**Pumping Reminder**

Fellow breast-pumpers, this is a reminder for you. Be sure to replace your pump membranes regularly. Most Medela models require new membranes monthly. You may not have a supply issue, but worn out membranes. Be sure to check your pump’s tubing too.

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Keep on milking, mamas!

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5 Dippable Dairy-free School Lunches

School lunches… like we need another hurdle in our day! You want to provide nutritious, filling food that your child will actually eat, BUT it has to be packable.

What’s a way to encourage most kids to eat veggies? Making them dippable! Here are 5 dairy-free dippable, packable school lunch ideas approved by my kindergartener.

1) Eggplant dippers

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Cucumber slices, bell pepper strips, grape tomatoes, and whole wheat pita are perfect for dunking in this eggplant dip. Pile half of an apple — sliced — into a snack size container for an energy boost later in the day.

Eggplant dip: 1 chopped eggplant and 6 peeled whole cloves of garlic drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, then roasted at 425F until softened. Add the roasted veggies, 1/4 cup of tahini, and 1/4 of olove oil to your food processor and blend. Scrape food processor sides with a spoon. Add a handful of raw grape tomatoes, 2 spoonfuls of olive spread, a hefty handful of fresh basil, and blend. Scrape down the food processor sides and taste. Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder if desired. Blend and serve.

2) Asian Sunbutter Sauce Dippers

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Veggie dipping gets international, peanut-free flare with this take on crudite. Add sliced radishes, sugar snap peas, baby corn, dairy-free sesame crackers, and a few sheets of dry roasted seaweed (like this) to a container with a side of Asian Sunbutter sauce for dipping. Toss some washed red grapes in a snack container for later.

Asian Sunbutter sauce: Place 2 Tbl Sunbutter, 2 Tbl mirin, 1 Tbl reduced sodium Teriyaki sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil in a ramekin. Microwave for 20 seconds to soften the Sunbutter. Mix well then transfer to a small container.

3) Black Bean Dippers

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Hearty and healthy, black bean dip is a multi-use dish. Stuff, spread, or scoop… it’s a great back-pocket protein-rich, tummy-filling recipe to have on hand. For this lunch, add a few spoonfuls of the homemade bean puree to a small container. Serve bell pepper strips, celery sticks, and plantain chips for dipping. Add fruit salad to a small container for a sweet snack.

Black Bean Dip: grab a blender cup and pour in 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans, 2 spoonfuls of pico de gallo, the juice of 1 lime, 2 Tbl olive oil, 1 Tbl cumin, 1 Tbl chili powder, 1/2 Tbl garlic powder, as well as salt and pepper to taste. Blend. Scoop, dip, serve, or refrigerate for later use.

4) Marinara Dippers

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Scoop your favorite dairy-free marinara into a small container. Toss a couple of raw broccoli florets, some dairy-free bread sticks, and a few dairy-free meatballs in a container for dipping. (If your containers slosh, tuck the breadsticks into a plastic baggie.) Place some grapes in a snack size container for later noshing.

5) Creamy Teriyaki Dippers 

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To make Teriyaki less spill-prone, let’s thicken the sauce. In a blender, whir together 1 Tbl of reduced sodium Teriyaki sauce with 2 Tbl of Tofutti Better Than Ricotta. Pour the sauce into a small container. Add radishes, sugar snap peas, baby corn, dry roasted seaweed, and a few sesame crackers for dipping. Tangerine segments and grapes make a refreshing snack. (If your sauce tends to spill over in the container in transit, pop the crackers and seaweed in a plastic baggie.)

 

Day in the Life of a SAHM

We’re just three weeks into the school year and I’m doggie-paddling. Anyone else feel like they’re this close to drowning? Anyone?

It may not sound like much but managing a half-day preschool calendar and a full-day kindergarten calendar along with a 1-year-old’s routine, household duties, and a breast pumping schedule for milk donation has me harried. I am still new to this regiment and — full disclosure — it’s tearing me limb from limb. And we don’t even have homework or extracurricular activities yet, people!

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This is a glimpse at my average weekday schedule:

5:00/5:30am: 1-year-old wakes to nurse.

5:45am: Put 1-year-old back to bed or bring him downstairs with me (depending on how early he feels like waking.)

6:00am: Eat an apple and drink green tea while I pump. Catch up on news, check social media, and edit the blog while I moo.

6:40am: Done pumping. Clean pump parts, put lunchboxes I filled yesterday into backpacks, set out shoes (and jackets, if needed), and put out breakfasts I made the day before. Pour myself a second cup of tea and head upstairs to get ready. Husband (aka: The Hubs) lumbers downstairs around now, unless the 1-year-old awoke him a bit earlier, and brews coffee while starting his work-from-home workday.

6:55am: 1-year-old is in the tub beside my vanity playing while I get ready. I switch between doing my hair and make-up and ensuring he doesn’t try to eat the bathtub drain.

7:15am: 1-year-old is done with the tub. Time to get him dried and dressed.

7:20am: Wake up kindergartener. Race back to my bathroom to finish up the last bits of my morning routine before she calls me to do her hair.

7:25am: Kindergartener is dressed. I play hairstylist.

7:27am: 1-year-old is causing mayhem so I ask The Hubs to fetch him.

7:30am: Kindergartener heads downstairs to eat breakfast. Preschooler is awake and headbutting his bedroom door.

7:35: Preschooler is pottied, dressed, brushed, and coifed. He heads downstairs for breakfast.

7:40am: I go downstairs dragging a hamper of dirty laundry.

7:43am: Start the laundry. Start to tidy the kitchen. Someone needs help with something (baby gate, breakfast, wardrobe malfunction.) Take my vitamins. Blend my smoothie that was prepped the day before and transfer it into my straw cup. Breastfeed 1-year-old while giving the kindergartener a 2-minute warning before it’s time to leave. The Hubs goes upstairs to get dressed.

7:45am: The Hubs is dressed. Kisses, love, wishes for a good day, and reminders to be a friendly friend. The Hubs and kindergartener leave for morning drop-off.

7:50am: Breastfeeding 1-year-old because he got distracted with big sister’s exit. Preschooler demands a snack though he’s holding his half-eaten breakfast while wearing a princess costume.

8:00am: Tidy kitchen. Clean smoothie mixing vessel. Rinse pump parts and clean up breakfast aftermath. Prepare prechooler’s snack after collecting his empty breakfast plate.

8:02am: 1-year-old wants a snack too. Prepare his snack.

8:05am: Now I’m peckish. I pour a small bowl of hippie cereal (seeds, buckwheat groats, dried berries, coconut flakes, and cashewmilk) and sit down with the mug of cold tea I forgot to bring upstairs with me.

8:10am: I’m sitting and eating cereal. Catching up on social media and/or local news. Playroom scuffle breaks out. Scoop the last bites of hippie cereal down my gullet on the way to referee the brawl.

8:15am: Playroom peace attained. I check the oven clock. How the HELL is it only 8:15?!? I check my phone. Yep… 8:15. Shit. I clean up my cereal and unload the dishwasher.

8:30am: In the playroom reading with the minions.

8:35am: Clean-up time (code for: tot coup d’etat)

8:39am: Playroom moderately tidied. 1-minute warning to departure for preschool drop-off. I head to the kitchen to fill my water bottle and notice my smoothie sweating on the counter. Oh right, I made a smoothie! (Like I do every. Single. Day.) I put the smoothie next to my water bottle and keys to bring with me. Then change 1-year-old’s diaper.

8:40am: Drama ensues because leaving the house must always involve chaos and yelling. Always.

8:43am: Boys are in the car, shoes on (so help me!), and buckled into their car seats. I flop into the driver’s seat trying to remember what it was like when all I had to do to leave the house was put on my shoes, grab my keys, and leave. The mental file is too outdated… file not found.

8:50am: We arrive at the school early because I’m a type-A pain-in-the-ass who fears arriving late. We wait for 3 minutes in the car before starting the unbuckling routine. Meanwhile, I drink my now-melted smoothie.

8:58am: Preschooler is kissed, wished a good day, and signed in. I chat with some familiar faces then head to the car, 1-year-old riding on my hip.

9:01am: Get in the car and head either to Target or the grocery store since no other fruitful destinations are open at this time. On storytime days, Target is our destination.

9:20am: Arrive at Target. Pop 1-year-old in the Ergo 360 and off we go.

9:25am: 1-year-old is peckish. He nurses in the Ergo while I grab paper goods and eye all the women’s fashion section from afar. Target is now my fashion magazine. Oh, wide-leg jeans are back in!

9:38am: Checked out, paid, buckled in, still parked, I grab my phone and add something to the grocery list that I just remembered we need. (Thank you, Wegmans app!)

9:55am: We arrive at storytime before the library even opens (see 8:50am time slot for reasoning.) 1-year-old is chilling in his car seat so I turn up the music and check email and Instagram while we sit. I remember I need to schedule a pediatrician well-check… mental reminder. Then I realize I should probably drink more water, so I chug.

10:05am: Heading into storytime, the cereal and smoothie and water have caught up to me. Pee break in a public restroom while holding my 1-year-old: amateur contortion.

10:10am: 1-year-old is enjoying free reign of the children’s section. He keeps a close eye on the doors to the storytime room.

10:30am: The doors open. 1-year-old charges in. Storytime!

11:05am: Heading home for lunch.

11:15am: Wash hands then microwave last night’s leftovers for lunch while the 1-year-old shrieks out of sheer starvation, unless The Hubs (who generally works from home) had a slower morning and was able to heat up lunch.

11:30am: Eat lunch and rehash the morning with The Hubs.

11:40am: Clean up lunch and set up tea kettle to brew.

11:45am: Head upstairs to change 1-year-old and nurse him for naptime.

12:05pm: If I’m lucky, the 1-year-old is finally asleep and I can head downstairs to pour a cup of tea and set up my breast pump. If he’s not asleep, I’m still in the glider being milked.

12:45pm: The Hubs kindly leaves to pick up the preschooler.

1:10pm: I’m cleaning pump parts and bagging milk when the preschooler arrives home. He potties, scrubs his hands, and goes down for a nap.

1:15pm: I pour my second cup of tea and sit down with great aspirations of ass-sitting. Instead, I make the grocery list and meal plan, check my calendar, scout weekend activities, call the pediatrician to make the well-check, and check email.

1:30pm: One of the boys awakes. They’re not supposed to be up until 2pm but, gosh darn it, one or both of them nearly always awakes now. I remember the load of laundry in the washer as I go to collect the early riser. I transfer it to the dryer before I go upstairs.

2:00pm: Naptime is over. A part inside me cries… another potentially restful naptime lost. Back to snack-making and kid-wrangling.

2:15pm: Feed the boys a snack, figure out a car ride snack for the kindergartener and the neighbor girl we drive home, and tidy the inexplicably messy kitchen.

2:30pm: Start getting everyone ready for kindergarten pick-up. Drama — as always — upon our departure.

2:45pm: We pull into the school parking lot. (School doesn’t let out for another 30 minutes but, I think you know by now that this is how I roll.)

2:50pm: The boys play out front with other younger siblings while I simultaneously chat with fellow parents and fish acorns and rocks from my 1-year-old’s mouth.

3:15pm: The kindergartener and neighbor girl head our way.

3:30pm: Everyone is noshing on granola bars and rehashing the day’s events as we exit the school parking lot.

3:40pm: Home. Shoes off. Hands scrubbed. A small snack is served at the heathens’ demand while I clean out the lunchbox and review evening expectations: any papers, homework, items of note? The kindergartener regales us with details of her day. We listen.

4:00pm: Kindergartener heads to her room for quiet time. Preschooler tries to join her but must stay downstairs instead. You want to watch “The Little Memaid” for the 456734th time? Will it make it so you won’t try to sneak upstairs to make fart noises outside of your sister’s bedroom door? Fine. I start dinner, lunch, and breakfast prep. Kids pepper me with: “Can I have a snack?”, “Can we go outside now?”, “Is it dinnertime yet?” The answer is “no.”

5:00pm: Dinner. Everyone is excited and claims they will eat every morsel.

5:20pm: Everyone except for the preschooler has finished dinner. The dinner drama ensues during dinner clean-up and morning prep. Start the dishwasher.

5:45pm: If the preschooler hasn’t finished now, it’s too late. Playroom time to let dinner settle. I breastfeed the 1-year-old while checking social media, email, check in with friends about this life event or that, and check the next day’s calendar.

6:00pm: Wrangle all of the kids outside to play.

6:40pm: Everyone comes inside. I throw the dry laundry into a laundry basket and put it in the family room (where it will sit mocking me for at least 2 days… or until I run out of laundry baskets and am forced to fold it along with three other laundry heaps.)

6:45pm: Playroom clean-up (always a pleasant experience… like a root canal without painkillers.) The Hubs showers and, once I can see the playroom floor, the kids and I do storytime.

7:00pm: The Hubs supervises the kindergartener’s shower and the preschooler’s bath. I get the 1-year-old in pajamas and nurse him before bed. I peruse Pinterest and plan playdates or outings with friends while breastfeeding my sleepy 1-year-old.

7:40pm: 1-year-old is in bed. I shower.

7:50pm: On the sofa with my giant bottle of fizzy water, my breast pump, and The Hubs to watch one of our shows (presently, “Narcos”) then chat about the day before heading up to bed.

9:30pm: I set my alarm for way-too-damn’-early o’clock but know I won’t even need the alarm because of my 1-year-old.

And I do it all again tomorrow.

 

 

Vegan Veggie Zoodles with Cashew Herb Pesto

Looking for a vegan, veggie-filled, peanut-free dish to bring to a potluck, use as work week meal prep, or to just eat at home? Itching to break out your Spiralizer? This zucchini noodle dish can be served warm or cold, and easily feeds a crowd as a side or main dish.

VEGAN VEGGIE ZOODLES WITH HERB CASHEW PESTO

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Ingredients:

3 large zucchini (spiralized)

1 handful dry thin spaghetti

1 pint grape tomatoes

1 Vidalia onion (chopped)

6 garlic cloves (minced)

1 fennel bulb (chopped)

2 cups shredded red cabbage

1/4 cup (more for greasing pan) Extra virgin olive oil

1 handful fresh parsley

3 sprigs fresh mint

3 handfuls fresh basil  (+1 chopped for garnish)

1 handful raw unsalted cashews

4Tbl nutritional yeast

1 handful roasted pine nuts

Salt, pepper, onion owder, and garlic powder to taste

Directions:

– In a large pan: grease with olive oil, cook onion, grape tomatoes, shredded red cabbage, fennel, and garlic cloves on medium-low heat.
– In a pot: boil spaghetti, adding the spiralized zucchini for the last few minutes.
– In a food processor: blend 1/4 cup olive oil, parsley, mint, basil, cashews, and nutritional yeast. Add salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste. Stop the food processor often to carefully scrape the sides. (Add more olive oil if the mixture is too thick.)

– Pour the cooked veggies from the pan into a mesh strainer then return to the pan over medium heat.
– Use tongs to transfer the cooked noodles and zoodles to the veggie pan. Fold in the herb pesto.

-Transfer the mixture to a large serving bowl and top with roasted pine nuts and chopped fresh basil

Our NICU Story

In honor of NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) Awareness Month, I am sharing our NICU experience. It is because of the NICU that our daughter was successfully breastfed. More precisely, it was because of one tough but amazing NICU nurse. As a result of her efforts, our daughter successfully breastfed for 18 months, I then went on to breastfeed my middle son for 22 months, I am still nursing my youngest at 14.5 months, and have helped nourish 20 other children with my donated breastmilk.

Without the dedicated NICU nurses, my journey may have been entirely different. For their patience, caring, and tireless work I am eternally grateful.

This is our NICU story.

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After a traumatic vaginal birth (details here) during which our debated 36- or 37-week gestation daughter coded and required resuscitation, then choked in the nursery, and experienced an unknown time period without oxygen, we were NICU parents.There were tests and physical exams, monitors and machines, jaundice concerns and lamentations over the physical and cognitive aftermath of our daughter’s oxygen deprivation. However, what I remember most vividly through the sleep-deprived memory haze is the breastfeeding battle. Despite having nursed well immediately after birth — the nurses noted the surprising amount of colostrum they discovered when our daughter choked — latching and nursing became a massive struggle once our daughter was admitted to the NICU.

Too weak and injured from the gruesome birth to walk independently to the NICU, every 1.5 hours I was wheeled from my room to my daughter’s bedside. I was engorged and each feeding worsened my pain and frustration. My breasts were sore and swollen. My child — bruised, puffy, and cone-headed from the birth — was incensed. I attempted to feed her for 30 minutes each time but always held her for an additional 15 minutes because I just couldn’t let go. This left me with only 90 minutes between feedings… day and night. Each feeding was the same: both of us crying, both of us agitated, both of us exhausted, both of us feeling helpless. What was supposed to be the most natural human experience was beyond us.

“Try sitting in the rocking chair,” the nurses encouraged, but even with two pillows beneath me, I could not shift or maneuver to simultaneously nurse and not inflame my vaginal wounds on the wooden chair. In our little curtained alcove in the chirping, bleating, whirring NICU, I awkwardly perched on my nest of pillows in the hard communal chair, feeling like a leaky, exhausted, bleeding, pummled version of the Princess and the Pea.

By day 2 I was able to cautiously walk from my room in the Maternity Ward to the NICU. There, I tried over and over to nurse. We used different chairs, different pillow arrangements, different positions. I’d prep myself with numbing spray and ice packs in my giant hospital-issue underwear before awkwardly waddle-shuffling through the ward to nurse my child.

Finally, one NICU nurse took the reins. She was a small middle-aged woman with short brown curls, glasses, and a palpable toughness about her. She was a force… she scared the crap out of me. Fortunately, the NICU gods smiled upon me, and this seasoned and calloused nurse identified with me. I reminded her of her own expectant daughter.

She suggested we try nursing in my room instead of in the NICU. “It would be less stressful for you,” she explained. She said she’d get the doctor’s approval. She did.

Starting that evening, every 1.5 hours, a nurse would unhook my daughter temporarily from her monitors, wheel my daughter’s clear plastic bassinet into my hospital room and 45 minutes later, my husband would wheel her back to the NICU. This was a more comfortable option, but not entirely successful. My daughter could latch but not for long.

By 3am, things fell apart. Days of little rest and no REM sleep left my husband and me in an irritated zombie state. The crying baby, the breast pain, the swollen everything, the frustration, the exhaustion, the ignorance, the fear, the trauma… it all bubbled over. It was too much. We fought. I don’t even remember why or over what. No one won.

When the sun rose, the tough-but-kind NICU nurse wheeled my daughter into my room. She was checking on me. I told her I was having feeding trouble. She offered to help. For the first time in my prudish life, I didn’t care at all that a stranger was manhandling my breast. I just wanted relief… to feed my child for longer than 2-minute stretches.

Repositioning, compressing, unlatching and relatching… we worked to find a solution. “You’re engorged,” she explained. “You have so much milk that your daughter cannot effectively latch. It’s like trying to latch onto an overfilled balloon. Then, once she does latch, she’s trying to drink from a fire hose.” She handed me a nipple shield, she mixed formula in a tiny dish, and used a syringe to apply two droplets on the tip of the shield. “Try this.” She moved and squished pillows, positioned my daughter just so… success!

The nurse then taught me how to hand-express a bit of milk in order to coat the tip of the nipple shield. “She won’t always need this,” she said, “but it helps her now.”

Every feeding, I’d squeeze my Shrek-like preeclampsia feet into my previously roomy sandals, ice and numb my sewn-together nether regions, waddle-shuffle across the ward to the NICU with my sitting pillows under my arm, scrub from fingertip to elbow in the communal NICU sink, close the curtain to our NICU alcove, arrange my pillows in the wooden rocking chair, carefully lower myself into my nest, express a bit of milk, use one drop to help suction the nipple shield to my breast and two drops to coat the shield tip, signal to my exhausted husband to hand me our black-and-blue daughter, latch our daughter onto my breast, feed her, unlatch her, burp her, snuggle her, hand her to my husband to place her in the plastic bassinet, clean the nipple shield in the communal sink, and waddle-shuffle her back to the NICU with my pillows under my arm.

By day 4, we had developed a rhythm. We were also on our last day in the hospital. “You will be discharged today,” explained the NICU nurse. My heart sank. “I will try to get your daughter discharged too.” My husband and I were terrified. In my mind, exiting that hospital without my daughter after having experienced that delivery would mortally wound me. It was an inconceivable option. It was a non-option.

Test results poured in that day. The formerly-scary NICU nurse reviewed each one. Jaundice was a sticking point but our daughter was borderline. The nurse briefed us in our curtained alcove as I breastfed. She prepped us for newborn home care because she was determined to send us home with our baby. She did not want one thing delaying us. Not one checkmark standing in our way. She was my NICU mama bear.

My husband and I, with sleep-deprived, first-time-parent minds, couldn’t process the information. We simply nodded and grunted. Then came the pediatrician assessment. This was the deciding moment. If he didn’t sign off, our daughter stayed.

The NICU nurse promised to call us in as soon as the pediatrician got there. She did.

As the bald-headed, towering, gruff pediatrician made his rounds, the nurse whispered to us not to worry. That she’d make this happen. She did.

At every pause she insinuated that our daughter was capable of going home. After every question asked of her, she lead to the logical next step of discharge. Having completed his assessment, the burly doctor exhaled a deep sigh and a pensive grumble. “She can go.”

The NICU nurse made it happen. She made it all happen. That day, the three of us went home together. From the bottom of my heart, thank you, Louise!

 

Germs: What I Wish I Could Tell My First-Time-Mom Self

There are many things I wish I could tell my first-time-mom self to lessen my self-induced stress. As someone who had 3 kids in 4 years, I had a steep and steady learning curve. With my first I fought things like rearranging night hang-out time with the Hubs, needing to sometimes wake Baby from a nap, and exposing our child to germs. By the third kid, these were no longer limitations but expectations.

Me and #1

Me and #1

I look back and wish I could have calmed myself. That I could tell myself all that I know now. However, I am fully aware that I never would have listened back then. I needed to learn it and live it for myself. Still, these are the things I wish I could say to five-years-ago me, if only to lessen my burden.

1) Fevers seem scarier than they are. Generally speaking, for a healthy child, a fever is a sign that the body is doing its job. The the immune system is at work. Unless notable lethargy and dehydration are observed, just: comfort, cuddle, and chill. 102F may seem awful as an adult but an otherwise healthy 1-year-old can spike a 104F temperature without medical intervention. (Note: Of course one should always follow one’s intuition and adhere to the pediatrician’s protocol.)

2) Germs aren’t all bad. Protecting your newborn from the flu: reasonable. Incessantly sanitizing your toddler: questionable. Panicking when your tot eats a little dirt: dubious. Avoiding public play spaces and shopping carts with a healthy kid for fear of germs: ludicrous. Kids are germy. Kids get germs. Germs can make them sick. Getting sick bolsters their immunity. Germs aren’t all bad. I’m not saying go lick the snot-nosed kid with the rash, but an otherwise healthy 1-year-old with a cough is not catastrophic. Sure, it semi-sucks for the parents for a bit, but that’s not new. If you can survive the 4-month sleep regression, you can handle Hand-Foot-and-Mouth. Childhood illnesses — Coxsackie, Roseola, Fifth’s Disease, a standard cold — they’re crummy viruses that make a kid (and, subsequently, his or her guardians) feel temporarily uncomfy but then it’s nothing but a memory. After conquering the malady, the child is better equipped for future encounters, and so are the parents. Germs are simply a part life… especially life with kids. Fighting it will only rob you and your child of some of the purest childhood joys. Accept germs and move on.

3) Don’t cancel because of a cold. If your child is not an infant and is generally healthy, there’s no need to enact a quarantine due to a standard cold. Sniffles, a cough, mucus, maybe some mild fussiness… this is doable. Always tell the other playdate parent ahead of time if you or your child have a cold, thus allowing the other parent to choose for him or herself whether or not exposure is right for their family, but don’t just cancel at the first sign of boogers. It’s a cold not Typhus.

4) Don’t expect to sleep when Baby is sick. You’re a parent, which means that sleep is now a privelge not a right. If Baby is sick and allows you to snooze, great! Count that as a bonus. If not, consider it training for future sleep regressions. It’ll suck. You’ll live. Caffeinate and keep it moving

5) It’s temporary. Everything in parenthood is temporary. Everything. Every phase (good or bad), every stage (fun or loathsome), every moment  (magical or torturous), every routine… all of it. Remember that during the good, the bad, and the monotonous. Don’t sully the good by fretting the bad. Survive the muck and savor the magic.

 

5 Dairy-free On-the-Go Kids Breakfasts

School is back in session. That means mornings are earlier and more harried. Kids are scurrying and bawking through the new routine. Feeding them a filling, nutritious meal that meets the brief timeframe is an exercise of patience and sorcery.

Free up a little time and make use of your school commute (or bus stop wait) by serving your littles breakfast on the go. These are some of our go-to healthy breakfasts for on-the-move noshing.

1) Berry Smoothie and a Creamy-Strawberry Wafflewich 

Berry Smoothie with a Creamy-Strawberry Wafflewich

Berry Smoothie with a Creamy-Strawberry Wafflewich

SMOOTHIE: Add frozen mixed berries, a bit of frozen chopped kale, orange juice, and a bit of flax meal to a blender cup. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into a lidded cup with a straw.

WAFFLEWICH: Toast 1 dairy-free whole grain waffle. Cut the waffle into quarters. Smear 1 quarter with Tofutti Cream cheese, top with 1 sliced strawberry, and a drizzle of honey. Place a naked waffle quarter on top of the honey to cap the wafflewich.

2) Coconut Energy Balls w/ Blueberry Smoothie 

Coconut Energy Balls with Blueberry Smoothie

Coconut Energy Balls with Blueberry Smoothie

SMOOTHIE: Add frozen blueberries, a bit of frozen kale, apple juice, and a touch of flax meal to a blender cup. Blend until smooth. Pour.

COCONUT ENERGY BALLS: see the recipe here

3) 3-Ingredient Kickin’ Egg Muffin

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2 eggs, 3 spoonfuls of pico de gallo (or salsa, if that’s what you have on hand), and a spoonful of Tofutti Sour Cream… that’s all you need to make these little egg muffins. Grease 4 cups in a standard cupcake baking pan and preheat your oven to 350F. Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk in the pico de gallo and Tofutti. Then pour 1/4 of the egg mixture into each muffin cup. Bake the eggs for 10 minutes. Serve immediately, refrigerate for next day use, or freeze for future fast breakfasts.

4) Chocolate Banana Smoothie

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Chocolate Banana Smoothie

Who doesn’t love the creamy, sweet, decadent flavor combination of chocolate and banana? Here’s a healthy breakfast version sure to fill your little’s tummy. Place 1/2 of a frozen banana, 2 Tbl unsweetened cocoa powder, a splash of cashewmilk, 2 spoonfuls of dairy-free vanilla or plain yogurt, a splash of apple juice, 1 Tbl of flax meal, and 1 Tbl chia seeds in a blender. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a lidded cup with a straw.

5) Mini avocado-egg pocket sandwich 

Mini avocado-egg pocket sandwich

Mini avocado-egg pocket sandwich

These easy, filling protein-packed sandwich pockets take just minutes to prepare. Spray the inside of a ramekin with cooking spray. Crack 1 egg into the ramekin, scramble with a fork, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Microwave the egg for 30-45 seconds until cooked through. (Keep an eye on the egg to avoid a microwave mess.) Carefully remove the ramekin from the microwave and allow the egg to slightly cool while you cut a whole wheat mini pita pocket in half to make 2 pocket sandwiches.  Cut 1 avocado in half and place a sliver of avocado in each pocket half. Next, place half of the egg in each pocket half. Put your pocket sandwiches in a kid-safe bowl and serve with your preferred breakfast beverage for a healthy, portable, filling kids breakfast.

5 Dairy-free School Lunches

A new school year has begun. That means packing nutritious, filling, easy-to-eat lunches and snacks is back on the to-do list.

Here are 5 kid-approved, dairy-free school lunch and snack options that received the empty-lunchbox seal of approval from my kindergartener.

1) Turkey roll-up with fruit, veggies & flaxseed brownie, and a grape tomato snack

Turkey roll-up with fruit, veggies & flaxseed brownie

Turkey roll-up with fruit, veggies & flaxseed brownie, and grape tomato snack

Turkey roll-up: Dampen a paper towel. Wrap a flat, small corn tortilla in the dampened paper towel and microwave for 10 seconds to make the tortilla pliable. Remove the tortilla from the paper towel. Spread a thin layer of Tofutti Cream Cheese on the tortilla. Roll a single slice of deli turkey into a tube and place in a vertical line on the center of the tortilla. Wrap the tortilla around the turkey, then cut the roll-up in half.

Side produce: Add sliced nectarine and sliced rounds of cucumber to the lunch container.

Treat: Add a flaxseed brownie for a nutritious treat.

Snack: Place a handful of clean grape tomatoes into a container.

2) Bean dip dippers and fruit salad snack

Veggies and plantain chips with homemade bean dip

Bean dip dippers with fruit salad snack

Homemade bean dip: Drain and rinse 1 can of pinto beans, then pour into food processor. Drizzle in 2 Tbl of extra virgin olive oil. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime. Sprinkle in salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder to taste. Blend until smooth, occasionally stopping to scrape the sides of the food processor. Serve immediately or refrigerate for later use.

Dippable sides: Chop jicama into sticks, cucumber into round slices (or sticks, if preferred), and slice bell pepper into strips. Add grape tomatoes and a few plantain chips too.

Fruit salad: Place clean red grapes, sliced strawberries, and chopped honey dew melon in a container.

3) Hummus and veggie roll-up with fruit & carrot sticks, and a bell pepper & grape tomato snack

Hummus & veggie roll-up with fruit and carrot sticks, and pepper & grape tomato snack

Hummus & veggie roll-up with fruit and carrot sticks, and pepper & grape tomato snack

Hummus and veggie roll-up: Wrap one corn tortilla in a damp paper towel and microwave for 10 seconds to make it pliable. Lay the tortilla flat and spread a thin layer of hummus on the tortilla. In a vertical line in the center of the tortilla pile diced cucumber and diced tomato. Sprinkle the veggies with salt and pepper, then roll up the tortilla from left to right and cut in half.

Side dishes: Add honeydew melon chunks and clean purple grapes to one container and carrot sticks to another.

Snack: Add a handful of clean cherry tomatoes and sliced bell pepper to a container.

4) Sunbutter Dippers, and grape snack

Sunbutter dippers, and grape snack

Sunbutter dippers, and grape snack

Sunbutter dippers: Place apple, celery sticks, and dairy-free pretzels into a container. Add 2 tablespoons of Sunbutter to the container for dipping.

Grape snack: Place a handful of clean grapes in a separate container.

5) Coconut Yogurt Dippers with carrot snack

Coconut yogurt dippers with carrot snack

Coconut yogurt dippers with carrot snack

Coconut yogurt: Scoop 2-3 spoonfuls of SoDelicious yogurt (or your preferred dairy-free yogurt) into a container.

Dippers: Place half if a sliced apple in one container and a dairy-free granola bar (we like these) in another container. Add pumpkin seeds, dried berries, and coconut flakes to the granola compartment.

Snack: Pile carrot sticks into a small container.

Personal Style Crisis

It happens every time. Some time around when Baby starts walking, I have a personal style crisis.

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The problem is I have certain wardrobe demands: function (nursing-friendly and washable), flatter (highlights the right parts and downplays the other parts), and fit (not too short, too tight, too baggy, too restrictive… basically not “too” anything.) Boob access is still a requirement, as my 1-year-old still nurses on demand, so that rules out most dresses and many tops. I’ve lost the baby weight, so my postpartum wardrobe of roomy tunics and tummy-smoothing leggings are unappealing. However, I have a new body shape after having grown, carried, delivered, and nourished another human. It’s like being a teenager learning to dress all over again, but this time with a c-section scar and leaky breasts. I’m lost.

I hit up online stores — because shopping for clothes with my troublesome trio is more chaotic than constructive — and peruse Pinterest. I pin with abandon. Striped t-shirt dresses topped with jean jackets, skater dresses and motorcycle jackets, jeans and Ts with military jackets… cute and comfy but not exactly nursing-friendly (lest I stretch out every hem and neckline.)

Every morning, I reluctantly enter my closet. I feel utterly underwhelmed by my heaping mishmash of clothing sizes from 4 to 12. The clothes archive where I’ve been in size and life season — newlywed young adult, corporate cubicle-dweller, working mom, pregnant mom, newly postpartum mom, breastfeeding mom, exercising mom, socializing mom — but it doesn’t quite define me now.

Those dark wash flare jeans three sizes too big, those business-casual trousers, those tummy-flattening leggings… not me. The corporate blouses, the exercise tanks, the billowy cotton tunics… nope. The suede flats, the towering wedge knee-high boots, the platform heels… ha!

So, I consider hauling up my bin of old stand-bys. The plastic box labeled “Caitlin’s Non-Nursing Clothes” full of Gap v-neck Ts, Target tank tops, neutral sweaters, and striped boatneck tops. The style equivalent of a sigh.

“What in my closet makes me happy?” I ask myself. My vibrant Flying Tomato maxi skirts. Without a doubt, they are my favorites. Still, one can only wear them so often.

Part of me wants to overhaul my closet. Raze the mass of unflattering, unfitting, unsuitable fabric and start fresh. But what would I wear in place of it all? How would I possibly afford to replace it? Three printed skirts and a handful of nursing camis cannot a wardrobe make.

Back to Pinterest I go. Maybe I’ll find myself on another’s Pintrest board. Until then, I’ll feign an intense daily exercise regiment by donning active wear.

 

Peanut-free Zoodle Pad Thai

Want comforting flavor but lots of nutrition? Want Pad Thai but not the peanuts? Want to sneak veggies into your kids (or yourself) without the battle? This is your dish.

Peanut-free Zoodle Pad Thai

Peanut-free Zoodle Pad Thai

Peanut-free Zoodle Pad Thai

Ingredients

– 4Tbl sesame oil

– 3 large eggs

– 1 garlic clove, minced

– 1 fresh lime, juiced

– 1 Tbl low sodium soy sauce

– 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce

– 3 Tbl honey

– 1 Tbl mirin

– 1 Tbl powdered ginger

– 1/4 cup crunchy Sunbutter

– 1 10oz bag broccoli slaw

– 1 10oz bag shredded red cabbage

– 1 red bell pepper, julienned

– 1 yellow bell pepper, julienned

– 2 medium-large zucchini, spiralized

– 1 handful uncooked angel hair pasta

Directions:

– Boil water and cook angel hair pasta according to instructions.

– While pasta cooks, add 2 Tbl sesame oil to wok over medium heat.

– Whisk the garlic, lime juice, sweet chili sauce, soy sauce, honey, mirin, and ginger together in a bowl.

– Once the wok is hot, pour in the sauce and cook for 1-2 minutes until it thickens.

– Stir the Sunbutter and remaining 2 Tbl of sesame oil into the sauce.

– Toss the slaw and cabbage in the sauce

– Add the spiralized zucchini to the pasta water for the last few minutes of cook time.

– Once the pasta is ready, transfer the pasta and zucchini to the wok with tongs, allowing some of the starchy pasta water to enter the wok.

– Add the bell pepper to the wok and toss to mix.

– Crack the eggs into the wok and toss with the veggies and noodles until thoroughly mixed.

– Serve and enjoy!