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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Crock Pot Pumpkin Mac and Cheese

I planned on saving this post for October, but it turned out so much better than I thought, I just can't wait.

So this recipe was a bit of an experiment, and just kept changing the more I looked for recipes.

It started out as just "crock pot mac and cheese" but then I realized that I had forgotten to buy any eggs this week, so the recipe I was going to use was out. As I searched for other crock pot recipes, I kept finding things I didn't like about them, or ingredients I didn't have.

Finally, I stumbled across a pumpkin mac and cheese recipe made on the stove. But I was still hanging on to this crock pot idea. So I decided to wing it and it just sort of morphed as I went.

2 cups of milk
4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of honey
1 teaspoon of ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon of cloves
1/4 teaspoon of ginger
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
a sprinkle of red pepper flakes
2lbs pasta of your choice
1 1/2 cups of pumpkin puree
3 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

I added all of the ingredients through the red pepper flakes to the crock pot and turned it on high.
Once the butter melted, add pumpkin and whisk thoroughly.

Then I turned it down to low and just whisked every so often throughout the afternoon. This is definitely not a throw everything in in the morning and leave it dish, the pumpkin and milk will start to burn, even on low. I put it in around lunch and it was perfect for eating dinner at 5:30

Since every time I make mac and cheese noodles in the crock pot I am less than impressed with the texture of the noodles, I just decided to do the sauce in the crock pot, and cooked my noodles on the stove since that doesn't take long.

When I put on my water to boil, I added 3 cups of cheese to the crock pot and mixed well as it melted

Once the noodles were done, drain and stir into the cheese sauce in the crock pot.

And that's it! This is my new favorite fall comfort food. Cheese, pumpkin, spice. It's delicious!

Rave reviews from the kids:

Noah: This is SO good! Can you make it again?

Nathan: Can we add some hot sauce to this?
Me: No, it tastes good just the way it is.
Nathan: Not to me.
Me: What?!
Nathan: Just kidding, I love it! It's the best thing you've ever made!
(this kid...)

Elise: It's the best thing in the entire world.

Me: Maddie, do you like it?
Maddie: Yeah!

This makes A LOT of macaroni and cheese. So if you don't have a bunch of kids who eat like horses, you may want to halve the recipe.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Two Months Old!

Max is two months old today! I can't believe how quickly that went!

He's such an easygoing baby most of the time. Pretty easy and content as long as his needs are being met. This kid takes GREAT naps. Sometimes up to 5 hours at a time. I know it won't last, but I'm enjoying just how well he sleeps right now.

He's smiling a lot, sometimes when we're getting ready for bed, he'll just look up and smile at us for a while, he loves to be talked to.

He won't have his check up for another week, but he's definitely growing. I put a 3-6 month outfit on him a few days ago expecting he'd still have some room to grow, but it fits perfectly! We've officially outgrown newborn clothes and most newborn diapers.
He's starting to reach out to try to touch things, hasn't figured out he can grab yet, but likes to try to touch our faces if we get close enough.

LOVES being worn in a wrap. If he's having a fussy day, or is sleepy but we're not at home, I just put him in the wrap and he's out within a minute or so. We purposely plan any errands around his nap time so I can just wear him while we shop and he sleeps the whole time.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New Mom Advice

This post is for my sister-in-law Marian who is expecting her first baby in a few weeks. There were cards to write advice at her baby shower, and I sat there, with no thoughts at all about what to tell her. So here is your advice <3

1. Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. 
I've known you long enough to know that you and I share in this pride of being able to do things ourselves without any help. It feels amazing to accomplish things on your own, and I encourage you to embrace the hard work and overcome challenges, because you will seriously feel like a superhero...but when you're reaching a breaking point (and we all do), don't be afraid to admit that, and ask someone to help you.
What my living room looked like my first day home alone after Maddie was born. I thought it would be a good time to catch up on laundry. Don't be stupid like me.

2. At the same time, don't be afraid to tell people no. 
Sometimes accepting help is more tiring than just doing it yourself, and all you need to do is relax in your messy house for a day to recover instead of having someone over to help you. Don't be afraid to speak your mind when it comes to your baby. He's yours. You don't owe him, or an explanation of your parenting choices to anyone. Don't worry about making anyone happy but Austin, everyone else will get over it.

3. Some days, your house will be a mess, your baby will be screaming, you'll forget the last time you took a shower...and that's totally okay. 
I promise you we've all been there, and some seasons of life are a little more messy and stressful than others. Remember that it's not forever, but it's okay that it's like that right now. Snuggle the baby, put on some Netflix and just enjoy these moments when he's tiny. Forget about everything else. In 8 years, you'll look back and all you'll remember is how tiny he was, and wish you could go back to when just sitting on the couch holding him was all it took to make him happy. You won't remember the things that don't matter.

4. Take SO many pictures. 
Take pictures of him sleeping, videos of him sleeping, take 100 of the same baby pose that he will lay in for the first few weeks when he's not really doing much else. You may laugh about it later, but you won't regret capturing those moments to look back on as he grows. You'll never get to go back and take more, so just take a million now to be safe.

5. I know you know this one, but for when you have those moments of "I am totally messing up my baby!" (which we all wonder at some point), forget what he is "supposed" to be doing, and just do what works.
 If that means he only naps while you hold him, then hold him. Sleeping in the wrong place is better than not sleeping in the right place. I promise you he will eventually sleep in his own bed and you haven't screwed him up for life by holding him while he sleeps.

6. This is so cliche, and people with kids scoff at this one all of the time like it's an impossible feat, but seriously, sleep when the baby sleeps.
 Everything and everyone else can wait. Sleep whenever you can in the beginning, or it's some unwritten rule that the day you skip napping, the baby will decide it's time to party all night and after being awake for 36 hours, you'll be kicking yourself for not just taking a nap instead of folding laundry.

7. Talk to other grown ups.
 People who don't care if the only time you have to have a conversation is while feeding a baby, changing a diaper, or pacing with a baby who is crying and won't go to sleep. You will go crazy if you don't talk to people who understand reason and logic and will start to wonder if the world still exists outside of your house. So text, call, invite someone over, come to my house ;) and talk. Even if all you talk about is spit up. It will feel good to talk to someone who doesn't wear diapers.

8. Don't be afraid to leave your house with the baby by yourself.
 The first few times will be hard and overwhelming, you'll feel like by the time you get ready and leave it will just be time to feed him again so what's the point, but it feels SO fantastic to know you can do it. Bonus, he'll get used to leaving the house and doing things with you, so as he gets older, it will be no big deal and won't be super stressful for either of you to be out and about. It's so worth it.

9. Drink water and eat food.
 Sounds like a no brainer, but you will not believe how easy it just is to forget some days when you are so caught up in taking care of someone else. You'll reach a point where you feel like a Sims character who suddenly realized they are so hungry they are going to die. Don't get to that point.
Our first anniversary dinner when Nathan was just a couple of weeks old

10. You will love this little person more than you even knew was possible.
 Alright, so not so much advice as just a fact. But it's true. You'll wonder how it's even possible. And you'll love Brian more because of Austin. It's an amazing thing to suddenly be holding this tiny person that you made, that grew inside of you. It's just crazy. Nothing can really prepare you for that.

I'm so excited for you to meet him!

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Busy Life of Max

I mentioned in my catch up post, that for a little baby, Max sure is getting around! I was a little surprised when chatting with Anthony over the weekend just how many places this baby has been already in his short (not quite) 8 weeks of life!

I was a little worried that having a new baby would keep us from getting out and having fun this summer, but if anything, this ended up being a busier summer than most!

So here's a quick summer recap of things we've been able to do since Max was born.

We started off slow with just playing in the pool in the backyard. Somehow Anthony blew this entire thing up by himself without a pump. I still don't know how he didn't pass out

Had our first cousin play date with now 8 kids between us instead of 6!

Attended his first graduation party for Aunt Bernadette (and slept through most of it!)

Went to his first 4th of July fireworks (and again, slept through the whole thing)

Has put up with lots of crafting from mom

Attended Music in The Valley at Hale Farm

Went to his first Indian's game. And witnessed his first Indian's loss :(

Went blueberry picking with friends

All before he was one month old!

Stared off his second month of life by refusing to be put down ever, so helping me pack for vacation. Thank goodness for babywearing!

Spent  week at Cedar Point doing a lot of this

While the big kids had tons of fun on rides and playing with cousins, aunts and uncles

Went to a cousin birthday party

Hung out at several playdates
Went to his Aunt Marian's baby shower and celebrated his new cousin Austin who will be arriving soon!

Had his first trip to the Medina County Fair! (too busy sleeping to be pictured)

First zoo trip 

And even got some dancing in at a wedding

It's been a busy summer! But so much fun! And having a new baby only slowed us down a little :)

Monday, August 3, 2015

When sleep is less important

Last night, I stayed up way too late. It wasn't because the baby was up, or Noah was scared, or I was dealing with random insomnia, though all of these things are common occurrences around here. It was because Anthony and I were talking.

These are some of my favorite moments of being married. When everything else stops, and life stands still for a while (or at least it seems like it in the moment, not so much when I wake up the next morning).

We talked about our kids, the qualities we see in them that we love, the not always so little anymore people that they are becoming.

What values we want to instill in them, changes we want to make as they get older, ideas we want to make sure are not foreign to them by the time they enter middle school, high school, college and adulthood. How to familiarize them with ideas at home before the encounter them outside of our little bubble at home. It's weird to picture our kids as teenagers and adults dealing with these things, but I know it will be here before we know it.

It's been almost 8 years since we became parents, and in 8 more years, we'll have a child getting ready to drive! And it flew by in the blink of an eye.

We talked about how we'd be surprised if Nathan becomes anything but an engineer or a programer. How at 7, his brain already seems to just work in that way. He's so much like Anthony is scary sometimes.

How Noah would make the most amazing manager of literally anything. He knows what he wants, and he's going to make it happen. When he cares about something, he's the hardest working kid I've ever met. He'll be passionate about whatever he decides to do.

Elise is destined to work with children, whether it's in a classroom or care setting, or being the best mom there ever was, or both! She has a natural desire to take care of others and teach them how to do things. When her and Maddie are alone, we'll often hear her teaching Maddie new words, or helping her do something she wants to do. She'll be great at it, and look good doing it!

It's fun to dream about what the future could hold for Maddie and Max, Maddie already has a desire to be in charge, keep others in line and organized. I can't wait to see how that develops over the next few years. And Max, well, he's just the cutest baby that ever lived. and that's enough for right now.

So I was a zombie when Noah woke me up at 4, and less than fully functioning when our day started at 7, but it was worth it staying up half the night talking and dreaming about the kids and and our future plans. There will be time for sleep later.

A lot can happen in a year

I came home last night after a week long vacation, closely followed by a birthday party, and I had the sudden overwhelming feeling that life was going to fast. That I needed a break to slow down, and focus on the small things that were happening while I was worrying about the big picture.

I decided I needed to write in my blog again. Even if it's just to post a few pictures, or some cute things the kids said.

Logged on this morning and was shocked to see it had been 11 months since my last post! SO much has happened in almost a year since I wrote that post!

So before I jump in to our life *right* now, here are the big important updates from the last year.

Since last August, we had an early miscarriage, then quickly found out we were expecting Max! We also found out he'd have a cousin close in age (8 days apart!), and another who is due in September! 3 little boy cousins in 3 months!

We finally sold our condo, and are officially homeowners again. We're having fun thinking of home improvement projects to chip away at over the next few years.

Nathan finished 1st grade and has taken off in both reading and math. He recently finished "The Indian in The Cupboard" series, and will spend hours a day reading once he gets caught up in a book. He was diagnosed with Asthma last fall after spending a scary 3 days in the hospital after his first attack. It's been really well controlled since then thankfully, with no major issues. We found out he's allergic to dogs, cats, and dustmites, so we've been able to limit exposure when possible.

Noah finished kindergarten, and made SO much progress this year! While he likes school, he was happy to have a break this summer and spend more time at home playing.

Elise had her second eye muscle surgery in January, and no more turning! It looks like she will not need anymore surgeries in the future, which is great news! She's still acting like a teenager (sometimes a 20 year old) stuck in a 4 year old's body. She'll start preschool this fall and can't wait!

Maddie is 2, and loves being a big sister. She insists that Max is her baby, and has adjusted so well to sharing her mom. She's super bossy, and keeps the big kids (and mom and dad) in line. Making sure everyone is doing what they are supposed to do. We start speech therapy in a couple of weeks since she's taking her time putting words together into phrases, and just recently started saying more words at all. Her receptive language is amazing though, it's so funny to watch her act just like Elise...she just doesn't talk much.

And then there is Max, not quite 6 weeks old and already jumping into our busy life. So far he's gone blueberry picking, spent a week at Cedar Point, visited Hale Farm and Village, and attended his first Indians game. He seems to be just as relaxed about life on the outside as he was on the inside (and on making his way out as well. I'll post about that another day).