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.