September meal planning

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

With back to school and the weather (incrementally) cooling off each day, I was happy to get this next month's meal planning done.  Am I the only one that sometimes doesn't even feel like eating when it's so hot outside, let alone cooking!  It's time to get back in the kitchen and getting our weekly dinners more regular now that Grey and I are both back to school - and all of the fall activities we have lined up (football! Violet's birthday! homework!)

My main goal this month was for it to be mostly easy to make the meals (still getting a hang of this part-time working, full time mom'ing of four thing) and as usual, meals that the kids aren't going to complain about too much.

For the past three years, I've planned out our meals for the week nights and leave the other two meals to left overs, random stuff we dig out of the freezer, or grandmas' houses visits :)  Brandon usually takes nightly leftovers as his lunch to work (if there are any).

I was talking with my sis the other week (hi, Uch!) and told her that meal planning is a huge part of what makes days feel manageable; it takes an enormous weight off of my shoulders to know that first - dinner is already planned and second - that I have the ingredients for it in house, as I build my monthly grocery list off of my meal plan.  Sure, I still have to make the food (and clean up, bleh), but the fact that I don't have to use my brain for that makes my life so much easier.  I'm the meal planning nerd that proclaims that she wouldn't know how to function without it...and I'm being serious.

September Meal Plan:

September 1-2
R: kielbasa & cabbage in the slow cooker (and hot dogs in there for the kids)
F: chicken Parm crescent roll-ups

September 5-9
M: (Labor Day):  Grilled Pizza burgers & haluski
T: Chicken, green beans, & potatoes Italian bake
W: Chili over elbow macaroni
R: Chinese green beans & ground turkey over rice
F: Grilled honey garlic pork chops

September 12-16
M: Lemon "fried" chicken
T: Slow-cooker enchilada casserole
W: dinner at the Elks!
R: veggies & cheese enchiladas
F: Violet's (early) birthday party!

September 19-23
M : chicken & potato with garlic, parmesan, cream cheese sauce bake
T : taco pasta
W: baked potato soup with 4 ingredient homemade bread
R: round steak over egg noodles
F: spaghetti & salad

September 26-30
M: Chicken & gravy over mashed potatoes (Grey's favorite)
T:  Crispy shrimp (from this recipe) with fried rice
W:  rigatoni with kielbasa and brocolli 
R:  Tater tot enchilada bake
F: French Onion chicken noodle casserole

What have you got cookin' this month?

Around Here thirty four - 08/19-08/25

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute.

Intentional Hours outside:  402 hours (of 1000)
Up 16 hours this week, grabbing some hours at the football field, swimming at my aunt Lisa and Uncle Matt's house (with Mya!) and lots of mowing.  It has been a summer of gnats and sweat bees though! We did learn a helpful trick from our soccer-playing cousin Morgan:  to keep gnats away from your face, raise your hand in the air!  The gnats want to be at the highest part of your body, so they'll fly all around your hand instead of your face- who knew?!

Reading next to nothing outside of lesson plans (hah).  Grey and I are still working our way through our illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling a little each night before bed.

Cheering on our quarterback #8 at his first flag football game.  They lost but he loved every minute of it. It was insanely hot and sunny for the game, but Rust and I hung out under an umbrella while the girls snacked on concession stand food under the shade of the bleachers.  

Celebrating family at Brett and Kayla's wedding last weekend in Easton, PA. We got to sleep over in a hotel (the kids' favorite ever!) and had so much fun dancing the night away to their awesome live band.  Brandon and I, along with the boys were on our way back to the hotel in Sheila after the reception at 10:30p and the front tire blew out.  It was quite an adventure on the side of the road there in the humid heat.  I called the non-emergency line to get a police officer to sit behind us with his flashers on to slow down the 18wheelers that were whizzing by us and scaring the beejeezus out of Greyson (and me!)  Officer Hsu helped B get the tire changed too and I was so grateful that we were able to get the spare put on and get a new tire the next morning before heading back east across the state to come home!

Trying to get into a new routine between the new school year for Greyson and the part-time teaching for me.  You guys, holy tired.  I'm getting up now at 5am so that I have time to get ready myself and prepare for the day and then a full forty minutes to nurse Rusty last thing before I leave for school.  I need to just go to bed earlier, but by the end of the night, I'm scrambling to make school night bedtimes and finish chores and spend some time with B and make sure I have everything to go for the next will take a little while for me to get adjusted and get everything working like a machine again.

Feeling so happy for the newest member of our AKT plus kids crew to arrive!  My best friend Allison had her new baby James on Thursday and I can't wait to meet that sweet boy in person and give him (and her) a big squeeze! Happy Birthday baby James!

Making chicken and gravy in the slowcooker (second week in a row!) because it's Grey's choice of first day back to school dinner.  B made tacos one night and chicken over rice another night - it's been a weird week in meals with getting in the swing of our new schedules.  Improving next week!

first day of school

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Greyson and I both had our first day of the new school year this week.

Our first day of school was the same day, so I got up extra early and set out all of his stuff and left him a love note and repeated to Brandon a hundred times, "and take like a lot of pictures.  Like there's no such thing as too many pictures, please." After I told him I was feeling really bad about missing him on the bus, he reassured me, "Babe, it's not his first day ever, everything's going to be fine." And with eyes brimming with tears I said, "I know, but to the Mum......nope, can't talk about it with bawling.  So just give him a kiss from me.  Like twenty kisses."  Then I hightailed it out of there to my own first day.

My first day went really well.  I have three sections of Spanish I (ninth graders) and they have all been mostly engaged and excited about learning a foreign language for the first time ever (many of them).  It's been fun to get to know 'my kids' and see what kinds of activities work for each class and for each skill.  I feel so comfortable in the classroom, it's been incredible to be back creating lesson plans and finding ways to pour my passion for language and learning (in general) into my students' brains.

I'm so grateful that our family & friends have pulled together for us too, as we figure out transitions for my own actual kids.  (I've been more worried about what's happening at home - my full time job! - than starting this new part time teaching job!) Our family and friends have been so supportive and excited for me, texting and calling asking questions, checking in and sending 'good lucks!'  - thank you!!  especially to Abba, Chum, Gigi, Pappy, Kitty, Uch, Kuma, Morgan, Aunt Dar and double especially to my handsome husband who has been incredible and flexible and encouraging in this change of pace for our family.  

Since my school day is only a half day, I was able to be there, with our three littles, to get Grey off the bus at the end of the school day - and he came bounding down the steps with a big smile.

I was relieved and thrilled to learn that Grey loves first grade, so much so that he even exclaimed, "First grade is Awesome!" after telling me about getting to do a science experiment today..."and I put the blue potion in the green potion and it exploded!"  He was so glad to see that his running back from flag football rides his bus and the two of them sit together and laugh the whole way to and from school.  His best friend is in his class and his teacher is "so nice" and he has two Gym specials this first nine weeks.  It's basically five star days, every school day!

I read this week on Enjoying the Small Things a great quote that is the literal definition for how I feel about teachers and school and my baby and all the feels.
"Still every bit as emotional and consuming because how the hell else is it supposed to feel when you look at a teacher you only kinda know and pass off your beloved child with a, “Oh hey, here’s a cooler with my heart on ice. Keep it beating for the next seven hours and then seven hours again tomorrow and then maybe another 180 days after that.”  -Kelle Hampton

A shout-out and enormous thank you to all those educators out there keeping the 'coolers with our hearts on ice' safe and learning new things and trying their bests.  Gosh, you teachers and administrators and coaches and secretaries, and guidance counselors, and school nurses, and cafeteria workers, and janitorial staff, and bus drivers who help our kids in some small way each day of the school year - I am so very thankful for you.

I think this school year is getting off to a great start and I'm excited to see how Grey and I both learn and grow.  Happy new school year, friends. xxoxx

Around Here Thirty-Three: 08/12-08/18

Friday, August 19, 2016

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute.

Intentional Hours Outside: 386 hours (of 1000)
Only up 17 hours from last week, yeesh.  Thank goodness for the outdoor reunion that got us a full eight hours outside!  I picked up a few more hours from walks with the dogs and our trip to the zoo, and lots of pacing on the patio while reading my books with Rusty in the carrier trying to get him to fall asleep.  It's just been so stinking hot and humid and overrun with sweat bees (!!) that being outside is kind of not our preference at the moment.  Worst excuse ever, but alas, the truth.

Reading Home Field by Hannah Gersen, just started it as I finished two books this week!  I finished When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi which was devastatingly beautiful and one that I'll keep on my bookshelf for always.  And I both started and finished What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross this week and whew (!), that one.  I'm writing more of my thoughts in our Inspired Readers book club page (join us!) but it left me with a lot of mixed feelings and criss-crossed thoughts on how I felt about each of the characters.  Grey and I are still working through Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Illustrated edition by JK Rowling a little at bedtime.  I like that it's become our own little ritual just the two of us, especially as I've been feeling like I'm barely....

Enduring Greyson in these last few days before school starts!  Gosh, I remember last year so vividly of being such a worried, anxious mess about the start of kindergarten for him - and what a difference a year makes! HAH! It feels like Christmas time though, how everyone starts getting extra crazy and naughty right as the big day is nearly here.  He has been particularly whiny and teasing his sisters and trying to get in trouble on purpose these past few days it seems.  He says he's not ready to go back to school yet, but I think after he gets some big kid time on his own - with his own friends and school work, and on his own schedule - he's going to be feeling a lot more balanced.  #ohgoshihopeso

Finishing up vacation bible school and feeling proud of Gemmi Ro for being brave in her class (thanks in large part to Ms. Hannah!) and singing her heart out at the finale show!

Celebrating family at our annual Uzelac reunion last weekend.  My family stood as representatives of my grandmother Irene (my mum's mum) and as always, our reunions make me feel so grateful to be in such close contact with our extended family.  The kids had an absolute blast and every one of them cried - full on tears and wailing - at the end of the night when we were leaving because they didn't want to leave their cousins and end such a fun day!

Experiencing the weirdest two days ever this past Tuesday and Wednesday.  Between a last minute trip to the car shop for Sheila, a lost resume, cancelling zoo trips because of tiger shark relocating plans, rescheduling birthday celebrations, weird height restriction rules, rain downpours, and traffic....I literally asked Siri, "when is the next full moon?" It turned out all fine in the end - maybe it was just a lesson from the universe on being flexible and persistent (#storyofmylife)?  Despite the crazy moments, we still were able to...

...Fly solo at Living Treasures zoo with all four of our kids!  It is just about half way between us and Aunt Kitty, so I braved it on my own while on our way out to Pittsburgh and it turned out to be completely fine.  Not amazing and inspiring by any means, but also not catastrophic mayhem either.  Just good; just an afternoon with our circus on my own petting and feeding some loud donkeys and hilarious tortoises.   Then we got to sleep over Aunt Kitty and Uncle Ryan's house which was exactly what I needed after a full day of strange - just to be in the company of my sister who loves my babies with all her heart and doesn't care if I sit in a catatonic state on her couch for several minutes as I decompress from a full day (a full summer?!) of raising wild things.

...Play with cousins to celebrate their birthdays at Chuck E Cheese AND Flight Trampoline Park!  The kids went absolutely and blissfully berserk in both places and it was nice to see them all together and also hang out with Tete and our littlest babies while the big ones did their wild, crazy business.

Feeling very excited and a little nervous about a last minute opportunity that came up to long-term substitute Spanish I for two ninth grade classes for the first nine weeks while the regular maestra is out on maternity leave!  I found out about it within the weirdest two days ever and we've been taking the necessary steps to make it happen - and so next week I'm starting!  I really think I could use the time in the real live adult world with real live adults (LOL said every sahm ever) and I think it will be a much needed reminder that the job I have right now (sahm) is a really good one too.  It's only part time (AM classes) and only for nine weeks, so B and I are so excited about the chance to let my educator flag fly high again without completely disrupting our current family routines.  Here's to wearing NOT yoga pants every single day! #ineedtogoshopping

Making Asian pork chops on the grill with some thai noodles (from our Cooking with Poo cookbook, who led our cooking class while we were in Thailand!) And making some shredded deer roast sandwiches with one of our last deer roasts (thank goodness hunting season isn't too far away!)  I whipped up some chicken & gravy over mashed potatoes last night too because it's the kids' favorite ever and almost as easy as their other favorite ever (spaghetti).

Around Here Thirty-Two: 08/05-08/11

Friday, August 12, 2016

A little glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute.

Intentional Hours Outside: 369 hours (of 1000)
Up 18 hours this week, and I got in about an hour of those every morning this week while taking the pups for a walk before B left for work.  It was so nice to get in some alone(ish) quiet time and outdoor hours AND physical activity AND make the dogs happy.  That's quadruple bonus there, so really it should be happening everyday....the only downside is that I have to bail on that extra hour or so of sleep in the morning, but I think it's justified, right?  (try to tell my energy levels that at about 5p, hah!)

Reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling to Grey at bedtime - our illustrated edition arrived this week and Grey is loving having the beautiful pictures to accompany the story as well (thanks Russ for the suggestion!)  Also dipped back into (after months!) my audible while on a dog walk this week and picked up where I left off Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt and I'm glad to be back in the story after such a long break!

Loving getting a visit in with my longtime friend Jessica on Friday as she was back in town for the weekend.  (hi JP!) It is always so nice to see her as she's one of those friends that even if great lengths of time pass between being with each other - you just pick up where you left off last time like it ain't no thang.  We had some time to chat and laugh while our kids played and it was just so comfortable and soul recharging!

Holding it down solo with EIGHT kids on Saturday morning while B was at a golf outing and I kept our cousins so their mumma and dad could run a 5k that morning.  It was such a wild and fun morning and I was so grateful that Ariel was there (the oldest cousin) and she was so sweet and helpful with the babies.  At one point I had Rusty (2months), Brookie (6 months), Violet and Ben (both 22 months) on my knees all together and was bouncing them to 'Mr. Frog went a'courtin'  #legworkoutday

Finishing our CVAA Intramural Kickball season on Sunday night with the playoffs and a potluck celebration at the field.  My co-chair Russell and I were pretty pleased with how the whole season went (our first ever!) and we are already in talks about what intramural leagues and tournaments we can set up for the rest of the year.  As I should only expect from our CV community, everyone showed up to the playoff games with arms full of snacks to share and everyone took turns reffing and watching our babies and taking photos....and it's all just so amazing and filled with the kind of spirit and kindness that I associate with our high school alma mater.

Celebrating my mumma, it was her birthday this week!  I went out to dinner with her and my baby sis Uch (missed you Kitty!) on Saturday night and we had a real grown up dinner and so much fun chatting way into the evening in her honor.

Feeling excited for our Booboo who will be the flag football quarterback this upcoming season.  They got their pictures taken this week and I about keeled over from how adorable he looks in his little jersey.  He is so obsessed already with the game and with being with his friends and he can hardly wait for their games to start; we are working on getting him to learn all the plays and lots of passing and football jargon going on over here.

Spending an afternoon at the Quemahoming dam (probably the last of the summer!) only because of the sweet help of our family friend Taylor.  I have been itching to get one last Que visit in before we run out of vacation days and Taylor came to my rescue!  The idea of taking all four kids by myself was too great, but she helped us get all packed up:  kids, lunch, sand toys, Rusty's sun tent, and towels (!!) and we were able to spend a few hours in the sun, sand, and water.  I even had a fifteen minute stint of complete blissful wonderment that happens when mommas get to sit quietly in the shade with no interruptions!  The kids played on the playground and Rusty slept soundly in the tent...seriously magical.  (thank you Tay!)

Singing and volunteering at Vacation Bible School this week with my Gemmi Ro.  So grateful that her favorite friend Miss Hannah is her group leader to help her feel brave and confident!  We are having fun and ready for the big show (tonight!)

Praying that hermit crab heaven exists as we lost BOTH the kids' hermit crabs this week in some bizarre hermit crab epidemic apparently.  They were pretty bummed and we had little funerals for them each after Grey dug burial holes and created crosses out to sticks to adorn their final resting spots.  Rest in Peace Princess & Hermit.

Making all things banana as we let almost the whole bunch go bad.  We had these delicious banana gobs and we made one of the kids' favorites - these breakfast banana cookies too.  Korean beef was on the menu one night because it's a homerun every time and another night we enjoyed this delicious round stead over egg noodles meal from the crockpot.  So so good!!

the bad guy

Thursday, August 11, 2016

ya know what no one ever really tells you before you start raising your own young kids?  I'm talking about like preschoolers to elementary school kids right now (although I'm sure it applies to teenagers by about 1000 more degrees, good grief.  Bless you mommas of teens out there!!)

The thing no one ever really tells you about is that you spend the majority of your day being The Bad Guy.

"No, you can't have chips for breakfast.
You have to brush your teeth.
Put your dirty clothes in the hamper, not just on the floor.
Clean up these babydolls and sports balls!
Stop spraying your sister in the face with the hose.
If you can't take turns sharing, no one's going to be allowed to play with it at all.
No, you can't just eat Popsicles for lunch.
When you're done with your plate, take it to the sink.
That's enough tv time for today.
You have to practice reading every day.
We don't go to a restaurant to eat every night because it costs money, eat what I made.
Get in the shower....and yes, you have to wash your hair.
Yes, I have to trim your fingernails and toenails.
No, you cannot put your hand in the toilet water.
You know the rule is if it's not yours; don't touch it - so how did Daddy's keys get stuck in the barbie car anyway?
Yes, it's time for bed. "

I mean, I'm like the worst.person.ever. all day long to these kids.

straight mean muggin' all day long.  Baby Rusty gets me.

Sure there are these tiny blissful moments sprinkled throughout that the skies open up and I can clearly see how amazing this life is and how awesome our little humans can be and the world makes sense and I have a grateful and content heart.

but for the most part, I'm wondering how every single conversation I have feels like a negotiation.  Being the bad guy all day long can wear on a person's soul, man.  Like, how did I even become this person?  I used to be fun and silly and carefree...and now I'm the least fun person living in this house.  They think I'm the no fun police, and usually I kind of am because I'm responsible for raising humans guys, a lot of the time, fun is also a mess
and gosh, I'm so tired
like too tired to clean it up
too tired to fight about who's cleaning it up
too tired to give myself the internal berate that comes with this entire thought process, so I'm just stopping right here.

I'm even the bad guy to myself most of the day.

"Why are you always shouting?
Shouldn't eat that!
No time to sit down, look at this house!?
Good Lord woman, get your shit together.
What are you forgetting?
You're late!! AGAIN!!
Are you sure they're turning into responsible citizens of the world?
Are you sure you loved them enough today?"

I get it; someone needs to be the bad guy or these kids will grow up to be terrible, entitled, lazy, dumb adults.  I get all that.

but it also doesn't make it feel any better to BE the bad guy all day, everyday; clinging to the hope that one day my adult children will return to me with arms wide open saying 'thank you Mum for being so horrible to us so that we could grow up and not be jerks.'

On the bright side, I do know that future exists because Brandon and I have each gone back to our own once-upon-a-time-Bad-Guy-Mommas and thanked them (and we'll say it again now, THANK YOU MUM and GIGI!) And they aren't Bad Guy Moms anymore, now they're more like the opposite of Bad Guy Moms and the extreme opposite when it comes to being a grandma.

But even though I'm sure it exists, that future image holds little weight in the right this second as I find myself in a stare down with a six year old who "doesn't need to wash his hair because it's fine and I'm not the boss of his own body."  (in case you're wondering - my rebuttal is "I AM the boss of this house though and I say my children will be clean, so wash your hair or I will do it for you, do you hear me Greyson Rudy!?!")


sending love and positive vibes to all you Bad Guy Mommas out there.  Whether you're fighting the little battles of preschoolers and elementary school kids like me - or you're on to the bigger, scarier battles of the teenagers.  You go on with your Bad Guy Momma self because someday (oh, that glorious someday) they'll thank us and if we're lucky we'll get to be the Hero'est Grandmas EVER.

Now let's all hold hands and repeat the Wreck-It-Ralph bad guy affirmation, because #momlife

Around Here Thirty-One: 07/79-08/04

Saturday, August 6, 2016

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute.

Intentional Hours Outside: 351 hours (of 1000)
Up twenty hours this past week, enjoying some outdoor time at the Cultural Village my sister created to celebrate opening day of the AAABA tournament (my cousin Morgan and I painted faces while the big kids spent almost the whole time rolling down a hill with a new friend, hah).  I took the dogs for walks a few times this week, sometimes with Rust in the carrier, or stopping a thousand times as Gemmi snagged blackberries off the bushes the whole way.  (Did you know the updated RunKeeper app now let's you create challenge groups?  My sisters and I are in competition together to see who can get 30 miles total in this month!) We headed over to Pappy and Gigi's house for dinner and another round of night swimming too!

Reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and Harry Potter and Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling to Booboo at night.

Astonished that the week flew by so fast.  Seriously, I feel completely confused how that happened - proven in the fact that I'm finishing this post a day late and with nothing else to show for my blog for the whole rest of the week.  yeesh, that felt like a time lapse...alien abduction, maybe? you never can tell.

Having the funnest time ever with my sisters on our quasi-SCF weekend (scf = sisters come first.  sidenote: we have matching SCF tattoos!)  The three of us and our momma had a girls movie and dinner on Friday and watched Tina Fey and Amy Poehler in the movie Sisters (hysterical and I loved it so much).  On Saturday afternoon Gemma, Rust, and my sisters and I all met up for lunch and pedicures at the mall (Violet was on a special day with Gigi while Grey had a special double sleepover with Chum) and then Saturday night - we had a Line Dancing lesson with our friends to learn the Boot Scootin' Boogie followed by dinner, drinks, and dancing that had me smiling and laughing until (wait for it......) one am (!!)  seriously.  so so fun.  pretty tired on Sunday, but worth it.

Enjoying a wonderful day at Delgrosso's amusement park with our Mimi and cousins on Wednesday.  It's one of my favorite summer traditions; I love seeing the kids with all their Studer cousins and my kids love getting time to play with them where fun rides abound.  Grey headed off with his older cousins and they hit every single big ride there - Grey even riding the Drop tower for the first time (!! he said he'll wait until he's a little older to ride it again, hah).  Gemmi hung with the little ones in the kiddie area and relished in being their 'babysitter;' helping them get on and off of rides and keeping everyone in a line.  (thank you Mimi and Aunt Eileen for such a great day!)

Celebrating our family and friends.  Rusty hit the two month mark, our new friend Maisy was born last week (Congrats Stahls!!), and our bff Charlie man turned four this week!

Finishing my first round of the 21 day fix program and feeling a little frustrated with the scale.  I read this article though and it had me feeling a little better that I have a lot of great internal things happening right now (metabolism resetting, muscle building, lung capacity growing) and the external stuff (weight loss, inches) should come in the next round.  Had a long reassuring conversation with B about feeling annoyed about it, to which he said, "I will actually go sledgehammer that scale right now - you know the number has like nothing to do with it woman!!"  hahha.  I can feel myself changing on the inside - so much more energy and stamina and everything is getting easier to do - hitting +10,000 steps almost everyday and doing a workout and walking the dogs...but still - I could use a big dramatic change on the scale for a freaking ego boost, man.  In no way am I writing this to fish for compliments, I'm just putting it out there for all your other mommas (or daddas or aunts, or readers in general) who feel me on this.  Let's keep going for it though even though it's so flipping annoying.

Giggling about Gemma calling Rustin 'grunchy' when he makes his unhappy face.  It's a mishmash of grumpy and grouchy and I think it's a perfect description of his crabby little face.  He is pretty grunchy yet, but we're slowly getting to a happier boy (we hope!)

Getting the butterflies about back-to-school and the fall season.  gah, I just love it so so much.  I'm trying desperately to focus on the last week's of summer, but I've also been daydreaming about fall temperatures and color filled trees and Friday night lights and backpacks and settling into the school year routine.  oh gosh, focus Tabitha!  There's still plenty of swimming pool hopping and late night bedtimes (sometimes not until 10:30p!) ...but oh boy, I can feel autumn blowing in my bones already.

Making these cake mix chocolate chip cookies to celebrate National chocolate chip cookie day - it was an easy enough recipe the kids could do it completely on their own, plus by the time we got around to making them in late afternoon, I had no patience left to make them from scratch (they turned out delicious, so who cares!)