Monday, September 23, 2013

Hot Spot: Baby Surprise

In this past year alone several of my friends have decided to forgo learning the sex of their baby prior to giving birth. For me and my hubby-- we went the other way and wanted to know as soon as possible. We liked having two surprises-- the sex... and then the actually birth and meeting our babies. I believe that whatever works for each soon-to-be parent is the best plan. But my first thoughts in choosing to not know are always, "You will still get a surprise no matter when you find out," "How will you decorate the babies room?"... and "How am I suppose to shop for the baby?" (much less important:). Maybe many of you have thought the same things. But obviously this is not a new trend. It's just that now as mothers we are in the mist of 'baby world' and more aware. My mother herself didn't learn the sex of my youngest sister (we secretly think she wanted a boy and knew she was carrying a girl).  I asked a couple of my girlfriends who decided to wait on learning the sex of their babies about why they chose to do so. Of course, after listening to their answers, a bit of guilt came over me for wanting so badly to know the babies sex, while they so obviously enjoyed not knowing.

Lindsay at her baby shower
What made you decide not to find out the sex of the baby? 
Lindsay: A long-time friend recommended we not find out because she had waited and felt it was totally
 worth the wait.
Whitney: Keeping the gender a surprise has been a tradition in my family for years.  Most recently, my brother and sister waited to find out the sex of their babies (which both turned out to be boys)
Michelle:  I love surprises and thought this would be the best one ever!  Unlike a Christmas present I wouldn't be able to sneak a look!
Vanda: I am the mother of 3 kids, Madeline (6), Jonah (5) and James (22 months).  The gender of the first 2 was a surprise for my husband and me, as we chose not to find out.  However, we did decided to find out for our third pregnancy. 

Was that what you always wanted to do or was that something you and hubby decided? 
Lindsay: I always thought I'd want to know right away but we both decided it would be fun to wait.
Whitney: I've always planned on saving the big reveal for the day of birth, and my husband just went along with my plan (but he was less into the idea as the baby grew!).
Michelle: Both my husband and I always felt it would be a lovely surprise!
Vanda: Even before we were married, when talking about having kids, Paul and I had talked about not finding the gender of our kids.  It was definitely something we both agreed about and when I was finally pregnant the decision not to find out was not hard at all.  
Vanda:  Even before we were married, when talking about having kids, Paul and I had talked about not finding the gender of our kids.  It was definitely something we both agreed about and when I was finally pregnant the decision not to find out was not hard at all.

Michelle with her baby Kiwi
How often were you tempted to find out? 
Lindsay: The only time it was a bit hard was when we went to the ultrasound. We kind of second guessed our decision for a moment but ultimately  decided to keep with the plan.
Whitney: As I got closer to the 35-week mark, when I had my baby shower, I definitely got more and more curious as to the sex each time I was in my doctor's office.  But I never considered just having the doctor tell me.
Michelle: No! Easy and exciting! Not many people believed us that we didn't know while we were pregnant!
Vanda:  We were never tempted to find out for babies #1 and #2.  And I can honestly say that it was a decision that worked for our family.

Was it a hard decision? 
Lindsay: Not really, it felt fun and different to do it that way. 
Michelle: Never tempted! Not even with number 3 pregnancy!  
Vanda: We actually rather enjoyed not knowing.  It was mysterious and fun not knowing and we felt it was pretty special to have a little baby growing inside me and not know   until the moment he or she entered the world.

Who would cave in to finding out the sex first you or hubby? 
Lindsay: Me!! Luckily my husband has strong will!
Whitney: My husband would have ABSOLUTELY found out the gender if I wasn't a big, round (hee hee) roadblock during this entire journey.
Michelle: Neither of us!! Both on the same page with this one thank goodness!
Vanda:  When baby #3 came around we were planning some home remodeling projects, including getting furniture and painting the kids’ rooms and I caved.

Whitney with hubby at baby shower
What have your friends and family said about your decision ? 
Lindsay: Most friends and family were frustrated with our decision on because they said it would be "hard to know what to buy" 
Whitney: Most complaints about our decision to not find out have come from friends who want to get us something very unique and personal for the baby.  Their intentions are so sweet and genuine, but some of my girlfriends can get downright feisty!  It was always funny to tell a friend for the first time that we weren't finding out the sex, and then listen to that friend complain about how that was a really selfish idea (always said with a smile, though)
Michelle: They have been happy and supportive in our decision if not somewhat surprised at our ability not to find out early!
Vanda:  it was mostly positive.  Most of our immediate family also did not find out gender during their pregnancies, and a few of the extended family didn’t know either.  So we weren’t exactly breaking the mold.  However, so many others couldn’t believe we didn’t know and weren’t going to find out.  The top 2 comments we heard were 1) “I just couldn’t not know! or 2) “but how will you know what to buy?”  I always understood comment #1, as even I couldn’t believe that with the option to find out, we actually didn’t want to, but comment #2 was usually the one that got to me.  Those who said it would give me this puzzled look.  For me it was simple.  One blue outfit and one pink outfit for the hospital and the rest would come later.  Anyhow, we always knew that we would try for more than 1 child so I never planned to buy pink everything or blue everything.  The major stuff such as car seats, strollers, playpens, etc., and especially the nursery, would be used for all babies in our home so it would be gender neutral

What have been the challenges in not knowing the sex?
Lindsay: I don't know if there really were any real challenges. I felt comfortable with a neutral theme for all of the baby gear and decor. The BIG pro was all of the anticipation.
Michelle: No challenges! Only tiny challenge was convincing people we didn't know the sex! The pros were that all our new born baby gear was neutral colors as well as the nursery! So all baby gear could be used for any other new editions to the family!

Did you ever have second thoughts about not knowing the sex?
Lindsay:
After letting the technician know our decision was to not know the sex, we felt really strongly about not wanting to know.

Michelle: Never had second thoughts! Wanted a healthy baby! Happy with either flavor!

Vanda and Family
Did you guess right on what the sex was? And have other peoples opinions on what they thought you were having have an impact on you your thoughts of the sex? 
Lindsay: YES! Other peoples opinions really had a way of swaying my thoughts, but only because it seemed almost everyone thought it would be a girl. I was SO wrong but I got what I wanted, the surprise of a lifetime!!
Whitney: My husband is sure its a boy, but aren't they always?  The feedback I've received from complete strangers, as well as friends and family, is that I'm carrying as if its a boy. So I think that has probably shaped my opinion a bit, as I, too, am leaning more towards boy at this point.  But in the beginning, I was thinking girl, probably only to counter my husband's strong boy-push, so we'd be prepared either way.
Michelle: 3 times I thought I was having a girl and 3 times I had a boy! Each pregnancy was very different!
I wish I'd kept a list of who thought I was having which sex as some people were so convincing! Others opinions didn't influence my thoughts!
Vanda: I was convinced that Madeline would be a boy.  Paul came from a family of 4 boys and his brother had 3 boys.  In my mind I was destined to be a mom to boys.  Then I heard “It’s a girl!!!”  It was an amazing moment.  One I will never forget.  When it came to Jonah I didn’t prefer one gender over another although a small part of me thought it might be a girl.  Again, I was wrong (hahah!) and I heard “it’s a boy!!!” It was fun to have family, friends and even complete strangers guessing based on how you looked or felt.  Everybody had an opinion!  For baby #1, a family acquaintance was convinced that we were having a boy based on her “ring on a string” test.  According to her, she had “never been wrong.”  And so our family and friends waited to find out, just like we did!

If you have another child will you find out the sex?
Whitney: I think if we're lucky enough to have another child, we probably WILL find out.  We'll have enough going on with our first child, and more surprises may not be what we need!  And that way, we'll get to experience both versions of pregnancy -- the complete mystery, and the planners paradise.

How was it different knowing then not knowing? 
Lindsay: As glad as I was to wait to find out the first time, I definitely knew I wanted to know the second time around. When you when you wait to find out, it feels like you're finally able get to meet the baby you've been wondering about for 9 months and it's just an incredible surprise. Knowing the sex the second time around was thrilling because you get to really prepare, mentally, emotionally and materialistically.
Vanda:  I do wish we had not found out for baby #3. I regretted that decision almost immediately after finding out.  In that one moment in the ultrasound room, as happy as it was, the mystery was gone.  With so much being instant in this world, 9 months is not eternity and that wonderful feeling that I had experienced while pregnant with Madeline and Jonah of not knowing and the anticipation of the birth to find out, was gone.  Of course, it didn’t make that moment any less special.  James was born and our family of 5 was complete.

Was it just as big of a surprise? 
Lindsay: I was definitely more surprised with the first time, but knowing is EVERY bit as wonderful :)

** Whitney has gone on to have a healthy beautiful baby boy!


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Food: Banana Muffins





My husband, Rob, would rather get an extra ten minutes of sleep in the morning than sit down and have breakfast before going to work. So, I try to make him something that's easy to grab and go but also good tasting as he runs out the door every morning. I have made many muffin recipes before and find it to be so easy to prepare that even my son, Tristan, joins me in the kitchen to help. I enjoy it when he helps me cook or bake because he loves eating what he makes. Instead of it being a struggle for my 3 year old to eat, it becomes fun for him since he knows he helped make it.

I found this recipe here and although this recipe is good, I do change one thing. Rather than using coffee I add cinnamon instead. I feel the cinnamon has healthier properties and find it adds a great flavor. Also, the aroma of the muffins baking with cinnamon is so yummy we can't resist eating them hot, straight out of the oven.  As with any baking recipe I check the muffins early at 20 minutes because every oven bakes differently.  Actual baking time may vary. Keep checking until you find they are baked to your liking. The recipe notes that you do not need a mixer to prepare but I find it easier to blend it well in a mixer.

If you have a nut allergy or simply do not like them you can bake without the nuts and they will taste just as great. I always make sure the bananas are brown on the outside and very ripe. The more ripe the sweeter they taste.


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INGREDIENTS
3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tbsp espresso or strong coffee (I use 1 TEASPOON of cinnamon)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup of flour
1 cup chopped walnuts



1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.
2. Mix in the sugar, egg, espresso and vanilla.
3. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.
4. Add the flour, mix until it is just incorporated. Fold in the chopped walnuts.
5. Pour mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin. If it comes out clean, it's done. Cool on a rack.

Here is the link for the original recipe as well: 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Hot Spot: Rosie Pope's "Organic" Secret

You may know Rosie Pope best from Bravo's TV show Pregnant in Heels. She has been dipping her hands in just about everything. But now you can know her and Mothers of the Valley.com as "the women that helped me get my waist back." Recently, she has teamed up with Belly Bandit to create "The Organic by Rosie Pope."

When I came home from the hospital after my first child, my mother asked me "where is your band." I was confused...what band? So, I went on-line and did some research and found that in many foreign countries you are given a band to reshape your waist. Jessica Alba was recently quoted in several magazines as saying she wore a double corset day and night for three months to get her waist back. I didn't use a double corset, but I did use one Belly Bandit. Today, there are other bands out there. Recently, Brooke Burke came out with a line and if you do some quick research you can find many more. I just so happen to use the Belly Bandit with both of my girls and found that is what worked wonderfully for me. Rosie spoke with Mothers of the Valley.com about how she came across Belly Bandit.

As mothers, we often hear about the latest and greatest mommy products from other moms or those within our close circle of friends. The Belly Bandit came to Rosie the same way. "I first heard about it (Belly Bandit) from Heidi Klum's fitness trainer Andrea Orbeck and decided I'd give it a try as Heidi had found it so beneficial," she says. "I wore it religiously for 8 weeks only removing to shower and breastfeed and the results were amazing.  I believe looking good is a huge part of feeling good and I need to feel good to be the best mom I can be."

"I have been a long time fan and user of Belly Bandit and after having three kids I really credit it as part of the reason I still have a waist!," Rosie told us.  Many women keep their shrinking waist secrets to themselves, but not Rosie. "It's a great tool and many mother's little secret helper that
shouldn't be a secret anymore.... So we decided to partner so I could shout from the roof tops just how useful the band is."  As much help as it is to us mothers in getting ourselves back into our pre-pregnancy clothes, The Organic Belly Bandit by Rosie Pope aims at helping many people on a much deeper level.  "Both the Belly Bandit team and I also have a cause very close to our hearts and that is breast cancer so we decided that this Belly Bandit should help benefit the Shades Of Pink Foundation." A part of the proceeds will be donated to this organization, that strives to ease the financial burdens of breast cancer. There are so many organizations out there, so I asked Rosie why this one. "Shades of Pink foundation is incredibly important to both me and the Belly Bandit team who have either lost loved ones or know those fighting.  Raising breast cancer awareness and helping foundations that support the women and families going through it is so important to us."

Maybe this former Baroness could share her secret with Duchess Kate Middleton! If not with her, she is for sure sharing her secret with us. As I mentioned at the top, Rosie has her hands in a lot things!-- her own maternity line, several books, a TV Show, an advice column and she's the August cover girl for Parents magazine. So, what else can this mother of three add to her list? How about her own baby line? Great guess on my park. In March 2014 she will be launching Rosie Pope Baby. Rosie explained the line to me-- "from layette to 2 years for boys, girls and unisex and I couldn't be more excited to be able to keep providing great style and great function in both maternity and into baby clothes."

At Mothers of the Valley.com we want to share the knowledge we mothers have learned from others. The Belly Bandit was a wonderful little secret used by both Rosie Pope and me.  To learn more about The Organic Belly Bandit by Rosie Pope go to http://www.bellybandit.com