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Apple-Carrot Muffins

These muffins are healthy and delicious! They’re baby-approved, little kid-approved, and I kinda love them myself. This is a great recipe for baby led weaning, finger foods, breakfast, toddler snacks, or after-school snacks. And bonus, they thaw nicely if you want to freeze some. I make a big batch of them and store them in freezer bags so I can just pop them out and microwave them as needed.
To start, melt 4 tbsp coconut oil and mix with 2 mashed bananas.

Add in 2 grated apples, 2 cups grated carrots, 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1 cup of milk, and 4 eggs and mix well.


I use the paddle attachment on my stand mixer for this. If you don’t have a stand mixer, I highly recommend investing in one. I love that I can just set it to mix and then move on to the next step of my recipe while it’s running.


In a separate bowl mix together 3 cups whole wheat flour, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp ginger, 3 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 2 tbsp chia seeds (optional, but great for extra fiber, protein, and calcium) , and 1 cup ground almonds (also optional, but great for healthy fat and protein).


I use my Cuisinart Smart Stick to quickly grind whole, unsalted almonds. This thing is amazing! It grinds (fast!), and it’s a whisk and an immersion blender all in one tool. If my house was on fire, I’d save this and my Salad Shooter right after I saved my children. Like, they’re a close second. Some days they’re closer than others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pour carrot mixture into flour mixture. Stir well.

Spoon into muffin pans and bake for 35 minutes at 375. I prefer silicone pans because they’re so much easier to manipulate.

Yields 24 muffins. This recipe can easily be cut in half. I make a large batch so I can freeze some. To freeze, line a pan with wax paper and place the muffins on the pan. Cover with foil, freeze overnight, then store in freezer bags.

For best results, feed only to cute babies.

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Lesson 95: You don’t always have to intervene

S tends to be the muscle of the twins. He weighs more, he’s further along in physical development, and he’s faster. He’s also not afraid to go after what he wants. B is pretty easy going, so it tends to set the stage for S to take whatever he wants, while B just moves on and finds something else to play with.

Both boys have recently learned to clap, but B mastered it first. It was the first thing he ever did before S, so I was really happy for him–it’s the little things, right? I cheer for him, and this tickles him, making him clap even more. S, not being one to be left behind, finally started copying B when he saw how much attention it was getting him. They both copy each other now and it’s really cute to see them clap together.

Enter the little green P.

B loves his P. It was a gift from his Occupational Therapist to help him learn to move his tongue around properly as he chews. He mostly prefers to bounce it across the floor and chase after it, but whatever.

This afternoon when he was bouncing it, it landed closer to S. Both babies looked at each other and I could see the silent challenge between the two. They both crawled madly toward the P and who do you think got to it first? S, of course. He had the home field advantage. B immediately started whining and I said, “Well take it back, B!”

But B knows his brother is stronger than he is. He’s tried to take toys back before and it doesn’t usually end well for him. So I watched in amusement as he stared at S for a few seconds and then started clapping his hands together.

And guess what S did? He dropped the P and started to clap. B quickly grabbed the P, grinned, and crawled away. That baby is no fool.

I witnessed this occur not once, but twice today. He may not have the brawn, but little dude has the brains.

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Veggie Quiche Cakes…and Protecting Yourself from the CIA in Your Microwave

I originally found this recipe over at BabyJake’sMom. I’m sure it’s just fine the way she has it, but I like to play with recipes as I make them because it’s fun! Here’s my edited version of her Veggie Quiche Cakes. These are great for baby led weaning, toddler finger foods, or an easy breakfast for your preschool kiddo.

Mix the following together in a large bowl:
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup chick pea flour
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 cans mixed veggies, drained
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
Spoon into greased muffin tins. I prefer to use silicone muffin tins because they’re easier to get out after cooking.
Mix 4 eggs and 1.5 cup plain yogurt in a blender.
 
Pour egg mixture over muffins.
Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until egg is fully set.
Yields 21 muffins. I freeze them in the muffin tins, pop them out and store them in freezer bags.
When you’re ready to serve them, just microwave as many servings as you need. But watch out for those sneaky cameras while using your microwave. I like to hide behind a large beach towel while using mine.
And rest easy knowing these are baby-approved!
 
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Feed your family on the cheap!

I just found a way to buy 8 entrees, 2 salads, 2 soups, and 8 bread sticks from Olive Garden for $43.69. Since they’re so over-sized, I can feed my family with 2 of the entrees. I’ll be freezing 6 entrees, making a total of 4 dinners for my family of 5. In fairness, two members of my family are pretty small and don’t eat much, but at $10.93 per dinner that I don’t have to prepare myself, I’m happy!

If you have an Olive Garden near you, you can take advantage of the same deal anytime through April 30. Here’s how you do it!

The first thing you need to do is buy a gift card over at Raise.com. You should be able to find a $50 Olive Garden card for $46-48. If you’re a new customer, use the code NEWRAISE50 to get an additional $10 off your purchase and you’ll end up paying around $36-38 for a $50 gift card.

Now head over to Olive Garden, choose your location and time for pick-up, and select an entree from the “Buy One, Take One” menu. Two bread sticks and your choice of soup or salad come free with this entree, and you’ll also be able to choose one extra entree for free. So that’s 2 entrees, 2 bread sticks, and soup or salad for $12.99 +tax. You can stop there if you want, but I wanted to get more bang for my buck and I’m happy to freeze meals ahead of time.

If you want to stack an extra coupon, you’ll need to spend at least $30, so you’ll have to repeat the process. At this point, you can add a kid’s meal or an appetizer to your order to boost it over the $30 point. Or, you can just add meats to your entrees (that’s what I did). At checkout, use the code 5OFF30 to get an additional $5 off your already super cheap order!

My first 4 entrees, soup, salad, and 4 bread sticks were exactly $30 with taxes. That means I still have $20 on my $50 gift card that I purchased for $33.69. Next week I’ll order from Olive Garden again, using the rest of my gift card plus $10 cash, providing my family with a fresh dinner, and another to freeze for later use.

So there you have it: 4 meals for a family of 5 for a total of $43.69!

Baby-approved Smoothies

I sent this picture to my mom the other day and she commented that he was losing that baby look and starting to look like a little boy. Problem is, he’s 10 months old. He is a baby, and he’s underweight. I responded to her text with, “That’s called malnutrition.”

Of course, he’s not really malnourished. But at his last pediatrician appointment, he’d fallen off his growth curve. He’s just not a fan of eating. There are reasons for it and he’s seeing an OT to help him with his eating issues. But for now, all he wants to do is nurse, which is fine except that we don’t subscribe to “food before one is just for fun” in this house. Food before one provides extra vitamins and minerals that our babies need. Clearly, he’s healthy. But the boy needs some fat on his bones and a better variety of foods.

I discovered the other day that, while he’s not a fan of a bottle, he can manage a straw quite well. The first time I handed him a straw cup, he picked it up, sucked down the water that was in it, looked at me, and dropped it to the floor like, “mic drop, woman.”

And that’s when it occurred to me that smoothies might be a great way to sneak some extra vitamin-packed calories into his little tummy! So what I needed was some smoothie ideas and a freezer full of pre-prepped smoothie bags.

After an afternoon of Pinterest’ing (can we just make that a verb already?), I came up with 6 baby-approved recipes. I prepped my freezer bags so that I can just pull out a bag, thaw it, and blend it with milk and yogurt.

They don’t take up much room in the freezer since you can just smush them flat and stack them.

And both babies loved them!

Here are the recipes I came up with:
Peachy Carrot Smoothies

1 sliced banana, 1 cup sliced peaches (I use frozen), 1 cup fresh spinach, 1 cup of steamed baby carrots, and 1 tsp chia seeds.
Spinach Banana Smoothies
1 sliced banana, 1 cup fresh spinach, 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, and 1 tsp chia seeds.
Carrot Avocado Smoothies
1 sliced banana, 1 cup steamed baby carrots, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1/2 avocado, 1/4 tsp coconut extract (or vanilla if that’s all you have), and 1 tsp chia seeds.

I’m guessing you might see a theme here with the chia seeds? I like to add these to as many of their foods as possible. They’re full of protein, calcium, fiber, antioxidants, and healthy carbs.

Spinach Berry Smoothies
1 cup fresh spinach, 1 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1/2 avocado, and 1 tsp chia seeds
Apple Spinach Smoothies
1 chopped apple (leave the skin on!), 1 sliced banana, 1 cup spinach, 1 tbsp natural peanut butter, and 1 tsp chia seeds
Tropical Squash Smoothies
2 small squash (sliced), 1 cup pineapple chunks, 1 sliced banana, 1/4 tsp coconut extract, and 1 tsp chia seeds
When you’re ready to make a smoothie, just thaw it and blend it with milk. I use coconut or almond milk, depending on the flavor. Whole milk is fine too! I also add a couple tablespoons of full fat yogurt for a little extra creamy texture and calories.
 
It’s really a great snack for mom too if you’re trying to add in a few extra veggies like I am!
I skipped the full fat yogurt in mine because Lord knows I don’t need any extra calories, but it’s still very good!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage of commission.

 

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Lesson 94: Start ’em young

Last night I posted this picture on Facebook:

I commented that after dinner J got up, went into the kitchen, and started washing the dishes. We didn’t ask him to do it, he just did it. And while he was washing, he told us that this was now his job. He said, “I’m going to start washing the dishes every night!”

You guys, my job is done here. I’ve completed my mission: raise a good husband. You’re welcome, future in-law.

The comments on the post praised me, wondering what I’d done to raise such a great kid. They asked me to share my words of wisdom.

Well, brace yourselves ladies and gentlemen, because I’m about to give you my secret: We got really lucky. Seriously. We’re mediocre parents, at best.

When I’m bragging on my child, it’s not a humble brag. I’m literally bragging on my child. I am so proud of him! He has the kindest heart, he’s funny, he’s pretty damn smart (I’ll go ahead and take credit for that one), he’s an amazing big brother, he’s helpful, he’s loving and affectionate. We do our best, we fail him a lot, and he keeps showing us his grace. The child is blessed with an infinite amount of grace.

But if I can give you just one tip, it’s this: Start them young. Don’t wait! Time’s a wasting, folks! Get those babies cleaning early.

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Chocolate Apple Sweet Potato Muffins

I spent today making foods and freezing them for the babies. It’s a bit of work, but it’s really one of my favorite things to do. I’m not artsy or crafty; I can’t draw, I can’t paint, and any craft I attempt is a big Pinterest Fail. But playing with ingredients and mixing up recipes is my creative outlet.
I made veggie frittatas, zucchini lentil soup, and these muffins. I love creating recipes and these are about as good as it gets! I’m having a hard time staying out of them, but I think they’re fairly guilt-free (minus the sugar…)!

Start with 3 medium sweet potatoes and 2 apples. Bake the potatoes until they’re tender.

While your potatoes are baking, wash and grate the apples. Set them aside for later.
I use my Salad Shooter to grate the apples. This is one of my most well-loved kitchen gadgets!
Next, mix together 2 1/4 cups any flour (I used 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour and 3/4 c garbanzo flour for extra protein) and 3 tbsp cacao powder. You can use cocoa powder in the place of the cacao if you want, but cacao has added health benefits.

Add in 3/4 cups white sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar. You can substitute with an alternative sweetener if you want, but this is the only thing in the muffins that isn’t healthy, so I choose to overlook it. As an alternative, you may want to use honey, maple syrup, or apple sauce. But if you do that, add a little extra flour or flaxseed meal (see below).
Finally, add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder, 1/4 c flaxseed meal, and 3 tbsp chia seeds.
When the potatoes have finished cooking, scrape the meat out of the skins and dump it into a blender. Add 3/4 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk) and 1/4 cup melted coconut oil to the blender. Blend it all together.
Pour the sweet potato mixture into the dry ingredients and give it a good stir. Once it’s mixed well, stir in the shredded apples and pour the batter into into muffin tins. I use these silicone muffin tins and love them because it’s easy to get food out once it’s cooked.
Question of the Day: Are they called muffin “tins” if they’re made of silicone??
Bake at 400 for 16-20 minutes.
Yields 24 Muffins. Freeze these in the tins, then pop them out and store in freezer bags.

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Make Your Own Magic Diaper Rash Cream!

We mostly cloth diaper, but from time to time we use disposable diapers. For one, they’re much easier when we’re out and about. Two, I’m lazy and it’s easier. Three, you can’t use most diaper rash creams with cloth diapers.

Thankfully, we don’t actually get many rashes while using cloth diapers, but they do happen sometimes (especially while teething). When we get a rash on one of the boys, this cream takes care of it fast! I found the recipe at Do It and How and it works great!

The recipe calls for 2 ounces of zinc oxide ointment, 2 ounces of A+D ointment, 1 ounce Maalox or similar antacid (do they even make Maalox anymore? I couldn’t find it, so I used Mylanta), and 1 ounce bacitracin ointment.

You just mix all the ingredients together and you’re done! I thought I would get clever and use a blender, but that turned out to be a really bad idea. Zinc hardens, y’all. Don’t do it.

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IVF, Personhood, and a Story of Infertility

I don’t have an exciting infertility story.

You probably didn’t even know we struggled with infertility. Although since we have twins, you’ve wondered. Some of you have even asked me in your own polite way. Were you surprised? Do twins run in your family? Did you know you were having twins?

I do have a story, but it isn’t exciting. We didn’t try for years and years to get pregnant. I, thankfully, didn’t have miscarriage after miscarriage.

Our story is simple: We had one kid easily. And then we couldn’t get pregnant again. We saw a team of doctors, I took lots of medicines that made me a little fat and a lot crazy, I pee’d on a lot of sticks, I cried a lot, I had a minor surgery, we had 6 failed IUI’s (intrauterine insemination, where they place the sperm directly in the uterus and hope for fertilization), I prayed a lot, I was finally diagnosed with crappy egg quality, and that left us with our best option being IVF (In Vitro Fertilization, where an egg is fertilized in a petri dish, and then a healthy embryo–or two, depending on your odds of implantation–is placed into the uterus).

When all this was happening, I didn’t talk about it. Not because I was ashamed, but because I didn’t want to answer all the questions. Some women speak of being ashamed of their infertility, of feeling like less of a woman, or a failure. I never felt that way.

I didn’t talk about it because I didn’t want the looks of pity. I didn’t want every. single. conversation I had to be about my uterus. I didn’t want my friends to be uncomfortable, not knowing what to say.

I didn’t want to not be thinking about it for a moment, only to be reminded when some well-meaning friend asked me how I was doing: How are you? No, really, how ARE you?

And I didn’t talk about it because I didn’t want to hear your opinion.

You’ll get pregnant when you’re not trying. Relax!

It’s all God’s plan. Relax!

Just be thankful you already have one kid.

I didn’t talk about it because we decided to do IVF and I knew how controversial that could be. I didn’t want to know how my friends would feel about it because I knew I would cut them out in a heartbeat if they challenged me on it. I can tolerate many differences of opinion, but don’t bring my children into it. I thought it was better to not know how they felt than to lose friends.

And eventually I didn’t talk about it because it wasn’t just my story to tell anymore. I had two sweet babies on the way and maybe they wouldn’t want their beginnings told to everyone.

But it’s different now. It’s been a real learning experience for me. I’m proud of my babies and I want them to be proud of themselves. I want them to know how wanted they were, how loved they are. They were loved before they ever existed.

IVF was hard. It was difficult financially, it was difficult emotionally, and it was difficult physically. I almost changed my mind a lot during the weeks that directly proceeded the beginning of the process. I was terrified–not of the money, or the medicines, or the injections. I was terrified because I knew we only had this one last shot. Up until those moments, I always believed I would get pregnant again, that it was just a matter of time. But IVF was our final answer, and if it failed, I knew I’d have to close a door I wasn’t ready to close.

We went to the beach the week before we were scheduled to start the treatments. I cried the entire car ride home, knowing my life was about to go one direction or the other, and I had no control over it. It was so emotional, so scary, it brings me to tears even now, more than a year removed from it.

We made a stop at a local produce stand on the way home. The lady who ran it also sold jewelry and I found a bracelet that said, The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still. I bought it and I wore it every day throughout my IVF treatment. I believed it.

As the treatment progressed, my body didn’t respond the way it was “supposed to.” There was talk of only 1 possible egg to attempt fertilization and implantation with, there was talk of no eggs at all, there was talk of a failed cycle. I was given the difficult choice of deciding whether or not to halt the cycle and try again, but that would mean thousands of dollars more and we just couldn’t afford it.

The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.

We pressed on. I gave myself injections for 12 days and went to the doctor almost daily to check the progress and to make sure I didn’t hyper-stimulate my ovaries. There were tears and screaming and laughter and anticipation and praying. Lots of that. And there was a doctor I grew to love so much because she gave me hope when I was at my lowest.

And finally, there were eggs! 9 of them! On a Friday afternoon, my doctor went in and took them.

And early on a Saturday morning, she called to tell me they all fertilized. All of them. Nine fertilized eggs! Nine embryos.

Because my odds of pregnancy were low, we transferred two embryos to my uterus.

Twins weren’t the goal–a healthy single pregnancy was the goal. But I loved those 2 embryos from the moment I knew they existed.

As much as the thought of twins scared me, I couldn’t possibly wish for one to not implant.

When I got my first positive pregnancy test, I was shocked.

I’d seen so many negatives, I wasn’t actually expecting that positive. I hit my knees and cried harder than I’d cried throughout the entire struggle. I cried for hours, sitting right there on my bedroom floor. And when I was done, I finally knew everything was going to be okay.

So when we went for our first ultrasound and saw two babies, but only 1 heartbeat, I wasn’t overly worried. I knew that second heartbeat would be there next time. I knew we’d have two healthy babies. I knew there was a chance Baby B wouldn’t make it, but I felt at peace.

The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.

And when we went back a week later, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when the doctor smiled and showed us that second heartbeat.

And then I froze in fear when she told us that Baby B split and was now Baby B and Baby C. Triplets. She wasn’t happy about it, and I can’t say I was either. Baby B and Baby C were mo-mo twins and the risks that caused for all three babies were great.

So when she confirmed that Baby C had no heartbeat, I felt another moment of relief wash over me. And in the very next instant, I felt the worst kind of remorse for feeling that relief. But I couldn’t deny that I felt it. It took months into my pregnancy before it really hit me that I had my first and only miscarriage during an otherwise successful pregnancy. But when it hit me, I mourned that loss hard. And sometimes now when I look at B and I can see what his identical twin would have looked like, I mourn the loss again.

So now we have 3 healthy boys and we debate whether or not we might want a 4th one day. The other thing we have is 4 frozen embryos, just waiting for us to choose what to do with them. And I love them. How can I not love them? If I loved S and B before they were conceived–and I did–are the 4 frozen embryos not the same? They too were very much wanted, but it was luck of the draw, survival of the fittest. S and B developed first and appeared to be the highest quality, so they made the cut. But truly, it could have been any of them. I look at S and B and think, what if you were frozen? What if I had some other kid in your place?

So yes, I love my 4 frozen little embryos and I think about them a lot. But do I believe they’re alive? No. They need me–or another willing mother–for that.

Do I believe they have the same rights that my living children have? No. But those who proposed the Personhood Bill seem to feel otherwise. They would lead you to believe that it’s just about abortion, but it’s not. The language of the bill would make IVF virtually impossible.

IVF is expensive and hard on the body. Couples don’t just jump straight to it as an answer when they can’t grow their family. But because it’s so expensive, the goal is often to produce as many healthy eggs in one cycle as possible. Those eggs are then fertilized in a lab for about 5 days before the healthiest of the embryos are transferred to the mother’s uterus. Any remaining embryos are then frozen, giving the couple a chance to get pregnant in the future if the first transfer doesn’t result in pregnancy, a miscarriage occurs, or if the couple wishes to have more children in the future.

The Personhood legislation pushes the idea that life begins at fertiliztion. If that legislation passes, the legality of the procedures we used to get our beautiful sons would be called into question. If the Personhood Bill passes, anything that puts an embryo at risk could be a criminal violation.

If an embryo from an IVF cycle doesn’t develop normally (3 of ours didn’t), could the physician, lab, or patient be criminally liable?

Would IUI’s be criminal violations because they carry a higher risk of miscarriage?

Would women with health problems such as fibroids or other uterine problems be forbidden to attempt pregnancy because the risk of miscarriage is too great?

Would women who suffer ectopic pregnancies be allowed to receive life-saving treatment, or would the embryo’s legal rights take precedence?

What about the embryos that have already been created from IVF? What about my frozen embryos? Will I still have the right to transfer one or more to my uterus in the hopes of implantation and birth? Or does that run too much of a risk for the embryo?

Do I think it will pass? It’s been previously submitted for consideration many times before, and each time has died in committee without a vote, so no, I don’t think it will pass this time either.

But I’m furious it’s even been introduced again. And I’m furious with anybody who supports it. I said before that I didn’t want to know people’s opinions on IVF because I didn’t want to lose friends over it. Well, I’m ready to do that if I have to. If you support the Personhood Bill, you are against the very thing that allowed my children to be born. And if you’re against my children, you are no friend of mine.

For the record, we don’t know yet what we’re going to do with our 4 remaining embryos. But we think about it, we talk about it, we pray about it. It is an important decision to us. We know that our hopes for them is that they’re eventually transferred to a uterus in hopes of implantation and birth. We just can’t decide if we want to transfer one more for ourselves, or if we want to adopt all of them out to another couple.

Regardless, our embryos will have a chance at life. But as much as I love them, as much as they mean to me, they are not lives now.

Resolve, the National Infertility Association, works to ensure that all people who face challenges to grow their family are “empowered by knowledge, supported by community, united by advocacy, and inspired to act.” They’re a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization certified under the National Health Council Standards of Excellence. If you’d like to contribute or be involved, you may find ways to do so here and here.

August 5, 2015 & August 5, 2016

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