Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January Bento Catch-Up - 2012

Wednesday 12/28/11 - This one really belongs in the December post, but I outsmarted myself. I had that post all ready and set to auto-publish at the end of the month before baby was born, figuring there was zero chance I could always update it later if I happened to make a fancy lunch. But look! My husband packed her a lunch! A bento! He argues that it's not a bento, since he didn't make it cutesy. I argue that it is, since it's in a box. Plus it amuses me that he's irritated to have used some of my 'lunch crap.' HA! Worth. Every. Penny!
1/2 PBHoney sandwich, Cheddar Bunnies w/pistachios, apples
Have no clue where we were going or why a lunch was packed... probably headed off to one of Baby E's doctor appointments. We had a bunch. Newborn checks. Follow-up weight checks. Tongue-tie specialist appointments. Etc.

Tuesday, 1/3/12 - Another Daddy-packed bento! I think we were headed to another of E's appointments before preschool, so packed a lunch to eat on the go.
Apples, Cheddar Bunnies w/pistachios, snap peas, 1/2 PBHoney

Wednesday, 1/11/12 - *sigh* Daddy was back at work already. So I had to make this one. We didn't have morning plans, but since I was actually making her a 'balanced' meal, it was easier to put it into an EasyLunchBox rather than get a bowl out for the cottage cheese and toss the rest onto a plate. Plus if she still wanted to nibble at it on the way to preschool, it would already be portable and ready to go!
Her lunch: 1/2 PBHoney, carrot sticks, clementine slices,
cottage cheese
I made a lunch for myself as well, but forgot to photograph it. I had a whole PBHoney sandwich, half an apple (sliced,) and broccoli (no Ranch. Boo.) I packed my lunch to eat at preschool, since we had Parent Ed that day, and I didn't want to miss it. Nor did I want to wait to eat until after school, or after swim class, if we were running late after school (which we were! Baby needed to eat first.)

Containers are all EasyLunchboxes. Spoon from IKEA.

Hip2BSquare - Lunchables-Style

For this day's lunch we had Movie Club with my MOMS Club, and I'd actually gotten to SEE the movie we were going to discuss! (Before baby, obviously.) Plus I had dishes to return from a yummy dinner brought over after Baby E had been born. Even though the hostess normally puts out a great spread (popcorn, fruit, random snacks, juice, etc) that Z and I tend to fill up on, I threw together lunches the night before (into our EasyLunchBoxes.) Because baby was actually sleeping and I found I had time to kill!
Skittles w/pistachios, cheddar, ham, Special K Herb crackers,
black-and-blueberries, spinach w/carrot flowers
We've been loving these Special K crackers, and the few slices of ham we had left were about to turn, so I decided to make a mini-version of a Lunchables: meat, cheese, and cracker-stackers. I used my FunBites Cube It! cutter on the ham and cheese, which made it super quick and easy. I've found that for ham that wasn't custom-cut at double thickness at the deli counter, if I stack two slices together, it's much easier to shape and get out of the cutters. So that's what I did here too. The ham scraps are tucked underneath the ham squares.
She had a mini packet of Skittles left over from Halloween or  maybe Christmas or a birthday party bag or something, and I needed something to fill that fourth square muffin cup, so I used it and added some pistachios, which she's been loving lately.

Just for fun I added disposable heart picks to both our lunches. (From Dollar Tree Valentines paper muffin cup and pick sets from last year.) Normally I don't bother cutesy-ing up mine, since I'm not enthralled at the idea of hand-washing more crap just to make my lunches look adorable. But disposable, now. That's a horse of a different color! [Note: They are compostable, which we get to put in with our yard waste, so I'm not a total eco-nightmare here!]

Despite telling me that she hated blueberries, by the end of the day she pretty much had eaten everything. She ate some at our Movie Club/playtime (and also some popcorn from the hostess,) and ate again on the way home from school. Since she'd eaten all the perishables (cheese and ham) by then, I put the rest out at home for her to graze on until dinner. She did have seconds on the Skittles after we got home. But she ate all the carrots and spinach.

Baby E's Lunch (via middlemanMom):
My Lunch: Spinach salad w/raisins, almonds and Chicken McBites;
raspberry vinaigrette dressing in yellow container,
string cheese nibblets and cheddar scraps, Apple Straws chips
I had stopped at McD's the day before to help feed the gnawing emptiness that is my tummy now that I'm nursing. Z hadn't been in the mood for a Happy Meal, so I ordered her some of the new McBites to snack on if she wanted. She didn't want. So I saved them to put in my lunch another day. I thought they might be tasty cold in my salad. They were not. They're okay hot, but I lost interest after the first few. Cold they are chewy and too breading-heavy. I would only recommend them if you were sharing them with others, since they weren't delicious enough to leave me craving more, and they have so much breading they're more of a treat than a meal. So eat a few, pass the rest along. Or skip them. Kinda spendy at $3.
Yeah, I know. Other than a few raisins, no fruit in my lunch. I just wasn't in the mood to slice and slosh an apple. Besides, Apple Straws have fruit in them, yeah? And they were a big hit with a brazen little minx at movie club. When us MOMS went closer to the TV to watch a trailer for an upcoming movie, one of the toddlers climbed into my chair and helped herself to the lunch I had left unprotected at the table! Too cute! 

Yellow fork from a travel utensil set from Dollar Tree (BPA free! Plus came with travel case!) Yellow sauce container is a Tupperware Smidget, which are hard to find. They are only available from a special fundraiser selection, or at individual sales reps' booths at fairs, or eBay or Amazon. The lids are hard to get on, but they are very water-tight! Perfect for my vinaigrette!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Make Mine Music

A mom from one of my mom clubs was hosting a music class playdate, and then we had preschool after. So we'd need lunches to eat in between. I chose to go with a music theme! In our EasyLunchboxes, of course!

Make Mine Music
Crackers w/pistachios, assorted cheeses, PBHoney notes,
apples, yellow and orange carrot chunks
She's been loving the Special K crackers, and I chose the Savory Herb flavor to jazz things up. (Get it? Jazz?) I tossed in some pistachios as a treat too. She's been a fiend for them lately. In a Wilton square silicone muffin cup.

She didn't eat all her cheese shapes from the Tangram puzzle lunch the day before, so I shoveled the leftovers in behind a silicone music note baran divider. And added some music note picks (you can find the baran and the picks at allthingsforsale.com. Use code BITINGMYHAND for 5% off!) Sadly, I wasn't paying attention when snapping the pics, so you can't really see them.

I'm still not ready to try my hand at a checkerboard apple, but I played with my C-shaped blade and made stripes! I'm all out of apple juice, so I sloshed them in lemon juice instead. Apple is SO much better!

I got the carrot chunks in a frozen veggie bag from Trader Joes. I made lunch the night before, and put them in frozen. They were thawed in the fridge in the morning. It was her first time with 'soft carrots' and yellow carrots. But I was hoping she'd like the novelty.

She ate all the crackers, but surprisingly, not the nuts. It's unclear whether she ate any of the cheese. She definitely played with them a little. She did not like the carrots, so she traded me for all the spinach I had with the least amount of Ranch on them. She ate one of the sandwich notes. I ended up eating all her apples. She's got a little cold, which usually causes her to eat less. So not a shocker.

Baby E's Lunch (via Mama's milk):
My lunch: Nutella wraps, apple slices,
spinach leaves w/ Ranch, almonds and dried strawberries
Green fork from a set of kiddie travel utensils from Dollar Tree. And I would like to point out that Nutella on a pasty white flour tortilla tastes quite a lot like a chocolate donut. Omnomnom.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tangram Puzzle Face Bento

I can't, for the life of me, figure out why I felt I had to pack a lunch this day. As far as I can tell we didn't have anything going on that morning. We had preschool after lunch, then swim, and then an art class playdate. And I ate my lunch at school (at the co-op preschool she likes me to sit in the "Mommy Room" while she has class.) Maybe it was easier to eat on the way, and then have food left over for an after school snack? Anyway...
Tangram Puzzle Face
Peach and apple puree pouch, PBHoney sandwich, spinach w/Ranch,
assorted American, string cheese and ColbyJack cheese shapes
P-p-p-puzzle Face: Due to a recent snowstorm and power outage, we were running low on bread. So I used a little trick to disguise the heels. I put the spreads on the brown sides, leaving the regular-looking-sides facing out! I used a sandwich cutter to cut off the edges, since they tend to curl out and give the game away.
A tip in case you try this - don't use two heels at once. It was soooooo hard to cut through! And I happened to have the more-exposed top-heel on the top, so it split a lot when the cutter pushed through (you can kind of see it in the photo below.) You want to use the moister, most flexible slice on top to help prevent breakage. Ah well. Luckily these shapes were okay with being flipped broken-side-down!
Heel-sides in!
I chose a puzzle cutter by Munchkin (found in the baby section at Wal-Mart. Not finding them anywhere online. They also make penguin and elephant cutters.)

Tangram Cheese: I used an assortment of cheeses, just for fun. I used my FunBites Luv It! cutter on the American cheese to make hearts and triangles, and I used the Cube It! on the Colby Jack to make squares. And I made circle-y nibblets from a stick of string cheese. The idea was for her to use the shapes to make pictures, either on the lid of her EasyLunchbox, or in the main compartment after eating her sandwich.

She's never had American cheese before, or at least not the kind that looks and feels like plastic. She happened to come into the kitchen looking to graze while I was making her lunch, so I fed her the scraps. She kept coming back for more. She ended up eating two whole slices, plus the scraps from the two slices I cut into shapes, plus stole the rest of the package, but I thwarted her attempts to open more cheese, since it was time to get dressed to go.

She's Strong to the Finich, 'Cuz She Eats Her Spinach!: A friend brought a Fresh Express spinach salad (Strawberry something - REALLY nummy!) with a meal over a week ago, after I had the baby, and there was still some spinach leaves left. And they were still good! So instead of chopping up a carrot, I decided to toss some in and see if she liked them.

Fruit Squeeze: Again, due to the snow, we were low on fruit items as well. And after spending all day cutting cheese and sandwiches, I was running short on time and wasn't in the mood to cut an apple (and slosh it in juice to prevent browning. Especially since all I had was lemon juice, since Hubby threw out the apple juice last time he cleaned the fridge! I mean, just because it had expired months before... sheesh.) But these organic peach and apple puree pouches were on sale on Amazon, and even cheaper with Subscribe and Save (which I cancel right after, so I don't forget and get another batch later!) so I decided to give them a try. And they had just arrived, during a lull in the snow! Yay! Fruit!

My lunch: PBHoney, leftover McD apples,
spinach salad w/dried strawberries, almonds and Ranch
The cheese and sandwich were a big hit. At first she was upset that I gave her the EasyLunchbox with the lid still on. I usually take it off and hold onto it in the front seat, so it doesn't fall out of reach or get dirty, since we usually keep dipping back into her lunch throughout the day. But once I explained that the lid was to make cheese pictures on, she calmed down. And she was able to get it open herself no problem!

She ate all of the spinach. All. Of. It. In the past, she has left the stems behind. But this time she claimed that the stems were "dee-nishous!" She didn't want the Ranch at all. She ate almost half of the sandwich.

I made the mistake of telling her that the squeezy fruit pouch was applesauce. I forgot that she 'hates' applesauce. I should have told her it was squeezy candy. Sigh. She did try it for me, but claimed it was too sour. So she traded me for my apples. I felt silly sucking down a pouch of baby food in the parking lot at preschool, but what are you gonna do? She never ended up eating my apples either.
Making faces
Because I had made a cheese face on the sandwich, that's pretty much all she made with the cheese shapes too. Oh well. I would like to note that the plastic-y American cheese sticks REALLY WELL to the plastic. It stayed on nicely, even when shaken upside-down. So if you're thinking of doing something similar, or using cheese to make a picture that sticks to the lid while it's on the box, American is the way to go! Unfortunately, it tears easily, so can only be peeled off and reapplied if done with care.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Two Hunnert - and Counting

WAHOO! I have hit 200 followers! 
To celebrate, I have made a purty pichur! (Mostly because when searching Google Images for '200,' pickings were pretty slim!)
Yay Me! (Drawn crappily using MS Paint)
I'll have to figure out something else awesome to do for you all to celebrate you guys. I mean, it's pretty special to have 200 people liking me enough to click a button. Well. I kind of arm-twisted my mom and sister, to get my numbers up, way back when. But still...

Monday, January 23, 2012

For the Win! - EasyLunchboxes

Congrats to...

Comment #72, patwaldau! Contact me at LudicrousMama@gmail.com within the next week with your name, shipping address, and preferred EasyLunchbox bag color!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Checking Out the "Competition" - Lunches Fit for a Kid

Astrid at Lunches Fit for a Kid makes bento snacks and meals for her two kids, The Boy and The Girl. She is also super fun and funny... kinda like me, only less lazy. And she cooks!

Another bento-er whose ideas are easy to do for the average mom (or dad!) she doesn't feel the need to make them all kawaii (bento code for "frickin' adorable")... so she probably has more time to do other stuff... like, say, cook! And, like me, she loves using her EasyLunchBoxes too!
Fall lunch
Although some of her bentos are a little more insane fancier. Check out the spiderweb pancakes and candy corn crackers in this lunch! Luckily, she also tells us how she made them!
Halloween bento
And check out this amazeballs Rainbow Bread (she has a fancy foreign name for it, but I don't speak foreign.) The pictures in the recipe post aren't as bright as this lunch. Yowza!
Rainbow Pain de Mie in a lunch
But she makes up for her "mere-mortal"-level bentos by making and posting a bunch of recipes. From actual ingredients! I really like her Seuss-themed 'Edible Ooblek' and Roald Dahl-themed dinner (Little Z saw this over my shoulder and demanded 'blobby noodle soup!')
Making "Slobbages"
Check out Astrid and her fantastic recipes [and her apparently offensively crusty stovetop... (wink wink, Astrid!) Not that *I'm* complaining. Compared to mine, hers is clean enough to eat off of!] at Lunches Fit for a Kid and you can also find her on Facebook!

Monday, January 16, 2012

EasyLunchBoxes - These Bento Lunch Boxes Aren't JUST for Packing School Lunches!

Unless you've been reading my blog with your eyes closed, by now you're probably all aware of my extreme love for EasyLunchboxes. And they're great for packing a lunch or dinner, or whatever, instead of stopping somewhere for fast food or a sit-down restaurant.
But did you know, they're also good for fast food and sit-down restaurants? Oh, even yesser!

I know I've mentioned at least a few times *cough cough* how EasyLunchboxes are my favorite lunchbox for mess-free (or at least low-mess!) eating in the car. They fit well on a toddler/preschooler lap, are large enough they stay put on said lap, are small enough they fit between the armrests on the carseat, and don't have a lot of little fiddly parts to get dropped/lost in the car. But I haven't really advertised the fact that I try to keep empty ones in my car at all times. "What?" you gasp. "Empty ones? Why?" Well, I'll tell you. For eating out! That's right!
For a while I was making a 90-minute road trip to and from my sister's house to visit overnight every week. So to make my life easier, we'd get fast food on the drive there and back. But it was hard for the Podling to juggle nuggets, apples, fries (I'd share some of mine,) plus Ranch and ketchup for dipping, all on her own back there. In fact, it was impossible to let her use dips. But I had packed some EasyLunchBoxes in the car to use at my sister's house, to show her how awesome they were for her kids' lunches after preschool. So I started putting Z's Happy Meal in one.
Nuggets, the Ranch cup, and fries in the big compartment; apples in the medium, and some ketchup in the smallest. It made the whole process so much easier! Easier for her to eat. Easier for me to refill (she and I can hand the ELB back and forth while I'm driving, in case she needs more of my fries, or more ketchup, or whatever.) And less mess! No more top-half-of-nugget-box tipping over to dump ketchup or Ranch in her lap. No more spilling of fry bag into dark corners of car seat. no more Happy Meal box tipping off of lap to dump entire meal on less-than-pristine car floor.

In fact, it worked so well, I was getting jealous that SHE got ketchup for her fries, but I had to eat mine plain. So I started using an ELB for my fast food too! Ketchup in one of the smaller compartments, dump the fries out into the large one. It rests perfectly on top of my parking brake (mine's a lever between the front seats) and is at a convenient reach for me. For those of you with longer legs, you could probably put it on your lap. But my legs are so shrimpy my belly almost touches the steering wheel.

But wait, there's more! Have you ever gone to a sit-down restaurant, shelled out $50 or more for food, then had the leftovers leak all over the bag (or your lap!) on the way home? Guess what? EasyLunchboxes are GREAT for taking home leftovers in! Not only can you keep the food separated, but if you're super clever, you can divvy them up into little meal portions and have them already packed into your EasyLunchboxes to reheat for lunch the next day! Know what else? ELBs can be microwaved too! How perfect is that! No more warped take-out container! No more melted styrofoam clamshell! And the ELBs stack nicely in the fridge until you're ready for your leftovers, unlike the various-sized and -shaped containers from the restaurants that may be building up in your fridge. Not to mention all that garbage you'll be throwing out later!

And while we don't have any food allergy issues (thank goodness!) I read a comment on EasyLunchboxes' Facebook page that had a great suggestion for avoiding allergy issues at holiday get-togethers and parties. One mom packs her own allergy-safe meal in her EasyLunchBoxes for her and her son to take to the event. That way it's easy to tell which food is theirs, so it doesn't accidentally get all eaten up by everyone else, as could be the case with a shared dish. And they're sure to get enough to eat, since she packed a whole meal. And if there are other dishes at the party that are safe, great. But if not, no problem! What a fantastic solution to a potentially serious problem!

Another fun (and unconventional) use for them is as gift boxes! Instead of a paper plate filled with baked goods for a teacher, why not put them in a reusable lunchbox? What teacher/coach/bus driver/neighbor wouldn't want an easy way to take a healthy lunch to work?
Eco-Friendly wrapping for your sweet homemade gifts
photo credit
In fact, the gift-giving possibilities are endless! Craft kits, a box for travel-sized bath and body gifts (lotions, hand sanitizers, etc,) play-doh kits (especially home-made! Put two different colors of dough in the smaller compartments, and some cookie cutters and tools in the larger!) Home-made S'mores kits (graham crackers in the large compartment, marshmallow cream in the medium, and chocolates in the small!) I'm sure you can think up more cleverer ideas too! Maybe even some back-to-school supplies? How perfect would THAT be? Either way, next Christmas our preschool teachers will be getting ELBs with scented lotion and hand sanitizers, with a loving note: "You need to eat better. And you stink. :)"

You can even use them for non-food purposes for travel. Pack some small games, toys, activities, etc into the boxes, and store them in the lunch bag! One box for each kid, or different themed activities in each box!

Or, like me, you can just use them as intended: for packing waste-free bento box lunches. Check out my meals featuring EasyLunchboxes!
If you're wanting to give them a try, you can buy them on Amazon (and get free shipping [US only] with Amazon Mom, Amazon Prime, or a $25 minimum order,) or direct from EasyLunchBoxes.com.

I will warn you - because the lids are easy for kids to open and close on their own, they aren't water tight. So they're definitely not for liquids or runny food. There are some tips for preventing stuff from leaking, but you want to be sure they're in a bag that allows them to lay flat (horizontal.) The EasyLunchboxes cooler bag is perfect for this. In fact, you can fit up to three of the containers in one of their cooler bags if you're packing for a long day.
If you think these are a product you'll love, order at least 2 sets. Trust me. Four boxes seem like a lot, until you're using more than one a day. Plus you'll want extras to keep in the car!

~OR~ Enter to win a set! Wahoo! When I contacted Kelly to ask if I could shamelessly steal showcase some of her photos, she offered to let me give a set of these babies away to my fantastic readers! (Pssst! That's you guys! Squeee!)

Prize: One container set and one lunch bag (you choose the color!) Retail value: $21.90. Contest ends midnight PST, 1/22/12 (Baby E's one-month-iversary!)
Mandatory entry:  Visit EasyLunchBoxes.com, then come back here and leave a comment stating something you like about these products!
Bonus entries: 
Like EasyLunchboxes on Facebook and leave a comment here.
Follow EasyLunchboxes on Twitter and leave a comment here.
Subscribe to EasyLunchboxes.TV (on YouTube) and leave a comment here.
If you already like/follow/subscribe, that works too. Just be sure to leave a comment here for each, letting me know!

Please leave a separate comment for each entry.
I will be choosing a random winner using Random.org sometime after midnight, January 22, 2012. Check back on this post for the winner to be announced!

Please make sure I can contact you by either contacting me after I've announced the winner, or not being "Anonymous"! If I don't hear from you within a week after I announce the winner or try contacting you, I reserve the right to pick a new winner!

This giveaway is offered to US residents only. Please do not enter this giveaway if you have won or received free product from EasyLunchboxes within the past 3 months.

Update: Winner, comment #72 - Patwaldau. Please contact me at LudicrousMama@gmail.com with your name, shipping address and desired bag color!
Another Update: First winner never contacted me, so I re-drew! Congrats to Vicki with comment #52!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

We All Scream for Ice Cream Bento

I didn't really have a theme in mind, and not much time to put lunch together, but I decided I wanted to use something from my new Lunch Punch Sweets set for the sandwich. I chose the ice cream cones one mostly because it makes two little sandwiches, to make it easier to eat them at different times, since lately she's been asking to eat her lunch right after breakfast, as well as before school. 

We All Scream for Ice Cream
Her lunch: PBHoney 'cones,' sugar snap peas,
cottage cheese, oranges w/strawberries
The strawberries each had a bite taken out of them [long story. Basically, Z was left unattended with the carton of berries,] so I sliced around the stems and bites. While I was looking for an appropriate pick to go with the theme to make the strawberry and orange slices easier to eat, I found my ice cream cone spork/cupcake pick. Woot! Not useful for the fruit, but worked great for the cottage cheese! I didn't really have anything good to eat the fruit with, so I let her use her fingers.

My lunch: snap peas w/broccoli and Ranch, orange slices,
PBHoney sandwich

She ended up eating the remaining almost-1/3rd of her sandwich and 2/3rds of a banana for breakfast, so saved her lunch for after gym class. But she ate all but one snap pea... oh excuse me. Sugar snap peas. Whenever I call them pea pods or snap peas, she corrects me.
She also ate both sandwich-cones. And maybe half of the cottage cheese. She ate a little bit of fruit, but not much.

Both lunches are in our EasyLunchBoxes. Ranch dip is in a blue Tupperware Smidget. Ice cream cone spork/pick came from a cupcake pick grab bag from a retailer that no longer exists.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Heart Faces Photo Challenge - Best Face

I haven't submitted pictures to the I Heart Faces link-ups lately, mostly because I've been too lazy busy and preoccupied with baby stuff. But I couldn't pass up this week's theme: Best Face of 2011.
This is one of my all-time favorite photos of Little Z. She was in the shopping cart in the parking lot at Costco, waiting while Daddy unloaded all our goodies into the car. She's wearing her "monkey backpack" (it's really a kiddie leash, although we didn't bother with the leash part.) And her 'pink hair' hat (she views the yarn braids as 'hair,' and so she views these types of hats as wigs!)
I love how the wind is flicking her hair around, and that impish grin just gets me every time!

This photo was submitted to the I Heart Faces photo challenge – www.iheartfaces.com
Photo Challenge Submission 

All I Want For Christmas Is You... (And Some Stuff From Amazon )

 For Christmas this year, I was pretty much a non-contender. Not only was I preoccupied with my impending childbirth, but being pregnant apparently sapped any ability to make decisions right out of me. So I asked for gift cards or baby stuff for Christmas. Now I know that people advise against asking for stuff for your kids instead of for yourself, but in my case, I really LOVE getting stuff for my kid(s,) and so far have never felt left out or passed over when gifts for 'me' are really for one of them.
So along with a plethora of [chocolates? What chocolates? Urp.] cute baby toys and clothes (plus a new Boppy cover and a Moby Wrap - thanks Mom!) I got me $50 in Amazon gift cards! Boo yaw! Thank you for giving me the gift of shopping. In my pajamas!
And there's a sale on some Home and Kitchen items (and books) for Buy 3, Get the 4th Free. So I did a search in the Home and Kitchen section, narrowed down to Prime Eligible (for the free shipping at $25, or free 2-day shipping with Prime,) and again narrowed it to '4-for-3' promo as well. And then sifted through a bajillion pages of stuff! I got bored pretty quickly sifting through all those pots and pans, so I did separate searches for just 'cookie cutters,' 'cupcake,' 'Wilton,' and 'Fred' [a brand that makes super cute stuff, as you can see below!] with those parameters.
Here is what I got for me for Christmas!

Baby Cookie Cutter set ($6.91) For obvious reasons. I almost made a baby-themed lunch for Z to have at my mom's house the day we went to the hospital, but I realized I had absolutely nothing baby-themed in my gear. No cutters, no picks, no cupcake liners. Nada. So instead I let my sister feed her! Ha!

Fred Gingerdead Man Cookie Cutter/Stamp ($7) I've seen cute little gingerbread men with frosting skeletons, but that's more piping skill than I possess. This will let me just 'color in the lines,' so to speak. Too fun!

Bat Bytes Sandwich Cutter ($6.69) (It's the only one they make that I don't have yet. All the others I found at Winco in single packs. So now I have a spare, if there's ever a bento or MTM swap... hint hint.)

Tea Party Cookie Cutter Set ($6.16, 4th item FREE)...
...to go with these super cute Fred silicone Teacup Cupcake molds. Squeee! ($13.19) Can not WAIT to do a Tea Party themed lunch now!

Farm Sandwich Molds ($9.93) For making ice cream sandwiches, but also works great with regular sandwiches - especially if you're making multi-layer stackers! Also works as an egg mold! I assume I could do rice in them too...

Fred Snack and Stack Utensils ($14.56) I totally want to get one of the Lego bento boxes from the Container Store! These will go PERFECTLY with it!

Wilton Flower Cups ($9.77 - 4th item FREE)

And even though they weren't part of the Buy 3, Get 4th Free promo, I had to get these...
Fred Nomskulls cupcake liners (How could I NOT own these?!) ($10.57)
and the Wilton Silly Critter Cups ($13.49.) Because they've been out of stock for a while, and I haven't found them anywhere else! I hear they fit perfectly flush to the lid inside an EasyLunchBox as well!

What, these add up to more than my $50 gift card, you say? Shhhh... Don't tell my husband! :)

*A note to the less experienced: If you get 8 eligible items, Amazon will make the two cheapest ones free, not the 4th and 8th cheapest ones. So I broke these into two separate orders, with the four most expensive items together, and the four cheaper items together. And I added on the non-sale items to get to the $25 minimum for free shipping.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Do You See What I C?

**Warning. Frank talk about c-sections, innards, and other woman-stuff details pertaining to pregnancy and delivery. And I use the word 'vagina.' Might be TMI for some people.**

My first pregnancy and birth were what my husband and I jokingly referred to as a "Mary Poppins pregnancy." No morning sickness, no stretch marks, no grody varicose veins. All my previous ailments went away - seasonal allergies, lactose intolerance, citrus allergy, migraines, clinical depression, carpal tunnel, acid reflux, etc. You name it, it either went away, or was severely reduced in effect (I got the acid reflux back the 3rd trimester, but it wasn't ever as bad as it had been before I started taking medication when I wasn't pregnant.) And apparently I was rockin' a mighty fine preggo body, judging by the dagger-stares and muttered cuss-words from my sisters when they saw me prancing around in my undies one time. And while I started dilating early, at about 7.5 months, everything went well and she went to term with no complications or bedrest and was only born 3 days early. And as an added bonus, I got a bunch of extra ultrasounds and non-stress-tests where I got to see and hear her, just to make sure she was still doing okay the whole time (which she was.) Scoooore!
One of my Grandmas had super-easy, quick, pain-free labor, and it appears I inherited something similar.
That combined with my wide 'birthing hips' and my cervix pointing the right way made delivery fairly easy. The only tough part was the back labor, but overall it was only 11 hours from when I started timing contractions (while finishing a dungeon in Warcraft!) until she was born.

So other than my inability to actually GET pregnant, my body is apparently designed to BE pregnant!

Which totally paid off with this one. We had so many freaky little complications going on in my uterus, I'm amazed nothing 'bad' happened. Truly. First up was the 12-week ultrasound (part of a new test called a Combi-screen, with a very painful finger maiming blood draw combined with a high-detail ultrasound at a specialty high-risk clinic. This guy does all my ultrasounds. He's a doctor, so I get the information right away, as he's seeing it, rather than the technician doing it then having the doctor come and consult me about it later. And this guy is GOOD. He can check for Downs Syndrome, Spina Bifida, Cleft Palate, even Club Foot!) He found a twin remnant, which was kind of sad and freaky, since I hadn't known that the other embryo had attached at all. He also thought he saw a velamentous cord insertion and maybe a little bit of placenta previa. He said we'd check again at the 20-week ultrasound. Now, I'm still not sure what exactly a velamentous cord insertion is, and I was advised by my sister not to look into it too much. My husband looked it up a little. Something about where the cord attaches to the placenta, which makes it more likely to have an issue, thus leading to lower birth weight, and a slightly increased chance of miscarriage. And during labor, if the cord happens to be between baby and the cervix, then a vaginal delivery is unsafe, as the baby could suffocate herself by pressing against the cord. Placenta previa I knew some about. It's where the placenta covers some or all of the cervical opening, which is a risk when you start dilating, as it could burst a blood vessel, causing baby and possibly Mom to bleed out. Bad news.

At the 20-week ultrasound, he confirmed both the velamentous cord as well as the placenta previa, which was now a 'full' previa (which I think means covers most or all of the cervix.) Plus, as an added bonus, my placenta was a freaky shape, resulting in a bi-lobal placenta. Basically, instead of one big grody lump, I had 2 smaller grody lumps, connected by a thin bridge of placenta. One of these lobes was on my cervix. Yay. The major complication with this condition is low birth weight. Luckily, she was holding firm at just a little under 50th percentile in size. Now, we still had another 20 weeks to go, and with the uterus growing, it was still possible for the placenta to move off of the cervix, thus negating the need for a planned c-section. One could always hope! Plus this meant I got an extra ultrasound at 30 weeks! Another chance to see my beautiful baby girl!

Well, it was all confirmed at 30-weeks, so I switched from my midwives to an OB I had seen in the past for a surgery to remove polyps from my uterus a few years ago. (Yeah. Fun.) Plus she delivered my youngest sister's first child, and my mom and other sister had seen her as a patient in the past as well. I joked that she's seen 2 generations of vaginas in my family! One of the great things about my new OB is that she's very much an advocate for women's health and her patients. She listens to her patients, and she would rather do some extra unnecessary tests rather than not do enough tests. Plus she really knows her stuff! She was asking about things I hadn't ever even thought of (plus some I had wondered why the midwives weren't doing too.) And because of all the fun placental and cord anomalies, she talked about possibly doing an MRI to look for placenta accreta (where blood vessels in the placenta are attached to the uteran wall and require surgery and cauterization to remove!) which no one else had thus far even thought about mentioning. Joy.
The down side is that because she's so awesome and truly cares about her patients (if one of her OB patients goes into labor while she's working, even if she's not on call, she does their delivery!) her schedule is packed, and she is usually running behind, which results in a loooooong wait under that little paper sheet!

At the tail-end of 36 weeks, we did an amniocentesis to see if Little E's lungs were mature enough to do an early delivery. Nowadays, any planned delivery earlier than 39 weeks pretty much requires an amnio. My OB had wanted to do my c-section earlier in the 37th week (12/19,) but the OR was totally booked that day, so I was put on a waitlist. The earliest opening that fit into her schedule wasn't until 37w5d, on 12/22. The amnio is usually done the day before the planned c-section, except I was waitlisted for a Monday delivery, and they don't do amnios on the weekend. So I went in the Friday before (12/16.) And as it turns out, despite the amniotic fluid looking cloudy and mature, she was considered 'transitional.' Which meant her numbers were higher than a definite 'not mature,' but not yet at a number that meant definitely mature. The amnio doc called me after hours (!!!) to discuss the results, and said that a delivery on our scheduled date of the 22nd should be fine. And then my OB called me after hours and said the same thing. So since I wasn't having any complications or reason for an emergency c-section earlier, I got off the waitlist for the 19th and we stuck with my scheduled time on the 22nd.

But despite these potential problems (and my previous history of early dilation,) my cervix stayed closed, there was no bleeding, and she continued to grow and thrive in there, as healthy as can be. My OB told me that with all the hot mess going on up in there, she was quite frankly amazed we got to wait until our scheduled c-section at 37 weeks 5 days.

Once I found out I pretty much had to get a c-section, everyone who'd had one tried talking them up. But no amount of someone else loving them was going to change my mind about not wanting one. I was WILLING to get one, for the safety of my baby, but I certainly would have preferred the messier, more painful, longer recovery, and less needle-y vaginal version! In fact, I almost managed to go needle-free with my first one! I caved after about 10 hours of back labor and not dilating (I had started at 4.5-5cm going in, from the extra month and a half of dilating on my own) and asked for an epidural, just so I could rest a little. During the 20-minutes on a lactose ringer IV to rehydrate me first, I banged out to 9.5cm and powered through without the epidural. Yay!

Anyhoo, no amount of 'Oh my recovery was SO easy!" or "It was so nice being pain-free" could convince me that I wanted a c-section. I have a needle phobia. Now, most people say that they are scared of needles. But for me, it's an irrational fear. Inside, I'm screaming. My fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. I have a physiological reaction which causes increased heart rate, cold sweats, dizziness, nausea, etc (called a vaso-vagal reaction, apparently.) With all the rigamarole involved in getting IVF (loads of blood work, shots, etc,) I've pretty much managed to man-up for routine stuff. But I really hate needles that stay in my body, like with an IV. And needles that go in freaky weird places, like my mouth at the dentist, or in my frickin' SPINE! And I especially hate having to be cool and cooperative. I prefer my surgeries to be the kind I get to sleep through. Then I only have to think about needles in my flesh for a short time before it's all over and someone's feeding me ice chips and juice.

The anesthesiologist told me that if I started freaking out too much he'd knock me out. Normally, I'd be a big fan of that. But it takes longer for the grogginess to wear off, and I wanted to be there for Little E as soon as humanly possible. So while I was totally freaking out inside (seriously. I almost lost it a few times,) I focused on breathing. And trying to eavesdrop on my OB and her assistant MD. Who were doing their level best to talk too quietly to be heard. Meanwhile the anesthesiologist and one of the nurses couldn't stop jabbering on about their kids or something, which was totally annoying. My husband and doula did their best to keep me distracted and breathing (my doula reminded me right at the start to breathe, thus earning her paycheck all on its own. I totally would have freaked out without her there reading my body language and knowing when to help calm me down and when to distract me.) I originally had lofty plans to hold baby skin-to-skin in the OR, while they were closing me up, but really it was all I could do to not start screaming and flailing around in a panic. I didn't have the energy to focus on anyone but me. So it was nice to have Hubby in there to hold her and make sure no one swapped her out or anything. And it was nice having my doula there to make sure my husband didn't bumble around ineptly, and to check on the happenings on the other side of the drape. And to make sure I didn't go stark raving bonkers and get put under.

Cons of Having a C-Section:
  • Pretty much everything. 
  • No food, antacids, or WATER for 8 hours before. So basically I had to lay there sitting up; hungry, parched, and acid-refluxy, all night. Well, okay. Until 5am, when I had to get up and get ready to go to the hospital. Between that and trying to share my childhood twin bed with my daughter at my mom's house (so we wouldn't have to get her up and out the door early to take her there that morning,) I got, like, 5 minutes of sleep total.
  • The Shakes. I had the shakes pretty bad for a while after. My doula had disposable hot packs she was using to help warm me up, but it took forever for the shivers and shakes to go away after I was back in my room.
  • Catheter. Oh yes. Did I mention that these involve catheters? Apparently they do. And actually it wasn't so bad... until they took it away and made me get up and go potty on my own after spending a day blissfully staying hydrated. Heartless monsters.
  • She took my uterus out to make sure she got everything. Which apparently can cause extra cramping and gas. And, boy howdy, did it!
  • Needles. 
  • Needles in my spine
  • An IV that apparently required three attempts to put in. And then she ended up having to put it on the side of my wrist, where it was very uncomfortable whenever I bent my wrist. Like when trying to hold my child, for example. And then I had to keep it in for an extra day, just in case. Two weeks later I still have a scab on my wrist from where the needle got ground around in my flesh for 3 days. *shudder*
  • Slasher-flick on my abdomen
  • Having to be awake and not totally freaking out throughout. Gaaaaah.
  • Plus for the first two weeks, it felt like everything was put back in the wrong spots. Freaky.
  • Did I mention that she took my uterus out of my body?!

Pros of Having a (Scheduled) C-Section: 
  • Being able to make childcare plans for the older kiddo.
  • Extra day at the hospital.
  • Being able to sit without the aid of an inflatable donut for the first few weeks.
  • It stopped looking like there was a crime scene in my pants by Day 5.
  • She was already all up in that when they discovered that I had placenta accreta after all, and she had to do some emergency cauterization and other fun stuff to get the placenta out and stop the bleeding.

Would I do it again by choice? Hells no. But, as luck would have it, due to the placenta accreta, I now have scar tissue or something on my uterus. Apparently on the cervical area. So if I get pregnant again, and the placenta happens to attach at that scar tissue (which is likely, apparently,) then it's pretty much guaranteed that I'd lose my uterus. And since it would be on my cervix again, I'd need another c-section. And even if somehow magically the placenta grew somewhere else, if I started dilating or tried for a vaginal birth, there's a chance that the blood vessels near my cervix could rupture anyway or something. So I'd be safer going for a c-section again and not risking it. Gah.
But I would trade my monthly visitor and the probability of not getting to have more kids in a heartbeat in exchange for another little one! And if I have to be disemboweled one more time for the safe delivery of my little miracle, then it's a price I will, once again, pay gladly.

The $15k price tag to get pregnant again, however, might be a deterrent!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Top Five Overall - 2011 Recap

I figured a fun way to finish out the year would be to do an overall Top 5 for the year. I did fudge it a bit, and didn't count the really boring stuff. :) I wanted to do a Top Ten, but since I can't view my stats for just the year (I can only view Day, Week, Month or All Time) I weeded out stuff posted in 2010.

Paper plate and crepe streamer "rainbows," and cut-up straws and pony bead shamrock necklaces.

Lunch for after ballet and snack for ballet camp. I was astounded at how much garbage was accumulated by all the pre-packaged snack paraphernalia that Every. Other. Child. Brought!

Lunch for after ballet class and snack for ballet camp

4. Booboo Butterfly (actually #4 was a giveaway I did. But that's boring.)

I'm skipping the Referring URLs and Referring Sites, since I can't tell what traffic is from this year versus last year. So instead, I'll list the other Top Ten Posts that weren't published in 2010 (and weren't a boring old giveaway!)

One of the many sets of lunches packed for Z and her cousins when I was going to my sister's to babysit each week.

This one was one of my favorites to do, since the kids made their own healthy choices and packed and bento'd up their own lunches!

10. Eye Spy Bento

Happy New Years, y'all!