Crock Pot Chicken

Some times I feel like I spend all day feeding everyone but myself. Between meeting the needs of a preschooler and a toddler, and nursing a constantly hungry newborn, I’m finding less and less time to cook. Add to that the fact that I’m not working this month (unpaid maternity leave) and both Brad and I are trying to start losing the baby weight, ordering in or going out is not really a good option either. Let me introduce you to one of my favorite kitchen appliances: my Crock Pot.

My crock pot is not glamorous. It is not new. It has definitely seen better days, and the lid used to have a handle. This is not due to lack of respect or a history of abuse. No, my crock pot is just showing wear much the same way my 4 year old’s beloved teddy bear is starting to look a little ragged around the edges. But a few trips through the washing machine have done little to lessen the attachment of my son to his bear, and the lack of a lid handle simply lends character to my hard working crock pot.

When the baby is crying and the kids are screaming and the cat has puked on the carpet again, it’s a comforting thought that dinner is cooking away with little to no effort on my part and when Brad gets home from work all that needs done is to dish it up. I also make my crock pot work double duty by cooking up large batches of dinners at a time and either freezing for a no-brainer dinner later, or keeping in the fridge for easy lunches and snacks.

Today I started with about a 5 lb package of boneless skinless chicken breast. I only buy these when they go on sale for less than $1.99/lb. Otherwise I get whole chickens to roast and make broth. I trimmed all of the fat from the whole package of chicken, placed them in the crock pot and generously seasoned with salt and pepper.

Some times I use a little poultry seasoning or rubbed thyme, but mostly I keep it simple since I’ll be using this chicken in all sorts of different recipes. I add about an inch of broth to the crock pot so it doesn’t dry out, and set it on high for about 4 hours. If you need it to cook longer, you can set it on low for 6-8 hours, and it should be done when you get home from work.

After 4 hours, you end up with this:

Fall apart tender, fork shreddable, juicy, tasty chicken!

This chicken now has the possibility to become: soup, burritos, stir fry, sandwiches, salad, lunches for Brad to take to work, cashew chicken, quesadillas, just about anything. Being already cooked, it makes dinner come together in a matter of minutes. Which is some times all the time I have between marathon nursing sessions that the baby likes to start right around 4:00 and continue up until bedtime. Hey, at least she sleeps at night!

Aria Elizabeth’s Birth Story

Aria’s Birth Story: A lesson in relinquishing control

With Connor’s birth being so fast and furious, I was incredibly paranoid the whole last month of not recognizing labor in time and the midwife missing it entirely. I also had a lot of intuitive feelings which I did recognize as most likely wishful thinking about the baby arriving a little early (Owen was a week late, and Connor came on his due date). With Christmas fast approaching, the earlier this baby was born the more likely I’d feel up for attending family functions and Christmas activities.

I’d been contracting off and on for weeks, and had had my midwife and doula on high alert two or three times already. On Sunday evening, Dec 13th, I started having contractions again, about 10 minutes apart, for a couple of hours. Kathy, my midwife, told me to drink a glass of Gatorade, take a bath, and call her back if things changed at all. Well the bath calmed things down and I went to bed. I woke up at about 12:30 am with contractions 5 minutes apart, and pretty darn serious. I woke up Brad and had him make up the bed. I called Kathy, but she wasn’t convinced this was the real thing yet, and felt I was probably still doing some preparatory work. With Connor’s 3.5 hour birth seared in my memory, and Kathy living an hour away, I finally called her back at 2:00 and asked her to come. I also called Kim, my doula, who had woken up about 20 minutes earlier thinking about me and was waiting for my call. It was a beautiful night for the middle of December, and we walked around the apartment complex for a while, and sat on the birth ball for a while. When Kathy arrived she checked me and I was at a 3, but not very effaced and still firm. She still thought it might be early, but I was pretty convinced this was it. By 7:00am I was very tired, having gotten no sleep all night, and alternating sitting on the birth ball and walking around the apartment complex. Kathy suggested I try to lay down and if I was able to sleep at all, they would sneak out, and I should call them back if things started to pick up again. Disappointed, but very tired, I went to bed. I slept off and on for about two hours, when contractions started picking up again in intensity and frequency and I really couldn’t sleep. I got up around 9:00 and sat on the birth ball, reading online and timing contractions. By noon, I was again convinced that this was it, and called my birth team again.

Everyone came back. Kim had gone straight to work from my house that morning, so she had had no sleep at all, and Kathy had an hour drive home and about an hour and a half of sleep before heading back my way. After only 2ish hours of sleep myself, I was still tired, but wanted so badly to meet this baby. At about 2:30, Kathy checked me again, and I was still at a 3. 14 hours after calling her the first time, I had made zero progress. I was devastated. Kathy asked if I was able to let go of the idea of having this baby today. I nodded, and sniffled, and wiped some tears from my face. Kathy and Kim both said to go ahead and cry. It’s been hard work, and sometimes letting go and having a good cry can help things along. So I cried. Brad held me while I sobbed. I was embarrassed for having called everyone too early, and for not knowing real labor from prodromal even though it was my third baby and second natural birth. I was exhausted from the previous 14 hours of work that led to no progress, and I was so very disappointed that I was not moments away from holding my daughter like I thought I should be. When I ran out of tears, Kathy told Brad and I to have a nice dinner out just the two of us, and to get a good night’s sleep. Baby would come when she was ready, and not a moment sooner. I sniffed and nodded and blew my nose, and my birth team went home…again. I took a nap. When my neighbor got home from work that evening we asked her to watch the boys so we could get out of the house. I had my heart set on Spagio’s lobster bisque and brie pizza. When we got to the restaurant, we discovered that Spagio’s is closed on Mondays. I knew this. I had run into this very problem before. But of course it never crossed my mind on the way there, and my heart sank as we approached the darkened entrance. I stood there in front of the locked doors trying very hard not to cry again, and thinking desperately of another restaurant that sounded remotely appetizing. Brad suggested steak. It didn’t sound as good as lobster bisque, but it sounded better than going home and making macaroni and cheese, so we went to Texas Roadhouse and had a filet and mashed potatoes. It was very good, and we had a nice time, even though it wasn’t the bisque I was longing for. I continued having pretty intense contractions throughout the evening, but they were much farther apart then they had been. When we got home I went to bed while Brad got the boys from the neighbors and did their bedtime routine. I slept better that night then I had in 3 months.

I woke the next morning at about 6:00, again with contractions too intense to sleep through and close enough together to make me thing that this could be the real deal. I timed contractions for about an hour. I was pretty sure this was it, but still dubious due to my previous history of crying “wolf”, so I took myself up to the bathroom for a self check. I could tell at once that my cervix was much softer, easier to reach, and there had definitely been progress. I called my birth team out again, for the third time in less than two days. Kim arrived, followed shortly by Mandy, Kathy’s new apprentice. I put my birth music on the computer, and sat on the birth ball. Brad was a wonderful support, rubbing my back and bringing me drinks. When Kathy arrived, I could tell she was still slightly skeptical, as I was chatting easily between contractions, and focused but very relaxed during them. But she is a dear, and didn’t say anything about it, just unpacked her gear and listened to the baby with the Doppler and let me go on about my business. The contractions were getting longer and stronger, but remaining about 5 minutes apart. I’m not really sure on the frequency, I had given up timing them quite a while ago. At around 10:00, I started feeling a little pushy at the peak of some of the stronger contractions, and I mentioned this to Kathy. She checked me again, and I was at 9 cm, so we went upstairs to the bedroom where Brad had double made the bed with a layer of plastic between the nice sheets and the old ones. Someone had brought up the birth ball, so after a few contractions leaning against the dresser I felt like I had been making better progress sitting. I sat back down on the birth ball, but that first contraction resulted in a major hip cramp, so I nixed that idea. I spent the next few contractions trying to find a position that was comfortable. I tried leaning on the bed. I tried squatting holding onto the bed – that hurt a lot. I tried kneeling on the bed with my upper body supported on a stack of pillows but felt like I couldn’t really relax my legs and bottom that way. I ended up with Brad sitting against the headboard, and me sitting between his legs and leaning back against him. I could relax my body and let the contractions work, and I had really wanted to be in a position where I could catch the baby myself, and this would work well for that.

Pushing this baby out was very different than when Connor was born. With Connor I spent the 5 minute ride to the hospital trying desperately *not* to push, and he was born anyway, with almost no conscious effort on my part. Pushing this baby out was hard work, and crowning was painful. Upon checking her notes Kim said I was only pushing for about 8 minutes, but it felt like a lot longer. Brad was really helpful while I was pushing. He rubbed my arms and stroked my hair between contractions, and during contractions he held me tight and was very grounding, giving me something to anchor against as I pushed. My water broke only a couple of minutes before the baby was born with a huge pop and a gush. As I felt the baby’s head move down, I was able to reach down and feel her crowning, and once I pushed the head out the rest of her body followed easily and I caught her and lifted her to my tummy.

She wasn’t crying, but she was squirming and cooing and Kathy assured me that she was fine, just rub her back and talk to her. The placenta delivered shortly after. Within about 10 minutes Aria was making smacking and sucking noises, so I put her to my breast and she latched right on.

Brad cut the cord. Kathy, Kim and Mandy went downstairs then to inspect the placenta and let Brad and I have some alone time with the newest member of our family. Aria was absolutely perfect. At 6 lbs 11 oz she was the smallest of my three babies, and every tiny bit of her was exquisitely beautiful. After a few wonderful hours, Mandy drew an herbal bath for me and the baby, and then they did the newborn exam, cleaned up all the birth supplies, started a load of laundry, tucked me and the baby into a nice clean bed, and left us to revel in the bliss of a tiny new life.

Everything about Arias birth was so peaceful and perfect. After Connor’s rocket like entrance into the world, I had some pretty definite ideas about how this birth should go, but it wasn’t until I let go of my preconceptions and let the baby take over that things began to get underway. Aria Elizabeth Martin was born at 10:34 am on Tuesday, December 15th. 6lbs 11oz, and 20 inches long, and I am madly in love with her.