Max is Two

I have to say, I am little emotional about this whole getting older thing. Just wow. I can’t believe I have a two year old.

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I’ve said it before: this kid is amazing! He blows my mind and melts my heart every day. He is just a wonderful little person and I am so proud of him. There is something about watching your own baby go from a little blob to a functioning, interactive little person that totally rocks your world.

Personality

Max is so full of energy! We frequently joke that we need to find a way to cheer him up because he is constantly laughing or trying to make us laugh. He is such a fun-loving little guy.

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Emptying out the spice drawer

He is also a super sweet and affectionate toddler. He is so considerate and seems very aware of others’ feelings and needs. He is concerned if he thinks you have a boo-boo and will give kisses (even when it is just a beauty mark). He is generally very open to cuddles and kisses and loves hugging and kissing his mama in the mornings.

He is pretty sensitive, which makes discipline somewhat easier. He aims to please and gets very upset when he perceives that he has done something wrong. He still has his toddler moments, but we have been lucky in that we can usually reason with him or distract him. We found the approaches from the Love and Logic books very helpful, as well as The Happiest Toddler on the Block.

He is talking up a storm these days. This past week I noticed a big change in his verbal skills and his voice. He is talking in basic sentences now. “I want do that. Daddy more milk please. Mama come here. Auntie did this.” It is pretty cool.

 

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Following our July trip we saw a big rise in Max’s separation anxiety at dropoff and bedtime. That was pretty rough. I am happy that it seems to be under control now. The bedtime routine went from being super easy to taking up to an hour to get him to sleep. We have been working through this with a combination of my silly made up story (about a bunny (Pete) who loves his mommy and daddy so much that he doesn’t want them to leave him at night) and a system where we come back every five minutes to check on him.  We are now down to about 1-4 minutes of crying at night (last night there was no crying at all).

Physical
Max remains around the 20th percentile for weight (25 lbs) and 55th percentile for height (34.5 inches). He is very active and loves to run (another trait we can’t figure out). He is a little monkey. When we were on vacation at the beach he discovered that he could climb up and sit on my head. I definitely know where he gets that from (I was a little monkey when I was little).

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Max loves to help us. His favorite chore is cleaning the floor, followed closely by emptying the dishwasher. He recently began cooking with us, which is fantastic. Yes, things take at least twice as long, but it is SO fun. He says, “I took [cook].” In fact, some nights I will have him “help” me cook an egg, even though we are eating leftovers. He enjoys it so much. When I am cooking he doesn’t want to do anything other than be right there with me. He chops (holding the end of the knife while I hold it), helps me measure and pour, adds ingredients, and stirs. I am so excited for this to continue for years to come. I think I always envisioned baking Christmas cookies together but I didn’t expect that we would cook together like this. It is fabulous.

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He is a talker, for sure. We can’t figure out where he gets that. He has recently started talking in sentences, which is just an amazing thing to hear.

Max is very affectionate – some of the time. He loves to give kisses and is very concerned if he thinks you have a boo-boo (even when it is a beauty mark).

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Auntie Laura reported that when she picked Max up from school one day one of his teachers was talking about how they are all impressed with how polite Max is. That was a nice pat on the back and really made me smile. Glad to hear that the constant work is paying off. He is saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot more these days and it really makes me smile when he does it without prompting.

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Max wearing his “onion goggles” while chopping, just like Mommy

One thing has remained constant: Max is still a great little eater. I think that his overall intake is starting to decrease, as it should at this age. However, he is still pretty good about eating a variety of foods, including veggies. He has amused us recently by demonstrating that anything spicy, including wasabi, is his friend. First, he took a finger full of wasabi out of some soy sauce and after eating it asked for more. Then he happily ate wasabi-soy almonds when he was with Auntie, even though she made the yucky face at him. He made the face back and then requested “more nuts, please.”

Fun stuff
We had an awesome summer! We spent some time at the lake, which usually involved playing in the sand. He likes sand castles but prefers sand “mickeys.” That is just a cluster of three buckets of sand together which he mushes down. Ta-da.

I had been feeling bad about not keeping up with swim classes. The session we did last year was not what I would call successful. He vacillated between distressed and barely tolerant. I was really happy when I got him in the lake this summer (very gradually) and was able to do everything with him that we did in the class. He loved it. He “swam” between Oli and me – stomach down, hands out, even some kicking. He loved it! He got his face in the water once and did not freak out. I’ll call that a win!

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Lots of horsie rides!

We had fun doing things like playing outside with his water table, going to riding his balance bike (the Knight is THRILLED about this), checking out various playgrounds, running a 5k together, playing at a couple of spraygrounds, enjoying the neighborhood 4th of July parade, eating lots of ice cream, going to the fair where Max got to play on a fire truck, and trying out the new indoor bounce house. We also celebrated the Knight’s birthday and Max’s birthday within a week. Max also had his first full day without mommy and daddy, thanks to Auntie and Grandma watching Max so we could have a night away. It went perfectly well.

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Knight, Jr.

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Water table fun

Travel
We took two trips this summer. We went to the NY Finger Lakes for my Musselman triathlon in July (a race report was partially written but never finished. Short version: I did it and am happy to be back in retirement). Max was a terrific little Sherpa, although he is still not a fan of the brief hellos during the race. He just doesn’t understand why Mommy is leaving again so soon. Fortunately he had a playground to play on and lots of new Team Z friends to entertain him. He and the Knight stayed cozy under the team tent during the downpour, where Max napped on Oli’s chest after eating two whole chicken breasts, some fries and a variety of other foods.

The day after the race we went to visit my mom in Ithaca. That was a nice, but brief visit. The highlight for Max was Jake the dog (aka ‘woof woof’). They both had fun chasing each other around the house.

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Who wouldn’t love a Grandma who shares her ice cream?

At the end of August we went to Pensacola to the rest of the immediate family, including our grandson. We rented a house on the beach and had a fantastic time. Max loved the ‘ocean’ and the sand and amused us by saying “beach house” all day. He was insistent on “MY mommy! MY daddy!” but he eventually got used to us holding the little guy (14 months). I also tried to explain to him that the Knight was also Joseph and Rachel’s daddy but he was not happy about that either. However, he was a big fan of his big brother and sister-in-law, as totally nuts about his big sister. It was a really great visit.

Family
Speaking of family, Max thoroughly enjoyed his 3-week visit from Grandma. His attachment to her was instant. He loves his Grandma! He also loved that we ate out a lot more than usual. One night in the car he stated, “Eat, mama. No house.” He cracked me up.

Meanwhile, he and Auntie have a very special thing going. They are so lucky to have each other. Max talks about Auntie constantly, and frequently wants to call her on his toy phone. He tells us all the time that “Auntie did this” pointing to the monkey decorations on his ceiling and wall.

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Auntie and Max enjoying the bubbles

Other news
[When I say news I think everyone is waiting to hear that I’m pregnant. Nope. There will be no more pregnancies for me. ]

Max began in the “two’s” class this week. It was kind of unfortunate that he started a new class his first day back at school after vacation. It was a lot of change and it didn’t go as well as we would have liked. However, the second day was completely different since Max brought Thomas the Tank Engine to school. He held onto him the entire day and was holding him when I picked him up. We all miss his former teachers but we are excited about his new class, teachers and friends (some of whom he already knew from his prior class).

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After celebrating Max’s Birthday

On a different note, we have started processing this whole potty training thing. Our plan it be pretty laid back about it and not pressure him. We have had the little frog potty in the bathroom for a few months. We have started discussing how mommy and daddy go potty and we even started rewarding ourselves for the accomplishment. Yes, this feels totally bizarre. Now Max cheers, “Yay Mommy!” when I use the toilet. He instructs as I go through the process. “Wipe.” “Flush.” “Wash.” SO funny. Afterwards he exclaims “Treat, mama!”

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Do you think he likes to swing?

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Fun!

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More, Dada!

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Weeeeeeee!

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After the neighborhood Fourth of July parade (and the cookies and lemonade)

I always ask him if he wants to go to the potty and he would always say no. On Labor Day he surprised me and said yes. We went and sat down on the potty. He got a treat. He asked for more and I told him he could have another one if he took off his diaper to sit. He agreed, much to my surprise. When he asked for more I told him he would get one if he made pee-pee or poopy. That didn’t happen but we had a very positive start. I believe it will happen in time. Max’s teacher thinks it will be easy with him because he hates being messy. We’ll see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Update: 20 Months

I was telling a coworker this morning about how shocking it is to me that Max is 20 months old. That means he is just months away from turning two. You know I’ve said that the first year didn’t exactly fly by like so many people say. But year 2? definitely. I guess it is true what they say: Time flies when you’re having fun.

I am totally biased and I’ve probably said this before: Max is amazing! He is the greatest little guy. Oh, I am so in love with him. My heart actually races most days when I go to pick him up. Imagine that. It is a terrific feeling. I love being around him. Going back to work on Mondays is the pits.

What’s new?

Not much has changed since the 18 month update.  Reading is definitely his favorite pastime. That is a remarkable thing. He has even started ‘reading’ on his own and will sit quietly for short periods with his books. That is a very good thing.

He is all boy. He has recently discovered trains. If I could post a video (anyone know how?) I would post the one of him excitedly celebrating “choo choo” as he played with his new Thomas trains. His favorite book is Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo  He is also really into trucks and loves the Diggers book I bought him. I can’t find a link for that one but did you know that Amazon has a whole subcategory of Children’s books for “Heavy Machinery” books? Good to know.

We had our parent-teacher conferences this week and we were very pleased to hear that Max is doing great. He is on target in some areas and advanced in others. His teacher had no concerns about him. On a related note, given the difficulties we faced in the first year it is so astonishing for us to have people randomly comment on what a mellow guy he is.

What else does he like?

Max loves to clean. Vacuuming is his favorite. He also likes to wipe things down and empty the dishwasher. He is surprisingly good at following instructions and listening to us – most of the time.

Dogs are so exciting to him and he will gladly wear any garment with dogs (or woof woof) on it. We have exposed him to a lot of different dogs and he is becoming comfortable around them. He gets so excited when he sees them but gets a little nervous when they get close. I can relate. Meanwhile, our cat Pepper is a saint. Max has taken to picking him up. You can imagine how that is.

Peekaboo is still a big hit. His favorite variation involves me hiding outside the kitchen while he is in his high chair. You would think this is the funniest thing he has ever seen in his life. The best part is that I sometimes sneak around to the other entrance to the kitchen and shock him by appearing behind him. He LOVES it!

What doesn’t he like?

Max is still not a big fan of brushing his teeth, but we get it done most nights. He has only lost his nightly book privileges once and we haven’t had to do that again. I now understand the old expression about it hurting the parents more than the kids. I was so sad to have to withhold his books from him that night but it worked.

At our conference Max’s teacher noted that Max has texture issues and he doesn’t like finger paining. This might have more to do with staying clean, though. When he sees them bring out the finger paint he starts calmly  saying “Nooooooo. Noooooo.” He doesn’t like playing with shaving cream either. I tried to do hand prints with him recently and that didn’t go so well. Fine with me if my boy likes to stay clean.

Achievements?

We have been experiencing a language explosion lately. His vocabulary grows every day. I write about a lot of his new words on my post-a-day blog. (Email me if you want to see it.) His newest words are “nana” (banana), bike, ice, and all done. He also says his name “ma” – which can be easily confused with Mom, milk and more. He can say “I love you” “thank you” and “yes, please” but these are really hard to make out. We know what he is saying from the context but he has a little ways to go before anyone other than us understands him.

Our biggest recent achievement has to do with bath time. We went for about two months with Max been absolutely traumatized by the bath. I have no idea what happened. It was not fun. Thanks to a new book about baths and some patience, Max now loves that bath more than ever before.

He has also become very skilled in identifying pictures of objects. It had been a month or so since we regularly read one of Max’s most treasured books from Aunt Es “My Favorite Things.” On the last page there are pictures of all of the items in the book. In the past I would ask Max where each item is. Over time he would get more and more right. He could always identify the bananas (of course) but most of the items were a little iffy. I was shocked last week when I read it to him he got about 95% right. I couldn’t believe how well he did.

Sleep

Max’s sleep lately has been, well, fantastic. Really. I am probably totally jinxing it. Not only does he go to bed without protest, he often requests that we put him in the crib. Not just that, but he has had a few 13 hour nights recently. It is shocking! He naps pretty well, too. Who would have guessed?

Eating

Max’s teacher reports the same thing we observed: Max still eats a LOT. This is a great thing. He has tried many new foods, and likes sushi and pizza. That’s my guy. He still eats his veggies but I think he has gotten sick of his old favorite: peas. His latest favorite is shredded brussels sprouts. Mmmmm.

Breastfeeding

We have completely weaned as of about a six weeks ago. I have mixed emotions about it. Last week Max had strep and a big part of me wished I could provide Max the comfort (and nutrition) from nursing. We did just fine without it but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. He is a big boy now and it was the right time for us to wrap that up.

Other

My favorite thing about him is his laugh. It is contagious. Not a day goes by that we don’t have some serious laughter in our house. We laugh while we change diapers, when we eat, when we bathe, and all of the times in between. That’s not say we don’t have our serious moments. The Knight and I joke all of the time that it is too bad that Max is so sad and that we wish we could find a way to cheer him up. He is just a happy kid.

We are becoming more and more aware that we need to be careful about what we say and do. The imitation has started. The funniest thing was recently Oli walked by me and brushed my thigh with his hand. The next thing I knew Max was walking by me doing the exact same thing. I realized that Oli touches me all the time but I don’t usually consciously notice. Ha! He’s going to have to start watching himself.

Max has also started imitating me when I give a thank you wave to a car stopping to let us cross the street or similar things. It is so cute. Can you imagine driving along when a 1.5 year old gives you a thank you wave? Ha!

In sum, life is great! We are happy, healthy and very fortunate. Max is doing so well and I am just overjoyed to be his mom. I wish I could freeze time. I am savoring every day and wish that these wonderful times will never end. I know that lots of good times lie ahead. I just want this time to last longer. I love his sweet cuddles, his giggles, and his joy. Ahhhhhh, motherhood.

 

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Training Update

So, here I am, about 3 months away from Musselman (half iron distance) and I have given myself a little kick in the rear. Balancing family, work and training is not easy but it is doable. That’s what I keep telling myself. I am determined to make it happen. Although I won’t be training at the level I was previously, where I usually nailed all 10 of the scheduled workouts each week, I am doing the best I can.

Right now, what that looks like this this:

  • Mondays: afternoon (lunch hour) lift plus an evening run (that I lead for the team)
  • Tuesdays: afternoon session on the spin bike at my gym; evening swim at the gym near my house
  • Wednesdays: run (usually speed work)
  • Thursdays: abbreviated spin 2-25 min (due to time constraints) and lift
  • Fridays: rest or makeup day
  • Saturdays: long run
  • Sundays: ride

A far cry from typical week 5 years ago, when I was training for Ironman.

This past weekend I got out on my bike for the first time in…a LONG time. I can’t even remember when the last time was. There was a 20 miler some time last fall and then ill-fated 4 mile ride some time in December of January where is started pouring so we took Max home immediately.  Fortunately I have been putting in time on the spin bike and on my trainer. By time I mean usually 30-45 minutes, but it is something.

But I am on track this week and I’m excited about it. I am hoping to keep it up for a while, at least until the Knight’s next overseas trip. I need a strategy for getting in the workouts while I’m solo. It is hard because Max was a disaster with the gym childcare when I tried to take him – he may be better now. I am not ready to pull him in the trailer on my bike. So when we’re solo I can run and I can run. And if I am very disciplined I can spin when he naps or goes to bed at night but there is so much else to do that it almost never happens.

I am happy to say that I did 27 miles on the bike and felt great during and after. I rode with a friend for the first part and then rode with the Knight and the little Prince for the second half. The little Prince likes the trailer but yells “No!” when we hit a bump. He’ll get used to it. On Monday we can home and he pointed to Oli’s bike and said “Bike!” I asked him who’s bike it was and he thought for a second and said “Dada!” I asked him who rides in that – pointing the trailer and he said “Ma!” which meant Max. So cute.

I did get back in the pool last night after a couple of weeks off. I wasn’t pretty but it was way better than nothing. I am proud of myself for getting back to it.

I got speed work done this week (tiny little speed intervals, but speedy nonetheless). I lifted twice (one day was legs/back/bicpes; one day was chest/shoulders/triceps).

I am hoping that this momentum will continue and I will make good progress going forward. It will get done. I will finish. It might not be glorious but I have done it before and will do it again.

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Thursday Thirteen

It’s Thursday, at least according to my calendar. I am going to write the first 13 things that come to my mind.

  1. It’s only Thursday?
  2. The week after a vacation is tough.
  3. A busy weekend lies ahead. I’m solo and I’m hosting a bridal shower.
  4. Where the heck are those darn cherry blossoms?
  5. The first time I saw the cherry blossoms I was disappointed. They weren’t what I expected. I love them now.
  6. In general, I find it important to not set my expectations too high.
  7. When I was studying in England many of my classmates found Stonehenge disappointing so I was expecting it to be nothing special. I was pleasantly surprised when I went. It is all a matter of expectations.
  8. Now I am daydreaming of traveling to Europe. That’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, though it could. I have my heart set on a trip to a tropical destination, however.
  9. We had a great trip to Nashville. It was the first time I met the Knight’s best friend, even though we’ve skyped for years. The Little Prince loved him (and his family) from the second they met him and just climbed right up into his lap.
  10. I’m planning to cook lots of carbs while Oli is away. Pasta and Pad Thai are on the menu.
  11. I’ve been having trouble sleeping this week. I find it so much harder to be positive and cheery when I’m not fully rested.
  12. I have been good about getting my exercise, however. Exercise is not the same as training.
  13. At the rate I’m going, each swim is costing me around $25 since I pay a monthly rate at my gym. Not good!

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Thursday Thirteen – March edition

Realistically, this will be the only Thursday Thirteen this month so I am calling it the monthly edition.

  1. March is my birthday month. What a month it has been. Two snow days so far, including one on my actual birthday. It was a wonderful unexpected surprise. My birthday celebration included a roaring fire, lots of cuddles and many yummy eats (over my birthday weekend).
  2. I officially have a little under a year to plan by 40th birthday extravaganza. I need ideas.
  3. Max loves the snow and vehemently objected to coming inside after both of his snow outings. The Knight things he is a snow endurance athlete in the making.
  4. I originally intended  to give the Knight a guy’s weekend with his best bud (in Nashville) as a gift. Then I decided to make it an adults only weekend away. When I presented this gift, however, the Knight informed me we were not going to Nashville without the Little Prince. :) I’m cool with that, since I get upset when I have to get my hair done and miss my evening time with him. So, next week the three of us having a little family trip. I can’t wait.
  5. Some of you know I’ve been enjoying Blue Apron’s delivery service lately (I still have a few free weeks to give away if anyone is interested). Well, the Knight decided he could do just as well so after I sent him recipes (and added the items to the grocery list) he started Oli Apron. He has been stepping up his sous chef duties this week and it has been so fun.
  6. I know everyone agrees that it is time for Spring to come. I am just so excited. I can’t wait for all of the outdoor fun we’re going to have.
  7. The “pick your track” email for Team Z came out today. You basically pick one of four tracks based on your fitness level, goals and experience. I found myself wondering what the heck I am thinking planning a Half Ironman in 4 months since other than running and lifting, my training has been sparse at best. What do you pick when you’ve done an Ironman before and are comfortable with speed work, but it has been a long, long time. I can comfortably run 8 miles but biking more than 15 right now will be more than I’ve done in a long, long time. Yeah, I think it will be track 1 for me, but I’m really uneasy about how soon this race is.
  8. I have not been getting my swims done. I have a bunch of excuses that don’t amount to anything. I just need to get it done. I am hoping that I will be more consistent when the lake warms up and I can walk 7 minutes and being in the water.
  9. Max is doing so amazing well and I really need to write a whole post about him. I have been great about keeping up my Max Memories blog. (Let me know if you want the private link.)
  10. Work is going well. I had a huge win this week (on a case I litigated months ago). My boss said it was “a critical win” for the Agency. His praise in response to my email announcing the decision was “Excellent outcome!” Nothing more. It was only about $8 million at stake. Thanks, boss! (My first line supervisor did say “Congratulations!” as well as “thanks for your good work!” so that’s something.)
  11. I posted on Facebook about my sister’s post that has really made me think. She wrote “Someone is praying for the things you take for granted.” This is so thought provoking. There is so much in my life that I need to be ridiculously grateful for. It really changed my perspective.
  12. I was ‘this close’ to signing us up for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon again this year when I learned that it sold out in 36 hours. Darn! It wasn’t meant to be.
  13. I need more hours in the day. Anyone else?

Pregnancy Advice

Everybody love unsolicited advice, right? Uh, no. Not really. But if you’re like me, you appreciate hearing about what worked/didn’t work or what should be done differently.

I have a few pregnant friends and I’ve been thinking about what I remember learning during my pregnancy.  I present to you my advice for first-time pregnant women.

  1. Keep moving. Seriously. There will be so many days where you are just too tired/too refluxy/too whatever to get in your workout. Go anyhow. You don’t have to push yourself hard, but move, even if it is just a walk. You will feel better then and the exercise will help you in countless ways in the future.
  2. Tums. Not just Tums, but Tums “Smoothies” which are not a drink made with Tums but rather a variety of tums that dissolves more easily and is less chalky. These were key for me and I had bottles at my desk, at my bed, in the kitchen and in the car. Oh, and I had a stash in my gym bag. Along the same lines, if Tums are necessary don’t be afraid to try Zantac or Prevacid, which are pregnancy safe and can be very helpful.
  3. Don’t listen to people who tell you do X, Y or Z more now because you won’t be able to do it later. Yes, it would be nice to sleep more, go out more, or whatever more now because you won’t have the ability later, but unless you are eating more to store up fat for winter, it isn’t going to help you much. Cherish these days but you can’t bank sleep. If anything, I think that you’ll get spoiled by so much sleep or fun now and miss it more in the future.
  4. Buy things that will make your life easier. If you can afford it, there are little things you can get that will make your life better. I am a bargain hunter and well, I’m a little cheap sometimes. I didn’t want to buy a Belle Band that I was only going to use for a short time. A friend loaned me one and I was amazed at how helpful it was. This applies to pregnancy stuff and baby stuff (which I plan to cover in a future post).
  5. Save money where you can. I’m a big believer in consignment sales. I know some people have an issue with used clothes. Baby clothes can go through the washing machine. I don’t think of it as all that different from sleeping on hotel sheets or using hotel towels. I am operating under the assumption that washing machines actually clean things. If you know otherwise please don’t tell me.
  6. Eat what sounds good. While I think it is important to keep in mind that pregnancy is not a license to eat whatever the heck you want you should listen to your body. Heck, pregnancy is hard. If eating a chocolate donut will make you a little happier, do it. Don’t go nuts, but indulge yourself a little. You’re making a little human. That’s hard stuff!
  7. Laugh at yourself. You’re going through some big time changes. You might be a little wacky. You might be a tad hormonal. Learn to laugh about it. This skill will come in handy when the little one has a serious diaper explosion at the least opportune time (not that there’s an opportune time for diaper explosions).
  8. Write things down. I never did a pregnancy journal but I did blog. I can tell you that in the process of writing this post I went back and read by previous blog entries and really enjoyed reading how I felt when I was pregnant.

New Recipe: Crock Pot Black Bean Soup

I have mentioned before that I want to love my crock pot. It is just that so many of the recipes leaving me totally dissatisfied and disappointed. It is such a bummer when you invest the time and effort into a dish and it doesn’t come out how you hoped. Still, I occasionally give it another try and hope for the best. I am pleased to announce that I just finished a big bowl of this black bean soup and I declare it a WINNER!

This recipe, unfortunately, does require a little bit of advance prep. I am okay with that if it is minimal work and results in a good meal.

I was very skeptical about not pre-soaking the beans. I have not had luck with this in the past. Somehow it worked and I am so excited!

Black Bean Soup with Chipotle Chiles (Crockpot)

Bon Appétit  March 2004 Cooking for Health

A dollop of yogurt adds a creamy richness and cuts the heat of the chiles.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium-size red onions, chopped
1 medium-size red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 16-ounce package dried black beans
1 tablespoon chopped canned chipotle chiles*
7 cups hot water
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup plain nonfat yogurt
1/2 cup chopped seeded plum tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and both bell peppers and sauté until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cumin; stir 1 minute. Transfer mixture to 6-quart slow cooker. Add beans and chipotles, then 7 cups hot water. Cover and cook on high until beans are very tender, about 6 hours. Transfer 2 cups bean mixture to blender; puree until smooth. Return puree to remaining soup in slow cooker. Stir in lime juice, salt, and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Spoon dollop of yogurt into each bowl. Sprinkle with tomatoes and cilantro and serve.

Test-kitchen tip: Add richness to slow-cooker soups by using a mixture of half broth and half water instead of only water.

Makes 6 main-course servings.   Per serving: calories, 314; total fat, 4 g; saturated fat, 1 g; cholesterol, 1 mg; fiber, 18 g

My notes: Instead of pureeing in the blender you could give it a brief whirl with an immersion blender if you have one. I skipped the yogurt and topping and just enjoyed it plain. I used 2 cups of chicken broth and 5 cups of water.

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