March 29, 2017

Freezer Meal Prep = Nesting, not resting.

38 weeks along and I was determined to get the baby room finished, her clothes washed and organized, diaper stations stocked and family meals in the freezer. I had to take a few days off work to get it done, but LIKE A BOSS, I did it (and thanks to my Mom for helping organize baby clothes).

I really wanted to go the extra mile with this meal prep thing. I have no idea what our life will be like with another little one and it's already exhausting just thinking about what I can make for dinner every day. It's a hot topic in our family since we both work full-time. I get frustrated that dinner always falls on me, which is mostly because I get home first, but also because we insist on family dinner so if I waited on my husband to take a turn the 7:30 pm dinner would not bode well for our toddler's bedtime schedule.

After doing some Pinterest-ing I decided on 8 freezer meals - like some of these taco meat style recipes, Ravioli Lasagna and used spinach ravioli, Tuscan Pasta, Chicken, Broccoli, Bacon & Potato Bake and a few of my own, like Pepperoni Baked Ziti and Lasagna. I was going for "easy to prep" -- multiple dishes that I could cook in bulk -- and sat down to make my grocery list. I like to organize my lists by the direction of food sections that I walk through the store. It is so annoying when I get all the way through the store and realize I freaking forgot the cilantro. 

So, armed with my grocery lists I trekked the aisles. I had to make 3 store stops for the best prices, including buying foil pans to make even cleanup a breeze, and $134.79 later I was exhausted and hurting, but done.

For me it was best to do all the shopping in one day and tackle the cooking the next when I was refreshed.

Beef, Bean, Cheese Burritos
Steps to the finish line:

1. I started with cooking up my chicken and beef and keeping the seasoning simple: garlic, onion, salt and pepper. I was prepared to doctor each up for its recipe as needed.

TIP: One dish called for bacon and I opted to try a pre-cooked bacon package and I would say it was worth it for the major savings on mess and time.

2. Chopped veggies and potatoes and also portioned them out for each recipe.
Tuscan Pasta with sun-dried tomatoes

Chicken, Broccoli, Bacon & Potato Bake
3. Once the meat was off the stove I boiled pasta to stay ahead of the game while I focused on piecing the beef meals together.

TIP: Don't forget to spray the pans!

4. Set up the chicken dishes and added pasta where it was needed. Again, focusing then on one recipe at a time kept it organized.
 4.  Once I had my lineup completed I covered each pan with heavy duty foil.  I placed the full recipe in a sandwich bag and taped it to the top of the pan, with the burritos I wrote the instructions on the freezer bag. Whatever works.

5. Into the freezer they went.

All in all, the whole cooking process took 4.5 hours and I still feel damn good about it. #MomGoals.

February 9, 2017

While you were sleeping.

While you were sleeping, I paced from room to room desperately searching for tranquility.

Instead, I strapped an ice pack on my lower back and picked up race cars in every room. I folded blankets and put them in their places. I straightened couch pillows and emptied the dishwasher. I stocked the toilet paper and put more napkins on the table. I slid garbage trucks and firetrucks into their bookshelf parking garages. I put puzzles back together and stacked them in their assigned places. I folded the towels that were 2 days forgotten in the dryer and washed the sippy cups in the sink.

While you were sleeping, I thought about my guilt.

The guilt, ugh, the guilt. Carrying a life inside of you is so powerful, so beautiful, so overwhelming. I feel guilty when I have thoughts of despair or frustration because my body feels so awful when left to heave into toilets. I hide at work because I can't go far from a trashcan or a locked bathroom stall. I can't wait for it to pass, and I count the days. I feel guilty when I can't find the energy to chase our son and crawl after him to ram monster trucks into one another because all he wants more than anything is for me play with him. The last thing I want is for him to be upset that his new sibling-to-be is changing his mommy.

Or, maybe you ate four mozzarella sticks for dinner, your 3-year-old had cereal, and left your husband on his own....yeah, that was a low day.

I sat on our couch with the freshly punched pillows and stared out the window. The snow floated lazily by the streetlights and I just tried to breathe. It was 3 AM.

I don't remember feeling this much anxiety the first time. Did I? I am so excited to meet this baby. I can't wait to see how our family grows, the personalities that develop and the memories we will make. It is what I have always wanted. Please, just help me find strength right now.

So, while you were sleeping, I cried.

I cried for all of these things and so much more. For our home. For the giggles you generate, the ambition you flourish, the confidence you swag, the eyelashes you gave our son, your gentleness when you teach him, your embellishments when you read to him. And mostly, I feel thankfulness for you, for us. Please know this even when I struggle to speak or put words to my crazy. Our journey is the best journey.

August 11, 2016

Mom Guilt.

There is this nagging feeling that I'm guilty of something. It sits in the pit of my stomach gasping for air and giving me hiccups. I don't think there is a cure.

I feel frustrated by this. Anger even. Exhausted. The last few months my mental and physical self has been to battle.

I work full-time and when I pick my son up, it's the best part of my day...unless I had an awful day and pick up a tired kid who says "hate you," or won't give me a hug, and doesn't want to wear his shoes...and then he does want his shoes...and then he doesn't... and I have to toss him in the car because he can't walk there nicely like "a big boy" and screams and twists and contorts his body so that I can't strap him into his seat. Unless that.

Usually, though, on those kind of days, by the time we get home he holds on to me so tight and I can get his hugs and kisses and "love yous." So really, he still ends up being the best part of my day.

The problem is that by the time I get to this point I am so fried from my day that I hardly find the energy to really, truly enjoy our playtime. Maybe I'm extra short on patience or short on enthusiasm, and then I feel sick with guilt and non-worthiness. And, we have barely 3 hours to play (or get groceries and go to Target), clean up and make dinner. Some days I feel successful, but it is rare.

So I feel THAT guilt.

And then I love when I'm made to feel like I wouldn't be able to handle being a stay-at-home-mom. So then I have guilt that maybe they are right. Could I handle it?

I do love that work is also my social hour. Honestly, I get to walk to parks on my lunch break, sit by the water, hit up food trucks and sometimes even have work meetings at happy hour.  I also get to finish my whole cup of hot coffee without reheating it. Sounds great. Moms, I know.

But then I miss the giggles, the play, the snuggle nap times, the adventures, the time outs and learning to teach my children myself.

So, could I handle it?

Or, would I love it?

When you can't give 100% of yourself to what you love and instead divide yourself into quarters over and over, you tend to feel a little lost sometimes as positivity vanishes in the translation of all your parts. That is what I can't handle. And, I know that is on me to reboot.

December 4, 2015

My pledge for a better future.

Defeated. Un-inspired. Buried.

For months I have been struggling to free myself from the suffocation of world news. Tormenting myself with sucking all this evil into my soul. Allowing it to depress me and question everything that lights my bringing more children into this life.

I've found myself engulfed in Syrian refugee news, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, mindless US battlefields...and the despair and hopelessness that I allowed to filter through me has destroyed pieces of my happiness as I've struggled to stay in the light of this heaviness.
Fall day full of happy.

No more.

The best that I can do, that we can all do, is to love, cherish and protect these children so that they do not become the non-accepting, non-forgiving, wounded, and revenge-seeking destroyers.

To instill in them the values of human life and family.

To sculpt their minds and hearts towards kindness and generosity.

To say "I love you" a million times a day.

To ask for forgiveness and say "I'm sorry" when we need to accept our part in controversy.

To feel laughter and warmth.

To make them feel safe.

I pledge to do my best for every child I meet, in hopes that this is how I will make a difference in our future.

April 10, 2015

5 points on pregnancy weight loss (it blows.)

Let's get real...gaining 60 pregnancy pounds didn't happen from sticking to fruits and vegetables.

+60# on the morning of Mack, and I still love this pic.
Sure I ate a lot of those, I always do. I love making gourmet salads and dressings, then grilling some salmon or chicken to throw over it. But, I also love a good maple creamstick that I never let myself eat anymore...until I was pregnant.

My Amazing Dad would visit with a bag of 5 maple creamsticks from our hometown bakery and I'd be in heaven with the bag, a glass of milk and my feet propped up. To. Die. For. I'd eat one each day and if my husband was fast enough to snag one then he was lucky. (Not one every day of my pregnancy, just when they were available.)

One time, my parents came in on a party bus with friends to tailgate and go to the Browns game, so my husband and I parked at my office and walked down to meet them. (It was so very far for a 7-month prego chick, I'll tell you that.) Everyone held on to their beers, I held onto the donuts my Dad surprised me with. I walked 2 miles for some donuts. That was effing commitment.

Being a food and wine lover and having a body that has to depend on constant calorie counting and everyday workouts, pregnancy brought freedom.

And freedom was soooo tasty.

When you become a vessel that harbors a tiny human, you experience weakness, light-headedness, dizzy spells, and so much hunger. You constantly need water or some sort of nourishment. Usually it's whatever you can grab because you will die if you don't have it RIGHT THIS SECOND. Anyway, you get the picture. advice from my 15-month journey to lose those 60 pounds:
  1. Forget the first 3 months of working on this goal because you are so overwhelmed with overcoming childbirth (a cesarean for me), learning how to take care of a tiny, tiny person, exhaustion, how to manage housework, dinner and no social life.
  2. Then forget the next 3 months (6-month parental anniversary mark) because you have probably gone back to work and have a whole new set of problems -- like pumping and exhaustion, housework and dinner.  
  3. Now forget the next 3 months because you are SO involved with maintaining and preparing for this kid's daily schedule (thank the Lord, you have a schedule), and also trying to find time to see a few friends again. Yep, you probably have a 9-month old.
  4. Finally, you might make some natural progress and feel lighter in those post-prego pants and get your belts back out. This was about the time I began to feel encouraged and really got me to start to focus on myself a little bit again.
  5. No one is judging you, except you, so relax and find comfort in who you are now and your new life. For the last few months I am again counting everything I eat, doing daily legit pushups and sit ups, and playing sports when I can. I also don't care as much. I love being a Mom and gushing over my kid with my husband, and anyone who offers the conversation.
I still don't quite have a workout routine back like I used to (that would require a 3:30 am wake-up call and I would never be the THAT committed), but I'll take it. Of course, I never imagined the 2 years of pain and trauma that pregnancy and post-pregnancy would inflict on my body. But, down 49 and counting seems to call for reflection and taking inventory of my beautiful life. I choose to believe that this is a huge accomplishment -- despite those lucky and blessed ladies that people like me love to hate. Maybe I really can do it all (with my best partner), and that makes my heart smile.

 P.S. Next post is about my awesome shoe collection.

February 27, 2015

The stuff dreams are made of.

I tip-toe into my son's room every night and I lean on his crib, gently touch my hand to his back, and I listen. (Risky, I know.) I listen for his sweet, tiny, deep and dreamy breaths. I listen for his legs to wrestle around his soft blanket and the patter of the white-noise machine. I listen for my heartbeat to calm as I breathe him in and rest my chin on the crib. (It begins pounding when I stand outside his door and debate the worthiness of this risk.)

I stand there with the ache in my throat that only this overwhelming and immense love can bring. With my hand on his back I see the sparks of all my mommy magical powers for love and sleep flow into him. And I whisper my magic song, "Sweet baby, sleep so sweet."

How quickly it is that I realize I have no powers. I dive to the floor aiming for the gracefulness of a ninja, and stealthily army-crawl back to the door before he realizes it wasn't a dream. Then I watch the baby monitor and chuckle as he face-plants to the mattress and is again fast asleep.

I have come to realize how lucky we are that we have an amazing child who goes to sleep by 6:30 pm and rarely wakes until at least 6 am. And big star for us, I am so proud of the cues we learned to read in order to understand our kid. Protecting his sleep has given us the sweetest, most generous kisser, wink-er, giggle-er, tractor-loving little boy -- who also somehow still learned to scream with a pitch to hurt your insides and once in awhile throw tantrums like the "bad kid" while we hide laughs behind our hands.

I seriously did not realize how fun this stage of life would be. To see the recognition behind his eyes and his response to our conversation and requests (like giving kisses) is something that I never really thought about. And I know that I promised to devote more time to other things (ahem, writing and working out again) but I am so focused on taking in every moment of all this...and getting back some time to focus on my husband too. 

January 9, 2015

National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.

Negative highlights spinning the world in cop-hate have left me sickened by the world's focus.  The hate is overwhelming. I said before that I struggle daily with staying out of it, but I feel the need to lend some air and support when it seems to be needed most.  I desperately want our defenders to know that there are people who understand and support them.

As a family of police officers, fire fighters and soldiers who have faced harsh realities, I can say that their reality means that sometimes evil has to be fought with evil.  When those we love become those who work in the dark to serve us and protect our innocence, they must lose themselves with each bit of hate that they have to smother in order to keep the darkness from reaching those they love, and even those that have no idea what is done every minute of every day to allow us to sleep in our beautiful dreams.

Pieces of their innocence trail in every city, every neighborhood, every street, on every corner and in every unmindful soul as they stand between us and what we are never meant to see.  They sacrifice their security, happiness, families, and sometimes even their humanity, to solve our problems and fight for us so that we do not have to make the same sacrifices. They take the brunt of the abused, the drugged up anger, the bullets, the punches, the ignorance, the "entitled," and they shelter us from that darkness.  They protect your rights, even as you turn your back on them.  And as some even falter in their steps, they still protect our dreams and our hopes.

It is funny though, my brother, the protector -- and one of the funniest humans I know.  After hearing so many tales of community members spitting on police officers, my rage sent me digging for more information.  I sent my brother a message telling him that NO ONE better be spitting on him. Statistics get my blood boiling about the ignorance of this mess, but I won't go there now.  But, in a split second I am ready to punish anyone to protect him.  Yet he offers this protection to everyone, those he loves and even to those who don't deserve his loyalty.  That IS something great. 

So when he says that he prefers that I stay oblivious, I know he means that he does not want me to know the obstacles he faces. If I did, it would break my heart over and over again and he does not want our pity or sorrow.  He loves that his job protects my innocence, and your innocence, and he will carry that darkness with pride despite his sacrifices.

Don't misunderstand me, I do not believe that every officer deserves my loyalty. But, I do believe that no matter what, they have done something to protect my innocence, my family, my security, my humanity, my beautiful dreams. 

Happy National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day to all those that I love, and those that I will never know.