Friday, May 13, 2016

Just Our Story

I haven't updated in quite some time and we've had some new things happen. 

I have completed my first surrogacy journey.  I delivered a little girl on January 18th.  I wish I could share details and pictures, but it was part of our contract for me not to share anything.  It was so amazing to be a part of making a family.  She was nearly 9lbs and absolutely perfect.  This is me looking pretty done at 40 weeks and 1 day! 

We have done some tests for Addyson in January just to check up on a few things.  It was a painstaking process with a ton of worries.  Of course, all tests came back normal.

She's been evaluated through the school district and found to be within the average range in all areas, with the exception of some adaptive behavior skills--mostly dressing herself and being potty trained.  I'm fairly sure it's just because she's stubborn!

We did learn that Addyson has some white matter damage to her brain, and this gives her a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy.  In some ways, it's great because I know I can get her accommodations in school, if she needs them.  However, at this point, she acts just like any other almost 3 year old.  We don't really know why the damage showed up now and not when she was a baby.  We don't know what caused the damage.  No one can give us answers, and I'm learning to be okay with that.  Cerebral Palsy is typically brain damage that occurs during pregnancy, delivery, or in infancy.  So that's basically what we have to go on. 

My husband thinks it was when I had the dizzy spell around 30 weeks.  But when we got to the OB's office there were no signs of distress.  I think that was just a blood sugar drop.  I used to get those a lot as a teenager. 

I honestly think it was something that happened when we induced labor.  I think she became distressed when the contractions started coming so fast and strong.  There was a point where the nurse turned down the Pitocin because Addy was showing signs of distress on the monitors.  Thank God for that nurse who recognized it and helped right away!  Addyson was actually born extremely quickly also,  just 1 push and a laugh.  Seriously, my OB had me push and then told me to stop because she was coming too fast.  Then she made a joke, I laughed and Addyson was born.  I love that story.  I love that she was born out of laughter. 

Of course, if I could go back, I wouldn't induce with Pitocin.  In fact, with my surrogate pregnancy we ended up inducing with just a membrane sweep due to low amniotic fluid at 40 weeks and 1 day.  I was pressured to use Pitocin when we arrived at the hospital, but held my ground.  She was born without any other assistance than breaking my water.  And I know that would have happened eventually if we were patient enough.  She was absolutely perfect, 8lbs 13oz and 22 inches long.

With pregnancy, something could always go wrong, no matter if you do everything right.  Sometimes things just happen.  I've had to remind myself that I didn't cause this.  There was nothing I could do to prevent it.  There's nothing wrong with me that did this to her.  It just happened.  And to be honest, it's been a winding road, but when you meet her, you would not have any clue of what we've been through.  She's perfect and incredibly strong.  It's just our story.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Broken and Humbled

I need to tell the story.  I need to get it all out--what's trapped in my mind.  The horrible parts that don't let me fall asleep at night and enter into my nightmares.  It's been over a week since that terrible ordeal.  That's so hard for me to grasp that it's only been a week.  Does this look like the face of a little girl who quit breathing a week ago?

I sneak into her room in the middle of the night to pick her up and rock her.  Sleep seems to elude me these days.  I am so thankful that she's still here, that God is still letting me take care of her and be her mother.  One thing I have learned, the hard way of course, is that my children are first and foremost, God's children.  I am just blessed that He has given them to me to love and protect the best I can.  I still remember the peace I found rocking Addy as an infant, realizing that I could completely place both Addy and Caden in God's hands and trust that everything would be okay.  I still struggle with that, I still want to be in control.  But when I am reminded to hand them back over, the peace washes over everything.  I'm clinging to that now as I ride the wave of emotions after what we've experienced.  I've been completely, irrevocably broken.  But slowly, God is healing my heart with each smile, each giggle, each time she plops down in my lap to read a book.

It was Thursday early afternoon, after school.  I ran out the door with Addy to do a little shopping.  Caden stayed home with daddy.  We were going to the Just Between Friends consignment sale at a local church.  We browsed through and nothing really caught my eye.  We saw a friend on the way out and chatted for a bit.  She hadn't seen Addy since she was an infant.  We made our way out the car.  Addy wanted to play.  She loves being outside.  I told her no, we were getting in the car and we were going to go to another store to go shopping. 

She didn't want to get into her car seat.  She started to make the face like she was about to cry.  You know how sometimes little kids make the crying face and you have to wait a few seconds for the wail to emit?  That's what I thought she was doing.  Except she never started to cry.  She began to turn blue, her limbs were contorting.  I thought she was having a seizure.  In hindsight, knowing everything we know now, I was watching her suffocate.  Her little body went limp.

I called 911, after hanging up on my husband.  I was hysterical.  I could barely get the words out to the other voice on the line.  "My daughter.... seizure.  She's not breathing."   As I held her in my arms, limp and blue, a million thoughts race through my mind.  "She can't die in my arms."  "This can't be how it ends."  "How do I live without her?"  I was paralyzed.  All the while still on the phone with 911.  I'm not sure how long it lasted. 

I ran back into the foyer of the church, and somehow, someway, she gasped for air.  "She's breathing, thank God, she's breathing," I told the 911 operator.  It wasn't pretty.  She was still limp.  She wasn't getting enough air, but she was coming back to me. 

The paramedics finally arrived.  Of course at that point I thought she'd just had a seizure.  I wasn't aware of the severity of what really happened.  I remember telling the paramedics, "You have to wait for my husband, he may not want us to transport."  They must have thought I was an idiot.  I mean, here's a 21 month old little girl, barely breathing.  It's just that John and I have had the conversation about when to take the ambulance so many times.  May sound morbid, but with his job he's seen a lot of people call 911 for stupid stuff.  I think it's safe to say, this wasn't stupid and warranted the ambulance ride.

I can imagine what it must have looked like, back at the car.  I left her car door wide open.  The stroller still sitting out beside the door.  I have no clue where my purse or her diaper bag was.  I had my phone and the car keys with me, sobbing in the foyer of the church.  A sweet lady stopped with her son and waited for the paramedics with me.  I don't know her name, or anything about her.  Just her kindness.

We got loaded into the ambulance and John finally arrived.  Caden must have been in the car.  All of that is a blur.  Everything was situated, and we were going lights and sirens to the hospital.  The paramedic got oxygen on Addy and I just sat there by her, silently sobbing.

We arrived in the ER, John got there shortly after me.  It wasn't long before they moved us out of the curtained wing of the ER to an actual room where we basically had a dedicated nurse and doctor.  I am not sure the sequence of events.  She had a head CT because I remembered she had fallen that morning and hit her head.  Then there was a chest x-ray that revealed that it appeared she had pneumonia.  The nurse kept saying she's a very sick little girl.  I remember being asked to step out of the room for the x-ray and a nurse just embracing me while I fell apart.  How did she have pneumonia?  She'd been so healthy, so full of life and energy just minutes before the episode.

John made me leave the room for the lumbar puncture to rule out meningitis.  That's when it got really scary.  They'd finished the procedure, but she just wasn't responding well.  Several more people came rushing into the room, preparing to intubate her.  I was to the point of nearly vomiting.  The nurse brought me a barf bag at that point.  Thankfully, her oxygen levels slowly began to rise and we were doing okay with the positive pressure oxygen on her. 

I don't know how long we were in the ER, or when we were moved to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.  The series of questions was the same with every doctor we saw.  The PICU staff was amazing.  They got rid of the little baby crib and brought us a big bed so I could snuggle with Addy around 3am.  She woke up probably every 15-30 minutes, so there was little rest.

I think it was the next morning when a doctor, not sure which one, came in and said that she didn't have pneumonia, but post-obstructive pulmonary edema.  I can't really explain it.  Just that it looked like pneumonia and acted like pneumonia.  Somehow during all of that, there was negative pressure and fluid entered her lungs or lining around the lungs.  I asked about the likelihood of her laryngomalacia being a part of what happened and was basically dismissed.  I will be following up on that and getting a second opinion.  I am convinced that her weak larynx collapsed and cut off her airway.  I just can't find any other explanation.  And maybe it's not my job to understand, but I have to at least try to make sense of it all.

We ended up with a total of 1 head CT, 3 chest x-rays, an echo of her heart, and an EEG.  All normal, except the chest x-rays of course.  We were transferred to the regular floor on Saturday afternoon.  We got to go home Sunday afternoon.  She was so excited to leave and go home.  I made John put her in the car seat for me, that was just too much to handle.  She's doing absolutely great now and reminds me daily how life is so precious.

She's so beautiful, so perfect, and I am so thankful.  As a parent, to wrap your head around the idea that something so precious to you can be taken away in an instant is earth-shatteringly humbling.  Again, I find it to be a miracle she's still with me.  She could have quit breathing in her sleep when I wasn't there to get help.  God is good, especially in the midst of these struggles.

Broken.  Thankful.  Humbled.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Where Does Time Go?

Wow, it's been a whirlwind of activity since April.  Everyone is doing great in our home.  I work in the education field, so I get the summer's off which is priceless to me.  I adore the time I get to play stay-at-home-mom with my babies during the summer, as well as the other long holiday breaks during the year.  I've got the best of both worlds in my opinion.

Updates on Ms. Addyson.  She's doing SO WELL!  I am amazed at how we set a goal for her and then she just zooms right through it.  She's amazing.  Every time I think I can't do something, or feel like there is a pre-determined expectation, I just remind myself that I was told my sweet girl wasn't going to hit her milestones on time.  Don't judge a book by it's cover!

She started crawling around 10 months which is the same age my son was.  She's into absolutely everything.  Some days I want to pull my hair out, and other days I soak it all in, reminding myself how blessed we are. 

She's 13 months old today.   Wow, where does the time go?  I feel like it's only been in the last few months that I've been able to exhale this breath I've been holding for so long and enjoy her fully.  I've worried so much over her.  As of today, she cruises everywhere, walks with one hand assistance and has push toys she nearly runs with across the house.  She babbles a lot and can request "more" by making the "mmm" sound.  She says baba for her sippy cup.  She can also say Mama, Dada, Bubba, and something that sounds very close to Caden (her older brother's name).

We have had quite a few doctor appointments this month.  Drum roll, please.....

Opthamology--Background, she has anisocoira where one pupil will dilate differently from the other in different light.  Our appointment showed that everything looks good.  They can't explain why she tears up when she eats.  They did say she shows signs of near-sightedness and will likely need glasses in childhood.

Neurology-- Background, she was referred at 2 months old and was suspected to have Cerebral Palsy.  Are you ready for this?  DISMISSED!!!!!!!!!  Her tone looks really good, she's slightly hyper-reflexive, which myself and Caden are as well.  But everything looks great.

Pulmonology--Background, she was born with stridor, basically making her sound very raspy when she breaths.  As for this appointment, again, she is DISMISSED!!!!!  I also asked about the tearing up when she eats, but to no avail.  It remains a mystery.  We are just hoping she'll outgrow it soon.  It's getting progressively better.

Endocrinology--Background, she was referred due to short stature.  Testing revealed a genetic issue that we will be following up with.  For this appointment, the doctor recommended that she be switched to 2% milk instead of whole milk due to her weight/height ratio.  She's a chunky monkey!  Her predicted adult height is 5 feet tall.  We will go back in one year for a bone age x-ray, just to make sure there isn't a problem there.

So overall, everything is looking great.  She's a tiny little fireball!  Her personality is really starting to show itself more and more every day.  I need to get a picture of the pouty face she uses on her daddy.  It's absolutely priceless, and of course it just makes him melt.  I love it.  We will see the geneticist in August, but my instinct is that they won't pursue further testing.  I don't see any reason for it.  She's reaching milestones and thriving.  God is good. 

Some days I wonder why we had to go through all of this.  There are days I wish that our pediatrician wouldn't have referred us to neurology, which sent us down this winding road of specialists.  I mourn for the loss of simply enjoying her infancy.  I tried so hard not to worry and to relax and enjoy it, I really did.  But how do you not worry when no one seems to have answers but everyone is telling you she's not "normal."  So I finally exhale and I get to breathe her in--everything that makes her so special and unique.  I can't wait to tell her the story of how God made her and how strong she is.  Someone once told me "can't never could," meaning that if you say you can't do something, then you probably won't ever be able to do it.  But if you try, you just might succeed.  To everyone who said she couldn't or wouldn't, I say "can't never could" but try and she did.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Holding Pattern

Where do I begin?  I’m tired.  Emotionally drained.  It’s been 7 months of meeting with specialists and getting a list of symptoms, but no underlying cause.  My sister-in-law stated it beautifully to me, “Not having an answer for problems is heart breaking and often grieved in private.”   And I do grieve.  But I also rejoice.  It’s such a tangled web of emotions.

To recap:
At 2 months, Addy was referred to a neurologist for hypertonia.  We also met with an Opthamologist who told us she has Anisocoria.
At 3 months, we met with a neurologist who told me she had a form of Cerebral Palsy.
At 4 months, we got the MRI results that were clear, but no explanations for these other issues.
At 5 months, we met with an ENT and pulmonologist who told us Addy has Laryngomalacia.
At 6 months, we have a swallow study and learn she’s partially aspirating when taking her bottles.
At 7-8 months, we breathe a little bit.   She’s sitting up on her own and doing well. 
And here we are at 9 months.

If you've missed any parts of the story, you can read here:
Redefining Perfect, Part 1 
and Part 2.
Don't Be Sorry For Me, I'm Blessed,
Miracles Do Happen, 
Laryn-go What?,
and When You Just Don't Know.

We were referred to an endocrinologist at Addyson’s 9 month check-up because of “short stature.”  Little miss is in the 1st percentile for height, and 75th percentile for weight, making her slightly overweight.  She’s a precious chubby little thing.  The doctor was suspecting a thyroid or growth hormone issue.  The endocrinologist agreed and tests were ordered for thyroid, growth hormone and a chromosome analysis to rule out Turner Syndrome.  The endocrinologist almost didn't order the chromosome analysis because none of us are seeing anything that looks like Turner Syndrome, other than her height (or lack thereof!).
Two weeks.  Two long weeks of waiting for lab results.  I was especially concerned about the possibility of her having hypothyroidism.  That used to be the leading cause of intellectual disabilities in children before mandatory screenings were initiated.  Addy’s hospital screening was just fine.  Apparently you are supposed to have a second screening a couple weeks later.  I didn't remember anything about it 2 weeks postpartum and the doctor’s office never mentioned it, so we didn't get that done.  I wish someone would have explained the need for that—I’m certain it wouldn't have been forgotten had I known the importance of it.  I agonized over that for 14 days.  I just thought to myself, “what if I could have prevented serious issues?”  So, here’s my advice to parents:  don’t skip that.  And here’s my advice to doctors:  remind your sleep-deprived, emotional moms and explain why it’s important.  You think 2 weeks to wait isn't long, but when you're staring at the phone, waiting for the doctor’s office to call every hour, it seems like an eternity.

Finally, the phone rings and the nurse from the endocrinologist’s office greets me.  I held my breath.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I heard her say that the thyroid and growth hormones were all normal.  Oh my goodness, it was sweet release.  It didn't last very long.  The nurse kept talking.  She said that there was a slight abnormality on the chromosomal testing.  It’s called at balanced translocation.  She explained it as two chromosomes got stuck together.  She continued to tell me that this doesn’t normally cause any issues in the patient.  She proceeded to let me know that we are being referred to a geneticist.  She says it's not urgent, but will be important in Addy’s future.

So, what exactly is a balanced reciprocal translocation?  Basically it means that in Addy’s case, chromosome 9 and 10 met at p22 and q24, broke and swapped places.  We are being referred to genetics because sometimes, more in the case of unbalanced translocations, the genes near the break sites could have been deleted or duplicated, which would cause a variety of problems, all depending on which genes are affected.   It could be that either John or I already have a translocation and that’s what caused this.  However, translocations also happen randomly when the embryo is being formed.  One of the hardest things to swallow right now is that even if this translocation doesn’t affect her development—meaning there’s no gene disruption (as suspected)—she will have fertility problems.  She will be at high risk of miscarrying or conceiving a child with special needs.  That breaks my heart.  I know there are other options for her to have children if she wants to.  But to know that one day, when she’s much older, I will have to sit down with her and explain to her that having her own children isn’t advised.  That one cuts right to the heart.

And of course, I am assuming that she will be of the mental capacity to have children.  In the back of my mind, it’s foolish not to consider that Addyson may have some form of developmental delay.  Granted, she is meeting all of her milestones in the recommended time frame currently, but we still have a long way to go and the next few months/years will be very telling.   As of now, Addy can roll over, sit unassisted, is beginning to try to pull herself up, scoots across the floor on her bottom, and can stay on her hands and knees for an extended period of time.  She is not crawling at this point—but my son didn’t crawl until 10-11 months and walk until 14 months and he is perfectly on target.  She babbles—imitating sounds and her favorite “words” are dada and bubba.  She goes through talking spurts—she babbles less when she’s making great physical gains.  She smiles at you, looks at you when you call her name, and absolutely is crazy about her older brother and laughs anytime he comes to play with her.  She has a very laid-back personality whereas her brother’s personality is over the top.  But she has an attitude, that’s for sure!   She will glare at you, swat at you, or “scream” at you if you are making her mad or making her work too hard.  She’s the most stubborn little girl and I love it.

I’m so grateful to be her mother, as tiresome as it can be.  I just want answers, and to some extent, I have to accept that I may or may not get any.  So, we are still in a holding pattern.  Our genetic consultation appointment isn't scheduled until August, unless there’s a cancellation before then.  The actual testing and results could take weeks to months to get back. 

So we wait and watch.   I’m so glad that I have my faith to rely on and not just doctors and science.  They can look at her brain and her genetic makeup to make predictions and assumptions.  But God made her—he knows her.   I go back to being told she wasn't going to meet the milestones that she’s already met and I smile knowing that God’s got a plan for her.

Psalm 139:13-16
“For you created her inmost being; you knit her together in my womb.  I praise you because she is fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Her frame was not hidden from you when she was in the secret place, when she was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw her unformed body; all the days ordained for her were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Clean Eating {Freezer} Meals

If you enjoy these recipes, please consider getting my E-Cookbook!   Time and Money Saving Freezer Meals for the Crockpot!

 Join me on Pinterest and check out my Crockpot Meals and Eating Healthy Boards!  You can also follow me on Facebook!

 Hi friends!  It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted about freezer meals, so I thought it was due time.  We have been trying to do the whole “clean eating” thing at my house.  If you aren’t sure what Clean Eating is, google it!  We definitely aren’t perfect with it, but we are trying to get rid of processed things.  When you look at food labels and the majority is names of things you’ve never heard of, it’s no wonder why we have so many health problems.  I cannot credit the recipes to myself.  I have taken recipes from Pinterest and made a meal plan for our family.  You will have to click the link to get the recipe from the original website.   I will say that I have adapted these to be frozen and then prepared but have not tried them all frozen.

I will reference flash freezing quite frequently in this post.  That is simply the act of taking your food items, placing them on cookie cooling rack and putting them in the freezer for about 15 to 30 minutes so that everything freezes individually and won’t stick together when you combine it into a big bag.

All of these recipes are intended for just one freezer bag unlike my former recipes.  You can easily double them though for two bags/casserole dishes.  Several of these would be easy to prepare in the crockpot.  You all know how much  I LOVE the crockpot!

I hope you enjoy my selections.  I have also included a shopping list at the bottom of the post, as well as a freezer cooking day plan of action

Greek Marinated Chicken

Serve with some fresh veggies or a salad. 

Directions for Freezer Preparation (modified from Budget Bytes):

1.        To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper in a bowl.  Add 1-2 tbsp of lemon juice plus some lemon zest.  Stir until well combined.  Add parsley.

2.       Add the chicken (I prefer breasts) to the marinade in a large Ziploc bag.

3.       Freeze/Thaw/Cook.  Heat oven to 375*, bake in a 9x13 casserole dish until cooked through.  Boneless meat requires less time than bone-in or try the crockpot!

Crockpot for 8 hours on low if frozen or 4 hours on low if thawed.  Again, I’ve not yet attempted the crockpot, but I definitely will on this one!

Chicken Fingers

What kid doesn’t love chicken fingers!  My 3 1/2 year old gobbled them up!  I like to serve these with sweet potato French fries.  You can make your own or buy them frozen.   Here’s a link to a Pinterest recipe.  These ingredients are not included on my shopping list.  Like I’ve said, we aren’t perfect on the “eating clean” thing.  But we are trying!  This is definitely a recipe to make in bulk.  No more yucky freezer chicken strips full of gunk!

Directions for Freezer Preparation (modified from The Fitness Freak):

1.        Preheat oven to 475*.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Set a wire rack on the baking sheet and place it in the oven while it preheats.

2.       Place almonds, flour, paprika, garlic powder, dry mustard, salt and pepper in a food processor until the almonds are finely chopped and the paprika is mixed thoughout.  With the motor running, drizzle in oil.  Process until combined.  Transfer to a shallow dish. 

*I had whole almonds and pounded them out on the counter with a meat mallet before putting them in the food processor.

3.        Whisk egg whites in a second shallow dish.  Add chicken tenders and turn to coat.  Transfer each tender to the almond mixture and coat evenly.

4.       Place the tenders on the baking rack (removed from oven and coated with cooking oil/spray).

5.       Bake 20-25 minutes.

6.       Flash Freeze.  Then combine into a large Ziploc bag and remove as many as needed.

7.       Bake at 475* until warmed thoroughly.  You could probably pop them in the microwave for a quick kid snack if needed.

Chicken Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

Sorry, no picture for this one.  Didn't remember to snap the photo!

Perfect stand-alone meal.  No sides necessary.  For those of you who love Chicken Broccoli Casserole, this is awesome.  I have really come to love quinoa, especially when mixed in with other foods.  Just a note—try to buy the pre-rinsed variety.  Otherwise you’re going to need to add a step.  Another option my family loves is the Minute Rice Multi Grain Medley.  It has brown rice, red rice, wild rice, and quinoa.  Lovely flavor.

Directions for Freezer Preparation (modified from Kalyns Kitchen):

1.        Cook chicken.  Either buy a prepared rotisserie chicken or prepare your chicken however is easiest for you.

2.       Cook quinoa according to package instructions.

3.       Boil/steam broccoli.

4.       Whisk together sour cream, mayo, lemon juice, curry powder, salt and pepper to make sauce.

5.       Place chicken, quinoa, and broccoli in a greased 9x9 pan (foil pans freeze best).  Cover with sauce.

6.       Freeze/Thaw/Cook.  Freeze.  Thaw and then bake at 350*for 35-40 minutes.  You can even add a layer of low-fat cheese to the top if you need a little extra umph!

Southwest Meatball Skillet

Perfect meal on its own.  No sides necessary.

Directions for Freezer Preparation (modified from Clean Eating Mag):

1.        In a large bowl, combine turkey, egg whites, bread crumbs, salt and pepper and mix well.  Shape into 16 meatballs, each about the size of a golf ball.  

2.       In a large skillet, heat oil on medium-high.  Add meatballs and cook 3-5 minutes, turning frequently.  Partially cover and book an addition 3-5 minutes, until cooked through. 

3.       Flash Freeze.

4.       Place meatballs in a large Ziploc bag, add corn, beans, tomatoes, broth, lime juice, and cumin.

5.       Freeze/Thaw/Cook.   Heat in a skillet over medium-high heat or try the crockpot!

You could possibly cook in the crockpot frozen to serve, though I’ve not tried it.  I would try 8 hours on low when you put it in still frozen or 4 hours low when thawed.  Please let me know if you try it!

Turkey Mini Meatloaf Muffins

Who doesn’t love muffin shaped meat!?!  Serve with fresh  veggies or salad.

Directions for Freezer Preparation (modified from Body Building):

1.        Preheat oven to 350*

2.       Grease muffin pan.

3.       Mix all ingredients.

4.       Roll into balls and place in muffin pan.

5.       Bake for 40 minutes. 

6.       Flash freeze.

7.       Thaw/Cook as many as needed.  I’d say that 1 ½ to 2 muffins would be a dinner size portion.  Reheat at 350* until heated thoroughly.

Quinoa Bowls

These look absolutely delicious!  I’ve changed my recipe to include chicken as well.  No sides necessary.  Full of protein, grains and veggies!

Directions for Freezer Preparation (modified from Domestic Super Hero):

1.        Fry eggs and chop.

2.       Cook chicken or use rotisserie chicken.

3.       Cook quinoa according to directions.

4.       Heat oil in large skillet.  Add garlic, ginger, and onion.  Cook until tender.

5.       Add mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, zucchini.  Cook until tnder.

6.       Add corn, peas, and quinoa.  Cook a few minutes.

7.       Add soy sauce,  green onions,  eggs, and chicken.

8.       Freeze/Thaw/Cook.  I would freeze either in a casserole dish or in individual Tupperware dishes for lunch.  Thaw and then heat in the oven at 350* until warmed thoroughly.  You could easily microwave for lunch, too.

Plan of action:

1.       I highly recommend buying the Rotisserie chicken for the Quinoa bowls and the Chicken Broccoli Quinoa casserole.  Otherwise, cook and chop your chicken the day before.

2.       Chop all vegetables the day before.

3.       While you’re chopping, go ahead and cook your quinoa.

4.       Get all your ingredients out on the counter in groups by recipe.

5.        Throw together the Greek Marinated Chicken bag.   That one is the easiest to get done and out of the way.

6.       Prep and cook the chicken fingers.

7.       While chicken fingers are in the oven, prep the Chicken Broccoli Quinoa Casserole and get that in the freezer.

8.       Start working on the Southwest Meatball Skillet.  While that is going, flash freeze the chicken fingers.  Adjust the temperature on the oven for the Meatloaf Muffins.   Get the Southwest Meatball Skillet in the freezer.

9.       Start the prep the Meatloaf muffins.  Take chicken fingers out of the freezer and place all in one baggie and back into the freezer.

10.   Bake the Meatloaf muffins.   While those are baking, prep your Quinoa Bowls.  Get those into the freezer.

11.   Flash freeze your Meatloaf Muffins.  Take out, and place all in one baggie and back into the freezer.

12.   Whew,  Relax!  That was a lot of work!   But, now you don’t have to cook for the rest of the week!

Shopping List










Green Onion






1-2 Rotisserie chicken (Quinoa Lunch bowls and Chicken Broccoli Quinoa Casserole)

2lbs ground turkey

Chicken—for chicken fingers

Chicken—for Greek Marinated Chicken


Frozen Corn

Black Beans

Frozen Peas or fresh


Quinoa (2 meals worth)

Chicken broth

Whole wheat bread crumbs


Quick oats


Garlic Powder

Dry Mustanrd



Onion Powder


Chipotle pepper spice


EVOO or other cooking oil

Dijon Mustard



Greek Yogurt—plain

Sour Cream

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Egg Muffins

This morning I felt like mom of the year.  I was dropping the 3 year old off at pre-school and most the kids eat breakfast there who are dropped off at 7:15 or 7:30.  Sometimes I'll make a batch of those little pig in blankets.  Or I'll make pancakes ahead of time and put extras aside for the week.  But most of the time it's cereal or oatmeal and yogurt.  But this morning I resorted to a bag of the little pre-packaged mini muffins.  Honestly, that stuff is junk.  I don't like to feed myself or my family things like that.  Processed food just isn't my style.  I open his little package of muffins and look around the room to kids having much more nutritious breakfasts than my son.  Mommy guilt.  So I decided to try a new make-ahead breakfast.  My inspiration came from a fellow blogger over at Healthy For Two.  The direct  link is at the bottom of this post.  I made my own spin on it that's more friendly to my pre-schooler's tastes, but it's essentially the same idea.  Hope you like it!  I started out with a mini-bunch.

Start by mixing 6 eggs in a bowl.

Chop up your cooked meat.

Then add in your sausage, cheese, and really whatever else you want and pour into your greased muffin tin.

Bake at 350* for 15-17 minutes.

Egg Muffins

6 eggs
1/3 cup cheese
2 turkey sausage (or meat of your choice) links cut small
About 2 tbsp of salsa (go easy, too much and your muffins won't hold together well.). You can always sub fresh tomatoes/onions/peppers, but this was so much easier!

Preheat oven to 350*.
Mix eggs in a bowl.
Add in sausage, cheese and salsa.  (I left the salsa out for my son's muffins)
Pour into 6 section muffin tin.
Cook 15-17 minutes.  It's okay for them to be slightly under-cooked since you'll microwave to heat and eat later.  They will be fluffy after coming out of the oven, but will fall once they begin cooling.

To heat and eat:
Wrap in moist paper towel and heat in microwave until warm.  (Maybe 30-60 seconds).  All microwaves are different!  They keep for a week in the fridge.  And the best part is that these little gems are only 105 calories each, so have two!  Enjoy!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Part-Time Single Mom

Happy New Year everyone!  The house is momentarily quiet--both children are asleep.  I love it when that happens.  Not near frequently enough, though!  Ah, wait, no, I think I hear the youngest.  It was quiet for a while at least.

I just want to take a moment to thank my friends and family who've been supporting me and reading this little snapshot of my family's life.  I truly appreciate everyone's support and prayers.  It means a lot to me.  It's really a pretty neat thing to see so many people I don't know reading my blog. Addy is coming along beautifully.  She is sitting up without support.  Shes eating solid foods.  She's working those little legs when she's on her tummy, getting ready to crawl in the future.  She's just wonderful.  Caden is getting bigger everyday.  I love the conversations you can have with a 3 year old.  The things he says.  The other morning he told me, "Mommy, I didn't have a good nap because you woke me up when it was still dark."  The "nap" being going to sleep for the night.  And yeah, it is dark at 6:30am when I have to wake him up.  Poor baby.

In my last post, I mentioned how caring for myself has sort of gone by the wayside.  There's been a lot of transition in my home over the last 6 months. A new job, a new baby, and all the little things that have come along with my sweet girl. I wouldn't trade any of it, but somewhere along the way I've let myself go. I was about 8 pounds away from my pre-pregnancy weight when I went back to work, 6 weeks post-partum. I worked really hard in my pregnancy to stay fit. I went to the gym several times a week and tried to eat well. Somewhere between now and then I guess all the stress got to me. I started eating fast food for lunch several times a week. Probably a few times for dinner as well when John was working. It just got out of hand, really quick! So now here I am, claiming I just need to lose "these last 15 pounds of baby weight" when at least half of it isn't baby weight at all! It's lazy stress weight!

On top of that, I have a husband in the fire service.  Because of this, I like to call myself a "part-time single mom."  My husband is gone for about 27-28 consecutive hours every 3 days.  He leaves for work when I am still asleep, he stays at the fire station all day, all night, and makes it home around 9:00am the following day usually.  So, a typcial work day when he's working for me looks a bit like this:
  • Wake up at 5:45.
  • Get me and the kids ready for work/school.  Leave house by 7:00am
  • Drop Addy at her sitter's house.
  • Drop Caden at pre-school.
  • Work 8:00-4:00.
  • Pick up Caden at 4:30.
  • Gym if I don't need to work late or suffer mommy guilt from 4:45-5:30
  • Pick up Addy at 5:30
  • Dinner when I get home around 5:45--that can be a joke sometimes!
  • Get everyone bathed and in bed, 7:00 for Addy, 8:00 for Caden.
  • Clean up, pack lunches, prep everything for next day, or sometimes just collapse on the couch.
I do this same routine the next morning, but thankfully, John is home when I get home from work.  What I've found is that this every 3rd day thing really puts a kink in my routine.  It's regular, but it's not.  It's not like on every Tuesday and Thursday I have a separate schedule.  It's every 3rd day.    You'd think I'd be used to it by now and I would have it a little more together.  But I don't--or I didn't.  I have a plan now!

I have a plan.  It may not be the best, but it's a plan that I think will work for me.  First things first, the dinner is an easy fix.  Hello--do I not have a blog that has several posts about freezer meals?!  In addition to some of my favorites, I am whipping up some marinated grilled chicken that will be ready to heat up for a quick dinner along with some steamable veggies.  Here's what I am putting in the freezer:  Chipotle Lime Chicken, Salsa Chicken, and Savory Pepper Steak.  I also made the Lemon Pepper Chicken fresh.  Sorry, no pictures of that one, we just made it and ate it!  Those are the family favorites, and you can get all of those recipes in my e-book, if you haven't gotten that already!  I'm actually a pretty big fan of just doing 3 meals.  It only took me an hour versus 3 hours.  A couple time savers for me:  I used a mandolin slicer for the veggies. Made things really fast.  I also used pre-minced organic garlic.  It's in a jar, I just scooped it out.  I also didn't cut the chicken up.  I threw them in whole and figure it will make the chicken more moist and if I want to cut it later, I can.  Granted, I will have to do it more frequently, but 3 meals (doubled makes 6!) is manageable.  I don't have to send the kids anywhere.  I can let Caden color at the table or watch a movie while Addy takes a nap and get this done.  That's the kind of time I have with 2 kids!  Plus, I know some nights we will have leftovers and some nights my husband will cook.  This is the perfect amount for us.  I went ahead and put the recipes at the bottom of this post, but I really encourage you to get the e-book.  There are a lot of great crock-pot freezer meals in there!

The next part of my plan is being prepared.  I bought sandwich meat and fixings, individual bags of fruit, pudding cups, and some popcorn that I will keep at my office for the week.  I have a mini-fridge at my desk so it's all easily accessible.  But let's face it, we don't always want what we have right in front of us.  Sometimes we like to go out to lunch or just grab something real fast.  So I made a list of the fast food places close to my work and my "healthier options" at those places.

My Fast Food Fix

Chicken Express—Chicken Breast (230 cal), green beans (40 cal), roll (110 cal) = 480 cal.
Sonic—Jr. Burger (330 cal)
Sonic—Grilled chicken wrap (430 cal)
Sonic—Grilled chicken sandwich (450 cal)
McDonald’s—Egg McMuffin (290 cal)
McDonald’s—Sausage Burrito (300 cal)
Whataburger—Jr Burger (300 cal)
Taco Bueno—Bacon Egg Taco (240 cal)
Taco Bueno—Chicken Potato Burrito (327 cal)
Taco Bueno—Chicken Tortilla Soup (237 cal)
Taco Bueno—Chicken Soft Taco (184 cal)
Taco Bueno—Chicken Taco Rollup (180 cal)
Wendy’s—Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich (340 cal)
Wendy’s—Jr. Cheeseburger (290 cal)
Wendy’s—Large Chili (270 cal)  Small Chili (180 cal)
Taco Cabana—Beef Street Tacos 3 (290 cal)
Taco Cabana—Crispy Chick Taco (160 cal)
Taco Cabana—Chicken Breast Fajita Taco (180 cal)

The last part of my plan is all about exercise and dedication.  I really love going to the gym with my friend Jenny.  We have a great time catching up and enjoying a good workout together.  But sometimes I have to work late, and sometimes I just have plain mommy guilt and feel like I need to be with my kids instead of taking one to the daycare at the gym and leaving the baby at the sitter's even longer.  Granted, I love what taking my son to the gym with me has already instilled in him.  Every day after school he asks me if we are going to the gym to exercise.  He gets it--we've have the conversation about be active and playing and staying healthy.  And he's only 3!  I want my kids to know the value of exercise.  It's important physically and emotionally in my opinion.  However, sometimes work or mommy guilt wins.  So I have a work out video that is only 30 minutes long that I can do once the kids are in bed.  I actually find it to be very challenging.  You need to check into Jillian Michael's Six Week 6 Pack.  Yes, I know that it is late once the kids are in bed, and trust me, I am really really tired..  But it's only 30 minutes of my day.  I never have ever thought to myself, "
wow, I really regret working out and not sitting on the couch instead."  I've never felt like I've wasted my time working out.  I always feel better about myself.  It's worth it.

So, that sums up my plan.  It's nothing new or revolutionary.  It's just a few small changes here and there.  But I think those small changes will make a big difference.  And as promised, here are the recipes for those freezer meals I mentioned above!  Again, the e-book has many more recipes that are wonderful as well.  You can also browse the site to see some recipes I have borrowed from others on the web!

Savory Pepper Steak

3 pounds of roundsteak but into ½ inch thick strips.
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp pepper
1 large onion chopped
a few garlic cloves—Ilike to put 4-5 crushed into each bag
1 green pepperssliced
1 red peper sliced
2 16oz cans of tomatoes—I prefer Italian style
2 tbsp beef bouillon
4 tsp ofWorcestershire sauce
2 tbsp of steakseasoning
2 tbsp of steak sauce

Directions:  Mix together beef boullion,Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and steak sauce and divide evenly into two bags. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on low 8 hours. Serve with rice and a side salad.

Salsa Chicken

6-8 chicken breasts
2 15 oz. cans of black beans
1 family size frozen bag of corn
2 cans of diced tomatoes and green chilies
1 jar of salsa
1 packet of taco seasoning
2 cups of cheddar cheese

Directions: Divide everything except cheese evenly into two bags. Cook on low for 8 hours. Serve over rice or on corn tortillas withrice as a side.
Chipotle Lime Chicken

2 cups diced onion
2 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped carrots
8 skinless chicken thighs
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans tomato sauce
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tbsp miced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
4 garlic cloves
1/2 cup cilantro
2 sliced avacodos

Directions: Split all ingredients into two bags except avacado. Cook on low 8 hours. Serve with avacodo on top. Serve on top of rice or noodles.

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