Crock Pot Meal Plan Review: Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

Well, it was bound to happen. My first flop. Okay, flop is a bit harsh. Let me just say this: I am not enjoying this and I have a TON of it.

This is the recipe:

Crock Pot Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

  • 4 large carrots, chopped or sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1.5 cups chopped green beans (I used frozen)
  • 2 cups dry green lentils
  • fresh rosemary (the recipe didn’t specify an amount so I used about 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Put above ingredients into the freezer bag. Before cooking, add:

  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 64 oz. vegetable broth

Cook on low for 10 hours. Add additional broth if the soup is too thick after cooking.

Verdict? 2 out of 5 stars.

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You see that part about cooking on low for 10 hours? I probably should have tried that. I was short on time, so I cooked on high for an hour and then low for 8 hours. That should have worked but the lentils were crunchy. After 8 hours I tried to give it another hour or so. Better, but not great. The lentils are edible but not how they should be.

The flavor is fine but something is missing. It doesn’t taste bad. It is just not delicious.  It tastes like the healthy, vegetarian soup that it is. I am pretty much forcing myself to eat this for lunch this week but I have had enough. Even Max said “I no like this” and he loves sweet potatoes.

Oh, I reduced the broth (I used chicken). 64 oz seemed like way too much. I did around 45-50 oz. Maybe that is the problem. Or maybe raw lentils are not meant to be frozen.

I used Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes for this one because they are generally more flavorful. It didn’t help much (or did it?).

So now I have a ton of leftovers (the Knight is away this week, and the Little Prince won’t eat it. I could freeze it but I’m pretty sure I’d never defrost it. I hate wasting food.

Oh well, they can’t all be big hits. At least I didn’t waste expensive meat on this.

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Next day edit: I have been thinking more about this and I have a theory. When I put the contents in the slow cooker the lentils were not covered by the liquid. The bag contents were in one big frozen chunk. I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before.

Here is what I will do next time. I am going to break up the contents and ensure that everything is covered by broth. Also, per my friend Razak’s suggestion I am going to add cumin, paprika and maybe some cayenne. Stay tuned.

Crock Pot Meal Plan Recipe Review: Salsa Chicken

The next recipe we tried was Salsa Chicken. This might be the easiest of the recipes.   Salsa Chicken

  • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 1 15oz jar of your favorite salsa
  • 1 can sweet corn drained & rinsed [I used frozen]
  • 1 can black beans drained & rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

To serve, you can serve as is or shred.   What did we think? I’d give it 3 stars. 3-stars-out-of-5 But here’s the thing. I don’t really like chicken very much. I know, who doesn’t like chicken? I actually don’t mind chicken thighs, or fried chicken or other fatty chicken. I just find chicken breasts generally very unappealing. So keep that in mind as I review the chicken recipes.

I used a combination of breasts and thighs for all of the recipes because of our divided household. The Knight prefers chicken breasts.

The first night I shredded the chicken and served it over tortilla chips (I know, not terribly healthy, but I just wasn’t feeling like eating straight chicken). I added some grated cheddar, along with the corn and black beans and some of the juice from the crock pot.

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The second night I served it over brown rice with salad. I liked it better, but I’m not sure why.

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For lunch on the third day I put it in a tortilla with brown rice and cheese. This was my favorite of the three options.

The Knight wasn’t home to enjoy this. The Little Prince liked it just fine.

This made a ton so I wound up freezing three big bowls full for later, with one bowl for the next day’s dinner/lunch. I think this would be great over salad or rice, or in a tortilla.

Crock Pot Meal Plan Recipe Review: Beef Stew

The first recipe we cooked up was the beef stew. We skipped the freezer step, so I don’t exactly know how the raw potatoes would have done in the freezer (I will report back).

Here is the recipe:

 BEEF STEW

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 20 small red potatoes cut in ½ or ¼
  • 6 carrots, chopped [add more]
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup low sodium beef broth

Directions:

Put meat, flour & spices in the gallon freezer bag first & toss together to coat meat. Dump in rest of the ingredients & seal bag.

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The verdict? I’d give in 3.5 stars (out of 5). 

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It is a winner. All three of us enjoyed it. The flavor was good, but not fantastic. It needs something… I am going to experiment and see if I can improve it.

The beef came out super tender. The chunks (from Costco) were a bit large for me to eat without cutting.

As for quantity, this made enough for the three of us for dinner, plus three big bowls more. It probably would have fed us for two more dinners/lunches.

The recipe that I made was low on potatoes and carrots for my liking so the recipe I posted doubled the veggies in the recipe I posted.

If you make this, please let me know how you like it (and if you have any suggestions for zipping up the flavor). Enjoy!

 

Crock Pot Freezer Meal Plan

Hey look! It’s a post about cooking. It has been a while, I know.

I’ve been wanting to start doing some batch cooking for a while.  Big thanks to my friend Melissa for getting me going by sharing her recipes and the plan she developed. Using some of her recipes and ones I saved on my own from different sources, I came up with a plan. (I regret that I didn’t keep track of recipe sources to give proper credit. When I started compiling these recipes I never intended to develop a plan or share it.)

The idea morphed into making 18 crock pot-ready meals. (Yes, I have a huge freezer.) Nine different recipes, doubled. Everything chopped, measured, and prepped, ready to be frozen and then popped into a slow cooker. Note that there is no reason why you have to double these. Just adjust the shopping list accordingly.

Most recipes involve little to no additional work other than dumping the contents into a slow cooker and turning it on. A few involve adding pantry  ingredients in the morning or in the last 30 minutes of cooking. A couple require shredding the meat before serving. The goal is to keep this as simple as possible for those of us who are running out the door in the morning and have limited time to prep dinner in the evenings. Sound familiar?

We headed to Costco first for a huge load of meat and veggies. We like their organic chicken. We got a combination of boneless breasts and thighs (I like dark meat, the Knight likes white). We bought the onions, peppers, carrots, and frozen corn (to sub for canned corn), and broth/stock.

We picked up the rest of the ingredients at the commissary (and then to Harris Teeter the day we cooked for the forgotten ingredients). I purchase all of my spices from Penzeys, and headed there to get the taco seasoning (2 heaping tablespoons equal one packet). [Side note: If you don’t know about Penzeys, you have to check it out. Many years before they opened a local store I started ordering from them. Their stuff is high quality. I originally bought the 1/2 cup jars for most spices (1/4 jars for the lesser used ones). Now I buy the refill bags and keep the extra in my freezer. It works great and saves a lot of money! Trust me, you can tell the difference with these spices.)

Prepping was a pretty big undertaking. We spent about 2 hours in the morning and about 2.5 hours in the afternoon. This was with two of us working (well, 2 1/2, which slows things down quite a bit).

There is a lot of similarity in flavors of some of the recipes. Next time I will try for a little more variety next time. I will let you know how I feel about this as I get through the meals.

I am really excited about this little experiment. I will post reviews of each recipe as I cook it. For now, here is the plan (the shopping list is at the end). Note that each recipe is for one bag. The shopping list is for two of each recipe. Pantry staples and spices are not listed, except for things I didn’t have – like taco seasoning.

Unless the directions specify otherwise, you should dump the entire contents of the bag into the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours on low. You could probably cook on high for 4 hours.

One final note: the recipes make a lot. At least 6 serving of each, some make 8-10 servings. I definitely plan to freeze some of the cooked food for later reheating.

The Recipes:

 Beef Stew

  • 2 pounds beef stew meat
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 20 small red potatoes cut in ½ or ¼
  • 6 carrots, chopped [add more]
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 12 oz tomato paste
  • 1 cup low sodium beef broth

Directions:

Put meat, flour & spices in the gallon freezer bag first & toss together to coat meat. Dump in rest of the ingredients & seal bag.

 

Beef Fajitas

  • 1-1/2 – 2 pounds flank steak
  • ¾ cup salsa
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoon lime juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2-3 bell peppers, sliced (I used red, yellow, & orange)

When cooked serve with tortillas, cheese, etc.

 

Salsa Chicken

  • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 1 15oz jar of your favorite salsa
  • 1 can sweet corn drained & rinsed [I used frozen]
  • 1 can black beans drained & rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

To serve, you can shred and put over chips/rice or just as is.

 

Taco Chicken

  • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 can green chilies (pick which spicy level you like)
  • 1 envelope low sodium taco seasoning

[The recipe doesn’t state, but I’m thinking you could serve this in taco shells, on chips, or even in tortillas with rice and/or beans for a burrito]

 

Honey Sesame Chicken

  • 2-3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs/breasts
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup honey
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • ½ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Toss meat, flour, salt & pepper into bag & toss together. Add remaining ingredients & seal up bag. Once cooked garnish with scallions and serve over brown rice or quinoa.

 

Crock Pot Barbacoa

For the freezer bag:

  • 1.5-2 lbs Beef Rump Roast
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2-4 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the can of chipotle peppers)
  • 1 container of chopped mushrooms (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 8 hours [These times don’t sound right to me.] Shred the meat (discard the bay leaf).

Then add:

  • 1 16 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 12-16 ounces can green chiles
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Cook 30-60 minutes longer on high.

 

Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken

  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken
  • 8 ounces frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • t teaspoon pepper
  • 3 scallions chopped

Cook on low for 10 hours or on high for 6 hours. A half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. Adjust salt and seasoning. Serve over rice. Garnish with cilantro and sour cream if desired.

 

Crock Pot Lentil Sweet Potato Soup

  • 4 large carrots, chopped or sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped,
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced
  • 1.5 cups chopped green beans (I used frozen)
  • 2 cups dry green lentils
  • fresh rosemary (the recipe didn’t specify an amount so I used about 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

Put above ingredients into the freezer bag. Before cooking, add:

  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 64 oz. vegetable broth

Cook on low for 10 hours. Add additional broth if the soup is too thick after cooking.

 

Crock Pot Chicken Taco Chili

  • 3-4 chicken breasts/thighs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 10 oz. frozen corn
  • 1 taco seasoning packet [or 2 heaping tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with chilies

A half hour before serving, remove chicken and shred. Return chicken to slow cooker and stir in. [The recipe didn’t specify, but I assume you are supposed to cook it a little while longer at this point.] Serve with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese and/or sour cream.

 

 

Shopping List

Meat

  • 4 pounds beef stew meat
  • 3-4 pounds flank steak
  • 4-6 bell peppers
  • 26 pounds chicken (combination of breasts/thighs, to your liking – can do all of one or the other depending on your preference)
  • 4 pounds rump roast [They didn’t have rump roast at Costco so we substituted another cut – round something I think]

Vegetables

  • 16 carrots
  • 12 yellow onions (Costco sells a big bag of yellow onions that is plenty for this plan)
  • 1 red onion (I skipped this and used extra yellow onion)
  • 30 cloves garlic (around 3 heads)
  • 1-2 pounds mushrooms (optional – I used cremini)
  • 3 limes
  • 40 small red potatoes
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 6 scallions
  • 22 carrots
  • 8 stalks celery
  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  •       Fresh rosemary (I couldn’t find any so I used dried)

Frozen

  • Frozen corn (1 big Costco bag or 4 regular bags)
  • Green beans (I medium bag – 3 cups)

Other

  • 132 ounces Chicken or Vegetable Broth (we got a case or organic stock at Costco)
  • 2 cups (I can) beef broth
  • 2 cups honey (Honey at Costco is in way too big a package)
  • 2 cups dry red wine
  • 3 16 ounce cans tomato sauce
  • 6 cans black beans
  • 2 cans kidney beans
  • 4 cups dry lentils (I bag will work)
  • 8 cans diced tomatoes with green chiles (I bought the case of organic diced tomatoes at Costco and just added green chiles to each recipe)
  • 2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 24 ounces tomato paste plus 2 tablespoon [Note, you can freeze leftover tomato paste in spoonsful on a sheet or in ice cube trays, then put the frozen portions all into a ziploc for future use)
  • 4 cans green chiles (extra if you plan to buy plain diced tomatoes)
  • 4 envelopes taco seasoning (I bought a bag at Penzey’s. Two heaping tablespoons = 1 packet)
  • 1 can chipotles in adobo (split for recipe)
  • 3-4 jars salsa

 

 

Max is Two

I have to say, I am little emotional about this whole getting older thing. Just wow. I can’t believe I have a two year old.

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I’ve said it before: this kid is amazing! He blows my mind and melts my heart every day. He is just a wonderful little person and I am so proud of him. There is something about watching your own baby go from a little blob to a functioning, interactive little person that totally rocks your world.

Personality

Max is so full of energy! We frequently joke that we need to find a way to cheer him up because he is constantly laughing or trying to make us laugh. He is such a fun-loving little guy.

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Emptying out the spice drawer

He is also a super sweet and affectionate toddler. He is so considerate and seems very aware of others’ feelings and needs. He is concerned if he thinks you have a boo-boo and will give kisses (even when it is just a beauty mark). He is generally very open to cuddles and kisses and loves hugging and kissing his mama in the mornings.

He is pretty sensitive, which makes discipline somewhat easier. He aims to please and gets very upset when he perceives that he has done something wrong. He still has his toddler moments, but we have been lucky in that we can usually reason with him or distract him. We found the approaches from the Love and Logic books very helpful, as well as The Happiest Toddler on the Block.

He is talking up a storm these days. This past week I noticed a big change in his verbal skills and his voice. He is talking in basic sentences now. “I want do that. Daddy more milk please. Mama come here. Auntie did this.” It is pretty cool.

 

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Following our July trip we saw a big rise in Max’s separation anxiety at dropoff and bedtime. That was pretty rough. I am happy that it seems to be under control now. The bedtime routine went from being super easy to taking up to an hour to get him to sleep. We have been working through this with a combination of my silly made up story (about a bunny (Pete) who loves his mommy and daddy so much that he doesn’t want them to leave him at night) and a system where we come back every five minutes to check on him.  We are now down to about 1-4 minutes of crying at night (last night there was no crying at all).

Physical
Max remains around the 20th percentile for weight (25 lbs) and 55th percentile for height (34.5 inches). He is very active and loves to run (another trait we can’t figure out). He is a little monkey. When we were on vacation at the beach he discovered that he could climb up and sit on my head. I definitely know where he gets that from (I was a little monkey when I was little).

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Max loves to help us. His favorite chore is cleaning the floor, followed closely by emptying the dishwasher. He recently began cooking with us, which is fantastic. Yes, things take at least twice as long, but it is SO fun. He says, “I took [cook].” In fact, some nights I will have him “help” me cook an egg, even though we are eating leftovers. He enjoys it so much. When I am cooking he doesn’t want to do anything other than be right there with me. He chops (holding the end of the knife while I hold it), helps me measure and pour, adds ingredients, and stirs. I am so excited for this to continue for years to come. I think I always envisioned baking Christmas cookies together but I didn’t expect that we would cook together like this. It is fabulous.

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He is a talker, for sure. We can’t figure out where he gets that. He has recently started talking in sentences, which is just an amazing thing to hear.

Max is very affectionate – some of the time. He loves to give kisses and is very concerned if he thinks you have a boo-boo (even when it is a beauty mark).

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Auntie Laura reported that when she picked Max up from school one day one of his teachers was talking about how they are all impressed with how polite Max is. That was a nice pat on the back and really made me smile. Glad to hear that the constant work is paying off. He is saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ a lot more these days and it really makes me smile when he does it without prompting.

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Max wearing his “onion goggles” while chopping, just like Mommy

One thing has remained constant: Max is still a great little eater. I think that his overall intake is starting to decrease, as it should at this age. However, he is still pretty good about eating a variety of foods, including veggies. He has amused us recently by demonstrating that anything spicy, including wasabi, is his friend. First, he took a finger full of wasabi out of some soy sauce and after eating it asked for more. Then he happily ate wasabi-soy almonds when he was with Auntie, even though she made the yucky face at him. He made the face back and then requested “more nuts, please.”

Fun stuff
We had an awesome summer! We spent some time at the lake, which usually involved playing in the sand. He likes sand castles but prefers sand “mickeys.” That is just a cluster of three buckets of sand together which he mushes down. Ta-da.

I had been feeling bad about not keeping up with swim classes. The session we did last year was not what I would call successful. He vacillated between distressed and barely tolerant. I was really happy when I got him in the lake this summer (very gradually) and was able to do everything with him that we did in the class. He loved it. He “swam” between Oli and me – stomach down, hands out, even some kicking. He loved it! He got his face in the water once and did not freak out. I’ll call that a win!

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Lots of horsie rides!

We had fun doing things like playing outside with his water table, going to riding his balance bike (the Knight is THRILLED about this), checking out various playgrounds, running a 5k together, playing at a couple of spraygrounds, enjoying the neighborhood 4th of July parade, eating lots of ice cream, going to the fair where Max got to play on a fire truck, and trying out the new indoor bounce house. We also celebrated the Knight’s birthday and Max’s birthday within a week. Max also had his first full day without mommy and daddy, thanks to Auntie and Grandma watching Max so we could have a night away. It went perfectly well.

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Knight, Jr.

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Water table fun

Travel
We took two trips this summer. We went to the NY Finger Lakes for my Musselman triathlon in July (a race report was partially written but never finished. Short version: I did it and am happy to be back in retirement). Max was a terrific little Sherpa, although he is still not a fan of the brief hellos during the race. He just doesn’t understand why Mommy is leaving again so soon. Fortunately he had a playground to play on and lots of new Team Z friends to entertain him. He and the Knight stayed cozy under the team tent during the downpour, where Max napped on Oli’s chest after eating two whole chicken breasts, some fries and a variety of other foods.

The day after the race we went to visit my mom in Ithaca. That was a nice, but brief visit. The highlight for Max was Jake the dog (aka ‘woof woof’). They both had fun chasing each other around the house.

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Who wouldn’t love a Grandma who shares her ice cream?

At the end of August we went to Pensacola to the rest of the immediate family, including our grandson. We rented a house on the beach and had a fantastic time. Max loved the ‘ocean’ and the sand and amused us by saying “beach house” all day. He was insistent on “MY mommy! MY daddy!” but he eventually got used to us holding the little guy (14 months). I also tried to explain to him that the Knight was also Joseph and Rachel’s daddy but he was not happy about that either. However, he was a big fan of his big brother and sister-in-law, as totally nuts about his big sister. It was a really great visit.

Family
Speaking of family, Max thoroughly enjoyed his 3-week visit from Grandma. His attachment to her was instant. He loves his Grandma! He also loved that we ate out a lot more than usual. One night in the car he stated, “Eat, mama. No house.” He cracked me up.

Meanwhile, he and Auntie have a very special thing going. They are so lucky to have each other. Max talks about Auntie constantly, and frequently wants to call her on his toy phone. He tells us all the time that “Auntie did this” pointing to the monkey decorations on his ceiling and wall.

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Auntie and Max enjoying the bubbles

Other news
[When I say news I think everyone is waiting to hear that I’m pregnant. Nope. There will be no more pregnancies for me. ]

Max began in the “two’s” class this week. It was kind of unfortunate that he started a new class his first day back at school after vacation. It was a lot of change and it didn’t go as well as we would have liked. However, the second day was completely different since Max brought Thomas the Tank Engine to school. He held onto him the entire day and was holding him when I picked him up. We all miss his former teachers but we are excited about his new class, teachers and friends (some of whom he already knew from his prior class).

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After celebrating Max’s Birthday

On a different note, we have started processing this whole potty training thing. Our plan it be pretty laid back about it and not pressure him. We have had the little frog potty in the bathroom for a few months. We have started discussing how mommy and daddy go potty and we even started rewarding ourselves for the accomplishment. Yes, this feels totally bizarre. Now Max cheers, “Yay Mommy!” when I use the toilet. He instructs as I go through the process. “Wipe.” “Flush.” “Wash.” SO funny. Afterwards he exclaims “Treat, mama!”

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Do you think he likes to swing?

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Fun!

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More, Dada!

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Weeeeeeee!

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After the neighborhood Fourth of July parade (and the cookies and lemonade)

I always ask him if he wants to go to the potty and he would always say no. On Labor Day he surprised me and said yes. We went and sat down on the potty. He got a treat. He asked for more and I told him he could have another one if he took off his diaper to sit. He agreed, much to my surprise. When he asked for more I told him he would get one if he made pee-pee or poopy. That didn’t happen but we had a very positive start. I believe it will happen in time. Max’s teacher thinks it will be easy with him because he hates being messy. We’ll see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Max Update: 20 Months

I was telling a coworker this morning about how shocking it is to me that Max is 20 months old. That means he is just months away from turning two. You know I’ve said that the first year didn’t exactly fly by like so many people say. But year 2? definitely. I guess it is true what they say: Time flies when you’re having fun.

I am totally biased and I’ve probably said this before: Max is amazing! He is the greatest little guy. Oh, I am so in love with him. My heart actually races most days when I go to pick him up. Imagine that. It is a terrific feeling. I love being around him. Going back to work on Mondays is the pits.

What’s new?

Not much has changed since the 18 month update.  Reading is definitely his favorite pastime. That is a remarkable thing. He has even started ‘reading’ on his own and will sit quietly for short periods with his books. That is a very good thing.

He is all boy. He has recently discovered trains. If I could post a video (anyone know how?) I would post the one of him excitedly celebrating “choo choo” as he played with his new Thomas trains. His favorite book is Chugga-Chugga Choo-Choo  He is also really into trucks and loves the Diggers book I bought him. I can’t find a link for that one but did you know that Amazon has a whole subcategory of Children’s books for “Heavy Machinery” books? Good to know.

We had our parent-teacher conferences this week and we were very pleased to hear that Max is doing great. He is on target in some areas and advanced in others. His teacher had no concerns about him. On a related note, given the difficulties we faced in the first year it is so astonishing for us to have people randomly comment on what a mellow guy he is.

What else does he like?

Max loves to clean. Vacuuming is his favorite. He also likes to wipe things down and empty the dishwasher. He is surprisingly good at following instructions and listening to us – most of the time.

Dogs are so exciting to him and he will gladly wear any garment with dogs (or woof woof) on it. We have exposed him to a lot of different dogs and he is becoming comfortable around them. He gets so excited when he sees them but gets a little nervous when they get close. I can relate. Meanwhile, our cat Pepper is a saint. Max has taken to picking him up. You can imagine how that is.

Peekaboo is still a big hit. His favorite variation involves me hiding outside the kitchen while he is in his high chair. You would think this is the funniest thing he has ever seen in his life. The best part is that I sometimes sneak around to the other entrance to the kitchen and shock him by appearing behind him. He LOVES it!

What doesn’t he like?

Max is still not a big fan of brushing his teeth, but we get it done most nights. He has only lost his nightly book privileges once and we haven’t had to do that again. I now understand the old expression about it hurting the parents more than the kids. I was so sad to have to withhold his books from him that night but it worked.

At our conference Max’s teacher noted that Max has texture issues and he doesn’t like finger paining. This might have more to do with staying clean, though. When he sees them bring out the finger paint he starts calmly  saying “Nooooooo. Noooooo.” He doesn’t like playing with shaving cream either. I tried to do hand prints with him recently and that didn’t go so well. Fine with me if my boy likes to stay clean.

Achievements?

We have been experiencing a language explosion lately. His vocabulary grows every day. I write about a lot of his new words on my post-a-day blog. (Email me if you want to see it.) His newest words are “nana” (banana), bike, ice, and all done. He also says his name “ma” – which can be easily confused with Mom, milk and more. He can say “I love you” “thank you” and “yes, please” but these are really hard to make out. We know what he is saying from the context but he has a little ways to go before anyone other than us understands him.

Our biggest recent achievement has to do with bath time. We went for about two months with Max been absolutely traumatized by the bath. I have no idea what happened. It was not fun. Thanks to a new book about baths and some patience, Max now loves that bath more than ever before.

He has also become very skilled in identifying pictures of objects. It had been a month or so since we regularly read one of Max’s most treasured books from Aunt Es “My Favorite Things.” On the last page there are pictures of all of the items in the book. In the past I would ask Max where each item is. Over time he would get more and more right. He could always identify the bananas (of course) but most of the items were a little iffy. I was shocked last week when I read it to him he got about 95% right. I couldn’t believe how well he did.

Sleep

Max’s sleep lately has been, well, fantastic. Really. I am probably totally jinxing it. Not only does he go to bed without protest, he often requests that we put him in the crib. Not just that, but he has had a few 13 hour nights recently. It is shocking! He naps pretty well, too. Who would have guessed?

Eating

Max’s teacher reports the same thing we observed: Max still eats a LOT. This is a great thing. He has tried many new foods, and likes sushi and pizza. That’s my guy. He still eats his veggies but I think he has gotten sick of his old favorite: peas. His latest favorite is shredded brussels sprouts. Mmmmm.

Breastfeeding

We have completely weaned as of about a six weeks ago. I have mixed emotions about it. Last week Max had strep and a big part of me wished I could provide Max the comfort (and nutrition) from nursing. We did just fine without it but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it. He is a big boy now and it was the right time for us to wrap that up.

Other

My favorite thing about him is his laugh. It is contagious. Not a day goes by that we don’t have some serious laughter in our house. We laugh while we change diapers, when we eat, when we bathe, and all of the times in between. That’s not say we don’t have our serious moments. The Knight and I joke all of the time that it is too bad that Max is so sad and that we wish we could find a way to cheer him up. He is just a happy kid.

We are becoming more and more aware that we need to be careful about what we say and do. The imitation has started. The funniest thing was recently Oli walked by me and brushed my thigh with his hand. The next thing I knew Max was walking by me doing the exact same thing. I realized that Oli touches me all the time but I don’t usually consciously notice. Ha! He’s going to have to start watching himself.

Max has also started imitating me when I give a thank you wave to a car stopping to let us cross the street or similar things. It is so cute. Can you imagine driving along when a 1.5 year old gives you a thank you wave? Ha!

In sum, life is great! We are happy, healthy and very fortunate. Max is doing so well and I am just overjoyed to be his mom. I wish I could freeze time. I am savoring every day and wish that these wonderful times will never end. I know that lots of good times lie ahead. I just want this time to last longer. I love his sweet cuddles, his giggles, and his joy. Ahhhhhh, motherhood.

 

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Training Update

So, here I am, about 3 months away from Musselman (half iron distance) and I have given myself a little kick in the rear. Balancing family, work and training is not easy but it is doable. That’s what I keep telling myself. I am determined to make it happen. Although I won’t be training at the level I was previously, where I usually nailed all 10 of the scheduled workouts each week, I am doing the best I can.

Right now, what that looks like this this:

  • Mondays: afternoon (lunch hour) lift plus an evening run (that I lead for the team)
  • Tuesdays: afternoon session on the spin bike at my gym; evening swim at the gym near my house
  • Wednesdays: run (usually speed work)
  • Thursdays: abbreviated spin 2-25 min (due to time constraints) and lift
  • Fridays: rest or makeup day
  • Saturdays: long run
  • Sundays: ride

A far cry from typical week 5 years ago, when I was training for Ironman.

This past weekend I got out on my bike for the first time in…a LONG time. I can’t even remember when the last time was. There was a 20 miler some time last fall and then ill-fated 4 mile ride some time in December of January where is started pouring so we took Max home immediately.  Fortunately I have been putting in time on the spin bike and on my trainer. By time I mean usually 30-45 minutes, but it is something.

But I am on track this week and I’m excited about it. I am hoping to keep it up for a while, at least until the Knight’s next overseas trip. I need a strategy for getting in the workouts while I’m solo. It is hard because Max was a disaster with the gym childcare when I tried to take him – he may be better now. I am not ready to pull him in the trailer on my bike. So when we’re solo I can run and I can run. And if I am very disciplined I can spin when he naps or goes to bed at night but there is so much else to do that it almost never happens.

I am happy to say that I did 27 miles on the bike and felt great during and after. I rode with a friend for the first part and then rode with the Knight and the little Prince for the second half. The little Prince likes the trailer but yells “No!” when we hit a bump. He’ll get used to it. On Monday we can home and he pointed to Oli’s bike and said “Bike!” I asked him who’s bike it was and he thought for a second and said “Dada!” I asked him who rides in that – pointing the trailer and he said “Ma!” which meant Max. So cute.

I did get back in the pool last night after a couple of weeks off. I wasn’t pretty but it was way better than nothing. I am proud of myself for getting back to it.

I got speed work done this week (tiny little speed intervals, but speedy nonetheless). I lifted twice (one day was legs/back/bicpes; one day was chest/shoulders/triceps).

I am hoping that this momentum will continue and I will make good progress going forward. It will get done. I will finish. It might not be glorious but I have done it before and will do it again.

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