Monday, December 31, 2012

Liam's First Christmas

This month really got away from me!  Between working a lot of extra tutoring hours, trying to get my Christmas shopping and baking done, attending Christmas parties, and still trying to get a little sleep, there was just no time for blogging!

But it was all worth it because Christmas was wonderful.  It didn't go quite the way we planned it out, but it was wonderful anyways.

The Sunday before Christmas, we had our celebration with Korey's family, and Liam had his first present-opening experience!  He didn't really know what to do, but he loved crinkling the paper, and he loved his toy once we got it out of the package for him.

(Also, I'm so in love with his Christmas outfit from Target - the shirt says "Gift to all the Ladies" and there's a Santa on the butt.)

Liam definitely learned what the point of wrapping paper is though, because the morning after I'd wrapped all the gifts he found the wrapping paper I'd left out in the kitchen (oops!) and made a HUGE mess, laughing the whole time. : D

Christmas Eve we drove to my parent's house in Ohio, where we spent the next few days. Christmas Eve was so hectic, that I didn't get any pictures of Liam in his church outfit or of the annual Christmas Eve party my parents always have. But here are some shots of Liam with his presents on Christmas morning.  He liked to use his teeth to open his presents and also enjoyed climbing on the boxes more than what was inside. 

Love this photo of our little family!  This was probably our 12th attempt.

We were supposed to drive to Pittsburgh on Christmas Day to celebrate with extended family, but we ended up canceling our plans because of the impending snow storm.  We wouldn't have had any trouble getting there, but were worried about the drive back on Wednesday.  I was sad not to go, but it would have been a nightmare to drive back in that storm with a baby in the car, so I am glad we didn't attempt that.

Since we didn't go to Pittsburgh, we were snowed-in at my parent's house and had two glorious days of lounging around in our jammies with hot chocolate, new toys, and good books.  It was wonderful.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!  One of my goals for the new year is to blog more, so expect to hear more from me! :)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Flinns!

A little late, but Merry Christmas!  Somehow in the week before Christmas, we managed to get a few Christmas-card-worthy (Christmas cards that are ready to drop in the mail, and I still have yet to send - seriously) shots of Liam in the 2.5 minutes between work and a Christmas party.  Thanks to my amazing sister Emily for taking these photos!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmastime is (Finally) Here

Our new house is finally coming together, and the best part is that we finally got our Christmas tree up this weekend!!  It makes it feel so much more cozy and homey in here.  Our little tree is always one of my favorite parts about Christmas.

I also managed to get a few pictures of Liam in his Christmas jammies kind of in front of the tree.  Trying to remember to take the time to enjoy and document Liam's first Christmas amid the craziness of the season and settling into our new home.

Now, if only I could finish my Christmas shopping and be better at staying under my grocery budget.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy 9 Months Liam!

Can't believe my baby is 9 months old today!

Easily 9 of the best (and sometimes toughest) months of my life. I love this little bugger more than words can say!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Chicken Taco Chili

A hearty, healthy crock-pot meal perfect for winter (even though it's been 60 degrees here in the mid-west this week, we can still pretend that it's snuggle-up weather).

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 can black beans
1 can light red kidney beans
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 can original Rotel (or mild if you don't like it too spicy)
1 packet taco seasoning
1 packet ranch seasoning
1 bag frozen corn

Combine all ingredients except corn in your crock pot and cook on HIGH for about 3 hours.  Set temp down to low or warm and remove chicken breasts.  Stir in the corn.  Shred the chicken breast and return to the pot.  Allow about 10 mins or so for the corn to warm up, and then serve.  I like to serve it with shredded cheese and corn muffins.

Makes approx. 6 servings. (Below nutrition information is per serving and does not include cheese unfortunately.)

359 calories
2g fat
56g carb
30g protein

Sunday, December 2, 2012

When Not To Move

I just really don't recommend to anyone moving into a new place on a weekend that your husband is scheduled to work three twelve hour overnight shifts and while you have a cranky teething baby that does not want to sleep in his new room. This has definitely been a weekend that I'm not eager to relive.

But here we are in our new house! Everything will get unpacked eventually and we'll get settled in. I really hope that we live here for more than a year ( we've moved almost every year since we got married in 2009) so that it can really feel like home.

Monday, November 26, 2012

When Things Don't Quite Go As Planned...

Let's just say, our Holiday weekend didn't turn out as I had pictured it would.

The plan was to begin all our own family traditions on Liam's first Thanksgiving, but Thursday, I woke up with the stomach flu.  Talk about the worst day of the year to not be able to eat anything, yup, it's Thanksgiving Day.  Our travel plans were cancelled, and I spent the entire day in bed or in the bathroom.  I was thankful that we are still with my in-laws so that my husband was still able to eat a Thanksgiving meal and that he had some help with a cranky, teething baby.

The plan was to move into our new house this weekend, but the carpets and other flooring isn't finished being installed yet, so we half-moved.  My amazing, wondering parents came out from Ohio to help us.  My dad and Korey busted their butts and loaded and unloaded the U-Haul all by themselves while my mom and I took turns packing and watching Liam.  It is tough moving with an 8-month old, but we made it work.  I am so thankful to have a husband that works so hard and parents that help us so much!

The plan was to move into our new place with dishes (doesn't seem that unusual, right?), but in the process of packing a box wasn't sealed tight enough to hold it's contents and all of our dishes crashed to the floor and shattered (only one plate survived!).  I was thankful that my mom was there because otherwise I might have cried.  And I was thankful that I had others there to help me clean up that mess and to make sure that Liam didn't get into it.

The plan was for Liam to sleep in his crib in his room in our old apartment on Saturday night, but that just did  NOT happen.  I don't know if it was because the room was unfamiliar, he didn't like his crib, he was just over tired, or his teeth were bothering him, but every time we laid him in his crib he just screamed and trembled.  He ended up sleeping with Korey and me on blankets on the floor in our bedroom.  He was so restless all night; I felt like I couldn't get him to stay still for more than 5 minutes at a time.  He definitely didn't sleep for more than a few hours total.  But I was thankful that even in the middle of the night, my sweet boy can still make me smile.

The plan was to start getting settled into our new place and start this week feeling fresh and new, but I ended up sleeping through my first alarm this morning and being 15 minutes late for work without coffee, breakfast, or lunch.  But I am thankful for my job and that I work for understanding and kind bosses.  I'm thankful for my sister who's hugs help a Monday not seem so bad.  I am thankful that I made it through my long day, and that my baby was still awake when I got home for me to snuggle.  I am thankful for my mother-in-law that is so willing to watch Liam for us all the time.

I am thankful for all the offers of help I got today for watching Liam or for unpacking or moving.  I am thankful that we will be settling into our new house by the end of this week.  I am thankful for the smiles of good friends and the smell of Johnson and Johnson baby shampoo.  And I am thankful for this life because it is mine.

And I really didn't mean for this post to get so sappy, but it's all true.  Because sometimes things don't go as planned, but that helps us realize all the more the things we are most thankful for.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Losing the Pregnancy Pounds: Part One - My Backstory

A series of posts about losing the weight I gained with my pregnancy.  I didn't start this blog to be a weight loss blog, but it is a big part of my life right now so I can't help writing about it.  This series of posts will be on going; it will be a struggle through the holidays, but after Christmas, I plan to get much more serious about it.  

Part One: My Backstory (aka the post in which I talk A LOT about my weight)

I have pretty much struggled with my weight and my body image my whole life.  I was always a little chubbier as a kid; in middle school/early high school, I knew I was bigger than all my friends (or at least felt like I was), but didn't know what to do about it.  My senior year of high school, I still felt big, but looking back I was actually pretty thin.  I think I lost weight just from being busy all the time, staying active, and not eating much.  Then when I got to college, I gained the freshman 15 pretty quickly and it stuck with me.  I lost a tiny bit of that for my wedding, but then gained back even more during the "honeymoon" phase of my marriage (what, let's order a pizza and watch a movie and snuggle? ok!).

Then, in January of 2011, something just CLICKED for me.  I had reached my highest weight ever, and I was just didn't want to be overweight anymore.  So I made a new year's resolution, and stuck with it for the first time in my life.  I started counting all my calories - staying within 1200-1500 calories per day with one cheat day per week.  And I started working out like I never had before.  I began with Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred DVD and two three pound weights.  I did the DVD for 30 days in a row with out skipping one day, and I counted my calories everyday for four weeks straight, and I lost nine pounds that January.  And it stuck.  I kept counting calories, I kept working out.  My husband and I joined a gym; we tried food we'd never even heard of before (spaghetti squash anyone?); I started running when I'd HATED running, and I eventually ran 4 miles straight.  And from January-July 2011, I lost over 30 pounds.

Then, I found out I was pregnant with Liam.  Which was SO exciting.  But with my pregnancy, I just forgot what it meant to eat healthy and exercise.  I pretty much stopped exercising in my first trimester because I was so exhausted all the time.  All my cravings were bad for me; vegetables NEVER sounded good.  The smell of coffee made me sick, so I started drinking Coke everyday for the caffeine (but not more than I was supposed to have, don't worry).  And the calories just added up and up, and I wasn't exercising so the weight just kept piling on and on.  I tried a little harder towards the end of my pregnancy because I was getting such a hard time from my doctor for gaining so much weight, but it was too late.  And at the time, I was convinced that it was all water weight.

But here I am, eight months after giving birth, with at least 20 extra pounds on me, and I just can't get that "clicked" feeling back.  Oh, I've tried.  I've planned and counted and ran and Zumba-ed, and I have lost, but only about 7 pounds in the past 6 months.  I'll have a moment, and I'll think that it's "clicked" and that I'm ready to go and do this thing for good, but it only lasts about a week usually, and then I'm back to eating whatever I feel like again - picking up a bag of Reeses cups at the store, snatching a cookie off the table every single time I walk by, eating out and ordering whatever I feel like.  About two weeks ago, I started on My Fitness Pal, counting calories and attending Zumba and Dance Aerobics classes like it was my job.  Sweating three days a week and eating salads for lunch - I lost 2.5 pounds!  And then I promptly fell off that wagon.  I'm finding it hard to stay motivated with the holidays coming up, and I don't want to give up, but I don't want to give it my all either.  And I know from experience that losing weight really takes 100% dedication.  

I really wanted to be down to my pre-pregnancy weight before Liam's first birthday, but I still have 20+ pounds to go and with the holidays coming up and less than 4 months until that milestone, I don't think that's a realistic goal anymore.  I honestly will settle for maintaining through the holidays, and starting fresh at January 1, though that will definitely be settling.  

I'm hoping that once we move into our new place, and I have more control over the grocery shopping and the cooking again, that I will do better and that I will lose more weight.  But I can't tell yet whether that is just me putting it off again  or if that'll really happen.  All I know is that I have a box full of clothes from "skinnier days" that I will not get rid of because I KNOW that I will fit into them again someday.  

I FEEL like I'm ready to lose this weight, but my motivation and willpower are feeling differently.  I just need to figure out how to get those things to catch up.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Reality Check

I think I'm in for a BIG reality check in the coming weeks.

For some reason, I have this idea that once we move into our new place, life will be all sunshine and roses and perfection. But really, nothing about this new house is going to change the way we live our lives.

I will still be super busy with both of my jobs and taking Liam back and forth to my in-laws. My husband will still work a difficult schedule. Our dining room table will still be covered in mail and the scraps from everyone's pockets. There will still be baby toys and baby gear scattered across my living room. And the bathroom mirror will still be covered in splatters most of the time. The only thing that might be different is that the piles of clothes everywhere might be clean instead of dirty because we will now have a washer and dryer.

But I will have my own place again, and that will be marvelous.

Friday, November 16, 2012

A New Place to Call Home

I haven't been very good at keeping up with my November 30 Days of Thanks challenge.  But I am particularly thankful for one thing recently.

Our new home!

For anyone that doesn't know, we have been living with my in-laws for the past 6 weeks.  My husband had been working as a manager for Target for the past year, and I work as an administrative assistant at our alma mater, Anderson University.  We were living in a great little apartment on the north side of Indy, but we both commuted about 40 minutes in opposite directions.  Then, when we had Liam, my commute was even further because I had to drop him off at either my mother-in-laws or daycare every morning.  Korey absolutely hated his job  and was constantly looking for something new.  And in late September, he finally landed on a position at AU too - as a police officer (he graduated with a degree in criminal justice).  It didn't make sense for both of us to commute that far every day in the same direction, so we knew we had to move.  Unfortunately, our lease wasn't up until November, and there was no way we would be able to afford to pay two rents every month.  We also knew we would save loads of money in gas if we moved in with family.  So here we are.

We are lucky to have parents that welcome us to move in with them when we need to, but I am so looking forward to moving into our own place again!  It took us a long time to find a place with the perfect combination: in our price range (aka cheap), not shabby, and not in a shady neighborhood.  TOUGH.  

Finally, about 2 weeks ago, this place popped up in the classified ads at my work, and I called immediately.  What a gem!  It is on a quiet cul-de-sac street in a decent part of town, was right on budget, and even has a washer & dryer!!!  (We've never lived in a place with our own washer & dryer before, so I am PUMPED to say the least.)  The landlord is fantastic and is replacing all the flooring in the living room, kitchen, and bathroom before we move in, and it even has a garage!  It doesn't have a dishwasher, but I decided that wasn't a deal breaker and that the washer & dryer made up for it.  It's also pretty small and has small closets, so we will likely be utilizing some creative organization ideas (hello, pinterest!).  

Anyway, we will be moving before the end of the month, and  I couldn't be happier about it!  I can't wait to have my own kitchen to cook and bake in and to decorate for Christmas!!  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Fall Favorite Recipe: Turkey Chili

Super comforting, but still really healthy - this recipe is one of my favorites for fall.


1/4 cup canola oil
1 small red onion
3 medium carrots
2 small yellow squash
2 small zucchini
1 tsp cilantro
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp paprika
1 lb extra lean ground turkey
2 cans (14.5 oz each) fire roasted chopped tomatoes
24 oz can mild or medium salsa

First, chop or slice all your veggies.  It really doesn't matter, however you like them.  Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Saute the onion, then add the carrots, squash, and zucchini.  I usually chop them while the onion is cooking and add them as I go, and I usually add the carrots first so they have time to cook longer.  Cook until veggies are soft, stirring often.  While they cook, mix together cilantro, chili powder, cumin, and paprika.  When veggies are soft, stir in half of the spice mixture, and then transfer veggies to a separate bowl and set aside.  
Add the turkey to the pot and cook until browned.  Stir in the remainder of the spice mixture.  Return the veggies to the pot and add the cans of tomatoes and the salsa.  Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring often.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

Garnish with shredded cheese and/or sour cream. 

Makes 6 servings:
296 calories
11g fat
24g carb
24g protein 

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Catching up again.

7. I'm thankful that neither my husband nor I will have to work a retail job this holiday season (first time ever!!)

8. I am so thankful for the way God was worked in our lives and brought us to the place we are in right now: with both of us working jobs we love at a place we can call home (our alma mater) and that we will hopefully be in this place for a while.

9.  I'm thankful that, even though money is tight and can seem like a struggle sometimes, we are able to pay the bills we have.

10.  I'm thankful for coffee, because without it today would have been a struggle.

11.  I am so extremely thankful for all the men and women that have dedicated their lives to defending our country and our freedoms so that my family can feel comfortable and safe everyday.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day!

Today, I am thankful that I live in a country that let's me vote for WHOEVER I WANT.

I'm a person that can be VERY influenced by peer pressure, and I also HATE conflict (I used to hate talking about politics so much, that I would just pretend to agree with whoever was talking to me about it so that they would just drop it and so that we wouldn't have to debate), so I really appreciate that once I get into that polling booth, no one is watching me and I can mark the candidates I really want to vote for and no one has to know.

I don't talk about politics on my blog (I barely talk about it with my mom and my husband, so why would I talk about it on my blog), but I really enjoyed exercising my right to vote today, and I hope you will too!

Monday, November 5, 2012

November: 30 Days of Thanks

I'm a little behind, so I'm catching up today.
  1. I'm thankful that I have a husband that puts the needs of his family before his own.
  2. I'm thankful to have in-laws that welcome us to move in with them when we need to!
  3. I'm more than thankful that my son is happy and HEALTHY and here with us.
  4. I'm thankful for my mom, dad, and sisters that are always, always there for me and help us in anyway that they can.
  5. I'm thankful for a job that I love and bosses and coworkers that truly care about me and my family.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

This is, hands down, my favorite thing to do with spaghetti squash.


1 spaghetti squash
1 large yellow onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 bell peppers, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp basil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 lb sweet Italian turkey sausage
2 cups mozzarella/parmesan shredded cheese blend

1. Roast the spaghetti squash (I do mine with olive oil spray for 45 mins-1hr at 350), let cool, and scrape strands into a bowl - set aside.

2. Leave the oven on and bump the temp up to 375.

3. Remove casings from the sausage if it's links, and brown in a large skillet with olive oil.  Add onion, garlic, and peppers and cook until softened.  

4. Add crushed tomatoes, oregano, basil, and crushed red pepper.  Simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, stirring occassionally.

5. Mix the spaghetti squash strands in with the veggie mixture in the pan.  Mix it really well so the spaghetti squash is spread out.  Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with olive oil spray and then pour half of the veggie mixture into the dish.  Cover with half the cheese, then repeat the layers.
6. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbling.  Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings
211 calories
7g fat
22g carb
18g protein 

Friday, November 2, 2012

One-Hour Homemade Infant Batman Costume

It was a very last-minute decision to dress Liam up for Halloween.  I thought about it for weeks, but we really couldn't afford a costume, and I wasn't sure that I would have the time to put one together.  Plus, I kind of feel like it's cheating to take your baby trick-or-treating when they can't eat the candy.  And I didn't really want a bunch of candy laying around because I knew I would eat it.  And, to be honest, Halloween kind of snuck up on me.

But when I was at work on Wednesday, everyone was giving me a hard time about it.  And I realized that I could take him trick-or-treating on campus (they do trick-or-treating in the dorms for the community) and just take Liam around and show off his cuteness (I work with all the Resident Directors, RAs, etc. and the students that work in my office were begging me to dress him up and bring him to see them).  So I just decided to go for it.

First, I browsed the Spirit Halloween store website, and found the cutest ever batman costume.  But I knew that the chance of them still having one in stock at the store near us was nill and it was over $20, and I knew I could make one for less.

So off to Hobby Lobby I went.  

At Hobby Lobby, I got:
  • 1/2 yard black knit fabric ($3.50)
  • 2 pieces yellow felt ($0.50)
  • 2 pieces black felt ($0.50)
  • sticky velcro squares ($2.99)
Then I swung by Walmart and picked up this black zipper hoodie for $3.88 (and he can wear it again!).  

So total cost for this costume was about $12.

I printed out some pictures of bat symbols and cut them out - one big one for his chest and a smaller one for his belt.  I traced the big one onto yellow felt and cut it out and traced the small one onto black felt (with a pencil so you can see the outline!) and cut it out.  Then I cut out two long pieces of yellow felt and attached them for a long yellow belt.

Note:  It is really hard to cut felt!  My edges were so jaggedy, but I didn't really have time to care because trick-or-treating was starting in like 45 mins.

Finally I cut out two little triangles for bat ears.

Then I got to velcro-ing.  I folded the triangles down and stuck them to the top of the hood so they would stick up a little bit like bat ears.  Then stuck the big bat symbol to the front of the hoodie and attached the belt at the front and the back, with the small bat symbol at the front.
I cut a quick cape out of the black knit fabric with longer tabs of fabric that would tie around his neck.  If I would have had more time then I might have tried to make a face mask (though I doubt he would have kept it on at all) and probably would have cut the cape with a zig-zag edge cause that would have rocked, but there really wasn't time.

Then we assembled!  We already had black sweatpants and black and yellow striped socks (from a Steeler's outfit) that matched perfectly.

The belt fell off kind of quickly, I think from me carrying him around.  And he doesn't like to have his hood on, but everyone could still tell that he was the best super hero ever! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Zucchini Pizza

My new favorite recipe!!

4 cups shredded zucchini (squeeze out the moisture the best you can)
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2 cups mozzarella/parmesan mix shredded cheese
1 tsp italian seasoning
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped green pepper
2 cups pizza/marinara sauce
1 lb italian turkey sausage

Preheat oven to 400.  Mix shredded zucchini, salt, eggs, italian seasoning, and 1 cup of the cheese in a large bowl.  Spread mixture in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish (or two 8x8 dishes).  Bake this "crust" for 20 mins.  

Remove casings from turkey sausage if you're using links.  Brown sausage in a large skillet.  Add onion and green pepper and cook until a little softened.  Stir in marinara sauce and cook until heated through.  Add turkey mixture to the top of the zucchini "crust" and then top with the rest of the cheese.

At this point you can either bake it @ 400 for about 25-30 minutes or wrap it up and freeze it.  If frozen, thaw in the fridge over night and then bake.  

I usually cut it into 8 servings.  Per serving: 253 calories, 14g fat, 13g carb, and 18g protein.  

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Healthy Breakfast; Freezer Style

When I do my big freezer cooking day, I usually concentrate on making just dinners - enough to get us through two weeks.  We are generally a cereal/frozen waffles/toast for breakfast kind of family, but I was getting a little tired of that.  I also had about 6 over ripe bananas that I had to do something with.

I found the individual portioned baked oatmeal on pinterest and just decided to give it a whirl.  I'd never made anything like that before, but it ended up being super easy.  I think I expected them to turn out more like a granola bar/fiber bar, but they're a little softer/chewier than that.  They are GOOD though, and my husband loves them, so that's a win.

One of the best parts about it is you can add any topping you want or none at all depending on what you/your family likes.  And since it's just topping, you can make as many different ones as you like.  I chose to use chocolate chips because that's what we like, but I think fruit would be really good too.  

Some points about this recipe:
  • The recipe says to use stevia or honey, and I used 1/2 cup honey because that's what I already had.  It turned out great
  • It's supposed to make 18 muffins, but I feel like I could have made more.  Maybe 20?  I had to bake the remainder of the batter in a casserole dish though because I ran out of paper liners.
  • Speaking of paper liners, I wouldn't recommend them.  I will get the foil ones next time I make these.  They end of being kind of difficult to get out of the paper liner after sitting for a day.  
  • I might just stir the chocolate chips right into the batter next time, because I think that would be really good too.  I just need to be careful about not going overboard on the chocolate because that can really add unnecessary calories.
  • They freeze fabulously.  After they cooled, I just threw a bunch into a gallon size freezer bag and popped them in the freezer (you might notice a few of them look a little freezer-y in the picture) and then I just take out a couple before I go to bed and they are perfect to eat the next morning!
  • The breakdown for 18 muffins with chocolate chip topping: serving size: one muffin, 190 calories, 5g fat, 34g carb, 6g protein.
For the banana muffins, I took Skinnytaste's Low Fat Banana Nut Bread recipe, omitted the nuts, and turned it into muffins.
  • Again, I will definitely use foil muffin liners next time.  Why did I ever decide to buy paper ones?
  • The recipe calls for 7 medium bananas; I used 5 large-ish ones and they turned out great.
  • Since I was making muffins, I only baked each pan for 12-14 minutes or until the tops were golden.  
  • Made 24 muffins.
  • Breakdown: serving size: 1 muffin, 111 calories, 2g fat, 22g carb, 2g protein.
Easy, healthy breakfast for the win!!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

True Life: I'm Addicted to Freezer Cooking

Yes, it's a good bit of work.  
I usually spend a whole evening or morning prepping (finding and choosing recipes and making a grocery list), about 1.5 hours shopping (I try to be as budget conscious as possible which sometimes means going to multiple stores for the best prices on what I need), and 5 hours or so cooking.
BUT IT IS SO WORTH IT.  It is so worth not having to stress over what's for dinner during the week.  No more last minute stops at the grocery store on my way home from work (such a hassle when you have to get the baby in and out of the car just for one or two items), no more of those frozen bag skillet meals that are loaded with calories, no more "I'm too tired to come up with anything, I'm just going to swing through this drive thru here."

Also, I really like to cook, and since I don't have time to do it during the week, I've really been looking forward to my cooking days.  I still don't look forward to cleaning up all the dirty dishes it creates (I always manage to use literally every measuring cup and bowl and spoon that I own), but even that really isn't so bad.

I've only ever cooked enough to last us for two weeks, and I mostly just cook dinners.  We've enjoyed almost everything I've made so far and have only had a couple flops.  

Two of our favorites so far have been Chicken Tortilla Soup and Tomato Beef Stew, both of which are pretty low calorie!  

Since I'm starting September off right, Friday I cooked all low-calorie, healthy recipes that I can't wait to eat!!  I also baked some yummy items for breakfast that I'm excited to try.  Recipes coming soon!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Freezer Cooking Saves Lives

Last Friday was my first try with freezer cooking.  

Here's what I did:

First, I browsed Once A Month Mom for about three days to get my recipes.  They have this awesome feature where you can save recipes and add them to a meal planner calendar and then to a grocery list, etc.  It made it super easy!  I also liked that you can browse recipes by category, such as crockpot, casserole, diet, etc.  And there are monthly menus in multiple categories that you can also browse through.  I found a whole bunch of recipes that suited us, printed them all out, and  chose the ones I wanted to make for the next two weeks.

Then I figured out what I already had and what I needed and I made a grocery list.  I am only making and freezing dinners, but my grocery list and shopping also included everything we need for breakfast and lunches for two weeks.  The middle picture on the right above is the result of my shopping!  Our budget is $100/week for groceries, and I spent $176 for two weeks worth of food.  I was happy with the amount I spent, but I do think I could trim our budget, and that's my goal for next time I do this.

Before I went shopping, I completely cleaned out our fridge and freezer.  The top left is our freezer prior to starting cooking - almost completely empty!  And the bottom left is after I filled it with yummy food!

When I got home from the store, I unpacked everything, taped my recipes to the cupboards, and got started.  I got spaghetti squash and chicken in the oven and got ground beef and turkey sausage going on the stove top in my two big skillets.  While the meat was cooking, I chopped up a bunches of onion and peppers.  As things finished, I took them off the stove to cool or separated them out into bowls to mix in with something else later.  

I didn't have too much trouble keeping up with everything (Liam was an angel entertaining himself on his playmat and watching me while I cooked).  As I got each thing cooled and put together, I wrapped it in foil and plastic wrap, labeled with the name, date, and cooking instructions, and then put it in the freezer.  

Here's what I made:
Chicken Pierogie Casserole (this one was for my husband who loves pierogies)
Honey Burbon Chicken (for the crockpot)
Taco Soup (for the crockpot)
Semi-Homemade Meat Sauce (my own creation)
Stuffed Peppers (a recipe that I kind of made up as I went- I plan to write it up later)

I definitely think that this will be enough for us for two weeks.  I planned for leftovers two nights a week so that we don't waste so much food (I'm constantly throwing out leftovers), and we usually have a date night dinner out at least once every two weeks.
This was easy enough, and I felt great going into this week knowing that I don't have to worry about dinners at all!!  So far, it is so worth the time and effort!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mom Talk: Babywise vs. Happiest Baby on the Block

I have been meaning to write this post for a LONG time now, but it has been HARD to get around to blogging with a 4 month old around!  

When Liam was first born, I read both On Becoming Babywise and The Happiest Baby on the Block.  I feel like a lot of people have a lot to say about these two books and the methods they propose for getting your baby to sleep, and I just wanted to throw in my two cents.  

First, Babywise.  The premise of this book, in case you don't know, is an eat/play/sleep routine and putting your baby down for a nap while they are still awake so they can learn to self-sooth and put themselves to sleep.  No rocking or feeding your baby to sleep, avoid pacifiers, etc.
Seems like a great idea, and really does seem easy and natural at first.  Newborns sleep a lot, so the routine kind of creates itself.  The trick is to start at the same time every morning - something about regulating baby's metabolism or something.  I missed that little tidbit the first time I read the book (the book is pretty vague on how exactly to implement the ideas it proposes, which I didn't really like - I'm the kind of person that really needs instructions for that type of thing).  And with all the problems we had with nursing through the first 4 weeks, I slept whenever I could.  I was not about to set an alarm for 7:30am to wake up a sleeping baby!  
And sometimes, you just need to snuggle with your baby and let them take a nap in your arms because it's just the best thing ever.  I also have never been able to just let him "cry it out."
Maybe for the above reasons, Babywise didn't work for us the way I expected it to.  Liam had a hard time napping long enough to make it to the next feeding (he still takes mostly cat naps during the day, with maybe one longer nap if I'm lucky) which would always throw off the routine.  When we were searching for the right formula he was super gassy and would wake up in the middle of his naps constantly.  

According to Babywise, if you follow the routine, your baby should be sleeping through the night by seven to nine weeks old.  This was not true for Liam.  He didn't start sleeping through the night until about fifteen weeks, and even then it's still a little inconsistent.  

What I did like about the Babywise plan was the idea of waking your baby up to eat every 3 hours during the day and letting them sleep as long as they wanted during the night.  Liam still woke up every 3 hours (on the dot most times) during the night for a long time, but I think it helped him organize his nights and days. 

The Happiest Baby book is all about the 5 S's - swaddling, sushing, swinging, side position, and sucking - to get your baby to go to sleep.  It's especially geared toward colicky babies (which Liam certainly wasn't).  According to Babywise, the 5 S's are "sleep props" and are a big no-no.  
I have had pretty good luck with many of the 5 S's.  We give Liam a binkie because it really helps him fall asleep.  And now that he can keep it in his mouth on his own (which he started being able to do probably sometime around 2 months), it's not a big deal to give it to him.  We also swaddle.  We started out doing it all the time - naps and at night - but now we only do it at night.  It REALLY DOES help him sleep longer.  Sushing also is great - we have a sound machine that plays ocean noise (it also has rain, etc.) that helps him sleep also.  Liam loves background noise - the louder the better, he'll sleep right through it (i.e. pretty loud worship at church, fireworks on the 4th of July,etc.)  The swinging S is a little confusing - it's not just swinging, but also any kind of jiggling motion, and Liam loves bouncing; between being patted on the back and his vibrating bouncer seat, the boy is in heaven.  The BEST nap combination for him has been his vibrating bouncer seat, a binkie, his lovey to snuggle, and lots of background noise - he will be OUT in about 5 seconds.

Another thing that I've really taken from the Happiest Baby book is a bedtime routine.  This has been the BEST thing for getting Liam to sleep well at night.  Around 8:30-9:00pm, we give Liam a bath.  Then we dry him off and snuggle a bit on a blanket on the floor of the nursery with a little music - I also keep the lights low so he knows it's time for sleep.  We get his jammies on and heat up a bottle.  He usually eats a couple ounces and falls right to sleep.  Then I swaddle him and lay him in his bassinet.  I wake him up around midnight to feed him and he usually drinks between 2 and 4 ounces.  Then he goes right back to sleep and usually sleep until about 7:30-8:00.  Even if he does wake up in the middle of the night to eat, he just eats and goes right back to sleep.  Ever since we started the bedtime routine, life has been MUCH easier.

I don't know if I will try Babywise with our next child.  I was SO stressed about doing it perfectly through Liam's first few months, and I couldn't understand why it wasn't working the way it was "supposed to."  Once I finally let it go and quit obsessing about every little thing, life was so much easier.  I know people that swear by the method, but it definitely wasn't for Liam.  
I think the Happiest Baby on the Block is a much more user friendly, to the point book, and I appreciated that.  I also got a lot more useful tips out of it.

When it comes down to it, every baby is different and one method is never going to work like a charm for all babies.  Just don't stress about it or about it working perfectly, because, trust me, it just isn't worth it.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Experience With Breastfeeding

We started out breastfeeding and things seemed to be going well.  The nurses told us Liam's latch looked great and he seemed to be eating, but he was losing weight like crazy.  He lost over 10% of his birth weight, so we had to start supplementing with formula and breastfeeding became a huge struggle.  Since we were supplementing, I had to pump every time after I attempted to nurse him while my husband would give him a bottle of formula and/or pumped milk so that he would be able to eat.

After about 2 weeks with no progress, I made an appointment with a lactation consultant, and we found out he was tongue tied and that's why he was struggling to eat anything while nursing.  He was latching correctly, but he couldn't suck right because of his tongue, so he would fall asleep after just a few minutes because he wasn't getting enough milk flow.  

So we decided to have his tongue clipped and continue to try nursing.  We also decided to try using a nipple shield to help him transition from the bottles he was getting back to nursing.  He seemed to be doing okay, but he was such a slow eater that it would take him an hour and a half to eat.  Then he would nap for half and hour and wake up and want to eat again.  We did this for about 4 days - I never got more than an hour of sleep at a time.  After about 4 days of almost constant struggle and crying, I handed Liam to my husband and said, just give him a couple bottles because I feel like I'm going to collapse and I MUST sleep.  

After those couple bottles, I knew we had just taken a billion steps backwards.  We tried and tried and tried.  Every time we would try and nurse he would cry and cry and squirm and push away.  It became a huge struggle to get him to latch and stay latched.  His latch was too shallow, and I did everything I could think of to fix it, but nothing worked.  I dreaded feeding him, I cried constantly, I felt like a huge failure that couldn't feed her child, I didn't know what else to do.  It was especially frustrating because he seemed so much happier when we would give him a bottle - he could actually eat and then get some sleep without waking up hungry.  Nursing was such a chore and so miserable, that I got to the point where I wouldn't even try very long before I gave in a gave him a bottle.  

Finally, I was able to get through a conversation with my mom about it without bawling my eyes out, and she told me just what I needed to hear.  That it was okay to not breastfeed.  That formula fed babies turn out just fine.  That it's more important to love your baby than breastfeed your baby, and that Liam needed a loving mother, not a miserable one. 

I chose not to pump exclusively because it was just so draining.  I felt totally attached to that pump, and I began to resent it.  And honestly, though it might have been selfish, I wanted my boobs back.  I also knew it would be easier once I went back to work to not have to worry about pumping all the time and keeping up my milk supply.  Choosing not to pump exclusively was probably the hardest part - once you choose to stop pumping, you can't go back.  I wanted what was best for Liam, but I also knew that one of the best things for Liam was having loving, bonding time with his mom, and if I was worried about pumping all the time, I wasn't able to provide that to him. 

So I finally decided to not continue trying to breastfeed and to stop pumping, and to give my baby formula.  And it was the toughest decision that I've ever made.  I partially regret it, but I partially am glad I decided what I did.  I am sad that breastfeeding didn't work for us, and I wonder all the time if it would have worked if I just would have kept trying.  Sometimes I look at Liam and feel like he missed out on something really important and special that a lot of other babies get to experience.  But I have to admit, that everyone involved is much happier now.  Liam is eating and gaining weight like a champ.  He weighed 8lbs 10oz at his one-month appointment (he was born at 6lbs 6oz, and was 5lbs 10oz at his lowest weight).  He is thriving on a routine and he sleeps so much better at night than I ever could have hoped - which mean everyone gets more sleep and is happier.  

I didn't post this story to be judged or criticized because of my choice to not continue breastfeeding.  I know that breastfeeding is always the best choice for baby, and of course I wish that breastfeeding would have worked for us.  I posted my story because I wish I could have read someone else's story when I was struggling.  I just want any woman that's struggling to breastfeed to know that you aren't alone and you certainly aren't failing as a mom.  Think long and hard about it, like I did, and make the choice that is best for your family.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Liam's Birth Story

Before Liam was born, we had two false alarms.  The first was February 19th, when we were visiting my family in Columbus, OH for my sister’s birthday.  I was in the bathroom, when I had a gush of bleeding and freaked out.  We went to the hospital, and they determined that I wasn’t in labor, but couldn’t quite figure out why that had happened either.  The same exact thing happened again March 2nd while I was at work.  Korey came and got me and took me to the hospital.  This time I was also having contractions and when they checked me, I was 4 cm dilated, so we were admitted and we thought it was go time.  But overnight, my contractions slowed down and eventually stopped all together, and I wasn’t progressing anymore, so in the morning they sent us home.

I was antsy as heck by this time for this baby to get here, especially since I was on partial bed-rest for high blood pressure (the only thing I was allowed to do was go to work, and then the day before Liam was born I wasn’t even allowed to do that and had to spend all my time laying down with my feet up).  I was retaining water like CRAZY and was so uncomfortable.

Finally, at 5:30am on March 8th, I woke up to go to the bathroom and my water broke.  Korey was working an overnight shift at the time, so thank goodness my sister Emily was staying with us.  I was shaking uncontrollably, which was kind of weird and scary, but Emily managed to get everything around and we got in the car to go to the hospital.  In the car, I called the doctor and called Korey.  When we got there, I stood up to get out of the car, my water must have finished breaking or something because my pants were SOAKED.  Then the contractions started coming.

Korey got there while we were still in triage, thank goodness.  It was obvious that my water had broken, and when they checked me I was about 5cm dilated.  We were admitted and moved to a labor and delivery room.  The contractions were pretty strong and close together at that point - not fun.  So I decided to get an epidural.  That wasn’t too bad - it really only hurts/burns for a minute when they first start, and then it felt like an elephant was sitting on my hips, but then you just can’t feel anything anymore, and it’s great.

Both Korey and I were able to get a little sleep after that.  Korey hadn’t slept since the morning before so he was pretty tired and took a nap.  I was in and out of sleep - the nurse kept having to come in and check on me because Liam’s heart rate was all over the place and kept dropping down pretty low.  They had to put the oxygen mask on me and it was pretty uncomfortable to sleep with that on.

After a little while (maybe around 11am?) the doctor came to check on me again, and I was fully dilated!  I was shocked!  They said it was time to start pushing, and I remember thinking “Oh my gosh, this is it, I am going to push this baby out.”  So I started pushing.  At first we were making really good progress and Liam was getting closer and closer, but then he kind of stopped moving down.  Every time I would push, he would move down, but then move right back up when I stopped.  His heart rate kept dropping and then coming back up.

I pushed for almost 2 hours, when the doctor said that Liam had had a his first poo in the womb and now there was meconium in the amniotic fluid and there was a risk that Liam could inhale it.  He said that I could keep pushing if I wanted to and see what happened, but that he didn’t think that Liam was going to be able to fit through the birth canal even with the use of forceps or a vacuum extractor.  And with Liam’s heart rate going up and down so much, he suggested a C section.  I was less than thrilled with the idea, but we decided to go ahead with it.  I knew it was the best option and I just wanted Liam out and healthy.

So they prepped me up, got me more epidural drugs that made me completely numb from the chest down, and away we went to the operating room.  After they got everything ready, Korey was allowed to come in a sit by my head.  He talked to me the whole time, and the doctors told me what they were doing as they did it.  I felt a lot of pressure when they pulled Liam out, and was vaguely aware of them whisking him over to the other side of the room.  I was pretty out of it.

Liam wasn’t crying/breathing at first - I later found out that his first apgar score was a 1 (scary!) - but after just a few seconds they got him breathing and crying.  Korey went over to where they were working on Liam to take pictures while they got me closed back up.

I was so out of it at this point, and the anesthesia cocktail I was on started to make me really sick.  They wrapped Liam up like a little burrito and Korey brought him over to me.  He was sleeping and he was so beautiful!  All I remember is wanting to look at him and hold him so much, but I could barely keep my eyes open because the anesthesia was making me so tired.  I kept dozing on and off.  Then I got really sick and was puking green stuff (Korey calls it green alien goo).  After that it’s kind of a blur until we were ready to go back to the labor and delivery room.  They laid Liam next to me on the bed and wheeled us back down the hall.  I finally got to hold him and hug him and love him.

My mom and sister were able to come meet Liam shortly after, and my sister starting snapping pictures right away.  The pictures she has from that quiet family time that we had are so beautiful!  During this time Liam nursed for the first time, and Korey also got to give him his first bath.

After a couple hours, we were moved to our regular room where we would spend the next three nights, and where Korey promptly fell asleep (poor guy had been awake for like 30 hours).