Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Hitting the one-year mark is a time full of transitions, for both parents and child. Going from a baby to a toddler...taking those first steps (still waiting)...often it's time for full or partial weaning...the list goes on and on.

This morning, I witnessed another transition for Benjamin, and it had me more emotional than I thought it would. I always knew that he'd move from the infant room to the toddler room at daycare some time around his first birthday. There are other characteristics that they look for - mobility, eating table foods, etc. But it usually happens somewhere around (but not before) 12 months.

The toddler room is right next door to his infant classroom. A windowed door separates the two, and he's spent plenty of time over the last few months peering in at the "big kids", watching them play. Many of his former classmates are over there now. Yesterday, they told me that he finally went over to visit for the first time (and it went very well!).

But this morning, when I dropped him off, they sent him over before I was even finished unpacking his things. So I stood and watched him for a while. I watched as the tallest girl in the class crossed paths with him...and tried to put a little "bow" on his head. I watched as he made his way over to a toy that must be so exciting and new to him. And as I stood there and watched, a lump formed in my throat. Surrounded by all those other toddlers, he was no longer the big fish in the baby pond. He was, really and truly, a toddler.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it made me so emotional. My little man is growing up.

No word yet on when he'll transition full time, but my guess is it will be soon.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In my other life...

Do you ever daydream about what you would do with your life, if you had it to do all over again?

I have decided that, in my other life, I would be three things:

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A Lactiation Consultant

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And a Childbirth Educator

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So, why don't I just go for it?

Well, money, for one thing - being certified for any one of these things, much less all three of them, costs some money. Then there's the time involved - all three include a pretty significant time commitment for training, apprenticeship, clinical hours, etc. Then there's the issue of starting up a business and/or building a clientele for yourself.

Honestly, I never had any idea this was something I was so interested in until I went through the process of having a child myself. All of the sudden, a whole new world was opened up to me that I never really knew existed before. I've become a birth junkie - following all sorts of issues related to childbirth, breastfeeding, etc. Unfortunately, I didn't figure this out until I was 30 years old and a working mother to a very active little boy! And right now, I just don't have the time or the money to start a whole new career.

So for now, I'll just stick to daydreaming about what could've been...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Making Quesadillas...

Or, how I found a dose of creativity in the kitchen.

I am not a creative person. I am very left-brained. Even my musical studies were approached in a very left-brained manner. I was never any good at improvisation - I needed structure (notes on a page).

My approach to cooking is very similar. I need a recipe. Directions to follow. Rules. Given a recipe, I can usually follow it and obtain enough success to consider the result edible, enjoyable even. But I have never been one to see ingredients in my kitchen and conceptualize a dish, or throw spices on something and have it turn out wonderfully.

I've always worried about this inadequacy in the kitchen - mostly for how it would affect my future children. My mom has always been what I'm not in the kitchen - she's a creative, thoughtful, inspired cook. We never hurted for yummy family dinners when I was growing up. But somehow that gene skipped a generation, which always made me wonder what kind of a gastronomic experience my children would have and remember. I know not every mom has to be a whiz in the kitchen - but mine was, and I felt like I owed it to my offspring to at least try.

Well, last night proved that I have at least a thread of that, somewhere in my DNA. I can't begin to tell you how proud I was of what I did in the kitchen last night. And here's the thing - it wasn't very difficult. It's going to sound silly when I admit how easy it was - but the fact that I did this, that I came up with it on my own, without a recipe, and executed it (fairly well, I might add) without consulting a single resource except my own brain - well, that was an accomplishment for me.

So what did I do that has me spewing congratulatory back-pats? I made quesadillas. Not only that, but I made them to use up something we already had in the house - cubed pepperjack cheese leftover from Ben's birthday party.

In addition to the cheese, I boiled and cubed a couple of chicken breasts and sauteed a bell pepper and an onion. (I sauteed!) Then I spread it all out between two burrito-sized flour tortillas (I'm nothing if not generous with my portion sizes). We had enough ingredients to make three large quesadillas. I cooked them one at a time in a pre-heated skillet with a dash of olive oil. Other than the first one, which I burned a little (turns out the heat should be set fairly low, to allow the ingredients to cook without crisping the tortilla), it was a very successful dinner! My husband and son both agreed.

So even though this seems like a fairly simple meal (served only with sour cream and salsa to garnish), it was a big accomplishment for me. Maybe I'm not so bad off in the kitchen. Too bad we can't live on quesadillas every day...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Benjamin's First Year

I'm rather proud of this slideshow I put together for Benjamin's birthday party. Baby's first pictures (and video!).

Benjamin's First Year from Courtney Helms on Vimeo.

A Letter to my Son


You are 1. A whole year old. You have now been in my life in some manner for over 20 months.

The day we found out we were going to be parents was magical. Then we found out you were a boy...even more magical. But nothing will ever top the day you came into our lives - Wednesday, March 10, 2010.

Since that day, your Daddy and I have made it our goal to be the best parents to you that we know how to be. We may not always live up to that ideal, but we definitely try. Every day is a new adventure with you - and just when we think we've got the routine down, you throw something new at us. You like to keep us on our toes. :)

So, you're a year old now. What are you like? Well...
  • You've been eating table foods for half your life...and you eat like a professional. You're not overly messy - for the most part, it's all about getting the food from the tray to your mouth. The dogs sure wish you were messier.

  • You started off a bit on the small side, but you've certainly caught up. At 6 months, you weighed 16 lbs. By 9 months, you were up to nearly 20 1/2 lbs. We'll find out on Monday what your stats are now, but I'm guessing you're 24-25 lbs by now. My growing boy!

  • We're still nursing first thing in the morning and right before bed...but I think it's mostly for comfort now. You drink whole milk at daycare and water with meals and snacks.

  • You're such a happy boy! Your smile lights up the room, and you aren't stingy with it either. And laughs come much more frequently now than they used to. Love them!

  • You were quick to crawl, pull up and cruise the furniture, but you don't seem to want to move on to walking just yet. You have no problem walking around holding on to our hands, or even just a finger, and you can stand without support...but when it's time to move, it's back on your bottom and crawling away.

  • You love to babble - Mama and Dada and gaaa and baa - that's the closest you've come to words yet.

  • Only a couple of times have you waved goodbye...we're still working on that one.

Overall, though you have your moments (mostly when we have to tell you No), you are a sweet, fun, cuddly, active, inquisitive, interesting little boy. Watching you grow up is the most fun thing I've ever gotten to do - and I am excited for the new adventures the next year will bring.

All my love,


My, how you've grown...

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Breastfeeding Journey

With the exception of a handful of those I'm closest to (and a message board full of "internet strangers"), I don't talk much about breastfeeding. But as Ben and I are approaching the end of this journey, I feel compelled to share our story.

Part of the reason I don't talk about it much is that really, there's not much to talk about. Breastfeeding has been fairly intuitive for both of us, even from the start. Despite the fact that Benjamin was born in distress, and I didn't see him for the first 45 minutes of his life, as soon as he was handed to me, we had our requisite skin-to-skin contact, and he latched on like a champ from the get-go. We never faced any of the issues I hear so much about - poor latch, inadequate supply, cracked nipples, etc. My milk came in early in the morning of the Friday after he was born - he was only about 36 hours old at that point.

Even when things got hairy with Ben's severe jaundice, our pediatrician never once suggested that I supplement. Instead, she just urged me to feed him every two hours, like clockwork - which I took seriously. The night he was on the bili lights (here at home - another point for the pediatrician for not sending us to the hospital), while he laid in the tanning bed, I sat a few feet away in the recliner. I dutifully woke him every two hours. Our routine went something like this - wake, pick up, make sure the "bili blanket" paddle was positioned under him, feed for 30 minutes, reposition under the lights, sleep for 90 minutes, repeat. All night long. It was, to date, the hardest night I've faced as a parent - especially when my husband woke up refreshed from a night alone in our bed. I might've thrown some choice words his way that morning in my sleep-deprived, hormonal state. After all, it had only been five days since I gave birth at that point!

But we weathered that storm just fine - Ben got rid of the jaundice, and started putting on more weight (he didn't gain much at all that first week due to being too sleepy to eat - a side effect of the jaundice). I continued to feed on demand.

Things went swimmingly throughout maternity leave. We quickly settled into a routine, and I began to actually enjoy breastfeeding my son. It was (and still is) our special time together - something no one else gets to share with him. I started pumping sporadically when Ben was a few weeks old, though in hindsight, I wish I'd been more dedicated. I never did build up a very large freezer stash, and there were times when my lack of stash really caused me to worry. I can say now that we made it through, but it was by the skin of my teeth at times that we got through without having to resort to supplementing with formula.

I went back to work when Ben was almost 3 months old. I lugged my trusty pump to work every day - and still do. Day in and day out, I sequestered myself three times a day to pump. For a while, I was pumping in a spare office - thankfully, one with a lock on the door. When that office was taken over, I was moved to a different space for a while. Finally, I was sent to the IT storage closet - a very private space, again with a lock on the door, on a separate floor from our main office space. This was totally fine by me - the more private, the better!

Pumping was never my favorite pastime, but I did it (and do it) because I am determined. Because it was my goal from the start to breastfeed to at least a year, and avoid giving my baby formula if at all possible. I have absolutely nothing against those who choose to feed their babies formula (I was a formula baby), this was just my personal preference.

The one big obstacle I had was a recurrent plugged duct on my left side. In case you've never experienced this, let me just tell you - it hurts. Bad. Really bad. Oh, the pain. I think I had 3 or 4 recurrences of this. It seemed like, for a while there, I'd just about get it under control, and then it would plug back up again. Finally, I managed to get rid of it once and for all - though I lived in fear of it returning for many weeks afterwards. I panicked at every twinge, fearing the worst. Thankfully, I've managed to stay plug-free for several months now.

So for six months - from June until December - I fed Ben on demand any time I was with him and pumped three times a day at work. In early December, I had surgery, and I used my recovery time to drop down to two pumping sessions during the day (plus my first-thing-in-the-morning pumping session over breakfast). I kept that schedule up from mid-December

Tuesday was, inadvertently, the start of the next phase of the weaning process. We've already given Ben whole (cow's) milk twice - straight up, in his sippy cup. He drank it right down both times. I'd been planning to continue to pump twice a day while at work until the last week of his first year (next week!), when I would go down to once a day. Then I would cut out pumping altogether starting Monday the 14th. However, Tuesday morning, for some unknown reason, I simply forgot to pump. I have no idea why or how it happened, but it did. So I made the decision then and there to go ahead and cut it down to once a day. Wednesday, I sent a 50/50 mix of breastmilk and whole milk in his sippy cups - which meant he's now off bottles!

And today - just a couple hours ago - I pumped for the very last time (for this baby, anyway). I have enough freezer stash to continue to send the 50/50 mixture through next week. After it's gone, the only time Ben will get breastmilk is first thing in the morning or right before bed - I've decided to continue nursing him at those times, at least for the immediate future. I haven't made any decisions yet on how long that will continue. I'm going to play it by ear.

So there you go...our breastfeeding journey. If you made it this far, you deserve a prize!