Meal Subscription Services

Because we’re a busy growing family and I hate to meal prep, and most subscription services give a good deal for the first few weeks, we’ve tried several.  And here are my thoughts on each.

The first service we tried, and the one we like the best, is Hello Fresh.  There is a wide variety of recipe selections, and everything we’ve tried has been delicious.  It’s very kid friendly and nutritious, and I feel like it’s a pretty good value.  The portion sizes are adequate—the four serving plan feeds our two adults and two kids and we usually have a small portion left over.  The delivery is reliable and the food is fresh.  The meat is “responsibly raised”, another plus.  I like that there are a lot of meals that I wouldn’t ordinarily make, but that are still delicious.  We are trying new things and getting a wider variety of foods.  The one con, in my opinion, is that there’s just a lot of packaging.  The wrapping is all recyclable, but the insulation is not, which just feels like a waste.  Most of the recipes are relatively quick (20-40 minutes), but can be pretty involved, which makes meal time a little difficult when you have three kids screaming and fighting.  Overall, I give Hello Fresh five stars.

We tried Blue Apron for a few weeks, but were not impressed with their recipes.  They were all kind of “meh” and the kids weren’t very excited about the things we tried.  The packaging and price was very similar to Hello Fresh. All of the recipes we tried were pretty involved.  After about three weeks, I cancelled my account.  I’d give Blue Apron three stars.

I really wanted to like Plated.  I liked their commercials and just felt like it was a classy service.  It’s a little more expensive than Hello Fresh (~$80/week), but every recipe we tried was delicious.  The box is substantially smaller than Hello Fresh & Blue Apron, but it didn’t impact the freshness of the food.  However, they have a reliability problem.  I didn’t receive my first box, and while I was given a refund and an apology, there was no future discount applied for inconvenience.  We received our second box, everything was great.  But my third box never showed up.  Lasership said it was delivered and I checked my front door within five minutes of delivery, but there was no sign of the food.  So I called and they were apologetic and sent a new box later that week, but, again, no discount for the inconvenience.  I cancelled our account—I need my meals to show up when they say the will.  Plated gets two stars.

We like to eat organic food when we can, so the next service we tried was Sunbasket.  Their introductory pricing is not as appealing as the other services and it is significantly more expensive than Hello Fresh/Blue Apron.  We chose the cheaper four person, two meal a week plan, which just has less variety (you choose from 6 recipes instead of 18).  The box is substantially bigger than the other services, but every bit of the packaging is recyclable and/or compostable.  Big win.  The recipes are generally pretty different than what I would ordinarily make and are pretty mushroom and olive heavy, neither of which my family enjoys.  I do like that some of the ingredient they use are things that I would not normally buy but are totally delicious—dates, for example.  It seems like the packaging of the meal itself could have been better thought out.  They package meals in servings of two, so we got two sets of ingredients for each meal which ended up meaning excessive packaging and getting way more spices than we actually needed.  Also, all of the other meal services send (large) recipe cards for only the meals you are getting.  Sunbasket sends a magazine with all 18 recipes they offer for the week.  Again, excessive.  They could probably cut costs a bit if they eliminated this.  I did like that the recipe cards included hints on how to include kids in the meal prep or other useful tips.  If you are vegan, vegetarian, paleo, etc, Sunbasket offers more options than most meal services.  It is a nice service, but because of the cost it’s not one that we will use beyond a few weeks.

One of my very favorite meal services is A Joyful Kitchen.  The owner/chef, Anna, is a longtime family friend and just about the sweetest person I’ve ever met.  She’s a fabulous cook—I’ve never eaten anything of hers that has been less than amazing and she is my go to for any catering need.  Anna opened her kitchen on the east side of town a while ago and offers ready made dinners for pick up that are delicious, nutritious, and an exceptional value.  The menu usually changes every two weeks.  The bonus, all you have to do is put the food in the oven.  There is zero prep work!!!  The downer, if you don’t live on that side of town, the drive can be a pain.  A meal that serves 4 people is closer to actually feeding 5 or 6.  Per serving, the cost is far lower than any subscription service and it has the added benefit of supporting a locally owned business.  Five stars.

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Some Resolutions

I, like most people, am pretty terrible at keeping my New Year’s Resolutions.  I tend to forget about them by February.  And since I’ve recently realized that I’m severely lacking in discipline, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.  But ya never know… so here are my goals for the year.

  • Keep my kitchen counter clear instead of using it as a catch all
  • Get the gallery wall in my family room on the wall
  • Visit our remaining living grandparents (New York & Michigan)
  • Lose the baby weight
    • Exercise 3x/week
    • Minimize sugar
  • Go on a date with my husband at least once a month
  • Do a better job of spending one on one quality time with each of my kids

A {Quick} Birth Story

Our precious Bennett arrived on November 4, one day after his due date.  I had been so over being pregnant for over a month—I was huge, uncomfortable, tired, and cranky—so I was pretty desperate to greet our new baby.

My water broke at about 5pm and I started having some minor contractions within about an hour.  I told Andrew, texted the midwife and birth photographer, and then we just went about life as usual.  We ate dinner and then had one last fire and s’mores in the fire pit before we became a family of 5.

Andrew put the kids to bed while I tidied up, and my contractions started to pick up in intensity around 9 but were still really manageable, so I headed to bed to rest and updated the midwife and photographer.  Around 10 the intensity was increasing more, so my midwife, Callie, was going to start heading my way.  I still thought we were a good while from meeting Bennett, so I told the photographer she could take her time.

Callie arrived at about 1120 and by that time my contractions were back to back.  I only had about a 30 second reprieve between them and they hurt.  So she checked me between contractions and I was only at 6 cm.  So knowing that, a couple of minutes later I decided I should empty my bladder, and while I was sitting on the toilet I just HAD to push!  It really scared me, because I wasn’t expecting to need to push so soon.  But he was coming now!  Callie and Andrew had to lift me off of the toilet to get in the tub, and Bennett was born about two minutes later—about 5 pushes total—at 11:45 pm.

And the photographer arrived about 5 minutes after Bennett was born.

He was 9 pounds, 6 ounces, and just perfect.  By far my easiest labor and delivery, and so I thanked him for not making me work too hard.

I guess my screaming woke Jane up, because she did wake up and Andrew brought her in for a very brief view of Bennett before she went back to sleep.  When Hudson woke up in the morning, I passed Bennett to Andrew for a diaper change and Hudson followed him to the changing table saying, “That’s my baby brother.  I love him.”  Heart. melted. ❤ ❤

 

30 Before 30?

So, my whole “30 before 30” list?  Not so much achieved.  I knocked 14 of them off, which is pretty pathetic if I’m being honest.  Although some of my goals changed, like I no longer want to go to graduate school, most of them were not achieved because of pure laziness.  That being said, I don’t actually regret not being able to tick most of them off of my list, except for the reading part.  I’d really like to read more, which is why I’m going to put reading a certain number of books on my new “40 before 40” list…. when I actually write it.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty good about turning 30.  I am occasionally  tempted to panic when I think about reaching this milestone, but overall, I’m pretty happy.  These, after all, are truly the best days of my life!  I have my babies in arms and my husband beside me.  I have a wonderful extended family and a job that is meaningful.  These are the days that I will miss when my children are grown.  These days.  These tough, seemingly never ending, often mundane days of raising babies and keeping house—these are the days that I will miss.

And so as wonderful as my 20s were—they brought marriage and two beautiful children, as well as a host of other blessings—I look forward to seeing what this decade brings.  One of the things that I hope for most is maturity and comfort in my own skin.  At thirty years old, I feel like I should know who I am and be secure in myself, but most of the time I’m not.  So I hope that one day, when I tell my children about the 30s, I can tell them about a journey toward acceptance of oneself and others.

Thirty

I’m 30 now!  We had a rather anticlimactic celebration as Andrew is currently preparing for his first trial, but since we had a pretty amazing party last year, I’m truly not upset.  It started off with my loves cooking me a special banana waffle breakfast, and then I had a girls’ morning with my sweet daughter.

J started preschool a few weeks ago, and I’ve been feeling like I just don’t get enough quality time with her, so I wanted to do something special with just the two of us.  So we went to our local library branch and read for a while.  It felt like she found every ballet/princess/pink themed book before we left.  I loved reading to her and seeing what stories she gravitated to.  It was so sweet to just sit with her with no distractions.  After we read we headed off to Panera for lunch.  We sat outside, per her request, and enjoyed the fresh air.

While the kids napped and Andrew worked in the afternoon, I watched Mockingjay: Part One (on loan from the library).  The rest of the day was pretty low key, and Andrew made me a yummy steak dinner.  I made good use of the new food processor my parents gave me for my birthday and made cauliflower rice. Yum! Once the kids were in bed, I watched Mockingjay: Part Two. On a side note, I’m still disappointed in the casting decisions for the franchise.

After church this morning, we went to one of my favorite restaurants before heading to my parents’ house for a quick swim.  And that was how I spent my birthday weekend!

birthdayblog

Also, please forgive my very limited photoshop/collage skills 😉

We’re Still Here

It’s been awhile.  Life continues to be busy, and blogging hasn’t been much of a priority for me.  Which has been compounded by the recent world/local events that I just have not been able to fully process and am presently incapable of articulating my thoughts on them.  But we are still here and I continue to be so thankful for the beautiful babies that I get to call mine.

J turned three last month.  THREE!!  How did that happen?  This little girl who made me a mom, who shattered my perception of who I am and who continues to show me who I can be.  This precious three-year-old who fills my heart to overflowing.  Whose attention to detail and elephant-esque memory never cease to amaze me.  Three.

H turned one a few months ago.  I don’t know how that happened, either.  Wasn’t I just a gargantuan pregnant lady?  This year has been so fast, and yet, I cannot remember life before him.  This guy just lights up our world.  He is fun and funny, fast, happy, cuddly, adventurous, and very much boy.

Grieving Change

Today a new friend asked me how the transition to working outside of the home one day a week had been.  And it’s something  I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.  So much changed when I became a parent, and one of those things was a choice to work less.  I was and am so thankful to have the option and it’s something that I don’t take for granted.

Until my daughter was born, so much of my identity revolved around my work.  I loved it.  I loved the babies, I loved connecting with families.  I loved (and still do) placing a baby in his or her mother’s arms for the first time.  It still takes my breath away.  But when I went down to two shifts a week, the opportunity to “primary” a baby practically disappeared.  Even when I did form a strong attachment to a baby or family, it was rare for me to be assigned to care for that baby regularly.  And that is something I grieved.  As difficult as it was to be away from my own baby, and as much as I wanted to be home with her, when I was at work, I still wanted to have the same work experiences that I had previously.  But I couldn’t.  And I had to grieve that.  I was choosing to give up something that I loved for someone I loved far greater, but I still felt the loss.

And now.  Now I work one shift a week.  And I am so thankful for that.  I’m thankful for a job that allows me that flexibility and that my husband wants to be at home with our kids.  I’m thankful for the “break” that it provides once a week and that I can interact with adults on a professional level.  I’m thankful that I do still get to interact with babies and families in a meaningful way, even if it’s not the same as it once was.  I am truly thankful.

But.  Working only one day a week has its pitfalls.  Enough new staff has been hired that I don’t know many of my coworkers anymore.  Recently I walked into work a different way than usual and I didn’t recognize a single night shift nurse.  And they didn’t recognize me.  It was like was the one that was new, instead of actually being one of the more senior nurses.  It was really humbling.  And frustrating.

Musings on Motherhood

Motherhood is hard.  Really, really hard.  Really sanctifying, stretching, and sacrificial.  (I totally did not plan on 3 “S’s”, must be my SBC upbringing. Ha!)

Ever since I was a child myself, I looked forward to the day when I would have my own children to nurture.  Or, more probably, boss around, because as the oldest child, that’s what I really loved doing.  But as I grew older, I really did desire to nurture and love my own children.  I prayed for them and (not so patiently) waited for them.  I read, and continue to read, books on pregnancy, birth, and how to be a good parent.  I thought that I was pretty prepared.  But I was so wrong.  Nothing, nothing can prepare you for the emotional highs and lows of parenting except for actually parenting.  I’ve realized that my view of motherhood was intensely romanticized and did not account for bone weary exhaustion, or just the desire to have five  minutes all to myself.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am 100% in love with my children and they are my greatest joys.  I am not complaining about these precious babies that I still can’t believe are mine.  I am simply saying that I had no clue what I was in for.  I had no clue how much I would love these little darlings.  I had no clue how full my heart would be.  I had no clue how terrified I would become of losing them, or hurting them, or messing up.

I had no clue how difficult it is to teach and model for a child a life lesson or truth that I haven’t mastered yet.  And I’ll give you an example.  Last night, Andrew and I got about 3 hours of sleep, or at least, that’s how it feels.  We’ve had a week of really awful nights that have made me consider reconsidering my views on sleep training, and we are just so tired.  But I have been trying to teach Jane that being tired is not an excuse for being mean to others, and in order to really teach it, I must live it as well.  So today, though it’s not over, I’ve had to choose not to allow things to get under my skin.  Fortunately, in His infinite mercy and grace, God saw fit to give us beautiful weather today, and a good chunk of time outside this morning has improved the spirits of all in our house.  I am not good at being kind when I’m tired.  Not at all, so a moment like I had this morning is a real victory for me as I try to teach my children how to love others.  But here’s the thing, they can’t even appreciate that I’m doing it!  And I know this is just one instance, a small one, but I also know that there will be many more like it, and many more surrounding a host of issues that I haven’t mastered.

My children are incredible.  Simply because they are children, and without doing anything but being children, they have started to peel  away sin and selfishness from my heart.  They are the mirror in which I can see just how unloving, cynical, proud, and stubborn I am.  They have forced me to face parts of myself that I cannot stand.  They have forced me to mature.  They have forced me to become a better person.  And for that, and so many, many more things, I thank God for these darlings.   And I beg that He would give us the courage and the grace to parent our children well.

Lately

P1140229Lately, our family of four has been continuing to evolve our normal.  Our kids are growing and changing daily, simultaneously exhausting and frustrating while filling our hearts and giving us such delight that I sometimes think I will burst.  As I wrestle one child or another to bed (usually H), I often wish that he would just go to sleep!  But as soon as his precious blue eyes close and his little body is limp in my arms, I wonder how I could ever be frustrated with this darling boy.

These children and my husband are such treasures.  In a world that is as scary as ours, I constantly hear or meet people whose spouse or children are either taken from them or are profoundly hurting, and it terrifies me.  I have never known such intense anxiety as I have known since becoming a parent.  That saying about having children is like having your heart walk around outside of your body is absolutely true.  It is a constant struggle to remember that my family really belongs to the Lord, and all that I can do is love them well and leave the rest up to Him.  Much, much easier said than done.

P1130924The kids love each other so much, most of the time.  They each light up when they see the other, and now that H is full on crawling and can cruise around furniture, he is forever trying to play with anything J has, and vice versa.  It’s so precious to watch them together and I really hope they will be friends growing up, but I know that conflict will be aplenty, especially once H is able to retaliate when his sister does something not his liking.

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I cannot figure out why this picture won’t turn.

Life is not always rosy in our house; I am often frustrated, overwhelmed, stressed, and tired.  When the house is a mess and the kids are screaming and I just want some alone time, I am still so thankful for this beautiful life (and for a husband who will give me a reprieve and let me catch my breath before I go nuts!!).

Hiding in the Light

My dad gave me a copy of Rifqua Bary’s story, Hiding in the Light, last year, and I just now got around to reading it.  It’s the true story of Bary’s escape from her Ohio home at age 16 and the events leading and following her flight.

Bary was born into a very conservative Muslim family in Sri Lanka and moved to the United States as a young girl.  She suffered physical, sexual, and verbal abuse at the hands of her family, and at the age of 12 she met Jesus.  After her conversion, she managed to hide her new faith for four years, but when her father found out, he threatened to kill her.  It was then that Bary fled to Florida and found refuge in the home of new friends.  A dramatic and public court battle ensued which led to Bary returning to Ohio in foster care and finally ended when she turned 18.  And although the court battle has ended, Rifqua still lives in relative anonymity to protect her physical safety.

Hiding in the Light is a well written story  and a quick read (I finished it in one day… even with interruptions from little children!).  The author has an incredible testimony of faith in Christ and her’s is a story well worth reading.