meals, sept 13-19

This weekend is starting off with a surprise little trip for the kids! My husband and the kids are going camping — so fun! I am going to head over during the day but return home each day. I know what you’re thinking: It’s a bummer someone has to stay back to keep the dog company 😉

Honestly, though, I am really looking forward to the weekend. We are going to make s’mores and it’s just going to be a blast. A nice little break in the back-to-school routine. My husband and I packed the kids each a book to read with some downtime, a horse-shoe game, a frisbee, and a football.

Last week’s rogue supermarket trip was really nice. I like the calmness of not having to plan everything. I did have to run to the store a few times this week to pick up a thing or two, but overall, I think I’m going to try to shop like this more often. I typically do my shopping on Thursdays, so that gives me Friday morning to look at my haul and figure out what we are going to eat for the week. It’s been nice cooking off the top of my head without following tons of recipes (though, we did get back to True Roots and Cravings last week).

We are going to keep things super simple for the weekend, since everything will be cooked either over a campfire or at the site (they have charcoal grills).

Friday: Hot dogs, carrots, and fruit. I figured that we’d want something simple while we set up the tent and we want to make sure we have time for a campfire and the s’mores that go along with it.

Saturday: For breakfast, we are going to do sausage, egg & cheese English muffins. We are testing out the dutch oven cooker we bought for camping this weekend and will use it for dinner when we make a batch of vegetable chili with s’mores to follow, of course.

Sunday: Same breakfast as the day before. We will be home by lunch and will do a fun little lineup for Sunday football of chips and salsa, homemade pizza, buffalo chicken dip and spinach-artichoke dip. I can’t wait!

Monday: We are back in the grind of life and work and school. I wanted to keep things easy so we are going to do pasta & zucchini with sauce and chicken sausage and salads.

Tuesday: Taco night with crunchy tacos, ground beef, refried beans, and beets. This is probably our favorite dinner of the week, honestly.

Wednesday: My husband is going to make his family favorite and ever so famous buffalo chicken salads (Pittsburgh style, with fries, cheese, and hard-boiled eggs). These are amazing.

Thursday: Black bean tacos with salad.

Having the kids make their own lunches and breakfasts has turned into, to put it ever so lightly, a nightmare. They ‘forget’ to eat breakfast most days and 11 literally packed himself a container of lettuce and nothing else one day; the next day, followed it up with a meat stick and popcorn… only. In an effort to make things super easy on everyone; lunches are going to be largely pre-made or sandwiches until 11 & 13 are better able to get themselves set up — this week, I grabbed meatballs, breakfast sausage (so they can finish the french toast bites), and things to make sunbutter sandwiches. I also grabbed two boxes of cereal bars and a box of applesauce, so there is something for my husband to keep in the car in case they forget breakfast.

My husband is going to try a new breakfast idea for the week with getting bell peppers, slicing them in half, and using the pepper to hold an egg, some quinoa, and ham. Hopefully, he likes this; we are always trying to find things that will work as a post-run breakfast after school drop-off. Lunches will be cauliflower and rice or quinoa bowls with chicken sausage, peppers.

My meals aren’t really planned during the week. I typically eat eggs for breakfast and salads for lunch but sometimes I grab something while out and about with 3, so we don’t really plan anything. This is something that’s nice about being home and not having to think about what we will have because we can always go to the store if we want something specific.

meals, sept 6-12

Well, it’s official: We are finally entering our first full week of school. 3 starts preK-3 on Monday and I’m sure someone will shed a few tears about it. (It’s me. I’m the someone.) We went today to pick out a new backpack. I wish Pottery Barn Kids didn’t carry such cute things, but they do and thus they can take all of my money. He picked out a camo blue small backpack, which will fit his school folder in it. 3 is really anxious about starting school but I think it’s going to be great for him. There are only a dozen children in his class and his teacher is straight out of college, so I’m hopeful that he will have the energy required to keep up with my child. I can’t wait for him to make some friends and talk about his days; I’m truly looking forward to it.

After our trip to PBK, we walked to Whole Foods and did our grocery shopping for the week. There I was, a typeA, overbearing, over-planned mom without a list or idea of what to make next week. The two of us basically grabbed all of the fruits and vegetables that sounded good to us at the time, swung by dairy for some kefir and nutpods, and then hit the meat counter. I have a free trial of Amazon Prime that I used to get my textbooks, so I got the discount for that at WF. I saved nearly $20 and now I get to struggle with figuring out if it’s worth getting Prime or not — I rarely shop on Amazon except to buy meat sticks and, in this case, textbooks (thanks to the free 2-day delivery). I am happily accepting any weigh-ins around Amazon Prime and whether or not its worth it…

Until then, I looked at my meats and vegetables and came up with this loose plan for the week (Who even am I right now?!):

Friday: I have a dentist appointment in the afternoon, so I wanted something quick and easy. We are doing kraut and kielbasa with mashed potatoes. I can’t wait.

Saturday: It is unofficially fall and I am eager to make Chrissy Teigan’s Cheeseless Eggs (Cravings). The Defined Dish posted a soup recipe this past week on Instagram and noted that Nutpods can be used in place of heavy cream; so, I grabbed some and will test this out over the weekend. We will also add the blistered tomatoes and possibly the garlic bacon to this ensemble. I have no idea what we will have for dinner — maybe we will try blackened grouper and have it with leftover potatoes and sautéed spinach. Sounds good to me!

Sunday: I bought leeks and we have some Italian sausage, so I may want to do a frittata of some sort, but we will see what we are in the mood for when Sunday AM rolls around. Sunday being the first full day of football, we are going to really dig in and enjoy — my husband is going to make buffalo wings and we are going to try our hand at making blistered shishito peppers; we will keep things simple and serve this with carrots.

Monday: We are going to do roasted chicken (True Roots), roasted potatoes, and roasted beets. Everything in the oven at once!

Tuesday: I am thinking that mushroom, pepper, zucchini, and spinach fajitas will be in order; simple and quick. Plus, if we have any leftover chicken, we can toss it in with them. I bought the Siete cashew queso to go along with this.

Wednesday: I am thinking a sheet pan meal of chicken thighs, potatoes, and carrots with a stone-ground mustard. I saw the recipe online but will probably just toss some mustard and spices on everything and back it until it’s done. I’m so savvy in the kitchen; what can I say.

Thursday: I grabbed a flank steak at the meat counter and plan to marinate and grill it and serve it with some sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes.

I bought a gigantic tub of spinach (can you believe that TWO POUNDS of spinach is only $1.50 more than 10oz?! Me neither.), so I will be eating this for lunch most of the week. I will probably thaw and cook shrimp to go with it — now that the dinners are going to get increasingly heavier, I’d like to keep my lunches a little on the lighter side and loaded with nutrients. I also will likely bust out the Vitamix this week and get back to making my cinnamon smoothies or match smoothies that I enjoy so much!

summer’s last hoorah

This was the last full week with 13 & 11 of summer vacation. We started out the weekend with a trip to a local arcade where we all played games and did the batting cages; then we had ice cream before lunch and then pizza. (And, if I’m being honest, we had the rest of the pizza for dinner…) It was a great day and a great way to kick off the last week of summer vacation with everyone.

Monday, 3 was having a time, so my husband stayed home with him. I took 13 & 11 to one of our local beaches and was so excited that a friend of mine also met us there! We jumped waves and boogie boarded; had a snack lunch; and enjoyed a solid six hours out in the summer sun.

Tuesday and Wednesday, I had appointments and my husband was working from home. I chopped all of my hair off on Tuesday per the suggestion of my stylist and love the fresh, new cut. My hair has been to the middle of my back for the last few years and a collarbone cut was exactly what I needed. I ran some errands and headed to campus afterwards to try and finish my application and set up Internet on my computer — wasn’t successful in either of those attempts but I did get my student ID.

On Thursday, the Red Sox had to finish a suspended game from the other week. Because the game was to start at 1PM on a weekday (top of the 10th inning; tied 4-4), the Sox were offering free tickets for all kids and $5 tickets for adults. I grabbed myself a ticket and headed into the city with three kiddos and some singles for the $1 hotdogs. What a great lunchtime activity! We met my husband afterwards and he took the kids home so I could meet a friend for dinner. All-in-all, a tiring but fun day!

With Friday being our last day of vacation, we wanted to spend some time at the beach but the weather had another plan, so we hung out at the house until after lunchtime. Then, I dropped them to their mom and 3 and I headed home for nap time. 3 and I are heading on a trip next week to visit my parents and he is looking forward to playing in his red house and showing ‘grammy’ his “big, round belly” … I’m sure lots of s’mores and ice cream and fresh garden vegetables will be heavily consumed during our trip. Personally, I’m looking forward to tomatoes — all of the garden tomatoes!

When we return, we will visit with my in-laws for Labor Day and then the grind will really start. My graduate coursework starts that Tuesday and my stress levels/anxiety are just through the roof. I am sure once I have the syllabi to figure out the timing of everything, I will settle in quickly. 3’s school year doesn’t begin until a little later, so I get a little more time with him before settling completely into my fall routine.

For the fall, I am hoping to get back into the swing of working out and yoga. I typically am able to get into routines more easily at the start of the school year and I’d like to get back to a better exercise regimen. I have watched my diet all summer (enough anyway) but haven’t exercised much outside of walking the dog. I also have a gym membership through my program, so I am hoping to get to the gym there to lift and swim at least once a week. We will see what goals I set for myself in the next few weeks…

infertility, pt3

I started this post back in May and was reminded of this particular experience I shared the story with a friend over dinner and drinks last week.

With it being Mother’s Day weekend, I was thinking back to our IVF days. Those days were particularly difficult for my husband and me (and our marriage). As I was reflecting, I couldn’t help but think of our trigger shot day from our first round of IVF.

I was having all kinds of hot flashes from the hormones, so we’d been sleeping with one of our bedroom windows open (and two fans on). In February. In Boston. It was great to have the windows open for this particular experience.

My husband watched a few videos from the pharmacy’s online portal and then told me what to expect: “The video said to use a dart-like throwing motion.” I was standing in position, staring down at my phone that blared Busta Rhymes and my husband prepped the area.

Then, bam.

I screamed. The dog went ballistic, barking and growling at my husband. My husband was frantically yelling, “Don’t move! The needle came out! It’s stuck!” I stood screaming while the dog tried to protect my honor, all with a giant needle sticking out of me. Because the trigger shot needs to be timed just so, we all had to quickly calm down and try again.

Fortunately, our neighbors are the gracious types. Nobody has ever asked what all of the screaming was about, nor did anyone call the police. My husband kept repeating, “I told you it was going to be like a dart?!” and I kept responding, “I’ve never been hit by a dart before?!” This was an intramuscular shot and one of the hundreds of shots administered by my husband (fortunately, the only one with such a mishap)…

Surprisingly, after this particular IVF cycle, we continued on with more treatments before deciding to call it quits with fertility specialists, shots, and mood swings and shifted our attention and energies to growing our family through other means. ENTER, a visit to our local Jordan’s Furniture store to talk to a representative about DCF fostering/adoption and signing up for MAPP training.

While we had not planned on this particular timing; fostering youth was something we’d discussed because it was always something that I’d wanted to do. My grandparents had five bio children and, because that wasn’t enough, fostered constantly to share their home and chaos with those in need. This was important to me and soon, us.

It wasn’t long before we started our first training class, but that’s a whole other story…

meals, aug 10-16

What a week it’s been! My parents are visiting and we’ve been out and about at the beaches in town; we’ve also been eating all of the homegrown tomatoes. (My parents brought us BAGS full of tomatoes from their garden — I’ve been having toast and tomato for breakfast and lunch pretty much daily and then pizza shells with tomatoes for dinner!)

Prior to the visit, I got to spend some 1:1 time with 13 & 11. I took them to Water Country, USA on Monday. We had a blast and went on nearly all of the water slides (several of them multiple times). We packed lunches and snacks and enjoyed ourselves in the NE sun!

My parents are leaving Monday morning, so we will get back to our normal eating habits after that. We’ve been still doing a lot of grilling and my mom made an eggplant dish last night that the kids ate before any of the adults could have seconds! Tonight, my husband and I are trying a local wine bar for a date night. We are really excited! Tomorrow, we are going to use the last of the pizza shells and more tomatoes for dinner and on Sunday, we are going to be at the Sox game and will likely introduce my dad to The Sausage Guy. So fun!

On Monday, I want to familiarize myself with campus. I’m going back to school and my anxiety really skyrocketed when we paid my tuition last week. I am really nervous to juggle everything. My husband is going to grill chicken and corn on the cob Monday. Tuesday will be similar but with a marinated flank steak. We figure on Wednesday, we will hit Chipotle to celebrate the end of t-ball and then Thursday, grilled chicken sausages and Caprese salad with our fresh tomatoes. We will likely have fresh tomato and cucumber salads from my parents’ garden all week with our dinners.

I’ve really been enjoying the easy nature of grilling dinners. I know it’ll be fun to be back in the kitchen more when fall rolls around but for now, this is really easy and delicious. We’ve been walking to get ice cream many nights after dinner since we have such little cook time/clean up.

Summer is winding down but we still have two full weeks of fun and beach days planned. I am hoping to enjoy each and every day.

#blessed

Sometimes it can difficult to navigate the social constructs of media platforms online. I oftentimes see articles/posts berating the “humble brag” and this had me thinking…

Today, I dropped 13 off at camp and then took my son for a special treat before his camp started. (Full Disclosure: I also got myself a treat and forgot to order decaf, so I consumed caffeine for the first time in over two years today. WOW! I see how why people drink coffee; I feel like I can scale buildings and cure infectious diseases all in the next 40 minutes!) After his cake-pop, I dropped him off at camp and took my skinny caramel iced latte to the beach for the next three hours. I read much of that time and also squeezed in two walks for a total of ~3 miles. Lovely!

During my walks, I was thinking about my husband. I had texted him after 13’s drop-off and told I might stop by Starbucks. His response: “You should!” This is basically his response for any idea I have that involves basically anything. It’s great and I know he sincerely means it because he is constantly telling me to do more for myself (and I, him, because this is marriage and not a one-way street). This is one way we keep ourselves and each other accountable for things like prioritizing our own health and fitness, mental health, breaks, etc. It works for us.

As I walked down the beach, I thought that these are things that I’m typically unable to share with the Twitter/Facebook crowds. I don’t want to seem like I’m bragging about my day because my glass is overflowing. Trust, there are many days when my glass is empty and is teetering on the edge of the table waiting to be broken. The thing about parenting and maybe just being an adult is that everyone complains that nobody ‘keeps it real’ and only features ‘highlight reels’ — but what happens when this is the real much of the time?

Sure, I am not posting recordings of 3 screaming at the top of his lungs; I reserve those special moments for the patrons of the pizza place next door. Still, I would love to share with people my thoughts sometimes — about how my husband is a good man and a great father but I mostly just share that with him. He works hard to provide for our family and is supportive of my many ideas (most of which involve an airplane ride and money that I don’t make being on a sabbatical); he plays with the kids but also sets boundaries; he models to three children what a father and husband should do and while he doesn’t get it right all of the time, I think he’s definitely got it right the majority.

I clearly was having some philosophical banter in my mind during this walk; maybe it was the coffee or maybe just the peaceful vitamin sea I was soaking up. I continue to wonder why it is so difficult to share what is going on in our worlds. I know that I share more on Instagram than any other platform of social media and that is because most of the people on my IG are people I communicate with regularly and they know that 3 is often on the verge of breaking me and also that I live a privileged life full of love and stability.

For now, I will keep things this way as to not rock the boat of the #parentsquad on Twitter that air on the side of parental frustrations or the #soblessed crowd on Facebook that share their many #humblebrags. I guess, largely, I wanted to share that some of us are grateful for what we have and the lives we’ve built and it’s okay to be positive about those things because our optimism/lightness doesn’t negate your dark times or struggles.

We are all in it together to rejoice and support, day in and day out.

Note: This potentially is a bit of a ramble. Caffeine really does a number on me and I needed an outlet to get my morning walk thoughts out there.

family date nights

We spend a lot of time trying to figure out ways to get quality time in, whether that be between my husband and I; as an entire family; or one-on-one time with each of the children (which is not easy when they outnumber you). I am very mindful when planning things to make sure that 13 & 11 get enough 1:1 time with their dad. I don’t ever want them to feel like they are in need of time that seems impossible. Fortunately, with our schedule, he does drop-off and pick-up with school daily and even takes them back to work with him sometimes (which they both enjoy).

Our usual babysitter has been working a ton this summer (she is such a hard worker), so we ended up using a different sitter for my husband’s birthday date night. She told us that she can come home any weekend to sit for us and we are now thinking of changing how we do date nights. Instead of doing a weekly date night on a Monday or Tuesday night (where all we basically do is talk about the kids), we are going to do one weekend night date a month. We can go into the city, get dressed up, and take our time to have an actual date sans kids (physically or in conversation).

As a result, we want to use the rest of our monthly date-night budget to do a family date night. It’s hard to try and plan something like this when it feels like we do a lot as a family, probably more than most people — we are at the beach often, we walk to get ice cream, we have dinner as a family every night aside from date night, goodnight stories, vacations, etc. We don’t watch much TV and have no video games/electronics in the house, so we only have each other to entertain for the most part. It works for us BUT I feel like we get so locked into our routines during the school year, having something more defined may be worth trying.

We are trying to think of something where we can all get a little more gussied up than usual and go to a nice dinner or head someplace ‘fun’ like Dave & Busters and just enjoy a few more experiences than we’d normally have. We don’t go out to each much as a family; sure, we order pizza/takeout, but we don’t get out too much because it’s time consuming and a bit pricey. I think this will be fun for all of us.

Another idea that we have to spend more 1:1 time with each of the kids is to use our weekday babysitter, on occasion, to take one of the kiddos out to do something (a movie, dessert, pizza at the beach, etc) to get some more bonding time with the kids. We feel that as they are getting older and busier, it’s in all of our best interests to be deliberate in making time with one another.

I am happy to hear any additional ideas people have on how they set aside family time! We are really looking forward to trying this out!