Meal Plan Month: January Meal Plan 1

Happy New Year! I’m glad to be back with my first blog of the year! Enjoy a poorly lit photo of my family over the holidays. The girls’ dresses (and Z’s big purple bow from Santa) are just too cute not to share!

Before the holidays I was trying to plan out some easy blog content for 2021 and posted a poll on my Instagram (follow me here) asking if people would like to see meal plans. The result was unanimous – everyone that answered said “yes”.

Since everyone usually tries to get healthier at the start of the year, and since we’re all cooking more due to restaurant shut downs (although, let’s be honest, DoorDash was the real hero of 2020), I figured posting my meal plans for the month of January would be a fun way to kick the year off on A Pinch of Crazy!

If cooking more, eating healthier, saving money, or trying new recipes are some goals you have for the year, then follow along for the month! Hopefully you can get some ideas that will work for you and your family, tweak what needs tweaking for you, maybe scrap some things all together, and just maybe find a new family favorite!

I will start this meal plan month off by sharing how I usually plan our meals for the week. Over the weekends, we usually eat “last week’s highlights” (my husband’s cute name for leftovers) or go out/get food delivered. Over the weekend is when I begin planning for the following week. To start with, I take a little “kitchen inventory” in the pantry and fridge to see what we have – this little jumping off point ends up saving a lot of money, reducing waste, and fuels my kitchen creativity. The three categories I usually check for are carbs/starches, protein, and produce. Once I plan meals based on what I have, I make a grocery list for items I still need. Then I usually pick up my groceries on Monday so I start the week off with a well stocked kitchen.

So after Christmas and New Year’s Day I actually didn’t have much in the way of leftovers, but I will share what I did end up starting with.

  • Carbs: brown rice, a few potatoes/sweet potatoes, oats, instant grits (a treat for my hubs), and a can of crescent roll dough
  • Protein: turkey bacon, almond butter, chick peas, tahini, some cheese, and a package of little beef sausages
  • Produce: carrots, greens (kale, spinach, and lettuce), cauliflower rice, blueberries, apples, and bananas – this is not really “produce” but I also had a half full jar of green curry paste

Starting with those few ingredients I planned five dinners (leftovers on weekends), and leftovers are used for lunches. I also planned a few breakfast items to meal prep for the week and wrote down snack ideas. These meals are all things I share with my two girls, but I will make sure to include which modifications, if any, were needed for our nine-month-old. Baby and I also eat dairy free (though I am starting to introduce a little here and there), so I will include modifications for that, too.

Breakfasts:

  • Pigs in a blanket
  • Grits
  • Baked oatmeal with almond butter, blueberries, and bananas *this is the only breakfast I fed to the baby, and I added less maple syrup so it wasn’t too sweet for her*

Snacks:

Classic Garlic Hummus
  • Hummus with carrot sticks or crackers *I put the baby’s hummus on toast or rolled up in nitrate free lunch meat*
  • Boiled eggs (I only did 6 since they weren’t for breakfast)
  • Cliff bars for grown-ups, Z bars for our oldest
  • Apple slices or bananas with peanut butter
  • Pouches and mandarin orange cups for both girls
  • Puffs for the baby
  • Christmas candy

Dinners:

Roasted Chicken with Carrots
  • Monday: Roasted chicken with carrots and potatoes *This recipe is for a whole chicken, but I used just drumsticks and chopped the carrots and potatoes to roast underneath them.*
  • Tuesday: Brown rice risotto with mushrooms, kale, and shrimp *I made this dairy free, but topped with cheese for those that could have it and subbed in my chicken stock in place of veggie broth*
  • Wednesday: Green curry chicken with coconut lime cauliflower rice, topped with avocado and cilantro *I don’t really have a recipe for this, but I just heated some shredded chicken with the cauliflower rice, added a couple tablespoons of the curry paste, poured in coconut milk, and squeezed a lime in. On this day I also took a meal (chicken tacos) to a friend so I boiled a bunch of chicken, shredded it, and seasoned it like taco meat. This is the chicken I used for the curry; it turned out great!*
  • Thursday: Lettuce wrapped mushroom swiss burgers and fries *Again, no real recipe for the burgers, but I usually season the ground beef with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, and smoked paprika then cook them in my cast iron skillet. We will top them with sauteed mushrooms and onions, swiss cheese (I will omit this for Baby and I), greens, dairy free ranch, and use lettuce in place of buns.*
  • Friday: Breakfast for dinner – turkey bacon (will not give to Baby), scrambled eggs, toast and/or leftover potatoes from burger night
  • Saturday and Sunday: last week’s highlights!

Lunches:

  • Leftovers
  • A couple of days we had outdoor picnics with friends so I packed sandwiches/lunch meat, hummus, fruit, and crackers for the girls and me
  • Our oldest went back to her Mother’s Day Out program this week so for her lunch I packed crackers with uncured salami and cheese cubes, a mandarin orange cup, and avocado and cucumber slices

Alright I think I covered it all! My grocery list for this week was basically proteins and snacks, plus of course a giant box of diapers and other essentials such as paper towels and foil. I ended up spending more than I usually do because I actually shopped in person for once and took advantage of coupons I saw to stock up on snacks and essentials; that brought my total for this week to $189. Since I got so many snacks this week, I am hoping next week to get the grocery bill down to less than $100. I’ll come back next week and share!

I hope you were able to get inspired for some meal ideas for your family this week, and that maybe you are able to save some money and try something new. Bask in the freshness of a new year…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links; if you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Holiday Desserts

Sitting by a crackling fire, listening to classics like “The Christmas Song”, watching the tree lights twinkle, and enjoying my mom’s sweet, chocolatey fudge are some of my favorite Christmas traditions while growing up.

I’m not sure I can call myself “grown up” now, but I guess having two kids, a mortgage, and crow’s feet kind of qualifies me as so. Being a wife and mom myself (and, yeah, I guess a grown up) now, one of my greatest joys is creating a safe, cozy home for my family, and at this time of year, holiday traditions really add to the coziness of home.

I am sure throughout the years we will add in some more traditions, but right now our traditions are: picking out and decorating the tree together, having a Christmas scent on the stove filling the house with sweet and spicy aromas, Chinese food on Christmas Eve (which started as a young married couple after a busy evening at church, and I liked it so much we have kept it up), and of course, having ample goodies. Two goodies we have every year are peppermint bark and molasses cookies, but I am trying to add some more snacks and treats into the mix.

The holiday season always has its own level of Crazy, but add in a global pandemic, and having a new baby, and you have A [big] Pinch of Crazy! All of that to say, this year I didn’t really have the time or mental capacity to come up with a new holiday goodie, but I wanted to compile a list of some of my previous holiday treats for y’all to maybe make some traditions of your own!

Our Favorites

  • Marbled Peppermint Bark – This treat is both cool and refreshing and chocolatey and rich. While it is not refined sugar free, it is a breeze to whip up, and everyone is sure to love it!
  • Molasses Cookies – These warmly spiced cookies are soft and chewy with just the right touch of unrefined sweetness. These are my husband’s favorite, and I love making them for him every year!

Fall Flavors

  • Apple Pie Parfaits – These cute individual desserts are layered with warm apple pie filling, granola crumble, and whipped cream.
  • Pumpkin Bread with Crumb Topping – Just because fall is over, doesn’t mean you can’t finish up your canned pumpkin in the pantry. Pumpkin bread is always a hit; add a cinnamon crumb topping and you’ve got a family favorite!
  • No Bake Pumpkin Pie – Not just for Thanksgiving, this pie will be sure to please with its date and walnut crust filled with spiced pumpkin filling.

Candies and Confections

  • Chocolate Nut Clusters – These crunchy chocolate covered nuts are topped with a touch of salt, and are perfectly poppable for this time of year.
  • Two Layer Paleo Fudge – Fudge is a Christmas classic, and this refined sugar and dairy free version has a creamy almond butter layer beneath a salted dark chocolate layer.
  • Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – Who doesn’t love a peanut butter cup at Christmas time? This healthier version of the classic candy is rich, gooey, and so simple to make!

Classic Desserts

Holiday Beverages

  • Dairy Free Eggnog – Eggnog is one of my favorite holiday drinks, and being strictly dairy free this year doesn’t mean I have to miss out! This thick, creamy, and sweet drink is made with coconut and almond milk, sweetened with coconut sugar, and can be made “adult” with some bourbon.
  • Slow Cooker Apple Cider – Warm, spiced apple cider is simple to make in your slow cooker, and your home will be filled with all the spicy scents.
  • Death by Hot Chocolate – Another treat we have often this time of year, this dairy free, refined sugar free hot chocolate is not missing out on flavor. It is so rich, it tastes just like drinking melted chocolate!

This year has been tough on so many in different ways; I hope these treats can fill your home with love and Christmas cheer. Maybe you can even add a new tradition to your usual ones. Stay safe and healthy, hug your loved ones, soak in the magic of the season… and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

Honey Cranberry Sauce

We are a mere three days away from arguably food’s biggest holiday, and I’m day dreaming about my turkey swimming in gravy, and don’t forget the sweet and tart cranberry sauce that compliments it so well! To be honest, I used to not really be a fan of cranberry sauce, but in recent years discovered how delicious it can be! I guess I tend to enjoy my berries fresh and not gelatinous. *shoulder shrug*

This year, I won’t be cooking for Thanksgiving (big benefit of living near your family), but in years past have cooked Thanksgiving meals for hungry marines, and have always served fresh cranberry sauce! It really cuts through the saltiness of your turkey, the fattiness of the skin/juices, and adds a tart, refreshing compliment to the meat. It’s also great on leftover turkey sandwiches! The best part is, it’s so easy to make that it barely constitutes a recipe!

No matter how small your Thanksgiving celebration may be this year (year of the dumpster fire 2020), some Honey Cranberry Sauce will be a welcome addition at the table.

Honey Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces (1 bag) of fresh cranberries
  • 3-4 tsp of raw honey
  • Squeeze of fresh orange juice (about 2 tbsp)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups of water

Directions

  1. Bring water to a boil in a medium pot
  2. Add cranberries
  3. Boil until soft and skins are bursting
  4. Strain out water and return to pot
  5. Add honey, orange juice, and salt and pepper
  6. Stir to combine while slightly mashing the cranberries
  7. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold – it’s good all ways!
  8. Store leftovers covered in the fridge. Spread leftover sauce on toast and top with leftover turkey for a delicious leftover sandwich.

And that’s all, folks! It really is that easy, and in my opinion, better than the canned stuff. If you are having a smaller feast this year, try my Roasted Chicken with Carrots. That is what I used to test out this cranberry sauce with and it was fantastic! For a bigger feast, check out my Ghee, Garlic, and Herb Turkey with Gravy for a traditional turkey with a buttery, citrus-y twist.

For more Thanksgiving feast ideas, including sides, drinks, desserts, and appetizers, check out A Cornucopia of Ideas, where I’ve compiled a list of recipes for a delicious, healthier Thanksgiving dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Whatever you are doing during this strange holiday season, be safe, be kind, love on your people – even from afar if you must…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links; if you purchase using the links, it is of no cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Green Pancakes

It was Halloween morning and my second attempt at my Green Pancakes. The first attempt did not go well, but I thought I would try again (with a touch more almond flour) because green goblin pancakes sure would be fun for Halloween breakfast! As if the excitement of dressing up like a unicorn (cute Halloween pics below) and wearing sparkly makeup wasn’t enough to send shrieks through the house, let’s add some syrup!

In my recently posted waffle recipe, I admitted to my morning hanger problem… oops. So like those waffles, this batter is made in a blender just to simplify everything and get some food in my, uh… I mean my kids… belly faster.

Speaking of kids, these pancakes are perfect for all the kiddos in your family, even your baby! These are perfect if you are doing baby led feeding. My seven-month-old absolutely loved them, and because breastfed babies iron stores are depleted around six months, I was glad to give her something so high in iron. Thanks, spinach!

Now I know you might be thinking ‘spinach pancakes sound like my kid’s personal torture’, but don’t worry: they won’t even be able to tell there is spinach in them. Now, I don’t recommend lying to your kids by trying to hide the fact that there is spinach, but this is just spinach dressed up, so to speak. The spinach has such a mild flavor, gives the pancakes their fun green color, but they taste just like a bananas!

So what do we do for toppings? Arguably the most important part of a pancake breakfast, don’t skimp on the toppings. Because these taste so strongly of banana, peanut butter and/or chocolate chips are delicious options, chopped walnuts would be great, and you can’t go wrong with a hefty glug of maple syrup.

Whether you really deck these out with toppings, keep it classic, serve them up for a holiday breakfast (perfect for Christmas, St Patrick’s Day, or Halloween) or just a fun Saturday morning surprise, these Green Pancakes are sure to please!

Green Pancakes

  • Servings: 16-20 mini pancakes
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 4 small, ripe bananas – the more freckled, the better
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of almond flour
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 cup of loosely packed spinach
  • 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • Desired oil for coating skillet (I used coconut)

Directions

  1. Heat large pan (I used my cast iron) over medium-low heat and coat generously with oil
  2. Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth
  3. Pour small rounds on pre-heated skillet
  4. Once bubbles around the edges have formed and popped, flip pancakes over (these are quite delicate so be gentle)
  5. After about two minutes on the other side, take off pan
  6. Serve pancakes warm with desired toppings

For more breakfast recipes with leafy greens, check out my Berries and Greens Smoothie, Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bake, or Whole30 Breakfast Hash. For a heartier, less green (actually not green at all hehe) pancake, check out my Flax and Oat Pancakes. Have a little fun with breakfast, don’t skip the most important meal of the day…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Constipation Cure Baby Food

Feeding babies. Who knew something as basic as feeding your kiddos could spark such controversy? But the controversy, shaming, and self-imposed mom guilt literally starts from birth. Breastfeeding versus formula feeding seems to be the hot topic of a lot of new moms and there are a lot of feelings wrapped up in it. While I do love breastfeeding and desire to see it normalized, and want more education for expecting and new moms, it is cruel to shame moms who choose to feed their babies with formula.

If a mom’s mental health is suffering and she feels better switching to formula, then that is great! She is a good mom to care about being there and being mentally healthy for her kids. If a mom is struggling to produce enough and switches to formula out of exhaustion, then that is great! She is a good mom for wanting to have more time and energy for her kids. There are a ton of different reasons a mom may want to switch to formula, and they are all okay! On the opposite side, if a mom wants to nurse and tries desperately to make it work, then that is great! She is a good mom for sticking to her guns. If a mom nurses past a year, then that is great! She is a good mom for wanting to comfort her toddler. If a mom is trying hard to feed her baby, whether through the hard work of breastfeeding or the expense of buying formula, then she. is. a. good. mom! So let’s stop the breast versus formula debate, shall we?

Now, moving onto the shame revolving around solids for Baby. There is a whole new hot topic of purees versus baby led weaning/feeding. If you start too young, that is bad, but if you start too late, that also is bad. If you use purees, that is bad, but if you give your baby table food, that is also bad. Literally. There are so many schools of thought out in the world wide web revolving around babies/children in regards to ev.er.y.thing. which drove me to the edge with my firstborn (you can read about my postpartum experience here), and this time around I really wanted to tap into my own mama instincts, and let the Lord guide me in how I raise my children.

So for right now, in regards to our preschooler, we try and discipline gently *always needing God’s help for this*, let her explore/make messes, and never have a kid’s menu – she eats what we eat. In regards to our baby, we breastfeed (well, I do) and give a little formula to help with weight gain, we gently sleep trained, and we do a mixture of purees and baby led feeding.

Yep, even at seven months old, she eats what we eat, but with modifications. However, once we introduced her to both formula and solids, we had a little blockage issue; I’m talking 48 hours without a dirty diaper. So I made this constipation cure for her dinner one night, and the next morning when I walked into her room I smelled… victory. I make one big batch per week and we give it to her every night at dinner along with some of our table food. So far, both of my girls have been big eaters and love to eat all the foods! The second Selah sits down in her highchair (our cute, wooden high chair is currently out of stock on Amazon, but this one looks so cute, too!) she starts dancing and grabbing everything on her tray! When she sees her baby food come out in her little bowl she starts whining and we can’t feed her her “dessert” fast enough!

So, however you feed your baby, there is no shame here, but if you need some help getting them *ahem* moving, this recipe is for you!

Constipation Cure Baby Food

Ingredients

  • 1 medium pear (I’ve used both red and green), sliced with skin on
  • 8 prunes
  • 6 baby carrots
  • 1/3 cup fresh baby spinach
  • Optional: a pinch of ground ginger and/or ground cinnamon
  • Optional mix-ins: coconut oil, baby cereal, breastmilk, or formula

Directions

  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil
  2. Put baby carrots in the boiling water first
  3. Once carrots are softening (not quite fork tender), add in pear slices and prunes and seasoning if using
  4. Once everything is fork tender, turn off water and add baby spinach
  5. Once spinach is wilted slightly, blend using an immersion blender or carefully transfer to your blender.
  6. Add extra water to reach desired consistency
  7. Serve to your baby either cold or lukewarm with desired mix-ins
  8. Store in air tight container in the refrigerator

Sorry I got on my soap box at the start of this blog, but now you know how I feel about mom shaming and mom guilt. It’s the worst. Let me know how you feed your baby, and what their favorite food is! However you feed that little love, take care of them, snuggle your babies…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Pumpkin and Oat Blender Waffles

As a new mom for the second time (still unreal?!) I get attacked often by hanger. Feeling “hangry” is feeling so hungry that you get angry, and unfortunately, this happens to me fairly frequently. It goes a little something like this: I wake in the 6 o’clock range to chubby fingers pulling my eyelids open and giggling morning breath in my face. After some persuasion, I get out of bed and am greeted by Coffee, my morning buddy. After having a semi-rough night of sleep either comforting a preschooler with a bad dream and/or nursing a hungry baby, the hanger strikes.

All of a sudden my hands are shaking, my stomach is growling, and my patience is thin. And something like cereal will not cure the hanger; at this point I need something substantial, and I need it fast! At this time of year, pumpkin flavored everything abounds, and I am not ashamed to say I love pumpkin flavored goodies (still haven’t tried a PSL, though), and even more so if I can have healthy pumpkin goodies!

How can this breakfast live up to all of my demands: fast, pumpkin flavored, healthy, and filling?! Blender waffles! It does not get much easier than blending all your ingredients then pouring them into a waffle iron! Have your kiddos help you blend it up while you sip your coffee: healthy, fun, and delicious for the whole family!

Pumpkin and Oat Blender Waffles

  • Servings: 12 mini waffles
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of old fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp of ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tbsp of melted coconut oil
  • 3 tsp of maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla
  • 3/4 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • Optional mix-ins: chocolate chips, pecans, or collagen peptides

Directions

  1. Plug in waffle iron to begin heating. (My husband got me this mini waffle iron for our anniversary)
  2. Place all ingredients in blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.
  3. Oil your waffle iron, then pour in desired amount of batter. Have a little fun and stud your waffles with chocolate chips or pecans!
  4. Cook waffles according to your waffle maker directions.
  5. Top with butter, honey, syrup, cinnamon, peanut butter, whatever your heart desires!
  6. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature.

These waffles will be sure to hit the spot! For more quick breakfasts to beat the hanger, check out my Berries and Greens Smoothie or Peanut Butter and Chocolate Overnight Oats, and for another pumpkin treat, check out my Pumpkin Spice Cake.

Beat the “hanger”, have fun with your family, eat waffles…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, but a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!

Chocolate Nut Clusters

Hello! It’s Molly; it’s been a while, but I’m still here! I’m currently sitting here looking at pumpkin decor, smelling fall-scented candles, and really wishing I had a warm slice of pumpkin bread. It’s starting to *kind of* cool down, fall decorations are coming out, and the holiday season is in sight. All of this can only mean one thing: aside from eating all the goodies, of course, it’s time to bake the goodies! However, if you’re like me, you still get a little sweaty turning the oven on; I’m also still slightly sleep deprived from having my second baby only five months ago, so any extra energy I have is usually devoted to tidying up. I would love to be able to bake more, but right now most dessert recipes are a little too time intensive for me. So what’s a sweaty, tired mama to do when Fall comes a-knocking asking for goodies? Make this recipe! It is super simple, delicious, sweet, crunchy, and salty; these two ingredient Chocolate Nut Clusters satisfied my third trimester cravings, and are the perfect go-to in this busy season if you’re craving a treat but short on time. Hope you enjoy!

Chocolate Nut Clusters

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces of dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/3 cup of nuts of your choice, chopped (I used pecans and almonds)
  • Flaky sea salt (optional)

Directions

  1. Toast nuts for about 2 minutes on a dry skillet on medium heat, just until aromatic. Set aside
  2. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl, stirring well after 30 second increments.
  3. Stir nuts into melted chocolate
  4. Drop spoonfuls of chocolate covered nuts on a parchment lined (or my favorite silicone mats)
  5. Sprinkle with sea salt, if desired
  6. Refrigerate until firm
  7. Store covered in the fridge for a week, but they’ll be gone long before that hehe

For more fall goodness, check out my Pumpkin Pecan Muffins, Apple Pie Parfaits, or my No Bake Pumpkin Pie. I hope everyone has been healthy and well during this post-apocalyptic movie of a year we’ve had. You will find plenty of comfort food on this site, and feel free to reach out to chat if needed. Stay healthy, hug your family, eat fall goodies…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you; just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of crazy!

Selah’s Birth Story

You know the old phrase “silence is golden”? As a now mother of two, I can attest to that! I am currently sitting on my couch enjoying probably about twenty minutes of alone/quiet time while Zemirah has rest time in her room and the baby naps in her crib; I’m eating some peanut butter lactation bites (recipe coming soon!) and washing cloth diapers. It seemed like the perfect time to revisit an old TV sitcom, but I thought it might be fun to sit down and write! I have a couple of recipes in the works, but pictures aren’t edited so I thought for my first blog back I would write out Baby Girl’s birth story! You can read about my first, second, and third trimesters, and if birth is your thing, you may also be interested to read Zemirah’s Birth Story, then hang onto your hats because this one is completely different!

Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start…) which was week 38 of pregnancy. I had accomplished everything on my baby to do list, finished up with work, and the new shelter-in-place orders were in effect for my county. A scary time in the world, everything was shut down, and as if feeling trapped at home isn’t hard enough, imagine waiting for a baby, too! Zemirah was born 5 days before her due date, and everyone says second babies come earlier, so I was expectant; however this same “everyone” also says second babies come quickly – everyone lied.

Fast forward to forty weeks pregnant – yes I made it to my due date, and I was not happy about it. At my 39 week check up, my midwife said everything was looking very soft and ripe and she thought it would be any time now and likely go quick. Again, a lie. *insert eye roll emoji* At forty weeks and one day pregnant, I was bouncing on my birth ball watching church online (what a time to be alive), trying to get Zemirah to sit semi-quietly so I could at least hear the pastor, and I was noticing some contractions. I had been having them irregularly for weeks, so I didn’t think much of it. However, after about 30 minutes, they were still consistently coming every five minutes, so I thought this might be the real thing! The contractions were not yet painful, but just a crampy, tightening feeling. After timing them for a little over an hour, they were consistently 4-6 minutes apart, so I called my mom to come pick up Zemirah. Saying goodbye to my firstborn, knowing our relationship was about to change, our lives would be different, and she would no longer be my baby, was such a bittersweet moment and I can’t explain the complexity of my emotions in that moment. There was no looking back; I handed my parents Z’s overnight bag, and David and I stood on our driveway waving goodbye with happy tears in our eyes.

Now that David and I were alone it was officially baby time! We packed our last few items for the hospital bags, kept timing my contractions, and headed out for a long walk around the neighborhood. We walked, talked, and day dreamed about what life with two girls would be like; contractions were still coming regularly, but still not powerful. After a good 3 mile walk, we decided I should nap to gear up for what was to come; well after a nice nap, contractions had all but stopped. Unacceptable! We loaded up the car for not just a walk, but a hike! For two and a half hours, we walked the nature trails at a local nature preserve, and my contractions were definitely intensifying. I still wouldn’t call them painful at this point, but there was a lot of pressure. Finally, they were about 2-3 minutes apart for about an hour so I called my midwives. Again, they told me “second labors are usually quick” so they advised me to head to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital around 7 PM, we were screened for Covid and immediately escorted to a room. Being monitored, my midwife confirmed that I was indeed contracting every two to three minutes, but after having sat down for so long I told her I wasn’t feeling them anymore. She checked me, said I was almost 5 centimetres dilated and 75% effaced; I was so excited that I was almost in active labor and thought I could have my baby before midnight. Boy was I wrong… IMG_8008

Due to Covid rules, I was not allowed to walk around the halls, so, like a caged animal at the zoo, I paced anxiously back and forth. We also sadly discovered that due to Covid rules I would not be able to get my birth tub. So we continued pacing, dancing, watching Ellen’s Game of Games while bouncing on my ball, getting Baby monitored every 30 minutes – all of this happened for hours and still my cervix remained the same. We now had our night nurse and midwife, and the midwife advised me to lay on my side with a leg up in a stirrup because Baby was stubbornly stuck up high on my left side, and for me to get more intense contractions, I needed her to change positions. It was around midnight at that point, and though I was still contracting, they were not yet painful so she said we should get some sleep. Try as I might, I could not sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time because every now and then a painful contraction would be so intense it would wake me up and have me moaning, then I would get excited they were more intense and try to walk around to get them more intense, but to no avail.

Finally, after a long night, my midwife came back around 6 AM and checked me; she said I had made a little progress and it seemed like Baby was in a little bit better position. Again, things were still slow and not intense, so we just enjoyed our morning watching Golden Girls on the hospital TV and eating breakfast. My labor was intense enough at this point that I was slightly nauseous and unable to eat or drink much, which was an encouraging sign.

The day midwife, Taylor, came in around 8 AM (at this point, we had been through 3 sets of nurses and midwives – eye roll) and checked me. She actually said it seemed like my progress had gone backwards, and we needed to talk about our options to speed things up. After a long night of laboring and not being able to sleep, that was incredibly discouraging, but I was certainly eager to speed things along. The options she gave me were: go home (heck no!), break my water, or start me on a low dose of pitocin to see if that would get things going. I didn’t have to have pitocin with Zemirah’s labor so I have no experience with it, but have heard it makes contractions essentially unbearable. Because I wanted to have an un-medicated birth, I knew I didn’t want pitocin because of it being medicine but also because I was afraid it would lead me to an epidural. At this point, I had been laboring for almost 24 hours, and was not getting anywhere, so even though it was intervention I wasn’t expecting to need, I had Taylor break my water. Upon breaking my water, Taylor commented that I had a large amount of amniotic fluid which is likely why my contractions hadn’t been intense yet; that made me feel confident we made the right decision and hopeful things would begin to speed up.IMG_8007

A couple of hours later, contractions were more intense; lots of vocalizing and swaying when a contraction surged over me, but they were still far apart enough that I could take little micro-naps in between. Then Taylor came in to break the news that a mom at their birth center was in labor and she would have to leave – she told me who would deliver me instead because she was confident I would have this baby soon. We just kept doing what we had been doing – walking, swaying, bouncing – and a couple of hours later Taylor was back. The birth center mom had the stereotypical second child birth and delivered so quickly that she ended up delivering in the birth center parking lot. I was so jealous! I can’t help but laugh about it now, and I know that mom has quite the story to tell!

Around 1 o’clock PM I decided to get in the hospital bathtub just to relax and rest some more. At this point, the contractions were so far apart that the tub slowed me down even more – I only had one contraction while in the tub. Taylor and our amazing nurse, Kiersten had suggested I try pumping because nipple stimulation releases all the happy hormones and contracts your uterus. So I hopped out of the tub, sat on my birth ball, and pumped for just 10 minutes. I was delighted to see some little drops of colostrum coming out, but even more delighted for the four back to back contractions that came over me like waves of power. I got another cervical check after pumping and I was finally in active labor with the baby’s head at 0 station! It was go time!

I was contracting powerfully and basically one on top of another for a while, but the pain wasn’t nearly as intense as it was with Zemirah’s labor – I could easily breathe through each surge. Eventually, though, my lower back was in excruciating pain; Taylor did rebozo on me to help move Baby down and help relieve some back pain. I felt vaguely like I needed to push, but wasn’t sure. Taylor had me sit backwards on the toilet for a while to help move Baby down even more, and that was definitely effective! The contractions were so strong and powerful, but I didn’t have an overwhelming urge to push like I did with Zemirah. After some time, I would guess around 2:20 PM, Taylor checked me again and informed me that I was 9.5 centimetres dilated – my cervix still had a lip on it, and my baby was still completely on my left side. This is why I wasn’t feeling the urge to push yet, but she told me it was still time. They say (who are these people and why do they always tell us things?!) that mothers forget the pain of childbirth when they hold their baby, but I’m not sure I can ever forget the feeling of what happened next. Taylor had me lay on my right side, pull my left leg up; she then reached inside of me, pushed my cervical lip aside, and told me to push against her hand. With all my might I pushed, multiple times, my lower back was screaming at me – I felt like it was going to rip in two. I vomited.

Finally, Taylor had me flip onto my hands and knees, pulling down on the top of the bed for support. It was in this position that I continued my strenuous pushing; my husband David constantly encouraging me and me saying “I can’t do this!” over and over. I have a vivid memory of at one point feeling three hands on me – one from Taylor, one from Kiersten, and one from David – and I felt so supported and cared for. Their caring touches gave me the strength I needed.

If I felt like a caged animal when pacing in early labor, now I was a lioness freed of all inhibitions. I screamed – no, roared – as I pushed with all my might. At 2:52 PM, Selah Jade Mills was born, and though I couldn’t physically see her right away, I instantly heard her strong cry! She was passed between my legs, and I clutched her to me. The long, hard work was worth it! She was here in all her soft, slimy glory.selahjade1 (2)

She instantly peed and pooped on me, but I just laughed as sweet Kiersten wiped us down. Though I won’t quickly forget the pain of trying to get her in the right position and pushing through that last half centimetre, I also won’t quickly forget the smell of that freshly born baby, or the feeling of nursing her for the first time, holding her close for that first golden hour while we both dozed after our hard work of birth. I won’t quickly forget David’s strong arms around me as I worked to bring Selah here, I won’t forget the tears in his eyes as he gazed lovingly at our new daughter, and I won’t forget the feeling of immense love between us as we realized how blessed we were to take part in another miracle.

Because that is what pregnancy and birth is. A miracle! And the Lord graciously allows us to take part in His magnificent plan for life.

“For everything comes from Him and exists by His power and is intended for His glory. All glory to Him forever! Amen.” – Romans 11:36

Third Trimester Recap + Postpartum Freezer Stash

Spring has sprung – flowers blooming, I saw some bluebonnets this week, allergies flaring up, all the butterflies flitting about, and our second baby girl is about to make her entrance! I will be 38 weeks pregnant tomorrow, so for my last blog before Baby I wanted to do a third trimester recap (you can read my First Trimester Recap here, and my Second Trimester Recap here) plus give a run down of what I’ve stocked away in our freezer for those early weeks after birth.

Third trimester. Wow. I’d like to say it was rainbows and unicorns, but let’s face it, the end is uncomfortable for everyone! However, I’ve maintained a healthy diet, listening to my body’s cravings, and remained active. The difference in my third trimester this time and last time was incredible, though! When pregnant with Zemirah, I struggled with higher blood pressure, had pitting edema – I’d press my swollen ankle and the indention would stay there – terrible acid reflux, excruciating low back pain, and of course my weight was way too high. This time, however, my blood pressure has been perfect (lower than average), I’ve had minimal swelling here at the very end – I’m still wearing my wedding ring! My back pain has been non-existent until just this past week (it is always on the side Baby’s on), and my heartburn/acid reflux has been exponentially less! All in all, this pregnancy has been very easy, I’m so thankful, and praying the same for birth and the postpartum time.

So, what made the difference in these pregnancies?

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34 weeks pregnant with both girls – both photos taken by my talented friend Melissa Conklin

Food

Eating real, whole foods has made a world of difference in my life these past two years (you can read our food journey here), and an immeasurable difference in pregnancy. During my third trimester I ate:

  • Dark chocolate – and lots of it! The sweets cravings are real but only dark (60%-72%) chocolate will cut it for me. Add in some almonds or coconut and salt and I’m in my own personal heaven!  One of my favorite packaged dark chocolate snacks is Bark Thins, but I also made a few homemade versions which I will blog after Baby.
  • Beef – it’s what’s for dinner. My midwives told me after my glucose screening that I was also anemic, which explained my meat cravings. So we started eating beef about once a week, whereas we usually go a couple weeks without red meat. Steaks are my favorite, but we would also have ground beef in pasta sauce, taco meat, or beef sausage.
  • Kale – sauteed in butter, topped with salt and a hefty squeeze of lemon juice has been a staple this whole pregnancy. Leafy greens also happen to be high in iron so that helped my anemia, too, in conjunction with upping my prenatal vitamin to twice a day.
  • Citrus fruit – tangerines, navel oranges, blood oranges, grapefruit, you name it! Not to mention, squeezing lemon and/or lime juice on everything. Fun fact, having adequate Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron (it’s almost like my body knew what it needed based on my cravings…hmmmm)
  • Fats – butter, olive oil, avocado, oh my! Seriously. Almost everything is cooked in butter and/or olive oil and we have avocado/guacamole nearly every day.
  • Dairy – this has been a theme throughout my pregnancy. I seem to digest dairy better when pregnant, and have been taking advantage of that! Soft, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, and plain, tart Greek yogurt have been my go-to choices.
  • Water – how boring, huh? But seriously, lately I’ve been drinking around a gallon a day give or take a few ounces. I am so thankful for easily accessible, clean drinking water.

Exercise

My weight gain has been average thus far (30 lbs), but I’ve remained active throughout this pregnancy not for weight, but for wellness for my mind and body! Some things I’ve done to exercise are:

  • Yoga – I love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube and completed my fourth round of “30 Days of Yoga” in January. I had to modify to accommodate my growing belly, but it felt so good to stretch and move daily, taking that all important time to myself. I would also do my own little stretchy yoga flows combined with some suggested activities from Spinning Babies to help get my body prepared for labor and delivery.
  • Walking – I love walking, and I make sure to get a long walk in once a week, but now that the weather is warming up and my due date is getting closer, I’m trying to walk almost every day.
  • Fit4Mom – I love this company and what they stand for – helping moms find their fit. I am a Stroller Strides instructor, and was teaching two classes a week until last week (taking a break until a few months after Baby) and would also go to the occasional Stroller Barre class to get my legs strong for birth.

Freezer Stash

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In preparation for those first few months postpartum, AKA the “fourth trimester”, I began stocking my freezer with some meals a couple months ago. Here’s what I have:

  • Lasagna – I have used this lasagna recipe for years. I just subbed in gluten free noodles, used cottage cheese in place of ricotta, and added mushrooms to the sauce
  • Chicken/broccoli/rice casserole – this one speaks for itself; it’s all held together with my creamy dairy free “cheese” sauce
  • Beef taco meat – like the taco meat in this recipe
  • Shredded chicken
  • Cooked brown rice
  • Meatloaf – just like this meatloaf but with ketchup and kale
  • Two Bean Turkey Chili
  • Slow Cooker Pork Roast with Veggies (not technically in the freezer yet, making it this weekend!)
  • Homemade biscuits
  • Gluten free sausage balls
  • Sausage and veggie breakfast casserole – similar to this recipe, but with a crust
  • Flax and Oat Pancakes
  • Frozen vegetables that can steam in the microwave
  • Frozen fruits for quick smoothies
  • Frozen chicken bones for Chicken Stock

I think that’s everything! I plan to make a big batch of overnight oats and bake some russet and sweet potatoes for the fridge when it’s almost time for the baby. Who knows, maybe that’s how I’ll keep busy during early labor hehe! I am praying all these healthy, whole foods will nourish me and Baby well during those early weeks.

To read more about baby stuff, check out Zemirah’s Birth Story and My Postpartum Journey. Can’t wait to introduce our newest girl to the blog world; thank you for following along on this pregnancy with me! Stay safe, stay healthy, hug your family…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

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Second Trimester Recap

Ahh the second trimester. Also known as the “honeymoon trimester”. As I sit here and type this “honeymoon trimester” recap, I am nearly 34 weeks pregnant, feeling our baby girl tap dance on my internal organs, and feeling like there is no way I’ll be able to make it to my due date… I am certainly thankful to carry life in my body, but no one likes the last few weeks of pregnancy – kind of a blessing in disguise because by the end you are so ready to deliver!

My creativity and motivation so late in pregnancy is close to 0 so, similar to how I wrote a First Trimester Recap I wanted to recap my second trimester, including all things exercise, food, and family related!

What I Ate

So to be fair, I was in my second trimester during the holidays and when the flu struck our house, but I was just wanting us to stay healthy, enjoy some holiday treats, and try and eat nutritious foods for myself and Baby. So we did have a lot of carbs, yet again, and I ain’t mad about it! Some foods I ate frequently during the second trimester were:

  • Marbled Peppermint Bark (it was the holidays, and the peppermint helped with heartburn)
  • Molasses Cookies (again, holidays, and I just love sweets)
  • Plenty of hearty soups (both to keep warm and make us feel better) made with my homemade Chicken Stock
  • Also while sick, we discovered (thanks to my sister) this juice/smoothie which is delicious! Zemirah chugs a big glass of her “green juice” every morning.
  • Peanut butter and honey toast for busy mornings or afternoon snacks
  • Same as the first trimester, but I couldn’t get enough of my Roasted Chicken with Carrots
  • Also same as the first trimester, but plain Greek yogurt with berries, honey, and granola – another breakfast fav!
  • Lemon-y kale sauteed in butter (yum!) at least twice a week!
  • I could finally stomach eggs again toward the end of my first trimester, so we have also had plenty of big breakfasts (eggs, uncured bacon, more lemon-y kale, avocado, toast…) both for breakfast and/or dinner. Always a quick, delicious option!

I am sure there were more foods I loved, but I didn’t have strong cravings, and I was just trying to keep things simple during this time – lots of frozen veggies, baked sweet potatoes, and simple proteins.

How I Exercised

As I mentioned in my First Trimester Recap, exercise has greatly reduced pregnancy symptoms for me. Because the second trimester is the honeymoon trimester, I was already feeling pretty good to begin with, but exercise helped me stay energetic and feel my best on top of beginning to prepare my body for labor!

At least twice a week, I would do a Fit4Mom class, even if it was just my two Stroller Strides classes I instruct. I also began to make yoga a regular part of my exercise routine again – at least once a week. At the suggestion of my midwives, I looked up Spinning Babies and incorporated many of their recommended activities into my yoga flows – including psoas/hip flexor stretches, lunges, squats, and a safe and simple inversion. While the weather was nice, I would try and go walking once or twice weekly without pushing Zemirah in the stroller. It doesn’t hurt that walking all by myself listening to the birds and worship music is one of my favorite things to do. All of these activities make me feel my best, they are movements that make me happy, and are great for preparing my body for labor!

Other Second Trimester News

During the second trimester we also discovered the Baby is in fact Baby Girl and everything looks good and healthy! The doctor who did my sonogram said that he thought she would be small, but currently, as she is simultaneously pressing into my ribs (both sides!) and my hip, I don’t see how that could be possible. I can’t wait to find out how big she is; see her face, who she looks like, and sniff her little newborn head. Okay, now I’m crying.

We also ran the normal gestational diabetes blood work towards the end of my second trimester and saw that everything looked normal with my blood sugar, but that I am low on iron. So at the suggestion of my midwives, I’ve been eating a little (lot) of dark chocolate every night – just following doctor’s orders 😉

The honeymoon phase of pregnancy definitely flew by in a rush of holiday fun/madness and ended with a sick house, but I enjoyed this trimester. I was able to start getting to know my newest little girl; when she is most active, what foods she seems to like (she kicks a lot after a protein packed meal), and even begin playing with her! Oftentimes after dinner, we will all take turns pressing “Baby Sister” and then feeling her press back. I know she will add a fun new dimension to our family, and I’m so excited to meet her in about six weeks!!!

Hopefully before she makes her appearance I will be able to write a third trimester recap + a list of meals I’m stocking our freezer with, but until then, feel free to read my other family blogs! First Trimester RecapZemirah’s Birth StoryMy Postpartum Journey are just a few blogs about my extremely limited parenting experience, and 23 Pounds and Other Non-Scale Victories and Traveling with A Pinch of Crazy are more specifically food related. Hope you can find something to read here that is helpful for you and where you are in life! Embrace this life stage, whatever it may be for you…and enjoy your Pinch of Crazy!

This post contains affiliate links; if you purchase using the links, it is of no extra cost to you, just a small commission for me. Thank you for supporting A Pinch of Crazy!