Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Postpartum Body (Weight Loss & More)

This is a tough subject to write about. It's tough personally, too. How many of you are struggling with your weight, shape, or size after birth? Yeah, join the club.

I shed MOST of the weight, but there is a still a little bit hanging on that stubbornly won't move. When I was breastfeeding, I kept hearing the the weight just falls off. It didn't. Then I heard that many women don't lose until after they stop breastfeeding. It still held on. Now, I eat relatively healthy. I don't buy all organic or eat enough veggies, but I cook just about every day and make sure the carb/protein/veggie ratio is about right. But I don't avoid desserts when we're out, and I occasionally splurge on a Starbucks drink. Even better, I'll enjoy a beer with my husband or margaritas with the girls. I've always embraced the phrase "Don't be so healthy that you're no fun to be around". 

Now, this is no jab at those who choose a healthier lifestyle that what I do, it's simply getting my own thoughts out on paper (or computer...whatever). When I can talk through something, I come out with a clearer head and feeling more confident. I do workouts when I can, but honestly sometimes I am so tired from attempting to run a SUPER busy household as smoothly as possible! Sometimes the last thing I want to do is workout- I would prefer sitting on my couch and watching FRIENDS, because I just spent two hours ironing every piece of clothing my husband owns- while trying to keep the baby from pulling on the cord...Sometimes I just want to relax! There. I said it. I'm also not willing to lose precious time with my daughter or husband. And this is with one child. For those of you who have more, God bless your little souls.

My good friend Abbey just gave birth 10 days ago to her 5th baby. And what a beautiful, perfect, inspiring birth it was. I love what she has always told me. In my own words, she said "Kids don't want a mommy with a hard body. They want a mommy that they can cuddle into and squish into and climb up on a warm comfy lap. They want your arms and chest to be soft enough to use as pillows". She is a healthy woman, and she knows that there is plenty of time to get a 'perfect' body once her kids are bigger. And she's not beating herself up over her 10-day postpartum body...right Abbey???

I do plan on having more children. That is no excuse to not be healthy or active or "in shape", but it is a realization that my body will change again, many times, as it creates children, carries them, delivers them, nourishes them, chases them, etc. I don't want my mind, or yours, to have a 'perfect' body in mind, because it may disappoint us as it changes to cater to little human beings.

My husband has always said that he is not ever interested in plastic surgery. He still says this, 8 years later, and with a wife who has a very different body than the 17-year-old he fell in love with. Because of this, I know that this is my NEW body. He loves me for who I am. He wants me to be healthy and active, and we have decided that we want to teach our children these habits- not necessarily working out or dieting. We want to go on bike rides, play sports, and hike together. And the only requirement he has ever asked of me is that I can "keep up" with him. Regardless of my shape or size, he just wants a partner to go through life with.

The purpose of this post is to say this: DON'T BEAT YOURSELF UP. I have done this for far too long already, comparing myself to other mothers, reading my scale, crying over the fact that I want a piece of birthday cake, but I really 'shouldn't' have it. I'm tired of this. I have hidden my scale, and it won't come out for a long time.

So mamas, be healthy. Be Active. Diet if you want to (not if it affects your family negatively though). Work out when and if you can. But don't make this who you are. JJ Heller (a Christian recording artist) recently wrote on her Facebook page "I just went to the gym and I caught myself starting to believe that working out and being fit is the ultimate priority. I was stunned how much my environment was affecting me. I'm glad the Lord brought me back to my senses!". She is a gorgeous mother of two little girls. 

Remember who you are.
(Shout out to my Mama- who always quoted this Lion King quote to us when we left her presence!)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Birth of Amelia Genevieve- From an Onlooker's Point of View!

First of all, I have to say this: there is no one that births a baby like Abigail does. She makes the experience look effortless and almost enticing. You don’t believe me.

In 2012, I was 3 months pregnant when I attended the birth of Elijah Patrick, her third child. It was mid-morning on St. Patrick’s Day when I received the call that her water had broken. Since the baby was a couple weeks early, her sisters and mother were not around, so I filled the void. As Abigail and her husband Joshua headed to the hospital, I puttered around doing other things until it was time for me to join them. I arrived at the hospital mid-afternoon and Abigail was sitting next to the hospital bed on her birthing ball, just rocking back and forth and having light conversation with us. No one would know she was in labor!

As the contractions picked up, she received her epidural and was put into the bed to rest and let her body progress. In the evening, she was a little frustrated that her labor had already been over 8 hours (actually a long time compared to her 2 previous births!). Josh and I did our best to distract her with FRIENDS trivia, funny questions, and a little bit of dozing. My husband showed up shortly after and brought dinner. After a little while, Abigail told her nurse “I’m feeling pressure. Will you check me?”. Daniel and I politely left the room. Not two minutes later, we heard a newborn cry down the hall. I looked at my husband and said “Oh! A new baby just got here!” (my pregnant hormones did not help). Little did we know, that little baby was Elijah! 

As soon as Abigail was checked, the baby was crowning, and in another second he was out! I ran into the room in a flurry of nurses frantically working and Abigail sitting in the bed smiling and laughing with a screaming newborn on her chest. No doctor was in sight. He did not make it! In fact, Joshua had to partially deliver the baby- there was no time for gloves, lights, or pushing. It was amazing! My husband looked at me and said “Wow, that was easy. Are you sure you don’t want an easy hospital birth?”.

When Abigail texted me a few weeks ago that she wanted me to be present for the birth of her fourth child, I was so giddy. I had since delivered my own baby in a grueling 67 hour labor with many hiccups and roadblocks that you can read here. I knew the way in which this woman brought life to earth so beautifully, and I felt honored to be a part of it again, and was hoping for some healing from my own traumatic experience. I got it.

On Sunday morning, July 21st, I awoke to the sound of my baby cooing and I looked at my phone and saw that I had a text from Abigail (actually Josh) at 5am. She was in labor! Her water had already broken and they were at the hospital. I plucked my baby out of her crib, grabbed a bottle and yelled to my husband who was in the shower “Abbey is in labor!”. Because of her last birthing experience, I knew there may not be much time! I was so excited and flustered that I couldn’t figure out what to wear, so I just walked around aimlessly for awhile. My husband said “Babe, you’re not having a baby, Abbey is”. Because of course, it’s all about me, right? After sending my husband off to church, I packed the baby in the car, dropped her off to my sister for the day (I thought), grabbed a coffee from Starbucks, and hurried to the hospital.

I arrived at 8:35am. When I walked into the room, Abigail was laying peacefully in the bed hooked up to all sorts of IVs and monitors- the beauty of hospital birth. Her right arm was swollen unnaturally- apparently the nurse had misplaced her first IV! We made fun of her “Cankle” arm and she updated me on her progress. Joshua was sitting in the corner filling out paperwork that he kept complaining about (“why do they need to know this!?”) and Abigail’s mother was making small talk with us and the nurses. When Abigail arrived at the hospital (5am?), she quickly dilated to 5cm. By the time I got there, she was dilated to 8. We knew it would be soon.

Ready for baby!
 A short and bubbly nurse named Kathy entered the room and introduced herself to me. She checked Abbey’s vitals and said that baby looked great. Abigail was laying on her side with the peanut ball in between her knees. Kathy, Abigail’s mom Donna, and I exchanged some birth stories and baby stats. The day was overcast, muggy, and rainy. A day just like Elijah’s birth-day. I had too much coffee, no food, and I was jittery and anxious!

At 9am, Abigail told the nurse that she was feeling pressure and wanted to be checked. I remembered clearly that the last time this happened, I was jipped out of seeing a birth! I knew better this time! Kathy checked Abigail and said “Oh, you’re complete!”. Then there was a flurry of different nurses coming in and out of the room bringing the scale, buckets, sheets, pulling lights out, removing the bottom of the bed, and calling the doctor over the intercom. Joshua was now a nervous wreck, pacing the room and asking every person who entered “are you the doctor?” to which they would always say “no, I’m a nurse”. Then he looked at Abigail and said “I can see the head! I can see her hair!”. Abigail laughed and told her to calm down. Her mom was looking also, and announced that the baby had curly dark hair- and lots of it. I said “really!?!?” and Abigail said “Aubrey, it’s ok- you can look”. I mustered my courage and moved my eyes down to see a sweet little dark head waiting to come out!

They continued to page the doctor with no success. After Kathy had set some things up, she stood between Abigail’s legs and said “I’m not moving, because if I do Joshua is going to have to deliver this baby”. When she said that, Abigail smiled and laughed, to which Kathy replied “Don’t! Don’t laugh, don’t cough, don’t sit up. This baby is coming”. At that moment, we all watched as the baby’s head slowly started bulging. If you’ve ever witnessed a birth, you know that the moment you glimpse that baby coming out, you can’t look away. It feels like the closest thing to witnessing a miracle directly from the hand of God.

Without looking away, Kathy calmly asked if the doctor was coming. The baby didn’t stop moving. We watched as her head slid out slowly and perfectly- Abigail’s body opening up to release this sweet baby just as a woman’s body is intended to do. When her head was out, Kathy gently grabbed her neck and yelled “nevermind!” to the nurses behind her because there was no time for a doctor. At that moment, a doctor who was in the hall ran in and stood behind Kathy as she delivered. Kathy said “give me a tiny push Abigail”, and the rest of the baby’s body slid out swiftly and a moment later baby Amelia was on Abigail’s chest. She was a little purple and gurgly, figuring out how to take her first few breaths. She cried in that heavenly newborn voice and we all breathed a sigh of relief, cheered, snapped pictures, and even shed some tears. Her sweet little cry sounded just like her brother’s.

It was 9:16am. I know because someone said “What time is it? Look at the clock on the monitor”. I was the closest one and announced it proudly. It made me feel like I had some part in this thrilling story. We watched her as she was weighed and swaddled, Daddy held her, more pictures were snapped, and finally given back to mommy for some skin-to-skin. When she was in her daddy’s arms, I said hello and her brand-new eyes turned to me. My heart melted at that moment. 

Later that day in church (Abigail delivered early enough for me to pick up my babe and make it!), Trev spoke about moving on from wounds and allowing them to become scars. Scars are reminders of what we have been through, but they no longer hurt or define us. I felt as if Abigail’s awe-inspiring birth helped to heal my wound and create a scar instead. Obviously I do not birth the graceful way that she does- but it instilled courage in my spirit that I may, at some point, be able to do it again.

Isaiah 43:18-19 says “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”. In Pastor Trev’s words, sometimes you have been “body slammed” in life, and you mourn over your failures. Then God comes and says “how long are you going to mourn? I know where you’ve been, now let’s move on”. In other words, let’s let some healing happen and turn that wound into a scar.

I don’t want to make this birth story about me, but it was important to address the fact that Abigail not only gave life that stormy morning, but she provided healing for a friend. 
Proud parents!
The first time Abbey's mom witnessed a grandchild's birth!
Kathy, the nurse who delivered Amelia
 Later in the afternoon, I went back to the hospital to visit little Amelia and hold her for the first time. She had that delicious newborn smell (you know what I mean?) and the sweetest little lips and nose. Since Joshua and Abigail have decided that this will be their last baby (#5), everyone seems to be devouring every moment with her. Little Amelia Genevieve, thank you for healing my heart and sharing your birth with me. You have absolutely the best mommy a kid could ask for, and I am eager to watch you grow and learn along with your siblings. 

Amelia Genevieve Gorman
July 21st, 2013
7lbs 8oz, 19 1/2 inches

Monday, July 15, 2013

I Love Slow Mornings...

I love slow mornings. This is what they look like here: when Pip woke up this morning, I brought her into bed with me and we cuddled while she drank her bottle and I closed my eyes for a few more minutes. Daddy had already left for work, or he would be in on the fun. When she had enough, she ditched the bottle, rolled over, and started crawling over me and playing. I reached for my phone and turned on a little 'He Is We' radio on Pandora while we played in bed. She likes to hold my phone and look at it, and of course she dropped it on her head a few times. She has started to act more like a little person, rolling  and laying down when she feels like it and however may be comfortable.

Then when she needed a change of scenery, we went into the kitchen and she sat in her high chair and had her fill of cheerios. She watched me as I feed the dogs and made my morning shake. Then I sat down with her and shared my shake, feeding her with a spoon. She thinks that she is big enough to feed herself, so I let her grab the spoon and direct it to her mouth. Then she plays with her spoon and she'll give it back to me when she wants another bite. She's so smart. She's also learned how to hold food out and feed me recently, so we fed each other cheerios which makes her smile and laugh. I love how I can make her laugh now just with funny faces or smiling big at her!

We fed the doggies some cheerios (as usual) and then danced around the kitchen a bit, looking out the window to the backyard. After a couple diaper changes, she is now playing in the living room with her books and in her inflatable pool. Yes, it is in the middle of the living room because she loves climbing in and out of it with her toys, and with a baby you don't always have a tidy house.

These are the mornings that I cherish. Of course I have things to do- make the bed, laundry, put dishes away, run errands, work out, shower... but we have been so busy over the last couple of weeks with vacations and planning REZ Week (youth camp), that I realized I haven't been giving my baby the undivided attention that she wants and needs. I will always have something more to do- but I want my little girl to remember playing in bed, feeding me cheerios, and laughing at funny faces. I don't want her to ever feel like Mommy was too busy for her. I also know that when we decide to expand our family, these precious moments will be shared with other needy kids, so I love just focusing on my one little bundle right now. I don't want to miss anything.

I also know that life isn't always like this. It isn't always slow and wonderful. It can be messy and hectic, so in no way am I advertising a perfect life. But every once in awhile, you do have that perfect morning. And I think today was it.

I hope that you can find time to have slow mornings every once in awhile. They're good for the soul. They clear your mind, re-align your priorities, and refresh your spirit. Take a few moments for you- whether that means spending them alone, with your babies, or with another loved one, to just 'BE'.

I needed this this morning. So while my laundry waits, my hair needs washing, and there is more to do, I am going to spend some time playing on the floor with my 10-month-old. This fills both of our love tanks, and builds security for her. She'll have to nap soon- so everything can wait to be done while she slumbers.

Happy Monday Morning. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Birth of Hayden William

I had just gotten home from my 1st deployment to Afghanistan. My husband and I had long ago talked about having a baby, but figured we’d wait until I got home because I wanted to volunteer for this deployment. So I went off to the “Sand Box", as us military people call it (2010-2011). We talked about it while I was overseas, and then I finally came home. I was so happy to be home, but the both of us were so excited for a new addition. So we didn’t use any protection and just did things like we always do. I knew I couldn’t use any schedules or calendars and all that or else I would drive both myself and Seth crazy (hehehe).

June 17th 2011 some family/friends threw me a welcome home party (I got home May 7th,but they wanted me to settle back in first :) ). It was awesome and I have to say this, only because it pertains to the next part of the story. I was completely drunk (I don’t drink very often at all,but this was an occasion on my behalf). Well, the next day I woke up with the weirdest hangover. Usually my hangover consisted of a terrible headache, nausea and just feeling ugh. This time it was only NAUSEA!! I looked at my husband and said “Wouldn’t it be funny if I was pregnant!”.
Later that evening, I took a pregnancy test and just sat there staring at it waiting patiently. Finally I looked at it and POOF!! There it was ,one obvious pink line and another slightly faint pink line. I was so thrilled and excited. I was jumping up and down (silently) in the bathroom. I came out and showed it to the hubby, he said “Well, we’ll have to go to the doctor to make sure”. We were both happy about the journey of a new beginning. But of course this was on a weekend I might add. So I ended up going through about 10 more tests, because I couldn't believe it!! I finally went to the doctor's office and they said yes, it was definite “Congratulations, you're pregnant”.

We slowly told our closest family members and friends, but it was SO hard NOT to tell anyone until after the first trimester. Let’s just say that I didn’t make it even close to the end! We finally made the big announcement to the rest of the world. Of course, everyone is generally excited about new babies. This was also Seth’s parents soon-to-be first born grandchild! Lots of excitement! We hadn’t really thought too much into how we wanted to do things, though I was okay with going to a hospital and getting an epidural instead of  having to push and scream and yell and all of what I see on TV, but I was not okay with breastfeeding at the time (due to a traumatic experience as a very young child).

When I was younger, my niece (who is older than me because I was adopted into an older family) had a baby. She breastfed her for who knows how long. I was a kid and didn’t pay much attention to detail. One day I walked passed the room while she was feeding baby Sabrina and BAM the baby bit her nipple! I will never forget that awful screetching,crying, screaming sound that came from my niece's mouth. I always told myself from that moment on, that I would NEVER breastfeed. But of course,when you are the one who’s pregnant,your mind seems to think otherwise. My husband had always been pro-breastfeeding, even after I told him of my experience. So we talked and talked and talked about it and I came to an agreement that I “might” try it and see how it goes. Of course the further along in the pregnancy I got ,the more I felt that I could do this,and that the baby would benefit so much by me doing it. So I decided that breastfeeding was the way to go. 

The beginning of the pregnancy was really tough, with morning sickness and going to the hospital all the time. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. From pains,to occasional bleeding and so forth. I continuously told myself that if this was what pregnancy was all about, this child will be an only child! We found out at 17 1/2 weeks that we were going to be welcoming a beautiful baby boy! We couldn’t be happier, I was even more so, because I just had a feeling that the baby would be a boy. We already had his name picked out ,and from that moment on it was all about bringing Hayden William into the world safely.

After finding out the gender of the baby things were as okay as they could be until it got worse. I had morning sickness the whole pregnancy. I started going to the hospital even more frequently when I hit 24 weeks,because of contractions but no dilation (thankfully). I was exhausted and just wanted the pregnancy to be over with already. Funny enough, at 37weeks Seth’s mother came to stay with us. The day she showed up, I stopped contracting completely!

Finally we had made it to our official due date February 28th 2012. There was no baby, no contractions, no anything. We had a visit to the OB and we were scheduled to be induced March 6th, 2012. They told me to call at 5pm and then they would tell me when there was an available time for us to come in and start the process. The night before I was too excited and emotional to even sleep, but I did. I wasn’t even awake when I got a call at 6am! A lady called and said,"Hi this is so and so from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, we were calling to tell you that we have an opening right now, if you are able to come in?” With the biggest grin on my face I said 'YES!', trying not to yell it out. I went to Seth and after a shower and putting on some clothes, we were on our way!

We knew that the process could be anywhere from a couple hours -24hrs, so we had to be patient. I was all giddy inside. They started out by taking my blood pressure and running thru the whole paperwork process and asking how we wanted to do things. Before they even poked me with anything they took my blood pressure and noticed it was a little higher than my normal, but nothing to be too concerned about. Then I got an IV and went from there. They inserted a pill vaginally to help dilate my cervix. Not much progressed, so they went ahead and started the Pitocin. They checked my cervix continuously, but I was dilating so slowly. I hit 4 cm and the contractions were getting bad. They asked if I wanted the narcotics or epidural. I knew the drugs wouldn’t harm the baby, and I wanted to hold out on the epidural as long as I could.

After I started the dilated (narcotics) I was in and out most of the time. They had me on an IV drip. All I remember is that I kept falling asleep and when I woke up I would throw up ,because of the morning sickness and the meds. I couldn’t take anything for the nausea either. So I continuously woke up, threw up, mumbled and talked for a few minutes, then passed out for a while. After a few hours of this the contractions got worse. I don’t know what I was dilated to at this point since I was on meds and don’t remember a lot. They came in and Seth told them that I wanted the epidural now, that I was ready for it. The anesthesiologist came in with another partner. The partner was either a student or just hadn’t done very many epidurals in his time and he didn’t get it right the first time. He veered a little teeny tiny bit to the right and boy was it painful! The anesthesiologist said to take it out and step aside..... two seconds later he said he was done and I could lay down. I didn’t feel a thing.

33 1/2 hours later the doctor came in and told me that my blood pressure continued to rise. It was now at 172/?? Which is pretty high. Also, my body stopped progressing at 8cm and Hayden was becoming stressed. I also got per-eclampsia. I was told that with being anemic, if I did try to push Hayden out I would lose a lot of blood and would end up getting a blood transfusion. They gave me the option to either have a C-section,or wait a few more hours, which they didn't really want me to do. Things were going on a downward spiral. I was exhausted beyond belief. I wanted to stop throwing up. I wanted my baby to not have to be stressed out anymore than he already was, and know that if I did wait longer, there was a possibility that something worse could happen, I said no. I looked at the doctor and said in the nicest voice “I don’t care what you do, just get him out of me”.

Within 5 minutes, I was in the OR prep room. It was as if they had been planning this already, and knew what I would say. Next thing I know I was wheeled into the OR and they asked me “Amber, can you feel this?” I replied with a no and the doctor said “Okay good, because I’m cutting you open”. Being someone else, I could see the reaction on your face as you read this. But if you knew me in person,  I’m a very humorous girl and even being pregnant ,drugged up ,exhausted and everything else,  I still find humor in the most tense situations.

 At 20:05 (8:05pm) we welcomed a healthy, happy, screaming baby boy into this world. I just remember seeing him and Seth holding him. After that I was in and out as Seth left to go be with Hayden and get his measurements and watch him get all cleaned up. But the process for me was yet to be over with. As they were finishing closing me up, I started to have a sharp pain at the end ,like I could feel them closing me. So they used a local anesthetic,which should have been just fine, but it wasn’t for me. Everything else went fine and I went back to the recovery room where I would be staying for a few days.

Once they brought my precious baby Hayden back after his test and all, I put him right up to the boob and he latched with no problems! I was a happy mama. Things were going okay so far. After a couple days, they moved us to another room, and that’s where it all began. I ended up getting fevers a lot, and they didn’t know what the cause was at the time, until they figured out that I had an infection from the local anesthetic. They gave me antibiotics, but I still seemed to be getting fevers and chills. Next thing I knew I was staying an extra day, and every time I spiked a fever it would be another 24-48hrs before I could go home. That was how long I had to go without a fever before I could be discharged. A couple days later I ended up having to get a blood transfusion anyways because I still had lost too much blood. I ended up getting a couple fevers from that, which was to be expected. I was ready to go home already ,but I would go 16hrs with no fever and then BAM! The last time I went 20hrs with no fever and thought, 'this is it! I’m going home soon',but NOPE. A week after having Hayden, I was finally released! They kept us both together until I was released, that’s just how that hospital works. It was very nice though and helped, since I was breastfeeding.

Before my birth, I swore to myself that I would not get a c-section because I did not want to be cut open. But the thing about making a decision like that is you never know what the true outcome will be in the end. By the time the doctor came in to ask me, it was as if I already knew that the worse case scenario was just about to happen. All in all, the more I think about it, the more I tell myself that this was something that was meant to happen. I was supposed to have this C-section and Seth and I were supposed to make this decision. Who knows what could have happened or would have happened if we waited any longer. That is something I’m not too worried about. I have my precious baby boy who is now 16 months old, and I couldn’t be any happier with how he got here. Just as long as he was healthy and happy, we were happy.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What's For Dinner!?!

Uh oh... It’s 4pm. And you just looked up at the clock. You day has been filled with entertaining children, working, running errands and cleaning the house. You’ve probably even forgotten to eat. BUT, the hubby will be home in just about an hour and he’ll be hungry! What do you do!?!?

I put together a small list of a few go-to meals for us here in this household. I will not promise that they are “healthy” or “clean”, but I always try to cook pretty well anyway. And hey, these meals get us to the next day, and maybe TOMORROW I can spend hours mulling over a healthy meal (yeah right).

Here’s my list of fast, easy, “get me to the end of the day” meals, that also make my hubby happy.

DISCLAIMER: These are not my photos. I used Pinterest photos, because when I am out of time and trying to get some food on the table, who remembers to take pictures? But believe me, mine are just as pretty :). 

Meat and Potato Burritos: 
  I don’t eat potatoes. I don’t like them and they feel like empty carbs to me. Except sweet potatoes. Yum. But my husband LOVES them. I threw this together on a whim one night when I had very few ingredients and a hungry husband. IT WORKED.

Olive Oil
3-5 medium sized potatoes
1lb ground beef, thawed
salt and pepper
6-8 tortillas
shredded cheese

Dice potatoes into small pieces. I usually use more potatoes to make this meal stretch further because my hubby loves to take these to work the next day. In large skillet, heat olive oil (2 tbsp? I don’t know, I don’t measure) and add potatoes. Let cook over medium heat for 5-10 minutes (stirring occasionally) until potatoes begin to soften. Add ground beef. Mix together and let cook another 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper- as much as you feel like. Again, I don’t measure. Remove from heat when meat is fully browned. Take a tortilla and warm both sides on stove burner. Add meat and potato mixture to tortilla, sprinkle cheese on top, roll up and DONE.

You could add anything to these that you wanted to. Since I was lazy and out of ingredients, this did the trick for us. I admit, I don't usually eat these, but it's only because I don't like potatoes! The sacrifices we make for our spouses...

Chicken, Green Bean, and Potato Bake: 
 This is one of my favorite meals! It’s so easy, and it feels filling and healthy to me. The original recipe called for small red potatoes, but since I don’t like them, I changed it to sweet potatoes. Adjust it for your family.

4-6 chicken breasts
1 bag frozen green beans
2-3 sweet potatoes
1 stick butter (or a few tbsp. of EVOO)
1 packet of Italian Seasoning (or just salt and pepper)

Preheat oven to 350. Using 9x13 pan (or larger for more servings), line chicken breasts down the center of the pan.  Cut sweet potatoes to desired size and line down the side of chicken. Add bag of frozen green beans to other side. Melt stick of butter in microwave and pour over entire dish (or drizzle with olive oil- your choice). Add packet of seasoning over entire dish, covering chicken, sweet potatoes and green beans (or just salt and pepper- or any other seasoning you like). Bake in oven for 1 hour, and then EAT!

I have switched this recipe around a few times to accommodate what I had on hand, who was coming over, etc. I have even upped the temperature of the oven and cooked for less time- you can’t really mess this one up, and it comes out so good! Plus, it’s everything in one dish!

Taco Salad:
 Need I say more? One of these easiest meals. It’s what’s for dinner tonight.

1lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 packet of taco seasoning (or make your own here)
Shredded lettuce
shredded cheese
ANYTHING YOU WANT (tomatoes, black beans, olives, avocado, salsa, cucumber, bell peppers, quinoa, spanish rice, chips, etc.)

In large skillet, follow directions on taco seasoning and prepare ground beef. While it is cooking, slice and chop whatever veggies you have. Arrange everything so everyone can pass by and fill their plates as they desire. DONE!

Southwest Chicken Wraps:
  This one is a great way to get rid of your leftovers and make a yummy burrito. I love to make a huge crock pot of chicken one day, shred it all, and then keep it in the freezer for meals like this.

1 cup cooked rice
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken (or other leftover meat, like shredded pork or beef)
1 can black beans, drained
1 onion (white, red, green...whatever you have!)
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Shredded cheese
Sour cream (optional)
6  tortillas

Using a skillet or grill pan, turn stove on to medium heat. In large mixing bowl, mix together rice, chicken, beans, onion, and seasonings. Make sure it coats everything well. Line mixture down the middle of a tortilla, sprinkle some cheese over it, and a dollop of sour cream. I always use the sour cream because it makes the burrito so creamy! Sometimes I smother it on the tortilla first, so it’s not just a clump of it. Roll tortilla, folding or leaving ends open (doesn’t really matter). Place SEAM DOWN on grill pan (this will keep it from opening). Cook for a few minutes until there are grill marks or tortilla has browned a bit. Repeat on opposite side. When burritos are finished, they should be a tad crunchy and hot!

Spinach-Artichoke Chicken:  
There are lots of different recipes for this. Here’s the original recipe, which is more homemade. I didn’t have time or ingredients, so I took the easy way out- I had an extra container of dip in my fridge that was going to go bad soon! So I threw this together. It was good!

4-6 chicken breasts
1 container of spinach/artichoke dip
shredded parmesan

Heat oven to 375. Spray 9x13 pan with olive oil. Put thawed chicken into pan, making sure they are thin enough (filet if needed).  Cover chicken with mixture, whether homemade or store bought. Bake for 30-45 minutes. Serve with a salad or a yummy veggie!

And these are just my top 5 for fast dinners. We know that everyone has hot dogs or pizza or eats out occasionally on ‘those’ nights. Maybe these will help you get through a rough day or feed the family before it’s grocery shopping time!