Thursday, December 20, 2012

How We Can Help

I recently posted about my friend Brian, who lost his daughter, Olivia Engel, last week in the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. So many people have been touched by this event, because we all know that this very easily could have been anyone's child. We all hurt because of this reality.

But as much as it could have been anyone's child, it wasn't. 

If anyone reading this has been personally touched by Olivia's story and would like to help in some way, here are some ideas:

1. Send your thoughts and prayers to Olivia's family by posting words of support on a Facebook page that some of my friends set up for this purpose. It can be found by clicking here

2. Make a Paypal donation that will go directly to Shannon & Brian Engel, Olivia's parents, to help with the burden of funeral costs, as well as a potential memorial for Olivia and all the victims. I can personally vouch for this PayPal account (if that helps at all??) because I know the people who set this account up for the Engels. You can make a donation here.

3. Mail a card, a letter, a prayer, a care package, Christmas presents for Olivia's 3-year-old brother or anything else heartfelt to the Engel family at the following address:

P.O. Box 697
Botsford, CT 06404

If you would like to send a donation this way, please make your check out to The Engel Family.

4. As you may have heard, the children who attend Sandy Hook Elementary will not be returning to that location for quite awhile, if ever. An available elementary school one town over in Monroe, Connecticut is being prepared for these students to return to their classes in January. 

To welcome the students back to school, and to help them know they are in a safe, loving and happy environment, there is a campaign to create a Winter Wonderland with thousands of paper snowflakes. This Snowflake Drive is being coordinated by the PTAs for the Newtown Schools. If you would like to contribute your snowflakes, please mail them to the following address by January 12th, 2013 to:

Connecticut PTSA
60 Connolly Parkway
Building 12, Suite 103
Hamden, CT 06514

5. An independent family photographer who does not know the victims personally but has been touched very deeply by Olivia's passing has created in her memory The Olivia Act to be passed among other photographers. 

Because our memories of our children should be documented through beautiful photographs, this photographer (who wants their name left out of this) will be donating a family photo package to a family who might otherwise not be able to afford such an opportunity. This person is encouraging other photographers to do the same and help Olivia's memory live on!

Please let me know if there are other ways to help that I can add to the list above. Please help these childrens' memories live on.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Honor of Olivia

Right now we are all trying to understand how it is that this world we live in is home to people who are capable of purposefully taking the lives of innocent children. The Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy that just occurred in Newtown, Connecticut will never be forgotten, because somehow we all have got to find a way to honor the 20 beautiful children and 6 heroic adults whose lives were selfishly cut short in a matter of mere minutes.

Like everyone, and as a mother, I am deeply affected by the thought of my child being taken from me in any way, let alone in such a violent, permanent way. But what I am having the most difficulty with is coming to terms with who this happened to. I was very good high school friends with Olivia Engel's father Brian. Due to life moving so fast it has been years since I have talked to Brian, but my heart has been repeatedly breaking for him and his wife Shannon since I learned of how personally they have been affected by this.

It is a shame that this nightmare is what brings me to get caught up on his family. But what I have learned about Olivia in the past few days has given me insight into what is surely a bright light that has joined the other angels in heaven. An energetic yet polite 6-year-old, Olivia was a heavily involved little girl who loved everything from math to tennis to music. She loved to go boating with her family. She also loved her little brother Brayden, who somehow has to understand that his own personal hero will no longer be there to show him how to do things as he grows up.

I ache for my friend, who somehow has to process seeing his family's face on CNN, seeing his daughter's name on the front page of the New York Times and on an episode of The Voice, and even meeting the President of the United States, all while carrying the weight of this loss on his shoulders. It's all the world can do to honor Olivia's memory and help the family to know that the entire world is grieving and praying for them.

My hope is that Olivia will be remembered for the light she clearly was, and that she will live on in her brother, her parents, in the love that every parent has for their own children, and in humanity, which has to do a better job in protecting each other from such darkness that tried to takeover on Friday, December 14th, 2012. We all have to BE better.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Back to Normal

Well, apparently being back to "normal" - and that means basically being primarily home in Texas for us - means that we are a lot busier! So the downtime for typing up some thoughts, observations, or projects has been few and far between!

We just completed quite a bit of travel for Thanksgiving, and survived Bugga's First Birthday Party! This means I can finally relax and enjoy the rest of this year's holidays...which seems weird but I think will require less planning, at least for this year.

I have several posts ready to go that are overdue for sharing, so keep an eye out if you are out there in internet-land keeping up with us!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recipe: Baby's Banana Mini Muffins

I had a few bananas that were ripening faster than we could eat them so I started looking into recipes online for baby-friendly banana bread. Instead I found several variations on banana bread muffins and landed on a combination of several, along with some substitutions that a) worked with what I had in my kitchen and b) catered to my baby's health.

The result? A delish banana apple mini muffin that is SUGAR-FREE, EGG-FREE, ORGANIC and pretty much a great go-to snack. One quick comment on my organic approach: I am trying to feed my child (and in turn, the family as a whole) as many organic foods as possible. Now that we are back in our full-time home (versus our hiatus in Alaska) I am slowly turning over everything I can in my pantry to organic items. Obviously organic is interchangeable with inorganic, and it is a personal choice, as these things are typically more expensive and do not last as long as conventional ingredients. 

I plan on freezing whatever we don't plan on eating in the next couple days, and then pulling out one or two at a time and reheating in the microwave under a paper towel. Enjoy!

Baby's Banana Mini Muffins

2 Cups of Earth's Best Whole Grain Oatmeal (you can substitute any kind of flour or blended oats)

1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t ground organic cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg (ok all I had was allspice and cloves so I went with cloves :-)...need to put that on the grocery list...)
3 very ripe organic bananas
1/4 Cup organic apple puree (just popped a few cubes out of a ziploc in the freezer!)

1/4 Cup unsalted butter, melted


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a mini muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Mix most of dry ingredients together in a large bowl: 2 Cups of oatmeal, 1 t baking powder, 1/2 t baking soda (half of what you'll need), 1/2 t of salt, and the 1/4 nutmeg/ allspice/ cloves/ whatever. Set aside.
  3. Peel and mash bananas in a medium bowl. Add the apple puree and the other 1/2 t of baking soda.
  4. Combine the banana mixture with the dry mixture, adding in the melted butter. Stir thoroughly. This will be pretty lumpy.
  5. Add heaping teaspoons into each muffin spot in your tin. Bake in oven for 15 minutes.
One quick comment: Not sure if it is my wonky oven (we have been trying to get to know each other since we bought the house in June and still aren't seeing eye to eye) or the recipe, but the muffins do not really rise and instead sink a little bit. The upside I see to this is they are perfect for a small scoop of vanilla ice cream on top if grown ups are eating these (Bugga is not eating dairy yet).

Because they didn't rise, I was sure I screwed something up (still not positive I didn't??) but they are actually delicious. I hope there are some left by the time Bugga gets up from her nap!

Friday, October 26, 2012


We spent the last several months temporarily relocated to Anchorage, Alaska from Houston, Texas for my husband's current project at work. If you know anything about geography, that's a huge difference in our way of life. Off the bat is the weather - this week it was 90 degrees in Houston while it was a sweaty 12 degrees in Anchorage. (!!!) Also, as much as Anchorage is considered "urban" by Alaskans, it is far smaller than Houston. Because of the size difference of the two cities, we had different options for baby activities each day and had to get creative sometimes.

Well, we are back in Texas, where everything is just as we left it...particularly all the moving boxes we still hadn't unpacked since we bought our house here in June. So as much as we were always in hot pursuit of baby activities in Anchorage, now they are competing with getting this house organized before the holiday season that now includes one very special holiday: Bugga's Birthday!

What I'm trying to say is that I am a little busy right now (aside from my husband still traveling quite a bit) so my posts have not been as frequent as I like, but I promise we haven't gone too far!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Parenting Support #19

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

You should have asked me. Notice I have ONE child.

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Learning About Food from my Infant

Like anyone else, there are foods I love to eat, and foods I don't care much for. For instance, there are several fruits and vegetables I have either tried and not really liked, or just didn't bother trying since they have zero allure, are rarely available, or are too complicated to prepare.

Cooking healthy food for my daughter has given me an opportunity to learn things I never knew about food. We are still going through the vast list of produce and I have already learned some things.


There are several different kinds of squash - summer, butternut, winter, acorn, and others. I've never been fond of the standard "squash" side dish you might be offered in a restaurant. Boring, blah, no thanks. Then I baked and pureed a butternut squash for Bugga. She LOVES it. And I tried it - and it's not that bad. It is a great simple sauce for pasta, mixes well with chicken, and has a nice sweet taste. I need to find some recipes to incorporate this into meals for the whole family.


Beets have always been a mystery to me. They are all the rage on salads in trendy restaurants but I've been too chicken to try them. And now I have a reason: they taste like dirt. But they are pretty, and at least now I have something to back up my distaste for them.

Sweet Potatoes

The first time I had sweet potato was in fry form. And as a lover of all condiments, I tried to eat them with ketchup. Gross. The sweet and savory combination is not my bag. My child, on the other hand, LOVES them - just like squash. They are also as flexible as squash as far as how to use them. And the other night I also revisited the fry concept, but this time just baked them in the oven with olive oil and cinnamon - they were delish!


I love pumpkin in every shape and form. In my coffee, in bread, in pancakes and of course most importantly...IN PIE!!! But I had never gotten my puree straight from the gourd until now. I am shocked how much pulp is usable from a single sugar pumpkin. I might never buy the stuff from the can ever again. The baby might also be eating pumpkin oatmeal every morning for breakfast for the rest of October as well! And guess what - she loves this too.

Still left to explore: kiwi, eggplant, lentils, parsnips, zucchini...

Parenting Support #18

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

This helps me on tough days.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Activity: Rainbow Rice Sensory Box

After creating a rainbow's worth of colored rice, we had a lot of fun putting it into action. I purchased a large plastic bin (don't forget the lid - this is very important!) that would allow for enough space for my daughter to literally sit inside of it, but not too big for my living room. We added a plastic scoop, some measuring cups and spoons, and a couple toys, and we had a great time.
Yes, there were times when Bugga would try to stuff a handful of rice in her mouth. This is a safe way to teach her not to do this; if she happens to eat some of the rice then there is minimal harm. I'm hoping this is great practice before we head to the beach and have to play this game with sand - blechhh.

When we are done, we can just snap the lid on and put the bin away until next time. (Or leave it closed on the floor - my kiddo likes to bang on the top of the bin when she's playing nearby.)

Here are some pictures from our activity - let me know if you decide to try this!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Nap Breakthrough!

Holy naptime, batman.

After almost 10 months of nursing my daughter to sleep for every bedtime and nap, and then holding her in my lap (thankfully she's been tired enough at night to lay into the crib), we have broken this habit!

Bugga has been a light sleeper for quite awhile. Yes, every newborn will sleep anywhere with any level of noise, but our kiddo grew out of this phase very quickly. Sometime around two months old, she would be easily startled if I turned the car engine off after nodding off during a drive, or woken by the floor creaking if I crept past her bouncer. Realizing she desperately needed more nap time in order to maintain healthy development, I started to nurse her to sleep and then hold her in my lap, barely moving, so she could log some valuable sleep hours.

Her naps started at 20-30 minutes here and there, but soon extended to up to almost 3 hours! I was thrilled, but this meant a lot of butt-in-the-glider time for me. I love to cuddle my little girl, but besides this being precious time that I could use to be productive around the house, if she ever wanted to change sleeping positions, my lap was not conducive to this and any movement she made would lead to her waking up and not getting the full nap she needed. It's been a long ten months for nap challenges around here.

I needed to teach her how to nap in her crib.

I read several books over the previous months on sleep training so I referenced these now to figure out what could be done. The catch is that this wasn't a straight issue of nursing to sleep, since most who do this, do this all night long. We had night-weaned back at 5 weeks or so when Bugga started sleeping through the night. She also could be laid down in her crib at night still awake but drowsy, and roll over and go to sleep. So I knew she had some soothing skills. But I knew I wanted her to a) do this for naps without freaking out (which had been the result if I ever tried before this), and b) be able to put herself back to sleep if she woke up at night (bonus!).

OK so I just went cold turkey on the naps in the crib, figuring I'd give it a try for a week. I was scared to death I would simultaneously ruin bedtime by putting a fear of the crib into my child. I put her down at her scheduled times, twice a day, after nursing. At first there was crying and protesting. I'd lay her down with the lights off (closet light on for a slight light), white noise on, leave the room and close the door. She would begin to cry as I left the room. I watched her on the video monitor for five minutes. She sometimes would sit up or stand up while crying. After five minutes I went back in and offered her the pacifier, laid her back down, rubbed her back for about 2 minutes, then left again. I repeated this until she finally fell asleep.

I started last week on Monday, and by this past Monday (8 days later!), I feel she is officially comfortable with falling asleep on her own. Out of the 14 nap windows during this time, she cried anywhere from 0 to 50 minutes before falling asleep. The 50 minute scenarios happened only (gulp) twice, and although I continued the checks, the second time this happened I just picked her up and moved on - no nap that time. Sometimes she would let out a couple whimpers and/or just nod off; sometimes she'd cry for 5 minutes then be out. And the strange thing is there was no rhyme or reason for which option would happen when. But now she will pretty much go down without freaking out at all (yay!!) and sleep anywhere from 50 minutes until 3 hours (and we had to wake her up from that one). She really is getting better sleep this way, and my husband and I are getting some kid-free time on the weekends which is completely new to us.

If you are struggling with this scenario, I am happy to answer any questions!

Parenting Support #17

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

It seems to me like all the parents that are doing a fabulous job are the ones who feel the worst about how things are going. Cut yourself some slack, your little girl is getting everything she needs. Just make sure mom is getting what she needs as well... and don't feel guilty about making time for yourself. I found the first 18 months to be the most difficult. Hang in there, and seek out your friends!

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Right Kind of Socialization

At almost 10 months, Bugga is finally making the age cut for various activities. She is now old enough to attend classes that will cater to any interest she has in music, gymnastics, singing, stories, etc., but mostly these are great for socialization. As a stay-at-home mom, my child does not have the opportunity to interact with other babies unless I schedule this time. 

Bugga waving at Mom
I find it funny when I think about my natural reaction to certain social situations. Waiting in line at the grocery store is an easy place to observe other kids shopping with their parents. As eager as I am for my daughter to observe other babies and children interacting with the world around them, I would prefer to block her view from the horrid behavior we typically see! Ugh, the tantrums and Energizer-Bunny-ness.

Since my kiddo is so young, I suppose those times will come eventually for me, but right now I will enjoy the compliments I get because, "She is so quiet and well-behaved!" My daughter is very much still in her Observer stage. (Sidenote - is this a stage? She has always been one to watch everything, and never misses a detail.) You can always see her little brain ticking away as she thinks about how to react to what she is watching.

Gymnastics, on the other hand, is exhilarating!!!

Parenting Support #16

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

People look at you horridly when you express your frustration... I emailed some of my friends with kids when my daughter was one month and called her the spawn of Satan - anyone who knows my husband realizes it's true. :) The beginning is awful - my biggest problem was just the lack of predictability. Things settle in, and then all other problems crop up - illnesses, temper tantrums, etc. sometimes makes you wonder why we do this! But, once you get to see the world through their eyes, experience the laughs and good times, it makes sense...

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Project: Rainbow Rice

I have recently learned about the fantastic concept of sensory boxes. These are portable boxes filled with all sorts of random things that help babies and toddlers learn about colors, shapes, textures and other random details about the world around them.

A great way to introduce the sensory box is essentially by building an indoor sandbox.  As we are still living in Alaska until November before we move back to Texas, anything we can do indoors is a bonus!

There are many things you can use as the sand. I am starting with Rainbow Rice! Across Pinterest (and the rest of the internet, I'm assuming ha) there are various ways to make this rice. The instructions below are my version, as I wanted to make sure that should any of this rice make its way into the baby's mouth, it would not be toxic.

Items you will need:
  • several bags of white rice (I used 8 bags which turned out to be plenty. Oh, by the way, I actually bought 4 bags of brown rice first, thinking if I never got to the project that at least I could cook with the rice since I prefer brown. Then I bought 4 white bags. The white definitely allows the colors to be brighter, but the brown does take the color differently so you have more color options.)
  • food coloring (I used the gels)
  • dark-colored mixing bowl (just in case!)
  • spoon
  • water
  • baking sheets
  • paper towels
  • ziplock bags for storage (I used one per color)


  1. Add several drops of one color to your mixing bowl. Add about 4 Tablespoons of water and mix well with your spoon. The more color you use the brighter/darker the rice will be, so feel free to experiment.
  2. Once the color is mixed to your satisfaction, add a bag of rice. Mix thoroughly until the color is evenly distributed and all the rice has been colored.
  3. Lay a paper towel down on a baking sheet. Pour the rice onto the paper towel and use the spoon to spread it as flat as possible to dry. Drying time is pretty quick - I let each color sit for about 20-30 minutes. Your rice might get hard and crunchy, and even stick as it dries. Just use your spoon to break it up again.
  4. Once the rice is dry, pour into a ziplock bag to store/transport. You might need some extra hands to keep the rice from getting everywhere as you pour (I used a big pot and sat the bag in it.)
  5. Repeat with the rest of your rice until you have the amount you want.
  6. Use your rice! This stuff is great for sensory boxes, arts & craft projects - you can even just eat* it to make for a fun meal! Have fun!

*If you are planning to eat this rice, please use my instructions versus some other web recipes. I have seen some direct you to use rubbing alcohol when coloring the rice and that is obviously dangerous to consume!

And as a final comment, I saw that rice hit the news today as having trace amounts of arsenic in most brands, which is obviously not good. Authorities are recommending that everyone limit feeding their babies rice to one time a week. One more reason to avoid eating it and instead use it for crafts!

Parenting Support #15

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

You wouldn't have listened. :)

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Milestone Mania

If you are a parent, then you are more than likely familiar with the child comparison game.

"Oh, your son is so cute! How old is he?"
"Ten months."
"Oh wow! You are so lucky he isn't walking yet! Mine was walking at nine months and she got into everything!"

On the surface that is a simple conversation. But what it is beneath that surface is a parent bragging about how much earlier their child conquered a popular milestone versus another child.

People here is the reality:
It all evens out in a couple years. If your child is progressing along the development scale, it will all happen in time and it matters NOT when your kid masters something versus the kid next door.

So relax and just enjoy the thrill your baby gets from each new experience.

Parenting Support #14

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

No matter how hard it gets, stick to your guns. You will be thankful you did when she gets older. The reason people didn't tell you, is that most people think it is a direct reflection on them if they admit it is not all happiness and sunshine. In truth, we all come unglued. You just need to find the "real" people close to you that can admit that too. Then you will truly have the support you need! No doubt you are doing an excellent job despite the adversity!!

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Activity: Baby's First Painting

As an arts and crafts fanatic, I have been eagerly awaiting the time when my daughter is old enough to understand being crafty and how much fun it can be. WELL apparently 8 months is that age!

My two main missions with any baby craft are to a) not make a ridiculous mess, and b) not poison the baby. Starting a baby with a crafty project comes with some limitations. Obviously I want to do what I can to prevent anything dangerous from going into her mouth (like everything seems to do lately), and should it accidentally get there, it can't be dangerous.

So this project is a perfect starter idea. I have seen variations of this craft across Pinterest, but here is my version. It is safe, mess free (yippee!) and you will even have your first piece of Fridge Art when it is completed.

Items you will need:
  • non-toxic paint (I used primary colors and had white on hand for lightening up the different combinations)
  • 1 gallon Ziploc freezer bag
  • cardstock/paint paper (the thicker paper can handle the globs of paint better)
  • that's it!
1. Put a "glob" (that's a technical term - perhaps poker-chip size) of each paint color on a different part of a piece of paper.

2. Carefully place the paper with paint inside the Ziploc bag. Seal the bag.

3. Start squishing away! Help you baby push and smear the paint all around, mixing the colors as you go. I spent a lot of time talking about each color and the colors that resulted from the mixing.

4. Once the fun is over, carefully remove the paper from the bag. Make sure you are out of the reach of your baby (mine wanted to help). Set the paper someplace safe to dry over a piece of newspaper. Once dry, hang that baby (the art, not the literal baby) on the fridge for prominent display!

For additional projects, use specific paint colors, and then cut shapes from the finished and dried paper. You can cut pieces to make flowers, frames, etc. - these are perfect for birthday cards for family or Father's Day gifts!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Engineering Parenting

My husband and I are both engineers. Because of this, we approach everything with a heavy dose of logic like the whole world is a math problem. Even parenting apparently.

Bugga's schedule has been pretty steady lately, and she's been nursing and eating solids well, sleeping through the night consistently, and even getting almost 3 hours of naps a day. Then there was last night. We normally nurse her to sleep (I know, I know) around 8:15ish, and she's typically out like a light at 9:05 PM. Not last night.

Last night she was wide awake. Not interested in sleeping whatsoever and just stood up in her crib happy as a clam unless we left the room, and then she cried. This went on for hours. It was awesome. Oh and it was my husband's birthday. So no cake for us.

We spent those three hours in my daughter's room analyzing what had gone wrong that day. Should we have not switched up the pajamas? She didn't need a bath after dinner (for once) that night, did we throw off her bedtime routine? Did she nap enough during the day (yes)? Did I have caffeine? Like a math problem, we figured we had somehow switched up the equation and it resulted in bedtime chaos. Unfortunately in this exercise, anything that DID go wrong (we still don't know what) fell into my lap, as I am the one who spends my days with her. Sigh. No more math tonight please...

Parenting Support #13

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

Wow, this is hilarious. Do you know I once said the EXACT same thing to a mutual friend of ours since she was the 1st to have a baby. Her words, which I have never forgotten, were, "If I told you how hard it was, you would never have done it." Love you both!

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Parenting Support #12

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

Hang in there sistah! Everything is a phase! Once you nail this challenge the next will show itself so just take one day at a time and don't forget to call your mom and say thanks cause remember she did it too!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Baby Schedule (8, 9, 10 Months)

I thought it would be a good idea to share our latest schedule. I think the last time I posted about the details was way back when I was first planning on being a Stay at Home Mom. Well, to say the least, things are different now. For one, my kiddo is 5 months older. (WHOA! I've been doing this for FIVE months already?!?) Also, I was a little clueless as to what was realistic as far as scheduling goes. So if you want a good laugh, please check out how I thought we'd be spending our weeks.

We've hit a good stride lately, and as long as we stick. to. the. schedule. everything is great. WOW do babies need a schedule. We've tried to put her to bed a little later some nights when we are caught out of the house when a family activity runs late, and we pay for it. The biggest problem ends up being a cranky baby - but the worst result has been a baby that is overtired and either will not go to sleep until several hours later, or wakes up several times throughout the night.

I know that some baby experts recommend that babies be eating 3 meals of solids a day at this age (several others leave this open-ended as "food is for fun, until after one"), however we are still just at 2 meals a day. Honestly - we spend sooo much time nursing, eating solids, and napping that there is hardly time for anything else during the day. As it stands, we pretty much have time to leave the house once a day, so we have to use our errand/activity time wisely. If we are out somewhere for lunch during the day (that does not involve a drive-thru) I have Cheerios handy to keep Bugga from turning green from food jealousy. And they make for easy cleanup.

Also, we are currently on two naps, with the longest one being in the late morning. The second nap is a little harder to come by, and lately it's usually done in the car on the way back from somewhere. My formerly very "green" self has vaporized in order to keep my child napping, and since she wakes if I try to move her, I have spent a lot of time sitting in my garage (door open!) with the air-conditioning/heat running.

I feel like it would be useful to post our schedules from previous months, and since I am still logging everything in my Total Baby app, I will go back in the next week or two and pull the schedules from Bugga's previous ages.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Baby Food

The last time I posted on here about Bugga's menu, we were just about ready to get started on solids. I started to hear more and more about baby-led weaning (BLW) where babies are given finger-size pieces of foods (versus starting with purees), so I spent a lot of time looking into all the options.

In the end I decided on a combination of approaches, and then handled each food case-by-case. The plan was to puree all foods for the First Taste (I'm referring here to the 4 days in a row I feed her something new to watch for any allergic reactions). Then, if a food would do better as a finger food where she can feed herself, we'd try that next.

We waited until 6 months of age to start Bugga on solids. If there is ever going to be a time where I can provide the most perfect foods for her, this would be it. I really enjoyed shopping for the best organic produce that I could find for my daughter.

I started with avocado, sweet potato, and butternut squash, in that order. Some parents don't always start with avocado, but since my kiddo is a little on the small side and avocado is the only type of produce with natural fats, (oh AND I love all things avocado personally), this would be good for her. She loved them all.

At this point, my daughter is 8.5 months old and has eaten many things, though I am still pretty tight with the reins (it's pretty much all from our kitchen vs. a restaurant or whatever).

For details on how to prepare these foods, please reference the Wholesome Baby Food blog - it is a great resource!

Here is our menu so far:

Always Puree/Mashed (so far...):
  • Sweet potato (mashed; tried to do steamed slices but they turned to mush and she couldn't pick them up; these mix well with some fruits and chicken)
  • Butternut squash (she liked this a lot, but I haven't made any since the first pureed batch that lasted the first month or so)
  • Banana (started pureed/mashed, but now I just slice and then quarter - this is the "stall" food in between bites of whatever she's being spoon-fed each meal)
  • Apple (steamed and then mashed - mixes well with chicken and other fruits)
  • Peas (steamed then pureed)
  • Green beans (steamed then pureed)
  • Spinach (steamed then pureed) (**side note - I now just keep frozen cubes of spinach in my freezer after this project for ALL of my cooking - so easy to just toss a couple into regular meals)
  • Peaches (baked then pureed)
  • Pears (baked then pureed)
Pureed then Finger Food:
  • Avocado (mashed and in slices, this is great to mix with other foods)
  • Chicken (not sure which list to put this on...I blended the chicken down to teeny bites, then shredded it further and usually mix it with something else - Apples get rave reviews)
Always JUST a Finger Food:
  • Blueberries (started these just cut into quarters right out of the gate - and these are already a favorite)
  • Watermelon (started with a giant chunk and let her go to town - what a MESS! - pureed versions are really watery, but mixes well with peaches to dial down the tartness)
  • Cheerios (as sold - these are great for on the go where you don't want to get into all the mess that comes with real foods)
  • Pasta (organic Cavatelli from Whole Foods - these are mini baby shells - the perfect bite-size for Bugga!)
More to come on this as we continue to expand the palette. Bugga had her 9-month well visit with the pediatrician today, and I specifically asked about peanut butter. I can do a separate post on this topic at a later time, but he is fine with us giving that to her when we are ready.

Also, you'll probably notice we skipped the baby cereals like rice cereal and oatmeal. I will probably go "back" at some point and give her oatmeal (because I love mine) but probably won't bother with the rice cereal.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Parenting Support #11

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

Yep, there are good days and bad days. It's tough, i won't lie but things will get better!! Whatever is going on will pass and on to the next thing. I am finally starting to feel back to normal again. My kiddies are 7,5 and 3. I stopped worrying about if the house was clean and whatever chores had to get done. Spend as much quality time with them as you can and enjoy those moments - they certainly out weigh the not so great ones!!

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Listmania: Toys We Love (in our house anyway!)

Most of my lists are for my personal reference, and perhaps this will come in handy again with the next baby. But more importantly, I hope it will help someone else who is looking for a new idea for some baby stimulation.

Toys We Love (Birth - 8 months)

Description: Not all these toys listed have been wholeheartedly appreciated during Bugga's entire 8 months, because interest levels definitely fluctuate! Links will likely go to the Amazon page where you can order the toy, or a secondary purchase location if it is not available on Amazon. And no, I don't get kickbacks from Amazon, but since I can order diapers (and anything else) at 3am from their app within 10 seconds, and get free 2-day shipping with Amazon Mom, I have no problem plugging them.

  1. Sophie the Giraffe. OK, so most parents have heard of this one, dubbed in many households as the "expensive French dog toy". It is used primarily as a teether for most, however our child seems to get the most entertainment out of repeatedly whacking her poor little head into the ground. Lovingly, of course.
  2. Tiny Love Gymini Activity Gym. Specifically, the little set of leaves that will detach from this apparatus. Sure, she loved all the other hanging animals that moved and rattled, but these rubber, colorful leaves ended up being what we brought with us everywhere so she could suck on - nope, not the leaves even - the TAG. Bonus for us - they make no noise whatsoever! *Apparently the exact version of the Gymini line we have is no longer available?
  3. Especially for Baby Under the Sea Bath Squirtees. I just picked up an ordinary set of animal bath toys for some water fun. These are really inexpensive, so if they had bombed, no big deal. But they didn't. Bugga didn't really care either way for awhile, but as the crab was usually the first one grabbed for bath time play, she became attached the crab. Some of these became pool toys, so only the turtle and the fish made it on our current trip out of state for the summer. And now? That turtle is as important as her phones (see below)! She uses it as a teether and loves it. AND this one makes no noise either! Win!
  4. Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Fun With Friends Musical Table. I mentioned this one in another post. And again, her favorite part is the detachable purple rattle phone. She usually crawls around the house with that clenched on one hand.
  5. Blackberry. Yep, the smartphone. My husband asked his IT guy at work for an old one, we wiped it down to sanitize it, and now she will carry it around and sometimes chew on it. Yes, perhaps this is because as adults we are very attached to our phones and she has already picked up on it. But it makes her pretty happy and is harmless. (My kid apparently has a gravitational pull towards phones - we are in trouble when she's a teenager!) (And I am sure some of you reading this might not approve of my child gnawing on baby-approved non-China-made materials, but sometimes you pick your battles.)
  6. Baby iPod. OK, it's actually called the Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes. We have used this since the beginning as entertainment during diaper changes. Any sadness is instantly gone when the lights start going. This trick still works, and now she knows how to "turn on" the music herself. And this fits easily into a diaper bag to go along with you for the day.
  7. Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Click n Play Remote. Yep, it's a "remote control". It was either this, or endless fussing about not being allowed to play with real remotes! And apparently a good teether, but everything at this age goes in the mouth so I'm not sure how picky she is about that topic.
  8. Bright Starts Stack & Play Blocks. She loves these. Two are crinkly; two have little bell rattles. My husband plays a game with her where he just tosses them around real fast right in front of her (they are very soft so when she gets bumped in the face with them, she loves it even more) and she just cracks up in hysterics. Playing alone, she loves to grab them by the tags and shake them around.
  9. Sassy Mini Sports Rattle. My husband is a soccer fanatic, so this was a no brainer. And it has been really easy for Bugga to hold this toy since very early on since it has the thin bar between the two soccer balls.
  10. Sassy Go Go Bugs. We got these as a gift due to her nickname. We've had these attached to the straps of her car seat since the early months, and she loves them. I'll often hear the bells of one of the bugs as she is waving them during one of our many drives around town.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Trick to Toys

Like all parents, I want to give my child everything she needs to be the best little person she can be. I want her to have the best education and opportunity that I can possibly provide. Somewhere during pregnancy, I started doing my version of extensive research on all sorts of toys that are on the market. I have bought books, I have read Consumer Reports and Amazon product reviews like it is my job, and I have questioned my parenting friends at every turn about the different brands they have invested in.

Something I hadn't thought too much about until lately are active versus passive toys. Nowadays, everything (almost) requires batteries, and then provides a child with musical entertainment, the alphabet, farm animal names, the colors...and all spoken in English, Spanish, and even in French. I think these toys are all great, and work that word-association thing pretty well.

However, electronic toys teach children how to play passively. They push a button, then they wait for something to happen. So yes, they are learning cause and effect, but they aren't actually DOING anything.

So now I try to balance these passive toys with active toys. You will see a lot of classic-style toy lines offering this type of play. Melissa & Doug and Plan Toys have a lot of beautiful wood items that are colorful and interactive, so I always check these brands out when I am looking for something new.

On a personal level, I find it interesting to see what is floating to the top as one of Bugga's favorites. We bought her the Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Fun with Friends Musical Table (requires batteries). This thing is amazing! It has over 50 different songs, English and Spanish, a laptop, a phone, a piano, and a book. My daughter quickly became more comfortable with pulling to a stand soon after we got her this. But most surprisingly, her favorite part of it is the purple phone rattle that comes with this table. This phone now goes everywhere with us - perfect travel size!

Parenting Support #10

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

It is completely normal and don't feel guilty!! I agree with a previous comment though....having two is a handful and a half to say the least. Just know you are doing your best and the good times in the end will out rank the hard ones. That is why people decide to have another one!! You forget the hard stuff :-) You are a GREAT mom - I just know it.

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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Parenting Support #9

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is? one told me either! Yes, the rewards are so worth the bad times in between...but those bad times...ugh!!! My daughter and I have been having them more and more, especially now that she's 3. I frequently feel the same way you do, and the guilt associated with it. But trust me and everyone else above who has said's completely normal. And as they get older and more difficult and mouthier...oy!! You will never, ever hate your child, but there WILL be times that you don't like them very much. And vice versa. It's all normal. Just remember it is a phase, it does come and goes, and just when it ends...our daughters turn into teenagers...THEN let the tough times begin...

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Activity: Plastic Soda Bottle

My husband is addicted to Coke. Not the drug (whoa that would be a whole different level of issues for sure), but the soda. I have tried to wean him off but he will not have it. So we always have several 2L plastic bottles in our recycling bin.

Well today, Bugga and I had a great time playing with three of them. Here are some of the great games and learning points we were able to find with just this "toy":

  1. Bang two together - they make a very satisfying sound.
  2. Bang them against the floor - see how different the sound is?
  3. Roll them back and forth.
  4. Set one up and use the other like a bat to knock it down.
  5. Fake sword fighting like Star Wars!
  6. Compare the colors - we had three so two had red labels (the Coke) and one had a silver label (OK, yes I drink Caffeine-Free Diet Coke from time to time) - learn how to compare and see how things can be different.
I'm definitely not a child development specialist, but I am a mom, which gives me an appreciation for the moments when my daughter is learning something. And when it is from regular things we can find around the house (and free ones, at that), even better!

Slave to Silence

I'm not sure if I'm driving myself crazy, or if my craziness is justified. I freak out every time there is a sudden noise at night after my daughter has gone to bed, in fear that the noise will wake her up. What's the big deal, my husband always asks me. Well, for starters, she may not go back to sleep. Like for hours. This has happened almost never, but it IS possible. And guess who has to take care of her the next day on no sleep? That would be me.

It's one thing to take care of Bugga when she's tired and cranky and generally not happy with life. It's a whole different issue if I am feeling the same way. These are NOT good days. And because I know these kinds of days are horrendous, when I feel one of those days coming on, I about lose it.

My anxiety levels sharply escalate at every bark of the neighborhood dog, every creak of a floorboard, every release of the ice machine. My eyes dart to the video monitor to see what damage has been done, and should she not yet have stirred, I watch it carefully with a feeling of doom and confidence that she is SURE to wake at any moment.

And this makes me even more tired than I probably should be. I am probably a lighter sleeper than I have ever been, because I am listening for all those random noises that might disturb her. Why? I can't figure that out. Perhaps because there might be something I can prevent the next time, I don't know.

My poor husband. I snap at him now that we are parents, and most of it happens in these dark hours of the evening when I just want to have some responsibility-free time, but fear waking the baby. Why are guys SO LOUD? How does he not know how crazy I get when I ask him to stop making so much noise, and he just doesn't understand? I don't mean to be so controlling. But lack of sleep seems to make me that way. I'm not proud of it but I need to know how I'm going to get through each day and our household sleep is the primary detail.

But what I can tell you is that I know where every creaking floorboard is in my house. And I am going to lose my mind, I swear it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Parenting Support #8

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

Rely on the crib and some wine.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Parenting Support #7

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

We're in the middle of a rough patch too. That being said, he came up to me this morning and said, "Hug Mama?" Ok. All is forgiven. There will be moments that make it all worthwhile but when you're having those bad days, don't hesitate to call and just vent! It helps!

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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Project: Baby's First Day Memory Box

I wanted to preserve and display all the mementos I have been saving from Bugga's entry into this world. I have several souvenirs from that exhilarating trip to the hospital for her birth...and of course that day changed our lives so it is fun to think back on it. I thought a shadowbox with all of these memories would be a great way to present everything.

There are all sorts of ways to build a memory box like this...this is my version and how I did it.

Items you can use:
Collect items used in the hospital 
  • baby hat
  • baby shirt
  • newborn-size diaper (or whatever size your munchkin was on Day One)
  • hospital bracelets
  • going-home outfit
  • baby socks/gloves
  • first bottle, etc.
You can also use other relevant things like the baby announcement, baby footprints and photos.
Also craft items...
  • shadow box (I picked up mine at Michael's with a handy 40% off coupon so it was about $12)
  • craft paper with a bright design
  • tape/rubber cement
  • pearl-head pins (I used the ones that came with the shadow box, but there were only 4)
  • safety pins
  • letters (I pulled out what I had on hand - some little wood letters left over from some wedding projects, sticker letters, etc.) or a nice calligraphy pen for adding the baby's name (you can also just print off your printer using a specific font
  • corner punch
1. I printed off a few special pictures on our home printer. You could also get some prints done on photo paper, but I didn't feel like waiting that long to get them. I just edited 6 pictures in Picasa to make them black and white (to keep the crowded box from feeling even more busy) and printed them on regular paper. Obviously, the more pictures you want to use, the smaller you need to print them. I wanted to use those special moments - when Mom (hey that's me!) and baby first met, the first time Daddy got to hold the new family member...I also wanted one with our Labor & Delivery nurse because she was that fantastic.

2. I opened up the shadow box and removed the back. I laid out the items to make sure they all looked right and were not a complete mess (it is easy to get carried away). I have seen projects like this that are just the baby hat and a little name plaque, but I wanted to use pictures, the little shirt Bugga wore, and the teeny bracelet that went around her ankle so I needed to find a layout that looked put together. I essentially did a photo background and then laid out the little outfit on top of that.

3. Once I was happy with the layout, I removed the items and started working layer by layer. I used tape to affix the craft paper over any of the shadow box background that would be exposed after everything is in place to add a pop of color. Then I used tape cement to keep the pictures in place where you want them.

4. I taped the diaper in place from the top so it "hangs" from the display. I then pinned up the shirt in the back using safety pins for a "tucked in" look, and used push pins to hang the shirt, as well as the little hat.

5. I attached the hospital bracelets in the remaining open space using tape on the back so you cannot see it when displayed.

6. I thought about putting a headshot of Bugga between the hat and the shirt, but once I saw how that looked, the display didn't feel right. Instead I added a little name plaque so we know which baby this is for (easy now with only one...but there could be more!). I used a piece of solid craft paper, punched the corners to give them a softer look, and used silver letters for her name.

7. Put the shadow box back together and display!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Parenting Support #6

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

The first year challenges everything you thought you knew about yourself. You'll probably like the new You even better, once you figure out who she is and what kind of mother she is. It takes time to work this all out.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Parenting Support #5

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

We did! But no one believes it can be THAT hard until they live it. But let me tell you now, so you won't blame me later: two kids is at least three times harder.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Parenting Support #4

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

It's completely normal! Especially the guilt over feeling frustrated. I second a previous comment to revise expectations and not expect so much from yourself. That in itself is hard, but you can learn to do it :-) Most of all, talk to someone that "gets it." It's the best way to get through the tough days. I've been there. Hang in there!

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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Parenting Support #3

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

Someone once told me that children are cute so you are less inclined to eat them. We had some ROUGH days...take a deep breath. It gets better.

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Living the Baby Life

I'm pretty sure my husband and I did not realize how much our social lives would change post-baby. Sure, we knew we would be doing more kid-friendly activities, and probably be spending less time in the bar scene. But it never even crossed my mind to think about day vs. night entertainment and how our social time of the day would change.

While pregnant a daydreamed of us introducing Bugga to all our favorite music by spending her first summer picnicking outside amphitheaters so we could bring along all our bulky baby gear and still enjoy the sounds we love. My husband and I talked about how fun it would be to now have an excuse to go see all those great animated movies that are now released every other weekend.

Well here we are, Bugga's first summer, and guess what? Babies have a bedtime. And it is generally before it even GETS dark, so all those summer concerts that normally start at 7pm? Not happening. Oh and taking the baby to the movie theater? Yeah, I didn't even THINK about the volume in those places - apparently it is very dangerous for tiny ears.

So for awhile we are limited to daytime events, squeezed between meals and nap times, and reasonable decibel levels. Gives my husband an excuse to invest in a stellar home movie system.

Happy 4th of July everyone! I'll be catching my fireworks on tv this year!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tell Me the Truth Already

I've definitely been hitting some low points lately with the sleeping. I just do not function well with no sleep (as opposed to my daughter, who can go all day without a nap like a champ!). After talking to a couple moms I am socially close to, I started getting a little bit frustrated. Why does every stage of parenting have to be described as sunshine and puppies 24/7/365?? This is NOT what I have been experiencing whatsoever. Yes, I always knew it would be hard, but I did not have a clue HOW. HARD. And I'm pretty irritated that no one bothered to let me in on the truth before I had a baby.

Don't get me wrong - I love Bugga more than life. But seriously. Why is this so hard? And why does no one talk about it? I just wanted to know I wasn't alone feeling this way, but no one seemed to want to cop to it in casual conversation.

Then I posted a question to my friends on Facebook just to see the response.

"Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?"

What I got in return was 29 posts and several private direct messages within the next couple hours. And what do we have here - EVERYONE had been there. And felt equally duped. And some even went on to have more kids!

The information I was finally receiving was invaluable. I am going to anonymously post my friends' comments on this blog now to share with others that are in this same wobbly boat with me in hopes that the "safety in numbers" theory helps you get through one more night of the crying and the not sleeping. But more importantly, I need a way to easily access these words of experience so I can have them handy every time I need a lift, because I know I will again. And again.

Read the first response here. And start talking about this with your friends who are parents.

Edited on March 6th, 2013:
My daughter is now 15 months old - she was about 7-8 months when I first published these words of support from all my fantastic friends. I was at my breaking point with my daughter's sleep training efforts at that time. And now I am one of those moms who made it through the first year, and I am prepared to give any insight I can.

Here is what I find myself telling friends with newborns: You are not the only one who feels this way. We all went through these emotions, even if some of us aren't brave enough to tell you. Your first year of parenting can be a lonely, isolating time, especially if you quit your job and stay home (oh, and move to a small town in Alaska where we know nobody) like I did. The good news is, you, and your baby will survive these hard times, and they will be almost forgotten once you move past them.

Human beings are ugly creatures when they are lacking sleep. Keep talking to your husband, your friends - anyone (I might recommend avoiding the generation before yours - memories seem to be falsely clouded more often than not of how "easy" it was for them). Get out of the house every day, even if it is just for a stroller walk around the block. If you are concerned about your thoughts, please talk to your doctor. Do it at your 6-week post-labor checkup or your 6-month checkup, but do not be ashamed. If you need medication, know your doctor would not prescribe it to you if he/she did not feel it was warranted to help you through this. And you will not need it forever.

You can do this. No, it is nothing like you expected. But the point of it all is EVERYTHING you expected.

Parenting Support #1

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

Nope. Otherwise the species would die out. On the bad days, pare down your expectation to just survival. Some days it is all about survival. If you are both still alive at the end of the day you did good.

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Parenting Support #2

Could no one have been straight with me about how hard parenting is?

No!!!!!! No one can tell you otherwise you'll never do it. And you would never believe it's that hard ;). It's all about getting to the easy days because then you forget that it's that hard.

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Schedule Challenges Continue

It's been a couple weeks since I've posted...but I have two good reasons, I promise. For one, we have been in the process of moving, so for obvious reasons, I have not spent a lot of time with my laptop. The other reason is that prior to the move, our household had been having some significant challenges with Bugga's sleep schedule and her ability to put herself to sleep.

I've definitely allowed myself to fall victim to the anxiety that comes with the lack of sleep of a new parent. I blame myself for my husband and I essentially sitting in the dark and whispering once the baby has gone to bed in fear of waking her up. Yes, our (old) house had frustratingly creaky floors and air duct issues that required our room to be at 65 in order for hers to approach 74, but I think my personal fear of a crying infant at night has really escalated.

Now that we have been in the new house for a little over a week, we are still hesitant to formally sleep train. The new nursery is carpeted and cozy and a great place for Bugga to play, so the thought of putting her down awake in her crib to sleep makes me worry that she will instantly sprout negative associations with that room entirely. So I am still continuing to cheat by nursing her to sleep at night, and for naps. The pro to this is at least this house is a lot quieter so I have even had a few opportunities since we've moved in to set her down on the boppy pillow on the floor, turn the baby monitor camera on her, and leave the room to actually be...wait for it...PRODUCTIVE. It's a nice feeling. But I still spend half that time watching the monitor. Sigh.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Recipe: Easy Vegetable Udon

I might start posting recipes from time to time, as I am happy to share something yummy, and this is a good place for me to keep things I want to find later. The following recipe was whipped out of nowhere the other night...we are moving soon so I am trying to cook what is in the kitchen (as best I can) so we have less to deal with for the move. So the udon (yes, I have oodles of udon in my pantry) came up, since we can't get enough of it since our trip to China a few years back...

Easy Vegetable Udon

1 T vegetable oil
2 T sesame oil
1 Cup frozen pepper & onion medley (or any peppers and/or onions you have on hand)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 T sugar
2 T soy sauce
1 Cup fresh spinach (or frozen)
1 can chicken broth + 1 can of water
2 generous portions of udon based on your preferences

Heat the oils in a wok or saucepan. Add peppers & onions and garlic, cooking until soft. Add sugar and soy sauce. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add spinach, broth, and water. Simmer until spinach wilts, or about 5 minutes. Add noodles and cook until heated and tender (careful about overcooking). Serve immediately.