Thursday, March 26, 2015

Things I Do While the Baby is Napping

Spend several minutes staring in wonder at my child. Tear up at the miracle of life that I have created. Panic when he stirs, and exhale with relief when I realize he just had to fart and is still asleep.
Lie on the floor, stare at the ceiling, and wonder at the marvel of silence.
Explore feelings of guilt for not doing anything worthwhile with this stolen time. Wonder at all the strands of hair on the carpet. Is my hair falling out?
Debate making dinner, cleaning, or otherwise being productive, but decide instead to see what the Kardashians have been up to.
Call my mom to brag that the baby is napping, and to prove that I am not.
Consider exercising. Open the back bedroom closet and stare at my hand weights. Consider cleaning out the back bedroom closet. Close the door, pretend the encounter did not happen, and turn on Ellen.
Wander to the fridge. Sigh deeply upon realizing a pizza or pan of brownies has not magically appeared since I last checked. Return to the floor and lie there staring lovingly at the video monitor.
Go through photos on my phone from three years ago and wonder at how skinny and happy I look. Vow to work out tomorrow while the baby is napping.
Frantically use my phone to check social media, emails and text messages in an attempt to reconnect with reality.

Make a bullet pointed list on my phone about how to be a better, more productive mother tomorrow.
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

One Month of Freezer Meals in One Day

I love to eat. And I try to cook and eat healthy whenever I can. But I'm also super lazy about food. I hate recipe planning, shopping, and cooking. My most recent solution?
A month's worth of freezer meals in just one day!
My friend Jessica and I got together one Sunday a while back and spend the entire day preparing healthy, yummy meals for our freezers that lasted an entire month!
Here's how we did it.
We started by choosing seven recipes that we thought would work well as freezer meals.
{click titles for printable recipes}
Then we doubled each recipe and compiled a shopping list in Excel that incorporated all of the ingredients we would need. It ended up having 55 line items (not including some items we already had at home in our fridges, pantries, and spice racks).
While shopping, we also stocked up on disposable aluminum freezer trays and gallon size Ziplock freezer bags.
$180 later, we were ready to start cooking.
We started by organizing our recipes and ingredients, washing our produce, and dividing up the recipes between the two of us. We still weren't quite sure how long this was going to take, or exactly how much we had committed to...
 Then we spent some time chop chop chopping while we pre-cooked the breasts of about a dozen chickens.

We each took on three recipes and worked alongside for about six and a half hours, teaming up at the end for the final recipe. By that time we were definitely over cooking, but we were glad we pushed through and finished everything.


Each dish got a specific label including cooking/re-heating instructions so they could easily be popped in the oven or slow cooker by a spouse as needed.

We were curious to see if freezing, thawing, and re-cooking would have any effect on the dishes.

{click titles for printable recipes}
Cheesy Chicken and Rice Bake -- Yay!
This recipe might have been the least healthy of the bunch, which is probably why it was so delicious. It made a TON, which meant meals for several days, and although it got a little dried out with re-heating, adding some sour cream, guacamole, or salsa fixed that right up.
Creamy Chicken Quinoa and Broccoli Casserole -- Meh.
This one had a lot of promise and probably would have been very good fresh. Unfortunately, freezing and re-heating really did a number on the broccoli, which was mushy and yucky by the time we ate it. In hindsight, I probably would have made it without the broccoli and then served some fresh veggies on the side instead. That being said, this one was pretty labor intensive and the portions weren't very big, so I probably wouldn't make it again.

Pizza Quinoa Casserole -- Boo.
I had made this recipe before and absolutely loved it. However, it did not make for a great freezer meal. Upon reheating, the quinoa got super mushy and the veggies seemed much less fresh. I ate it the first night we made it, but after that I couldn't choke down any more (although Stew did finish a bit more over the next couple days). Jessica said she had better luck by cooking it in the oven for much longer to dry it out a bit. But I'd say this dish is definitely better enjoyed fresh.
This was definitely my favorite of the bunch (but I'm a sucker for mac 'n' cheese in any form). I don't know how "skinny" it actually was (it sure used a lot of cheese) but it was so ooey-gooey and delicious. For some reason the broccoli didn't seem to get as ruined by re-heating in this recipe as it did in the others. But just to be safe, I would probably skip the broccoli when making this again and just add fresh veggies on the side.

Skinny Chicken & Broccoli Alfredo -- Meh.
I actually really liked this dish, but that may be because we ate it the week after our freezer meal prep marathon, which means I never actually froze it. Jessica ate hers a few weeks later and said that the pasta got really dried out. Additionally, this recipe was pretty labor intensive and didn't make huge portions, so I think we'd probably skip it as a freezer meal in the future.

Slow Cooker Quinoa Chicken Chili -- Yay!
I've made this one before as well. Slow cooker chilies are my favorite, so I was pretty excited about having some on hand in the freezer to just dump into the Crock Pot. As a freezer meal, it turned out really well! Basically all we had to do was combine all the ingredients in a big pot and then portion it into freezer bags. After a quick thaw under running water one morning before work, I just dumped it over some chicken breasts and then when I got home we had delicious chili ready for dinner. It was better cheese added on top (of course).

Thai Red Curry with Chicken and Snow Peas -- Meh.
This is another one I have made before and absolutely loved. But unfortunately, it didn't turn out so well as a freezer meal. My main problem with it was that the snow peas got all yucky after being frozen and thawed. However, I think you could make the curry sauce, freeze it, and then add fresh chicken and veggies when you re-heat it later, and that would still be yummy.


A quick cost/benefit analysis clearly shows that our little cooking adventure ended up being worth our time.

Each freezer meal ended up costing $12.89 on average. However, many of the larger ones provided a couple rounds of leftovers, which brought the cost of each meal down even further. For example, Stew and I had enough Skinny Baked Broccoli Mac and Cheese to eat over three different sittings (so six good-sized portions overall). That breaks down to just $2.14 per person, per meal (complete with protein, healthy carbs and veggies) -- a steal!

Granted, we had to take into consideration the cost of our time. It took time to research recipes, develop a grocery list, shop, and then do the actual cooking. But overall, everything probably didn't take any more time than one typical workday. And as a reward, we had a bunch of healthy, delicious meals on hand -- a wonderful alternative to picking up fast food or eating out. We didn't eat freezer meals every single day, but chose to space them out over a month, heating one up every few days or so when it was most convenient.


We did learn a few things. When we do this again (which we plan to), we will definitely do some prep work on our own in advance. Pre-cooking chicken breasts, quinoa, and brown rice the night before would definitely have saved us some time.

We also learned that unless the meals were pulled out of the freezer in advance and thawed overnight in the refrigerator, cooking times needed to be dramatically increased.

In the future, we'll definitely be a little more selective about the recipes we choose, making only those that are actually meant to be frozen and eaten later. Or, alternately, if recipes call for veggies, we would leave them out and then make a note to add them when the dish is re-heated instead.

Overall, I definitely think our first adventure in freezer meals was a huge success. We learned a few things for next time, had a really fun day hanging out, and looked like domestic goddesses to our husbands every time we served another delicious meal with seemingly almost no prep.

Yum Yum!
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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lucky in Love... Year Three

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Wow, it's hard to believe how much can change in just a few short years. It seems like just yesterday we made all our friends dress up in green so that we could say "I do" on our most favorite holiday. 

And now here we are, living in the suburbs and going out to dinner at 5:00 for the early bird special so we can get our baby home in time for bed. 


Seriously though, Stew did take me out to a fancy steak dinner at the Woodman Lodge in Snoqualmie to celebrate our third wedding anniversary, and it was actually kind of fun to be there so early, because we had the place virtually to ourselves. And Ryder was such a well-behaved little gentleman!

And this year we also took Ryder along on another of our favorite St. Paddy's Day traditions: the Seattle St. Patrick's Day Dash. Unfortunately the weather was less than cooperative, so it was more of a soggy walk through the rain than a "dash" this time, but Ryder was a trooper and seemed to have a lot of fun!

Those festivities actually happened the weekend prior, so of course we also had to celebrate just a little on March 17 proper. 

Ryder and I got dressed up in our best...

And I made Stewart a traditional Irish dinner of corned beef, mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, and Guinness (of course).

We just keep getting luckier and luckier as our love grows throughout the years. 

You've still got whatever it is, Stew.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

When did it become so hard to get pregnant?

Guest Post by Cailin Bundrick

Women spend so much of their lives trying not to get pregnant, that you'd think it was as simple as one ravenous session in the sack to impregnate a woman. Afraid not. I myself have used birth control pills, condoms, a diaphragm and an IUD to prevent pregnancy.

Want to know all the things I've done to try and get pregnant in the past five months? I've tracked my cycle, peed on sticks DAILY to determine if I'm ovulating, consulted my doctor, considered drugs to force ovulation and, of course, had sex A LOT. We've done it with me on top, him on top, from behind... I'll spare you the gory details, but you name it, we've tried it. We've done it every other day (as doctor recommended), every day, when we're sick, when we're tired, when we're drunk, when we're bored, when we're horny, when we're fighting, whenever, wherever. And yet, once again, the test read 'not pregnant' this month.

Every time I see that one sad, lonely pink line, I want to scream. I want to cry, and usually do. I want to give up. I'm not sure how much more disappointment I can take.

Don't get me wrong. I know there are women who have struggled to get pregnant much longer than me. There are women who have put themselves through sheer torture, injecting themselves with fertilization drugs and enduring disappointment and let down for years to have children they can call their own.

I am fortunate to have a beautiful little girl already. She is my world, and I thank God for her everyday, even on the days that her 2-year-old attitude has pushed me to my limit. If I can't get pregnant again, at least I have known what it was like to give birth, to hold a brand new baby in my arms and on my breast, to rock her to sleep, to stay up all night listening to her scream, to give her sweet kisses and to receive slobbery ones back. I am a mom, the only job I ever REALLY wanted.

But it is because I've known these things that I am so desperate to have them again. I've wanted them for some time now. Before my husband was sure he wanted to do it all again. Which is why when he got on board, I was so eager to start trying. We've been at it for five months, but I've been wanting this for more like a year and five months.

I want my daughter to have a playmate before she is already in school. I want to have a baby before I reach that scary age of 35 when risks start increasing. I want another baby. I don't want to deal with the potential wait and heartbreak associated with adoption, especially after the disappointment of not being able to get pregnant on my own.

But adoption is an option. Originally, it was the plan. Have one, adopt one. Then I realized how expensive it was to adopt, and it seemed like if we could have children on our own, perhaps it made more financial sense to do that. I guess it's just the thought that I might not be able to make another baby that makes me feel like a failure. And the endless number of pregnant women around me doesn't help. I don't begrudge them their baby-baking experiences. I'm happy for them. But let's be honest, I'm jealous too.

Finding someone to talk to about this experience is almost as difficult as the experience itself. Everyone wants to offer advice and their two cents. They want to help. But instead, they just make it worse. What worked for you might not work for me. Every woman is different, just like every child is different. And the worst is when they can't relate at all because all they have to do is look at their significant other, and they get pregnant. Gag! My husband keeps reminding me of my own words: "Things will happen when they are meant to." I told him I wish I'd never uttered the words to him.

So if you are struggling to get pregnant, just know you're not alone. I promise not to offer advice about things you've likely already tried, or words of encouragement because if you are anything like me, they will fall on deaf ears. But you're not alone. Sometimes, that's all the comfort you need.

About the Author
Cailin Bundrick is a stay at home mom to 2-year-old daughter Charlie. She lives in Maple Valley, Wash., with her husband, daughter and two dogs, Tinker and Brian. She has a journalism degree from Western Washington University, and worked as a reporter and editor for community newspapers in Kentucky, Florida and Illinois. She also worked in sales and property management before becoming a domestic goddess. She enjoys reading, writing, traveling and selling jewelry as an Independent Designer for Origami Owl. This is the first of what she hopes to be many guest blog posts for Life as Always.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Dear Ryder... Ten Months

Dear Ryder,

Life has continued to fly by, and once again another month has passed.

It's hard to believe that now you have been outside in the world longer than you were ever inside with me. But every single day with you is better and better as you grow, change, and learn.

You are really on the move these days! Last month we had to put a gate at the top of the stairs so you wouldn't inadvertently go tumbling down. This month you learned how to climb UP the stairs, which means we had to put another gate at the bottom as well. It's kind of funny to watch you behind the gates, which you love to pull yourself up on... little monkey.

I also often find you standing up in your crib now when you wake up. It's hard to believe that just a few short months ago you couldn't even hold up your own head.

Now that you're on the go so much more you're starting to thin out a bit and lose some of that extra baby chub. I kind of miss your little baby thunder thighs. Your disinterest in nursing has continued, mostly because you're too excited and distracted by toys and activities to be bothered with it. Unless we do it in a quiet, calm place we're not very successful anymore. You jerk your head away at the slightest noise or movement -- so curious about the world!

Alternately, you absolutely love feeding yourself. Each meal is a new adventure as you navigate new flavors and textures. We've introduced quite a few new solids, and blueberries are your absolute favorite!

We did give you a taste of lemon while we were at brunch one morning, and I think you've finally forgiven us for that little adventure. Tee hee.

Possibly as payback, you've now learned to spit your food, which hasn't been the most fun game I've ever played...

And you seem to want to taste everything, whether it's edible or not.

You have three teeth now -- two on the bottom and one on the top. I keep waiting for that other front tooth to come through... In the meantime you kind of look like a baby hillbilly.

You have bazillions of toys, but of course the things that are most exciting to you are random household items. Deprived of the door stops and night lights, you've moved on to the lower shelves of closets and bottom drawers. And if I look away for a moment, it doesn't take long before you're into something you shouldn't be. We have to make sure and watch you very carefully!

When we do catch you in a mischievous act and remove the forbidden item from your reach, you'd think the entire world was ending. You have extremely strong objections to being told that something isn't yours, and you aren't afraid to express this verbally with reaching and shrieking, sobbing and tears. Luckily, you're pretty easily distracted.

You are fascinated by the world around you and how things work. One morning I watched as you opened and closed a door over and over again, marveling at your own ingenuity.

You continue to love music, and bop to the beat of almost any song or musical toy. And you sure do love Daddy's guitar!

Playing with Daddy continues to be one of your favorite pastimes. I'm not sure what the two of you do all day together, but you're in a great mood most days when I come home from work.

When you're not with Daddy and I'm working, you love playing at the neighbors' house for the day. You've learned to anticipate that when I pick up your striped bag it means we're heading next door, and you immediately start to smile and bounce in my arms. It sometimes makes me a little sad that you're so excited to be away from home, but it also gives my heart so much peace to know that you are happy and loved by someone else when I can't be there myself.

You love being outside, and we are lucky enough to have a 16-acre park right across the street from our house. We try to take you over there as often as the weather cooperates, and this month you were old enough to try swinging for the first time. It was love at first push...

And you were a big fan of some of the other toys as well.

You also went on your first bike ride using the trailer that Nana and Papa got you for Christmas.

We had a few big events this month...

Your first Valentine's Day!
You made Daddy a very special card, and also received your very first Valentine from Great Grandma Sally.

Daddy's Annual Firefighter Award Banquet
 You were such a good boy for this event -- out way past your bedtime, but behaved yourself like an absolute angel.

Your First Haircut! 
We took you to a kid's salon in Bellevue and you got to sit in a fire truck chair and play with toys while the nice lady cut your unruly locks into something a little more neat. 

You still aren't sleeping through the night, but we've decided that Crying It Out isn't an option for us, and instead we're working through it together. I just keep reminding myself that these years when you so desperately need me are going to fly by, and I need to cherish these secret midnight snuggles.

Luckily, you're napping on a consistent basis -- one morning and one afternoon nap that are each 1-2 hours. You're still taking naps in your swing, which will have to stop eventually, but it's still working great for the time being.

You pull at your eyelashes when you're tired, and usually fall quickly to sleep at bedtime and spend about half the night in your crib.

But most nights you usually end up in our bed at one point or another. We don't advocate co-sleeping per se, but as I mentioned, I honestly don't mind these middle of the night cuddles, because one day they'll be gone for good.

You are beginning to change from a baby into a big boy before our eyes, and it's the most amazing thing I've ever seen.

Keep learning and growing, my sweet angel! 

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