Wednesday, April 30, 2014

About Aboo: 35 Week Reflection

Dear Emelina,

I know I haven't kept a detailed daily journal of every thought/feeling/symptom/measurement throughout the last 8 months, but I have tried to jot down the big milestones along the way through these posts.  Sure it's fun to look back at the journal I kept with Annalyn, but mostly because the second half of this pregnancy has been so similar.  Not just in measurements/weight, but also in how I'm feeling.  Luckily I've had a lot less swelling so far, but the irritability/frustration/pain is all the same.  In fact, I was reading through my old journal and almost to the day, had the same "epiphany" that I was so over working retail.  By the end of a 6 day stretch of working, on a 13 hour day, with no help and a line of 5 patients behind the one screaming at me for doing my job, I'd just about had it.  I hate feeling like a glorified cashier - maybe by the time you're old enough to read this, I'll be doing something super profound with my degree or community pharmacy will change enough that people respect us for what we are - drug experts.  But apparently, at 8 months pregnant, in a state of extreme discomfort and exhaustion, I am doomed to feel like I'm wasting my education.   Luckily, I have a lot of amazing patients who trust and value my opinion to no end.  They remind me what I love about community pharmacy - building professional and personal relationships and being extremely accessible to them any time they need it. 

It's stressful, it's tiring, and very frustrating at times.  If you're a working mother someday, you'll absolutely get it, Emma.  By then, I'll probably look back and say, oh, it wasn't so bad (I'll totally have all the answers by then, too, and your children will be perfect angels in my eyes).  But you'll have this to remind me that in that moment of my life, it was absolutely overwhelming.  Hopefully my older self will still be able to relate to you and remember how it felt, but if not, my 28 year old self will be here to tell you - yes, it wears on you.  Being a mother isn't ever easy, and a pregnant mother, which I'm experiencing for the first time with you, is even tougher.  I'm sure your dad will agree that it's no piece of cake for him either.  That's just a little snapshot of my week that I'd have written in a journal if I had been super diligent about doing so.

Let's see, what else can I tell you about my pregnancy with you....

- You were conceived on Friday the 13th and due on D-day.  Read what you will from that.  I do find it interesting that you, me, and Annalyn all had due dates on the 6th (mine 10/6, Anna's 3/6, yours 6/6).   

- I found out I was pregnant just days after your Uncle Trav and Aunt Mal's wedding.  I was really hoping to know before then, but it was just too soon.  Needless to say, I avoided all but a sip of champagne for a toast.  Daddy on the otherhand, not so much.  Probably because I'd been on Clomid which, I'll admit, made me kind of crazy.

- I had some heavy spotting on Grandma Cindy's birthday so I decided not to tell them I was pregnant that weekend because I was convinced that I was having a miscarriage.  At my first appointment the next week, we could see you, but not your heartbeat.  So I had to panic/pray for another week until we finally got to see that first little flicker.  Daddy and Annalyn were with me this time, too.

- I started throwing up about a week later, just a day or two after my birthday.  For my bday, I'd asked that we go to the apple orchard, then make homemade apple butter and raspberry jam (from our garden).  I haven't been able to eat either of them because the smell/thought still makes me nauseated. 

- Due to being so sick, then finally feeling better, then always starving, I've had quite a series of cravings/obsessions food-wise.  Some that I remember best:
--baked potatoes (first plain, then with yogurt butter and pepper, then with just a tiny bit of cheese),
--root beer and black cherry soda (somewhat short-lived but I was obsessed there for a couple weeks),
--bagels (first with cream cheese until I got sick on it, now with yogurt butter - still, almost every morning!),
--Cinnamon Toast Crunch (later craving, love eating it dry as a snack),
--tomatoes/cumumbers with cottage cheese/spinach,
--yogurt (greek yogurt mixed with ranch as veggie dip, then fruit yogurts with granola or fruit),
--red meat (mostly because poultry turned my stomach so badly),
--Amy's frozen bean and cheddar burritos,
--ice cream cones (in a cone, usually butter pecan or mint choc chip).

- This was the first year in a long time that I haven't made a turkey for Thanksgiving (couldn't even think about it), but I was able to eat a little bit of it... though it didn't stay down for long.  I also didn't make sugar cookies or cinnamon rolls for Christmas.  Instead, Annalyn and I made chocolate chip cookies with red/green M&M's and Daddy made beef stew.  I think Santa was ok with it.

- We found out just before my family's Christmas that you were a girl (via the Progenity DNA test).  I let Annalyn tell everyone through a video I'd taken of her earlier that week.  Grandma Cindy didn't catch on right away, mostly because we didn't tell anyone we were getting the test done, so they weren't expecting the reveal until our u/s later in January.  I told Daddy the same way since Annalyn was sleeping when he got home and he couldn't wait until she woke up to tell him herself.

-  We got to see you on ultrasound exactly 9 years from our first date (also 7.5 years after our wedding).  That was really special for us, and although we didn't get great pics of you, you were so sweet to watch.  You kept putting your little hands up by your face and snuggling.  It was adorable.  I couldn't see you super clearly to tell who you look like - with Annalyn, I swore she was going to come out looking like Daddy - it's all in the forehead.  I can't wait to see what you'll look like.  I know you'll change over and over as you get older, but I'm dying to hold you and look down at your little face.  And test the old wive's tale that heartburn = hair.

-  I get insanely angry/defensive when people say things like "well, hopefully this one will be a boy" or "I guess you'll have to have at least one more to get that boy."  As if my girls are some kind of consolation prize.  I tell ya, people can be so rude!

-  Before birth, you and Annalyn already have 5 different matching outfits.  Not because I'm hoping you'll be exactly alike - I know you'll be your own little person, but there's something so sweet/fun about little girls in matching outfits.  Aunt Lindsey and I went through it without too much emotional damage.  Granted we didn't think it was so much fun at the time, but she was the first one to buy you girls matching dresses. 

-  You are a very active baby and I feel you throughout the day everyday.  Up until this week, I swear you've been doing baby yoga in there and I have to constantly "encourage" you not to stretch your little legs up into my ribs.  Sometime around 34 weeks, I feel like you've started to drop though.  I'm finally getting some relief from the heartburn, and I can take a deep(ish) breath again, but there's a lot more pressure on my hips/pelvis.  Even your little hiccups (which are almost always in the middle of the night) feel a lot lower to me.  At my last appointment, they said you seemed to be head down, so maybe you're just a planner like Mama and getting ready.  As long as you stay in and cook for a few more weeks, fine by me.

-  Your heartbeat has consistently been in the 150's.  It's always very strong and easy to find, but you do like to show off and kick and move around when the doctor's using the Doppler machine.  At least you don't seem to attack it like big sis used to.  Maybe you'll be a milder mannered little lady... but then again, you are half Daddy, half me.

-  I'm even more impatient this time, mostly because of all the people having babies this past month.  In addition to Facebook friends, there are 4 little girls on my mom's side all due within 5 months, and all but you are here now!  Three of us also have girls within 6 months of Annalyn, but last time, I was the first one due.  Plus I know what's coming this time - with Annalyn there was a lot of scary nervousness, too, like "wow, we're going to be parents!"  That being said, I also feel more prepared - we already have everything we need, including some frozen meals and a meal train that Shawna set up to have people bring us meals during your first month.  We're even going to get our double stroller this weekend, and my hospital bag is nearly packed.  I've even located all my pump parts and bottles in case we have the same breastfeeding struggles.

-  Everyone thinks I'm bigger this time and that you're going to be a lot bigger, but the truth is, we're almost identical in size to what Annalyn and I were.  You very well could be bigger at birth, but more likely due to the fact that Annalyn was nearly 3 weeks early.  My prediction is that you'll be a Memorial Day-ish baby (week to 10 days early).  Our Indy friends keep trying to plan to take Daddy to the Indy 500, because they think it'd be hilarious if I went into labor while he was there.  I have a little bit different sense of humor at the moment and beg to differ...

-  At 35 weeks, we still haven't completely decided on your middle name, but I keep coming back to Mae.  I just think it's pretty, simple, and classic.  Which goes perfectly with your first name. 

-  For the past two weeks, I wake up almost every night, go to the bathroom, and get a drink because I've had Braxton Hicks contractions.  I've had them off and on for several weeks now, but more regularly lately.  Once again, Mama's a planner - just getting ready.   Between that, your late night hiccups, my increasing body temperature, and your sister's aversion to bedtime lately, I've been one tired mama!  Once again, I guess that's just getting me ready for life with a newborn.

And that's my pregnancy up to 35 weeks in a nutshell!  Sure, not as detailed as a daily journal, but days by this point are just me complaining about my latest ache/pain/annoyance anyway.  Hoping these last 5 weeks go super quickly, as well as labor/delivery (I figure it doesn't hurt to hope, right?).  Almost there, baby girl!  Love you like crazy.



Curried Chickpea Salad

When I saw this recipe for curried chickpea salad on Pinterest, I just knew we had to try it!  Chickpeas and curry are two of our absolute favorites, and with a couple little tweaks, it was a perfect weekday meal with lots of leftovers.  Paired with whole wheat pitas and some fresh fruit, I was obsessed with this stuff.  Here's how Mama and her little helper make it:

Curried Chickpea Salad
- 1 apple, chopped
- 3 medium carrots, chopped
- 1/2 c. raisins
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped
- 1/2 c. mixed nuts, coarsely chopped
- 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 3/4 c. hummus
- juice of 1 lemon
- 2 T. curry (we like a lot, so start with less if you prefer)
- 1/2 t. garlic powder
- 1/2 t. cumin
- 1 T. cilantro paste or 2 T. freshly chopped
- 2 T. cider vinegar
- salt and pepper, to taste

Friday, April 25, 2014

Homestretch!! 20 End of Pregnancy Must-Haves

For me, the homestretch of pregnancy isn't marked by trimester or month or even week, but by milestones.  Not the fun ones like baby can hear your voice, or baby's lungs are developed, or baby's the size of some random fruit you've never heard of.  Oh no, I'm talking about what I've come to know as "end of pregnancy milestones" like swollen feet/ankles/hands/face/body, inability to get out of/into bed, sciatic nerve pain so bad it cripples me, and heartburn that makes me swear I'm turning into a dragon.  Guess which of these I hit this week?!  Yep, you guessed it - all of them! (though not as bad as they were with Annalyn... yet)  So I decided to compile a list of all of my end of pregnancy must-haves so that a) you can maybe use some of them, too, and b) I don't have to search for them so hard next time around.  Here's how Mama rides out those final weeks of waiting for baby:

1 -support belt - As I've probably mentioned in a previous post, this little guy has been a big help with both of my pregnancies.  Although I usually start wearing it to work late in my second trimester, these last couple months are when I really need it.  I hate to admit it, but lately I need it for work, grocery shopping, zoo trips, walk around the block, etc.  Basically any time I'm moving or lifting anything, I'm a lot less sore afterwards if I wear it. 
for me, the size large works from end of
second trimester when I need it until end of pregnancy
so it's pretty adjustable

2 -compression socks - Similar to the support belt, compression socks help hold me together in my last weeks of pregnancy.  Since I've just started to notice some swelling this week, I got out the light compression socks (sometimes listed as travel or nursing socks) that provide just a little added compression.  Some are even graded compression so they are tighter in areas you need it most (like feet and ankles).  They aren't comfortable or stylish or easy to put on in the morning, but man does it help with swelling, soreness, and tiredness after a long day at work.  With Annalyn, I eventually worked my way up to higher compression (20-30mmHg) socks (these to be exact), but I also waited until the swelling was pretty pronounced to start wearing them.  Hopefully, by starting now, I'll avoid the tighter ones a while longer.  They come in a lot of different brands/styles/colors, but I prefer the knee high athletic sock type.  They are just more comfortable than the pantyhose or trouser socks in my opinion.  Each manufacturer should have a sizing chart that may include calf measurements to ensure proper fit.  Here's a couple I've used:

(higher compression, really tight!)
(lower compression)

3 -ring holder necklace - For me, this is just another reality of end of pregnancy - eventually, my wedding ring will no longer fit.  I noticed it getting snug over the weekend (probably a combination of too much salt, too much time on my feet, and hotter temperatures), and was super excited to find this ring holder necklace on Etsy for $40.  Granted, any necklace/string/piece of yarn would work, but I liked the idea of having a clasp that would minimize wear and tear to my ring.  Plus it's shaped like a heart - win/win!  The price was right (especially compared to similar ones that were close to $200!) and the shop owners were very friendly and shipped the necklace right away.
I just love how it looks with my ring on it
so simple, but so pretty!

4 -notes from my hubby - This could also read supportive, understanding husband, but some days I swear the little notes he leaves me just make my whole day.  On my days off, I usually don't get up before he leaves so he will write me little notes and leave them on the table for me to find.  Honestly, this isn't a new thing, he's been doing it for years, but I love how they've evolved from notes/lists to me to notes/lists to me plus notes to Annalyn and even Emelina sometimes.  Usually they are words of encouragement, thanks, and love, with the occasional reminder thrown in (which I always appreciate now that my brain is mush half the time).  Lately they're mostly things like "be sure to rest!"  "put your feet up,"  "have fun and snuggle Annalyn," and "don't worry about the laundry, I'll do it when I get home."  Mostly, I just love that while he's drinking his morning coffee and reading the news, he's thinking about us.  Written words are such a lost art.  I still remember my best friend from high school telling me how his dad would eat breakfast on a paper plate then write his wife a note on it before he left for the day.  I remember thinking "wow, she must feel special each morning!"  And here I am a decade later with a husband who does just that (and no, I never told him that story, he's just that considerate).  Lucky lady.  A supportive spouse/partner/friend/relative is definitely key to keeping those crazy emotions in check.

5 -pregnancy pillow - Again, I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but this little guy definitely helps me attempt comfort at night.  Notice how I say attempt.  I'm pretty sure I'm past the comfortable sleeping stage.  If I remember right, it comes back somewhere around 6 months postpartum when baby starts sleeping through the night.  But this curved pillow does help minimize pressure on my hips and keep me from sleeping completely flat on my back (which I find myself attempting a lot lately due to heartburn, hip/pelvic pain, and general sleep comfort).  I'm sure a body pillow would help, too, but I really do love the curved shape of this one.  If you can afford to splurge, do it!

apparently comfy for daddies, too!
(I found him this way over Easter weekend - I guess he needed nap time like Peanut)

6 -lists... lots and lots of lists.  What to pack in a hospital bag.  What we need to get out of the attic.  What needs cleaned/organized/purchased for baby.  Meals to freeze.  Pictures to take.  Plans for Annalyn.  Things to get done around the house before baby.  Things to get done at work before baby.  Numbers to call for insurance/maternity leave once baby comes.  Lists of other lists I need to make... Ok, so maybe not that last one, but you get the picture.  Lists keep me sane.  Lists help my totally preoccupied mind focus.  Lists give Michael some insight into my priorities (sometimes they're even numbered).  Lists are a must for this mama.

7 -water - this might seem like a strange addition to the list, but water intake is so important at this stage.  Water helps minimize swelling (sounds counter intuitive, but it's true).  I try very hard to consciously drink more water, especially at work.  I don't really have any secret tricks to help with this one, but I've tried fun water bottles, straws, adding lemon slices, etc.  To be honest, nothing seems to work better than the other for me.  I just know that I have to do it.

8 -TUMS! - I hope the old wives' tale is true that the more heartburn you have, the more hair baby will have, because if so, Emelina will have lots like Annalyn did!  Just like last time, I have constant heartburn.  I have heartburn when I'm hungry.  Heartburn after eating.  More heartburn after drinking lots of water (yes, even water does it!).  And heaven forbid I wake up at night because, WOW, more heartburn!  Hence the Tums - about 6-8 a day to be exact.  On the bright side, my kids and I should have super strong bones!

9 -comfy shoes - This is an absolute must for any mama-to-be, but especially those of us required to be on our feet a lot.  I recommend shoes that stretch but have support, and about a half a size bigger than usual for the end of pregnancy swelling and/or thick compression socks.  I have two pairs that I'm currently rotating and both seem to stand up to my 13 hour days.  One is a pair of black leather Sperry's that I've had for a couple years, so they're very broken in and comfy (sorry, can't find the exact link, I've had them forever!).  The other is these Sketchers Go Walks, also in black, because basically everything I wear to work is black or at least goes with black.  They are very light, don't even need broken in, and don't look completely ridiculous with skirts/dresses (a major plus for me lately!).

10 -bra extenders - I don't know how it took me so long to buy these, but I finally realized that instead of buying bigger and bigger bras, I could just extend them a bit and keep wearing them.  These probably saved me a lot of money and will allow me to wear some of the same bras once baby is born.  Seriously, a game changer in the expanding chest department.  I found this 3-pack of nude/black/white extenders at Target for about $7.

11 -stretchy pants/dresses - I've worn these throughout my pregnancy, but now I'm basically down to just stretchy pants, skirts, and dresses.  For whatever reason, I hate the big elastic waist bands this pregnancy.  In fact, aside from my support belt, I can't stand to have anything tight around my waist.  Luckily, it's spring, so I can get away with wearing a lot more skirts and dresses.  The great thing about a lot of maternity dresses/skirts is that I'll be able to wear them this summer after baby is born, too.  Most are even stretchy enough to accommodate breast feeding.  Here's a few of my favorites this time around:
     - Old Navy:
these roll-panel yoga pants;
this ruffle front maxi dress in both coral and turquoise;
this chevron maxi skirt (also in black);
these low rise leggings to wear under dresses for work or when it's cool outside.

     - Target:
this Liz Lange sleeveless maxi dress in both navy and coral striped (when I find something I like at this point, I just go all out).
Another quick note:  especially in the spring/fall, light cardigans are a must!  The open front bolero kind or even button up ones that can be left open.  I don't think any of mine are actual maternity ones, just regular cardigans from my non-pregnant wardrobe (I love when I wear "normal" clothes!)

12 -ON maternity tank tops - I wear one of these jersey knit tanks almost every single day.  I use them to layer underneath tops/dresses, especially for work when I'm wearing the support belt (not very comfortable on bare skin).  They are really long so they are great to layer with many of my shirts that are starting to feel too short to wear comfortably.  Lately, I've even been sleeping in them since I've been really hot at night.  They are soft, inexpensive, and come in a variety of colors.  Plus, I was able to wear them after pregnancy, so I didn't feel bad about buying say, six of them total (watch for sales and stock up!).

13 -help/support/friends - these sort of all go together and go without saying, but everyone needs help and support from friends and family during this time.  Especially with subsequent pregnancies.  I can't do everything on my own and sometimes forget how much I need my friends, even if it's just for an afternoon out or dinner/ice cream while we try out our new nanny.  It helps so much to just vent, talk about something other than my giant belly, and enjoy some adult time.  Not to mention knowing they are all just a phone call away any time I need them.  You definitely shouldn't have to go through all this without your friends - take time to spend with them now since soon you'll be a little preoccupied with cuteness/tiredness overload.

14 -sleep/rest - perfect segue to my next point - SLEEP!  I know everyone says it, especially with your first, but sleep as much as possible now.  Not only am I ready for bed before Annalyn, but I'm starting to recall all too well the inevitable sleepless nights ahead.  I can only imagine how those first weeks will go with a toddler also in the mix.  I took full advantage of this the first time (in fact, I remember napping the morning before my water broke with Annalyn - coincidence?  Probably not.  I'm guessing my body was gearing up!).  To be honest, it's a little harder to nap when Annalyn naps since it's the only me time I get in a day, but I have been really good about going to bed after I tuck her in and sleeping in as long as possible on my days off.

15 -fruit - cold, juicy, sweet, healthy.  I just can't get enough!  Favorites have been cantaloupe, honey dew, and strawberries, but it all tastes good.  For an extra special treat, try my frozen fruit slush recipe.

16 -dry cereal - especially Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  I had the same craving at the end of my first pregnancy.  I think it's the sugar and spice part of what little girls are made of.  It'll be interesting to test this theory if I ever have a little boy... hopefully I won't crave snails and puppy dog tails (isn't that how it goes?).

17 -Quick or make ahead meals with leftovers - The other day, I made a list of some of our go-to meals that are quick, easy, and don't involve me standing over a hot stove for a long time. (Many can be found in either my Working Mama Meal post or the Freeze Ahead Meals post.)  Lately, I've just had a hard time coming up with meal plans off the top of my head, so it helped to write some ideas down to pull from each week while making grocery lists.  Especially because I just want to grill burgers every day that it's nice.   Leftovers are also clutch so I have something to take to work the next day and Michael & Annalyn have dinner.  Easy lunch ideas are another area I've been working hard to improve.  As busy as I've been, I rarely take time to make complicated lunches, so I need meals that work well in a hurry (or provide leftovers from the night before).  Especially for work days, I've really started trying to plan/prepare everything the night before so I just have to grab it in the morning - meals, snacks, drinks, everything! (including Annalyn's lunches for the nanny).

18 -pregnancy journal/blog - to capture all the memories, good and bad.   With Annalyn, I kept a very detailed daily journal, and my intention was to do so with this pregnancy, but it just didn't pan out.  Honestly, it's easier and more fun to blog about it anyway.  I am grateful to be able to look back and compare, especially for times like now when everyone at work keeps telling me things like "you're soooo much bigger than last time!" and "wow, they must have your due date wrong, because you're about to pop!"  Well, actually, my measurements and weight are exactly the same - as in down to the centimeter and pound.  At one point they were actually slightly smaller.  And judging by this picture and my comments in my old journal, I'm way less swollen and uncomfortable at this point.  So I'm glad I can go back and look, even if it's just to prove to myself that I'm right where I should be.   Not to mention, it's nice to be prepared for what's coming next and remember what my doctor suggested to help, or I found that worked best.

19 -prenatal Pilates video - although I admittedly don't do this nearly as often as I should/did with Annalyn, it does help with flexibility.  I struggle with hip problems and sciatic nerve pain throughout pregnancy, but by the end it's pretty much impossible to do most of these exercises.  But it doesn't stop me from trying.  And Annalyn - oh man, a two year old "dancing to pilates with Mama!" is hilarious!  I even lay a little blanket down for her as her mat.

20 -massage roller - I had almost forgotten how much I loved this thing until I rediscovered it last week.  Looks simple, but feels great on a sore back.  They had them at our childbirth class we went to before Annalyn was born and I loved them so much I found them online later that same night.  I especially like to sit on our ottoman and lean over a pillow on the couch - have to get creative when you can't just lay on your belly for a massage.  They also offer prenatal massages at our hospital (and probably some spas?), but I'm freaked out by the idea of people touching me.  Not just pregnant, always.  I also have a thing about pedicures, so I'm still struggling to reach my toes enough to keep them painted.  But I digress... back to the Omni massage rollers

This might seem like a lengthy list, but I tried to cover all areas - clothes, food, tangibles, intangibles, you name it.  Literally anything I might need/want during my last couple months (weeks!) of pregnancy.  Granted, many of these I've used throughout pregnancy and even afterwards, but this is my go-to list for the time being.  Don't think you have to go out and buy all of the clothes/products I suggested - everyone and every pregnancy is different - but if you happen to experience some of the same things, here's a reference to come back to.  What are/were your go-to's as you counted down to D-day?  (fun fact:  my due date is on actual D-day this time.   One of my favorite patients who's also a veteran got quite a kick out of that when he asked me when D-day was, meaning my due date.)  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Baked Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Pineapple & Dill

I know this post is about a week late, but I had to share Michael's unique birthday dinner/"cake" we made for him.  Don't worry, he got a real cake later in the week when Dan, Shawna, and Remy came to visit.  But I couldn't let his birthday pass without singing and candles.  Annalyn enjoys it way too much!  That past weekend I'd made baked ham and cheese sandwiches similar to a recipe I'd seen on Pinterest, and while getting groceries for them, Michael discovered this giant King's Hawaiian roll the size of a pie plate.  He was pretty excited about it, so I told him I'd make a special sandwich cake for his birthday.  Here's how Mama makes it:

Baked Ham and Cheese Sandwich with Pineapple & Dill

- 1 large Hawaiian roll, or 1 package of small rolls
- 1/2 stick butter
- 2 T. brown sugar
- 1 c. chopped pineapple
- 2 T. prepared mustard
- 1/2 T. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 t. dill weed
- 12 slices honey ham
- 5 slices provolone cheese (12 slices if using small rolls)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Freeze Ahead Meals: Meatloaf, Taco Meat, Enchiladas, and Loose Meat Sandwiches

One of the strangest things for me with my second pregnancy has been the nesting instinct.  With Annalyn, it was easy - I had to get the nursery ready, clothes washed/organized, essentials purchased/cleaned/organized and reorganized when I decided my original method made no sense (mostly because I had no idea what would make sense once she was actually here), books to read, blankets/booties/hats to knit, and impending parenthood to ponder/look forward to/stress about.  I definitely had plenty to keep me busy. 

This time around, I have more than enough to keep me busy (things like a two yr old, full time job, etc.), but in terms of getting ready for baby, not so much.  The nursery's already done, including a big girl bed for Annalyn so she doesn't resent baby for taking over her crib.  I've gone through all the giant tubs of baby clothes and made room for them.  I even finished knitting her blanket last week (big relief!) and bought cute little matching outfits for the girls for the day we bring her home.  Michael has a list of things to retrieve from the attic (car seat, burp clothes, etc.) and hopefully with nagging he will get them down within a couple weeks.  We've hired our new nanny and made plans with friends/family for when baby makes her arrival.  I've even started collecting items for my hospital bag since Annalyn came 3 weeks early.  Truly, we are almost ready!  Yet, I feel like I should be doing more. 

So in an effort to feel productive and do something, I decided to start making a few freeze ahead meals for my last weeks of pregnancy/first weeks of new baby.  I made a few of these before Annalyn and along with meals that our friends/family/neighbors brought, we were so grateful for them.  Since my time is much more accounted for these days, I decided it would be best to carefully plan the preparation of these meals to be as efficient as possible.  So day one of freezer meals included all ground beef recipes:  meatloaf, taco meat, beef enchiladas, and loose meat sandwich meat.  To be honest, I was very impressed with how quickly and easily these all came together.  Take a look at how our day went:

Day one of my last vacation before Emelina arrives:
- 10 am:  OB appointment with Annalyn (and office was running about 40 min behind)
- 11:30 - 12:30pm:  groceries (to buy the ingredients) and birthday treat delivery to Tammy at the pharmacy
- 1 - 3pm:  lunch and snuggles with Peanut
- 3 - 5pm:  naptime for Peanut and cooking like mad for Mama!  I successfully made 6 freezer meals all while she was napping.  Whew!  Talk about a feeling of accomplishment.  Special thanks to my Michael for helping clean up the mess and grilling brats for dinner.

Here's how Mama coordinated it:

Ground Beef Freezer Meals

Ingredient list:  (includes 1 meatloaf, 2 qt. bags taco meat, 2 pans of 6 enchiladas each, and 1 qt. bag loose meat sandwich meat)

- 6 lbs. ground beef
- 3 large or 4 medium onions, chopped (can be done ahead!)
- 2 cans black beans
- 1 (7 oz.) can chopped green chiles
- 1 (5 3/4 oz.) jar sliced green olives
- 2 ( 3.8 oz.) cans sliced black olives
- 4 pkg taco seasoning
- 2 T. mustard
- 2 T. cider vinegar
- 1 T. brown sugar
- 1 pkg Ritz crackers, crushed
- 1 T. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 t. Lawry's seasoning salt
- 2 eggs
- 24 oz. white Velveeta cheese
- 1 1/2 c. fat free sour cream
- 12 tortillas
- 2/3 c. shredded cheddar
- salt and pepper as needed
- quart freezer bags
- 8 inch square foil pan
- two 9x13" foil pans
- aluminum foil and plastic wrap

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Snack Attack: Almond Joy Refrigerator Oats

Here's a delicious, filling snack/breakfast treat based on one of my favorite candy bars.  The best part - it's made up ahead of time and the refrigerator does most of the work for you!  I usually mix it up the night before or the morning of if I plan to have it as a late afternoon snack.  It can be served cold like porridge or warm like traditional oatmeal.  Either way, it's delicious and probably better for me than eating candy bars all day!  Here's how Mama makes it:

Almond Joy Refrigerator Oats

equal parts (I usually do 1/4 c. servings, but lately I've used 1/3 c. since I'm soooo hungry!):
- steel cut or rolled oats
- coconut Greek yogurt
- low-fat milk (cow's, almond, soy, whatever you like)
2 T. each
- mini chocolate chips
- sweetened coconut
- slivered almonds

1.  In a small bowl, mix oats, yogurt, and milk.  Place in refrigerator overnight or at least 6-8 hours to soften the oats.

2.  When ready to eat, either heat the oats first (if serving warm), or add remaining ingredients, stir, and enjoy!  I really like to eat these cold lately since it's been warmer outside, but it's good either way.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Peanut Post: Dates with Mama & Daddy

Dear Annalyn,

Just in case your amazing little memory doesn't remember these last few months of being an only child, I wanted to put into writing some of the fun and special dates Daddy and I have had with you lately.  Recognizing that it's only going to get harder and wanting to celebrate the change our family is about to undergo, we've been making an effort to have more Peanut dates.  After the crazy cold and snowy winter we had, I made the rule that nice weather days don't go wasted, no matter what.  I don't care if the house is a wreck, it messes up your nap schedule, or I can hardly move by the end of the day (sitting with my feet up on my days off is so much harder this time!).

As a result, we've had some pretty amazing days and experiences together lately. 

1.  We've made the most of our zoo membership with several trips this spring already.  I've even gotten ambitious and taken you by myself a few times!  Your zoo highlights consist of:  (narrated mostly in third person because we can't convince you otherwise right now)

"She saw the rhinos!  I want to get closer... I want to kiss the rhinos! And hug 'em!"

"The bridge is bouncy.  Hop, hop, hop!"

"The butterfly was on my hand! It tickled.  She kissed the butterfly.  Fly, fly, fly little butterfly!"

"Little baaaaby elephant!  Him's tiny!"

"We ate dots!  Pink dots!"  (dip 'n dots)

"She pushed the stroller"

"It's a girl lion.  She roared!"

"I want to wear glasses like Mommy."

"Them's little baby racoons!  Cute little baby ones!"  (talking about the lemurs)

Snack Attack: Greek Yogurt with Apple, Blueberry, & Hazelnut

Next stop on healthy snack journey - a yummy greek yogurt mixed with cinnamon and topped with fruit and nuts.  Another of Elizabeth's awesome snacking tips was plain greek yogurt with apples and cinnamon.  It reminded me of an apple and blueberry salad I used to make when I was losing the baby weight with Annalyn.  In the past I've made it with walnuts, but decided to treat myself to hazelnuts I found at Trader Joe's.  This recipe is great because it's very flexible - add/substitute really any fruit/nut combination you have on hand (I really like the addition of grapes to this mixture, too!).  Here's how Mama makes it:

Greek Yogurt with Apple, Blueberry, & Hazelnut

Ingredients: (I chopped up a bunch to share with the family.  I'm sorry to say I don't have an exact serving size on this one - Michael used some in a salad, Annalyn ate it with lunch, I took some to work on yogurt, ate some with oatmeal the next day.  It lasted us a few days though.)

- 2 granny smith apples, cored and chopped
- 1 pint blueberries, rinsed
- 2 T. lemon juice
- 1/4-1/3 c. hazelnuts (can substitute walnuts, pecans, almonds, or a mix)
- plain greek yogurt and cinnamon
(I used a scant 1/2 c. of the fruit/nut mixture with about 1/4 c. yogurt, 1/4 t. cinnamon per serving)


1.  Core and chop the apples, rinse blueberries.  Combine the two in a medium bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice (to keep apples from browning).  Stir in the hazelnuts, refrigerate until ready to eat.

2.  Mix 1/4 c. plain greek yogurt with 1/4 t. cinnamon (more or less to taste).  Top with fruit/nut mix and enjoy!