Thursday, April 30, 2015

Preparing for my first overnight away from my baby

In a few days, Victor and I will spend our first night EVER away from Max (actually, Victor's been away from him overnight before, but I haven't).  On one hand, I can't believe he's almost a year old and this is the first time we'll be away from him overnight.  On the other hand, I feel like it's too soon and I'm half tempted to call the whole thing off.

Max will be staying with Victor's parents while we have some baby-free time an hour away from home.  I am perfectly confident in their ability to care for Max and keep him safe and sound until we return.  They live less than a mile away from us, so they can easily come by to get anything we might forget to pack for Max, if needed.  Our pediatrician's office is 5 minutes away, as is the nearest hospital, so they're super close to any emergency medical care, as well.

Yes, I'm 99% sure that everything will go off without a hitch.  But that's not going to stop me from leaving detailed instructions on how to care for my baby.  And I'd leave the same instructions for my mom or sister if they were the ones watching him.

I know Victor's parents and my mom all successfully raised 4 children among the 3 of them.  I know my sister has nannied for several children, ages newborn to 10 years old, and has even worked as a night nurse for a newborn baby (she's also a cardiovascular ICU nurse, but that's neither here nor there).  I have no doubt that they are more than qualified to keep my son happy, warm, fed, clean, dry, and safe in my absence.  I know they will play with him and love on him and make him laugh and comfort him when he cries.

But I'm still leaving a Max Instruction Manual.  And I hope that it will be read and acknowledged and maybe even followed somewhat closely.

I read this post on Scary Mommy a month or two ago by a woman who left a 6-page list of instructions for her in-laws when she left her daughter with them for 10 days.  It was funny, especially her years-later commentary on some of the instructions she left.  Admittedly, some of her instructions were a bit ridiculous (requiring them to "sniff when the bear sniffs" while reading Big Hungry Bear), but she meant well.

I don't think my "instructions" are too batty.  It's mostly a breakdown of his daily routine (plus some info on Tylenol dosage amounts and the pediatrician's phone number).  Having taught elementary school for 7 years, I know that children (babies included) thrive on routines.  I also know that when routines are not followed, some level of chaos (even just a slight amount) will inevitably ensue.  When I was absent from work, my substitute plans were incredibly detailed (I was often thanked by my subs for being so thorough and prepared).  I would spend hours writing out every m.i.n.u.t.e of my kindergarten day so that the only thing that would potentially throw my kinders off would be the different person in the front of the classroom; everything else would be the same and familiar.

Of course I'm going to do the same thing with my own flesh and blood.  DUH!  I am with Max all day, every day.  No one can care for my baby better than me (and I fully believe every involved mother has the right to say that about her own child(ren)).  So while I know that Max's caretakers for my 24-hour absence are very highly qualified, they're not me.

Hence, the instructions.

Now, my in-laws read my blog, as do my mom and sister.  I know they're going to see this.  I actually want them to see this.  I can't tell you how many times they've all said to me and Victor, "I know what I'm doing.  I've raised/cared for children before."  I'm sorry if you've been offended by our requests, demands, and reminders; we didn't mean to hurt your feelings.  But guys, this is my kid.  My first baby.  I'm allowed to be neurotic.  I'm allowed to worry.  I'm allowed to leave instructions with you for his first overnight away from me (and possibly the next several overnights).

Just look at this nugget.  Of course I don't want to leave him!

For the past 11.5 months, I've been the one who feeds him, bathes him, changes his diapers, rocks him, comforts him, reads to him, sings to him, puts him down for naps and bed, wakes up with him at all hours of the night, takes him to the doctor (or worries about whether I should call the doctor about his cough or that low-grade fever or that rash).  I'm a perfectionist, I'm independent, and I'm a firm believer in the saying "If you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself."  Just humor me and read the instructions, respect my reasons for writing the instructions (because I want my baby to feel comfortable and have some familiarity and consistency in my absence, NOT because I don't have faith in you), and maybe just follow the instructions, even if you follow them loosely.

So, for those who are lucky enough to be entrusted to care for the child of a first-time parent, just cut us a little slack.  Let us be neurotic and a little overbearing and leave you with a list of things to do and say and feed to our baby.  I'm sure you did the same thing when you were in our shoes; lots has happened since then, so you might not remember those early days of parenthood.  We will likely loosen up with more practice...and more babies.

Shoot, the first time I left Kenny with someone else, I left PAGES of instructions for how to care for my fur-child and a box full of doggy supplies.  Now I drop him off with his leash, the travel crate, and a bag of dog food and hit the road without a second thought.  I'm sure I'll get to that point with my kids someday, too.  Just give me time.

photo above by Dottie Millwater Photography

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wedding Wednesday | Pre-Wedding Favors

As mentioned before in this post, Victor and I had a destination wedding.

Since all of our guests went to an extra expense to attend our wedding, we wanted to be sure to send them a little something before they jetted down to Punta Cana to celebrate with us.  I was already planning to send everyone a letter prior to the wedding detailing the various wedding-related events, locations, and times, but I wanted to add a little something special to their packages.

I found some cute silver luggage tags at Michaels in the wedding aisle and was inspired to send all of our guests a little something fun to add to their suitcases for their trip.  Being the crafty gal that I am, I couldn't just leave them plain.  So I painted on them!

I did an assortment of suns, palm trees, and beach umbrellas.  Then, about a month before the wedding, I mailed all of our guests a package with a luggage tag for each person in their household that was attending, along with a letter featuring travel tips, packing suggestions, and a breakdown of the wedding events for our wedding weekend.

I just loved seeing everyone's luggage tags as they wheeled their bags through the resort!  Favors, in my opinion, can be tricky.  My requirements for favors for events which I host are: they must either be edible (and delicious) or they must be useful.  So glad our guests got some good use out of their pre-wedding favors!  I still use mine!

Pre-wedding favors are by no means necessary for any wedding, but it felt nice to acknowledge the expense our guests went to in order to celebrate our big day with us.  It was a small gesture, but I think (and hope) it spoke volumes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Adventures in Unpacking

I started to put a dent in the number of boxes that are still sitting in our sunroom during Max's morning nap today.  I was making really great progress until I came upon a box with old photos, greeting cards, travel pamphlets/ticket stubs, etc.  I had to look through it all.

I went against my pack-rat nature and tossed most of the travel stuff.  I kept it all for sentimental value over the years, but I never look at it.  I'm not going to do anything with it, so it's time to let it go.  I kept a few postcards and such, but the majority of it went to the big black trash bag.

I found cards that we received when we found out we were expecting Max, so I kept those to put in his baby book.  There were old Christmas cards, thank you notes, birthday cards, etc., most of which I tossed, as well.  There were a few key pieces, though, that I'm going to keep.

Such as this birthday card from my sister.

The inside said "with scissors."  I don't ever recall cutting her bangs against her will...

This note on the inside cracked me up.  My mom is known for not being the most timely with mailing packages.  But we love her for it!

 I got a good chuckle out of this one, from my mom.

My mom, sister, and I love sending cards, for any occasion.  We always search to find the perfect one, so these cards from them always mean a lot to me because I know they went to great lengths to choose the right one.

This still makes me laugh.


It wasn't my birthday when my sister sent this to me.  She sent it because the dog on the front looks just like my Kenny.  A perfect likeness.

Much like this photo, which I found in a tabloid magazine several years ago and fooled many of my loved ones into believing that Kenny was in a hurdle race with a pig.

Secret's out now!

My physics teacher in high school, Mr. G, wrote every single one of his students a personal letter at the end of the school year and mailed it to us over the summer.  It was his first year teaching, fresh out of grad school, and I'm willing to bet he was regretting his decision in the middle of penning all those notes (he told us during the school year that he was going to do it, so we were expecting it).  It's hard work writing personal notes to all of your students!  I remember writing report card comments at the end of the year when I was teaching.  I never wanted to use the "stock comments" of "Bobby is a pleasure to have in class," etc.; I wanted them to be personal and individual to each child.  But man, was it tough!  

Mr. G was one of my very favorite teachers in high school.  Math and science classes were never my automatic favorites.  I always preferred English classes (reading and writing are my jams!).  It took a very special teacher to make me look forward to coming to math or science classes, and Mr. G was one of the best.  We had fun, but we also did lots of learning in his class, and he was always willing to work extra to make sure we felt confident in what we were learning.  Also, I was sitting in his class on 9/11/01 and watched the planes hit the World Trade Center on the TV in his room.  I'll never forget that day.

That first line there speaks volumes of the kind of student I was in high school.  Quiet, shy, a bit of a nerd--that was me!  In fact, just last weekend my mom asked me if I remembered a certain person from high school--she is in the same church group as his mom and they were swapping stories about their kids.  I told her that yes, I did remember him, but he probably wouldn't remember me since I "kept a low profile in high school."  I had my friends, but I'll be honest, they were also a bit nerdy, too.  We had a lot of good, nerdy fun in high school, which means we stayed out of trouble!

In the second paragraph of the letter, Mr. G refers to our homemade instrument project.  My group, the Physicshun Musicians, created an enormous homemade xylophone-type instrument, made homemade "lab coats" out of over-sized t-shirts, and played "Heart and Soul" on our instrument with spoons.  It. Was. Awesome!  I don't know what happened to that xylophone, though.

The tallest side was over 8 feet long.  This was taken the night we finished building it.

While there was lots of time spent laughing and smiling as I sifted through these memories today, there were also some tears.  I found a handful of cards that were sent to me by friends and family after my dad passed away.  And even though they make me cry every time I read them, I still cherish them and will likely never get rid of them.

My friend and bridesmaid, Laura, wrote the most beautiful prayer in her card to me.  I actually enjoy the flood of emotion it causes every time I read it.
My step-mom sent this poem to me years after my dad passed away, and I absolutely love it.

Sometimes I feel like I don't think about my dad often enough.  And then there are other times when he appears in my dreams and I feel empty and incomplete when I wake up because I know he's not here anymore.  Even though Max has an amazing grandfather on Victor's side, it breaks my heart that Max will never know his Papa Ken.  I still have some of my dad's old golf shirts, but they have been sitting in a box for years (I used to sleep in them).  I was considering donating them since they're not doing anyone any good just sitting in a box, but instead, I plan to make Max a teddy bear or two out of the shirt fabric.  He won't understand the significance, but I know that it will warm my heart to see him play and cuddle with something my dad wore frequently.

Needless to say, I didn't get much further in my unpacking efforts after finding those keepsakes.  Better luck next time!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Recipes That Rock | Zucchini Tots

Today I'm going to share with you a favorite side dish recipe that I found on a few years ago.

It's one of my go-to recipes for a delicious veggie side with a twist.  I've also made them many times as a dish to share at get-togethers with friends.  My friend Lindsay has even proposed marriage to guarantee herself a lifetime of these tots.

If I could transmit scents through this blog, y'all wouldn't hesitate to whip these babies up.

As mentioned before, I can't take full credit for the existence of these scrumptious little bites of heaven...Gina from Skinnytaste blessed us with their creation.  And she should be worshipped.  They're that delicious.

So, without further ado, I bring you the recipe for

Zucchini Tots

Yields 12 tots

  • 1 medium-to-large zucchini, washed and grated
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs (seasoned or plain.  I always use plain)
  • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cooking spray
  • mini-muffin tin

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Generously spray mini muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Grate entire zucchini into a dish towel.  Then wring out excess water from zucchini...there will be a lot.  You can also use a couple of layers of paper towel.

  3. In medium bowl, mix together grated zucchini, egg, onion, bread crumbs, cheese, salt, and pepper until well blended. 

  4. Spoon mixture into mini muffin tin cups.  Bake for 15-18 minutes, until top is browned and set. 
And there you have it!

Now go whip these tots up!  They're so good, I promise!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A little beach getaway

Victor's birthday was last Thursday, so we headed to Ocean City, MD to ring in his mid-thirties.

View from our hotel balcony
Victor and I have been celebrating his birthday at the beach since he turned 30.  We typically take a long weekend, enjoy the low preseason rates at an oceanfront hotel, and partake in typical beachy activities without all the crazy crowds.  The weather is usually pleasant and we always sleep with the balcony door open so we can hear the waves breaking on the shore throughout the evening.

However, with Max in tow for this trip--and temps in the 40s with 20 mph winds--things were a bit different this time.

Gone are the days of quickly packing a few duffel bags and throwing them into the trunk of the car.  No more sauntering to dinner between 8 and 9 PM and dining and talking for hours.  Forget staying out past midnight.  Goodbye to sleeping in listening to the waves each morning.

Babies change things...big time.  It took us 3 hours to get out of the house.  The cargo area of our Honda Pilot was loaded down with diapers, wipes, bottles, and blankies.  We were at dinner by 6:30 each night; we took turns walking Max around the restaurant when he got antsy so we had to eat in shifts.  We were heading back to the hotel by 8. Victor and I were asleep by 10:30.  Max had me up at 5:50 one morning (and refused to go back to sleep) and 7:20 the next.

Yes, vacations are different with babies.  But they're different in a wonderful way.  Max fell asleep in the car on Friday, which was a crazy windy day, so we already agreed that we shouldn't go to the boardwalk.  We drove 45 minutes away to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, so we explored some uncharted territory for us (beautiful beach homes there!) and we ate lunch somewhere new (also, Max got his full 1.5 hour nap).  We got to see the sunset over the bay both nights at dinner because we were there so early.  Max and I saw the sunrise the morning he woke up before dawn.  We were up and moving and out of the hotel room before 10 each day.  We played in the sand with Max's new "sand truck."  Max tried open pit beef for the first time and LOVED it.

Babies change things.  But they change things for the better.

Instead of taking a nap after arriving at the hotel, we play with trucks.

We really did have a lovely time.  Can't wait till the next family vacation!  Here are some memories from our visit to the beach.

Max occupied himself with some light reading on the way to the beach.
We couldn't use the safe because Max kept playing with the buttons and resetting the code.
Victor's birthday dinner at Fager's Island.
Max mowed down some tilapia for dinner.  The kid loves fish!
Beautiful sunset over the bay from Fager's Island.  They always play a really dramatic classical song during the sunset at Fager's.
Bundled up on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach
Playing in our hotel's arcade room
Sunset at Seacrets
Playing with the portholes while we wait for our fish tacos
Playing on the beach at 9 AM.  It was 40 degrees outside but Max didn't care because...SAND!

Sand trucks, shovels, and rakes, oh my!

I love watching Victor and Max play together.  Such dudes.  Mommies don't play trucks as well as daddies do.  It's a fact.

Always have to eat at Bull on the Beach.  This picture is blurry because Max was eating SO FAST!
Bundled up again in the stroller for the walk back to the car.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend!  How did you spend it?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Currently | April 21, 2015

Welcome to my first "Currently" post!

  1. Listening: the dryer, Max's white noise through his monitor, and the passing traffic outside.  No music, no TV.  It's quite peaceful.
  2. Eating: nothing.  Although I'm thinking about indulging in a nice mix of strawberries, blueberries, and banana once I'm finished with this here post.
  3. Drinking: ice water through a purple straw.  Straws are essential.  I need to get Max to drink from a straw.  How do I do that?
  4. Wearing: jeans and a purple-and-white striped lightweight sweater from LOFT.
  5. Feeling: overwhelmed and under-motivated.  I'm in a funk.  I have lots to do: unpacking/organizing/purging, decorating, cleaning, dishes, laundry, Max's first birthday planning...and all I can seem to do is continually worry about all the things I need to do and then avoid doing them.  Snap out of it, Rach!  Time is of the essence!
  6. Weather: After some wicked thunderstorms last night, it is sunshiney and a bit cooler.  Today's high will be 65.  After Max wakes from his nap and we have lunch (leftover spaghetti), we're heading to Michaels and maybe Costco if I'm feeling adventurous and Max is feeling cooperative.  Timing is key for between-nap adventures.
  7. Wanting: these French bistro counter stools for our kitchen island.  Also, ice cream, but since I've stopped breastfeeding the number on the scale is increasing slightly and my pants feel a bit tighter. Bleh.  So no ice cream for me.
  8. Needing: to get on a good schedule.  I think that might be the remedy for my overwhelmed/under-motivated problem.  I need to go to bed by 11 at the latest, wake up at 6, workout, shower, get ready for the day, then get Max up.  Of course, I know what I need to do but I don't do it.  Get with the program, Rach!
  9. Thinking: about opening the box of wooden hangers that was delivered today and organizing the closets on our main level.
  10. Enjoying: our new house.  Even though we still have lots to do to get the house ready for Max's birthday party here next month, I feel very settled and happy here.
Whew!  That was fun!  Now I need to go get something done before Max wakes up!

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Free-Range Parenting: The way everyone used to parent

There's a local story that's making national headlines and I'm a bit baffled/enraged/disturbed by it.

Here's the gist:  A mother and father here in Maryland were reported to Child Protective Services last November after their children, ages 6 and 10, were spotted by a neighbor playing alone at a park in their neighborhood.  This sparked an investigation into the parents and their "parenting style," which is dubbed "free range parenting," meaning they allow their children to be independent and mature by gradually testing their limits.  These parents believed their children were old enough and mature enough to play alone at the park a few blocks from their home.

There's a law here in Maryland that basically states that anyone under the age of 8 may not be left unsupervised by an adult unless there is a reliable person aged 13 or older to supervise said child.  The law refers to children left in a dwelling, enclosure or car and says nothing about children being left to play outside alone, but a CPS officer decided that these parents still violated the law.

After further investigation, the case against these two parents was closed, and they continued to encourage their children's independence.  Then in December, the children were stopped by a police officer as they walked home from the park.  The parents were then investigated for "unsubstantiated neglect" as a result of that incident.  And then, just last weekend, the kids were picked up again by law enforcement after being spotted playing alone in the park, only this time, they didn't take them home--they took them to Child Protective Services--and then didn't contact the parents for 3 hours.

Is anyone else irritated by all of this?  First of all, what the heck is this "free-range parenting" nonsense?  This article from WebMD says it's a "new, hands-off approach to raising kids." 

I think the fact that kids need to carry something like this on them these days is ridiculous.  Source

I think it's a load of boo-hockey, to be honest.  Back when I was a kid, this was normal parenting--pretty much what everyone was doing.  I grew up in a small town in Michigan, near the center of town.  We walked to school alone and waited at the bus stop without supervision (with wet hair in the middle of winter, no lie).  We played at the playground unsupervised, too...for hours at a time.  My sister and I rode our bikes all over the place by ourselves (without helmets, but that's another issue).  I ventured to the library solo regularly.  I went with my friends to the Citgo station to buy cookies n' cream Hershey bars with my allowance, which required us to cross train tracks AND a busy, multi-lane, main-street intersection to get there (gasp!).  We were given rules and guidelines for how to cross the street and train tracks, when to return home, how to stay safe, what to do if a stranger approached us, etc., and we were sent on our way.  The parenting was not hands-off.  It was very much hands-on while we were taught how to be responsible and independent, and then we were trusted and expected to follow the examples we were given.  If we didn't, there were consequences.

If I'm going to be completely honest, I think the way we're raising kids these days is causing society to go down the crapper.  Seriously.  Yes, it's good to be safe and cautious, but you have to let your kids explore boundaries and learn to be responsible and independent.  I think the key word here is responsible.  We don't hold kids accountable anymore.  Instead of teaching our children to be patient while we take a long road trip or wait in the waiting room at the doctor's office, we distract them with smart phones and tablets and YouTube.  What the heck did we DO before technology?!  Oh, I know, we sat quietly.  We read books and magazines (I actually looked forward to going to the doctor or dentist so I could solve the Hidden Picture puzzles in Highlights magazine).  We sat in our seat and used inside voices at restaurants.  If we didn't behave, we left, and boy were we in a (figurative) world of hurt if we had to leave early.  We played "The License Plate Game," played Mad Libs, and listened to music in the car; in our family, we all made a guess as to what time we would get home and the winner only received the gratification of winning.  When we played at our friends' houses, our parents didn't accompany us (no "playdates" in the 90s).  We were either picked up by our friend's parent or dropped off by our own.  We played.  We followed the rules of the house we were in.  We were later dropped off or picked up when it was time to go home.

If I were a betting woman, I would put good money on the assumption that the parents in question above are raising their kids in the same way as I just described.  I think their choices in parenting should be celebrated.  They have no doubt instilled strong life skills in their independent children and  have given guidelines and rules for how to play and travel to and from the park safely and to look out for each other.  I'd also bet that they knew where their kids were and had set a time for them to return home, hence their frantic search efforts when their kids didn't return home for 3 hours while they were being held at Child Protective Services.  That doesn't sound like neglect to me, CPS.  How 'bout you go find the parents of the kids I saw at Chuck E. Cheese a few weeks ago; their children were relentlessly beating up on the Chuck E. Cheese robotic statue and enjoying it way too much, and nobody intervened.  Talk to those parents about how they're neglecting to teach their children to respect other people's property.  Or spend more time educating the parents who think it's appropriate to leave their children unattended in the parking garage at a casino in middle of winter so they could gamble for hours on end.  That also happened in Maryland.

Instant gratification is ruining our kids.  Convenience is ruining our kids.  Lack of discipline is ruining our kids.  I know...I was a teacher for 7 years and I saw it firsthand.  I knew immediately which kids weren't used to hearing the word "no" or the ones who ran the show at home.  They would plead, debate, argue, whine, defy, talk back, etc.  I had to work doubly hard to establish routines, rules, and boundaries in my classroom that I'm sure weren't nearly as difficult to establish in classrooms 15 years ago.

Kids need to learn how to entertain themselves.  They need to play.  They need to imagine and create and explore.  They need to lose.  They shouldn't receive trophies simply for being on the soccer team.  They need authentic experiences to allow them to learn conflict resolution.  They need to use manners and be kind to others.  They need to not be invited to someone's birthday party and then learn how to handle feeling excluded.  They need to learn patience and cooperation.  They don't need helicopter parents who jump in to rescue their kids the moment something doesn't go as planned.  They don't need their parents to fight all their battles for them.  Kids need freedom and independence.  We need to equip them with the skills needed to be successful, independent members of society as adults.  It's never too early to start fostering independence, responsibility, and accountability.

I know that we live in a different world than we did when I was growing up (although this article and this article provide evidence that children are safer now than they were back then).  I also know that the way I grew up is not the ONLY way or the RIGHT way to grow up, but gosh darn it, I think I turned out pretty darn well.  I know that my kids likely won't have as much freedom or independence as I did simply because we live in the suburbs and there isn't a Citgo station 6 blocks away with sidewalks to guide them all the way there for their hard-earned candy bars.  But I also know that if I did live in a small town today like I did growing up and Child Protective Services accused me of neglect for letting my kids play outside unsupervised after I had given them all the guidance and boundaries that I felt were required to allow them to be independent, I wouldn't be going down without a fight.  Thankfully, neither are those parents mentioned above (this article is great...and if you can believe it, the parents were forced to sign a safety plan stating that they wouldn't allow their children to play unsupervised again in order to take their children home after the last time they were seized.  Un. Be. Lievable).

What are your thoughts on this matter?  This post on Scary Mommy poses a great question that I will ask here: Would you call CPS on a neighbor for something like this? If your answer is “yes,” can you also answer the question, “Why?”

Do you know if you have similar laws in your state that could come back to bite you in the rear for letting your kids play unsupervised down the street?  To my smalltown childhood friends: is life in the Q the same as when we were kids?

Please comment below with your thoughts!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Wedding Wednesday | Choosing a First Dance Song

Wedding Photos courtesy of Antillana de Fotografia

One of the most important details of anyone's wedding is the first dance song.

It has to be memorable and meaningful.
It has to represent you as a couple.
 Some couples may even require that it brings their guests to tears.
Some couples may not want to make their guests cry.
Other couples want to wow their guests with a choreographed number to said song.

Regardless of your requirements, choosing a song for your first dance as husband and wife is an important decision.

Some couples have no problem making the choice. They know right away which song is "their" song.

Other couples don't have it so easy.  Victor and I had a tough time choosing our first dance song.  Of course, I, being the emotional, sensitive type, had many ideas for what I thought should be our wedding song.  I started making a list before we were even engaged; the songs ranged from slow and sentimental to fast-paced and dramatic.  I even envisioned the flawless choreographed routine we would have to some of those songs on my list.

However, when it came time for Victor and I to agree on a song, we hit a wall.  The only real significant song that we had a connection to as a couple was "Mrs. Officer" by Lil Wayne, which we giggled about on our first date many many moons ago--not the most appropriate for a wedding song.  There was one particular Sunday morning during our wedding planning process that we sat across from one another on our laptops, taking turns playing song suggestions for one another.  Mine were serious suggestions--they all came from that list I had been compiling for years.  Victor's were mostly jokes with a few serious contenders.  I had my requirements for our song: it had to represent us, we had to actually like the song, and it couldn't be too cliche or overused.  I also would have loved to have some choreographed bits to it.  Victor's main requirement was he didn't want it to make him cry while we were dancing to it, meaning it couldn't be too sentimental.

 We ended up choosing "Treasure" by Bruno Mars...just a few weeks before our wedding.  Not your traditional wedding song choice, but we're not your traditional couple.  We aren't a mushy-gushy, lovey-dovey couple.  We aren't big on PDA.  We are silly together.  We like to have fun together.  We love Bruno Mars.  We love to dance.  It was the perfect song for us, and it was so fun to dance to at our wedding.

Apologies for the expletive at the beginning.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the song that most of our guests associate with our wedding is "Bubblebutt" by Major Lazer.  When we reminisce about our wedding with our guests, many of them start singing the "chorus" and we all have a good laugh.  If you're not familiar with that song, you're going to have to Google it yourself, and then you'll see why I didn't link out to it or embed the video here.

(Did you Google it?  Did you???)

The main thing to remember when choosing your wedding song is that it's about you and your partner.  It's your choice which song you pick, and you should honor your relationship when you make your decision.  It should be a choice you make together.  And hopefully you find the perfect song to represent the love you have for one another.

If you're in the process of choosing a song for your first dance, here are some of the songs that were on my list.  I don't plan on getting married again, so you can use one if you want.

"Only You Can Love Me This Way" by Keith Urban (I love the guitar riffs in this song, in addition to the lyrics)
"End of Time" by Beyonce (we would've had a killer dance routine for this one.  I envisioned it on my long drives to and from work)
"Baby (You've Got What it Takes)" by Michael Buble (also a choreographed number)
"You" by Rascal Flatts
"God Gave Me You" by Dave Barnes
"At Last" by Etta James
"You and I" by Michael Buble
"Until You" by Dave Barnes

If I were wedding planning now, these newer songs would be on my list:
"Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran (Victor says he likes this song too.  This would probably be the winner if we were getting married now)
"Bright" by Echosmith

If you're already married, what was your wedding song?  How did you decide upon it?  Do you wish you had chosen something else?  Comment below!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Recipes that Rock | Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

I'm going to warn you right now...this recipe will likely become a favorite in your house.

I found this recipe on the Kraft Foods website YEARS ago and it's still a go-to meal for us (the date at the bottom of my recipe printout says 4/29/2010.  See...years ago).  I've made it so many times that I can almost do it with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back.

Ok, not really, but it's super easy, crazy delicious, and you can easily swap out stuff here and there if you don't have everything on hand.

I've linked out to the original recipe above.  Below, I give you my revamped version. I have used regular Italian dressing instead of the roasted red pepper Italian dressing in the past; it works fine, but if you can find the roasted red pepper variety, it really adds to the flavor.  Also, I have been known to decrease the amount of stuffing mix and increase the amount of spinach and veggies.  Still turns out fabulous.  My suggestion: make it this way once or twice, then tweak it as you see fit.  Or if you're feeling adventurous, tweak it the first time!

Spinach-Stuffed Chicken Breasts


My veggies included zucchini, onion, and yellow and red bell peppers.  I also added more spinach because...yum.

  • 2 tbsp Roasted Red Pepper Italian dressing, divided
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
  • 2/3 cup chicken stuffing mix
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped veggies (roasted red pepper, bell peppers, broccoli, zucchini, corn, etc.) OR 1 cup frozen mixed veggies (I've used peppers, corn, and broccoli mixture)
  • 1 package thinly-sliced chicken breasts
  • shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2.  Heat  to boiling 1 tbsp (or more, if you like) of dressing and 1/3 cup of water in large skillet on medium-high heat.  Stir in spinach, stuffing mix, and veggies.  Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.  **If using frozen veggies, thaw or steam before adding to spinach and stuffing mixture.**

  3. Place chicken pieces on cutting board.  Spread with stuffing mixture.  
  4. Tightly roll up each breast.  Place, seam-sides down, in 7x11 in. baking dish.  Brush with remaining dressing.
  5. Bake 35 minutes or until chicken is cooked through (165 degrees in center).  Top with small sprinkle of cheese on each roll-up and bake 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted.
I hope you try it!  Even babies like it!

He ate an entire roll-up himself!

Linking up for Delicious Dish Tuesday!

Eat Drink and Be Mary

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I survived my first solo trip with baby!

I hope your weekend is off to a great start!

Max and I just returned from a quick trip to Ohio to visit my mom and sister.  After he rocked the socks off our flights to and from Arizona, I figured I could handle a short hour-long flight to Ohio by myself with my little ginger nugget.  

He did OK on these flights.  It was my fault that the flight out was rough.  That morning, Max went from his crib to his high chair to his car seat to the stroller to the plane with no chance to crawl around and get his wiggles out.  No wonder he was restless.  Lesson learned.

We had a lovely time in Ohio.  We arrived on Tuesday afternoon and my good friend and bridesmaid Amanda (who I haven't seen since my wedding!) picked Max and I up at the airport in Columbus and took us back to her adorable house for lunch and to meet her sweet new bundle, Baby S.  Then my aunt came to pick Max and I up and took us to my Mom's house in Cincinnati.  Max and I enjoyed a couple of hours of downtime before Grandma and Auntie got home from work and loved all over him.

On Wednesday, Max, my sister, and I did some Target shopping and dodged some rain drops while my mom was at work (the weather was so icky while we were there.  Humid and stormy pretty much every day).  Then we headed downtown for Opening Night for the Cincinnati Reds.  Unfortunately, a storm rolled through right at game time and the game was delayed for 2 hours.  So we went to dinner and then headed back to my mom's to watch the game on TV (the Reds won in extra innings, but the game ended at 1 AM!).

This is Max's new favorite face to make.  He was hammin' it up at dinner.
On Thursday, Max, my sis, and I did some more errand running and went to lunch with my mom after visiting her at work.  Then Max and I had dinner with my friends Laura and Matt and their two cutie boys (Laura was also one of my bridesmaids).  Matt made a scrumptious Mexican meal for us, and Max had so much fun playing with their little guys in their cute house.  It was adorable!

On Friday, Max, my sis, and I had lunch with our two aunts and enjoyed some chocolate-dipped ice cream cones from Dairy Queen (my mom's Easter Bunny got us DQ gift cards!).  Max did some awesome napping (he also slept through the night 3 of the 4 nights we were there!) and studied up on his baseball nouns.

Then we went to the Reds game that night.  It was FINALLY a day without rain/thunderstorms and turned out to be beautiful!  My dear friend Becky, her husband, Tyler, and their little cutie Ryan (who is just 3 weeks younger than Max) joined us for Ryan's first Reds game!  The Reds pulled out another win for us, too!

So glad they could join us!  Love these guys!
My sister and I got to spend National Siblings Day together, too!

Best sissy ever!
Joey Votto hit 2 homeruns!

Todd Frazier is such a cool guy...always thinking of the fans!

He looks so devious here!

Max is now called "Cheeseball" and "Cheese-face" because all he does is cheese it up these days.  Exhibit A.

Besties after the game/before the fireworks
Max passed out in the middle of the post-game fireworks.  Then he woke up when we got out of the ballpark.  Because...why wouldn't he???

My mama took Max and I to the airport this morning and now we're back with Daddy/Victor.  It was a great trip, but it's good to be home.

Excited to get home to Daddy!

Window seats are the best.
I didn't have many pictures from this trip to share with you all because I didn't take many.  In fact, at least half of the photos in this post were taken by my sister, which she later texted to me.  At first I was a little sad that I didn't take more pictures, but then I thought about what I was doing instead of taking photos: I was enjoying my time with my family and experiencing it all firsthand instead of from behind my phone.  I'm finding that I'm doing that a lot more lately, and I don't think it's a bad thing.  Sometimes is better to just live in the moment.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!