Monday, April 11, 2016

What we've been eating lately...

Meal planning, it's so much work, and yet it also saves so much work in the long run. For a couple of months now I've been trying a new meal planning strategy. At the beginning of each month I come up with the menu for the entire month. I also make four grocery lists based on this giant menu. One big list for the first shopping trip of the month, which includes everything I'll need for the first week's menus, and also all of the non-perishable ingredients for the rest of the month. The other three grocery lists are short: just the perishable ingredients I need for each week. As other items come up I can easily add them to these lists later on.

It is a lot of work at the beginning of the month, but I've noticed that it saves me so much stress and so many trips to the store later on. Also, I think it is saving us money... but I am not absolutely sure about this. And Greg has commented that he thinks we've been eating more variety since I started doing this.

Here are some of the things that have been on the monthly menus in the last few months. Some of the meals belong in more than one category (for instance there are more vegetarian dishes in the crock-pot and ethnic categories).

Pasta dishes:
Tomato Basil Chicken over pasta (this was super yummy and easy!)

Pasta Carbonara

Tortellini with pesto (both pasta and sauce from Costco, we don't get a lot of convenience food but this is one of Greg's favorite things)

Hearty Pasta, Beans and Greens (p22 of Nov/Dec 2014 Cooks Illustrated magazine)

Spaghetti and salad

Crock-Pot dishes:
Crock-pot Mexi-chicken (boneless/skinless chicken breasts, a jar of salsa, a block of cream cheese, a can of black beans, a can of corn, a can of diced green chilies, combine in slow cooker and cook until chicken is done - 4ish hours on high. Dice or shred chicken and serve over rice or with tortilla chips. Will be saucy.)

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches (Also a super easy recipe! Combine boneless/skinless chicken breasts with a bottle of your favorite bbq sauce, and half a bottle of basic (not low-fat) italian salad dressing. Add a little black pepper and cook on high for 4-5 hours or until cooked through. Take out chicken and dice or shred. While you're cutting up chicken, pour sauce into a pot or pan and reduce on med/high until thickened, about 10 minutes. Put chicken and thickened sauce back into slow cooker to serve. Serve on buns with coleslaw)

Crock-pot black beans, rice & quesadillas

Meat-centric dishes:
Teriyaki Chicken (easy peasy - just boneless, skinless chicken thighs baked in teriyaki sauce, served with rice and veggies)

Flattened Chicken, mashed potatoes and veggies (I love making the chicken this way, brining it helps it turn out moist and flavorful. I usually use the uncooked backbone and any other cooked bones available to make chicken broth for chicken noodle soup later in the week)

Hamburgers with grilled onions and mushrooms

Shepherd's pie (from Sunny Anderson)

Pollack burgers, oven fries, frozen veggies

Ethnic Food:
Indian Tomato Chicken over rice, raw fruit/veggies (this was a hit)

St. Patty's Day Feast (Corned Beef and Cabbage with roasted root veggies - Greg made this) and Irish Soda Bread

Fried Rice and spring rolls with various dipping sauces

"Mexican" food:
Fish Tacos (I just used some good quality fish sticks and topped them with salsa, sour cream, and cabbage/carrot slaw in my tortillas), black beans, chips & salsa on the side


Soft tacos

Enchiladas with verde sauce

Chicken Tortilla soup

Vegetarian meals:
Yum Bowls (rice, beans, olives, avocados, tomatoes, chips, cilantro, salsa, sour cream, cheese and Yumm sauce (we buy ours at Cafe Yumm but here is a link to make your own)

Pancakes & smoothies (we love this pancake recipe, definitely needs to be doubled or tripled!)

Red Beans and Rice, Kale

Spinach Frittata, toast, smoothie

Toad in the Hole (something like this recipe)

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham, green beans, and fruit salad (made this for Easter)

Ham and Split Pea soup with bread

Quiche (a favorite around here)

Homemade Pizza and salad

Chef Salad (served with all ingredients in separate bowls - build your own)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


I'm 8 years into this parenting gig, and I think I can honestly say that it has gotten easier.

I know, I know... it's a crazy thing to say. Especially considering that I have four kids now, instead of just one. And one of those four kids is a nursing-wake-you-up-at-night baby, and another one of those kids is three (for all you parents of three-year-olds out there, nuff said).

So in actuality, if we are talking about shoes that must be tied, and snacks that must be made, and fingernails that must be clipped, and tantrums that must be dealt with, and books that must be read, and messes that must be cleaned, then of course, yes... it is much harder than it used to be.

But somehow it feels easier. And that is really what matters. I usually don't allow myself to get sucked into the drama quite so easily as I used to. I feel more confident in my parenting. And I'm learning to slow down and enjoy my kids.

Even still, I have tough moments. And this evening was one of them.

It started innocently enough. I asked Jonathan and Leesi if they still wanted to use their own money to buy a book that they had been eyeing in the latest Scholastic Book Club order form. They shouted "yes" and ran to get their piggy banks. A moment later they were back with money in hand. They had agreed that Elisa would pay four dollars and Jonathan would pay five dollars for a nine dollar book that they wanted to share. Jonathan handed me a ten dollar bill and Elisa had four ones in her hand. I explained that she could give her ones to Jonathan and I would give him one more dollar and then we would all be even. She erupted in a fury of "that's not fair!" Well, I tried to explain again and again the concept of giving change ("you know, like what has happened when you've bought things in the store with your own money"). But no matter how I phrased it or which examples I used, I couldn't get her to understand. She kept saying, "But he paid for the whole book and then he gets to keep my money too!" Finally I took her four dollars and Jonathan's ten dollars and gave Jonathan back a separate five dollar bill in hopes that this simpler way would work. But still she just wouldn't accept this and cried and cried and yelled and stormed. I tried to distract her by looking at the book on the computer. Didn't help. Then I got angry and yelled at her. That didn't seem to help either. Finally I tried, "You'll just have to trust me. Even if you can't understand it. I'm not trying to trick you. You'll just have to trust me when I say that he paid five dollars and you paid four dollars." After this, I moved on. She did not. But that was all I could do.

It was right before dinnertime now. Greg was late for dinner and I was trying to get the kids to pick up a few things before dinner. No one was listening and Leesi was still in her mood. She picked up her art supplies off the table like I asked but then stormed off with a "But I'm not going to pick up anything else!" By now I was starting to feel the anger well up inside. It had been kind of a blue day overall, and part of me wished I had just stayed in bed and never gotten up. I went into the closest bedroom and punched the bed a couple times, and then, just like that, the anger vanished and I started laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I prayed a quick prayer that somehow we would be given laughter tonight to help drain away some of the tension that had built.

Leesi protested by not sitting down to dinner when it was ready. But Greg arrived fairly quickly and then she joined us. She complained about dinner and asked if she could have a bowl of cereal (something I don't remember ever allowing her to have instead of dinner, not really sure where that idea came from). And then complained when I said we weren't having dessert. I wasn't really feeling like laughing anymore.

As I was cleaning up from dinner Nora came in and asked me to play a game that involves the kids draping blankets over their heads and pretending to be ghosts and me picking them up and throwing them on our big bed. I felt like saying no. After all, I was in a bummer mood and the last thing I wanted to do was play with the kids. But I remembered a phrase I had heard someone say, "It's easier to act your way into a feeling, than to feel your way into an action." So, I said okay.

Jonathan and Nora played with gusto. Even Leesi started to timidly join in. Greg came in too, and pretty soon we were in the middle of a pillow fight. Lots of laughter, pillows and blankets flying. Tension relieved. After it was over, Leesi was getting in her jammies and using her pj pants to play peek a boo with Anna. And Anna laughed too, long baby belly laughs.

So, that is the story of tonight. On another hard night, there might be a different antagonist. Leesi is usually cheerful and helpful. But I want to do a good job of documenting both the hard and the easy, the bad and the good.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Before and After

Two months old

Seven months old
How did she grow so much in such a short time on just milk and a few sweet potatoes? 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Anna Banana - 6 months

Just the other day I had the pleasure of holding a new baby, and it struck me how much Anna has changed in the last six months. From a tiny little infant to a smiling, grabbing, rolling, laughing big baby. 

Two weeks old
Cute feet
Big yawn
Three months
Tummy time is always better with a sibling to watch
Another sister, Jonathan is super sweet with her.
Such a great big sister
Christmas baby
Six months old and eating, finally!

Anna has grown into a smiley, easy-going baby. She loves people and smiles easily at anyone who talks animatedly to her. She loves chewing on anything in her reach, and her reach is getting broader all the time. Now she can roll and creep a little. I often put her down on her blanket and come back to find her off of the blanket and trying to eat the floor (yuck).

She has been really interested in food for awhile, watching us eat and lunging toward any nearby food while we are holding her. Now she has finally gotten her chance. Her first food was pear, followed by avocado, carrot, and yam. She sometimes makes faces and gags while eating (especially with the avocado) but she keeps going back for more. I think she likes it.

She still wakes up to eat at night. I am so tired I just bring her into our bed and promptly fall back asleep while she nurses. Sometimes, later in the night I put her back in her pack'n'play. Other times she just stays in our bed until morning.

No teeth yet. At her six month check-up she weighed 16 lbs 3 oz and was 25 inches long.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Introducing Anna Joy

So Anna Joy was born over a month ago. She weighed 7 lbs. 8 oz. and was 19 inches long. She came on August 13th, three days before her due date, making her the first of my children born before the due date. The doctor encouraged me to induce early because the ultrasound seemed to suggest that her growth had drastically slowed down,and they were worried my placenta might be breaking down. Everything went smoothly with labor and delivery. (The exception being the amount of times they tried to put in my i.v. It was actually fairly comical. I think I ended up with 5 pokes, and quite a bit of bruising.) Here are a couple of pictures from shortly after birth.
Little Sister
Sweet sleeping beauty
We are getting used to what it means to be a family of six. Nora is adjusting better than I expected. She was the one I was the most concerned about, since before Anna was born she said things like, "No new baby at my house." and "I the baby." But after Anna was born Nora took great delight in telling people, "I'm a big sissy!" So, for the most part she is embracing her new role. Sometimes it is still a little hard for Nora to share Mommy so much of the time... which is to be expected. 

Anna has been a pretty good baby. She has her fussy times (often in the evenings) but for the most part is easy to calm. She loves to eat and loves to be held. And the most exciting thing from the past week or so is that she has started to smile at us! Now we'll start to see her little personality more and more. So exciting. 

A couple days ago (at 5 weeks) she weighed in at 10 lbs. 11 oz. and was 21 1/2 inches long. That puts her in the 86th percentile for weight and 68th for height. I can't believe how much she has grown. She is getting big. And those cheeks... those cheeks are huge

Monday, July 6, 2015

Just a Little Paranoid

So a few weeks back we played with a group of friends at a park and then went out to pizza with all of them. Later one of the moms texted to say that she had found nits (lice eggs) in her daughters hair that night. I thought back to our kids playing together and realized that Jonathan and Nora had not really played with the little girl in question. I also couldn't remember Leesi playing with her too much the day before, and certainly not in such a close way as to transfer lice. But just as a precaution I combed through her hair, carefully checking the scalp for any sign of nits or lice. Nothing showed up.

Fast forward to today, I noticed the girls both scratching their heads. Now, it has been unseasonably hot and they have been awfully sweaty. So a perfectly reasonable explanation for the itchiness would be sweaty heads. But I couldn't get the idea of lice out of my head. So I decided to comb through her hair again, just to check.

Right away I found some white specks near the scalp at the back of her head. Thus followed a solid half hour of combing hair and combing the internet for pictures of nits, and advice on how to tell the difference between nits and dandruff.

Finally I decided that it was just dandruff after all. I commented to the kids, "Mommy's just a little paranoid." A few minutes later Leesi asked me, "Mommy, why are you hair annoyed?"

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Summer Fun!

Boy has it felt like summer! We've had unseasonably hot weather and hardly any rain for most of June. And we have been packing our summer full of adventures. To kick off June Greg and I headed to Chicago sans kids to celebrate our 14th anniversary. Mom and Dad watched the kiddos while we explored the city. We visited both the Art and the Field Museum, watched a live taping of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me, saw Once (the musical), and ate lots of good food. We were also able to see some friends we hadn't seen in awhile. Greg had gone to Chicago earlier than me for his ACSD conference.  So he saw lots of old friends. Once I arrived some of our JBU friends were still around and so I was able to have lunch with them too. Overall it was such a great trip. And the kids had lots of fun with Grandma and Papa while we were gone. When we got back they filled me in on all of their adventures: the zoo, swimming, splash pads, Mariner's game, Taco Bell. :-)

Here we are in front of Buckingham Fountain.
Lou Malnati's pizza. Yum. Seeing it makes me hungry.
The next adventure was a trip to the coast. Some friends had graciously invited us to come with them to their family's beach house. We were happy to oblige. We had a great time hanging out with them and spent lots of time on the beach. It had been awhile since we had been and it was so nice to relax there.
As usual, Jonathan with his truck.
This beach was fairly rocky and had some cool tide pools to explore.
At this beach someone had built a little driftwood house. The kids had so much fun playing inside it. 
Everyone even went in the water a little.
Nothing says Oregon Coast quite like sweatshirts and jackets on the beach and ice cold water. 
We had only been back from the beach a couple days before we headed out on our next adventure: camping with my parents for two nights at Silver Falls. It was a super nice campground with hot water in the bathrooms and free showers. We explored just three of the ten waterfalls. They were breathtaking! Absolutely gorgeous hikes! One afternoon we swam in the river. It was a great way to cool down on a hot day. Overall, it was a great trip - so much fun!

Jonathan hurt his foot the very first night and limped for the rest of the weekend, poor kid. Greg had to carry him on all the hikes. The kids had trouble sleeping the first night. At first they were too excited to sleep. And then they got too tired and cranky. Leesi and Nora had trouble staying in their sleeping bags through the night. And Jonathan's foot woke him up. But the second night was much better. I think maybe next time we'll try for three nights and see how that goes.

Beautiful Falls 
Jonathan and Nora catch a ride on Greg and Papa's shoulders.  
Nora and Papa
Jonathan floats on the Rice Krispie Raft. 
Nora in her sleeping bag. It was very exciting to get new sleeping bags!
We got back from camping just in time for Leesi to participate in a show. Leesi has been taking dance class for a few months now at a studio close to our house. The studio put on a big show for the end of the year called, "A Bug'z Tale." Her class did a dance to "All the Colors" or as we refer to it, "the rainbow song." She was able to go and see the show with me on Friday night (a different class did the rainbow dance in that show) and then dance in it on Saturday night. Everyone enjoyed watching it. The songs from it are still stuck in my head.

Leesi posing after the show with her teacher. 
We've certainly had a busy and fun June. July should be a lot more low key. We'll be hanging around home a lot more. And then in August the baby comes!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Jonathan's thoughts and doings

So, I can officially say that Jonathan can read now. He still gets some words wrong and there is some guesswork involved, but he regularly tells me what things say (e.g. today at the doctor's office he told me, "these stickers say 'smile makers'") especially if it's something he finds funny. And he can read a whole book too (easy ones, that is). I realized that he had really gotten it and that reading had clicked for him when he read me all of Green Eggs and Ham. He seems to prefer to sit quietly and read them to himself, but sometimes he will read to me too.

His mind is always working on something. Recently he's started coming up to me out of the blue and telling me answers to math equations. "Mommy, 8+8 is 16." etc. Yesterday Leesi was working on her math homework and struggling on a problem. Jonathan walked up and whispered the answer in her ear. Ha! We were both surprised

He just finished preschool for the year. We've really liked his preschool and his teacher. She always has fun crafts and interesting activities for the kids. She is great with the kids. But if we ever say anything about learning something in preschool Jonathan will correct us, insisting that he doesn't learn at preschool. "It's not really a learning kind of school. We just play."

They had a special Mother's Day Tea a month ago and the kids were so sweet. They sang songs for the Moms and gave us all kinds of handmade gifts. It was a very sweet time with my special guy.

Me and Jonathan at the Mother's Day Tea at his school. He made me a special corsage.
The other day Jonathan told me, "The first day ever wasn't a tomorrow. There was a first day, and it wasn't a tomorrow. Other days have tomorrows, but the first day was never a tomorrow. God was there."

He has started doing speech therapy to work on some of his articulation. He doesn't yet produce a 'l' sound or an 'r' sound, instead he substitutes w's. There are a handful of other sounds he doesn't make quite right either (among them th, s, and j). I am glad that he is doing speech therapy and will get the help he needs. But there is part of me that will probably miss the "Mommy, I wiwy wiwy wuv you!"

Let us eat lettuce!

The lettuce has taken off. We are eating tons of salads and we still can't quite keep up with the amount of lettuce that we're getting. I picked the lettuce this morning into my biggest plastic mixing bowl. It was heaped to the top and overflowing, and still the lettuce patch looked like I could pick some more.

My biggest bowl heaping with lettuce. 
The lettuce after being picked. There are 12 heads in three square feet. Probably four different varieties. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015


So now that early pregnancy has passed and I am feeling better, I am really enjoying being outside and working in our yard. I try to talk myself into doing the dishes or the laundry or picking up toys, but if it's decent weather out the dishes usually get neglected and the laundry sits for a little longer while I work out in the yard.

A month or so ago Greg built a 8x4 raised bed for me, and filled it with dirt. Since then I've been working away on planting in it, as well as a few other places around the yard. So far in the garden box we have kale, onions (several kinds), shallots, spinach, lettuce, and marigolds growing. And I'm still hopefully watching for carrots and dill to sprout. Peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers will go in soon.

I built a sweet pea teepee for the kids to hide out in, and am watching with glee as the peas they planted sprout and grow. Once the peas are done, I plan on planting beans in their place.

I just planted four tomato plants in one of the planter boxes on the front of the house, and am planning on planting a few more in the garden box in the back and training them to grow up a trellis (square foot garden style).

I hope to get strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries this year from plants that we've put in.

Greg ripped out a lilac bush that was beautiful, but hopelessly unhealthy, and we planted a dwarf peach tree in its place. So exciting!

There are also quite a few flowers, both ones that we've planted and ones that were already here, that are starting to make an appearance.

I have lots of plans for more improvements to the yard and garden too. I guess I've caught the gardening bug.
Snails are always fun to find and watch.

We have dogwood trees in the front! Beautiful!

We have a few of these in our yard too. Leesi took this picture. Pretty good, right?

Little lettuces.

The hyacinth were beautiful this year. 

My helpers.

Other garden bounty.