We recently “went public” with our family news. We’re kind of a geeky family, so an Apple-style announcement seemed the right way to go.
In nerd language, that means we’re having another baby! Due April 9th, and everyone’s excited.
It started as I was reading a Facebook post. Someone described a super spiritual crafty activity she was accomplishing with her small child. The following comments were things like “I’m going to do that, too!” and “That sounds so great, I’m totally interested!”
I really wanted to add, “Yeah, me too!” But I stopped. The chances of that activity ever getting completed in my house are truly very small. I had a little pity party moment of how I’m so busy with three kids now, I just can’t do things like these moms of one or two.
Then I was honest with myself.
Those things aren’t ME. I don’t hate Jesus or hate crafts or hate spending time with my kids, I just don’t get around to it. I didn’t do those things even when I had one kid. If there’s something crafty in our house, it was probably done with one of the grandmas or was from their Kiwi Crates.
So if I’m not Crafty Spice, what am I? Crafty Spice seems to be the ideal these days. That or Healthy Spice. Posting things like “Look at my kindergartner and the Valentines she crocheted out of recycled sweaters!” or “Here we are at the Farmer’s Market again – these kids just can’t get enough organic parsnips!” or maybe “My two-yr-old can spell all the books of the Bible with Cheerios!”
I don’t want to spend my time searching Pinterest for the next activity to turn my kids into geniuses. Some people love that, and that’s awesome. Just like some people love running for extensive lengths of time; I do not. These things are not bad, they are just not what I like to do.
What do I like to do? What do the girls want to do with me?
So I decided. I’m SitOutsideWhileMyKidsPlay Spice.
It’s been almost two years since we moved back “north,” and it was time for a trip back to Austin. Hannah’s memories were definitely getting fuzzy, so it was good timing to go back and catch up with people and places.
Saturday, we flew in and rented a car. Hannah picked a blue one because it’s her favorite color (yay, Hertz Gold members get to pick whatever car they want!). Then we spent the afternoon and evening with the friends we spent the most time with when we lived in Austin. It was fun to see how much everyone had grown, and it felt like Meghan and I picked up where we left off. Hannah was happy to see her friends but seemed particularly excited about getting to know their backyard chickens. Yummy taco dinner followed by frozen yogurt and park playing. Great evening!
Sunday, we went to our “old” church, and I was hit with an emotional deja vu. Just a weird feeling to be doing those familiar things after two years away. We had lunch at La Madeleine, a favorite spot of Meghan and I, and Hannah liked the door handles.
After checking into the hotel and some pool time, we met Hannah’s birthmom at Hula Hut. That’s a fun Austin restaurant where you actually sit on a big deck over the lake. We had a good time catching up, watching fishing, and feeding turtles.
Thanks to technology, I was able to easily join a virtual meeting that evening for my new adventure as a contributor for the Kansas City Moms Blog. I could hop on a conference call while Hannah watched the Olympics, both of us comfy in our hotel beds.
Monday was a long day in the car. We’re big fans of the show Fixer Upper, so I couldn’t resist taking a day to drive up to Waco to visit the Magnolia Silos. It’s a store started by Chip and Joanna, the Fixer Upper people, but it’s much more than a store. (More on that in another post)
Tuesday morning we joined Meghan and kiddos at the YMCA for playtime. We sent the kids running laps on the indoor track, then they enjoyed the outdoor playscape shaded by live oak trees. While we chatted about life – new eras for us as we are now elementary moms!
By the end of the trip, we were so ready to be home! I love my big girl, of course, but it was a long time to be just the two of us. And the feeling was mutual. The final plane ride involved someone yelling, “Get away! You have peanut breath!” So that was delightful. But the whole experience was so great that I definitely want to start the one-on-one trip as a tradition with each girl.
And in the meantime, a few Austin ex-pat friends and I in the KC area are considering a Torchy’s franchise.
I avoided making Sloppy Joes for a long time. Because I have kids. I know – they’re supposed to be a kid food, but they’re… well, sloppy. Not a big fan.
But when Amy at New Nostalgia posted her Sloppy Joe recipe, I had to give it a shot. She’s a trustworthy source and uses quality ingredients – no cans of mystery sauce here! And this tasty recipe was a winner with my family. Five out of five eat this up. But here are a couple “hacks” I’ve developed to make this a winner on the logistical side, as well.
1 – Lentils
The recipe calls for 1.5 lbs ground beef, but I have 1 lb. portions from the 1/4 cow we got last year. So to fill in the extra half pound, I use lentils. This is also a budget-helping tip for stretching any ground beef recipe because lentils are far cheaper than meat (also high in protein, fiber, and iron).
I put half a cup green lentils in one cup water and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer around 20 minutes. After cooking my 1 lb. ground beef, I just add the lentils and keep following the recipe. And the kids haven’t even noticed yet!
2 – Hot Dog Buns
This was an accidental discovery. I’d forgotten to buy hamburger buns and only had hot dog buns on hand. Turns out, they’re perfect for little hands! Hot dog buns are easier to hold than round hamburger buns, plus they have one side closed which means fewer directions for the meat to fall out.
This only applies to those at the table under age two. Tomato-based sauces are my laundry enemy. Just forget the bib, they’ll just get ripped off and the sauce gets everywhere anyway. Bare skin is easier to wipe down at the end, and even better if you just meal plan Sloppy Joes for bath night.
4 – Leftovers
I like to remix leftovers – and this recipe makes plenty for leftovers. So I didn’t toss that sloppy goodness back in a bun for Night Two. Meet the Cheesy Joe Tots.
This was as easy as making tater tots, covering them in the Sloppy Joe mix, and then topping with cheese. Yum!
So don’t be afraid of Sloppy Joes any more. With these four hacks, you’re on your way to a happy and healthy family dinner. Life is a little sloppy, bring it on.
Rare occurrence! Last weekend, the girls were with the grandmas and grandpas, and Brett and I had a night away. We stayed at Cedar Crest Lodge, south of Kansas City, and had a wonderful time (the food!!!).
On the drive down, we stopped at Dollar General for snacks and a restroom. It was pretty much the only option in the tiny town. Brett scanned the DVD display and snatched up this gem. Ramona and Beezus DVD/Blu-ray/Digital Copy combo for $2.97. We hadn’t seen the movie, but we couldn’t resist that deal. After all, it’s $14.79 on Amazon.
When we were back home, we decided to preview it before letting the girls watch it, and I was prepared to be severely disappointed. Classic children’s books are not always well done in newer movies (Cheaper by the Dozen, anyone?). But I was impressed! It was a sweet movie and stayed true to the characters. Since we have listened to almost all the Ramona audiobooks in the last year, I know the girls will be excited to see the stories they’ve enjoyed so much.
I picked up this book because I liked the title and I’d read another by the author. I have pretty much the same taste in stories as when I was four: no scary, no bad guys, happy ending. But I don’t want just fluff. This story involved a sister relationship as one was going through treatment for breast cancer. If you know some of my extended family, you understand this hit a little close to home.
With the prevalence of cancer, I think anyone would find a connection to the story. There were also recurring themes of cooking and Jane Austen, so obviously I was a fan.
So those are my weekend stories, and I recommend them all!
It’s so nice to have a freezer full of easy meals. They’re great for a busy week and keeps us away from the drive-thru on a regular basis. I’ve done several strategies for freezer stocking: on my own, freezer meal prep nights at a grocery store, and recently freezer meal exchanges with friends.
The principle is that each person makes multiple batches of the same meal. So instead of prepping five different meals, you do five of the same for more efficiency. Then you get together and trade.
Freezer meal exchanges are a great option for people with allergies or certain dietary choices. I have several friends who are paleo, so they organized a group who was willing to follow those restrictions (basically grain-free, dairy-free, and no potatoes or beans). So this is the Paleo Egg Casserole I made to trade.
It is A LOT of prep work. There were five of us in the group, and I decided to make two smaller casseroles for each family instead of 9×13 pans. So 10 casseroles!
Pretty! Right after this shot, I was rethinking this plan as I was beating four dozen eggs. But it really wasn’t that bad.
I came home from the exchange with chicken and kale stew, chicken piccata, mini chicken pot pies, and chicken and sweet potato burgers. Yum!
PALEO EGG CASSEROLE WITH SAUSAGE AND VEGGIES
Spread sausage and veggies evenly in the bottom of a 9×13 pan or two smaller pans. Beat eggs, almond milk, and salt and pepper and pour over the top. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 35-45 minutes for a large pan or 25-30 minutes for two smaller pans.
**If you are not paleo, just make with regular milk, and add cheese if you want. This is what I’ll do in the future since this was a big hit with our whole family! They love “breakfast for dinner,” and this was an easy and tasty way to get some veggies in.
How is this possible?!? I was going to do a bucket list check-in halfway through, and obviously I missed that.
Our board now looks like this:
Here are a few things we’ve tackled so far:
Lots of trips to the neighborhood pool.
I didn’t want all our “goals” to be about personal entertainment. So I included “Gift Day.” We made bags of treats for a few neighbors and delivered them.
So that’s just a peek at our summer so far. Lots of fun times ahead… And almost time to start shopping for school supplies!