Happy Birthday to Sarah

Sarah Birthday Dress

Sarah dressed up for her birthday!

It’s been a whirlwind of a day, with Scott and Sid (my husband and stepson) coming home from a trip to Oz Comic-Con, but something even bigger happened today: Sarah turned one year old!

Everyone always says time goes by so quickly with children, and dear god they’re right. The days are long, but the years are short. It feels like we just brought her home from the hospital three months ago!

In the past year of parenting, I have:

  • Carried Sarah–and breastfed her–while getting an in-depth tour of my friends’ new house. This included the front and back yards.
  • Left the house in a white shirt, only discovering–too late–that I had some baby poop on it. Immediately concocted a pumpkin smoothie cover story.
  • Discovered that yes, depending on the time of day, there is an acceptable amount of pee on Sarah’s clothing.
  • Eaten food that was on her face.
  • Raced into her room the morning after she slept through the night to see if she’s still breathing.
  • Blown her mind with my stellar peekaboo skills.
  • Realized I can never kiss her enough.
  • Put her down in a safe place and taken a minute to calm down.
  • Sneaked into her room to wish her goodnight before I turned in for the night. That was every night this year.

Scott and Sarah Allie

Sarah with Daddy at the hospital!

In a year, Sarah has gone from a tiny frowny burrito baby into a laughing, walking, super funny person who we love so, so much. Here’s to many more wonderful birthdays, my sweetie.

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Macaroni and Cheese

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese With Roasted Tomatoes

Macaroni and Cheese

Oh baby . . . come to Mommy. Oh yeah.

It’s raining today, which is heavenly. Fall is my favorite time of year, especially for cooking. Soup! Casseroles! And, of course, macaroni and cheese.

I came up with this recipe when I needed to use up a bunch of cheese (I always have too much cheese on hand, it’s a sickness) and we’ve had a bumper crop of tomatoes and basil from the garden. It’s modeled on Ina Garten’s Mac and Cheese recipe, except it’s not baked (I prefer stovetop macaroni and cheese), and I use–gasp!–American and cheddar cheeses.

Listen: American cheese is simply the finest cheese for macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese, and I won’t hear anything different. It melts smoothly and doesn’t separate. Paired with a good sharp cheddar, it is freakin’ amazing! End rant.

Baby Macaroni and Cheese

Sarah’s portion–chopped up!

Since this macaroni and cheese is not baked, I decided to oven-roast the tomatoes with basil, garlic, and olive oil. The results were . . . sublime. My husband took one bite and told me I got my cheese mixture perfect for the sauce. Thank god I weighed everything so I can preserve this momentous achievement for everyone to share! Ahem. I get excited about macaroni and cheese.

Creamy Macaroni & Cheese With Roasted Tomatoes
Serves 4-8

You need:

6 oz American cheese (I used Kraft Deli slices, which at least aren’t individually wrapped), chopped or shredded
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cups milk (plus more to taste)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb rotini (or your choice of pasta) or, use 1/2 lb pasta and save half the cheese sauce for cheeseburger mac, another recipe I will post soon!

For the roasted tomatoes:
1 lb fresh tomatoes, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh basil, julienned
4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lay tomatoes on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Roast for one hour. Remove, let cool, and reserve for macaroni and cheese.

Place a large pan of water on to boil. Heat the milk gently in a small saucepan, but don’t bring it to a boil. Melt butter in a second large pot or saute pan and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Remove from heat and add the cheeses, salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Meanwhile, add salt to your large pan of boiling water and cook pasta until al dente. Drain and add pasta to your sauce, adding milk if necessary to achieve a smooth, creamy texture.

Spoon into a bowl and top with oven roasted tomatoes. Prepare to go to heaven!

Things My Baby Ate Yesterday

  Sarah’s just four (four!) days away from her first birthday, and she’s already a champion eater of solid food. I know I’ll probably have to eat these words in a couple years when she enters the inevitable “plain pasta with butter” phase, but for now, I’m impressed:

  • Banana flaxseed muffins
  • Applesauce
  • Cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Magnet (attempted)
  • Braunschweiger 
  • Apples
  • Zucchini with tomato and basil
  • Spaghetti and meat sauce
  • Dead leaves (almost)
  • Mommy’s hair (every damn day)
  • Brie (she would like all of that now, please and thank you)

Did I mention she only has two teeth? That baby is crazy.

Happy Wednesday! True Parent, Flaxseed Banana Muffins & Failure

Me hamming it up at the Rose City Comic Con Rachel & Miles Meetup!

Happy . . . Wednesday! I’ve been battling a cold, so yesterday morning’s usual blog post was postponed until now. Hopefully it will be worth the wait!

Read Me Elsewhere

I’m so excited to announce that I wrote an article for True Parent magazine, an offshoot of the Portland Mercury, titled “Taking Yourself out of the Game” about leaving the comics industry and becoming a stay-at-home mom at 40. Regular readers know I’ve been struggling with this (“I Need a New Title“)–although I love staying home with the kids, I do miss working and feel a bit . . . diminished.

Anyway, writing about my experiences has been really therapeutic for me, and I’d like to thank Wm. Steven Humphrey for green-lighting my article and giving it his editorial polish. Read it and tell me what you think!

Comics and Geekery

I had a wonderful time this weekend at Rose City Comic Con–although I still barely know what to do with myself as an attendee, rather than an exhibitor. The first thing I did was find the TFAW booth–it still feels like home.

Sarah and I didn’t spend more than a couple of hours on the floor, but we did get a peek at Carol Spinney–the man behind Big Bird–and I caught up with a bunch of old friends.

The highlight, however, was definitely the Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men listener meetup at the Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, a delightfully dark and atmospheric underground bar and performance space here in Portland. Rachel Edidin and Miles Stokes host a brilliant, insightful, fast-paced podcast exploring every nook and cranny of the X-Men, and their devotion was on display–literally–in the form of an incredible “Wanted” piece from the cover of Uncanny X-Men #141 (part of Days of Future Past), created by Rachel and artist David Wynne and pictured above. It was truly magnificent in person!

But where there are highs, there must be lows. I was profoundly affected by writer Michael Moreci’s (Hoax Hunters) post, “On Failure” and I’d love to get your take on it. He talks about his struggles with failure–both real and perceived–in an intelligent and bracing fashion that was really soothing. I felt like I was letting go of a breath I’ve held for 20+ years while reading it.

Food

This Banana Wheat Muffin recipe from 100 Days of Real Food has been my go-to for breakfast this year, but I’ve discovered an awesome variation! I was out of whole wheat flour, so I used white flour and swapped out 1/2 cup of it for flax meal. They were awesome. Flaxseed provides fiber, protein, and can supposedly help eczema, among other things. Plus: tasty.

In other news: I’m an aunt! My brother and his girlfriend had their baby boy, and he’s so cute! I’m working on a post for their baby shower, so watch for it this week!

Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men Meetup ECCC 2015

Happy Monday! Rose City Comic Con and Nasal Aspiration

Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men Meetup ECCC 2015Happy Monday! How was your weekend? We had a last gasp of hot weather, but my plans to take advantage of this and read Archie Digests while eating Dairy Queen soft serve (two summer activities I had not partaken of this year) were derailed by multiple birthday parties. However, both birthday parties were fun, and one had a dinosaur cake. So there.

Let’s get it going!

Babies

First: I don’t think I’ve talked about it much here, but my brother Beej is having a baby with his girlfriend this week and I am so excited. This reminds me that I never posted pictures of their baby shower, which I will rectify this week. So . . . this isn’t a link at present, more like a promise of a future link. That’s silly. Okay, here’s a picture of some of the favors my mom and I made!

Boy Baby Shower Mustache Tiffany Theme

Blue nail polish, mustache chocolates, and mustache soap!

In useful-yet-gross parenting skills, I learned how to use a nasal aspirator today. Sarah’s had a horrific runny nose and was snorting (and having trouble sleeping), so I watched the following video:

The verdict: Sarah hated it, it was incredibly gross, and . . . it worked! Oh my god so much snot. It was pretty funny. But don’t do it more that two or three times a day.

Comics

This weekend is Rose City Comic Con, one of my favorite comic book conventions–and it just happens to take place right here in Portland!

I cannot recommend this convention enough, as both an attendee and exhibitor. It’s been so fun to watch it grow over the past three years. It has a lot of things for kids and mainstream comics and pop culture fans, but it’s also a great place to meet local creators and publishers. Guests this year include Carrie Fisher (Leia from Star Wars, in case you just left a bomb shelter), Walter Koenig and Nichelle Nichols from Star Trek, Wil Wheaton, Caroll Spinney (Big Bird!!!!), and many more.

My previous employer, Things From Another World, will be throwing a gigantic Rose City Comic Con Kickoff Party this Friday with complimentary food and beer! This is always a really fun event, plus you can skip the lines at the convention and turn in your tickets for badges at the party. While drinking beer! Win-win.

Also: the hosts of my favorite podcast, Rachel & Miles X-Plain the X-Men, will both be conducting a live episode at the convention, and hosting an after-hours meetup away from the Convention Center. Their last meetup at Emerald City Comicon was so much fun (I’ve posted a picture of me and Sarah, above), so I’m really hoping I can get over there.

Finally, I spotted this amazing comic about LEGOs and gender by M. Patrinos of Seasonal Depression on Facebook and it really spoke to me:

lego-girls-comic-01I have a longer rant about LEGOs in me somewhere, stay tuned . . .

I Might Be One of Those Crazy Breastfeeding Ladies

Baby Breastfeeding

I won’t do it! Stop trying to breastfeed me Mom!

Warning: I am going to talk about boobs and breastfeeding in this post! As Sarah nears the one-year mark, I’m feeling some pressure to write things down before I forget them–plus, I was talking to my good friend Melissa about this last night, so it’s on my mind.

When I was first pregnant with Sarah, it was my intention to breast feed, of course. You know, at least for six months. Maybe a year. If it worked out. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself or set really specific expectations, because after listening to my own friends’ experiences, it seemed that’s where the bulk of their stress and disappointment came from–the pressures they (and society) put on themselves. So I was going to be chill.

Now I start to cry when I think that someday, Sarah and I will have to stop. It’s been a year, I think to myself. You said you weren’t going to be one of those creepy moms breastfeeding a toddler. But then I think, What’s another year? See what happens. Be chill!

So you might think, with all this love and attachment, that breastfeeding came naturally to us. I secretly thought it would. Scott and I watched the video where the newborn baby crawled up his exhausted mother’s chest and started sucking away, and I thought, That will totally be me. Even though I was ambivalent about how long I would breastfeed, I was super smug in my expectation that I, the one who cooks for and feeds anyone, would be a natural at breastfeeding. Come at me, baby!

This is what we call hubris. What actually happened is, it took two months for Sarah and me to breastfeed easily without any outside help.

At first, things looked promising. I had given birth, and I was overflowing with colostrum, the super-caloric “pre-milk” mothers produce before the milk comes in. Unfortunately, as is so common with many babies, Sarah couldn’t latch on properly. With the nurse’s help, I guided her to my breast, fitting her mouth over it and making sucking noises as encouragement. Sarah would cry. I would panic.

That first day (TMI alert!), the nurse ended up hand-expressing colostrum from me (aka milking me) into a spoon to feed Sarah, who greedily slurped it up.

Because I had a c-section, we ended up spending three days in the hospital. Which I thank god for, because without the round-the-clock support from the nurses, I might have given up out of frustration–or fear that my baby would starve. Just for the record: babies are born with an ample supply of what is called brown fat, so them not eating regularly for the first couple of days is not a huge call for concern. But I–anxiety-ridden first-time mother of an infant–was concerned.

Over and over, the same scenario would repeat itself. A nurse would come in to try to help me feed Sarah. She would struggle to latch, but it wouldn’t work and she would cry. I would cry. Then I’d pump–the hospital likes to have new mothers start pumping after every feed to help make sure their milk supply comes in.

I had no trouble on the supply side–I was filling plastic vials right and left! But as the nurses (so many lovely, helpful nurses) explained to me, many newborn babies lack the muscle control to latch on properly. It turns out most babies are not born knowing how to breastfeed (stupid video) –we have to teach them!

Every nurse had a different piece of advice, or a different technique, which was frustrating but ultimately helpful, since one nurse (who practically made me attempt to feed Sarah at 2 am when I was feeling utterly–there’s a joke there–defeated) suggested that we try a nipple shield.

A nipple shield is basically a silicone hat for your nipple with holes in it. There were a few more kinks to work out, but basically, it was much easier for Sarah to latch onto the nipple shield than my squishy boob. Huzzah! By the time we left the hospital, I could reliably feed my daughter.

That’s when the pain began. Oh my god. That sucked. And while Sarah was getting slightly better, there was still all sorts of awkwardness. Get your arms out of the way, baby! She would flail across my chest, getting in her own way, smacking me in the face, crying because she was hungry. There were days when it seemed like she had forgotten how to breastfeed at all.

Because of our difficulties and the shield (which makes eating slower), breastfeeding took us at least an hour every time. I was feeding her at least eight times a day. It was a full time job. Because I needed to be able to see to attach the shield, there were no comfy, sleepy feedings in bed. I had to get up every time, sit in a chair, wake up enough to figure out what was what, turn on the light, and feed a baby who would still take five minutes to get started–and who would then fall asleep every two minutes after that. Wake up, baby!

But we got better. I started attempting to feed her without the shield, which was hit or miss. Finally, two months in, a breakthrough. It was late at night, and I had just taken her back upstairs after feeding her and put her down in her bassinet. Sarah started wailing–still hungry. I was tired. I was grumpy. I didn’t want to go back downstairs and start all over. Maybe . . . ?

I unbuttoned my pajamas. It was pitch black. I placed Sarah’s head in the general vicinity of boob central and . . . contact! It worked! Hallelujah! Just like the video! Just two months late.

Without the awkwardness of the nipple shield and Sarah’s newfound mastery, things got much easier. Today, feeding her takes 20 minutes, tops, if she’s sleepy. It doesn’t hurt me anymore either, thank god.

Now it’s not only this nice, cuddly bonding time between us, but it’s been a fascinating form of nonverbal communication. If for some reason I’m late for a feeding, I don’t need her to start crying to remind me–my boobs take care of that (hello). I know when she’s about to have a growth spurt, because my body starts making more milk!

So yay, happy ending! But now the question is . . . when will it be ending? Sarah is happily eating solid food right and left. She’s never been the type to root for my chest–she doesn’t grab me or make any rude moves for it, she just happily eats whenever it’s offered (she’s so polite). I guess I’ll try to be chill about it, when the time comes.

But I will totally bawl my eyes out!

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

10-Item Wardrobe: Baby Girl Edition

Okay, so I might be a little obsessed with the idea of a 10-item wardrobe, as you can see from my past posts. And obviously, the idea of a 10-item wardrobe for a baby is ridiculous: you’d be doing laundry every other day! However, my Mom and I were shopping at Carter’s for Sarah last week and I couldn’t help thinking, if I could only pick ten, which items would I choose?

So I had a little fun “shopping” online. They’re still in the middle of their Labor Day sale, so not only are these items cute, they’re cheap!

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

Applique Bodysuit in Pink, $5.

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

Polka Dot Applique Bodysuit in Turquoise, $5.

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

Polka Dot Applique Bodysuit in Purple, $5.

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

Fox Tee, $5.

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

Leggings in Turquoise, $5.

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

Leggings in Denim, $5.

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

Leggings in Pink, $5.

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

Stretch Denim Jacket, $15.

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

French Terry Cardigan in Pink, $11.

Baby 10 Item Wardrobe

Fair Isle Sweater Dress, $20.

I tried to pick things that could all mix and match. I especially liked the Fair Isle Sweater Dress, which I thought could be paired with the leggings when the weather turns cold. Grand total: $81.

So . . . how crazy am I? I had a lot of fun putting this together. What do you think?