Yesterday was littlest’s birthday. I cannot believe we are already celebrating his first birthday. The first year with baby is tough. Celebrating a child’s first birthday is more a celebration for the parents having made it through.
Each baby is different. Littlest is our second child. Having my first son, I learned an incredible amount from being a first time parent. A first child has the remarkable ability to turn a new parent’s life upside down. With littlest, I feel like the greatest thing I learned this last year is to enjoy the present. This time around, I have felt more focused on being present in each stage of development. I have come to believe that grace is something of elastic. The more present an individual is, the more grace is able to amplify. Before I go further down this philosophical path, I will change gears to tell you more about these cupcakes.
My littlest man is lucky as he has two cousins within weeks of his age. A couple of weekends ago we celebrated littlest’s 1st birthday early while family was in town. I did not have much time for recipe development so I pulled a go-to vanilla cupcake recipe for the party. They were tasty. I liked the rich vanilla and butter taste, but the cakes turned out denser than I hoped for. I had already had aspirations to try avocado cupcakes as I have heard how tender they are.
Before you say, “Jess, that is crazy. I am not putting avocado in my cake. It belong on my toast or in my guac.”- hear me out. Banana bread is tasty and moist, right. Avocado will make a similarly tender cake. To push the cake into a light and fluffy state, I had a few tricks up my sleeve.
In this recipe, the avocado replaces the butter. Vegetable oil and baking soda are added for further leavening. They also create a moist, airiness in the cakes. This recipe is intended to make 12 regular sized cupcakes. Adjust the recipe for party size.
These cupcakes are awesome with a homemade vanilla buttercream frosting. It was my first attempt at piping frosting so please excuse the slight messiness. The good news I can share with you is you don’t need fancy cake decorating bags to frost cupcake. Just a homemade parchment paper cone will suffice. Next time I will cut a slightly larger opening for piping cupcake frosting.
Vanilla Avocado Cupcakes
Yields 12 Cupcakes
⅔ granulated sugar
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup milk
1 ½ cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream the sugar into the avocado by hand or using a stand mixer. Mix in the vegetable oil, vanilla extract, milk, and eggs. Blend until smooth.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Slowly add the dry mix into the wet mix. Only mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Spoon the mix into baking cups. The recipe should make 12 cupcakes. Bake for 22 minutes.
It is the question we all asked our parents once. “Can we stay up and watch the ball drop?” Maybe you were asked this question by your children this year. Luckily my two are too young to ask, yet.
This New Year’s Eve, I felt more my “age” than ever. I watched a cartoon NYE count down on Netflix at 6p with my two little ones. In fact, we watched it 5 times through. My toddler loved it so much and it was a special occasion, after all.
There was the usual bedtime fuss. The chaos included wrangling an infant into his sleep and play. He cannot stand to sit still enough to get one limb into his pajamas, much less all four in and zipped up. Then there was the toddler. His new favorite word is “no.” The process started with a defiant, “no, I don’t want my pajamas on.” Then an upset, “no, I don’t want to sleep without my pajamas.” With a final desperate cry of “help put on my pajamas.”
Once the boys were tucked in, the nightly cleaning process began. I rocked out to some forgotten late 90’s jams – The Cardigans, Third Eye Blind, Alanis Morissette. Feeling extra motivated, I scrubbed and deep cleaned the oven range top.
With a sense of accomplishment, I sat down to tinker with blog formatting. I was so “enrapt” in reading up on brand marketing that I forgot to turn on the television for the NYE countdown.
I resolved to go to bed when I realized the midnight celebration had already come and gone. For a moment I thought about how the evening’s events reflected my age. I mused on past NYEs. Then I was struck with how thankful I was to be content and present in this moment of life’s journey. Glad for the experiences of 2015 and looking forward to the new adventures in 2016.
Wishing you all the best in the adventures if the year to come. Happy New Year!
What did you do this New Year’s Eve? How will you celebrate the New Year?
A little more than three years ago, my life changed. In a matter of hours I literally became a different person. My physiology was altered as different hormones coursed through my veins. My mind and body shifted into full-on nurture mode. I still find myself amazed at the depth of change that comes with motherhood.
Last weekend we celebrated my older son’s birthday. It was a blast to share in the joys of a three year old. This was the first year he had an understanding of the occasion and even had a few specific requests. We decorated the living room with balloons, I made a frozen yogurt cookie cake, and we called the events a party.
Oh the cake! It was super delicious. I grabbed the recipe from Pip & Ebby.com. It was also quite easy to make. Mix melted butter with crushed Oreos to form a crust. Top the base crust with slightly sweetened greek yogurt. Pour on some caramel sauce. Top the sauce with more greek yogurt. Create a top layer of crust with Oreos and decorate the top with fun candy sprinkles.
All week, my toddler continues to serenade us with the birthday song when we enjoy a left over piece of birthday cake. I think we have had to tell him every night, “No, we will not light candles again tonight. Sorry.” This has been a fun and exciting new chapter in our lives, as parents, as well. Suddenly, another person’s birthday becomes a milestone or marker to notching off the accomplishment of tending to another human being. Happy birthday to my baby! Happy three years of successful experience to us as parents.
When I was a kid, my mother would make lists. There were lists for everything – grocery lists, cleaning lists, to do lists, and the ever elaborate camping list. For Christmas and birthdays we were even in charge of creating a wish list complete with pricing and store availability. As a mother myself now, I understand the necessity of lists. I have a weekly white board calendar that tracks my work hours and the dinner menu. On the side is a running list of groceries or other needs. This has helped organize our household. We can best coordinate on hand groceries and when to use them. Since returning to work from a recent maternity leave, I have been far more coordinated in prepping food for my work days. As a breastfeeding mom, it is important to continue to eat for two. As baby is getting all of his nutrition from me still it is especially important to eat well. I’m a longtime vegetarian with a slight dairy and soy protein intolerance who continues to have a growing interest in eating healthier. Over the last few months we have cut out most processed foods from our grocery list and have been cooking “cleaner” foods. It has been a very gradual process that has brought us to eating cleaner. The whole thing did not start out conscious. We learned of my son’s allergy to tree nuts when he was about 14 months old. We began avoiding foods that were processed with tree nuts. So many foods are exposed to nuts – breads, frozen treats, candies, baked goods, etc. Thus began more cooking from scratch. I began finding recipes that were written for cleaner eating. They reduce refined sugars and refined grains. There is focus on increasing natural whole foods and reducing processed items. Fats, salt and sugar are things to steer away from; they are often extra ingredients in processed foods. Focusing on whole foods will also result in less of these items showing up in your diet. I have enjoyed the piece of mind and peace in the GI tract as a result of cleaner eating. It has been my goal to continue to avoid processed groceries even upon my return to work. This has meant preparing freezer meals and selecting portable snack options. Here are a few snack and meal options I’ve been toting to work this week. Honey peach muffins from Amy’s Healthy Baking recipe Greek yogurt topped with raisins – stored separately and them assembled at snack time
Being a parent sometimes feels like being an island. There is an ever present fear of messing your child up. In the moments you are in public and your child manages to do the embarrassing, it can be isolating when all judgmental eyes roll your direction. Or when you feel an emotional wreak the first days back to work away from your baby. It is hard in these situations to remember there are other people who have been there too.
I put up a quick Facebook post with pictures of the boys before returning to work last week. In the post I mentioned I’d be going back to work the next day. A few other moms commented back saying they would be thinking of me or expressing empathy as they had been there too.
It is the moments when another parent reaches out to say “I’ve been there” that feels like a life raft. The reassurance that another parent can say “me too” creates community. As a parent, it helps to have that commonality – to know we are not the only ones who have had that experience.
The first week back to work was rough. I missed my babies terribly. There were fun moments at work. The pull to be with my little one feels deeply instinctual. Getting reminders from other parents who have been there too helped pass the work days.
To all the parents out there, I encourage you to look out for each other. Let that struggling mom or dad know they are not alone. Let’s merge the islands of parents to create a parenthood Pangea.
Before my return to work I did finish the buttons on the convertible nursing scarf/ponchos. As promised from my earlier post here are a few pictures for my readers.
Yesterday, my husband and I went out for lunch to celebrate our anniversary. We are celebrating early this year since I am returning to work from maternity leave tomorrow.
In light of the celebration I was reflecting on our honeymoon a few years back. We had the privilege of going to New Orleans for the week. I remember we had wonderful food, saw a few sights and mostly spent quality time getting to know each other better. As a musician, my husband says he has felt a bit of regret when friends ask how much music he checked out. We went to Preservation Hall one night. We talked about in the grand scheme of things, we did something far more valuable by spending time bonding. Early love is being so entranced with one another.
That is why I call this special time with my newborn a babymoon. I have been free from work and focusing primarily on getting to know my new son well. We have been able to invest in a bond that will give him a solid foundation. And I can say this early love is evident by the entranced nature. Staring into his little dark eyes while he nurses looking back is intoxicating.
Tomorrow will in no way be easy. Only a mother can understand the feeling of being torn two directions when going to work. It feels impossible to be both good at my job and a good parent. I will do my best to provide for my baby by not only going to work, but also trying to pump milk to sustain him. The odds and challenges will be before me, as they are for many working mothers who pump.
Looking back on this time of baby-moon, I do not have regrets. My original “to do” list this time is hardly touched. The apartment is not clean. My bank account is near empty from the unpaid time. Yet, I am satisfied in knowing that I could spend this time bonding with baby and focused on that very thing. That is a gift I would not trade.
Today is feeling like the final countdown of my return to work from maternity leave. 7 days and I will be jumping back into the chaos known as “working mom”. It is difficult to not feel a certain amount of dread of the unknown. Will my husband and I be able to keep a functioning household and care for our children? Will we be able to attend to the needs of our marriage? And of course, there is the fear of the unknown logistics of expressing milk at work in order to maintain a breastfeeding relationship with my newborn. Baristas and most people working food service are familiar with how little private space exists in our workplace. Most cafes have a cramped backroom that serves double duty as an office and prep area. With my first son, I worked in a cafe with an L shaped backroom and was able to hang a shower curtain to draw for privacy. This time around I do not have such a lucky layout. My plan is to wear a nursing cover while expressing. In my search for the right nursing cover solution, I discovered an opportunity in product supply. Most available nursing solutions work well for the nursing mom. However, there are few options that offer full torso coverage other than ponchos. I am simply not the poncho wearing type and did not want to get a poncho just for expressing. An infinity scarf is much more my style. The coverage from a scarf is typically just one sided. Thus, I came up with the idea of an infinity scarf with a button in the middle of the neck opening to convert to a poncho. Versatility is one of my favorite features. The scarf I made today offers wearability options. It can be worn as a scarf doubled over or hang long. Then when it comes time to nurse, it can be worn cross body style or buttoned in the middle for more privacy. The buttoned poncho option also offers just the right amount of coverage to conceal a double pump set up for expressing in public. The scarf itself it fairly easy to make. It only requires one seam if jersey material is used. My scarf is taking a bit longer since I wanted it to be reversible. (Again, I love versatility.) It is amazing I got as far as I did in the process and only had the tin of sewing pins dumped out 3 times by my toddler. Sorry for the lackluster quality photos. Hopefully, I can finish up with the button attachment tomorrow and share a picture of the truly finished product.
It is springtime in Chicago. I love midwest springs. By the time the new season rolls around, I have grown weary of winter’s cold, grey demeanor. Spring time ushers in new life. The grass pokes fresh green sprouts checking for the warmer temperatures. Then trees bud and blossom in the celebration of winter’s death grip releasing.
This spring also brought new life to our home. Our second son, Oliver was born before one last snow flurry. He was our little olive branch this year – a promise of new life. To date, I have been in full-time management within the corporate cafe business. It has been a special occasion – taking FMLA leave from work to spend time bonding with our newest family member. With my first son, my relationship with work life changed drastically. I no longer felt like work was my life; I developed a new sense of family and home became my life. With my second son, I am feeling a greater urge than ever to spend more time at home. It is pushing me to explore other avenues of creative income sources. It is also stretching me to discover other occupations that spark my passion and interest. I sense that with the arrival of my little olive branch this spring, there will be a greater turning of a new leaf in our home.