Thursday, January 31, 2013

I'm so Effing Sick of Pumping

UG. Breastfeeding. Where do I even begin? I guess this will do: Breastfeeding Emme for a year has always been my goal. It's one of the (few?) mommy things I feel pretty strongly about. I don't feel strongly about it for other people. I think every mom (and dad) should choose the feeding path that is right for them (though I would encourage other new moms to try to get over the hump of early breastfeeding because it does, typically, get better). But for me, a year of breastfeeding is the goal.

And we're halfway there (Yay!).

But I am quickly losing steam when it comes to pumping at work (Boo!).

So, here I am, six months in (tomorrow!), having weathered the struggles of early breast feeding, I've come out the other side as someone who will honestly tell you that I enjoy nursing my baby. Pumping is another story.

Let me tell you this: Pumping sucks. OK. Pumping doesn't always suck. When you're home with your baby regularly, pumping can mean freedom, the ability to leave milk with someone else while you get a much needed, well-deserved break. But pumping as a long-term solution to such situations as working full time, sucks. Literally, AMIRITE?

I hate admitting this, and some days are better than others, but I am quickly losing steam when it comes to interrupting work three times a day to go hook myself up to a machine like a freaking dairy cow for 20 minutes. It doesn't sound like a long time, but when you factor in the preparing to pump, pumping, storing the milk, cleaning the parts, and making sure you've put yourself back together, the process can take upwards of 30, sometimes even 40 minutes.

I clearly have a pretty mean case of pumping fatigue. And the more I have started bitching about it, the more I have noticed a slight drop in my supply. I still just barely pump what my baby needs each day if I pump before I go to bed in addition to three times at work, but more and more, I honestly don't know if I can continue to pump for six more months.

So, I started asking myself this question--what is more important, starting to wind down on the pumping in an attempt to save my sanity or avoiding supplementing with formula?

Let's be real, my sanity cannot be saved.

But seriously, some days I'm sure the answer to that question is that continuing to feed Emme only breast milk (in addition to solids), is the answer (for me! Not necessary others!). Other days, I'm positive that my general outlook on life would benefit from pumping only twice a day (or zero times a day). Most of the time, I'm aware that all of the things I want (to pump less or not at all, to only feed Emme breast milk, and of course, to get Em to consistently sleep through the night without needing to feed her, but that's another story) might very well be incompatible goals.

Here are things I know, in my rational brain: Supplementing with formula would not be the end of the world--far from it. And yet, the irrational part of my brain, also known as most of my brain, has a mental block when I try to convince myself that it would be OK to pump less and supplement when needed.

And yet, we're not even there. Even with the decrease in my supply, I've rarely dipped into our freezer stock, so supplementing with formula isn't even something that would happen in the foreseeable future (my foreseeable future is approximately one day).

It's funny (not funny "haha," but funny "huh"), I was talking to two acquaintances a couple days ago, both of whom have had babies in the last three years. They both had no interest in pumping at work (which I totally get) and so they started supplementing with formula as soon as they returned to work. In the midst of complaining about pumping, I said something like, everyone I know has breastfed for a year, and weaned by about 15 months or so. And it's true! Not all of those people breastfed exclusively, but they all made it at least 12 months. One of them said to me, "I don't know anyone who breastfed that long. I guess it makes a big difference what the people around you are doing and what's considered normal."

It's true, I guess. I don't think peer pressure per say is a factor in my decision to breastfeed for a year so much as that, in my head, it's just what you do. And I don't want to quit breastfeeding. I know if I was able to nurse Emme more frequently during the week, I wouldn't even be having this conversation with myself (and the Internet). I just want to quit pumping.

So where do I go from here? I talked to a lactation consultant who gave me some direction on getting my supple up a bit. I decided that, for the time being, I will continue to pump three times at work. Once (and if) I can get my supply to be a bit more robust, if you will, I will drop one pumping session at work in the hopes that I will only lose an ounce or two. If this plan doesn't work, I'll reassess. I've also forced myself to have a better attitude about it, which really amounts to just not bitching constantly and not over-thinking it. I've noticed if I pump as soon as I get to work in the morning, rather than waiting an hour or so, I tend to get less annoyed when I have to get up from my desk.

Or, as the saying goes: Just do it. (Damn you Nike and your ubiquitous motivation slogan!)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

Slow cookers are amazing little appliances, aren’t they? Dump a bunch of ingredients into a slow cooker at 8 a.m., come home to a yummy, healthy, home-cooked meal at 5 p.m. Amazing. Except when it’s not.

Slow cooked meals typically smell insanely delicious, but the minimal prep, big pay-off over promises and under delivers. Regularly, I am disappointed by slow cooker meals that lack flavor.

I’ve come to realize that to make slow cookers really work, you have to put a little more time and energy into the prep. Kind of defeats the purpose of a slow cooker, but you still save yourself from slaving over a hot oven on a weeknight.

Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup

1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 (10 ounce) can enchilada sauce
2 cups water
Approximately 2 cups of chicken broth
1 pound shredded, cooked chicken
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 10-ounce package frozen corn

Step 1: Heat oil in pan over medium high. Add onions, garlic and green chili peppers to pan, saute until translucent, approximately 5-7 minutes.

Step 2: Add whole peeled tomatoes, chicken broth, whole peeled tomatoes, and enchilada sauce to slow cooker. Add onion mixture to slow cooker. With an immersion blender, blend all ingredients until it reaches your desired consistency (I like my soup... soupy... so I blend the mixture until it’s completely smooth). If you do not have an immersion blender, you can do this in a regular blender, or, if you like your soup chunky, just mash the tomatoes before you put them to the slow cooker and don’t bother blending at all.

Step 3: Add remaining ingredients, through frozen corn.

Step 4: Set on slow cooker on high for 6-8 hours.

For the tortilla part, I just add my favorite chips: El Ranchero or Mission brand, preferably. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Nutrition Session


Earlier this week I wrote about my latest fitness endeavor, courtesy of a little Groupon-buying problem I have. Now that I’m nine sessions in (four to go), I’m enjoying the workout and think it’s just about the perfect solution for my current fitness struggles.

But there’s a catch. Get in Shape for Women (GISFW) isn’t just a workout plan—it’s a whole program that includes a nutrition component. My Groupon included two nutrition sessions, which I planned to completely ignore. But, when pressed by the owner to schedule the first session, I figured what the hell, I am interested in this stuff anyway, and I don’t mind hearing what they have to say.

For the nutrition session, I sat down with the owner who handed me a worksheet with three days of approved meals (in theory, you’d eat each meal twice during the week, and you get one cheat day). The plan is simple enough: High in lean protein, moderate amounts of whole grain carbohydrates, fruits and veggies. You eat six times a day. Nothing earth shattering, pretty straightforward.

The breakfasts and lunches listed were actually pretty close to what I regularly eat anyway: turkey wrap, peanut butter on whole grain toast, Greek yogurt, banana, grapes, hummus with carrot sticks, etc. In other words, healthy stuff that is easily packed for work. But the dinners… eh… Here’s the thing: I’m not going to eat a plain chicken breast every night of the week no matter how badly I want to lose weight. It’s not going to happen, and if it does, it will happen for a day (or two?) before I crack, order takeout food, and eat an entire large pizza. Oh, and one more thing: The plan also requires that you eat between 1,300 to 1,600 calories a day.

Then, the owner told me to go through and write out a full day of meals for myself complete with the nutrition information (basically copying from the already filled out sheet that was provided to me). When I was done, she told me, “There you go, eat that for six days.”

And that was it.

Well, I didn’t go that quietly. In fact, I did voice my concerns with the plan even though I had no intention of actually following it anyway. First, I cannot do this unless I am ready to stop breastfeeding. That’s simply not enough calories to sustain myself and the babe. I told the owner this, and while she didn’t really provide me with alternative options or tell me how to add in extra calories, she seemed somewhat understanding.

Second, when I told her that grilled chicken breast every single night was not realistic for me when I was cooking for myself and my husband (and freezer meals, yo!), she kind of just stared at me blankly. She told me “could not guarantee results if I did not follow this plan.” I realized then that it probably wasn’t worth trying to explain all the issues I had with the plan, so I made a decision--I would lie, “OK! I’ll give it my best shot.”

Look, I have no doubt people see results with this plan, provided that they can stick to it. You know, those people who have rock star willpower. I am not one of those people. I could not do this for any length of time. Oh, and I guess I wasn’t really looking for her to “guarantee results.” I just want to workout.

I get it, this is part of the gimmick. But the problem with this is that, while the fitness trainers are certified trainers, I’m pretty sure that no one is a nutritionist. My guess is that these meal plans are handed out to the GISFW franchises, and they are told to dispense this advice. There’s no ability to modify the plan to an individual’s unique needs, much less answer any questions that weren’t specifically addressed in the FAQ document that I’m sure was given to owners of these franchises as well.

In general, I think if people want to follow a diet plan like this, fine. Godspeed. But it is extremely calorie restrictive (even for the non-lactating), and my guess is that it’s not a long-term solution to a healthy diet. When I do find out exactly how much this place costs, I’m interested to know how they work in the nutrition part and if nutrition sessions are something you are required to purchase.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Get In Shape GIRL

Do you guys remember this? Does it still exist?

Anyway, this is not about that. This is about my latest fitness endeavor.

If I had one resolution this year, it would be this: Stop buying Groupons. And so, my story today begins as such: So I bought this Groupon for a place called Get in Shape for Women without reading the fine print, which is pretty typical of the impulse buy that is the online coupon.

[Sidebar: This chat actually happened...
me: what's it called when you buy something without thinking it through
someday my brain will work again
K: impulse buy
me: yes
that is the word i am looking for
:P
I'm here to tell you that this mom brain thing is real.]

The Groupon provided me with 13 sessions of small-group training and two nutrition sessions. I wasn’t interested in the nutrition sessions, but I was intrigued by the small-group training. In hopes that I would beat the New Year’s rush and wouldn’t forget I had the groupon before it expired, which happens basically always, I called in late December eager to get back on the workout bandwagon.

The first phone call was a little awkward. I really just wanted to get a date on the calendar, but I was asked to relay my fitness goals (lose weight, get into a good strength training routine) and my fitness background (pretty extensive actually). Then the owner of this franchise gave me her pitch, which included the following: We don’t accept everyone into our program (Uh. Ok, but I bought this Groupon, and I’d like to use it); We only accept people who have measurable goals (read: weight loss goal, not a health or fitness goal); You can join now or you can join after you use your Groupon (um... I’d kind of like to use the Groupon that I just bought because, you know, I bought a Groupon).

I told her that I was interested in first using my Groupon and seeing how I liked it. Duh. So I scheduled my first workout session.

Here’s how it works: Get in Shape for Women is kind of like a Curves on steroids. It’s pretty one-size-fits-all with a small amount of personalization courtesy of the fitness trainer who is there to guide up to eight women at a time through a workout--four on strength machines and four on cardio machines. The workout is a total of one hour.

The strength workout is pretty straight forward. You either do upper body or lower body, and like Curves, you go in a circle from one exercise to another. There are three machines (on which you can do two exercises each), a weight bench, a mat, and an incline bench, as well as space in front of mirrored walls where you can do squats and lunges. For someone who’s been around the block with fitness programs, it’s pretty straight forward. A recorded voice chimes in every 34 seconds (I asked how long the intervals were), telling you to start, stop or switch to the next exercise (kinda like Curves). The trainers set your weight, give tips on form and provide verbal encouragement.

The cardio workout is similarly simple. You spend about 27 minutes on a cardio machine, either an elliptical or a treadmill. You do three minutes at a “normal” pace and then “kick it up” for one minute intervals. You get to decide what normal pace is, and depending on the trainer, they will either provide you suggested speeds and inclines for the minute interval or you will decide that for yourself.

Here’s what I like about this place:
  • It’s time efficient. The workout is wrapped up in a neat little hour package. I’ve got my strength. I’ve got my cardio. And I’m done. Mission accomplished.
  • I’m being babysat. Sad, but true. The personalization is fairly minimal (so far anyway), but the fact that there is a trainer standing right there, which means I’m not going to cheat (or at least, I’m going to cheat less).
  • It’s simple and easy. Here’s the another thing about breastfeeding... it zaps your energy. While I can definitely run again, I’m not really up for training in the form of a half marathon or even a 10K. This is a totally doable workout, and the trainers aren’t trying to kill you (they’ll actually lower your weight if you tell them it’s too hard).
  • I dig the all-female thing--in this setting. I’m a self-admitted ladies’ lady, but often in a gym-type setting, it’s not really my thing. However here, it’s kind of nice. The people are pretty nice and there’s a sense of camaraderie. Plus working out with a chatty, small group can sometimes make the time go faster.
  • There’s no overcrowding. In January, this is a huge benefit. I know there’s never going to be more than eight people in the room. I’m never going to wait for equipment.
Things I’m less excited about:
  • There’s not a lot of variation. I could see where the workouts could get boring over time.
  • My sense is that some assumptions are being made. When the owner asked me about my fitness background, I told her the highlights: I’ve run half marathons and marathons; I have a group fitness certification; I’ve taught Zumba; I like trying new fitness programs, so I’ve basically done a little of everything. As far as I can tell, that information never made it to the trainers. My guess is that health and fitness level here is pretty much determined by your weight and how much you have to lose (if any).
  • The cost... which I don’t actually know. This is not a long-term solution for me. But it’s kind of exactly what I need right now when I’m low energy due to breastfeeding and sleep deprivation, need some babysitting, and want to get in and out quickly. After my Groupon is up, I’d consider sticking with it, at least through the winter. Unfortunately, when I inquired about costs, I was told I’d need to set up an appointment and was reminded that not everyone is accepted. This bothers me. I’ve been to this rodeo. I don’t want hoops to jump through. I just want to workout.
As for the nutrition sessions, I had planned on skipping this portion of the Groupon. I’m not interested in that portion of the program, but because this is a program, it’s a package deal. This is part of their schtick. So after being pressed to schedule a session a few times, I did it. More on that later...

Monday, January 14, 2013

Five or So Months, An Update

It's been awhile since I posted an update on Emme, so now that we're closing in on the six-month mark (!!!!), how about now? As good a time as any, right?

Milestones: Emme is sitting up! Well, almost. With minimal support she stays balanced and upright easily. With no support, if she's balanced just right, she can maintain the position for 30 seconds or so, but she usually quickly goes into a "tripod" position, leaning forward on her hands.


Other than sitting up, she is grabbing everything, at which point, it goes directly in her mouth. She's also starting to bang toys, which is pretty funny. As for any mobility, she is desperate to start moving. We're not anywhere near crawling yet (though I'm sure it will be here before I know it), but when she's on her tummy, she can do a full push up on her arms, and she can get her butt in the air. It's pretty hilarious. And, she's starting to laugh more (which might be the most amazing sound I've ever heard)!

Eating: We're still breastfeeding, and don't get me wrong, I do enjoy nursing. But now that I'm back at work basically full time, I can tell you this: Pumping sucks (literally! Groan.). Seriously though, I pump three times a day at work, and I have a job that has made this as easy as possible for me to do, and it still sucks. I've been lucky that my supply has kept up with her demand, but I have decided that once we hit six months, I'm going from three pumps to two. If we end up having to supplement with a little formula, so be it.

And... we've started solids! However, this has been the first thing we've done that I'm guilt- and anxiety-ridden about. Why? My best armchair psychiatrist guess would be that I'm worried about passing all my issues surrounding food to Emme (see: This blog), and I want to make sure we do this just right. Logic tells me that we're going to screw her up no matter what, maybe about this, definitely about some stuff, so we might as well move forward.

Most advice you'll read/hear about solids is "watch the baby, not the calendar." After watching Emme watch us eat with what I would call "intense interest," we gave her rice cereal at about four months and three or so weeks. After trying rice cereal (she loves it!), we gave avocado a shot (she was a bit skeptical). Next we'll try bananas.

Grabbing the spoon from Daddy. She is her father's daughter.

Sleep: We're getting there. I think. I pray every night that we're getting there. I keep telling myself that we're getting there. And for the most part, it's OK. I am OK with one middle of the night wake up at this point. Sometimes she sleeps through the night though, which is amazing because it seems like her nighttime sleep is ultimately going to be 6:30pm-7am, which is just about perfect for our family. I actually had to wake her up this morning to feed her before I left for work. Confession time: Against the advice of our doctor, we're still swaddling her. It still seems to make a world of difference, and I don't know how to break the swaddle. I have decided that this is something we'll deal with at six months.

As for naps, we're in a bit of a nap flux, though they keep telling me at daycare that her napping is getting better. At daycare, she usually sleeps 45 minutes in the morning, and an hour and a half at noon. An hour an a half is FAR longer than she ever sleeps for me, but they tend to tell me when she doesn't sleep that long so I believe them.

Schedule: Other than sleep, Em seems to be doing well at daycare. She has mellowed out quite a bit (after getting back on schedule post-holidays). She is definitely a baby who needs stimulation and does well when there are other babies/kids/people to watch. On the weekends, we take her out and about, and she typically does well in restaurants, though she's starting to not like being stuck in her carseat, so she usually ends up in my lap.

***

I can tell you this much: I do not miss the newborn stage. But now that things have gotten "easier," I do my best to savor the moments she falls asleep in my lap, and I can just rock her like I did when she was a wee babe. It's so neat to watch her awareness of the world blossom. You can definitely see that we're getting approaching that point where she's closer to being a little kid than she is to being a newborn. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Salad Obsession

If you would have told me in January 2012 that by January 2013 I’d be totally obsessed with a salad, I would have been all, “Bitch, you’re crazy,” unless you’re a dude, in which case I would have been all, “Bitch, you’re crazy.”

But it’s true. And the salad in question isn’t like one of those “salads” that’s piled with dried fruit, cheese, croutons, a creamy dressing, and all other kinds of goodies nor is it a salad of the pasta or mayonnaise variety. The main ingredients in this salad are raw kale and brussel sprouts. If I had seen this on a menu, I would have thought, “Nope,” and moved on with my life.

But it didn’t happen that way. This salad was served at one of the gazillion baby showers I went to last year, and I didn’t even try it. But running buddy Meg did, and she would not stop talking about it--to the point where, in my head, I was all, “What kale salad, I thought that was parsley?” and “Why on earth is she making such a big deal about this kale salad?” and “OK. I get it. You ate a salad. How good could it possibly be?”

Let’s be real, kale is basically the healthiest thing a person can eat, so I’ve always been pretty sure I hated it, despite only having a small amount of evidence to back that up. Then running buddy Meg made this salad for a brunch get together, and I learned that I was wrong. Very, very wrong.

This recipe is posted around the internets, so I’m not sure who to attribute it to, but you can rest assured that I am not taking credit for it.

Autumn Salad
5 or so oz. Brussels sprouts, very thinly sliced (Trader Joe’s sells bags of shaved Brussels sprouts, I use about half of a 10 oz. bag)
3-4 cups Kale, chopped (If you want to make this easy on yourself, Trader Joe’s also buys bags of pre-chopped Kale, I use about half a bag)
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds

Dressing:
1 TBSP whole grain mustard (I use Trader Joe’s Whole Grain Dijon)
Juice of one lemon
½ tsp coarse salt (or to taste, whatever)
1 TBSP + 1 tsp pure maple syrup
2 TBSP high oleic safflower oil, preferably cold-pressed

Directions:
Toast the sunflower seeds. You can do this in the oven: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toast sunflower seeds on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer until golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 mins. OR you can do this on the stovetop, which I think is easier. Just toss the seeds in a saute pan over low heat and flip them around every so often. You have to really watch them so they won’t burn. Set aside to cool. OR if you don’t want to deal with it, just keep the sunflower seeds raw. I haven’t made this without toasting the seeds, but I’m sure it’s fine.

Stir mustard, lemon juice, salt and maple syrup together in a small bowl, whisk in oil until emulsified.

Toss brussel sprouts and kale together. Stir in sunflower seeds and pour dressing. Toss to coat.

A Few Things...
First of all, if you’re curious, this is what “high oleic” means. Second, there’s several reasons I love this salad. Obviously, the fact that I’m willingly going to town on raw kale is a big one. But I also love that this dressing is homemade--yes there’s some sugar in there-- but you can pronounce all the ingredients. Finally, the thing I really love about this salad is that it keeps in the refrigerator with the dressing already on it for up to three days. I’m not kidding. Maybe my standards are low or something, but I’ve had no problem with soggy or browning greens in this salad. In fact, MM and I (yep, he loves it too) have been making it and storing it knowing that we’re going to eat it over the next two to three days. It’s another super-healthy, super-tasty timesaver.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

But Seriously, I Should Probably Stop Eating Now

Or, this pregnancy (yeah, let’s call it pregnancy) weight isn’t going to lose itself, AMIRITE?

For what is (or at least was) arguably a health/fitness blog, I haven’t talked much about my attempt (or lack thereof) to lose the lingering pregnancy weight. That is, of course, because it all just fell off with no effort as promised with breastfeeding.

NOT REALLY!

Actually, I did get close to being at my pre-pregnancy weight. A decent chunk came off immediately, due to no longer hauling around an 8+ pound person in my stomach. During my maternity leave, despite my challenges with higher impact cardio, I went to yoga several times a week and walked a ton. And even though I was often shoving food into my face with one hand while the babe was attached to me, I was actually eating pretty healthy too. Sure, I wasn’t thrilled with my squishy stomach, but I could easily zip up some of my larger-sized pre-pregnancy jeans. That felt good enough for eight to twelve weeks postpartum, and honestly, I wasn't sweating it too much (which is what happens when you don't need to deal with pants that button because anything with a stretchy waist band will be just fine for errands/bumming around the house/a playdate).

Then I went back to work.

I made the mistake of thinking that being at work would make my life easier. No more managing a baby and myself. I just had to manage myself and work. I could bring my lunch, eat healthy everyday, have a little more control. Turns out I was wrong.

Being at a desk eight hours a day, I’m a lot more sedentary, and from the moment I came back (two days before Halloween) to now (barely post-holidays), this place has been a gold mine (landmine?) of candy, sweets, parties, happy hours, special lunches, and the like. Being that I have both hands free, I’ve partaken generously in these eating activities.

Add to that the holidays in general, and guess what, those new work pants I bought myself in October? Those are feeling a bit snug.

Not cool, Pants, not cool.

So with the new year, of course, comes the opportunity to wipe the slate clean. Right now, I’m working hard to get in 3 (or more) workouts a week. I’m packing my work lunches again and attempting to avoid things like breakroom fudge (seriously, on January 7?). Freezer meals are a huge help when it comes to ensuring that dinner is healthy, homemade, and low maintenance.

But this isn't a New Year's resolution so much as a life goal though. I want to feel good about myself so that I can be a better mom. I want to maintain healthy eating habits all the time so that Emme learns healthy eating habits without out the trials and tribulations I have endured in that area. I don't want to have to talk about it with her. I want to just do it, so she sees it and understands it as the way we live. That's the real goal, and that's what I'm going to do.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

12 For 12

Let’s be real, reality, I don’t have a lot of time for resolutions in 2013. My brain still hasn’t recovered from pregnancy, labor, delivery, and new mommyhood, so thinking through goals and shit just isn’t at the top of the priority list. Other than the obligatory “working on my fitness,” I’m not even going to bother. I will, however, attempt to come up with 12 highlights from 2012.

You’re welcome!

1) I spent most of the year pregnant. After the first few weeks of January, I felt good and had an uneventful, complication-free pregnancy. I made being healthy a priority as long as you count Chipotle burritos as healthy (I do!). And, I was able to stay active until the very end.


2) I gave birth to this little bug. Despite being convinced that labor would be induced once I reached 42 weeks of pregnancy, our little girl showed up only three days late, no induction necessary. After expecting a long haul, my labor was a mere 12 hours. I was lucky enough to “enjoy” a complication-, intervention- and drama-free birth experience.

3) I dove headfirst into new motherhood, immersed myself in newborn-ness, and emerged on the other side only slightly (?) worse for the wear. Did that actually happen? Because it seems like it was EONS ago. And it was hard. Hard in ways I was not expecting, and I was expecting it to be hard. More than anything, I struggled with the loss of freedom that comes with becoming a first-time parent, particularly a first-time mom who is tethered to her child by the boob. Of course, I’ve loved my babe from day one, but it’s gotten so much easier as we moved past the newborn stage and become more comfortable with a new routine for our family of three.

4) Our extended family grew. Not only did I become a mom, I became an aunt! My little sister gave birth in October. Thanksgiving this year featured not one, but two new, little, perfect faces.

5) We stayed close to home. We traveled a few times, but the most part, we spent our time at home, preparing for baby. We managed to finish about half a dozen house projects prior to Em’s birth. Maybe it was the nesting, or maybe it was just getting more comfortable in our suburban surroundings after leaving the city in 2011, but by the time we welcomed Em into the world, our house had never felt more like a home to me.

6) We went on a babymoon to Austin. It was the first time MM and I had traveled by ourselves, as a couple since our honeymoon--no race, no wedding, no family--just a vacation. It was awesome.

7) Our marriage weathered the tough times that come with having a brand new baby (so far). Having a baby is hard on a marriage--stop me if you’ve heard this one. I found myself, early on, feeling resentful of my husband and his ability to come and go as he pleased. This may not have been reality, but a version of it skewed by raging hormones and sleep deprivation. However, my husband has a tendency to take on quite a bit. He has a demanding job; he’s working on a degree; he ran a marathon this year; and that’s not to mention his various other commitments up to, and including, his family. But, he heard my grievances, made an even bigger effort to be an equal partner in this child-raising thing. And, in an attempt at growth on my part (compromise and shit), I have accepted the sacrifices we both have to make (i.e., sometimes he has to go back to work after we put Em to bed, but the important thing is that he was home to spend time with her and help me, and I need to be OK with sitting on the couch watching 90210 by myself, which he wouldn’t agree to watch anyway).

8) I found a way of preparing meals that truly works for our family. Freezer meals! Freezer meals! Freezer meals! I cannot stress enough how freezer meals have changed the way MM and I eat. This has been so monumental that I decided to take it to the next level and asked (and received!) a chest freezer for dinner. We currently have 35+ meals ready to be reheated and eaten in 2013.

9) It was truly the year of the babies and mommies. So many of my close friends gave birth this year, which provided me with a ready-made support network of new moms who were all willing to spend endless hours talking about B.A.B.I.E.S. While this might sound annoying as hell, it’s a great defense against things like postpartum depression. At least it was for me. I needed to talk about it. And talk about it I did. And with the exception of the first few turbulent weeks (when you really can’t trust your feelings anyway), I never felt alone.

10) I did not emerge from all this unscathed. I know, I’ve made this whole pregnancy and birth thing sound so easy, right? Well, it wasn’t a total breeze, and I struggled to get active post-Emme. But now I’m taking care of business and have started working out, including running, again.

11) I did not lose myself. Or at least, I don’t think I have. I seem to be able to have conversations that do not revolve around BABY (though I can do that too). I’ve maintained all friendships that are meaningful to me. We’ve continued to get out of the house to socialize, though we make more plans for brunch than we do for dinner now.

12) I realized how blessed we are. I know the economy is bad, but the truth is my family is very lucky. My husband and I both have good jobs. We have so much more than the average household, and I rarely stop to recognize this. I never have to think about how we’re going to pay the mortgage or buy groceries. If we did run into trouble, I know we have a family support system that we could fall back on if we need help. This is of course not to mention that we were blessed with a healthy, strong, smart, and beautiful baby girl. Maybe it’s having a kid that makes you start to recognize these things, but I am so thankful for our family, immediate and extended, our friends, my job, MM’s job, our health, and everything else we have. I don’t say that enough.

So that’s it, 2012 in a nutshell. While was a good year, it was also an intense year--an intense year with a lot of baby showers. I’m excited to see what 2013 brings, to watch Emme grow, and I can only hope that we’ll continue to be as blessed as we were this year.