10 Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

By: Brady Evans

Benjamin and I just completed our fourth flight – most of which I did with him solo. After doing this for awhile, I’ve come up with 10 tips to help moms deal with airports and such.

The beach at Grandma's!

The beach at Grandma’s!

10. You’ll never see these people again. Don’t stress out!

9. Remember that most of these people were babies themselves and had babies themselves. If your child is cranky give them a meek smile and make no excuses for yourself. Far more people understand your plight than you think.

8. Bring a change of clothes for the baby – and for you! I haven’t needed to use either, but with traveling comes a lot of close contact and a mess for the baby can easily turn into a mess for the both of you.

Benjamin playing in a somewhat empty airport gate area.

Benjamin playing in a somewhat empty airport gate area.

7. If you cloth diaper like I do – give it up and take disposables. Some things just aren’t worth it.

6. Dump out your child’s water cup before going through security. Doh! It is just water and I could have easily refilled it on the other side of security but having this cup means extra levels of screening with my baby and a carry-on.

5. Less is more. Don’t bother bringing reading material or your iPad. Baby isn’t going to be idle enough to let you read and won’t give a darn about your iPad. Ask me how I know.

4. Layovers are helpful. Direct flights are tempting but dealing with a squirmy baby with no breaks on a long flight is TOUGH. I chose flights with short-ish layovers to give myself a chance to change the diaper in the airport, stretch my legs, and give baby a change of scenery.

Pretzels!

Pretzels!

3. Snacks. Never underestimate the power of a pretzel even if you think the baby can’t possibly be hungry.

2. Standards. Lose them. Baby can have white flour for once. A Starbucks sugar-loaded frappucino isn’t so bad if it gives mom a pick-me-up.

Benjamin praying for an uneventful flight.

Benjamin praying for an uneventful flight.

1. Have fun!  Enjoy your getaway, laugh at your goofy kid, and let go.

Bonus tip: It doesn’t seem like a tip to me since it is such a big part of our life, but lose the stroller and wear your baby. You won’t have to take your baby off during security checks, you’ll have your hands free, and baby will be happy!

Charleston

By: Brady Evans

CharlestonI keep starting and deleting this post over and over again. I sort of don’t want to talk about the Charleston shooting. It totally needs to be talked about, though, and the more we ignore it the more we validate the shooter (in my opinion).

Racial tensions have been brewing. The majority (white) foolishly thought things were good. It is easy to think that way when you are in the majority. It is easy to ignore and make excuses for institutional racism when you aren’t a victim of it. It is easy to say he was just a “crazed gunman” when it wasn’t your own people who died just for being black. The truth of the matter is that there is a big divide in the United States. And if we don’t confront it, we’ll continue to fall victim to it.

I think a great place to start is simply educating yourself on some facts.

5 Disturbing Facts on Black-White Inequality (via CNN Money)

US Education: Still Separate and Unequal (via US News & World Report)

Criminal Justice Fact Sheet (via NAACP)

None of these links is meant to point fingers at anyone. They are just meant to inform.  Once you read the statistics about majority vs. minority in the U.S. it is easy to see that the system is not set up for equal attainment. People of color are not fundamentally less intelligent, less hardworking, and less moral so why do the statistics show that they make less money, have lower levels of education, and are incarcerated more?

It is painful and awkward to talk about these things – I know. But it must happen. It must be addressed. And the first step is knowledge. Yes, pray for Charleston but also pray for our country.

Baby Sign Language

By: Brady Evans

Did you know that babies can do sign language? They can communicate with sign language well before they can with words.

baby sign language

We started signing with Benjamin when he was just a few months old – right when we felt he could focus on our hands and mouth. We’d say the words out loud and give him the hand motions and then feel like fools for doing so. And then one day, when he was about six months old, he gave us the “milk” sign while nursing. That’s when we knew this was going to be a great thing. A 6-month-old with a specific communication for his hunger!? Amazing.

Our caregivers and I used Babysignlanguage.com for signs. These signs are simplified versions of American Sign Language. There are videos and cards you can use with your child but we never took that route. We just say the word and use the sign. Now at 13 months old, Benjamin signs “milk,” “eat,” “more,” and “wait.”

It truly is an amazing experience having a child that purposefully asks for what he desires instead of screaming out of frustration. You don’t need to worry about using signs inhibiting language development. My child has 4 distinct verbal words at 13 months old in addition to his signs. Signing simply enhances the language we use. It really is a fun and rewarding way to interact with your baby.

For more information, read these articles from BabyCenter and psych central.

Oreo Cake

By: Brady Evans

I made my own birthday cake this year and I am so glad I did. Usually I make a new recipe each year but this one was so great and such a crowd pleaser that it may just become my birthday tradition!

Not only does this cake use Oreos as an ingredient, but the cake itself almost mimics a giant Oreo, too. The whipped cream frosting was a nice break from the usual sugar-sweet buttercreams that dominate most cakes. It was also super easy to make but makes quite an impression. I recommend it for sure!

oreo cake

Oreo Cake (adapted from Serious Eats)

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (about 3 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (about 3/4 ounce) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 plus 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (about 4 1/3 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Oreo whipped cream:

  • 1 18-ounce package Oreo cookies
  • 4 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

To make the cake:

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Line bottom of a 8-inch cake pan with parchment paper and lightly coat the inside with non-stick pan spray.
  3. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt into large bowl; set aside.
  4. In medium bowl, whisk sugar, sour cream, oil, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.
  5. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients until smooth.
  6. Pour batter into pan and bake until cake is just firm and toothpick inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs, 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Let cake cool in pan for 15 minutes, then remove from pan to completely cool on wire rack, about 1 hour.

To make the whipped cream and finish the cake:

  1. Carefully cut 6 Oreo cookies in half; set aside. Chop remaining cookies into 1/4-inch pieces; set aside.
  2. Make the Oreo whipped cream in 2 batches:
  3. In bowl of standing mixer fitted with whip attachment, whip 2 cups cream on medium-high speed to soft peak, spoon into large bowl and refrigerate.
  4. In same mixer bowl, whip remaining 2 1/2 cups cream, sugar, and vanilla to soft peak.
  5. Fold into already whipped cream.
  6. Fold chopped Oreos into whipped cream.
  7. Slice cake in half horizontally to create 2 layers. Place bottom layer on serving plate. Spread about 1/3 of Oreo whipped cream onto cake. Top with second cake layer and use remaining Oreo whipped cream to frost top and sides of cake. Chill in refrigerator for about 2 hours to allow cookies to soften.
  8. Garnish with reserved Oreo cookie halves. Serve.

Mother’s Day Lessons

Here at The Every Woman Blog, we wanted to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to the women who have made us who we are today. To celebrate our mothers and thank peoniesthem for all they have done for us, the Every Woman Bloggers shared the most valuable lessons they learned from their moms.

Elizabeth: I think the most important lesson I learned from my mom is the power of positive thinking. She’s always said we should focus on what we want, not on what we don’t want. It’s more than mere optimism; it’s knowing, BELIEVING that we will get the positive result we want.

Katie: I learned a lot from my mom over the years but what stands out most are the following lessons:

  • Do what makes you happy. Only you know what that is.
  • Family will always be there for you, no matter what.
  • Anything is possible as long as you believe it’s possible.
  • And the most important lesson of all, every day is a walk in faith and everything happens for a reason.

I wouldn’t be the person I am today and wouldn’t have made it through my cancer battle without my mom. She, along with Mike’s mom, kept me focused, believing that better days were ahead even when I was losing hope. Love you mom!

Brady: Not only is it okay to be different, it is GOOD to be different.

Shannon: I have learned so many valuable lessons from my mother. My amazing mother has taught me the importance of using and sharing my talents. Through incredible example, my mother has shown me how much joy one can bring to others by sharing their God-given talents. I have watched her share her musical talents and fill a room with such love, joy and passion. To truly touch and inspire others is such a gift! I can only hope that my life will include opportunities to share my own talents.

Crissie: I learned so much from my mom. Much of it, I didn’t realize I had learned until I was older, as is often the case. It’s nearly impossible to pick the most important thing she taught me. Most of what I am most grateful for are the lessons I learned from her about being a mom, none of which came in the form of “advice” from her, but came from simply watching her and remembering how she handled many different situations while I was growing up.

She gave us freedom and let us grow. She watched, safely from a distance, never really sheltering us, but being close enough to help if we fell, both figuratively and literally. She still does this today with me, although she’s a bit more sheltering of her grandchildren. I think of my mom as I watch my two little boys climb high into our magnolia tree. I hear their laughter and see their happy faces, all while I am silently praying that they don’t fall, but knowing the experience and memories will last them a lifetime.

Another important lesson I learned from my mom is to not be late for anything. Ever. Especially church. While I have tried my best to apply this and, for many years, was able to put this into practice, admittedly, I am not as early as I used to be, though I do try to still be punctual. Especially to church.

Lastly, perseverance. I’ve watched my mom struggle through a number of heath issues in her life, but never shirk her duties in regards to her family or her job. No matter what she was going through, she never gave up. While I don’t know if I’m as strong as she, I do try to persevere and, even when I’ve had trying times, and have felt like crawling under a rock, I remember that there are responsibilities that must be taken care of.

I’m so grateful to God for another Mother’s Day with my mom!

What are some of the most valuable lessons you learned from your mother? 

New Year’s Resolutions

By: Brady Evans

How are we all doing on our New Year’s Resolutions? Mine has gone down in flames. I resolved to use my cell phone less. I installed an app that tracks time spent on my cell limit smartphone usephone, number of times my phone is awoken from sleep mode, and what apps I use most frequently. I paid attention to the data for about two weeks before deleting the app. It made me feel guilty. I was always in the red zone.

The problem was – I use my cell phone for work, and I use it while I’m nursing the baby and alone in the dark. I use it instead of my computer to schedule things to my calendar, email my parents, and respond to work issues. I use it to catch up with my mother-in-law on my 50 minute commute home from work. Our lives are SO digital…the fact that I have a smartphone implies that I’m “on call” to many people – and my decision to use my phone less doesn’t mean my job or my parents email me less.

The app certainly made me aware of WHEN I use my cell phone. It did influence me to turn off notifications for Facebook – so I don’t know who has liked, commented, or messaged until I purposefully open the app.

So maybe, upon reflection, the resolution did just what it was supposed to do: it brought awareness, slight reform, significant betterment.

How are your resolutions going now that we are quite a few months into 2015?

Turning One

By: Brady Evans

They all say “they grow up so fast” but you really don’t know it until it happens to you. The 37 weeks I was pregnant were the longest days of my life. I was like a kid watching the clock on Christmas Eve for all those days: wishing, worrying, and wondering about all that was to come. And now – in two short weeks – my baby will be 1.

Turning one

I am so, so sad about my baby turning 1. I am not sure why. Maybe because I’m fairly certain this will be my only baby and each experience I have with him is the first and the last I’ll have as a mother. I know he can’t stay a baby forever nor do I want him to. But I am sad that he is that much closer to not needing me. Not lighting up when I pick him up for daycare (I see those 4-year-olds who are grumpy with mom and dad picking them up).  Not being his favorite person ever (I swear he smiles so hard at me he’s bound to break his mouth). I know he loves me now more than he’ll ever love me. He’ll only love me less from here on out – and he’s got to love me less so that he can love others more, and I understand that, but it is hard. And I guess that’s what I am scared to lose – I will love him more and more and he will love me less and less. How selfish is that? One day I’ll pick him up and hold him, put him down because he’s gotten awfully heavy, and never pick him up again.

I am also so, so excited about my baby turning 1. It is amazing watching him learn. He uses sign language, understands tons of words we say to him, and calls his father by “dada.” (Yes, it is some crime against mothers that he knows and recognizes many words and “mom” is not one of them. I’ll get over it.) I can’t wait until he tells me he loves me. Until I watch in pride at his first sporting event or theater production. We have so many more joyous memories to come than we’ve already had and that’s exciting.

baby smiling

Man. Love hurts.

eleven months

Growing Up With Pets

By: Brady Evans

I never thought our cat would be as obsessed with our baby as he is. I mean – we’ve got three dogs. Aren’t dogs the loyal, loving ones? Aren’t cats the aloof, distant ones?

growing up with pets

The dogs are cautious around the baby. They take note of him and move on to a place of quiet or safety. The cat down right invades the baby’s space. While I’m nursing Benjamin, the cat sits in my lap. While I’m changing diapers, you can find the cat on the edge of the changing table. While I’m playing with the baby on the living room floor, the cat overlooks us.

Lots of people rehome their pets when babies come home from the hospital. It could be a permanent rehoming or the type where indoor-kitty became outdoor-kitty and indoor-doggy became outdoor-doggy. We’ve done none of that.

Raising children with pets is already doing great things for our son. He already smiles at the animals and experiences the joys of having pets. He reaches out to feel their warmth and has learned to “pet nicely” by touching with a single finger.

growing up with pets

He already is learning the responsibility of pet ownership. I think. Maybe. He witnesses me care for the horses daily and I narrate our activities in the barn. BabyCenter.com just sent me an email saying our 10 month old understands more than we think 😉  But in truth, there will come a day, sooner than I think, that Benjamin realizes that sometimes you have to take care of others’ needs before your own.

Our cat is 6 years old. I am sure Benjamin will be 10 years old or more when we say goodbye to our fluffy friend. It is horrible to think about but that’ll be another lesson we can thank our pets for instilling onto our baby.

Pets provide a lifetime of lessons in their short lives – lessons of happiness, responsibility, and tenderness.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

By: Brady Evans

I am not a lover of football.  I don’t keep up with local high school games, college games, or the NFL. Football was never a tradition in my family and I never got intoxicated by the sport in college. But I could get behind the Superbowl. Really the only reason I was looking forward to the Superbowl was…the food.  I love appetizer and game day fare!

Spinach artichoke dip is a crowd pleaser for sure.  Even people who hate spinach and wouldn’t dare eat an artichoke in any other form will dive right in. Cheesy, gooey, and delicious – this recipe is a crowd pleaser!

Spinach Artichoke Dip (adapted from Mary Ellen’s Cooking Creations)

Spinach & Artichoke DipIngredients

  • ½ sweet yellow onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 10-oz. box frozen spinach
  • 2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 2 packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt

Directions

  • Heat a pan over medium heat and add olive oil.
  • Saute onion and garlic in olive oil, about 5 minutes, and set aside
  • Meanwhile, cook spinach according to package directions; drain thoroughly.
  • Mix spinach, onion, and garlic in large bowl.
  • Add cream cheese to the spinach mixture; combine thoroughly.
  • Add mayonnaise, sour cream, cheese, and salt. Mix well.
  • Fold in artichoke hearts; mix to combine; transfer to a baking dish
  • Either store in fridge until ready to bake or bake on 350 degrees until hot and bubbly.
  • Serve with tortilla chips.

Like Mother, Like Daughter

As a teenager, like most other teenage girls, I insisted that I would not grow up to be like my mother, Lee Malerich.  I suppose that’s easier said than done.  I invited my mom, a local artist who blogs at Waste As A Way Of Life, to comment on our similarities and talk about her artistic perspective:

Where should we start?  The very big ideas?  OK.

Artists do not only make art, they live it and in it.  Serious art reflects the ideas, attitudes, experiences and style of the artist.  These things are interwoven and inseparable.  And changeable, but usually the change is slow.  At least that is how it works for me.

Premise 1: Creating a style:  Being an artist(s) we don’t have the money that more traditionally employed people do.  We frequent thrift shops and flea markets, looking for shapes and textures and things to repurpose to live in our home.  We sniff out free things in the wind.  We develop friendships with like people and fund each other’s eccentricities.  Old things look good to us.

Being an artist

For instance, to me, the base of this enamel table in our kitchen is awesome.  The lines and shapes scream 1930s.  This table base helped me solve a financial problem in buying the tile for the kitchen, if you will notice the floor.  I bought the majority of the tile at a sidewalk sale at Lowe’s, but there was not enough for the big space of kitchen and great room.  So I laid tile “rugs” in each room, one under this table.  The tile under the table is lighter than the surrounding, and at each corner of the “rug” is a corresponding black tile (you can only see two black tiles in this image).  The rug tile was free, and the problem was solved.  The four black squares used in the corners integrate the tile rug with the table base.  The “rug” under the table is much more interesting than had the floor simply been one broad ecru plane.  So my finances dictate another way to create and push a style forward with lifestyle needs.

being an artist

We needed a shed to house our pool equipment, pool pump, and machinery related to our sprinkler system.  My love of cheap metal (notice the lamp on the stucco column) led us to buying a used grain bin to satisfy these needs, and it was very inexpensive.  We love the little silo that has an apex that looks like the top of a Coke bottle.

Premise 2:  We live in a world that is using up all its natural resources.  This disposable society cannot thrive.  Many, many artists choose to make their work out of waste materials because they are available, beautiful, and otherwise would be in the landfill.  These artists additionally are making visual statements that describe our recent decades.

We built a barn.  Some restlessness inside of me accepted a whole group of wooden windows from a contractor friend.  I put them under a roof.  His work often was replacing old wooden windows with vinyl ones, and he kept bringing me the rejects.  He would have been charged to put them in the dump, so the solution was good for everybody.

Constructing a barn

33 old windows for this barn – everyone saved a lot of money.  Their glass is wavy and beautiful, and since this is studio and storage space and not living space, they do the job just fine.  And of course, this is South Carolina and we live in a temperate part of the world.  Glenn later added the cool awning above the entry door.

Building a barn

I hope the case is made for using old stuff.  Here is where our similarities start.

like mother like daughter

My daughter Brady, influenced by my love of old things, found this door of windows at the dump and brought it home.  Neither one of us are beyond “diving.”  She often donates at the Goodwill at the same time she goes in to buy.  She installed this on the wall,  and of course there it was for me to see.  A window on a wall as art.  Hmmm.

Some years later, here is my sculptural work.  Before now, the windows had many other incarnations as I tried to use them.  I was getting too fancy.  For me, for now, it is mostly about the interplay of the windows, and bringing these sculptures way out from the wall.  It takes some time to feel one’s way.

mother daughter similarities

Isn’t experience and influence wonderful?