Friday, October 24, 2014

A Shift in Focus

Did anyone notice that I abandoned my blog last month? No? You didn't miss me? I'm hurt. 

I didn't mean to. I was looking through the dates of my posts and realized I only posted once in two months, yet I've written four posts in the past week. Yes, I'm fickle like that. 

The bigger reason I disappeared was a shift in focus. For the month of September, Tastefully Simple had a contest/challenge that I got {a little} into. It actually started in mid-August, but around mid-September, it occurred to me that I was doing very well in the contest. I didn't know HOW well, they never told us how many points others had, but during the weekly live-stream video of how the teams and individuals were doing, it was announced that I was the #1 individual point earner one week. With cash prizes for first, second, and third places, I was suddenly very motivated to finish the contest strong. 
So I worked a lot more than usual for those last few weeks of September. I made phone calls, scheduled parties and did everything I could to earn points for this contest. The individual prize for first place was $1000, second place was $500 and third place was $250. 

On the day of the last live-stream video (where all of the final points were announced), this is what came across the screen. 
Do you know what the consolation prize was for fourth place? Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. (*sigh*) Looking back, I did what I could do with the time I had. I have three kids and we homeschool, for goodness sake.  I made myself feel better by deciding that the top winner must all be empty nesters and had more time to dedicate to this contest. Congratulations to them!  They should take me to lunch as my consolation prize, don't you think? 4th Place. Sheesh.

I think I had a Tastefully Simple hangover for several days after that big announcement, where I just needed a break from…everything. I wasn't on my computer much, didn't promptly return phone calls, was completely reactive (and barely, at that) instead of proactive. It made me insane, but I'm in a much more balanced place now.

Not only did this contest consume me for most of September, but that first week of September, we also began our awesome weekly Homeschool Co-Op where I'm teaching a cooking class for kids. That takes some time to organize each week. 

Then Ryan started football again. And Kaylin started a new dance class and performing tour group, which she is loving. We are taking a break from tumbling and she's getting to sing and dance and learn stage presence and wear a fancy costume and be on a stage. She's super excited. 

Phoenix also had record-breaking rains one day, which sent my kids canoeing down a grass-retention-area-turned-river with some neighbor kids. They were even on the news!
We traveled up north to Mike's parents' cabin a couple of times for family getaways, which I desperately needed. We rested, relaxed, hit the reset button, reconnected, tra lala…it was fantastic times two.

We took a trip to the apple orchard and picked 30 pounds of apples. We should have picked way more, because they didn't last in our house. We eat apples like crazy! Not to mention that I made homemade applesauce and apple pie with some of them for treats. I found a live worm in one of the apples, which completely creeped me out. I realize they were organic and au-naturale, but seriously? Blech. 
We also hit the pumpkin patch during one of our weekends up north. The weather was perfect, the kids enjoyed the festival on the farm, we had THE BEST chocolate chip cookies I've ever tasted in their farm shop. (okay, fine…I might have been starving, but they were warm and gooey and huge and absolutely incredible) Mike didn't love the $13 per person entrance fee into the festival, but the kids are still talking about horseback riding and bungee jumping. (their version of it, anyway)
Then there was the day that I drove myself to the emergency room. I was having trouble breathing all weekend and it felt like someone was standing on my chest. I thought I was overreacting and went to bed one Sunday night, positive that I would feel better in the morning, but I felt worse. So off to the ER I went. 

They assumed there was a problem with my gall bladder or kidneys, ran an EKG, gave me an ultrasound of my abdomen, ran all sorts of tests, they even took a chest Xray. Nothing. They caught the early stages of a UTI, which I didn't think was related, but once I finally filled the antibiotic and consistently took pills for the continuing chest pain for a week, it magically disappeared. Mike thinks it was my body telling me to slow down. So I did. 
And now my life is back to being wonderfully relaxed and predictable again. The kids are back on track with school, I'm working an hour each day instead of 4-5…or more…I'm eating better, exercising again, we're back in a good routine. So you'll be seeing a lot more posts from me, I'm sure. Brace yourself.
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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Interview with Jason {5 years old}

Me: Can I talk to you for 2 minutes before you go to bed?
Jason: Sure.

Me: Did you have a good birthday today?
Jason: Yes!

Me: What was the best part of your birthday?
Jason: Presents and cake.

Me: What else?
Jason: Spaghetti and meatballs. IT WAS REALLY GOOD.

Me: What was your favorite present?
Jason: All of them.

Me: Are there any gifts you wanted that you didn't get?
Jason: A remote control airplane.

Me: But a remote control airplane needs a runway. It doesn't fly straight up like a helicopter.
Jason: No, a FAKE airplane. With a remote control.
(Yes child, I know what you mean - those hobby planes are not cheap!)

Me: Is there anything we didn't get to do today that you wished we would have done?
Jason: Yes. Hmmm…

Me: What do you wish we would have done on your birthday?
Jason: (thinking…thinking...) Water park!

Me: It's too cold for the water park.
Jason: It is? It's only open on Saturdays?

Me: Nope, they closed it for the winter.
Jason: What is it? It's not summer anymore?

Me: It's fall now.
Jason: Oh.

Me: Did you like having all of the attention all day today!?
Jason: Yes!

Me: What do you think is going to be different now that you're five?
Jason: I'll obey, not take naps anymore…I don't know what else.

Mike: Are you going to be nicer to friends? (we had an incident yesterday with his neighbor friend, Max)
Jason: Yeah, we already talked about that.

Me: Do you think you're going to sleep in longer in the mornings now that you're not taking naps anymore?
Jason: YES!

Me: How late?
Jason: Until, like…1:00. That's the time I have to take a nap, but I'll wake up at that time because it's a long time.

Me: What's your favorite sport?
Jason: Baseball

Me: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Jason: Hmmm….a daddy. A daddy, daddy.

Jason: Has it been 2 minutes yet?
Me: Are you getting tired?

Jason: Yeah.
(a very busy birthday when he's used to a long, mid-day nap will do that to a kid!)

Happy 5th birthday, buddy!
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#77 - Invite neighbors over for a meal

A few weeks ago, when the weather dipped below 100 degrees and all of the kids started playing outside again, we noticed some new kids at the park. Turns out, a new family moved in around the corner and they homeschool!  As soon as I heard that bit of news, I trotted on over to introduce myself to the new mom.
This sweet lady had NO idea there were so many kids in her new neighborhood! They moved in May and had been hibernating with the rest of us all summer. 

Since then, our kids have been playing back and forth and we invited their whole family over for dinner so our husbands could meet and we could get to know them a little bit better.

It's pretty embarrassing that this item took SO LONG to cross off my to do list.  Honestly, we just don't have many people over for dinner anymore. Somewhere in the last few years, this went from being something that we did monthly, if not weekly, to something that just never seems to happen. But I'm so glad we reached out…this family is darling and our kids get along great!

#77 is (finally) crossed off my list of 101 Goals in 1001 Days!
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#93 - Go on a special date with Kaylin twice (done...again)

While Mike plays catch with Jason during Ryan's Tuesday night football practices, I've been purposing to take Kaylin on special dates. 

A few weeks ago, we went for Fall Pedicures, then last night, I took her shopping for Jason's birthday present. She found a great $3 Nerf gun thingy that he will absolutely love.

I just love time with my favorite girl!
Pedicure time!
Candy Cane Toes
Birthday shopping at Target
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Getting the Kids Involved in ALL THOSE Pinterest Ideas

I recently found a great blog post about 8 Genius Ideas for your Homeschool. The list was great, whether you homeschool or not. We already do a couple of the ideas, but I think we're going to incorporate the first one: "Home Ec Day". 

It got me thinking about an idea of my own I came up with recently. I have so many great blog posts and articles pinned on my Pinterest board, but sometimes have trouble fitting in fun things like science experiments and craft projects. 

So I've made my kids responsible for them. 
Once a week, 10-year old Ryan looks through my "Weird Science" Pinterest Board and picks an experiment that he wants to do with the kids. He's in charge of preparing it and gathering the supplies. Then Kaylin, my 8-year old budding artist, is in charge of planning a craft for her brothers. 

While Ryan or Kaylin is in charge, their siblings practice taking direction from them, listening to instructions, and showing them respect. 

Now all I have to do is find something for Jason to be in charge of so he can have a sense of control in his little life!

(if you're interested in following me on Pinterest, click here)
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Sunday, September 7, 2014

#45 - Leave Ryan home alone with the younger kids

On Thursday of last week, I had an 8am doctor appointment. Nothing major, just the annual check up required by our insurance. I woke up at 6am, checked the email on my phone, then closed my eyes for just one…more…minute. My bed was ever so comfortable!

When I woke up again, it was 7:55. My kids had all slept in (which never happens), Mike slept in and skipped the gym, then hurried out the door for work without disturbing the rest of us, and now I had 5 minutes to get up and dressed, then drive to my appointment 10-15 minutes away.

I threw in my contacts, put a piece of gum in my mouth, and put on the first clothes I found. I noticed everyone else still in their PJs and announced as I grabbed my keys, "Ryan, you're in charge. I have to GO!" 

Every once in a while, I'll leave the big kids at home doing their independent work while I take Jason to the grocery store, and I've left Ryan home alone with sleeping Jason while I take Kaylin to tumbling, but the dynamic of all three kids together is just…different. I've been nervous to leave the younger kids with Ryan in charge, assuming they wouldn't listen to him.

There was one other time I had left Ryan alone with both kids, but I had contacted a stay at home mom neighbor who would be home at the same time, just in case there was an emergency. I was confident that nothing bad would happen while the kids ate breakfast, got dressed, and cleaned up the kitchen after themselves while I was at my doctor appointment. Or would it…?

Sure enough, I came home to the big kids working on schoolwork and Jason watching a tv show on my bed. Nothing was on fire. No one was bleeding. The table and kitchen counters were wiped clean and the oatmeal dishes were all soaking in the sink. It was a beautiful sight!

It's so strange to think that this will be a normal reality someday soon. I won't have to take 1, 2, or all 3 kids with me absolutely anywhere and everywhere. I see the light at the end of the tunnel!!!
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Friday, August 22, 2014

Kaylin's 8th Birthday - An Art Party!

I couldn't think of a more appropriate birthday theme for my budding artist than an ART PARTY for her 8th birthday. I went with rainbow colors for the color scheme, mostly red, yellow, green and blue. It was unusually difficult to find something for Kaylin to wear that wasn't pink, peach, or teal…I think we found the one single shirt in all of metro Phoenix that had red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple!
I spread out the tasks for this party throughout the week to avoid being stressed on party day. For instance, on Wednesday, we did some of the baking prep. At Target, I found a Duff boxed Tie Die cake mix with Crayola-bright colors and knew it was perfect. The kids helped me separate out and mix the colors, then we baked the "art palette" sugar cookies. We had them baked and stored in the fridge until we were ready to frost everything the day of the party.
Something else we were able to assemble ahead of time were the party favors. I found paint bucket puzzles at Oriental Trading Company and tied them together with a box of crayons, an activity book and a blank white book for the guests to create with after the party. We personalized the favors with art palette name tags.
The day before the party, Ryan helped me cover both sides of our {very neutral} fireplace with more appropriate party decor. Then we set up the craft tables and set out all of the supplies, including an adorable (if I do say so myself) flower arrangement. I also threw out some other flowers and art-themed decorations around the house.
The craft I decided to do with the kids was a simple wooden letter from JoAnn's Etc (the first letter of their name) and I had paint, stickers, ribbons and other accessories available for them to decorate it however they wanted. 
While the paint was drying, we ate pizza, a rainbow of fruit with lemonade fruit dip, a rainbow of veggies with dip, chips and rainbow Goldfish crackers. The table looked so bright and cheerful!
We finished the party with presents, cake and a free-for-all of running and screaming like banshees playing together. Ryan was SO excited to unveil the inside of our seemingly boring white cake. He must have asked 25 times if it was time to cut the cake yet?!?

 Happy 8th birthday, my sweet girl. I hope you had a great time at your party!
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

10 Minute Paleo Peach Cobbler {Raw, Vegan, Gluten Free}

As soon as I saw this recipe online, I had to try it. Peaches are so ripe right now and I had everything in the kitchen to try making this quick cobbler for dessert.

Even if you're not living a gluten free or Paleo lifestyle, this recipe will surprise you. Being that I'm coming off Whole 30, where no sweets hit my lips other than fruit, peaches are plenty sweet for me without the cobbler topping. But the consistency of this recipe is something that made me feel like I was indulging and it was delicious!

Ingredients
2 peaches, thinly sliced
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup almonds
5 medjool dates, pitted (soaked for 10 minutes)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/2 Tbsp flax seed meal or chia seeds (optional)

Directions
- Soak the dates in 1-2 cups of water for about 10 minutes. If you leave them in there too long, they could become mushy, so watch them carefully!
- Place soaked dates in the food processor and pulse dates until they are very small chunks. Transfer to a medium-sized bowl. 
- Add walnuts and almonds to the food processor and pulse until they are very fine chunks. 
- Pour nut mixture over dates. Add cinnamon, a pinch of salt and flax seed meal or chia seeds, if desired. Mix together until a crumble forms.
- Place sliced peaches in a bowl. If you don't care about eating raw, microwave peaches for 1 minute. 
- Sprinkle the "cobbler" mixture over the peaches and enjoy!

Store the crumble in the fridge for up to a week and sprinkle over fresh fruit whenever you want a sweet treat!
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