Back-of-the-Box Beef, Barley, and Vegetable Soup

When I was a kid, I didn't know that you could buy tortillas in a bag because my mom always made them from scratch, and every year for my birthday, I requested and received a made-from-scratch bunny-shaped carrot cake. (Before Pinterest!) Things haven't changed much. When we went to my mom and dad's house a few weekends ago to watch football, my mom made sloppy joes.  But not just regular sloppy joes.  She also made a slaw to go on top and provided a variety of cheeses to get all melty underneath.  Oh, and she made a white chicken chili that she deemed "just okay."  She wasn't even going to serve it, but I insisted that she let Jason and me try it.  And Jason had to steal the spoon away from me to get one bite. Keep all this in mind as you read on.

In my first year of marriage, I knew I wanted to add my mom's lasagna to my repertoire of meals because it was not only the best lasagna but also my mom's lasagna. It tasted like home. One day, I was in the grocery store talking to my mom on the phone and remembered that I wanted to make the lasagna but lamented that it would probably be too complicated to give me the ingredients list over the phone while I was in the grocery store sans pen.  My mom insisted that no, it would be fine and instructed me to go to the aisle with the pasta.  When I let her know I was there, she told me to find the box of no-bake Barilla lasagna noodles. I clarified, "No bake"?  She said, "Yes. Do you have it? Now turn the box over and follow the directions." I was a bit baffled. "That's it"? But she insisted, "That's it." I was now flabbergasted. Why would she insist on not sharing her lasagna recipe with me? Why would she try to trick me?  But I decided to play along.  I bought the ingredients on the back of the box and later that week followed the directions on the back of the box, and when I bit into the back-of-the-box lasagna and tasted my mom's lasagna, I knew. My mom is a genius.  Of course those back-of-the-box recipes would be good.

When I asked her for the recipe for her delicious beef, barley, and vegetable soup a few years later, I was much less baffled when she pointed me to the back of the box and excited when she told me that she didn't follow the directions exactly.  So if you want my mom's lasagna recipe, go get yourself a box of no-bake Barilla lasagna noodles.  If you want an amazing beef, barley, and vegetable soup recipe, see below.

Slightly-Altered Back-of-the-Box Beef, Barley, and Vegetable Soup

1 lb lean steak (whatever looks good or is on sale)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (I just use the stuff that comes in the squeeze bottle and squeeze what looks to be about a  clovesworth in the pot.)
1/2 cup Quaker Medium Barley, uncooked
1/2 cup sliced celery (I just chop up an entire bundle and by bundle I mean whatever you call it when all the stalks are still attached. What is that called, mom?)
2 beef bullion cubes
1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 (9 oz) package mixed vegetables (I get the corn, peas, green beans, carrots mixture.)
1 bottle tomato juice (The one in the juice aisle.)

In a 4 quart sauce pan or Dutch oven, sear the steak on both sides. Take out steak and cut into bite-sized pieces. While cutting steak, add onion and garlic (and maybe a little bit of olive oil if you have stainless steal pots and pans like me) to the pot and cook under onion is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients (including cut up steak) except for frozen vegetables. Cover; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 50-60  minutes, stirring occasionally. Add frozen vegetables; cook about 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Additional water may be added if soup becomes too thick upon standing. (not sure exactly what that means but I usually add some water).  

The big difference is using steak instead of ground beef and tomato juice instead of water and tomatoes. I feel like you could probably eat bacon (for the protein) and Milky Ways (for the dairy) all day if you are planning on having this for dinner because it contains more vegetables than I probably eat in a week. Delicious and nutritious!

Also, I served this to Jason with salad last night. Soup and salad, yeah! He wasn't as excited as I thought he should be about the delicious and nutritious meal I had planned. And I'll admit, it was a little overkill with all the vegetables. So we agreed that next time, we'll make grilled cheese sandwiches to go with the soup.  For a slightly grown-up grilled cheese, I highly recommend using two slices of Sargento Colby-Pepper Jack. There's just a tiny bit of spice and a whole lot of flavor.

Three Maternity Shopping Tips

This pic is from when Jason and I went on our babymoon to NYC last November.  I am standing in front of what can only be described as a blank canvas (before I superimposed the words) at the Museum of Modern Art. Was that the point? Life is a blank canvas? I am a blank canvas? All that art was once a blank canvas? I'm not quite sure.

All I know is that last year at this time, I was just over four months pregnant and couldn't wait to treat my changing body as a blank canvas, dressing it in a new maternity wardrobe.  I was really excited for my totally legitimate excuse to go on a shopping spree and drove to the Galleria multiple times to try on clothes with the fake bump at Gap Maternity as well as online-shopped for hours to see what was available. I eventually bought plenty of clothes, some of which I wore over and over again throughout my entire pregnancy and loved and others that I barely wore at all. Thinking back on the pieces I wore the most and felt the most comfortable and stylish in, I came up with three tips that I wish I would have known before to save both time and money. I am writing them now not only to (hopefully) help out some newly pregnant women but also to preserve them as reminders for myself if I am ever blessed to get pregnant again.

ONE// Take it slow.

  • You probably already have a lot of maternity clothes even if you have never been pregnant before.  They are in your closet and your dresser. Those flowy blouses and sweaters and dresses with 5% spandex that you already own will work wonders.  I wore many of my normal-size sweaters and t-shirts right up to the very end, and after a normal wash and dry, they still fit me today. (It might help that I have about five pesky pregnancy pounds still to lose.)
  • Also, take it slow because all those tips you read (including the following two) might not work for you and your body just because they worked well for me or the other woman who wrote them.  Just because your best friend or sister loved the Bella Band or full panel pants, doesn't mean that you necessarily will.  
  • Buy one or two things that you think will work.  Wear them around the house with the tags still on. Sit, stand, and walk up and down your stairs before you commit to an item. Once you commit to the item, take off the tags and wear it out and about before you buy more from that particular store or brand. 
  • And don't feel bad about returning things.  You will never have returned more things than me. I promise.

TWO// Invest in a few good pairs of pants.  

  • Look at what pants you already wear and invest in a maternity version of that.  For me that was a pair of black and dark blue skinny jeans, ponte leggings, grey dress pants, and black dress pants. My favorite maternity pants were all from LOFT. Their pants had the most comfortable bands and were truly better quality than anything from a maternity store or Gap or Target Maternity. 
  • If you can wait a week or two, LOFT will eventually have a sale, so I would suggest signing up for the emails or checking back on the website frequently and wait for the sale if you can.  
  • If I couldn't go to the actual store to try on pants, I ordered them in more than one size so that I could check them out at home before choosing the best size.  If you wait for a sale and get free shipping, it won't seem so bad when you have to pay to ship some returns back.  
  • Also, if you want to feel better about paying $60 for a pair of nice leggings, just apply price per wear (dividing the price by the number of times you were the item). I wore my LOFT ponte leggings at least twice a week for the last 15 weeks of my pregnancy, so that takes a $60 pair of pants down to $2.00 a wear.  Doesn't that make you feel better. 

THREE// For everything else, shop where and how you would normally shop, just one size up.

  • For tank tops, sweaters, blouses, dresses, just buy what you normally buy ONE SIZE UP. I actually purchased multiple shirts, sweaters, and dresses from maternity stores that I only wore once or not at all because they weren't really my style. The shirts, sweaters, and dresses that I wore the most, even at the end of my pregnancy, were the ones that I bought in one size up from my normal size at Banana Republic or J. Crew Factory because those were the stores that had styles that fit my body.  And guess what, even eight and nine months pregnant, shirts and dresses from those stores fit me better in one size up than most maternity shirts and dresses. 
  • Also, I have found that maternity stores' clothes are poorly-made, awkwardly-styled, and over-priced whereas I could buy a striped boatneck tee from H&M for $15 dollars that made me feel Parisian chic even with my big bump.
  • The best part of getting an item I would normally get in just one size up is that because the items don't have weird gathering on the side or are some funky maternity style, I can still wear some of them now. (Again, those pesky five pounds might be helping out.)
If you are pregnant right now, congratulations!  I hope these tips will help you out. For all those mamas out there, if you have any other shopping tips that worked for you, I'd love to hear them. 

Quality, Kid Friendly St. Louis Restaurants

One of the things I love about St. Louis is that there are so many interesting and delicious places to eat. For a long time, Jason and I made it a hobby to try out new restaurants, going back to only our favorites (Sidney Street Cafe, Annie Gunn's, and Popeye's). But now that I have a child, I am more aware of the low-key places that have well-crafted food and well-culled drink menus along with relatively quick service and an atmosphere that is fun and unique, places where I would still be comfortable bringing my child who might cry or spit up once or twice during the meal.

Last week, a friend posted a request on Facebook for any recommendations on where she could take her husband out for his birthday that was fun but also kid friendly.  I immediately thought of Bailey's Range.  Jason took me there for a date a few weeks ago, and we saw four or five tables with little kids and babies. I could totally see why both kids and parents would love Bailey's. There's a new burger battle every week (built-in specials for those adults that like to try something new each time), handmade ice cream and shakes, as many different and finely chosen sodas as beers, crispy, long, skinny fries perfect for trying all the different home-made sauces, and almost everything was served in mason jars. Our favorites items from our visit were the Smoked Jalapeno Chicken Wings (super spicy--not for the kiddos) and the BBQ Duck burger.  Also, they have Ski people, SKI!

After I Facebook stalked my friend and saw that she did indeed go to Bailey's Range, I can't stop thinking of other restaurants with both great menus and child-friendly atmospheres.  See below for my favorites and feel free to share your own in the comments.

The Fountain on Locust--Midtown
Another restaurant with both great made-from-scratch food and ice cream.  If you get a booth, you can listen to a restaurant radio show, but every server I've ever had at this place has been entertainment enough. Also, the decor alone could keep most kids amused until your food arrives.

Anthonino's Taverna--The Hill
The Hill is one of those St. Louis neighborhoods famous for all of it's great restaurants, but my favorite is Anthonino's. Get a Peroni on draft. Order some pizza, pasta, and sandwiches for the table and share because it is all amazing. Also, there is a large clown fish a la Nemo attached to the ceiling.

PW Pizza--On Chouteau (a hop, skip, and jump from Lafayette Square)
If you live anywhere near St. Louis, you have probably heard of Vin de Set, a fun and fancy roof-top restaurant and event space on Choteau.  The owners of Vin de Set also run 1111 Mississippi, which has been a favorite date night locale of Jason and me for a long time, and PW Pizza.  This year for our anniversary, Jason and I actually canceled our reservations at 1111 Mississippi and went to PW Pizza instead because I just wanted some really good pizza, a few good drinks, a yummy dessert, and I wanted it quickly so I could also have an early bedtime. PW has so many amazing pizza concoctions from which to choose, which is why Jason and I always go for a half and half.  Last time, we got half Creole Connection and half Pulled Piggy and were not disappointed.  I'm hoping Will starts developing a more diverse palate, but if he doesn't we can always go half Magherita next time.

Bigelo's Bistro--Edwardsville, Illinois
Many foodies are starting to learn that Edwardsville, Illinois has some of the best restaurants in the St. Louis area, and although I love Peel and Cleavland Heath, the crowds and the long wait often deterred me even before I had a baby.  Before either of those restaurants showed up in E-ville, Bigelo's Bistro was there, serving up the best BLT and waffle fries that go perfect with a half price bottle of wine Tuesday through Thursday. I've tried almost everything on their menu and can vouch for the deliciousness of the sandwiches and pastas. So if you want a slightly less crowded but no less scrumptious dining experience in Edwardsville, head on down to Bigelo's. Also, the staff here is great. I've actually been welcomed up to the bar with my stroller... if you think that's great like me.

Also, the only restaurant we have actually taken Will to for dinner (twice) so far is Alfonzo's, which--I'm just going to say it--is the BEST restaurant in my home town.  Every single time we go, we order the exact same thing: house salad, Fonzo bits, chicken wings, Avalanche pizza, and a pitcher of pink lemonade. After eating there for the last twenty years, I can confidently recommend that combo. If you drive by and the parking lot is full, don't fret.  Just park by the nail or tanning salon and walk yourself in for some of the most unique pizza you'll ever eat. 

A Perfect Way to Start Your Week

You know that thing (or person or idea) that is standing (or hanging) in your way?  That obstacle that you just can't get past to get to the thing you want no matter how hard you try?  Well, what if you shifted your perspective? Would you be able to see a way past it?

We've all heard that we should focus on the positives instead of the negatives. Try a different route. (Like the left or right or even underneath, Lola.) Challenge ourselves to try something new... even if that new thing seems hard or scary (like a crazy thing hanging in the doorway). And these phrases might sound cliche, but I know that when I do focus on the positives or try a different route or challenge myself to do something new or in a new way, I can always ALWAYS get past whatever I feel is holding me back.

I'm not afraid to admit that I love my life just the way it is, and I know that my personal relationship with Christ, my amazing family, and my ability to shift my perspective are what make each and every day a great one.  

But I know that I had to learn how to shift my perspective; it takes practice. 

Below are some images to get you started on this fine Monday morning. (The first one is my favorite.)

 via Pinterest via Reddit 

Happy Monday!  I hope your week is full of positive new perspectives!

Also, I found all the images a while back on Pinterest and have used them every semester to discuss different perspectives with my literature students.  You might have seen the classic old woman/young woman or vase/face illusions too.  Those are also fun.

Checking the Score

Epic Nap Battle:  

Will-1     Will's Mama-0

Epic Nap Battle: 

Piper-0     Piper's Mama-1

That Thing You Do Quote Showdown: 

Marge-2     Me-4      Marm-5

New High Score in Babies Taken Care of this Week: 

Me-6 (including Will, Piper, Mia, and three cute toddlers when I volunteered at Bible Study)

World Series: 

Cards-1     Red Socks-1

I can't wait to see what the weekend brings! Go Cards!

Photo via StL Today via Twitter

Post-It Note Reception

When my sister and her husband were getting ready to come home from the hospital with their new baby girl, my mom and I were at their house preparing it for the new family of three. While my mom was busy sprucing up, I filled their house with all the things I thought they might need (and lots of things they didn't know they needed) as well as bright pink post-it notes with personal sentiments and inside jokes.  I left notes on flowers, notes on drinks, notes on granola bars, notes on oatmeal, notes in the fridge, notes in the freezer, notes in the pantry, notes on the Spengler Plumber Calendar, and notes in the nursery. Not only was their house freshly cleaned and their fridge and pantry stocked, but everywhere they looked were bright pink notes welcoming them with love.

When I came home with Will a few months later, I was thrilled to see bright blue notes everywhere. Maggie (along with Alex and Piper) went above and beyond just leaving kind words or funny jokes and also wrote helpful tips for me as a new mom on many of my post-it notes.  I felt like I was on the easiest, most useful scavenger hunt ever. 

Maggie and I both loved our Post-It Note Receptions and knew we wanted to do the same thing for my sister-in-law Jen when she came home with her sweet baby girl this past weekend.  Below are some of the helpful items and notes we left for Jen if you want to do the same thing for a new mom-to-be. But really, this is a simple (but also very meaningful) idea that would work for anyone who is going on a home-bound adventure... maybe someone who is studying for the Bar exam or their first finals, recovering from surgery, or coming home from a work trip or deployment... really anyone who you want to show some special love or care.

Below are all the ideas that Maggie and I have come up with that new moms might enjoy. What you do depends on how much you want to spend and how comfortable you are with invading her house, but no matter what you do--even if it is just writing reminders and words of encouragement and placing those around the house--I know it would be greatly appreciated.

Ideas for the Bedroom: 

TO BUY// Hair accessories, dry shampoo, lotion, nail polish/nail-care kit (Make sure to write on the note that the husband should do a home pedicure!), button up or zip up, loose-fitting lounge ware, favorite snacks
TO DO// Change and wash the bed linens, wash and fold laundry, dust, vacuum
TIPS and REMINDERS// Take care of yourself too; don't make any drastic decisions about your hair for at least three months; you are an amazingly beautiful mama; LOVE.

Ideas for the Nursery: 

TO BUY//Reading materials, iTunes gift card, nursing station basket with gel soothies, hair bands, healthy snacks, water, and lip balm
TO DO// Fill-up/turn on the wipes warmer, put a trash bag in the diaper pail and/or trash can
TIPS and REMINDERS// Keep yourself hydrated and fed overnight; keep lights on during the day and off at night; try listening to the Baby Einstein (Children's) Pandora station during the day; download an app like Baby Sprout to help keep track of nursing and diapers. 

Ideas for the Kitchen: 

TO BUY// Oatmeal and fresh fruit for mom; quick/favorite snacks for papa; lunch meat, cheese, and fresh bread for sandwiches; disposable plates, cups, and utensils (We always write, "Just use these until Piper/Will/Mia/Baby's name is old enough to do dishes."), mini ice cream bars, Cuties (with a note that says, "Why are Cuties so small?  Because Piper/Will/Mia/Baby's hands are so small.") any other favorite foods, gift cards to local restaurants that deliver (with the phone number written right on the attached post-it)
TO DO// Clean up and do any dishes they might have left in their rush to the hospital, wipe down counters, clear out any old food/milk in the fridge
TIPS and REMINDERS// Keep taking your multi-vitamin; stay hydrated; dishes really can wait until I can come over to do them.

Ideas for Around the House: 

TO BUY// Flowers, a funny calendar, dog/cat toys, nice hand lotion, cleaning wipes, favorite DVDs or a Netflix movie (if you have an account) that they can just return to you or mail after they watch.
TO DO// Vacuum, dust, take out the trash
TIPS and REMINDERS// Call if you need anything; LOVE; don't be afraid to tell people when you want them to come over and when you want them to leave; try to use lotion at least every other time you wash your hands. (Did any other new moms' hands get really dry like mine?)

That's everything!  If you have any other helpful ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Also, I eventually really did need/use everything that Maggie, Alex, and Piper left for me, including a framed picture of the most precious person in the world on my night stand after that precious person started sleeping through the night.  I remember thinking it was crazy how much I missed him while at the same time hoping he would sleep for even longer.

I Really Like Our Park

I hadn't been to my town park in years, but this summer and fall, William and I went any time the weather was right. There is a long and winding walking trail that takes us past at least three great playgrounds, through two different shady groves of trees, and past a petting zoo full of goats and chickens and an Emu. Yep, that's right. My small-town park has a petting zoo. AND! When we go to feed the ducks, we also get to feed swans.

I must say that William is really good at tearing things and throwing them on the ground. Tissues, napkins, paper towel rolls, mail, catalogs, and of course, bread.  He can really do it all. Those ducks and swans were well-fed after we got through with them.

Also, right next to the lake (and the petting zoo) is our favorite playground with the perfect-size slides and one swing that is always shaded, perfect for a quick ride before getting back in the car. I wonder what we are going to do when we no longer have park weather... maybe go to the library. Any other ideas, veteran mamas?

Embracing a Trend

I will admit that I had still been wearing sandals out and about up until last week.  We've just had such warm weather, and sandals are so easy.  But over the weekend, I embraced boots.  Ankle boots to be exact. I had been seeing them on beautiful ladies all around the web (here, here, here, and here) and at Target (on sale for $29.99 this past weekend!), so I took the plunge and purchased two pairs to try out this year before I decide if I need to make a big investment. (Luckily, my birthday is in the Spring, right in time for the investment pairs to be going on sale.) Below are the two pairs I purchased to try out (as well as at third I considered) along with their more expensive doppelgangers. 

Top // Middle //  Bottom               Top // Middle // Bottom

Have you embraced this trend yet?  So far, I'm loving it! I've been wearing my boots with my skinny jeans rolled twice so that a bit of skin shows between the top of the boot and the bottom of my jeans, but I ordered some new ankle length and short length jeans from American Eagle (with a gift card I "borrowed" from Jason) to see if I can wear the boots without having to roll my jeans.  If the jeans I ordered aren't short enough, I think I am going to try Sydney's tip.

Also, I tried wearing my ankle boots with those no-show ankle socks, but you could still see the sock. Then, I tried wearing them without socks, but that just felt weird. So I invested in some of these, and that did the trick.

A Perfect Way to Start the Week

When I was nine and half months pregnant, my mom and I went to Taylor Swift's Red concert.  We wore basically the exact same outfit without even consulting each other as you can see above, and Taylor's back-up dancers carried her right by me, which you can also see from my awesome photography. If you know me well at all, you know that I almost never listen to music (NPR!) and can count the number of concerts I've been to on one hand, but the opportunity to see Miss Swift presented itself, and my mom and I had a great time.

While pregnant, if the fact that I didn't listen to music ever came up, people would always voice their concern about my baby growing up without music in his life, but there really is no need to worry because if you have spent any large amount of time with me, you also know that I am almost always humming or singing my heart out. One result of almost never listening to music is that I don't remember the words to most songs correctly (as I've mentioned before). So, on a daily basis Will gets to hear the slightly skewed versions of the following songs that have been played on television or in stores enough for me to have learned them:

I sing, "You gotta put your hands up, you're feeling all right. You're gonna eat your food...hurray! Nodding your head like, yeah. Kicking your feet like, yeah," every time I put Will in his high chair. (my version of Miley's Party in the USA)

And, "It's a beautiful day. We're looking for something fun to do.  Hey, William. I think I want to carry you," every time I pick him up. (my version of Bruno Mars' Marry You)

And, "I don't know 'bout you, but I think you smell like poo. Everything will be alright if we just go change you like we're Will and Mo-ah-ah-om...Will and Mo-ah-ah-om," when... well, when he smells like poo. (my version of Taylor Swift's 22)

And whenever we just feel like dancing, I sing, "Oh, I want to dance with my baby.  I wanna feel the beat with my baby. Oh, I want to dance with my baby. With my baby who loves me... my baby whooo... my baby whooo... my baby whooo." (my version of Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance with Somebody)

When Will grows up and becomes the next Weird Al (A mother can dream, right?), you will all know where he got it from.  Below are some fun alternative versions to songs that have significance for one reason or another in my life. Enjoy!

As an English teacher, I especially appreciate this one.

My dad coined the term evil-Bay at least ten years ago. Weird Al agrees.

This one is making fun of people who stay in on Friday nights, but I really think that most of what he does sounds like a wonderful Friday night...

I dedicate this one to my brother-in-law, Alex, who actually read all the Game of Thrones books and acts as my reference guide, answering all my Sunday night texts when the season is on.

That's it!

I hope your week is filled with many reasons to sing! Happy Monday!

What to Read: The Happiest Day

I've heard people say that the best or happiest day of their life was the day that their child was born or the day they got married, and I always wonder if they really mean it. Don't get me wrong; the day I married Jason and the day Will was born were both very important and great days in my life, but they were also both a lot of hard work.

I think the happiest day of my life was yesterday, the day my niece Mia was born.

Will woke up a little bit earlier than normal, but he ate and napped well all day (both things we had been struggling with for about a week as we tried a new formula). Two of my favorite ladies, Maggie and Piper, came over and hung out.  I got to feed Maggie a home-made lunch, and she brought dinner for Jason and I so that instead of cooking dinner that afternoon, Will and I baked up some delicious banana, flax seed, peanut butter and chocolate chip muffins.

It was my turn to say prayers that night when we put Will to bed, and I was so overcome with joy and thankfulness that I cried happy tears the whole time. Then, my mother-in-law came over to hang out while Will slept so we could go visit the new family. They were all happy and healthy and beaming and beautiful.  Mia was fuzzy and warm and perfect. When we got home, as I was changing into my pajamas and getting into bed, I had an overwhelming feeling of giddiness that I got to hold my sweet newborn niece without having to worry about bleeding nipples or how many times she peed or pooed or sleeping for only 90 minutes at a time for the next five weeks.  I was also giddy that I might be able to help Jen and Mia out the way that so many others helped Will and me out.

For me, being a new mom was really hard work with a lot of uncertainty and frustration. Being the mom of a sixth month old is still work and sometimes frustrating but mostly happy. Yesterday and today, being Will's mom just feels natural and right, but I won't lie and say that I felt that way from the beginning.

During the first few hard months as a new mom, I stumbled upon three interesting and helpful reads that might have saved me some guilt and grief if I would have found them before Will was born. So whether you already have children or are hoping to soon, I would recommend checking them out.

1// Not pregnant yet?  Check out this article in New York Magazine... just to be sure.

The article is basically about how parents aren't as happy as they thought they would be, which you might think sounds negative, but the article actually comes to another conclusion: Those parents that have the most support (and live in Scandinavia) are the ones who are the happiest, which of course makes sense.

Since becoming a mom, I have learned to just say YES.

Can I bring you breakfast/lunch/dinner? pizza.

Do you want me to come with you to the doctor's appointment (where they will stick needles into your baby and make him cry uncontrollably and tell you a multitude of really important things that you will not be able to remember)? Yes.

Can I pick anything up from the store for you? Yes...diapers... and nipple cream.

Do you want me to come over and hold the baby so you can eat, sleep, pee? Yes.

Before, when people asked things like this, I would just assume they were trying to be polite, and I would decline, but then, I got desperate and started saying yes, and every time, the person was actually very happy to help, and I was always better off for having the support.

As a new mom, I also learned to ask for help unashamedly when I needed it. People, raising a baby is hard. Get some help. If no one is offering you help, contact me. I would love to bring you pizza and nipple cream and hold your baby, especially if she is as fuzzy and cute as Miss Mia.

2// The Lessons in Motherhood from the Everygirl were published a few months after I had Will. I loved reading about the experience of motherhood from multiple perspectives all in one place.  Some of the women had similar experiences as I was having and some had totally different experiences. People say that every baby is different, but there are some things about being a mother that I felt were expected of me and every mother's experience. It was nice to hear that other mothers hadn't had that typical experience either.

Also, there are some great product recommendations!

3// I downloaded this book onto my iPad one evening after asking friends and perusing the internet for sleep recommendations.  I wish I would have read it before Will was born, but I didn't know how clueless I was.

Although the set up is odd, and Dr. Weissbluth seems to repeat himself *unnecessarily, this book provides flexible solutions for different parenting styles and taught me some invaluable lessons. Did you know that  (most) babies aren't supposed to be awake for more than an hour or two at a time?  It seems so obvious now, but I didn't realize that before.  Once I started paying attention, I noticed Will would get tired after just an hour of being awake and go to sleep easily if I put him to sleep before he got overtired.

I mean, before I bought the book, Will was barely sleeping, and now he sleeps so well that I was able to start a blog. How's that for a testimony?

*Also, I wonder if maybe he repeats himself so often because he knew his audience would mostly be sleep deprived parents.
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