3 Make Ahead Freezable School Lunches

make ahead school lunches{this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience}

 

It’s January. You’ve officially started the second semester of school with the kiddos and you are staring at their lunch box at 10pm wondering WHAT THE HECK are you going to put in there?

You started out the school year strong with those pinterest worthy lunches and planning a different lunch for each day only to burn out like on day 20 (or 4) and you had such great expectations and were planning to ROCK THIS school years lunches.

And you’ve just come out from the holidays and you are flat out D O N E with food things and cooking things and baking things and are contemplating just stocking up on lunchables, despite your vow to provide more whole and less processed foods in your kiddos lunches.

I get it. I think we have all been there. At least, I know I have been.

Heres a little secret I learned….you ready? You don’t actually have to have a new and different lunch every.single.day for school!

It’s true.

You might even already know that. It took me a while to stop trying so dang hard on the stupid lunches. I never cut out cute shapes or anything, but I did learn eventually that it’s absolutely OKAY to send similar, or even the SAME things, several days in a row. I’ve actually come to be a big believer that lunch time at school is not the time to insist our kiddos try all the new things. I typically save that for dinner time, at home. They’ve really got enough going on throughout the day, keeping lunch time familiar can be a good thing. For everyone.

When I was in school, I honestly only wanted a pb&j, a banana or an apple or orange, and my kool-aide and I was a happy camper.

Now, we have (sometimes) more guidelines for school lunches and need to be mindful about our friends with food allergies. And I am perfectly OKAY with that. I often provide nut free alternatives for my kiddos to take to school. Not because I’m trying to be all that, simply because we’ve always had at least one friend or two that has peanut allergies, so we just try to make it easier for all involved.

And, ironically, my kids sometimes get these notes that say “good job” or something of the like about having a healthy lunch packed. I wasn’t really sure what to think about it the first time it came home, made me kinda go “you’re paying THAT much attention to what my kid is eating??” Granted, where we live the school district has tried to provide more healthful options for the kiddos when buying lunch at school, which I am grateful for, but my kids still like to take lunch from home more than not, simply because they’ve told me “the apples taste funny”….

Anyhoo, along the years of two older kiddos going to elementary (and now middle) school, I’ve learned to navigate what DOES and DOES NOT work for us.

And trying to make a different awesome lunch every single day simply DID NOT work. And my second oldest likes a little more consistency. And some kiddos, like my second oldest, like predictability and sometimes don’t like something new. Some like the SAME thing each day. That’s OKAY too.

What has worked for us? Attempting to simplify the lunch making and taking process as much as possible. I’ve mentioned before how I love, love LOVE the Easy Lunch Boxes and how they have helped in the process of simplifying the lunch making and storing. And today I thought I would share with you some of our favorite make ahead lunches that add to the simplifying theme of things.

Here are 3 of our make ahead staples that you can FREEZE:

{I think the whole being able to freeze it is maybe my favorite part}

1. Avocado Turkey Roll Ups

I know, at first I was thinking it didn’t sound like it could work, but then I decided to give it a try

and it absolutely does! I can grab a pack of freshly made tortillas from the store (or you could make your own…or find awesome gluten free ones), grab some turkey, maybe some cheese and an avocado.

Here is how I do it:

-mash up the avocado with some lime juice. Spread some on a tortilla (I usually use one avocado per 10 tortillas). Place some turkey and (my kids fave) smoked gouda and wrap it up! Then I slice it in half and wrap tightly in some cling wrap. I typically make up about 10 of these, wrap them up tight and then place them all in a labeled freezer safe ziplock bag.

-Typically I choose one or two days a week {example below of what our weekly lunches look like} to grab two halves and toss them in one of the Easy Lunch Boxes the night before. Then by lunch time the next day, it’s defrosted enough for lunch time! And simply 10 of these will last one to two months for a one or two day/week lunch. And it take maybe 20 minutes tops to throw 10 together. A total win and time-saver!

2. Pizza Muffins

I use this pizza dough recipe ( or you could totally use canned dough…I won’t judge you. Sometimes we gotta do what we gotta do) and then roll out the dough and place your fave toppings on. Our faves are roasted garlic and plain old pepperoni.

These freeze awesomely well and just pop into the lunch box the night before and call it D O N E. My oldest can actually heat his up at school, so that’s a nice option too. My second oldest just eats them defrosted in her lunch.

I typically make 2 dozen of these and they last for two weeks worth of lunches for BOTH big kids and also substitute for a great grab n go lunch/snack/dinner on those busy weeknight or event filled weekends.

3. Avocado or Basil Corn Cakes

This is one of those use your favorite basic pancake recipe, and then add in extra goodness. Aaannnd, if you don’t have a favorite, here’s what I use:

-2 cups of flour

-2 tsp. baking powder

-2 tsp. each of onion and garlic powder (or to taste)

-2 eggs

-1.5 cups of coconut milk (or whatever milk you like to use)

-1 avocado, mashed up (if making avocado corn cakes) OR a bunch of fresh basil, chopped up (if making basil corn cakes)

-1 cup frozen corn

Place flour, baking powder and spices in med- large bowl. Add in eggs and milk, blend together. (I use a whisk or hand mixer for these. I prefer just by hand with a whisk, personally). Next, add in mashed up avocado (or basil), then stir in corn.

Heat up your skillet and make up pancakes as you normally would!

{PS…a more detailed recipe will be up on the blog next week!}

This is a look at how I literally make up the lunches for the week:

makeaheadlunches

I typically shop for one or two fruits for the week and prep those and place them all in the lunch boxes ahead of time, along with some crackers or goldfish. I usually do this Saturday or Sunday evening. Sometimes I have also made lunches Tuesday or Wednesday through until the following Tuesday or Wednesday, eliminating that OH CRAP! moment on Sunday at 10pm. BUT, having some made-ahead frozen options already made up and in the freezer, it takes a LOT of the stress off doing it on the weekend.

makeaheadlunches

Then I choose one of the made-ahead options and toss it in the lunch boxes. I usually do this the night before…too many days ahead could result in some soggy-lunches and nobody wants that!

Here is what has worked so far this school year:

Monday: Avocado Turkey Wraps

Tuesday: sunbutter, honey and jam sammie {we call these honey-butter and jam sammies}

Wednesday: avocado corn cakes

Thursday: curried egg salad ( I make a batch of this up and it’ll keep for a few days, so sometimes it makes it’s appearance on Tuesday AND Thursday in sammie form the same week)

Friday: Pizza Rolls

Here is what a a few days worth of lunches looks like all done up:

makeaheadlunches

I try to vary the extras more than the “main course”, so to speak. Like, one week it might be Oranges and Apples, or Apples and Cherry Tomatoes…another week it might be Oranges and Grapes. Sometimes it might be sliced bell peppers and cherry tomatoes, or carrot sticks. Really, whatever works best and your kiddos like.

Since doing it this way, it has seriously helped to simplify things and I now have a lot less OH CRAP moments. And, I think, we could all use a little less of those….

How about you? Do you have any tried and true lunch ideas that have rocked your world?

 

 

 

Pizza Muffins {make ahead meals}

PizzaMuffins

Life can be crazy busy and chaotic and not always leaving much time for NOT eating take-out or heading to the drive-thru.

The past few years, as we’ve been working to simplify things a bit more, I’ve become a BIG FAN of make ahead, freezable meals and decided I’d share one of my family’s most favorite ones!

Pizza Muffins.

Super easy and completely make-ahead and FREEZABLE! Have I mentioned how much I LOVE freezable?

I do.

Makes my life THAT much easier.

You can make these up, freeze them, and when you’re going to be out and about, or sporting events/practice and whatnot, grab some of these and heat them up and GO. Simple as that.

Other than helping to simplify life a little more, this recipe also requires no fancy kitchen equipment and gadgets.

I KNOW. I love that. I don’t have time to take out big mixers and the like and then clean it all. I need quick, easy and SIMPLE.

{After all, I have hot coffee to attempt to finish…}

SO, here they are!

****************************************************************

Simple Pizza Muffin Recipe:

For the dough:

(makes enough for 24 “muffins” or 2  12-14in pizzas)

-2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) of active dry yeast

-1.5 cups warm water

-4.5 cups all-purpose flour

-1tsp salt

What to do:

Place yeast in large bowl, add warm water. Give it a gently stir and let sit about 5-ish minutes. Add in flour and salt. Using a spoon, mix together until combined, but still a little sticky.

Once combined, turn out onto clean, lightly floured surface. Knead for about 5-ish minutes. I don’t usually knead it much longer than that. Shape into a round.

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffin2

To keep things simple, rinse out the large bowl you just used to use again for this next part. Dry it out and add some extra virgin olive oil to the bowl (approx 1-2 Tbs), place pizza dough in bowl and turn it, roll it around, to fully coat it in the olive oil. Cover bowl in plastic wrap and place in on the counter (or way up high on a shelf in the pantry so that, if you have toddlers like me, they can’t get to it). Let it rise until doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

Once doubled, uncover and PUNCH the dough down.

{that’s kinda fun, right?}

Divide dough in half and now you’re ready to make the pizza muffins!

For the Pizza Muffins:

{Pre-heat oven to 450}

Take half of dough and roll it out until it’s a decent rectangle approx 12″ x 15″, like so

PizzaMuffins

Then, this is the best, add WHATEVER sauce and toppings you want!

I went more traditional with these, since it’s my kiddos fave, and stuck with pizza sauce, pepperoni and some Monterey jack cheese.

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffins

This part is completely up to you. You can go as simple or fancy as you’d like. Homemade sauce? go for it. Freshly grated cheese your preference? Go for it!

{Another favorite, that my husband likes, is roasted garlic and alfredo chicken. Sounds complicated, but totally not. Leftover shredded chicken, some alfredo sauce and some mashed up roasted garlic spread out and then a little shredded cheese on top and VOILA! }

After adding your toppings, roll it up like so, slice it and place in prepared muffin tins.

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffins

pizzamuffins

I’ve started using my silicone muffin cups for these. I used to use baking papers, but they’d stick to them a bit and it got to be a pain to unwrap them for the kids. You could simply use the muffin tins without, but I LOVE the silicone cups, because no prep required, I just pop the sliced up muffins in and pop them in the oven. DONE! Then they simply pop right out, no hassle.

Now just pop in the oven for approx 10-12 minutes. Let cool and serve immediately, or freeze them for later!

How To Freeze:

Place in single layer on foil lined plate. Place another layer of foil if needed, add another single layer of pizza muffins.

Place in freezer for 1-2 hours (or overnight, won’t hurt them), then place in a labeled ziplock freezer bag with instructions how how to reheat.

To Reheat: place a couple muffins in microwave, heat in 20 second intervals until heated through. Eat!

NOTES: another awesome option, take frozen muffins out, place in lunches in fridge the night before, by the time lunch time hits the next day, VOILA! Completely thawed and ready to eat Pizza Muffins! Yay!

*****************************************************************

What are some of your favorite time-saving parenting tricks that help make things a little less chaotic?

 

The Christmas Book Basket

ChristmasBookBasket{this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience}

 

It happened so unintentionally, our holiday book basket we put by the Christmas tree each year.

When our oldest was just a tot and into ALL THE THINGS, we decided not to even attempt putting gifts under the tree until Christmas morning. It really helped keep everyone a little more sane.

So, instead, I opted to put a few of the holiday books we had in a basket and placed it by the tree.

The next year I did the same thing, and just like that, it became a tradition!

Now, however, I’m a bit more intentional about it and the books that go into it. We like to add one or two books each year, or rotate them out, depending on the year and ages of the kiddos.

When little bitty, more board books made their way into the basket. It’s definitely not a “put all the super cherished books you don’t want mucked up” in kinda basket. The last thing you want to do is add books in that you’ll stress about…nah, this is a meant to be read and re read many times, pulled in and out of basket multiple times and, occasionally, a torn page that gets taped up kinda thing.

This year, I’ve actually added a few more non board books, since we’re mostly past the tearing all the pages stage….mostly. Hopefully.

One of the main things I love about this, is it encourages “reading” and discovering of new things and learning more about the winter season and holidays.

I love how the youngest kiddos will just wander over, sit down and start reading. Sometimes the basket gets picked up and carried around the house, but usually finds it’s way back by the tree and I will occasionally catch a glimpse of 3 out of 4 kiddos just sitting and reading and looking at the pictures.

These are some of our favorites:


Mortimer’s Christmas Manger


God Gave Us Christmas


The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale


One Shining Star: A Christmas Counting Book

Another thing I love, is the family time it helps to create and reminds us to focus on a little more around, what can be, a very busy time.

It’s definitely become a loved tradition and one the bigger kids have looked forward to each year. And as the littlest ones become more familiar with it, I’m hoping it stays a well loved tradition.

What are some of your most loved holiday traditions?

Once Upon a Crafty Time { a Stocking Story}

stockings

Once upon a time, I used to be known as a creative crafty person. I still fall into the creative category, but I jokingly said when I was pregnant with the twinnies, that they were draining all the craftiness outta me!

And I honestly think they kind of did.

Not that I don’t have a creative moment here and there. I do. And I still create and dream and design and plan out projects, just not like I used to. And most of that creative energy it seems is focused towards the kitchen with baking and cooking, along with taking photos of my kids, writing, and house renovation stuff.  More recently, though, I have been adding in some fun craft time with the littlest ones when the bigs are at school.

In my once upon a crafty person time, I used to sew jammies for my older two kiddos, starting when my oldest was 1 year, EVERY christmas. I loved it. Sometimes they were christmasy, sometimes just something they liked a lot and were interested in like guitars, owls, etc.

Last year was the absolute last year I decided I would do that. Because there are four of them now. And they keep growing, which means new patterns have to be drafted or bought….and well, I no longer have a dedicated sewing and crafting room to myself. So yeah, just no. It became more hassle than fun and I had to start in like October and my kids would surely grow between the time I started and finished them. As much as I once loved making them, I decided it was time to let this tradition go. At least for the time being.

{Even though my oldest STILL wants me to make him some….this year though, he agreed to let me surprise him with actual store bought ones}

I’ve become really good at hunting for awesome things and clicking the “buy now” button when I see a great deal or find an awesome handmade item that would be great. And I am all about supporting small biz and mamas and dads in the handmade community.

With all that being said, this year I did manage to pull out enough craftiness to design and make our new family stockings.

It was time and something I’d been wanting to do for a few years now. Especially for my oldest girl.

You see, our last set of stockings? With the exception of adding two more when we found out the twins were to join us, they had been picked out and bought for a different family.

{stay with me….let me explain}

When I had chosen them, we were still in the adoption process and were literally waiting for the call to go back to Russia and complete the adoption of a child we’d already met and fell in love with. She had been expected to join us before Christmas of that year, so I wanted to have a stocking for her.

Well, Christmas came and went, and we were still waiting. It wasn’t until 5 months later, we’d learn that she was never officially going to join our family.

{You can read more about our adoption story HERE}

So, the next holiday season was approaching, and fearing the same would happen, I couldn’t bring myself to pick out a different stocking. I convinced myself, since it had never been used, that surely it would be OK for our newest family member to use. So we did.

By the time we’d arrived back home on Thanksgiving Day that year, and hunkered down in our little family cocoon….I’d never gotten to picking out a new stocking….so we used what we had.

I didn’t think it’d bother me. And that year we were too in the beginning trenches and post adoption emotions to really think about it, so I packed the stockings away with the rest of the Christmas things that year and didn’t think much about it.

Until…..

The following year when I took the stockings out, I burst into tears. I was caught completely off guard by my emotions. I felt devastate and heart-broken all over again.

{Sidenote: this is something I know will never go away. Loss is loss….I will always miss this child. Always.}

We used those stockings that year, but I could hardly ever look at them. And, honestly, I felt so stupid about being so emotional about it.

The following year I decided I’d make some! Uh…yeah, that was a comical thought. I had itty bitty baby twinfants…..totally didn’t happen. And we’d decided to put the house up early-ish the next year, so we hardly did anything for Christmas decorating that year.

Next year. I was determined to make them!

{I’ll save you a long story there….didn’t happen}

This year, I decided I was going to set out early in the year and get to work on them. I had designed them with each family members personality in mind, searched pinterest for fabrics and ideas. Decided, at one point, I was nuts and should just go and find some that would be perfectly acceptable.

Told my husband I should totally just find a handmade shop and buy them. Oldest overheard and pleaded I make them.

{he really likes mama made things…}

I had found this awesome matryoshka fabric the year before that I’d snatched up and planned to use for Sunshine girl.

This year. I was determined. It was GOING TO HAPPEN.

I really wanted a brand new especially made JUST FOR HER stocking for my Sunshine girl. She deserved it.

SO. FINALLY, I decided on the design, found the fabrics, found an awesome and easy to follow free stocking pattern {found HERE}, ordered fabric and got started.

I did a little chunk here and there like an assembly line.

My goal was to have this accomplished BEFORE Thanksgiving. And I finished BEFORE Halloween!!

{I’m honestly still in shock about it}

When I finished my Sunshine girls, I cried.

{caught off guard by those emotions again….}

I love love LOVE that she has one. JUST FOR HER!

And my kids? The oldest ones anyway, LOVE that they are mama made. I thanked my oldest for encouraging me to make them. I’m really glad I did.

And I love that each year, no matter the crazy, they will always have something handmade from their mama in the form of their stockings.

{the rest of the handmade love will have to come from all the awesome handmade greatness shops out there}

Do you try to add a little handmade into your holiday gift giving?

How Not To Lose Your Mind Over Advent

AdventBox

It went it little bit like this…..

I decided to try and tackle some of the {very} simple holiday decorating for Christmas.

We’ve been slowly leaning towards simplifying the holidays more and more each year, and this year is probably the first I felt like I truly had a decent handle on.

For at least two seconds.

I found the advent candles, and mistakenly, put them down within reach of two busy and very curious toddlers.

Before I could even blink, they swiped them and decided to have a tot sized fencing match.

Yeah. Candles are broken. I don’t have backups.

I searched Pinterest to see what quick and simple DIY ideas there were and could maybe assemble something together before Advent was officially to begin.

Let’s laugh together, shall we? Because. Seriously.

I did, indeed, find some awesome and amazing ideas…..that I plan to use next year.

This year? I’m letting it go. We are doing a modified Advent.

I did manage to get our Night Before Advent Box put together with new pjs for each kiddo, coloring pages printed out for each day of Advent, colors and our Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

A day late. Because that’s just sometimes how life goes….

And, in an effort of keeping things real and full disclosure, a little confession:  The day we were to do our “day before advent” loveliness, I was in a no good grumpy mood.

No idea why really. Just a funk and mama bear was more like grumpy bear.

By bed time, it was literally, EVERYONE GO TO BED LIKE NOW. But without the yelling {I know, impressive isn’t it?!} And I put myself in time out.

And by time out, I mean I plugged in my earbuds, put on some Sufjan Stevens {holiday edition} on Pandora and started painting.

What did I start painting? Why the Night Before Advent Box, naturally.

An hour later, when my husband walked into the kitchen, I’m pretty sure he thought I’d lost my mind as I was painting and adding some touches of glitter. Because, GLITTER.

Or he just knew that I was processing and this is how I seem to do it best.

So, those advent candles? Not gonna happen this year. Even though my oldest commented that he really missed seeing them. I agreed, but was all “NOPE. Next year though….next year”.

And because I really mean it, I created a pin board JUST for a little Advent inspiration . I’m really loving some of the more modern and simplistic set ups some have going on.

So, all this to say….our best intentions can go completely wrong. And LIFE happens and candles get broken, and the ideas you might have had are just not.gonna.happen this year. And I am here to say, it’s absolutely, completely OKAY.

Sometimes, taking a more simple approach during the holidays is really whats best. And sometimes, depending on what season your littles are in {like underwater toddlerhood…}, it means maybe not so much with candles, but more with reading the Advent story. And having a simple advent calendar.

And enjoying the time we do have with family.

Our Night Before Advent Box and evening happened. A day late, and more simplified.

And if you’re one week in and are going “crap! this advent thing is kicking my butt! and I totally forgot XYZ!”….it’s OK. And you still have three more weeks to turn it all around.

Lets say it together…..

It’s ALL going to be OKAY. Really.

Do you celebrate Advent? What are some of your favorite ways to keep things more simple during, what can be, chaos and crazy of the holiday season?

7 Tips to Make Baking With Toddlers Awesome

baking with toddlers

{this post may contain affiliate links for your convenience}

Baking with tiny humans. This either sounds insanely awesome to some or just plain insane to others.

And I am going to go ahead and admit, I’m in both camps.

But if it’s one things my kiddos love to do, is help me in the kitchen with ALL THE THINGS.

And with the holidays coming upon us at lightening speed, I thought I’d share some of my tried and true ways of having your tinies “help” you while you get your holiday baking on….

First things first….those expectations that this is going to be amazingly fun and your baked product is going to come out looking like all those delicious pics in a magazine?

Let those go right now.

I’m not saying your confections are going to be hideous, but letting go of the “perfection” or simply wanting it to look “pinterest picture worthy”, will make a HUGE difference in how you set out to make this whole thing work. And fun will definitely happen along the way, especially when you simply set out to enjoy your time together.

So, without further ado, here are my 7 tips to help baking with your toddlers this season {or anytime, really} more enjoyable for ALL involved:

1. Have a game plan 

Make sure you’ve planned out what it is you’re wanting to make, take inventory to make sure all ingredients are indeed in your pantry/fridge, etc. Trust me on this…theres nothing like being in the middle of batter/dough/whatever you’re making and trying to keep little fingers out and BAM, realize you don’t have the number of eggs needed. Or sprinkles. Or cupcake liners (if you use those)….

2. Have baking supplies/utensils/measuring cups/spoons and the like available that THEY can use.

baking with toddlers

I actually took a trip to our local dollar store and grabbed some measuring cups and spoons and even some pot holders that are theirs to use for pretend play, and for when we bake together as well. And they LOVE that they get to have their very own things to “help” bake or cook with. This year I also added a couple smaller sized rolling pins for them to use.

3. Plan for a time of day that works with them, as well as you.

Starting something right before nap time might not be the best option. My twinnies still take a nap after lunch, so we typically bake mid morning. But, do what you know works best for you and try to work around your littles schedule. Nothing like cranky toddlers and flying batter to make a mama want to run screaming from the kitchen! Uh….not that I’d know anything about that….

4. Along with making sure to plan for a time of day that works best for your kiddos, also make sure to allot enough time for the “helping”.

baking with toddlers

Recognize that what might take you 10-15 minutes to mix up and toss in the oven, is going to take easily 20 minutes plus with “helpers”. It’s okay. Embrace it and breathe.

5. Let them help. For real.

baking with toddlers

I am a total type A-ish person and I’ve learned to let go of a LOT since having children number 3 and 4. My twins have helped me see the joys in the “oopses” and the learning that can happen. So, let them help measure out, or dump the flour into the bowl. A little flour on the counter won’t hurt. I promise.

6. Have kid friendly items they can use.

If your kiddos are anything like mine, they love to use the real thing. So, sometimes having a less breakable bowl for them to “mix” their own ingredients in is super helpful and makes the process fun for both of you. This little tip has helped me be able to get my bowl mixed up faster, while still allowing them to help mix up all the ingredients and them continue to work on their bowls while I then transfer the batter (or dough or whatever I’m making), to the pan/cupcake tins or whatever you happen to be using for baking.

7. Be positive and offer up encouraging words to your littles.

And if you are making something that requires decorating, don’t try and “fix” how they’ve done it. Leave it however they put the sprinkles on…they will be PROUD of their work and will look to see if you like it too. It’s okay if it looks like the green sprinkles vomited all over the sugar cookie snowman and he looks more like the hulk than a snowman. Or if the gingerbread ninja got a happy helping of pink sparkly and flower sprinkles and looks more like its from Whoville, verses the stealth ninja that it seemingly is supposed to resemble. It’s perfectly and awesomely OKAY. Promise.

Now, turn on the light in the oven and sit down on the floor with your littles and watch the awesome and amazing goodness bake, while you attempt to drink your sorta hot coffee. There’s just something about watching those cookies or cupcakes (or whatever you decided to bake) rise in the oven and turn into deliciousness.

Once those baked confections are ready to come out and cool off, go outside or play an activity while they cool down, to help distract the anxious toddlers that want to EAT ALL THE THINGS RIGHT THIS MINUTE.

Once it’s ready, grab a cookie, sit at the table and enjoy the sparkly ninja and green monster snowman. Or pumpkin bread.

Do you love to bake with your kiddos? What other tips would you share that help make the process awesome?

Sometimes Life Requires Cake

There are sometimes events and moments in life that just call for cake.

Like, for dinner.

CakeForDinner

{Yes, dinner}

Yesterday was one of those days. Just as I thought we’d cleared the sickness train and were well on our way to family wellness land, it hit us again.

One child had been diagnosed with bronchitis earlier in the week, but then another went down. I noticed one of the twinnies was breathing a bit shallow. I watched. I listened. I watched some more….wondering “do I call or just wait and see?”….my gut told me no, I needed to call. So I called.

{If it’s one thing I’ve learned….always trust your instincts}

Turns out, my littlest boy had the beginnings of croup and an ear infection. Blech. Sure glad I called! We’ve done this croup thing before, but it involved a long night at the ER of the local Children’s hospital….no one needed to do that again. Nope. No thank you.

However, this meant a long afternoon spent getting two toddlers packed up and to the pediatricians office and then racing back home in time for the school bus to arrive with the older kiddos. By the time all that finished, it was after 4 and what I had planned to make for dinner I really wasn’t in the mood to make.

{it was pancakes. pancakes/cake, same difference, right?}

I was, however, really in the mood for cake. Like, serious craving for cake and icing. I actually wanted a cupcake, but I figured the other five members of the household might want one too. And I was out of cupcake liners….so I made a cake.

I used this recipe for the cake:

Homemade Yellow Cake 

which I love because it’s SO simple and doesn’t require difficult anything. And it’s tasty.

And I used this recipe for the icing:

Creamy Chocolate Frosting

Super simple and I had all the things on hand.

My oldest laughed and thought I was totally joking when he asked “what’s for dinner?” and I said cake.

He said “like pancakes?”

I said, nope. Cake, like yellow cake and chocolate frosting.

He responded, “mom, I like this thinking, keep going with that, it’s awesome”.

{also, this brings me to ask, do you say icing or frosting? I use them interchangeably, but, it makes me wonder, if there a correct terminology to either? I know, that was random. Happens a lot around here. Let’s blame the cake.}

I usually stick pretty consistently to the meals I’ve planned out, but I looked at the flour and eggs and realized they could either turn into breakfast for dinner in the form of pancakes, or make an actual cake.

So, cake it was!  I served some fruit on the side, so it totally balanced it out. That’s what I’m going with.

Dinner was actually awesome though. We all enjoyed dinner together after a somewhat chaotic day (more like week…month….). Definitely a fun memory for my family.

And really, that’s what it’s about….family time and enjoying each other and life. Even in the midst of the crazy.

Sometimes, life calls for cake. For dinner.

Taking a Break For My Kids, Not From My Kids

TakingTimeForMom

It was after a long couple weeks of 3 out of 4 kiddos sick, snotty noses, coughs, sneezes, not enough outside time and it was all catching up to me.

I was sick of my yoga pants and t-shirt covered in smears of snot. I made a decision that day to not let it overtake me.

After a long morning of busy toddlerness with the twinnies, I got them down for a nap and crossed my fingers that there would be no nap strikers that day. One of my toddlers seems to be on the verge of giving up ALL naps and I’m not sure Mama is ready for that!

I waited a few minutes to make sure they were both, indeed, going to nap. Success.

I stopped by our bedroom and glanced at myself in the mirror. Hair in a top not, snot smeared shirt and who knows what on my worn three days in a row yoga pants.

Ugh. I really did look like how I felt….and I didn’t like it.

I decided to change out of my clothes and put make-up on, regardless of how silly it might feel, since I had no plans to leave the house anytime soon. And as I pulled out my flat iron, put a little make-up on and changed into non snot smeared clothes, I began to feel so.much.better. And as I looked up and saw me, I could see the change in my entire being….I hadn’t done anything major, just jeans, a slightly dressier shirt than my usual snot smeared ones of late, and a little lip gloss. And earrings.

I breathed out a long breath and felt so much lighter. Even if it was for a moment of time. I felt like not “just mom”, but like mom in not yoga pants and a little bit of makeup (that covered over those dark-sleep-deprived circles…).

It reminded me of the time we finally got to go out on our first official date after we’d had the twins. I had begun to feel lost and completely overwhelmed by motherhood with four kiddos and two of them being infants that I was breastfeeding.

I felt nothing like the mom in the mirror with a little bit of make-up and a simple, clean shirt. I felt more akin to a dairy cow with two appendages constantly attached….oh, and two older kiddos I was trying to remember to actually get fed more than popcorn for breakfast.

{Yes, that actually happened. Popcorn for breakfast….more than once.}

And our date wasn’t anything major, it was to chuy’s for a late lunch. Not a quiet place, but somewhere taking all four kiddos to was just not gonna happen, and I’d been craving it and didn’t want it in a to-go bag.

We only had about 2 hours to get there, eat and get back to my nurslings twinfants. Part of that 2 hours being spent pumping in the car. Yep, hot date right there.

But before we’d even left to take the kids to the grandparents and even attempt a date, I was staring at the mom in the mirror, feeling awkward and unsure of what exactly I was supposed to be doing to get ready. Make up? Oh yeah….where is that again? Clothes….what even fits?

I rummaged through my clothes trying to find something that both fit and made me feel non-dairy cow-ish. I wasn’t having a successful time and I sat down on the bathroom floor and just started crying.

I felt silly, awkward and just not myself. I desperately wanted to spend time with my husband, but the effort it was taking was literally exhausting. And, it’s not like I had a ton of time to even get ready! Remember those nursing twinfants?

Yeah….

Thankfully, we were able to actually make it out the door, drop kids off and eat a mostly relaxing lunch.

It would be another few months before we’d actually make it out on a date again. That is another story in itself, but dates out are difficult to manage right now, so we try often to have dates at home….something else I’ll be talking more about in a future post…

Meanwhile, back to present day. Big kids at school, toddlers napping, I put on make-up and non-snotty clothes. I even flat ironed my hair a bit, just because.

Then I grabbed a cup of hot coffee and sat out on the front porch with my computer to get some things accomplished. I had my phone with the baby monitor on it, so I could hear the kiddos if they needed me.

It was only about 45 minutes total, but it was a glorious 45minutes. To myself.

And I think that is important for us mamas. It’s so easy to get taken over by the day in and day out mundane things. Not that yoga pants and t-shirts aren’t fabulous (because they totally are. I love them), but it matters that we try to keep hold of us too. Even if that means changing briefly out of the “mom uniform” and putting on a little lip gloss and drinking hot coffee on the front porch. Or scheduling a time for you to get out of the house, meet a friend for coffee, or simply go for a long walk or a bike ride, just you…do it.

Talk to your spouse about it, about how you feel. Work something out for you to be able to get away here and there, even if just a couple hours, one night a week.

It makes a huge difference, doesn’t it?

I love, love, LOVE my kiddos and my family. But sometimes mama needs a break. And not a break FROM my kids, but a break FOR my kids.

Making sure to take time for mom, helps me be a better mom for my kids. And a better wife to my husband.

So carry on mamas. You’ve got this.

Tell me….how do you take time for yourself? What does that look like for you?

Day Dates…..What You Have When Night Dates Don’t Always Work Well for Your Family

IMG_3791IMG_3788IMG_3789IMG_3823

Sometimes we go on “day dates”, the husband and I.

When the bigs are at school and it’s just the littlest littles with us. Sometimes we’re able to get someone to watch the twinnies, and sometimes they join us.

{The funny thing is, when you have four kiddos, only having two with you seems almost easy…sometimes…}

When you’re not fielding bigger kid questions and special needs situations and arguments and LOUDNESS with all four kiddos in the van all at the same time, well, it can definitely feel a little more relaxing!

And sometimes, when you have four kiddos, one with special needs and the youngest being twin toddlers, finding affordable child care can be difficult. And sometimes night dates just don’t work out as well….especially not in our current season. “Date Nights” can almost be more stressful than helpful and can be more time spent trying to get OUT the door than you actually spend time being out TOGETHER.

So, “day dates” happen. And they’re pretty awesome.

Like this last week, we ended up with an impromptu Day Date, the twinnies were doing great, we had some errands to run, and well, we decided to make it a mini date! Sometimes, that is just the way it works. And sometimes, the way it works, is the way it needs to happen to stay connected.

On our “mini day date”, we had to drop off some books to the library. We used the book drop off that’s on the outside of the library, but my littlest little knows that THERE ARE BOOKS IN THAT BUILDING. She loves books. LOVES them.

She didn’t stop asking “can we go get books?” for the rest of the morning and again after nap time.

{she really really really likes books}

So, after our “day date” of running errands and enjoying some quiet, the bigs arrived home from school. I decided to take the oldest (that also really really likes books and was wanting to go pick some up that had been reserved) and the youngest with me on what turned into a mama and kid date.

Two dates with my people in one day….well, three out of the 5 of them at least.

{don’t worry…the other two will get their mama time too. Promise}

I don’t always have “big black” with me (what I lovingly call my DSLR), but there were some moments I was quick to grab my phone and used it’s handy dandy camera.

{seriously…WHAT did we ever do without those? Oh yeah, we used point and shoots..and had a phone…and…too many other things to juggle and balance…}

The photos above captured two of my kiddos perfectly in their element. My oldest and my youngest. My book lovers.

I loved standing back and just watching them navigate the isles of books. M and I exploring some books for her, then going to find her big brother and her running to him when she found him.

Having four kiddos spanning a fairly wide range in ages can be crazy and difficult and chaotic at times, but days and moments like these bring it home and remind me just how amazing it all really is.

The Coffee Dates I Miss The Most

Coffee.

I love coffee for all it’s amazing a wonderful benefits and how it helps make my bloodshot zombie mom-ness dissipate when my body fully finishes caffeinating.

But there is more to the story of my love of coffee.

My Gramms.
IMG_0865
My Gramms introduced me to coffee. She always had her cup all day, every day full of the dark goodness.

She drank it black. Always. So do I….perhaps because that is how I learned to drink it.

As I got older and was able to enjoy a cup along with her, we would sit at the kitchen table and chat about life as we drank our coffee.

It was our time together. We were the only coffee drinkers in the house.

I grew up, got married, had a family….but, we still almost daily got together for coffee.

It was our thing. Whether taking her to a doctors appointment and grabbing some as a treat at the coffee shop, or her making some in the percolator, knowing I would be coming over soon….we always had our coffee dates to keep us connected.

My Gramms also loved cardinals. She even had a little porcelain one sitting on a side table. I remember it always being on that table growing up.

When my Gramms passed away unexpectedly almost five years ago, I spoke at her memorial about how I would miss those coffee dates….I learned so much about my Gramms through those moments shared over a cup of coffee.

It wasn’t too long after she had died, that I got a new phone. I had a message saved on my old one from her….the last one she ever left, wishing me a Happy New Year. I never wanted that message to fade. Ever. When things were changed over, that message got lost.

I’m pretty sure I cried until I couldn’t any longer. I know it was only a message, but it was my message, to me, from MY GRAMMS only a few weeks before she passed away.

I was devastated.

When we moved a little over a year ago to our current house, I remember seeing a cardinal here and there. It wasn’t until we were well settled that I began to notice them daily.

She has never been to this house, but I know she’d love it. When I cook in my kitchen or bake apple and pumpkin pies for the holidays, I think about how much fun we’d have in this kitchen. We had so many laughs in my last one that was tiny and she, my sister, and I would somehow cram in there and bake pies for our families on what became our annual “Pie Day”.

Sometimes, when there is a (very brief) moment when the big kids have left for school and the twinnies are happily occupied for five seconds, and I am able to sit at the table and drink my (amazingly still) hot coffee….it’s not uncommon to look out the window and see one or two cardinals.

And I smile. And sometimes I cry…because I miss those coffee dates with my Gramms the most.

I sometimes imagine what we would be talking about these days…so much has changed in the past 4, almost 5, years. Three more kids and seemingly a lifetime of change has occurred in that short time. And there are days I want to talk to her so badly about it all….

Over coffee. At the kitchen table.