Stove Top “Easy” Mac & Cheese

Stove Top "Easy" Mac & Cheese

Lunchtime seems to sneak up on me. Every day. I usually end up feeding Emily something quick like some variation of PB&J or our beloved (but not the healthiest) Annie’s “easy” mac. (Hey, at least I sneak some frozen peas or corn in there while it’s cooking.) But not today! I recently bought a block (*giggle*) of Tillamook Sharp Cheddar cheese. I had intended to make homemade Cheezits, but because our dishwasher was out of commission for a few days, that project fell by the wayside. So we’ve just been hacking off luscious slabs of cheese and eating them with crackers. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. But then I thought I could maybe make some mac n cheese out of it. So I Googled. Based on my findings, I came up with this super simple and quick recipe (and I use the term “recipe” very loosely). Adjust your proportions according to your liking. Add more cheese if you want it cheesier. I liked that it was cheesy and creamy, but not too rich and not clumpy.

Talk about a last minute meal…I remembered that I had some leftover bow tie pasta from a couple nights ago when I made Caprese Chicken (HAVE TO post about that one soon. It was healthy and delicious!). Rather than just leaving it plain (and cold. She likes it cold. I don’t get it.) or putting the usual bottled marinara sauce on it, I COULD MAKE MAC-Y! (I just realized that, although we say that word multiple times a day, I have no idea how to spell it. Macy? Macky? Mackie? Forgive me. You know what I mean.) So, here’s what I did…

Ingredients

2 cups leftover cooked pasta
1 cup Milk (I used almond, but you could obviously use cow, etc.)
1 cup Shredded Cheese (Obviously, I used that block of Tillamook sharp cheddar and shredded it with a medium grater, but already shredded would work too, although it probably wouldn’t be as good.)

Directions

In a medium saucepan, heat cooked pasta and milk over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once everything is warmed through, turn off the heat, add shredded cheese and stir to combine. Done! Add whatever spices and seasoning you like. I added a little black pepper to mine, but left Emily’s as is. She had a traumatic run in with black pepper one time, so she won’t touch the stuff. Heh.

And that’s it! Easy-peasy. 3 ingredients. 1 pot. 2 full tummies.

Cornflake Chicken and Easy Stovetop Mac & Cheese

I had one lonely piece left from last night’s cornflake chicken, so I heated him up in the oven. He has a couple bald spots, but don’t judge. If you spent the night in a plastic bag, you’d probably have a bald spot or two, yourself.

Enjoy!

Jen

NO SURGERY!!

Quincy shouting, "I can not beLIEVE it!"
To quote Quincy, from the cartoon The Little Einsteins,”I can not beLIEVE it!

I just got back from the doctor (General Surgeon). I wanted to see if I’d made any progress on fixing my umbilical hernia with the Tupler Technique. I’ve been having pain around my belly button again, so I figured it was either the same or had gotten worse somehow from doing the Tupler Technique exercises or maybe from the double splinting I started in week 4. But HALLELUJAH! Praise GOD! The hernia is getting smaller! The doctor said it’s tiny (previously it was almost the size of a dime), and that we should “leave it alone!” As soon as I left the parking lot, I was kicking myself for not asking why I’m having pain if it’s getting better, but hey…if the doctor says leave it alone, I’m leaving it alone! So now, looking back, all of the middle of the night pumping trying to store up milk for the baby during and after my surgery, all of the tears and anxiety over something going wrong and me dying from the surgery (I know, silly…but I’m a worrier!), all of the conversations about who can be here when and for how long to take care of me and the kids while I recover…it was all for naught! And I am so glad.

Lesson learned here…when you’re worried about something that is in the future, do the following:

  1. Pray. Ask God to work a miracle and make the situation go well.
  2. Then, realize that God has plans bigger and better than I can imagine, even if those plans include something I think I’d rather not go through, and ask God to do whatever He wants to do.
  3. Then, ask for His grace and peace to help you get through the situation, or even just the period of unknown leading up to the potential situation.
  4. Then, stop worrying and let God take care of it! Believe and trust that He’s got it! Sistah, please! He’s a big God.

OK, so also, I’m going to tell the world about the Tupler Technique. In just over a month, I’ve lost over three inches around my waist, my belly button has gone from an “outie” to an “innie,” and I’ve improved an umbilical hernia to the point that it no longer needs to be surgically repaired. WHAAAT?! That’s crazy.

(Can you tell I’m a little excited right now?)

Tupler Technique: Day 19

After seeing amazing results in the first ten days, I’ve been a little disappointed to see those results slow down a bit. My waist measurement is still the same as it was on day ten. My photos don’t look a whole lot different, either. BUT, I just checked my diastasis width (which I always dread doing, because I just don’t like feeling all that mushiness! Do you agree?), and there HAS been an improvement! I’d say I’m now a 2 1/2, 3 1/2, 1 1/2. Still pretty deep at my belly button, but seriously…less than three weeks ago, I couldn’t feel the sides of my muscles, and now they are rock hard!

Week three began no more Elevators, and contracting from the 5th to the 6th floor. The first day or two of 5th to 6th were hard! I definitely had some muscle fatigue. About half way through my first set of 100, my whole belly seemed to go numb. But now that I’m five days into week three, I’m not really having fatigue or numbness.

I can’t believe how quickly time is going by! Next week (week four) begins head lifts! It’s so excited to have the exercises change weekly. I think that’s one of the things I like about the Tupler Tequnique program. It keeps it interesting. Another thing I’m loving about this program is that it seems to make sense, as far as when you change the exercises. Toward the end of week two, I felt like I was doing more of 5th to 6th than 4th to 6th, and then week three began 5th to 6th. Also, I feel like the splint isn’t pulling my muscles together now as much as it did in the beginning. I just checked my guidebook, and next week begins double splinting! Amazing! I feel like this program is really following my needs as they change. (For any Ron White fans out there, it’s almost a “sitting, naked, in a bean bag chair eating Cheetos” thing. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please completely disregard that sentence. And don’t think less of me. OK, the end.)

I have been really diligent in wearing the abdominal splint. Aside from when I’m in the shower, I’ve only had it off two or three times for maybe an hour or so. I do cheat a little though at night. For some reason it feels SO MUCH TIGHTER when I’m laying down! So I just put it on as loose as I can. I feel like it’s better than nothing. A girl needs to breathe while she sleeps, right?!?

At some point, I’ll have to go back to the General Surgeon and have him check my umbilical hernia again. Although I’m really hoping it will disappear, I’m aware that it may not, and I still may have to have surgery. But we’ll see! I’m going to keep doing the Tupler Technique exercises and probably check in with the doctor in a couple weeks.

Tupler Technique for Diastasis Recti – Part Two (Starting the Program)

"Check Your Belly Before You Wreck Your Belly" campaign(Read Part One)

So, I have a diastasis recti. I’ve been told by three different types of doctors that I have an umbilical hernia which needs to be surgically repaired and that the only way to fix my diastasis recti is with a tummy tuck. The consult with the Plastic Surgeon sent me running for the hills. Now my only hope is the Tupler Technique, which I have just received in the mail. Here I am, on the couch, about to begin the journey…

I opened the box. I took out each item and looked at them cautiously. I literally had the same anticipation and sort of nervousness that I had when opening Christmas presents as a kid: hoping this would fulfill all my dreams and not disappoint me.

Here’s what I found inside:

  1. DVD. I tried to watch it that evening, but had to watch it again the next day during my kids’ naptime so I could really pay attention. The DVD has great information about what a diastasis recti is, how it happens, and how it can be repaired using the Tupler Technique.
  2. Abdominal Splint. The idea is not to compress you, but to pull the muscles together so they have a little extra help while you’re working them. The splint also helps to support your organs while you’re pulling the muscles back together. I’ve found that the splint bunches and rides up, but I don’t know how it wouldn’t, considering how that part of the body moves when you sit, stand up, bend over, etc. You wear this thing around the clock, except when bathing. It’s your new underwear.
  3. Guidebook. O.M.G. I am a rule-following, instruction-hungry, list-checker-offer to the max! This guidebook is as wonderful to me as the Dove dark chocolates I keep hidden in my pantry for (daily) emergencies. Not only is it a cheat sheet of how to do the exercises, it has detailed instructions for how many sets of what kind of exercises to do each day, with BOXES TO CHECK OFF once you’ve done them! I can’t say enough about this. It’s wonderful. It’s what I was missing from the “Lose Your Mummy Tummy” book. It’s a dummy-proof guide for all of the 18 weeks of the program. Love it. I cherish this thing. OK, I know…moving on.
  4. Dyna band. I’m still not sure what you do with it, but it’s one of those stretchy exercise bands. Not sure how it plays into the program, so I guess I could have purchased the package that didn’t include it, but maybe I’ll find its use later on in the program.

I tried to wear the splint the first night, but I could barely breathe, and once I finally fell asleep, I shortly thereafter woke up in a cold sweat, so I took it off. I officially began the program the next morning. (I was a little distressed that I started on a Friday, because the glorious guidebook checkboxes begin each week with Monday. My husband suggested I wait until Monday to start, but I didn’t want to put it off any longer than I already had, so I finally decided to just start checking off Friday’s boxes on day one and then circle back around to the Monday boxes. You may not have this problem, and it’s in no way a defect of the product, just a defect of me.)

Enough background. Let’s talk results. “Results already? This is an 18-week program, and you’ve only just begun!” I know. Crazy, right? Let me tell you…I took front and side photos of my belly the day before I began the program. In the middle of DAY TWO I got undressed to take a shower, so I took off my splint and looked in the mirror. SHOCK. I was speechless. I even teared up. My belly was already noticeably smaller! I took front and side photos to compare and document. I could even see from the photos that my belly button was GOING BACK IN!! I showed my husband the progress, and I think he was as shocked as I was. (Hard to tell, since he’s a man and doesn’t show emotion. But I almost saw some emotion come out. He actually told me a couple hours later that he was proud of me for taking matters into my own hands and not just opting for surgery.)

OK, so it can’t get better than this, right? WRONG! Fast-forward to day five. Another set of front and side photos. MORE RESULTS!! From the side, you can see my belly just getting smaller. Obvious improvement. But from the front, you can see my belly button continuing to go in. You can also see the indentations on either side of my belly getting closer together.

Before I began the Tupler Technique program, I tried to measure my diastasis myself, but I wasn’t able to feel the sides of the muscles. I just felt mush. The Plastic Surgeon said I had a 4cm diastasis. I guess that’s about 4 finger widths, which doesn’t seem that severe, and I was told by all three docs that I had a pretty severe diastasis. Maybe it was larger than a four, or maybe it was just really deep. I’m not sure. Anyway, on day nine, I tried to measure the diastasis again, and I could clearly feel the edges of the muscles. I take this as being excellent progress, whether or not the space between the muscles has gotten smaller. So I estimated myself at a 4-4-2 (day 9).

More results: Before starting the Tupler Technique, the measurement around my belly button was 30.5 in. When I measured on day 10, it was 28.5 in!! I lost TWO INCHES in 10 days. I can’t believe it.

In addition to looks and measurements, I feel stronger. I can tell when I lift my baby to put her into her car seat that I’m much stronger. Since I’m wearing the splint in bed every night, I can’t tell if I can still feel my insides moving around as my food digests (which totally grossed me out before), but when I touch my belly, it feels a lot tighter.

I’m not even two weeks into the prescribed 18-week program, so I still have a long way to go. I figure I’ll either continue to see dramatic results over the course of the program or I’ll top out in the results department soon, and not see anything else happen. I seriously doubt that will happen, but if it does, I would really still be satisfied. I can wear clothes now that I had put away in the back of my closet because I just couldn’t wear them anymore. I’ll continue to track and share my progress. And I’ll put some photos up so you can see the magical Tupler unicorn working.

My ultimate goal is to fix both my diastasis recti and my umbilical hernia with exercise using the Tupler Technique. I’m trying to stay realistic and be aware that I still may have to have my hernia repaired surgically, but I’m taking things day by day. I just keep fantasizing about going back to all three doctors (who, by the way, were all very nice and I believe very good at what they do), and showing them what I’ve done with the Tupler Technique. I also want to help spread the word about this so other women can benefit the way I already have.

If you know anyone who knows they have a diastasis recti or who is struggling with a mummy tummy that won’t go away, PLEASE lovingly point them in the direction of my blog or to Julie Tupler’s website, www.diastasisrehab.com.

Tupler Technique for Diastasis Recti – Part One (The Backstory)

Lose Your Mummy Tummy, by Julie Tupler

After I had my first baby, I expected the usual few months of post partum “mummy tummy.” I expected my newly outie belly button to go back to the innie I was used to. Stretch marks could stay or go, but I was OK with that, since they weren’t too bad. Months passed, and I still looked several months pregnant. I admittedly had a lot of shrinking to do. While I was pregnant, my belly looked like a torpedo, sticking straight out in front. You couldn’t tell I was pregnant from looking at me from behind, but from the front and sides – oh boy! One checkout girl at a sandwich shop hit the nail on the head when she said (in her thick mexican accent), “You got a BIG ONE!”

So, to sum up so far, my belly grew to enormous proportions during my pregnancy, and never shrunk back to anywhere near its normal, unpregnant state. About 6 months after I had my baby, I turned to the internet for help. I found a book called “Loose your Mummy Tummy,” by Julie Tupler. It had great reviews and seemed to be the best one out for this kind of “situation.” I ordered the book, read through most of it, and learned that I had a diastasis recti, A.K.A. “mummy tummy.” (Fun fact: anyone can develop a diastasis recti, whether they’ve had a baby or not, even men.) Here’s how Julie Tupler explains it:

The word diastasis means separation. So a diastasis recti is a separation of the rectus abdominis or the outermost abdominal muscles. When the muscles separate, the connective tissue that joins them stretches sideways. The more it stretches sideways the thinner and weaker it becomes.

OK, so now I knew what the problem was, and that it would probably not fix itself over time. I did a few of the exercises, but I found the book a little confusing. It describes several different exercises and I wasn’t sure where to start. My half-hearted attempt didn’t really do anything except make me more hopeless that I could ever get my body back to normal. I stopped wearing fitted tops. I couldn’t really wear dresses because they all just made me look pregnant. I tried to come to terms with my new post-baby body.

Dun dun dun DUN! Baby number two came along. Planned, so no drama there. My already stretched to the max belly got EVEN BIGGER with this pregnancy. I was pretty consistently a couple months bigger than with my first (I have pictures to prove it). After I delivered my second baby, the hospital gave me a wrap/binder to help shrink me. It actually seemed to work pretty well. For a little while. I got to a point where the binder wasn’t really small enough to squeeze me anymore. But I STILL had a mummy tummy. I still looked several months pregnant. I pulled out my Mummy Tummy book from time to time, gave it a few more half-hearted tries, saw no results (not that I put much into it) and got more and more hopeless.

Beginning a couple months after baby number two was born, I was having some pain in my belly button and in a straight line out to the right side of my belly button. I went to my OB to get checked out. He diagnosed me with an umbilical hernia. He confirmed that I also had a diastasis recti. He said I’d need surgery to repair the hernia, and that the only way to fix the diastasis recti was to have a tummy tuck. He sent me to a General Surgeon for the hernia. The General Surgeon gave me the same info I got from my OB. The hernia operation would be a small operation, but I’d have to be knocked out, and I couldn’t nurse for 12 to 24 hours after. Having nursed my first baby for 18 months, I planned to nurse my second baby for at least a year. She never took a bottle, so facing surgery, recovery, finding someone to help take care of the kids, pumping to store up a 24+ hour supply of milk (to be safe), AND getting my baby to take a bottle…all added up to a very distressed mama. (There are other details in here about what I found regarding nursing after a surgery, but I’ll leave that alone for now.)

I had kind of a slow and steady nervous breakdown over a several day period. I started having more pain, and I was terrified that my hernia was going to get incarcerated (that makes me giggle every time…like my hernia’s being thrown into prison). So I tried to get seen by the surgeon, but of course, it was a Friday! Long story short, I ended up going back in to my OB that afternoon. He told me it still seemed fine (not incarcerated), but that I should get it repaired ASAP. Back to the surgeon the following Tuesday. I started crying before he even came into the exam room. Nervous breakdown was still brewing. When he came into the room, I burst into tears. He grabbed the tissues and suggested (very nicely, I really wasn’t offended) that maybe I was depressed and that I go see this particular doctor because I didn’t have to live this way. Once we got past all that, he said I could wait on the hernia repair until after my move (YES, one more thing adding to the situation was that we were buying a house and moving in a few weeks). He said he sometimes teamed up with a Plastic Surgeon to do a hernia repair/tummy tuck, because, just like my OB, he said the only way to fix the diastasis recti was with a tummy tuck.

OK, doctor number three: Plastic Surgeon. I know and love several people who have had one or another kind of plastic surgery, but it has NEVER been anything I could see myself doing. Just never made sense to me why you’d go through the pain, risk, and expense of surgery just to make yourself look better. Personal opinion. Not passing judgement on anyone else’s decision. But I had read that repairing an umbilical hernia and not repairing the diastasis could lead to a recurrence of the hernia. Also, since the diastasis leaves your organs held in by basically saran wrap, rather than a wall of muscle, I was concerned for my safety and health in the event I had any kind of abdominal trauma.

At some point between my last General Surgeon appointment and my Plastic Surgeon appointment, I ordered the Tupler Technique – the whole shabang! DVD, guidebook, abdominal splint, and dyna band. More about this later…

So, I saw the Plastic Surgeon. This was just a horrifying (but pretty humorous) experience for so many reasons. A story for another time. Basically, the doctor AND nurse both basically rolled their eyes at me when I asked about repairing my diastasis with exercise. It seemed like they were tired of people thinking this was an option. Like fixing a diastasis with exercise was some unicorn pipe dream. I got the usual “you can do all the crunches you want, honey, but it’s not going to do anything” response. I didn’t give any rebuttal, because it was obvious that they didn’t know much about using this proposed method of exercise to repair a diastasis recti. I managed to make it through the appointment without puking, and decided against the tummy tuck. The PS said that because my umbilical stump was so stretched out, I wasn’t at a very high risk of incarceration, I decided to put off my hernia repair for at least a few weeks and to see what progress I could make on my own using the Tupler Technique. Quite ironically, my Tupler Technique products arrived in the mail just a couple hours after my PS visit. Foreshadowing, perhaps?

So, enter Tupler Technique magical unicorn box delivered to my very own doorstep. Halleluia, let the angels sing! I sat on the couch looking at this small (much smaller than I had expected), plain, brown, cardboard box. Could this really be the answer I had been praying for? Would I prove all three doctors wrong and NOT need a horrific surgery to repair my diastasis recti? Or would the whole thing be a sham, do nothing to repair my diastasis, and prove the doctors right, leading me back down the road to either surgery or a life with my poor, hopeless mummy tummy?

Ready for more? Read Part Two here.

Starting over.

It seems that someone hacked my website and had it redirect to some other page that may or may not have installed “badware.” I like that word: badware. It sounds like something Batman would have worn on his days off. But I do not appreciate someone hacking my site. So, now I’m starting over. But new beginnings are always filled with hope and excitement, so I’ve made peace with the situation.

We’re moving into our new house right now, so I’ll be documenting our happenings with (and dreams of) home improvement and renovation.

Also going on right now is my diastasis recti and umbilical hernia situation. Diastasis recti is the abdominal separation often caused by those precious little babies who bless our lives but wreck our bodies! I’m weighing my options: surgery for hernia repair and/or sewing my muscles back together VS trying to fix one or both situations with Julie Tupler’s “Tupler Technique”.

In addition to all that, but most importantly, I’ll be documenting what God is doing in my life and what I’m doing to honor Him.

Duty calls…”somebody” wants to paint Caillou on the computer…