Tuesday, December 31, 2013


I now present you with my obligatory New Year's post! 

I can say without a doubt that 2011 and 2012 were not-so-great years in the life of Katie Lewis/Katie Ball. 2011 brought a nasty tornado that made me and my new husband homeless. 2012 brought unexpected joblessness and an unexpected pregnancy that turned into unexpected joy. 

But, ah, 2013. 2013 brought us a beautiful baby girl. A little girl who was sent to us because God knew she was just what we needed. She changed the course of my career and, ultimately, reminded me of what I always wanted to be - a mom. I'm happy to look back on the past year and, for the first time in a few years, it's hard for me to choose the highlights. But, I must, because that's what you do in a New Year's post!

Top Five 2013 Moments

1. HAVING A BABY! I mean, does it even need to be said? But I literally mean HAVING a baby. It was the most amazing experience and I felt like (and still feel like!) superwoman after having been through labor and delivery. Moving along...

2. Being a mom! Motherhood suits me. I get to nurture and teach a little one day in and day out. I love all the little moments with her... her sitting on the counter every morning "helping" me get ready (she loves when I put the blush brush to her sweet little cheeks!), talking to her about each step of dinner preparation, reading stories to her, hugging her, and seeing her smiling face each morning. I pray Blake and I have the ability to add to our family, but I remind myself all the time that we are not guaranteed another. I hope another child (or two) is in our future, but I am trying not to wish away the time with Maleah. I'm trying to enjoy each and every moment we have with her!

3. JERRY SEINFELD AND JOHN MAYER. We saw them both live this year - Bucket List items checked and checked!

4. Moving into a HOUSE! We are still renters, but living in a house is SO much better than living in a tiny apartment! We love having more living space, bigger bedrooms, and... a YARD!

5. Another wonderful year being married to Blake! You know, Blake and I have only been married 2 1/2 years and we've only KNOWN each other for 3 1/2 years! This year definitely challenged us - after all, becoming new parents AND working on PhD comps is tough work! - but we have learned so much. We tell each other all the time just how awesome it is to be married to one another. I love our relationship!

2014 Resolutions

1. Fold, hang, and put away laundry IMMEDIATELY after the clothes are finished drying! (Or do my best!) Basically... no more piles and piles of clean clothes that are folded and laid out but still sitting around because I'm too lazy to put them away.

2. Spend money on things that MATTER and on things that LAST. 

3. Take back my mornings! Having a baby means a lot of sleepless nights which means a lot of sleeping 'til the last minute. Now that Maleah is consistent with her sleep, I want to take back my mornings. Get up when I'm "supposed" to, do my quiet time, start to get ready... do what I can before she wakes so I can spend a little time with her before work!

4. ENJOY SUMMER! The past few summers have not be terribly enjoyable for me. 2011 was spent rebuilding a house. 2012 was spent pregnant and sick. 2013 was spent with a baby too little to endure the Alabama heat. I hope this year we can spend more time outside, at the pool, enjoying nature with our girl!

5. Read more! I want to really get back to reading for fun! Magazines, novels, kid's books... read, read, read!

Friday, December 27, 2013

11 Months!

Let the party planning/cry-fest begin! Maleah's first birthday is in less than one month. Holy moly that is scary! Wasn't I just holding a teeny tiny newborn? A year goes faster than you think. People try to explain it to you, but it just doesn't make sense until it flies by before you can say "happy birthday, baby girl"!

I remember feeling extremely overwhelmed in the first days and weeks of parenthood. It seemed the sleepless nights and crying fits and time spent at the pump (not of the gas variety) would never end. But, it did. After a few months of getting to know Maleah, life became "normal". We figured out a routine and figured out her personality and we've been sailing pretty smoothly ever since. But, I don't want to get into too much detail about my thoughts on her first birthday! She is ONLY 11 months, after all!

According to our scale at home, Maleah weighs about 19-20 pounds. And I guesstimate she is around 29-30 inches tall. She wears a size 3 diaper, clothes in the 9-18 month range, a size 4 (okay, 3.5 but we don't own any 3.5s because baby feet grow really fast) shoe, and seems to be the perfect size for cuddling in my lap!

She still takes four bottles a day, about six ounces at a time. She usually takes a bottle at 6:30/10:30/3-4/7. I am excited about not having to buy formula after the transition to whole milk and have vowed to do whatever it takes to nurse/pump for a future child. I have intentions of writing a blog on my thoughts about parenting a first child in the near future... so I'll save my reasonings for that post! Anyway... Maleah is solely on table food at this point. I thought we would take more time to transition to table foods in order to find the things she likes to eat, but it was actually pretty easy to find wholesome, nutritious foods for her to eat. She is a great eater!

Some of her favorite foods are: eggs, waffles, avocado, mandarin oranges, spaghetti, chili, cheese, carrots, and peas! Oh and she loves Nilla wafers!

6:30-7 ~ Wake up, 6 oz formula
7-7:30 ~ Get ready for the day, play with Mommy & Daddy
7:30-8 ~ Either go to school or play at home
8:15 ~ Breakfast
9:30-11:30 ~ Nap
11:30 ~ (or when she wakes up) 6 oz bottle
12:15 ~ Lunch
1:30-3:30 ~ Nap
3:30 ~ (or when she wakes up) 6 oz bottle
4:15 ~ Snack, if she wants it 
5:30/6 ~ Dinner
7 ~ Bath, bottle, book, bedtime! (In bed by 7:30)

Maleah has done really well adjusting back and forth between home and school. She only goes to daycare 3 days a week and we try to keep her days as similar as we can so she isn't thrown off by two very different schedules. However, she still has longer wake times at school because of the activities, but she still usually gets two good, solid naps. 

We think we're on the brink of seeing some first steps. She's taken a few teeny tiny "steps" but definitely not the real thing yet. She has been standing on her own A LOT the past few days - just randomly standing up in the middle of the living room (with no help from anything). She'll just stand there, looking like she wants to take a step, and then she either falls on her butt or squats to finish playing. Blake is REALLY excited about her walking and I am a little terrified!!! I'm happy with her being relatively contained!

Maleah has made huge strides in language development over the past few weeks. It is clear to see that she understands a good bit of what you're saying and she tries to mimic a lot of words, too. Some of the words she can "say" and understand: Mama, Da-Da, Pop-eye (my step-dad's name), puppy, hmm-hmm (Maleah for "ruff-ruff"), meow (when she sees a cat), baa (when she sees a sheep), boom, beep beep, diaper (yep. Sounds like "bah-puh"), poop (thanks, Daddy), bottle ("bah-bul"), and her favorite - NO, NO, NO ("nah, nah, nah")! She also shakes her head and gives you the stink eye with that last one. Not kidding! I am amazed at how quickly she has picked up so many words! 

We are also working on teaching her some sign language. She can sign "all done" and I think she understands when we sign "more" and "eat". We really haven't done them consistently until lately, but we're hoping to also teach her the sign for "please" and "thank-you". 

Other Thoughts
Crying It Out... yeah, yeah, I bragged about doing a "gentle" CIO method when Maleah was 5 weeks old. It really wasn't all that bad and there were no 30-minute crying fits from anyone. I am glad we did it because I contribute working with her to go to sleep that early helped her tremendously in the long run. She has since been a great napper/sleeper and consequently she is an extremely happy, content baby when she's awake. Lately, though, it's been harder to hear her cry if she is having a hard time getting to sleep. For MONTHS, crying was practically non-existent before sleep-times because she was just so tired and wanted to sleep. But now that she really knows what's going on (and I think maybe she is in one of those 'if I can't see you, you don't exist' phases), her cries are different. There is one cry where I know she will cry for MAYBE 5 minutes and drift to sleep and then there is another one that just breaks my heart. I can't handle it so I go in and rock her to sleep. I really don't want to start any habits with her that make it more difficult for her to sleep at daycare or when we're out & about, but I know this time is fleeting so if my baby needs a little rocking, her mommy will be happy to oblige. :) 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Monthly Meal Planning

When you have a baby/kid/busy life, it can be hard to prepare home-cooked, nutritious, and tasty meals every night of the week. For us, this often leads to us going through the drive-thru or picking something up even though we have plenty of food at home. This month I wanted to try to crack down on eating out and so far, it's been a success!

Normally, I do a weekly meal plan. Lately that hasn't really worked because it takes a lot of time each week to look at the sale ads, put together a plan, go to the grocery store, and then prepare meals day in and day out. So, this month I tried my hand at planning for an entire month. Some people might say this would never work for them because a) they would get to a particular day and want something different instead, b) they don't always know what they will be doing each night so they can't plan that far in advance, or c) they don't have time to plan it and prepare those kinds of meals.
Let me quickly address those issues.
1 - I make a monthly meal plan with some flexibility. If I really don't want to cook something on a particular day, then I just swap it with a different recipe from another day/week. There are very few times I don't want to cook what I have planned.
2 - Again, flexibility. I plan for leftovers/Fend For Yourself (FFYS) once a week and then also leave one night of the weekend open because I know our plans will probably change and we also don't eat a lot on the weekends. This allows me the ability to swap things around if our plans start to change. Say we have BBQ Chicken planned for Thursday night, but we end up getting invited to a friend's house instead. So, then I'd just hold off on the BBQ chicken and make it over the weekend for lunch & dinner. Or if that chicken is frozen, I can just wait and make it another week.
3 - You're going to spend time "planning" meals regardless. You can either do it in a matter of minutes once a month (and then spend a few hours planning your grocery list, shopping, and prepping the food all at one time) or you can spend time day by day wondering what you're going to eat, running by the grocery store/fast food restaurant, and possibly try to cook something from scratch each night. I prefer to do my work in bulk so that I can maximize my time during the weeknights.

The old saying goes... "where there's a will, there's a way..." If you are determined to save money and time for your family, then you can totally make something like this work. :)

Anyhoo... back to the meal plan. To make planning simple, I went with a simple weekly theme to help get my plannign started:

Monday: Spaghetti/Pasta or Tacos
Tuesday: Crock-Pot Meal
Wednesday: Leftover/FFYS
Thursday: Baked Potatoes & Soup
Friday: Frozen Pizza & Salad
Saturday/Sunday: Casserole, Crock-Pot, and/or Leftovers

With this in mind, I then looked at what we had going on for the month of December. It's a very busy month with all sorts of events happening. I tried to plan the best I could around what we already knew would be happening and then leave plenty of room for inevitable changes. I also thought about things I could make in bulk or freeze (i.e. soup) so that prep/cook time/clean-up would be minimal. We're only ten days into this plan and it has already changed some. That's the beauty of it - it's not so much that you're determined to have a particular meal on a particular day. It's more about having the ingredients for meals on hand (or having pre-made & frozen it) so that you can eat healthy, home-cooked meals every night!

Once I have determined the meals, I then plug my list into a spreadsheet with four columns: Day, Meal, Ingredients, Recipe. I write every last ingredient - even things we normally have on hand. When I have the spreadhseet made, I print it out. I go home and look over my igredients list and highlight the things I need to purchase. Now, some things I can purchase a month in advance (pasta, seasonings, pizzas, etc.) and other things (milk, produce, eggs, etc.) I do buy week-to-week so I highlight those things in a different color. I also look over the ingredients list before going to the grocery store to make sure we haven't run out of anything we need for the week. Then, I go shopping!

Here's a Sample:

1 lb ground beef, taco seasonings, tortillas, shredded lettuce, cheese, sour cream, black olives
You know how to do this J
White BBQ Chicken sandwiches, black eyed peas, corn on the cob
1 lb shredded chicken, white BBQ sauce, black eyed peas, corn on the cob, butter
Put chicken in crock pot with 1 c sauce mixed with 1 cup water. Cook on low for 8 hours ~ shred when cooked. Boil peas in pot of water with salt; Boil corn in pot of water with salt.
Baked Potatoes & Chicken noodle soup
3 baking potatoes, 1 qt size bag of chicken noodle soup
Microwave potatoes; thaw & heat soup
Frozen Pizza & salad
Frozen pizza, salad mix, shredded cheese, croutons, bacon bits, dressing
You know how to do this J
Double batch of chili
2 lbs ground beef, 1 chopped onion, 4 cans dark red kidney beans, chili seasonings,  2 cans taco sauce, 2 can diced tomatoes, 1 box beef broth (use as needed)
Brown ground beef and onions, drain meat. Put all ingredients in stock pot. Bring to a boil, let simmer for 1 hour.

Lots of smiley faces going on there!!!

Lastly, I get to cooking! At the start of this month, I made a double batch of taco soup and pinto beans for burritos & bean dip. I also went ahead and cooked 4-5 chicken breasts in the crock pot to shred in order to make really quick chicken casseroles (Poppyseed chicken in 20 minutes? Yes, please!!!) This past Saturday, I made crock pot chicken noodle soup - again, another large batch so we could freeze some. So, you can see some of the things in next week's meal plan are things that have already been prepared.

This past week got changed a bit because I forgot Blake had orchestra rehearsal tonight. So, what I originally planned to make will get bumped to another night or a weekend and Maleah and I will have sweet potatoes for dinner instead! See, it's very flexible!!!

Now... what about breakfast and lunch? Well, I don't really ever make breakfast because we really don't eat breakfast. I keep things on hand, though (and for Maleah, of course). We have waffles, cinnamon rolls, yogurt, frozen biscuits, and eggs available all the time as well as frozen and some fresh fruit. For lunch, we do keep sandwich fixin's on hand, but we also eat a lot of leftovers for lunch. I made bean burritos to freeze and those are an easy go-to lunch, as well (just thaw through the day and heat in the microwave).

Meal planning is a great way to save money and time. I love being able to come home and prepare something quickly so my family can enjoy spending time with each other - not with the pots & pans!!!