Monday, August 31, 2015

First Day

It's the first day of school today.  I'm finding I'm short with words right now because I can't quite wrap my mind around how I feel; mainly SO different from this time last year.

Today there was a boy struggling with the kindergarten transition.  It was time for parents to leave after the first hour and man did I feel for him (and his mom).  I felt like that boy last year.  I wanted to kick and scream at the changes that felt forced upon me.  And I went through that to a lesser degree with Ainsley for 3.5 years.  Every drop off for school or activities was the worst experience of my life.

But today?  That big girl walked with her dad and brother, spied a friend, and all but forgot he was there.  Ian had to seek her out to give her a final hug.  And Louise?  Why my just turned 5 year old was DISMAYED, no, EMBARRASSED, even that mom was joining her for the first hour of school.  "I'll think about it mom.  I guess I'll probably say yes."  Why thanks Louise, don't do me any favors now!  Haha.

I had such a great morning with my girls.  Making waffles, helping do their hair, finding matching long enough bike shorts to wear under their vintage dresses.  There wasn't one raw nerve among us this morning.  It felt grand.

After doing a project with Louise and listening to a story and meeting all the friends in her class (more girls than boys this year!) I kissed my sweet cheeked girl and walked home, alone.  Felix has been asking all morning where his sisters are.  "Wheya Asey mommy?  Whey Luleez go?"  Poor little guy. He's missing his pals.  I'm looking forward to getting errands done as quickly as I can this week so we can enjoy our mornings together.  One last week of splash pads before they close this weekend.  Two more weeks with 5 mornings with my guy then he too starts his school adventure.

Today feels wonderful and strange.  Felix was up way too early so he's been napping since 11:30.  Now that my children are off and settling in their new routine I'm excited for my own reboot of sorts. For the first time in months I'll have daylight hours to think and breathe and do.  I'm excited to make my own plan and have the space and energy for some things just for me.

Here's to another wonderful year and to a day brimming with joy and hope and a little bit of peace.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer Wind Down

 I'm having a hard time pinpointing what it is about this summer, these last few months of life, but whatever it is, it's working and I'm happy to go with that.

I'm excited about cooking again, and floored and pleased that rigorous meal planning is working really well.  I'd forgotten the magic of having every item in the fridge have a purpose, slowly emptying into delicious dishes.  Not wasting, not wanting, yummy healthy homemade things brewing all the time.  Yum good.

While I loved all the meals last week some of my favorites turned out to be the baked goods.  I LOVE to bake.  It's been a hobby of mine since I was a kid and now something I love to share with my children, an activity we all enjoy together.  BUT it's mostly SO BAD FOR YOU.  Butter and sugar and refined flour and well, only so much of that can be justified.  Plus it's the one thing I really struggle with portion control on.  I don't think I've ever eaten just ONE cookie.  Have you?
The recipes I tried for breakfast cookies, apple muffins, maple glazed walnuts, and granola were all spectacular.  Just as good as the really bad for you ones and much healthier.  I still miss a good chocolate chip cookie, but that can happen some time right?

This next week I'm dialing back a bit.  I ended up making Smitten's Tomato pie with corn and cheese on Saturday (one of the best summer fresh things (I've ever made) so I still have the ingredients for the baked shrimp with tomatoes and feta.  Louise wants take out pad thai for her birthday and now that the girls have started dance I'm needing something super quick/already made for Tuesdays when we don't get home until almost 6.

Veggie Strata
leftover Roasted turkey breast and scalloped potatoes (for Tuesday)
New Pot Pad Thai (YUM!)
Pork tenderloin and black bean chili
Baked Shrimp with Feta and Tomatoes and whole wheat cous cous and zucchini

I'm hoping for another farmer's market inspired creation next weekend.  The tomatoes and corn are at their peak and I want to take advantage.  I have some fish and chicken in the freezer so I may just see if we can make do, AND next week the girls start school so I get to grocery shop WITH JUST FELIX.  So the world will have turned itself right again.  Ahhhhhhhhh.

In other summer wind down news?  We're entering the busy season.  The kids are all (finally!) signed up for fall activities and dance already started last week.  We're at a new studio this year and spent all of Tuesday shopping for the light blue attire they needed, new shoes and tights and skirts to boot.  Getting my girls fitted for their first proper dance shoes and trying on tiny adorable leotards was so much fun.  As much as I love finding new traditions and fun with my children I do love sharing my childhood joys with them as well.  Dance was such a big part of my life as a kid, I am smitten they're giving it  a true go.  (and the studio has cameras so we can WATCH them in class.  Seeing Ainsley and Louise do barre work? and beam with pride after jetes across the floor? amazing)

After a week of checking off to dos every night, Louise's birthday photo book, check, friend's new baby knitting and sewing, check, cleaning out 8 garbage bags and 5 boxes of books to donate, check, I am ready to dive into Louise's birthday full throttle.
Last minute errands for decorations and party favors, then decorating and getting my rhyming hat on for some treasure hunt clues (always a bit harder than I think it's going to be!)

It can be a hard juggle when the pull is to be outside every moment, let my children lead the way for their last full week of summer break.   I find we can still get it all in if we rally.

I'm thankful for one whole more week of summer. Easily filled with parties and playdates, birthday fun and the start of beloved fall activities.  This gorgeous breezy 70 degree weather is certainly icing on the cake.  Let's go out with a bang summer!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Food This Week 8/17

If it ain't broke don't fix it, right?  Isn't that the phrase?  All of this excitement about school starting and life revamping has got me thinking, when was the last time I was in a really great groove.  You know, with life in general.

I keep going back to before Felix was born.  Running that ragnar race, making ALL of our gifts that one year, living on a crazy tight budget.  Looking back I think, girl you rocked it!  What the HELL happened!!!  His name is Felix and he's super cute and worth it all, but man oh man you guys, post pardum depression/angst/panic/phobia etc. etc.  It's no joke.

Now that I'm on the other side I'm trying to shake hands with that old Becky or at least wave at her vigorously from within the same room.  As much as I want to jump in with my nose plugged and an excited face (like Felix in the pool today) I'm  taking my baby steps.

Step One.  Get Sleep.  Thank you two year old Felix for FINALLY CONSISTENTLY sleeping through the night.  Check.

Step Two.  Make yourself exercise.  I know it's the worst thing ever when all you do it haul kids around and stand in the sweaty sun at parks and push a gigantic stroller and yell at the girls to not get hit by cars on their bikes, but that doesn't count. MOVE YOUR BODY. Check.

Step Three.  Make delicious healthy food. No matter what.  Don't give in to convenience or convention or what's easy that moment.  Plan, buy, suck it up. DO IT.  Working on that check.

We've gotten into a terrible take out groove.  Our budget never allowed it in the golden years, but somehow it just happened.  It's the one adult achilles heel that we're REALLY bad at.  I don't by clothes or books or make up, or go to the salon or get massages but WE GET TAKE OUT.  Guys, it's so easy and good.  It's so so bad.

I am in a total food rut and I'm ready to dig myself out.

This all to say that today I saw the light.  I ate my fiber bar for breakfast and drank my protein drink for lunch and ALL my water and ate my delicious neighbor made dinner with friends and I am ready for this. It's all on my awesome new lined giant post it pad.  I got this.

Food This Week
All recipes by Ellie Krieger, my new Goddess.
  Have you heard of her?  I've been intrigued for a while but the basics are that she's a dietician food network host who makes all this delicious family friendly food, but makes it good for you.  I feel like I've had a small religious experience perusing her recipes today.  I can't wait for dinner this week.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Roasted Turkey Breast with Scalloped Potatoes and steamed green beans

Tuna Casserole

Herbed Pork Tenderloin and strawberry mozzarella salad

Sloppy Joes with sweet potato fries

Sweet potato hash and eggs with sautéed spinach

Snacks and Breakfasts: Breakfast cookies, apple muffins, Nutty granola
  The girls and I chose some things to test drive for school breakfasts.  Ainsley's been sleeping until 8 and school STARTS at 8 so mornings may get tight around here.  I wanted to have things they could eat on the walk to school if need be.

So I'll keep you posted.  I'm pumped.  And that feeling alone feels pretty good.
Happy cooking this week!

Life Lately 8-16

I've been looking for meaning in every little thing in life lately.  Mistakenly adding a whole years worth of photos that I'd already documented to Louise's 5 year photo album just meant I needed a total rehaul of the book I guess.  The water heater leaking on the same day as a very important work day for Ian was a test to our resilience as a couple (one day after proclaiming how awesome we are at 8 years married all over Facebook).  Waking up with a UTI the day after all of that was an horribly uncomfortable way of me getting some rest I guess.  The kids fighting every dang minute of the day? Why clearly that's their way of pushing themselves out the door when school starts in 2 weeks, but that's pretty universal right?

This searching for meaning thing is making me completely exhausted.  We are still in a state of limbo about job future and place future and while I've mostly learned to Pollyanna the heck out of our situation it's still rather hard.  But if I can find a reason for all of this, for why it all has to feel so hard, well that makes it better somehow, still hard, but better.

Even with the hardness of late this summer has been such a gift.  We've had just the right mix of activity and laze.  I am so thankful for summer camp for the girls in June, our long Minnesota trip in July and our quick cabin getaway in August.  It all just broke up our at home time wonderfully.  Now when does school start again?

I feel like slowly I've found my way out of a fog and I'm mostly me again.  I'm sad to look at photos of myself over the last two years.  I don't recognize myself.  I look tired and puffy and bigger than I ever have.  I've really struggled to find energy and any time for myself.  I've tried to let that go feeling like I'm doing all I can, but that's not true.  I can find time and I think I'm finally in a place where I am strong enough to do it.  I'm giving myself three months to turn things around a bit.  I ordered some new home workouts for those rainy days (both literally and figuratively) and made a simple plan I can stick to for food.  Here's to feeling good.
(and seriously, how excited am I for a new Billy Blanks workout.  I used to do our old VHS in high school all the time.  AND a new Erin Obrien?!!!!)

I am also VERY excited for Louise's birthday.  We're having her home party the day before her actual birthday.  I found a fun craft idea at discount school supply and that coupled with a few tried and true birthday games and some fun food should fill up our party time well.

For gifts this year we're still a bit all over the place.  Whenever I asks her what she wants it's always different, and related to whatever she's excited about in that exact moment. I took this as a cue to run with it, go with my gut and enjoy getting my girl a few fun things I know she'll love.

Smore's Game

Stick on Earrings and Elephant Clip on Earrings from Claire's (It's my first time shopping there for one of my girls and it brought me back to childhood big time)

Cinderella nightgown and glass slippers from the disney store (bought way on sale earlier this they have the new live action cinderella gown, beautiful!)

Books! Too Much Birthday Five Minutes Peace and some early readers featuring her favorite Berenstain Bears

Last minute I added this Cat and Kittens toy to the basket.  My girl is in love with animals and stuffed loves and at the cabin the girls couldn't get enough of this mama turtle and baby set.  I think she'll love it.

An extra last minute was this Ed Emberley book and ink pad.  I wanted something crafty for her and was considering a yarn cork and book but I think this is more age appropriate and super fun.

All that girl wants on her real birthday is Pad Thai and another pink elephant cake.

I love my Louise.  I can't wait to celebrate her.

I'll try my best to get my camera out these last two weeks of summer.  Capture some of that hot faced fun we've been having.  I'm soaking it in, excited for the start of school and my favorite season just around the corner.