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February 27 Baby Blog: Call Me Julia Child

If you're an avid Daybreak viewer, you know that John, Andy and I always joke about my cooking- well, rather my lack of cooking. It's not that I CAN'T cook; it's that I just DON'T cook. I find it cheaper, easier and faster to just use coupons and go out to eat with Jay.

Jay always tells me that I should be an amazing chef because I'm addicted to watching the Food Network. I can tell you how to dice, chop, mince, sauté, blanche, marinate, broil, roast, etc…I just don't do them myself.

Well, that's all beginning to change. Call it nesting. Call it motherly instincts. Or call it boredom with 10 days to go before my due date. But yesterday I had an epiphany that I'm about to be a mother and I need to be able to cook for my family.

Yes, it will be a year before our child begins to appreciate "people food" – I know that –but something came over me and I need to know how to cook…now.

I'm being realistic and know I will not have the time, energy or more importantly, the skills, to cook a 4-course meal for my husband with a newborn at home, so I'm starting with a new mom's best friend- the slow-cooker.

I went to Pinterest and typed in "Crockpot Freezer Meals" and found a plethora of easy and quick options. I gave Jay 10 recipes and told him to pick his favorite five. I've listed them at end of today's blog entry.

It was one of the most expensive shopping trips to Wegman's that we've ever had…but it was more enjoyable knowing that I was going to come home with ingredients for MEALS for my family. (The vacant "Expectant Mother Parking" spot was also clutch.)

Jay played sous chef as we chopped, diced and measured ingredients into zip-lock bags. I wrote the cooking directions and side dishes in Sharpie on the bags, and they're now in the freezer, ready to go.

I really hope these meals make our lives easier in our first trying weeks as new parents. I also hope they taste good. They're so easy I can't possibly mess them up, right? And I hope these meals spark a love of cooking in me and encourage me to keep it up.

And you can help me too! Please Facebook or e-mail me (mholmes@wgrz.gannett.com ) with your favorite go-to recipes – as long as they don't include too many ingredients and aren't too time consuming or complicated. Baby steps….

Without further ado…my first five Crockpot Freezer Meals: (I wrote out the first recipe since it was sent to me by a friend. I provided links to the recipes for the other four.)

Salsa Chicken Tacos

Ingredients:
2 cans black beans, drained
2 cans corn, drained
1 package taco seasoning
1 lb. chicken breasts
1 cup salsa
3/4 cup water

Directions:
Throw everything in a gallon size freezer bag and give it a shake to mix.
To cook: thaw in the fridge 24 hours, then cook in the crockpot on HIGH for 3-4 hours, or LOW for 7-8 hours.
Shred chicken and serve on tacos, nachos, or rice with your favorite toppings.

Crockpot Sweet and Sour Beef

Crockpot Brown Sugar Meatloaf

Crockpot Aloha Chicken

Crockpot Cheesy Potatoes and Ham

February 18 Baby Blog: Anytime You're Ready, Baby...

Some doctors say "full-term" is 39 weeks. Others say 38. Still for others, it's 37 weeks. I'd like to go with the last. I'm due in 19 days and ready for Baby BoBo to make his or her appearance now!

I feel like a house...almost crying when I jumped on the scale this week. I'm no longer walking...I'm waddling. And the next person to ask me if I'm having twins is going to get punched in the face.

Ok, I might not go THAT far, but obviously I'm super emotional right now. Is it true the mood swings get worse AFTER the baby is here? Is that really possible?

My doctor said at this week's checkup that the baby is showing signs he or she will likely be here sooner rather than later. But let's hope the baby can hold off at least until Sunday. Jay's going away for work to cover the NFL combine in Indianapolis from Wednesday through late Saturday night. So while I want to meet our little sweetheart NOW, we all need to be a little more patient! Please cross your fingers and say a prayer that Jay's is here for the most important moment in our lives!

Now that Jay and I have the nursery, car seats, and other baby stuff ready to go, we're just readying ourselves with more reading and instructional videos.

I'm particularly interested in learning about the best way to acclimate Lucy with the baby. Lucy is an incredibly lovable, and cuddly dog. She would never nip at anybody. But I would be lying if I said she wasn't territorial and protective over me and especially Jay. You can see she tenses up when other babies are around us in our house. I hope she's willing to share the attention.

I plan to have Jay bring home a hat or blanket with the baby's scent on it from the hospital so Lucy and get used to the smell right away. And when I'm holding the baby, Jay can cuddle with Lucy in the beginning and vice versa. But does anybody have other helpful hints?

Another piece of advice I'm interested in hearing, is about what to pack in the hospital bag. I've got the stuff on the lists- pajamas, pillows, slippers, flip flops for shower, toiletries, music, phone and camera and chargers, list of phone numbers, baby's going home outfit, etc. But is there something that's not on the list that I should be bringing? The "I never thought of that!" item?

One other item that is packed and ready to go is a supplemental newborn screening kit. Every baby in New York automatically gets screened for Krabbe Disease thanks to the hard work by Jim and Jill Kelly and the Hunter's Hope Foundation. Now supplemental kits are available for babies to be screened in the hospital for 60 extra diseases.

This photo is from the Hunter's Day of Hope and Prayer for Children on Feb. 15 at the Bills Fieldhouse. I was happy to co-host it once again this year. I've been involved in Hunter's Hope events for years, but only now as a mommy-to-be, have I really come to appreciate the importance of the Hunter's Hope mission for universal newborn screening.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't thank everyone one more time for all the incredible donations for my Community Baby Shower. The amount of baby items going to the women and children living at Haven House is far beyond what I ever imagined. From viewers knitting handmade blankets and sweaters, to a woman asking guests at her own baby shower to bring an extra gift for Haven House, to my church doing a second collection at mass, the City of Good Neighbors rose to the challenge (as usual)! One viewer described the Community Baby Shower best. She said by celebrating this new life inside me, we're helping other lives start new again. Thank you!

February 11 Baby Blog: Jay's Daddy Duties

If you've read my blog, you know how I've been preparing for motherhood. Well, I'd be remiss if I didn't share how my husband, Jay, is preparing for fatherhood.

It started months ago with the book, "Dude, You're Gonna Be a Dad," and I know he read it cover-to-cover because it was logically placed with his other reading materials in the bathroom.

Now his mom just gave him the sequel, "Dude, You're a Dad." That will come in handy in just a few weeks! (26 days actually, if we make it all the way to my due date.)

I've also marked chapters and specific pages for him to read in the various books I've been reading. Honestly, most of those pages focused on the best way daddy-to-be can deal with an over-emotional, hormonal and nervous mommy-to-be. And I must admit, the books have really helped him.

Jay's also joined me for nearly every doctor's appointment, every ultrasound, every meeting with potential pediatricians, countless trips to stores for baby items, birthing classes, a Happiest Baby on the Block class, and even a breastfeeding class.

The true sign of his love and patience is that he has never complained - not once - when I have told him that I don't care what he eats for lunch or dinner as long as I can eat meatloaf or grilled cheese.

Well, this past weekend, Jay embarked on a new set of Daddy Duties- he set up all the baby gear. Take a look:

- Here he is putting together the MomaRoo- that's a fancy baby swing.

- Here he is with the Pack And Play. It's ironic- this thing has so many pieces and parts and it took the longest for Jay to put it together- all for an item that you buy solely because it's supposed to be convenient and easy to put together when you need it.

- This is Lucy watching intensely as Jay assembles the Rock-and-Play sleeper. We have that sleeper just in case the baby doesn't like sleeping in the cradle, crib, Pack and Play, MomaRoo, or bouncy chair. Enough options to get baby to sleep happily? Gosh, I hope so, but I won't count on it!

- And this is Jay putting the front wheel on the "travel system"- a fancy term for stroller/car seat combo. We'll be meeting with a state trooper later this week for his help properly installing the car seat.

- This final picture doesn't include Jay, but it certainly means the most to both of us. Jay's cousin, Briana, stopped by over the weekend to drop off and help assemble this cradle. It's been in Jay's mother's family since the early 1800s- for 7 generations! Our baby will be the 40th baby to sleep in this beautiful cradle. It's incredibly handcrafted and even includes the Reiter family seal. Briana had it refinished and had a new mattress made for her boys- other than that it's completely authentic. I feel incredibly blessed and fortunate to be part of such a loving family tradition.


February 3 Baby Blog: The Nursery

I'm not sure if I'm ready for the baby's arrival yet, but at least the nursery is!

Many of you have asked to see more pictures of the nursery, so here they are! Finding a sweet, gender neutral nursery was not easy. Luckily, one day Jay's mom was walking around the mall and spotted an elephant quilt, and she sent me a photo and I fell in love! We designed the nursery with that gray and white bedding set in mind, and I knew pops of yellow would bring it all together.

The yellow dresser you see in the photo above is actually a piece from my old bedroom. It's really sentimental and I'm so glad I can pass it down to my child. My parents had it painted from the original dark wood color to this bright yellow.

The elephants and tree on the walls are not painted. They're just decals! I found them at an Etsy shop and I was able to customize the colors. The decals were surprisingly easy to put on, but it was VERY tedious. Each leaf went on individually, and because I'm such a perfectionist I was determined to make it look exactly like the picture. My mom and I worked well together as a team and fortunately it was ONLY a two day project.

The changing table and crib are brand new and they're convertible pieces, so the crib will become a child's bed and the changing table will become the dresser. Jay and his dad had some quality male bonding time putting them together! And don't worry...I will remove the quilt and the bumper before the baby sleeps in the crib!

The yellow area rug was a gamble. I can't believe how expensive 8X10 rugs can be - so I found this one dirt cheap on Amazon and just had to cross my fingers that the color was right and that the quality was decent. We were pleasantly surprised! The elephant that you see in the corner of the room (next to the Diaper Genie) was a gift from my mother-in-law. And the sweet yellow and gray hand-painted rocking horse was from my father-in-law's family. Such personal touches that mean so much!

I found the glider rocker for a steal on Craigslist. My mom reupholstered it and also crocheted the beautiful afghan on it. She also made the drapes. She's so talented- maybe one day she'll teach me how to sew!

Finally, I wanted to start building the baby's library now, so I asked everyone coming to the shower to consider bringing a book rather than a card. I was overwhelmed with all we received, and the best part is, every book has a special message written inside from people who mean the world to Jay and me. I can't wait for us to finally hold our little one, and share these special bedtime stories each and every night!


January 31 Baby Blog: 37 days to go!

It's been too long since I've updated everybody on my pregnancy, and now Bobo could be here in just over a month! BoBo, of course, is what John Beard named the baby early on, and it stuck!

In case you've been wondering- my cravings haven't changed. I still can't eat enough grilled cheese sandwiches or meatloaf. Lately I've been on a pancake kick, too- especially breakfast for dinner!

And in true pregnant lady form, I'm also hyper-emotional. It doesn't take much to make me cry anymore – show me a viral video with a dog or a baby and I'm done. And Jay has been as patient as a saint with my moodiness.

If Bobo's personality outside the womb resembles how he/she has been acting on the inside, Jay and I are going to have our hands full. For example:

- I dealt with not just morning sickness- but all day sickness- from week 6 through 20.

- The baby was sitting on my sciatic nerve the last month, creating excruciating pain in my lower back and rear end, causing me to move like a 90-year-old woman. I finally found some relief with a great chiropractor.

- We went for a 3-D ultrasound not once, but twice, to get a peek at the baby's face...only to have the baby refuse to move his/her little arms, legs, and feet from in front of it. Here's the best photo we got!

- BoBo gave us a pre-term labor scare at 33 weeks, sending me to the hospital for observation. Despite some contractions and a scary amount of bleeding, Bobo is healthy (Thank God) and so am I.

Clearly, it hasn't been an easy ride, but I wouldn't change it for the world and I am so grateful to be able to experience this miracle.

Nothing compares to the feeling of this little one moving, squirming and kicking inside me. Just after the Daybreak show in the morning and around 7 p.m. are the baby's most active times. Jay and I sit on the couch in awe just watching my stomach sway and jump. I get the feeling even Lucy (our 8-year-old Cockapoo) knows there's something inside! She's very careful when wanting to cuddle and likes to rest her head on my stomach, without putting her weight on it.

Lucy's very instinctual, and now I'm starting to feel it, too. While in the hospital, I experienced my first tinge of maternal instincts taking over. I could care less what was happening to me- contraction pains didn't matter- my only concern was keeping my baby safe.

I've thought a lot about those maternal instincts lately. As my attention shifts from pregnancy to raising a child, I worry constantly about what type of parents Jay and I will be. Will our child be loving? Successful? Kind? Smart? Honest? How will we discipline? How will Lucy adjust? Will I be able to breastfeed? Will we set, and stick with, a schedule? How will we balance the demands of work, family time, and fun? Will I actually start cooking?! The questions go on and on.

I've been told books can't provide the answers to these questions and I need to just "trust my instincts" – but will I have the right instincts, and will I be able to listen to them? It honestly scares me. And I know Jay has similar fears. I suppose we just need to trust in the strength of our relationship, and put our faith in God, and pray that we make the right decisions.

So what's left for us to do before March 10th arrives? We need to install the car seats and have them checked, pack the hospital bag, find a pediatrician, and figure out child care. I hope we'll find a little time for a couple date nights, too, as those will soon be few and far between!

Thanks for checking in to read my blog. As BoBo's arrival is just around the corner, I'll be sure to post more often!

If you have any questions or advice to pass along, please post a comment and I'll definitely respond!

Finally, tune in to Daybreak Monday morning (Feb. 3) for a big announcement about how you can help me, and all of us here at Channel 2, help pregnant women and new moms in need.

November 1 Baby Blog: The Announcement!

It is with great joy and excitement that I'm writing this- my first blog ever. It comes at one of the most exciting and emotional times of my life, when I can announce to all of you that…I'm PREGNANT!

My husband, Jay, and I couldn't be more thrilled. As of today, November 1, I'm 21 weeks along (more than half way there!) and little Baby Skurski is due March 10, 2014. Apparently the baby is the length of a carrot right now…Sunday, at 22 weeks, he or she will be a spaghetti squash!

Jay has been fantastic – my rock - and I count my blessings everyday that I can be married to a man like him. We'll be married four years on New Year's Eve. He's an extremely talented writer, working as a sports reporter for The Buffalo News. He grew up in Lewiston, went to St. Francis High School, and all of his family is still in WNY. If Jay's half as good at caring for our baby as he is caring for our dog, Lucy, then I know he'll be the perfect dad!

So how have these last few months been for me? Ummm…interesting. I don't know why they call it morning sickness, because from week 6 to week 19 of my pregnancy I was sick every single day from morning until night. Yes, there were even some occasions when I had to run off the Daybreak news desk during commercials to toss my cookies.

And can I please tell you how tough it is for a girl who wakes up at 2:30 a.m. for work to give up caffeine?! Gone are the days when I would drink three cups of coffee during Daybreak. Now it's one cup of half regular/half decaf in my mug.

Avoiding my favorite food – hotdogs – along with soft cheeses and sushi has also been frustrating. Don't even get me started on giving up Pinot Grigio and an occasional Bud Light Lime.

But with all I've given up, I have found some new loves…some very strange new loves. Grilled cheese and meatloaf to be exact. Jay and I have explored countless new restaurants these past few months to satisfy my cravings.

Along with dealing with my cravings, Jay is also dealing with my hormones. Yes, they are raging. You might have even noticed them during Daybreak…can you tell I've been short-tempered with John Beard recently?

Speaking of John- he's nicknamed the baby "BoBo." I don't know where he came up with it, but with John you don't ask a lot of questions. John and I are very close, not just on TV, but off of it, and I know he will be "Uncle John" to my little one. Uncle Andy, too! I'm lucky I can pick Andy's brain for advice since he's a new dad himself. All of my family at 2 On Your Side has been extremely supportive.

I'm surrounded by a lot of love here in my hometown. I'm a Sweet Home High School grad and almost all of my family lives in WNY. There is no other place I would rather raise our child than in Buffalo, among my lifelong friends, family, and loyal viewers.

As you might have guessed by now, we're keeping the gender a surprise. There are only so many surprises in life and Jay and I have decided – no matter how much of a planner and Type A personality I might be – this surprise is worth waiting for.

We're still deciding on names, but we've narrowed them down to a very, very short list! There's so much to consider- Will the name fit the baby? Can the name work for a baby, child, adult and senior citizen? Do the initials spell out something weird? What about nicknames? How does it sound with Skurski?

Do I want a boy or girl? It honestly doesn't matter. Yes, it's cliché, but I just want a healthy baby. I used to always hear a pregnant woman say that and I wouldn't understand, but now it's all I think about. I pray every day for a healthy baby that grows into a kindhearted, compassionate, successful and happy adult.

That's where all of you come in. As a first time mom, I will have many, MANY questions. I'll ask those questions through this blog, Facebook (Melissa Holmes- WGRZ), Twitter (@2MelissaHolmes) and occasionally on the air. I know many of Daybreak's loyal viewers are hard-working moms. I'm thrilled to share this experience with you and hopefully you'll be willing to share your advice, helpful hints, thoughts, and encouragement.

Let's begin with recipes. Hey, now's as good a time as any to learn how to cook! Please send me quick and easy meal ideas! And yes, I've already mastered meatloaf and grilled cheese.

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