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. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

flipping the pages

I love that Lila has a passion for books. I grew up reading everything I could get my hands on. I was "that kid" that challenged myself to read 100 books the summer between my 2nd and 3rd grade year. Including the entire C.S. Lewis The Chronicles of Narnia series. But those silly is super hard to keep them sitting long enough for a story. We usually just yell out words and made up story lines based on the pictures as she turns the pages at rapid speed. It's like an awesome, fast paced game. For her. 
But recently she has started showing some interest in what is actually on the pages. My favorite is when she holds up the book to present us the page (thank you school for that learned skill). And of course, any book that has her favorite shape in it, The Star!!, is always a good choice. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

one phone call

I knew the call would not be a good one. When you are focused for two weeks on every small sign within your body, you know what is coming. The rush to the lab for the morning blood draw. The waiting on pins and needles all day for the phone to ring. Continuously turning the screen on to assure it did not turn off accidentally. And then the nurse, with her sweet, soft voice, "Honey, I don't have good news. The pregnancy test was negative."

After 11 IUI and IVF procedures over five years, and only one happy phone call when we got pregnant with our daughter, this should not be a shock. I have long ago stopped being angry at those who get pregnant on a whim. Stopped questioning why it is so hard for us. Gave up whining when I have to create detailed medication charts and stick myself with needles every night. But yet, that one simple word, "negative," still gives me chills. 

Our friends ask us how we can stay positive, how we can want to try again and again. Because we do not have any other choice. This is our path in life to our family. Yes, I still have to hole up in my work bathroom and let it all out for five minutes when I see a photo of a friend's new adorable baby. Yes, I give a nod and a big smile when people unwittingly ask us if Lila is our only child, my heart dropping as I think of all of our babies in Heaven waiting to be held in my arms one joyous day. Yes, I have to repeat the same Bible verses over and over to myself, creating a chant about the Lord's blessings and promises, to will myself to keep my head up and moving forward. 

We are not done trying yet. But for today, I pour a big glass of wine, and let myself cry a little for those babies who will not be held in my arms this lifetimes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

the bunny hop

Someone was looking awfully cute in her Easter dress! I love seeing her all dressed up since we usually spend our days in play clothes. She and the other Four Pack babies (all two years old now!) humored us uncool parents with a little after church photo shoot. And yes, there were doughnut bribes involved in order to keep them in place. 

After church we headed over to my parents for a big Easter lunch and of course, lots of play time in the beautiful weather. 

Lila missed all of Easter lunch during her nap which meant that I actually got to eat with two hands and that when she woke up feeling rested, she was up for a little swingset photo shoot. There is something about family being all together and eating yummy food that make holidays so wonderful. I love all worshiping together in church and leaving knowing He is Risen!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

chicago times

Finally settled back in from our long trip to Chicago, last week was a whirlwind. Changes at work that came about while I was gone made for some long work days, Lila needed lots of snuggles after missing us and we tried to adjust to my lack of lifting and carrying while we wait for our IVF outcome news. Since I am not able to lift over five pounds and Lila now obviously weighs more than my testing weight of a gallon of milk, that creates some challenges. We had to switch her to a big girl bed, set up a ladder in and out of the car and Lila had a hard time not being carried around. 
Regardless of the challenges the last week has held, it was a fabulous trip to Chicago. We loved staying with my cousin Jenny and her husband. The last time we saw them was Cousins Weekend in Asheville last year so it was great to catch up and hang out. We had lots of delicious food, did some fabulous shopping and enjoyed the nice cool Chicago weather. Lots of relaxing as we led up to Saturday's embryo transfer which was just what I needed. 
The transfer went amazingly well and we felt so much peace that day. The little ones floated into their nice warm bed where we hope they will stay put. We have our test on Tuesday so pray for God to continue to knit them together and help them grow, in Jesus name!

Monday, March 26, 2012

his will be done

Some days I envy those mothers who were given the gift of pregnancy easily. Other days, I marvel at the medicine and science God created that allows me the same gift. Some days, I cry while I put away the syringe, not at the fleeting pain of the injection, but at the deep love I have for my children...the one in my arms, the ones waiting to be placed in my body, and the two already in God's arms in Heaven. 
I know that my struggle to conceive has allowed me to speak into the lives of so many women, hurting from their own empty arms. That Lila's conception, pregnancy and birth is a testimony to the ways God answers prayers. But some days, I wish I could trade all of the good that has come from years of those medicines for two quick little lines on a test. 
It's hard to think we are starting this all over again. With Lila's IVF, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into and we would have done anything for a child. But I know that God is not done with our family. Lila is meant to be a big sister. I am meant to hold more babies against my body and nurse them through the night. Brian is meant to swaddle a little one and gently rock them to sleep. 
Some days I have to remind myself why I suffer through it all. And other days, none of the shots or patches or hormone swings or early mornings sitting in a doctor's office under a paper sheet or silly crying over a spilled dog bowl of water even matters. Because this week, I will get on a plane to Chicago and go meet my babies, nestled in their little tubes, frozen and fast asleep. And God will give them life in my body in the miraculous way that only He can do. So this Saturday, pray for my babies. Pray that God gives Brian and I strength of body and mind. And pray that His will be done for our family.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

mom guilt

A couple of weeks, I had a doctor's appointment in the middle of the day, so I hired a babysitter for Miss Lila Bean. Not knowing how long it would take and knowing I needed to run by my office to pick up some papers, I scheduled the sitter for 3 hours. Luckily for me the doctors appointment was short and sweet and I was not detained into the black hole known as the "office drop in" for very long. 

After running by the pharmacy, I was left with a decision. Come home an hour early and feel bad for booking the babysitter longer so I would still probably pay her the full 3 hour amount? Or take advantage of the blessed free time with nowhere to be? 
I choose me time. Sitting on the patio of a little cafe, drinking a cold Diet Coke, reading a book, and eating a delicious salad. By myself. With no one banging a fork on a table or throwing a milk cup on the ground. No need for conversation, only smiles at people giving me odd looks for flying solo during lunch. I pushed aside the twinges of guilt that I should be taking advantage of this gorgeous day by playing at the park with Lila. Or getting in a few extra hours of cleaning or work. Instead, I sat there for a full 45 minutes, basking in the sun, and just being me. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

camping in style

Last Saturday was the perfect day for a birthday party. Blue skies, nice breeze, a yard full of colorful quilts and tents, and all of Lila's favorite people in one place. There is something so special about birthdays, that God allows us to celebrate and remember how precious life is every 365 days. As Lila gets older, I want to always install a sense of celebrating life's moments with her and letting her feel how special she is to all of us.

Many thanks to my parents for the use of their gorgeous backyard, my sister Auntie KK for all her creative touches and styling expertise, and to Brian's family for helping us prep all weekend. Throwing cute camping themed birthday parties takes a lot of work!

We celebrated with snacks and S'more Cupcakes and presents. Lots and lots of presents.

We made camp crafts, we swung on the play set till our hearts were content. 

 We had our cake and ate it too. 

 We snuggled with friends and rocked babies. And it was a good day to be two.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

pimp my slide

This evening park playtime with Mimi and Pumba brought to you by daylight savings time. And yes, Lila has now named her grandpa "Pumba." As in Simba's gassy warthog friend on the Lion King. No relation. Nor similarities for that matter. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

looking good

Since we so very rarely dress up and there is never photographic evidence of it, I felt very proud of myself for remembering the camera this weekend. We went to a good family friend's wedding and GASP, all of the kids, spouses and parents in my family were present. And looking fine I might add. 12 pounds down and one dress size, what what!
 What's your favorite dress up moment with your spouse? How often do you get all gussied up and go out on the town minus the little ones?