Florida part 1 – Traveling

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We made it! Leading up to our trip a few things had me concerned, not the least of which was the government shutdown leaving TSA agents and air traffic controllers unpaid and forced to work. I worried about lines, lack of security, and whether or not things would continue to run smoothly the longer the shutdown dragged on. Additionally, New England was beginning to brace for a big winter snowstorm due to hit the area Saturday night. Being a holiday weekend, the best flight fares wound up being Saturday and Tuesday. We had planned to take our time getting out Saturday midday, and coming home Tuesday morning to avoid the holiday rush. If the storm came through as planned, we would be on the ground in Florida before the first snowflakes fell.

After confirming that the Boston economy parking was a covered garage (because who wants to come home to a snow covered car), we set out around 10:30 in the morning for a 2 pm flight. It’s a little over an hour from our home to the Boston airport and we wanted to allow plenty of extra time to get all three of us to the terminal, check our son’s car seat, and clear through security. Things seriously could not have worked out more perfectly getting to our gate. We were able to ditch our heavy winter coats inside the car seat bag and checked it all together at the ticket counter. Our tickets were on our phones, although it turns out our son’s ticket was not delivered electronically, so we took a short detour back to ticketing to get his printed out. We later learned this is fairly standard with a lap infant, so you’re better off stopping at the beginning and asking for printed tickets.

Getting through the TSA checkpoint was nothing short of impressive. Regardless of your politics, these were all hard working individuals that continue to show up day after day, and as of our flight out, had already missed at least one paycheck. Every last TSA agent we encountered greeted us with a smile, they were patient as we navigated our first trip with an infant, and they helped us through as best they could. When the line started to back up, in walked 4 more agents ready to open another line. I was pleased and yet so surprised at what seemed like a generally happy demeanor. Had the tables been turned, I don’t think I could have continued to arrive at work with such dedication and sunny disposition. The next time you’re at the airport thank them, I know I did.

After arriving at our gate, we tracked down lunch to eat on the plane. Not wanting to venture too far, I stuck with protein bars, yogurt, jerky, bananas, and anything else that looked both healthy and was labeled with ‘GF.’ Now was not the time to experiment with anything that could potentially not be safe for me.

Boarding was uneventful, our gate check bag for the stroller worked perfectly and we gate checked both of our suitcases as well to avoid the fuss through the airport on the other end. We were relaxed, and without clutter as we boarded the plane with just our son and his diaper bag. We were each seated in a middle seat in the same row where my husband could see the smile and hear the giggles as our son played in my seat, occasionally jabbering with the women on either side of me. We truly lucked out, as his smile kept everyone happy, and my seat mates didn’t seem to mind when he discovered the in-flight entertainment controls on the arm rests, constantly changing the channel and playing with the volume, happy that he had figured out how to push the buttons.

Upon arrival, our son received his first set of flight wings from the crew and we were met with his stroller on the jet bridge. All of our bags were waiting for us at baggage claim, and we made our way over to the rental car counter. My husband asked if there were any upgrades available, which of course there were. It’s been drilled into my head over the years to not accept any upgrade offers or insurance when you’re picking up your car. There are always hidden fees and charges that wind up costing much more than you’d planned. The upgrade, naturally, would cost us $17 more per day. Playing unintentional good cop/bad cop, my husband thought the upgrade was worth it, while I quickly calculated and said out loud that we could spend that extra $60 on doing things with my family instead while we were in town. Hearing our discussion, our rental car agent seemed to disappear not long after declining the upgrade. She’d seen our heap of baggage, stroller, and car seat, and was initially concerned we wouldn’t fit in the full size vehicle we’d requested. In the end, she told us we were her last customer of the day, and she’d gotten it approved to upgrade us to a mini van with NO extra fees or change to our rate. Here’s the catch though…I’d traded in my MINI Cooper over a year ago in anticipation for our son’s arrival and bought an SUV with a 3rd row, wanting the space for luggage on long trips visiting family. I had talked myself out of a mini van because they just weren’t that nice, and couldn’t possibly have the trunk space of an SUV. When I opened the trunk of our rental mini van, I couldn’t believe the space and the features it had built in. I actually *enjoyed* having it for a few days….the horror!

All in all it was a successful first flight for our little man, but we definitely learned some things along the way:

  • Limit the number of bags you have to carry through the airport. Checking our car seat (along with our coats, extra diapers, and food pouches) was a huge help. Let’s be honest, the car seat is big enough on its own, throw it in a backpack bag to protect it and the resulting size is just absurd. No one wants to navigate with that on their back unless it has side and rear view mirrors!
  • Gate check your luggage if you can. We had everything we needed in the diaper bag which made it easy to hand off our suitcases. If you’re flying nonstop, you have a better chance that you won’t have any issues getting it at your destination, plus you won’t have to deal with trying to hoist it into the overhead bins.
  • Bring a bottle, pacifier, pouch, or whatever your child will happily take for both the takeoff and landing. Babies don’t understand how to pop their ears back, it’ll help equalize the pressure and keep them comfortable.
  • Also make sure you have plenty of toys and books to preoccupy your child. Any flight is a long time to keep a little one happy and busy, especially since they’ll have to be glued to your lap the whole time.
  • If your child is on formula don’t bother premixing it, they’ll have to test every bottle. Oh, and also take the formula container out of your diaper bag….no one wants to watch as TSA pulls it out of the bag, accidentally spilling some of that super expensive powder in the process.
  • Buy the protective bags for your car seat and stroller. They were worth every penny for us, not only because we could throw extra things in with the car seat, but both bags kept everything protected and clean.
  • Last, but certainly not least, ask for the upgrade. As my keen negotiating husband would have you know, sometimes it pays to ask, be kind, and have a happily smiling baby along with you. You just might get that upgrade for free!

Somehow this post has carried on much longer than I originally planned, stay tuned later this week as I get into all the wonderful fun and food we had while we were there!

Dining Out…with kids!

A couple months after our son was born, we were in desperate need of a night out at a restaurant. I was craving sushi post-pregnancy, and we’d heard rave reviews from friends about a restaurant not too far from our home. I will never forget that first dining out experience. We thought we timed it well, and the little man snoozed through the beginning, waking up just as our food was about to be delivered. The restaurant was noisy, and we hoped he wouldn’t disturb anyone as we got a bottle ready. Suddenly, it seemed he was near impossible to calm down. He wasn’t loud, but I quickly turned frantic and nearly started crying at our table. We were still so new to parenting and it was all overwhelming. As my husband started to soothe our son, a woman approached us out of the blue. She sat down beside me, and told us what a wonderful job we were doing. To keep it up, keep going out, and enjoying our life. She mentioned she heard the cries and knew it must be a newborn; both a mortifying thought upon seeing how far her table was from ours, and soothing at the same time. I will never forget the kindness of that stranger, and how she made me feel in that overwhelming moment. We’ve taken our son out since then, but I’ll be honest that it isn’t frequent. As he transitioned to solids, the mess he makes and everything we need to bring discouraged us from venturing out.

Fast forward to the holidays. Our son is now 10 months old, and quite the active little man. The car seat no longer comes in with us, and he can eat small bites from the table! It was time to venture out again, this time with quite the crew. We had family and close friends in town for the new year, and decided it would be fun to eat out on the water one evening; however “evening” can be relative with a little one in your life. I’d heard good things about Surf restaurant in downtown Portsmouth, overlooking the water, and serving true New England food for our out of town guests. I called to make reservations, clearly mentioning that we were 6 adults and 3 children, no one batted an eye. Trying to coordinate the timing of dinner with bedtime, our reservations were an early 4:30pm! Oh how times have changed.

Upon our arrival, we were escorted to a long table overlooking the Piscataqua River. Even though the sun had set, you could still see how beautiful it was outside. We received smiles from wait staff and patrons alike when they saw our little boy smiling and giggling back, but the fun didn’t last long. The table next to us held an older couple, near the end of their meal. As soon as we were seated by them you could see the side eye and feel the glare pointed directly at our table. Clearly they were not pleased with our presence, even though the restaurant was clearly accommodating to families. Thankfully they were not there long, and the table turned over to what appeared to be a more friendly couple.

Our food was delicious, and everyone was enjoying themselves. That quickly changed when not one but two of the little ones got sick over dinner. Call it bad luck, a full moon, or whatever you will, we suddenly found ourselves in a mix of panic and clean-up mode. Our waiter could not have been nicer, bringing water, paper towels, and whatever else we needed. He did not miss a beat, arriving with our check not long after we asked. All in all, it was a fun night night out, but it certainly taught us some lasting lessons.

  • Early reservations are perfect with little ones, you can still enjoy a nice restaurant without impacting bed time, and clearing out just before the dinner crowd arrives.
  • Expect the unexpected. Although our son is a great eater at home, and nearly never spits up, you can’t predict what will happen in public.
  • Not only did I have to worry about what was safe for me to eat, but what my son could reach on the table, and whether or not he could get gluten near my plate. I’d never thought of it before, but now that’s obviously a concern.
  • No matter how accommodating an establishment and its staff are, there is always a chance that its patrons do not feel the same way. Don’t let that stop you from going!

Baby Food…doing the math

After making three batches of baby food the other night, I got to thinking about whether or not it was worth my time and if it actually saved money. I have an analytical brain, so naturally I had to figure it out for myself. As our son’s diet switches more to solids and less bottles we’ve been trying to introduce everything we can. He’s been a little fussy though as he teethes as well, and won’t go for every food we give him. In a bout of frustration trying to get more vegetables intake we bought pouches that were mixtures of fruit and vegetables. For every successful pouch (which he totally sucked down on his own) I wrote down the approximate ingredient measurements from the back. Thank you to whomever thought it was a good idea to include that on baby pouches 😊

In total, I made 17 pouches at 5 ounces each (my son can eat, so the bigger size works well for us). I was able to make the flavors pretty quickly by simmering the ingredients together for about 10 minutes, then putting it all in our ninja to purée, all in all it took me about an hour from start to finish. There were some up front costs to get the Kiinde Foodii kit, but we’ve been pleased with how it’s worked out so far. Here are the three flavors I made and used to price it all out:

  • Sweet potato, cranberry, and apple
  • Spinach, peas, and pears
  • Sweet potato, corn, and apple

I’ll be honest, I didn’t measure a thing. I used about 1.5 sweet potatoes in each flavor, and poured the frozen veggies and applesauce in until it looked like a good mix. The best part is, I know there are absolutely no additives or preservatives in his food, and I know I made it fresh myself 😍 without further ado…my costs:

  • Bartlett Pears (2) – $1.49
  • Cranberries – $0.99
  • Spinach (5 oz) – $3.69
  • Sweet Potatoes (3) – $1.47
  • Apple Sauce (48 oz) – $2.59
  • Frozen Corn (16 oz) – $0.99
  • Frozen Peas (16 oz) – $0.99
  • Average sales tax – $1.04

Total Cost – $13.25

Since the standard pouch is only 4 ounces, I did my calculations at that size (which would have made 21), which works out to $0.63 per regular size pouch! Considering they cost on average about $1.10 per pouch after tax, I’d say it was worth it! Now in case you were wondering, I know there are costs associated with the Kiinde pouches themselves, I thought about that too. It’s $45.99 for a 160 count box of them, so $0.29 per pouch. Our total cost came to $0.92, which wasn’t as great as I thought, but is still cheaper than buying them and like I said before at least I know exactly what he’s eating! Plus, if you’re looking at the big picture, if he’s eating about four pouches per day we’re saving close to $1 per day and over $350 in a year.

There is one way we could keep our costs down even more, we could be using reusable pouches. I’ve looked into them, but we haven’t made that jump just yet. We had a ton of the Kiinde pouches left over from the breastfeeding and pumping days so it made sense not to let them go to waste. Once we’re low on the pouches we have I’ll start testing the reusable ones. I would love to hear from other mommas what they like best!

Postpartum Whole30 – One week in

Naturally, this mama is a glutton for punishment. It’s my busy season at work, I’m doing Whole30, AND we picked this week to sleep train our son. Somehow all three of those things seem to be going well. Let’s be honest, I’m really on the verge of ending week two at this point, but that’s life as a mom. I’m finally getting around to writing what I planned to a few days ago. For starters, the last three meals I planned on that first week turned out well. The only one I’d definitely make again is the Burrito Bowls, since a good Butternut Squash soup really does need cream. Sorry guys, I just can’t get behind the cream-free version 100%. As an added bonus, I discovered broccoli slaw in the produce section, which I never knew existed and is such a nice veggie assortment to add to really any meal!

As much as I’d love for this to be a perfect Whole30, I’m cheating in a few ways this time around. Hubby and I had a date night at the movies last weekend, and we just really couldn’t make the trip without popcorn. We brought our own waters, and didn’t get extra butter, but we couldn’t go without popcorn! I’ve also been periodically weighing myself to see how I’m doing. I’m happy to say that as of this morning I’m down 9 lbs! I totally needed that ego boost to help keep me going.

It’s been cold and rainy this week in New England, so it was the perfect time to break out the hearty/soup recipes. I took on my favorite Sweet Potato Chili and Stuffed Acorn Squash (both found in this post: A Weekend Away), as well as Chicken Tortilla Soup. Needing a night off, we decided to order a wicked chicken from Vernon Family Farms for dinner tonight. They’re a local family-owned farm just up the road from us, and they make fresh rotisserie chicken every Friday night! We had no idea how much local agriculture there was when we moved to New Hampshire, but I’m loving every minute of being able to get fresh, local ingredients whenever we want them.

Since I have the night off from cooking, I’ll be using that time to plan out our next full week of meals. Here’s to hoping I find some fun new ideas to keep it interesting. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this picture of our little fox on his first Halloween ❤

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Me with my little fox on his first Halloween!

Celiac and Pregnancy

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I’ve always wondered how celiac would impact a pregnancy, the unfortunate thing is that there isn’t a ton of information out there. I remember asking my doctor about it when my husband and I started talking about children…I’d made the mistake of googling it, and had only come across references to infertility. My doctor assured me that everyone is different, and that the time to discuss infertility would be years down the road only if we had challenges conceiving. Plus, I’d been gluten free for years, which should have helped my chances for success.

Recognizing that I couldn’t find much information about pregnant celiacs was one of the main things that brought me back to blogging. While I know a number of other celiacs, I don’t personally know any that have children and could provide insight. Before I go any further, this post is all about my own personal experiences, everyone and every pregnancy is different. That being said, I would LOVE comments and responses about other celiac experiences! Let’s get information out there to help each other out.

So the first trimester…woof 🤢 let’s be honest, “morning” sickness is quite possibly the worst characterization of what really occurs. I felt absolutely fine until about week six or seven, and then it hit me like a semi truck. I had no appetite at all, and felt nauseous all day. At any given moment I felt like I was going to throw up, but through my entire pregnancy I only actually got sick a handful of times. The nausea was so intense that I could barely be in the kitchen. My poor husband had no help from me when my parents visited early in my pregnancy. They all were amazing though, and from what I heard, they ate well that week. The foods that sustained me through that period were ice chips, cucumbers, watermelon, and Outshine popsicles. That’s right folks, all high water content. Some meals were just completely skipped.

During that time, my husband had to travel a few times for work. Not being able to stomach the kitchen made it pretty difficult to keep my nutrition up. With that in mind we stocked up on gluten free chicken nuggets, cereal, and anything else bland that could pretty much be microwaved or eaten straight from the packaging.

I had wonderful friends that passed along countless ideas to counteract the nausea, and trust me, I tried them all….teas, bath soaks, ginger in various forms, and sea bands. I reached a point where if one more person told me to try ginger ale I was going to smack them across the face (inappropriate, I know, but I was a very uncomfortable pregnant woman). In the end the only things that ever helped were sea bands and running. Dead serious, the days that were the most bearable were the ones that started with 4-5 miles run at 6am with my neighbor. We kept that up through a majority of my pregnancy, though each run became slower than the previous until eventually they were all walks.

Now for the worst part…I’m sure each celiac has a tell, that one reaction that tells you that you’ve definitely had gluten. Mine happens to begin with ridiculously uncomfortable burping, that feeling that if you opened your mouth you couldn’t guarantee that you wouldn’t vomit. Throughout my entire pregnancy I had this same feeling, without ANY contamination. We quickly realized I had no way of knowing whether I’d had gluten or not. Let me tell you, this may have been the most stressful experience during my entire pregnancy. Imagine being worried about your own nutritional intake, eating healthy for baby, fighting nausea, and NEVER knowing if that nausea was caused by your pregnancy or something that could be much worse. On top of that, I was terrified of what being contaminated would do to my child. We quickly all but eliminated eating out. The worst of my nausea tapered off sometime after week 16, but I never could tell when I’d been contaminated for the remainder of my pregnancy.

As we started filling out our hospital registration I had another worry, how would they know that I couldn’t have gluten? I must have confirmed with my doctor at every visit that yes, my chart included celiac, and that would be sent to the hospital as soon as I was on my way. I reiterated this information with the family center when we went through preregistration. As soon as we walked in the day my son was born, my husband and I both checked that the information had been provided to the hospital staff. I’m happy to report our hospital was amazing. The food was surprisingly delicious, and well marked with allergy alerts each time it was delivered. Best of all, my daily menus included only what I could safely eat, and the staff confirmed my gluten free status every time I called down my order. I may have had a difficult delivery (a story for another day), but it was such a relief not to worry about what was eating while I recovered.

I couldn’t tell you how my experience differs from that of a woman without celiac, as this was my first child and I’ve been gluten free for about seven years now. Did it feel like hell at times? Of course. Was it worth it to see that little face for the first time? ABSOLUTELY!! I hope this helps at least one other person to know they’re not alone, because the googling can be maddening. If you have a celiac pregnancy story, please share it!

Is this thing on?

As I sit here writing this, I’m finally unwinding after an evening of dancing to Motown while wearing my son in his baby carrier and making another batch of lactation cookies. To say that a lot has changed since my last post would be one of the biggest understatements. About three years ago my husband and I were restless. We were starting to think about settling down and buying a home. We loved our closer to the city condo, but it was time to expand. The problem was, moving to suburbia in the DC metro area meant long commutes to and from work, and the work life balance just wasn’t there. After months of soul searching, research, and a long weekend away, we decided to relocate to the seacoast of New Hampshire…we like to joke that we threw a dart on the wall, but trust me, there was so much more discussion that got us here. Without our jobs figured out, we came back up to meet with our realtor and put an offer on a home. Talk about a leap of faith. The next four months seemed like the longest of our lives, trying to make our careers work so we could actually move in. Eventually we both worked through remote arrangements and began to pack the biggest suitcases of our lives….everything we owned was going 500 miles north!

Mere weeks after moving in we adopted the pup we’d always wanted. He was a rescue at four months old, and we named him after the bar where we’d first met. Another year down the road and we were preparing for our first child… due in the dead of winter in New England! As I’m adjusting to this new role of motherhood, I’m reflecting on how we got here, and what’s next. It was finally time to dust off the blog and start writing again. The title might not seem the most appropriate for my life right now, but my love for traveling, culture and understanding remains unchanged. Over the next few months, I’ll be revamping the blog, and finding a way to bring it back into my life. Bear with me folks, we seem to be adjusting to a lot these days so any recommendations and requests are welcome! I’ve added an Instagram account so you can keep up with me even when I’m not writing, so please check it out and follow along for this crazy ride 🙂