Raisin’ Up Chitlins…What I’ve Learned

Raising a Boy

Reflection is a powerful discovery. It helps us evaluate the choices in our past and future and helps to make us better individuals.

More than four years ago my life changed in a way that I could have never expected. My husband and I expanded our family from two adults and two dogs – and added a bouncing baby boy.

As a new mother you “think” you are ready for it all. I was that mom. I’d read the books, done my research of all the latest baby gadgets and trinkets and had an incredible mother myself of which I could call on for anything.

Unfortunately, the reality of having a new baby is that you can never be prepared for the UNEXPECTED.

Wes Parker 065Here is what I’ve learned the first 12 weeks of having my first baby:
1.) I have the most awesome husband in the world- who BTW is the greatest father too!
2.) I can still function (well kinda) on no sleep and mini power naps
3.) My house doesn’t have to be spotless clean all the time
4.) I can’t cure all of the reasons why Caston cries- sometimes he just cries bc he’s a baby – and that’s the only way he can communicate
5.) I never imagined I would be so deeply in love with my baby boy the instant he was placed in my arms
6.) You have to ask for help from others- they really want to help you out
7.) Sleep when Caston sleeps
8.) It’s ok to cry- hormones are wacky things!
9.) Remember to take time to reconnect with the hubby each night
10.) I should have enjoyed those sleepy Saturday mornings while I had them
11.) No matter how much I read about babies, pregnancy, breastfeeding, childcare- I still won’t know everything! Books can’t teach you everything- sometimes you just have to drive in and either sink or swim!
12.) I am even more thankful of the scarifies and love that my parents have given me through the years!
13.) Some people think they know everything about raising babies- when really they don’t know squat. But, just smile when they give you advice and go on about your business.
14.) There’s a major difference in Pampers and Huggies diapers- I will never buy Huggies ever again.
15.) It never gets old watching Caston sleep so peacefully!
16.) Spit-up happens…so does pee and poop
17.) Dreft laundry detergent is my all-time favorite smell
18.) Babies won’t be babies forever- so enjoy the snuggle time while you can
19.) Always give yourself at least 15 minutes longer to get ready to go into town. That’s how long it will take to make sure the diaper bag is ready, the baby has a clean diaper, you look half way presentable, and to get the bay in the car seat.
20.) Life is short- enjoy every moment- you won’t have it forever!

Our son Caston Ray arrived at 4:45 a.m. on Nov. 18, 2009. We were living in Jefferson City at the time, working with a doula for our birth of Caston. Although the birth was a very long one, when his little, delicate body was laid on my chest, I melted away. He was perfect and had the deepest dimples on both sides of cheeks that reminded me of myself and a nose that was exactly like his daddy.

We had two weeks of bliss until the UNEXPECTED reeled it’s ugly face. Feedings became a nightmare and a very high stress time, as Caston would projectile puke everything he consumed.  He struggled gaining weight and by the time he was three weeks old we found ourselves at the doctor’s office asking- WHY?  We had our suspensions that he had very bad acid reflux (GER) and explained this to our then pediatrician.  Although, the doctor believed his condition to be nothing but “a little spit up, as all babies spit up,” we both knew in our gut it was not the case.  Finally, after a lot of persuasion and lab tests, the doctor called in medicine for him that was for acid reflux and within two days he was keeping most all his milk down.  POINT No. 1- Always follow your gut when your baby is ill- a mother knows best.

June 25, 2011 052During this same time our family was also preparing for two other major changes- my husband’s new job and a relocation back to Southwest Missouri.  We had lived in Jefferson City for 5 years and were lucky enough to finally be able to move back to our roots.  This left our family searching for a house four hours away with a three week old baby.  We had put our house on the market and within one day it was SOLD.  Something pretty short of amazing with the housing crunch evident at the time.  We also had to be out of our house by the 10th of January, leaving us about three weeks to find a house.

We looked at seven house in one day, as we were looking for a new home four hours away with a newborn baby – something I would never wish upon anyone.  However, we found a house, closed on our old house and new home and prepared for our move down south.  POINT No. 2 – Life will be out of control for awhile, learn to accept it.  Babies throw your entire universe off kilter, accept the change and embrace it.

I remember the day the movers left after moving all our family’s possessions into our new home like it was yesterday- Caston was screaming (as he was going through a growth spurt and wanted to be attached to me 24/7, the house had box after box strung from room to room and I looked at my husband and began crying.  I had no idea how I was going to get my house and life back in order.  POINT No. 3 – Life will hit rock bottom at some point, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Make sure you are stocked up on wine…and breast milk when it does.

Luckily, we have a strong work ethic and parents that are incredibly helpful.  We slowly turned our new house into a cozy home for our family.  My husband’s new job took him away on many overnight trips and although I knew it was part of the new transition, it was hard being a new mother to Caston.  Even though he was on medicine to help him with his GER, there were many late night and early hour feedings that I found myself covered in baby vomit after Caston would let out a belch while being burped.  Nothing is worse than being a new mommy, sleep deprived, suffering from a little “baby blues”, covered in vomit at 4:35 a.m.!  POINT No. 4 – You will make it through, I promise.  Learn to have a really good sense of humor- it helps.

We laugh now about the times we were covered in baby vomit and tell Caston about how his mommy and daddy used to call him the “puke kid,” and we all have a nice laugh recalling the memories.  But, at the time, I thought my life would never be normal again.  Eventually I came to the realization that “normal” was my life post-baby, not pre-baby.  Then, everything else fell into place.

As Caston grew I tried to ensure that I was always on top of the latest books, medical articles about babies, toys, gadgets, recall lists, stimulating his mind according to his age and all that jazz.  Let me tell you- it’s exhausting.  Not to mention the “Mommy War” that goes on daily…”you don’t have Caston taking baby swim lessons, you haven’t read Caston that book, you haven’t bought Caston the toys that sparkle and are covered in gold and diamonds…” SHAME ON YOU, don’t you know that you are depriving your son.  POINT No. 5 – Love your child, play with them, kiss and hug them and do it your OWN way.  That’s all they need- your love.  And, POINT No. 6- Learn to ignore the “know-it-alls and one uppers” in life.  You thought you left that arena in your life after you became a mother? Wrong, there is what I like to call the “Mommy War” going on.  Moms making other moms second guess their motherly abilities.  Seems like these days mothers are trying to keep up with one another between swim lessons, sports, play dates, museum tours and…all that jazz.

DSC_0187I was shocked to find this happening, but it was – all around me.  We as new mothers have enough stress with just trying to get ourselves showered, teeth brushed, dressed (maybe even eyeliner- if your lucky) and out the door with our new babies.  We don’t need to be talking down to one another.  Where’s the encouragement for each other, the love, the patience, the kindness, the friendship?  POINT No. 7- FInd friendships with mothers that you VALUE.  There are mothers that will offer you this.  They will be the ones that sit and listen as you cry to your hearts content during a play date.  They will be the ones that ask to take the baby for a couple hours so you can go grocery shopping BY YOURSELF.  They will be the ones that let you decide where the play date will be and what you will do at the play date.  They are relationships that matter and will flourish because both mothers are caring and compassionate towards one another. These are lasting relationships.

Moving on…next big topic for a new mother that I experienced myself is Febrile Seizures.  Never heard of it- do some research.  Accoridng to the Mayo Clinic website, a febrile seizure is a convulsion in young children that may be caused by a spike in body temperature, often from an infection. Watching your child experience a febrile seizure can be alarming. And, although a febrile seizure may last only a few minutes, it may seem like an eternity to you. Febrile seizures represent a unique response of a young child’s brain to fever. Fortunately, febrile seizures aren’t as dangerous as they may look. They’re usually harmless and typically don’t indicate a long-term or ongoing problem. You can help your child by keeping him or her safe during a febrile seizure and offering comfort afterward. After a febrile seizure, call your doctor to have your child evaluated as soon as possible. POINT No. 8 – When your child has a high temperature, work to get the temp. down soon.  Do some reading about Febrile Seizures, most baby books don’t discuss the condition in detail, it’s worth doing a little research on.   

Caston was 15 months old when I went into his room to check on him in the afternoon during his nap time.  He had been suffering from a cold for a few days.  I walked in his room, peeked over the crib, expecting to see a sleeping child, but what I found instead was my son’s eyes rolled in the back of his head and his entire body jerking frantically.  I knew he was having a seizure.  I picked him, carried him into the living room and laid him flat on his back.  (I remembered from reading a child wellness book that if your child was having a seizure to lay them flat on their backs and monitor them closely.)

I watched his jerking body for what seemed like an eternity, then his entire body went stiff and he lost all consciousness and his body turned a tint of blue.  During all of this I was on the phone with 911, explaining the symptoms to a lady on the other end.  When Caston started to turn a bluish tint- I lost it at first.  Seeing my baby like that was an experience that I can vividly recall today.  I knew that seizures only last for a little while and that loss of consciousness was part of the process.  By the time the ambulance arrived (about 15 minutes, as we lived outside the city limits), Caston was gaining consciousness and looking around frantically.

Febrile seizures most often occur as the body temperature quickly rises, usually within 24 hours of the onset of a fever, and can be the first sign that a child is ill. The child’s body completely shuts down and then it takes some time for their bodies to start-up again and begin functioning normally.   The doctor suggested us trying only ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), as his body might react better to it than TYLENOL, which is what we were using for his  temperature at the time.  Which is what we’ve done since and never had an issue with a lingering temperature.

100_9954It’s reflections like these that make me laugh about how my husband and I are raising our second bundle of joy who arrived on July 12, 2012 at 10:41 p.m., Cora Monet.  When your second baby comes your life gets shaken again, but you are ready for it and expect it.  It’s easier the second go around- from your pregnancy, to the birth and even the first 12 weeks because you’ve already been there before.  But, there are some things that you won’t be ready for with a second baby:

1.) Big brother or sister “helping” rock the baby right out of their bassinet
2.) The baby being fed dog food from siblings
3.) Having to get yourself, a toddler and a baby all cleaned, dressed and out the door on time
4.) Grocery shopping with two little ones (ALONE)- it’s a trip, just make sure your list isn’t long
5.) The baby getting a major boo-boo because your eyes were focused on big brother at the time.  It’s hard keeping them both in eye sight at the same time.
6.) Finding big brother laying in the crib with his 5 week old baby sister
7.) Turning around to find that big brother and little sister decided to have a food fight during lunch
8.) Little sister mimicking everything her big brother does – that you do not want repeated
9.) Trying to get them both to nap at the same time- so you can take a nap!
10.) Finding the family dog in the bed with the baby…and big brother saying, “She was lonely mommy.”
11.) Trying to breastfeed with your toddler running around, begging for attention.
12.) Getting lunch or dinner prepared for your family and trying to eat your own food while it’s hot.  I now know why my mother said she never ate a hot meal until her children were 6 years old.
13.) The moment your baby and toddler hug and kiss each other- Priceless!
14.) Having two little ones sick with the stomach flu at the same time
15.) Trying to keep your house in order with toys, books and baby gadgets for two little ones.  Learn to teach the kiddos Barney’s “Pick-Up, Pick-Up Song”
16.) How much your weekly food bill will increase once the baby starts eating real food.
17.) How much quicker the younger sibling learns to do things like walk, talk and crawl because they try and keep up with their older siblings.
18.) The first time both your baby and toddler decided to have a melt down at the same time- right at the same instance you are having your own melt down
19.) Bedtime routines with two kiddos is interesting to say the least, but be prepared to start a good routine for both of them early on.
20.) This list is endless and grows each and every day.  So will yours- embrace the challenge and the messy life you live.  They will only be little for a little while, make every day count!


Lemon Meringue Pie


Looks pretty delectable doesn’t it…and it is! This Lemon Meringue Pie comes from Marty Uhlmann of Dora, Mo.,  she’s quite the pie maker and a family friend. Marty is quite an incredible lady that farms not too far from my parents in Douglas County.  I interviewed her for a cooking story and she made this delectable pie for me.  

Any dessert with lemon is blue ribbon in my book! For those of you who aren’t a lemon fan- not to worry this pie doesn’t have that traditional tart lemon flavor. It’s smooth, creamy and the meringue is light and fluffy.

Lemon Meringue Pie
Jello Cook & Serve Lemon Pudding Mix
Heat 2 cups water in medium pan
In a bowl mix pudding mix, 1/2 cup sugar plus 2 Tbsp.
Add 1/4 cup water
Grate lemon rind from half of a lemon
Add 2 Tbsp. of lemon juice
Add 3 egg yolks, stir well & add to hot water. Cook until thick. Add 2 Tbsp. butter. Cool and put in a baked 9″ pie crust. Top with meringue.

3 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tarter
dash of salt
Beat until foamy.
Add 1/3 cup sugar, 2Tbsp. at a time, & continue beating until stiff peaks
form. Bake 10-15 min. or until lightly browned at 350 degrees.

Pie Crust
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups shortening (I use Crisco & vegetable shortening)
Blend with pastry cutter until well mixed.

In a cup beat 1 egg.
Add 2 tsp. sugar and 2 Tbsp. vinegar.
Add enough water to make 1/2 cup.
Stir into dry mixture & knead until smooth. Roll thin & place in 9″ pie pans.

This recipe will make about 3 crusts.

Christmas in a Glimpse

Simple Grape Salad


When it comes to food- I want simplicity. Sometimes we get bogged down by fancy recipes with extravagant spices and ingredients, that we loose the true taste of the food.

That’s why I enjoy this recipe so much. It’s my mother’s recipe for a simple grape salad (that I serve for Christmas dinner occasionally).

The key to a this recipe is ensuring the grapes are ripe and tasty. Plus, I only use Missouri Northern Pecans because they are sweet and small (you can find them in most all grocery stores.)

Merry Christmas!

Simple Grape Salad
By My Mother
2 ½ lbs. grapes
1 (8oz.) cream cheese, room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup sour cream
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans

Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Fold in sour cream and add to grapes. Mix brown sugar and nuts together and sprinkle over grapes.

Holiday Sweet Potato Bake


This Holiday Sweet Potato Bake is always found on the Baldwin dinner table every Thanksgiving and Christmas- it’s a fan favorite with the adults and kids alike.

Best if made the night before and cooked the day of your event.

Holiday Sweet Potato Bake
3 c. peeled sweet potatoes
1/3 tsp. salt
1 stick of butter
1 c. sugar ( can decrease to 3/4 cup)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 c. heavy cream

1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. pecans or walnuts
1/3 c. flour
5 T. melted butter

Cut the sweet taters in quarters and place in a large pot of boiling hot water until tender.Drain and let cool.

Meanwhile, make the topping. Mix all ingredients together and stir to mix well.  After the taters have cooled, slide the peeling off. (By cooking the taters the skins will easily slide off.).

Grease a 2 qt. dish. Mash the potatoes well, with a hand mixer. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the cream and topping mixture and beat until smooth. Add the cream and mix. Add tater mixture to the greased dish. Sprinkle the topping over the potato mixture.

Bake for about 30-35 minutes…best if served warm.

McConnell Brisket


Baked brisket is one of my family’s favorite treats. This recipe is one that anyone can impress your friends and family with at the next big dinner your host.

This is a baked brisket, not smoked, but loaded with flavor!

Baked Brisket
5 lb brisket
1 cup ketcup
1 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. each of garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper and celery seed
1 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and rub the mixture over the entire brisket. Be sure to coat the brisket well.  Wrap the brisket in foil and leave in refrigerator overnight.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Bring meat to room temperature before cooking.  Ensure the foil is sealed and place the brisket in a baking pan.  Bake for 3-4 hours or until done.  Do not check the brisket for at least 3 hours.  It will be done when the entire house smells like brisket and is fork tender.

Use the drippings as a serving sauce!

Books- The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Books- The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Growing up my parents would always give me a book for Christmas and other special holidays. Inside the front cover they would write a message, the date and the occasion the book was given. (My mother also did this for Christmas ornaments she gave me and my brothers every year. I have every ornament from birth until I was 18).

Now, my husband and I read these same books to my children each night before bed that my parents passed on to me. I smile when I see the messages written inside the covers left by my parents.

I have done the same for my children. Each birthday and special holiday I give them a book with a message that I hope they will enjoy reading as much as I do as an adult now.

Give the gift of imagination this season and surprise your little ones with a special book- they will love it!

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