Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer 2016!

I was the weird kid in school, who dreaded summer vacation. I absolutely loved going to school, from the routine, to the lessons and just about everything. I would seriously cry on the last day of school, and start a countdown for September. Yup. 

Having said that, today I'm so grateful for the memories I have of summers at my grandparents' house. I will admit, during those endless days of going back and forth between playing teacher, jumping rope and eating our body weight in fruit salad and ice cream, I often complained about being bored or wishing our summers looked more like those of my friends who were traveling or going to Wonderland or malls everyday...

What I'd give for a quiet afternoon with my grandparents now! They went out of their way to put down a carpet in their garage and put up a chalkboard, where my sister and I would sit for hours playing. My grandfather made us skipping ropes out of rope and duct tape and they were awesome. We'd have spontaneous trips to the park or out to eat that were so special! The amount of excitement infused into a walk down the street to go to the wading pool was incredible.

This is our first summer with two toddlers! Two years ago Y was only 4-7 months old for his first summer, and last year N was a newborn. Y's first summer saw plenty of trips to the park, long walks and even an incredible Disney World vacation, courtesy of my parents! N's first summer was very different… It kicked off with the NICU and was followed by hospital visits and surgical wait lists. Summer was lost somewhere between reflux and feeding clusters and sleep regressions. We did manage to get in one or two outings, but for the most part it was a blur. Out of that fog and on the other side now, our days seem to alternate between, "don't climb that!" and all the cuddles and giggles and exploring and songs possible. 

I'm determined to live it up this summer, after all of our struggles last year. While a part of me misses the silent walks through the park with a sleeping infant or laying our little guy on a swaddle blanket on the grass and watching his eyes light up at the passing clouds, leaves and birds, there's something about watching our oldest go down the slide over and over again or our youngest taking tentative steps on the grass, or watching them both pump their legs on the swings, laughing, that feels liberating (& terrifying too!). Time just keeps moving *insert weeping emoji here*. 

Now that summer is well underway, I’m so happy to report that we’ve really been making the most of it! Since I stay home with our 1 and 2 year old boys, year-round, the term "summer vacation," doesn't exactly apply to us, other than the opportunity to get out a bit more thanks to the weather. We’re incredibly fortunate that M doesn’t work on Fridays, which opens up a whole day for family outings! We’re especially taking advantage of all of our opportunities, given that this fall our 2 year old will be starting in a preschool program (ahh!) so our flexibility and freedom will begin to shift a bit.

Created our Summer List using my new favorite app from Rhonna Designs
Our list isn’t comprised of the most extraordinary activities. As the Mommy to two toddlers, I have to be realistic about how long we can expect to be out before meltdowns happen, nap time gets disrupted or it’s just too much for them altogether. After all, for every car ride or walk to an activity, there’s an equal one back with super tired toddlers (and that’s if you don’t hit dreaded traffic). Distance, cost, weather (taking into account too hot or rainy days), and stroller-friendly are all factors that I took into consideration. 

I’ll be doing my best to share posts with our experiences at each place and any tips that made the day easier or things I’ve noted for the next time! 

Hope this inspires a few ideas if you’re looking to get out with the kids this summer! 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Simple Lemon Salmon

I have a confession to make, and as a self-proclaimed, “food blogger,” this is going to be a bit shocking.

I really despise making dinner.

There I said it.

As wonderful and sensitive as my husband is to the fact that I spend sun-up to sun-down chasing and pouring all of my energy and love into our two toddlers, the topic of dinner is still unavoidable. But these days, if I had the time to stand in the kitchen and cook a gourmet meal, I’d probably opt to nap instead! Apart from creating breakfast and lunch and snack menus for the boys each day, and making sure everyone is getting all the milk and fruit (and let's be real, veggie straws) that they need, our schedule is absolutely packed. There’s speech therapy and play groups, camp, doctors appointments, hospital visits and more. By the time dinner rolls around this Mama just wants to go to sleep.

Just sounds like a ton of complaining and excuses right? * insert sad emoji here *

I know, I’m constantly posting food pics on Instagram, so what’s with this new revelation? I love to bake and use it as my outlet. Some people run, some just need some alone time, but I relax by kneading dough and shaping challahs or getting a tray of muffins or cookies into the oven and filling the apartment with the smell of homemade goods. And Shabbos almost feels magical. I can create and prepare the entire menu, without feeling any dread at all. But, weekday dinners… Ugh!

But, what can you do? Everyone’s gotta eat. In the end, we eat “breakfast for dinner” way more than I care to admit and there’s always pasta, homemade pizza or crock pot dinners that save the day. But recently I’ve started to up my game a bit.

We’re at this weird point now, where for the first time in two years there isn’t a baby to tend to. The boys are beginning to test independence and are actually able to sit and play or flip through books, or keep busy with Play-Doh and the like on their own! I’m never far and for the most part right there, taking part with them, but this ability to sit back and watch them grow has been both mesmerizing and bittersweet. It's given me the opportunity to step back into the kitchen and produce more than purees. 

With our busy schedules and life moving at a million miles a minute, I’m always looking for something quick and simple. By quick and simple I mean, what we have in the pantry, what requires the least amount of bowls/prep work and dirty dishes in the end, and what can be accomplished in the span of one Paw Patrol episode #reallife. 

This salmon recipe has answered the, "what's for dinner?" question countless times now. I feel weird even calling it a recipe. I will say though, that the day I made a broccoli quiche and this salmon for dinner I legit felt like a rockstar. I’m pretty sure I was glowing as I brought it to the table AND it was ready before my husband got home. * cue confetti * 


The spice blend I use here is my new go-to ingredient in the kitchen. It’s graced chicken, veggies, meatballs and more. I found it at Costco and now can't imagine not having it in the pantry. I even keep a ziplock bag of it at my parents' house! We buy the large bag of individually packed salmon fillets, also at Costco, which defrost super quickly and are great to keep in the freezer to have on hand for simple dinners. Can you tell we’re huge fans of Costco?

So here it is! I’ve prepared this for both the oven and the barbecue. For the latter, I place the fillet of salmon on a sheet of aluminum foil, prepare it the same way, wrap it up, and my husband leaves it on the top rack of a propane BBQ for approximately 20 minutes while grilling the rest of dinner on the bottom. Effortless and delicious, just make sure it’s completely sealed so it doesn’t leak or burn! You can also use this recipe and add a handful of vegetables to the grill for a complete meal (maybe with some pasta and bread added too, because carbs).

I've also swapped out the lemons for limes, and have made this over tilapia as well as salmon! The combinations of flavours compliment fish perfectly!

What I’ve posted here is for two 230g fillets of salmon. Also, our oven is a little temperamental, so adjust the baking time/ temperature to how you best like your fish prepared!


Hope those of you who also have difficulty getting up the energy to make dinner will find this helpful, and it gets everyone fed and happy… Until you have to do it all over again tomorrow!

Lemon Garlic Pepper Salmon 
Serves 2-3

2 fillets of salmon, 230g each
2 lemons
4 TBSP olive oil
4-6 TBSP Roasted Garlic and Peppers spice blend (for this recipe I used the Club House Signature    
   Blends mix) 

If necessary, defrost salmon fillets.

Slice lemons into approximately 1/2-inch wide slices.

Place fillets on a lined baking sheet (or on aluminum foil, if barbequing)

Drizzle 2 TBSP of oil over each fillet.

Sprinkle 2-3 TBSP of roasted garlic and peppers spice blend over fillets, until there is a thick coat covering the fillet.

Arrange one layer of lemon slices over spice blend.

Pierce lemon slices once or twice each to release a bit of lemon juice.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until done and flakey. 

Enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I'm Back... And N is 1!

I can't believe how much time has passed since I shared our IUGR story. It was never my intention to let this amount of time lapse between posts, but something about chasing around 1 and 2 year old boys all day, leaves very little energy after the battle of bedtime has been won (or at least I like to think has been won, and that they'll be asleep for the night!). 

Something changed with our IUGR series. For the first time I really felt like my writing meant something. It was difficult to open up about such a private and trying time in our life, but I'm so grateful that I did. The response to this day has been an overwhelming confirmation that sharing our story was something more important than even I initially realized. I'll admit, my intentions were slightly selfish, using this space as a way to finally organize my thoughts on the experience and give them a new home in written words, rather than just memories following us day to day. 

So where are we now? If you've done the math you'll realize that N is now 13 months old! That's right, at the end of May we celebrated his very first birthday! 

Six days before he turned one, we found out he no longer required monthly nutritionist/ dietician appointments and that he was thriving! Three days after he turned one he was discharged from OT! And I know one day he isn’t going to be so thrilled that his Mama screams his weight from the roof tops, but the week of his first birthday my baby weighed in at… 

Wait for it…

17.5 lbs!!!

SEVENTEEN AND A HALF POUNDS!

He’s literally over four times his birth weight! My tiny three pound baby is this adventurous, curious, non-stop (like legit NON.STOP.) little boy!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen a photo I shared leading up to his birthday. 6 days before he turned 1, we had our monthly routine appointment with a few members of his NICU team. I had only been able to bring myself to visit the actual NICU once throughout his first year. It was too traumatizing to walk those halls again, but we did visit once, close to his surgery near the end of last year, and I just wanted to see the place where he had fought his first battles and won, as a reminder of exactly what he was capable of facing. It was hard and there were tears, but it was also so great to see our nurses again and nothing compares to the feeling of “just visiting” and not having to go through the whole sanitization process and taking up a seat, days post partum, next to an incubator, hoping that, that day brought good news.

This time was different though.

This was a milestone. This was a celebration.

It still wasn't easy for me and for that I felt guilty. This was supposed to be N’s day, a celebration of his first year and everything that he had overcome during it. I have this problem of overthinking and getting anxious. For months leading up to his birthday, the thoughts just kept spiraling and I’ll admit they were self-centered. With each decoration I chose for the party or each detail I organized, I couldn’t help but think, “how am I going to get through this day?” Weird, right? But to me, N’s birthday marked the day my body failed him. It marked him coming into the world where he was better out than in. Where a NICU staff had to pick up where my body had stopped and get N to where he had to be. I couldn’t help but dread the arrival of this anniversary. I barely got to see N on his actual birthday. He was born late at night and taken to the NICU while I stayed behind in recovery. It was a traumatic day. 

So I worked myself up. I was sure I would be a mess the day of. I had overthought so much about how hard it was going to be, there just wasn’t any other choice.

And then the week leading up to his birthday came around. 

Being super Type A, I had a list with everything that needed to get done each day leading up to our little guy’s special day! This kept everything in check, made sure nothing (or at least very little) was forgotten, and that I wouldn’t be stuck doing everything the night before the party! The very first thing on the list? 

NICU Appreciation Day!

So back to that Instagram post.. Six days before N’s birthday, we headed down to the hospital for his appointment. But the magic started the day before!

                   

Countless cups of flour and oatmeal,  so many blueberries and chocolate chips, and even more flour to top it all off! I didn’t know how I was going to walk into that NICU and say thank you to the nurses and staff who got my baby home in thirteen days when initial estimates were in the months range.  Having finally just gotten my feelings in order through writing out our experience for our IUGR series, everything seemed so fresh. The more I thought about it and the more forums I asked, one suggestion came up again and again. And not only was it clearly the answer, it couldn’t have been a more fitting one for this “food blogger” Mommy…

Baked goods!

                   

So for almost a full day, the oven, mixer and cooling racks were at capacity. I know what it means to bake with love. To infuse so much excitement and love into a first birthday cake or your baby’s first chocolate chip cookie and feel their excitement and your pride with their every bite. But to bake out of sheer gratitude? This was a whole new ball game. I wanted each muffin to be perfect, each cookie exactly as soft or crispy as it was supposed to be. I wanted our nurses who seemed to never eat, or ever get a break, to feel the warmth and comfort specific to a homemade baked good and know that while they’re running around on their endless shifts, they’re thought of, remembered and appreciated. 

One of the greatest tips I received on my search for how to thank the NICU, was to split up the gift! Bring boxes for the day staff and separate boxes for the night staff to ensure they get to partake in the fun and know they're remembered and appreciated too!
   

The large boxes layered with warm homemade blueberry and chocolate chip muffins, as well as oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and gift cards for coffee for the entire NICU, kept me grounded and calm walking through the halls again that morning. The same halls I’d run through in the morning to get to N and sob through walking as slowly as possible when I had to leave every evening. The halls where I would stand and wait for rounds to be done. The halls where I would put on my sunglasses so new Mom’s doing laps around the floor holding their new babies wouldn’t see my tears of sheer jealousy, as shameful as they were. The halls that saw me walk in 23 ½ hours post-labour, terrified and disoriented and thirteen days later, saw me carry out our little boy. Those halls. Oh, those halls.

But that day, those halls brought us to a celebration. The shouts of “NICU Grad” when we walked in followed by a rush of nurses to the door were overwhelming. The love and support from this incredible group of people, even a year later, had only grown. How many children do they see come in and out of those doors? But they remembered our baby. They remembered how feisty he was and our little inside jokes. They played such a huge role in our family that I know they’ll always be unforgettable to us, and we’ll do this every year to instill an appreciation in our son for his first team, but to think that they also remembered us? Amazing.

We spent a fair amount of time there. N’s nurse, the one who was there the night he was admitted, was on shift and I was thrilled. She held him from the second we walked in until it was time to leave. She smiled at N, and looked right at me and said, “I told you you’d make it to the other side.” I had no words. All I could offer, was that I hope next year N runs in and jumps into her arms, instead of having to be carried!

It was a day that changed everything. I stopped worrying about how I was going to feel on his birthday. I stopped seeing that room as one of nightmares and for a split second I saw it for what it is, only to those on the outside. A room full of so much love and LIFE. A room where every breath, every note and every movement is done to help these new, tiny little beings thrive. I wish I could somehow work it out that everywhere our boys go in life, they’ll have the same overwhelmingly supportive, warm, strong atmosphere pushing them and cheering them on. I can say this “from the other side.” I couldn’t say this from that rocking chair. But it’s been a year, and so much happens. You survive days you’ll never think you’ll be able to and go on to face better and sometimes harder, and sometimes super impossible things. And somehow those days pass too. And before you know it it’s time to put on a party hat, bring out the cake and celebrate. 

I walked into N's room on the morning of his birthday, to find him standing in his crib smiling. All the worry, all the anxiety about how I’d feel that day evaporated. We went for ice cream and to a play place (which the four of us got to enjoy to ourselves, since it was completely empty!) and we had pizza for dinner and we celebrated and spent time together and really enjoyed the day. I will admit, his Hebrew birthday was difficult. As Shavuos  wound down I couldn’t stop thinking about how a year before I was on my way to the hospital, ending the holiday with a 22 minute terrifying labour. It felt more real and scary and difficult than I had expected it to, but thankfully the feelings passed just as quickly as they arrived.

So now we’re in to year two. N is crawling at what feels like lightening speed, pulling himself up and walking along furniture. He's babbling endlessly, has a bunch of words and loves to sing and dance all day long. He pretty much never stops and hasn’t shed his feistiness from those NICU days one bit.

So now that you’re caught up, what’s to come? Well it’s been a busy few months here and I have plenty to share, from posts about the boys' birthdays this year, to our summer bucket list and quick and simple recipes to help get dinner on the table without taking time away from enjoying the beautiful weather!

I hope you’ll come back soon and continue to share in our adventures!