An Accidental Stay-at-Home Mom

As most of you know, the military recently relocated us to Japan. We are extremely excited for all the changes that come along with this move. One of the big changes is that I am currently not working. I am applying for jobs and hope to be working soon. Until then, my job is wife and mommy!

For those who are stay-at-home moms and infant childcare givers-you are amazing. After working for the last 14 plus years this is a really big adjustment for me and for our family. The biggest thing I am making sure to do is enjoy this while it lasts. While I have no intentions of staying at home permanently, I know that there are a lot of moms who would love to have this opportunity. I even recall bawling on the way home from picking her up from daycare those first few times. So I know I would have loved to be a stay-at-home mom at one point.

More than anything-I am terrified. Since she was 8 weeks old I haven’t been with her 24/7. Of course I have had her on my own many times. Weekends, days off, etc. The weather is still decent and there is a playground right outside of our building. I am excited to try that out! I may also seek some mom groups. I feel so ridiculous even saying that! I used to think that was so snooty. Moms meeting at the playground to gossip while their children play. Now I realize how important socialization and interaction with other children is. I get the feeling about once a day that my daughter is SO bored with me ūüôā As a mom I want to make sure I am giving her every opportunity to grow and develop as I can. I know she will not get that by sitting at home with just me all day, everyday!

I will, obviously, keep you posted on our mommy/daughter adventures. She has this thing where she crawls in my lap to sit and play. That is the picture below. She brought her little crab and a picture of herself along today. She is waving-that is the blurriness around her hand.

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If any of my stay-at-home moms have some tips-I welcome them!

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Fall Baking-Pumpkin Bread!

I know I may get stabbed for this, but I just do not get the pumpkin craze. I really don’t. But before you come after me with pitchforks‚Ķthere are two things pumpkin that I like. Pumpkin Spice coffee creamer and my husband’s grandmothers pumpkin bread! I, unfortunately, never had the honor of meeting his grandma but I LOVE that I get that opportunity to continue to share her memory by making my family one of her beloved recipes. Note: I made sure to clear it with my sister-in-law before sharing this ūüôā

For my baking handicapped friends, do not fear! This is a very simple recipe! I do not even have dishes and bowls and I managed!¬†That leads me into-don’t laugh at my pot and plastic fork! I was determined to make this bread today! I improvised admirably, if I do say so myself!

My daughter was just not having a nap today but was also managing to entertain herself quite well so I thought this chilly day would pair well with this beloved family favorite!

See below for the full ingredients list and instruction.

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This is what the first step will look like.        This will be when all ingredients are combined.

The consistency of this batter is no where close to a “normal” bread dough so do not freak out! To me it seems somewhere in between a cake and brownie batter consistency and will be somewhat sticky.

Since we do not have our dishes/pots/pans yet I bought an aluminum loaf pan. They were pretty small and I did not want to mess up my bread so I used two to be on the safe side. In the end: they made more like mini loaves. If you have a normal bread pan you will only need one!

What I used:                                                                  Divided into two.

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So here is where it may get tricky for some of my non-baking friends‚Ķbaking time. Please watch closely. It is going to depend completely on your loaf pan size and oven! The recipe itself says 1 hour and 15 minutes. For these two mini pans it only took 27 minutes. In my old oven I believe it was around 65 minutes. I would always set a timer to 50 minutes and then check every 5 minutes. The last thing you want is to ruin your bread by over baking. Today I set the timer for 45 minutes but went off the ole “when you start to smell it, it is almost done” rule and sure enough‚Ķit was done!

Finished product: I should note, my husband has not tasted it yet…but myself and the baby did and we approve!

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Recipe and Directions:

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 cup pumpkin

1/2 cup oil (I used good ole vegetable oil)

1/4 cup water

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp cloves

1/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1 2/3 cup flour

Mix eggs, sugar, and pumpkin. Blend in oil and water. Add all remaining ingredients. Bake in greased loaf pan at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Week One, down!

In a few hours we will have been in Japan for a whole week! I think we are pretty adjusted on sleep. Last night I went to bed around 10pm and was awake around 545am. We never sleep much past 6am since the baby was born so that seems pretty good!

We went to a Yen store yesterday and it was pretty much the greatest thing ever! The one we went to was called Daiso. The American equivalent to this is a Dollar store, so think Dollar General or Family Dollar. So family, be ready for tons of goodies from there! We loaded up on junk food to see what types of Japanese goodies are our favorite! The one thing I noticed right away is the “sweets” here are nothing like the sweets in America. Although I still consider them “junk” food, the sugar content is nothing like I am used to.

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One thing that struck me as comical was in the parking lot of the Yen store was a lottery machine. When we were parking I could here something and I was thinking “what is that?” Well I look up and it is a little lottery machine in a vestibule with speakers on the outside blaring a voice!

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I have talked a lot about driving so far. Below is a picture of the first little intersection off the base. The red triangle is the stop sign. You can see on the pavement the white diamonds. In the states those indicate a carpool lane. Here those mean that a pedestrian crosswalk is coming up.

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Another thing (I don’t have a picture‚Ķyet!) that is very common here are vending machines in the middle of nowhere. There could be absolutely NOTHING but there is a drink machine! There is one right outside our door in our building‚Ķthey have this coffee I LOVE. It is called Georgia. The vending machines seem similarly priced as American, I think. We did not really have iced coffee in cans in vending machines there! But the ones here cost the equivalent of $1.30.

With baby girl about to turn 1 (AHHHH) I will be leaning more towards posts on mommy hood here soon. I also have a few other things I want to blog about. One is I am doing Scarlett’s one year photos and smash cake myself so I will be writing about that and showing you how simple it is to do some of these things on your own. I know getting pictures taken and ordering cakes can be an expensive cost‚Ķthat we do not always have! Stay tuned on how to save some of that money!

Our First Eating Adventures in Japan

I will start by saying…for those of you who do not know me well…I hate not knowing what is going on. I also do not like feeling like I am offending someone. I have definitely felt both of those ways within the last two days! By saying it is overwhelming to be in a country that you do not know the language or the common courtesies is an understatement. For this, I am thankful for my husband. He is not gun shy and will jump right in and figure things out. I am so scared of accidentally offending someone that I just freeze and would rather leave than feel awkward.

The first place we went to yesterday was one of those sushi places where it goes around the room and you just grab what you want off of the conveyer belt as it goes by you. The excitement in my husbands eyes was so hilarious. He had been talking about one of these places since we found out we were coming to Japan. Me-I was terrified. Haha. Thankfully he figured out how to change our electronic menu to English. He took over and just ordered us a bunch of stuff. When you order from the menu it comes out to you on a little alligator. It was adorable. The picture below shows the fries we ordered for Scarlett on the alligator.

We ordered a kids meal for Scarlett and it came with real (raw) sushi, one chicken nugget, a few french fries and some juice.

Today the place we went I enjoyed MUCH more. I was still a little overwhelmed and this was because Scarlett was due a bottle and trying to ask for hot water when no one speaks English is not fun! They had an English menu, also. From the very few places I have seen, it looks like most of the places that are right here around the base in Misawa City have English as well. Which is very helpful! The place we went is called Sukiya. It is a Japanese “fast food” place and it was so delicious! We both had a beef bowl. They also have curry, eel, and a dish called gyudon-which is beef and onions. I want to try that the next time we go. Although we have not went to a “real” restaurant yet, the one thing I have noticed is there were buttons at both places at the individual tables to “call” when we were ready to order/pay/needed assistance.

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The one thing that has been told to us repeatedly is that it is considered rude to tip here. It is an insult to the service they have provided you. This will save Nick and I SO much money. We were already very good at tipping and had become even better since having a child. That kid destroys the table everywhere we go!

I am not only excited to keep visiting the local places but also very excited to learn how to cook a few Japanese dishes!

First Days in Japan

Oh boy…what a whirlwind of days! I wanted to cover a few of the immediate questions I have been asked!

Time difference…for my California peeps: we are 16 hours ahead of you.The best way I remember this. 12 hours plus 4. So if it is 8am there, immediately say 8pm, plus 4 hours. It is midnight here. Indiana peeps: we are 13 hours ahead of you.

Weather. It is very typical fall weather currently. It reminds me of Indiana fall. Yesterday it was a high of 59 F and sunny. This has been a wonderful break. It was still in the 90’s in California when we left! Winter comes in the middle of November. We get a lot of snow but it does not get super cold‚Ķjust cold enough to snow-if that makes since!

Driving. Oh, driving! Yes, we drive on the left side of the road. I have adjusted pretty well so far but¬†Nick has been the one driving when we have went off base. So obviously, it is weird driving on the “wrong” side of the road. And hilarious! The turn signal handle is on the right side of the steering wheel so the windshield wiper gets accidentally hit a lot. Apparently this has a name here‚Ķthe Misawa Wave. Haha. I have also noticed I NEVER use my rearview mirror. It took me a minute to figure out why. Well in the US you obviously look up and to the right to check your mirror. So I automatically look at my right side mirror here to check the traffic. I find myself veering to the left a lot because I’m scared to cross the center lane. This is tricky because there are not shoulders on the roadsides so if you aren’t careful you just go in the ditch!

Another thing…we have literally messed up which was is left and which way is right. You can turn left on red here (on base) because you do not have to cross lanes of traffic. It gives us a good laugh trying to comprehend it.

Our house is on base so it is very American. We were forewarned that we would have a very small house…we do not. It is 1400 sq ft! A few things that are different in the house: the thermostats. There is a a thermostat in each room! Having a baby this is pretty nice, actually! There are storage units in the floor. We are instructed not to use them though (picture below). The sliding glass doors also have dual panes with locks on them (also picture below). These things confuse me every. single. time. You have to move so many doors! They are there to help with the cold weather.

I will have several more blogs coming up about our first outings. Stay tuned for our adventure of getting lost on our first trip out on our own! It was hilarious!

How to Use Frozen Breast Milk

I can see what people search when they wind up on my blog and some common search terms have to do with using breast milk and specifically frozen milk. So…here goes a blog on how I used my frozen stash of liquid gold!

When I went to a breastfeeding class that the Air Force Base hosted for free I received a refrigerator guide magnet that had the guidelines for using milk. It was VERY helpful when using fresh milk. However, it did not provide as much guidance for using frozen milk.

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As I started to get a good stash we bought a small deep freezer. Boy am I glad we did! I was very lucky and produced a lot of milk. We did not need to use formula at all with her until recently as we started to wean. See my blog on doing that here: http://wp.me/p6P8Lo-3S

My routine for milk was as follows: Anything I would pump “extra” for the next day I would freeze. So when this first started I was taking 3 or 4 5oz bottle to daycare with her. So I would freeze anything over 15 oz. Her daycare has a little bit stricter guidelines than what is “recommended.” Freshly expressed milk was good for 48 hours only (for daycare purposes). Thawed guidelines are the same-use within 24 hours.

When I thaw milk for immediate use I simply run it under warm water as shown below.

I recommend only doing this method when using milk for immediate use. Since thawed milk has a much shorter life than fresh milk I was always worried it would go to waste.

Using frozen milk for her daycare I would take out the milk a full day ahead. For instance, on Sunday morning I would take out milk that she needed for Monday. I make her bottles at night for the next day and it takes awhile for milk to thaw. To thaw this way, see picture below. It is very easy!

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As I mentioned, I took mine out a full day early. This probably depends on whether your milk is in a deep freezer or a refrigerator freezer AND how cold your refrigerator is. It seemed like it took mine FOREVER to thaw.

For fresh milk it is considered safe to refrigerate warmed milk if it is not used within an hour. Example: I pump at 9am. I warm up that milk at 1pm. She doesn’t drink 2 oz of what I warmed up. That milk can go back in the refrigerator by 2pm. It needs to be used within 24 hours after being warmed up though. So at 1pm the next day that milk must be used. I never used this rule of thumb with thawed milk. I do not think it is considered as safe. I would just say be cautious of how much milk you thaw so you do not waste it!

Whenever she doesn’t drink any kind of milk‚Ķfresh, thawed, a mix of formula and thawed, I follow the one hour guide to be safe. If she doesn’t drink all of the milk I will try again about 45 minutes later. Some of the time that works. Some babies are also picky about temperatures. Too hot or too cold. So I’m sure that is part of it sometimes also. If I warmed it up too much the cooling down makes her want it more. Others I end up throwing out 3-4 oz ūüė¶

I hope this was helpful for those new moms who don’t want to waste their milk. It is a precious thing, that breast milk!

First Trimester Diet and Exercise

As promised! As a follow up to TTC what-nots (https://themomchrons.com/2016/10/06/trying-to-conceive-ttc/) I am going to talk about what I changed when I found out I was pregnant. Since we had experienced a miscarriage I was pretty paranoid during my 1st Trimester. My diet and exercise changed pretty drastically.

Food. It goes without saying (or it should..) that I immediately stopped drinking alcohol completely. I honestly had no issues with this. I’m not much of a drinker nowadays anyways so that part was not hard for me. I had a friend who told me she craved beer while pregnant. I’m glad that was not me! I also switched to decaffeinated coffee for the most part. I did get some wicked headaches a few times that I curbed with “real” coffee. It was MUCH later in pregnancy, and I mean around 25 weeks, that I switched to half-caffeinated. My one pregnancy craving was Raspberry Snapple Iced Tea though so I did also get some caffeine from that. Some other foods you may or may not know you should not have. Deli meats, bleu cheese (this was tough for me), certain juices, sushi, limited fish, raw meat. The one thing about deli meat‚Ķyou can have it if heated up. So on those days I really wanted a sandwich I would put the meat in the microwave for about 25 seconds and then put it in the fridge to cool back down. There may be other things not recommended‚Ķbut those were the things that I specifically wanted that I had to watch for!

Exercise. This is tricky. I was so paranoid. I did not do too much for 8 weeks! I walked and hiked but did not run. I was so scared after that miscarriage! Now after that I had a little routine that worked well. From weeks 8-20 of pregnancy I would do 5 min run/3 min walk intervals on the treadmill. I also did some pretty intense hikes later in pregnancy. At 27 weeks we “accidentally” did a 7.5 mile hike! We were camping and just started hiking and next thing you know‚Ķwe were too far in to turn around. Granted‚Ķwe went pretty slow at certain points and I had to rest a lot. Your body will tell you when it needs to take a break. I promise.

The one thing I did until the day I delivered? Walked. I walked like a maniac! Every hour at work I would walk for 5 minutes and then each night I would take a 30 minute walk at home. Did it help? I have NO clue. But it made me feel better when I was 38 weeks pregnant and huge and feeling ridiculous.

I did not calorie count while pregnant and some people would disagree with me STRONGLY, but I do not see anything wrong with it if excessive weight gain is happening. The first trimester no diet change is recommended. The rest of the pregnancy is 300 additional calories a day. People take this way too lightly. If you use that each day to eat oreos you may have some issues. I’m not saying I didn’t do it a few times‚Ķbut I would suggest not making it a habit! Once again my non-professional nutritionist suggesting would be at least getting 2000 calories a day. When I calorie count I aim for 1200 for weight loss and 1500 to maintain. I am very aware that is a low number. That is why I would suggest 2000 while pregnant!

For those scared of exercise‚ĶI get it. I really do. But your body needs it to prepare for labor. Even if it is just a nice 10 minute walk a day. Find something you like. That is safe. Don’t go out rollerblading. A fall doing that could cause harm. There are many women who do weight lifting and running up until delivery. It is all based on what your body was already immune to. I was a runner for many years. Running throughout my second trimester was fine for me and doctor approved. If you have not been very active and get pregnant-that is not the time to train for a 10k!

All in all? Follow general guidelines that you should really follow when not pregnant! Get your fruits and veggies. Get your exercise. And grow a healthy baby ūüôā

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Trying to Conceive (TTC)

I recently asked a friend of mine who is TTC (trying to conceive) what she thinks about the most and what questions pester her mind as she is going through the process. Not surprisingly, her answer was pregnancy diet and even her diet now as she is trying.

When we decided to start trying I started the process by calling my doctor and making an appointment. I had read about some specific things but I really felt it was important to get the doctor answers to my questions. Well, I’m not going to lie‚Ķthat doctor really did not help me too much. She did an annual exam and prescribed me some prenatal vitamins (which I threw away and got the gummy kind-much easier on the tummy). Her biggest concern she said was making sure her mom-to-be’s are within in a healthy weight and BMI. A BMI that is too low or too high can both cause issues in getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy once conception takes place. Like I said-not a lot of help for me specifically (although, I still recommend it). Instead, I will talk about what I did and what I found on my own.

So TTC diet. I’m not even going to lie. I did not change a whole lot. If you have read my previous posts you know-I am a runner and I was training for a half marathon when we found out I was pregnant. So as far as diet-I ate a lot to replace the 700 calories I would burn after those long runs. As far as exercise (DISCLAIMER-I am NOT a medical professional and I am NOT a certified physical anything‚Ķ) I would recommend if TTC you should be doing at least 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week. What do I base this on? I have put the website reference below, but the Mayo Clinic actually suggests 30 minutes every day of the week.

One thing I DID change. Caffeine intake. There were days I could easily drink 3 cups of coffee. I slowed my coffee down to one cup a day. If I did need that extra pick me up I always had half caffeine in the house. When I was at the doctor I asked if I needed to stop drinking alcohol while TTC and she said there has been nothing to support needing to stop an occasional glass of wine. What I personally did was watch my alcohol intake for the 10-14 days between ovulation and what would be implantation.

I will preface the most important part of TTC advice with this: I DID NOT DO THIS. But the most important thing: stop stressing. Stop wondering if every single thing you feel is a pregnancy symptom-you know‚Ķthe day after you ovulated ūüėČ I was my own monthly stalker while we were trying. So I know it is easier said than done. The only time I was relaxed was the 14 days when I KNEW I was not pregnant or ovulation was coming. When did I get pregnant? When I dropped $100 on a half marathon and was in the 11th week of training. Am I saying you should sign up for a half marathon? Yes! Haha, just kidding. But do not plan your life around it. Plan a vacation. Not ready for a half marathon? Train for your first 5k.

With all that being said I will add‚Ķit can make your partner go crazy as well. My husband never said a word about my obsession (such a good husband). But after the fact I have thought to myself a million times‚Ķman, I must have seemed insane! “It’s day 11, I can have sushi.” “If I am pregnant this 2 mile hike won’t hurt.” So, again, just go live your life. ¬†It will happen. It may be 10 months like it was for us, but it will be happen. And you know what, it will be worth every single month of trying. I have two friends right now who have to use other than traditional methods to get pregnant. Hearing what they have to pay makes me ache. But you know what? I would pay that money right here, right now, every single day if I had it to have my beautiful little girl that I do.

Next up…what I did during the first few months of pregnancy for diet and exercise!

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/exercise/faq-20057916

Picture: me disc golfing at 10 weeks pregnant‚Ķbefore most people even knew. Exercise doesn’t have to be intense!

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Introducing Formula/Weaning

I know this was a huge wonder of mine while pregnant and after baby girl was born. I do not know what is “normal” but I can talk about the process for me!

I will start by saying: this process started a little sooner for me than I originally wanted. Here is why: the military decided we should go to Japan. No worries-this is a good thing! The dilemma was that I had SO much frozen milk. The fees to ship it would be outrageous considering once we get to Japan it will be one month from her first birthday when she can start cow milk. So my goal was to begin weaning and use the frozen!

The process took about 1.5 months. She already gets 3 bottles a day from daycare so taking a bottle was not going to be an issue for us. I know that those who have exclusively nursed say sometimes just taking bottle is the tricky part!

At 9 months she was getting a morning nursing when she first woke up and then a nighttime nursing right before bed. The nighttime nursing was the one I was terrified to take away so we took the morning nursing first. At this point it was still all breast milk-just in a bottle so there was not any issues. Other than I was giving her too much! She gets 7 oz bottles at daycare but she was only drinking about 5 oz in the mornings. We did this for about 3 weeks and I started pumping only once a day at this point to slow down my production. And it slowed fast! Much faster than I thought. I went from pumping 18-24 oz a day to around 12 oz a day within a week.

About a week ago I took away the night nursing. It has gone pretty well so far. The one thing it has changed is her bed time. She would fall asleep nursing about 90% of the time and with a bottle she never falls asleep. Luckily for us if we lay her down between 7-7:30 pm she will put herself to sleep within 5 minutes. Yes, I know‚Ķwe have a freak child ūüôā We do not expect to be so lucky if/when we have another one!

Where are we currently? She is 10.5 months now. I have began trying to introduce formula. It is really hit or miss right for now. She will not drink just formula. I have about 250 oz of frozen left so her morning and night bottles I have been doing 2-3 oz of formula and 2-3 oz of breast milk mixed together. When she absolutely refuses the mixture I add a little bit of rice cereal and that seems to help. If she is not drinking it consistently by this weekend I will try Similac. I have been using Enfamil supplemental so far.

I am hoping for the best over the next 10 days before we fly out! I have not pumped in a little over a week so I am not producing very much (if any). Over the weekend she was pretty tired and fighting it and I actually nursed her and she passed out. I do not know if she was actually getting any milk or if it was just for comfort.

Below is also a picture of how I stored my milk. The best space saver I found was to freeze the bag laying down and then it was easier to prop up like in the bottom of the picture and then to place in bins like the top portion. The bins are how I stored it in the deep freezer!

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The Beginning of an End

I don’t think it has hit me yet. That after 13 years of serving in the United States Air Force I will take off my uniform and go back to being a civilian. Maybe it hasn’t hit me yet because 1) I’m not technically done and 2) I’m not convinced I won’t come back! I was only off of active duty for 14 months before I decided to enlist in the reserves.

I was at my first unit for 5 years and my current one for 3 (as a reservist) and I have thoroughly enjoyed what I have learned and I’m more than¬†proud of what I somehow managed to accomplish. Two big things that stand out are when I was chosen amongst many of my peers for NCO of the Year in my career field and when I was chosen to be an officer. Unfortunately, I was accepted to be an officer while I was pregnant and just did not get the opportunity to go to OTS prior to our orders to Japan and when we return I will be older than 35 so I will no longer qualify. It was still an honor to be chosen and know my leadership believed in my abilities to lead my fellow military members.

It’s interesting because I have not talked to anyone who has believed me when I said this is it. After three years of being out of the service I think it will be hard to go back into the reserves¬†. Although one weekend a month and two weeks a year doesn’t seem like too much, it is! That means once a month I will work 12 days straight. I can’t even count the number of birthdays, get togethers, and events I have missed during that one weekend a month. Thankfully, I worked with great people who I learned a great deal from.

Since I am a full time reservist my “end” will not happen until the end of the month when I resign my civilian position as well but the first step happened today when I clocked out (so to speak). I hope I have been able to teach at least one person along my way something of benefit that will help them in some way, someday.

All in all, I am excited and cannot wait for our new adventure. Stay tuned for many interesting stories as I probably, accidentally, offend half of Japan!