Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas List 2014!

Every year I do a list of things I'm loving for the holiday season in hopes it will help inspire your wish list as well. There are always things I think would be nice to haves, but then when I'm asked what I'd like for Christmas, I usually have to rack my brain for ideas. So here are a few things I love, in no particular order!

I could get a few pair of these every year and be happy. I love them for going out of the house in winter to keep my feet warm, or for the days I work from home and am in stocking feet they are perfect for keeping my toes warm under the desk. Plus, I love the designs Smart Wool have on their socks! I am also in real need of new running socks, so those are on my list as well. I love the FitSok brand.

Also looking towards my feet, I need new winter boots. I have cute boots, even warm boots, but nothing to hold up in sleet, ice and snow, and I need them. Last winter was a hard winter for Virginia (so an average Midwest winter) and this winter is looking tough as well. I need these to shovel, play outside with my kids, and feel okay if they get salt and grime on them, because they're not for fashion purposes. That said, I think these boots are cute too--so that helps!

With little time to do quality clothes shopping, most of my clothes are from Target recently. While that's okay, I'd love a few more nice key items, and am not the greatest stylist of myself. I'd love to try Stitch Fix, where you get a monthly package of clothes picked out for you by a stylist based on your tips to them, where you can keep what you like, and return what you don't. The price of the clothes (average piece is $55) holds me back, but I know you really get what you pay for in most clothing pieces, so I'd love a gift card in order to be able to do a few months of Stitch Fix.

I watched too much Food Network on maternity leave and saw these over and over again and thought one would be awesome. I make pasta often, and this would make life so much easier, not to mention, be able to handle big batches for when I'm making doubles of dishes for freezer meals.

The past few years I haven't been a huge fan of Crate and Barrel's Christmas decor, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw what they stocked this year! An Ornament Tree would be great since I can't display my breakable ornaments on our real tree, but could still put this up on a mantle or shelf and enjoy them.

This lotion is on my list every year, and usually Ben comes through with a small bottle in my stocking. I love the way it smells, and it is the only lotion that truly gets my winter dry, overly washed hands, to soften up. If you've never tried it, add it to your list! It comes in a large, and trial size bottle.

So there you have it, things I love for Holiday Season 2014. What's on your list this year??

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Monday, November 3, 2014

My Favorite Mac and Cheese(ish) Recipes and a Fall Update

This fall has flown by, and so has my maternity leave! I am back at work now, and enjoying my co-workers, and my time with the boys as well. It's a good balance.

Austin and Everett had a great Halloween. Austin resisted putting on his costume for my work Halloween party, but he put it on for trick or treating in our neighborhood, and loved it! He trick or treated for an hour and a half, taking a break in the middle so Ben and I could switch who went with him, and who stayed home to hand out candy and be with Everett. 

All the boys on Halloween--Cooper literally jumped in as I got ready to take the picture so he wouldn't be left out!

I've also picked back up in my running this fall, and finally think I found a great group to run with, with people my pace, and run intervals. It's so refreshing, and great to have a community of positive women to exercise with, and motivate me.

Austin also turned two the day I went back to work. I was sad to leave him on his birthday, but his dad was with him that day, and he really didn't understand it until the presents came out (and now he has told me that Santa brings presents, specifically, new trucks).

It's hard to believe this little man that is so full of personality is two years old! 

During maternity leave this summer and fall, I had Austin home with me full time as well. Austin is in a stage of very picky eating. We present him a lot of options, and sometimes he surprises us and tries new things, or takes a bite of fruits and vegetables (this week he ate a small stalk of broccoli, woo hoo!). His favorite foods include: carbs, carbs and MORE carbs--along with scrambled eggs.

That said, I've been trying to find some ways to mix up our Mac and Cheese recipes, because those are always a hit, and sneaky way to get some extra veggies or protein in Austin's diet.

I'm always up for trying new things, and would love to hear your favorite Macaroni and Cheese recipes, and here are a few of my favorites:

Iowa Girl Eats Lighter Buffalo Mac and Cheese
This recipe has a great zing to it, even if you don't add all the called for Franks Red Hot Sauce like I do for Austin's more sensitive pallet (and me not wanting to have too much spice while nursing, as it can affect Everett's belly as well).
Martha Stewart Lighter Macaroni and Cheese
I don't do the tomato part of this recipe, but this recipe was my first attempt at baked mac and cheese, and I love it. It's not an easy recipe, but it tastes great.
The Pioneer Woman Mac and Four Cheeses
The easiest mac and cheese if you shred the cheese a day ahead. I've easily found all these cheeses and Trader Joes for an affordable price. 
Kraft Chicken and Broccoli-Cheddar Skillet
I'm not a mayo fan, so I sub in sour cream here, but I love this recipe, and it's very fast for weeknights.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Everett's Birth Story, Part Two

Check out Everett's Birth Story Part One if you haven't yet before reading on...

Sure enough, at nearly exactly the same time I woke up to my water breaking with Austin, I woke up around 4:00 a.m. to terrible contractions. They were not mild anymore, they were the kind that rip through your hips and abs like a meat grinder, and had me shooting out of bed.

I woke up Ben to tell him how I was feeling as I paced our bedroom deep breathing. At that moment my water started breaking, not a gush, like with Austin, but it was definitely breaking.

I called the on call number for my OB practice and immediately started to freak out when they told me none of the doctors in my practice were on call. What?! How could this happen?? Well, on very rare occasions (and I knew this was the case, my practice kept me well informed on this) if all of the doctors in my practice have the weekend off, there are a group of fill in doctors on call to cover for them. It only happens a handful of times a year, and this was one of them.

Admittingly, I lost my shit at this point. I told Ben that if they wouldn't let me VBAC, I would walk out of the hospital. "I'll do it! I'll just leave!" Yeah, not sure where I was going to go...

Anyway, when the doctor on call called me back, she was very nice, told me of course they'd be okay with a VBAC if that was the birth plan, and to come in to the hospital and get checked out and we'd review things.

Ben woke up my mom to let her know what was happening, and I gobbled down a bowl of Rice Chex and a Snickers I had set aside for when I went into labor (seriously) and we headed out.

The 20 minute or so drive to the hospital was nice on the empty early Sunday morning highway, except for every few minutes when i would have a huge, painful contraction. It made me happy that my body was obviously laboring on it's own, which is a great thing for qualifying for a VBAC, but my goodness, did it hurt.

When we arrived, we quickly got into triage (oh, and the parking garage was closed for cleaning, so Ben had to park nearly a half mile away and hoof it into the hospital with all my stuff after dropping me off), and met the on call doctor. She was nice, told me I was three centimeters after checking me... and then told me she was off at 7:00 and another doctor would be in shortly. WHAT?!?

"I'm sure she's fine with you VBACing," she said.

"She damn well better be," I thought as I scowled in disgust.

The new doctor arrived not twenty minutes later, and it was like God knew what he was doing when he had her on call that day. She was awesome. She told me her criteria for a VBAC (progressing mainly on your own, but could have a small dose of pitocin, went into labor on your own, baby reacting well, and no pressure in my scar area). She was very reassuring and made me feel great about things.

We got into labor and delivery, met our nurses (there were several, and this gave me anxiety that I didn't have just one, and I had a minor breakdown about this until our assigned nurse came back to be with just us), and I received an epidural that went SO much better than my last one. The needle hardly hurt at all, and brought immediate relief.

Ben and I took naps on and off, and I was checked again after a couple hours, where they found I was making no progress, and the baby's heart rate was starting to drop. My doctor told me, "I have a three strikes rule for VBACs, I can't be as liberal with letting baby go through possible trauma in these situations, this is strike one."

The one picture I took during labor, Ben napping
They had me turn to my left side, put me on oxygen, and turned off the pitocin, and then the baby came back around with an improved heart rate, and my pitocin was gradually started again with a small dose.

After a couple hours, I started to get really intense contractions that I could feel, even through the epidural, all over my left side. It was awful. I was on my left side, gripping the bed rail, while Ben stood by my side, and I tried to breath. The contractions felt like they were ongoing, with no break.

This went on for over an hour, and from what I know of labor, it was clear I was going through transition. Sure enough, when my doctor came back to check me and said, words that were music to my ears, "you're at ten (centimeters), lets get ready to push!"

I was so relieved to hear this, I had gone from three to ten centimeters in just a couple of hours, and had a chance to deliver my baby vaginally!

Pushing started, and was harder than I thought it would be. I pushed and pushed for nearly an hour...making little progress. They tried putting a mirror up to motivate me, it only weirded me out. they had me do extra pushes during each contraction, still not a lot of progress. After every push, the baby's head would creep back up.

In total, I ended up pushing for two and a half hours, the next day my back, shoulders, arms and leg muscles all hurt from the effort of those pushes.

I was feeling so defeated and very tired. Then, they decided to have me not lay back down between pushes, but keep my legs up in between contractions, and that made all the difference.

It was at this point my OB came in and sat with me, and told me she would be there through the end of my labor unless something else urgent came up, and told me the second best words I heard all day (besides that I had a healthy child), "you're going to deliver this baby vaginally, it's going to happen."

I burst into happy tears.

From here things are a blur, I remember my doctor saying to know it was getting close when she put on her mask and shoe covers. Since we didn't know the gender, she told us she would lift the baby's leg after she placed it on my chest for Ben to announce the gender.

Minutes later, Ben was telling me, "The baby's coming! It's coming out!" The guy who always said he'd stay "north of the border," was watching his child be born in anticipation. And in a whirlwind, suddenly a baby was on my chest, a screaming, white covered, red little human, and they said, "Tell her what it is Dad!" But he didn't have to tell me, it was plain as day staring back and me, and we both said loudly, "It's a...BOY!!"

Again the happy tears were flowing as I helped wipe off my son with a flannel blanket as he laid on my chest. I remarked how he looked like Austin, and my heart felt so full. Two boys, less than two years a part, that I hope will be life long friends.

They weighed, measured and did Everett's apgar tests, and returned him to my chest. It felt so great to get to hold my baby right after birth, instead of waiting to get to the recovery room like with a c-section.

Six weeks into Everett's life, and my heart is still so full. I am more tired than I ever knew possible with a night owl newborn, and a toddler who gets up by 8:00 every day (and I know how lucky we are to have him sleep that late), but I love these boys so much.

Austin and Everett meeting for the first time, and Austin showing us that Everett has a nose (right after he ripped his hat off)
Austin has finally started taking to Everett, talking to him when he cries, checking on him in the stroller during walks, and Cooper is very protective over him as well.

Cooper guarding the door, and his littlest brother
I know that motherhood changed me to the core the moment Austin was born, and I now know that all the cliches are true about your other children, your heart grows and you realize you can love even more than you thought possible before.

 Everett Lance
Six Weeks Old

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Everett's Birth Story, Part One

If the way you come into the world is a pre-courser for the life you will lead, then maybe Everett will be our calm child, who peppers in a little spice here and there. I doubt it with he and his brother around to influence each other, and get into trouble, but his birth was such a wonderful experience, that just may be.

People seem to all be surprised when I say giving birth to him was a "wonderful experience." When asked how delivery went, I usually reply, "awesome!" and most people say, "I've never heard anyone describe giving birth that way!" But it was, it was an amazing experience to VBAC, and hold my baby immediately after he was born, and it all started a few days before...

I went to the doctor for my 38 week appointment on Wednesday, July 30. I was anxious to see how things were going, as I hadn't been checked yet, but again had the feeling of a head about to fall out from between my legs.

During my exam and belly measurement, the doctor told me didn't feel any baby at the top of my belly, meaning the baby could be breech (like Austin was), or had dropped already.

I was anxious as he got prepared to check me, would there be two little feet, or a bum, on my cervix instead of a head? Would another c-section be on the horizon? I knew that if the baby was breech, I would have to have a c-section that coming Friday at 39 weeks.

As he checked me (this is the first of many TMI moments, FYI, don't read on if you are squeamish) he said, "Whoa! You are most certainly not breech. You're 2 cm already and 75% effaced. You're ready to go now."

Then, he took his hand and moved my baby's head just to show me how in position I was, and I yelled, "Are you moving it's head?!"

"Yup, that's how ready you are to go. I'll be shocked if you don't have a baby by the end of this weekend. Get things ready, you could go into labor at any time."

I left the appointment thrilled, but nervous, my mom was not arriving until Saturday night to be there to watch Austin when the baby arrived.

To intensify things, I started getting some pretty strong contractions as a result of getting checked at my appointment earlier that day. Ben and I were on our way to have dinner with friends in DC as a last night out with friends celebration of sorts, and I was having to do deep breathing to control the pain the whole ride there.

With all this going on, during the drive I got my mom, and Delta airlines on the phone, and switched her flight to arrive the next day (thank you to Delta for doing this with no penalty when they heard the situation!)

We have great friends in the area who had already told us they would watch Austin and Cooper should I go into labor before her arrival, but nearly all of them were out of town that Thursday and Friday, and I was nervous to be running around arranging things if I was in active labor.

My labor pains subsided that night, we had a great dinner out. I worked that Thursday and Friday from home, just in case anything happened, but didn't feel a drop of contractions, or any other signs of labor, and my frustration was mounting.  What happened to having a baby by the weekend?!?

Saturday morning I went for a mani/pedi I had scheduled weeks ahead of time, partially to relax and enjoy some me time before baby, and partially in hopes that a good foot massage would set me into labor.

I got home with fresh nails and ready to take on the day.

Baby Ready Fingers and Toes
I felt bad that my mom had arrived early, but was also thankful she was there to bond with Austin before they would be alone together, and get to know his schedule.

And it's a good thing she did, it wasn't a few hours after being home from my nail appointment, that my plug fell out when I used the bathroom, and mild contractions began.

After about an hour, they subsided, and I tried not to get my hopes up. My plug fell out a week before I had Austin, so I knew it could still be awhile.

We wrapped up the day with a long walk, dinner and I went to take a relaxing bath, where my contractions picked up again. They were now coming every five minutes or so, but again, faded away. I went to bed that night wondering if we would make it through the night without heading into the hospital...

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I'd like to introduce you all to my beautiful son...

Everett Lance
August 3, 2014 at 6:17 p.m.
7lbs 10 oz
20 inches

My apologies for the absence, I had a whole post ready to publish on being 39 weeks pregnant, and then, well, Everett was born! He was five days early, just like his older brother. Life has been a little understandably crazy since he arrived, thus my late post announcing his arrival.

I'm happy to report I was able to have the successful VBAC birth I wanted, and will fill you all in with a proper birth story post to come in the next couple of weeks. 

Until then, I'll be soaking up time with my boys (when I'm not trying to catch a few extra winks, or keep my house from looking like a tornado went through it).

 Thank you to everyone who has extended their well wishes!

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Best Quick Snacks to Eat After a Workout

Most people know that after a workout, it's vital you re-fuel your body, or you'll end up losing nutrients, or, eating everything in site the minute you can and totally defeating the purpose of your workout.

When I did Team Fitness at Lifetime Fitness they talked about the Optimize in 45 Rule. Basically, it was about getting your body fueled with the correct carb/protein ratio within 45 minutes of your workout ending in order to help your body recover, and avoid, oh, I don't know, housing a half a bag of Tostitos as soon as you get home while your dinner is cooking (not that I know from experience).

I'm no fitness or nutrition expert, I have no training in that field, but I know that the Optimize in 45 rule works for me not ruining my workout by coming home and eating everything in site. The ideal snack the nutritionists always told us at Lifetime to eat after a workout, is a glass of non-fat or low-fat chocolate milk. It was a good carb to protein ratio, and will hold you over for a bit while you get a meal done. I also enjoy cottage cheese with fruit on top after a workout, or making my (not so) green monster smoothie as well (which I now only do a half cup of Trop 50 OJ with pulp in, and add peaches as well--delicious!).

Side Note: Austin loves this smoothie (minus the protein powder), and added in whole milk and a banana. He thinks it's a huge treat, and has no idea he's eating so many fruits and vegetables as he asks for, "mo! mo!"

Anyway, chocolate milk, a smoothie or cottage cheese aren't always easy to do after a workout if I'm not close to home when it's over. So, I wanted to tell you about a couple of my favorite post workout snacks that are delicious, gluten free and easy to transport.

The first is the Perfect Fit Protein cookie. These taste great (albeit, not exactly like a bakery cookie), and have ten grams of protein and 150 calories.

They really are a great snack to eat while driving home after a workout, that won't ruin your dinner if it's a post-work workout, or won't send you to bed feeling super full either if you're a night owl at the gym.

I'm also a big fan of the Think Thin bars. The name is annoying, but a lot of them taste good. Some of them taste like chalk (in my opinion, the peanut butter and brownie flavors), but these two flavors in particular are great for after a workout, and taste great.

Caramel Chocolate Dipped Mixed Nuts

Salted Caramel

I have found all these products at Whole Foods and on Amazon, and the Think Thin bars at Wegmans and Harris Teeter as well.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Life/Pregnancy Update

I figured it was a good time to update you all on the happenings in our world and my pregnancy.

I am feeling pretty good pregnancy wise. In the last month I've packed on more weight in a rapid way that I have in any other part of my pregnancy. Part of it may be that I was very stagnant for about a week when I had a sinus infection from my allergies that made it impossible to workout. With my lungs already crunched, and and then not having a nose to breath out of, it was really hard to do any exercise. We did one walk during that week after dinner for about a mile, and I had to stop half way and sit down on a park bench. I felt like such a slug! Glad to say, I've done a walk for a least 1.25 miles or more every day this week, and feel great again. I did some strength training on Monday that felt wonderful as well.

On the life front, I have been keeping up with my active little boy, who surprises me every day with the new things he's learned to say and do. Just this last week I asked if he wanted some yogurt and he said back, "little bit," for the first time. Also, during his fight of a diaper change one day he yelled out over and over again, "hey don't! hey don't!" which he has never said to me before.

He also hates wearing pants now that it's hotter out. I can't blame him, but you have to wear at least shorts buddy.

I've been working to make ahead food to freeze and eat when the new baby arrives. I have lofty goals on this front, and so far I have made ahead some Baked Ziti and Gluten Free Donuts. I made these Shredded Beef Enchiladas this week with the goal of freezing a batch, but the meat turned out awful, the crock pot completely dried it out. We ate the batch for dinner, but I wasn't going to use the leftover meat to make another set.

The other meals I'm planning to make ahead are:
I'm sure Ben will also grill out a lot the first month or so the new baby is here. That is his cooking specialty, and with it being summer, it will be easy enough for him to do, and something the whole family enjoys.

Recently, during a specific craving I had, Ben made flank steak tacos on the grill for us. They were amazing!

I topped them with cilantro and goat cheese, and I think chipotle mayo or chipotle sour cream would be great on top too. To marinate them, Ben bought the Wegmans Fajita Marinade, and had the meat soak in it for about an hour. If he would have had more time, I think marinading for a few more hours would have made them even better.

So there you have it, life right now. More updates to come as the summer develops!

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