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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Monthly Meals Week 2

These are actually a bit out of order since I haven't posted in awhile, but these are the meals that I will make starting on Friday. 
Maybe you'll find some new favorites!  

Mon: Alfredo Pasta with Sausage
Wed: Salmon Burgers (from Costco)
Thurs: Beef Hot Dogs and Mac & Cheese (from Costco)
Fri: Creamy seafood pasta or pesto pasta
Sun: leftovers

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Insanity Max 30-Day 2

I started this workout yesterday and maxed out at only 4 minutes in. . . and I thought I was in pretty good shape!
After doing a lot of Jillian Michaels' workouts in the past, I get the whole concept of HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), and I'm totally sold on it as the best way to get fit quickly. Knowing that won't get you through these workouts though!
I love the combinations of moves Shaun-T includes in the workout, and I absolutely love his demeanor as a trainer, he's much less annoying than Jillian!
There were a few things in the second workout that I had to modify, mostly the pushup sequences since I broke my elbow as a kid and have a hard time keeping proper form. I also got interrupted several times by the littles, which is also to be expected!

I'll let you guys know how everything goes as a continue, I'm loving it as the moment and hope that the newness doesn't wear off anytime too soon. 


Monday, January 5, 2015

Monthly Meals: Week 1

I've always prided myself on being able to cook and plan meals on the fly and use up the last of my ingredients in an economical way. As I'm getting closer to student teaching and eventually working, though I've realized that this way won't always work for us!

I thought it would be great to do one of those once-a-month cooking type ideas, but quickly realized that most of the meals aren't the sort of thing we actually like.

Our family isn't picky, but most crockpot meals that include vegetables turn out too soggy for us, and I wanted to be able to reuse side dishes for multiple meals. Cooking meals and freezing them also isn't appealing since they have to be frozen in bags, microwaved, and re-served.

We are also Eastern Orthodox, and so have a lot of fasting days through out the year, including every Wednesday and Friday. The traditional fast is vegan, but we have a blessing from our spiritual father to gradually ease into fasting more fully. That said, we probably include more vegetarian days that your typical American family, so I'm working on getting more new recipes in my repertoire.

Here's our first week of dinners, which started on Friday:

Mon: Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala with leftover Somali Rice
Tues: White Chicken Chili with chips and Salsa
Wed: Cheese Quesadillas and guacamole
Fri: Chicken Gyros with pita and tzatziki sauce
Sat: Tacos (at a friend's house)

I also keep a running shopping list in Google Docs so that I can access it when I'm on the run. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction toward feeding a family in a busy world!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Easiest Chicken Gyros Ever!

The Easiest Chicken Gyros Ever

 Start with about a pound of frozen chicken breast.
 Defrost overnight in the refrigerator and slice into very thin strips (this is easiest to do if the chicken is still half frozen).
1 medium onion, julienned
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup of kalamata olives (optional)
1/4 cup of olive oil 1TB Penzey's Greek Seasoning
Allow ingredients to marinate for at least an hour (overnight is better) and saute until onions are translucent and  chicken is cooked through.

Serve with your preferred pita bread and tzatziki sauce (I buy mine at Costco).
Tabbouli and hummus both make a great side dish!


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Cup of Suffering, The Cup of Salvation

Today a close friend posted a heartfelt cry for God to heal her son from his recently diagnosed illness. As I read her post, my thoughts immediately connected to Christ's own words as he suffered in the flesh, "Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me."

The cup of suffering is one that none of us desires to bear. Not only do we want to avoid it ourselves, but we want to remove it from those that we love. What parent desires to see the suffering of their own child? None that deserves the title mother, or father. We pray for healing, because we want healing, and also know that God is the healer of both physical and spiritual ailments.

What if, though, our suffering in the flesh is exactly what is needed for our own salvation, or the salvation of another?

In the case of Christ Himself, it was necessary that God Incarnate suffer in the flesh, because God's own entrance into death was necessary to destroy its power over humanity.
As it is summarized so beautifully in the liturgy: 

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad; For the Lord hath done a mighty act with His own arm; He hath trampled down death by death, and became the first-born from the dead; He hath delivered us from the depths of Hades, granting the world the Great Mercy!
-Troparion of the Resurrection, Tone 3

Thinking about this suffering reminded me of an article I read today about the kidnapped Orthodox nuns from Ma'aloula, Syria. A new video recently surfaced, which shows that, Alhamdulillah, the nuns are alive. Raymond Ibrahim commented upon the fact that in the video they were no longer wearing their crosses that are part of the monastic habit. They were presimably forced to remove them by their captors, but if they hadn't they may have been martyred already.

Ibrahim comments, reflecting on the words of St. Paul about the cross:

"'But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world' (Galatians 6:14). You removed the cross from the nuns' breasts. Remove it! We do not rely on the visible. But know that the cross is firmly planted in the hearts of each and every one of those nuns."

It is not that the image of the cross holds no value, Christ came to redeem both the physical and spiritual realities from corruption and death, and this is exactly the truth that we proclaim as Orthodox Christians through the use of icons.

The point of Ibrahim's comment is that the truth of the Incarnation and the reality of life in Christ will not be impeded by the lack of a physical cross on the nuns' clothing.

We pray for God to see fit to preserve the nuns lives and to see them released from captivity, but to return to the first point, if their suffering is effectual for salvation, either their own, or the souls of their captors, it becomes something completely glorious when removed from the context of our earthly temporal existence. Suffering, while completely devoid of pleasure, can be a means to enter into God's own business of uniting humanity to himself, one soul at a time.

"We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 
 perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
-Romans 5:3-5

Monday, February 17, 2014

Haunting Images, Central African Republic

The images coming out of Central African Republic are haunting and ghastly. . . they remain in my mind long after I click out of the window. A country far from me geographically weighs heavily on my heart. It makes me shudder to consider the levels of depravity that humans are capable of while completely consumed by the sinful passions.

The conflict is cast as sectarian violence, Christian militias murdering Muslim citizens. These murderous mobs crushing limbs and skulls are most definitely not Christians. Such violence was condemned by Christ himself, who adjured his followers to "turn the other cheek" and "love your enemies." In my world, my Muslim neighbors are not my enemies, they are my beloved friends. I pray that given a similar situation, I would find the strength to reach out in love and protect my neighbors, humans created in the image of God Himself, who reached down into our world to release us from the curse of death and the grip of sin through his Incarnation, death and resurrection.

Sometimes when I lie in bed awake with my sweet nursing baby, I pray for all the people and situations in the world that are on my mind. . .of course there are too many for it to be possible to address each individually. I do though believe in the power of the intercessions of the Church on behalf of the whole world. Tonight, I am most especially praying for those in Central African Republic, both the Muslims fearing for their lives, and the so-called Christians whose atrocities demonstrate that they are lost in the dark of sin themselves.

Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy. . . upon me and upon the whole world.

Monday, December 31, 2012

What do you really need for baby?

My dad has always teased me for being a minimalist. My husband, on the other hand appreciates the trait, because it's saved us a lot of money over the years! If you have kids already, its pretty obvious that there are a lot of unnecessary baby products out there. Since I've already done this once with Layla, I'll share what we decided to acquire for our second baby, and how we saved money on what we did buy.
This list is probably adequate for the first 6 mos. or so, then your list for safety items especially will vary depending on how your house is laid out once baby gets mobile. 

As you're buying or looking through hand-me downs, make sure you select clothes that will be season appropriate. For example, if you're due in January (winter here in the northern hemisphere), your 12 mos. outfits should be winter weather appropriate. For the first 6 mos. or so, keep most of the outfits comfortable. Since babies aren't really getting around at this point, don't have more than a couple stiff dressy outfits for pictures. Most babies hate them! You'll probably end up changing your baby back to a sleeper right as the event or picture session ends (at least that was my experience).  
The core of your baby's wardrobe should be onesies and sleepers, with more sleepers if the weather is cool.
For the newborn size, I think we ended up with around 7 sleepers and more onesies, which is more than adequate since they spend so little time in this size. We have more 0-3mo. outfits, with probably closer to 15 ourfits and more onesies than that. Most of our clothes were gifts or hand-me-downs.

Last time we ended up doing mostly cloth, so that's the plan this time as well, but I do like to use disposables for travel, or for babysitters who don't like cloth. We started this time by going to a local resale shop and stocking up on covers and prefolds, as well as a few all-in-one diapers (these are more expensive). We spent about $80, then got a few more prefolds and covers as gifts. Some of the smaller covers will only fit until he reaches 13/14lbs, but they can be resold at the same shop, so we can use the trade in value to buy bigger covers! The prefold diapers can be used with bigger covers, so you only need to buy these once. The only caveat is that you will need some smaller inserts or thinner prefolds for just the newborn stage. Some people just use washcloths or the inserts from pocket diapers. Another option is to use disposables until baby reaches about 10lbs and the prefolds with covers fit better.
My husband is not a fan of cloth wipes at all, so we plan to just buy disposable wipes. For the messy diapers, I suggest just rinsing baby off in the sink rather than using 10 wipes to get the job done!
I think that cloth diapering works best if you only have enough diapers to last 2-3 days at the most, that way you won't procrastinate on washing them. The covers can often last through a few changes, so if you have 10 total in each size that should be more than enough. I managed with only 5 covers when Layla was small, but ended up handwashing a cover and using a blowdryer more than a few times!
You also need something to soak dirty diapers in until washing. For this, we got a couple detergent buckets from a neighbor. Since we have 2 bathrooms now, we will have one upstairs and downstairs. Don't waste money on a diaper genie! Any bucket/large container with a lid will work just fine! I like the container or bucket to be small enough that it can be dumped straight into the washer.
A waterproof pad or travel kit for diaper changes is also handy.

Thermometer-This is one item I would buy two of, simply because a high fever can become dangerous quickly for a young baby and you don't want to discover that the battery is dead just as your baby is sick.
Nail clippers-I found that regular ones work fine for a baby. The baby clippers with the plastic guard were actually harder to use because they're so bulky at the top.
Soap-You can use something designed for a baby, my favorite here would be something like Burt's Bees baby wash, or another brand that doesn't have perfumes or sodium laurel/laureth sulfate.
Babies need less soap than you think, and their skin can get dry if you're sudsing them up all the time! I wouldn't use soap on their scalp more than once a week.
Raw coconut oil-This is seriously good for so many things! I used it both as a diaper rash cream and for any cradle cap or dry skin areas. I liked it better than any lotions out there, and it doesn't have any chemicals or scents that your baby could be allergic to. It also absorbs into the skin better than liquid oils, such as olive.  
A baby bathtub and towels are nice, but not really essential. I did like the thin hooded towels better because our regular towels are really bulky. We got a bathtub for free this time, but if we hadn't, I would have probably skipped getting one.

Last time we had a crib handed down to us, but ended up mostly co-sleeping, so we just got a Pack-n-Play with the bassinet insert this time. It will be right next to our bed, then we will probably move him to his own room once he's 6 mos. old or so. Specifically marketed co-sleepers that attach to an adult sized bed are also nice, but the Pack-n-Play is much cheaper if you end up buying new.

Baby carrier-These are a must, especially if your little one tends more toward being fussy. This time we have a Moby wrap and an Ergo, both of which can be used from birth until at least age 2. The Ergo needs an infant insert if you're using it for a baby under 12lbs. Some people also like slings, but I prefer a carrier that disperses the weight more over my hips and both shoulders evenly. Layla lived in the Moby until she was 2!
Carseat-Don't waste the money on an infant-only seat! Most convertible seats are designed for 5lbs and up, which means you can use a single seat from birth until around age 3. I would just recommend an infant head support for the first 6 mos or so. Carrying a baby in the seat is horrible for your back, and since you should already have a carrier, its easy enough to pop baby in there as soon as you get them out of the seat.
Remember, current recommendations are to keep your baby rear-facing until age 2, and always remove bulky coats or snowsuits before strapping baby in!
Stroller-I would highly recommend buying used again in this category. Strollers are relatively easy to find cheap when they're used, but are quite expensive new. I didn't use one right away, but they are nice for the city dweller who likes to walk to the grocery store with baby and doesn't want to use the carrier while toting several bags of groceries!If you will be storing the stroller in your car, using it on public transit, or flying with it, make sure it is lightweight and folds small enough to handle easily.

If you're breastfeeding, it is still helpful to have a couple bottles and a manual breastpump. Unless your baby will be in someone else's care for quite a few hours each day, you probably don't need to invest in a double-electric pump. However, if your health insurance will pay for one, I highly recommend it!
Pacifiers-Many people have a love-hate relationship with these. I didn't plan to use one with Layla, but when she had doubled her weight in 2mos and still wanted to nurse constantly, it saved my sanity! Some current research also supports pacifier use as beneficial to the breastfeeding relationship. I would definitely say that a pacifier is preferable to a thumb because it is more sanitary, and can be taken away whereas a thumb is always available. Pacifier clips are also handy, but I only liked the ones with a metal clip because the others would never stay attached to baby's clothes.

Swing or bouncer-We got both of these as hand-me-downs this time, so only $20 total was invested. Since the covers can be washed, I would highly recommend used. You may find that your baby doesn't like the type that you bought, so it makes more sense to try something out from friend or neighbor rather than investing a ton of money. They are also making more swings that use electric rather than batteries again, which will save money in the long term. This item isn't truly essential, but it is nice to have a safe place to set baby down, especially if your home has more than one floor. We plan to keep the swing downstairs since our bedrooms are on the second floor. 

Things you don't need:
Wipe warmer
Infant carseat
Shoes (worthless until they can walk)
Diaper bag (just use a backpack or large purse you already have)
High chair-I prefer the space-saving type that straps onto a regular chair. Plus, you don't need one until around 6mos when you introduce solid foods.
Changing table-I found that the travel changing kit/pad was more handy since I preferred to do changes wherever I was at the time.
Burp cloths-Cloth diapers double as cleaning rags for whatever messes might occur!

Let me know what your essentials and non-essentials were!