Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nesting Series #2: Things I Learned in the Second Pregnancy

39 weeks pregnant - the baby is due in 5 days!

1. Second pregnancy has proven to be lots easier. Perhaps it is because I am super busy all day with my 19-month-old and have no time to obsess about the small things. Seriously it's like I woke up one day and was already in month nine. It's gone fast and I think it's good that I've been distracted. The first pregnancy everything is new and requires adjustment. This time around I am much more laid back about the entire process.

2. Watching what I eat has proven to be WAY better than eating everything in sight. Sounds simple, but really true. I attended the Bradley Method classes when I was pregnant with Alex. While I loved the classes and the method, there was a lot of emphasis on eating tons of protein and keeping a food log. I found that this made me overly obsessed with what I ate, and usually encouraged me to eat more than necessary. A healthy, well-balanced diet and eating when I'm hungry (without focusing on whether the food is a good protein source or not...) has been much better for me this time.

3. There is no choice but to stay active during the second pregnancy, and I know I feel better physically because of it. I admit that I was not as intentional about exercise the first time due to any excuse I could find - nausea, weather, fatigue, etc.

4. I've learned that I can and should refuse some of the testing that is "required" during pregnancy and some of the newborn treatments that are "required". I think it's important for people to ask questions about their health care. Perhaps it is because I am married to a doctor, or because I am just a naturally analytical person - not sure. But I think asking questions is important. For example, why do I need two different HIV tests during my nine months of pregnancy? Why should I opt for early "genetic screening" for my baby? Do I really need vaginal exams during the last month if my pregnancy is normal? Does my baby really need that eye gunk immediately after he is born? I have found that there are many unnecessary and (sometimes) unpleasant "requirements" from our health providers.

*For the curious, yes, I do refuse all these tests. I know I'm not HIV positive and it is a waste of health care dollars to test me. We also refuse genetic testing because no matter what "condition" (if any) our baby has, we will accept it with joy as God's plan for us. Often those tests produce false positives anyway and cause undue stress for the parents. And, yes, I have also refused vaginal exams during this last month. There is no medical reason for them since no matter how far dialated I am, it is still not a true indicator of how soon I will go into labor. I prefer to leave it a mystery and attend my appointments without invasion. =) On a side note, most doctors are very willing to engage patients in dialog and respect your wishes. After all, you are the patient. If your doctor has a different attitude, you should maybe look for a new one. Everyone is different and I am not suggesting you make all the same decisions I have. Only suggesting that it's good to be a curious patient and ask questions of your health care providers.*

5. I don't take dates with my husband for granted. We have lots of take-out dates at home, babysitters, and adult dinners - dinner for just Jason and I after Alex is in bed. I cherish every moment of time we have to build our marriage and take a small break from being parents for a few hours. It does a marriage good.

6. Being pregnant does not exclude me from serving others or doing what I like to do (photography, cooking, etc.) It makes it more challenging, but doesn't exclude me from it. As my husband says, "Your creative things are good for the soul. Constant housework is not." I agree.

7. The expensive heartburn medicine is so worth it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nesting Series #1: Freezing Food

Well, since I have a little extra time on my hands with all my nesting tasks done, I thought I'd start a new little series on the blog. The Nesting Series. And I guess I'll continue until this baby comes...

Someone commented on my recent post asking about freezing meals and some tips on how to do it. I'll do my best to share some of my helpful hints and perhaps some others can chime in too. (I know that lots of you who read my blog are also food lovers and have tons of good kitchen tips.)

Jason, Alex, and I basically only eat the equivalent of 2 large adult servings, so we often have leftovers. I am not a huge fan of them, and find it especially hard to eat the same thing two or three times in one week. It is also often economical to buy grocery items (especially meat) in larger packages. In order to reduce waste in my kitchen, I have learned how to freeze pretty much anything.

Here are a few tips:

1. For raw meat, I always wash it with water and put it in a labeled freezer bag. I often freeze single chicken breasts in quart sized freezer bags because they are easy to use for a single meal. I also always go through this process as soon as I return home from the grocery store because that way, the meat is at its freshest for freezing. Otherwise, sometimes I put it away, forget about it for a few days and then freeze it...or realize that it's now ruined. =(

2. For many dishes I make (casseroles, enchiladas, and lasagna), the recipe usually calls for a 9"x13" dish. I buy the disposable 8"x8" foil pans with lids at the grocery store and split up the dish before it is even cooked. I cover the unused dish tightly with foil, label it, and store it in the freezer. That way, dinner is already made for sometime next month! Be sure to label it with temperature setting and add about an extra hour for cook time on a frozen dish. It's not an exact science, but keep checking on it till it's heated through. For enchiladas and other recipes that have a separate sauce with it, I usually freeze the sauce separately in a freezer bag. It can be thawed in a water bath in about 30 minutes and added before baking.

3. When I make soup or chili, I always freeze half of the leftovers. It freezes well in quart-sized freezer bags (a good amount for 2-3 servings). Press out as much air as possible in the bag and seal it well. Thaw it in a water bath for about 45 minutes and it's ready to be reheated. Of course, some readers may have larger families and need to actually double recipes in order to get enough to freeze.

4. In general, most items will keep in the freezer for 2 months or so. Again, I have found that detailed labeling with a Sharpie helps on this. Always date the food so you remember when it was placed in the freezer.

5. The key to successful freezing is all about air and wrapping. Use a container that will allow the least amount of empty space. The more that's allowed in there, the more chance for freezer burn. I usually cover dishes tightly with Press 'N Seal (one of my kitchen essentials) and heavy duty foil to make sure they are secure for freezing. Or freezer bags work great because you can press out all the extra air.

6. Always use freezer bags, not just plain storage bags. There's a difference in the weight of them.

7. When I make homemade cookie dough (yes, I am a snob and find it hard to make slice and bake), I always freeze the dough. This helps me to only make as many cookies as I need - like only 6 at a time for our family - and avoid making an entire batch and eating them all. The frozen dough just needs to be thawed for about 20 minutes until it's soft enough to spoon out onto the cookie sheet. If you really want to be anal, you can shape the dough into a log using wax paper or press n' seal to make your own slice and bake. Put it in a gallon sized bag and get rave reviews on your homemade slice and bake cookies!

8. You can also freeze already-made cookies, bread, and cakes without icing. I promise you probably won't notice any difference in the taste.

9. To reduce waste on fresh fruit, I cut up strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, banana, peaches, and mango in pieces to be used for smoothies.

10. I often make a big batch of my husband's favorite foods and freeze it in those Glad disposable tupperware things for his lunch. They are easy to buy in a single serving size, and he can eat healthy lunches from home. By the time lunch rolls around, all he needs is a nearby microwave.

11. Items that do not freeze well are milk and cream-based soups and sauces, and egg-based dishes. There may be more items, but I'll let y'all chime in if you have experience with something that doesn't freeze well.

Sometimes preparing things for the freezer adds a little time on the front end of cooking, but I have found that overall, it saves me time and money. I often have my own homemade frozen entrees on hand, but also reduce waste in my kitchen.

I'd be interested to see if any other readers have useful tips. Chime in on the comments section!

Any day now.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nesting Complete.

This week I have finally finished the nursery for Baby Brother. And, hey, I have almost two weeks to spare.

The room is complete.
Our freezer is full of meals for after his arrival.
His clothes are clean.
His diaper basket is full.
Our house is spotless. Including the kitchen cabinets, which have been thoroughly scrubbed.
We have a double stroller on order.
All the newborn gadgets are out of the closet.
We are ready, I tell ya!

Here are a couple of pics of our handiwork in the nursery...

The rocker I found on craigslist (with new custom cushions), the guest bed, the baby comforter, and the canvases I painted for the wall.

Baby Brother's bed, complete with his homemade mobile.

The mobile I made for him. I stole this idea from a gal in California, who is a member of what might just be the most creative family ever.

A closer look at the quilt, courtesy of Target.

A closer look at the canvases. My sister and sister-in-law will be proud. They are both art teachers and always have the most fabulous creative things in their homes. It has taken awhile, but I think I'm finally coming into my craftiness. Thanks for the inspiration and instruction, Sisters!

Please come soon, Baby Brother!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dear Starbucks Hot Chocolate:

You have been a great companion over these pregnancy months. You are sweet, smooth, and oh so chocolatey. I appreciate all of these lovely qualities you have to offer. However, I regret to inform you that as soon as I'm done with pregnancy, I will be returning to my heartburn-inducing White Mocha with Soy.

It's been great. Really. And I seriously love your new cup. But in just a couple of weeks, you'll have to find another pregnant lady (or non-coffee drinker) to charm.

Thanks for your service as my hot drink of choice during the expecting months.

Best Wishes and Happy V-day,

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Sprinkle for Baby Brother

Last night a few friends hosted a "sprinkle" for me and Baby Brother. I love the term "sprinkle"! It makes so much sense that for a second kid (or third, fourth, whatever...) a sprinkle is all you need. Less focus on gifts for the baby - although they are involved - and more focus on spending quality time with friends in anticipation of a new baby. I am so grateful to already have a group of ladies here in Houston to hang out with. Some of them I've known as long as 10 years and some as short as a few months. We had a fabulous time last night at the Dessert Gallery chatting about babies, birth, jobs, family, and the best dessert venues in know, just the important stuff. Thanks, ladies, for a wonderful sprinkle!

36.5 weeks pregnant

The fabulous Big O cake at Dessert Gallery. Rich, chocolatey, and generously served. Over the course of two hours, I had no problem finishing every bit of it.

All the ladies attending the sprinkle.

Daddy's dessert...I couldn't leave the Gallery without a treat for him!

Monday, February 01, 2010

A Mommy Paraphrase

If you are a bible scholar, you probably won't appreciate this paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13. But if you are not a scholar and can appreciate such things, hopefully this will be an encouragement to you. It came from a book I am reading in a ladies bible study here in Houston. The book is called A Mother's Heart by Jean Fleming. It's a great read for moms who want to instill Christian values, vision, and character in their children.

So, the paraphrase:
If I keep my house immaculately clean, and am envied by all for my interior decorating, but do not show love in my family - I'm just another housewife.

If I'm always producing lovely things - sewing, art (for me, photography, cooking!); if I always look attractive, and speak intelligently, but am not loving to my family - I am nothing.

If I'm busy in community affairs, teach Sunday school, and drive in the carpool, but fail to give adequate love to my family - I gain nothing.

Love changes diapers, cleans up messes, and ties shoes - over and over again.

Love is kind, though tired and frazzled.

Love doesn't envy another wife - one whose children are "spaced" better, or in school so she has time to pursue her own interests.

Love doesn't try to impress others by my abilities or knowledge as a mother.

Love doesn't scream at the kids.

Love doesn't feel cheated because I didn't get to do what I wanted to do today - sew, read, soak in a hot tub.

Love doesn't loose its temper easily.

Love doesn't assume that my children are being naughty just because their noise level is irritating.

Love doesn't rejoice when other people's children misbehave and make mine look good. Love is genuinely happy when others are honored by their children.

Love your family with excellence today!