Friday, December 23, 2011

The reason for the season

Having a child changes everything, and this year it's changed Christmas for our family.  More than ever I'm focused on those that aren't able to provide the life we live for Anna to their children.  I can't imagine the despair of not knowing where your next meal will come from, that your child will be clothed down the road, or that you will have a stable roof over your head for the foreseeable future.  Mike and I try to be as charitable as we can, giving our time and money to those less fortunate and always being grateful that we are so blessed. 

This Christmas has taken on an entirely new meaning and I was thrilled when I saw the family list for our Adopt-a-Class family being sponsored by my office; there was a two-month in need of several items.  Her list included clothing, socks, musical toys, a baby monitor, and diapers.  It immediately struck me that we should continue our tradition of giving to needy families, but start a new tradition of bringing the focus to Anna as well, and what a better way than to buy for a child her age.  Although she's too young to process our gift, she "helped" me shop from the perspective of knowing what items of clothing were most helpful to have at that stage and by "testing" many of the toys we bought.  And, of course she got in on the wrapping action ; )

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Letter to Anna: Month Seven

Dear Anna,

I feel like the last month has FLOWN by, but at the same time, I hardly feel like we have the same baby we did a mere 30 days ago. You are really starting to come into your own and it's amazing to see how much you're changing each day.

We dealt with your first bout of illness this month and everyone survived. I received "the (dreaded) call" from your school on a Wednesday that you'd woken up from your morning nap with a fever. Your Aunt Whitney is a pediatrician and I'd told myself mentally that I'd never abuse her power, but what do you know, I certainly called her after picking you up to see if she thought I should take you to see your doctor. I guess it's good to have friends in high places and I know that I'll be ringing her up more than I'd like to think I will over the years. You saw your doctor that afternoon and he cleared you other than the fever and prescribed fever medicines, hug, and cuddles. You were our sweet little girl even when feeling down and a little out; you never cried, just whimpered here and there and preferred to take your naps in someone's arms. By the weekend you were back to your usually happy-smiley self and the fever was a distant memory.

And speaking of distant memories, that fever was so distant that you decided to really come out of your shell and a flip switched such that you were all of the sudden sitting up on your own, attempting to clap your hands, and using tummy time to work on elevating those arms and knees at the same time. I tried to tell you that sitting up would change your world, but I don't think you believed me until you were steady on that bum. Now you love the new perspective and pan the room wide-eyed and amazed at your new view. You lunge forward in your high chair during meals (who needs to be a little reclined anyway?) and definitely prefer your Bumbo chair to your (reclined) bouncy chair when you're helping us get ready in the morning.

I can't tell you how much your Dad and I have delighted in seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Blowing on your hair is a game that has kept us entertained for over week now, whispering in your ear garnishes belly laughs, and you finally appreciate raspberries on your belly. Although I don't think you'll have a firm grasp on Christmas this year, it's been amazing to see you light up at the first sight of our tree, gaze at the presents underneath, and have loved "helping" me wrap presents. Needless to say, we can't wait for your next discovery.

You've also started to reach for familiar people, me included. Although I dread the day that any stranger anxiety will set in, it melts my heart to see you showing preference. The best part of my day is when I pick you up at school, see your smile when I enter the room, see those arms go into the air, and get that first hug. I know there will be a day in about twelve years where you'll dread hugs and kisses from me, so I plan to abuse my power to the fullest until then.

I saw a sign the other day that said "Keep Calm and Call Your Mom" and boy, do those words ring true for me lately. Your Gigi and I have always been close, but having you in my life has taken it to a new level. When she comes to visit the entire house is literally at ease; your Dad and I don't worry one iota when we're gone, you're always perfect, and even the cats love having her around (they show this by demanding she play fetch with them for hours and by "warming her bed"). When something big, bad, or sad happens in my life, your Gigi is one of the first two people I call, and depending on how hysterical I am, sometimes makes the cut above your Dad (she can decipher my crying voice better than anyone!). I love that you are now reaching out for me and I hope that continues throughout the years. I'm always here for you, I will always want to hear from you, and you will always be my little girl.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What's Cookin': A Whole Lotta Mush

Anna started solids about six weeks ago and after a couple weeks of cereals (rice and oatmeal), we started adding purees. Upon hearing success stories from a few friends, I decided I'd give homemade organic baby food a try, keeping my "never say never" attitude and agreeing that if it got to be too stressful or time consuming, I'd go with the flow and buy those organic pouches that only require you to twist off a top. So far so good and I've made several purees that Anna loves. I'm still not sure if I'll attempt proteins ... something about making pureed meats kinda grosses me out ... we'll see.

Anywho, I received Cooking Light Baby's First Foods as a shower gift and have found it to be SUPER helpful. You may think, "how hard can it be to steam and puree food, do you really need a book?" For me, yes! I thrive on specific direction and having all of the "recipes" in one spot has been a huge timesaver for me. The book also provided a lot of general guidance, from which tools to use (including comparisons) to how to move through every stage of introducing solids, including sample timelines and meal plans to toddler meal ideas. No, you don't "have" to have it, but it sure has been a huge help for me and might be the perfect Christmas list idea for some of my "new Mom readers."

I had the recipes, I had the organic produce, I had the cooking tools, the next thing I needed were storage containers. I thought I'd just go the covered ice cube tray route, but after some online searching found these baby cubes on and fell in love. Talk about convenient! Unlike an ice cube tray, you can freeze these cubes and pull out one, or twelve, as needed. So easy to grab one in the morning to pack with her bottles! I bought both the 1 ounce and 2 ounce cubes, but found the 2 ounce to be what I preferred and nothing says you have to fill it to the brim if you're starting out with smaller portions. I have five sets of the 2 ounce containers and am actually thinking of purchasing a few additional sets since we've expanded to three "meals" a day already.

I've made three batches of baby foods so far, each time setting aside a couple of hours on a Sunday and "cooking" enough for anywhere between two and three weeks worth of baby food. So far I've prepared squash (acorn), sweet potatoes, peas, apples (gala), pears, carrots, squash and apples, pears and plums (dehydrated prunes), and spinach and sweet potatoes. She's been a huge fan of everything except the carrots and stand-alone apples. I think the apples were a bit too tart and the carrots were too strong a flavor. That said, I have a few containers of each that I'll pull back out and try again in a few weeks and/or may mix with other purees.

It's as easy as chop, steam (or sometimes roast) ...

... puree and portion!

The result of a Sunday session making pears & plums, squash & apples,
spinach & sweet potatoes, squash, and sweet potatoes.

Don't just take my word for it ... here's proof that baby purees are yum, yum, gooood!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Baby, it's cold outside!!

Anna's teachers take pictures of the kids about once a quarter to put up on the bulletin board in the classroom and each board has a "theme", usually around the season.  The latest is all about winter and snowflakes and bundling up, and I almost died when I saw all of the kiddos in their "dress up winter clothing" ... to boot, these were taken the day Anna woke up from nap with her fever (of course taken in the morning before the fever came on and anyone knew she was sick) ... who wouldn't want to snuggle up with this little one on a cold winter's night?!?!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wind blown

Anna had a piece of lint in her hair the other day and as I went to blow it away, she starting smiling and laughing and went from 0 to 100 on the excitement meter faster than I've ever seen; it was adorable!!  It's turned into one of our favorite "games" to play and we can't get enough of her smiles and excitement.  But, you can judge for yourself ...

As a side note, we shot this right before bedtime last night, and after she was down, Mike insisted we watch it no fewer than 100 times.  Yes, we're obsessed with our daughter and nothing screams "new parents Friday night" like peppering your DVR viewing with videos of your almost-seven-month-old : ) 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Denim days

Anna decided to go a little more formal to school today and I can't get over how grown up she looks here. Is she really going to be seven months old next week?!?!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Down, but not out

We can officially check-off another box on the list of parenting to-do's; we survived our first few "sick days" with a baby.  I got a call last Wednesday from Anna's school telling me she'd woken up from her nap with a fever.  A doctor's visit later that afternoon cleared her other than the fever and we survived the next few days with a lot of cuddles, extra time with Mom, and our PJs.  But, not without her fever spiking again on Friday afternoon and another visit to the doctor *just to be sure* ... I didn't want to get to the weekend and have the ER be our only option.  He cleared her again and apparently cured her during that visit because she was a ball of energy that evening and totally fine by Saturday.  Perfect timing to make her Momma look like a paranoid hypochondriac ... hey, I'd rather be safe than sorry, she's the only baby I've got : ) 

Tired little girl!!  On Thursday she'd only nap in my arms ... it melted my heart!

Sleeping in Dad's arms while Mom did a little work before bed on Thursday,
so sweet even when she's sick!

Somewhere along the way Anna decided to start sitting up all by herself
and is totally ready for Christmas!

And she found her tongue, too! 
She can also blow raspberries ... more on that in a separate post : )

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Funny: Never say never

Spotted last week during a pick-up at Anna's school ... a Honda Odyssey with the bumper sticker "I will NEVER drive a minivan."  That is soooooo me ... but, I must admit that I have once or twice fantasized about those automatic sliding doors ...

(Aren't you glad this post wasn't about Justin Bieber?)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Gator Bites

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I yam so thankful!

Happy Thanksgiving!! 

I hope you are spending it relaxing with loved ones and enjoying a few extra days off work because that's what I'm doing.  I love that we have a day devoted to giving thanks, but I try to be thankful each day ... that said, I often find myself getting flustered with my "first world problems" ... like having a broken garage door or getting take-out only to have the food be a little cold.  At the end of the day, I have a car to walk to and food on my table and I'm blessed beyond belief in so many other ways.  And I pray that I always have the perspective to realize this. 

I YAM so thankful! 

I found this card at Target the other day, and although I've never send a Thanksgiving card before,
I couldn't pass it up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sibling Rivalry

Anna has grown out of her bouncy chair for the most part, but we keep it in our room in case we need to set her down for a couple of minutes; with her becoming more mobile by the day, we can no longer lay her in the middle of our king size bed surrounded by pillows and be assured she'll stay put.  Fast forward to Saturday night when the cats were locked in our room for a few hours as I got holiday decorations out of basement.  Milo cried for the first hour, but eventually settled down and apparently Daisy made herself right at home.  Let the sibling rivalry begin : ) 

"What's the big deal? 
You told me on Friday that the tiny human finally weighs more than me ..."

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Going nowhere fast

Mike often asks if I think Anna is too lean after he hears stories of our friends having babies in the upper percentiles while she continues to rock the lower end of the spectrum.  I remind him of just how active our little peanut is on a daily basis, leaving little time to fill out as she continues to stretch to new lengths; and recently used this video as proof.  I swear it looks like she's about to take flight at times : )

Friday, November 18, 2011

Growin' Like a Weed: Month Six

We survived another round of shots and this time Dad was in tow to hear the glowing reviews from her doctor.  True to her usual form, Anna did great and was again proclaimed to be perfect, but that was no surprise to us!  She's growing perfectly in line with her percentiles and is still long and lean.  Since birth she's almost doubled her weight and grown almost 7 inches, way to *grow* little one!  We have to go back next month for her second round flu shot, but don't see the doctor again until February and we hope to keep it that way *arms crossed in front of me to ward off any evil winter sickness bugs coming our way*. 

Six month "stats" include: (*)

13lb 3oz (10th percentile), 1lb 9oz gain over 2 months
26 1/4 inches (25th percentile), 1 3/4 inch growth over 2 months
16 1/4 inch head circumference, a gain of 1 inch over 2 months

* Mike and I both guessed for weight and height again this time and I'm happy to report that I was closest in guessing weight and Mike was closest in guessing length, I guess we're a pretty good team : )

Big, six month girl!!
During our "shoot", there was still a lot of this going on ...
... and plenty of this as well! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Fall Photo Shoot

We had family pictures taken a few weeks ago, just a bit shy of Anna turning 6 months.  It was a beautiful day, but there was definitely a chill in the air, and combined with new surroundings Anna just wasn't her usual super-smiley-self.  All that said, we love our photographer and Anna is still pretty adorable even when she's practicing her more serious poses ... after all, models have to be versatile : )  I hope you enjoy the finished products as much as we do!

All photos are courtesy of Emily Faith Photography.  Anna's custom headband (for her petite noggin') was made by our family friend from Sydney Bean's Bows

Monday, November 14, 2011

Letter to Anna: Month Six

Dear Anna,

Wow! You're half a year old today! I wouldn't have believed it if someone had told me six months ago what you are doing today; it's simply amazing how much you've grown from both a physical and developmental perspective. You're still our petite little girl, but are filling in and rounding out in so many ways, both literally and figuratively.

You mastered rolling from your back to your tummy this month and are *so* close to sitting up on your own that it's crazy. I'm savoring these days where you're still relatively immobile because I know that crawling is right around the corner and soon you'll literally be giving us a run for our money. EVERYTHING is going in your mouth these days, toys, blankets, hands, and especially feet. Although we see a lot of drool, there aren't any tooth-buds that we can feel. You are intrigued by and in love with the cats, and Milo has become one of your best friends. He is thrilled by the attention you give to him and you generally grasp that you should be gentle with him and spend time "petting" him each day. It's one of the cutest things ever to see your excitement when he's near and it's only a matter of time before you are two are thick as thieves and you're dropping food to him from your high chair or inviting him to your room for a tea party.

We started you on solids this month and it came as no surprise that you picked up on eating like a "big girl" in no time. I'm hoping to make all of your baby food and mastered acorn squash thus far, which you loved. We'll be moving on to peas, sweet potatoes, and apples soon. So far you've been taking an evening meal ("dinner"), but we're set to add "breakfast" to your daily routine this week. With the love of food shared by your Mom and Dad, we doubt you'll find a food you snub, but time will tell.

You are one of the stars in your class at school and you love each of your teachers. You spend most of your time with Miss Patty, but I'm pretty sure the others fight over you during the day; they tell me each day that you are one of the most gentle, laid back, and happy babies they've worked with. You've made a few friends, Kaylee, who is two-weeks younger than you and also has roots in Pittsburgh, and Connor, who is two-months younger than you (not that you can tell by his size, he's going to be a big boy!). You've learned to share and I've been told you often times offer a sock to one of your friends (yummm!!). And then there was the one incident where you decided halfway through your nap that the crib room should become the party room and were pulled out for excessive chit-chat (gee, I can't imagine where you get that trait from). It's a real treat to see your excitement when you arrive in the mornings and the best part of my day is when I see that ear-to-ear smile as I arrive to take you home.

You were baptised this month and we hosted most of your immediate family at our home after the service. It was a sight to see how many people love and care about you and have agreed to support us as we raise you in the church. Faith in God is something your Father and I grew up with and is what has gotten us each through the trying times in our lives. So much of what we want for you as you grow includes traditions and beliefs that were formed with our families many years ago.

My only regret is that your grandparents weren't able to witness your special baptism day, especially your namesake, my maternal grandmother. It's not just that particular day, it's all of your days that I wish she could be a part of and I find myself thinking of her often and wondering what she would think of you and how much joy you'd bring to her. I can still remember so much about her, including the little things, like the way she answered the phone or called out "Hello Sweetheart" when I went to her house; even after so long I can still hear her voice in my head. She gave me more perspective in life and passed along more wisdom than I'll ever be able to convey to you.

Your Gigi gave me a book this month that says it best, "A mother's relationship with her daughter starts before the beginning, in fact, it starts in the mother's own childhood. Because the childhood she has determines the childhood she'll give her own daughter … Mothers know that love is forever. And that's the lesson their daughters can't wait to pass along." I want to share SO much of my past with you and feel so blessed each day that your Gigi and my Nana made my past so very much worth sharing with you. In the meantime, I'm going to live in the future and love you more than you will ever imagine.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Rockin' and Rollin'

I walked into Anna's classroom on Wednesday and almost fell on the floor when I saw her roll most of the way from her back to her tummy.  She saw me walk in and got distracted with her huge smile, plus there was an arm she hadn't accounted for being in her way.  She's still pretty active, but most of the time she spends on her back is used for sucking on her toes.  After the usual feeding and cuddle session at home we tried again and I was lucky enough to capture footage ... she rewarded me for my patience with some huge grins and even a little chuckle.  Now that she's checked this milestone off her list she can move on to perfecting the free-standing sit; the world is her oyster! (PS - Check out that full head of hair she's rockin' ... no more male pattern baldness for this little lady!)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Heinz 57 of Videos

With a lot on her plate developmentally, Anna has to really pick and choose how she wants to spend her time these days.  Between working on sitting up, being ever so close to scooting, and trying really hard to roll from back to tummy, it's hard to even squeeze her evening meal into the mix ... and then throw her budding friendship with Milo in there and it's enough to tucker a gal out by 7pm.  This video started as a way to showcase her almost-sitting skills, morphed into her showing off her high kicks, and ends with her utter excitement at the sight of one of her best buddies.  Apologies for the dark lighting, it was wee early o'clock : )

And, stay tuned for video of one of her first rolls from back to tummy ... it's been a big week around here!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Enough with the flashy pictures already, Mom!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Just thinkin' ...

... about all the fun I'm going to have with so many family members in town for my baptism ...

... Gigi, Grandma, Paw Paw, Maw Maw, Uncle Brian, Uncle Sean, Uncle Michael, Aunt Jennifer, Aunt Emily, Aunt Danielle, and Cousin Aiden, OH MY ...

... I sure am one lucky gal! ...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mommy Moments: Making breastfeeding work

The biggest fear I harbored during my pregnancy was in regard to breastfeeding. Some women seem more concerned about the labor and delivery, but at the end of the day, that baby's going to come out one way or another and breastfeeding isn't as automatic. First there's the milk that your body needs to create, then there's your baby's latch, then there's the personal commitment … long story short, there are a ton of variables and it's almost like the stars have to align in a perfect pattern.

I was and have been extremely lucky in this regard. Anna was able to latch within the first hour of her delivery (and on the first try!) and my colostrum was ready and available. I remember my L&D nurse Anne helped me with that first nursing session and I simply stared down in shock, amazement, and pride that I was able to provide for my daughter in this way. While in the hospital I beamed as I was feeding Anna and my nurse came in with a student shadow, saw me nursing and then told the student to take a look at my technique as "everything about it is perfect." My milk came in on schedule and other than a minor engorgement issue we did really well those first few weeks.

Part of the fantastic family leave policy my company provides is access to a Lactation Consultant for as long as we're nursing. This is in addition to a very reduced price we pay for a top-of-the-line pump and a really great book on breastfeeding. My LC had reached out to me a few weeks before my last day in the office and we decided to touch base again when my leave started and when I'd have more time to talk, granted, this was supposed to be two weeks before my due date. When she called a couple of days after Anna was born, she was surprised to hear I was already in the throws of motherhood and her timing was perfect. Since then her timing has always been impeccable, just as I feel like there's an issue or I might have a question, a call from her comes through.

For me, breastfeeding was something that was extremely important and was a gift I desperately wanted to give to Anna. My mom breastfed both my brother and I in a time when breastfeeding was something only handful of mothers did (I find it very ironic that the bigger push in the 70's and early 80's was using cloth diapers). She worked full time and pumped while she was away from us. She told me that although she had a private office, it didn't stop some of her male co-workers from making "moo'ing" noises outside her door while she pumped during the day. In asking for advice from friends and co-workers I heard stories of women having to pump in a bathroom stall or in their car. All of these women are my inspiration and when the going gets tough, or I'm sitting in the Mother's room at work, exposed and feeling more like a cow than a woman; I think of them and it keeps me going. (I also catch up on facebook, blogs, and read magazines … not a bad way to spend 30 minutes twice a day, no questions asked.)

In addition to the feelings of guilt about returning to work, I was deathly afraid that continuing to breastfeed would be an issue as well. I looked to several friends and my LC for advice. I'd started storing milk over the summer by adding an extra pumping session during Anna's morning nap or after she went down for the night. To say I was thrilled my first day back at work when I pumped and was only an ounce shy of what she needed for the next day (which I'd make up with my evening session), is an understatement. Since then I've managed to only use a few frozen ounces and Miss Anna is thriving.

The reason for this post now is that I was having a rough week last week. I'm four weeks back at work and although it's going well, I miss my baby more than I ever imagined during the day. On the flip side, I have pangs of guilt because I enjoy having some time away from her. Balance is something that will always be a work in progress for me. On top of that I've been battling an on-again-off-again cold and was feeling really worn down. Over the past couple of days my milk supply had suffered as a result and I was starting to get worried. And then, just like clockwork, my LC called.

I was explaining my routine, which includes forcing myself to stay up until 10pm to pump before going to bed (the bain of my existence some days), and asking her a few questions. As soon as I stopped talking and caught my breath she said "Jen, I'm sooooo proud of you! You've made it work and you are extremely dedicated to this! Way to go! Every ounce she's gained and the fact that she's thriving is because of you!"

Sometimes, as a Mom, you just need to hear those words and for me they came at just the right time. We try so hard to find the right balance, to do what's best for our babies while still caring for ourselves, our homes, and our loved ones. It's easy to forget that while everything might not be perfect, there are still some pretty great things that you're doing. Our routine these days includes me waking up at 5:30am to shower and get everything I can think of ready before feeding her around 6:30am, pumping at work around 10am and 2pm, and feeding her 1-2 times in the evening. It's working so far and I'm proud that I'm almost halfway to my one-year goal!

My first day back at the office my secretary had a gift on my desk, a book called "Mommy Prayers" that I have related to more than anything ever in my life, and has provided a several belly-laughs over the past few weeks. I felt it was serendipitous that one of the first "prayers" I read was this …

"Dear God, Here I am, huddled in a dusty utility closet, half naked and half deafened by the noise of my top-of-the-line, ultra-expensive double breast pump, which is supposed to be "whisper-quiet," but is not. I'm staring at a picture of my sweet baby girl and working on my relaxation breathing, all in an effort to suck as much breast milk out of me as humanly possible in the fifteen minutes before my next conference call. With the dials turned all the way up "stun" and both breasts going simultaneously, I'm feeling more like a cow than a human right now. Lord, but I don't want you to think I'm not grateful for my tiny closet. Though it could use a lock on the door - last week Dave from Sales Support walked in on me, which was extra funny seeing as how the poor kid is nearly young enough to remember nursing himself. This pumping business is awkward for everyone, Lord. Please give me the patience and strength to hang in there for the sake of my baby daughter. And please help Dave recover from his embarrassment long enough to be able to look me in the eye at next week's meeting. Thanks, God."

I couldn't have written it better myself!

Thanks for hanging in there with me on this post. Part of the reason I keep a blog so that I can personally look back on my days and remember what was happening, a diary of sorts. I choose to write about what's going on in our lives and what's important to me, and if you can't tell, this is something that I'm pretty passionate about. I know that a few of my readers are mothers as well, and maybe they'll benefit from my experience. By no means do I pass judgement on mothers who don't or haven't breastfed their babies, it's a personal choice and there are often variables out of our control that dictate a path we take in this regard.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to stare at a picture of this little girl while I set my pump to "stun."

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I can't get enough of these ...

Or these ...

... and the girl that goes with them isn't bad either ...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Get in my Belly!

We decided to see how Anna liked rice cereal on Sunday, figuring if she didn't take to it on the first try we still had time to convert her before her six-month "birthday."  Turns out we had nothing to be concerned about; I kid you not, it was like this little gal had been eating "big girl food" for months.  She opened her mouth when the spoon approached, moved the food back to her throat, and repeated like a champ.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised considering how much her parents enjoy food. 

Hmmmmm, what's this???

I think I like it!!

Maxin' and relaxin' in her high chair ... a gal could get used to this kind of treatment!
(you didn't think we'd make her eat in the Bumbo forever, did you?)

She's even taken to "telling" us how much she loves her dinner, and her chef greatly appreciates the feedback : ) 

Thursday, October 27, 2011


These two are destined to be big pals, if only for the main reason that he knows she's his meal ticket for years to come ...

(enjoying the camera on my new iPhone and playing around with the Instagram app)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tasty Tootsies

Someone has found her toes ...

Both literally ...

... and figuratively

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What's Cookin': Mexican Lasagna

Sometimes the best recipes aren't the fanciest or the flashiest, but in my opinion if it's something that's colorful, healthy, and gets on the table quickly, it's a winner in my book.  I found this recipe through Kraft Foods and honed in immediately because it's one of the few that doesn't include mass amount of cream cheese while also appealing to my palate.  It can be made in advance, (score), provides leftovers, (double score), and is mighty pretty, (triple score). 

A dinner fiesta!!
Mexican Lasagna
Adapted from Kraft

1 lb. extra-lean ground beef (or turkey) or 1 can of black beans (or both if you're looking for extra protein)
1 green pepper, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 jar (16 oz.) Salsa, I prefer Newman's Own Farmer's Market
1 can (14-1/2 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen corn
12 corn tortillas (6 inch)
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
Reduced fat Sour Cream to be used as topping

Heat oven to 375°F. 

Brown meat with peppers in large skillet; drain. Return to skillet. Stir in salsa, tomatoes, corn and black beans, if using.

should look something like this ... yumm!
Spread 1 cup meat mixture onto bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish; top with 6 tortillas, overlapping as necessary. Cover with layers with half each of the remaining meat mixture and cheese; top with remaining tortillas, meat mixture, and cheese.

Cover loosely with foil and bake 15 minuntes. Uncover and bake an additional 10-15 minutes or until heated through and cheese on the top is melted. 

To Make Ahead:  Assemble casserole as directed. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, bake at 375°F for 30 minutes loosely covered with foil, remove foil and cook another 10-15 minutes or until heated through and cheese on the top is melted.