you how much your daddy and I love you.  Maybe one day you will have your own kids and then you’ll get it.  Then you’ll understand.  That’s how it was for me.  All at once, I understood a lot of the things my mom had been telling me since I can remember.

You are a beautiful little girl.  Already you’ve grown and changed so much that I can barely remember what it was like when you were so tiny you curled up to sleep on my chest.  You don’t really do that anymore – you’re much happier sleeping on your back or in your swing.  You still fall asleep in your car seat, but these days you wake up as soon as I take you out of the car.  You used to sleep forever in that little chair.

Speaking of sleep, you’ve been sleeping through the night since you were about 7 weeks old.  Like really through the night, 8-10 hours.  At about 3 weeks you started sleeping 4-6 hours at a time, and you loved to sleep in your bouncy chair with the vibration turned on.  But when you were 7 weeks old, we started giving you a little bit of formula and wrapping you in the swaddle wrap, and that did wonders for your sleep!  These days you routinely sleep 10-12 hours at night, but you don’t really like to nap during the day.  I know, you’re afraid you might miss something.  You’re so interested in everything that’s going on around you.  You’re curious, and I’m sure once you can talk you will have endless questions.

You’ve started using that little voice of yours, though I’m not sure “little” is an accurate description.  You and I have long conversations almost every day.  We jabber back and forth at each other and it gets louder and louder and louder.  Right now, you laugh when I say “mm-hmm”, “uh-huh”, and sometimes when we play peekaboo.  Your laugh is so cute.  I’m pretty sure I could be in a terrible mood, and hearing you laugh would change it all.  How is that possible?  I don’t know, but your little giggle just melts my heart.

You were born with a little birthmark on your head, over your right ear.  By the time you can read, it will be long gone, and you will have undergone your first surgery.  Hopefully the last for a very very very long time.

Right now, I am doing a project.  If you haven’t seen it by the time  you can read this, ask me about it.  I am taking a picture of you every single day.  Yep.  That’s a lot of pictures.  I’m going to print them in a book, so you can look back at it later.  And if you don’t end up hating the camera too much, I might do one every year.

Clara, you are a beautiful girl.  You are bright-eyed, curious, strong, stubborn, funny, and quirky.  You need to know how thankful your daddy and I are to have you in our lives.  We are truly blessed.  I’m not sure how it is possible to love someone so much that you’ve only known for 4 months, but we do.  You have your daddy wrapped around your little finger, and you can’t even talk yet.  Actually, that happened as soon as you were born.  Maybe even before that.

You have a lot of family members who love you too.  Your cousin Maddie now yells “CLARA!” whenever we see her, instead of “Becca! Joel! (that’s mommy and daddy’s names).  Your other cousin, Camryn, tries to eat your face every time we see her.  But she’s only 3 months older than you – it’s a sign of affection.  Your Aunt Kelli and Uncle Brandon, well, I think they think you’re a doll.  You hang out with them once a month while your daddy and I go out on a date.  Your uncle Brandon once thought that you weren’t really his niece, since he’s not Joel’s brother, but don’t you worry about that.  He still likes you. 🙂  Your Aunt Rachel thinks you’re about the best thing that ever happened.  She keeps a picture of you on her computer just so she can see your face every day (she’s in medical school in Virginia).  She loves to hold you and kiss you and play with you.  I think your Uncle Jacob is pretty smitten with you as well.  Your Noni and Papa live in Iowa, but they come to see you every chance they get, and they both always cry when they have to say goodbye to you.  Papa loves to whisper little things to you, and I wish I could hear what he was telling you.  I’m sure it’s something sweet.  Your Grammy and Grandad love to see you too.  They are always impressed with how much you’ve grown and ask about your new tricks every time we talk. Your Grandad would do anything in the world for you. There are so many more, not to mention friends.  You are one loved little girl!

You’re a little quirky, but that’s what makes you unique.  We love your little quirks.  You eat and sleep with your hands on your head like you’re trying to hold your head on.  You fight sleep, especially during the day.  You cry whenever I turn my back or leave the room.  When you’re really mad, you sound like a little German baby, saying, “Nein! Nein!”  Lately, everything you can get your hands on goes right into your mouth.  You love the bath, and I can’t wait to take you to mommy and me swimming classes soon.  I think you’re going to love the pool.  You barely have any fat on you.  Only one little fat roll on each thigh.  You have a baby six pack.  But you’re really long, or tall, or whatever you say for babies.  Your hair is getting more and more blonde as it grows in, and I can’t wait until I can braid it or put it in pony tails for you.  I’ll have to perfect my french braid.  I secretly hope your hair will be curly, but that’s just because mine is stick straight. I know it will be beautiful either way.  Right now your eyes are a dark greyish blue.  They were full on grey when you were born.  You love to stand up, and if you get it in your head that you want to stand, you will NOT let us sit you down.  You’re very strong, and can already almost scoot out of your little seat if you’re not strapped in.  Also, you can pretty much hip your way out of your bumbo seat… I can’t take my eyes off of you for a second.

I pray for you all the time, Clara.  That you will grow up to be a woman who knows Jesus, and loves above all.  Who is strong and confident, but knows when to ask for help.  Who sees needs and does what she can to meet them.   Who knows that she is important, but yet just a part of a much larger story.

I know that we’re going to mess up along the way.  So I’ll say I’m sorry now, and I hope that you can forgive us.  Parenting is a kind of overwhelming responsibility.  We are doing our best, and we hope that ends up being enough.

Above all, know that we love you very very much, and we wouldn’t trade you for any other kid in the whole world.  Happy 4 month birthday, Clara.

Mommy (and Daddy)

Favorite Recipes: Baked Mac & Cheese

27 Jan

This was a total hit!  Every last bit of the leftovers were eaten… and that is saying something!


(adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe)

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon powdered mustard
  • 1 bay leaf (didn’t have this, so I didn’t use it)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced (the hubby doesn’t like onions, so I didn’t use them – onion powder instead.  clearly, NOT 1/2 cup of it. please.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh black pepper

Also, I browned some chicken first and added that with the pasta.
I think that mushrooms would be AMAZING in this as well, but again, Joel doesn’t like mushrooms… sad.


  • 3 tablespoons butter (I didn’t use this, just sprinkled the breadcrumbs on top)
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it’s free of lumps. Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf, and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Temper in the egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quartcasserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss the bread crumbs to coat. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.  (Also, I put it under the broiler for about 3 minutes to brown the bread crumbs just a little bit.)

Sick Day

25 Jan

My sweet Clara has been having a rough couple of days.  Yesterday there was just a hint of something being wrong.  She just seemed a bit lethargic, and my girl who never spits up did so after each and every bottle yesterday.

Last night she had a bit of a restless night – waking up about every hour and a half to give a little complaining cry and then fall back asleep.  Poor thing.

Then this morning I woke up to the sound of her sniffling and coughing.  There is no more pitiful sound than a little baby coughing.

Joel also woke up this morning throwing up.  He actually might be more pitiful than Clara.  And he’s 31.  Seriously, men when they are sick… just the worst.

So today we are having a pajama day.  If Clara understood the appeal of a pajamas-in-bed day, that’s what we’d be doing.  But, alas, she doesn’t think bed is a very fun place to stay all day long.  Oh well, one day she will understand.

Right now, the Food Network is keeping us company, and Clara is napping in her swing (LOVE LOVE LOVE our swing).

Last night, Heather and I went to a cupcake decorating class.  It was awesome, and we took pictures.  I’ll share soon!

Favorite Recipes – Lemony Chicken with Cilantro (Indian)

23 Jan

I don’t know about you, but January always poses somewhat of a cooking-block for me.  After all the food and sweets we ate over the holidays I am generally uninspired to cook.  But there is this husband I have to feed, and he really likes to eat, so we must cook.

So I’m looking for inspiration, old standards, new experiments, exciting new tastes.  I’m going to start posting my favorites old recipes and the best new ones.  I’ll try to be really good about categorizing them so you (and I) can find them again later.

To start out, here’s one I was thinking about the other day.  I’ve made it a few times, and if you like Indian food, it is really great.  Kinda different from anything I had when we were there, but I love love love it.  And it has cilantro.

I’m of the opinion that you can never have too much cilantro.

At any rate, here’s the first of (hopefully) many recipes to be catalogued here.

(OH! And may I suggest you do your mis en place with this one?  Some of the ingredients are added in quick succession, so just do all your prep before you get started cooking.  You’ll thank me later.)

Lemony Chicken with Cilantro

– serves 6 –Adapted from Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey.


2 to 3 large chunks of ginger, at least 1-inch square, peeled and coarsley chopped
1 cup water
6 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds chicken pieces, preferably legs and thighs, skin removed
5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
7 ounces chopped cilantro (about 3 cups, from 3 to 4 bunches)
1 fresh green chile, deseeded and minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
2 tablespoons lemon juice, more to taste


1. In a small food processor or blender, blend the ginger pieces with 4 tablespoons water to make a paste. Measure out the spices and other ingredients so they’re ready.

2. Heat the oil in a wide, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Brown the chicken pieces in a single layer, cooking in batches if necessary, on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

3. Put the garlic into the hot oil, and after a minute when it turns golden, add the ginger paste. Fry for an additional minute, then add the green chili, cayenne, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and salt. When the spices have cooked together for a few moments and the flavors begin to marry, add the cilantro.

4. As the cilantro begins to wilt, continue to stir, then add the chicken pieces, any accumulated juice in the bowl, and 2/3 cup water with the lemon juice. Cover, lower the heat to a simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes, turning once, until the chicken is tender. Uncover and cook further to thicken the sauce, if necessary, and taste for salt and lemon juice. Serve with rice.


I want to make…

23 Jan

I think I need to whip out the sewing machine again and find some sweet striped fabric and make this….


from here

To Re-Cover a Chair

21 Jan

So, I have this chair.  It’s awesome.  It’s old.  It was my dad’s when he was in college, or shortly thereafter.  It used to have some really beat up brown leather.  Actually, it still has that, it’s just covered up now.

In college I re-upholstered it with some brown fabric with tiny checks.  I got it from the Walmarts for like $1 a yard.  I took this whole chair apart (quite a task in itself) and covered it with the new fabric, and put it all back together again in working order, much to the surprise of my roommates at the time.  I’m looking at you Shelly and Ginny!

Did I mention that it’s a recliner?

A very cool, old, hard to assemble recliner from the 70’s.

Here’s a picture of it.

So the time has come for it to be re-upholstered once again.  The brown check doesn’t work very well with the orange wall – just the wrong color brown.  Plus, I think the room could use a little more color, and bit of brightness, and some contrast against the orange.  So here are the fabrics I’ve found that I like…

Now, it’s your turn to weigh in again.  I need to tie in the orange wall.  But I would like to bring another color in as well.  Maybe blue?  I think I have 2 favorites, but I’ll reserve my opinion until you’ve all had your say.  Which is your favorite for my chair?

Dear Clara (#3)

20 Jan

Dear Clara,

You have a baby six pack.  I have flabby abs.  I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the other way around.  So let’s trade, k? K.


Birthmarks and Dermatologists

18 Jan

As a few of you probably know, we had an appointment with the pediatric dermatologist a couple weeks ago.  When Clara was born, there was a little birthmark on her head, just above her right ear, that was super bright red, kinda bumpy, and had no hair.  As a cosmetic issue, I don’t really care.  Her hair will cover it up eventually, and the redness has faded a bit.  But the texture of it was just a little weird, so I asked about it at her 2 month appointment.  The pediatrician told us that it is probably just a birthmark, but there’s the possibility that it could be something that a dermatologist would want to keep an eye on, so she referred us to a pediatric dermatologist.

Just after New Years, we headed over to Chapel Hill to see him.

On a quick sidenote, it was an interesting experience because we had a resident come in to check her out first.  Since my sister is in medical school and will start doing her clinical rotations soon, and in 2 years will be off doing her very own residency.  He was really great, very professional and personable.

Anyway, basically the short of it is this:  The little spot is called nevus sebaceous.  Let me just offer this little bit of advice – don’t google it.  Some of the pictures are really kinda gross.  Clara’s little spot is pretty mild, I think, it looks nothing like those pictures.

The doctor said that it’s mainly a cosmetic issue.  It’s a birthmark that basically is an overgrowth of cells, and they don’t know why it happens.  But there is the chance that it could develop into a type of cancer later in her life if we don’t do anything.  He recommended that it be removed before she is 2 years old.  The advantages to doing it early in life are that it will heal better, she’s less likely to mess with it, and once it is excised, there’s no further cancer risk.  She’ll just trade her little birthmark for a smaller scar.  The disadvantage is that she will have to have general anesthesia for the procedure.  And that is the part that scares me the most.  I know she will probably be fine, but there’s something a little unnerving about putting a little baby under for surgery.  I have friends whose children have had surgeries and been just fine.  I have full confidence in the doctors.  It’s just one of those things as a mom that you never want to have to do.

The dermatologist said that this is what he would do for his kid.  That, to me, means quite a bit.  It won’t happen until she’s about a year old or so, and we’ll have another appointment to discuss more specifics about the procedure, ask more questions, and set a date for the surgery in a couple months.

I have to tell you, it’s the risk of cancer that pretty much made the decision for me.  We do have some family history of cancer, so the ability to remove that risk from her, at least this specific risk, is compelling.

So that’s that.  I’ll keep you updated when we know more about when the procedure will happen.

Clara is beautiful and perfect.  10 fingers.  10 toes.  Infectious smile.  Hilarious giggle.  Skinny little chicken legs.  Ginormous head.  She’s quirky.  She’s ours.  And that makes her perfect in my book.

Thanks for reading, friends.  

My 9 Favorite, Irreplaceable Baby Items

16 Jan

I know a bunch of new and/or expectant moms out there, and just like I was when I was pregnant, they’re all trying to sort through the barrage of baby products.  If you’ve ever walked into a Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, or even Target’s baby section, you know how easy it is to be overwhelmed by the variety and amount of baby products that are available.  50 different kinds of pacifiers, 45 high chairs, 22 exersaucers…. not to mention swings, bouncy chairs, rattles, bottles, formula, and various other items.  It’s all a bit overwhelming.  So in the interest of helping sort through a bit of that confusion, here are my 9 favorite, irreplaceable, necessary baby items:

1. A Swing/Bouncy Chair.  You can get two separate things if you want.  But I discovered and registered for a swing that has a chair that comes off and is a bouncy seat.  All one product, every possible combination you could want.  Joel’s aunt, Beth, got this for Clara, and she absolutely LOVES it!  She spends some time in it just about every single day.  And she spent the first 6-8 weeks sleeping in that bouncy seat in her crib.  She hated laying flat, and it was the only way she’d sleep.  Lifesaver.

2. Swaddle Wraps.  I don’t know about you, but I think nurses have a special talent for swaddling babies with a plain blanket.  Joel and I just could NOT figure it out.  But these things are magic.  They kept Clara from waking herself up with her startle reflex and actually got her to sleeping through the night.  Amazingness.

Too bad that she’s even figured out how to get out of these.  I gave up on them this week.  But they were great for the first 15 weeks!

3. Sleeping Gowns.  When you have to change about 8 diapers in the middle of the night, these things are great.  No snaps to mess with.  No trying to get a wiggly baby’s feet back in the legs of the pajamas.  In the dark.  Just pull up the bottom, change the diaper, and pull it back down.  So easy.  These are especially great for the first 2 months or so… or until the baby sleeps through the night.  Then it’s not such a big deal anymore.

4. Pacifiers.  The green, round ones they give you at the hospital are so ugly, and Clara didn’t like them very much.  I just opted for the normal kind.  She likes them much better, and they fit on one of those pacifier tethers too.  Which brings me to…

5. Pacifier clip.  I can’t find a link to the ones that we have, but they’re basically a ribbon with velcro on one end and a clip on the other.  Clip it to the baby and it won’t fall on the ground every time, and you don’t have to carry 50 of them around with you.

6. A Sling.  There are tons and tons of these on the market.  This, I think, is one of the most confusing things to try and purchase.  If you go with a fixed size one, make sure you measure correctly.  If you’re wanting a wrap-style sling, you can make one. Get about 5 yards of fabric (some sort of jersey knit) from the fabric store.  Cut it in half lengthwise, and then look up the wrapping instructions on the Moby website.  That’s it.  I don’t know much about the carrier-style ones (e.g. baby bjorn, etc), but they seem like they’d be good, too.

Another option is a ring-style sling.  I made one of these with the help of my friend Melissa.  All you need is some fabric – 2.5 yards will be more than enough- and 2 metal rings.  If you want to do this, let me know.  I can help.  So easy.

Whichever style you choose, you’ll be glad to have one when you need to do things around the house and your baby wants to be constantly held.  You might use it all the time, or only once in a while, but you’ll be thankful for it when you use it, no matter how often.

7. Travel wipes case.  You can get one in the travel products section at Target.  Just a small plastic case with a few wipes that you can refill.  It fits nicely in the diaper bag and travels well.  And no noisy plastic wipes refill jostling around in your purse or diaper bag…

8. Diaper bag.  I’m working on a review of mine.  So many options.  So many price points.  I wanted a single bag for everything – all my stuff, and all the requisite baby stuff.  So it took me a while.  But I finally settled on the Babymel Amanda.  I got one of their discontinued prints and it was on major sale, so I didn’t spend near what it’s listed for now, but I really do like the bag.  More on that soon.

9. And most importantly – HELP.  You NEED help the first week especially.  Maybe more.  Even if you don’t think you will want it, when the times comes, you probably will.  If you don’t have family that can come, find a friend.  Just ask for help.  Everyone will want to help, but people will also want to give you your space.  Don’t be afraid to ask.

So, there you have it.  The 9 things I found most helpful and useful through our first few months with Clara.  Thoughts?  Questions?

Dear Clara (#2)

15 Jan

Dear Clara,

This is the only time in your life when it is even partially socially acceptable to eat and poop at the same time.  Just keep that in mind.