Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Words of Wisdom: REST

This summer, I have experienced a "rest revelation" that has really changed my daily life! For quite a few weeks now, I have actually been going to sleep at a reasonable hour, sleeping soundly, and waking up feeling rested!

Here's the sitch...
*I linked to Urban Dictionary in case you're old like me and don't always understand cool kids' slang words.

For... um... basically all my life... I have generally hated going to bed. I could be drifting off on the couch and Blake would ask if I was ready to go to bed and I would emphatically say "NO!". As one of my friends calls it, I have the FOMO - Fear Of Missing Out! Even though I'm exhausted, I hate going to bed!!!

Secondly, I don't always sleep soundly. Insomnia runs in my family and - lucky me - I have it sometimes! I can go weeks without getting a good night's rest. I will often wake up in the middle of the night and be unable to return to sleep for 1, 2, or 3 hours. It can be very frustrating to go through that night after night.

I desperately wanted and needed to get some good sleep.

Then Blake and I bought some new bedding on sale at Wayfair. We have been without "official" bedding for quite a while now as our original (and expensive) comforter basically fell apart after being washed a few times. So when we got the new bedding, I, of course, had to make the bed look pretty! Brought out the pretty pillows, started making the bed in the mornings... you know, all the stuff you see on TV but never actually do in real life!

Then we started getting in bed around 8:30/9pm. Instead of reading or watching a show in the living room (where I would ultimately pass out on the couch and sleep from about 9-11:30pm), we started crawling in bed at the same time to read or watch a little TV before going to sleep.

Then I stopped fighting sleep. Instead of trying to keep my eyes peeled open as long as possible, I started turning over and "officially" going to sleep.

And THEN we bought new pillows! Beautiful, glorious, more-money-than-I've-ever-spent-on-a-pillow new pillows!!! (**Please note: We got ours for more than 50% off!**)

Then - and this is a little TMI - I stopped drinking. ;) Liquids. I mean... I stopped drinking liquids after about 7pm. I have a little bit of a beverage problem - I love drinks. And apparently as I am getting older, my bladder is getting smaller. Waking up multiple times a night because I drank 4800 ounces of water is no bueno.

Add all those things together and you get a really, really, really good night's rest!!!

It's not the fanciest or frilliest or the most colorful (I have a thing for cream...), but this has been my absolute favorite place to be the past several weeks!

I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous, but all of this has really helped me come to terms with needing sleep. I actually enjoy going to bed now and wake up feeling more refreshed than I've felt in a long time! I have actually slept through the night quite a few times over the past several weeks, which rarely ever happens for me. And since I am sleeping better, I am kicking my caffeine habit which will also make me an overall happier, healthier human being!

As I have started to feel better, Matthew 11:28-30 has been repeating in my mind.

8 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Yes, I know, the Bible wasn't talking about mattresses or pillows or ambient noise or any of that. But, still, the verses to me are appropriate. I have cried out to God so many times in the middle of the night because I couldn't sleep and just wanted to rest. I would feel frustrated in the mornings about not feeling rested. It was an ongoing cycle that was just. UGH. Annoying. But lately I feel like he has been giving me the tools I need to be able to sleep better and more soundly and for that, I'm super grateful.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Meal Plan Monday: 8/25-31

I'm sorry for being absent last week... Monday was my birthday and it started with Maleah waking up with pink eye! The rest of the week was just as stressful, so I didn't really have time to write anything!

Last week was a strange week... we had to alter plans because of sickness and then we also went to a couple of dinner parties. So, this is all I can remember cooking last week:

Monday: Spaghetti, garlic bread, brown sugar & bacon green beans
Thursday: BLTs & baked sweet potatoes

That's it! Haha!

This week's plan is a little more "normal":

Monday: Spaghetti, garlic bread, sliced cucumbers (gotta eat them before they go bad!), and roasted zucchini & squash
Tuesday: Campbell's Cheesy Chicken & Rice Casserole, baked corn on the cob, brown sugar & bacon green beans (seriously, they're so good!)
Wednesday: Zaxby's 
Thursday: Taco Soup, tortilla chips & salsa (if you remember, I made a double batch of taco soup a few weeks ago so all I have to do is let it thaw and reheat it!)
Friday: pizza
Saturday: popcorn shrimp, mac & cheese, sliced fresh veggies
Sunday: Church Potluck - I'm bringing a dump cake topped with powdered sugar! I will probably use blueberries instead of cherries 'cause that's how I roll!

I did want to briefly share my smoothie system as well as a new lunch item for Maleah!

I am on a smoothie kick right now. I haven't tried too many combinations (I'm counting down the days 'til I make this pumpkin pie smoothie!!!), but I've just been figuring how how to make the process simple during the busy morning times. I bought those bags at Sam's and they have lasted over a month! 

What I've been doing lately is making individual portion-sized bags. I put about 1 - 1.5 cups frozen fruit in each bag (and this week I added a few spinach leaves). So, all I have to do in the morning is grab one of these bags and the rest of my ingredients to make a smoothie in five minutes or less! (These have 1/2 banana - previously frozen individually - 1/2 cup strawberries, 6-8 blueberries and 3-4 spinach leaves.

 This is the "tropical" smoothie mix, which Blake prefers. We bought a bag of tropical fruit mix so it's just 1.5 cups of pineapples, strawberries, peaches, and mangoes! 

I make 14 bags. I know that seems wasteful - but wait! - it's not! A coworker suggested I not throw the bags away after each use. I have been using them for about 3 weeks and will probably toss them after the fourth use. I just put the sealed bag back in the freezer after it's empty. So far, it has worked great!

For my smoothies, I add four heaping tablespoons of plain or vanilla yogurt, the fruit mix, about 6-8 ounces of coconut milk, and a big heapin' helpin' of peanut butter (about 2 tbsp)! So tasty!

This past week I had a little lunch revelation for Maleah. I have been buying avocados, halving them, and putting them in Ziploc bags for a while now. I just take them out of the bag (and use the bags 3-4 times each to reduce waste), put them in her lunch container, and it's usually thawed out pretty well by lunch time (we might heat it for 10-20 seconds just get it to the right consistency).

So when I cooked sweet potatoes recently, I wondered if I could do the same with them. I had made sweet potato puree when she was smaller, but hadn't just tried to freeze it whole. Sure enough, it worked great! I waited until the potatoes were cool, scooped out the meat, put them in freezer bags and let them freeze. I let it thaw in the fridge until lunchtime and then heated it for 20-30 seconds. And since were were home Monday, I tossed in a little brown sugar & cinnamon. Maleah ate sweet potatoes twice this week for lunch! I might even make a few for myself for days when we don't have leftovers and I don't feel like making a sandwich (which is basically every day... I hate making sandwiches!).
I also put some of the frozen strawberries and blueberries in small individual containers to pop in Maleah's lunch box. I personally do not like to eat thawed frozen fruit, but she loves it! I keep the containers in the freezer and then just put it in her lunch box and... by lunch time, they're ready to eat! (They stay in the school fridge until lunch.)

So, even though last week was a little nutty, we're back on track this week and ready to roll! Hope you all have an awesome week! Happy homemaking! :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wisdom for the Working Mom

Sometimes I think I am not cut out for being a mom. No, really. I always dreamed of being a mom and now that I am one, well, it just isn't what I expected. Sometimes that's a good thing, other times I am completely thrown off by it and sent into a tailspin wondering how God could have trusted me with this little child when I am often so very incompetent.

Maleah is a very emotional child. I was a very emotional child. As some would say, I'm getting my "payback"!!! She is a very sweet-natured, smart, gentle little girl who is also silly and a little stubborn. But that all means it doesn't take much for her to get upset. About anything. You know the blog, "Reasons My Son is Crying"... well... that's Maleah.

It's quite challenging to parent a child who is so easily distressed. Nothing calms her - no music, no snuggling, no words of affirmation, no toys... she just has to finish crying and let all of her emotions out. I remember being that way. I would get so upset and it DID. NOT. MATTER. what anyone said or did - I was upset until I was finished being upset. Apparently Maleah is going to be the exact same way.

Yesterday I had one of those "I hate myself" mom moments during one of her scream-a-thons in the car. I just totally lost my cool with her and it wasn't pretty. I cried about it. She cried about it. I have never felt more terrible about myself as a mother! I know you've had those moments, too. You are unsure of your decisions. You're not confident with your actions. You regret words spoken in anger. You regret punishments dealt in the heat of the moment.

I was still upset about it this morning wondering why I can't be the perfect mother. I have worked with children all my life - I even have a degree in KIDS! How is it that I often struggle so much with being a mom? I thought this was supposed to come naturally! I thought I was supposed to be able to fix every problem! I thought my hugs and kisses were supposed to make tears stop flowing! I thought my words were supposed to bring a smile! But, instead, I struggle everyday.

And while I was thinking about all of this and giving myself grief over my lack of perfection, I remembered: "But then God said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for YOU. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.'" (2 Cor. 12:9; emphasis added)

His grace is sufficient for even me - a stretched-thin mom who falls short every day.
His strength is made absolutely perfect in my frequent moments of weakness.

Trusting in Him and in His word is the only way I will ever make it as a mom in 2014. It is increasingly more difficult to cling to His Word, but I will. I will continue to trust that He is bigger than my shortcomings. He is bigger than the challenges Maleah faces with her emotions. He is bigger than my knee-jerk responses. So I will trust 2 Cor. 12:9 and hold firm that God is the supplier of every bit of parenting wisdom I will ever have.

Each Wednesday, I will post a Scripture (and maybe a song) that has inspired me as a wife, mother, and woman. I hope these are helpful to you!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Meal Plan Monday

Lately I've been thinking about how difficult it can be to be a working mom. I enjoy working - I really, truly cannot imagine myself as a stay-at-home mom or Maleah a stay-at-home kid. But being a working mom comes with plenty of challenges - the biggest one being TIME. My time is divided between work and home and, being the efficiency-obsessed person that I am, I want to make the most of my time when I am home. I don't want to spend hours upon hours doing chores or cooking meals - I want to spend time with my little girl and my husband. I'm going to start writing more on my blog about what it's like to be a workin' mama in 2014 and how I balance being a full-time employee with being a full-time mom.

Meals are a huge part of our every day life. I am insistent that we eat most of our dinners at home together at the dinner table. Getting wholesome food to the table by 5:45/6pm every day is quite a challenge, but I've learned to make it work! We also make our breakfasts and pack lunches and snacks... so there's a lot of work that goes into eating at our house.

I've learned the meal planning is definitely the way to go for me. Each week, I "shop" our pantry, check the sales ads, and then make a plan. I've had to make more reasonable expectations of myself for weeknight meals (I used to make crispy yogurt chicken and lasagna and fancy meals on the weeknights). I've also learned some short-cuts and tips (meal prepping and freezer meals, to be exact!) that help allow us to have those delicious oven-fresh meals even on a toddler-filled busy weeknight.

Before, I start, here's a few helpful tips to get you started if you aren't already planning meals:

1. I have "themes" for certain nights.
We always have a pasta dish on Mondays, we either eat out or at the church on Wednesdays, we almost always have a "fancy sandwich" or soup with a baked potato on Thursday nights, and we usually have pizza and salads on Friday nights. Lastly, I usually make just one double-portion meal over the weekend so that I usually only have to cook once and reheat 2-3 times. I know this might get boring to some, but it works for us right now. And we usually don't have the same thing two weeks in a row or even sometimes in the same month so, even though it may seem like a boring way to plan, we eat a wide variety of foods that keep our taste buds happy!

2. My cooking style is "semi-homemade" and, yes, we eat processed food.
These recipes are nothing fancy! They are simple... because simple is how it gets done around here. And I'm learning about real/whole foods and how to incorporate more of them into our diet. But I'm doing things one-step-at-a-time rather than making drastic changes overnight. Lately I have been focusing on learning the art of freezing and meal prep so that we can have fresh, healthy foods quickly. Next is making certain staples (i.e. the spaghetti sauce) in large batches to freeze. I'm learning! When it comes to processed food... well... I try to choose as well as I can. While I'm definitely in favor of eating more whole foods, I also realize that I grew up eating Kraft Mac & Cheese and I am perfectly healthy, normal, and smart! We eat a well balanced diet with plenty of very healthy whole foods and we are all extremely healthy, so I think we're doing alright. :)

3. I am learning to freeze foods and how to prep meals in advance.
Did I mention that already? :) While fresh is, of course, always going to taste the best... sometimes I just don't have the time to do it all in one night. We often cook meat ahead of time to freeze, chop vegetables and fruits early in the week, and I make my own pre-packaged frozen smoothie mixes. These little tricks have really helped make our daily routine much, much, much easier!

4. Side dishes do not have to be super fancy.
This summer has taught me that my side dishes should not require recipes. Sometimes steamed or roasted vegetables with a little salt and pepper are totally enough! We also love to eat chilled raw cucumbers or bell pepper slices with meals. And... there's always the salad - my go-to "side dish" for a busy weeknight.

5. The plan is meant to be flexible.
REPEAT: THE PLAN IS MEANT TO BE FLEXIBLE.** I used to plan for every two weeks (and have even planned for an entire month!), but I've learned that's just not feasible right now. I have gone back to planning just one week at a time. This way, if something comes up one night and we don't make a meal, I can just bump that meal to the following week. Not a big deal. It took a long time, but I have learned that meal planning isn't all-or-nothing. And the more I plan, the better I get at making realistic plans. Take, for instance, the whole I-only-cook-once-on-the-weekend thing. I used to plan a meal for Friday night, Saturday, and Sunday. I would usually only end up cooking one or two things. Now I have resolved that Friday night is going to be pizza night at our house for a while. It's easy. Maleah loves it. It technically has all the food groups in it. Right? RIGHT?!? And simply having to reheat a tasty meal on a busy Sunday is definitely the way to go!

6. I try to do my shopping on Saturday morning.
Planning out meals means I can limit trips to the grocery store. I've started going first thing on Saturday morning (with Maleah in tow). I can get everything we need for the upcoming week. We might make another stop during the week if unexpectedly run out of a staple item like milk or bread that we just can't live without until the next Saturday.

7. Lastly, while I don't coupon, I do try to make very economical choices.
At the beginning of the month, I'll make one big trip to SAMs to get some meat, frozen fruits, and other staple items that I just know we will use up in a month's time. Then I might also go to Target to get some other staples - cereals, breads, eggs, sugar, etc. So, at the start of the month, I spend about 1/3 of our month's grocery budget. Then I have a weekly budget for things like produce, specific ingredients, milk, bread, and sandwich stuff - things that just don't need to be purchased in bulk. I try to spend only 80% of my weekly budget on Saturdays so that we have 20% left if we need to pick up something during the week. I shop mostly at Target and Publix. For Target, I use their cartwheel app and we have a Target Red Card so we save a lot of money! I buy all of our produce at Publix and I'll pick up other things if they have a good sale that week.

So, without further blah-blah-blah-ing, here's this week's meal plan! I'm not going to go into great detail about this week's plan since I have already written a novel.

Monday: Italian chicken (pre-cooked and frozen), fettuccine noodles with pesto, garlic bread, salad**

Tuesday: Macaroni & Cheese Casserole, salad, fresh raw veggies (cucumber, carrots, etc.)**

Wednesday: Zaxby's

Thursday: Taco Soup (yes, even in the summer!) and baked potatoes

Friday: Pizza at church for church-wide movie night

Saturday/Sunday: Grilled sausage dogs with grilled squash and zucchini and baked sweet potatoes

Breakfasts: Smoothies (I have one every day), oatmeal, boiled egg, cereal
Lunches: Usually we eat leftovers if we have them... but we also keep sandwich fixin's on hand as well as peanut butter, canned soups, and Chef Boyardee. Blake and Maleah eat the Chef Boyardee. I do not! Lunch is something I'm currently working on planning out more, so I'll be doing some experimentin' and get back with you in a few weeks! But, for now, that's the usual go-to plan.

I'll try to have some pictures with next week's edition! I'll also try to add the ingredients and more recipes as well as a recipe or two for breakfast and/or lunch! I hope this is a helpful resource for someone out there!

**I can already tell you that this menu  has changed! I originally wrote this blog late last week, but we had extra food from Saturday's cook-a-thon (where I cooked more food at one time than probably ever! We had company, so I had the motivation!) so we switched tonight & tomorrow's menu. Tonight we're having leftover turkey patties, mac & cheese, sweet peas, and salad and tomorrow we'll have the Italian chicken & fettuccine Alfredo. Easy peasy, right!!?