Healthy Make-Ahead Recipes

Meal Prep Sunday

No matter how busy we get I refuse to get totally derailed from eating healthy. In fact, finding a way to get real food on the table is more critical than ever while we shape Rylan’s eating habits and expectations for the type of food he will get at home most days.

Weekend meal prep is my best shot for avoiding takeout temptations. I still haven’t found the time to make large batches of freezer meals but I have found a few new recipes that yield a fair amount of leftovers to carry us into the week for lunches and dinner.

Links I suggest all busy households pin and try:

  • Vanilla chia seed pudding. A delicious, crazy-fast and protein-packed breakfast that you can prepare at night and eat for at least two – three days following. I have been topping mine with organic strawberries and blueberries.
  • Kale pesto (nut free). I read on a mom blog somewhere that pesto is something all families should keep in the fridge. Tossing it with pasta is a fast weeknight fallback. Until Rylan has been exposed to all nuts I searched for a nut-free version and am surprised by how good this one tastes. Since we are not vegan I did add some parmesan cheese–highly recommended.
  • Chickpea, avocado and feta salad. This is dummy-proof. To make it even heartier as a standalone dinner I mixed in about a cup of Trader Joes Harvest Grains mix. Rylan devoured this.
  • Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chili. This is now a staple in our house. I make it at least twice a month and freeze extras for mid-week meals when we’re running low on energy and motivation. I omit the chipotle peppers since I am breastfeeding and want to keep it on the milder side.

Overnight slow cooker oatmeal is a forever-staple and I always make sure to keep frozen veggie burgers and fish on hand to bare with a basic salad. Morning green smoothies have gone on a hiatus but I am hoping to make another round of smoothie packs now that the weather is warming up. I am obsessed with the daily recipes shared by Simple Green Smoothies on Instagram.

We’re keeping Rylan gluten free, per our pediatrician, until one year and that will influence a lot of my cooking until then. Some freezer-friendly recipes I was able to test this last weekend include:

  • Mini Frittatas (for Rylan, but good for any busy household. I made ours in a mini muffin pan)
  • Paleo pumpkin muffins (for Rylan, though I realized the almond flour might not have been the best choice so even though he reacted fine, we can’t bring them to daycare. Again, I used the mini muffin pan)
  • Salmon cakes (I used gluten free bread crumbs. Warning – do not overcook or these bad boys totally end up like hockey pucks)
  • Crock pot vegetarian stuffed peppers (I can’t for the life of me find the recipe I followed! But if you Google “slow cooker stuffer peppers) there are endless varieties. I used brown rice, frozen corn, black beans, shredded cheese, cumin and chili powder. They baked perfectly in about 3 hours on high)

What weekend meal prep saves your sanity during the week?

 

Lessons Learned at 9 Months

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I’m in denial about Rylan’s next big milestones. Having his first birthday. Walking. Weaning. Emotionally I am not ready for a single one.

Since we made his 12 month doctor’s appointment, I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the past nine months. The high’s, low’s and inevitable lessons learned along the way.

For all of my mom friends out there, whether your kids are nine days old or going on 19, I know you join me in the constant internal questioning routine. What should I have done differently? Where can we improve?

If and when we expand our family again, there are many things I will try to do exactly the same (even though every baby is wildly different…I get it). On Becoming Baby Wise continues to be the best method for our family. With a few modifications in the early weeks, I am committed to the philosophy.

I am proud that Rylan is so adaptable and independent, traits we focused on from the start. I am proud to still be breast feeding and pumping but have no regrets that we also began fortifying his bottles early on to help with weight gain. I am proud that I pushed to start with food other than rice cereal and vividly remember his first timid bites of organic avocado at age four months. His food journey has been incredibly fun since that day. I am proud that I have been away from Rylan multiple times, trusting his days and nights to either Mike or grandparents.

I am proud of us.

However, I do look back on the past nine months with many “I wish I’d known” feelings too.

I wish I’d known…

  • To block out the doctors, nurses and all the noise when Rylan was first born to really REALLY hear, take in and catalog in my brain that first cry. The memory is such a blur.
  • To take more naps instead of giving in to the laundry piles and urge to shower. Being clean is great, but sleep deprivation is no joke.
  • To hold onto Rylan longer rather than feeling like I needed to get him down in a crib for a nap or bedtime. I was obsessed with “the schedule” and I missed opportunities to simply let him lay on my chest, enjoying the miracle of our tiny bundle.
  • To not obsess over one bad feed, but instead focus on the entire day or heck, just the week overall. Everyone told me that but as a new mom I simply could not process the advice. Each bad feed gave me knots of worry about his weight gain.
  • To put vanity aside and take more day-in-the-life pictures WITH Rylan during maternity leave especially. This one absolutely kills me. I get a lump in my throat typing out this “wish.” We have countless photos of Rylan but not enough of us as a family in survival mode–bags under our eyes, wild sleepless hair, stained clothes and all.
  • To start a house cleaner savings fund BEFORE the baby is born. In hindsight I wish I would have hidden money away from every paycheck the moment we found out Sprout was on the way. We have a cleaner we use every three to four weeks, but I would be a more relaxed person if we could afford her biweekly (and in a fantasy world, every Friday).

I have a few friends who are expecting so I hope these reflections are helpful. If you only take one to heart, make it the one about pictures. Take dozens of you and that little nugget from day one. They don’t have to go in a frame or on Facebook. But trust me, you can never get the early days back.

Moms, what do you wish you’d known the first time around?

Rylan is 9 Months

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We blinked. I swear that is all we did and here I am typing up Rylan’s 9 month post. I don’t get it.

The past month has brought so many firsts. Rylan is officially on the move and man is he fast. As Grandpa Steve says, he crawls with purpose. Our house is now sporting three baby gates and gone are the days of setting him down in front of my mirror while I finish getting ready for work. I thank my lucky stars that he still loves his doorway jumpy seat. It’s a godsend when I am cooking or running around in the morning before daycare drop off.

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Speaking of daycare, Rylan is thriving. He is all smiles at drop off and pickup. He has favorite toys along with favorite baby friends. He absolutely loves to be outside and gravitates toward anything musical. He eats well and we are told practices very good patience/table manners if he is done eating before others. Daycare has also made him extremely adaptable. He continues to let anyone hold him and had no trouble staying with my parents for three days while Mike and I took our first big trip away–to Chicago. I was a wreck leading up to it but in the end, Rylan had an incredible weekend and was all smiles upon our return.

At night and on the weekends we are trying to mimic everything Rylan is focused on at daycare. That includes a lot of questions like, “Rylan, what does a cow say” and “Rylan, no thank you,” when he is doing something that we don’t want to encourage. We sing, have dance parties and spend our hours with him on the floor taking every toy out of bins before putting everything back–and then repeating the process yet again. The kid LOVES bins.

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On the eating front, Rylan loves finger foods. Feeding him purees has turned somewhat into a battle because he so badly wants to feed himself. We are still making most purees from scratch aside from meat. As a non-meat eater I cannot bring myself to puree chicken. Gag. When we need to rely on packaged foods I am a huge fan of Earth’s Best and Plum Organics. Ella’s Kitchen is awesome too but very expensive. There isn’t much that Rylan cannot or will not eat these days. Quinoa, lentils, kiwi, eggs, avocado, watermelon, tuna, salmon…the list goes on. Our pediatrician encouraged us to avoid wheat until 12 months but said to go ahead and even try nut butters now. Eeek!

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I do want to be clear that it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows around here either. Mike and I continued to be extremely busy and there are nights when Rylan goes down that I am disappointed with how un-present we were during our brief time with him before bed. Everyone told me that being a working mom is tough but no one explained how draining a dual-career household can be–we’re exhausted. My heart sinks on Sunday nights. I still cry on some Monday mornings when I don’t have time to cuddle or play. I’ve slipped tremendously on working out because I hate to miss a morning or evening with him.

I’ve been harping on both of us to hide our phones and 100% disconnect whenever possible. The same goes on weekends. We have a long way to go but I am noticing a bit of improvement.

Well, I am rambling. If you’re still reading, here are our 9 month highlights.

Mom’s favorites:

  • Watching him crawl and the excitement on his face when he reaches his destination
  • The way he holds onto me a little tighter if we’re in an unfamiliar place
  • Seeing him interact with the other kids in his daycare room and the beaming smiles he gives his teachers
  • Having him sit in a regular high chair at restaurants and watching him look around in awe. The little dude is SO nosey!
  • The way he has handled teething like a total champ
  • Our quiet, one-on-one time when he is nursing. I can’t believe I contemplated proactively giving this up a few months ago

Dad’s favorites:

  • Watching him figure out how to crawl and pull himself up to standing
  • Taking him to the park and listening to him belly laugh going down the slide
  • How much he enjoys and gets excited about all new experiences
  • Seeing him socialize with friends at school and recognize the babies and teachers he loves

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Survival Mode

Help Mom

Wake up. Nurse. Get little one and adults fully dressed. Race to daycare. Work all day. Pump at work. Race to pickup little one. Curse traffic. Get home. Run around like wild people to get the little one fed and bathed. Nurse. Collapse into heap in front of the TV for an hour or two…

Oh wait. Watch TV? That doesn’t sound quite right.

Feed adults. Make baby food. Potentially work some more. Tackle laundry. Wonder if dog has been fed. Feed dog just in case. Put away laundry from the night(s) prior. Contemplate working out. Fall asleep while thinking about working out.

Repeat Monday – Friday.

We’re in a dual working household survival mode. A mode that makes me thank my lucky stars every day that Rylan is a great night time sleeper. Please let the teething gods (2nd tooth coming up now) be kind.

But amidst our chaos are many moments of perfection. Yep, that is the best word to describe our ridiculously overwhelming life. Mike and I have never been more in sync. We try hard to pick up where the other left off or anticipate what will make the other a little more relaxed. There is no room for being less than 100% hands-on and we are killing it. We say ‘thank you’ more often and tell each other whenever we remember to breathe that we’re doing a really great job.

Then there is Rylan. He is unreal. I can’t get over his infectious laugh and endless energy. He is mobile and quite independent, yet nothing makes his eyes sparkle more than seeing us walk into a room. Kisses make him squeal. He brightens my whole heart. I would gladly take on more chaos if it meant he would smile this sweetly forever. I often catch myself saying, “that kid. Man I love him. ”

But this post is about surviving. Which leads me to share what’s in our current survival kit with an almost 9 month old…

  • Compassion
  • A lot of forgiveness
  • Grandparents, aunts, uncles, great aunts ~ family
  • Wine. Preferably a Malbec. Club W would be the jackpot
  • Peace & Calming and Valor essential oils from Young Living — in the diffuser, behind ears and on wrists at bedtime and before work
  • ABDL (Always Be Doin’ Laundry)
  • Friends, even if time only allows for a few text exchanges
  • Stitch Fix
  • Butternut squash slow cooker chili
  • Door to Door Organics online local and organic grocery delivery (a client of mine, but we’ve been using them for long before that)
  • Apple TV for catching up on Girls, Jimmy Fallon, Game of Thrones and Parenthood on weekends

I am trying very hard to add working out back to that list–it varies greatly each week. I’d also like the list to include Sunday freezer meal prep, regular evening family walks and a spa day. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

How do you survive? What do you rely on and what have you had to give up on?

Nursing Updates

I am extremely grateful for the women in my various circles who reached out to me by phone, email, text and social following my “Nursing at 5.5 Months” post. You all helped me feel sane despite feeling insane at the thought of breastfeeding — mainly the pumping aspect — past six months. I think I was really tired and in a somewhat selfish place when I wrote that post.

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Together, Rylan and I are happily still nursing and (less happily) pumping at eight months. When it comes to nursing, I am more protective than ever of our morning and nighttime nursing sessions — which has led to an even more reduced gym schedule and some hesitancy for making evening plans during the week. I don’t avoid everything, but I know our last months of this will fly by and I don’t want to miss how unique the mother/baby bond is right now.

How did I recommit? A coworker talked to me about her experience and it really resonated. She was also a very busy working mom with both of her girls. She saw it as their special time. Sometimes her only quiet, uninterrupted moment with her babies on an otherwise whirlwind day. It’s the same for me and Rylan. We race around in the morning to get out of the house for daycare, and run around like wild people by the time we get home to get him fed, in the bath and ready for bed. If I didn’t nurse I could see myself tossing bottle duty over to Mike so that I could get back online, do laundry, clean or cook. So yes, our house is a little messier and our meals have been mediocre at best, and I am trying to be okay with that. I am trying very hard.

I am not sure any breastfeeding mom out there loves pumping, but we deal. In fact, I have several friends who couldn’t nurse but committed to pumping upwards of nine – 10 times a day to provide breast milk to their little one. I bow down to those moms. Bow. Down.

My current routine includes a much-needed pump off in the morning and at least one session during the day at work. My supply has taken a noticeable hit in recent weeks due to a very hectic schedule, which inevitably led to not drinking enough water and going too long between my regular twice-daily pumping sessions.

I am hesitant to cut that second one out completely, but I have also over-pumped too late in the day and been nervous that I am not full enough for his bedtime feed. Any advice is appreciated. Should I just suck it up and go to pumping once at work instead of forcing two smaller ones?

Another question I have since I am still nursing, sometimes exclusively on weekends if I am with Rylan all day, is how much milk should he be getting daily (on average) as his solids continue to increase? The kid LOVES to eat solid food.

Thank you friends for supporting me in this very personal journey. I appreciate having a space to vent, talk and ask questions.

Rylan is 8 Months!

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Our incredible boy is eight months old! To say he brightens each and every day is a huge understatement. His gummy grin (no teeth yet!) is infectious. His body-shaking belly laugh is addictive. Rylan’s easy-going personality and happy demeanor has really come through this month. We’re more smitten than ever.

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The past month has not been easy. Mike traveled for work more than usual and my job was extremely busy, including some weekend commitments. The notion of balance fell to the wayside and we went into survival mode. Get Rylan safely to and from daycare. Line up backup care. Make food for Rylan. Heat up a can of soup or frozen dinner for ourselves. Survive.

I am disappointed in myself for being so preoccupied the last few weeks. I really need to learn how to put my phone down and focus. Work, texts, Facebook…it will all be there when Rylan is down for the night. Technology keeps us positively connected in so many ways but at the same time, it makes us miss the present. The now. That’s my goal for Ry’s next month ~ to be more present during our precious and extremely limited with him at night and on the weekends.

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Despite our craziness, Rylan is thriving. He crossed the 15 lbs mark and is actually growing out of 3-6 and 6 month outfits. Yay! He loves sitting in his high chair for meal time, any meal time. Finger foods are quickly replacing his tolerance for purees. Not having to steam and puree food will surely be a time saver, but we take a lot of pride in making 99% of his food from scratch. I am going to miss it a lot. He has given us a few forward crawls but much prefers to worm across the room with a combination of sitting, dropping to his belly, followed by a downward dog on tip toes, back to his stomach and then up to sitting. It’s an amazing feat to witness and he is so proud of himself every time.

Mom’s eight month favorites:

  • Hearing “ma” “ma ma” “ma ma ma ma” for the first time after I was away in LA for the weekend with friends
  • Listening to his daycare teachers tell me about his day, which usually includes notes like, “he was so happy” and “he laughed over and over with his buddy Tolan”
  • Watching him finally connect how to grab food, put it to his mouth and open his hand to release it
  • The fact that he still gets completely milk drunk at night, which allows for totally peaceful snuggle time…just like the early days
  • The sparkle in his eye. His eyes are so happy, and it makes me incredibly happy and proud to be his mama

Dad’s eight month favorites:

  • The smile on his face and excitement in his eyes every time he sees us after a few hours apart
  • Finding him sitting up in his crib, staring at the wall in amazement
  • Watching him do his version of baby yoga, complete with a solid plank to downward dog move
  • Watching him shove food into his mouth by any means possible — hands, wrists, you name it
  • Seeing him rediscover his hands and fingers in awe
  • How he “shows off” his toys and books while playing
  • His mellow demeanor and easy going nature around just about anyone

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Dolphin to Starfish

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Apparently ocean-themed rooms are quite the rage at area daycares. A close friend has a daughter in the “Cuddly Clam” room at her center. But I digress. Oh and yes, these photos have nothing to do with daycare rooms. I just like them a lot because we remembered to get out the regular camera this past weekend.

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This week Rylan is transitioning from being a Dolphin (infant room) to a Starfish (6 – 18 months approximately). If this mini milestone doesn’t prove that his first year is flying by way too fast for comfort, I am not sure what does. Having him move rooms based on development stages was really appealing to me when we toured our daycare. However, now that it’s our son transitioning I am excited and apprehensive. How long will it take them to re-learn his routine? We will mesh with these teachers as well as the last? Will we be back a square one with daycare nap battles?

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Naturally, the worrier in me is braced for the worst but hoping for the best (within a realistic timeframe of a week or two of adjustment for Ry). But in the end, every day I am more and more confident in our choice of daycare over a nanny given our current situation. There have been many challenges but I love how adaptable Rylan has become and appreciate all that he is learning–even if it’s to wait his turn for a toy, meal or diaper change. Those are tiny little moments that I hope will rub off on him in toddler-hood. I value the insight and expertise that is shared with us by the various teachers and their observations of his development, especially because Mike and I often miss new things when we’re at work five days out of the week. Rylan’s daycare has become an extension of our family.

So, off to Starfish we go!

Essential Oils for Rylan

Rylan has been around diffused essential oils for several months but I closely followed the recommendation of waiting until six months to try anything topically. As “luck” would have it, he brought home a nasty cold from daycare about a week and a half ago. We heard there was a confirmed case of RSV in his room so to be extra cautious we got him into the pediatrician ASAP. Thankfully, we were told to hunker down for a good ole’ fashioned cold battle.

Our amazing pediatrician shares a lot of natural and homeopathic advice every visit. My jaw about dropped when he asked if we’d be comfortable trying eucalyptus essential oil or an eucalyptus blend – heavily diluted – on the soles of Ry’s feet and chest to help with the congestion and coughing. A grin spread across my face while Mike likely rolled his eyes. It was time to break out the oils for Rylan.

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Just before he turned six months I bought R.C., a eucalyptus blend, to have on hand for instances like this. We started slow, diffusing it in his room along with two humidifiers and putting one drop with about six or eight drops of olive oil on the soles of his feet. It wasn’t a magic cure, but his cough started to break up the gunk in his chest and he didn’t progress to having anything more worrisome. After a few days we moved to a heavily diluted dose rubbed into his chest two – three times daily and steamed in the bathroom on a washcloth while we let the shower run until all the hot water was drained. That was our cold battle turning point. His cough began to subside and his body continued to push out the crud in his head and chest.

We’re almost two weeks into this cold and I won’t lie, it isn’t gone. But he has improved drastically and I am very grateful it didn’t evolve into anything more serious so far. He continued to sleep through the night all but two nights and I credit that to this natural routine. Even Mike became a bit of a believer and could be found filling the diffuser with more R.C. before a nap.

And my favorite part? Thieves saved me yet again. That’s about five colds avoided even after I felt the dreaded throat tickle and ache.

I can’t wait to keep expanding my growing oils collection and I 100% refuse to ever run out of Thieves or R.C.

Rylan: 7 Months

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I’ve blogged once since Rylan’s six month post. It doesn’t surprise me in the least given the craziness of February but still, time is on warp speed. Between work, ski weekends and some surprise work trips for Mike, I’ll be glad if we make it out of February in one piece.

But this post is a celebration of Ry and his seven month milestone. And what a month he has had!

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I am not even sure where to begin. For starters, we’ve mainly adopted the coveted Baby Wise four-hour schedule. So he nurses/has a bottle at 7 a.m., 11 a.m., 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. This schedule really does open up a whole new world. We have more time to enjoy him and naps – in theory – are extending. Ry still hasn’t mastered naps at daycare but if that’s our one big challenge I can’t complain.

We have also moved him to three “meals” a day with solids. He eats breakfast around 8:30 a.m. at daycare. I don’t love that it is so broken up from his morning nursing session but we just could not get out the door at a decent time before. Unfortunately, if I ever want to make a 9 a.m. meeting we needed to switch to daycare feeding breakfast. Maybe that will change when I am done pumping in the early morning as well. He then gets lunch around 11:30 a.m. and dinner when we get home, hopefully by 6 p.m. Dinner is a mad dash and Mike and I rarely get our food ready in time, but I look forward to family dinners in the future.

Since we started solids at four months Rylan has already been introduced to a lot of foods. He doesn’t like all of them equally but since my last post we have added quite a bit, including salmon, carrots, pumpkin, beef, parsnips, yogurt and broccoli. He is beginning to prefer more complex purees and flavor combinations which is super exciting. I think we are moving into the phase of needing to better plan our meals to include items we can break off into bits for him. Overall, Rylan much prefers bite-sized food over purees.

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With all of the encouragement I received last month regarding breastfeeding I found myself 100% recommitted in month six. On the weekends I nurse as much as possible and during the week I cherish our morning and nighttime nursing routine. I have decided to maintain a twice-daily pumping routine at work whenever possible but stress less about the days I just can’t fit it in. I have started to notice a dip in my supply but am doing everything I can to drink enough water and snack regularly to keep my body healthy. In my heart I now truly want to make it a full year. We’ll see!

Mom’s seven month favorites:

  • Seeing Rylan pick and gravitate toward favorite toys. These include SophieBaby Paper (a tiny miracle), a Melissa & Doug caterpillar, Fun N’ Fill Water Mat and Baby Einstein Take Along Tunes (we have three, enough said)
  • Watching Rylan become more intrigued by books when we read to him. In the mornings I have started a routine of pumping while playing with him on the floor and reading at least one book before we scoot off to daycare. It warms my heart every day
  • Watching him get ready for the next BIG change, crawling. He can push up on his arms, bend his knees and rock forwards and backwards. He has a ways to go but it isn’t lost on me that soon we’ll be at Target buying baby gates
  • The way he nuzzles into me when he needs to be comforted. It’s really different from the instinctual newborn days. Now, he knows I am his mama and that I want to help him and comfort him. My heart melts every time
  • How he makes everyone around him smile. Rylan is not shy and gives out smiles and laughs freely. I love watching others light up the way we do. He is simply awesome these days

Dad’s seven month favorites:

  • Introducing new foods and watching the reaction on his face after the first bite
  • Watching the lightbulb turn on in his head when he is experiencing new sounds, sights, people, etc.
  • Seeing him try to figure how to crawl and move around on the ground on his own
  • Seeing the smile on his face after extended trips away from home
  • Spending time with him on the ground, playing with toys

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We Be Grubbin’

Rylan isn’t the chunkiest kid on the block so back at his four month appointment we were given the go ahead to start solids. Instead of going the traditional infant cereal route we opted for fresh avocado and never looked back.

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Fast forward to six months and he is grubbin’ three times a day! His biggest meal is typically lunch or dinner but we offer solids on a relative breakfast, lunch and dinner timetable.

Rylan’s schedule at six months:

  • 6:45 a.m. ~ wake and nurse (on the weekends we let him sleep a little later if he’s able)
  • 7 a.m.-ish ~ solids (veggie or oatmeal + fruit)
  • 8:30 a.m. – 9 a.m. ~ Nap
  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. ~ 6 oz fortified breast milk bottle (daycare) or nurse (weekends)
  • Noon ~ solids (fruit + veggie)
  • 12:30 p.m. ~ nap
  • 2 – 2:30 p.m. ~ 6 oz fortified breast milk bottle or nurse
  • 5:45 p.m. (or whenever we make it home) ~ nurse then solids (veggie + fruit + baby probiotics mixed in)
  • 7:30 p.m. ~ nurse and bed

We switched from a strict three hour feeding schedule to this routine about a month ago. It is working really well for this weird phase where he still needs that third nap, but not for long. Right now his rockstar nap is the mid-day one. Most days daycare is getting two hours out of him then. They also moved him to a crib in the back corner of the room which seems to be helping him fall back asleep if he wakes mid-nap. What can I say, the kid is curious!

Aside from the weird lunch time solids session we offer food right after a milk feeding so that his milk intake doesn’t dip. That said, the last ounce to two ounces on his bottles have become a real battle. Any advice on when it is okay to see his milk intake dip a bit because of the increased food is appreciated! And on the topic of food, I am actually really enjoying the entire process of making baby food from scratch, so more on that soon!

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