Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Memorial Day weekend extended

Most of the people I work with do 4/10 schedules. It's always a "grass is greener" when I'm leaving at a normal time but then going back in on Friday. It does make three day weekends that much sweeter though. To top it off, this week C was chaparoning one of Eli's field trips, so my three day was actually a four day so that I could hang out with Averson today. We volunteered in Syd's class and it was almost too sweet. Like, hand clasping sweet. Avery LOVED being in the classroom. I had to hide her because the concrete-thinking front desk lady mentioned "oh, we're not really supposed to have siblings in the classroom" when I checked in. I promised her we'd just be a second. Turns out she's the same size as MANY kindergartners, so she blended in. We helped all the kids bead necklaces, and in the downtime I took down the bulletin boards. She's switching from D'Nealian to stick and ball next year, so I even came home with handwriting banners (I've ALWAYS wanted those. Geek heart rejoice!) and a bag of handwriting worksheets. My kids are going to have the BEST. SUMMER. EVER.

This weekend was not relaxing in the least, but we got so much done. The couch shopping was successful, and I managed to negotiate the sale price down another $300 (FTW!). We picked out C's new "Fathers Day/Patio celebration/ may I never cook this summer" grill. I did about eight million loads of laundry and graded the same number of discussion boards. Side note, I'm trying to be a more diligent grader, but if one more student writes me to ask "I missed two points. Can you tell me why?" without reading my grading comments I will scream.

Our pretty and so enormous couch. I'm stupid excited about not being touched while we veg. 
We invited ourselves to dinner at a friend's house and it was SO fun. My friend greeted us in 5 inch, flag stilettos and then proceeded to cruise this dirt bike in them. She's my new hero. 

Eli rode it too, which I don't have pictures of because I was focusing on pretending not to be super nervous. I wrecked a dirt bike the first time I ever rode one and was on crutches for MONTHS, so I'm a little sensitive. It must of worked because he dumped it and didn't make a big deal about it. So no pictures, but I do have this awesome one of C. Sexy, right? 
It's back to reality tomorrow, which at this point will likely be slower-paced than we've been going. Then it's summer and these hooligans will be running amok! 

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Day Weekend Part 1

 For all of my "I need a low-key weekend" talk, we've managed to stay pretty busy. Story of my life, now that I think about it. There's just so many fun things to do!
We kicked off the long weekend by going out to dinner, both as a reward for Syd who cleaned the entire playroom on her own and cheerfully (and did it to surprise C *swoon*) and because we slacked and didn't put our food in the crockpot in time. Syd picked sushi, which makes me stupid happy. I love that they're finally trying non-Red Robin restaurants.
Babies with chopsticks!
Yesterday we went garage sale-ing and then tried to buy a sectional, but there are no pictures of that craziness. Just imagine the kids jumping on very expensive furniture and trying to use stranger's bathrooms. I did buy a bunch of plants and a really cute little turtle for the patio. No couch though.

Today we went to a family festival at our favorite art museum (is there a more humblebrag phrase than "our favorite art museum"? I'm thinking not.) It was awesome, and then there were a million people and C and I freaked out and we had to leave. No pictures of the freaking out either.
An Andy Warhol portrait made of Campbell's soup cans

And my girls

This is the most perfect Averson picture ever. She is a professional glarer. 

Breakfast of champions! MOTY! And I just noticed how perfectly they match her shirt. Head palm.

We're chicken-sitting this weekend for the people that bought our never-used coop and they said we could keep the eggs as payment. Chickens are super fun, but I am pretty grateful we never got around to it. Also, one jumped at Eli and he screamed as though it was going to rip off his leg. Like, "Help! There's a rabid wolf bearing down on me!" screamed. Pretty sure that wouldn't have gone well regardless. Avery's really the only animal lover of the bunch. Eli is ridiculously scared and Syd keeps wanting to kill things.
So scary

Not killing, not screaming

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Manchild aka "The Finisher"

"The Finisher" is the name of Eli's professinal wrestling character. This kid still loves WWE so, so much. I think he kind of has the idea that other kids don't love it so he isn't as verbal about it anymore, but he still is pretty singularly focused on it. It's like the Power Rangers all over again. Eli pays for the WWE Network for his Kindle every month, since we are big meanies who don't have cable and therefore, no way to watch hours upon hours of old WWE matches. (Side note, he claims to know everything from 1993 forward, and adult fans have tested this theory. Super fandom here) With the network, he also gets the big live shows. Last weekend we let him watch the main event in the living room on the big TV. I didn't realize what a huge "thing" this was for him. He wears his costumes and gets out all his figures. I knew that part. What I didn't realize is that he uses his figures to recreate the matches that he's watching. And he is INTENSE. This kid is my iceberg so it's completely out of the norm to see him so passionately focused on something. It's also about the cutest thing ever (but don't tell him I said that). If he asks, it's the coolest, most awesome thing ever :) 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Date night!

We finally found an amazing babysitter who our kids love, is not a crazy person, and can drive. So of course she's leaving for college in three months. In the meantime, we're trying to cram as many date nights as we can afford in. Fist bump to everyone out there without family nearby. Paying for a sitter is f-ing expensive. Sometimes we pay for the sitter, then go split a cheeseburger and wander Target. Not really, but now that I say it we may have to make it happen. 

The big art museum downtown does an event every year where well-known artists contribute small pieces of their work. Each piece is less than 12x12 and the auctions all start at $25. I've always wanted to go, especially because it's during our anniversary week, and this year it actually worked out. Plus the museum is hosting a Warhol exhibit, so we got to see that too. So cool. 
I love this little bunny and I almost spent WAY too much money for it. Now I'm stalking the artist hoping he makes another one equally adorable.

Warhol selfie!
(and we're not tacky. Apparently museum selfies is a thing that they encourage?)

C is feeling the art. Or maybe the art is feeling him.
We came home and the sitter had put the kids to bed, cleaned the kitchen, and put away the last of the birthday party stations from last weekend (don't judge, we've been coloring all week.) I am seriously trying to convince her to stay here for school. Who needs to move out of their parents' house and live in an apartment full of friends when you can stay here and watch my hooligans whenever you want?!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Lucky 13

Apparently the thirteenth anniversary is the lace anniversary. We don't buy anniversary gifts, but if we did I'm guessing that this one would have been epic. Lingerie is cliche, but we're not exactly doily people either so who knows where that one would have gone? It's probably best for all of us that we won't find out.
Babies! Also, we didn't even buy red cups for Red Cup parties.
In my mind, Thirteen and Fuck-ton sound a lot alike. C and I started dating when I was nineteen, which means that I am getting very close to being with him longer than I was without. They haven't always been easy, but in totality, they've been amazing. I often talk with friends who are single into their late 20s and 30s and wonder what my life would have been like had we not gotten married when we were babies. (Seriously. Babies. I rarely trust babysitters who are the age I was when we got engaged.) I'm sure that some things would be pretty different. I'd have a lot more closet real estate, for sure. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure C knows me better than I know myself. There's something that is equally irritating as F and unbelievably comforting in having my person, and having him for as long as I have. I can't imagine a life without him in it, and the thought of not being able to lean on him makes everything we've accomplished seem impossible.

Cheesy cheesy, goopy sentimental, heart eyes. I super love this guy an awful lot.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Art and Pizza Picnic

And can we just take a moment to appreciate that she picked a white dress for her paint party?
I wanted to take Syd to the American Girl Doll Store for her birthday but she wanted an "Art and Pizza Picnic." I was shooting for something casual and low-key, which obviously means that I spent way too much time and money on the damn party. But I have to say that this was one of the best birthday parties we've had. It was simple and the kids had a great time. The adults sat outside sipping lemonade (with and without vodka) and Dominoes catered. Because I'm me and can't do anything simply, we ended up with four separate cakes (God forbid we not have enough!) but other than that it was great. I set up several stations (OMG. Kids love the word "Station" don't they?) where we made ribbon wands, colored, and painted on huge sheets of paper taped to the shed.
Someday I'll get all three making the same face at the same time. In the meantime, I present Avery. 

Best idea ever. 
Syd and Avery playing with one of her requested science kits
The coloring station.

Birthday parties make me a little nervous. I worry about hurt feelings and awkwardness and kids forgetting their manners. I only agreed to let Syd open gifts at the party after we practiced saying "Thank you" no matter what for half an hour. This party had kids from several different circles, so I got all weird about talking to her about making sure everyone was included.

I shouldn't have worried. Sydney was unbelievably gracious. There were NO spats even though there were about 15 kids. Everyone was included and she was kind and hospitable to everyone. She was super polite during the gifts and even managed the "I already have this" issue with grace. And then?! After everyone left and we were all lazing, she took it upon herself to write out her thank you cards. I want so badly to humble brag, but this is all her. So, so proud of that girl. She is so phenomenally amazing. 
Also, how cute are these?
And how cute is she?
She technically turns six on Tuesday and we'll celebrate with our traditional breakfast donuts, cookies for class, spaghetti and meatballs, and the leftover 27 pieces of sheet cake (plus a vegan cake for our vegan friends.)

Edited to add this link to when she was OMG so tiny

Like a boss

Averson found these frames in the dress-up box and told me "Look Mommy! I'm a boss like you!" 
Then she pushed her glasses up her nose and snorted. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wrestlemania Mother's Day

I got a new phone (YAY!) but apparently my blogger app doesn't work anymore and I couldn't figure out how to get pics from my phone without plugging the thing in the old-fashioned way. (BTW, anyone have any tips?) SO...

Last weekend my folks came up at the last minute after Eli asked them to come to his wrestling match. He was so excited when they actually made it! He ended up getting a medal for second place. I so badly want him to keep at this because it suits him so well. I'm so invested that I'm actually willing to fathom being a wrestling mom, which seems to be a lot of sitting on bleachers for several hours to watch your kid either get pummeled  or pummel another kid for approximately two minutes.
Love this kid's proud smirk

Pummeling. And getting pummeled. 

 My parents wanted to take Syd shopping as an early birthday present. She's been desperately waiting to be able to switch out her earrings so my step-mother hooked her up! These two are two peas in a pod.

We also took the opportunity to christen the patio over the weekend. 
Redneck Margaritas. SO. GOOD. SO. KLASSY. 
Fire pitting

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

TheDinnerPlans.com - Review!

In the past, I've had several approaches to meal planning. I did the super casual, "let's be spontaneous!," buy a bunch of staples and make it up as we go. I did the weekly, regimented meal plan combing through cookbooks and pinterest and then hoping that my family would try one new thing. Usually we defaulted to some iteration of spaghetti, tacos, hamburgers, pizza, chicken, pork chops. Sometimes a meatloaf if we were feeling crazy. More nights than not, C and I were having this conversation
 "What do you want for dinner?"
"I don't know, what do you want?"
"I don't want ____"
"Thank you. That's SO helpful."
"Just feed me before I hulk out"
And on and on and on and on
I never get closer to jumping ship than I do during that delightful exchange.

I first heard about thedinnerplans when I was lamenting to a friend about how sick I was of cooking the same six things and then getting burnt out and eating crap drive-thru and pizza more often than I'm going to admit. She told me that she was using this program and that it made her life easier. Added bonus, for her family of five, her grocery budget was around $300. Seriously. I told her what I spent between restaurants and groceries and I think she may have puked a little. On top of that, I was throwing away a good quarter of the food I bought.
Honey Garlic Chicken

Thedinnerplans.com is a bit of a hybrid between the companies that send you all the ingredients and those that lay out menus for you. The beauty of thedinnerplans is that you get a month's menu, all the recipes, and (this is the really amazing part), one single shopping list. Download, print, and shop. Then you don't have to think about your weeknight meals for the rest of the month. I loved the ideas of the delivery services but couldn't justify that kind of cost. The planning services still left me with most of the work. This is the best of both worlds.  I talked to C about it and we decided to give it a shot. The plan is 14.95, so even if we hated it we weren't out much. We committed to following the plan to a T for the first month. To make it more fun, we came up with a game where we each get a virtual "star." If we like a recipe, we give it a star. Three stars or more and we designate the recipe a keeper.
Pot roast. SO GOOD! I've never gotten pot roast right before.

I downloaded my first month and right off the bat I loved that the menu was completely filled out. I hung that on the fridge so that everyone could see what we were having for dinner on any given night. Initially, C mentioned that there were a few casserole heavy weeks. That seemed to even out through the month though. Next I took the shopping list and hit Winco (our local bag-your-own-groceries type place). The shopping list is for an entire month, so my bill was steeper than what I was used to spending on a single trip and my cart was VERY full. It was a change to need to buy "36 chicken breasts" and "17 cups of flour." We typically spend about $150/week at the store. This trip cost me about $225. I felt a little weird about that until I realized that I only had to buy milk and snacky fruits and vegetables for the rest of the month. All told,  we ended up spending about $400 at the grocery store for the month. A huge change from our past habits.
Terrible photography but delicious burrito bowl

I printed out the recipes and kept them clipped on the counter. I think next month I'll take their advice and buy a binder and sleeves. I flipped through the recipes and noticed that the majority of the recipes were slow cooker meals or casseroles. This was either going to be amazing or a deal breaker. C can be fickle when it comes to slow cooker meals and the kids can be butts about food. It turned out to be a selling point though. We got into the routine and it was AMAZING to come home and not have to worry about dinner at all. I actually got a little antsy with the extra time.

So how did it work? Long story short, this program has changed our lives. After that first week, the kids were totally fine with all the new menus. We only ended up with two recipes that we didn't give 3 or more stars for. Side note, Averson still hasn't figured out that they aren't real stars, so that's a fun fight every night. Next time I'll use stickers to make it more tangible. The food was awesome.Some of our favorites were the crockpot chicken tacos (used the leftovers in the most amazing taco salads for work), chicken fajita bubble-up, beef tips and gravy, and the sausage, egg, and cheese casserole,  Super family friendly while still being interesting enough for C and me. The portions are near perfect. I'm not sure how, but almost every meal left just one small lunch size portion over. Other unexpected benefits were that we pretty diligently stuck to the menu. Our cupboard was nearly bare at the end of the month and I hadn't tossed any spoiled food. My kids were willingly trying the recipes and have become more adventurous. Those heathens asked if they could try sushi last week! C got much more involved in the meal prep because the recipes are easy, straight forward, and planned out. He knew what we were having and that we had all the ingredients. Often I would come home to find that he had started dinner or prepped the next days crock pot meal.
Breakfast for dinner :) 

It wasn't all perfect. As I said, there were a lot of casserole-type meals and slow cooker mixes. We weren't sick of them by the end of the month, but I could see it coming. The site claims to have hundreds of recipes, so I'm wondering if some months will be less casserole happy. I just got this month's menu and that looks like the case. The menus don't include sides which meant I still had to think about the menu a little. We went to the farmer's market a couple times and that rounded out our meals nicely. Lots of fresh and frozen veggies and rolls. There isn't a lot of spontaneity built into the system, which could be a pro or a con. I'm what Gretchen Rubin calls an "Upholder" so I liked the structure of having each meal planned out. I was never tempted to order pizza because "Tonight's Beef tips and Gravy!" even when it might have made more sense to skip it. There's no weekend menus, so I think we'll probably start shuffling some menu items to the weekend to accommodate weekday gaiety. My final critique could be either a pro or a con. The site has so many recipes that it seems like we won't revisit a dish for several months if not more. There were some BOMB recipes that I'd like to have more often. My plan is to add those into my weekend rotation or use them to swap out things that I'm positive no one in this house will enjoy.

I would ABSOLUTELY recommend this program to working moms and busy families. At the end of the month I got a little anxious thinking about having to go back to planning all of our meals. I've signed up for the subscription service, so I'm better now. I can't over-emphasize how much easier this made my life. C and I had the damn, "What do you want for dinner?" conversation ONCE last month and it was so weird and foreign. Seriously guys, this thing is a game changer.

I'm curious. Have you tried thedinnerplans.com? What did you think? And if you haven't, how do you solve the never-ending dinner argument?

*I was not paid for this review. I just want to share an awesome program with all four of my readers*

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Backyard Awesomeness

Ahhhh!!!! You guys! This house is sort of, kind of, turning into a grown-up awesome house! We now have a programmable thermostat and sweet, blessed vents in EVERY. SINGLE. ROOM. And NOW!! Now we have a backyard that doesn't overlook the creepy neighbors, isn't a dust pit, and has a brand new patio! I wish I had before pictures. Just picture something sad and crappy. Then add a teeny little back porch (like 2x4) hooked to a homemade wheelchair ramp. Then add in eight random concrete boxes. But now! We have the super awesome enormous fence AND a super awesome patio! And tomato plants but those are C's and my only contribution is that I haven't killed them yet.

Averson LOVES gardening. It's pretty adorable and she tells us all about what "baby plants need." 
Strawberries in a broken wheelbarrow. We don't want to forget our roots :) I tried to talk him into a toilet but I got vetoed. 
Syd's basil. I'm driving her crazy by calling it "bahzil" 
This is Edwin. He lives in our garden and makes me incredibly happy. One of my life goals checked off
Ahhh! Getting ready for concrete!
The girls sat in their jeep watching. Kicked their feet up and everything. 
So pretty! I'm so excited to hang out on it and put our crappy grill right there by the door. 

It's funny how much finishing these little (or big) projects has impacted how I feel about this house. I really struggled because many of these are things that we *could* DIY but for one reason or another haven't finished. I was sheepishly telling a friend that we were paying to have the patio poured and she came back with, "so you decided to be an adult and pay someone who knows what they're doing?" Oh. Yeah! That's what I did. And it's so so pretty.

So now I'm pretty sure that I know where the grill is going, but I don't know what else to do with this. The whole house is looking a little "taupe" and now I have to start decorating my super beautiful back yard. I have red chairs and a little fire pit, but that's it. Ideas?