Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wednesday Confessional: Fast Food is Gross (And I Judge You When You Eat It)

I really, really wanted to keep today's post light-hearted. But, I am compelled to discuss the very serious matter of the fast food industry and how absolutely disgusting it is... and how appalled I am that people even eat at such places. :) I am being sarcastic... but I really do think most fast food is gross.

Last night my mom and I swung into the Wendy's drive-thru for some Frosty's. CHOCOLATE Frosty's, FYI - you have to tell them you want chocolate these days. Last time I just ordered a regular Frosty, it was vanilla. Since when did vanilla Frosty become the regular Frosty? Anyway. As we were in the drive-thru lane, I thought, I can't believe I am getting a Frosty - I can't stand Wendy's food.

It's true. I don't like Wendy's food... or McDonald's... or Burger King... the list goes on and on. At some point in my life, I stopped eating so much fast food and now I seriously can't even stomach it. There are a lot of places I can't even consider eating because the food is just so disgusting to me. You know I like lists, so why not a Top 5 list of my least favorite fast food restaurants??

5. Sonic - I think it would serve them better to not have so many windows into their kitchen. If I couldn't see the insanity going on in there, I'd probably eat there more often. But I admit that I am a sucker for a Happy Hour cherry limeade and tater tots with cheese. Blake always gets a hamburger and just the thought of it makes me gag.

4. McDonald's - I once went TWO YEARS without eating McDonald's. I even went without having lunch during a trip to Colorado because everyone wanted McDonald's except me and we didn't have time during our layover to go anywhere else. Now, I will eat McDonald's if I'm desperate (like when I had to eat McDonald's in HONDURAS because that was the only thing open at the airport). But I just had one of their McWrap's over the weekend and it was NASTY. Pretty sure there was an entire bottle of nasty ranch dressing tucked into one corner of the wrap... and of course I bit right into it. I also have to mention here that the Muscle Shoals McDonald's is terrible. I have eaten there three times in three years and have never had a good meal. Sorry, Golden Arches. You gross me out.

3. Wendy's - Again, not a fan of Wendy's food. I think it's because the Wendy's restaurants we have in town are all dirty. There was once a time when I would choose Wendy's over everything else. But they just don't seem sanitary and that grosses me out to the max. I did eat the whole chocolate Frosty last night and survived, so maybe they're not all that bad. It's just that the Wendy's restaurants here don't seem very clean and their employees don't seem very clean, either.

2. Burger King - I cannot even tell you the last time I ate at Burger King. And I used to have a bacon, egg, and cheese croissant EVERY Sunday morning before church. I have taken Blake to BK and just the smell when I walked through the doors was enough to remind me of why I can't eat their food.

1. Taco Bell - No, no, no, no, and NO. Can't do it. Some friends convinced me to eat Taco Bell back in 2009 and I have regretted it ever since. That was the last time I ate Taco Bell. Again, another restaurant that I used to love (Mexican pizza, anyone?) but I mean... it's just SO GROSS.

There are three fast food restaurants that do not gross me out - Chick-fil-A, Arby's, and Taco Casa. Chick-fil-A because the stores are clean and their employees are very friendly (and the food is good). Arby's because their dollar menu rocks and I love some curly fries - and their stores here are clean and employees are friendly. Taco Casa because it's Taco Casa - 'nuff said. And Subway is also good, but I don't necessarily count them as fast food.

Do you have any restaurants that just totally gross you out? Maybe next week I'll post about the sit down restaurants I think are gross... I'll just go ahead and tell you the Tuscaloosa Olive Garden tops that list!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Four Months!

Wednesday marked Maleah's four month birthday, if that's what you want to call it! It is just incredible to watch a little baby grow before your eyes. To see her day in and day out and see the nuances of change happening more quickly than I'd like is a blessing I hope I never take for granted! Here's a quick update on our growing girl:

Look at that sweet little face! :) Love her. Okay, the update:

Stats: She weighs a whopping (sarcasm) 12 pounds 12 ounces - putting her around the 15th percentile for her age. Really!? She inherited Blake's metabolism, that's for sure. Mama doesn't have a problem gaining weight. She was 24.5 inches long - she has grown 4 1/2 inches since birth! That is amazing to me! We could tell she has grown in length because her footie pajamas were getting a little snug. :)

Eating: She's still eating every 3 hours (7a/10a/1p/4p/7p/10p), but that'll probably change as we introduce solid foods. We started her on single-grain oatmeal (instead of rice cereal, at the recommendation of our pediatrician) Wednesday. Our plan is to give her about a tablespoon of oatmeal at her 7pm feeding and then a bottle. We'll do that until next weekend and start her on it for breakfast (7am) in addition to dinner, and go from there. I'm not in a huge hurry for her to move to solids, but she honestly seems ready. She took right to eating! After the oatmeal, she will take about 4 oz of formula. Then we do her bath and a story and let her have the rest of the bottle (another 1-2 oz). We still do the "dream feed" at 10/10:30 and she takes the WHOLE thing (4 oz)! It fills her up until 7am! At all of her other feeds, she takes 5 oz of formula.

Activity: Little Chick can hold her head really well and can sit up while supported. I've held a couple of newborns in the past few weeks and it really is amazing how squishy and floppy they are compared to Maleah! It's almost hard to believe she was ever like that. But, she was... and now she's a growing girl! She can roll tummy-to-back (right and left) and back-to-tummy (right only, so far). We love watching her roll around. She also started squirming a couple of weeks ago. We can put a toy in front of her and if she wants it badly enough, she's figured out how to slither (that's the only thing I can equate it to!) until she reaches it! Pretty amazing, if you ask me! Maleah also decided that she does like toys. We were a little nervous for a while because she flinched every time a toy made a sound. But now she loves to look at toys and grasp at them and, on occassion, we've caught her purposefully moving her arm to reach for one. Usually we just put them on her hands and she fumbles around with them. But we can see the intentional reaching and grabbing starting to happen. Oh - one last thing - Maleah has A LOT to say. She's always gurgling and cooing and blowing raspberries!

Sleeping: During the day, Maleah doesn't really have any set naps. At daycare she just sleeps whenever she sleeps. This makes it hard to have "set" nap times at home. But, on the weekends she usually does pretty well on the Eat-Activity-Sleep routine where she eats, stays awake for about 1.5 hours, and then naps for 1-1.5 hours. Right now she still takes 4 naps a day - yes, FOUR! - but as she stretches her feedings, I'm sure she'll drop down to three longer naps rather than four short ones. She is also now sleeping through the night and has been pretty consistently since eleven weeks. But, now we're to the point where it would surprise us if she woke up hungry during the night. She does still wake up throughout the night and we usually go in and give her a pacifier to calm her back down. I have a feeling we'll be stopping this soon because she can go back to sleep without it if we are just patient. But we're so tired that we just go and give it to her and I'm afraid we'll be trapped in this cycle for a long time if we don't put an end to it.

Personality: As far as we can tell, Maleah has a pretty calm, easy-going personality. She doesn't get too terribly excited about much but she's usually not particularly grumpy, either. I'd say she's pretty mellow. :) She adapts really well to new situations - we can take her just about anywhere and she goes with the flow as long as we stick to her normal eat/activity/sleep routine. She will nap just about anywhere but I usually have to hold her to get her to go to sleep (and she doesn't nap as long). She eats just fine on the go - we've even had to feed her in the car seat a couple of times and it doesn't seem to bother her!

We are really enjoying this new phase with her. She's much more interactive, responsive, and independent. She loves ot play on her activity mat or sit in the bouncy and watch us make dinner. She's just a happy little kid and we love her!!!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Wednesday Confessional: I Cannot Watch the Oklahoma Tornado Coverage

I hinted at this in an earlier Facebook post after inadvertantly watching a video of a teacher and her students enduring the impact of the Oklahoma tornado. All you could see was blackness and all you could hear were the terrified screams of this teacher and her students. Just catching a glimpse of this video sent me back to my own experience and made me angry that someone would capitalize on such a traumatic moment. I am trying very hard not to be overly critical of this woman, but it baffles me why she took the video in the first place and why she would want to share that video with the world.

I understand that people are fascinated with tornados. Living near Tuscaloosa's own "tornado alley," I have exeprienced several in my lifetime. As a little girl, I remember being rushed to my aunt and uncle's basement and could see the tornado behind us as we fled our house. That tornado ripped off our front porch and destroyed my Fisher Price turtle sandbox. (I was really mad at that tornado!) But tornadoes were always so exciting - it meant rushing out of the house and bunkering down with my family. Surviving was like beating nature at it's own game! Storms and bad weather didn't bother me a bit. Until April 27.

(For those of you that haven't heard our story, you can read it here.)

After the April 27 tornado, I experienced severe emtional trauma (as did most everyone in our city, whether or not they felt the physical impact of the tornado). It took months for the nightmares and flashbacks to stop. It took over a year for me to be able to talk about what happened without reliving the whole ordeal. It took up until recently for me to actually be able to talk about it without feeling anxious or tearing up. And watching just the bits and pieces of the Oklahoma tornado coverage has reopened wounds I so desperately wanted to keep closed.

I guess the reason I am being hard on this teacher for videoing her experience is that, after experiencing myself, I don't want anyone to know what it's really like unless they have to. When I lifted my head that day after the tornado, I had no clue if the rest of my family was alive. I'm talking about the people I was with. It was so powerful and so loud and so dark, I had no clue what was happening just a few feet away from me. It was terrifying. Calling my mom, crying hysterically, saying "We are trapped, we are trapped!" was the scariest phone call I've ever had to make. Risking electrocution and carefully tip-toeing through dozens upon dozens of twisted and fallen trees just to be able to walk across the street was exhausting. Waiting for my uncle to literally run nearly a mile to my aunt's house to see if she and my cousin's five-month-old baby were alive was the longest hour of my life.

You see, it wasn't just the moment of impact itself that haunts me. It was the hours, days, weeks, and months that followed where the tornado still had its grip on me and on my loved ones.

It was awful and I don't want anyone to ever have to go through it or its aftermath. And I can't even begin to imagine what it was like for people who braced the storm, lifted their heads, and found themselves or their loved ones injured. Or found their loved ones dead. My heart just breaks for those who have endured such tragedy.

I cannot continue to watch the coverage of the tornado. I tried to watch bits and pieces but the video I saw today brought back way too many horrible memories for me to continue following that story too closely. The images and stories are too close to our own for me to handle right now.

Some things are just too hard to forget. I have realized this week that the April 27 tornado is not something I will ever be able to put out of my mind. It is always there. I will have always experienced it. It will always be a part of my story. The Oklahoma tornado has reminded me that there are moments we cannot ever forget no matter how hard we try. But I am learning that it is more healing to remember than it is to forget. But, remembering is not easy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Running a Household: Parts II & III

I meant to post this on Thursday, but forgot. Last week I wrote about how I plan weekly meals and grocery lists. Today I want to share what I planned! So that I can keep up, I'm going to combine what I wanted to write last week plus what I wanted to write this week. Hey, you've obviously got some time on your hands so why am I apologizing for another long post!?

Part II: The Plan

Sunday, May 18 - Grilled teriyaki chicken, Asian slaw, roasted broccoli w/ teriyaki sauce
Monday, May 19 - Leftovers from Sunday
Tuesday, May 20 - Moe's (taking dinner to friends w/ a new baby)
Wednesday, May 21 - Oven-roasted pork sausage with bell pepper, banana pepper, onions, and potatoes (Usually this is "Fend For Yourself Night," but we aren't going to choir since we are going out of town for the weekend)
Thursday, May 22 - Breakfast for Dinner ~ biscuits, eggs, and bacon

We are going to Muscle Shoals for the weekend, so obviously I'm not cooking Friday or Saturday night. :)

My grocery list consisted of the ingredients I needed for the meals above plus other things we needed like milk, bread, cheese, lettuce, produce, etc. I already had the teriyaki sauce for Sunday, potatoes for Wednesday, and biscuits and eggs for Thursday. That's how I decided on those particular recipes. Plus, chicken was on sale (why I chose chicken over beef) and bacon was also on sale. I won't post my grocery list because that's pretty boring... but I ended up spending about $90 and saved $30.

I did purchase a few things I hadn't planned on - I noticed Ore Ida frozen potatoes were B2G1 and Blake LOVES to make fries spur of the moment, so I bought him some (plus some hash browns for breakfast casserole). Chips Ahoy cookies were also on sale, so I felt pressured to buy some. :) Normally I don't buy so much packaged food, but I'm making some compromises so we can have more time to spend with Maleah and less time in the kitchen. :)

So... about how I choose recipes. For a long time, I thought I needed to make my husband delicious homecooked meals every night of the week. And, for a long time, I did. I love to cook and enjoyed making chicken parmesean or homemade squash casserole or crispy yogurt chicken on a weeknight. That was my pride and joy - hot meals every night of the week. Then came pregnancy and a baby.

Scrumptious, homecooked meals became a thing of the past. For a while, we ordered out A LOT. I mean, when your newborn eats every 2-3 hours, you're pumping every 3 hours, trying to catch up on lost sleep - how in the WORLD are you supposed to also cook!? Apparently, you're not. And if you are, I should just hang up my apron now because I'll never be able to perform that duty while a newborn is living under our roof.

I had to learn to simplify. I also had to listen to my husband and believe him when he said he didn't (and never did) expect such meals on a nightly basis. For a while, I apologized for making simple spaghetti or frozen chicken tenders or tuna salad. I just didn't equate those things with a good meal.

Hahahahahahaha how my perspective has changed. Last night I didn't even apologize for NOT COOKING. I planned for us to eat leftovers and, by God, that's what we did - at different times, on the couch! And all I ate was Asian slaw (I'd eaten part of a leftover lunch sandwich at 4, so I wasn't really hungry by dinner)! This doesn't mean that I've given up hope of preparing yummy dinners for my husband - it just means I've made things a little more realistic for our life now. There's no way I can cook a homemade meal every single night, get all the housework done, and still have a little time for myself (something I highly value).

Now I focus on quick, easy meals that require little prep and clean up. The fewer pots and pans, the less time spent measuring, the fewer ingredients, the better. I try to incorporate a variety of meats, vegetables, and flavors but keep it simple. I have also learned to stick with what I know on weeknights - I do not try new recipes during the week (unless they're ridiculously easy - such as the roasted sausage, peppers, & potatoes in this week's menu). Save that mess for the weekend. I tried to make a new recipe on a weeknight a few weeks ago and we literally had to throw it out - it was AWFUL. I need familiarity, simplicity, and every now and then - something frozen (Publix's frozen chicken tenders are actually pretty good!).

Part III:  Ten Go-To Recipes that I Love (making a long post even longer!):

1. Crock-pot shredded chicken anything - Tacos, poppyseed chicken, BBQ chicken. Anytime I need/want to cook chicken during the week, I Crock-pot it and shred the chicken. Takes a HUGE amount of time out of the prep. The George Foreman grill is also handy in making quick chicken dinners, but I hate the clean-up. Get the Crock-pot liners and that'll be a super simple clean-up.

2. Roasted veggies - chop up some veggies, put 'em on a pan with some extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, salt, & pepper. Finish with a little lemon juice and you're good to go.

3. Steamed veggies - Just go buy some Ziploc Zip 'N Steam bags. Veggies in bag, bag in microwave, butter afterward. So easy. I know you can make steamed veggies easily on the stove top but that's a pan that has to be washed and right now I'm digging the bags. Sorry, environment.

4. Tacos - duh.

5. Breakfast for Dinner - Another duh. I actually buy these frozen biscuits that are DELICOUS. I'm being serious - better than I ever imagined. I also bake the bacon (lay strips flat on a cookie sheet, stick them in a COLD oven, and turn the oven on to 375-400F; let 'em "fry" for about 15-20 minutes after the oven has reached the desired temp) - this helps avoid having to clean up messy grease splatters.

6. Baked potatoes and soup - Microwave the potatoes; make soup ahead of time. It's like I'm running a McAlister's out of my kitchen.

7. Quesadillas - black beans, cheese, salsa, tortillas... one pan... need I say more?

8. SALAD - Hello. You don't even have to cook it. Toss on some leftover shredded chicken for the hubs and we've got ourselves a meal.

9. FFYS - Fend For Yourself. I get it - this is not what you were expecting when I told you I was listing ten RECIPES. But I've learned to incorporate this night once a week (on Wednesdays right now). There are usually leftovers, salad fixings, sandwich ingredients - everything a grown man can make on his own. :)

10. Last, but never least - my favorite recipe OF ALL TIME: Chinese take-out. I am not kidding!! I love to make Asian slaw (it's so easy) and my own rice and then have Blake pick up some sesame chicken or something. I am not brave enough to make my own Asian food at home (yet), so I have learned the art of making what I can and letting the pro's handle the rest. Sometimes it's not Chinese - sometimes we might order wings and I'll make the sides. Or maybe we'll pick up BBQ and I'll make potato salad. Whatever works, you know!?

I hope this helps some poor mother out there. I know you're tired and I know you're tired of cooking. Anyone else have any favorite easy weeknight recipes!?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wednesday Confessional: Taming the Tube

It is no secret that Blake and I love some TV. It's just nice to sit crash on the couch and veg out to some mind-numbing TV shows. I struggle with pulling myself away from the tube (don't we all, sometimes?) and often justify how much time I watch television.

Lately, my excuse has been that I am a new mom and I deserve some lazy time. And part of that is true. I do deserve a little time to chillax (yes I said that). But I was watching a show the other day and felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit pour over me. I tried to ignore it, but reminders keep creeping up and so now I have to confront it.

I was watching The Mindy Project on Hulu and an episode came on where the main character, Mindy (Mindy Kaling), starts to date a Christian pastor. Up until this point, the show only had the "normal" amount of indecency - sleeping around, partying, foul language, etc. (you know, stuff we're all used to by now). Well, on this particular episode, she visits her new boyfriend at his church. Moby - yes, Moby - is the church D.J. - yes, a church D.J.. There's all this loud club music and then Mindy's boyfriend, Casey, appears in his pastoral attire. He thanks the "congregation" for the applause and then starts to rant about how Game of Thrones didn't record on his DVR. And then he says these awful words - "I hate God." He declared that he hated God because a TV show hadn't recorded on his DVR. Then he had the "congregation" chant, "I hate God! I hate God!" with him.

I sat there in total disbelief, but I kept watching. Several thoughts went through my brain:

1. I am totally clueless as to how people support the FOX Network simply because their news shows are "conservative". This is the network that produced Family Guy and The Simpsons, remember???

2. Please tell me this "pastor" is going to pull out some message about being a leader not a follower. (He did not; he instead told everyone that God loved them even though they hated Him.)

3. Should I be watching this?

4. Let's just see where it goes...

5. Okay, I am just going to ignore that part...

Anyway, I kept watching the show and eventually watched the rest of the season while these questions (and then some) ran through my brain.

So, needless to say, I've been convicted about television shows since watching that episode. Mostly, Blake and I stay away from sitcoms - not really for moral issues but just because we like certain reality shows better (Shark Tank, The Voice, shows on the History channel, etc.). But after watching The Mindy Project and a good part of Season 2 of  New Girl, I am convinced/convicted that God has better plans for my time and energy than to watch shows that do not honor Him. I feel convicted enough that I kinda want to just walk away from TV altogether for just a little while to get my priorities back in line.

I've been thinking about what I can watch if I truly want to avoid shows that highlight sinful lifestyles. Basically, I'm left with certain reality shows and sports. Grrrrrreat. (Duck Dynasty anyone!?)

It's not that I think I should ignore the world. This is my home for now and I do believe that in order to reach the lost, I cannot just ignore sin. But I can't tolerate sin, either. I can't just look past it and be like everyone else. I have to approach it head-on and be willing to stand up for God's Word regardless of the repurcussions.

John 15:19, "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of teh world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you."

God has set us, as Christians, apart from the world. We are not to conform to its ways (Romans 12:2) but to let God renew us so that we may live in the world yet differently from the world.

Anyway, this is just me rambling about something I'm currently dealing with. And I'm sure I am not alone in this and am curious to hear other people's takes on this subject. How do you judge what you watch and what you do not?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Running a Household: Part I

The hardest - and I mean the. hardest. - aspect of becoming a parent for me was being able to continue to run our household as usual. It was difficult because it's just not possible to continue doing anything the way we did before Maleah! Everything has had to be adjusted to welcome our little girl into our family. It has taken us a while to get back into a groove, but we've finally figured out a routine that works for us all.

Blake took over the bill-paying (thank God), which helped me tremendously. Even though I get some sort of sick joy out of writing checks and putting stamps on envelopes (no, seriously, I LOVE it), trying to keep up with it was too much for me. So, I was left mostly with the tremendous tasks of planning for housework and dinners. Since tomorrow is Wednesday and I will be making our meal plan for next week, I want to share how I do it and how I stay in a reasonable budget.

Meal Planning

*I shop at Publix for our weekly groceries. The meal plan is for Sunday through Saturday, but I make the plan on Wednesday or Thursday based on Publix's weekly sale ad. I sometimes also buy groceries at Target, but mostly just from Publix! I try to only buy what we will actually need for the upcoming week. However, there are things I almost always buy when they go on sale regardless of whether or not I plan to use them in the upcoming week - Old El Paso taco kits (they are B1G1 frequently), condiments, salad dressing, cereal/oatmeal, Tostito's, pickles (weird, I know), olive oil, and pasta sauce. Those are staples I like to keep on hand, so I usually grab them when they're on sale.

*When I make a list, I try to think about what I can buy in bulk and spread out. For instance, if pasta is B1G1, I might stock up on pasta and we'll have it a few nights within a couple of weeks. Or if I buy a 5 pound bag of potatoes, well... I need to think of ways to try to use those 5 poudns before the potatoes start growing weird things!

*Honestly I am not 100% sure how much we spend per month on food. We include household items in our "grocery" budget, so we keep all of that around $350-400 a month. We are working on figuring out exactly how much is spent solely on food, but I would venture to guess it's around $275-300. We eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at home the majority of the month so I think that's a reasonable amount for two grown people. I also have not been couponing much lately, but plan to start back now that I am not in Zombie/Newborn-Land anymore!

So here's how the plan happens:
1. Think about our schedule for the upcoming week and make note of any nights we might not be eating dinner at home or nights I won't have time to cook (Wednesday nights are for sure a no-cooking night and usually one other night during the week or weekend.)

2. Look at what we have in the pantry and fridge, trying to pay attention to anything that might be expiring soon.

3. Look at the Publix weekly sale ad on their website on Wednesday. I look through the ad once just to see what all is on sale. As I look, I am coming up with ideas of what to cook keeping in mind what I already have in the pantry.

4. Make a table of what meals I plan to make based on what I have in my pantry and what is on sale. I list out the ingredients. If there is an online recipe, I copy & paste the link on the table Sample... ignore the fact that it doesn't fit on the page. I have tried to re-format it like six times and now I just don't care:


Poppyseed chicken and rice; roasted broccoli
1 lb chicken; 1 can cream of chicken; Worcestershire sauce; 2 head broccoli; lemon juice; garlic
CP BBQ Pork; green beans and potatoes
2-4 pork chops; BBQ sauce; fresh green beans; small potatoes; French Onion or Onion Soup mix
Creamy chicken Florentine; roasted zucchini
1 lb chicken; frozen spinach; garlic; flour; lemon juice; chicken broth; oregano; 1 c cottage cheese; parmasean cheese; pasta spirals; 2 zucchini

Beef tacos; black beans and Rotel
Old El Paso taco kit; can of black beans; can of Rotel; shredded cheese; sour cream
Grilled hamburgers (grill or George Foreman); potato salad; roasted squash
1 lb hamburger meat; seasoning; 1 lb New Potatoes; mayo; mustard; 2 eggs; pickle relish; paprika; squash
Biscuits; bacon; eggs; shredded cheese

*FFYS = Fend For Yourself
*BFD = Breakfast For Dinner

5. I highlight the ingredients I need to purchase and make my list using Publix's weekly ad and grocery list feature. Not everything I purchase is on sale, so I type it in.

6. Go grocery shopping! Lately, Blake has been the one to actually go to the grocery store. I am so grateful for his help! My goal is to start getting up early on Saturday mornings and go during Maleah's early morning nap, but I haven't quite done that yet!

7. Put the meal plan on the dry erase board on our fridge. I try to look at it each morning to make sure I have everything ready - thaw out meat, veggies still edible, etc.

And voila! We have a meal plan!!

Now, if ever there is a time that something comes up and we aren't able to follow the plan, I just do a little rearranging. I usually try to just bump a meal to the next week. I also usually have at least one meal that has some non-perishable ingredients per week (or items in the freezer or something), so I can make a switch if needed.

Anyway, our little meal plan works pretty well for us. Hopefully I can get back to couponing next month and keep better track of how much we are spending!

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Real Mother's Day

Look, I'm going to keep it real. I had this sentimental, sweet post prepared for Mother's Day. But I want you to know what it was really like:

- I had to sing on the praise team, so I had to be at the church by 7:30 A.M. on my first Mother's Day (not a big deal, since I am up at that time anyway!)

- Due to a miscommunication, Maleah's bottle and formula were left sitting on the counter instead of winding up in her diaper bag. The nursery staff had to come get me from Sunday School and Blake had to take her home so she could eat. (Go ahead and nominate us for Parents of the Year!)

- My parents came over for lunch. Originally, I wanted Blake to do all the work so I could just relax. But if I had let him do ALL the work it would've been 4pm before we ate. So, I made the potato salad, sweet tea, chopped veggies, and made the brownies while he grilled. (He DID do all of the dishes, though! Sweet man!)

- We all took a nap. Maleah went down for a nap around 1:45. I laid on the couch around 2:15, didn't fall asleep until about 2:30. Woke up, unintentionally, around 3:15. Maleah woke up around 3:30 (she usually would sleep until close to 4). So, I got up and let her lay with me for a bit while Blake continued his nap. :)

- We went to a friend's house for a 30th birthday party. Maleah spit up ALL over me after her bottle. Major thanks to Claire for cleaning me up and to Erin for cleaning Maleah up. :) After that, the girls got to watch Maleah poop and I, of course, got to change that diaper!

- We got home around 9pm and I put Maleah to bed by singing some old school worship songs.

- I crashed by about 9:45.  Blake fed her the dream feed so that I could go to sleep. But, I woke up around 10:30 and couldn't go back to sleep until nearly 11 thanks to a terrible headache!

So, that was my first Mother's Day. It was just like any other day... and I wouldn't have had it any other way. :) I enjoyed being pampered by my husband a little. He had flowers delivered to my office on Friday and also bought me a beautiful necklace with Maleah's birthstone (garnet). I loved spending time with my parents and friends. But, most of all, I got to be with my little girl all day (and all weekend, really!) and just enjoy being her mom. It is the hardest, most demanding job I have ever had and I feel like I have no clue what I'm doing about 90% of the time. But it is the most incredible gift and I am so grateful God chose me to be her mom.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Switching to Internet TV

I posted a status a few weeks ago about how Blake and I were dumping Dish Network and switching to Roku (Internet TV). Several people have asked me questions about it, so I figured others might want to know some info. I really had no idea bout Internet TV until the idea just came to me one day at work ("Oh my gosh! We can watch Hulu through our television!). Had I known/thought about it sooner, we would have switched sooner!!

What is Roku/Internet TV?
Okay, they aren't one in the same. Internet TV is just what it sounds like - you hook up the Internet to your TV and you can stream videos through various "channels" (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc.). In order to do this, you have to have the right equipment. That's where the Roku box comes in.

Why did you choose Roku?
We narrowed our search down to Roku and AppleTV. Even though we like Apple products, the Roku just seemed like a better purchase. Honestly, I can't tell you all the reasons we chose it over AppleTV - that's really Blake's department! But, we had friends who had a Roku and liked it and didn't know anyone with AppleTV. I believe AppleTV didn't have as many options.

What are the advantages?
- Advantage Numero Uno: We pay $16 a month for television. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am (pretty sure that's not appropriate, but whatevs).
- Advantage Numero Dos: It limits what we can watch (more on that in a moment), so we watch less TV.
- Advantage Numero Tres: We only pay for things we actually watch. With Dish (or any other cable/satellite provider), we a buncha channels we never watched. Like, how many MTV channels do we need to not watch???
- Advantage Numero Quatro: We feel cool.
- Advantage Numero Cinco: DID I MENTION WE ONLY PAY $16 A MONTH?

What are the disadvantages?
- Disadvantage Numero Uno: We can't watch many shows live (more on that in a moment). We have to wait until they're loaded onto Hulu.
- Disadvantage Numero Dos: Not all of our favorite networks are on Hulu. TLC, Food Network, HGTV, sports channels. However, this doubles as an advantage (see Advantage Numero Dos) because it means we watch less crap.
- Disadvantage Numero Tres: You have to have a Roku box for each television UNLESS you have a Wii (like us!!!!). We can stream Netflix & Hulu in our bedroom through the Wii.
- Disadvantage Numero Quatro: There are no more disadvantages. See, the pros outweigh the cons!

Why not just stream Netflix and Hulu through the Wii?
Roku simplifies the process. Plus Roku is connected to Vudu and Amazon, so if a tv show or movie we want to watch isn't available through Hulu or Netflix, we can "rent" it from those places (meaning - no more trips to RedBox)!

What about news and local channels?
We bought a digital antennae so we can access local channels (and therefore watch some programs live). Unfortunately, because of the hill next to our apartment, we can only get ABC. I've had to start watching Good Morning America instead of the Today Show, which was a little bit of a tragedy. However, we do get James Spann, so that's a good trade-off. We also have access to Blake's parents' online Charter account so we can watch shows on the unavailable channels (like NBC's The Voice) online. So far, I haven't done that. I realized that once I didn't have access to certain shows, I didn't miss them all that much!

I hope that answers some of your questions. Even though we lost several of our favorite channels and features, the cost is totally worth it to us. I think we will continue to have Internet TV for a long time. Sports channels are really the only thing we're missing, but we can always go to a friend's house to watch the big games!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Wednesday Confessional: If I Could Do It All Over Again

"Wednesday Confessional" is a new series on Katie Jane Says... where I, Katie Jane, will confess all my little secrets on Wednesdays. I'm going to be ridiculously honest, so brace yourselves. :) Enjoy.

Our wedding anniversary is coming up next month and I've spent a lot of the past [nearly] two years thinking about that day. As most weddings go, not everything ends up being perfect. Mine is/was no different. In the moment, I thought it was going to be the best time of my life. Instead, it was just a bunch of stress intermingled with pretty dresses and gorgeous flowers.

While I enjoyed our wedding and think we did do well with our budget, I can't help but look back and wish some things had been different. I blame part of my unhappiness with Pinterest. Because I wasn't on Pinterest when I got married and missed out on a lot of great ideas!!! But, anyway, I have since forgiven Pinterest for not coming to my rescue. But, even though I didn't have the site to help me plan, I did have a lot of great ideas of my own - many of which turned out beautifully. But, there are still a few things I wish I could do differently if I could do it all over again. I apologize for starting so many sentences with "but". I refuse to edit.

- I wish I would have had a sit-down meeting with our photographer to explain my "vision" for the photos. Even though we had a 10:00 a.m. wedding, we could have gotten a larger variety of photos. There are no pictures of me and my bridesmaids getting ready, no pictures of me mingling with guests at the reception, no pictures of the details - which I worked so hard on, not enough candid photos of us with our families and friends. I was under the impression we would have two photographers, but I was mistaken. I was really disappointed with our photos, but am learning to love what we got.

- I wish I would have had more fun events planned for our reception. Since it was brunch, I really wasn't sure what to do to entertain people aside from the traditional stuff (cut the cake, mingle, bouquet toss, garter toss, etc.). I spent more time worrying about the decor and not enough time on what exactly we were going to do when we got to the party!

- I wish I would have asked someone other than my aunts to direct the wedding and reception. Not because they didn't do a good job, but just because it was a lot of stress on them. Plus, since they're family, my other family members didn't quite follow their instructions. :)

- I wish we would have spent a lot less money! We kept a pretty tight budget, but we still spent more than we should have. This is, again, something I blame on Pinterest. If only I'd had some of the awesome money-saving tips, we might have saved a few thousand dollars! I would have rather had the money to go a little more crazy on our honeymoon (i.e. not eat cold sandwiches in our hotel room to save money on lunch...)!!!

- I wish our rehearsal would have been A LOT smoother and happier. There was a lot of anger at our rehearsal - it was pretty rough! There was a lot of talking, a lot of confusion, and lots of people giving their unwanted opinions about how I had planned the ceremony. Looking back, I should have only allowed actual wedding party members (bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, ring bearers, and pastors) in for the majority of the rehearsal. Then allowed our parents, grandparents, and musicians. I was so upset about it that I couldn't enjoy our rehearsal dinner. Thankfully my awesome bridesmaids took me out for TCBY and let me vent and the actual wedding day itself was NOTHING like the rehearsal!!!

- I wish I'd asked someone to make sure no kids sat near the video camera. Although I can't help but laugh when I hear this baby giggling and "chatting" throughout our ceremony. :)

- I wish I had eloped. No, seriously. I mean, to those of you who came - I love you. Your presence meant so much to me. But I kinda wish we'd had a small, private ceremony with just family - and then just had a big backyard party to celebrate! No fuss, no stress - just fun! Okay, I really don't mean it. Our ceremony was beautiful and so many of you have told us so. But I do wish it hadn't been so stressful!

So, those are a few of the things I did "wrong." But, when I really think about our wedding, I think about all the things we did right:

Blake agreed to a morning wedding (YAY!). We had an amazing caterer who made my dreams of a wedding brunch come true. My dress and veil were absolutely everything I wanted (and at a reasonable price!). My friends Miranda and Amy made the most gorgeous flower arrangements. Our wedding party rocked. The ceremony was meaningful and moved a lot of people. We did get hundreds upon hundreds of gorgeous photos that I will treasure for a lifetime. Blake and I were married in the same church as my parents. The decor was very "us". We celebrated the lives of our family members who had passed away with a beautiful flower arrangement. My dad was also remembered through a beautiful sunflower my florists put in the back of my bouquet, which was adorned with my mom's wedding ring. Even my rings were special - seven diamonds from my great-grandmother and two from Blake's grandmother (plus one of my own!).

And most of all, my absolute favorite moment of the whole day was walking in the church and being The Bride and seeing my groom, in tears, as I walked down the aisle escorted by my mom and sister. That moment is forever sealed in my memory.

So, all in all, the good really does outweigh the bad. And, like everyone says, at the end of the day - you're married. That's what matters most. And I guess that's why I sometimes look back at our wedding and wish things had been a lot more simple. Because all I really wanted out of the day was to honor God, honor our relationship, and honor our family and friends. It doesn't take a lot of money and fancy things to be able to accomplish that. :)

Is there anything you wish you could do differently if you could do it all over again? Wedding or otherwise?

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Day in the Life

When my friend Ashley had her first baby, she blogged about what a day was like with her son. I thought it was fascinating because I had obviously never spent that much time with a baby and had no clue what a day was like! I love reading about other people's routines because A) I'm nosey, B) it gives me ideas on how to plan our day and C) it reminds me that I am not alone! So, I wanted to do a quick little post about what a day is like in Maleah's life for your sake and for my memory's sake. I am going to elaborate on just about everything because many of the schedules I have read on parenting websites are VERY vague and leave me with more questions than answers! So, hopefully the thorough explanation will help some mom out there!!!

Here's a typical day for us and our little kiddo:

5:45 am-6:15 am
Blake and I start to wake up and get ourselves ready for the day
6:45-7:15 am
Maleah wakes up, we change her diaper. Sometimes she wakes on her own, other times we wake her up by 7:15 if she doesn’t wake up. One of us feeds her at 7:15 (3-4 oz, depending on what time she ate at night) am while the other packs her bag and our lunches. After she eats, she gets another diaper change and we get her ready for the day (change clothes, brush hair, etc.).
8:00 am
Blake takes her to school
8:00 am – 5:00 pm
At Daycare: She eats 4.5-5 oz around every 3 hours (ideally 10/1/4). From what I understand, she stays awake for a while after her bottles and then cat-naps until her next feeding. Usually, her sheet will say her naps went something like this: 11-11:40; 12:10-12:50 or 1:45-2:15; 3:30-4:15. So, they aren’t super consistent but she does sleep and they say she’s happy, so I don’t really mind!

At Home: She eats 4.5-5 oz around every 3 hours (ideally 10/1/4). She stays awake now around 1.5 hours after the start of her feeding. We watch for her sleep cues, so as soon as she starts rubbing her eyes or gets that glazed-over look, we go lay her down. Naps usually last 1-1.5 hours. She almost always wakes up within 30-45 minutes of every nap. We just go in, give her the pacifier and she goes back to sleep.
5:00 pm
I pick her up from daycare and we head home! If the weather is good, we walk to the mail box. We entertain her for a while as we piddle around the house and start to make dinner. Sometimes she gets sleepy around this time, other times she seems wide awake.
6:00 pm
If she hasn’t already gone down for a nap, we put her in the crib. She almost always takes a good 45 min – 1 hr nap at this time even if she hasn’t acted tired. I just think she’s happy to see us and wants to stay awake, but she needs a quick cat nap at this time to make it through dinner! Blake & I try to eat dinner and clean up dinner during this time!
7:15 pm
Dinner time for Maleah! Then a little play time.
7:45 pm
Bath time! We bathe her every night during the week except Wednesdays (when we have church) and we usually skip the bath one night during the weekend. After the bath, she gets an overnight diaper and lots of diaper cream, hydro-cortisone cream on legs, arms, and back of neck, nose suctioning (and currently also a little Vick’s Baby Rub on her chest!), PJ’s, and hair brushing! She has a love/hate relationship with this process!
8:00 pm
After bath, we read a book or two and then I swaddle her and rock her to sleep.  
10/10:30 pm
Dream feed. She usually takes 2-3 oz.
5/6 am
She wakes to eat. Since “breakfast” is at 7:15am, we only give her 2-3 oz at this time. Usually once she takes in 3oz, she drifts to sleep and will take her pacifier and go back to sleep until 7. We think she is starting to push towards being able to sleep 10-12 hours, so hopefully we are in the last stages of night-waking. It’s kind-of hard to do the breakfast thing at 7:15 when she has eaten at 6, but we’re just rolling with it until she starts sleeping until 7am!

Some other notes:

Naps/Sleep: Even though I rock Maleah to sleep for bedtime, I do not rock her to sleep for naps. We just watch for her sleep cues and then go lay her down. She usually goes right to sleep. We don't let her sleep longer than 2 hours for naps so that she will sleep well at night. She is always in a good mood when she wakes up! She sleeps with a pacifier. Usually she spits it out at some point. Still sleeps on tummy for naps and back for night time sleep.

Schedule: We don't live by the clock... except for first & last feeding of the day. Those times are sacred, so to speak! If we start messing with "breakfast" and "dinner," it seems to throw off the whole day. So, we try to be "on time" with those two feedings and then give everything in between a 30 minute window (15 minutes before or after). So, we may feed her at 10:10 am one day instead of 10. No biggie. But, if we do adjust the time of one feeding, we leave subsequent "scheduled" feedings at the same time. So, if we fed her at 10:10 instead of 10, we still plan on feeding her at 1. Does that make sense?

Dream feed: Honestly, I wasn't even sure this was working for a while! She has rarely taken a full bottle (the same ounces she takes during the rest of the day), but we realized that's just her. It stressed me out for a long time until I just let it go. Even now, she might only take 2 oz. I can't force her to eat; if she's full at 2 oz, so be it! It doesn't seem to change the duration of her sleep anymore. For a while, it did, which is why I was stressed. From what I have read, we'll continue doing the dream feed for several more weeks. It will still be a while before she can eat at 7pm and not again until 7am.

Sleeping Through the Night: If you consider sleeping 6+ hours without eating "sleeping through the night," then Maleah didn't consistently start doing this until right around 11 weeks. She had done it a few times before then, but not every night. She ate at 10pm and not until 4am for a week or two and then got seriously congested! The congestion had her waking at 1am, 3am, 3:30am, 5am... all sorts of crazy times. Lol. That was rough. Now she's back to sleeping through the night and can often go until 5:30-6am before she wakes to eat! According to BabyWise, most babies who are on this plan sleep around 10 hours by 10 weeks. Since Maleah is on the small side, we think she just wasn't capable at that time. Now that she's a little bigger, she can eat more during the day and less at night.

Being Out in Public: I feel really confident when we take Maleah out and about. I was a nervous wreck anytime we went anywhere for quite some time! I wasn't sure how she would adapt to new situations. But now we know - she's a super easy-going baby. For real. She seems to just go with the flow. We are very thankful of that!!! She is starting to figure out what's going on around her so she doesn't sleep as well when we go out, but just like at daycare - she does sleep... even in some seriously noisy places!!

Swaddling: I posted on facebook last week a question about how long to swaddle the baby. We have some larger size swaddle blankets on loan from friends and are in testing mode to see what works for her. Well, we definitely found out last night that she isn't ready for her arms to be free! She woke herself up around 2am with arms just a goin'. She had wiggled out of the sleep sack. I will definitely swaddle her more tightly tonight. :)

Activities: Maleah can hold up her head with moderate control and she can turn from her stomach to back but refuses to do it on command! She did it 7 times in one week, then one random time over the weekend in her crib. We give her lots of tummy time and she is trying, but she just doesn't seem to totally have it mastered. She is also trying really hard to turn from her back to her tummy. She can get all the way up to her side but can't seem to figure out how to get her arm out from underneath. She plays with her hands a lot and grasps onto things, but doesn't purposefully reach out for anything just yet. But, chances are if she catches hold of something, it will end up near her mouth or on her face. :)

Stats: She weighs right around 12 pounds and, I assume, is maybe around 22-23 inches long? Not really sure on the length. She still wears 0-3 month outfits (bloomers, in particular, seem to still be big on her waist) but she has also worn some 3-6 month outfits. We moved her up to 3-6 month PJ's & onesies. She wears a size 2 diaper. She uses a size 2 nipple on Avent bottles and still uses a size 1 on Tommee Tippee (we use those for dream feed & night b/c they are for gassy tummies). She still uses Similac Sensitive formula.

Well, that's about it for week 14. The best part of writing this - knowing that, with the upcoming introduction of solid foods, it's all about to change! :)

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Do you ever want to go back to teaching?

I started college, like everyone else, the fall after my senior year of college. I had always wanted to go into elementary education but frankly didn't think I had the ability to jump through all the required hoops. I spent three years in college before taking a break. I moved home from the University of Montevallo after my dad passed away and just decided to work for a while and try to figure out what I wanted to do. It was during that time - working two jobs - that I realized I could jump through all of those hoops to become an elementary teacher. So I went back to school in January 2008.

When I started the program, I was a little unsure of what was to come. I spent all of 2008 finishing up basics and started taking education courses in January 2009. It took two school years to finish the program. Each semester, I got more and more excited about teaching - especially when I started doing practicum placements and was actually in front of a class most of the week. I loved spending time with the kids. I loved teaching them something they hadn't previously understood before. I loved the hugs, the smiles, the "I love you's". I even loved the tough times. I loved the kids who didn't get a lot of love from their parents. I loved the kids who were just flat-out hard to love. I was ready to conquer the education world.

Then I graduated.

Several girls from my program did not get hired as classroom teachers that first year. I was one of them. I wasn't totally discouraged since I had other friends in the same situation. I decided to substitute in order to get to know different teachers and principals in hopes that I would be considered should an opening arise that school year or the next. I subbed for exactly one month in various schools before being offered a full-time contract substitute position at a school in the Tuscaloosa County School system. It was to work as a librarian, as their librarian was retiring. I started as librarian on November 1, 2011. I was overjoyed to have a job and even more excited that this might lead to a classroom teaching job for the next school year.

Without going into the details (because I am trying to be tactful, even though I honestly don't want to be), I did not get a classroom job at that school the following school year, even though there were three positions open. I also did not get a job anywhere else for reasons I really just can't explain. All throughout my time at UA, I had nothing but excellent reviews, grades, and recommendations. Even the principal I worked for wrote in her recommendation letter, "I wouldn't hesitate to hire Mrs. Ball..." (even though she did, seeing that she hired two other teachers over me, choosing master's degrees over experience...). I never had a bad experience with a class, teacher, or princpal. I am not sure if the principals who interviewed me last summer questioned why I didn't get hired at my previous school, if the news of my pregnancy got leaked (which I am suspicious of), or if it was just bad timing on my part.

This go 'round, I was devastated about not getting a job. There was no way I could substitute again for a school year. Subbing means no benefits, and with a baby on the way, we definitely needed benefits. I made the decision in late July to begin applying for jobs on campus and it only took a few weeks for me to get hired somewhere. It was a temporary position, but within six weeks of working that job, I got offered a full-time position. So, it took me about ten weeks to find a job at UA in a field I have no experience in (purchasing!), and I couldn't get a job in the field I have a degree and plenty of experience in. I don't get it.

So, people ask... "Do you ever want to go back to teaching?" And, honestly, the answer is "no". I had a really bad experience at the school where I was and in the months that followed the end of that position. There are just things no college education can prepare you for when you enter into a job run by the government. There is paperwork, red tape, and politics that come into play that I just could not handle. I applaud our teachers. I don't see how they do it without losing their minds, because I was surely losing mine.

It wasn't the kids I was frustrated with, and that's the tragedy of it all. As long as I could be with my students and the politics of public school left me alone, I was loving it. But the "do this thing this way with this material or else" just isn't me. I just simply don't agree with the way we run our public schools and I definitely didn't agree with things that were happening in the school where I was working. Yet I couldn't do anything about it because I was a lowly "teacher".

I do want to eventually work with kids, but not in a classroom teacher capacity. Honestly, I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with my life. My heart is broken that my experiences left such a bad taste in my mouth and I hate that I can't overcome my issues with our system. I think I am a great teacher who loves learning and loves kids even more, but I can't bring myself to do things the way they want me to. Maybe that's selfish of me, or maybe I just fit in with thousands of other "good teachers" who left the field because of the overbearing issues in our education system. I had to go through a grieving process to let go of the things I miss about teaching. It took several months for me to even be able to talk about this without crying or getting upset. Because, deep down, I think our schools are missing out on someone who truly cares about children and their education and I am missing out on something I was born to do.

Eventually I'll figure something out. For now, I'll be working at UA while Blake finishes up his PhD. And I don't really know where I will go from here. I feel God moving me in a few directions and plan to spend more time listening to what it is He is calling me to do. In some ways, I feel like I wasted my time (and money) on a degree I may never use. But, I think, things can only go up from here. I have lots of opportunities and plenty of time to figure out what's next.

It feels good to get this off of my chest. I haven't posted anything about my experience because I didn't want to burn any bridges. But now that I've decided I don't want to be a classroom teacher (at least the way public schools are run here in our area), I really don't have any bridges left to burn. I loved the teachers I worked with last school year and am so sad that I don't get to see them every day. I miss the kids, too. But, even more, I just miss teaching. I miss making a difference. There are plenty of ways for me to fill those voids, though, which is what I'm working on now - using my gifts and abilities with kids and teaching, just in a different capacity.

Thanks for reading. :)