Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ari's First Birthday

I am late in posting this as I was waiting for the edits on the photos to be completed.  My lovely sister-in-law is also a fantastic photographer...lucky me! You can see more of her work at

Ari had quite the party.  I would have opted for a small family and friends gathering, but the problem is, we have too many friends! Good problem to have, right?! So, we had an absolutely packed house full of laughter and children and babies, and it was wonderful! I had a hard time choosing which photos to share, so I am going to share a lot of them! 

The theme was "you are my sunshine," because he really is ours.

Singing "Happy Birthday"

He wasn't totally sure about the cake!



But he can always ham it up for the camera.

Mama went in for the kiss...and she got it! :)

We had the wonderful performance by my dad of the song he wrote for Ari. Ari accompanied on maraca. I will soon be having him play it again so I can film it and share it with all of you!

I love these of my brother holding my son.

Some more favorites - the latter is Ari with his Grandmas and his Great-Grammy looking on.

I wish we had a picture of every guest! But, enjoy these cuties!

Enough already mom, I'm tired!

Excuse the hand, it was too cute a picture to pass up!

Happy Birthday to my sweet boy! My how time flies!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Homemade Almond Milk

I decided to start Ari's transition from breast milk to almond milk instead of the traditional whole milk, at least for now.  Many babies have a hard time processing dairy and almond milk is much better nutritionally.  Almond milk is lower in fat than cow's milk and is rich in Vitamins A, E, and D, and many antioxidants.  It is also free of cholesterol and saturated fat, which cow's milk has.  Although it does contain a smaller amount of Calcium (unless you get the store-bought fortified almond milk), it is more nutritious overall than cow's milk and easy enough to supplement with Calcium-rich foods.  Why homemade?  Because it is easy and fun to make, it tastes so so much better, and the store-bought versions all contain additives and sugar-based sweeteners.  So, let's see just how easy and fun it is!

Take a cup of raw almonds and soak them in water for a few hours (preferably overnight). 

Then rinse them and drain the water.

Now fill your blender with 3 1/2 - 4 cups of water and add the almonds.  

There are many things you can add to your almond milk depending on preferences, but here is what I add:

A small section of a whole vanilla bean

2-3 pitted dates

And a dash of cinnamon

Now blend it up! If you have a Blendtec blender, there is a "whole juice" setting that works great!

Now, you will need to strain the liquid from the pulp (or not- your preference).  For this you can use cheesecloth or what I prefer (and love to say out loud)- a nut milk bag! :)
I use this one.  Pour the milk into the bag over a bowl.

Now use your hands to squeeze the liquid out.  I like to tie the top of the bag so I can really work on it!  I use both hands...but I had to use one to take this picture!

Once you are through, you will have a bag of almond meal left in the bag.  Put that aside...don't throw it away.

I like to put my milk back in the blender at this point for a few pulses.  Then you can pour it into a container (preferably one that seals) I love the ones I bought that have a twist top that seals the pitcher off.  

There was a little left to pour into a glass and sip on.  It is so creamy and wonderful! Seriously, it is nothing like the store-bought kind!

Now, what to do with the almond meal?  You can dry it out by baking it for several hours on the lowest temperature setting on your oven and then run it through a food processor to make almond flour.  This can be used as a substitute to other baking flours or added to oatmeal or smoothies.  If you feel like baking right away, you can skip the drying-out process and put the pulp into your recipe immediately.  Here is a recipe that looks great.  You would probably need to make a double batch of almond milk to get 2 cups of pulp though.  Here is one that takes just 1 cup of pulp, which is about what this recipe yields.  I will be looking for other ways to use this pulp in the coming months.  If you have ideas, let me know!

Coming out of the oven.

After the food processing.

I hope you will try making this yourself! Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Small Thing That Was Big

Last night Ari laid down in the bath on his back so I could rinse his hair.  He didn’t fight me and try to sit up.  He didn’t scream.  He even laid back down all on his own and seemed to enjoy it! 

This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was more than a little milestone for me.  You see, about a week before his first birthday, I had a mini breakdown as a result of his not wanting to lay back in the water.  It was silly and very much out of the blue, but I find that my emotions surrounding my boy are often like that.  He was crying and trying to flip over, seemingly scared of having his ears down in the water.  Tim walked in and I said something like, “well, I guess swim lessons are out,” since I pictured him being miserable. Tim told me I needed to stop saying things like that and that he would be just fine.  He walked out the door and my floodgates opened.  I had always pictured Ari liking swimming and being in the water and he was generally very happy in the bath, but I began picturing him not being comfortable in a pool, and with that, picturing all kinds of other things he was never going to do or be.  

I often find myself getting upset about one thing and having it spiral out from there, one negative thought giving rise to the next until I can’t even remember what started my mess of emotion.  Well that is what happened.  I posted a picture that night on Instagram, where I have an amazing support group of moms, and I explained how I am usually fine about my son’s diagnosis (as it doesn’t really affect much right now), but that sometimes I get so upset out of the blue.  It seems like my love for him is so huge that I can’t imagine him not getting to do certain things without my heart breaking a little.  I figure this particular wave of anxiety and sadness was likely brought on by the fact that he was about to turn one and we were about to celebrate a day one year ago when we were not celebrating, but mourning.  Well, my wonderful mama friends helped me realize that not only am I not alone in this, but that Ari is going to do so many amazing things in his life.  I already know this, of course, but to be reminded of it every now and then is necessary.  

Back to last night... he did a small thing.  He laid back in the water and was happy about it.  But, to me, it symbolized so much more.  It reminded me that he will get where he needs to be, but it will be on his own timeline.  Just like when he went through the crowd anxiety phase. I wondered if he would ever get over it. Now he smiles and flirts with everyone around and doesn’t seem bothered by loud noise.  Maybe someday he will be a back stroke champion in the Special Olympics, or maybe he will prefer to doggy paddle like his mom who never learned how to properly swim.  

I put so much on him that is my own definition of what a person “should” do and like.  Down syndrome or not, he is who he is, and I need to accept that and cherish what abilities and preferences he shows as he grows.  This same principle applies to all of our children.  Each child is an individual and worthy in his own right.  We all have hopes and dreams for our children, which we should, but just as we can’t chose their sex, we must allow them to be who they are, not who we expect or plan for them to be. Sometimes I think that what he is going through or struggling with is related to the fact that he has Down syndrome, when in reality, all kids go through rough phases.

I can’t imagine Ari being any different than he is: a smiley, funny, stubborn boy who can brighten anyone’s day.  

A boy who is crawling and pulling up to stand, who likes to babble on and on and yell even!  

A boy who loves to play all of his various instruments and is motivated by crackers! 

A boy who makes me laugh all the time with his funny faces, squinty smile, and wild hair. 

He is a lovely baby who makes our lives richer.  What more could we ask for? The rest of it, well, we are taking it one day at a time.