July 09, 2014

10 Things that Happened (or Didn't) When We Had the House to Ourselves

We were preparing to have out of town guests and from the looks of my house - occupied by my husband, myself and our 4 boys - it was a task even a cleaning service would turn down. Sensing the exasperation (and desperation) in my voice, my mom offered to take my kids for a few days. All four of them - ranging in age from 5 months (and not sleeping through the night) to 7 years. Now, I promise I love my children, but I am a woman who knows her limits. Let's just say I had them packed and loaded in the car before she could change her mind.

In order to ensure I got what I needed to get done accomplished (and didn't just sleep for 2.5 days straight), I made out a lengthy to-do list to keep me on track. On it were things like "clean the bathrooms" and "go to the grocery". You know, things that are pointless (bathroom cleaning) and anxiety inducing (grocery shopping) when you have 4 kids at home.

After meeting my mom for the drop off, I rolled up my sleeves and got right to work. Well...kind of ;) Here's how it went down:

  1. I thanked my mom for helping me out and just so she completely understood just how much I had to get done, I rambled off my list before leaving her with my munchkins. And then...I blared the radio and drove straight to TJMaxx. I mean one little shopping side-trip is bound to happen, might as well get it out of the way, right?
  2. When I walked in the door kidless, I may or may not have yelled "I'm FREE" at the top of my lungs. Because I could.
  3. I got to enjoy my morning french vanilla cafe in front of the television without having to first change a diaper, fix waffles and bacon or clean up a sippy cup that leaked on the floor (I mean do ANY of those darn things actually NOT leak like they promise on the package? LIES! All lies!) Never-mind that I watched an entire episode of Sheriff Callie's Wild West before realizing I could actually finish the 3 episodes of Real Housewives saved on my DVR.
  4. I could focus. Multi-tasking is SO much easier when the kids aren't around. Reading Facebook (without feeling guilty) AND cleaning the kitchen? Very possible when you aren't being pulled in 4 different directions by 4 tiny beings.
  5. The house got clean in half the time. This is because I didn't have a Hudson following behind me undoing any efforts I made at tidying up. Have you heard this saying before? ---> Cleaning the house when your kids are home is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos. Yup. 
  6. The house stayed clean! I may or may not have taken pictures of every room, knowing that seeing it that clean again would be as likely as the next confirmed sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.
  7. In my head, my 2 day mini-vacation included getting my work done quickly and then lounging around taking naps while eating the "good" snacks hidden for moments when my kids aren't around. But...that never happened. It turns out that even when you have 2.5 days without the kids, you still feel guilty taking time for yourself.
  8. We had grand plans to have TWO date nights in a row? What?!?! That's unheard of. What actually happened was that we had take-out both nights and were in our pajamas by 8pm. Staying in and enjoying our quiet house trumped going out for overpriced dinner and drinks.
  9. And if you think that an empty house meant retreating to the bedroom for some sexy time? Think again. The minute we got into bed the only thing we could think about was SLEEP. Sweet uninterrupted sleep...
  10. ...which I can assure you doesn't exist once you are a mom. Although my children were miles and miles away, a mom's ears are trained to perk up at the slightest sound. I must've woken up no less than 10 times thinking I heard one of their cries from the other room.  
When all was said and done I got the house as clean as it has ever been (and ever will be) - and even managed to squeeze in a few doctor's appointments. But as excited as I was to have the house to myself, even when given a reprieve, once you are a mom it just isn't the same.






June 24, 2014

Summer summer summertime

Hi all! I've got a chance to write an update as I have taken the initiative to hire a sitter for a few hours here and there throughout the summer. Cause let's face it...momma needs a break sometimes!

Everyone is doing well. The boys wrapped up the school year with so many new friends and lots of memories made. I'm extremely proud of them for transitioning so well considering all the changes they've had over the past year alone. Three houses (Texas, my parents in NKY and our new house), 2 schools, 3 different teachers (Ethan's teacher at his new school went on maternity leave just a couple weeks after he started there), a new baby...sheesh, that's enough to induce panic in the most stable adults, and yet my kids handled it all with ease.

Here's highlights from our summer so far:

END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR


  • The boys brought home a flyer for the school talent show in May and told me they wanted to perform. They threw out a couple of ideas based on their - you know - talents which included playing MineCraft (?), singing random MineCraft songs (?), and acting out MineCraft scenes (?)...I gently encouraged them to think outside the MineCraft box and they settled on singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story. I would say we spent hours and hours practicing but that would not be true. We rehearsed a few times on the way to and from soccer and baseball practice and y'all, it was AWFUL and then OMG the actual day of the talent show came and I was a nervous wreck. They were either going to bomb it and giggle their way through the lyrics or they would nail it in all it's cuteness. OH MY GOSH you guys, they nailed it. A couple people in the audience were even sniffling as they performed. Crying actual TEARS! Proud momma moment for sure. If you missed it...here you go!
  • I got the most wonderful letter from Aiden's teacher at the end of the year letting me know what a joy it was to have him in her class. She said he fit right in from day one and always brightened everyone's day with his generous heart and sweet smile. Kindergarten highlights...he is now reading independently which is always such an amazing thing to witness. He has made several really good friends even in just the short few months we've been here and since we are here for the long-haul I'm excited to watch these friendships grow through the years.
  • Ethan rocked 1st grade and is so ready for 2nd. The long-term sub that took over his class when the regular teacher went on maternity leave stopped me in the hall one afternoon when I was there eating lunch and she said Ethan is quite a kid. He was respectful, eager to learn, always had something to say when given the chance (and often when he wasn't given a chance as well!). He participated in the PTP program which is the Primary Talent Pool for the Gifted and Talented program. He is super smart and truly an overall good kid.
BASEBALL



  • After kind of a bummer spring soccer season where Ethan's team showed little enthusiasm for playing and rarely showed up to practices and games, we decided to jump right into summer baseball through the YMCA. The season is already coming to a close and even with some game-day scorchers the boys seemed to truly enjoy playing. It was their first season of coach and machine pitch (rather than t-ball). I don't think either are going to be the next Babe Ruth but I will say they improved quite a bit from start to finish. Their last game is this Saturday...and if I'm being honest? I'm kind of glad!
CHICAGO/MICHIGAN



  • On the last day of school, we picked the boys up and headed straight to Chicago for my cousin Joy's wedding. It was a beautiful day filled with lots of personal touches (she wore her mom's wedding dress!) and fun with family. I got to meet some of my cousin's kids that I hadn't met yet and the boys had a blast running around playing with everyone. Congrats to the beautiful bride and her new hubby!
  • The day after the wedding we hit the road again to spend time at our family's house in Michigan. I grew up going here and the house was always filled with cousins, aunts, uncles, lots of food and lots of Off! All these years later, not much has changed! There's multiple beds in every bedroom and it's a grab what you can kind of sleeping arrangement. Luckily, nobody wants to get stuck in a room with 4 kids including a baby who only *sometimes* sleeps through the night...so Ricky and I usually get the very back room that is away from everyone else. And when the big boys get up for the morning, they go play...and we can't hear anyone!
  • We celebrated my niece Lilly's 9th birthday at Dutch Village in Holland, MI. I am told we went as kids, but I don't remember it at all. They had animals to play with and hold, a ferris wheel, old school duck races, a zip-line, and all sorts of demonstrations about Dutch culture (think wooden shoe making and wooden shoe dancing). I still can't quite believe she is NINE. It seems like yesterday Lauren was rocking her big ol' belly as my maid of honor in my wedding.

MEETING NEW FAMILIES



  • A few months back I connected with a family who had adopted a little boy with Apert syndrome. I noticed they were from Michigan and was surprised to find out they lived less than 30 minutes from where we would be. We made plans to get together for lunch at a beloved spot - Crane's Pie Pantry. Aiden was a little shy about meeting them at first, but soon warmed up and was his normal chatty self. This family was such a breath of fresh air. They had three biological children but were called to adopt and opened their hearts to Peter, who was left at the hospital in California after his Chinese parents were surprised by his diagnosis. We chatted about our amazing kids over apple cider and the daily special and when we were leaving, something Peter's mom said stuck with me. I told her how lucky he was to have a family like theirs take him in, love him and provide for him. She said, "We feel the exact opposite. WE feel so lucky that he has come into OUR lives." Gives me chills.
  • When our week in Michigan came to end, we made plans to meet another family as we drove back to Kentucky. They live about 40 minutes from our driving route back south so we arranged to meet at a Chik-Fil-A off the highway. I've been chatting with Jeannie Ewing for months now and up until that point had only exchanged messages via Facebook and email. It was so nice to finally get to meet her and her daughters in person. Sarah, who as Apert syndrome, recently turned 1 a few months ago and is the little sister of 4 year old Felicity. Ironically, my sister and her family had stopped at the same Chik-Fil-A ahead of us (not knowing that we were planning our meeting there) and when they ran into Jeannie, Lauren approached them and said "I have a nephew with Apert syndrome". They started talking and only THEN realized that the nephew she was talking about was Aiden and that she was actualy there waiting to me us! Too funny.

As you can clearly see, we have been busy busy busy this summer and we are just a few weeks in! The boys are in Vacation Bible School this week (which is really like a vacation for me!) so I'm utilizing my gym membership and the 2 hours of free child care that comes with it (although I may not always be working out...don't judge!)

If you don't already, you might want to follow me on Instagram and Facebook. I'm always sharing photos and updates there when I don't have time for a blog post.

Happy summer everyone!






May 30, 2014

Keep Up On Facebook...

Obviously y'all can tell I haven't fully gotten back into a regular posting schedule. I've just been so busy (I know, blah blah blah) and finding the time to sit down at my laptop to write has been difficult. 


But...I always have my phone with me so I'll continue to post frequently on my Facebook page. Follow all our adventures at www.facebook.com/moreskeesplease. And while you're at it, find me on Instagram too @moreskeesplease (I've been posting more pictures just in one spot rather than sharing on both so you'll get new ones there!)

I do plan on carving out some time to write a blog post here or there so I'm not going to be totally silent on here. In the meantime, I hope everyone has an awesome summer!!!!






May 06, 2014

Body After Baby 2014: Weeks 2 and 3

I'm a little behind, I know. These past 2 weeks were crazy busy - but then again, when are they not? This mom of 4 thing is no joke. Four mouths to feed, four kids laundry mounds to conquer, four schedules to coordinate...not to mention baptisms to prepare for, Derby parties to plan, play dates to plan...doesn't leave much time for blogging (or me time, or couple time, or just about anything else...) And while I have the very best intentions to keep up with this blog of mine, I'm often too pooped to do so once the kids are in bed. I usually pour myself a glass of wine and shortly after climb into bed for the night.

Anywho - 3 weeks in to my Body After Baby 2014 journey and I'm happy to say I've lost 2 pounds. In conjunction with my personal weight loss/fitness goals, I have joined a "Biggest Loser" style contest with 3 other gals (Lauren, Angie, Laura...I'm looking at you!) We have a pretty cool spreadsheet that tracks our weekly weight loss. We pay in to the pot -- $25/ea to start, then each week we pay $1 if we stay the same, $1/pound if we gained and $0 if we lost weight. After 12 weeks, the winner takes 70% of the pot, 2nd place will take 20%, 3rd 10% and 4th is, well, out of luck.

So what does this Biggest Loser contest help me accomplish? For starters, I've found that I'm really good at skimping on meals every Sunday (weigh-ins are on Monday mornings). Honestly though, having others to join you on your quest for health and fitness is a big plus. And the money up for grabs doesn't hurt either. I can think of quite a few things I'd spend $100+ on!

A few positive things I'm doing to help me achieve my goal:

- tracking literally every morsel of food that enters my mouth via MyFitness Pal (tarync23 is my screen name if you want to add me as a friend)

- tracking my food makes me more conscious of the calories I'm eating which has helped to eliminate some (not all) of my mindless snacking - I don't want to have to enter "3 M&Ms" into my app so I forego said M&Ms instead

- making a dedicated effort to work out in some way shape or form every single day - this week it has been so pretty out so I've loaded up the double stroller and walked around the neighborhood 2 miles every day

- tracking exercise using both MyFitness Pal (enter in cardio activity to adjust my calorie intake goal for the day) and Run Keeper (which tells me how far I've walked and at what pace)

A few of my weak spots:

- alcohol...I typically indulge in a glass of wine (oh okay, 2) or a skinny margarita (Austin peeps, have you tried Chef Adams organic all-natural mix? If not, get your booty up to Specs and get you some. LOVE. I brought a large supply to KY for both my sister and myself when we moved from Texas as you can't get it anywhere else.) I know these are empty calories. I know it would be an easy thing to eliminate from my diet to help me lose weight quicker. But by the end of the day I usually feel very deserving of a cocktail to unwind. As long as I keep that in mind throughout the day, then I have enough calories allocated to include this guilty pleasure in the evening.

- candy...if it's there, I want it. How bad can a mini box of Nerds or a handful of jelly beans actually be? Well, 60 and 85 unneeded calories respectively. I have to consciously tell myself as my hand floats towards the candy jar...Not. Worth. It.

- snacking...I am notorious for eating a bite of my kids chicken nuggets or finding myself going for "just a few" pita chips to satisfy a salty craving and then realizing I've eaten half the bag. As with my candy problem, I have to remind myself that the hassle of entering the small little snacky portions into my calorie app outweighs the short-lived satisfaction I'll get from my unconscious snacking.

As for pictures this go around? I've had a few people ask me why I'm not including them in my posts like I did in my previous Body After Baby series. The honest answer is...I forget to take them! Plus, our counter is much higher in the bathroom at our new house so I really don't have a great place to get a picture. I did snap a couple in my full-length mirror on the back of my closet door during the first week so I'll share them now but I can't guarantee that I'll include them every week because they don't give a very accurate view (it's a weird angle and a little distorted).


Baby After Baby 2014 posts:






April 17, 2014

Meal Planning for the Busy Mom

It isn't a secret that I really do not enjoy cooking. It's partly because I am not that great at it - I don't have the imagination or the palate of a cook. You know, someone who can open the fridge and come up with a complete meal with what they are looking at in front of them. And I am not one to taste something and immediately be able to point out that it needs a pinch of this or that to make it better. Furthermore, I hate the mess. I feel like I am constantly cleaning the kitchen. Cooking just adds to the cycle. I am the type of person who has to start with a clean kitchen before messing it up to make a meal only to clean it up once again. And that...is just so much work!

The boys get to write messages
on the bottom portion of the
chalkboard. Ethan wrote today's
...but then Hudson added
his message :)
Lately, however, I have really been getting back into the habit of meal planning. I have found that when I am totally organized - browsing Pinterest for recipes, using weekly planning templates, writing out grocery lists and getting creative on my cutesy menu chalkboard - the whole cooking thing is a little less anxiety-inducing. I actually enjoy it more when I feel like I have it all planned out. And although my husband laughs and shakes his head at my list-making and hour-long planning process, I don't hear him complaining about the end result. I will admit though, sometimes I just don't have it in me by the time he gets home so I'll hand over the recipe and say, it's your turn tonight. Usually he happily obliges - he enjoys cooking after all.

I thought it would be helpful to share what works for me - a busy stay-at-home mom of 4 hungry boys and 1 hungry husband. With a little bit of planning, I have been able to try new recipes and feed my family healthy meals for around $500/month. It may sound like a lot, but if you break it down, that actually includes all the food for breakfast, lunch, snacks and the pre-planned dinners for 6 people for 30 days. That's roughly 540 meals in a month (3 meals a day for 6 people = 18 meals x 30 days = 540) which comes out to just over $1/meal. (Although Nolan doesn't "eat" food yet, what we spend at the grocery includes his formula so I just lumped him in the equation).

I do save money in many different ways - coupons, shopping sale items, buying in bulk when possible, making things homemade instead of buying prepackaged, etc. But that is an entirely different blog post so for now, I'll just stick to sharing my meal planning process.

Here is the method to my madness:
  1. I gather all my materials. I spent a lot of time putting together a meal-planning binder which has been extremely helpful in keeping this process organized. In it I keep several copies of my weekly meal plan template and grocery list template, our favorite go-to recipes, and already completed meal plans for using again in the future.
     
  2. On a blank sheet of paper I begin to sift through recipes and write down some that make the cut that week. My favorite sources are the 100 Days of Real Food website (ah-mazing site...but you'll need a lot of time to read through all she has to offer), Pinterest, the Hungry Girl cookbook, my crock-pot cookbook and the Tastebook I made for Ricky a few years ago that is personalized with family favorites we each grew up with. I usually only plan out dinners - unless there is a special occasion or I'm in a rut or something - then I will plan out breakfast and lunch as well. I try to choose a variety that includes chicken, pork, beef and meatless options. I typically go to the grocery once every 2 weeks, so most of the time I complete two weeks worth of meal plans. I choose about 10 dinner recipes, leaving a few days open for leftovers, "you choose" nights and the occasional going out to eat or ordering in.

  3. Next, I take a look at my calendar. It sounds weird but if I don't take into consideration what I have going on that week, I usually end up getting off track. For instance, I'll be sure to choose easy to make recipes on nights the boys have soccer practice. Or crock-pot meals on days that I am doing a lot of running around and won't be at home to prepare a meal at dinner time. Then I take my list of chosen recipes and assign them to a day throughout the week.

  4. Finally, I start at the beginning of the meal plan and write out any and all grocery items needed. I love this grocery list template (I found it here) because it is broken down into the sections you shop at the store. It makes it much easier to check off the items as you go when, for instance, you can go down the freezer aisle and see everything you need in once spot on your list. After I have everything written down that I need for the recipes, I add in other staples, household items, snacks, and extras we might need to stock up on.

I keep the written out meal plan in the binder on the counter to refer to as needed, but I write out the menu for the week on our kitchen chalk board. I love the little nook where it hangs and the boys love checking the "menu" each night (and complaining or cheering depending on what we are having).

So there you have it! I have fine-tuned this process over the past year, working out the kinks and doing things that are most convenient for our family. Sometimes I skip a week (or two) if I'm really busy or just don't feel like doing it. I'd love to hear some of your tips and I'm happy to answer any questions if you have them!

*** I'll be posting some of my favorite recipes in the near future.
*** If you want to download my meal-planning template, click here!






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