Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Rhory: 32 weeks!

8 MONTHS - SAY WHAT?! Sometimes I feel like this pregnancy has dragged on, yet at others I feel as if it is flying by faster than I can catch up! I haven't taken my 32 week picture yet (I got behind with being out of town) but here are my 29-31 week pictures. One is semi-blurry, but I am just lucky to have them at all because my memory card decided to wipe itself on vacation and my dad and brother worked really hard to restore them (thankfully they were able to get them all back!).



At 30 weeks I had an appointment with Dr. Pohl and everything looked great! I would have started twice weekly testing last week, but since we went out of town we just pushed it back a week. I made sure to check and double check with both Dr. Pohl and Maternal-Fetal Specialists (MFM) that this would be okay, and they were all fine with it! Typically I would see Dr. Pohl on Tuesdays for my NST (non-stress test) and weekly appt and then on Friday go to MFM for my BPP (bio-physical profile, but this week was a little different due to some insurance issues. I will see Dr. Pohl for two NST's (Tuesday and Friday) and next week I will start the regular schedule. My NST looked great today and he said "well, I see we have a very happy baby here" and I would agree!

We haven't shared this publicly for any other reason than it just never really came up an appropriate time to say anything. The reason for our insurance issues is that Josh got a new job about a month ago! We are so thankful for God's timing and that this will enable us to be more financially secure before Rhory gets here. As most of you know, insurance does not usually just pick up when you start a new job, but it does immediately end when you leave your old job! Our new insurance starts August 1 (next Friday, hooray!) and until then we have just been paying for Dr. Pohl's visits out of pocket because they weren't that expensive and Josh's employer has helped with some of them. We have the option to use COBRA in the meantime, but the premium would have been more expensive then just paying for these appointments. We do have COBRA as a back up in the event that I were to go to the hospital or need to visit the specialist. Both Dr. Pohl and the specialist were okay with waiting until August 1 to start the BPP's - those appointments are OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive, but we would have gone if they had wanted to start them at 32 weeks. 

Speaking of job news, I have some of my own to share. Again, there just hasn't been a time that seemed good to say anything. As you know I spent the last school year teaching at a small private school in Loganville. I am currently getting my Master's in Elementary Education and this job was definitely where I was supposed to be! I loved the students and I thoroughly enjoyed teaching, so I knew that I had found my true calling and was doing the right thing in getting my Master's. As much as I enjoyed teaching at the private school, I have always felt called to the public school system; especially to those schools in high-need areas. This spring I will be required to complete a semester of student teaching in order to complete my Master's Program. At the end of the school year I turned in my resignation to the private school and began exploring options for student teaching in the spring. I have a few options - the most exciting is that I could potentially student teach in the classroom with my third grade teacher - HOW NEAT! I am currently doing some part-time work, and will continue that until and after Rhory is born until I start student teaching. Josh and I feel very confident that these career moves are both the right thing for our family, and are trusting as God leads us through the next several months!

Gosh, that sure is a lot of excitement right there! But are you ready for more?! We have kept a pretty tight lid on this news, but I am ready to share. At my 28 week appointment Dr. Pohl went ahead and scheduled my c-section! YES YOU READ THAT RIGHT!! He asked me early on if I had a preference, and I wasn't really sure. I have heard horror stories about vaginal deliveries, and my c-section recovery was actually really awesome so I felt stuck on what to do. Josh and I prayed and I have felt a peace about having another c-section. My labor last time was 24 hours, I never progressed past 9 cm, and Sawyer's head was so large the doctor was telling me how much of a good thing it was I had a c-section. I know there are differing opinions on what is better, but this is the best decision for our family, and I am looking forward to meeting sweet Rhory, regardless of how she makes her entrance!  Okay, okay... I know you want the date.... So here it is:

September 4! It is official, ya'll - we will meet our little girl on September 4 and I couldn't be more excited/nervous! When Sawyer was born we missed out on a lot because he was whisked away, but pending everything looks good with Rhory we will have quite a different experience this go around and we want to make the most of it. Josh and I have decided that for the first several (to be determined) hours after Rhory is born, we only want our parents, siblings, and their families to come in to visit. These people are very special to us, and none of them were able to hold Sawyer while he was living here on this Earth. We know that while Rhory's birth is going to be filled with so much excitement, it is also going to be quite the emotional experience for us and our immediate families. After we are moved to the mother/baby floor we would love to have visitors to meet our sweet girl, just not all at once LOL! 

I actually have even more to share with you - gosh, this blog post has turned in to quite the excitement! We have finished the nursery and I am ready to share pictures! I don't love the lighting, but oh well. I have held on to the theme and cuteness for TOO LONG! We used a lot of the things from Sawyer's nursery which makes it that much more special. The curtains, quilt, and pillow were all made by my Mawmaw and I am so thankful for her help! They turned out great. The quilt is actually the bedding we had for Sawyer. It originally had a brown border, but she covered it with the same fabric used in the curtains and the pillow. The 3-D tree bookshelf was made by my wonderful husband (with the help of my wonderful in-laws!) I showed Josh a picture of what I wanted, but this is so much better than I could have imagined. Brett and Josh painted the walls (they were yellow before) and Brett helped us put the tape down for the chevron mini-stripes on the wall behind the crib. The three pictures were a score at an antique store and also used in Sawyer's room at our old house! I painted the letters for her name and made sure they matched everything else. Her bow holder was another idea I had from Pinterest, and I love it! Now - all we need is Rhory! Many thanks to EVERYONE who helped us finish the nursery :)







We are so close to meeting Rhory it is almost unbelievable! We appreciate those of you who have prayed with us through this pregnancy and will continue to pray for us through these few remaining weeks! 

Fun Pregnancy Information
How far along: 32 weeks!

Total weight gain: My net gain is 3 pounds. I have gained all the weight back I originally lost, and have now started actually gaining.
Maternity clothes: Yes! Wore my two-piece out on vacation, though :)

Stretch marks: A few more around my belly button. I never got an 'outie' with Sawyer, but it looks like that might be the case this time!

Sleep: Pretty much non-existent, but that is okay!

Best moment of this week/month: Our yearly family vacation, finishing the nursery, first baby shower

Miss anything: Not particularly

Movement: ALL THE TIME, my mom says she is going to come out swinging

Food cravings:DESSERT - I want it all, literally after every meal! LOL (still wanting dessert, haha)

Anything making you queasy or sick: It is hit or miss, but not anything in particular

Have you started to show yet: Yes!

Gender: Girl!

Until next time,
Ashlyn

Monday, July 21, 2014

St. Augustine 2014

Anyone who knows me knows that I love the beach, and I especially love it at 32 weeks pregnant when I can spend a good amount of time in the water! My family has been going to Crescent Beach for as long as I can remember. It is easily my favorite vacation spot; it's a familiar place with familiar people. We have a lot of other families that end up going the same time we do and we have grown closer as the years have gone by. We eat at our favorite restaurant - O'steens - and enjoy our Friday pizza from Tony's. We also go out on Thursdays to downtown and the Go Fish store for our "buddy bands" - a tradition recently started. Not much has changed other than our ages and that is okay with me!

I wanted to take advantage of the scenery and get some maternity photos - I was checking out pinterest the first few days for some "beach maternity photos" to try and come up with some poses since it would just be my mom snapping the pictures. I also had to really play in to the idea of "family pictures" because it was the way one of our good friends had planned to propose to my cousin. Originally my cousin was going to have a photographer take their pictures but at the last minute decided to save some money and she cancelled them. I racked my brain and set out to convince her to let my mom just take some pictures so she would still have some. Lucky for me, and her then-boyfriend, she took me up on the offer!

 Here are some of my favorite maternity pictures from the beach 







This isn't our first family vacation to Crescent Beach, but that didn't make it any easier. Some elements were harder. Like the fact that it was easy for us and everyone else to say "next year we will be doing this or that with Rhory", and as much as I am praying for that to happen - I have unfortunately learned that no one is promised tomorrow. It has been a struggle for me to really make "future" plans because all of the plans I had in my head for Sawyer were never fulfilled, and unfortunately they never will be fulfilled. I want to make plans and be excited for the next vacation and that we will have Rhory, but my mind has almost created a mental block from doing so. For now, we continue to push forward and I continue to work past the struggle of being excited for the future. 

Last year we released balloons in memory of Sawyer. It was really special and everyone was able to sign a balloon. I knew I wanted to do something different this year because the idea of releasing that many balloons every year made me weary - with all the environmental risks and what not. So my next idea was sparklers. I will just say the beach, plus wind, plus sparklers - TERRIBLE... We did try, but we could hardly get them lit. Ha! My aunt had a really great idea of a message in a bottle - and that was the winner! I wrote a note with Sawyer's story- and a link to the blog - for whoever finds the bottle. We also released one balloon that everyone was able to sign. Josh picked out a pirate themed balloon since we were at the beach :)

Throwing out the message in a bottle has to be the craziest thing I have ever done. I thought we would be able to go out just up to our knees and chunk the bottle but it was too choppy so Josh insisted we wade out to further and we were CHEST DEEP, in ALL of our clothes. He threw it as far as he could and we quickly hurried to get out of what I was sure was shark-feeding territory. We then made our way up to the sparklers. We started to open the package as my brother made is way up with a bottle in his hand. Yep, you guessed it-  the message in a bottle had made it's way back to shore within just 5 minutes! I was discouraged, but we made a plan to throw it out the next morning off the pier between high and low tide to be sure it was pulled out to sea for a good amount of time before being discovered! We lit the sparklers and had some fun and then headed up to the room to dry off and rest. I think the message in a bottle is something we will do every year until Rhory and our other future children are old enough to make some decisions about what they want to do in memory of their big brother Sawyer!

Here are some pictures from the balloon release, message in a bottle toss, and sparklers!









One last tradition that we have had for years is filling sand bottles after every trip. This is something my mom started with my brother and I way back when. I knew it was something I would want to do with my children and we did one last year for Sawyer. This year we did two - one for Rhory and one for Sawyer! The bottles are actually Cracker Barrel syrup bottles that we get from our stop on our drive down. Josh and I did the ones for Sawyer and Rhory, and my mom still wanted my brother and I to fill one for her.







 From buddy bands, the farmers market, and O'steen's to messages in a bottle, maternity pictures and surprise proposals - this was a great trip with great people. We miss Sawyer, and I would have loved to see him playing on the beach with his cousins - but I know he had the best view of all! 

Until next time,
Ashlyn


 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Freezer to Crock Pot: Weeks 3&4

Well, I am a *little* behind on these posts but better late than never! We have made all of the first round of the meals and for the most part had a lot of success with them! Here are the last of the meals we made:

Italian Chicken
Ingredients:
2-4 Chicken Breasts
1/2 - 1 whole bottle of Italian dressing

Prep Work:
Put chicken and dressing in a bag - simple as that! Label and put in freezer You don't even really need to pre-freeze this!

Cooking Instructions: 
Defrost the meal in the refrigerator 24 hours before cooking, or just place all ingredients in the crockpot the morning you want the meal. 

Cook on high for four hours or low for six-eight hours. If you do less chicken I recommend less time. This meal is delicious with a side of potatoes and salad :)

BBQ Pineapple Chicken
Ingredients:
2-4 Chicken Breasts
1 can of pineapple (any way you like it), DRAIN BEFORE PUTTING IN CROCK POT.
1/2 to 1 whole bottle of BBQ sauce

 Prep Work:
Freeze all but the pineapple, or you can make it the morning of the meal! Defrost the frozen meal if you make it ahead of time.

Cooking Instructions:
Place all ingredients, frozen and unfrozen in the crock pot. Cook on high for four hours or low for six-eight hours. If you do less chicken I recommend less time. We serve over rice and it makes for the perfect taste.

Sweet & Tangy Meatballs
Ingredients: 
1 (2 lb) bag of meatballs, frozen
12 oz jar chili sauce
16-18 oz jar of grape jelly

Prep Work:
Mix chili sauce and jelly in a bowl until well mixed. Put meatballs and mixture in a freezer bag and label with meal and date.

Cooking Instructions:
Thaw in the fridge the night before, not necessarily for 24 hours.Put in crock pot and cook on high for 1- 2 hours, or low for 3-4 hours. We also ate this over rice and it was so good!

Chicken Tacos
Ingredients:
1 bag frozen chicken breast
2 cans Rotel
1 envelope of taco seasoning
2 pkgs taco shells


Prep Work:
Yet another meal that is so simple so you don't really have to freeze it, but I did. Place all ingredients minus the taco shells in a bag and freeze! Thaw overnight. 

Directions:
Place ingredients from freezer bag in crock pot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. This was so good we ate it as tacos one night and then taco salad. It also smelled wonderful, so that means it is wonderful right?! Ha! We served normal taco toppings - shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, lettuce... so make sure you have these on hand.  

I made a few repeat meals these weeks, but I am not re-posting them. You can find them in my other freezer to crock pot posts :) All of the meals in this post were so simple and made several times already! They are actually simple enough that they don't have to be frozen before hand, but that does make it easier if you have limited time in the morning to place it in the crockpot.

My friend and I are going to do another round of freezer meals before Rhory comes. I can't guarantee I will be able to keep up with meal reviews, but I will try :) This saved us a good amount off of our grocery bills so we liked that part the best!

Ashlyn

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Rhory: 28 weeks!

Has it really been 7 months already?!

It is so crazy that in a little over two months we will be meeting our precious Rhory! As time gets closer the whirlwind of emotions definitely intensify, and some I am just completely taken aback by some of them. It is an emotional roller coaster that most do not understand, so we learn to tread these waters alone. I don't really think we are *completely* alone because I know God has walked beside us every step of the way, but in terms of friends here on Earth - we are pretty much alone in the experience. I told one of my friends just the other day that I have never prepared to bring a baby home, just to take one to the hospital. In fact, we haven't ever brought a baby home. Part of my heart wants to protect myself and not get everything set up like we did last time - because people had to rush to our house to make sure they put everything away. I am trusting that this time will be different, but that doesn't change what has happened in the past to make me weary of what is to come. None of that changes the fact that we are so excited, but those are real feelings and thoughts that I am faced with, unfortunately. 

(DISCLAIMER: This is not directed at anyone in particular, in fact I can't even remember when I have heard these comments. I do know and understand that all people have good intentions while talking to us and I am in no way trying to make you feel bad. On the other hand I hear time and time again that no one knows what to say to us, and I understand that so I am trying to help by letting you know what not to say. Please don't think I am targeting one person or trying to be too harsh - these are just my raw emotions and feelings, and you all know I've never been one to hold them back before!)  It frustrates me when people make comments to us as if this is our first baby and we are about to embark on being parents for the first time. Not only does that hurt my feelings but it makes me feel as if they don't validate anything we have been through nor the child we do have - regardless of the fact that he is no longer with us. The comments "just get ready for no sleep" and "your life is about to change forever" are annoying. Our lives did change forever - last May when we welcome Sawyer in to this world. Yes, they are going to change again as we welcome our SECOND child, but the meaning behind the comment is as if we don't know what being parents is like. We also don't need anyone telling us to prepare for no sleep - how much sleep do you think we got when our son was fighting for his life in the hospital? We aren't stupid and this is not our first rodeo, even though it is our first time bringing a baby to our physical home - please don't act like this is our first child or first experience at being parents. I do realize this is our first time bringing a baby home and will be much like as if it is our first experience. In no way to I think we have it all together and know what we are doing. I guess I just don't want to be reminded of what we missed out on and are still missing out on with Sawyer. It's still hard to wrap my mind around bringing a baby home because we didn't do that last time. Everything is different and it makes me happy and sad all at the same time. I'm not trying to push people away and make them hesitant and walk on egg shells around me, but after several of these comments and realizing it really hurt my heart I just thought it would be better to tell people how I felt so they knew. It's not anyone's fault - it's a direct reaction based on what has happened and one I have little control over. 

I still have to go to the specialist and my regular OB every time I have an appointment. Generally they are on the same day, but this time they were a few days apart. My specialist appointment was last Friday and they did a growth scan - little miss Rhory is weighing about 2 pounds 8 ounces and is in the 47th percentile. Right on track! The doctor said the brightness of her bowels doesn't seem AS bright as it did, so we are thankful for that! Although, they will still check her out thoroughly after birth just to make sure - which is okay with us for sure. My appointment with Dr. Pohl, my regular OB, was yesterday. He just checks the heartbeat and measures my fundal height. Everything is measuring on track so we scheduled my next appointment for 30 weeks because now I get seen every two weeks! I will go again after that at 32 weeks and start my twice weekly appointments! Yay!

Baby Rhory will be here before anyone knows it!

Here are my latest weekly pictures since the last post (& one of her from our appt!):








We didn't get 3D this time, but here is her profile :) 

Fun Pregnancy Information
How far along: 28 weeks!

Total weight gain: At the last appointment I had gained 4-5 pounds, yay for being on the gaining side!

Maternity clothes: Yes! Finally not really able to fit in most pre-maternity pants. Still rockin' the two piece at the beach :)

Stretch marks:Some!

Sleep: Waking up a few times a night to pee, and having trouble finding a comfortable position.

Best moment of this week/month: Catching up with old friends!

Miss anything: Not particularly

Movement:Yes! We can see her moving all over from the outside. She is still breech and kicking me right in the bladder, all the time :)

Food cravings:DESSERT - I want it all, literally after every meal! LOL

Anything making you queasy or sick: Other than the smell of fish, I am doing pretty good!

Have you started to show yet: Yes!

Gender: Girl!
 Next update coming at 32 weeks! 

Love,
Ashlyn

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Freezer to Crock Pot: Week 2

Little late on this post, but we only achieved three meals this week and had some as leftovers. Two were a great success, and the other a TERRIBLE fail... So bad we went out and got something to eat. It was really disappointing! 

Here were our meals this week!

Meal 1: Roast, Carrots, & Potatoes
 *This was probably the easiest meal when it came to prepping*

Ingredients:
Roast
Carrots (cut in to peices) or you can use baby carrots
Potatoes (cut in to fourths) *I used red potatoes and did about 6*
One packet of onion soup mix
Water *it depends, see below*

Prepping:
  • Place roast in separate freezer bag
  • Place carrots and potatoes in another bag together.
  • Label both bags with date and meal and place in freezer.
Cooking Instructions:
  • I thawed the roast the night before in the fridge, but not the potatoes/carrots.
  • I added two cups of water and the onion soup mix to the crock pot and mixed it around. 
  • Then, I added the roast, carrots, and potatoes.
  • I noticed there was not enough water so I added another 1 to 1-1/2 cups. I was afraid the potatoes would dry out.
  • I will say for next time I will probably use two onion soup packets and about 3-1/2 cups of water and mix it in a SEPARATE bowl. Then add the roast, potatoes, and carrots and pour the mixture over the top. Either way, it tasted fine this time.
  • Cook on low for 8 hours. You can cook on high for 4 hours but it will not be as tender.
  • We eat our roast with ranch, and it was DELICIOUS!

Meal Two: Potato Soup 
Spoiler Alert: THIS WAS TERRIBLE!

Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 cup diced celery (optional, we always leave it out)
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup diced cooked ham
3 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper, or to taste
2 cups milk  
Shredded cheese, as much or little as you would like. (probably about 1 cup)

Prepping Instructions:
  • I made the mistake and should have read the whole recipe, but I didn't. It said they didn't think that potatoes freeze well, so you could cook the soup and then freeze it OR just freeze "EVERYTHING" but the potatoes. Silly me, because then I noticed in the cooking instructions that you add the milk and cheese an hour before it is complete.
  • So, with all of that being said, I recommend making this soup and then freezing it. That would make it SO much easier! I don't know how it will taste, but I am sure it will be a lot better.  

Cooking Instructions:
  • Combine everything BUT MILK AND CHEESE, and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. 
  • An hour before it is complete, add milk and cheese. 
  • Freeze soup in bags for easy stove-top heat up later on!
 Meal Three: Marinara Chicken & Vegetables
Ingredients 
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 
4 cloves garlic 
1 can of diced tomatoes & green chiles 
4 ribs celery, chopped 
2 small zucchini, chopped (about 2 cups) 
 1 green pepper, chopped 
2.5 cups of spaghetti sauce 
1 t. basil 
bowtie noodles (or another version of your favorite)
Parmesan cheese and/or cheddar cheese for day of meal

Prepping Instructions: 
  • Chop all vegetables
  • Put all ingredients, EXCEPT the  bowtie noodles in a freezer bag. Date and label with name of meal.

Cooking Instructions:

  • Thaw freezer bag overnight in the refrigerator. 
  • Add contents of bag to crock pot and cook on low for 6-7 hours.
  • Once meal is done you can cook noodles, or when there is about 30 minutes left on the timer for the crock pot. 
  • Shred the chicken with a fork, pour over noodles and mix together.
  • Top with Parmesan cheese and/or cheddar cheese, Enjoy!
Review:

We loved this meal! Josh compared it's taste to chicken parmesan and really loved it. We topped with both cheddar and parmesan cheese and it was really good! 

I am not sure what meals we will be trying next week, some may be repeats but we shall see! It has been super easy to grab these out of the freezer with little to no prep the day of cooking and have a yummy meal waiting for us when we get home from work!

Love,
Ashlyn 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day 2014

Here we go, again.

Another 'holiday' without our baby where it seems the focus is on all we have lost. 

I know we have a different perspective of these types of holidays, but that doesn't make them hurt any less. I know a lot of people think that once Rhory is here we will all just feel better and be able to move on  - if that is you I suggest you change your way of thinking. Rhory in no way is a 'replacement' of Sawyer and while she will bring us her own joy and happiness, there will always be a piece of our hearts missing for Sawyer. Those of you who think it will 'just get easier' when Rhory gets here should stop saying that to us because the truth is that it won't get easier, it will just be different. It breaks my heart to think our first "brother/sister" picture will be when we take Rhory to visit her brother's grave. If someone would like to tell me how they think that makes things easier/better, go ahead. It is easy for people who have never been in our shoes to make judgments, offer advice, or give opinions - but the reality is until someone has walked in our shoes they can't begin to imagine what we go through on a daily basis, and I wouldn't expect them to understand, I just wish people were more sympathetic at times. 

Father's Day last year was incredibly difficult because it was so close after we had lost Sawyer and we were both still very raw in our emotions. This year is still difficult, and weird. I have anxiety about this holiday for Josh - I know that sounds weird, but I will explain. I blog and blog and blog about my emotions and wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to Sawyer, but men just aren't the same. Josh has been my stronghold through this last year and I think that at times his emotions and hurt are ignored by others, but not intentionally. I think it just easier for people to reach out and say something to me because I just lay it all out there, all the time. I think, no I know, that at times his emotional rawness is just as bad as mine - he just doesn't talk to a lot of people about it. Mother's Day this year was rough but a lot of my friends made a point to tell me Happy Mother's Day, and I was very appreciative because I am a mother, even if Sawyer isn't here. My anxiety for Josh and Father's Day comes from the fact that guys are just weird and not very emotional. I want him to feel appreciated and recognized as a father because he IS a father and a dang good one at that, even if Sawyer isn't here physically and Rhory isn't quite here yet. I worry that no one will remind him he is a father, not that he has forgotten, but remind him that everyone else knows he is a good father, too. I worry he will get overlooked on a day like today.

I realized yesterday, though, that none of those petty things matter. It doesn't matter how many people text him, facebook message him, etc., because he is a father regardless of other people's acknowledgement or lack thereof. All that matters is that he and I spend time together, celebrating him and the great father he has been, is, and always will be. I tried to read my post from last year, but I hardly made it through it. I love Josh with all my heart and I am so thankful for his love and support and friendship and everything else! My heart is so sad to spend another Father's Day without our son here and as yet another reminder of those memories we won't ever get to make with Sawyer. I know that just as I struggle with the "Am I a mother?" question, Josh has the same about the "Am I a father?" It's a hard thought to wrap my mind around because I know we are, we just don't 'look' like those fathers and mothers around us do. Josh won't be celebrating this Father's Day with Sawyer in his arms, but I sure do know Sawyer is in his heart. Happy Father's Day, Josh - I am so thankful for you and the husband and father you have been over the last year. I know Sawyer loves you very much, and Rhory will love you just the same. Our family is blessed to have a such a godly father and husband leading us and providing for us. I love you and I am so thankful for the father you are to our children! 



Happy Father's Day to my wonderful dad, Keven, and my father-in-law, David. I am thankful for the influence you have both had in Josh and I's lives over the last year. Your prayers, encouragement and support have meant more than you will ever know. Dad, I am so thankful for the values you instilled in me while I was growing up and the fact that you prepared me for the 'real world'. It is a good thing we are the only 'normal' ones out there! David, thank you for raising a son that has turned in to a wonderful, godly father himself. I am blessed to have found a wonderful husband who was raised by the same values as I and that he continues to do everything he can to provide for our family. 

Today I am also thankful for the love of my Heavenly Father. Mother Theresa once said "When you have nothing left but God, you have more than enough to start over again." The last year has brought us to our knees with grief, but God has never left our side. I am continually thankful for the 18 days we had with Sawyer, the new blessing of Rhory, and His continual hand of protection/guidance/love in our lives. God's plans are never a surprise to Him and He has put together magnificent plans for our lives that we could not even begin to imagine. I am thankful for the sacrifice of His son because without that we would not have the promise of eternal life with Him, reunited with all our other brothers and sisters in Christ we have lost this side of Heaven. I have often struggled with wondering if Sawyer's life was complete, but I know it was. His life was fulfilled and lived out just as God designed. We may not see all of that unfold here on Earth, but I believe that God is going to show us the complete and beautiful impact Sawyer had on this Earth, even in ways we could not see at the time. God has continued to reveal bits and pieces of His plans for the rest of our lives - and we are blessed, broken but blessed.

I said this last year, and I feel the same this year:

"Happy Father's Day to you, fathers. Be a Godly influence in your home and teach your children the love of God and show them that love through your actions. Love your wife the way God loves us, it will be the way your children treat other people. You are one of the main influences in your children's lives - teach them how to love and be loved. Be silly, be serious, be encouraging, be everything for your children and cherish those precious moments!"

I know today isn't easy for a lot of people - those who have lost their fathers and those who have lost their children. Know you aren't forgotten today, and you are in our prayers.

 Love,
Ashlyn

 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Freezer to Crock Pot: Week 1

At one point I actually wanted to be a chef and worked at a bakery. I changed my mind, obviously, but I still love to make desserts and things like that. When Josh and I first got married I thought it was so cool to make dinner for my husband every night and try new recipes. Then I got pregnant and really sick, and once I started to get better we got the diagnosis of Sawyer and I really lost interest in doing anything at the house. I cooked occasionally but that was it and after he passed away it surely didn't get any better. Recently I have tried to start cooking more, actually cooking meals that have multiple steps and what not and while I like it, I have realized it takes too much time! I have seen post after post of these meals you prep all in one day and then put in the crock-pot. Let me just tell you - once you click on those links you are under the impression it is so easy and everything is already put together, you just have to shop and prep! No... that is not the case. In fact about half of the links I clicked on LED ME NO WHERE. So disappointing!

I did my own research, for about two hours. Found the meals that I knew Josh and I would eat, and created my shopping lists. Most of those places that say that they have the shopping lists and everything is good to go have it created for the meals on their site. I don't know about you but I don't necessarily just love every meal. I found one site - sidetrackedsarah.com and loved most of her meal ideas. I selected about 12 and got to writing. Her recipes feed a family of 8 so I obviously cut them in half, which created even more meals. I wanted to spend about $150 on the meals for 3-4 weeks and, although I forgot a few things, I only went a little over and created almost 22-24 meals! We eat out occasionally so that should definitely last us 4 weeks with leftovers for lunch. 

I have included below the first four recipes we tried this week and our reviews. We didn't love them all, but they weren't all terrible either! I will post once a week on my recipes (I changed some things in her recipes) and our reviews, but feel free to visit the above mentioned website and find your own meals to try!

Day One: Lasagna!

I didn't work this day so I was able to take the time to prepare this meal. This is a recipe that would be better for a Saturday or a day you have extra minutes in the morning, not when you are trying to run out the door. The only part you can freeze is the browned meat and sauce, which means everything else has to be prepped that morning.

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef, browned
2 jars (26.5 ounces) spaghetti sauce, I recommend a flavor one
1/2 box lasagna noodles, cooked
2-3 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese, or Mozarella
2 - 1/2 cups (almost a whole 24 oz container) Cottage Cheese
3/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 egg

Prep Work:

Brown the beef. Mix with the sauce, save about 1/6 of one jar for use on day of cooking. Place in freezer bag and label with Lasagna and Date.

Cooking Instructions:

Thaw the meat and sauce mixture the night before intended cooking day.
Cook 1/2 box of lasagna noodles - I didn't use the whole box... save them!
While those are cooking, mix the cottage cheese, parmesan cheese, and egg. 
Cover the bottom of the crock pot with that sauce you saved :)
Then layer noodles, sauce mixture, cottage cheese mixture, and shredded cheese until you run out. I could only do it twice.
Cook on low 4-6 hours. I cooked on low for four hours because I cheated and cooked the meat that day.

Reviews:
I actually really liked it! Josh said it wasn't as flavorful as he would like. I used plain sauce, so that it why I recommended the flavorful sauce. Maybe also add some garlic salt or other Italian seasoning in to the meat/sauce mixture? I actually think that freezing the meat, as would be done for a correct freezer to crock pot meal, would help "marinate" the meat with more flavor? I plan on making it again, but not until I have cooked all my other meals! Let me know what you think if you make it!


Day Two: Chicken and Rice Casserole

I am going to go ahead and be straight forward that I forgot an ingredient which may explain why we didn't really rave over this recipe... Whoops! I have another meal of it and will add in that missing ingredient and hopefully on Week 2 or Week 3 have a more accurate review for you. Talk about embarrassing when I realized I did that! 

Ingredients:
1 cup long grain rice (not instant rice)
3 cups water
2 teaspoons bouillon granules (this is what I forgot... WHOOPS!)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 16 oz bag broccoli, frozen
2-3 chicken breasts, frozen
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup grated cheddar cheese 


Prep Work:
Combine all ingredients except rice, water, and bouillon granules. Put combined ingredients in a freezer safe bag, label with meal name and date.

Cooking Instructions:
Put the frozen bag in the refrigerator overnight before cooking, and add to crock pot the day of.  
Add rice, water, and bouillon granules to the crock pot and stir the best you can.
Cook on high 3-4 hours.
Shred chicken breasts after cooking.
If too runny, leave lid off for 15 minutes on high.

Reviews:
Even without the bouillon granules this dish was good. I wish we would have remembered them though because it would have had more flavor! If you are feeding a family of more than four you should add another chicken breast or two. I added the water to the freezer bag and I think that was a mistake. I have another bag of this prepped already but I actually may add another 1/2 cup to cup of water in the crock pot. I will let you know how that goes!


Day Three: Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients: 
1 pound of cubed beef stew meat or 2 cups of cooked ground beef
2 cans of cream of mushroom soup
1 chopped onion, small
1 T worcestershire sauce
1/4 c water
1/2 c. sour cream
1T minced garlic
1 packet of onion soup mix
egg noodles (to serve over & cook that day)
optional (chopped mushrooms)


Prep Work:
Combine all ingredients, except the egg noodles. Add to freezer bag!

Cooking Instructions:
Thaw freezer meal overnight and then add to crock pot.
Cook on low 6-8 hours if using cubed beef stew meat (uncooked) OR cook on low 3-5 hours if using cooked ground beef.
Cook egg noodles while crock pot is almost done with meal. 
Serve the meal over egg noodles.

Reviews:
This was so good! Josh says next time he wants to try it with ground beef instead of the stew meat, but we both liked it. Do not precook the stew meat! Also, this meal is cut in half. I used the original recipe, but put it in two bags because we are only two people! We had enough for leftovers, too so I really liked that. We don't like mushrooms so I didn't add any extra of those.

Day Four: Creamy Ranch Porkchops

Ingredients:
2 pork chops, boneless (thick sliced)
3-4 medium potatoes, chopped into large pieces
1 (10.75 oz each) cans cream of chicken soup
1 (1 oz each) packages dry Ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup milk
Dried parsley to sprinkle on top (optional) 


Prep Work:
Combine all ingredients in freezer safe bag and label with meal name and date.

Cooking Instructions:
Thaw meal bag in the refrigerator overnight. Cook in crock pot on low 5-6 or high 2-3 hours. 

Reviews: 
This was a total fail. Well, maybe not total fail but I won't be making it again! Just a heads up in case you didn't know - pork cooked in the crock pot is pink, even when it is done. I have a thing about meat and the fact that it needs to look done, so I was struggling to even eat it, even though the flavor was actually really good. 
I used russett potatoes and actually used some leftover pork chops I had with the bone-in and they were fine. I knew they were done though because they were literally falling off the bone and apart, I just could not do the whole pink thing. I have another serving of this meal and will be trying it in the skillet at some point to see if that aids in the cooking of the pork chops and also makes the sauce a little thicker.

Tips:
  • Use your blender to hold the freezer bag upright, but make sure you take out the blade. This makes it way easier to dump everything in the bag and squeeze all the air out. 
  • Label the bag BEFORE you put the ingredients in the bag.
  • I tried to get everything in one shopping trip, but I forgot a few things so make sure your list is complete! 
  • I got most everything at Aldi, except the meat and a few other specialty ingredients (those will show up in some later recipes).
  • The two websites I used: sixsistersstuff.com and sidetrackedsarah.com; you can find more recipes there but I did not use them all. 
  • Be prepared for a two-three hour shopping trip and then at least three-four hours for prepping the meals. It will depend on how many you make at one time.
  • I knew I didn't want to do this every week so I mass prepared for 3-4 weeks, but don't over do yourself, and just make as many as you want.

If you have any questions, just let me know! And if you end up making any of these I would love to hear your thoughts! 

Until next week,
Ashlyn