Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Two of a Kind, Workin' on a Full House

The weekend before last was definitely one for the books. In a completely average weekend meets memorable moments kind of way. 

We started on Friday with a movie night at home. The movie of choice: the new live-action version of Cinderella.

Ava absolutely loved the "real Cinderella," and commented at one point that "It's all so beautiful, mama!" And she wasn't exaggerating. The costumes, setting, and cinematography were gorgeous, and the movie was absolutely charming. 

Ava was also quite fond of the popcorn.

My favorite part: holding my sweet girl's hand while we snuggled on the couch. Friday nights have definitely changed, but I wouldn't change them for the world. 

Saturday we enjoyed a lazy day at home, complete with lots of swinging in the backyard and an exciting TCU-SMU game (which was a little closer than I would have liked).

It's a good thing we took it easy on Saturday, because Sunday was a doozy. 

First, we headed out to the burbs for my law firm's family picnic event at Sandy Lake Amusement Park. We got there early so the kids would have plenty of time to enjoy the rides before lunch.

They loved their first carousel ride.

We also rode the mini-train. Unlike his first train ride, Rylan stayed awake for this one and had a blast.

Ava did too…despite how it looks in this picture.

She was also tall enough for quite a few of the rides, and took full advantage.

The lunch was fun as well, and overall, it was a great family destination. I would like to go back and try out the large pool at some point next summer...but not with my co-workers ;).

Sunday afternoon, my Dad and Rhonda joined us for an early dinner at Matt's. 

Nana and Grampsie were in Fort Worth for TCU Parents' Weekend, and we convinced them to stay an extra night in Dallas not only to enjoy some Bob Armstrong dip with their grandbabies, but also to attend the Garth Brooks concert with us. We bought the tickets pretty last-minute on Saturday, and I am so glad we did!

Garth played seven shows total in Dallas (some back-to-back in the same night), and practically everyone we know in DFW attended one of them. Their reviews, photos, and videos promised a wonderful show.

Thanks to an Instagram video from one of these friends, we realized that the seats behind the stage were surprisingly fantastic due to the round, open set-up. So, in comparison to everything else that was available, we scored a great deal on wonderful seats.

Garth promised to play "all the old stuff," and he delivered. Thanks to my days in middle school of playing The Hits on repeat, I knew every word…and wasn't afraid to sing along with the crowd. It was a good thing that the crowd knew all the songs, because Garth's voice was a bit strained after five shows (but still amazing).

Garth made a point to walk around the back of the stage every now and then, so we had an even better view for some of the songs. 

And finally, way more videos of the concert than anyone wants to see. But for posterity's sake, I had to include them all. 

"Two Pina Coladas" (Which could totally be the anthem for my senior year in college.)

"Unanswered Prayers"

"Thunder Rolls"

Trisha Yearwood joined Garth for a duet and then sang a few of her classic songs, including "How Do I Live" (during which I was captured on the jumbotron). 

And "She's In Love With The Boy."

Then it was time for more Garth…

"Callin' Baton Rouge"

"Friends in Low Places"

And, of course, "The Dance."

Despite Garth's hoarse voice, it was such a fun show! And I haven't been able to stop singing his songs since. "Oooooooh, I've got friends in low places…"

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Favorite Things | Breastfeeding & Pumping

Last weekend I attended a baby shower where we discussed the pros and cons of various breastfeeding-related products, and I then had a conversation with my Mom's best friend whose daughter is struggling with nursing her newborn and was looking for advice. I have been meaning to post about my favorite breastfeeding and pumping essentials while it is still (somewhat) fresh in my mind, and this was the perfect reminder.

Breastfeeding is not as easy as it seems...at least not during the first few weeks (or months). It is a different experience for everyone, and it may not work out as planned. Both of my kids have upper lip ties, so I faced difficulties in nursing both of them, but in different ways.

With Ava, the lip tie meant that she had a terrible latch, which resulted in lots of pain on my end as well as cracked nipples, mastitis, and her getting thrush as a result of my antibiotics. So we only breastfeed for two weeks before I started exclusively pumping. At the same time, I had a terrible cold and took Sudafed without realizing that it would dry up my supply. This meant that I could only pump half of what Ava needed a day, so we went with a half-formula/half-breast milk route until I returned to work. I was so disappointed that breastfeeding hadn't worked out as planned, but I was proud of the pumped breast milk she did get. I was also determined to make it work with our second child.

I did more research on breastfeeding before having Rylan (I highly recommend the KellyMom site and the "Timeline of a Breastfed Baby"), and set a goal to breastfeed for six months.

Despite our initial struggles while he was in the NICU, Ry finally figured out a good latch. Other than a little discomfort, I didn't experience any pain this time around. However, Rylan's lip tie caused issues with his ability to efficiently extract milk. As a result, his feedings lasted forever and his slow weight gain was a big concern. We eventually hit our stride, survived the three-day marathon nursing session at the six-week mark, and breastfed exclusively until I went back to work at three months. I am not able to pump a ton of milk, so we had to supplement with at least one bottle of formula at daycare. But Rylan didn't seem to mind and went effortlessly back and forth between the breast and bottle (our first sign that he is not a picky eater). Pumping that much is no freaking joke, and the further we got from exclusive breastfeeding, the less milk I was able to produce and the more my bottomless-pit-of-a-child needed to eat. But…we met my six-month goal and it was such a wonderful experience.

In addition to self-determination (fueled by my inner hippie plus working-mom desire to "do it all") and the support of family and friends, the products below truly helped make my breastfeeding journey successful the second time around.

1. Organic Cotton Nursing Pads. These nursing pads are so soft and absorbent. I also love that they are machine washable.

2. My Breast Friend Deluxe Nursing Pillow. I truly feel like I lived in this thing while on maternity leave. I am definitely team My Breast Friend. It was way more comfortable than the Boppy, the pocket came in very handy, and I loved the stability due to the buckle strap. I could multi-task like a boss while nursing in that thing. But the Boppy came in handy for other things…

3. Motherlove Nipple Cream. Such simple ingredients; such magical healing powers. Bonus: it works fabulously as lip balm once you are done breastfeeding.

4. Cake Lingerie Nursing Bras. These nursing bras are pricey, but they are so unbelievably comfortable and supportive. I may or may not still wear mine sometimes. They also make nursing tanks.

5. Milkscreen Alcohol Breastmilk Testers. Because after going nearly a year without wine, these come in very handy.

6. Baby Scale. One of the disadvantages of breastfeeding is that you don't know exactly how much your baby is eating on a daily basis. However, as long as they are gaining about an ounce a day, then you are good. Normally, I wouldn't have worried about it, but due to Rylan's slow weight gain initially (and my polite refusal to not follow the doctor's suggestion to start supplementing with formula), I knew it would put me at ease to keep track of his weight at home. A sweet friend let us borrow her scale, and it made me feel so much better to see those little ounces adding up.

7. Milkies Milk-Saver. I ordered this on a whim a couple months into breastfeeding, and my only regret is that I didn't get it sooner! You place it on the non-nursing boob, and the little contraption catches the milk that escapes during let-down/throughout the feeding. It didn't capture a ton, but I would much rather save that 1/4 an ounce each feeding than have it soak up a nursing pad. Evidently you also catch a lot more during the early weeks when your boobs haven't quite got their act together yet.

8. Trader Joe's Frozen Steelcut Oatmeal. Oatmeal is supposed to increase milk supply, and it doesn't get much better than steelcut oatmeal that re-heats in just minutes. I'm sure all that oatmeal I consumed totally balanced out the tubs of TJ's Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

9. Serial Podcast. Listening to this addicting true crime podcast got me through many a late-night feedings. I especially liked that it kept me awake while I could still rest my eyes. (Note that I did have some crazy dreams after going back to sleep).

10. Fenugreek Capsules. While it made my pee smell like maple syrup (there are worse things), the fenugreek really helped with my milk production when I needed a little boost.

11. Medela Breast Milk Storage Set. I was lucky enough to get lots of hand-me-down bottles and storage containers from my sister-in-law, so I only had to purchase the freezer storage bags. However, this set would be a good purchase if you are starting from scratch. (Note that I just used these bottles for pumping/storage as I prefer Dr. Brown's bottles.)

12. Medela Easy Expression Bustier. The picture on the cover of this packaging kills me, but a bra like this is essential for pumping. I have friends who have just cut holes in old sports bras, but I needed something that was easier to get on and off at work. Since these are strapless and zip up in the front, they fit the bill perfectly.

13. Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags. These bags are great for cleaning all those pump parts (as well as pacifiers, bottle parts, etc.).

14. PackIt Freezable Carryall Bag. I used a boring soft-sided cooler with ice packs, but this bag would have been perfect. The entire bag freezes and stays cold for 10 hours, which is key for the trips between  fridges at work and home as well as when you are pumping on the go.

15. Medela Freestyle Breast Pump. With Ava, I used the Medela Pump In Style Advanced (another hand-me-down…thanks Tori!). It worked great, but I was worried that the motor was slowing a bit since it had been used for many years by the time Rylan was born. Thanks to Obamacare, I was able to get a new pump for free! The free option is a very basic version, but it did the trick. (And I was able to have a pump both at home and at work, which was amazing!) However, if I had my pick, it would totally be this Medela Freestyle pump due to the compact size and portability.

Other Things To Have On Hand:
  • Nursing tanks. I wasn't a big fan of nursing cover-ups and found it easier to wear nursing tanks under shirts that were easy to pull up or down. This gave me enough coverage to feel comfortable without the hassle of dealing with a cover. I stuck to the cheap ones (mainly from Target).
  • A comfortable neck pillow. After dealing with lots of neck/upper back pain early on, I found that using a neck pillow during the longer nursing sessions really helped. My ideal night-time nursing set-up was: in the recliner, feet up, the My Breast Friend pillow for Rylan, neck pillow for me, and the aforementioned podcast in my headphones. I had it down to a science.
  • Something to elevate your feet. While one of those fancy stools would have been nice, our old law school textbooks came in very handy. This really helps with your posture/positioning during the early weeks. Once you get in a groove, you can nurse anywhere in pretty much any position. 
  • A bag big enough to fit cooler bag, pump, bottles/storage bags, and pumping bra. I felt like a Sherpa taking all this stuff to work every day. It did get easier once I got my Obamacare pump and was able to leave a pump in my office. 
  • Gallon-sized Ziploc bags. One of the best pumping tips I found was to store your pump parts in the fridge with the milk during the day at work. Because the milk residue stays cold, you don't have to clean the parts in between pumping sessions...which saves you a lot of time when you have to pump 3-4 times every day at work! I kept them in a ziploc bag to keep the inside of my cooler bag clean.  

And with that, I will conclude this novel of a post. Happy nursing, mamas. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

"Oh, the Places You'll Go" | 2014-2015

As the kids finished the last school year, I had Ava's teachers add to her "Oh, the Places You'll Go" book and started one for Rylan (wouldn't want the second child to miss out on this tradition). 

Ava had Maestras Magda and Yeilys as well as Silvia as her extended-care teacher (she was also the PE/Zumba teacher). Rylan had Maestras Vero, Nataly, and Caro. We couldn't have asked for better teachers for our babies. And when your kids are at "school" all day, five days a week, these teachers truly become part of their family. 

My hope is that they are both still fluent in Spanish when they read these after graduation :).



Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Web Crush Wednesday | Football

In Texas, the start of fall is not ushered in with cool weather and changing leaves, but rather with football. It is truly like a religion around these parts, and I am a devoted follower.

College football season starts tomorrow (can I get an amen?!), and I can't tell you how excited I am to watch my beloved Horned Frogs play. But let's be honest, football season is about more than just cheering on your favorite team. It's also about food and fun (and booze)...whether at a tailgate or a football-watching party. And by food, I in no way mean healthy food. The more carbs and cheese the better.

So, for this edition of Web Crush Wednesday, I have rounded up some recipes that would be the perfect accompaniment to football watching and tailgating as well as some other fun football-related finds.

Pull-Apart Pretzel Skillet with Beer Cheese Dip. Carbs...check. Cheese...check. Beer...check. This dip looks absolutely amazing. And I love a good excuse to use my cast iron skillet.

Ice Cream Football Sandwiches. Such a cute and easy dessert. The striped napkins are on point as well. 

BBQ Pulled Pork Pop Tarts. Brilliantly delicious. With a drizzle of sauce on top, these babies would be a perfect football party appetizer.

Fantasy Draft Party. Who says a fantasy football draft party can't be stylish? In fact, these details would be great for any kind of football-themed party. I wish I had come across these photos before planning Ava's birthday last year.

Chili and Cornbread in a Jar. So smart! These little jars of goodness would be perfect for a cold-weather tailgate.

Cheeto-Crusted Jalepeno Poppers with Bacon. Yes, you read that right. 

Mon Oncle Briefcase Barbecue. If James Bond were to barbecue, I can only imagine that it would be with one of these beauties. A perfect gift for the tailgating/barbecue fan who has everything.

Texas Tailgate Burger. And speaking of tailgate grilling, these bad boys would be perfect. I love the addition of the barbecue chips.

Cheesy Party Burgers. On the other hand, if you are cooking for a large crowd, this mouthwatering burger recipe might come in very handy.

79 Free Fantasy Football Team Names. I giggle every time I see this image. If I played fantasy football, this would totally be my team name. Go Chaps. 

Easy Mini Tortilla Pizzas. A perfect gameday snack that would be a hit with adults and kids alike.

Sriracha-Maple Roasted Cashews. Anything with a salty/sweet combo is great in my book, and my sriracha-loving husband would go nuts for these (sorry...I couldn't help myself). 

41 Tailgating Tips That Are Borderline Genius. So many good ideas. Turning a cooler into a warming oven using foil and hot bricks may be my favorite.

Grilled Gameday Nachos. I never would have thought to cook nachos on the grill. This would be great for camping as well.

DIY Pocket Shots. Bravo to the person who came up with this idea (and to the Pocket Shot inventor for that matter). I am not brave enough to attempt this, but we certainly go through fruit squeezies at our house like they are going out of style. 

Portable Margarita Pouches. These portable cocktails are much more my speed. They are like adult Capri Suns. 

State Traditions Fort Worth Gameday Hat. I have been lusting after this hat for quite some time. The subtle nod toward the particular university is fun, and they come in all different colors for various states. 
Crispy Loaded Hasselback Potato Bites. Almost too cute to eat. Almost. 

Stylish Tailgaiting. Because a mimosa bar while tailgating sounds marvelous.

Buffalo Chicken Pull-Apart Bread. Layers upon layers of deliciousness.

Gridiron Punch. I am not quite sure about the actual drink recipe, but the presentation is great. 

Blue Velvet Cake. I love this take on a classic red velvet cake, and it would be perfect for a Dallas Cowboys-watching party.

The Party Cart. Pure genius. 

Mini Cheesy Pretzel Dogs. I am not a huge hot dog fan (crazy, I know), but these look amazing. 

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose. Even POTUS loves him some Friday Night Lights. Josh and I can't wait to re-watch this series with the kids when they are older. 

M&M Chocolate Oat Bars. After personalizing these bars with M&Ms in your favorite team's colors, they would be an excellent gameday dessert. 

Mississippi Sin Dip. The combo of prosciutto, green chiles, and cheese sounds very intriguing. And I am willing to ignore the fact that it originated in the SEC :).

NFL Food Caddies. So you can support your favorite NFL team whilst contributing carrots and hummus to the cause. 
Bacon & Brown Sugar Crackers. I'm not going to lie…wrapping bacon around all those crackers seems like a lot of work. However, I would certainly eat more than my fair share if someone had them out at a party.

Super Bowl Cupcakes. As far as fancy cupcake decorating goes, I feel like these are very doable.

Solar Powered Projection Rock. This is seriously a thing. And they sell them for college, NFL, and MLB teams. 

Chili Bar. A chili bar station would be an excellent edition to your next football party.

College Guys Football Toy. While I don't want our children to actually play football, I do hope they share my love for the sport. Once Rylan has past the small-toy-choking-hazard stage, this football action figure set would be a fun purchase...assuming they add a certain purple and white team to their inventory.

Baby Blooming Onions. Blooming onions will always remind me of high school. My friends' dad owned an Outback Steakhouse, and we went all the time. If only I could still consume thousands of calories in one sitting that often while maintaining a size 0. Sigh.

Football Party Dessert Ideas. In case you are as obsessed with themes as I am.  

Kendra Scott Game Day Jewelry. Kendra Scott makes it easy to find gameday jewelry in your favorite colors. Of course I lean toward purple, but they even offer hard-to-find burnt orange and maroon options.

Honey Ham Biscuit Sliders. Yes, please. These would be perfect for an early-game tailgate. Or any tailgate. 

About Me

My name is Catherine, but most of my friends call me Cat. I was born and raised in Austin, went to TCU, and ended up in Dallas for law school (where Josh and I met). I decided that being an attorney was not my cup of tea and pursued a career in legal marketing. I am now a mother of two attempting to balance family with a full-time job, which is always an adventure. I love: my sweet babies, handsome husband, very large family, and fabulous friends; trying new restaurants; wine; TCU football; holidays; cooking; The Bar Method; pajamas; Topo Chico; reading; coffee; Central Market; carbs; the beach; mani/pedis; Anthropologie; binge-worthy TV shows and podcasts; trivia; French 75s; Pinterest; cheese boards; The Ticket; dancing; Sprinkles cupcakes; The Texas Rangers; fresh flowers; thunderstorms; naps; Tex-Mex; the Texas Hill Country; porch-sitting; ranch dressing; throwing parties; and my job. I hate: working-mom guilt; snakes; heights; waking up early; ignorant people; stomach bugs; paper cuts; green fruit; snoring; bad hair days; the sound of people eating (Misophonia); scary movies; bad drivers; pulpy OJ; trimming baby fingernails; and Miracle Whip. That pretty much sums it up.


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