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One Way We Survived Em's Infancy

When I was pregnant with Em, there were a lot of things we were prepared for. Short lifespan, blindness, deaf, immobility, brain surgery, these were all things that we knew we would be up against, and went in full speed ahead, embracing whatever challenges came our way. As most of you know, miraculously, most of those things never became our reality, and for the most part Em had an unexpected, but very welcomed, healthy infancy. 

One thing we weren't expecting were all all the food and stomach problems that she currently has, and has had since she was very small. Along with Syntelencephaly, Em's major health "concern" is low muscle tone. It's pretty vague terminology, but basically means she has a week muscular system which is why she still cannot walk. The idea is that by doing physical therapy, those muscles will become strengthened and she will eventually one day (hopefully this year?), walk. 

As is turns out, kids with low muscle tone tend to have stomach issues because their abdominal muscles aren't strong enough to pass stool through their intestines, which can lead to extreme constipation. Em spent most of her infancy very constipated, and in a lot of pain, which means we relied heavily on infant formulas that were gentle enough on her system so that she could get both the nutrients she needed, and the ease that her body desperately desired. 

Gerber Good Start Soothe formula is specially designed to ease excessive crying, colic, fussiness, and gas, while providing complete nutrition. This was such a game changer for us because there are a lot of formulas out there on the market, and even though we had our favorites with Jay when he was a baby, they didn't always work for Em. Her body is different, and needed to be fed differently. But I'm grateful to know that there are products out there to help all babies, no matter what the situation, get the nutrients they need. Formula wasn't the only piece to the puzzle for Em, and to this day she is still on a laxative regimen to help with constipation, but during her infancy where it seemed like she was non-stop crying, and always in pain, Gerber Good Start Soothe Formula played such a large roll in getting her just a little bit more comfortable at nighttime.

An Annual Tradition Revisted

About seven and a half years ago I became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was really a big, life changing moment in my life, and in a lot of ways, I felt like that was when my life really began, and when a lot of great and positive things started happening for me. After  I got baptized, I became obsessed with taking pictures, and then told everyone that they were going to go into my "First-Year-of-Being-A-Mormon-Scrapbook".

It kind of turned into this big joke in college, and whenever I took a picture of anything people would always say, "oh, this is going to go into her scrapbook!" After my first year, I had over two hundred pictures of really meaningful things all chronologically organized into a really pretty photo album that I'd spent a couple hours putting together. 

Because I'd had such great success with the first year book, I decided that I would make a new photo album every year, from September 12th through September 11th of the following year, and each book would document my life as a "Mormon".

I did a great job with staying on top of these photo albums the first three years, until Jay was about a year old. Then I became pregnant with Em, and her entire pregnancy, and then raising her the last two and a half years, and a blogging career... all of a sudden four years had passed by without me making another album. Luckily, I've always had the intention to go back and make more albums, so I've organized my pictures very meticulously over the last several years. 

A few weeks ago I found out about Shutterfly's "Make My Book" service, where you simply upload your pictures to their site and they literally put an entire photo book together for you. It was seriously the most amazing thing in the world. Since my pictures are so well organized, all  I had to do was upload all my pictures, which took about 10 minutes, and then pick a color scheme for my book. Shutterfly's designers took over the rest with laying the pictures out in chronological order, and then sent it back to me within a day to review. 

I was able to go in and type in a few notes or details next to some pictures, make color choices for the text, and the cover, and move a couple things here and there if necessary, and then my entire book was complete. It made this overwhelming task of catching up on four years worth of photo books so much easier. Now that I have my fourth book complete, I want to get the last three done before I have to start making year eight in September.

I loved watching Jay and Em flip through this book together. Jay loved looking at pictures from "when he was a baby", and Em loved shouting, "DADDY! DADDY!" each time Jay turned the page. I remember how much I loved looking through photo albums when I was younger, and it's so fun to get to share that magic with my kids now too. There really is nothing better then getting to relive fun family memories again and again.

A Preschool Valentine's Day Party

A few weeks ago I thought it would be really fun to throw a party at our house for all the preschool aged kids at church who weren't in school to exchange Valentine's with people. I was a little nervous because it was the first time since we've lived in our new house where I've really thrown myself out there and invited a lot of people over, and I was really hoping that it would be a success.

As it turns out, the party went over so well that there is talk about repeating it for St. Patrick's Day, Easter, and any  other holiday we can make up between now, and when school gets out in May. There were a total of eight moms and thirteen kids, and everything went seamlessly. When we threw Jay his birthday party over the summer, I didn't do a good job of leading the kids through the activities, so it was kind  of just chaos the entire time. 

This time I took charge from the beginning and directed the moms to the kitchen right when they got there so that their kids could decorate their Valentine's Day boxes. We had a wide spread of stickers, markers, and glue where kids could create their own designs, and when everyone was done, and their glue was dried, we headed into the living room to pass out cards and play some games.

I was originally going to do two games, but because things were going at a good pace, and I didn't feel like I needed to scramble to add more time, we just stuck with one, and then headed back into the kitchen to eat. While we were all playing games and passing out cards, Derek was in the kitchen cleaning up, and very carefully organizing all my craft supplies. I didn't even realize that until I went to reorganize everything the day after the party and everything was already perfectly back in it's place. Bless him for that, bless him.

I kept things really simple for the food. I bought three boxes of muffin mix the night before and whipped up three dozen muffins. I then dipped some pretzel rods in chocolate, and then in sprinkles, and called that good. Marshmallows also got the same dipped in chocolate and then in sprinkle treatment. I then took a Wilton Edible Food Marker and wrote cheesy Valentine's Day sayings all over a bag of clementines, and the food was complete. 

This really was such a fun way to get a big group of moms together to chat and have fun with one another, and bonus points that with 13 kids in the house, the only squabble to ever happen was when Jay got upset with someone for touching his balloon... which he proceeded to hold for the rest of  the party.

Come Hang Out with Me in Atlanta

This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on Behalf of Macy's; however, all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

One thing about blogging that I really love is that once in a while I get the opportunity to attend some really awesome events, and share them with my readers. It's rare however, when I'm able to invite all my local friends to tag along with me! 

This Friday night, if you're going to be in the Atlanta area, come hang out with me at Macy's Lenox Square where you can attend a Culinary Council event with Chef Marcus Samuelsson to celebrate his new cookbook, The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem and Black History Month. Being a writer from New York myself, I'm so excited to hear about his life and successes that he's found and made for himself. 

Not only am I excited to learn some new kitchen skills from Marcus (and hello, samples!), but there is also going to be a live performances by Harlem-based band The Rakiem Walker Project and NYC-based dance group W.A.F.F.L.E.! 

Marcus Sameulsson was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden so he brings a unique fusion of foods and flavors to the table, which I'm super excited to see, and taste! 

So if you're going to be in the Atlanta, GA area Friday night 2/17/17 then come hang out with me, and see Marcus Samuelsson put on an amazing cooking show at 7pm. You can RSVP tot he event for free here, and when you do, you'll get a $10 gift card at the door! 

Weekly Menu Plan and Grocery Haul #5

Last week when I was making our menu, I couldn't find anything on Pinterest that looked good, and I couldn't remember anything that I'd seen floating around the blogging world, so we just kept it really simple and basic. These are the weeks that Derek prefers the most because he know's what to expect at each meal instead of some some random meal that I'm testing out on him. 

1. Baked Potatoes: You likely don't need a guide or recipe on how to make these, but in case you do, I found this guide from The Kitchn to be pretty helpful. It shares three different ways to make baked potatoes and the various cooking times. I feel like I can never remember when I go to make them, so I find myself referring back to here often. 

2. Tomato Soup: It's been a while since I've made tomato soup from scratch, so when I saw this recipe from The Girl Who Ate Everything pop up on my bloglovin' feed last week, I knew we were going to give it a try. I paired it with some grilled cheese sandwiches, and everyone loved it.

3. Cheesy Party Burgers: I ironically don't even follow Kevin and Amanda on any form of social media, and yet I always wind up making something from their blog at least once a week, or so it seems. We made these "Party Burgers" on Friday night and they were super simple, and delicious... to me at least. Derek only ate one, the kids didn't touch it, and between dinner that night and lunch the next day... I ate four, so take this information for what it's worth. 

4. German Pancakes: Is anyone else confused by how many names these things have? German pancakes, oven pancakes, dutch babies, and now according to Jay "Idaho Pancakes" because we had them several times when we were in Idaho for Christmas. I definitely need to update the picture for this on my blog at some point, but this recipe still holds true, these are delicious. 

5. Sloppy Joes: When I was making the menu plan last week I asked Derek if there was anything in particular that he definitely wanted to have, and he said sloppy joes, so  I made it happen for him. This is one of our all time favorite recipes, and I filmed Jay and I making them together this week here.