Thursday, August 8, 2019

BUSY MOMS CAN COOK {SIMPLE recipes from a busy Mama of 3}

As a busy Mama of three little boys ages 4 and under, I am ALWAYS on the hunt for simple meals that are quick to make and don't require 20 different ingredients. One of my goals for 2019 is to cook more for my family and eat out less so the recipes I am sharing today are all recipes I have made within the last two months that we have enjoyed eating and that I haven't stressed about cooking! Win, win! But first a few things that have been making my life easier when it comes to cooking dinners for my family...

+Make a "Meals for the week" Pinterest board. Save all your meals you are making that week to this board and then you have the ingredients and recipe easily accessible when you go to make them!
+Plan out your meals each week. I do this on Sundays and then my sweet husband goes to the grocery store for all the ingredients or I will use Kroger Clicklist and pick it up Monday morning.
+Make a meal board to display in your kitchen. Display it where you can visibly see your meal plan so you can be more likely to put it in to action! You got this!
+Group your ingredients for each meal together. As I unload my groceries for the week, I put ingredients together for each meal. Obviously they can't all be put together because some are refrigerated and some aren't, but having them grouped together helps me out big time!
+PREP anything you can in your spare time during the earlier part of the day. I can't begin to tell you how much this simple change has helped me. While Aiden was at preschool and while the other two nap, I cut up veggies, thaw meat, mix spices, etc. I do anything I can to make the evening meal making easier! This has been a game changer for me.
+Get yourself an Instant Pot! Knowing I can cook frozen chicken or frozen beef quickly with my instant pot has been huge for me. Honestly, in the past I would simply not cook dinner if I had forgotten to thaw the meat needed for that nights recipe. That sounds terrible, but it was so discouraging to me when I went to start cooking and the meat was rock hard. So this gives me no more excuses! I know not everyone has an Instant Pot, but I decided to share a few Instant Pot recipes I've loved at the bottom of this post.

Real Mom confession:
You guys, I was making so many excuses about why I couldn't get dinner on the table (the baby wouldn't nap, I didn't have the ingredients I needed, I was too tired, I didn't know what to make, etc.) and then I would feel so guilty. We were wasting so much money and even though we were eating healthier options when we would eat out, it still isn't what was best for my growing boys. I know there are nights where I still won't cook for my family, but I am actually giving this whole cooking every night thing a whirl and I am making it happen slowly but surely. If I can do it, you can do it! Trust me!

Please let me know if you try any of these recipes or if you have any I should add to my ever growing list!!! 

EASY MEALS: (with few ingredients)

+Spinach Lasagna Roll-ups {I always double this recipe. So good!}

+Taco Pie: {A family favorite and the first recipe my husband and I ever cooked together as a married couple. 10 years later we are still making it!}

+Oven Chicken Fajitas

+Rotini with Salsa di Limone

+Southwestern Stuffed Peppers

+Bubble Up Chicken Bake

+Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos

ONE PAN MEALS: (because who has time to cook annnnd clean all the pots & pans)

+Ranch Porkchops and Potatoes

+Italian Sausage and Veggies

+Sausage Pesto & Veggies with Gnocchi {Our absolute favorite!}

CROCK POT: (or use the slow cooker setting on your Instant Pot)

+Chicken Taquitos

+Chicken, Potatoes +Green beans

+Steak Fajitas

+Buffalo Chicken Sweet Potatoes {Don't knock it until you try it. YUM!}

INSTANT POT: (I am obsessed with my Instant Pot)

+Instant Pot Taco Meat {You could make this ANYTIME during the day or even the night before and refrigerate it until you are ready to eat it then just reheat and serve taco bar style!}

+Instant Pot Beef Stew

+Instant Pot Salsa Shredded Chicken {2 ingredients! Salsa and chicken! Use as the meat to your tacos. So yummy and couldn't be any easier!}

+Instant Pot Garlic Parmesan Chicken {I did not cook the noodles in the IP, but cooked them separately and added the cooked noodles to the dish after it was cooked}

+Instant Pot Chili Mac {Kid Approved}

+Instant Pot Cheeseburger Macaroni: {Kid Approved}

+Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Pasta

+Instant Pot BBQ Meatloaf + Potatoes: {My husband's favorite Instant Pot meal I've made. Yum!}

Thursday, January 31, 2019

From my baby to big brother

*I meant to post this pre-baby, but forgot and still wanted to hit publish. New baby post coming soon.
I am currently 38 weeks pregnant so Alder's days of being the baby of the family are numbered. I really can't believe he is about to be a BIG brother. But instead of being sad, I'm feeling confident that this will be a good thing for him. I think he will do great in his new role mainly because Alder has always acted older than he really is. I know it's because he has Aiden to watch and learn from, but Alder has always done things more quickly and independently. He is not even two yet, but can talk in complete sentences and you can't tell him that he can't do something because he will prove you wrong. He is one tough cookie, so besides having to share me, I think he will embrace his new role.
I remember taking a series of pictures like this with Aiden and my heart was just breaking thinking about him not being my baby any more, but this feels different. Maybe it is because I know giving my boys another sibling is just adding to their future fun and that it means they are gaining a forever friend or maybe it is because I'm a calmer more chill mom now, but either way, it feels nice not to be worried about this transition for him. I know we will have hard moments, hard days and even hard weeks, but I am confident there will be more smiles than least after a few weeks.
I love you my sweet Alder J. and I am praying for your heart as you get ready to welcome a new baby to our family. I know you will make your Mama proud and teach your little brother all kinds of new things like how to "hi-ya" and how to beat up the bad guys. Things like where to find the clean cups and spoons and all the good places to hide mommy and daddy's things...the trashcan is a fun place right? I know you will teach him things like where to find all the choo choos and cars, how to fight bad guys and the names of all the Incredibles characters, how to play Hungry, Hungry Hippos, the best foods to eat (fig bars and yogurts), how to ride a plasma car through the house, how to give hugs and say sorry when you make someone sad and how to love big. I can't wait to see you in your new role. You will be amazing!

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Dear August: A letter to my last baby

Dear August,
I can't believe my pregnancy with you is nearing an end. I have one week left of feeling you kick and hiccup and squirm from the inside. Next week at this time, I will be holding you in my arms, will feel the weight of your little body on my chest and will be breathing in your newborn smell. It makes me tear up just typing those words. My pregnancy with you has gone so quickly and has been so different than my pregnancy with either of your brothers. I felt you kick way sooner and I feel you move way more than I did with them. You are definitely making yourself known as part of this family already.

You have been a sweet and unexpected gift since we first found about you. You have already brought me so much joy and I know that God has big plans for you. In fact, your name means revered and exalted. I truly believe you are being born and raised up at this exact time for a reason.

While this may be my first post about you in this space, know that you are so very loved and we are eagerly anticipating you joining our family. Your brothers are so much fun and you have the best daddy in the world. I can't wait to see how perfectly you fit into our family.

Here are some pictures of my pregnancy with you:
How we announced that you were joining our family.

First ultrasound where we got to see you for the first time.

Our gender reveal party. We were so excited that you were a BOY!

18 week appointment and learning you were a BOY.

A random date night with your Dad to IKEA to look for baby stuff!

Most of the pictures I took with you were in the bathroom mirror.

Picking a name for you took us longer than usual, but we love your name and it's meaning. August Terrence.

Aiden predicted you would have orange hair and blue eyes. He loved feeling you kick.

Being pregnant with you at Christmas time was very special for me. 

January came quickly. Baby month!

With your arrival, Alder becomes a big brother too. I can't wait to see your relationship with your brothers form and grow.

Monday, January 14, 2019

2018 {A Year in Review}

2018 was a very FULL year. A year full of surprises, full of baby announcements and births, full of new roles at work, full of making plans for a new baby! This will be a hard year to top, but I know having August join our family in 2019 is already going to make for an exciting year ahead. Here's a look at our 2018 in review so I don't forget some of the amazing blessings this year held for our family.

We kicked off 2018 with a big snow and took both boys sledding, which they LOVED. It was Alder's first literal taste of snow and he loved it! Aiden's love of cooking truly took off and he started putting his chef outfit that we got him for Christmas to good use. Alder turned one at the end of the month and we celebrated with a lumberjack themed party.

Alder and Aiden started really playing together so the teacher in me decided to start creating all themed activities I could think of and my love for creating sensory bins for the boys began. We also had lots of playdates with friends and Drew and I got not one, but two date nights in. Our new favorite date activity: pedicures. That's right friends, my very manly husband loves to go get a pedicure with me and he's not ashamed to admit it. HGTV, massage chairs and a foot scrub? Yes, please.

March was a big month. We took Aiden to see Disney on Ice with my brother in box seats he hooked us up with from his work and seeing Aiden's face light up was a big highlight. We also found out my sister was pregnant with her first baby and then I helped host a baby shower for my sister in law who was expecting her first baby on my birthday!

Sadly we spent our Easter in the ER with Aiden. He had a weird virus with a high fever and hives. He was a trooper, but we missed out on our usual Easter fun on my Aunt and Uncle's farm. This month included more sickness than I would've imagined, which eventually led me to start using essential oils. I started using them and haven't looked back. I'm now on a continued journey to rid my house of chemicals and it has been truly empowering. When Aiden was well we took my Mom to see Beauty and the Beast at the Aronoff Theater and Aiden also got his first dentist visit in.

May was a big month for us too. Our favorite local playground got a big facelift so we went to the grand opening and spent many hours there throughout the summer months. We also got pool passes to our city pool for the first time and took the boys there many times. They both went down the water slides for the first time with their Daddy and loved it. At the end of the month, I started feeling a little off and so I took a pregnancy test, which turned out to be positive, surprise! So Drew and I wrapped our head around the news and were excited to begin planning how we would share it with our families. Finding out I was pregnant again helped push me in the direction to end my breastfeeding journey with Alder after almost 15 months. It was harder on me than him of course, but this is always a milestone for me as a Mama.

We celebrated my 33rd birthday in June and I got a very sweet gift, a new nephew! We shared with our families that I was pregnant, which is always fun to do. I had both boys wearing big brother shirts so Alder's new title gave away our news. We tried to surprise my sister in law and brother in law in Nashville with our news via FaceTime and they in turn, surprised us with theirs, they were pregnant and due in January as well! We took the boys strawberry picking for the first time and they both ate more strawberries than they picked, oops. And of course we chose the hottest day of the summer to do this, but still had fun. I also busted out my big girl camera and snapped some newborn pictures for my sister in law.

We headed to Douglas Lake in Michigan for a trip with immediate and extended family. We had a lovely time. We rented a boat to fish off of and the boys loved it even though only one fish was caught. We made a lot of good memories, but then all came home sick. Later in the month, Drew and I celebrated 9 years of marriage and Drew got a new job offer as Assistant Principal. We had a lot to celebrate in July!

I planned and threw a "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" themed baby shower for my sister. We had to take a few bump pictures together of course. We also made our pregnancy official on social media. We took the boys on the Thomas the train ride, which they loved of course and then found out and shared with our families that we were having another BOY!!!

The fall brought the start of school for Drew, his first school year as an Assistant principal and our baby started preschool. Everyday he asks if he is going to church or school. He is clearly an extrovert! I attended another baby shower for my sister with my aunts and cousins and we did our traditional onesie making party, which is always so fun to do! I also took my dear friend Bekah to see Lauren Daigle in concert and it was amazing.

October was full of lots of fall festivals and the anticipation of Halloween. We made a countdown chain because Aiden and Alder were both so excited about the upcoming holiday. After deciding on our family costumes (Peter Pan themed), Aiden decided he wanted to be a spooky bat, so his very kind and creative Dad made him his own bat wings out of a black umbrella. We had a fun Halloween and Alder was very into it this year just like his brother. He said Trick or treat to everyone and held out his little fingers for candy like a pro. Aiden turned 4 on Halloween and we celebrated with a Dinosaur themed birthday party.

We had some beautiful fall days in November to play in leaf piles with friends and collect buckeyes. Alder got his very first hair cut and did surprisingly well even though he was also recovering from Hand, foot and mouth disease. We got family pictures taken and spent some time together cooking (and tasting) in the kitchen. At the end of the month we headed to Nashville to celebrate a joint Thanksgiving and Christmas with Drew's family. We visited the zoo, Alder saw his first movie in the theater (The Grinch) and all the cousins got Grinch Build-A-Bears together.

December brought with it lots of holiday fun. We took the boys on the Polar express train ride, made our own homemade hot chocolate, visited the Festival of Lights at the zoo, had a fun pizza night and went to Christmas in downtown Mason with the Brittinghams, had breakfast with Santa and did lots of advent activities to celebrate the season. I went on an underground tour of Cincinnati with my coworkers and had a fun girl's night in. Drew and I's traditional Christmas date looked a little different this year, but we still got one in and we ended the year by purchasing a new car to fit our growing family!

2018 was a great year for our family and we are excited for what this new year will bring.