Sunday, August 13, 2017

Recipes I Want to Make: Late Summer Edition

Here are some recipes that I've had hanging out on my phone for the past few weeks. But let's be honest... I'm not going to be raring to go in the kitchen for a little while still. So in the meantime, I'll dream of these dishes!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart-- after feeling apathetic about chocolate for most of pregnancy, peanut butter with a little bit of chocolate sounds so good now!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls-- I've made and bought a lot of energy ball type treats over the years, but the Hail Merry Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites I tried recently are possibly the best yet. This is supposed to be a copycat recipe, and I can't wait to try it.

Key Lime Pie-- I was talking about the Florida Keys recently, and it made me crave a trip to the ocean. Maybe making this would be the next best thing?

Cherry + Almond Butter Caramel Bars-- Cherries have been soooo good this season!

Peanut Butter and Jelly Breakfast Cookies-- I actually do need to make these soon. I've been eating lots of oatmeal muffins and breakfast cookies for breakfast lately because they're just so easy, and oatmeal is good for milk supply!

Lemon Bundt Cake-- I haven't ventured into from-scratch gluten free cake-baking too much, but this looks like a good place to start!

S'mores Icebox Cake-- seriously looks like summer in a bowl.

Brownie Icebox Cake-- because summer is the only time of the year when I don't mind eating cold food.

Blackberry + Chocolate Ganache Cake

Coconut + Almond Flour Banana Bread-- this cooler weather makes me feel like fall baking is already upon us!

Cold-Brewed Iced Coffee-- I actually have made this a few times, and it's my favorite version thus far. (I don't dilute it as much as they say to, though.)

Crispy Salmon Burrito Bowls-- I'm not ONLY craving desserts right now. This bowl sounds phenomenal!

Blackberry Basil Smash Sandwiches-- I actually think these would still taste pretty good in a GF/DF version, with either Kite Hill Cream Cheese or Myokos Creamery Mozzarella for the cheese and Kim & Jake's artisan sandwich loaf for the bread!

Vegan Caprese Panini-- perfectly in season right now!

How to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts-- I always need new ideas for chicken!

Tahini Marinated Chicken Thighs with Cucumber Tomato Salad-- sounds like a nice change from typical BBQ menus.

Asian Beef and Cabbage-- for something different.

21 Chicken Breast Recipes Made for Meal Prep-- I want to be better at meal prep this year, so evenings are more calm around here!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Third Trimester Reflections

It's really hard not to count down to 38.5 weeks, when Noah was born. I'm 38.1 weeks today and I went into labor at 38.4 with Noah. I have a feeling I'm going to go past that, yet I'm also making zero plans past Thursday. This week finds me really patient with Noah, nostalgic for my baby belly already, and a little bit stir-crazy. It's weird to have time to wrap stuff up, yet I don't quite have the energy to do so after the last few weeks ended up being so eventful! It's simply impossible to keep the house clean with a toddler on the loose, but I am slowly still organizing nooks and crannies and weeding through stuff that's always accumulating. I'd like to have a few solid hours to actually update pictures on the blog! I'm like 2+ years behind, and it feels like now or never! That's the only other big project left undone, though. It's weird to have clothes and diapers washed and folded. I even have the hospital bag mostly packed!

So, here are some reflections on this pregnancy. The past 9 months have felt like an eternity, yet gone by in the blink of an eye when I look at how much Noah has grown and changed! And of course, baby sister has gone from the size of a poppy seed to, well, the size of a 6.5+ pound baby!

Most exciting moment: 
Probably a tie between the positive pregnancy test on Thanksgiving morning, and the 20 week ultrasound. The positive test-- it's something I'll only see a very few times in my life, and there's nothing like all the promise that second line holds! The ultrasound-- it's when both babies really felt "real" to me, and I was able to start imaging all of this actually happening.

Most challenging moment: 
Gosh, I was simply not prepared for how awful I'd feel this time around, and I quickly understood why being pregnant with a toddler is even harder. We made it through! But there were so many days either when Noah was home that I felt like I neglected him a bit, or when he went to his once-a-week Parent's Day Out, and I was too sick to be at all productive with my elusive solo time.

One thing I'm proud of:
Last time, I totally would've said I was proud of my consistent workouts and the fact that I ate vegetables every day, even when I felt kind of gross. This time, wow. Probably both because of the loss between pregnancies, but also because of the fact that I have 3 years of mom-ming under my belt, I'm always humbled by how much is out of my control, and how little I can actually claim to be proud of. Not to mention the fact that I was so much sicker this time, and circumstances are just so different. So yeah, I'm proud I've worked out when I can. I'm proud that I somehow had the foresight to potty train Noah before getting pregnant again. I'm proud that I've really been utilizing the warmer weather to get out and spend time with Noah after a gross winter and spring. I'm proud of all the work I put into physical therapy, counseling, and self-care to make this pregnancy and postpartum (hopefully) much smoother! But mostly I'm just grateful for the good days, and aware that I can't take much credit for them.

One thing I wish were different:
I wish I'd made more time to go swim laps/get out of the house/hang out with friends in the evening before being tied down for a few months. Between Noah's sleep regression and Ross' work deadlines, that just hasn't been feasible. I also legitimately wish we could hire a housecleaner once a month. I realize that sounds spoiled, but with me being so sick, and so uncomfortable, it's been impossible to clean the floors regularly, and in a house with all wood floors, they get dirty like hours after cleaning them. Even someone who coming to mop the floors and scrub the bathtub once a month would be a huge luxury! Maybe someday.

Favorite foods:
Right now I'm craving sushi and a huge Chick-fil-a lemonade! But in general, food hasn't been my favorite thing this pregnancy, which is very unlike me!

Least favorite food:
Anything I make myself? Ha! We do eat at home so so much, but I'll confess I always jump at the chance to go out. I find that even though the nausea has mostly subsided, I am generally tired of the food/flavors by the time I'm finished cooking dinner and before we've even eaten!

Physical state: 
Today is the first day in a week or so that I've felt kind of normal. Yay for a reprieve! But generally feeling pretty heavy. My feet hurt when I stand up in the morning. They're not used to carrying this much weight! But I love love love the baby belly and wouldn't trade it for anything!

Mental state:
Oh gosh. It varies between exhausted, excited, and really really nervous about all the change that's coming.

One thing that surprised me: 
How different my pregnancies would feel. I'm also surprised at how much Noah seems to "get it." He asks a lot of good questions, and it blows my mind! "How will my baby sister get out?" "Why is she upside down?" "Where are her toes? Where are her eyeballs? Will she have teeth when she comes out? Can she eat ___ (insert whatever food Noah is eating at the time)? When you eat, does she eat?"

Looking forward to: 
Meeting the baby, of course. I'm almost more excited for that this time around, since now I know how fun it is it to get to KNOW a tiny human! I'm also really curious to see how/when labor plays out. We had a great experience with Noah, but I hear second babies come faster and I can't afford to be in denial for the first 75% of my labor, especially when toddler childcare is a factor! It's also hard to imagine my labor story going any differently than it did the first time, although I know logically there's no way everything would/could play out exactly the same way. So, we wait. And pray for a safe delivery!

36 and 37 weeks

As I sit here at 38.1 weeks pregnant, I feel like weeks 36 and 37 have been the fastest yet. And the hottest, with a crazy heat wave hitting the Midwest!

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of crazy. Remember a month ago when I thought I could devote July to a month of rest?! Joke's on me, I guess. Ross had surprise knee surgery on July 14 and had some major PACU drama that almost bought him a ticket to an overnight stay in the cardiac unit at the hospital. Thankfully, he recovered literally just in the nick of time, and we did get to go home that night, albeit much later than we anticipated, and to a very confused toddler. Poor Noah. We've been telling him that next time he sees grandma, it'll be when Mama and Papa go to the hospital and have a baby sister! We also told him that the doctor was going to fix Ross' knee.

Well, grandma came and Mama and Papa went to the hospital... but for surgery. Instead of hearing about a baby sister, he got a very unnerving FaceTime call from the PACU. Instead of an immediately "fixed" knee, Papa came home still on crutches, and spent the whole weekend in bed. Whew! And I worked my last shift before "maternity leave" on Sunday. I was dead on my feet, but thank goodness my mom came into town at the last minute. I wouldn't have even been standing if it weren't for all her help!

So anyway, here we are. It's hard not to count down to 38.5. As exhausted and huge-feeling as I am, I'm okay if this baby stays in a little longer than Noah did. I'm psyched to meet her, but I'm enjoying the few slow days that Noah and I still get. I love snuggling with him at nap time before moving to my own bed and just reading a book for an hour. I'm soaking it all up while I can, and still trying to go on a few Mama/Noah adventures before we are house-bound for a bit.

So week 36 was full of surgery drama and week 37, Ross was furiously working toward a work deadline. Meanwhile, last week I was the most physically uncomfortable I've been in a while, and I know the long solo days, late nights, and 100+ degree temps didn't help. What are the odds that Ross would have a huge deadline at 38 weeks with both of our babies?! Better now than a month from now, though!

This past Tuesday night, I had my first dream about baby's delivery. All was well, except I was mad at Ross for forgetting to call my doula! And apparently we temporarily named the baby "Cereal"?! Except Ross spelled it "cerial" and I was super annoyed. Oh boy! I do remember, though, that the baby had white blonde hair. I'm so curious to see what she looks like, and what her little personality is like!

So hmmm... trying to think back over the last two weeks is pretty much just resulting in a brain dump of tidbits:

-At my 36 weeks appointment, I found out I'm GBS negative! It's a benign bacteria on some moms' skin, but it can cause complications in baby, so it means you need IV antibiotics at least 4 hours before delivery (with Noah, I got the antibiotics like 3.5 hours before he came. Oops!). But I don't have it this time! I'm so so excited. I assumed I'd be positive since I work in the postpartum unit and have constant exposure to GBS (not to mention the fact that I had it last time, and most healthcare workers are carriers). At this visit, I also found out I'm 1 cm, 50% effaced, and baby is at -1 station. This is basically exactly where I was at this point with Noah, and it carries zero predictive value for when I'll actually go into labor, but it gives me a good baseline if I get checked again before officially going into labor.

-Baby's head down again after that crazy week I had a few weeks ago. She's low but still fairly active as far as turning from front to back and whatnot. But she does spend most of her time with her head slightly left of center, and her butt on my left side or in the middle of my belly. She's almost always facing my right side, and she loves to stretch her legs out to the point that I can see a legit lump where her foot is pushing all the way into my side! I wish I could get a good picture, but it doesn't show up well on camera. It's so funny, though! She certainly knows how to claim her space. She also sometimes rotates, and stretches either her knees or her butt right out above my belly button. It's the most bizarre feeling, and I have no idea how she is angling herself out like that, but she does! Again, pictures don't do it justice, but it's pretty entertaining.

-Speaking of which, I feel like I do notice a difference with a posterior placenta this time. Everything feels bonier and more "right there" if that makes any sense. An anterior placenta last time definitely put a cushion between me and the baby, but not this time! It's fun to feel and see everything. I do also wonder if that's why my belly is a legit different shape this time around. My belly button has basically long since given up, and I don't love it sticking out all the time, but my belly itself seems to be a different shape, too. Both babies are sitting quite low, and there's zero reason for the boy vs girl old-wives tale to be true, but I definitely did look like I carried Noah lower. My theory is that all my pelvic rehab physical therapy paid off-- I have actual muscle tone in my pelvic floor, my obliques, and my transverse abodominis. Yay! I also wear Blanqui support tanks almost every single day, and they really do hold everything up, whereas with Noah I wore support hose almost every single day, and they crammed everything down. Just my theory.

-I've hit the point where a lot of my maternity clothes don't fit/ it's way too hot. I've been wearing a lot more dresses this past week, and I pretty much immediately change into boxers or athletic shorts when we get home. Now I know what it's like to be full-term pregnant when it feels like 112 outside! I will say, there are some MAJOR perks to being pregnant in the summer. Namely, fresh seasonal fruit, flip flops (cannot IMAGINE trying to put winter boots on), and the POOL. Seriously, the pool is the only motivation I have to get out in this ungodly heat, though.

-Week 37 definitely reminded me that I'm having a baby SOON. Things are happening. This week brought with it an acne flare up, lots of menstrual-type cramping, reflux, nausea (it's been on and off again for the past few weeks), and more insomnia and night sweats. Baby is also definitely LOWER. I'm waddling. At the pool on Friday, an 80 year old guy asked, "are you OKAY?! You look like you could go at any minute!" Yep, I felt like it, too. Thankfully today the temps have dropped a bit and I feel much more human.

-After a rough few weeks, Noah was super lovey this past week! Lots of kisses for me, and for baby sister. I think he's excited she's almost here. I CANNOT BELIEVE she's almost here!


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Day in the Life: 3 years old and 36 weeks pregnant

Today was a rare, sweet day in which we had NO solid plans. I'm craving these days with Noah as my due date approaches. I didn't take meticulous notes, but I thought it would be a fun day to note, so here's what I remember.

0615: Blessed reprieve-- Noah slept in AND I was able to fall back asleep immediately after my 0400 potty break. I got 7+ hours of actual sleep and I feel human this morning! Ross gets up with Noah after a few minutes.

0630: I go over my prayer cards for a bit, until Noah comes into our bedroom needing something or other. Ross heads to work, and Noah and I eat breakfast. Eating meals is quite the ordeal these days. We end up splitting a smoothie, he has toast with almond butter, and I have two oatmeal muffins. This takes much longer than it should. Then we both get dressed for the day, and read a Bernstein Bears book.

0740: We head to Wednesday Farmer's Market. It's not TOO hot out yet, and I love being early-isa to market before the crowds.

0800: We buy komboucha, sip it for a few minutes, and then head to the fountains where Noah gleefully runs and splashes with very little competition.

0900: The first entertainer arrives, and we spend an hour doing Signing Time with her and her two daughters, and the crowd slowly grows over the course of the hour. We also take two potty breaks and a cookie break during this time-- ha! At the end, Noah sweetly waits his turn for a stamp, and gets one on his hand. Then goes back to ask for one on his bare belly! Oh summer.

1000: Some friends meet us briefly, and we splash in the water for a bit. Then we actually walk through market again and buy some sweet corn, some peaches, and some cucumbers. Our cucumbers are really not thriving this year and our whole garden feels behind schedule even though it's green and flowering. Maybe next year will be the year I actually start seeds indoors to get a head start?

1050: Wow it's ROASTING outside by now. The weather app says it's 95 but feels like 103! Noah and I are over it, and head home.

1130: We eat a quick lunch of turkey sandwiches and watermelon, and Noah must be as worn out as I am, because he really doesn't put up too much of a fight when I declare nap time.

1200: Nap jams, two stories, and two songs later, I'm resting next to Noah in his big kid bed and we both fall asleep pretty quickly. We've been doing this this past few weeks, ever since my belly just got too big for stories in the rocking chair. I'll admit the snuggles and cat nap are sometimes the sweetest part of my day.

1240: I sneak out of Noah's room and retire to my own bed to read for a bit. My belly feels extra heavy today, and rest is needed for sure. I also update my mom on Ross' knee. He hurt it a week and a half ago, and a sweet friend got us in to see an orthopedic doctor MUCH sooner than we would've been able to, otherwise. AND he had an OR spot open this Friday, so Ross is getting his meniscus repaired so much sooner than we'd hoped. Hopefully this means he'll be walking by the time baby arrives!

1430: Noah is awake! I let him bustle around his room for a bit before getting him out.

1445: Noah has a rice cake for a snack after declining watermelon, peaches, and turkey sandwich remains. Then, well, he watches two episodes of Daniel Tiger while I read on the couch. Did I mention it's 100+ degrees outside?!

1530: We get ready to go to the pool to meet some friends.

1605: The pool is like bathwater, but the weightlessness is pure bliss! We play in the baby pool with our friends for a little over an hour. Noah is so sweet to my friend's little 20 month girl, and I enjoy having some adult conversation.

1720: Noah and I have some really fun "Mama/Noah time" just playing in the big pool. We practice swimming, and he climbs up the ladder and jumps off the side ad nauseum. It's so fun to grab him and give him a hug every time he pops up. I miss holding him sometimes, but it's so effortless in the water! His belly flops have veered into dive territory lately, so we practice a lot of feet-first jumping for safety's sake, and he's finally getting the hang of it! When he and I are well rested, we sure do have a lot of fun together.

1800: We head home to meet Ross, and I shower while Ross and Noah eat leftover tacos for dinner.

1830: Ross gets Noah showered while I sit on the couch.

1900: I start getting Noah ready for bed while Ross lays in bed with ice on his knee. We are quite the pair these days! Noah and I read a story, talk, pray, and sing. Then we snuggle for a bit.

1945: Noah's in bed and I say goodnight. He's so funny... he has to say "I love you" and "thank you" to us each night. Tonight I didn't hear the thank you, so I didn't say you're welcome, and Noah came running to the door crying the minute I closed it. Poor kid. I gave him a huge hug, tucked him back in, and made sure to say "you're welcome" this time!

2000: I sit on the couch and read for another 30 minutes before getting up to type this while Ross waters the garden. Now it's almost 2100 and I'm going to load the dishwasher, type a follow-up email to a lactation consultation client, take a Unisom, and go to bed!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

35 weeks

This week went by so quickly between the holiday, work, and knee injury drama. Ross tore his meniscus on Sunday, so he saw the PCP on Monday and got an MRI on Friday. Now we are figuring out how to schedule his surgery and pay more medical bills. Meanwhile he's limping around and neither of us can lift anything heavy. It's been... interesting.

So. Thirty five weeks are over and done with, and now baby no longer has an automatic ticket to the NICU. I feel like a ticking time bomb! It's unnerving to think she could be here in 2.5 weeks like Noah was, or she could throw us all for a loop at stay put until mid-August.

How I'm feeling: Big. Sometimes I feel normal, like when I'm laying in bed in the morning, or I'll catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror early in the day and think my belly isn't THAT big. But the maternity tanks that fit me last time are getting a little short this time, and I think I'm definitely a little bigger this time around. And I'm convinced this child is huge! She seems to fill up my whole belly, and kicks to the ribs are not infrequent. It's so crazy! But the kicks and the belly are what I'll miss the very most. Otherwise, now that I know how fun it is to get to know the kid in there, I'm getting pretty excited to meet her and I don't think I'll miss feeling pregnant as much as I did last time. (I will miss looking obviously pregnant though). Also, pregnancy in July is not for the faint of heart. I've never been a sweater, but I'm constantly sweaty and overheated and thirsty now! The good parts of third trimester in warm weather, though, are the flip flops and the POOL. I didn't get to go swimming last week and I need to change that this week.

Symptoms: I'm definitely starting to get some swelling, which I don't really remember having last time. I'm sure it's a combination of the heat and the fact that I'm simply not sleeping well at all. I'm either up for the day after 4am, or I'm up hourly all night long. I'm starting to feel "tired but wired" at bedtime, too, which means it keeps inching later and later. I look so tired in all my pictures this summer! Also, nausea and food aversions have kicked in again. I forgot that this happened last time toward the end. The ONLY thing that sounds good is cold water, smoothies, and big salads. Of course, I still can and do eat most everything, but soups, coffee, and chocolate are quite unappetizing again. Still having lots of Braxton-Hicks, too. Not more frequent, but definitely intense than they were in the first pregnancy.

Home life: Well, this week was rough as mentioned above. With Ross' inability to walk and my inability to bend at the waist, we just didn't have a productive week around the house. I had been hoping to clean up the playroom once and for all (it's been a baby supply staging area for a few months), but that obviously didn't happen. Thankfully, my parents were here this weekend, and my mom swept the whole house and tidied up! And my dad helped me get Noah's old baby bins down in the garage, so now I've gone through and sorted and labeled those, and I think I've tracked down all the newborn stuff we have. So newborn clothes are almost all washed and put away, cloth diapers are out, snapped into their smallest sizes, and ready to go, and I even started packing the hospital bag. Who am I!? It's so weird to do this, because we weren't able to have ANYTHING ready the first time.

Exercise: Aside from walking, I didn't get to do much this week. I wonder if that has also affected my anxiety and my sleep quality? Noah and I did take a long, slow walk Friday morning, which was sweet. It's always nice when we don't have to rush somewhere!

Best thing I ate this week: This is a tie between Taste Nirvana coconut water (SO MUCH BETTER than any other coconut water I've had from the grocery store) and the scallops I had for dinner on Saturday at Merchant's in Lawrence. Yes, scallops still sound so amazing. Possibly the closest thing I've had to a consistent craving this pregnancy!



This week, I had a few moments of realizing, "wait... I'm like PREGNANT!" It was really weird. I think you just expect to feel that for so long, and then it doesn't really kick in til the end when it looks like you always expected it to look and feel all along.






Sunday, July 2, 2017

34 weeks and a false alarm

It's July 2. I'm 35 weeks pregnant today. 35 days to go until my due date, but we are likely to meet baby a bit before that. THIS MONTH. How is that possible?!

We rung in 34 weeks with a fun false alarm. I'm not sure if was because baby's position changed, or if my body was just over the last few weeks of go, go, go, but after church on Sunday I started having... contractions? They didn't quite feel like LABOR contractions, but they were also pretty different compared to the normal Braxton-Hicks I have all the time. My lower back was killing me, and the contractions were coming every 2 minutes. They didn't hurt? Per se? Not compared to labor, at least. But they were intense enough to stop me in my tracks when walking. I went home and laid down, and they didn't stop, so I called the Midwife. Since they DID finally stop with a warm bath, I narrowly avoided a visit to triage. But I had to stay in bed the rest of the day because they started up again the minute I would stand up! I drank a ton of water and Gatorade, took Benadryl and Tylenol that night, and slept it off.

I woke up on Monday quite sore, but thankfully back to my normal Braxton-Hicks. My Midwife appointment verified that I hadn't made any actual labor progress. Whew! I was really starting to panic there. However, it was soon evident that sister is now in a transverse position, which is REALLY uncomfortable given that she's 4.5-5 pounds, and roughly 18 inches long. I mean, there's a BABY in there and I am not wide enough for her to be chilling out sideways. It feels like my abs and my tailbone are going to rip open.

I'm not going to lie... it's making me nervous. Turns out transverse is actually a little more worrisome than a frank breech position at this stage, suggesting that possibly the placenta or cord is in the way, keeping her from turning again. I'm constantly praying for her to get head down, but I'm also praying that she stays SAFE. It makes me so nervous to think about cord accidents, nuchal cords, true knots, placental abruption. Ugh. So many many things that can go wrong between now and the sweet day I get to hold her in my arms. Pregnancy is so miraculous and so humbling, and I'm just praying that God keeps us both safe for a few more weeks. And a head-down baby with an uneventful birth would be even better.

This week, I happened to have a chiropractor appointment, acupuncture, physical therapy, and yoga. Ha! Even if she hasn't moved, I'm marginally more comfortable, but also way bigger than I was 7 days ago. Someone had a growth spurt! I don't remember the stretching being this painful last time. Either it's her fun position, or I just forgot about this part. I thought since everything has already been stretched once, it wouldn't be that big of a deal, but I three years was a long time ago, I guess, and my body has been through a lot.

Best moment of the week: We got a care package from the family I used to nanny for in Texas. They sent a perfect big brother book for Noah that made me tear up, but they also sent some adorable pajamas and a Madeline book for baby sister. Well. Noah is OBSESSED with the Madeline book. Like we read it a dozen times a day. He calls it his baby sister book. SO CUTE. (Runner up moment was the way Noah's eyes lit up when I told him he would get to meet baby sister in one month. "Not two months!?" "Nope, just one more month!")


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Postpartum Freezer Meals: Part 2

I made some BIG plans for freezer meals, detailed here. Today is one month away from the gestational age at which Noah was born, and given my increasing discomfort, I realized I needed to get this done sooner rather than later.

How I did it

DAY 1 (1.5-2 hours): In the morning, I started the pulled pork in the crockpot and we ate some for dinner, gave some to a friend for a baby meal, and froze the rest for postpartum. Then before bed, I washed and chopped ALL the produce. This actually took almost two hours! It's the most tedious part of cooking, for me, and it was nice to get it out of the way.

DAY 2 (5 hours): I got EVERYTHING out on the counter. All the ingredients I would need for all of the recipes. Turns out this was overly ambitious, but it kept me from having to search for random stuff mid-recipe. Then I tackled most of the uncooked meat dishes. Before putting anything in freezer bags, I wrote the date, the name of the recipe, and the cooking or re-heating instructions so I wouldn't have to look it up later. To assemble these, I used one bowl for each marinade, rinsing well in between. Same for the small bowl I used for each dry spice mixture. I put the meat right in the freezer bag, dumped the marinade over it, and then sealed and laid the bag horizontally in the deep freezer. This method helped me assemble the jerk chicken tacos, maple dijon chicken, salsa chicken, and beef and broccoli pretty quickly.

Then, since the chicken was already in use, I continued with the rest of the chicken dishes. I put the chicken enchilada filling in the crockpot and put the chicken spaghetti bake in the oven.

While those were cooking, I moved onto the ground meat dishes. I processed all the bread crumbs in the food processor in one batch, to measure out accordingly. Then I used one big bowl for each of the ground meat dishes, rinsing it in between recipes (and using fresh gloves for each batch, because I hate mixing meat with bare hands). I made the meatballs and put them in a freezer bag with the tomato sauce, to be cooked after thawing. Then I made the turkey loaf and Greek meatloaf muffins.  When they cooled, I wrapped them in foil and then put them each in a freezer bag and placed in the freezer.

I had to sauté some of the veggies for the meatloaf, and I used the same sauté pan to then cook the Italian sausage, onions, and garlic for the cauliflower and Italian sausage casserole. I boiled the cauliflower in a big soup pot, and then assembled and baked that casserole as well. With the casseroles, I baked them in disposable aluminum trays, cooled in the fridge, covered rightly with foil, and then covered with the included plastic lid, on which I wrote the date and the re-heating instructions.

Then I used that same soup pot to boil the second round of cauliflower, for the alfredo sauce and I went ahead and blended that and put in a freezer bag. Finally, I assembled the white bean chicken chili and let it all simmer in the soup pot while I started to clean up. (I put the rotisserie chicken carcass in the freezer to make bone broth at a later date.)

This all took 5 hours and while I didn't finish everything, I was kind of over it after 5 hours. I still made 13 meals in two days, and the deep freezer is filling up quickly!

DAY 3 (1.5-2 hours): I really didn't want to do more, but I had bought, washed, and chopped all that produce, and I knew I needed to utilize the fresh stuff, lest it go bad. So I made the 7 vegetable cheese soup, the red lentil dal, and the lentil mushroom walnut balls. The other soups I listed mostly utilize canned vegetable purees and frozen veggies, so I will keep those ingredients in the pantry and they'll be reasonably easy to make as needed and store in the fridge for a week. Same with the baked bean and cornbread casserole.

DAY 4 (3 hours, but this is skewed because the toddler was awake and around for most of it): So over it today. But I powered through and made the chana masala, vegan stuffed shells, and a double batch of lactation cookies. I thought the vegan meals would be nice to have for quick lunches, but I forgot that vegan meals sometimes take longer to assemble than meat dishes because you have to cook the beans, roast the walnuts, soak the cashews, etc. Next time I would consider leaving the dal, the chana masala, and the lentil mushroom walnut balls off the list. But they may prove to be invaluable to have on hand, later, so I'll see if it was worth the extra time.

LATER: I still hope to make the pancakes, Glo bars, and breakfast cookies before baby comes, but worst case scenario, Ross and Noah can make those while I supervise.

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THOUGHTS: Our brand new deep freezer is FULL. It feels really good, but I'm also really over cooking. Like I want to take a whole week off! But I have 18 meals in the freezer, and that feels great. I'm really hopeful that they will taste good/fresh in 1-3 months, and that they really will save time later. I neglected Noah a bit this week in the rush to have these DONE. I hope it keeps my postpartum self from standing in the kitchen too much in the first 2 months, though, and that means more time with Noah (and baby) down the road.

I'll write one more post once we've eaten everything, to follow-up on how it stored and re-heated! For now, here's the final tally of what I made (I put this list on the side of the deep freezer along with side dishes that would turn the frozen dish into a full meal):

-jerk chicken taco meat
-meatballs in tomato sauce
-maple dijon chicken
-salsa chicken
-beef and broccoli
-turkey loaf
-chicken enchilada filling
-pulled pork
-chicken spaghetti bake
-Greek meatloaf muffins
-cauliflower and Italian sausage casserole
-7 vegetable 'cheese' soup
-smoky white bean chili
-vegan alfredo sauce
-vegan stuffed manicotti shells
-red lentil dal
-chana masala
-lentil mushroom walnut balls
-lactation cookies