And Then I Got F**king Shingles

So I had what was one of the worst flu viruses I have had in recent memory. That took up the first portion of my month, and it was not fun, let me tell you. As a result, I didn't get my Christmas shopping done, but I told myself I had plenty of time to attend to all that. Or so I thought. 

In the short time that I was feeling marginally better from the flu, I had a lot to do; there was a party for my father-in-law, and that week, I did a ton of cookie baking. That week, (last week) I also catered my mom's office Christmas party, which was a lot of fun. I've got a recipe for a green tea cheesecake coming up that is to DIE for!!! 

Anyway, there we were, shooting my daughter's seven month picture in the middle of an already hectic week, when my girlfriend and husband said, "Hey Billie, you've got a weird rash." I didn't feel a rash of any sort, so I was really surprised. I had a swollen lymph on my groin, which I thought was from me being sick the week before, so I just ignored all of it. Until I couldn't. 

The rash came on Friday, and by Sunday, my hip was a lot of really weird pain, and that rash? Well, it was really not looking any better, in fact it was looking worse. It wasn't until Monday morning that I knew I had to go to the doctor...and by then I had (with the help of google) put together all these symptoms to decide I had shingles. At first I thought I was batty....how could I have gotten shingles? But no, I was right, I did have it, and my doctor confirmed this. 

Apparently sometimes when you get the flu, it knocks down your immune system soooo much that you get shingles. Shingles lives in your body if you've had chickenpox before. I couldn't believe it. The way my symptoms presented was a little strange to me, but hey, I've never had shingles before, so, go figure. 

First, the rash looks like little bug bites, but then becomes sort of scabby. Also, there was a pain in my hip (near where the rash was, but not in the same place), and it felt like a bruise which kind of got worse. There really isn't any treatment I needed other than some tylenol and rest. More rest. *Sigh.* 

Luckily it's not contagious as long as no one touches it. I have to keep it covered with clothing, which really isn't difficult. It is painful, but it's not unmanageable, so I'm thankful for that. Doctor says in a week or two I should be good as new. I'm over the whole "being sick thing," but I guess my body hasn't gotten the memo yet. I wonder if breastfeeding is compromising my immune system, but I am determined to keep it up! 

It's hard for me, clearly a type A personality, to rest. And I had done such a good job of resting while I was really sick, but I was ready to kick my holiday into high gear here. It's just not going to happen. It's more rest and staying home. No workouts (my doctor's orders....sheesh). No physical exertions. So it's back to bed I go. These days I feel like I can't catch a break from being sick...which is SO not me! 

Ah, well. So there it is. I got shingles for Christmas. 

A Very Non-Dairy Christmas [Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!]

Sometimes you just get a hankering. And for me, it was cookies. I wanted to make some nondairy chocolate chip cookies. That was well over a week ago. Before I could make the cookies, I was stricken with the flu and I was laid up for nearly a week. A. Whole. Week.

In many regards, this was awful. Like the fact that I couldn't even get out of bed for two days. In other ways, it was enlightening; I was reminded of how wonderful my mother and mother-in-law are to me in my times of need. They came to play with Ruby and help me while I was sick. Gotta love that.

Anyway, what does all this have to do with my cookies? Well, once I was better again, I sort of when stark raving cookie mad. Losing a week of Christmas joy has a way of doing that to me.

So I started to bake. I started with those dairy free chocolate chip cookies, which my husband professed passed the test with flying colors. He said no one would ever know! I found THIS RECIPE on Pinterest. It's easy and impresses. After that, all bets were off.

Basically, I used the chocolate chip cookies as a warm up round. Since then, I've made snickerdoodles (I subbed coconut oil for the butter in this recipe), at the request of my husband, and then I got crrrrrrazy and went for a Mexican Wedding Cake cookie, with a little twist: I added in some matcha! Then, just for kicks, I threw in a round of thumbprint cookies, made with my very own strawberry jalapeƱo jam!



Let's just say that I am in freaking cookie heaven over here.

If you are bit by a cookie, holiday, cheer bug and you want, for whatever reason, to keep it all dairy free, I've got your back. Heck, if you just gotta have your dairy and you wanna sub butter for the coconut oil, be my guest--I can't tell you what to do!



Here is my adaptation of the Mexican Wedding Cake cookies. They are my mom's favorite, and I am really excited to share it! I think I've turned my husband onto them too, so it looks as though they may become a new tradition.





Green Tea Mexican Wedding Cake Cookies 
Time: 45 minutes start to finish | Makes 24 (ish) cookies | Difficulty: Easy 

You Will Need: 

1 cup coconut oil 
1 cup Powdered Sugar, divided
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
2 cups All-Purpose Flour
½ t. Salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered matcha
1 cup Pecans, chopped

Method:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle blade, cream together the coconut oil and half of the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla.

Add the salt, flour and matcha until combined. Stir in the pecans.

Form the dough into balls and lay them out on a cookie sheet (I like to use parchment paper because it's soon easy to clean up.) Bake these little suckers about 15 minutes.

When you remove them from the oven, let them cool a few moments (5-10 minutes) and then roll them in the reserved powdered sugar. Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Serve with almond milk or a nice cup of tea! 

When Mommy Needs A Sick Day

Well if I ever thought that getting sick was bad, I had no idea what I was talking about. Getting sick when you have a baby is worse than anything I've yet to experience. In the last several years, I've found my immune system to be stellar, but since I started breastfeeding, I've been sick twice. I wonder if there is any connection--opinions on that, anyone?!

The first time I got sick was when Ruby was 3 months old. It was just a bad cold. This time, I got the full on flu; fever, body aches, and eyes that watered mercilessly making me look like I'd been crying. For. Days. With a nearly seven month old child who had just learned to crawl and pull herself to standing, this was a horrible turn of events. Suddenly I was sicker than sick and chasing around a very active baby.

I needed a sick day in the worst way, but really, moms just don't get them...especially nursing moms. Thank goodness for my village. I had to call in my grandma dream team, who both brought me soup and played with my little firecracker while me and crazy drippy eyes went to bed. My husband filled in the holes between his last two weeks of school and work. My advice to moms who need desperately to take a sick day? Call in your reinforcements. People love to chip in and help, and when you need it, you need it.

I held on to hope that "tomorrow" I would feel better. I was a little bitter that I lost an entire week of holly jolly Christmas plans. My Christmas shopping, wrapping, and reveling were put on hold. But at least I was able to take care of myself (for the most part). It was also a week of a lot of skipped baths and minimal family meals. But you can't win them all.

What I did learn, though, were some great home remedies for nursing mothers as well as some good tricks for getting rest. So I figured I would share them in case you also find yourself in need of a sick day with a baby on your hip! Also, let's note the silver lining in this situation: that when you nurse your baby they get all the immunities they need against your illness. How truly wonderful is that?! Okay, here we go.

Mother's milk tea
I had no idea that fenugreek was a decongestant! I drank my mother's milk tea while I was sick and it helped (temporarily). Plus, it helped me get my fluids.

Bragg's Vinegar
I came to the party a little late on this one; really I wish I would have started it right when I got sick, but I felt it really helped break up the ick that was plaguing me! I just took a shot of vinegar and chased it with a glass of water. Make sure if you do this that it's apple cider vinegar, and frankly, make sure it's the Bragg's. The basic concept is that it helps the body become alkaline, which is a state in which infection can't thrive. I've actually used Bragg's for bladder infections in the past, but after this stint, I'm thinking of making it a part of my everyday routine.

Essential Oils
I ate a TON of Thieves (from Young Living) and I also used deep relief on my sinuses. Both helped. The Thieves felt amazing on my sore throat.

Epsom Salt Baths
Nothing better for aching muscles. Plus, bath time is a time ally to yourself.

Naps, naps, naps!
Nap time, people, nap time! Generally I put my baby in the Ergo to take a nap so I can get things done while she slumbers. But while I was sick, we took our naps in bed together and it was great. I noticed she napped longer and I was able to veg for a couple hours, which I totally needed. We may just keep this as a part of our routine!

So what are your sick mommy secrets?! How do you help yourself when you are sick and need to be mommy? Help us all by leaving it in the comments section below!


On The Subject of More Children

When I was pregnant, people were already asking me if I wanted more children. I cringed then, and I cringe now when people ask me about it. Even though I know it's normal. Even though I have, at times, been guilty of asking other couples or women the very same child question. I suppose it's human nature...but I can't get comfortable with it. But at least now I have figured out why, and I'm trying to get more comfortable with it.

Every time I hear people say that they know they want children, or that they want more than one child, I feel a twinge of envy. Not because I want more children, but because they know. They know that they want more, or how many they want, or that they want them at all...and I've never known any of those things.

As bonded to my own child as I am, I didn't know until literally the moment I decided to become pregnant if I wanted any children at all. (Even then, I am not sure I really knew.) So it should come as no surprise to anyone that now that I have a child, I'm not sure that I want any more. Still, people ask. They started asking right away, in fact, if I wanted more.

My first inclination is generally to go into defense mode. I would say "no." Well, I didn't actually just say no...I said, "NO! NO! NOOOOOO!" Because to have a sense of certainty seemed somehow superior to being ambiguous about the subject. But it didn't satisfy anyone. It didn't satisfy others, (who were somehow determined to change my mind and convince me I do want more children) and it didn't satisfy me because the exchange was just so uncomfortable, not to mention inauthentic.

So, I switched gears and began saying I didn't know. Which is when I realized that if you say you don't know, people take it to mean "yes." Or that you are considering it and want to discuss it--which I didn't. That is, I'm not considering it. But I can't tell the future. In my tirelessness of trying to answer this question in a way that would be less confusing, I found the real problem was that I didn't even know how to begin to answer the question. What I didn't realize at the time, but realize now, is that in order for me to be authentic with my answer, I had to be comfortable with not having an answer. Then I learned: society doesn't really do uncertainty.

I literally have no clue if I want more children...there, I said it.

It's that simple...and that complicated. It's not that I don't want to my child to have siblings. I just don't have an answer. I am the Sweden of having more kids. Neither for nor against, just standing in a place of neutral ground. It is this kind of neutrality that really bugs people, which is not what I am trying to accomplish at all. I wish that I could pick a side, but my guess would be that I won't until the moment I do...and who knows when or how or where that will (if ever) happen in my life.

My suspicion is there are a lot of people like me out there. We are undecided, with no real notion of where we may fall on the "more kids" issue. It can be a frustrating place to be. I look at those of my friends who are having big families--who always knew they wanted big families--and I wish I could function with that sort of assuredness. I talk with my husband, who knows he would love to have another child, and I think "what must that feel like, to know in that way what you want?"

There are some perks, though. One such is that not knowing helps me to stay more present for my daughter's milestones, as I think "this may be the only time I see another person say their first word, or crawl or marvel at our pets." It gives me great determination to follow through with breastfeeding (despite my panic attacks) because who knows if I'll ever  do it again. It makes the time precious. It makes the hard days more manageable.

But it still doesn't give me a good answer for those who come with questions. It doesn't erase the fact that no matter what I say, even if I say I am undecided, that other people will try to color the conversation with their particular feelings and philosophies. However, the farther down the road of parenthood I get, the more I realize that it is my journey in life to become comfortable with uncertainty and impermanence.

So, that's where I am; I am trying to become comfortable with the fact that I don't know what life holds, on this question of children, or really on anything else. It's a scary thought on some levels, but I guess I better cozy up. The only constant is change, and life is an uncertain place...

How has this subject been for you? Did you always know how many (if any) children you wanted, or are you a bit like me? Share and discuss (judgment free) in the comment section below! 

Sometimes It Ain't Pretty....

It’s 11am and I’ve officially cried all of my make up off. It’s just one of those days. I guess I had them before I became a parent, but somehow they didn’t feel this bad. Nothing is that bad when no one is looking, right? These days, there is always someone looking. She’s little now, but she sees me nonetheless and sometimes I am painfully aware of it.

Maybe it’s a mixture of breastfeeding hormones, the bad night’s sleep I had, or the fact that some days I wake up and I just don’t feel like it. And how can I explain it… not to you, dear reader, but to my husband who has, this entire last year and a half, not experienced a hormonal roller coaster of epic proportions? He, who gets trot off to whatever normalcy sustains him. Away from me who sometimes feels resentful.

It’s not that I’m complaining. Sometimes it comes off as complaining when I just have to cry. And I don’t know why. I’m overwhelmed at times. It’s not my kid, really. I love her so much and in so many ways she’s a breeze. Being a mother is just… So. Emotional. And apparently, emotion doesn’t come as easy to me as I would have hoped. Over the years of my adulthood, I learned to keep things light and pleasant—this doesn’t serve me as a postpartum parent.

I never realized that, at times, it would seem as though everyone (including the dogs) wants a piece of me. I never thought I would wonder who was there to take care of me; certainly it can’t be ME when I’m clearly so busy taking care of everyone else! I never thought it would be easy. I wasn’t under any illusions when people gave me their dreamy versions of what parenthood was like for them…

I cry while I unload the dishwasher, while I put dinner in the crockpot, and while my child naps (strapped to my chest in her baby carrier.) I don’t know why I cry, exactly. When my husband asks me, I tell him I’m frustrated. I give the usual list of reasons, and we fight and I continue to cry. It’s not pretty, but sometimes this is parenthood. We make up, sort of. Tonight we’ll put it all away and tomorrow we’ll start anew.

God save you if you are a non parent reading this. It’s nothing that would scare or even phase a mom. Not that we’re so different, mind you. In fact, us moms are just like you gals who haven’t had kids except that now our emotions are severely heightened and our kids are constantly watching us. If you’re a dad, I am sure you are nodding your head and thinking back on the time your wife told you that you weren’t present enough, or that she needed a break through tears that just would not stop coming.

This is my experience: being a parent is the vacillation between sheer joy and terror. There is rarely an in between moment where you think, “eh, this is just neutral.” Neutrality is for Sweden; parents have no such luxury. In today’s world of the Internet, it’s easy to look at Facebook or Instagram (or even someone’s blog) and see all the beauty. Of course, it’s  easier to share your happiness than it is to admit to the world that you’ve cried off all your make up before 11:00am. But it also isn’t real.

Sometimes life is fucking rough. Or emotional. And I want you to know that I know that. So I wrote this post as an offering because sometimes we all need one. Has parenting been pretty easy for me? Yes, for the most part it has been. Even still, there are days when I don’t even recognize myself. Tomorrow might be different (in fact, sometimes I count on it), but there is no shame in admitting that the truth is imperfect, and that’s okay too. 

We Need To Talk: Breastmilk Donation

I walk a fine line under normal circumstances when it comes to food preservation and hoarding....so why would it be any different when it came to my breastmilk? In the beginning, I was practically tethered to my breast pump. I guess I thought that I would be prepared for going back to work. So I pumped. And pumped. And pumped.

I pumped until I was so tired of the breast pump I had to take over a month long break from pumping. But by that time, I had pumped out an astounding 59 bags of milk! There was just one problem: along the way, I discovered that my Ruby couldn't tolerate dairy in my diet. All that wonderful milk I had pumped was chocked full of dairy! So, I just put in the deep freeze to preserve it thinking maybe one day she will be able to make use of it. 

Fast forward to month five and I'm going back to work as a personal chef. That was about the time I discovered that my daughter would rather go on hunger strike than eat from a bottle, or a sippy cup despite her capability to do so. Not that she could tolerate the milk with dairy....and anyway I had a new stockpile of "non dairy" milk by then. So, what to do with all that milk? 

I took to the internet to look into milk banks. Wow. What a lot of information that lead me to. These milk banks, on the surface, seemed like a great idea. Yes, they made you take a blood test. Yes, you had to submit a DNA sample...and that seemed a little invasive, but I understood that they had to check and make sure that the milk was, in fact, coming from the person who giving it. But then came the kicker: after those things, they take your milk and they pasteurize it! WTF!?!?!?! 

Maybe I have missed something here, but if they take your milk and pasteurize it, doesn't it sort lose all that mom's milk goodness that breastmilk is famous for? I just couldn't do it. So, back to the internet I went, this time to Facebook and a friend of mine who is well connected with other moms...maybe someone out there was in need of my milk, I thought. Turned out, there was. 

I was able to donate directly to someone who needed breastmilk for their baby who couldn't tolerate formula. She came, took all my bags of frozen milk, and then she told me something that really upset me. She said those milk banks you donate your milk to (the same ones that pasteurize the goodness from the milk) then turn around and try to sell the milk to people like her for $5 per ounce! 

I don't want to discourage anyone from donating....that's not what this is about, really. In fact, if you are producing milk and storing it away, I hope that you will consider donating to someone in need because as mother's we have to be able to lean on one another. It's about doing your homework before you do. If at all possible, try and give to someone in need in your own community. Because companies can be a-holes who turn your good intention (not to mention all that hard work spending pumping) into profit. And that's bull. 

That's not to say that there aren't good places to donate to; I'm sure there are. But in a more rural area like where I live, I wasn't able to find any local programs. Even if I had, the thought of having my milk pasteurized was a little more than I could handle. That, and, there are local people in need who don't have the $5 an ounce to spare. 

So tell me, have you donated milk? Have you been in need of milk donation? If you know of a good milk donation source where you personally had a good experience, please leave it for me in the comments section below! 

Mock N' Cheese Recipe [Dairy Free Mac n' Cheese]

I miss CHEEEEEEEESE! Or, at least, I thought I missed cheese. I had a hankering. Mac n' cheese is one of my very, very favorite things to eat. And maybe by now my daughter's system is more mature and can handle dairy, but it just wasn't a risk I was willing to take. I guess I just do things the hard way. But at least I knew there was a way, and that way was in the kitchen!!! 

I had to make a dairy free version of mac n' cheese. And it's almost [inadvertently] vegan but for two egg yolks...which you could totally omit. And I know that I fell down on the picture taking (once again), and I'm sorry for that. It's just that I am busy eating and then I plum forget. *Sigh* It's beautiful, I promise. 

I wasn't even going to try this one on my husband because I figured, "Yea, that'll go over like a lead balloon." But after my girlfriend told me about how awesome it was, I was feeling really confident. What do you know--my husband loved it! Go figure! So, don't take my word for it, take my husband's: this is one good dairy free imitation. 

The more I get into this dairy free lifestyle stuff, the more I realize it just isn't that bad. This dish proves that. It's also just something different than your usual. So dairy free or not, I suggest you get in that kitchen and give it a whirl...because it's pumpkin season! (Don't make me put on my yoga pants and Uggs, and pumpkin latte in hand, tell you again!!!)

Billie's Mock N' Cheese 

Time: About an hour | Serves 6 | Difficulty: Eeeeeaaaassssy 


You will need

1 pound of elbow macaroni 
1 30 ounce can of pure pumpkin 
1 15 ounce can coconut milk 
1 cup almond milk 
2 egg yolks
3 garlic cloves, minced 
4-5 dashes cayenne pepper 
salt and pepper, to taste 
extra virgin olive oil 
Breadcrumbs

Method:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a large casserole dish (butter is fine if you're eating the dairy, otherwise, coconut oil is terrific as well), and set aside.

Make elbow macaroni according to manufacturer's directions. When done, drain and set aside. What I did was make my pasta and then I used the same pot for the next step. This was mostly because I only wanted to use one pot. Call me lazy.

In a big pot,  heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add your garlic and cook a couple minutes. Add the pumpkin, coconut milk and almond milk to the pot and bring to a bubble. Add the tofutti, cayenne, salt and pepper. Cook and stir until the tofutti has fully incorporated.

Add the cooked (and drained) pasta to the pot, along with the egg yolks and stir to combine. Once combined, pour into your prepared casserole dish. Top generously with the breadcrumbs.

Cook the whole thing in the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the breadcrumbs are golden and crispy and the sauce is bubbling well in the pan!

Enjoy with a person you love.