Monday, June 11, 2012

getting my meal plan on

We have been working on getting healthy, easy dinners on the table now that Lila is old enough to understand that eating frozen pizza from the couch does not a dinner make. I know, story of the life of every mom on the planet. Here are the easiest, cheapest things we have done to help get our family on track:
1. Sign up for eMeals 
2. Use my crock pot more often

I have found that my biggest hurdles to getting dinner on the table are not shopping ahead of time (so there is never an easy meal with all of the ingredients at hand), not planning out meals for a specific day, not thinking ahead on busy days. No, this is not a sponsored post for eMeals; they do not know I exist. I purchased a Groupon (which they have been running on and off for several months...check your local city) for half off a year of meal planning. I have played around with the different plans (they have Weight Watchers, low carb, low fat, clean eating) and we are sticking with the low fat family plan. The regular family plan had too many cream sauces and cheese for me. 

I try to do my shopping on the weekend because honestly, who wants to try and grocery shop with a toddler after work or even worse, in the evening after they go to bed. That time is reserved for me and Brian and my wine. I have not gotten to this point, but I have heard several friends say they prep all of their meals as soon as they come home from the grocery store (cut veggies, divide up meat, etc.) so there is very little prep on meal night. I have also been trying to use the crock pot more on nights that I know I will be busy, so I do not cheat and drive through somewhere. I saw this great crock pot recipe on Skinny Crock Pot's Facebook page for Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken. I adapted it a little bit and I think we have found a new favorite! Hope you try it out in your slow cooker this week!

Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken
In crockpot:
4 chicken breasts
1 jar of all natural salsa (I used a mix of lime salsa and salsa verde since I had a half jar of each...delicious!)
Juice from one large can of pineapple (pineapple in juice with no sugar added)

In your crock pot, add the three items above. After draining your canned pineapple juice into the crockpot, set aside the pineapple in your fridge for later; do not add the actual pineapple to the crockpot. Cook on high for 6 or low for 8 hours. 

Evening ingredients:
1lb of sliced fresh mushrooms
1-2 small zucchini, sliced
Onion powder 
Olive oil
Pineapple from can
Half package of Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend (you could also use regular rice but this is 1000x better: Israeli couscous, red and green orzo, split dried garbanzo beans, and red quinoa)

Shred the chicken in your crockpot with a fork, now that it is fully cooked. Save the juice in the crockpot. 
Cook half a package of Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend according to directions.
Saute the fresh mushrooms and sliced zucchini in a little bit of EVOO with a dash of onion powder. I do mine barely cooked so they are not slimy. 

Put a scoop of the Harvest Grains Blend on your plate, a scoop of chicken (with plenty of salsa/pineapple juice), a handful of mushrooms and zucchini, and top with chopped pineapple. Delicious!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

wrangling the feral cat

How do toddlers know the exact moment you are getting ready to walk out the door and choose it to announce "Pee pee potty time??!" Even though you have been asking them repeatedly every 3 minutes if they need to use the potty. It is like the exact moment when you slither out the door from the floor beside their bed as they have finally started snoring, and suddenly their hand is on the light switch, standing up in a half second with a "Gotcha" look on their face? Or my personal favorite, that second you click open your email when they have been happily playing with blocks on the floor for five minutes and like lightening they are at your side, "Bites Mommy! Hungry!"
Our life has been the epitome of toddlerhood lately. One minute Lila is sweetly staring up at me asking "Hold you Mommy" with her arms outstretched (those pronouns are so stinking tricky). The next she is throwing her fork at the dog and arching herself backwards out of her high chair in what will either end up in a perfect Olympic dismount or a trip to the ER. 
I am loving the sweet tickles and learning to sing all of the words to Five Little Speckled Frogs. I am learning to love the tantrums that I know are allowing her to better understand rules and social norms and her own place in life. The sillyness is what gets me the most, when she very seriously looks at me and says, "Mommy hair messy" first thing in the morning and then bursts into laughter trying to pat my curly afro down. I know that the tantrums will continue to spread out over time and I will not always be the mom at Target abandoning half full grocery carts to make a mad dash out the exit with a feral cat squirming out of my arms.  But at the same time, I will soon not have the baby that snuggles up in my lap at the end of the day with her paci and Grinch stuffed animal and sings herself to sleep.

Monday, May 14, 2012

feeling the love

It is an amazing feeling to feel loved and appreciated by your family. I love when I feel that way every day. When Lila gives me a super tight squeeze around the neck. When she automatically takes her cup and plate to the sink after snack and I know she is actually getting the things I try to teach her. When Brian stands at the counter after dinner and cleans up all of the dishes so I can sit down after a long day. When he reaches over and grabs my hand while driving for no reason. 

But I also love breakfast in bed. And gifts. And adorable cards. What can I say, I am a little selfish sometimes :-) Brian knows just how to set up a fabulous day...from my favorite breakfast from Foster's Market and a sweet card from he and Lila. And then, the gifts! I got a new travel toiletry case in a cute lime green Vera Bradley design, which he kindly mentioned means that I can now stop using his army green boy case when I travel. And some fabulous pottery including a new mug, fluted edge serving bowl and a small cereal bowl. Made all the more impressive since he took Lila with him to pick it out. At a pottery store. With breakable objects. He is so very brave.

This weekend was jammed packed, as my brother-in-law was graduating from Duke with his MBA and his whole family was in town visiting. Doesn't he look so happy to be done with school?
And the best, most exciting moment of the weekend was Lila getting to announce that she is going to be a cousin this fall! My sister and Peter have a little baby on the way and we could not be more thrilled for them! She took such great care of me when I was pregnant, flying back and forth from Florida and buying Lila an entire wardrobe of clothes. Now it's my turn to spoil my little niece or nephew!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

standing beside Diana

Some of you might have heard about Diana and her twin boys. Some of you might have followed the horrible tragedy as it played out on Twitter. Some of you might have read the many, many post of love and encouragement from Beth Anne, Morgan, Kit, Katherine

And some of you might be in the dark right now. Diana, a beautiful fellow blogger and Army wife/mom, was pregnant with identical twin boys when her water broke at 18.5 weeks. She was sent to the hospital, only to be told there was no hope and she had to induce labor to deliver the babies, even though they were still alive and would not be able to survive outside of her body at this age Diana fought back, choosing to stay in the hospital on bed rest and do whatever was possible to keep her babies inside as long as possible. She fought a long, hard fight with lots of doctors telling her she was wrong. But she didn't do it for them or for us; she did it for her boys. Sadly, she delivered the boys one week later at 19.5 weeks. They both passed away within hours. 

It was like a horrible crash I could not look away from. I checked her Twitter feed hourly. I prayed and cried for her, this woman I have never met. And I wept when she lost her two boys to heaven. Because I know. I remember my own pain. And I know how hard it is to stand up and grieve when the world feels like it is closing in and no one understands. 

I still remember that morning on August 4, 2009 when I was told that one of our twins had passed away in utero. I remember sitting in that paper gown not able to breathe and the looks that passed between the nurses. I remember them telling me it was going to be okay because the other baby I was carrying, my sweet Lila, looked fine. I threw away the clothes I wore to my doctor's office that day because I could not bare to look at them. I remember wondering if I would be able to enjoy any part of Lila's pregnancy and birth because I would still be thinking that it was supposed to be two and now was one. But I did it quietly. With my husband and close family by my side, I grieved. I grieved our little boy we named Wrigley, even though we never knew his real gender. I remember people telling me to be happy because I still had one. As if his life was not just as important to me as hers. I remember the many, many ER and Labor & Delivery visits through the rest of my pregnancy with Lila, as the bleeding from Wrigley's placenta sent me through 7 more weeks of hemorrhages and pre-term labor symptoms at 24 weeks. I too had doctors tell me that meant I was losing the "pregnancy" and there was nothing I could do. 

But I was one of the lucky ones. I did have a baby to hold in my arms at the end of it. A beautiful healthy baby. But not because I fought harder or prayed more or had better doctors. Diana's beautiful blog posts since Preston and Julian passed away are giving voice to the thousands of women that suffer in silence. The women that grieve curled into tight balls of pain and tears in their beds at night. She is saying what all of us wish we had the courage to say at the time, that these children were her children, no matter their gestation, no matter the odds stacked against them. We cry along with you Diana and hope that all of our little ones were waiting to welcome Preston and Julian with open arms and show them around their new playground. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

ec love

I have written of my love for my Erin Condren planner before on this blog. But I do not think I have ever explained how serious it is to my life. If a meeting (babysitter, dinner menu, date night, birthday) is not in my planner, it does not exist. I am actually planning a new series this month with my favorite tips for the busy mom and I have a whole post devoted to this planner. 

Since I am not yet cool enough to have an iPhone or iPad, I have not been able to take advantage of the adorable personalized covers EC has on their website. But I do have their gift labels, which are super cute. So when I saw this Plum District deal for $25 for $50 at Erin Condren, I grabbed it! Even better, I found a coupon code (good through tomorrow, 4/30) for another 25% off the Plum District deal. So $50 worth of EC for $18.75! Score!

While this deal does not work for the 2012/2013 planners coming out in June, I am cool with that since mine already goes through December of this year. I am thinking about getting these cool calling cards for when it is just too awkward to hand out my work business card at playdates and group events. Aren't these two patterns so cute? 

The Plum District deal is only good through tomorrow, so get yours fast! And the coupon code for 25% off is "mom25". Yay! Grab yours by tomorrow (Monday night)! 

Disclaimer: I did not get this deal for free and did purchase it myself. However, if 3 of you buy the coupon, I will get mine for free as a referral. And I just love Erin Condren that much.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

moments in a day

Lila is snoring over the monitor after finally going to sleep for her nap. I had to lay on the floor of her nursery for 15 minutes to get her to stop bringing books into her bed and go to sleep. When do toddlers go from sweet baby sounds in their sleep to grown up snoring noises? I do not remember the moment when that changes.

Zaxby the dog is sitting looking out the window waiting for a car, any car, to drive by so she can bark at it. 

I need to take a shower and get myself cleaned up for the day, considering I just ate lunch. 

I can't stop thinking about how good a Diet Coke would taste right now, but I have not had my obligatory 3 glasses of water before I am allowed a soft drink. 

Why are sodas called soft drinks? As opposed to a glass of liquor being a hard drink? Why is this thought just occurring to me?

Some days all slow down into minutes. Individual things you cannot stop focusing on in order to get to the real tasks of the day: emails, phone calls, spreadsheets, folding laundry, making grocery lists. Some days seem to fly by with the busyness of life and sometimes my days seemed so consumed with the busyness that I cannot get on to the living.

Friday, April 20, 2012

how to break the funk

One morning last week, I woke up in a funk. As soon as I opened my eyes that morning I was irritable and tired and cranky. It seemed like Lila was refusing to get dressed just to bug me. Brian's simple questions about the day seemed to get under my skin. Our normal morning routine of an hour took about an hour and a half. And the worse part was that the whole time, I knew in the back of my head that this bad day was all on me. Lila wasn't acting like a toddler more than any other day. It was not her fault I forgot to pack her lunch the night before. Brian was not doing anything other than being a sweet husband trying to plan out our day. 

So I took to the private Facebook group set up by mom's bible study. I needed some ideas for how to break the funk! And funny enough, after trying everything on the list, I slowly started to realize it was a good day. Sometime, all it takes is a little work to remind yourself that God created a beautiful day and it is your choice whether or not to enjoy it. And yes, I just pulled a Pollyanna, but you know you want to dance to some loud music drinking a Diet Coke right now :-) Here are the other fabulous ideas shared by my always-right mommy friends:
  • Drink a big cup of water
  • Drink a big cup of coffee
  • Eat protein for breakfast
  • Wear a pretty dress or whatever makes you feel good about yourself
  • Listen to silly songs (my Pandora was set to the Backstreet Boys station)
  • Listen to soft worship music (I am loving my new CD, "Sing Over Me Worship & Lullabies"
  • Go for a walk outside or at least sit in the sun for a few minutes
  • Sit quietly by yourself for a while, no music, no phone, no computer, no kids
  • Get your favorite lunch or snack as a special treat
  • Do something fun with the kids that makes them super happy and full of laughter
  • Sing to loud Broadway or musical songs
  • Spend ten minutes doing something that makes you feel happy (for me organizing my planner)
What are your other great ways to get out of a nasty mood? I would love to hear your mood changing ideas to add my list for the next times the blues greet me in the morning.